Wednesday Night Experiments
On Wednesday nights for the foreseeable future we have begun a new and challenging process for our teenagers. In short, we are challenging them to not only think critically about the life of Jesus but to practice for themselves and make discoveries that traditional lessons don’t quite unveil. It is roughly a four week process where in week 1 we share food and fellowship (this is also a great night to invite friends) and simply listen to a story from the life of Christ. In week 2 we challenge our students to meditate more deeply on that story and to come up with a plan for the next week where we will experiment with enculturating a behavior or practice of Jesus today. This second week is the most critical because we are actually relying on the students to plan their own Jesus-experiment. In week 3, we do the experiment. This can take the form of service or something completely creative. The fourth week we reflect on what we did and draw out some lessons learned in the doing.
Last Wednesday night, which was week 2 in this process. We meditated on Mark 2:13-17 where Jesus called Levi (Matthew) to be his disciple and was then criticized by the religious elite for eating with tax-collectors (Levi and associates) and sinners (isn’t it amazing that the person the religious elite called a sinner is now one of our faith heros?). We had an incredible discussion and soon settled on the question, “Who could we eat with that would shock those who know us best?” After some great suggestion, it came to a vote and our students decided to host a local group of Muslims to a dinner held in their honor at our church.
The next day, after realizing I didn’t know any practicing Muslims, we got to work coordinating with Elder Roger Wiemers in inviting some of his friends and associates from the Islamic Center of Nashville (ICN). While we intended for that dinner to happen this Wednesday night, we simply could not coordinate schedules with the good folks at ICN for this Wednesday night. However, they are more free the Wednesday evening after (September 24th) and we will be hosting them in the teen center at 6:30. If you would like to come and help us set up our banquet, please arrive at 6:00.
This Wednesday night we will get ready for the evening by learning a little more about Islam and preparing our students to serve the good people from ICN.
At this point you may be saying something like, “Are we actually ready to invite a group of non-Christians, let alone Muslims to our church?” Which is not an irrational question and, considering some recent headlines with groups like ISIS, I understand. To this question I’d like to say 4 things:
- Please go visit the ICN’s website now (http://www.icntn.org). I personally do not feel so distant from them when the first thing I read on their website is, “American Muslims view the actions of ISIS as un-Islamic and morally repugnant. No religion condones the murder of civilians, the beheading of religious scholars or the desecration of houses of worship. We condemn the actions of ISIS and reject its assertion that all Muslims are required to pay allegiance to its leader.” These are words I can get behind. Also, while it would be dishonest to say we are just the same (We believe Jesus is God and Muslims believe he was perhaps the greatest of all God’s profits second only to Muhammed) I think we might be surprised at all we have in common.
- I think following Jesus should make us a little uncomfortable at times. I think it should cause us to stretch and, in the discomfort, learn more about ourselves, our neighbors, and God than we ever could from listening to one more lesson. All we hope to do with this evening is learn what Jesus would have us learn about practicing hospitality to those the religious elite might label sinners, that and perhaps develop a new friend or two. We will not preach at them and they won’t preach at us. We will merely share a meal together and celebrate a God that calls all people to practice peace and an end to hostility.
- If you don’t feel comfortable with this event no one at Woodmont will criticize you or think of you any differently. We are all where we are on this journey with God and only you know the fine line between stretching yourself and putting yourself in a situation in which you can’t be comfortable.
- Regardless of whether or not you currently plan on attending, please spend some time praying for Godly wisdom regarding your participation in this experiment. No one knows what the end lesson(s) from this experiment will be and no one knows the ways we’ll succeed and/or mess up. All we in leadership hope for is that we would learn equally from our mistakes and success that we might grow closer to our Maker. Really, it’s all we could ever hope for. Let’s all agree to enter into this prayerfully, and with eyes and ears wide open for the things God has to teach us.