September 8, 2013
Text: Deuteronomy 6:4-9, Luke 5:27-32
How many of you have heard of TED talks? TED is an organization that shares “ideas worth spreading” through short, memorable lectures on just about any subject you can imagine. The talks are given live at conferences, and shared for free on the Internet at TED.com.
He uses a video clip to illustrate his point. At the start of the video, people are gathered on a hillside, lounging on blankets or walking along with bags slung over their shoulders. It has the feel of a beautiful summer day on a college campus or at a public park.
At the center of the screen a man stands, shirtless, on the grass. People continue to walk by, spread blankets, lounge on the grass. And then the man in the center begins to dance, right in the middle of the crowd. It is a goofy, awkward dance, arms waving over his head, turning in circles. People glance his way, and a few hastily gather their things and walk away. Sivers points out, at this point, that a leader has to have the guts to stand out, be willing to look ridiculous and be ridiculed for it.
But then – another man jumps up and joins in the dance. The leader isn’t quite so alone anymore. Here Sivers points out that the “first follower” has a crucial role – he is the one who shows everyone else how to follow. “The first follower,” Sivers says, “is what transforms a lone nut into a leader.”
After that, it doesn’t take long for another person to join in, and another, and another. The leader no longer stands out, as the dance grows; new dancers imitate the first followers, and the dance morphs and changes as more and more join. Before long, the whole crowd has become one big dancing mob, seemingly having the time of their lives. A movement has begun.
Sivers uses the dancing crowd to illustrate principles of leadership in the business world, and to demonstrate the “tipping point” at which an idea takes root and spreads.
When I see the video, though, I can’t help but think of the invitation that Jesus gives to his disciples: “Follow me.” I think this silly little video of a dancing crowd is a pretty good illustration of what it means to follow Jesus in a world that values getting ahead, being successful, and being in charge.
Jesus certainly didn’t have a problem with the “courage to stand out and be ridiculed” piece of being a leader, did he? Everything he did and said set him apart from the world around him: Blessed are the poor. I have come not to be served, but to serve. Take up your cross. Unless you become like the least of these…you shall not see the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus’ message is far different than the world’s message of bigger, better, more. And Jesus friends – the ones he chose to hang out with – weren’t the successful, powerful types, either.
In Luke 5, Jesus offers the invitation, “follow me,” and then goes right on into a tax collector’s house and sits down at the table with unclean, socially outcast people that most of us would never be caught dead with in public. Follow him there? I don’t think so! The religious people – the good, church-going folk – were appalled! I can hear the conversation now: Inappropriate. Ridiculous. Scandalous!
But Jesus was confident in his mission: “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
So he issued the invitation: Come. Follow me. Repent.
That’s a big call, for so few words! And Levi – along with Peter, James and John earlier in Luke 5 – show us what it looks like to answer that call. “Levi got up, left everything behind, and followed him” (Lk 5:28). And the others, “as soon as they brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed Jesus” (Lk 5:11).
We are here in a Christian church some 2,000 years later because Jesus invites us into relationship with God – and also because Peter, James, John and Levi accepted the invitation to follow. We are here because we felt God tugging at our hearts, and also because a neighbor invited us somewhere along the way. We are here because the Holy Spirit planted seeds of faith in us, and also because our mothers or fathers or grandparents talked to us about faith the way that Deuteronomy 6 instructs God’s people to do with their children. We are here to follow Jesus, and also to share our faith journey with other followers.
At the end of Sivers’ TED talk, he concludes by saying, “If you really care about starting a movement, have the courage to follow and show others how to follow.” That’s what we are to be about as Christian people – following Jesus with courage and conviction, and showing others how to follow too.
This fall, we begin a study called, “A Disciple’s Path.” It invites us deeper into relationship with Jesus – invites us to follow him more closely, more fully. And it does so by inviting us into relationship with one another, so that we can follow together. That’s why we are asking you to not only be here on Sunday mornings, but join a home group for six weeks, where you can build relationships and learn to follow together. You don’t have to “drop everything” to join a homegroup, but I hope you’ll at least find a couple hours a week to be together with other Jesus-followers this fall!
While the “A Disciple’s Path” curriculum is newly published, its content isn’t really new. It comes right out of our Methodist roots, when John Wesley organized followers of Jesus into small groups that cared for one another, read the Bible together, prayed together, and served the community together. Out of these small groups, a movement began that eventually became The Methodist Church.
The Methodist movement was not a separate “religion” as I sometimes hear (“What religion are you?”). It was thoroughly Christian, seeking to follow Jesus alongside Anglican, Catholic and Protestant Christians. What was unique, though, was the way that John Wesley and the Methodists devoted themselves to authenticity and connection through meaningful relationships; to making a significant difference in the community, to understanding faith holistically as both personal and social.
In the early days of the Methodist movement, Wesley said:
I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist either in Europe or America. But I am afraid, lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power. And this undoubtedly will be the case, unless they hold fast both the doctrine, spirit, and discipline with which they first set out.
There are those who fear Wesley’s words have come true – that churches in America today “only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power.” There have been times, in our own lives personally and as a congregation, when that has been true of us.
We continue to believe, though, that church really does matter. That following Jesus changes the way we live our lives, and raise our children, and live in our communities.
As a congregation, we are praying and talking and planning for the next movement of faith that God is inviting us into. We believe God is inviting us to be a part of something new – of a new movement of faith that, consistent with our Methodist heritage, fosters authentic, connected relationships; is significant to our lives and communities; and understands faith holistically. You’ll be hearing a lot more about those four values – authenticity, connection, significance and wholeness – in the weeks and months ahead.
The first step, though, is to renew the “doctrine, spirit and disciplines” of our faith, and to “have the courage to follow and show others how to follow” Jesus. Won’t you join us on that journey?
 watch the talk here: http://www.ted.com/talks/derek_sivers_how_to_start_a_movement.html
 Dated August 4, 1786. From “Thoughts Upon Methodism” in The Works of the Reverend John Wesley, Volume 7.