Friday, January 29, 2010

Taking the Knife Out of Your Back

One summer when I was in high school, my family and I were on vacation and decided to visit a church in the town where we were staying. At the end of the service, the pastor asked if anybody wanted to become a Christian. He said that people could repeat a prayer after him and become Christian. he said that people could repeat a prayer after him and become a Christian, right there at that moment in their seats. he said that if people repeated this prayer after him, they could be sure that when they died they would go to heaven and not hell. He then asked everybody to bow their heads and close their eyes, and he said the prayer, leaving space after each sentence for those who wanted to repeat the prayer after him. When he finished, he told everybody to keep their eyes closed and heads bowed. He then asked for the people who had prayed the prayer to raise their hands wherever they were seated. This way he would know who they were so he could pray for them. He said that nobody but him would be looking.

The pastor then said, "I see that hand over there. Thank you. I see that hand in the back. I see some young women in the front..." and he proceeded to acknowledge the hands that were going up all around the room.

During this entire time I had kept my eyes open and was watching the whole thing.

I didn't see any hands go up.

Several years ago my dad reminded me of that day. He told me he had his eyes open the whole time as well- only he was not watching for hands. He was watching me. He said that when he realized what was going on and that I was observing it all, he had this sick feeling that I would walk away from God and the church and faith forever. he said he kept thinking, "I've lost Rob, I've lost Rob..."

I am like you, I have seen plenty done in teh name of God that I'm sure God doesn't want anything to do with. I have lots of reasons for bailing on the whole thing.

I am also like you because I have a choice. To become bitter, cynical, jaded, and hard. Anybody can do that. A lot have.

Hatred is a powerful, unifying force. And there is a lot to be repulsed by.

Or, like you, I can choose to reclaim my innocence.

-Velvet Elvis p. 176-177

My wife is a wise woman. Years ago a pastor burned me badly- worse than this story- and I have carried an unhealed wound for years and, frankly, I had every right to do so. But it was not doing anyone, least of all myself, any good. Anyway, Sarah kindly pointed out that if I just let it go then it would stop owning me, frustrating me, and tainting me.

We probably won't have the wrong righted, nor watch the person get their dues, but it isn't about what God will do to them but what God will do in us if we let go.

I don't know much but this story just hit me really hard. I hope it brings some others' hope if they read it. It won't make things okay but at least you might know you aren't alone and there is another way.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Walking the Same Road as You

It's been a rough few months but I found hope in this quote by Rob Bell.

"It was in that abyss that I broke and got help... because it's only when you hit bottom and are desperate enough that things start to get better. This breakdown, of course, left me with all sorts of difficult decisions to make... and a new journey began, one that has been very, very painful.'

'... and very, very freeing.'

'It was during this period I learned I had a soul."

-Velvet Elvis, p. 105

You and I are walking roads paved by our own decisions and therefore, have no one to blame for anything. I happen to be in a hard time right now as I am 27 years old and trying to figure out what to do with my life. But you know what- I wouldn't trade my journey for a jump to the destination for anything.

The late and great Kurt Cobain, over-quoted as he is, said, "The sun is gone, but I have a light."

Evangelism is Too Expensive (Both Socially and Monetarily)

"... the mutation of solid church into heritage, refuge, and nostalgic communities has seriously decreased its ability to engage in genuine mission in 'liquid church'[the ability to contextualize Jesus by being culturally specific and relevant]." -Bauman

Recently, I was engaged in dialogue with a church that was moving forward in an exciting new chapter of their church life by starting a 2nd venue- with plans for more. They had done all the proper prep work: consulting with venue veterans, they had no debt (not even a mortgage), had savings, had read books, talked with local leaders, and began recruiting for staff needs... only to claim that they didn't feel, "God allowing them to (plant other churches) at this time", when it came time to pull the trigger with money.

How, when, and where is God against His message being carried out in new ways to new areas? Now hear me, I have, for years and on record, stated that I want NOTHING to do with church planting other than praying and providing funds... which sounds like a lady I heard proudly proclaim that she would pay for people to do missions work "for her" because she knew she was too much of a prima donna. We both sound stupid.

... or a denominational leader who claimed (off the record, of course) that this "church planting thing is only a fad".

The early church in Jerusalem was so isolated, so self-centered, that many scholars argue that God used persecution to cause a viral explosion of churches throughout the entire region. And, if we are to call ourselves "Christians"- a moniker that to proclaim 1800 years ago would have gotten you swift death- then we better start carrying that torch.

That means we stop proclaiming the need for community and engage in real and deep friendships that are awkward because we call each other out and are there for the their (and our own) tough times.

That means we stop talking about planting a church and gather our little group of 5-15 at a house/coffee shop/bar/park and talk about things of significance.

That means we stop living in debt so we can help those who are less fortunate.

That means we refuse to take Jesus lightly and actually read Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John and get to know this guy we are, allegedly, following.

But lets get back to churches before I go. If your church isn't really reaching out to its surrounding community, planting venues, living with each other, and planting new churches... what IS it doing?

Leonard Sweet said it this way, "The toast at the Jesus table is not 'Here's to us! [those already present]', but, 'Here's to those who aren't here,'."

It is our commission to go and find them, lovingly take them by the arm, by their hurt, and show them our Father. There is nothing else.

But maybe God is telling other people/churches that evangelism is just too darn expensive...