...church was a formal event where people listened to a distant speaker.
IN THE BEGINNING
When we started Fellowship of the Parks, I had a vision for our worship services: a party.
Before starting FOTP, most of my life experience had led me to believe that church was a formal event where people listened to a distant speaker.
I just knew there was a better way, and I found that way in a story about Levi becoming Matthew from the Book of Luke.
He abandoned his sin and his livelihood. In essence, Levi abandoned everything - with one major exception: His FRIENDS
Levi Becomes Matthew
Levi the Tax Collector was a religious and social outcast. As a tax collector, he made his living by taxing the people more than had been required by the Roman Empire. The religious leaders despised him, and the majority of the people thought of him as a traitor and a thief. I would imagine it was very difficult for Levi to find people who did not hate him. I’m speculating here, but his closest friends were possibly willing to associate with him because he had money and a small amount of power. I would suggest that he was receptive to Jesus’ invitation to follow for two reasons: First, he knew the hollowness of his own life, and he needed something to change.
Second, Levi probably knew about Jesus. Stories had circulation, and Jesus had developed a reputation for connecting with common people; for connecting with social and religious outsiders. Outsiders like himself. He may have hoped that he would find some understanding and connection to his teacher/prophet, but he probably did not have the courage to initiate such an encounter. So, when Jesus approached Levi and invited him to follow, Levi did not hesitate to respond. Levi immediately repented. He abandoned his sin and his livelihood. In essence, Levi abandoned everything - with one major exception: His FRIENDS.
Levi the Tax Collector transformed into Matthew the Disciple as he agreed to follow Jesus. The text implies that Matthew immediately designed, planned, and threw a party to honor Jesus - the guest of honor, so that his friends (other religious and social outsiders commonly referred to as “sinners”) could meet and connect with Jesus.
He immediately threw a party to honor Jesus and introduced his friends, who were social outsiders, to Him.
Church Is a Party
Matthew responded to Jesus' invitation to follow Him. He immediately threw a party to honor Jesus and introduced his friends, who were social outsiders, to Him. This made me realize that church should be a place where disconnected people feel connected and where they can build a relationship with Jesus.
Matthew represents those of us who are Christ-followers. We have not forgotten what it means to be broken and lost. We have been brought into a relationship with Jesus, we desperately want others to know the same joy, forgiveness, acceptance, and connection. We are the ones throwing the party and are faithful in honoring the guest of honor, Jesus, by inviting, accommodating, and facilitating a connection to as many people as possible to the guest of honor.
...years of pain and struggle that projected from his sad, lonely eyes
I Saw This in Action
I had a powerful experience in a church in Las Vegas where I witnessed a person struggling with their sexual identity being welcomed and embraced.
I detected the obvious years of pain and struggle that projected from his sad, lonely eyes. Throughout the service, I would strain to discreetly watch his increasing participation in the worship. He exhibited a tremendous level of comfort. In fact, I was the only person in the room who even seemed to notice his presence as any other than completely normal. The church appeared to be very welcoming and hospitable. Great efforts were made to communicate to all types of people and, most of all, to honor Jesus.
Biblical truth was not compromised but communicated in love.
We should invite all people, regardless of their background, and create an atmosphere where connection can happen.
My Vision for FOTP
Church should be about worshiping God through Jesus, making Him known, and connecting with Him and others. It's not about focusing on formalities or catering only to certain individuals. We should invite all people, regardless of their background, and create an atmosphere where connection can happen.
As Christ-followers, we should be the ones throwing the party, inviting others, and serving. We provide the space, resources, and hospitality needed for people to meet Jesus. It requires personal invitations, financial support, and active involvement in serving.
...will always be to seek out those who are far from God and invite them to discover a connection with Jesus Christ.
A Party For Everyone
We believe deeply in discipleship and helping people learn and grow through the study of Scripture. However, we will never seek to shelter ourselves from the world around us. Our focus at Fellowship of the Parks is and will always be to seek out those who are far from God and invite them to discover a connection with Jesus Christ. We believe that this means that we are people who throw parties. Our discipleship emerges from our willingness to follow a Jesus who calls us to be people who are welcoming and compassionate to the outsider.
I am very grateful to be the pastor of Fellowship of the Parks. There are many stories of people who have come to the party at Fellowship of the Parks, become connected to Jesus, and experience a changed life. We continually seek to bring people to the party.
I'd like to personally invite you to join the party at Fellowship of the Parks. Please visit FOTP.church to find a campus near you!
You can find the full Party at My Church document here.
Founding & Senior Pastor | FOTP