Tag Archive: community


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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there are some core values we’re trying to establish lately:

the first one we’ve been talking about a lot recently in teaching times & that’s the fact that love is the highest value.  i’ve written about this before & you can find it through this link.

another part of this value system is that God is present.

i know, that’s not exactly ground breaking info. for a church, that we would want God to be present in what we’re doing.  but if you hang with this for a minute there might be something good.

in genesis 28:16 jacob, waking from a dream where God is speaking to him, he says; “God was here & i didn’t know it.”  now that’s significant, because he has this encounter with God & then realizes that God was present.

a little theology:  God is everywhere all the time.  that’s what we know as omnipresence – everywhere at all times.  so everywhere we God is there, because that’s His nature…to be there – wherever there is.

so when we say, as a church, that “God is present” [that’s one of our core values] we aren’t claiming that God is at our church & you’ll not find Him at the church down the street.  not at all.  the truth is about the church down the street; i know those men & women leading those churches, & i like them.  they’re doing great things in the name of God & wanting more, than anything, to bring glory to Him.

the thing that we’re trying to acknowledge is that not only is God here – & everywhere – but we’re going to do our best to make sure that we see Him.  because if it was possible for one of the “hero’s of the faith”, jacob, to be in a place where God was present & he missed it, didn’t realize that God was there; if it’s possible that God was missed then & there, it’s possible that we could miss Him too, here & now.

so when we gather as a church; & we sing, pray, love one another, open His word, share the struggles of life, celebrate, and on the list goes…

when we do these things we’re going to pursue the presence of God above all other things.  and in the pursuit of Him & His presence mighty things will happen.

that, i think is key:  as we pursue Him, we find Him.

in a new learning opportunity through udemy i’m taking a course with seth godin as the facilitator.  if you’re not familiar with him you should be…if you’re interested in learning & thinking about things in new ways.

part of this course if an interaction with others through the on-line community, both that we’re already connected to & a new community of those that are also taking the course.

the first session is distinguishing the difference between leadership & management.

the prime difference here is that management maintains the direction that a group or organization is already heading.  so managers are important, very important.  leaders are different though.  they are the ones that have an idea or a new approach to something.  they may not know how to get there but know that it needs to be pursued.  godin says that it’s even possible; likely even, that they don’t quite know how to get there, to that thing that needs to be done.

so one of the questions posed to us doing the course work: is leadership a choice?

i do believe leadership is a choice.  any of us can choose to follow the lead of another, and we often do just that; again, nothing wrong with that.  i sure don’t want to  have to discover everything on my own, i want someone to show me which car to buy & where the best new place to eat is located & what to order when i get there.

but there are places that i desire, very much, to seek out the thing that hasn’t been done yet, the new thing, the refurbishing what was once discarded, understanding a new direction.  i could look at those things, which are difficult & filled with potential problems & chose not to engage.  but i make a conscious choice to jump in & pursue what others may set aside.

another part of this is that leadership is something that’s done in concert; there are those that come along with you; and without them the new thing, the unattainable, the impossible remains just that.

i love the communal aspect of this, that together we do something that cannot be done alone.  if you work alone, godin says, you’re an artist.  but it you engage in something that requires the addition of others then you’re a leader.

oh may i be a leader…

gracerecently i had a very interesting conversation with some people about grace & its activity in our lives.

i think that we often define grace through it’s rescuing nature.  that the grace of God shows up in times of our great need & delivers what we need when we need it.  and this understanding of grace is apt & accurate.  we love the pictures of a rescuing God & doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves.  so the understanding of Jesus on the cross for our sins is the greatest demonstration of grace [among other things] we have & is the thing that all of humanity hinges on.

but there is another aspect of grace that i think we don’t always consider.  that is that grace isn’t always rescuing…

that is to say or clarify, grace shows up in the desert, the wilderness & simply delivers the ability & strength to continue to walk on.

there are loads of examples of this kind of grace in the bible.  one we could look at is that of moses.  he’s called by God to lead the people.  but before all this he kills an egyptian because of how he was treating some of his country-men.  so he does what many of us would do, he runs away to escape certain punishment, ridicule, maybe death.  in his time away is when God speaks to him & calls him into a place of leadership.

this is the instance of grace that we sometimes read past.

tim keller once defined grace like this:

it’s when you’re welcomed into a place you don’t have a right to be

&

it never given out of obligation

before things were right with his fellow hebrew people, possibly before even things were right between moses & God…

yet God calls moses out of his wilderness.  grace shows up sometimes in the place where rescue hasn’t shown it’s face yet.

IT’S ABOUT JESUS…

something else about grace – it’s rooted in personal relationship with Jesus.  if we don’t have this relationship as a guide for life the offering of grace to others is going to be impossible & the receiving of grace will be equally difficult.  because grace is when you stand in a place you don’t have a right to be & it’s never offered out of obligation.

COMMUNITY MATTERS…

and here’s the last part of this discussion;

there isn’t a person on the planet that doesn’t want something about them to change.  we can look at our weight, our eating habits, our job, our family situation, etc. & say; “i wish that were different.”

some of us take steps toward that difference & some of us just wish.

when we talk about wanting different things that is a conversation about transformation.   the desire for transformation is a part of our humanity & the kind of transformation that lasts is done in community.

when we have others around us pushing us on to higher goals & talking through the struggle it is easier to achieve those goals.

i know this though the simple fact that recently i was getting back into the gym & there was a guy that i bumped into as i was leaving & he was coming in.  we talked for a little bit & decided that we could adjust our schedules & start meeting a few times a week at the gym.  we did that for about a month & his summer schedule got crazy busy & he hasn’t’ been able to make it recently.  you know who else hasn’t been going?  me…

grace & transformation are linked & cannot be experienced alone.  the beginning of true transformation is when we admit that something needs change, that requires a willingness to be honest about what’s broken in our lives.  when we admit that we’ve got some broken pieces to our lives that opens us up to judgmental attitudes, or  a lack of grace.

my hope is that the churches i’m leading, as we talk about grace, that it’s not just a conversation about what we “ought” to do.  but it’s a reality that we’re really doing something significant.  that we’re the kind of people that exhibit grace, that we’re a group of people that are experiencing transformation, that we’re a community bonded together through Christ.

so in my considerable drive time that i log each week there are times when it’s very ordinary; “look, there’s a deer, there’s a turkey, there’s a whole family of turkeys!”  seriously, one sunday morning i could have taken out a whole family of turkeys as they were just standing in the road.

other times it’s profound; other times i feel like God must be sitting in the seat beside me.

not long ago i was thinking about the group of pastors that i have breakfast nearly every monday & the close bond that we share.  it’s truly an unusual thing for pastors of different churches, different denominations, different ages & experiences to share this kind of closeness & friendship.  i know this because i have seen the other side of this kind of relationship & have heard stories of disconnectedness & competition between pastors.  so i’ve become well aware of the uniqueness of this shared friendship & shared ministry.

one sunday of driving from one church to the other, feeling like God is riding with me, i was thinking about these friends of mine; and then the thought hit me that there are times that i am intimidated by the closeness.

if  someone is too close to me the chance of me hiding the dark corners of me from them goes way down.  i can’t hide as easily as i’d like if they’re too close.  and i don’t really have any deep secrets that i’m keeping from them, but what if i did?  what if there became something i didn’t want them to see?  kind of hard to hide if they’re all a little to close.

let me be clear; it’s not them, it’s me.  more on that in a minute…

just recently i was speaking out of hebrews 11:6

“without faith it is impossible to please God…”

originally had always thought & taught from the angle that this statement would have been a world-changer for the 1st century Christ-follower.  for them, & for us still in many ways, pleasing God was about adhering to the law.  “complete these tasks & God will like you better” was the thought.  and we, in our enlightened way of doing life still live like this to some degree.

Jesus comes along & reminds them [& us] that it’s not what we do that gets us close to God but our belief in Him & belief of His desire to save us…our faith in Him to do these things.

for the record, i still think this is a legitimate way of teaching this passage.

but the monday after teaching that passage, in that fashion & with those points made, the meaning took on a new color for me.

faith, at it’s core, is about a belief that God is going to do something with the future that we can’t yet see.

back to my friends & why it’s about me & not them…

the reason we don’t like to get too close to people is rooted in our insecurity.  we believe that if people saw the real us we’d be out on the street with nothing.

they’d find out that we’re not really all that great,

we’re not that good a friend,

we’re not that good at our job,

we’re not that great a parent,

and the list goes on & on & on…

insecurity about who we are & how we’re defined by others & ourselves can cause great havoc.

this ties to faith & what i believe about God & what He does to & through me.  specifically, my faith is revealed in how close i let people get to me.  it’s a faith issue because of what i believe about what God is doing, that He’s always in the process of refining & reshaping me & my life.

do i have the kind of faith in God that even as i get close to people that really trust, that He’s already been involved,  that and grace & mercy are at work in their lives?

do i have the kind of faith in God that i trust Him for the future in those relationships?

“without faith it is impossible to please God” because, in part, we will try & hold all the details of life in our own hands; trying to control the pieces on the game board so much that we’re not exercising any faith & not trusting God for a future that hasn’t yet arrived.

so in spite of the occasional encounter with turkeys & the struggle to be real with my closest of friends i’m trying to figure out how to let go of my own insecurities through the growing of my faith:

the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not yet seen

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!

men-holding-ladder-funny-picturesthis idea is something that’s been rolling around in me for a while now.  probably because of the things that are going on around me.

no, this isn’t a call to do things that are just plain stupid or risky to personal health.  and it’s not a  reminiscing of younger days when i didn’t seem to care about life or limb.  but instead, this is an acknowledgement of the calling & pursuit of the things that God has placed in your heart.

so this is probably going to be an on-going series for this blog. it’ll pop up every now-and-then as i’m working out some of the details of what it means to “do the dumb things” God asks of us.

so some definition of the “dumb things”

the definition of these dumb things shows up in the activity i have found myself in; specifically in the activity of church-life.

right now i’m working with two small church, in what’s referred to as a duel charge; trying to help two struggling congregations see & pursue a new future that is missional in mind-set & bent on pursuing God instead of what’s been comfortable for far too long.

in the process of landing with these two churches, and the pursuit of missional thinking & activity, one of the churches landed on an outreach meal as a way of revitalizing our connection to the community, specifically to the neighborhood in which the church is situated.

now keep in mind that part of the reason i’m working with these two churches at the same time is financial.  neither church has the budget to support a pastor full time.  to put it simply, there’s no money.

as we investigated the possibility of hosting a meal at the church, realizing that we had a fully functional, licensed kitchen, and with the financial requirement that it would take to host a free meal once a month it was obvious…if we really felt like God was asking us to pursue this endeavor He would be the one that provides the way to make it happen.

so upon applying for & receiving our first grant we launched supperCLUB.  since that first meal in sept.2012 we’ve served over 5000 meals, moving to twice a month with the meals.

now here’s the dumb thing of doing this:  there is no logical reason for a church of 40-50 people, who haven’t made their small budget in many, many years, who cannot even afford to pastor to be around full time should try and maintain feeding 60-80 people twice a month.  so i found myself saying, “this is a really dumb idea, us doing this thing of trying to feed people in need.  this is such a dumb idea.”

but when not a dime of church funds has been tapped to help make supperCLUB run…

and when each time we have needed a new freezer or refrigerator is needed…

and when the supperCLUB fund has run low…

each time there is a need, God shows up…

a grant coming through to provide funds…

a private individual coming & giving a check for supplies…

…a group that we didn’t even know about, noticing what we’re doing & offering a financial gift…

and here’s the qualifier for “dumb things”:

the are only dumb things

through the eyes of the world

that doesn’t understand how God works

these are dumb things when we try to calculate the loss & expense without looking at the lives that are drawn closer to Him, who can ultimately save their souls & provide a new life here on earth.

we are called to follow a God who created the universe & created us;

have relationship with a perfect God, who wants us even when we’re not perfect;

a God who stays close to us even when we stray from Him;

a God who came to save us before we asked Him to, who told us He would do just that, and then we killed Him;

and even after He was dead, defeats death & instead of turning away from us, still wants us in the same fashion as before…

that all sounds ridiculous, in fact it sounds like a dumb idea; but it’s still true.

so here we are, in the pursuit of the dumb thing that glorifies God.

so recently, after a series of worship & teaching gatherings at church, someone said to me something along these lines; “i’m just sad for the people thatrotator_0005_community-togetherness chose not to take part in what we had.”  she was telling me, along with a few other people that the recent gatherings we’d had were among the most meaningful in recent memory.

i try to be careful & not hang too much of my ego on these kinds of things, because i can start to believe the hype & begin to think, “i am pretty great aren’t i?”  thin ice, very thin ice!

but as she said those things i was recalling the way we evaluate our attendance at such events & gatherings.  more to the point, the reasons we have for not attending.  and i am in no way wanting to discredit our attending or not attending.  i know that some of the reasons we have are highly legitimate & valid.

part of the struggle comes down to our expectations on what we think will happen at such events.  then there’s the expectation we have on what it will cost us.

at the event/gathering

some of us are so trapped in our thoughts & memories of what used to happen & what was that we can’t see it being any better than what it was or it’s going to be just at bad as it ever was.

the memory of yesterday can be a difficult one to shake.  if you’ve ever had  a bad church experience; well, let’s just say “if you’ve ever been to church for very long at all…” then you probably have an association with a problematic situation, person or event.  and that memory can easily cloud everything else.  just think about names for a newborn baby.  make a suggestion & anyone who’s ever had a “bad association” with that name & you’re going to hear about it.

so our imagination can struggle to keep up with the “reasons why this is thing here, is going to stink.”

so we choose not to attend.

the day of the event/gathering

there’s also the struggle with the energy we have, knowing that it’s only so much.  and when the energy & strength is gone we know we need rest.

it’s so true that we need to be aware of the limited time & energy we have on a given day/week.  so many people have taxing jobs with deadlines & things that must be done & we don’t have much to give or attend to at the end of the day

because of these expectations there is a fall-out.  we don’t end up making it a priority, it never makes it to the calendar & we end up missing out entirely.

those who may also attend

if we’re aware of who else might be there, and we have a difficulty with that person/family/group that becomes the dominant issue keeping us from being a part.

“i don’t like the way i was treated by them.  i’m not a fan of that person.  we had a little blow-up a while ago.”

overall i also believe that we’re trapped into thinking in very limited terms.  

the limitations aren’t confined to just us.  i also believe that we end up limiting God in what He can do for & through us.

we end up thinking & then believing in very human terms.  meaning that our actions are built out of the limited world we live in.  and so we don’t allow the limitless power & scope of God to enter our decision-making paradigm.

here’s how it’s played out in my own life:

“i’m so wiped out tonight, i don’t think i can go.  i just don’t have the energy”

“i’ve been to one of those before & it just wasn’t that great.”

and the list of reasons continues to pile up.

and as they pile up we become more and more convinced that there is just no way that we should be there.  and that’s the human dynamic of this life.  but as people of God shouldn’t there be a supernatural component to our lives, that connection with God that supersedes our humanity.

i’m not talking about something that you make up or play make-believe with.  but the activity of God in your life that reminds you that you’re not in charge & that He’s the one who’s really “got this”.

out of that sprouting a belief that God can meet you in the midst of your tired, weary body & spent emotions;  and restore you so that you end up receiving something powerful.

that in the midst of the failed programs of the past God can do something brand new, and that it might just need your involvement & connection to make it new & beautiful.

a belief that maybe, just maybe God can restore broken relationships.  you can receive healing where you need it.  and that you will have the courage to offer healing to those that are in need of it.  because remember, in broken relationships there are 2 people that have participated to some degree; and you’re one of those people.

it’s critical that we realize that the communities that wed’re a part of need us & that we need them; in all of their flawed, failing, difficult, messy, beautiful & God-revealing wonder.  so get in there, stop standing on the outside waiting for the right moment.  that moment is now…

 

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.