Pastor's Blog Connections over Crowds The Bible for Minecrafters Jon Hoover | March 21, 2019 If I told you that $20 would get your kids or grandkids to read the Bible for hours, would you spend the $20?Of course you would. I know you would. I know you would because you want your kids and your grandkids to read the Bible. I know would because I did that this week myself. No, I did not pay my kids to read the Bible. I bought them a Bible that speaks their language, per say.I am quite sure many of you grew up with some kind of picture Bible. You may even have fond memories of one in particular. They were great visual tools that allowed you to read the Bible, and they allowed you to have a visual of it as well.Well, what I purchased is called “The Bible for Minecrafters.” Minecraft is a wildly popular game kids play on a computer, phone, or a tablet. You don’t need to know anything about Minecraft, but I absolutely promise you that your kids and grandkids (and great grandkids) have spent hours upon hours playing Minecraft.So, someone got “crafty” and created “The Bible for Minecrafters.” It’s nothing more than a modern day picture Bible that tells the biblical story using images created within Minecraft. It’s fascinating, and my kids love it. It comes in a box set, one book for the Old Testament and one book for the New Testament. For the last two nights, I literally had to force my kids to put the Bible down and go to bed (that’s not a problem I usually have).I didn’t do anything special. I simply got a picture Bible into their “language” and in a format that engages them on their level. This is the same exact work that missionaries do in other countries that have different customs and cultural norms. Missionaries learn to speak the native language. They adopt similar dress codes, and engage in cultural activities that are very different from what we experience here in America. While doing so, they share the gospel and invite people into the Christian faith.One of the more frustrating experiences that is becoming more common between generations is the language barrier that exists between various age groups. Sure, we are all speaking English, but we are often worlds apart when it comes to how we engage the culture around us.As difficult as it may be at times, our church (and the church at large) must learn to engage the culture and speak the language of the culture around us so that the gospel of Jesus Christ can be most clearly seen and heard.My 7 year old son simply cannot pick up the Bible and read through it like you or I could. However, he has spent hours upon hours now reading it in a format that engages his mind and heart. It’s amazing, and I am thankful for people who are able to put together such a great tool like the “Bible for Minecrafters.”With that thinking in mind, we too must think clearly about how to make the Christian faith as accessible as possible to a coming generation of people who were likely not raised in the church or in the same way that you and I were raised.And please, do not worry. There is not a single iota within me that is making the case that this means we have to water down the gospel. I am nowhere close to the “easy-believism” that exists in other places. My commitment to the Bible and the sufficiency and authority of Scripture is rock solid. I am, however, making the case that we must learn to live and act more like missionaries here in our own community.So, come join us on Sunday night, March 31st at 5:00pm, as we learn to be missionaries right here in Kinston.P.S. If you want to earn some cool points with your kids, grandkids, or great grandkids and order them a “Bible for Minecrafters,” just let me know. We can order you one through the church office. We can even have it sent straight to them for you. I’m sure you agree $20 is worth getting them to spend hours reading the Bible. Get Outside the Walls Jon Hoover | March 14, 2019 It has been said that evangelism is just one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread. I love this statement because it's simple, and it's true. Implied in this statement is also the idea that part of evangelism is helping meet someone's physical needs.We know this is true. In John 6, we find one of the clearest examples of Christian service by Jesus himself. In John 6, the crowds gathered around Jesus. Then Jesus asked his disciples where they would get the food to feed such a large crowd. It wasn't long before Jesus did a great miracle by feeding thousands of people with just a little bread and a few fish. Shortly after, Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty."Jesus met physical needs before he addressed spiritual needs.One of the hallmarks of Christian service is the willingness to serve others without asking for anything in return. In Matthew 20:28, we read that even Jesus came to serve and not be served. Anytime you find tragedy or natural disasters in the world, you will find Christians serving. Four Christian aid workers died on the tragic plane crash that just took place in Ethiopia. Wherever you find people, you will find Christians serving.Serving is simply a selfless act in which a believer in Jesus gives up his or her time to help someone else or to share the love of God in a simple and tangible way. How easy is that? It is incredibly simple, yet it is also incredibly effective at helping other people see Jesus in us.Service may take many forms. It may take the form of sending money to organizations that specialize in certain types of service. It may take the form of volunteering at a place that feeds people in need. It may be as simple as mowing your neighbors lawn, buying someone's meal, or even a smile to someone who seems downcast (don't underestimate how a smile might brighten someone's day).When we gather as a church on March 31st, one of the ideas we will emphasize is serving outside the walls of the church by getting personally involved in volunteering, serving, and helping others. We will share ideas on how you can serve in our community in ways that build connections with the unchurched.We will also provide everyone with plenty of "Random Acts of Kindness" cards to use. These are simple cards you can use to do something nice for someone (more on this later).Undoubtedly, Christian service is not complete without eventually sharing the gospel story and inviting someone into the faith. The importance of serving cannot be understated though, for without it, we may never gain a listening ear. The saying is true, "people don't care what you know until they know how much you care." Connections over Crowds Jon Hoover | March 07, 2019 You have probably already seen that we are having a missions event on Sunday night March 31st at 5:00pm. We hope everyone can make it!Over the course of the next few weeks I plan to write a few articles explaining the "why" of this time together.It's no secret to any church these days that church growth just isn't what it used to be. I'm old enough to remember the great baseball movie, Field of Dreams. I loved baseball when I was younger, and this movie was simply fantastic. Everyone remembers the scene where Kevin Costner is walking through the cornfield and a voice whispers, "If you build it, he will come." He then goes on to build a baseball field, and "they" show up.Well, somewhere in the 1980s and 1990s, churches adopted this same Field of Dreams mindset. Churches built big buildings, family life centers, and sprawling campuses that rivaled a small college campus. There was nothing inherently wrong with this when it happened. That church growth movement had the best of intentions, and I am confident that many people came to the Lord because of those efforts. However, it's now 2019 and people's lives have changed dramatically. Church is no longer the center of the community. This may be a source of great disappointment for you, but it's reality. We must face it.The church is left with a challenge: do we keep hoping (against hope) that people will just show up all of a sudden and begin caring about church like they did in the golden days of church ministry? Or, is it time we adopt a more missional mindset that builds connections over crowds?Ministry is often a strange thing because people tend to define ministry success in terms of numbers. Don't get me wrong, numbers are important because numbers represent people. However, I believe our metrics of measuring success need to change. For example, what do you think would be more effective at actually reaching the unchurched: a fall festival that draws a crowd of 500 people, or 50 people building meaningful evangelistic relationships with the unchurched? I hope you see that the latter is the correct answer. We must choose connections over crowds.(Fall Festivals are fun. I'm not against them. But, events like that should be viewed as "good neighbor" events, not as events that will actually turn the dial of evangelism.)Here's my point: it is time for our church to work hard at the task of building connections with the unchurched rather than focusing on events that simply draw a crowd. If you want to draw a crowd and call it a success, then start a program. If you want to see lives changed and people come to know Christ as their savior, then you have to get busy about the personal work of connecting with the unchurched. That's it for now. Join us on March 31st to hear more about how you can be involved in connecting with the unchurched in Kinston.