New Hope Notes
Preparing The Way
Doing Church As A Team
Pastor Jon and Cyndi Burgess
Pastor Jon Burgess: Today’s sermon is a call to all generations to work together as a team to prepare the way for a Jesus invasion. This will be done when each generation empowers the next generation: Builders (aged 70+), Baby Boomers (aged 51-69), Generation X (aged 36-50), and Generation Y/Millennials (aged 21-35), Generation Z (aged 6-20), and Generation Alpha (aged under 6).
Regardless of which generation you are in, recognizing the distinctiveness (the positives and negatives) of each generation is necessary; this knowledge will improve our relationships with each other through better communications as we learn from each other. It will take all of us working together to reach the next generation!
A challenging divide exists between the church and the next generation we are called to reach. In a study of the four older generations (the Builders, the Boomers, the Xers, and Millennials), the question was asked, "Why don't you attend church?" 40 percent said, "I find God elsewhere;" 35 percent said, "Church is not relevant to me personally."
Knowing that the Word of God has the answers to every problem we face, Cyndi and I began seeking and asking God for wisdom to reach each generation, and we found some keys in the story of John the Baptist.
Between Malachi (the last book of the Old Testament) and Matthew (the first book of the New Testament), there was 400 years of silence when God didn't speak to His people! The silence was finally broken with a prophecy about John the Baptist, Luke 1:16-17, "He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
John the Baptist’s call, “To prepare the way for Jesus,” is also New Hope Oahu’s call. John the Baptist faced three challenges in his generation that we also face today:
1. Moving from Entitlement (Deserving to Serving)
Pastor Cyndi: Entitlement is not new to our generation; it also happened in John the Baptist's time. The generational challenge of entitlement is the attitude that says, "I deserve." Yet, Jesus says, “I came to serve,” and calls us to serve. The challenge then is to move our hearts from a place of deserving to a place of serving.
Luke 3:8-9, "Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire."
John the Baptist was speaking to the Jews—God’s chosen people who knew the scriptures well. They knew about the covenant that God made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, that they were God’s chosen people and felt entitled and deserving, so they did not receive John’s message of repentance.
Fierce Conversations: (Fierce conversation is straight talk—being honest with each other—so we can move forward.) John the Baptist engaged in fierce conversations of repentance with the Jews because the focus of their hearts had changed from "It's a privilege to serve” to "I deserve," which is an attitude of entitlement.
The scariest thing about entitlement is that it often comes under the guise of religion—having all the right answers but not having a humble attitude before God. John the Baptist asked some uncomfortable questions that we too should ask ourselves: Am I looking for opportunities to serve those around me or am I looking for opportunities to have people serve me? Do I have a sense of entitlement as a Christian because I am already saved? Do I ask myself what's the most I can do or what's the least I can do for my God? A little discomfort will move us from deserving to serving. True Contentment will destroy entitlement.
2. Moving from Increasing to Decreasing (Technology Addiction).
Pastor Jon: As multiple generations, the second challenge we face is “technology addiction.” Research shows that talking about oneself through social media (e.g., YouTube, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter) activates a pleasure sensation in the brain by increasing levels of dopamine. Positive reactions to post "likes" and "followers" can be associated with the release of dopamine in the brain, causing a pleasure sensation. Dopamine is the same chemical associated with highly addictive behaviors, such as, smoking, drinking, and gambling.
A growing research is made of the potential danger of children (and adults) becoming addicted to technology. The solution to this may lie in the ability of an individual to control their use of technology, or technology will control their behavior! For example, becoming addicted to technology can be problematic when a person determines his self-image and self-worth are based on how many "likes" he got on the last Instagram post! Other research reports a direct tie or correlation between Facebook usage and the likelihood of someone falling into depression. How can we, not only as parents and as a church, help those addicted to the "dopamine fix" and technology?
Setting boundaries called “freedom fence” around technology will help us control addictive behaviors. Freedom fences could be: No tech at the dinner table so that we actually talk to each other about our day at school or our day at work; no tech until the checklist is done (chores, devotions, etc.) before picking up the phone or iPad. The total amount of hours that you unplug from technology can be spent on family interactions, such as, playing board games, etc. Be intentional about freedom fences; otherwise, you will have a dopamine fix instead of building relationship with the people in your lives. Move from deserving to serving—from increasing to decreasing.
John 3:26-30, “They came to John and said to him, ‘Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan—the one you testified about—look, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.’ To this John replied, ‘A person can receive only what is given them from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, “I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.” The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom?s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less.’”
Fierce Conversations: If we don't have fierce conversations about technology addiction with each other, with our God, and with the young people in our lives, then technology will control our lives and actually tear the family apart rather than bring them together! John the Baptist understood something inherent that the purpose in his life was to make Jesus famous. That should also be our purpose: to make Jesus famous, and not us! When we decrease our use of technology and increase our viewpoint that God is the source of our self-image and self-worth we bring Him glory, honor and power. Let God increase and let me decrease that the omnipresence of God would override the omnipresence of technology in my life and home.
3. Moving from Instant Gratification (Impatience to Longsuffering).
Pastor Jon: The third and final generational challenge is “instant gratification.” The need that “If I want it now, I should get it now!” Instant access with technology and the flood of social media are creating a generation unable to develop the ability to wait. Yet throughout scriptures we see the importance of divine delay—a timeframe that God uses to build character. We know that longsuffering/patience is a fruit of the Spirit and is not produced by the flesh.
The great expectation of an earthly kingdom for the Jews and their release from Roman rule had not yet occurred and now John the Baptist is in jail! Luke 7:20-23, “When the men came to Jesus, they said, ‘John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”’ At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. So he replied to the messengers, ‘Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.’”
Could we, like John the Baptist, have missed the good that God is doing around us when our expectations are not met right away? John the Baptist and his messengers forgot about the blind seeing, the lame walking, lepers cleansed, the deaf hearing, the dead raised and asked, "God, why aren't You doing it? Why aren't You coming through?"
Remember when there's a delay, learn to wait for God to work in His time and in His way.
As we prepare the way for Jesus to rule in our homes and relationships, we must remember that things might look different than what we expect because it might not happen in our timeframe. Sometimes the self-imposed bars of our impatience can be unlocked through longsuffering. The lie of instant gratification, of whatever you want (valuable or not) you can have now. That's not real life because real relationships, real success, real validation in work, real marriages, and real parenting do not come overnight.
Studies have found that Millennials are struggling with depression in the workplace and they are bailing out on their jobs faster than ever. They arrive at a job with great expectations but things are not happening as they had expected and they become depressed and quit their jobs.
Life can be a long, arduous, and sometimes, messy road with awkward silences or a lot of fierce conversations, but in longsuffering and patience, we will find God's healing and best to equip us to prepare the way for the next generation!