12-02-18 @NHCC: Christmas at the Movies - Christmas Vacation
Good morning friends and family of North Heartland,
I'm posting this a lot earlier than usual because I want to remind you that this Sunday is the beginning of a great personal outreach opportunity: week one of Christmas at the Movies.
We've got some great Christmas music planned in addition to my message making use of National Lampoon's holiday classic, Christmas Vacation. If you've seen this movie you might find it hard to believe there is anything of redeeming spiritual value in it but there truly is and I'm excited to share it with you ... and also anyone who you might bring with you ... which, again, is the point of doing this series.
Recently, we spent five Sundays talking about the mandate for insiders to the faith (i.e. Christians) to represent Jesus to those outside of the faith in hopes that they, too, might come to believe in and follow Him. In that series, we learned that one key element in maximizing our impact is being able to invite the outsiders in our lives to church with us ... which, again, is the point of doing Christmas at the Movies. Almost everyone - including those who are not believers - loves Christmas movies! So this series is a ready-made opportunity for all of us.
For me, personally, there is someone with whom I spend several hours each week who is not a believer. I have regularly been praying for this person and we often talk about church, faith, philosophy and even a little politics (yes, I know, shocker - me talking politics).
Later this week, I will be inviting him and his family to this series. I have no idea what his response will be but I am hopeful as what we will be doing this month is both interesting and unique.
Will you be inviting someone, too? If you want to share the invite on your Facebook page, here is the link on the NHCC page.
One thing I wish I had explained in the Outsiders series is that being a church where insiders can invite outsiders doesn't mean that every single week there will be a "gospel explanation/invitation message." We're not an itinerant evangelistic crusade - we're a local church with an ongoing mission not only to reach outsiders but also to develop insiders into better followers of Jesus.
Therefore, my strategy in messages is to teach in a way that "feeds" believers but is also accessible to and understandable by outsiders. I teach in series, meaning I take a particular subject, issue or personal challenge, break it into pieces and try to cover it in three to six weeks. (Obviously, some series lend themselves more to inviting outsiders, eg., Christmas at the Movies, Five Things God Uses, than others, eg., Outsiders).
Implicit in this strategy is the assumption that outsiders who are truly seeking God and being drawn to Him by the Holy Spirit will show up for more than one week. The hope is that something meaningful will happen to them that first time and they will come back again ... and again. Each time, they will learn more and experience more of what it means to know and follow Jesus. Then, in one of the messages when I explain how to accept Him, it clicks and they decide to believe.
And just so you'll know, this isn't theory or wishful thinking - it's happened countless times over the past 24 years.
The reason I'm telling you this is that I want you to know what to expect if you invite someone and they do come with you. Specifically, in this particular series, the Christmas Vacation message serves as a set up by illustrating a deeply spiritual question that every human being eventually faces. It's sort of the "hook" to the next three messages, each of which will further develop the concept of what it means to know God and give Him control of our lives. My hope for this first week is that everyone will get something from the message but that outsiders will be curious enough to come back for week two, A Christmas Carol.
At several points during this series, I'll offer the opportunity for people to accept Christ. In fact, on the third week (December 16th) we'll be having baptism at the beginning of the service and open it up to anyone who wishes to come.
That's probably way more than you wanted to know about my preaching strategy and Christmas at the Movies but what I really want you to know is this: there is a method to the madness and I try to follow it as much as possible because you - and the outsiders you care about - matter to me. I'm hoping and praying that this goofy movie series will be a tool that all of us (and the Holy Spirit) can use.
See you Sunday!
P.S. Kudos to everyone who made the trek out last Sunday in spite of the snow or who watched online!