Encounter: Slowly read through 2 Corinthians 5:15-21, Luke 19:1-10, Genesis 12:1-3, Galatians 3:7-9
“It’s not rocket science,” I said to the new intern from a local seminary as I trained her to lead our Life Group Ministry. I was serving as pastor of spiritual formation at a church in Phoenix and one of my major responsibilities was developing community through small group ministry. It really was not complicated. We witnessed people experience what they would often explain as a blessing as they lived life together outside of just church on Sunday. People came to faith and found family and invited others.
As people met together each week in their homes, at work or at the church, they were given plenty of opportunities to learn to love their neighbor just as God had commanded. The blessing came when they prayed together, listened with care as they shared life, ate together around the table, served one another and shared their stories. Simply, they were following the example of Jesus as he prioritized the value of community. Slowly and surely, people found that sharing the Good News can be as simple as being a good friend. They were living the “Jesus Mission.”
People are looking for friends! Dave Ferguson, author of B.L.E.S.S. 5 Everyday Ways to Love Your Neighbor and Change the World writes, If I had to summarize what the research and my experience told me about what those around us are looking for, I could do it in one word: friend! It’s that simple. It’s also that challenging. People are looking for you to be a friend. They are looking for a friend who will live the good news, be good news, and then share the good news in the form of their own story. In that order! Wow! It was that simple. “Aha!” that brought me back to the Bible and opened my eyes to see that this is exactly how Jesus did it.”
God is continually inviting us to be light in a dark world. But surveys show that as Christ followers we are really confused about sharing our faith. What if there were practices that became a natural part of our daily lives that we would actually enjoy following the Jesus Mission. What if instead of feeling awkward, you were creating a space where people knew they would be listened to without judgment, allowed to draw their own conclusions without being pressured and then once they felt safe, would actually ask you to share your experience with Jesus?
This Sunday we kick off our new ministry year theme with the B.L.E.S.S. Initiative and a 7-week series that will invite us to practice those everyday ways to love our neighbors. Because when we do, there is a very real possibility that we can bring such a blessing that it changes the world we live in and changes us at the same time. And wouldn’t that be just the best blessing ever!
Invite family and friends to worship and our Hawaiian Shindig, barbecue, potluck, games for the kids, cake walk and dunk tank, volunteer appreciation, and a time of sharing where we see God moving all over our community. Come and enjoy a day of celebrating how our God is continuing to make us, “A welcoming community seeking transformation through relationship with Jesus Christ as we encourage our neighbors to join us!”
Blessed to be a Blessing,
· Read 2 Corinthians 5:17-21. What is Jesus saying about God’s mission and our role in it?
· Read Genesis 12:1-3 and Galatians 3:7-9. God has always wanted his people to be blessed to be a blessing to others. What do you think about that insight?
· The mission of our church is helping people find their way back to God. That means we are all part of it, all the time. It might be challenging to think about our role in that mission. If we’re not sure what it looks like to be “on mission” then we might be hoping people find their way back to God rather than helping people find their way back to God. What is the difference between hoping and helping? Explain
· Who has been a person who has blessed your life?
· Who could you BLESS in your life now? Are there specific ways you could serve them?
Living the BLESS practices is not about adding another “thing” to your calendar, but it’s a prayerful and generous posture toward the world that looks for opportunities to serve others and share the story of how Jesus is changing our lives. This week, let’s pray that God would show us how we can BLESS the people in our lives.
The BLESS Practices
Begin with Prayer
The "B" is for Begin with Prayer. We believe that prayer is how you discover your mission as well as how you accomplish it. If you're not sure who the people are God is calling you to bless or where the place is God is calling you to go, you can begin with prayer. And if you know people or the place you want to impact, begin praying for those people and that place.
The "L" in BLESS is for Listen. Sadly, most Christians are known for talking more than listening. If we sincerely hope to impact the lives of people around us, then we must first get to know them. Any relationship starts with listening. We need to listen to their hopes, their dreams, and their challenges. Truly listening may be the kindest and most loving gift you can give someone.
The "E" in BLESS is "Eat." This third practice is our personal favorite, and it's something in which many of us are experts—eating! There is something about sharing a meal that moves any relationship past acquaintance toward friendship—faster than just about anything else we can do. And there are few ways we can better bless the people around us than by sharing a meal.
The first “S” in BLESS is for “Serve.” We are convinced that if you will begin with prayer, listen, and eat; there is a good chance that by then you will have discovered how you can best serve the person or place to which God has called you. They'll likely tell you how you can best serve them.
· The second “S” in BLESS is “Story.” Our experience is that if you do the other BLESS practices – Begin with Prayer, Listen, Eat, and Serve; then there is a good chance you will have the opportunity to share your story. Someone may ask you to explain what makes you different. It is then that you can tell them your story of how Jesus changed your life.