Let me start with a question:
What makes a week stand out as being exceptional (unusually good) to you?
This is what we call a “flip-flop” week. We usually do team preparation–not so that we all say the same thing, but so that what we say is better. Flip-flop weeks, on the other hand, are weeks that we independently create conversations, and over the next months we will share them with all of our communities. Today, this is my (Scott’s) flip flop.
Sixteen and a half years ago Amber and I planted Corner Church and soon after Corner Coffee in the North Loop of Minneapolis. Our mission then and our mission now is to have a Corner Church and a valued in-community business within walking distance of everyone in the urban dense parts of our city. Not so there would be more of Amber and me but because we saw–and see–the impact of the LOCAL CHURCH.
Our call is not to make a better church, be a better pastor, have better organization or better Sunday services, or do better ministries. But rather the call was to be the church.
I can’t shake Paul's words in Romans 12 (talk about sharing something hundreds of times):
For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. (Romans 12:4-5)
This mission to be within walking distance is not to be kitschy, but it is to be the body. Not elevating one pastor or one neighborhood or one people group, but to be the body over and over and over again in community after community after community. And the intentionality of being one church in many communities is not to be kitschy, but it is to be the body. While our communities are different and our neighborhoods are different and our demographics are different, our differences make us a body! And our proximity makes us the body!
Which brings us to these coffeehouses. We aren’t doing coffeehouses to be kitschy either. There is the efficiency of space. Corner Coffee, a local, independent coffeehouse owned by the church, uses the space Monday through Saturday. Corner Church, a local church, meets in Corner Coffee on Sundays. The efficiency of space–the way our space works–means that Corner Coffee pays 6/7 of our leases and Corner Church pays 1/7 of our leases.
Corner Coffee does not pay for any ministries or pay our pastoral staff–those come from your generosity in tithes and offerings. But because of our efficiency of space–the 6/7 and 1/7–we can keep our space cost low in high-rent communities and in turn pay our pastoral staff and pay for ministry. It is beautiful and powerful and maybe it even works, as we are 17 years down the road and living it out in four communities.
But let me tell you that a somewhat cheaper rent alone is not worth it. Planting a church takes someone who is a little off. Starting a business takes someone that is a little crazy. Doing both together is stupid! Expensive buildouts, permit delays, broken ice machines, broken refrigerators, broken espresso machines, staffing shortages, another trip to Costco business center, another ice machine is broken… let me tell you, a little discount on rent does not make it worth it. There has to be more–a missional more.
A common modern perspective in connecting people to Jesus has been to invite people to a church thing where they can get Jesus information, and in turn build the church, build the body of Christ. But what if people have had a negative past experience with church? It probably won’t work to invite them to come hear Jesus information. And so many people have these bad experiences.
But I am seeing more and more people falling into a different group: the indifferent. They know a little about Christians, personally or second hand, and they say, You do you, that’s fine–but it is not for me. It’s not my thing.
As people in our local say, “I am not anti Christian, but it’s not my thing,” we might shrug our shoulders and say, it is what it is–what can you do? But I can’t shake Jesus’ heart.
In John 9, Jesus healed a man born blind. This was crazy–it changed his life, inside and out. And the religious authorities HATED IT, because Jesus had done it on the Sabbath, the day when people were not supposed to do anything. Coming out of this investigation in John 9, Jesus in John 10 says:
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10)
Jesus wants to give life. LIFE.
And I can’t shake Paul’s picture that I already mentioned. We are only truly complete as we are together–the body of Christ.
So it’s not just connecting people to Jesus out of guilt, shame, religious obligation, but because of the life I am receiving, and the life that Jesus has for others as well.
Again, I can’t shake Jesus’ heart.
In Matthew 7, Jesus talks about life's storms:
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” (Matthew 7:24-27)
Jesus does not promise to spare people from the storm. But in following Him, there is a firm foundation in life’s storms.
I don’t want to connect people to Jesus out of guilt, shame or religious obligation, but because of the firm foundation that comes and the way it readies me (us) for life’s storms.
I could go on and on. But how do we connect people to Jesus? Not with a discount on rent, but through redefinition. What if people could walk to church hundreds of times before they ever walk to church? What if real people, in a localized community, could be an active part of redefining what it is to be the church, to be a Christian,, to be a person that is living for Jesus? What if it wasn’t a super cool pastor with an impressive presentation, but what if it was local people in a findable, known place walking out the complexities in humility and continual process? What if?
What if it was close to Elliot Park or Loring Park or Lowry Hill or Bryn Mawr or Near North? What if it was close to Columbia Heights or Dinkytown or Marcy Holmes or Como neighborhood or downtown Saint Paul? What if it was up Rice Street or down University or down Selby? What if it was in West Saint Paul or Longfellow or Seward or Powderhorn?
Not more us. Not more me! More bodies of Christ.
Today, I want to do something great for God, but what is that? Jesus dives into the heart behind that and gives insight into that direction. I can’t wait to process with you. Let's go to work for a few minutes.
I want you to think of ten things in your upcoming week that will take some of your time. Make a list, not in any specific order. Don’t be so general that you can’t come up with ten or so specific that it will take 50.
Now that you have those ten, I want you to plot them on this four-quadrant graph.
There are four corners to this graph. The vertical axis is the ‘energizes me’ and ‘drains me’ quantities. The horizontal axis is the ‘required to do’ and the ‘choose to do’ quantities. Take a moment to chart out the ten things from your list that you will be giving time to this week.
Okay, it’s time to process. Thinking about your upcoming week–how normal or unusual or daunting or boring it is–and then looking at the dots on your chart:
What does their placement on your four-quadrant chart tell you?
My faith says that this week matters. God is not surprised by it. He is not overwhelmed (or underwhelmed!) by it. I hold the words from Jeremiah tight:
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
I hold the words in Esther tight:
“For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14)
I hold the words of Paul in Romans tight:
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
I hold tight to the words of Proverbs:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
I hold the words of Paul tight from Ephesians:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Time for a fun question:
What is the impact of thinking that God’s plan for you is somewhere else, doing something “better” than you are now?
In Mark 8-10, starting towards the end of chapter 8, there is a pattern that is forming–a ‘three-times moment.’ Here’s the first time:
He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. (Mark 8:31)
This is heavy. So, Peter:
Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” (Mark 8:32-33)
Rebuked by Jesus–WOW. Then Jesus calls the crowd together:
Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” (Mark 8:34-37)
Now the pattern. Turn the page and Peter, James, and John went with Jesus up on top of a high mountain.
There he was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus. (Mark 9:2-4)
This was a moment. What should we do? This is good! We should stay here forever! Let’s get some tents! Then to top it, a cloud covered them and God’s voice boomed.
Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” (Mark 9:7)
Then it faded and they went down. Did that really happen? That was amazing. I’ll never be the same again. We should do that again. Jesus told them to hold it in until later.
After Jesus healed a man’s son that the other disciples couldn’t help, they left that place and there was an intentionality to get away and not be with the crowds for a moment–a moment of calm, a moment of teaching. Jesus, in that intimate setting, told them again (the second time) about His coming death and resurrection:
They left that place and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, because he was teaching his disciples. He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.” But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it. (Mark 9:30-32)
They didn’t get it–and they didn’t want to say anything. In the next breath of Mark again:
They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest. (Mark 9:33-34)
Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” He took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.” (Mark 9:35-37)
Jesus speaks to the reality that whoever is with us is not against us. He speaks sharply about causing little ones to stumble. And He ends with this strong and deep statement:
“Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt among yourselves, and be at peace with each other.” (Mark 9:50)
Then we turn to Mark 10. Jesus was mobbed by the kids.
People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them. (Mark 10:13-16)
Jesus is then approached by the rich young ruler. He was a great guy. Jesus calls him to CHANGE:
Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Mark 10:21)
And he walks away bummed. Jesus really blows the disciples’ minds. He says it is easier to bring a camel through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. BUT…
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” (Mark 10:27)
Jesus affirms the disciples that their sacrifice will not go unnoticed and unaddressed. And again (a third time) Jesus speaks of his soon-coming crucifixion:
They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid. Again he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him. “We are going up to Jerusalem,” he said, “and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.” (Mark 10:32-34)
Which is immediately followed by:
Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.” (Mark 10:35)
Jesus asked them what it was.
They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.” “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” (Mark 10:37-38)
And Jesus’ response:
Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42-45)
It’s time to unpack this.
Jesus declares His sacrifice for us. Peter rebukes Him. Jesus fires back. And then Jesus says, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”
Jesus declares His sacrifice for us. The disciples don’t get it and are afraid to say anything. In fact, they had been fighting about who was going to be the greatest in the Jesus’ kingdom. And then Jesus says, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”
Jesus declares His sacrifice for us. James and John immediately approach and make a strange request: Let one sit on Your right and one on Your left in Your kingdom. And Jesus says, “Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Time for a big question. Out of this pattern,
Why do you think the disciples were struggling with feelings of entitlement?
Okay. We are called to be the church. We are doing lots of things. It is easy to look down on what is under our feet. It is easy to feel a sense of entitlement. But in it, Jesus is calling us to be servants!
What does it look like to be a servant in your world–not somewhere else, but your current world?
What impact does or could your servanthood have?
Take It Deeper Questions
- Read Mark 10:42-45.
- What made someone stand out as a superhero in your life when you were a child?
- What makes someone stand out as a superhero in your life today?
- Why does Jesus elevate servanthood?
- What makes serving others difficult in your world?
- What is the impact of serving others in your world?
- How are you challenged, encouraged, focused, and/or confused by this text?
Bible Reading Plan
- 1 Chronicles 11
- 1 Chronicles 12
- 1 Chronicles 13
- 1 Chronicles 14
- 1 Chronicles 15