What if the life-changing, soul-shaking, breathtaking vision Jesus had for the church wasn't about a physical building at all? Imagine a church where community and relationships with God and one another trump everything else, and where mission isn't what we do but who we are. We're peeling back the layers of tradition and challenging the norms, exploring the journey of leading a disruptive church ministry that seeks to live out this vision.
From bomb threats to Instagram trolls, we've faced both hostility and humor in our pursuit of a Jesus-centric faith. But, we've also discovered the power of saying no to good things to make room for better ones, realizing that breaking away from the conventional path can lead us closer to God. And in refining our paths, we've learned that it's crucial to invite others into the journey, to be a community that supports one another in the highs, lows and in-betweens. So, join us in being the church, not just attending church, as we navigate the beautiful complexities of disruption and recommitment in our Christian faith.
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Good morning and welcome to Madison Church. I'm Stephen Feith, lead pastor, and if you're part of our online audience, we're so glad you're watching and listening Whenever you are, and we want to extend a special invitation to you to come out and join us on some Sunday soon. Did you know? Some of you knew this because we're friends. I share this with you. Some of you know this because you might be an elder and I share this with you when we get this. But did you know that sometimes we get emails and letters and phone calls from people who do not like the things that we believe in, the way that we do church? Did you know that? Yeah, we do, we do. It's not. Actually it's not uncommon. If you didn't know, that's not uncommon, after we moved into this building, I was being sent a weekly letter for about one year it was only about a year Someone from North Carolina who is very graciously providing feedback on every talk I gave that first year we were here. So things I missed, things that I could have talked about more. These were handwritten letters. I really appreciated the time that this individual was putting in Little. Did they know I actually pay people to do that and they were just doing it for free, and so I was very grateful for that. But you know, I don't bring this up like ever because I feel like mentioning emails and letters that we get of of naysayers or people who have just a ton of time on their hand to find Madison Church and send us letters I just I feel like it just distracts from the mission and the vision, so why talk about it? But I do have a reason for bringing it up today, because I brought some examples with me today. I know that you're not gonna be able to see them terribly well. I'll describe what you're looking at here. But I got an email, and this particular screenshot is one of nine that I took. This particular person sent me such a long email I had to do nine screenshots to capture it all so that I could forward it to our elderboard and say hey, just so you know. I got this email and I just want someone else to know. It is actually from the senior pastor of a mid-sized church on Madison's west side. It's somebody that has lived in Madison over 10 years, as I have. I'm coming up on 10 years and, despite having very similar circles of people that we would normally do ministry with. We have never actually met in person. We've never reached out to each other. We're not connected in any way, shape or form, although, because we're connected in these circles, I know that this person could get a hold of me if they wanted to. They probably know 50 people who have my phone number, but instead this person went online to our website and drafted a little manifesto. On the bottom of our website we have that contact box. That's where this email came from. So they write this huge email and you know, essentially just critiquing. They did try. You know the sandwich thing. You know where you start with a compliment. They're like we're so grateful that you came to Madison to start the church and I'm waiting for the butt. This is why you suck, which was actually 90% of the emails. I didn't have to wait long, but yeah, so we got that. That was interesting. That one was more like directed toward Madison Church. Here's what you all are doing wrong. This one on Instagram was definitely more directed toward me. So this is a picture of me. You can kind of see up there. I did not post this picture. That's John. He leads a nonprofit organization in town. He came to my party. He took a picture with me. He posted it Congrats on your new book, uprising, that's coming out. It's awesome. I wrote thanks for coming out, john, appreciate it. You know, it's all like supposed to be positive. And then some guy I don't even know, so I can't tell you who this is. They start the comment Is that the guy? Dot dot dot. That is the guy. I'm him, as the kids say, and so some of you guys are really squinting. You're wanting to know. Where can I find this? I tried to block out all the ads, and so what I did highlight at the bottom is that after my friend John writes a nice comment about how he's got lots of friends in ministry and they all have different philosophies and it's great and this guy goes on to write three more larger comments. He's literally I'm tagged in the photo, I've commented on the photo, and then he proceeds to have a conversation about me, not under my comment, but under this comment about me, and so I read them and I'm growing up because I didn't comment on it. So there's Instagram, there are emails. My favorite story, though I absolutely favorite story was between years two and three. We were meeting on Madison's West Side in the Loser Center and we received a pretty scary letter. It was scary for about 30 seconds. Okay, came to church, we got done setting up early, didn't have anything else to do. I probably wasn't teaching, because usually when I'm teaching then I'll just go somewhere else and read my notes for like the 101st time. And but this time I was like, oh you know what, I should go and check the mail and it's like junk mail, junk mail, junk mail, junk mail. And then there's one like one of those interesting letters that's almost out of like a really bad movie, where it's like you can see the handwriting. It's like all different, like caps and different shape letters and everything, somebody really trying to disguise their handwriting. It smells like oh, this is, this is cool. And I opened it up and here's what made it scary. It was it was a bomb threat. And so somebody had sent us in the mail a letter and said there's, there's a bomb and they're they're not mad at Madison church, specifically, they were mad at Christianity, and they sent this letter. And so I was like, oh my gosh, we got to get everybody out of the building, like it's not safe. What is going on? I was, I think, 27 at the time and all I wanted to do is like baptize people and get them into a small group, and now I'm like navigating this. And then, before I could do anything, I realized that the letter had been sent like six weeks before and that the bomb was supposed to go off five weeks earlier and so a month had passed. And so we called the police anyway, and they took the letter and say, yeah, a whole bunch of churches got these six weeks ago. We're surprised, you just found it. And, moral of the story, I do check our PO box a little more often these days. You never know. When you're disruptive, as we are at Madison church, when you are disruptive, it is going to make other people come out of places you didn't know they were Because you're disrupting things that they find are sacred. They may not know why they think it's sacred, but they find it sacred. But the thing is is for us, and what we have to be cautious of as a church is you can't just consistently make one group of people mad and call it the gospel. That's arrogant. You can't just, for example, you can't just make one political party mad with everything you say and be like Well, we're just following Jesus. The way of Jesus would honestly to be to make both and all political parties mad at some point or another. You can't just say, well, we're only going to make these people mad or these people mad. If you're really following Jesus, there are going to be aspects that offend them a little bit. Offend them a little bit, and if you're doing it right, you're probably going to offend both of them at some point for the same exact reason. And I bring up the emails and the text messages in the phone calls not to scare you away from Madison church, I promise the statement of faith that we have on our website we literally copied from the Apostles Creed, the very first people who follow Jesus. We took their statement of faith and made it our own. So not real original, not a whole lot of heresy there. Upsetting folks doesn't mean we're doing something wrong. This has been a hard lesson for me to learn. I like people liking me. I'm addicted to that feeling of people liking me, and what I've come to find as I get older is that sometimes the right people not liking me actually makes the people I want to like me like me more. And so, as we follow Jesus and we keep Jesus in the forefront of our mind. I want Jesus to like us best, and if there are some people who like us less because of that, I guess I'm okay with that, or I'll work through it anyway with you guys, as long as we're following Jesus. And that means we're gonna have to be disruptive. And so today we're concluding our series Disruptive Church, and throughout the study we've explored how this term disruptive in our everyday lives usually isn't a great thing. We don't like being disrupted. Nobody likes being woken up at three in the morning by the child who says I just threw up in my bed. Nobody likes being disrupted. Oh my gosh. This week I got a text message from my dentist. They said hey, we can get you in earlier, show up earlier. I showed up earlier. Nobody, apparently. When I confirmed that it show up earlier, nobody confirmed that with the office. So then I'm sitting there past my regular scheduled appointment after I showed up earlier and I walk up to the desk and I'm like I just handed my phone. I'm like hey, I was supposed to be here 40 minutes ago, get in. And they said oh, sorry, we didn't do it. My life was disrupted and I was so annoyed. So annoyed. We don't like it, but when it comes to our faith, a disruption can be a good thing. When it comes to our faith, disruption is good because sometimes along the way in this thing, life and our journey of faith, we pick things up along the way that might have sounded really good in a season of life or a season of ministry, but it wasn't biblical. As a matter of fact, the next three weeks we're doing a series called questioning Christian cliches. That's the next three weeks, and we're going to tell you why the phrase everything happens for a reason is not true. Well, it's not true. For the reason that you might think it's true, we're going to talk about some of these things that you grew up and you saw their biblical God helps those who help themselves. Right, that's not in the Bible. So we're going to talk about that. And that's what we do when we're disrupting faith. We're saying, hey, we might have picked up some things that just aren't great, they aren't good, they aren't healthy and within the context of our faith, it allows us to bring about significant changes, life changing, alternative eternity, altering decisions, things that will help you live that John 10, 10 promise, when Jesus says I came, that they might have life, and life to its fullest. And so if you don't feel like you're living life to your fullest, it's not because Jesus lied. It might be because we are not doing something right. Right In week one, we learned that the term church, ecclesia, originally referred to in Greek just groups of people meeting together for just about any reason marketplaces, public squares. It wasn't a religious concept, but it became a distinctly Christian one. When Jesus tells Peter, I will build my church and all the powers of hell will not conquer it. When talking about Peter, jesus takes this word that was completely secular, non-religious, and says now it is mine, this is my word now, and it's going to change the world. You might have grown up thinking that the church is a building, an event, a service, an institution, but Jesus envisioned never envisioned that. He envisioned a people group. It moved beyond physical structures. He emphasized the gatherings of people in neighborhoods and in cities and in small towns, everywhere for his mission. And so the very first thing we needed to do if we were going to disrupt our faith, we needed to unlearn, maybe, some of the aspects of church we thought we knew to better align with Jesus's vision for church. That's what's the common theme today. We're going to always go back to what did Jesus envision? So we don't go to church and we don't do church, but we are the church. So we have to be the church. Community with God and each other was God's vision for the world. It's a vision he will restore again someday. We saw it in the garden. God creates everything In the garden. People were working. Some of you don't like that aspect of it. Right, you're like. You thought you're dying. What happened? There'd be no work. Well, if we're looking at the garden, it's kind of maybe like this revelation of what is to come. They were working in the garden, so not all work is bad, but we see them community and relationships and friendships and walking with God. And then that's been ruined and we're in this in between era and then someday God's kingdom will be restored. John writes in this vision. He says look, god's home is now among his people. He will live with them and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. Community is so important to God. Even if you're just a staunch introvert and or you're watching and listening online, you didn't come by Sunday because you came to Sunday before and you needed a Sunday off. Even the most introverted person needs community. That's how you were wired. But we're not a social club. It's not us, for no more. We are on mission. We're not in the garden and God's kingdom has not fully arrived yet, which means you and I have a job to do. We are sent out into the world for the sake of others and in the eyes of Jesus. Going back to this idea of what did Jesus envision for the church, he envisioned that mission wasn't something that we did, but it was who we are. Mission isn't just something we check off the list while I'm supposed to pray, I'm supposed to read the Bible and I'm supposed to share my faith. This week he said the sharing your faith and living on mission. That is the essence of my church, of my people group. He crystallized this when John writes "'Peace be with you, as the Father has sent me, so I am sending you'". And to be sent is to be entrusted with God's mission. I don't trust my kids to do a lot of things Right now. I trust them to kind of go out and shovel some snow in the winter, get at least started for me, right. But we're God's children. And he says this is the biggest, most important thing I've got going on and I trust you. I trust you to do it and that should for some of us. We realize how heavy that is. Some of us we don't yet realize that's okay, we just keep engaging. But we realize how heavy that is and it really shakes us out of the confines of complacency. We just can't do faith the way that we've been doing it, knowing that, knowing how important community is and how urgent the mission is. We just can't keep doing it the way that we've been doing it. We have to step up and into the realm of mission and we realize it's gonna cost us like. It's gonna cost us time, it's gonna cost us money, we're gonna get hurt, there's gonna be emotional drainage. And then, all of a sudden, those words when Jesus says anyone who wants to follow me is gonna have to carry their cross. All of a sudden it's like, oh yeah, that was probably heavy. It wasn't just a necklace that I wore and no offense to the necklaces, keep wearing your necklaces, I love them but he's talking about a cross, he's talking about suffering. He's talking about doing something that he himself didn't wanna do but followed through with because of God's mission. And that's when those words begin to stick out. It's when we're in the dirt and we're hurting that we begin to realize that this is what the mission is. And as we talked about the past few weeks, we said Jesus's vision of the church is a community of people on mission together where Jesus is king. And when we live this way, we don't just get angry emails, we don't just get angry phone calls, but we see lives transformed. It's not just who is against us, it's the fruit of what we are bearing here at Madison Church, and not just at Madison Church, but other churches in Madison, and not just in Madison, but Dane County and Wisconsin and the United States, and literally tens of millions of believers all over the world right now who are gathering the same way that we are. We are one church and God's kingdom. We're not doing this series because we found a secret way to do church. We're not doing this series because we found a better way to do church. We're not doing this series because I think that this way is the best way to do church. I don't think any of that at all. We're doing this series because I believe if we're going to connect people with God and each other. We need to disrupt some of the things that we are bringing with us each and every Sunday. I talked about how, for nine years, we've said yes to certain things and we've said no to other things and have stayed faithful and have been convicted, and I'm really proud of all of that. And it's not just without fruit, because I was watching that first message again, I made it seem like man. It's just been every day has just been hard. It has been hard at times, but other times it's been really, really good as well. We have seen so much fruit as a matter of fact, in this past year. I have a really cool story to share with you. I did get permission so in case you were wondering, but if you went to the baptisms back in, it was July or May, I think, and you saw us out with the families and we're out there in the water and it smelled like farts. You guys couldn't smell it. You were on the beach, but for us it wasn't a really great aroma experience for us, but in that moment it was so spiritual. It was so spiritual despite that. And I'm there with Nana and Brianna and Andreas and we're all circled up. I think we had the picture there and that's when she's coming out of the water, but before the water and if you were there you probably noticed you're like Stephen usually does talk a little bit before these things and you might have noticed that that conversation ended up being a little bit longer, and the reason it was longer was because I had realized it long before this day. But, brianna, you started coming to our church like a year and a half ago. Your family first came I think it was an Easter Sunday maybe and the first prayer card just pray for my family's faith, and we don't normally share prayer cards, right? I ask for permission. So we're in the water and I'm thinking about this and I've been thinking about this. But then, brianna, your family, you keep coming back and every week, brianna, you write on your prayer card pray for my family's faith, pray for my family's faith. And every week I type that out and every week I send that to our elders and our leaders and every week we pray for it. And then I remember earlier this year some of you all got baptized and we're celebrating an answered prayer. Now nobody in the room knows it's an answered prayer, except maybe our elders and me because we've, and you, because we've been praying for it, but we don't. We don't bless that right. And it was, I think. A month later, andreas and Jessica, you guys got baptized and it was like more answered prayers. And then, as we're sitting here in the water, we've already baptized Brianna's two brothers. We've baptized everyone in the family except Brianna, and I lean Brianna can verify this I get next to her and I say, brianna, after we baptize you, god has answered your prayers in full. After we baptize you, this is what we do. This is what we do. This is who we are. This is why we do things differently. We emphasize prayer, because we know prayer works. We focus on doing church differently because the old ways weren't working. We do things differently for this so that lives are transformed, so that families are changed, so that eternities are altered and so that, for eternity, brianna can say next time, ask me permission if you can share my story, not my mom. This is why we emphasize small groups and volunteering and being a part of the community and serving as the community. This isn't just show up, but it's being a part of something where lives are changed because of your contributions, and every single one of us has a contribution to make. No matter how big or small you think you are, we all have something to contribute. Faith can be a catalyst. God disrupted my life. I know for some of you, god has disrupted your life. For some of you, god is trying so hard to disrupt your life right now. Will you let him See? God will disrupt you but he won't force you. God will disrupt you, he'll guide you, but he can't make you do it. Going back to that community idea he wants you to choose him and if he's got to force you into a relationship with him, that's not the relationship that he wants. Faith can be the catalyst that you need for profound change in your life. Faith can be the source of unwavering strength in our ever-changing world. We have a God who, as I have said, wants to disrupt your life so badly for the better. And if every single person in the room right now and watching and listening online agreed to let God do that, we would be a very disruptive church community in the city of Madison. For some of you, this idea of faith might be entirely something new. It might be something you've investigated for a long time, but my challenge for you this morning is to take a step. And one of the things I want to disrupt is maybe you grew up thinking that you had to say a prayer a certain way, certain words. That's just not true. You see, when Jesus said, come, follow me, it wasn't a prayer, it was a step. And so this morning, if, for you, you've been investigating, looking into faith and you're saying I want to take a step, what do I need to do? Take a step, follow Jesus. Where is he calling you? What do you need to let go of back there? What do you need to walk toward going in that direction? And might I suggest baptisms in two weeks? If we're doing baptisms and historically speaking, baptisms was always the first step for a new follower of Jesus Look and ask you can fact check me? When someone came to faith, they were baptized, because it symbolizes that choice of walking away and dying from something and being born into new life. Committing to faith is an eternity altering decision. It's an opportunity to experience the transformative power of God and to find purpose in a world with so much uncertainty. Don't let fear or doubt hold you back Now. I know that there are a lot of you who have already made that decision to follow Jesus and you're taking steps, but the thing about a journey is sometimes we get off the map, sometimes we lose our way, sometimes we get a little lost. It doesn't mean that Jesus has left you, it doesn't mean that you've necessarily left Jesus, and it might just mean that there's a little gap between you two, where you guys used to walk step and step and hand in hand. There might be a little bit of gap, and so if you find yourself in this situation today where you're not sure where Jesus is in your life, would you recommit? Can you identify a point in the journey where you start to have space between you and God? Is there something that you need to cut out? Is something that you need to begin again? Can you say no to something good so you can say yes to something better? I know that saying no is not always obvious. It's not always bad. Sometimes we have to say no to something we really like and something we really value so we can say yes to God. And, lastly, I know that there are a lot of you here today who you don't need to commit. You've already committed and you don't need to recommit because you're right there, and I just want you to be reminded of that, be reminded of the choices that you're making and be encouraged by that and to keep making those choices, because when we forget why we do the things we do and why we're doing the things we do, that's when we'll have to be having a conversation in a year and a half about you recommitting. Remind ourselves why we follow Jesus, remind ourselves why we follow God. Yes, life can be tough and there are moments that we're all going to need a gentle nudge to stay on course, but you guys are on it and I'm so happy for you. These three challenges aren't just individual endeavors. We're in this together. It's a disruptive church. We're a community. This isn't just about you doing it by yourself. We are in this together and so let's do this together. Let's help those who are committing, commit. Let's help those who are recommitting. Refine the path and let's strengthen, encourage and remind one another who are on the path to stick to the path. When we do this, so that we can disrupt the status quo together. As we close today, my challenge for each of you it's the same challenge I've given you the last few weeks Be the church, don't just go to church, don't just do church, but be the church. It will take courage, but God is the God who says be strong and courageous, for I am with you.