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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Chi-Town & The Church in Acts

Living in Chicago, one of the major global cities in the world, has been SO REFRESHING! Over the past two years I have been trying to live more missional and escape the "Christian bubble" we all get in, but true freedom for me was found in removal. Not just regionally, but spiritually. For the first time since probably high school, all the people I am surrounded by everyday are lost and as far from Jesus as possible. And I love it! I have been to more bars in one month of living here then I have in my entire life. It makes me wonder, why did I ever get away from the world? Why is it that Christians are only surrounded by other Christians? Why do we recluse into the church and do our best to serve the world but not love it enough to build relationships with the world? No wonder the world doesn't step foot in our doors and we get discouraged from the rejection of our invitation.

Maybe the rejections of our invitations should tell us the world doesn't want what we're inviting them too! But what if we change what we invite?

What if instead of inviting people to church, we invite them to the Kingdom of Heaven?

Huge difference. POWERful difference. In reading the book of Acts recently and seeing the Church be born and spread I am convinced and encouraged that no worship service I start, no band that I get, no catchy preaching I preach is going to save the people in this city.

Sure doing this could get me a crowd and get me my numbers by getting all the bored Christians at their boring churches to come and join my new fun one until they don't like mine anymore and go somewhere else, but what does that accomplish? What am I going to do about all the lost people I meet and hang out with everyday? What is going to convince them Jesus can change their entire existence? An awesome band? A good service? Or is it the Kingdom of Heaven and the power of the risen Lord?

We use words like "relevant,"contemporary", "band that plays U2", "messages that help your life" to describe our churches.

Acts uses these: "signs", "wonders", "healing", "persecution", "scattered", "disciples", "teaching", "sharing", "giving up EVERYTHING" , "building up Body of Christ".

And these are just a few. The first church didn't spread because they were the "cool, new thing", it spread because they completely relied on the power of the Holy Spirit. They didn't talk people into following Jesus, they performed signs and healings to show the power that could change their lives. Because of this, the Church was persecuted and had to leave Jerusalem. Did that stop them? Nope. They understood the Great Commission: As you go make disciples. They kept doing the same thing there and saw the persecution as an opportunity to share the power of Jesus instead of complaining about losing their homeland and city. What if we stop starting worship services, satellite campuses, etc (and call it church planting), and instead engage our world, make disciples and watch God build His church?

Where's the POWER in the Church in America?

We trust too much in models and styles and our own talents and not enough on the Power of the Holy Spirit.

In a book I'm reading entitled "The Lost History of Christianity," I recently read something that jumped out of me:

"The best argument for Christianity was that its holy men and women were so close to God that they could defy the laws of nature and demonstrate divine power through acts of miracle and healing."

The author Philip Jenkins was referencing the spread of Christianity in it's early birth throughout the middle east and asia up until the time before it even came to Europe (which is usually where we pick up the story). He went on to say:

"All forms of Christianity, East or West, emphasized charismatic and miraculous themes, to a degree that separated them from more rationalistic Muslim contemporaries."

I'm praying for that in Chicago and across our country. I'm praying that I will be so close to God that He would use me to demonstrate His power through my acts! I'm praying that the Church would be open to the moving of the Holy Spirit and that through us He would do something that can only be explained as the power of Jesus Christ. That's the only way all my new friends in Chicago will come to Jesus and be a part of His body. And then we will have the Church, and then we'll have a movement.

I didn't move here to start a worship service, but to be used by God to build His church.