Present-day Christian sensibilities suggest that we should be calm, serene, peaceful and measured leaders at all times. Interesting. Especially against the backdrop that Jesus did not always act that way.
#JesusStories: John 2 and Matthew 21 both record Jesus knocking over the moneychangers tables on the front porch of the temple in Jerusalem. These recordings were not different witnesses of the same event – they were two different occurrences altogether. John’s version happened right after the wedding in Cana at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, while Matthews story happened right after the Triumphal Entry when Jesus came riding into the city on a colt. In John’s account, the disciples remembered the prophecy that passion for God’s house would consume the Messiah (Ps. 69:9). The fact that Jesus did this twice makes it very clear that he did not approve of the scam in which the priests declared the peoples sacrificial doves as unclean, and then forcing them to go back out to the vendors on the front porch to buy a “clean” sacrifice at an exorbitant price – after which the sellers and the priests split the profit.
Jesus’ table-tipping and whip-making behaviors seem brutish to us at first glance, but it was actually a defense of the poor. Many having traveled to Jerusalem for the annual sacrifice had little money left after their journey to afford the approved and up-priced turtledoves. It forced them to use their needed food and travel money to be able to make a sacrifice before the Lord for the sake of their family. And all of this to line the pockets of the priests. Jesus simply could not let this stand. This is not the last time that religious systems would clutter the path of salvation – it happens today too. Denominational formation that begins with well-meaning organizational structures often devolve into cluttering the path between sinner and Savior. Everything from closed communion to confession-heavy ‘sinners prayers’ to legalistic teaching to the way some unpack ‘penal-substitution’ can be guilty of this. We need to ponder the path we are creating for lost people in our towns to walk toward Christ. In this day, it is easier to forge man-made requirements for salvation than we can imagine – requirements that Jesus Himself would not ask. There is a reason why only one percent of US churches are effective at leading the secular population to Jesus – we have cluttered the path with our doctrines, our dogma’s, and our teachings that sound good to us Judeo’s, but that our Lord would not impose on the New Gentiles who live in our neighborhoods. When we see these encroachments on the path of Salvation, someone needs to hear the prophetic call: “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord; make straight a highway for our God” (Is. 40:3). Pushing hurdles out of the way of sinners with great passion is a significant part of what it means to be Christlike. And it is an ongoing need in this waning chapter of The Day of Salvation. I believe we need an army of Christian Leaders who are so passionate about evangelism that they are willing to knock over some of the tables of our church traditions to make a way for the lost, the least, and the left-behind.
#DinnerChurchQuotes: The attention given in the Gospels to meals is an embodiment of Jesus’ acceptance of outcasts. The visual art about Jesus from the pre-Constantinian period reveal that two of the most crucial elements of that way of life were ‘shared meals’ and ‘healed lives’. -Julian Hills
May the Lord Bless your Bold Leadership,
Dr. Verlon and Melodee Fosner have led a multi-site Assemblies of God Dinner Church in Seattle, Washington since 1999 (www.CommunityDinners.com). In this decade when more churches in the U.S. are declining than thriving, and when ninety-six churches a week are closing, Verlon and Melodee sensed that a different way of doing church was needed for their 97-year old Seattle congregation. It soon became obvious that they were not the only ones in need of a different path. They joined the FX team in 2016 and founded the Dinner Church Collective. And then in 2019 founded the Dinner Church School of Leadership. There is a lot to be gained when church leaders begin to see open doors in the American landscape that they had previously overlooked. Therein lies the journey for those who will forge a new future for the American Church.