Have you ever read “The Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom” written by Thomas Jefferson? Many believe it is the basis for the freedom of religion clause in our Constitution’s Bill of Rights. Amazingly, some have used this notion of freedom of religion to mean that none of us should actually talk about what we believe. Our modern pluralistic society asserts that the only real sin is to discuss, debate, or argue about any point of religion. Amazingly, if Jefferson were to hear that being fostered in the name of his Statute, I believe he would roll over in his grave.
What is the difference between a Bible class that zings and one that flops? Do you ever get to the end of a Bible class session or even an entire quarter and think, “Well, that was a waste of time, but at least its over”? Your classes don’t have to be like this. They can take a step up whether you are writing your own material or using someone else’s, whether you are teaching kids or adults, whether you are a beginning teacher or experienced. Let me show you how.
Okay we’ll try posting this again. Sorry for the misfire for everyone who already tried to look at this.
As someone commented on the YouTube page, it is a shame something this good is being used to market a marketing company. But then, perhaps they are a marketing company because they know how to come up with something this good.
I just couldn’t help but wonder if the way we spoke the Gospel might not change the way folks hear the gospel sometimes. What do you think? Click the following link to add your input: Post a comment.
For my e-mail and RSS subscribers, if you can’t see the video, click here.
(If you landed on this post without seeing the others in this series, let me explain what is going on here. Thursdays is my day to talk about God’s way for our congregations. Right now I’m in the middle of a series on the Jerusalem church and it’s success. This is the twelfth post in the series. I encourage you to check out the introduction to this series to know more about what is going on and to find an index of the posts in this series as they are put up. Enjoy.)
The Jerusalem Church was Devoted to God
The first great key of Jerusalem’s success was why they were even gathering together as a church to begin with. They were gathering because they were devoted to God. What they did was about God, not about themselves.
They didn’t gather for entertainment. They didn’t gather for social recreation. They didn’t become a part of the church for social status. If they did, they wouldn’t last long. Pretty quickly, the church was going to lose its social standing. Persecution would begin and being a Christian would no longer be popular or cause increased favor with the people. These Christians didn’t stay with the church because of its felt-needs based ministries. They didn’t stick around because of what it provided for their kids. These folks were part of this church because they were devoted to God.
On the day of Pentecost, they had been convicted that they crucified the Messiah. In that moment, they were left hopeless, helpless, and despairing. They cried out, “Brothers, what shall we do?” That wasn’t simply a logical question asking, “What must I do to be saved?” That was a despairing cry. “What on earth can we do? We’re doomed.” But surprisingly, Peter had an answer. “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
Can you imagine the shock among the Jews who understood what Peter meant. They could actually receive the gifts promised by the Holy Spirit through their father Abraham. They hadn’t destroyed their hope of salvation through the Messiah after all. Perhaps they had misunderstood what the Messiah intended to bring. Perhaps they had misunderstood what the Messiah really was. But they hadn’t lost all hope. God had provided a way.
No doubt, their devotion to God was born in the midst of this realization. If God had done this for them, despite their having nailed God’s Messiah to a cross and asked for his blood to be on their heads, to whom else would they want to offer loyalty and devotion?
Their Devotion Demonstrated
The devotion of these Jerusalem Christians was demonstrated in four ways.
#1 The Jerusalem Christians were devoted to the doctrine of God; they were devoted to the apostle’s teaching.
It may be hard for us to imagine. Over the past 50 years, since the advent of television, we have become so entertainment oriented and emotionally driven. These Christians did not gather around the apostles because of their wonderful speaking style. They didn’t congregate to hear the apostles because of their comedic timing or their oratorical presence. They gathered to hear the doctrine the apostles would teach. They gathered to hear what God wanted them to do as expressed by the mouthpieces of Jesus Christ.
As the apostles once told Jesus, “To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (Luke 6:68), these disciples knew the apostles were speaking words of life on the Lord’s authority. Where else would they go?
No doubt there is a place for entertainment. Even Jesus used entertainment as an illustration (Luke 7:32). But if we really want to have the success of the Jerusalem church, we have to be devoted to God’s will and God’s word. We need to devote ourselves to hearing it. We need to devote ourselves to accomplishing it. Why? Because God’s way works.
We need to be a thinking, reasoning people, who consider the teaching of the Lord. We need to be people who weigh the words of those who would speak on God’s behalf. We must not follow the path of our culture becoming mere passive receptacles of other men’s ideas that have been foisted upon us with emotionalism and oratorical skill.
Granted, in our entertainment based society, we may be able to produce churches with 10,000 members through our ability to entertain them. However, if we want to create disciples devoted to God, we have to focus them on the apostle’s doctrine. Otherwise, the church may look like Jerusalem on the roll book, but the members won’t look like Jerusalem Christians in their hearts.
#2 The Jerusalem Christians were devoted to God’s people; they were devoted to fellowship.
The Jerusalem Christians came from their own backgrounds. This was spiritually the opposite of the Tower of Babel. In that day, a people with a common goal were divided because of varying languages. On Pentecost, people divided by their languages were brought together by a common goal. This means the individuals had their own lives, their own livelihoods, their own plans and purposes. However, on Pentecost all of that was superseded by their desire to have forgiveness in Christ. Suddenly that meant a change in their community.
Now, instead of being Parthian Jews, Median Jews, Elamite Jews, Mespotamian Jews, and so on, they were disciples of Jesus Christ. They had a new community. They had a new sense of belonging. They got their identity from a new group. This was going to engender new traditions, new ways of thinking, new values, and especially new friends (or perhaps I should say new family).
Please do not be misled by the modern idea of fellowship. When we hear fellowship we immediately jump to potluck suppers and pick-up games of basketball. The Jerusalem church didn’t build a hall for recreation and call it fellowship. No, we see their fellowship in Acts 2:44-45. They were one now and they cared for each other as one. They were a community and they had all things in common. Some Christians even went so far as to sell their own land to care for Christians in need. Why not? They were family. Though, no doubt these sellers were local and the needy were likely from faraway lands, separated from their livelihood, they saw each other as “one of us.”
Further, we some sense of fellowship accomplished together as a congregation. They met in the temple daily with one another, praising God. That is, they jointly participated as a congregation in the work and worship of the Lord. But we also see some sense of fellowship that was not accomplished together as a congregation but pursued outside the congregational setting because they were members of the same community. They met in each other’s homes, eating together and continuing their praise of God together.
If we want to have the Jerusalem success, we have to learn this devotion to God’s people.
#3 The Jerusalem Christians were devoted to God’s mercy; they were devoted to the breaking of bread.
This is not saying the Jerusalem Christians were devoted to eating. This is not reference to what was going from house to house, taking their meals. No, this was the first reference to “the bread that we break” (I Corinthians 10:16). This refers to the Lord’s Supper. The Jerusalem Christians were devoted to this memorial.
Of course they would be. What better object of devotion than the greatest reminder of God’s love and mercy. These folks had become disciples, but they hadn’t become perfect. They were growing, but they still made mistakes and sinned. They needed a continual reminder of God’s mercy and love for them. They found that in the breaking of bread, the communion.
Each week (yes, I do believe they practiced this weekly), the Christians were reminded of their Savior. What special significance must this memorial have had for these Jewish disciples who had cried out, “His blood be on us and on our children!” (Matthew 27:25). They had meant one thing, but their request was being fulfilled in a completely different sense. They had meant it in violence and reproach, but for these, God was fulfilling it in reconciliation and glory. What special significance must this memorial have had for those few who had actually witnessed the sacrifice. They had seen the body given for them, the blood of the new covenant shed for their forgiveness.
When they partook they remembered what brought them together. It was not their ancestry. It was not their works. It was not their nationality. It was their Savior. They were sinners who needed God’s mercy, so they gathered together devoted to the God who offered it to them.
The Lord’s Supper must never simply be an “act of worship” to check off the list. It is not a sporadic celebration on annual “holy days.” It is a continual memorial. We must be devoted to it. If we let that memorial slip into the background of what we do as a church, we will lose sight of the very thing that makes us a church. We will lose sight of the very reason we are gathered together. We will lose sight of the very need that keeps us turning to Christ. If we will have the success of the Jerusalem church we must be devoted to God’s mercy, we must be devoted to the breaking of bread.
#4 The Jerusalem Christians were devoted to God’s power; they were devoted to prayer.
The Jerusalem Christians understood where real strength was. They understood where the power of forgiveness and victory resided. It resided in God. They were devoted to having God work in them and through them. Therefore, they were devoted to prayer.
Let me ask you, when you hear “devoted to prayer,” does that sound like they got together and did several different things but they always had an opening and a closing prayer? No doubt prayer was a center piece of all that they did. The 120, who had been waiting on the coming of the Holy Spirit, had laid the ground work for this. According to Acts 1:14, they were devoting themselves to prayer with one accord. What does that sound like to you? Does it sound like minutes in prayer or hours? Does it sound like prayer was something they did on occasion in their meetings or does it sound like they had entire meetings just for it.
Sadly, few churches today either understand or truly believe in the power of God and the importance of prayer. Most churches spend more time making announcements than they do praying together. But not Jerusalem. They were devoted to prayer. Their leaders were devoted to prayer. In Acts 6, the apostles refused to take charge of the widow’s care because it would hinder their praying. Wow! How would that go over today?
According to Ephesians 3:20-21, God will do far more abundantly than all we ask or think by His power working in us. But do we realize what that means? It means we need to ask and think big. Prayer must be one of our main devotions if we wish to have the success of the Jerusalem church. Through it we understand that our success is not dependent upon us but upon the strength of God.
The Jerusalem church was strong and successful. But that isn’t indicated by their numbers or their programs. That was indicated by their devotion. They were no whitewashed tombs. They were devoted to God, devoted to His will, His people, His mercy, and His power. If we will have their success we must learn to mirror their devotion.
(If you need to know what this is all about, start with the first post in the series and click through the succeeding links. Also, as posts are added links will be placed in that first post to each one. By the way, please check out the site for the Kelsey Wynne Harris Foundation and help promote the foundation by purchasing any of the Life’s More Interesting products. By the way, unlike the other links in this post, there is no affiliation link here. None of your purchases of these products grease my pockets.)
I feel like a broken record. With the last few posts in this series I’ve had to apologize for the huge gap between posts. The real truth is, these have been the hardest posts to write. There is so much in Kelsey’s poem for me that it takes a great deal of time. It’s not just a thought popping in my mind that I can expound briefly on in a few minutes. This takes real work. I hope they are helpful to you as thinking about them have been helpful to me. Here is the latest post.
Today, I want to Teach Something Worth Learning
What work could possibly be more noble than to pass on what we know, what we have experienced, what we have learned? What calling could be higher than to be the shoulders on which others can stand as they reach to even greater heights? Today, that is who I want to be. I want to be a teacher, but not just any teacher. I want to teach something worth learning. I may do this in a classroom, but I don’t have to be employed by the state or the local university to teach something worth learning. I can accomplish this whether I am a professor or preacher or parent or clerk or custodian or cabbie. I may work in a plant or work with plants. I may be an employer or the newest employee. I can still teach something worth learning.
What I Don’t Want to Teach
Teach something worth learning. I can’t read this without noticing what is not said.
I don’t want to teach something that will make me look good or make me popular. I don’t want to teach something everybody likes. I don’t want to teach something that will make me lots of money.
I can simply strive to fit in with all the latest theories, pursue political correctness, tout the party lines. But what good is that? Will that push us further? Will that challenge us to be better? Will that inspire us to be great? No, that will only cause us to implode with our own sense of self-importance.
No doubt, there are multiple sides to this. Nothing I teach will make me popular or look good to everyone. No matter what I teach, someone will be unhappy with me. However, for some reason, each of us find our little group that we want to please. Because there are plenty who don’t like what we teach, we think we are just teaching what is worth learning. However, if we are not careful, even when we don’t accept the popular thinking of the world we become limited by the popular thinking of our niche market, we may go along just to get along with the people who have always liked us. We may find ourselves unwilling to question the traditions of our teachers or the positions of our peers. We may eventually stake out some ground we will protect at all costs. But who is helped by that? At that point, we have our ground covered but that ground has become just a rut. We’re not going anywhere.
I can become a hack. I can figure out what people want to hear, what people will pay to hear, what people will flock to hear and teach those things. But let’s face it; few things worth learning are ever popular at first. Usually, what is worth learning is challenging, life-changing, paradigm shifting. Those are all painful processes. Those who first hear them will rebel against them. If I take the easy way out and just teach what folks want to hear, who is helped? I have to stay the course and teach what is worth learning no matter how it is first received, no matter how it is ever received.
No doubt, if I teach well, no matter what I teach, I may become popular in some circles. I may look good for my ability. Folks may be intrigued and pay money to hear what I teach. But that is not the goal and if I become enamored with those ends, I’ll stop teaching things worth learning. I don’t want to teach what makes me look good, popular, or rich. I want to teach something worth learning.
Not Just Teaching, Serving
Sadly, some will read this resolution and miss its true impact. This is not just about being a teacher. This resolution is profound because it is about being a servant. If I wanted to teach something that would make me look good or make me money, that would be about me. But when my goal is to pass on things worth learning, what I’m most concerned about is others.
I’ll never accomplish this goal if I’m selfish. When I’m selfish I pull everything I can to myself. I rape the world of its knowledge and manipulate it so I can get what I want. I may teach a lot of things with this selfish mindset, but I won’t teach things worth learning. Not really. I like what John Maxwell says about this, “We teach what we know; we reproduce what we are.” The fact is, with a selfish mindset I may say things that might be worth learning, but that’s not what people will learn. What they’ll get, no matter what I say, is what I am. What they’ll become is not what they hear, but what they see and experience in me.
Before I can teach things worth learning, I have to be a servant. I have to get rid of my self-centeredness. If for no other reason than teaching takes time. Teaching is time invested in others. And if I’m teaching things worth learning, I’ll be investing time in others to make them better, not to make them make me better. If my primary goal is about getting, I’ll never give what others really need to learn.
Start with Me
Teaching something worth learning is not about me. However, it has to start with me. Before I can teachsomething worth learning, I have to learn something worth teaching. Have you ever taken an airplane flight? Do you remember what the flight attendant told you? If the cabin depressurizes and the breathing masks fall, don’t put someone else’s on first. Put your own mask on first and then help those around you. I can’t give what I don’t have. Further, if I don’t have and I try to give, there will be a reckoning. I can pretty up what someone else says and pass it on as if I’m a great teacher, but sooner or later it will shine through that I’m a fake.
Think of it like money. If my bank balance is on zero, I can write checks all day long. I can give and give and give, but when it comes time to cash those checks, I’m going to be in trouble. The same is true with teaching. If I haven’t taken the time to learn and I try to teach, there will be a reckoning and it won’t be pretty. It will hurt my students and they may come and hurt me.
Further, I must demonstrate that I know something worth learning. I don’t mean I need to get in a marketing campaign to let everyone know how wonderfully smart I am. However, if I want the opportunity to teach something worth learning, then others will have to see that I know something they want to learn. I can’t help but think of Jesus and His apostles in Luke 11:1. The disciples asked Him to teach them to pray. Why? Because they saw how He prayed and they wanted to learn. I don’t just get to teach because I was hired. I don’t just get to teach because I’m older than my kids. I really only get to teach when someone has seen that I know something they want to learn. Oh, I may say a lot of stuff. I may lecture and demonstrate, but I’m not really teaching unless others have determined that I have something they want to learn.
If I wanted to, I could buy a book on auto-mechanics. I could probably offer a great lecture, complete with compelling PowerPoint on fixing cars. However, if you really want to know how to fix cars, don’t come to me. Go to my friend, Dale. He’s actually spent some time working on cars. He’s actually fixed cars. I’ve only messed them up. If I really want to teach something, I need to spend time working on me first. I need to spend time learning something worth teaching.
What is Worth Learning?
I’m sure we all have different perspectives on what is worth learning. Not to mention, my perspective on what is worth learning has changed over the years. I fear providing a list of subjects because by this time next year, my list might have changed. Instead, I’ll provide four guidelines.
1. Is it true?
If what I’m saying isn’t true, then it simply isn’t worth learning. Why would I teach 2+2=5? It’s just not true. Now don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying everything I teach has to be factual. Teaching doesn’t have to be factual to be true. For instance, when Jesus taught His famous parables, none of them were factual. He wasn’t talking about a factual sower who sowed in four areas and received four different results. However, His message was true. I need to make sure what I’m teaching is true. I shouldn’t simply jump on the bandwagon with something just because I like it or it fits with what I’ve always thought. I need to test it. If I want to teach something worth learning, it needs to be true.
2. Is it helpful?
Some things might be true, but so what? What if someone was actually able to provide the true answer to the question of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin? Who cares? I may learn the right answer to that question and shout it from the roof tops, but is it really worth learning? Was it really worth a learner’s time to listen to my calculations, proofs, and arguments? Or have I wasted their time? Stuff worth learning is worth living. If I really want to teach something worth learning, it needs to be something helpful.
3. Does it make people better?
I guess this is simply expanding the first point. However, I want to expand it. I know I have been too often caught up in the rat race. I went to school so I could learn things so I could get a job so I could make money so I could buy things. That seems to be the pretty standard practice in our culture. We learn so we can earn. But should that really be the goal of learning? Is money really what it’s all about? Do I really just go to school for a short period in life so I can get a career based on that learning? I think there is higher purpose. I need to learn so I can be a better person. I need to learn so I can be a more productive citizen. I need to learn so I can give more to my community and my fellow man. That doesn’t stop with a Bachelor’s degree and a steady job. That continues for life. Thus, if I’m actually going to teach something worth learning, it is not just about getting someone a job. It needs to be about making them a better person. I tend to believe when the world is filled with better people, the job market will take care of itself.
4. Does it inspire?
For far too many, teaching is about conveying facts. Can we fill someone else’s head with information that they can regurgitate later? Perhaps that is a form of teaching, but of what use is it. Life isn’t a standardized test. Things worth learning inspire learners to live them. If I want to teach something worth learning, it needs to be inspiring.
I want to be of service today. I want to get outside myself today. I want to help others today. Today, I want to teach something worth learning. I hope I’ve accomplished that goal with this post.
(Come back next week for our final post in this series: Be Someone Worth Knowing.)