Let’s fight about Xmas!

"Peace on earth" can wait! Stop calling it "Xmas!"

“Peace on earth” can wait! Stop calling it “Xmas!”

By Scott Linscott

Xmas, xmas, xmas. Wow. Doesn’t it tick you off? I mean, this conspiracy to take Christ out of Christmas is terrible, isn’t it?

Not so fast. Calm down. Breathe. Lay down your weapons.Chill.

Why are we Christians so wrapped up in this fight to make sure that Jesus is attached to this celebration that is looking less and less like Jesus each passing year? Isn’t it true that the only appearance Christ makes in Christmas for most in our post-christian society is in the name alone?

Imagine someone throws you a huge birthday party and then doesn’t invite you. There are no gifts for you, no cake for you and no one acknowledges you. But when you look at the invitations, the party flyers and all the banners and decorations you see your name everywhere. It’s all because of you! Except, it really isn’t. How do you feel about that?

I wonder if it even matters at all to Jesus. Is He sitting on His throne fretting because people sing around a “holiday” tree? Is He bummed out that huge box stores aren’t giving Him the credit for selling tons of Xbox games and Monster High dolls?

Don’t get me wrong, I think Jesus wants everyone to find hope, joy and salvation in Him but He leaves that choice up to us. I know He loves it when we celebrate Christmas for all that it truly represents and invite Him to be the focus of our holiday. I’m just thinking He would rather we be ambassadors of peace rather than aggressive, snippy, enforcers of Christmas.

I suspect Jesus is more hurt by having His name attached to something that really has little to nothing to do with Him than He is about “Xmas.” Have you ever considered that taking the Lord’s name in vain might have little to do cursing?

But how can you stomach “Xmas” if it really bothers you? Consider this. The X conspiracy is not much of a conspiracy at all when you consider its origin. X is the Greek letter “Chi” which has represented Christ all the way back to Constantine. Have you seen IXOYE? Do you know its meaning? Go ahead, Google it and then let me know what you discover by commenting or leaving a Facebook post.

Please calm down. Please stop fighting to make sure Christ’s name is attached to something that, for many, has so little to do with Him. Be nice. When someone wishes you “happy holidays” don’t go ballistic on them, sigh or roll your eyes. Accept their well wishes with grace and kindness and respond with love. Please don’t slam them on Facebook but instead present what Christ means to you.

Remember, the world thinks we Christians are always mad and fighting about something. The only way we can change that reputation is to prove them wrong with our actions.

Perhaps if we loved more and argued less, the people we come in contact with might discover the life-giving joy of Christ and invite Him to be the focus of their celebrations. I know Jesus would take more joy in that than does in us balling out cashiers who wish us, “happy holidays.”

Let’s represent the Good News by promoting peace on earth and good will toward men.

Luke 2

 

 

Advertisements

A dangerous prayer that will ruin your life

By Scott Linscott

I have a prayer that will ruin your life. If you pray it sincerely it will turn your life upside down and rearrange all the things you think are most important. If you pray it sincerely, it will begin to change your pace, your goals and your direction. Your life will be wrecked and you’ll be inexplicably grateful for all the changes.

I’ve never met anyone who made it the prayer of their heart and then regretted it. I’ve never met one single person who has told me, “Scott, I wish I could go back to what I was before I began praying that prayer.”

It’s a prayer that changes your focus from inward to outward, from selfish to selfless, from comfort to concern and from conflict to community.

It’s a prayer that has caused us over the years to give away a car, drop anonymous cash in envelopes and take someone shopping. It’s a prayer that has taken us across land and sea to lend a hand to people in poverty and people in crisis. It makes us hurt for those who hurt and ache for people who suffer. It makes us alter our schedules and change our priorities.

And, it makes us realize that the life it ruined has been replaced with a life that is so much more full. It compels us forward in love and makes us see others in an entirely different light. In fact, it makes us want to see them exchange emptiness for abundance and temporary for eternal.

What is the prayer? Simply:

“God, give me your heart, eyes and ears. Make me a reflection of Jesus.”

I am so thankful that God continues to take the life I had and replace it with the new life He gives. I like His life so much more … even when it is more difficult.

How can we make our guests feel welcome?

By Scott Linscott

Are you excited? In the past two weeks we have had 16 first time guests! In the past month I count 12 guests who joined us on a Sunday morning and have returned and are becoming regular faces.

blog 11-12-13

We’ve made changes to make guests feel more comfortable and welcome in our gathering. When I put my messages together I always try to remember that we will have guests among us and work to speak to all ages. I want to focus on memorable and relevant messages, extend a vibrant welcome and make sure to laugh with our guests.

We have started into a new series to begin addressing barriers that keep outsiders from feeling welcome and accepted. Last Sunday I asked you to sacrifice three things: (listen here)

  1. Sacred cows. These can be anything that you have attached to God and elevated to a much higher place than He has asked. Sacred cows can be icons, formats, methods, furnishings, styles, music and even attitudes.
  2. Self-centered comfort zones. Like Paul, we must be willing to become all things to all people to win some.
  3. Fear of change. God calls us into scary territories but He NEVER sends us alone.

I asked that, before we fight and argue about any of our personal sacred cows, we pray,

“Lord, is this truly important to you? Am I fighting to advance the gospel or am I fighting to maintain a barrier? Am I fighting to preserve what I like or am I willing to lay my likes down for your purposes?”

The Apostle Paul went into Athens, known for worshiping dozens of Gods and erecting idols. It was an uncomfortable place but the message of the gospel compelled him to go. He put his traditions, preferences and history aside to walk among the people and even use one of their own idols to introduce Christ.

This week we will be continuing to look at Paul’s actions and address some of the specific barriers that keep guests from visiting or returning.  Our first step in growth is to pray that God bring us believers who will join the team He is building to make a difference in our community.

I enjoyed reading what Rick Warren wrote in a blog post about welcoming guests. He makes a lot of sense. I like several of his ideas for the future…

BY RICK WARREN

There are a lot of reasons a church might grow. Sometimes people come because of the preaching. Sometimes people come because of the music. Some people like the great programs for kids and youth.

But I’m convinced there’s an often overlooked factor in church growth: Growing churches are friendly to guests. All churches think they’re friendly, but when you take a good look at them, you often discover they’re friendly to people who have been attending for 15 years or more – not to new people.

A guest’s first 12 minutes dramatically influence whether they’re coming back or not. You never get a second chance to make a first impression. When non-Christians come to your church for the first time, their number one emotion is fear. What will people think? What are they going to do? Am I going to have to sign something, sing something, sacrifice something, or say something? They don’t know what’s going on, and they’re scared to death.

Your first goal with guests (and by the way, I never call them visitors) is to get them to relax. Then you can communicate with them. When people are afraid, their barriers are up and it’s like, “I dare you to teach me something!” No matter how good your sermon is, they won’t listen to the Good News about Jesus until they get past those fears. You need to put guests at ease.

How do you do that? Here are some ideas:

– Reserve your best parking spots for guests. It just shows you’re thinking about them. If you had guests for dinner at your house, you’d probably do whatever it took to make them feel more comfortable. You’d give them your best silverware and your best dishes. You might ask them about food preferences before you plan the meal. You should show the same type of courtesies to guests at your church.

– Station greeters outside your building. You need people strategically placed around your campus to greet guests. At Saddleback, we used to play a game. I would dare people to get into the building without having their hand shaken at least three times. We place greeters way out in the parking lot. Why? We’ve found that people hate to be greeted publicly during the service, but they love to be greeted personally.

– Set up an information table. Put all sorts of information on the table that might help people find their way around. Put maps out with classrooms and restrooms easily marked. Put out brochures about the church that give people information they can take home and read at their convenience. Most importantly, have hosts stationed there to help people find their way around. Make sure your hosts know where the restrooms are and where the children should go!

– Have taped music playing when people enter. In America almost every public building has music playing. Even in the elevator, music is playing. You go into the restroom and music is playing. You go into a restaurant and music is playing. Why? Because people expect to hear music. If you walked into a church right now and everyone was dead silent when you walked in, you’d probably be uncomfortable. On the other hand, if you heard fairly loud praise music playing, you’d feel much more comfortable.

Here’s something interesting I’ve found: If you play soft music, people talk softly. But if you play loud music, people talk louder. When non-Christians come into your church, they want it to be noisy. They want to hear what’s going on.

– Allow guests to remain anonymous in the service. Please don’t make guests stand up. The three greatest fears people have are going to a party with strangers, having to speak before a crowd, and being asked personal questions in public. So when we ask our guests to tell us their name and where they are from in front of everyone, we subject them to all three of their greatest fears at one time. Bad idea.

How do you identify guests if you don’t have them stand up? Have them fill out a welcome card. Then someone from the church can connect with them later.

– Offer a warm, casual public welcome that relaxes people. If you want to make guests feel welcome, you’ve got to be at ease yourself. That’s what most people expect – just watch the late-night TV shows. Like it or not, how the pastor and the worship leader interact with each other sets the tone for good or for bad in a service.

In early years at Saddleback we used to say, “If this is your first time at Saddleback, we’re glad you’re here. We want you take a deep breath, sit back, relax, and enjoy the service.” You know where I got that? I heard someone say it on an airline once! Sit back, relax, and enjoy the flight. All we’re trying to do is help them relax and then make them feel comfortable.

– Begin and end each service by having people greet each other. Five times in the New Testament Christians are told to greet one another and share affection. I’ll say during the service, “Turn around and give somebody a hug. Turn around and give somebody a handshake.” I’ve been told by some that’s the only physical touch they get all week. And human beings need touch. It’s a great way to help lower the barriers of your guests.

– Offer a refreshment table at each service. Today in our society, it’s not appropriate to just stand in a crowd doing nothing. You have to have something in your hand. That’s why they have cocktail parties. People like to have something in their hand when they’re hanging out and mingling. Out on the patio, I’ll see a 300-pound guy who thinks he’s hiding behind a Styrofoam cup! He’s very comfortable as long as he has something in his hand if somebody looks at him and he’s not talking.

You have to break down the fear barriers before people will ever open up to your message and consider coming back to your church.

When I get too comfortable, disturb me, Lord.

Gasp! Did he just say what I thought he said?!?

Gasp! Did he just say what I thought he said?!?

By Scott Linscott

I once heard a speaker say, from behind a pulpit, “People around you are going to hell and most of you don’t give a d—.” After a pause he said, “And the saddest thing right now is most of you are more disturbed that I said d— in church than you are that I said your neighbors are going to hell.”

He made me angry. I didn’t like his shock tactic. But most of all I didn’t like that he was absolutely right about me. I was more concerned about him using a naughty word, even a minor one, than I was with what he said about my neighbors. He shook me. Truth is, I didn’t often think about my neighbors.

Being salt and light is hard and uncomfortable. Serving others and loving them costs time and sometimes money. It’s so much easier just to gather with my Christian friends to study how to be salt and light and learn all I can about Jesus.

In my studies this week I came across a poem written in 1577 by a man who holds a significant place in church history in the United States having been responsible for the first protestant service in the New World in 1579.

As I read it, it challenged me to be available every time God might desire to push me outside of my comfort zone. It made me think about my personal preferences and how I often elevate them to a higher place than they deserve.

You and I can get pretty complacent and satisfied even though we are surrounded by, if we truly believe the bible we study, people who are perishing. That should bother us.

I often pray that God will shake me up and give me His eyes and His heart for people. When He does, it always disturbs me and usually changes my course.

I want that shock style preacher to be wrong about me. I want to ache for my neighbors. I want to, like Paul, do all I can to bring them the Good News of Jesus, even when it inconveniences me, changes my plans and pushes my preferences aside.

Disturb Us Lord

Disturb us Lord when
We are too pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true

Because we dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when
with the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wilder seas
Where storms will show Your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.

We ask you to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push back the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.

This we ask in the name of our Captain,
Who is Jesus Christ.

Prayer of Francis Drake, 1577

1 Cor. 9:22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.