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Alpha Sunday

Matthew 18:12-14

February 16, 2020 • Bert Alcorn • This is Anthem

#Big Idea: Unpacking Jesus' heart for the lost and the what, why, and how of Alpha. #Key Texts: Matthew 18:12-14; John 3:16-17; Luke 19:10; Luke 15:1-7; John 20:21; Matthew 28:18-20; Matthew 9:35-38; Ephesians 2:1-10; Hebrews 12:15 #Transcript: Hello, hello, welcome again to Anthem. My name is Bert. I'm one of the pastor's here. First of all, elephant in the room. This is not our normal room. And so just a little bit of a background on some of what we believe as a church. We do not believe the church is a building or an event but a people gathered together and that a people can gather wherever to proclaim the name of Jesus open up the text together and learn from him. And then the other note is we obviously do not own a building and so sometimes we get kicked out of our own room and sometimes it happens really last minute and sometimes we don't really know what to do and sometimes you're out of town when you get that news and depending on other people to make shift to different room for our use. So seriously well done to everyone who pitched in and made that happen. If you are new or newish with us this is not our normal room our normal room has significantly more natural light which is a nice thing. I feel like we're in a cave sometimes. But the team did an amazing job making the space feels like home. If you are new or newish we actually normally meet on the second floor. So it's less of a workout or less of like an eternal elevator ride up. Am I the only one who's thinking that elevator was ultra, ultra slow? Now, I don't notice it floors one to two I notice it from floors one to three. Anyway, so if you're with us again next week, we are one floor below. But Welcome again to Anthem. Today is a little bit different. We have just been wrapping up our vision and value series where we take the beginning of every single year and just reorient ourselves as a church around what God has called us to and how we're working that out this year. And so last Sunday was Vision Sunday, where we really got to unpack that in a really succinct way. We got to report on some of the amazing things that God has been doing in the life of our church and we got to set the direction ahead. We really got to say here's where we are going as a church, you are invited to come along with us and where we ended kind of last week was really rallying around and continuing to press into this like multi year vision that we as a church are working and aiming towards and that can be summed up in 110 One. And over the next few years, we wanted to make sure that as we are growing, maturing as a church as new people that are getting connected, we as a church are measuring the right things, not necessarily measuring how many people show up to an event on Sunday, or how much money is in the bank. But as we are moving the ball forward with the mission Jesus has given us we want to make sure we are measuring and celebrating the kind of things the Bible measures and celebrates. And so for us 110 one is this multi year vision to celebrate and really move the ball forward with seeing 100 people baptized, 10 community groups started in the city and to plant one church. And for us as we are growing and continue kind of refining the direction that Jesus has taken us. We want to be measuring the right things as we are stepping into that. That's kind of over many years that we're stepping into that goal, but each year we kind of bring a different shade to that. We bring it down layer to what it means to actually walk that out and attempt to accomplish these things that God has put before us. And so this year, that can be summed up in one particular phrase that I was able to share with you guys last week. I'll share it again this year. And that phrase, really honing in and bringing into focus this year, the thing that determines what we do and what we do not do and the decisions we make or do not make is this, we this year are aiming to become a growing community, growing to become resilient disciples who are faithful in the face of cultural coercion and to live a vibrant life in the spirit. It is not in the most like succinct phrase you've ever seen probably. But for us, each individual piece of that is really important to us to be growing into a community of resilient disciples who are faithful in the face of cultural coercion and who live a vibrant life in the spirit. We believe that as we're moving forward this year, it's pressing into this that will help us accomplish what God has for us in 2020. And so really the last component of our vision value series before we kick into something new next week is really huddling around Alpha. You guys have a bunch of stuff on your seat that I will explain in due time. But for us, we actually want to orient ourselves as a church to be outsider focus. I want to take you to the text first, Matthew chapter 18. If you have a Bible, go ahead and turn to Matthew chapter 18. If you have a Bible app on your phone, you can look there as well. I always recommend having a Bible with you because you never know when I just might be making stuff up. So the way you can test me is see if I'm reading the same scripture that you are reading, but go to Matthew chapter 18. This is a parable or a teaching from Jesus and it lets us in on his heartbeat for the lost, those who do not yet know him and Matthew 18 picking up in verse 12, 13, and 14, this will be the anchor for our morning together. Jesus said, "What do you think? If a man has 100 sheep and one of them has gone astray? Does he not leave the 99 on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it truly I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the 99 that never went astray. So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish." What we see in this snapshot of Jesus's life in a teaching from Jesus is that Jesus was disproportionately caring and concerned with those who were not yet a part of his family. That's the like one sentence summary of this story. Jesus was and is disproportionately concerned with those who are not yet a part of his family. Now, this story here, none of you are shepherds in the room. Most Likely none of you have flocks or sheep. Santa Paula people you guys have land. Does anyone have any livestock on that land? Not yet, okay. There's still time. Anyway, but if you are a shepherd, if you have flock, if you have livestock this moment this example from Jesus would have provoked kind of like shackles or an outright no to his question where he says if a man has 100 sheep and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the 99 in the mountain go searching for the one the correct answer says no, you do not do that you are more concerned with the 99 you have you cut your losses and move on 99% rate is still pretty good. So if you're hearing Jesus and first century Palestine as he's teaching this story, your reaction is no you don't do that. That's weird. That's bad stewardship. That's not wise. That's not good wisdom. You're a bad Shepherd if you do that. And Jesus is intentionally flipping something that would have been very common on its head to reveal and show to us no, no, no, the kingdom of God works quite a bit differently. The kingdom of God is an upside down kingdom, where the values of this world, the economics of this world are flipped on its head. And Jesus says, "In my kingdom, I am disproportionately concerned with the ones who are lost. Who have wandered away who do not yet know me. I'm less concerned with the 99 than one who wanders," there's even more rejoicing over the one who wanders that is brought back into the family than the 99 who remained. This is a foundational text for how we think about our mission in the city for how we think about why we exist as a church, because if it's good enough for Jesus, it's good enough for us. We too want to be disproportionately concerned with those who are far from God. This from a traditional, even organizational standpoint does not make sense. For us to the detriment of maybe those who are already a part of the church to be primarily concerned with those who are outside the church. This is not good organizational management. This makes no sense in our modern day thinking of what the church should be what a pastor should be to its people, what a mission should be for a church. This doesn't make sense how we process modern day westernized church. But this story from Jesus really tees up like a provocative question for us. And this question I think it really tees up for us is, do we actually share the burden of Jesus for the lost? Do I actually share the burden of Jesus for the lost? If today you do not yet know Jesus know and from anything we're going to talk about over the next few minutes like, he genuinely loves you and cares for you and wants to see redemption and wholeness brought to your life. If you already know Jesus, do you share his burden for those who do not yet know Jesus? Do you know or do you even care that there are lost people around you? In your workplace and your neighborhood and your family? Do you genuinely believe that you have been rescued out of darkness and brought in to the kingdom of Jesus and there are still people living in darkness? Do you believe that you were once lost and now you are found in him and there are others who are lost all around you? Do you believe encountering Jesus is genuinely the most important thing that can happen in anyone's life and in the entire world? More than fixing their marriage, more than climate change more than homelessness. Do you believe genuinely encountering the risen Jesus is the most Important and pressing thing that can happen to anybody in proximity to us? Now, from a theological level or maybe an academic level, we can all get there. So ask one more question. Does your life reveal a shared burden with Jesus for the lost? Does your life patterns, rhythms, the way you think or pray about those who are far from God, the way you structure your week, the way you handle your finances, the way you encounter people when you're walking into a coffee shop or brewery, do you genuinely share the same burden Jesus has for the lost around us? What is God's heart for your friends, your family, for your neighbors, your co-workers, what is God's heart for them? How aligned is your heart with God's heart? Now today what we are doing is we're laying out our heartbeat for how we are engaging and encountering the lost in our city. But it is so vitally important we start with the scriptures and we start with Jesus himself and his disposition towards those who are not yet a part of his family. One of the primary roles and functions of a disciple is to become like their master and if we're discipling Jesus, if we're apprenticing Jesus, we're following after him. Then the main thing in your life is becoming more like Him, it's being with him becoming more like him doing the things he did and if he was disproportionately concerned with the lost around them so should we. That's our biblical should, undergirding the [inaudible 00:11:34]. We're going to talk a lot about why how what we are approaching this but before we make any ground, we make no qualms about the importance and vitality of being concerned with the lost around us. So much so that Jesus says neglect the ones if you need to who are already saved to run after the ones who are not yet saved. Be less concerned with those who have been found in Jesus, and go far to find those who are still lost. This is the mission and responsibility of each and every person who says I want to follow Jesus, is becoming like him and his disposition towards the lost. So today, as we lay out our heartbeat for the lost, and how we're meeting that heartbeat with Alpha, the primary question to consider for you is, do I share the burden of Jesus for the lost in my life? Do I? Because one of two things will happen, is if you do, no one's perfect, but if you do, I say, I want to grow in that burden. I'm following Jesus in that. The things we're about to go through are going to start clicking and if you're part of this church, and this is how we're engaging the lost around us and I am concerned with the loss and I'm saying okay, yes, I'm doing whatever it takes to at least give them the opportunity to meet and encounter the risen Jesus. And if your answer that question is no, I don't care, I don't know I don't share the same burden of Jesus for the loss in my life, then the next leg, half an hour will not make any sense to you. It will not make any sense to you, why would you put so much time, money, energy, effort and manpower towards reaching the lost if you don't actually share Christ's concerned for the lost? And so I want to help you succeed for the next half hour or so. Take a moment, take just a heartbeat moment and ask yourself that question, do I share the burden of Jesus for the lost around me? And if so, ask, "Holy Spirit, how would you have me do that in my life?" What we're going to unpack is how we as a church collectively are engaging that question, the Holy Spirit may prompt other answers in you. There may be other moments, other unique opportunities based on your status, your workplace, your gifting, your talents, any of that there may be other opportunities, the Holy Spirit will lead you into as you answer that question, and that is amazing. That is beautiful. And we as the church to equip you for every single good work in that effort and mission. But what were going to talk about today is how we the collective we are approaching and answering that question today. One of the primary ways we respond to Jesus and thus our burden for the loss is with Alpha is something we do about two to three times a year. Now what I'm going to do is I'm going to unpack what it is that we're doing, just to give everyone like a top level cursory understanding of what it is we mean when we say we do Alpha, and then I'm going to unpack why we do it, why we use this tool at our disposal and why it's actually important for we as a church to engage in that together. And then thirdly, I'm going to unpack a little bit of how we're approaching it this year. That's the plan. What, then why, then how. Everyone good? Cool. This room kills energy. You have to help me out so much more. And the downstairs room we got bouncy dining room floors and hardwood floors and like Windows and noise coming in from the street. And I just feel like I'm talking into a pillow right now. So help me out. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Help me out. Okay, so Alpha, Alpha is a series of dinner conversations that run over eight weeks, that explored life, spirituality and faith in a fun, non-judgmental and open environment. Alpha creates a space where people are invited to explore the Christian faith and environment that is pressure free and respectful. Everybody is welcome, particularly those who are skeptical or curious or cautious or questioning or deconstructing their faith. This is designed for people who are seeking Searching far from God to encounter Jesus and it's designed for people who already know Jesus to help create an environment where people can explore faith. Now I'm going to run through a few different practicals but we're going to watch a video that's going to do what I can do in 10 minutes in about a minute and a half. So you're welcome. And then watch the screens. Yeah, exactly. There are three key components to any session on Alpha and that is food we eat together, the conversation is around a meal together, we believe there are important theological implications to eating together. And so we do we eat and drink very well together on Alpha. And we also watch a short film and that film is meant to spark discussion and examine some area of the gospel. And what is vitally important to understand about Alpha is that is where kind of we get to share what we believe about faith, Jesus, God, the Bible, whatever. And as we move into the third and probably most crucial part of any night on Alpha is a small group discussion where people can say and do anything. This is not a Bible study. This is not a community group. This is not a place where the small group host answer every questions and shoot down wrong answers. This is genuinely the place for anyone to ask or say anything to be heard, to be valued, to be affirmed and for others to hear where people are coming from as it relates to their spirituality. And so to put a little bit more meat on the bones, this is what a typical night at Alpha will look like. And so if you are part of the Alpha team, there's a bit of a discipleship that happens, a bit of training that we'll do each and every week to just kind of help engage what we're going to be doing that night. And then we'll move to a time of prayer, specifically over those who are coming to Alpha and over the night itself. And then at that point, we'll eat together welcome in any guests who are coming in. We do a quick welcome, watch the short film and then head into the small group discussion. And then a few different times throughout the Alpha we'll be doing some after parties and so some live music, some wine tasting, some donut tasting, whatever. We have a lot of Amazing and creative ideas for what to do. But we're going to take kind of the after portion to just like increase the hangout vibes and to help engage people a little bit more. And then we wrap up by about 9:45 or so. And so that's what a typical night at Alpha looks like. And then some of the topics that we are engaging with this year, as we kind of have a launch night where we get to make the official invite to Alpha. And then we're answering questions in the film and discussing questions in this small group questions like is there more to life than this? Who is Jesus? Why did he have to die? Does God heal today? How do I resist evil? What does it mean to have faith? How does God guide us? And if you're anything like me, at least one of these questions might even be provoking to you to be like, "Yeah, actually, how does God guide us? What does that actually look like in my normal everyday life? Or how do I resist evil in my life and actually pursue a life of good?" And so all of these questions will be both kind of watching videos around but also trying to answer and chat about in the small group discussion. That is just Alpha 101. Just some of the basics. We eat together. We watch a short film together and we break up into small groups that are not Bible studies. They're not community groups, but the hosts are there to merely instigate conversation where anybody can share anything, or ask anything. One of the things we have just found over experience in doing Alpha is this small group discussion is probably the best part of the night. And it's genuinely where people do open up a bit, especially over time as they build friendships where people can ask things they may be afraid to ask others or might not have an environment in their lives to engage in some of these questions. Even some of you guys, as you're thinking about these questions short of showing up to your community group on a Wednesday night or showing up here on Sunday. Where in life do you have time space or margin to think through some of these, let alone talk about them with other people. I know some of you guys are deeply contemplating in here. So you may be like, every day I'm consumed with these questions, but probably for the majority of us, life just goes on and we don't stop and think, how does God guide me? How's he guiding me today? What does it mean to resist evil today in my life? And so that is a snapshot of Alpha. Next, I want to talk about why we do Alpha or let alone why we as a church would engage in this practice and idea of evangelism, which is a scary word from the 80s and 90s. If you did grow up in church, I hope to redefine that a little bit. Evangelism in the Bible is just simply sharing the gospel with somebody. That's all it is. And so what I want to do is talk through why we would do Alpha and how that helps us answer some of these questions and create space to talk about these questions in our time, and in our place. According to the New Testament evangelism is just preaching or proclaiming or telling Someone the gospel. It is a work of communication in which Christians make themselves mouthpieces or in Paul's word ambassadors for God and his good news. Anyone who faithfully delivers that message no matter the medium a big meeting a small meeting, a big old church service, a little community group someone across from you a prospect or [inaudible 00:21:21] or whatever. If you are delivering that message, you are participating in evangelism. Now, there's a couple of reasons we do Alpha and a couple of reasons we have to talk about why we would even bother with evangelism in our time and our place because there are three main opposition's to the work of evangelism or the words of sharing the good news of Jesus or sharing the hope of Jesus with someone else. And the first opposition that we encounter today is probably the most obvious one is spiritual opposition. We as Christians believe that we do not live in a spiritually neutral world we actually live in a world where there are good and bad forces duking it out regularly, there is an enemy and we believe the enemy would rather not more people join the kingdom of God. He'll do anything at his disposal to distract, to shield people's eyes to keep them busy or distracted enough to not actually engage in the things of Jesus. And first and foremost, we have to recognize as we are considering what it looks like to share with others the good news of Jesus, that there is an active enemy at work that does not want you to share the good news of Jesus with others. He is the one who plants the things in your minds that goes like, you may ruin the friendship if you bring this up. You might be you might be fired if you talk about this. It would just be really weird. Or you don't have the right words to say. You're not equipped enough. You haven't been a Christian long enough. You didn't go to Bible school or college or whatever. And just to call that out, those are the things the enemy will speak into your life and your mind. Now, of course, there's all sorts of considerations like wisdom and tact and strategy. Of course, absolutely I'm not handing out soap boxes at the end and saying everyone pick a corner. That's not what we're talking about here. But if you have ever felt ill equipped, if you have ever felt like you'd be embarrassed, you'd be persecuted, you'd lose a friendship or whatever. Those are the seeds the enemy will plant in your life to get you to shirk back. And the writer of Hebrews says we're part of the kingdom cannot be shaken. So we don't have to fear that we don't have to believe those lies. First. There is spiritual opposition to the work of evangelism, but probably more pressing for a lot of us is there is cultural opposition to evangelism. There's cultural opposition from walking in this spiritual practice. And over the years, we have seen our culture and move in a direction of post modernism. And there's a whole 45 minute lecture I can give on how that happened. I'm not going to give that today, but simply to say we are in that time right now of post modernism. And so that means a few different things. It means that most people have moved from objective truth to self opinion as the highest authority. So whatever you believe, no matter what it is, is right and it is authoritative for your life. We have moved from authority to autonomy, you're not my boss, you can't judge me, I don't want to be controlled, aversion to institution, aversion to community stems from the move from authority in our lives to autonomy, I think, therefore I am. And that it's penetrated its way into the church. aAnd from evidence to experience it doesn't matter what is true. That has not been my experience. Some of the defining factors of post modernism and what that translates to in the Christian world or in this spiritual world is we are also now in a time in a place where our culture is moving to a post Christian culture, which means Christians in the West have moved from a majority to a minority of people. So where everyone sort of checked the box Christian, maybe 20, or 50, or even 100 years ago, Christians are now in the minority. Christians have moved from the center of culture to the fringe. So no longer are Christian ideals and morality at the center of human life, but they're now on the fringe and Christians are now seen as bigoted or intolerant or closed minded. And Christians have moved from being respected to disrespected and maybe even hated in some cultures or in some cities. So in the past, where if you had some version of Christianity if you had some version of morality, or you were like, "I maybe don't agree, but at least I respect his worldview, and he's like, generally a good person." And now it's moved from disrespective so you're not a good person. The things you believe actually make you a joke or culturally irrelevant. Now, none of these are up for debate. This is the time and the place that we live in. And I'm not even moralizing any of them to say it's good or bad. There are deep, dark things about all these. And I think there are opportunities in all of these as well for the church. This is just simply calling out the culture that we live in right now. This is the cultural opposition that we face. So the work of evangelism is made that much harder because we don't have a common view of authority. We don't have a common view of evidence. We don't have a common view of objective truth. And so we have to start way further down the field and just talk about autonomy versus authority, or to just talk about self opinion and objective truth. We don't have the same ground to start on, that maybe Christians had 20 years ago, or 50 years ago, or 100 years ago, or 500 years ago. This is our time, and this is our place. The third opposition that we face spiritual, cultural, is individual. We just don't like being rejected. Who likes being rejected in here? That's what I thought, none of us like being rejected. If you are married think about when you were like first asking your spouse out on a date and how there's fear that crept into that like, "What if he says no? What if she says no?" Maybe if you're single that's still like the world you live in as well. The fear of rejection plagues so much of our life and I think it fuels why we approach social media the way we do, why we approach our calendars the way we do, why our yes can't be a yes or no can't be a no, why we have the last minute text bail instead of a face to face, "Hey, I can't make this thing." That's why we have all that stuff. We don't like to be rejected. And this has to do with evangelism as well. We do not like being rejected. If I share with you how Jesus has changed my life, and you said, "Yeah, that's good for you, but I ain't really buy into that we take it personally. Rather than just like, in the words of Jesus, dusting the dust off your feet, dusting the dirt off your feet and moving on and saying, "Okay, cool. Like, that person's not ready for that. We take it personally we internalize it and we are afraid definitely afraid of being rejected by someone else. Also, we have individual opposition because it just seems hard. I don't know enough Bible. I'm not equipped for this. I'll leave it to someone else who's good at it. And they can do because it just seems kind of hard. Now, I'll ask you for a moment when was the last time you bought something on Amazon and it changed your life in some way? You bought some particular cleaning supply that magically got rid of all the grossest and the grout in your tile? Or you like found a sponge, what was that sponge that our friend Courtney found that rocked her world? Scrub daddy. Oh my gosh, she like wouldn't stop talking about the scrub daddy sponge for like weeks and weeks. You guys all the time tell others about something or someone that has genuinely changed your life. Why do we then think it's that much more difficult to share how Jesus has changed our life? And maybe the fear is there and just in the conversation, maybe the fear is, did he actually change anything about me? Or am I the same as I've always been? And third, kind of individual opposition we face fear of rejection, difficulty is post evangelicalism deconstruction, which is a fancy way of saying every Christian whose approach Christianity is now approaching Christianity differently. They're deconstructing their faith, and they're even deconstructing ideas about evangelism. So a recent statistic that was taken from a study done about two years ago said that 40% of Christians under the age of 50 believe it is wrong, to share one's personal beliefs and hoping that they would share the same person personal beliefs. 47% of Christians under the age of 50 believe it is wrong to proclaim the gospel, to evangelize, to share what God has done in hopes God may do something with somebody else. And finally, individual opposition. We have delegated this to the experts and the extroverts. I'm not good at Bible. I don't know a lot of Bible, I have no training. I'm not even that outgoing. I don't like talking to people. I'm introverted, whatever. And we have delegated these things to the people who stand up on stage and seem somewhat good at this. And so in joking, it's still important, invite someone to church for sure, but it joking, have you ever thought like, I don't really want to talk to my friend about Jesus maybe I'll just invite them to church and Bert will do it for me. And that's a real struggle that we sit in because we feel ill equipped. And so we delegate to the experts and the extroverts. There is a Significant opposition to the work of evangelism today to the simple work of telling and showing people who Jesus is. But because it is hard because there's opposition, we do not just abandon it, but we have to think critically about how we engage it in our time. And we have to think critically, why do we even bother with this idea, this practice of telling somebody else about Jesus has done in my life? And so to answer the question, why would you even bother with evangelism today? I kind of have two responses from scripture that can maybe help guide our times, you guys tracking? I know I'm talking on double speed right now. But it's because I have a clock staring in my face. That's for your benefit, not mine. So anyway, why bother with evangelism. First reason, it is the center of our faith. If you follow Jesus, this is the center of your faith. If you do not follow Jesus that's all right. It's not the center of your faith. If you follow Jesus, it is the center of your faith. A few different reasons. It was Jesus's passion. It was God's passion in sending his son, one of the most famous verses of all time goes, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only son he so loved." It was motivated by love that Jesus was sent, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Jesus, his saving work was his passion for you and for me. It was not only his passion, it was Jesus' purpose. In Luke chapter 19:10, Jesus says, "The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost." To seek out, to go and find and to save those who are lost. Literally those who are wandering, aimless, those who do not know the truth about everything. And it was Jesus' priority. In Luke chapter 15 we have another account of this parable of the lost sheep. But I want to read it again. And I love how Luke prefaces this story from Jesus, he gives us a little bit more backdrop to why Jesus would share the story. In Luke 15:1 he goes, "Now the tax collectors and the sinners," which is code for just all the worst people in the social strata of first century Palestine. "We're all drawing near to hear Jesus, and the Pharisees and the scribes," which is code for the religious elites, those who are already a part of the family and doing a pretty poor job at stewarding that role. "The Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying this man Jesus receives and eats with sinners." And then Jesus goes on to tell the parable, "What man have you having 100 sheep, if lost one, et cetera, et cetera." But the backdrop is sinners, tax collectors, those who would be the farthest far from the kingdom of God Jesus is seeking out and saving, encountering, having conversation with them, healing them, casting out demons, bringing them true life and the Pharisees and the scribes saying, "Why are they messing around with those people? Why is he messing around with sinners? He should be hanging out with the likes of us, not the likes of them." And finally, it was Jesus's passion, purpose, his priority... It's pretty good piece right? Come on guys, flexing my good pastor muscles right there and another P. Man, I'm going to ruin it here. It was Jesus's commission to his disciples to tax, one in John chapter 20. Jesus says to his disciples, "Peace be with you as the Father has sent me so I am sending you." Pretty unequivocal. If you are Jesus' disciple, you are a sent one just like Jesus was. A little more for that is at the very end of Matthew, after Jesus is on the cross, and he resurrected from the dead, he goes to his disciples and he says, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me." That's a authority presumption that we will stumble across as we talk about Jesus with those who are far from God, the presumption of Jesus's authority, but he says it so we believe it. "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you and behold, I am with you always to the end of the age." He Commission's his disciples to go do the work he was already doing, make more disciples, teach them to obey, and I am with you always in this endeavor. So it is the center of our faith and it is the loving thing to do. Telling others about who Jesus is and what he has done is the ultimate act of love for those who are lost in your life. It is better and more loving than anything you can possibly think of. As Christians, we believe the claim of Jesus is not on equal footing with every other idea. It's actually the most important thing that anybody on earth can grasp and grapple with. Jesus said, "I'm the way and the truth and the life." Do we as Christians even believe him when he says that? So how do we approach this idea or this practice of evangelism in our time and our place with all the opposition with all the spiritual opposition, the cultural opposition, individual opposition, how then do we engage in this practice together? Because whatever we have seen, especially if you've been a Christian for any length of time, is not working. Maybe you've even been looking at it going, it has not been working, the fruit of it has actually been not good. But definitely whatever we're seeing right now, we're struggling to find what is working, what is fruitful, what is actually effective for the kingdom of God and our posture as a church to not simply throw up our hands give up and say we're going to do our thing on Sundays and whoever shows up is going to show up. We don't just stay in that posture, because we believe everybody should have the opportunity to explore life in the Christian faith. To ask questions, to share their point of view, in an environment that is open, friendly, honest and non judgmental. And as a church dedicated to making much of Jesus and inviting others to do the same helping people find their way back to God and reaching this city of Ventura. We think it is vitally important to have spaces where people can freely explore and ask these questions and share what they believe. And one of the things we've discovered the last couple of years of doing Alpha together is that there is just not another context or environment like this in our city. And I always put the disclaimer like, there may be something I don't know about. I'm not presuming anything. But we have researched pretty hard opportunities like this in Ventura of just simply not seen an environment or a space where people can come no matter what their background is, ask questions, share anything, and explore faith, life and meaning in an environment where they're not going to be shot down, or they're not going to be answered with a question and shut down. And they're not going to be cast out. They're not going to be kicked out because of something they say or something they ask. We genuinely don't see that. And so we see this as meeting a need that is going unmet in our city. And so this is why we have approached Alpha the way we are doing. This is why we are doing Alpha, Alpha is how we as a church are engaging the lost in Ventura with intentional gospel conversation. An Alpha is also just as a byproduct. This is not the main intent but it's also amazing tool for growth and equipping if you are a follower of Jesus. It's incredibly encouraging to sit in a small group with people who are of all kinds of different faiths or backgrounds exploring. It brings confidence, it brings encouragement that people do actually have these questions about life and along the way you will grow and be stretched as well. We believe Alpha is the right tool for our time, it may not be the right tool for every time, we believe it is the right tool for our current time and our current place. Three primary reasons we believe Alpha is the right tool for our time and our place. First, there's gospel culture that is being cultivated there. It is a safe judgment free pressure free environment, where people are welcomed with love and hospitality, not judgment or a bar to be met. Part of how we approach the small group is with active listening, we are genuinely there to hear what people think. We're not just waiting for our next turn to talk. We're genuinely invested in those who are in our small group and want to hear what they think and what they believe. And it's Spirit led, the Alpha journey is like anything but linear. It's kind of floppy and all over the place. And part of how we approach Alpha is to just simply be open and respond to the Holy Spirit as he's given us opportunity. There's a gospel journey that is nonlinear it is self discovery, and it is non pushy. And we believe there's gospel experience that happens here both in words, works and wonders. The gospel is proclaimed and presented through the films in creative ways. But in those films we get to do lay out like what we believe from a Christian point of view. And the works of love and listening and friendship help create an environment where people can engage. But along the way, we also see the Holy Spirit do supernatural and miraculous things. People getting healed, people who seemed very closed off to any idea of Jesus or Christianity, kind of becoming open and receptive. And we see the Holy Spirit do amazing things in these moments when we are present and we are ready to be used by him. And our prayer is to create a space for people to honestly answer the question, who do you think Jesus is? Now finally, I want to share with you guys how you can be involved. There are a couple of different ways you can be involved. There's a interesting kind of moment from Jesus in Matthew chapter nine, and he's chatting with his disciples and as Jesus is going around to the villages and the cities, he's teaching, and when he sees a group of people, he sees the crowds he's overwhelmed with compassion for them. And what Jesus identifies is very, very interesting. It says in Matthew chapter 9:36, "When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd." This is how Jesus is thinking of those who do not yet know him. So they're harassed. They're helpless. They're sheep without a shepherd in the gracious term, they're just lost. They don't know yet. But he identifies what the issue is. And it's not with those who are lost. And please hear this as an invitation, not as like a stinging prod. But this is how Jesus diagnosis the issue. Verse 37, he said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful," using another agrarian metaphor, saying, "There is things to be reaped," a plentiful harvest is a good thing. It is a generous thing. It is an overflowing thing, because the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. If you don't have enough labor and to go into the harvest, the harvest is wasted. It can't be cut down, it can't be refined, it can't be used. And in the same way, he says there's ample opportunity. There are people who are harassed and hopeless looking for hope. And the problem is not with those who are lost. The problem is the laborers are few, those willing to go into the field and harvest the field. He said, "Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest, to send out laborers into his harvest." It is our posture as a church, is to pray for more laborers to go out into the harvest. I think that Jesus knew the problem was never going to be the harvest, the amount of harvest, but he always knew there would be a lack of workers. This is not a guilt trip at all by any means, but it is an invitation in, an invitation to be an answer to a prayer. The harvest inventory is plentiful, there are those who are chasing after all the wrong things, those who are hopeless, helpless, harassed, and the invitation is to partner with Jesus in seeking and saving the lost. So there are a couple of different ways you can be engaged in the first and most important one is to orient our prayer life towards those who are lost, which is why you have one thing on the seat. One of the many things on your seat is this little tiny thing that you can keep with your phone, keep in a wallet, in your purse, or your Bible or whatever, is an opportunity to pray for those who are lost and our lives, to orient our prayer life around those who have not yet met Jesus. Understanding the reality that apart from Jesus, we can do nothing. The second way to be involved is to be on the team. We are looking for something between 20 and 30 people to be a part of the Alpha team, this particular spring, and I'm not going to go over all the different ways you can be involved. If you are you can learn more in the app, we kind of break down all the different roles, or come to one of the trainings that I'll tell you about in just a moment. But there are a lot of different roles and however you are gifted, there's a place for you at a part of this Alpha team. And so, one of the ways you can help with Alpha is to actually be on the team. We are looking for 20 to 30 people who can be on the team, things like small group hosts and helpers, greeters, people to help with food, people to be on a prayer team, all kinds of other ways. The big idea is that this is a whole church thing, if you are a part of Anthem, and if you're not yet welcome, and I hope you get a little bit of a behind the curtain peeking at how we operate in what's important to us. But if you are a part of anthem, you are a part of Alpha. There's no distinction. Somehow, some way you are a part of us in countering and creating hospitable environments for those who do not yet know Jesus. So in some way you are part of Alpha. So the question is not am I a part of Alpha, but how can I play my part in our mission to help people find their way back to God. And so to that effort, we have two identical trainings that are coming up, we may do a third if the need arises. And so we have two dates right now, but if we need to amend one of them, or if we need to add in a third, we can respond to that need. But right off the bat, the two dates are next week. One is Sunday afternoon, or one is Tuesday evening. They are identical. So pick one or the other. So if you're part of [inaudible 00:46:29] on Tuesday, come to the one on Sunday. If you can't come on Sunday, come to the one on Tuesday, and if we have overwhelming need we'll schedule a third one at some point during the week. But there'll be a training because we actually do some intentional training because one of the most dangerous parts of Alpha is Christians. I'm serious, one of the most dangerous parts to Alpha is treating this like a Bible study. And just thinking everyone in the room is exactly where you're at. And so we actually unpack some of how we approach Alpha particularly in a small group, to cultivate and create an environment that is hospitable to those of any faith background, or someone who's searching to any capacity. And so we actually train you to be a regular human for those nights. So, that's helpful. The final way that you can be involved is of course, inviting people to Alpha. There's a whole lot I can say on that. But particularly, what we are doing we're experimenting this year is we are kicking off Alpha with a launch night, and a launch night that is not a typical night. So we're still going to have food but it doesn't have the small group. It doesn't have one of the films and this launch night that's happening on March 10. We're actually partnering up with Tender Life Maternity Home and we're going to raise some money for them. We're going to let them share some stories and help grow some awareness for an amazing thing that is happening in the city. And so basically our premise for that night is we want to say to everyone in the room, we want to tell you about two amazing things that are happening in our city. One is Alpha and one is Tender Life Maternity Home and here's how you can be a part of each one those. And so we're going to have amazing booze, we're going to have great food, we're going to have some epic music, it's going to be a fun party that night. But it is a launch night where we can throw some love, money, and attention on an amazing nonprofit here in the city that helps transition pregnant women that are homeless into stability and out of homelessness. But it's also an opportunity where we can invite people to the next eight weeks of Alpha. And so as you're thinking through your invite, especially if the eight week course feels like a big invite or a big ask, is simply make a point to invite them to the launch night. Next week we'll have invite like postcards for the launch night that you can actually hand out and invite people too, but that is going to be the big night we are aiming for together to have them there at our launch night. And our launch night, our goal is to have at least 60 people in the room for our launch night. So we're putting that out there that's our goal. We're going to orient the night around 60 plus people and so we are really depending on each and every one of us to bring someone, to invite someone, to share this good thing that is happening. And once again, that's the opportunity where we get to share the invite for Alpha, the eight week course so you don't have to, but also where we get to throw some love and spotlight onto Tender Life Maternity Home and kind of do a joint event there together. Okay, that's that I want to wrap up what I'm talking about so I can give you guys to engage in a couple of different ways. I'm trying to decide what to keep on the fly here. Sometimes this happens, sometimes I say it out loud. Sometimes you guys don't even know that I'm slashing left and right. Go to Ephesians chapter two, go to Ephesians chapter two. Ephesians chapter two, we all have those texts in us if you read the Bible that maybe stick with you that resonates to you that just become core to your faith. For me, this is one of them. Ephesians chapter 2:1. Jesus was disproportionately concerned with those who are not a part of his family. And at one point, that was you. Ephesians 2:1, "And you were dead in the trespasses and sins," he's writing to Christians, by the way that are in a great church. That seemed like maybe everything's okay. He says you were dead in your trespasses and sin in which [inaudible 00:50:29] following the course of this world, following the culture around you, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience among whom we all once lived, and the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind and who were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. Notice you were following the culture of this world you were following yourself the passions of your own flesh, and you were following the enemy. Verse four, but God, being rich in mercy, over abounding in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us his driving motivation for us was love. Even when we were dead in our trespasses made us alive together with Christ by grace, you have been saved and raised this up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace and kindness toward us in Christ Jesus, for by grace, you have been saved through faith. This is not your own doing it is the gift of God, not a result of work so that no one may boast for we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. I love the partnership between God's word In our work. He saved you and now once you are saved, you are put to work you have role responsibility, you have mission. Are we grateful for the grace that has been extended to us? Would we want that same grace of Jesus extended to those who are lost in our life? I love the little one liner out of Hebrews chapter 12 that says, "See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God." The grace that's been shown to you, you were once dead. Jesus is disproportionately concerned with those who are lost and you were one of those people. Even if you grew up in church, there was a moment when you are in opposition to God. And there was a moment of reckoning where he saved you, and he brought you into his family. Do we share Jesus's burden for you who were once lost for those who are lost in our lives? Do we actually share the burden of Jesus? And that will dictate how you respond this season on Alpha, but also just generally in your life, as you're feeling the Holy Spirit leading you towards conversation leading you towards being on mission in your workplace, in your neighborhood wherever this will be the driving motivation. Are we grateful for the grace that's been extended to us? Do we share the burden of Jesus for those in your life in my life who are lost. So, a couple of things to put a bow in our morning so far, we will do a little bit of a deeper dive of the mechanics of Alpha what it looks like at our team's training that are coming up this next week. But you have a few things on your chair, one of them I want to talk about before we go into this next thing. This right here, a little prayer card right here is nothing but a reminder to pray for people in your life. And so what you're going to do in just a couple of minutes is everyone you're going to jot down three people in your life, you would like to explore faith, that you would like to encounter Jesus. And that's kind of it. I'm not saying these are three people you must divide by any stretch, we're going to jot down three people that in our lives, we would love to explore faith in Jesus. And what we are doing for the next 21 days, three weeks is we are going to pray for them daily. We want to orient our prayer life around those who are lost. And we're going to pray for these people daily together as a church, even though we'll be scattered all throughout the county, in our workplaces, at home at school, whatever. We're going to take a moment every single day at 11:02 to pray for those we would love to see explore faith. And so that is your homework, and that is what we're going to be engaging with over the next three weeks is just an effort to pray. Baby Steps guys, we're going to start with baby steps. We're just going to orient our prayer life around those who are lost and we're going to try doing this together for the next three weeks. It could be a one minute prayer if you want, it can be five minutes, like no prescription on what that has to look like. But once per day, we're going to orient our mind our thought life and our prayer life towards those who are lost in your life. Okay, the last thing we're going to do today is we're going to break up a new couple of groups. So don't move too far. But look around you right now and just kind of like huddle up with like five or seven people around you. I'm going to give you guys a couple of questions that I would love for you guys to engage with. Now, just so you know, I know there's some people who are new to Anthem, there might be some people in this room who don't even know Jesus. That's okay, share as much as you want to share. But we're going to give you a couple of questions to chat about in smaller groups. And then we're going to end with a little bit of worship and prayer to close out our morning. So just look around you. And we're gonna say about five minutes to do this. So look around you grab five to seven people and just answer maybe one or two or all four of the questions, share as much as you would like. But let's take five minutes and I'll call you back together in five minutes. So just look around you don't move far, five to seven people be flexible, and just kind of like move around them and address... ... to send us out today. So go and just stand where you are, if your chairs are kind of messed up, that's all right. As we respond today, there are a couple of different ways we respond, you can look on the screen, we're closing with one song together. So if you'd like to go and receive Communion, make sure you do that right away. But one of the lines of the song that we're going to sing is Look Up and See His Face and Do Not Forget His Grace. I honestly think one of the reasons we have a hard time sharing the grace of Jesus is we forget the grace of Jesus that's been shown to us. And so as we kind of go and send out, let your hearts be reminded of the grace that's been shown to you and just ask the spirit, how that might change this week as you have coming up and how it might change how you Pray for the three people that we're going to be praying for each and every day. Father, we're so grateful. We stand here in a posture of gratitude. We stand here in a posture of thankfulness and being overwhelmed by the love, mercy, peace, hope and grace that we have been shown as people who follow you have redeemed us and reconciled us. And God, would we not seek to sit and be comfortable there, but to actually think and pray for and work towards other people experiencing this kind of grace that we have been shown ourself. So thank you, Jesus, for your work that is brought us into your family. And would we all leave here empowered by your Holy Spirit, to be Proclaimers of the good news of Jesus Christ and however, the Holy Spirit may call us to. How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news, Amen.

Bonus Pod #3: How You Can Be Involved

Alpha Sunday • February 20, 2020 • Bert Alcorn

Bonus Pod #2: The What and How of Alpha

Alpha Sunday • February 20, 2020 • Bert Alcorn

Bonus Pod #1: Why Alpha?

Alpha Sunday • February 20, 2020 • Bert Alcorn