Walking Slowly Through the Crowd

7 01 2014

Tuesday Re-mix:

A large crowd followed and pressed around him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering. At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?” “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask,‘Who touched me?’ ” Mark 5:25-31


I have listened to so many John Maxwell talks and have read so many of his books, I do not even remember now where I heard or read some of the best leadership advice I’ve ever heard/read from him: “walk slowly through the crowds”.  It is outstanding leadership counsel because genuine leadership is, after all, entirely dependent upon relationships and people skills.  It is perfect for ME, because I get so narrowly focused sometimes (maybe especially on Sunday mornings) that I can walk right past hundreds of friends without even smiling or acknowledging them!  I am still working on this.  :)

It is a challenge, isn’t it?  It is especially challenging when we get focused on the task at hand, on the ministry ahead, even on the relationships in front of us…but there are still people all around us who are hoping for our attention as well.  It is a delicate balance between competency for the task at hand and caring for everyone else in the meantime.  In this passage from Mark 5, Jesus demonstrated just how extreme that balance can become.  I have never raised anyone from the dead, so I have no experience with what kind of focus it requires, but I am going to take a stab in the dark here and surmise that it requires some extraordinary single-mindedness.  That is the focus Jesus surely had as he walked through the crowd toward Jairus’ house.  And yet, he walked slowly enough to have permitted and felt the touch by one woman in the crowd.  Unbelievable balance, wouldn’t you say?  Even the disciples who were with him thought so.

So there is a great lesson here for each of us as leaders.  But I wonder if there is an even more important lesson here for the church corporately?  What does this balance teach us about being the Body of Christ in the communities our churches serve?  How can a church “walk slowly through the crowd” so that it doesn’t miss important ministry assignments?  Here are some ideas…

First, it’s regular weekly rhythm should include a vibrant corporate prayer time.  That gathered prayer, after all, is how a church develops the kind of extraordinary focus Jesus showed.  There are lots of promises in God’s word for a people who pray…but none for a people who do not pray.

Second, it can develop a regular, systematic approach to strategic planning.  Keeping God-ordained mission and vision ever before us, and practical, measurable objectives always on our radar screen will help keep us from getting “lost” in the busy-ness of church.  On this note, evaluation and assessment becomes a critical skill.  We need processes to help us know when a program or ministry is succeeding and when it is not.  Andy Stanley calls this “clearly defining the win”.  By the way, it is just as important to know why something succeeds as it is to know why something fails.

Third, we can be ever watching and paying close attention to whom God is bringing us in our newest attenders.  One of the easiest ways of knowing what God is doing in a church is to understand whom he has brought to us recently…what is their background and their passion?  What are their gifts and their abilities?

Fourth (and I realize I am meddling with this one), a church can unify its small group curriculum, so that the entire church is studying the same Biblical passages at that same time all year long.  I cannot even begin to tell you how much that has helped my own church in getting us on the same page on various issues.  Such a benefit!

These are just a few ways a church can “walk slowly through the crowd”.  I’d be interested in hearing any additional ideas you might have.

© Blake Coffee
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, a link to this document on this website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Blake Coffee.  Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: © Blake Coffee. Website: churchwhisperer.com




…and We’ve Never Been the Same Since

17 09 2013

Tuesday Re-mix -

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.  Acts 2:1-4

To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Colossians 1:27

pentecost-fireOf all the miracles referenced in the Bible, the Pentecost miracle in Acts 2 may be at the top of my list of moments I would love to have seen.  The tongues of fire ushering down the Spirit to indwell God’s people…wow!

In terms of their impact on this world and the ushering in of a completely new chapter in God’s story, I tend to think of the crucifixion, the resurrection and Pentecost as three aspects of a single, “this changes everything” moment in history.  All are significant in themselves, but all are necessary to bring about the age of the church.  It is a little like a three-legged stool in that regard.  Take any one of the legs away and you have an entirely different situation.

These three events (which all happened within just a few weeks of each other), taken together, changed forever the way God would relate to his creation…AND the way we, His children, would relate to each other.

Follow the history with me through the Bible…

In the garden, God related to Adam and Even through an interpersonal relationship (yes, I am quite the literalist in my interpretation of scripture). After their “fall”, God found other ways of relating to us, first through the Mosaic law and then through the prophets.  Want to “hear” from God?  Look it up in the law or hear it through Samuel or Elijah or some other “man of God”.  Then we had 400 (or so) years of “silence” from God between the accounts of the Old Testament and the New Testament.  Then, Jesus came, and God would then relate to us through the man, Jesus.  Want to hear a fresh word from the Lord?  Go and sit at the feet of Jesus, and be amazed.  Then came the crucifixion and the resurrection and Jesus’ ascension into Heaven…and the promise that everything was about to change.  And it did.

The Spirit of God came and, for the first time, began to indwell God’s people on a mass scale.  And the Spirit has been doing that ever since.  The Spirit of God Himself indwells every believer…you, me, that person in our church with whom we disagree so vehemently, that preacher whose theology is so messed up, that arrogant fundamentalist, that liberal pro-choice Christian, that Calvinist, that Armenian, that contemporary worshiper, that traditional worshiper, etc.  You get my drift.

Ever since Pentecost, God has related to us differently.  Now, in addition to the letter of the law, we have direct access to the very Spirit of God’s law.  Ever since Pentecost, we must relate to each other differently, because God’s Spirit indwells each of us.  You and I can disagree, we can argue, we can even part company and go our separate ways…but I do so knowing that my Savior lives in you, and yours in me.  That matters, doesn’t it?  That changes everything.

© Blake Coffee
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, a link to this document on this website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Blake Coffee.  Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: © Blake Coffee. Website: churchwhisperer.com




The Medium is the Message

29 08 2013

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son… Hebrews 1:1-2

God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.  Hebrews 2:4

JesusMarshall McLuhan was the first to coin the phrase, “the medium is the message”.  In his instance, he was referring to the ushering in of the information age (specifically, television) back in 1964.  He noted that television (and other similar media) were more than just conduits of information, they were actually shaping and reshaping the message and were as much a part of the message as the message itself.  I suppose we could make the same observation today about social media.  Twitter and YouTube and SnapChat are literally reshaping how (and what) we communicate.  It just seems that, from time to time, a medium comes along that changes everything we thought we knew about messaging and communication.  When that happens, “the medium becomes the message.”

Never in the history of the world has this notion been truer than with Christianity.  In ancient days, God spoke His message through angels, He spoke His message through the prophets, He spoke His message through the law, and He spoke His message through miraculous signs and wonders.  But never was the message so clear and so divisive and so disturbing as when God spoke His message through  Jesus.  The very embodiment of God, representative of all His glory and power and authority, Jesus is “the Word become flesh.”  He is BOTH the medium AND the message.

For Christ-followers (for His church), we have a contemporary medium through the gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed among us.  For us, this is a visual representation of God at work among us.  But for the watching world, it is gibberish.  For that world, there simply is no clearer image of God than Jesus Christ.  His life is a canvass upon which God’s Word is painted vividly in living color.

There is a great deal of talk in the church today about messaging.  It is good talk.  Important talk.  Using all the media available to us to tell the Gospel story is, I believe, important.  But even as we discuss websites and Twitter and blogs and videos…even as we consider signage and platforms and lighting and projections…we must keep one medium ever before us: Jesus.  In the midst of all our new languages and vehicles, we must show the world Jesus.  Because, in the end, He is the medium which really matters.

Show them Jesus.  And let all the other messaging flow from that.

© Blake Coffee
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, a link to this document on this website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Blake Coffee.  Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: © Blake Coffee. Website: churchwhisperer.com







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