5 Things

#1 – Everybody wants to be somebody. Every single person on the face of the earth has been wonderfully created in the image of God. Sin has distorted that image and our job as the church is to help people reconnect with a sense of self-worth. God is establishing his kingdom and the subjects of that kingdom are called to empower others the way they themselves have been empowered. Fact is, everybody wants to accomplish something. Everybody wants their life to matter. People want to have some sense of value; and they certainly want to be affirmed. Identity is often misplaced in this world. People define themselves based on “what they do” or “what they’ve done wrong.” They often live with shame, guilt, and condemnation. Good news: Everybody is somebody, and what makes you somebody is not current circumstances, past mistakes, or other people’s shifting opinions. What makes you somebody is God’s eternal love for you… You are a much-loved child of the King.

#2 – Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care. Relationships matter. Let me explain, once at a luncheon a man came to me and some of my staff and said, “Anytime you guys want to pick my brain about ministry, just give me a call.” We didn’t know this person very well; he wasn’t even in ministry. Yet, he was very proud of all of his supposed knowledge. Needless to say, we weren’t interested. If you want to touch people and change lives, you have to touch them relationally first. Don’t tell them what you know, instead let them know that you care. You don’t impress people with your knowledge; you impress them with your compassion.

#3 – Everybody that belongs to the Body of Christ belongs to everybody that belongs to the Body of Christ. Just like the different parts of our body need the other parts to function properly, so too we need each other. To put it another way: Everybody needs somebody. John Wesley said, “Christianity is essentially a social religion… to turn it into a solitary religion, is indeed to destroy it.” Every so often, I come across someone who says, “I don’t need anybody… I’m a self-made man (or woman).” When people tell me this, they think I’m going to applaud their accomplishments. My reaction is just the opposite: I pity them. Ultimately, you can’t achieve greatness alone. We were created social beings and are designed to be part of the Body. We need each other. For that reason, if you’ve done something all by yourself, you haven’t done much at all.

#4 – Anybody who helps somebody influences a lot of somebodies. Compassion literally means, “To suffer with.” Not many are willing to engage downward mobility; we naturally aspire for upward momentum. In other words, we don’t enjoy getting involved in other people’s messy lives. Aren’t you glad God didn’t think twice about getting involved in your life? Christ calls us to a life of service. When you help someone, you’re not only helping that person. Either directly or indirectly, you’re also helping everyone within that person’s sphere of influence. The power of influence always adds and multiplies. And influence that impacts the world happens when we serve.

#5 – God loves everybody. Valuing every person is vital. Learning to see people’s worth so we can teach them to see it themselves changes lives. Helping people cultivate their potential in Christ creates a new sense of identity. Pointing out that God loves everybody makes a large impact in the world. You see, God loves you in spite of your disobedience, weakness, and selfishness. God loves you enough to provide a way to experience abundant, eternal life through faith in Christ. God desires every person to rise up and become the special somebody that he originally designed them to be. Helping people discover their potential in Christ is part of our commission. You matter. Yes You. Your name is significant. Nobody can replace you. No one else can play your part. And God loves you.

(Sources: John C. Maxwell; Leadership Wired; Jamie Tworkowski; TWLOHA)

Consumer Christianity

This picture really bothers me, but we’ll get back to that in a minute. Attention Deficit Disorder drives my wife crazy. Not because she’s ADD, but because I am. Someone recently described ADD as hearing five television sets going off in your head all at once. Think about this: every American views over thirty thousand different media messages a day, and almost all of those messages are screaming “BUY SOMETHING!”

When I go to the grocery store, every isle has so many options that I find myself spending far too much time on each aisle. If I’m not careful I leave with more than I need. For example, the cereal aisle alone has over 60 options. This would explain why I have a cereal cabinet with over ten different kinds available. Bottomline: we are consumers and we live in a consumer-driven society. And I love cereal!

In his book, “Enough,” Will Samson helps us define exactly what consumerism is:

  • Consume: to use up, devour, absorb (this can be good or bad depending on context).
  • Consumerism: the utilization of economic goods in the satisfaction of wants; a way of thinking about stuff that believes the consumption of things— food, cars, new models of church— is what will finally make us content (this is always bad).

Fact: we consume more stuff than at any time in history. It is rare when we get to make such an audacious historical statement. However, the simple fact is that we live in an unparalleled era of buying: consumption such as has never been seen before. Recent polls indicate that more than 50% of American household expenditures are for “non-necessity” items. We are spending more than ever as a nation on items we don’t need, but oh how we want them. We love shiny new things!

I want a new motorcycle (Triumph Bonneville to be exact), and a boat, and an ATV, a motor-home, a hot tub, a swimming pool, another guitar, a new mountain bike, new kitchen cabinets, a new flat screen TV for the man cave… oh yea, and season tickets to watch the Pittsburgh Steelers! Come on, what’s wrong with having it all?!

Okay, let me change the tone for a moment. Why does the picture bother me so much? Because it represents our reality: “The American Dream and The Kingdom of God.” We want it all and we don’t care about the side effects. Having it all misplaces where our true affection lies. Unfulfillment deep within our souls cause us to want what we do not have and to have what we do not want. G.K. Chesterton once jested, “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.” Fulfillment stems from giving not getting. Jesus gave us this truth, but it is ever so hard to learn.

It’s not that I couldn’t acquire all the things on my list, it’s that those things would misplace my attention, and I certainly don’t need anything else screaming for my attention (I love cereal). You see, God’s calls us to something bigger than ourselves. Jesus teaches that we can’t find satisfaction in acquisition, because acquisition never satisfies.

The world says, “Get all you can.” Jesus says, “Give all you can.” With that in mind, my family and I are becoming more conscious about what we acquire, understanding that we have all we need (we actually have more than we will ever need). The goal of the communal life becomes how to give more away. How to contribute instead of acquire… How to give instead of get… How to serve instead of being served.

Christianity includes an implicit call to embody our faith, to be that which we say we believe. We are called to live communally. Communion is a celebration of gratitude for all that God has done for us. It focuses on Christ’s life and death and us being immersed in it. Imagine the transformation in our lives, communities, and congregations, if we began to literally offer ourselves as “living sacrifices.”

The notion of being willing to go to the cross for the the ungrateful, the outsider, and the stranger is the type of Christ-follower that Chesterton was referring to: “Christianity that has been found difficult and not tried.” Pray for God to transform you from “consumer” to “commuter,” from a “getter” to a “giver.” Find fulfillment in your contribution. Be more than the things you own. Enough.

(Sources: “Enough” by Will Samson; G.K. Chesterton)