Tuesday, August 27, 2013

What Church Is--'Not'

In two weeks, I'm going to start a new sermon series at Cornerstone called "What Church Is - a study in 1 Peter."  Because there is so much negativity found in the press, on TV,  on the internet, and even from our church pulpits--I'm going to make a concerted effort to build a picture of the church based on the positive and encouraging image presented in the book of 1 Peter.

I recognize that one of the more difficult aspects of talking about how and what church is about involves trying to undo centuries of tradition, preconceived notions, and (sometimes) wrong theology.  I read something online recently that was attacking and accusatory towards the church, but many of the points brought up were certainly legitimate.  In an effort to set the stage for this series, I thought I would write my own 'top ten list' as to 'What Church Is Not':

1.  It is not a building.

2.  It is not about 'me.'  (to quote Rick Warren in The Purpose Driven Life).

3.  It is not about adhering to and following a religion.

4.  It is not something that you can do by yourself.

5.  It is not something that man created (it was God's idea!--even though we sometimes do a pretty good job of claiming partial credit).

6.  It is not something that can only happen on Sundays (usually in the morning).

7.  It is not only about the church service.

8.  It is not about the programs, the music, the preaching style, or the pastor.

9.  It is not something the world must attend if they're going to hear about Jesus.

10.  It is not something a follower of Christ can consider optional.

11.  It is not something that is about denominations, constitutions, or organized institutions. (Sorry, I lied about only 10).

I'm sure we all have more items to add to this list (I know I certainly do).  However, you get the point.  We sometimes paint a picture of 'what church is' based upon all we've ever known and experienced.

Someone once said, "If the Holy Spirit left your church, would you even notice--or would your programs and activities continue on as usual?"  Ouch!  I know I want to be a part of a group of people diligently seeking after God and His Kingdom--and when we hear His voice, we respond to it.  I'm looking forward to a fresh look at 'What Church Is.'

(If you want to be notified of future blog postings, friend me on Facebook 'John Schmidt'.  Also, my recent sermons in both an audio and video format can be found at www.NVbridgechurch.com.)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Why I Care About Elko, NV

My wife and I moved to Elko, Nevada a year ago.  In that time, we have enjoyed the rugged beauty and pace of life in a rural environment--but that is not why I care about Elko.  We have many friends and are part of a great family at Cornerstone Baptist--but that is not why I care about Elko.  Why I care about Elko is based on something written almost 2,600 years ago.

In 586 BC, Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed by the Babylonian army.  All of the politicians, educators, religious leaders and other persons of note were dragged off to Babylonian exile.  Settling in Babylon, this Jewish remnant was discouraged, frightened and didn't know what their future held.  Their natural tendency was to withdraw into their own 'safe' Jewish community to preserve what little religious and sociological culture they had left. 

But God had a different idea. He sent them some specific instructions that are found in Jeremiah 29. In verse 7, we read this, "Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have sent you [carried you into exile]. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper."

The Hebrew word shalom is a word rich in meaning. We often translate it using the word peace, but it means so much more than the absence of conflict.  It can also be translated (and often is depending on context) to wholeness, completeness, peace, prosperity, health, wellness--that which is a gift from God.  Using shalom in its original context, verse 7 reads as...

"Seek the shalom [wholeness, completeness, prosperity, health, wellness, peace] of the city to which I have sent you. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it has shalom, you too will have shalom."

I care about Elko because God cares about Elko--and He has commanded me (and every other follower of Christ) to care about the shalom of our community.  Shalom involves so much more than just the spiritual--it also includes the physical, psychological, emotional, and relational aspects of our community.

I read in the paper daily about the problems we have in our community--there are many.  But as lovers of God, we are to insert ourselves into the community to be salt and light.  When we become actively involved in being shalom-makers, we not only benefit as members of our community, we have positioned ourselves as a people who can "give a reason for the hope that we have." (1 Pet. 3:15)

For that reason, I was involved in recently chairing a Community Ad-Hoc Homeless Task Force. We issued our report last month (you can request a copy from me at PastorJohnElko@gmail.com).  I organized this group specifically because I saw a need (after God revealed it to me) where I could bring some leadership to bear and be an instrument for bringing shalom.  I do not know how God may use this report--but I do know that the experience was invaluable for the community connections that were made as well as the opportunity for my own personal growth and understanding of this tremendously complex issue.

Being a carrier of God's shalom usually means that one has to go into the community because the community probably won't come to us.  Love God, love others, love Elko.

(If you want to be notified of future blog postings, friend me on Facebook 'John Schmidt'.  Also, my recent sermons in both an audio and video format can be found at www.NVbridgechurch.com.)