but not the church...
Ask anyone on the street: What do you think about God? What do you think about Jesus? What do you think about Spirituality?
Then ask them: What do you think about Christians? The Church? Christianity?
I’ll bet we’d find that people – from all walks of life, religious and irreligious (with the exception of Bill Maher, perhaps) – have a positive reaction to God, immensely respect Jesus, even practice some sort of Spirituality.
But Christian changes everything. Descriptives emerge: bigotted, intolerant, homophobic, subculture, controlling, hate.
How in the world did we change the world to the point that the world likes Jesus (at least in their limited understanding, but like him nonetheless they do) but can’t stand His followers? Certainly there are wrong perceptions, but the fact remains that perceptions shape people’s realities. And as Christians, we’ve given more than enough fodder for people’s negative perceptions to become reality.
The question for us is not necessarily how to change their perceptions, but how to change how we shape those perceptions.
In other words, regardless of what narrow (and I mean this positively, not negatively) beliefs we have, how can we communicate love to our world.
More importantly, how can we communicate God’s love to God’s world.
Because as much as people may like Jesus…
…Jesus likes them more.
Posted in Christian, Church, Jesus, love, Uncategorized
Tagged bigot, Christian, Church, God, intollerant, spirituality, they like jesus
I’ve just begun A Community Called Atonement by Scot McKnight. I hadn’t gotten very far into the book when I stopped to chew on something he wrote:
“The kind of gospel we preach shapes the kind of church we are;
The kind of church we are shapes the kind of gospel we preach.”
I don’t know about you, but this is pretty convicting – especially to imagine how we, as local churches, have shaped the Gospel to fit the kind of church we are…
I hope you wrestle with this, too.
Over the weekend, our staff met with about 20 leaders from our church to begin a discussion on vision. A few months prior, at a day retreat, our staff watched a seminar produced by Willow Creek Association on vision planning. Bill Hybels was the featured speaker and what he said made a lot of sense: when pastors think of “vision” they generally think of something God drops into their heads to present to the church. It become ‘top-down’ leadership with an outside vision forced on the congregation. What Hybels advised was in fact much different than the traditional model of “vision-casting”: involvement of as many interested parties as possible. In other words, one person’s vision of what God wants to do in a church does not translate very easily to the congregation. Sure, the pastor can be passionate about it, maybe even the staff is totally on board. But this type of leadership and thinking only reinforces what is the common misconception:
“Ministry is what the pastors and staff do; being led is what the members do.”
Thus the idea of mass-involvement surfaces. The theory is that the more people who are involved in the vision casting of the church (since it does not belong to the pastors, but to the members), the more active role in fulfillment of that vision those members will take.
The key concept is ownership: how easy do we find it to “own” someone else’s vision? What if we believe that God has something different for the direction of our local body? What voice do individuals have?
So, to counteract the thinking that “ministry is what pastors do”, we began the long process of inviting church members and leaders to a common table to prayerfully discuss what God wants Mirabeau Chapel to look like in five years: if we could gaze into a crystal ball and see our church in five years, what would be its hallmarks? What would the community think of us? What does it do on a regular basis? What does it offer and look like? We’re inviting all sorts of people because when people are part of the process, passion comes out and commitment to vision is fostered. Ultimately, the vision for our church is for the whole church and thus should come as a result of hearing the cumulative voice of God through the church.
But this takes time. Lots of time. Months, maybe more than a year.
This process is the opposite of urgency. What this process helps facilitate, however, is more committed vision, more involved “church-goers” and much more structured and effective ministry. The downfall in too many churches, including ours, is the rush to begin “a ministry” without thinking through the process. We get to consumed with the urgency of need that we bypass the planning that could guarantee success.
The temptation of the urgent: do and do and do and do and do as fast (and as ineffective) as one possible can.
It’s antidote? Process. Formulation. Structure. Big scary words that don’t sit well with me, except that I believe in them because of the end result: better equipping of Christians and more effective ministry.
After a brief discussion regarding communion (the Eucharist) with some of the staff at our church, the subject of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 11:26-30. Paul says that since communion/Eucharist is about proclaiming the Lord’s death and recognizing His body, participating in this sacrament lightly is the reason that many are weak, sick, or dead.
So, we talked about what it means to be weak, sick or dead. Whether or not Paul’s words implied physical sickness or death may be important, but it begs the question, “Why don’t we see this today?” Maybe we do – or would, but we ourselves are sick or dead.
Communion, the Eucharist, is about not only Christ, but about His body, the Church. Since we experience Christ in the community of fellow believers, how we regard others in celebrating the Eucharist must be important. Paul says that we eat and drink judgment upon ourselves if we do not recognize Jesus’ body. I think this must to some degree imply not only remembering Jesus physical death, but acknowledging and celebrating His metaphorical body – the Church.
To the extent that we attempt to make communion singularly about “me and Jesus” and exclude the very root of communion (community), we are in danger of refusing Christ’s body, though we may even receive the elements. We are in danger of becoming weak, sick or dead. Whether or not physically or literally, by refusing Christ’s community, we experience the saddest state that humans can encounter on earth: weak in offering mercy; dead to compassion.
We’re down to the final 12 days before Christmas and I’m thinking of Christmas carols. I’ve got my favorites – “O Holy Night” tops the list – but to me, the most beautifully crafted phrase comes from “O Little Town of Bethlehem”.
“Cast out our sin and enter in; be born in us today.”
“Be born in us today.” There is no more fitting nor needed experience today than this: to let God who became incarnate in human flesh in Jesus Christ to become incarnate once again in us. Be born in us today. The Beyond-All-This, the More, the Inexpressible yet seemingly impossibly experiential becoming life to others through us. Be born in us today. The God who desired relationships with humans in the most intimate of ways became one; let us let Him come to us again through our flesh, through our lives, our love, our actions.
Be born in us today. If the Church truly is the Body of Christ in some mystical authentic way, let us – the Church, Christ’s body and witness here in His world – be Him in our communities, Him in our neighborhoods, Him in our families. Let His Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. Let us be those instruments of peace through which the world can know and be loved by God.
Let us be Christmas today for someone.
Posted in Bethlehem, Body of Christ, Born, Christmas, Church, Him, O Holy Night, the More
Tagged born in us, Christmas, Church, the More