Monday, September 23, 2013

Signing Up for Exemptions

The Affordable Care Act is coming and it is causing quite a bit of panic.  From elected officials to health officials to owners of businesses, there is fear about the impact of Obamacare.  I try to read a lot of news from a variety of spectrums and I have struggled to find anyone who is genuinely happy with this mandate.  Perhaps, most telling about this law is how many people are trying to get exemptions.  Did you know that over 700 businesses already have an exemption?  If you would like to see the list, here is a link, although I doubt you will have the time for it.  Even more disheartening is the fact that although Congress and their staff will have to enter the insurance exchanges, they will have a large percentage of their premiums paid by the US Tax payers.  If our president really wants to know how good and effective this law is, he should allow any America to sign up to be exempt from it.  My guess is, there wouldn't be a whole lot of Americans lining up to join this new monstrosity.  The same probably goes for Social Security.  If Americans were given the choice to opt out, quite a few would sign up.  Of course, our elected officials are already exempt from Social Security, so they have no fear about the system being broke.


As always, this is not a political commentary, just stating the obvious.  The most obvious point to these laws are that those who enacted them are exempt from them.  If these laws are so good, shouldn't they apply to every American without any exemptions...elected officials included?  This is the "Do as I say, not as I do" philosophy.  No wonder Americans have no faith in their government to accomplish anything meaningful.  Too much not practicing what they preach.  This is the ultimate level of hypocrisy and most Americans are disgusted by this.  Lawmakers keep exacting their pound of flesh from the tax-payers, while fattening themselves on these very laws.

It's easy to pick on our government because it is an easy target.  Too many lawyers as elected officials and not enough common sense will do it every time.  But the point of this blog is for those of us claiming to follow Jesus.  I think the world is tired of the hypocrisy of the Church.  Jesus at the end of the sermon on the mount says, "Enter through the narrow gate.  For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow is the road that leads to life, and only a few find it".  Too many in the church live like this isn't a reality.  They go along with whatever is culturally acceptable and expedient, even misusing the Bible to justify their compromises.  The world looks at us and they see nothing inviting about our lives.  We have the same divorce rate, cohabitation, single pregnancies, cheating, lying, cussing, trashing dressing, etc. as the rest of the world.  Even more than that, they see our critical spirit, defeatism, bitterness, unresolved anger and lack of purpose.  They see our hypocrisy and avoid any meaningful discussion with us.  The Bible draws the line in the sand for our heart and behavior, but we keep moving the line or the impact of crossing the line.  So rather than pick on our elected officials, we should probably pray for them.  Rather than try to fit in with our culture, we should prepare to be mistreated for living a holy life.  Rather than grip and complain about all that is wrong in the world, we should reflect hope and grace.  Rather than crush those who oppose us, we should show grace and forgiveness.  Maybe we should stop looking for exemptions to holy living and focus on the testimony that arises from such living. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Best Advertisement

On Sunday, September 15th, Hillcrest Baptist Church participated in the El Sobrante Stroll.  For those of you unfamiliar with the Stroll, it is a 1/4 mile long block party on San Pablo Dam Road.  The El Sobrante Chamber of Commerce sponsors the event and closes that 1/4 mile stretch of the road.  Businesses and vendors can rent spaces at the Stroll to sell their products or interact with the community.  At our booth, we had a game for the kids (The Labyrinth), a craft table and welcome table with candy, church information, flyers, etc.  This year's Stroll seemed to be smaller than in the past, but there were probably still over 10,000 people in attendance.  The weather was perfect and we had plenty of church members show up to work our booth.

While I was at our booth, a lady came by trying to sell our church on advertising in the Valley Yellow Pages.  As she began her sales pitch, I cut her off because we are not going to advertise with them, so I didn't want to waste her time.  We don't have the financial resources, plus I don't think that would be the best way to advertise.  So I began to think about what is the best way for a church to advertise.  I have seen some churches in our area advertise in "The Marketplace", a local monthly magazine.  Most of these printed ads point out how boring other churches are and how exciting their churches are.  I'm not sure if I really want to put down other churches to make our church look better.  Other churches advertise in the newspaper.  Some may advertise on television.  Others may use billboards.  Others maybe use mailers.  Others may use the Internet, Facebook or other social media.  I thought about the times our church has used these different methods and the results they have brought.  Usually, they bring people who are already saved, but not satisfied with their church.  I have found that they will get involved in the church as long as our church is the "happening" thing.  Then they will move on to another church where they can get their next spiritual fix.

Then I thought about the Jesus method of advertising and came to the conclusion that the best way a church can advertise is utilizing the two methods Jesus told us to implement.  Method #1 - The Share Method:  This method is based on Matthew 28:9-20, where Jesus told His disciples to GO and make disciples.  It is also based on Matthew 10 when Jesus sends His own disciples out into the towns/cities having them share about the Kingdom of God.  This method means we go out into the community rather than trying to bring the community to us.  We connect with them where they live and interact with them on their ground.  This means we end up getting our hands and feet dirty.  We get to know people, talk with them and invite them to come to Jesus.  As we go to work, to school or live in our neighborhood, we intentionally get to know people and connect with them.  As we do this, God will open doors for us to share His salvation with them.  Most churches using secular mediums to advertise are inviting the community to come to church. There is nothing wrong or sinful with inviting someone to church.  We should be doing this daily.  But a church which is not proactively out in the community is a church which is simply growing by shuffling the deck of Christians in the community into their building.  The Share Method is uncomfortable for us because we are risking rejection or abuse as we attempt to connect people with Christ.  Yet, this is the method Jesus utilized and trained His disciples to utilize.

There is one other method, but it is a secondary method.  Method #2 is the Care Method.  In John 13:35, He says, "By this all men will know you are my disciples, if you love one another."  This method gets a little tricky because it means we have to show agape love to the entire body of Christ - And there are some people in the body of Christ we may not get along with very well.  So, we have to throw off all prejudices and genuinely love others in the Church.  When someone sees us interacting with our church family, they should be amazed at the depth of love and commitment we have to each other.  If they come to our booth at the Stroll, they should immediately sense a deep love.  When they come to our church, they should see God's love being expressed in practical ways.  This method is costly to us personally, because we must let God remove our ego, need to be right and human tendency to find fault.  This method can't be faked.  Only Jesus can give us this kind of love.  Yet, this is what our culture is so deeply missing.  We have lots of ways to communicate with texts, Facebook, e-mails, Twitter and a host of other mediums.  But we have a very low level of love being expressed and felt today.  People are connected with the world, yet deeply isolated and alone.  This method will take a lot of energy and time, but is a tremendous opportunity for the Church today.

So I won't ask Hillcrest Baptist Church to advertise in the Valley Yellow Pages.  BUT I will ask us to reach out to the community and let our lives and love be an advertisement for Jesus.  As you can see by the photos above, the Stroll allowed us to connect utilizing both methods.  We distributed over 130 invitations to TeamKid, distributed over 75 church flyers, gave out 30 evangelistic tracts in Spanish and English, had over 200 children make a craft, had at least 200 people play the Labyrinth and connected with many in our community.  The Stroll was a wonderful way for us to employ the methods Jesus gave us.  So what about you?  What are you doing, personally, to teach out with the Share Method?  What are you doing, personally, to advertise Jesus with the Care Method?  This is the best advertisement available to the church.  What are you advertising?