Several months ago, I was asked to perform a funeral service at a local funeral home that I work with consistently. They invite me to do services for people that are not a part of a faith community and want a pastor to perform the service. To me, it is a loving opportunity to be involved in the lives of people that are dealing with loss and pain.
But when the funeral director asked me to perform the service, he let me know that there would not be anyone attending the service. I was shocked. I had to ask him if he meant that it would only be family and that no one else would be there. To which he responded by saying that no one, not even family would be there for the service. The individual served in the Air Force and there was going to be military honors and the presentation of a flag but the flag was going to be given to the funeral director. I have been involved in quite a few funeral services where there were only a few people there but never a service where NO ONE was there. I have to be honest it was very upsetting and I was not sure what to do with this at all.
That meant I needed to think and pray. After a day or two, I really felt like this was an opportunity for our community of faith to respond. I invited people through a video on our Facebook page to come and join me at the service for a man who at the end of his life was going to have no one show up. Then I forged ahead preparing the service for the man that had no one coming to his funeral service.
My amazing wife made sure that she was going to be there with me for the service. We got to the funeral home about thirty minutes before the service to make sure we had everything planned with the honor guard and the funeral director. Then at about fifteen minutes before the service was to start people from Elevation started to join us at the funeral home for the service for a man that had no one coming. By the time we started the service, there were twenty-five people sitting quietly in the chapel and not one of those people knew the man that the service was for.
The honor guard did an amazing job and presented the flag for this serviceman to my wife. As I sat there and looked at her from the front of the chapel, I saw tears begin to run down her face. She later told me that she was overwhelmed at the thought that this serviceman who had served our country and was someone’s son had no one show up for his funeral. I also was overwhelmed by emotion and had a difficult time presenting the service but my emotion came from seeing the people of Elevation come to a funeral service for a man that none of them knew.
For me, it was an amazing picture of the love of Jesus being shared through the sacrifice of the people of Elevation to show up at a funeral for someone that no one else was going to show up. Here is my question to you, who is going to show up at your funeral and why are they going to be there? I have no idea who this man was and I have no idea why there was no one there. But I do believe it is a moment that can help us see how we are living our lives and how we treat people and how we can be the ones that care for the people around us.
I do want to share my appreciation for the people of Elevation that came to that funeral and for being a community of faith that cares at all times.
Over four years ago we moved into a church building that was owned by another church from a different denomination. And over the last four years we have done some building changes on the outside but most of our work has been on the inside. So most people that either live close to this building or had come to the building before would have noticed the subtle changes we have made. But recently we had a neighborhood meeting where we invited the community to come in and talk with us about one of the things we are doing when it comes to the building property.
We are developing the back 2.1 acres of our property to where there will be an apartment complex built for low-income housing. For people that are coming out of homelessness, people with disabilities, people dealing with mental health, and those that are transitioning from prison. The goal for us is that we want to be a part of the housing solution in our community for those that need the most help. So we knew that we were going to have some people that were not going to be supportive of what we were doing. During this neighborhood meeting, we heard from a few people that were very against the work that we’re doing.
But when it came to this meeting it was not a comment about the low-income housing project that stuck with me the most. It was from a man that has been living behind our building who says he is a Christian and it was about the people that come to Elevation. Here is what he said, “We liked the other church that used to be in this building because those people looked like church people. The people coming now don’t look like church people.”
Which made me want to ask the question; “So what does a church person look like?” Is it suits, is it nice cars, is it nice looking people? What does a church person look like?
Church people look lost but are now being found, church people look lonely but are building relationships, and church people look left out but are now being brought together as a family. Church people have different cultures, church people have different languages, church people have different races, and church people come from all over. So if that is what it looks like here at Elevation I am good, no matter what someone says.
What if I told you that every day should be a little terrifying. What if I told you that if you aren’t walking through your life of faith a little nervous then you aren’t living at all. The problem with both of those statements is that they make us UNCOMFORTABLE. Something that most people in the western community of faith don’t like to hear. I mean we want to be comfortable in our chairs, we want to be comfortable with our coffee, we want to be comfortable in our groups, we just plain want to be comfortable.
Well when my family and I felt that God was leading us to start a church in Colorado we all came up with our own word, “Terricited”. Because every day we were terrified and we were excited at the same time. We were terrified that we were to move back to Colorado a place where I grew up and not as a follower of Jesus. (Dealing with your Past) But excited to be able to share with those same people about how my life has been drastically changed because of Jesus. We were terrified that we didn’t have a place to live and we were struggling to find a place. But we were excited about getting a place that would be a home base for raising our kids as the graduated from high school. We were terrified because I had never been the lead pastor of a church, but I was excited because I had never been the lead pastor of a church. In the New Testament you can read:
Mark 10:32a (NLT) 32 They were now on the way up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. The disciples were filled with awe, and the people following behind were overwhelmed with fear.
The people that were walking with Jesus the son of God in flesh, were in awe of what was going on were also overwhelmed with fear. What does that mean? They were “terricited”! So let me ask you this, where in your life are you terricited? Where are you experiencing the awe of Jesus and the overwhelming fear where you need to see him show up? Where are you terricited? Because honestly I think that more and more of us need to be less comfortable and more terricited. Let’s take some time this week to start getting a little TERRICITED.
So while I was looking through my Facebook feed the other day this is a video that was posted by Larry Leith from Tokyo Joe’s. (By the way I love their food and I love the culture that they have created for their business.) It is a great little coffee shop that is located down in Colorado Springs just an hour from where we live here in Aurora. The whole idea of the video is that people would go and visit other coffee shops in the area because of the community that has embraced them and by doing so end up with a free drink at Loyal Coffee. They are calling it the “Dis-Loyality Card”! What an amazing idea!
Here is where this video took me though – the church community. Isn’t this what we should be doing as the church? Letting people know that the community of faith is here for each other and build a community that is for the city not just ourselves? I was recently a part of a conversation about two churches in a community coming together for an event that helps grow leadership for both the city and the communities of faith. It was going to be an exciting opportunity to see the KINGDOM of Jesus respond in a way that would be a huge influence in the city. Well unfortunately one of the churches was not willing to partner in this endeavor because the building where the event was being held was not good enough for their people. Are you serious? The building is the reason that these two churches couldn’t come together to make a difference in the city like never before?
What if we decided to have “Dis-Loyalty” Sundays where we encouraged the people of our churches to go and support another church in the community? What if we called them BIG KINGDOM Sunday’s and we showed support for the big kingdom of Jesus?
What do you think about the coffee shop idea? What do you think about the BIG KINGDOM Sunday idea?
Over the last 10 weeks I have been working with about 20 guys when it comes to our Spiritual Fitness Process at Elevation. It has been an amazing opportunity for these guys to get to know one another and for them to get to know what it means to be a follower of Jesus that makes followers of Jesus. So one of the recent weeks we began to talk about what is most important when it comes to helping people volunteer and work together as the church. It was a conversation that you could tell was creating energy in the room and was really starting to gain ground in each of the guys minds. So for me being a visual learner I started putting what they were talking about to a graph on the wipe board. (The Picture Above) When we were done this is what was fleshed out.
Now here is the thing. I believe that what we walked away writing out does not just pertain to a church community but to business as well. Here are the bullet points to the idea that we came up with:
- Most leaders are Baby Boomers or Gen X. so they are looking for tasks to be completed. Is the job getting done?
- Most Millennial’s or Generation Z (See this book.) would be looking for a relationship to happen with the person they are working with. Are we working together?
- So what we said was that if the job is not getting done, then the leader is going to get frustrated. If there is no relationship then the follower is going to get frustrated.
- The big idea for both to grow is that there is supposed to be talking/teaching while the tasks are being completed. (The idea: you watch, I do, we talk.)
- Then the leader and the follower grow and the opportunity for business or church growth happens as well.
What are your thoughts about the idea? What do you think is missing? Where do you feel the most frustration as a leader and as a follower?
So yesterday as I was heading to the airport with my wife and daughter to fly out to an event that I was going to speak at something caught my eye. We were sitting at an intersection that we always go through about three to four times a day and there was a man on the corner with a refrigerator. That’s right a refrigerator all by himself on a dolly. Then as we pulled up the light changed and he painstakingly hauled the refrigerator across the street to the other side, but when he got to the corner it got stuck. So he worked and worked the refrigerator up on the corner as all of the cars in the turn lane waited and honked. Then once he got it up on the corner sidewalk he paused caught his breath and then hauled the refrigerator down the street to some unknown destination.
As I watched this happen I was thinking first, how I could get out and help this guy with out getting run over and with out being late for my flight. Then the second thing that came to mind was why is there no one to help this guy to move this refrigerator? Why is he carrying so much of a load all on his own? I thought that it was really interesting to see this since this last weekend at Elevation we talked about the need and call for community. We talked about “Relationships lead to community and community fuels maturity.”
It made me think about all the people that are involved in faith communities (churches) that are carrying to much on their own. Whether it because of their own choice of not being involved in community by choosing to be that person who just shows up and never gets to know any one. Or that they are involved in a faith community (church) that doesn’t make relationships a priority. It burdened my heart to think about how we have so many people that say they are following Jesus but have made a choice to forget about the “One Another’s”. Through out the New Testament there many “One Another’s” and there is one that I thought of when it came to the man on the corner with the refrigerator.
2 Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2 (NLT)
When did we start to think that we need to handle things all on our own? When did it become ok to know of the struggle someone is having and to do nothing? It is my prayer that today you will notice the family member or friend that is carrying to much, like the refrigerator and get involved. Who do you know that you can help carry the refrigerator down the street today? Don’t miss out on sharing in the burden.
When you get done with being in a church experience or service do you ask yourself the question, “What did I get out of this?” Hope you think about something.
It is my hope that I can help you change your perspective about answering that question. To be honest we should be really asking the question but the idea should be more about “How is Jesus speaking to me and what am I going to do in response to what He is telling me?”
So I want to challenge you with some things that can prepare you to answer that question above:
- Choose to really get into the singing. That’s right really sing out! Don’t worry about what anyone is thinking about your singing if you are seeking to honor God with you singing it shouldn’t matter. You don’t care about it when you are at a concert do you? Well don’t care when you are in service either.
- Come ready to hear and share stories that you have experienced when it comes to be being a part of a church family. This is a chance for encouragement and for life change as you become a healthier follower of Jesus.
- Be hungry to grow in your relationship with Jesus. Because being hungry is your choice as to what you experience! So pray for the person that is speaking, ask God to use them to speak into your life, to those that are sitting around you, and that lives would be changed by the gospel.
- Come prepared to be involved. Make sure you have a bible (paper or digital) get your program ready and make sure you write out notes. The notes will help you through out the week when it comes to working out what Jesus is doing in you and through you. Who knows the Holy Spirit might really use it to nudge in you a specific direction.
- Come expecting to respond to what God is doing that day both during the experience and later as you walk through what you have learned. Be ready to take it back out into life.
- Come knowing that this is not where you are going to have a strong sense of community. Remember that comes through being in a more relational driven group. (Smaller)
- Come knowing that the experience is the beginning of the week and that the experience is not the end of be all to your spiritual health. Take the experience and use it to grow more personally. Spiritual growth happens in many other ways then just on Sunday.
What are some ways that you get ready for a service or experience when you are a part of a church community? Help us see other options that are out there.