Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Flying Leap

As a participant of the Institutional church the meeting inevitable goes like this. A new idea is presented. Said idea is then run through the wringer, and out comes a little dryer version, with a little less risk, a little more stability and predictability, but still riskier than usual. From there the discussion will turn to it being a good idea, yet being impossible to do. We have not do it before, how are we going to pay for it, what if it doesn't work, all code words for I do not want to risk trusting God. Some might say that is too harsh, yet the reality remains, we shrink back from the possible for the sake of safe and known.

For centuries the church has been locked in the safe and comfortable place of Christendom. Especially in the Western world, Christianity has been at the center of the society and culture. The result is a church which has become impotent. Funny how our struggle to maintain power and control has resulted in losing both. This Christendom setting has fostered safe and measured communities, and when someone steps out of the mold the price is usually pretty high. How do we break away from the pattern? Many have chosen to leave the Institutional church behind for something else, often not having anything to do with the church, or even a journey with Christ. Is the another option?

In the Christendom era the church is trapped in, the change will not be a top down, or reformation from the top, process. It must be something from within. I resist using the term grassroots as Christendom has co-opted the term and rendered it nearly useless. Rather it will come from people who respectfully as possible push past the stagnation. People who are willing to take a flying leap. To risk big. As more people begin to risk stepping outside the normal, the always has been, something profound happens. Like it or not institutions are forced to deal with the decision to change, or die.

Now it would be easy to write this missive and remain stagnant. This would be exactly how Christendom would like me, and us to respond. Through prayer, discernment, in the midst of fear and hesitation, the time has come to jump. Actually we are well past the time to jump, but I think it is time to actually clear the edge. I am not sure what that means, and I am not sure where it will take me, but I cannot allow myself to remain captive. I must move forward.

I would invite any and all who are reading this to offer their thoughts, ideas and response the the above. Additionally, I wonder if I am the only one who is ready. Please share the stories of how God is pushing you to the edge.

Monday, September 28, 2009

What God is Doing

I am amazed at how we are people who live in the past. The events, circumstances and what was tend to hold us captive. In the life of the church we do this with a depth of connection to the past that is staggering. When we get confused, stressed or just are not sure what to do, we look at what God has done in the past. Then we go on to recreate or reconstruct the situation and circumstances based on how God has acted in the past. Most of life as a pastor has wrestled with this longing of people to go back to what was. This week as I was reading an insightful book by Tim Keel titled Intuitive Leadership, and the light went on.

I celebrate and am thankful for the ways in which God has been at work in the past. I would not be a follower of Christ today if it were not for the work of God in ages past. Now that we have reached a time and place when our world, more specifically the United States, is at a confusion point, people are out of sorts. The culture in which the church exists is very different than it has been in the past. The most common way through this is to look at what God has been doing. As Keel suggests with great mastery through the account of 1 Samuel 4, it is time to start seeking what God is doing right now.

Our God is a God of creativity, remember that is how we first encounter this God in scripture as creator. In the midst of the chaos and uncertainty of the present age, we should look for what God might be doing new in our midst. Going back to recreate what was does not mean that it was wrong, or bad, yet it might not be what God is doing this time. In fact on the extreme side of it going back can create idols without even realizing it. The activities, artifacts and actions of our past are not in and of themselves the point, it is the God who we meet in the midst. The God of creation, who continues to create and develop to this day.

The actions and practices which brought us this far hold great significance, still they cannot move us to the next place. I wonder what would happen if we the people of God began to ask what God is doing and listen for an answer, rather than telling God to act like the last time. What is God doing in our midst?

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Center

Yesterday at church I asked an important question, what is the center of your universe? What is it that all other things revolve around? The answers varied from God, to family, to food, to money and other things. The answer I would like to give every time is to say that Jesus is the center of my universe, the reality is this is not always true. I have found when I take Jesus out of the center, my life begins to fall apart. Jesus is still there, loving me, forgiving me, and wanting to guide me. but I have pushed him to the side.

This is a Lordship problem. I like to thing about Jesus as my Savior. The one who forgives my sins, who paid the price for me. Discomfort comes into play when I think about Jesus as Lord. If Jesus is Lord, the center of my life, I will do what Jesus wants. If Jesus is Lord in my life, it means what I want does not really matter. One thing I have learned is I am a control freak, I like my life to play out as I planned it. When Jesus is Lord, control freaks have a problem, because he is in control, not us.

While it is difficult to do, all are called to have Jesus not just as Savior, but as Lord. Moment by moment we must submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Constantly we must be making sure that it is Jesus who our universe revolves around. There can only be one center to our lives. Jesus will step aside when we put something else in there. Still the point will come when we must once again decide to put Jesus in the center. The reality is, when Jesus is not the center of our lives, we are not followers of Jesus. we are chosen to be followers.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Modern Day Idols

Look around at churches today. Many that are not on the newer side, even some that are, are filled with all kinds of stuff. There are the multi-thousand dollar stained glass windows. The precious altars, pulpits and other worship furniture. Going room by room there are sacred cows which hold a mystical power over people. Items which hold more value than they should. Often as pastors we joke about the challenges of replacing the carpets in a church because of the fight over what color and style etc... because the carpet that is there seems to carry a significance beyond carpet. We joke because if we do not we will cry. The stuff in our buildings is simply that stuff, yet we tend to elevate its standing to become god.

As I spend more time in this thing called the church, I find more and more people whos god is the stuff in the church, and they miss a connection with the true God. Throughout the journey of humanity this has happened. Some would argue it started with the Golden Calf in Exodus. Throughout time people have made objects and stuff their god. Whenever stuff replaces God it is called idolatry. Idolatry is one of the big 10 we are to stay away from. Yet it seems the faith of many has deteriorated, or possibly never grown beyond that point.

Everyday I become more convinced one of the worst things for the church is stuff. Property drains resources for mission, things create traps for idolatry. More church arguments and conflicts arise over the stuff of the church. Wouldn't it be great is our disagreements were over things that really mattered. I hear people cry for revival, I too long for a renewing of the Spirit in the world today. Before this can happen it we as people will need to destroy our modern day idols, and return to the source. The time has come for us to once again fall in love with the true God, not stuff.