I grew up in small churches (churches under 200). My wife grew up in small churches. I love small churches. It reminds me of that classic show Cheers “where everybody knows your name.” So when God asked my wife and I to lead Westside church (average weekend attendance of over 2,000) we laughed…out loud.
So, if you sit where I sit, you would be asking God “So, why did you ask us to lead Westside?” And part of His answer is that He wants Westside to get smaller as it grows bigger. What does that mean? God has given us vision to care for 10,000 people over the next 10 years. That means we will have 4,000 worshiping at the west campus, 3,000 worshiping with us in our online campus, and the other 3,000 scattered throughout multisites and church plants. That doesn’t sound like we are getting smaller does it?
I was struggling recently looking at the crowd at West campus, seeing the over 350 men at a recent men’s breakfast, and not knowing everybody’s name. It bothered me. Then, this past Thursday, I went to a Blue Group (our small group emphasis this fall). And it was there God reminded me how we get smaller while we grow bigger. It’s spending time with people in the church that know my name and I know their names. Rowdy and Sunshine, Josh and Hilary, Glen and Rosemary, Doug and Laura, Beto and Teri. They are my “small” church where I am known and loved in a deeper way than I could ever be known or loved in a large gathering on the weekend.
Action: Are you in a small group? Are you serving on a small team? If not, I challenge you to get connected in one of these two areas. If you don’t you may very well get lost in the crowd.
When we lived in Croatia I preached a sermon about Jesus being the lamb of God. I could tell that there was something kind of humorous, awkward, even uncomfortable about this concept. After the service I asked several friends what that was all about. They told me that to describe Jesus as a lamb in their culture would be similar to us describing Jesus as a cow in our culture. It made me realize that much of what Christians believe comes from a Jewish context and history and may not make as much sense to non-Jewish culture.
So we have to ask the question: “what did it mean in the Jewish context to sacrifice a lamb?”
First, sheep were a very high commodity.
Second, it was required to sacrifice the first born lamb that was spotless. So in essence you had to sacrifice your best bet for a better, more valuable flock later.
Third, the sacrificial lamb was brought into the family until it was sacrificed. Meaning you get to know this lamb almost like you get to know your pet. As strange as that sounds, this lamb became part of the family.
So, when Jesus was called “the lamb of God” it doesn’t denote some kind of stupidity or simplicity, it speaks to his utter dependence on his Father and his willingness to lay his life down. He didn’t deserve death, just like the little lamb doesn’t deserve to die. He came into our lives in a gentle way (as a baby), but we rejected him and ultimately we put him on a cross.
But I’m so grateful that the cross wasn’t the end. That Jesus conquered the result of sin (separation from God) and through his blood gives us access to a new and living relationship with God the Father.
Action: Do you know Jesus personally? Have you accepted his sacrifice and thereby come into relationship with our Father in heaven? If not, you can do that today. Simply ask Jesus to come into your life. Tell him that you believe in what he did and ask him to forgive you for doing your own thing.
“Who do you say that I am?” This is the question facing every person in all of history. Who is Jesus Christ? Was he just a good man, a prophet, one who cared for the poor and hurting? Or was he more than that?
Most people outside of the church that I have relationship with, will tell me that they believe Jesus was a good man. They believe that he existed and wasn’t some made up story. C.S. Lewis writes extensively about this dilemma. He wrote “you can’t be a good man and a liar.” So, if you believe that Jesus existed, and was a good man, you have to wrestle with what he said about himself. Because he is either a liar (and thus not a good man) or he was the Son of God.
The series we are in is all about Jesus. He’s the beginning and the end and has something to say to each of us if we open up our ears and hearts to hear him speak to us.
This weekend we will be looking at a common analogy to describe the work of Christ through the Old Testament – “The Lamb of God”. And this symbolism is tied to the Jewish Passover meal in which they celebrate the time an angel of God “passed over” the homes of the Jewish people still in bondage in Egypt and who had put the blood of a sacrificed lamb over their doorposts. The angel killed the first born child of every family who did not have this blood over their doorposts. It sounds gruesome, but it’s also a powerful picture of God’s work of grace through His son Jesus who became, for us, our Passover Lamb.
True freedom from sin doesn’t come by sacrificing a lamb, but by believing in the sacrifice of Christ. His death and resurrection gives us power to live free from the stuff that holds us in bondage.
Action: What is holding you captive? Maybe it’s a particular habit or hangup. Maybe it’s a relationship. Maybe it’s an attitude. I encourage you to lay it at the foot of the cross of Christ today and begin walking in freedom.
Suzanne and I cannot contain our excitement as we think about the future of Westside Church. Thank you for honoring me and my family last weekend as I officially took over the role of Lead Pastor at Westside Church. It will be my honor and privilege to seek the Lord and follow Him as your new Pastor. As I’ve always said, this transition is more about each of us stepping into God’s purpose for our lives than about any one individual.
We all know that Westside is a big church and it would be impossible for me to get to know each of you on an individual basis. My desire is to communicate with as many of you as possible through my blog. I write about my family, the life of the church and I also dig a little deeper into the topics we talk about on the weekends.
Living On Mission Together,