Reaching Out Without Passing Out #5
What if you had to come up with a new commandment? That’s just what young people in Great Britain were asked in a new campaign, meant to help the church get in touch with a demographic they sometimes misunderstand or maybe ignore.Churches throughout time have been known for telling people “Thou shalt not!” But the British Methodist Church is taking a different approach, giving people the chance to come up with suggestions for a new 11th Commandment.
Haley Moss: “Don’t work on Sundays.”
Gavin Edwards: “Don’t sleep through your lectures.”
The 11th Commandment campaign is a national listening exercise helping the church find out what’s on the minds of Generation Xers, who are in their 20s and 30s.
Haley Moss: “I’ve never been to church really. I used to go when I was young, but not anymore.”
Daniel Cuper: “I used to go when I was younger.”
Three quarters of a million postcards and coasters have been distributed in movie theaters, pubs and bars like this student hangout in Manchester. They encourage people to text message the church with suggestions for a new commandment that will make the world a better place. The top five win a camera cell phone. The church will use the feedback to better serve young people in the future.
Cris Acher / British Methodist Minister: “People want to come. They want to be able to discuss issues. They don’t want to have to just listen to somebody. They want to be able to share with others. They’re people looking for a bit of community and that doesn’t always happen in an hour on Sunday morning.”
27-year-old British Methodist minister Cris Acher helped develop the 11th Commandment campaign. While it’s meant to be a bit of fun, it also serves as a window on a group that Methodists know they aren’t serving well enough.
Cris Acher: “We’re not going to meet people by waiting in a building. We’ve got to take risks; we’ve got to take big, bold steps.”
Wagas Javed: “The first time I saw it I though it was a joke. That’s what was came to my mind. But it seems like a good idea.”
Haley Moss: It’s a cool idea.”
The Top Five Commandments were:
Thou shalt not worship false pop idols.
Thou shalt not kill in the name of any god.
Thou shalt not confuse text with love.
Thou shalt not consume thine own body weight in fudge.
Thou shalt not be negative.
Also in the running were “Thou shalt not … dump your boy/girl friend by text, … dance like your dad, … marry unless truly in love, … hold loud conversations on thy mobile in a public place, … condemn thy neighbor for having different beliefs, … use faith to hide from reality and … shrink-wrap cucumbers (That’s my personal favorite).
There were also some “Thou shalts. “Thou shalt: …commit random acts of kindness, … respect the earth, … indicate at roundabouts (use your turn signal at all intersections) and … smile at the person opposite.
What I found so refreshing about that campaign is they did it not to be funny but to actually try to listen to the younger generations concerns and then build ministries to reach them in other ways and other places. That’s what our Reaching Out Without Passing Out series has really been about; trying to ReThink Church as United Methodists say; trying reach out in other ways and other places. As we wrap up the series today, we’ll look at one more aspect of our sharing.
There was a little boy whose farmer father had taken him out to a field on the farm and put him to work picking up rocks out of the newly plowed and disked field. While he was working away like his daddy told him to do, a group of men in suits and ties stumbled in through the woods. It was obvious they were lost. They were trying to get their cell phones and gps to work but nothing was working so they went up to the little boy to find out where they were.
The boy was a little reticent to talk to them but finally did. When the men in suits and ties asked the boy where they were, he told them there were on his family farm. They wanted to know what road it was on, the boy didn’t know. Then they asked what county it was in, the boy didn’t know. They asked the boy for directions to town, he said he didn’t know.
The men started chastising him for not knowing where he was. The boy said, “I’m sorry sir, but you’re the ones who are lost. I’m not lost. I’m doing exactly what my father told me to do. I’m where I’m supposed to be.”
Reason I tell you that story is that I think it holds two truths. The first being that like the little boy, whenever we seek to share the Good News, we are “doing exactly what the father told us to do.”
However, there is a second truth that applies to our world today. There are a lot of people who have no idea what we mean when we say they are “lost.” They don’t believe they’re lost in the classical Christian way. Like that little boy they believe, “They are where they are supposed to be.” Telling them they’re lost is insulting and only makes them mad, confused, and irritable. Not only that but it sets up an Us and Them mentality and does nothing but build walls between us.
So how do we break down those walls. How do we be faithful to our call to make disciples in modern society.
I believe we have to begin thinking about new ways of talking and thinking about how we relate to others while at the same time living a life that is faithful to Christ. Like I’ve said before, we are the invitation. Often times, probably most of the time, people Judge the Christian faith by our actions; by how faithful we are to what we believe.
Let’s look at what the Apostle wrote to the church in Rome. Romans 15:20-21 (NRSV)
 Thus I make it my ambition to proclaim the good news, not where Christ has already been named, so that I do not build on someone else’s foundation,
 but as it is written, “Those who have never been told of him shall see, and those who have never heard of him shall understand.”
Romans 12:9-13 (MSG)
 Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good.
 Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.
 Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master,
 cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder.
 Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.
Paul clearly is seeking those who have never heard. Paul is seeking to prepare other fields.
I. NEW FIELDS:
A. I think we need to do that as well. It’s always amazed me to think about the amount work, sheer manual labor, in taming a parcel of land. Felling the trees with an axe; cutting the wood and hauling it off. Then there was prepping the soil; pulling the stumps, clearing out the rock.
I know how hard that rock clearing was. Grandpa’s farm grew the best rocks around. We’d plow and disk a field and we’d pick up wagon load after wagon load of rocks and dump them in the creek or wash out areas. The field would look spotless but then the next spring after plowing and disking the rocks would be back with a vengeance.
All of this just to tell you that I think this is where we are in the world today. It’s probably not as true in our community as it is in the cities but we live in a time when people haven’t heard of Jesus. We live in such a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-religious society that the likelihood of someone having NOT heard about Jesus is greater than ever before.
And because of that, we have to prepare new soil and new ground. At one time, the fields might have been ripe for harvest but today we have to prepare new soil like the pioneers of old. There are deep rooted trees that we have to fell in order for others to see who God intended us to be. We have to cut down and dig out the roots of prejudice, judgmentalism, sexism, and every other ism in the world that serves as a wall to separate us from each other and form God.
That’s going to be hard backbreaking work in the world and especially in ourselves. But those NEW FIELDS will lead us to NEW FRIENDS.
II. NEW FRIENDS:
A. There’s a movie that was in a limited number of theaters last month titled “A Shine of Rainbows” based on the novel by Lillian Beckwith. It is the story Tomas, an orphan, who is adopted by Maire and Alec O’Donnell who whisk him off to their home on remote Corrie Island, off the coast of Ireland. Maire shares with Tomas the joys of her island home and introduces him to the whimsical local folklore, including the secret of the seals.
Maire’s stern husband Alec silently disapproves of Tomas’ timidity and halting speech. He can’t hide his disappointment that Tomas isn’t the kind of child he was hoping for and his reluctance to get to know the boy makes Tomas unsure of whether he really belongs. The movie is about the transformational power of love, about finding acceptance, discovering ourselves, and realizing that rainbows are all around us- and within us too. In this scene, Tomas asks his mother why she picked him.
I haven’t seen the full movie yet but that scene captures such a poignant moment. “Why did you pick me?” And in the discussion he realizes that she was an orphan who was never picked. Mom says, “No one took the time to know me. But I know you, Tomas.”
The sad truth of the busyness of our world is that we don’t always take the time to get to know people. And I think that is going to be one of our number one priorities in the future, developing communities within this community of faith and the community of our town in which we can get to know one another.
People are not notches on our gun, so to speak. While we are concerned with growing the church, we should be more concerned with connecting with people and getting to know people. And that’s harder work than felling trees and picking up rocks. Rocks and trees can’t disagree with you. Rocks and trees don’t have feelings. Rocks and trees can’t break your heart.
III. NEW LIFE:
A. The NEW FIELDS and NEW FRIENDS has the potential to lead everyone involved into NEW LIFE, a life that is filled with and reflects the love of God in Christ. And a life which invites others to experience it as well.
One of the ways we get to that harvest is by planting the right seed. That’s really what all of these cards I’ve been giving you are; Seeds and ways to plant them in non-confrontational, get to know you, sort of ways. One other group of seeds you can use are the 1,2,3,4 cards I gave out a few months ago. I have more if you’ve lost yours.
Briefly, they give a sense of who we are as United Methodists.
1. We believe in Making Disciples of Jesus Christ for the Transformation of the whole world.
2. We live by two kinds of holiness, personal and social.
3. We follow three simple rules. Do no harm. Do good. Stay in love with God.
4. We work in four areas of focus;
Developing leaders; Creating places for new people; Eliminating poverty; Improving health globally.
That’s some of the distinctive of who we are as United Methodists. More seeds to sow.
But now here’s the codicil to everything I’ve said for the last few weeks. We can have all the cards, all the books, all the letters and songs and videos in the world. They can stack to the moon and back and we can still fail if we are not living what we say we believe. If what happens in here (church) doesn’t affect what happens in here (heart) and what happens out there in our daily lives, then we’ve wasted our time. In other words, if we don’t love as Jesus loved, what good is all this.
During the Homiletics Festival (Preaching Conference) I attended a couple of weeks ago, Dr. Craig Barnes, Professor of Leadership and Ministry at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary said, “It’s not our job to get the people to the promised land. Our job is to love the people and show them what Jesus is doing today and that’s enough to fill the day.”
He also told us that when a man decides to join the Benedictine Monastery and moves from being a Novice to being one of the Brothers, he stands in the center of all monks in that particular place. The monks slowly and reverently take the man’s street clothes off. Then they give him the Monk’s habit to put on. But then they hang his street clothes in his unlocked closet alongside where his habit will hang. And every day he has to choose which clothes he will put on.
If we clothe ourselves in Christ then we will be able to fulfill the 11th Commandment Jesus gave us at the Last Supper: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.