Thursday, April 26, 2012

Help Wanted

How’s this for a classified ad?
Wanted:  leader for local church.  No salary, no power, prestige, or assumed authoritative position.  Benefits include opportunity to set an example for others in order to bring glory to God and a reward in heaven.  Applicants need not apply.  If interested, walk in a manner worthy of your calling and let your light shine before men by serving others, your leadership will be recognized.

One of the biggest hang ups one will run into after leaving institutional Christianity is lack of specifically defined leadership.  Well…leadership in a living and active form through the members of Christ’s body anyway, we always have the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us.  The biggest obstacle is being submissive to recognized leadership in its present form.  While much of the example that is set is worthy of imitation, the claims of God given authority over the laity have a way of choking out our desire to look to them for guidance.  That kind of emphasis on position is “not to be so” among the family of God and therefore should be rejected.

As I’ve been thinking, praying, and listening to the Holy Spirit about this I’ve come to a realization.  Leaders are everywhere, you just have to look.  Typically you have to look pretty hard because true leaders aren’t showboating themselves and their works.  The humility they have keeps them far away from the spotlight.  I’m finding that a lack of leadership isn’t a problem if we begin looking in the right places and to the right people.  Leaders aren’t the guys who want to be out front, they aren’t necessarily the smartest or the best in oratory skills.  They are simply the people who are walking by faith in obedience to the leading of our indwelling Lord.

So, maybe the ad should read:
Wanted:  disciples who know haw to recognize and follow the Godly example set by others.  Must be willing to look in unexpected places and have the ability to discern between what is commendable and what is “not to be so among you” .  If interested, whatever things are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent or worthy of praise in the lives of others, think about and emulate these things no matter the source.

What do you think?  Which ad would get the most response?  Which is the greatest need in Christianity today?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

You Don't Know Jack

...or Jill.  In fact, apart from your spouse, children and closest co-workers, you probably don't know anyone.

There was a time in my school days when I skipped a particular class for several days in a row. The class was completely boring and I didn't see how it would have any practical use in my life after school. On the day that I returned I discovered that there would be a test on the following day. No problem, the class was such a breeze I could easily cram for the test that afternoon and probably score an "A" on it with ease. So that is precisely what I did and with confidence I went to class the next day well prepared to ace the test. There was just one little issue: I studied the wrong material.

That is precisely the dilemma one faces as they venture out in search for community in church life. Anyone who has Christ in them has this intrinsic desire for deep fellowship and community with other believers. It’s evident by the programs and meetings we plan and put together. There are community groups built around all sorts of interests and needs. People get together for bible studies, accountability, addiction recovery, marital status, and many other commonalities. I’ve been a part of each of these types of groups. The problem is that these groups do not form lasting communities, at least not in my experience.

Take accountability groups for instance. The idea is that if you can get a group of people together who are willing to share their deepest struggles with one another what you have is a recipe for growth and community. The problem is, we have all been studying the wrong material. We don’t know how to be transparent and honest with one another. What we know is what we’ve been trained for. We know how to hide our struggles and put on a happy face. We like our shallow conversations. When we get together and try to break those habits by confessing sins to one another other habits begin to appear. Some are judgmental and unforgiving. Their attitude is perceived by the rest of the group and slowly people retreat from being honest. Everyone sticks to the script and answers a list of predefined questions. Some learn to hide their deepest struggles by confessing the ones that the group finds easiest to talk about. Others ignore their own shortcomings by focusing on trying to fix the surface level confessions of everyone else. Like a pool that has been drained for cleaning they play in the deep end but there is no depth to the waters.

Shallow living can only be overcome one way that I now of. The only way to grow beyond empty surface relationships is by sharing life together. We have to hang out with each other, share meals together, go out together, and call each other when we are apart. All of our trash will float to the surface and be revealed eventually by those we spend the most time with. Just ask your co-worker and your spouse if you don’t believe me. The ability to love one another amongst the floating filth and the desire to join in the cleaning up process is what living in community is all about. This only happens if we jump into a pool that is full of life and are willing to wade out past the shallows and into the deep end.

Let’s be honest. If we were given a test about how our brothers and sisters in Christ are doing, the bubble next to “I’m good, how are you?” would be the only option we would be comfortable filling in. Most of us don’t know jack about our family in Christ because all our lives we have been studying the wrong material.  All we know is how to get along together without any friction.  We have no idea what it means to be totally diverse in personality and function but completely and perfectly united in Christ alone.

So….what are you going to do about it?

Friday, April 20, 2012

Tough in the Tunnels

When we get lonely and are craving community all sorts of things that would normally not be even remotely interesting suddenly seem like our light at the end of the tunnel.  I know this because I’m in a pretty lonely place right now in terms of church life.  The lack of shared life is evident in the lack of what I share on the blog.  I’m sorry about that.  Often, I sit down to write and I just can’t.  I’m like “open a vein already and just let it spill” but nothing comes.  I guess in a minor way I share in my daughters suffering, full of things to say but cannot find my voice to say them.


I didn’t begin writing this to throw a pity party.

I’ve just been thinking about how attractive “going back to church” might be.  I want so badly to be a part of a community of believers.  I want to have brothers and sisters to pour myself into and to be ministered to by them.  I thought about attending some worship services, church shopping, and even going to an accountability community group.  The problem is that my knowledge from experiencing these things gets in the way.  From what I know about these forms of gathering, I will not find what I’m looking for.  What I will find is a bunch of people busy doing things to build community with one another but to busy to actually have relationships.

I’m not interested…well…I am kinda interested…I mean, something is better than nothing, right?

[sigh]  I don’t know what to do.  The two groups of believers I am most interested in sharing life with both have a leader among them that doesn’t want me around.  That makes things pretty tough.  The shared life experiences I’ve had in the last couple months or so have been so sporadic that they aren’t even week to week let alone day by day.  The truth of how much we need each other and how important community is for the Body of Christ has been made very real to me through experience.  I thank God that Christ Jesus never leaves us or forsakes us.


No doubt, during this time God has been near and revealing Himself to us in ways that are nothing short of miraculous.  His mercies are never failing and His faithfulness continues.  This I also know from experience.  I guess we all go through seasons and all seasons have their goal and purpose.  I’m just anxious for this season to be over.  This hallway between one door closing and another opening seems to go on for miles.

So much for not throwing a pity party.  Maybe the veins are finally opening.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Repent of...what?

Is the worship at your church stale? Is the preaching bland? Is the music dated, or even worse, boring? Well, if you want to hear powerful messages with maximum spiritual impact, be stirred by spiritual songs, and find joy in worship once again… try repenting of your sin and believing in Jesus. Seriously.  from Joe Thorn's blog

Let's be real.  If the service you attend on Sunday does not seem like the place God is moving, that might be because it isn't.  Just because a well known pastor from across the country (or a local pastor who thinks this is worthy of putting on facebook for his congregation to see) thinks its your fault and it is sinful for you to feel that organized Christianity is stale, bland, dated and boring, doesn't make him right.  There are plenty of people who believe in Jesus and have had enough of the rituals and liturgies.  Some of these brothers and sisters have left all that behind and found a closer, deeper and more intimate relationship with Christ because of it.

When I read this the first thought that came to my mind was "more guilt from the self proclaimed heads of the church."  Now, I don't know for sure if that was the intent, it's not my place to say what spirit this post was sent in.  Since it is vague enough for anyone to judge either way, I won't go there.  It IS my place to examine the kinds of issues that grow from the guilt shifting intentions of a post such as this one.  That brand of guilt is merely a diversionary tactic to take our eyes off the failures of the institution and make people feel like they are not spiritual enough to get the desired response from the service.  The best laid plans of the clergy cannot fail so it must be the laity's fault.

I'm calling BS on that.

...but that's not all...

There is a truth to the fact that when we are not abiding in Christ we cannot see Him and enjoy Him in all things.  Yes, even worship services.  I mean, some people really dig worship services and they seem to enjoy God much through ritual and tradition.  Hey, more power to ya.  If that is what God is calling you into then you should do that thing to His glory with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.  But just because others have been given a desire for God's purpose in Christ outside of the four walls of the building does not mean they are wrong.

I'll be honest, when I attend a worship service I end up leaving with both sets of feelings.  In some ways I have seen Christ and in others I'm left wondering "why did I waste precious time being subjected to that?"  Does that mean I should repent?  Maybe, but for what?  Not enjoying the service or for being a bad steward of the limited time I have?  I guess that all depends on the conviction of the Holy Spirit now doesn't it?  Here's the thing:  all too often, church leaders take it upon themselves to be the vessels who dole out sinful convictions.  This may or may not have been the case with this particular post.  There may have been someone who needed to hear this.  It's my opinion that they would have had the same conviction had they been admonished to abide in Christ and not live a life of grumbling and complaining but hey, I'm no professional.  Nevertheless, we would be wise to be more careful about who we accuse of sin.  We may find ourselves calling what God has ordained and put in the heart of a believer a sinful response to the service.

We wouldn't want to do that now... would we?

Truth be told, if the whole body of Christ were abiding in Him and functioning according to the grace given to each member;  stale, bland, dated and boring wouldn't be anywhere on the radar as a description of the gathering.  The response from repentant believer and unrepentant non-believer alike would be something like this:

But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you.
(1 Corinthians 14:24-25 ESV)