Thursday, February 11, 2016

Engage! - The Obstacle

Two well known theme songs are that of Star Wars and Star Trek. People can be a fan of both, but a die-hard fan of either is offended if you mix the ideas of either franchise with the other. Both franchises are about another time. Star Wars takes place A Long Time Ago, in a Galaxy Far Way. Star Trek takes place in many parts of the galaxy, and is set in the future. But both are fictitious. Yet both have passionate and loyal fans. People are talking a lot about the latest Star Wars movie and trying to determine what will happen next and just what is the identity of Kylo Ren. On the other hand, CBS is in the works of developing yet another Star Trek series which will debut in 2017. One distinction that people often make is that Star Wars is mostly movies, and Star Trek is mostly television. However, Star Trek does have six tv series so far, there have also been 13 movies. Star Wars, on the other hand, has seven major films, one animated, and ten tv related series. Both have conventions where you can meet some of the actors. Both have fans that will dress the part of their favorite characters. And both have rides and/or theme parks based upon the franchise.

Why do I mention these two highly popular long-running franchises? Well, for a couple of reasons.

  1. Both represent fictional story lines that captivate audiences. People dissect these shows, movies, websites, and spend vast amounts of time not only analyzing what has "happened," but speculating, on what might happen next.
  2. Both have had to kick-start themselves after being relatively dormant for year. For Star Wars, it was 16 years between the release of Episode VI until Episode I was released. And it was 10 ½ years between Episode III and Episode VII. Meanwhile, the original series of Star Trek lasted only three seasons. But then an animated series was made, then movies, and then Star Trek: TNG grabbed a new generation of fans nearly 20 years after the first series ended, and the franchise absolutely took off.
But like other fictional characters, some resonate so well that people eventually cannot separate fact from fiction. Consider, the general knowledge that most have of a fictitious king and kingdom: Arthur, and Camelot, respectively. We promote chivalry and speak of round tables much the way children for nearly 40 years have emulate light saber battles or talked of being beamed from one place to another. Yet, Arthur was not a real king, nor is Camelot a real place. (HT: Rick S for his recent lesson on this.
Yet, just as popular series and characters need a reboot at times, sometimes a church needs one as well. It isn’t that things are bad, but they could be better. It isn’t that we are forgotten, it is that we aren’t actively promoting ourselves or our mission.

So, this series is to help us focus on a) what is real and b) get us moving in the direction that God wants us to move. 2016 has been labeled as the Year of Opportunity for our church. We often hear of opportunities to minister, but don’t really think about them, don’t respond to them, or ignore them altogether.. But if we are going to be the people God has called us to be…if we are going to be the church God wants us to be…if we are going to be a large church in a small town, then we need to be ready for the opportunities God provides for us and respond as He would have us respond. That doesn’t mean that we will do everything. But we must evaluate each opportunity to see how it fits what He would have us to do, and then be ready to do it if it is the right fit.

The Passage

The focal passage for this series is Matthew 16.13-20, but for today, I want to extend through verse 28. In short, during these few verse, we have the following developments.

  • Jesus asked whom others thought He was.
  • He asked whom His closest friends and followers thought He was.
  • He told them He must now fulfill His mission.
  • Peter opposed Him
  • Jesus rebuked Peter.
  • Jesus taught that we all have a cross to bear. We can only save ourselves by abandoning ourselves.
  • One day we will all be rewarded for what we have done.
  • For some, that reward will come sooner than others. (The Transfiguration is the specific instance, but the truth remains in principle).
The Principles

Let me give us six principles we can take from these verses.

  1. We need to know who He is. Nothing in all of life matters apart from this.
  2. We need to know who we are. Specifically, who we are in Christ?
  3. We need to know what to do. Specifically, in relation to what others are called to do. Not like Peter.
  4. We need to know why we do it. It is for the kingdom of God. The keys have been given – He has given us authority. The question is do we realize that and what will be do with that authority.
  5. We need to know our place in it. He bore the cross for us. He told his followers they would each have to bear a cross as well. He meant literally. We may not have to bear a literal cross, but we must sacrifice our desires and ambitions to follow Him because He did far more than that for us. He gave us the only reason for hope that exists.
  6. We need to know when we must do it – not can, must. Jesus told His disciples not to tell anyone – YET! But that was before He died. In Matthew 28, Jesus told those same followers – sans Judas, to tell the world. We can do the same. We must do the same.
A Collective Identity

These principles all have one idea in common. That word is identity. In a word, we need to know our identity. But not just our identity as an individual. If you are a Christian, you need to know your identity as a part of God’s collective body – the church. Specifically, a local church where you attend, and are hopefully a member.

My dissertation focused on potential stages of a church's development (life-cycle) as it relates to their perceived identity. I will detail this more in a blog that will be part of a new blog (stemming from my personal blog) in the coming months. For the purposes of this blog, what is important is to realize that the each church must learn to understand, and overcome, certain challenges being faced in order to effectively minister. And often, these challenges are based on the perception the church has about itself at any particular time.


So what do we do now? Over the next eight weeks, we will explore Jesus' promise to build His church, and what it means for us at Fairfax Baptist Church. (If you are reading this blog, but are part of another church, the promise of Jesus still applies. The principle behind the promise remains true, though the particulars of how it is fulfilled in the church you attend, or the town in which you live, will likely be different.) Specifically, we will look at our vision, our mission, our strategy, and the steps we can take to discover the opportunities God provides and learn to deliver on those opportunities so that He receives the glory He is due. As such, next week’s message will review the word “I” and compare the passage of Matthew 5.13-16 to see how it relates to our vision.


This week our letter is the full word - JOURNEY. Our JOURNEY is a part of our identity. Our identity is shaped by our JOURNEY. But neither our current identity, nor the road traveled thus far dictates our future. Both aspects have shaped us so far, but it is like a book with multiple endings, what we choose now impacts our future as individuals and as a church. We are not looking to rewrite God’s story, or even to improve on it. But He does want to rewrite our future – beginning today. Individually AND collectively, we must know who we are AND what we have been, but we must focus on who we are becoming and what we will do. What is in the future is different than what is in the past.


So, what about our next steps?

We need to be ready to see what opportunities God brings our way. And we need to be ready to respond.

How do we do that? Remove the obstacles.

And the obstacle is often us! Like Peter, He knew and believed, but then tried to get in the way! He did it to protect His friend, His leader, and His Lord. He did it to protect the Messiah, as He had proclaimed in the previous verses - the Messiah of the Jews, and indeed, of all people. But Peter was an obstacle to the grandest opportunity of them all – salvation from sin.

What obstacles get in your way of God-given opportunities? Time? Pride? Selfishness? Money? Family? Friends? TV? Facebook? Obviously, pride and selfishness are bad, but the rest don’t have to be. They are what we make them. But whether it is one of these items, or something else, most of us have something (or somethings) that we use as an excuse to prevent us from fulfilling God’s purpose for our lives, and thus bringing glory to Him, and His blessing to us.

What if, for the next 15 months – until this series and the next series end, we as individuals worked to hold one another accountable to seeking God, and the opportunities that He presents us, with an earnestness that we have not had before? We may not know exactly what our response will bring. And it may be fun to think about what might be next for our church like so many are doing thinking about the upcoming Star Trek series or the next Star Wars movie. If we respond like Jesus wants us to imagine the answers to the questions like:

What might this county look like in April 2017?

What might this town look like?
What might this church look like?
What might your family look like?
What might you look like?

We may not know the answers now, but as we make this JOURNEY together, we will be led by a TOUR GUIDE that does know the answer to these questions and so many more. It is a JOURNEY that has been set before us. It is our JOURNEY that we must take together. Are you with me?

If so, then in the words of Captain Picard from Star Trek: The Next Generation, “Engage!”

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