Wednesday, October 10, 2012

THE ORDINARY CHRISTIAN'S GUIDE TO CHURCH PLANTING: It's Time To Throw A Party, Step 6

We are now at step six in this blog series and this is where the rubber hits the road and where you will quickly move toward the starting of a church!  So what exactly do you do?  Up until now you have been planning and preparing.  It's been all about you and making sure you are ready to launch a new church.  Now the emphasis changes from being about you to being about others.  Now is time to start gathering people together for a common purpose that will eventually form into being a church.  Now its time to plant the seeds (people) that will take root, grow and become the church you have been praying for.  

So what do you do? How do you begin the process of gathering people that will become a new, vibrant and reproducing church?  


YOU ARE GOING TO THROW A PARTY!  

Yes, that's right I said: Throw A Party!  You may be wondering how in the world does throwing a party help launch a new church?  You may have been thinking that you needed to start with an in depth Bible Study or host some intensive Spirit filled prayer meeting.  And by the way those are good things, but when it comes to starting a church that intentionally reaches the unsaved or backslidden Christians the place to start is by throwing a party!

As one does a survey of the New Testament Gospel and the life and ministry of Jesus a very common theme keeps reoccuring.  It seems to be a very common practice of  Jesus that when he enter a new town or village due to His growing popularity that someone in that town would invite him over for a dinner party.  The truth of matter is that Jesus was very popular and was invited to lots of parties, weddings,  banquets, and receptions.  He was definitely the Who's Who among the young and upcoming Rabinical teachers and as such people felt it was good for their social standing to have Jesus as an honored guest in their home.

We need to remember that during Jesus' time and in the villages he visited there was not a whole lot of entertainment going on for the people.  For the most part the daily life of people during that time never really changed.  They would get up in the morning, eat breakfast, go bust their butts at whatever job they had, come home, eat dinner, go to bed and wake up again the next morning.  They didn't have movie theaters, theme parks, fine dinning or anything else that most of in the 21st Century use for entertainment.  So when a person of growing popularity would enter a village that was a very special treat for that community and most everyone would get involved.  Let's take a look at a particular time when Jesus invited man to come follow him and how this man responded.  It's found in Luke 5:27-32:


"After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. 'Follow me,' Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him. Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them.  But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (NIV)

This is the story of Jesus calling Matthew the tax collector, also known as Levi, to come and follow him as one of his disciples.  From this story we can learn a couple of really important things:

First, we see that when Jesus invited Matthew to join him he immediately responded and left everything to follow Christ.  God had so prepared Matthew's heart that when the opportunity to join Christ presented itself there was no hesitation on Matthews part. He immediately responded and left everything to join Christ.  This was no small sacrifice.  Matthew was a tax collector and as such was part of the higher income group of the community.  Because of his profession he was not very popular among the rest of the community. He was a Jew but worked for the Romans and as was the common practice among the tax collectors robbed the people by taking more taxes from them than they owed and pocked. In other words they sole from the people.  But now Jesus was giving Matthew a chance to change his entire life.  Matthew is now invited to become one of the disciples of one of the most popular new rabi's.  And he left everything to join Jesus!

Second, we see that after Matthew agreed to joined Jesus he immediately threw a party in honor of Christ and invited all of his friends to be guests.  Now we need to understand that Matthew's guest list was not all of the well respected people in the community because Matthew had no friends that were well respected. His relationship with the well respected people in the community consisted of gathering their taxes and probably over charging them.  Even if he had invited them they probably wouldn't have accepted out of fear of becoming a social outcast.  So who were Jesus' friends?  They were other tax collectors and those that would associate with tax collectors, sinners. His guest list consisted of the social and religious outcasts, the people that no one else would want to associate with.  Now here's the great part! 

JESUS ACCEPTED THE INVITATION TO COME TO A 
PARTY FILLED WITH SINNERS!

Jesus didn't only accept the invitation he wholeheartedly embraced it.  Jesus wasn't a reluctant attender but he was thrilled to have such a wonderful opportunity to hangout with these people.  Why?  Why would Jesus be so excited to rub elbows and party with a bunch of sinners?  Well that's the same question that some of the Pharisees asked and complained about to Jesus's disciples.  I love the response Jesus gives them and its something that we should all consistently remind ourselves as we come to start a new church.  Jesus said: 

"It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

Why did Jesus enthusiascially accept Matthew invitation to be the honored guest at a part filled with sinners?  

BECAUSE THEY WERE JESUS'S TARGET GROUP

They were the reason why he came!  They were the central objective for his mission on earth.  Jesus explained it a little differently when he went to the home of another tax collector by the name of Zacchaeus. He told him  that He had come to seek and to save that which was lost.  


Jesus' mission was to come for people who knew they were sinners and desperately wanted to be freed from that life.  

Matthew was such a person and many of Matthews friends were those kinds of people.  Unfortuantly the Pharisee that came to check out Matthew's party wasn't one who recognized his own sin and thereby wasn't desperate for forgiveness. 

Now I think it's important to note that Jesus' mission wasn't  just to hangout and party with a bunch of sinners.  Please don't make that the lesson you learn from this.  Jesus said he had come to call sinners to repentance.  There was a redemptive purpose behind Jesus' intent for attending that party.  He came to call Matthew's friends to repentance and thereby be saved from their sin!  

I also believe that was Matthew's intent as well!  Matthew had just experience Christ himself, his call to follow and Christ's forgiveness. So now Matthew is wanting to introduce his friends to this same Jesus so they can receive what he got also.

So again I say that the next step in starting a rapidly reproducing church is to throw a party - A MATTHEW PARTY - and invite all your family, friends, neighbors and co-workers who are either unsaved or very backslidden Christian so they can experience Jesus and repent.  In step five you started to put a list of  people together and you have started praying for them, now its time to invite them over for a party where they can begin to meet Jesus.

Some of you might be thinking that it was easier for Matthew to throw this kind of party because he had Jesus there for the people to meet.  Here's my response to that:

SO DO YOU!

Jesus said  that where two or three are gathered in his name there he would be in the midst of them.  When you and your church planting partner throw this party with the intent to introduce your prospects to Jesus, Jesus himself is there through the enacting work of the Holy Spirit.  As a matter of fact it is Jesus who is doing the work, it is Jesus who is introducing himself to your friends and Jesus who is creating within your friends a prepared heart.

So what do you do at one of these parties?  Well, that depends on you!  How would you normally throw a party? What kind of things would you do at a party? Would there normally be music? What style of music? Would you serve food? Would you play games?  I can't tell you how to throw a party for your friends!  You know what kind things you would normally do at one of your parties.  That's for you to decide based upon your culture and likes. I am quite sure that Matthew's party included all of the things that he would have normally done when he threw a party.  There was probably music, dancing, food and talking and in this case listening to Jesus as he talked and taught.  So you need to throw a party that would be culturally acceptable and normal for you and your friends.

However, I can give you some basic guidelines that will help you in the planning process:
  1. Make sure it includes the things that would be culturally acceptable for you and your friends.
  2. Make sure there's nothing illegal, immoral, unethical or sinful.  (No strip dancers, no illegal drugs etc..)
  3. Make sure that you introduce Jesus at the party and give your guest an invitation to join you and your partner in a study to learn more about Him.
Let me talk a little bit more about this third point.  Your primary objective in throwing this party is not to just have fun but to introduce Jesus to your guests and to invite them to join you in a 7 week study on Jesus. The introduction of Jesus to your guests is the objective for your party.  So how to communicate that to your guests needs to be a well thought out part of your party.  Their are three parts of your party you need to consider when planning it:

 THE INVITATION STAGE:   We are not trying to pull a fast one on our friends by inviting them to a party and then blindside them with talking about Jesus.  I am very sure that Matthew made it very clear when he threw the party that his invitation was for his guest to come and meet Jesus.  Matthew's guests knew when they came what they were getting into and could decide based upon accurate information whether they wanted to attend or not.  We need to do the same for our friends also.  So as you are designing your invitation to send out to your potential guests you need to think through how to clearly and accurately invite people to come and hear about Jesus in a way that is intriguing.

THE PARTY ITSELF:  So now you're at the party and all your friends have shown up how do you share Jesus at this party that is natural, compelling and intriguing?  Along with the music, food and games you might be doing at the party you also need to make the sharing of Jesus a major part of the party.  How do you do that?  Let me give a few suggestions to help you think through it.  Three parts to consider:
  • AS PEOPLE ARE ARRIVING: Plan out what you are going to be doing while people are arriving.  Making sure the earliest guests are not just standing around getting bord.  Are you going to be playing games or offering snacks for people to munch on while others are still arriving?  Your aim here is to keep people engaged from the moment they attend.  To introduce Jesus in this part of the party you can play a game where you have people fill out a survey on how much they actually know of Jesus' life and then offer a gift for the one who gets the most right. Make sure you know the answers to the questions and where its found in the Bible.
  • DURING THE PARTY ITSELF:  Along with the games, eating and dancing that you maybe doing there needs to be a well thought out time to talk about Jesus to your guests.  Where that falls into your party depends on you but you need to clearly plan how you are going to introduce Jesus to them.  This should not be left up to chance or trying to do it by flying by the seat of your pants.  Here three suggestion:
    1. Show A Movie:  You could easily invite your friends over to see a movie about Jesus like The Jesus Film or The Passion Of The Christ.  Other movies might work well also like Courageous or Facing The Giants.  Movies are a great way to engage our North American Society and get discussion started.
    2. Give Your Testimony:  You can use this opportunity to share with you guest about what your life was like before you give your heart over to Jesus, who you met Jesus and what your life has been like since Jesus forgave you of your sins.
    3. Share A Gospel Presentation:  A Gospel Presentation is a clear and easy explanation how a person came come and experiences Christ's forgiveness of sin personally.  There are lots of good Gospel Presentations available. A couple  for you to consider are: The Bridge Presentation or The Roman Road Presentation.
  • CLOSING THE PARTY:  At the close of the party you need to offer a compelling invitation for your guest to join you for a 7 week study on Christ himself as told from the Bible.  Your guests need to know that they don't need any prior Bible knowledge or religious education and that its just an opportunity for them to find out who Jesus really is according to the Bible.  Let them know when the study is going to start along with the time and location. I feel the best time to start the study is within a week and no longer than two weeks of your party.  Personally I feel 1 week should be your goal otherwise we give Satan time to distract them.  Let them know before they leave your party that you will be calling them within a day or two to see if they would like to be part of the study.
"INVITE YOUR GUEST TO JOIN YOU IN THE 7 WEEK STUDY OF CHRIST"

Following up with phone calls is absolutely essential.  Within two days call guest and answer any questions they might have and try to secure their commitment to attend.  Now here is what's going to happen. Some of the guests  will definitely say no to participating in the study of Jesus, others will say they might but may need to take care of others things first and then a few will say, "YES" and they will be ready to learn and eventually receive Jesus.  Don't worry about the one's who say, "NO". Let them walk.  The people are wishy washy about being part of the study consider them as a "NO" also and let them walk.  Put all your time, attention and effort to the few who say "YES" and are eager to know more about Jesus.  It is these people from which the fruit will grow and from which more disciples will come.  They are the good soil that will reap a harvest of 40, 60 and 100 fold.

What if by some chance you throw your party and no one decides to be part of your study of Jesus?  Do what Jesus taught the 72 to do in Luke 10.  Shake the dust off your feet and move on to other family and friends who need to hear about Jesus and throw another Matthew Party and you keep doing this until you find those people who are ready to get to know Jesus.

Home Work:

  1. Set a date, time and location for you PARTY.
  2. Design and mail out your party invitations in a way that will let you guests know that you will be sharing Jesus with them.
  3. Plan what you will be doing at your party and specifically how you are going to introduce Jesus to them.
  4. Pray for the party and those who might attend.
  5. THROW THE PARTY!  Do It!!

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