Category: discipleship


the statement for our church reads like this:

“a place where God is present, love is offered, help is received & friendship for the journey is found”

i’ve written about love being the highest value here before, check it out if you like.  recently though i’ve was thinking about “friendship for the journey’.

this one is of particular importance to me right now for a number of reasons.

one reason in particular has to do with how we treat one another on social media.  things we write  to a computer screen & tag someone in a post, many of us would never consider saying to a living breathing person standing in front of us.  we used to know that not everything we think should be said.  but with the accesability of modern things we seem to have forgotten that part of life.

one of the things that was said to me a few years ago at a church i serve was this; “we’re a kinder, gentler church now.”

i, naturally, asked her to unpack that for me.  she was remembering a time when the church had more of a requtation of relationally running over people & not exercising grace & the dignity of other people; and insistance on being right over getting it right.

so as a church it’s important to realize that God has placed friends in our path to walk with us along the way; and, as usual, we use biblical foundation as the building blocks for the stance.

1 Corinthians 15:33 

Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”

Job 2:11

When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him.

Proverbs 18:24

One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

Colossians 3:12-14

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

so know that when you are a part of what we’re doing here as a church, that friendship is one of the key coponents of life with the body of believers, centered on relationship with Christ.  it matters greatly how we treat one another, honoring the humanity that we share.  it’s not necessary to agree with everyone on every single thing.  in fact, i don’t even believe that’s healthy.  i make it a point to listen to & read people that i know i don’t agree with; that’s one way that learning happens.
but even beyond that, those that i don’t agree with & they stand at the opposit end of the spectrum i still am reminded that they are imago dei – image of God; and that matter much more than a diagreement about politics, race, the rich & poor and so on.
so know that if you choose to trust us, the church, with your friendship; know that we may not always agree.  but we will work so very hard to honor the humanity you hold while asking you to do the same.

 

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shame

recently saw a TED talk with monica lewinski…yea that monica lewinski. very interesting piece on shame & our on-line culture.  here’s the link to that talk if you’re interested; it’s worth the watch [22.5 minutes of time].

as i was watching i was reminded of how much our world has changed & the way shaming plays such a huge role in our culture; not american culture but human culture.

in today’s world if you & i do something wrong, even at a low level of “no harm, no foul” kind of wrong; chances are someone is going to hear about it.  the post, tweet, pic, ‘gram can happen in an instant & the world can know right now.  this can create an angst in us, especially if we’ve been burned by the social media machine before.  we will be tempted to live ordinary, uninteresting lives; unwilling to stretch & try new things.  fearing that someone will find out if/when i fail & land on my face.  caveat – this can create a different kind of response; with a desire to be famous for the sake of fame alone…but that’s a conversation for another time.

the way we use the inter-webs is an interesting one.  we can learn almost anything we could even think of, and learn of some things that we did not even know existed.  i recently needed to change the brakes on my vw & wanted to make sure it was within my abilities; and that bar is pretty low.  turns out, there are a number of videos to walk me though the process with lots of helpful commentary.  but one thing that continues to happen is we’re all to willing to use it as a way of propping ourselves up as the expense of others.  shaming someone else because of the way they live, vote, dress, whom they love seems to be be a very common thing right now.

and this really is the hing-point of this writing…IDENTITY

how we identify ourselves is key to weather or not we see the thoughts & opinions of others completely guide our lives.  the immediate response to that statement is, “well, i never let anyone’s opinion completely guide & rule my life.”  but to suggest that it doesn’t have influence & impact simply isn’t true; we care what others think of us.

there are a number of different conversations we could have at this point, but the thing that struck me as i watched monica lewinski is that conversations are so much more important than judgements.  as a follower of Christ my first job is that of love.  love always leads to conversations; and that’s what i’m trying to choose.

this, in fact is the path that Jesus chooses.  john 4 is a great example of this “love first, conversation matters” approach to life.  check that out if you’re not familiar & be aware of the social tension that exists in with that situation.

love first – choose conversation…

love as the highest value?love value [blog]

in the non-church world i think many would agree that this could be the highest value to pursue.  i have a working theory that in the world, in america specifically, we care more about money than we care about anything else; but that’s another conversation.

so love, that makes me feel all warm inside, & YES!! we should pursue love above all else.

but in the church…as followers of Christ…is this the highest value?

shouldn’t the pursuit of Christ be the highest value?

what about worship to God?

how about correct doctrine & theology, that’s certainly most important?

the list could continue for a while…

while it’s true that sound doctrine & theology are important,

and worship of God & all that He is matters greatly,

and we should always find ourselves in pursuit of Jesus Christ in all we do.

if we simply look at the life of Jesus [dangerous] we see that all He does is motivated by & through love.

the woman at the well…

zacchaeus’ redemption…

His walk to the cross…

i think sometimes that we get concerned about making sure the “whole” story of God is told.  and when we focus on something like “love” aren’t we then leaving out some important details about what God wants from your life & mine?

i think that can happen.  which is why it’s so important that the church you’re a part of is teaching the totality of God’s word.  but a beginning point, a motivating factor & daily, life-long pursuit is the love of God & how that impacts the world we live in.

i’m a firm believer that when we, no matter the station of life we’re in, pursue truth we end up at the feet of Jesus.

if we’re looking for a way to justify our lifestyle, we’re not seeking truth.

if we’re trying to find a way to do something that stands in direct opposition to God’s word, we’re not seeking truth.

 

if anything gets in front of our ability to love, we’ve begun the descent into a life, a church, without Jesus at the center.  we’ve decided that our preferences are of greater value than the people Jesus loves…the people that we’re supposed to love.

so love as the highest value, pursue it!

so i have recently have been surrounded by a number of conversations about community & our involvement/connection to the community.  God has placed something inside us, at the root of who we are, to desire connection with others.  and we know this is good for us.

within community we realize that we’re not alone in our struggle.  in community there is a shared love & support.  within community we have the opportunity to see new parts of God & what He has in mind for us.  by the way, this part about seeing God in community, this is true in communities that celebrate God and those that don’t.  togetherness is a Godly pursuit weather we recognize it or not.

[but that’s probably another discussion]

broken community

a couple of observations about what we want from community & what we’re willing to do for community

we want the community to mostly come to us

“well, why didn’t let me know about…”

“i don’t feel included.”

here’s a hard truth, & saying this carries with it some risk of you not liking this, even that you may stop reading.  but here it is:  it’s not my job to make sure you come to & are connected to a church that you say is your home church.  if the church isn’t communicating an upcoming event or dates & times are very last minute that’s on the church.  but if you don’t know about something simply because you haven’t been around; i’m sorry, but that’s on you.  if you’re connected to the community then you’re going to know what’s happening because you want to know what’s happening.

no church worth it’s salt is going to beg you to be a part of what it’s doing.

we don’t always want to exert effort within the community

let’s be honest.  it’s easy to walk into a place that has everything just hummin’.  when the programs are awesome, when the crowd is big enough that no one will notice when i’m not there.  when nothing is expected of me.  when we’re honest with ourselves we should be able to say, “yea, that’s easy.  slip in, slip out.  get my church-fix & move on with the week.”  on the other hand it’s hard to join a community that doesn’t have all its ducks in a row.  a group that’s in process on a number of fronts.

now let’s be additionally clear about something.  i know plenty of pastors that are leading big churches & the problems, issues & hang-ups are present as well.  so i’m not bangin’ on the big church at all.

the larger, more important truth to all of this is about us, it’s not really about the community itself; large or small.

we know that community & connection to a healthy group of believers is good for us.  there are times in our lives when, for a variety of reasons, we simply don’t engage in it like we should.

but let’s track back to the beginning of this writing:

we’re not alone in our struggle

this, i think is one of the biggest lies that satan tells us: that we’re alone in our struggle.  “surely no one would understand this about you.  if you talk about this kiss goodbye any influence & trust you have.  you’re alone in this, and that’s the way it should stay.”

we know this is a lie simply reading the dysfunctional, broken, jacked up stories in the bible.  men & women who are called by God but seem to choose to mess up the response the call at almost every turn.  go ahead, check it out, i can’t do your homework for you.

shared love & support

when community is right, and there’s not shortage of communities that aren’t doing it right.  but when it’s right there is a sense of shared experiences & joy, as well as hurts & walking together through tough times.  but the bond that’s forged in tough times is a bond that lasts.

seeing new parts of God

something my wife has said, & have stolen it & now say it: “being part of a church forces me to spend time with & get to know people that i may ordinarily never have known…and that’s a good thing.”  when i’m with people that i may not have chosen to be with lets me see God in new light.  i end up hearing the stories of God activity in different ways.

community is a part of our holy dna

several years ago a group of us were having one of those highly spiritual conversations; what would you do if zombies really attacked?  how would you survive?  would you try and get together with a group of people, try and create a civilization?  or take off into the woods & try to make it on your own?

the answer from someone whom i have loads of respect & love for surprised me.  they said, “i’m out!  gotta’ go off, just me & my spouse; try to get as far away from people as possible!”  now the truth is that i don’t know if this person, who is very funny, was making a comedic comment or not.  and it could have been just that; comedy, not to be taken seriously.

but it did get me thinking about how God created us to NOT be alone.  God put a desire for us to be together, to be stronger when we come together.

“a chord of 3 strands…”

“a son shall leave his father & mother…”

“do not forsake meeting together…”

and here’s the beautiful thing about community, it’s never too late to join, to re-connect.

so if you made it all the way to the end of this article, you didn’t stop and swear off reading anymore from this author, and you’ve recognized that your connection to a local church community is waning…it’s not too late.

God has things for you to do, but some of those things are tied to your connection to the community of God.  so get plugged. the community needs you in a similar way that you need the community.

neuroscience

i was just reading an article in leadership journal, it was from summer 2014 [i’m a little behind in my reading!] & the cover story caught my eye.  it’s one of those God-moments that you best-not ignore!

recently i’ve been drawn back to some thoughts & next steps for the churches i lead & it’s all been revolving around the issue of discipleship; & the question “how do we do this better?”

that question really is at the heart of it all is related to size & depth.  i have no interest in leading a church of 100, 150, 200 or more if we’re spiritually shallow.

have you ever tried to carry a cookie sheet [one with short edges; you may have to go back to your grandmother’s cupboard for it] filled with water?  not easy, darn near impossible!  it’s not a lot of water, but it’s so spread out on the cookie sheet that the smallest mis-step spills the water all over.cookie sheet & water

 

that’s a picture i’ve had with me related to spiritual depth of a church for a while now.

the health & impact of a church on its community is largely tied to its spiritual depth & health; not just its size.  it’s true, size matters, but depth matters more.  we could be a mile wide & and an inch deep; and with that you’re not getting anything of significance done!

 so back to that article i was reading…

it was written by john ortberg & entitled “neuro ministry – how brain science informs discipleship

we now understand more about the brain than we ever have in human history.  we understand the way the brain works & categorizes things, creates patterns in thinking & doing tasks.  and these understandings can have profound impact in many facets of life…if we take note.

here’s one of the big take-a-way’s i had from this article as john was talking about patterns & habits that we form:

 “a habit is a relatively permanent pattern of behavior that allows you to navigate life.  the capacity for habitual behavior is indispensable…learning to type or tie shoes, drive a car is hard;

so many little steps.  after you learn, it becomes habitual.”

 these patterns of doing the little, everyday things neuroscientist call “chunks”.  we operate, largely out of chunks of info. & patterned behavior.  this has a huge spiritual dimension to it as well.

ortberg  goes on to reference paul in romans 12:2

“…the renewing of your mind.”

he suggests that paul; without really knowing precisely what he was talking about when he wrote that phrase, but informed by the Holy Spirit; hit the nail on the head!

when we allow God to renew our mind we are, in effect, allowing God to “re-chunk” our habits & patterns.  surrendering those bad habits, destructive relationships, poor decisions & the like to God.  replacing them with habits that honor God, tap into the health of a deepening relationship with the Creator.

coming back to that God-moment of recognition, as God is calling me to till up the ground of discipleship, it’s paramount that we understand that we’re heading into a time of re-working our physical efforts & drawing people into intentional conversations.  but there is some serious “brain work” that’s going to happen as well.

so the big question for us is actually quite simple:  are you willing to allow God to do some “neuro-work” in your brain?

the decision to remain the same & not change is an easy one; your brain doesn’t have to do anything new.  the decision to experience change & shift requires new thing; new “chunks”.  the question is, will you allow new neurons to fire & then change the course of your life & the lives of others?