After having a re-think about the first version of this blog, I decided to scrap it and replace it with a refined version that became a sermon below.Enjoy:)
So I need to do something a little different this morning. I’ll need some patience and trust from you guys, so the only real way to say this is: no matter where you are at, just go with me on this for while this morning. First a question:
- How do you respond when you hear the word: “Carols”?
Why take out a Sunday to talk about Carols? Well, for one, over the next few months, when this word gets thrown around, there are people sitting here today that otherwise won’t have a clue what it means. A big part of this is for you. We want you on this adventure. Because….We do it together, or we don’t do it at all.
There are people sitting here that may know what it means but have may never have been actively involved for a number of reasons. There are some sitting here today that this time 12 months ago were thinking “should we even be doing this?” Whatever your approach is this year, this is for you. Maybe your visiting today thinking “you’re kidding me, I turn up at random and I have to listen to something that won’t affect me.” Believe it or not, this is for you too, think of it this way; you’ve come on a testimony Sunday…..and here’s the testimony:
- So what’s the sermon?
It’s a sermon via testimony. Last year around june/july, we held a bit if a survey we asked if we should continue to run an event (Carols) each year that takes up roughly a third of the year to organise in office time, and ends up leaving some of our best and brightest completely exhausted by Christmas time. The response was a resounding “yes we should,” and most of the yes’s argued that in an ever increasingly secular atmosphere, we should hold on to every chance we have to share the Gospel. Fair enough.
I’ll get to this year’s theme in a moment, but what came down to earth in 2016 was about million gallons of water. After an ever increasingly wetter pre-show toddler jam presentation, we had to cancel the event, to the disappointment of all, for safety reasons.
Almost immediately there was a groundswell of ideas for a ‘take 2’ version to be held at the Church. What the ensuing week saw was people giving up hours and hours of time to come down and help set up for a re-do at the church with many community members signalling their interest.
What you may not have seen was how close we then came in January to people turning up to church with literally no-one on singing, playing, sound or computer.
Meanwhile, I decided to write down my own thoughts and published it on line entitled: ‘when your carols event get’s rained out.’ It became the second most popular article in terms of hits I’ve ever received. I had pastors from other churches emailing me they had struggled with similar questions and were uncomfortable with how much was often expended on these events for what seemed to be very little fruit. I was very surprised to find I’d stumbled upon a bit of a water main.
What questions did I wrestle with? These: if God knew this was going to happen why did he let us expend so much time and effort? Didn’t we pray for good weather, why did he not answer our prayers? And how come you can get, it seems, more publicity and community engagement out of a no-show than we have all the years we’ve pulled it off without a hitch? These are more than questions about an event or events ministry, these are life questions are they not? We all struggle at times with how relatively little control we have over circumstances.
I wrestled with these questions and the text that came to mind was Prov 16:33 We may throw the dice,[a] but the Lord determines how they fall. I wondered if the whole thing may have been one big humility exercise. I realised that all these questions reminded me of my finite-ness. I’m mortal. I rely on God. Not the other way around. I realised that it’s not good enough to talk about the things we ‘must do for God,’ because God, doesn’t need our help. He doesn’t need our involvement. So, we are left with something far more amazing; He wants it. Just because he loves us. Until you realise the gravity of that, you’ll never want to do anything for him. God humbles us so we can receive what really matters.
What really matters? Knowing and experiencing God. In every context, only God can make things new. Only God can take things to a new place. In a sense, like Abraham had to put his Isaac on the altar before he could receive him back with the blessing of God, so we had to put a waratah institution on the altar before receiving it back renewed.
And renewed it is.
- Our leaders.
Let me introduce to you; the new Carols organising committee afew had to be away today but maybe we’ll get those who are here to stand in their seats. Lance, John, Tony, Erik S., Alycia, Ian, Dianne, and Myself. Notice anything? Apart from me, no-one from the office. Apart from me, all are first-timers when it comes to being on the organising committee.
With new blood comes new ideas, (that’s unavoidable) new ways of doing things and most importantly: a vision and mission that is Lay-church driven not office driven. Friends you’re looking at the future. It’s not about one being better than the other, it’s just different. But difference does mean freshness. We do it as a Church, or we don’t do it at all. These guys have been given the task and the authority of organising the event top to bottom. Down the track of course we’ll be looking for your involvement and these will be the folks to talk to. In their respective roles, they’re the boss. And of course all this of course has been possible because like a collective Abraham, Gavin and others have been happy to hand over the Carols to a new committee. We need to celebrate and honour every choice of faith that is made among us.
- Our Theme: Down to Earth
There it is, on the screen. Down to Earth. Why?
- Because it is easy to memorise and share through social media.
- It is free of ‘Christianese’ lingo and thus communicable to someone who hasn’t ever stepped foot inside a church
- It communicates the most important thing about Christmas of all; it’s reality, that is that Jesus really did walk among us.
- Lastly it communicates where the difference of faith in Christ is made. Here.
A theme is something you’re communicating to the community that attends the event. A mission statement is something else entirely.
- Our mission: “Bringing them to Church, bringing them to Jesus.”
This is for us. This is to discipline and focus our activities around the event. But why this mission? Bill Hybels said; “the local Church is the hope of the world.” Jesus expressly commanded the disciples to do nothing in the way of evangelism until the Holy Spirit comes upon them. (Luke 24:49) He’s essentially saying: “don’t even think about trying to do anything in my name until you do it as a Church.” There is ten thousand miles difference between wanting people in a Church to fill seats and wanting people in a Church because we know that in this age, the Church is where the Spirit of God is living and active through his word and through the worship of the saints in a unique, particular, special and sometimes even ferocious way.
Through the use of digital media and other creative methods, We are going to see if we can transport over a thousand people into this room into this community. We’re bringing the cameras in. We want people to walk away from Carols feeling as if they’ve already been to Church. Less: ‘come to our church’ More, ‘see you next week’. They may be sitting on a picnic rug, but by the time the credits roll they should feel like they have been for a short, short time in a church a close, close way away. We can only do this is we work together. There are people sitting here this morning, that God-willing, will be having a gospel conversation with over 1000 people via digital media. We want the community responding to the truth as bourne out by our testimony. That means, if you have a story to tell, I’m going to want to hear from you.
These two factors, theme and mission statement will determine the content and style of the Carols event from the smallest detail to the entire event layout.
- Our (measurable) goals.
- 100% Church involvement. Why not?
- Lay church organisation, debrief and role descriptions.
- Involving another church in every level of the event (even music).
- Accessible modern language where applicable, eg: use of the MSG translation in Bible readings.
- At least 4 individual avenues of response.
- Lay Church members involved gospel presentations.
- One consistent design language and theme stretching across every area of the event.
- 500 individual pieces of community feedback across digital and traditional media.
- 100 individual contacts to followed up.
- Are you looking forward to it?
So, Are you looking forward to it? Careful, it might rain! James 4:13-16 13 Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” 14 How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. 15 What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that.”16 Otherwise you are boasting about your own pretentious plans, and all such boasting is evil.
While we simply do our best over the next few months, we are hugely aware that it could all end in another washout. But even if it does…..we lose nothing. Nothing. We gain everything. Even if the worst happened, new relationships will be formed among us, new lessons learned, new roles shaped for the future, new standards set, new alliances built with other churches, existing relationships deepened with Falcon Primary school, Visitors becoming members, members becomes leaders, leaders becoming mentors, diversity becoming unity, fear becoming faith and faith becoming…..resurrection to the glory of God.
Because that’s who it’s all about.