The Same Sermon
The story has been told of a pastor who began his ministry at a new church with a brilliant sermon. Everyone loved it.
The next week, however, he preached the same sermon. The exact same sermon. Same text, same illustrations, same application. Despite their concern, the congregation decided to give him a pass. “Maybe he’s just forgetful?”
Until he did it again. Three Sundays in a row, same exact sermon. At that point, the leaders of the church set up a meeting with their new pastor. "What is going on?" they asked. "You’ve preached the exact same sermon three weeks in a row."
"Don’t worry," he assured them. "I know what I’m doing. When you start living out this sermon, I’ll go on to my next one."
And all God’s people said, “Ouch!”
Now, no one has yet accused me of preaching the exact same sermon for weeks in a row, but our current series Next Door as it is in Heaven has certainly engaged the same theme each week! That’s because Jesus’ command, “Love your neighbor as yourself” has many different facets, like looking through the prism of a diamond. Engaging each of these facets is critical to living out our mission, “Inviting all people into a Christ-centered life in God’s family.”
Michael Frost’s book Surprise the World: Five Habits of Highly Missional People is an easy read, and can be easily finished in one sitting. In it he uncovers five weekly practices which create a rhythm of living on mission. These five habit create the acronym BELLS:
Bless - Bless 3 people each week, at least one of whom is not a member of our church (could be just about anything: buy their coffee, cut their grass, wash their car, affirm them somehow)
Eat - Eat with 3 people each week, at least one of whom is not a member of our church (you know, food, at a table, with someone else)
Listen - Listen for the Spirit’s voice at least one period of time each week (without your cell phone!)
Learn - Learn at the feet of Christ at least one period of time each week by reading from the Gospel accounts
Sent - Journal throughout the week all the ways you have alerted others to the reign of God through Jesus
Eat of these simple practices are central to making next door more like it is in heaven. We see them at work in the ministry of Jesus, his earliest followers in Scripture, and in the life of the early church.
These habits, like Frost’s book, are easy to read - but aren’t just meant to be read. They’re meant to be lived. Like that pastor, Jesus knows what he’s doing.