Archive for December, 2011

a vision issue

so every year there are things that i talk about that i truly believe will propel the church into uncharted territory [or at least into territory that it hasn’t occupied in quite a while].  the area of unbridled care for those around us, unfettered enthusiasm for others above ourselves.
many years my hopes for a true sea change in our approach to others falls short, my own life included here as well.

then today, while reading a blog by jon acuff suddenly much became clear.  we have difficulty seeing…

in the article linked above the question was asked if churches around the nation were cancelling sun. service due to Christmas falling on a sun.  interesting conversation, one that i had with leadership teams this year.  the comments were, by and large, in support of churches that would cancel service.  and there were some comments that opposed any cancellation of worship times for any reason.  the root of this objection is a vision issue.

back to unbounded giving & generosity…

each year that i talk about using Christmas as a time to make sure that we give of ourselves & our $$ to those who don’t have [this is not just an issue for those that live near us] it is usually met with modest support, “yes, we should do something like that.”  but that soon give way to “the list” of stuff we have to buy for friends & family and so on.  before we get too carried away, every time i talk about this subject i’m accused of trying to “steal” Christmas.  i’m not sure who i’m stealing it from with is conversation, but i digress…

here’s the long & short of it:  this conversation & others like it are short-lived because of our vision.  we tend to have myopic vision.  essentially, this is nearsightedness.  we can see clearly things up-close, but when trying to view things at a distance the pictures get fuzzy.


when things/issues/wars/etc. begin to affect the things we love/do/participate in; when what we want out of life gets disrupted or the “normal” is jostled we don’t like it.

so, when we talk about things like “you’re not cancelling worship services on Christmas day are you?!”  or considering changing some of your Christmas day purchases to benefit someone in a foreign country.  something like purchasing a goat or cow for a family in a 3rd world country so they’ll have a sustainable income [something they didn’t have before] we object.  “you want me to give my kids a picture of a flock of chickens in somewhere africa?  that sounds like lots of fun on Christmas day!”

this is myopic thinking & acting.

we MUST get beyond the things that make us most happy & comfortable.  consider others more important than ourselves.  this is a hard shift to make & i’m realizing that it’s probably cost me some close relationships & maybe even a job.  but this is the kind of conversation i think Jesus has with those He’s calling.

secrets forgotten

today i re-opened a book that i had started, put down, & then forgot about.  the forgotten ways by alan hirsch.  good stuff related to the return of the church, or really the NEED for the church to return to it’s roots in the way Jesus related to, connected with, ate, walked & did life with the kinds of people that are on the edges of life, the fringe folk.

one of the premises of this book is that this ability to serve, give of ourselves; the mode of becoming missional, is really wired deep inside us.  but over the course of years of “neglect & dis-use” we [the church] have lost contact with it; though it be in our system.  good stuff, no doubt.

one of the things that the author brings up is that this kind of discussion disrupts the very fabric of “how it’s all done” – that is to say how church is done.  it disrupts the fabric because in order to truly reach out & become “missional” – to care more for others than yourself means putting down the things that you like & love & really, really want to have…the things that make me comfortable.  there, i said it.

as i’m reading i’m reminded of a conversation i had with someone a few years ago.  i was meeting this individual in my office and on my desk is another book, the secret message of Jesus by brian mcLaren.  as this person is walking into my office he says something along the lines, “well, it’s not really a secret at all.  it’s right in front of us, all we have to do is grab onto it.”  ok, that’s true, but i would say that many, many people; including those that have known Jesus almost as long as they’ve been alive, have trouble recognizing what Jesus did while He was on earth & applying it to their lives.  therefore, it’s a secret.  it’s a secret, not because it’s hard to find, but because we’ve lost touch with it.  it’s a secret because we’ve been, for too long, “doing church” and making sure the right people are there and the offering gets collected & the budget is maintained.  let’s be real clear; Jesus never talked about any of that!

here’s some of the stuff that Jesus did do:

ate with the people He wasn’t supposed to

hung out with folks that the religious elite thought were out of bounds

empowered women [a huge issue then & now]

challenged the religious systems that were in place [notice we don’t see Jesus challenging political systems]

only does what the Father tells Him to do [jn.519 & jn.14:31]

You Lost Me | By David Kinnaman

check out the link above, watch the video & then come back…

this is SO important for the church [any Christ-follower] to realize.

the church, at large, is finding itself at odds with a younger generation of students & young adults that don’t believe the church is for them.  it’s not just a difference in musical preference or even theology [although that reality is coming to the forefront].  at the beginning of this realization, it’s a struggle for power; and this younger generation simply says, “if you want to fight for this church, the way it’s configured, you can keep it.”

for so many in this next generation there’s not a willingness to fight for something that seems outdated, uninteresting & disconnected from the world.  “so”, they might say, “you can keep it.”

there is a shift coming whether we want it or not, whether we’re ready for it or not.

do we embrace this shift & celebrate this new thing that God is doing?  or do we simply continue to fight it & say “no, no!  this is what God looks like.  this is what He’s doing.  come do it like this!”

the choosing

pretty interesting how God brings things into your view, things He wants to speak to you about…

this morning i’m reading a post on ed stetzer’s blog.  he’s a church researcher & writer for lifeway research & his post from mon. was pretty interesting.  it was centered around a church being a “gospel centered” church [one that focuses on getting the person[s] to accept Jesus & meeting their spiritual needs] or a missional/justice church [the focus being the doing of good for people, meeting their physical needs in highly practical ways].

these two approaches have been, in many Christian circles, at odds.  saying [and i’m paraphrasing here] that “if you  really care about people you’ll be most concerned about where they’ll spend eternity, so focus on getting them to heaven.”  the other side of the coin says [again a paraphrase] “simply meet the needs they have; food, water, clothing and allow God to speak through that.”

this is somewhat simplistic but these tend to be the general over-tones.

one comment posted was a mention of the tension that exists in this conversation.  i think that’s a very valid point, there is tension here.  he then went on to say that our job is to live within that tension, to make sure we are doing both; meeting the needs of those around us & speaking Jesus into their lives.

if we simply look at the life of Jesus, this tension seemed to be where He lived.  how many times does He feed people that are hungry?  and when it’s evident they need something more than food He speaks eternal truths that can affect their eternal destiny if they choose to follow.

so, who was it that said we [the church] had to choose what kind of church we were going to be?

are we going to be a “gospel-centered” church or are we going to be a “missional/justice] church?  who said that we had to choose?

what to do, what to do…

so over the weekend, with lots going on [Christmas event to attend, events to plan for, dinner with friends, etc., etc.] i’ve really been thinking about that ‘next future’ thing for the church.

i can’t seem to get away from the thought of how Jesus spent His time & whom He spent time with. much of the time He’s with those that are on the edges & seemingly unimportant; those that don’t appear to have much to contribute to society.
if this is the posture of Jesus why do we feel so, @ times, detached from those that are in need? true, it’s easier to just go back to what we’re used to & what doesn’t make us feel uncomfortable. to ignore the need & hurt that’s right in front of us.

the growing gap between those that have & those that have-not is growing. i’ve become increasingly aware of that fact. just look at the news & there seems to be a regular stream of those that are living out of their cars, loosing their homes, kids & parents that don’t have enough to eat. the need is great.
yes, we could debate all day long about what people have done to themselves in buying too much, owning too big a home, having too many toys & loosing it all. we all have to answer for the decisions we’ve made & continue to make. but my greater job as a Christ-follower is to help meet the need.

so, in order to meet the need i have to be willing to see the need.

n.t. – Jesus gets out of the boat & sees the people & has compassion on them. [mt.14:14]. there was something about the way He sees them that causes Him to act. unless we begin to see people the way Jesus saw people we won’t begin to do the kind of things that Jesus does.
the practice here is to begin to look at people the way that Jesus did, with eyes of compassion & a desire to help.

Americans Spend More in the Search for Happiness—And It’s Not Working – Lifestyle – GOOD.

this is a pretty interesting cultural realization, or at least it should be.  for all of our emptiness & struggle for meaning [our lives, the lives of people we care deeply for] we still mortgage our futures for the newest shiny thing in the window.

this has some pretty serious spiritual complications as well.

this compared with something my wife heard about, then we found on-line about the homeless middle-class.  more on that in a later post.  THAT is something that i’m truly wrestling with today!

a few years ago i had a space like this…a blog.  initially i had begun writing here because it gave me an outlet, space to work out some of my theology, my thinking & even frustration.

it started out hot & heavy but it began to wane and eventually i took it down.  i made some excuses about why i wasn’t doing it anymore, but eventually realized that i wasn’t writing anymore [not at all] because of something else.  something that was happening inside me.

the former “writing spot” was also a connected to the church & where i felt like the church [in general] needed to go if it were to survive & thrive as a new group of Christ-followers were to stay connected to the church.  in things that i was reading, conversations being had & church leaders listened to there was an angst growing inside of me.  this angst had everything to do with the growing disconnect i & others were seeing with the coming generation.  in truth the disconnect was much more wide-spread than i realized.  it was coming all the way up to my age-group.

the disconnect was this: church seemed to be built for a certain age-group [not mine or the generations behind me].  it seemed to be about a way of connecting to God, but not really about God Himself.

that may sound harsh, but here’s why i felt this way.  much of what was deemed “necessary” for the church was about the things that happened when we went to church.

dress in your sun. best [jeans & untucked shirts no, no]

sing the right kind of songs [anything post-1975 was simply not going to work]

let’s make sure we all look alike [the homogeneity of most churches is astonoshing]

these are just few & of course this may not be true in your church.  you may have a church that is the cutting edge on all things new & are a part of a multi-ethnic congregation where everyone wears whatever they want & no one looks cross-eyed at them.  but for me… i’ve gotten that look.

here’s a realization i had when talking with one of the churches i serve just this past week:

the largest assumption in many/most churches is that everyone here is saved, already knows Jesus, all goin’ to heaven.  when that becomes the assumption there is a comfort level that’s reached among the church-folk.  “we all know each other, feels pretty cozy”

when that comfort level is reached, budgets are being met, a little growth here and there [mostly from sheep-shifting, folks from a neighboring church closing]; there isn’t any urgency for something new.  and when the new thing that God is seeking to unearth isn’t being sought, and we don’t care enough to find it again the church is dead.  they just don’t know it yet.

90%+ of churches in america are plateaued or declining.  the saddest & most difficult thing to swallow is that those that are in that 90%+ don’t care about that statistic.  i’ve had it said to me when mentioning that number, “yea, i don’t really want to hear about that.”  that’s too bad, because soon there will be someone shoveling dirt over your church.

so for me, and i know this is a long post, i want to be about leading & shaping a new way of doing church that is much, much, much more about what happens on the days mon.-sat.  those too are the days that the church needs to be visible & vibrant & show what it means to live the life of Jesus.  there are some interesting things brewing inside me these days & i just know that God is about to do something big…

…join me.