Sunday, February 7, 2010


WE are placed as a church here in the city of Kenosha and the surrounding area. This is our CONTEXT. We love Kenosha. We’re not a church that is here to fight our city, but to serve the common good of our city. Our goal – our dream – our aspiration – our drive --- is not just to have a great church – not just to be great Christians – but to participate in the making of a great city. We weep over Kenosha as Jesus wept over Jerusalem. But to be the church God is calling us to be in our city, the Gospel must be contextualized.

The Gospel is always under attack by false teachers and those who want to do it evil, so the Gospel MUST be contended for or we lose the message of it. It must be earnestly disputed for ... debated in favor of ... passionately wrestled with and argued for. And Paul contends for the faith repeatedly in his writings.

We see it in the opening chapters of I Corinthians. Paul speaks of the blood Jesus spilled for our sins by dying on a cross for us … he HAMMERS on that topic. And then near the END of I Corinthians, he speaks in great detail about the resurrection of Jesus. He BOOKENDS his gospel with these truths that we believe today with such great FORCE.

And all the issues scattered throughout I Corinthians … sex, power, money, gender … how you deal with fame and lawsuits and sickness – issues that are the SUM TOTAL of human life on earth … Paul’s answer CONTINUALLY is the death, burial and resurrection of JESUS. It is the answer to every QUESTION. It is the hope to every LONGING. It is the ONLY solution to the problem of human disobedience – and Paul defends it and argues about it and contends for it in his Gospel.

And some of you – like MELOVE that ... because you LOVE to defend the Gospel up one side and down the other. If you hear about a false teacher or read a bad theological book that leads people down wrong paths – you’re ON it. You’re READY. And this is what the CHURCH becomes sometimes. It’s like your house - if you love your FAMILY and want to PROTECT them, what do you buy as a pet? Not a CAT … a DOG. And you put the DOG on the front porch. Let’s say a burglar comes. The CAT will totally IGNORE the burglar. But if the DOG sees someone walk by who seeks to do harm or hurt the kids, the DOG gets ferocious. We love the dog.

And there are certain Christians who, contending for the Gospel, are LIKE that. They have to DEFEND GOD and the KINGDOM and the GOSPEL and protect the TRUTH and the FAMILY of God --- and they’re out on the PORCH growling at everybody. But SOMETIMES they start GROWLING at the babysitter. The ice cream truck rolls by and they’re out there running after it, nipping at the tires. They want to flip the rig over and eat the ice cream man. And some Christians just get mean and start looking for something or someone to CHEW on.

Some churches become that. They’re all about contending for the faith. So they preach the Word, but nobody ever comes and STAYS because they’re just MEAN about it. Maybe they’re known for how deep they are, but it’s ‘growl and bite’ all the time.

At the same TIME, they’re saying, ‘We wish more people who don’t know Christ would come to our church,’ but they’re never GOING to – because it’s a conflicting message. The sign out front says, “JESUS LOVES YOU,” but it’s the same reason the family with the PIT BULL doesn’t have anybody coming over.

It’s important to contend for the Gospel, but we always remember that God doesn’t send us into the world to BITE unbelievers, but to BEFRIEND them … to answer their questions … to let them see JESUS in our words and actions. We’re sent to a city we love. We’re not PERSECUTORS ... we’re AMBASSADORS for Jesus ... and there is a specific culture God has sent us to.

So, once we have a clear Gospel and we’ve protected it and defended it, HOW and WHAT do we do with it? We ask God to help us understand how to make it accessible to a culture that no longer readily receives this TRUTH the same way some of US did years ago.

Most of us wouldn’t have a problem if we heard missionaries were headed to CHINA and they were going to have to learn a different language – listen to different music – eat different food – maybe DRESS a little differently – learn all about the new culture. YOU’D say, ‘Sure … they’re going to CHINA.’ But it’s the same if we send people to inner city Kenosha – or to hip hop culture – or even suburban culture. You have to find a way to contextualize the Gospel in a way that is appropriate for the people you’re trying to reach with the GOSPEL … because all cultures are different. Ministry to the inner city of Kenosha would be far DIFFERENT than ministry to people down the road living in the wealthy subdivision. Language is different. Approach is different. There are different struggles … different things are important to each … except ... they all need GOD.

So Paul says in I Corinthians 9:19 – “Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.” He's talking about contextualizing the Gospel. When I walk into a culture, I serve people … I become familiar with what they WATCH ... I listen to their BANDS … I find out what they’re TALKING about and what they’re INTERESTED in ... I figure out who they ARE so I can find a way to tell them about Jesus. Why? To win as many as possible.

THIS IS IT ... because people in Kenosha need Jesus … and our goal is to win as many people as possible ... not as many as we can MANAGE or as many as we HOPE … but as many as we CAN. THAT’S why we have to contextualize the Gospel to our culture.

I have a ‘MISSIONAL’ suggestion for you. Drive the city. Drive it slowly and really LOOK at them. See their sins FORGIVEN … see them FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT … see them with a NEW and POWERFUL LIFE ... see them turning to GOD rather than to pills or a bottle when they need an ANSWER ... see them joining us to make this a great city for GOD.

Paul goes on – “To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews.” Was that fun? No. Try getting a ham sandwich with that approach. Paul went into Jewish culture which had a lot of rules and regulations and customs – and he said, ‘I’ll do whatever I need to do to WIN them – and I’m hoping they’ll walk away from some of that tradition and rule-keeping once they get to know Christ ... but for NOW ... ‘To those under the law I became as those under the law ... so as to win those under the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.’ (I Corinthians 9:20b-22)

If Paul was alive today, he’d say to the hip-hoppers, ‘I did hip-hop’ … he’d say to FAMILIES, I talked about marriage and parenting … to the ARTSY, I did drama and music ... to the BOOKWORMS, I had a BLOG. I did it as many ways as I possibly could to as many people as I possibly could so as many people as possible could know Jesus. That’s the BEST THING IN THE WORLD we’ll ever do.

But I’ll tell you what gets in the waytradition. Churches continually choose their past over their own future generations because they don’t want to change. And that’s a SIN. We THINK we’re preserving our children with that approach, but we’re LOSING them. And we will NEVER change the message – the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus for our sins. But the methods must change for the sake of that same Gospel. If in ten years we’re still singing all the same songs and doing the same things the same ways, then we’re in SIN … because we have not done everything we could to make the Gospel as ACCESSIBLE as possible ... to make it EASY for people to find and experience God.

So we’re in the process of redeeming so much of culture ... and we are called to contextualize it so AS MANY PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE HEAR about Jesus, MEET Him, and fall in LOVE with Him … and ultimately experience the great FORGIVENESS OF GOD and then become agents of transformation themselves. THIS IS OUR MISSION.

P.S. - Happy 26th birthday to our eldest daughter, Whitney, TODAY!

And be blessed.


Anonymous said...

I like this pastor. Preach it pastor. You are on fire. We have to contextualize as long as we keep the main message the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

It was a great sermon, as always...and this is my very favorite part:

We’re not PERSECUTORS ... we’re AMBASSADORS for Jesus.

I hope that I can be one who welcomes people into the family. I have tried to do that, esp since much of my friends and family have not yet given their hearts to Christ.

Sometimes, I think I might want to go away somewhere and do missions work, but you're right, for now this is my mission field. I hope to be the type of Christian that draws people to Jesus by loving them and caring for them.

When I first came to KFA, there were some people there, like you, who I could see Christ in and helped welcome me into the church family. I think that is key to people staying and feel a part of something bigger and to feel accepted and loved. For such a large church I think you do that very well. I like the warmth of our church...people are extremely friendly. I love that! It truly helped that I got involved in areas of service in the church. I have met so many wonderful people that way.

Anonymous said...

PK....several years ago I heard a counselor on tv say that in any relationship, with everything we do and say, we are either adding something to it or taking something away. It's stuck with me after all of these years. I hope it does with someone who reads this blog, too.

As Christians, each person we meet we are either helping them draw nearer to the Lord or possibly pushing them away. Let's pray that the love of Christ shine thru us and pull them closer to His heart.

I remember a couple of years ago, you gave a very, very powerful sermon. You showed a video of a ship in distress and going down. Lost people were drowning and there were some heroic Christians who went out into the danger to help rescue them, while others stayed inside in their sanctuary. I think that the idea of contextualization is a way to venture out and help save those who are lost. I don't always want to stay inside where it's warm and cozy...the fate of the people who don't know Christ yet is worth me getting out of my comfort zone.

I remember in your sermon you said, "I would rather be the DOORKEEPER in the house of my Lord" show the way thru the door in the darkness outside. It was very moving.

Sorry for two long posts...I have alot to say. :)