Have you ever decided to, for a short period of time, give up a luxury we take for granted to give money to someone in need? I think this is a popular Lent activity, but it is also spreading through … Continue reading
It’s taken me a long time to start this post. I’ve actually completey avoided it. I think it’s because I’m learning something. A huge lesson God is working in me right now is that there are things I am called to and things others are called to – and they don’t have to be the same. It’s ok if I’m called to something crazy and “out there” and my church is not. It’s ok to be drawn to the city while friends have a heart for rural folks. It’s ok.
And maybe my church really isn’t called to what they think they are called to. Maybe they aren’t supposed to be about business and system and rules and structure. Maybe they have too many events and don’t equip people for leadership or service. Maybe they worry too much about money and not being “taken advantage of”. Maybe they miss the gray in their world of black and white. Maybe God does want to change them. Maybe.
But God has made it clear that, for now, I need to ignore that. Nobody’s perfect. Least of all me. So, he’s working in me that there are things he has to work in me. I’m not saying I don’t believe all those things I wrote about living missionally. I do. But I have heard quite clearly that God is teaching ME these things, and I need not worry whether or not my organized church is learning it too. I think he’s saying “Learn and Do – and I’ll take care of the rest”.
So as I think about what the next step is, I have a hard time writing it. Mostly because I only know what the next steps for me are, and the general gist of where I think church needs to go next. But I guess I could start there.
…sharing life with people that are not my family DAILY. And when I say life I mean my house, my schedule, my time, my food, my LIFE. I want to live where people can come over, bring their family and hang out. Where I can just throw more food on the table and welcome them. Where they can drop their kids off and run to the store alone without even calling first. Where they can come over at 10am because they ran out of coffee and know I always have a pot ready. I want to trust people to care for my kids and love theirs enough to care for them also. I want to share life. We experienced a taste of this when our best friends lived here – and we want it again. More of it.
…sharing a common mission, focus or passion with the people I am sharing life with daily. I want to be encouraged by those I commune with to serve God and love people. Whether it is a passion to serve high school kids, teen moms, the homeless, drop-outs, the unloved and unwanted, orphans, or our neighbors – I want to passionately live to serve people together as a community of faith. I want to share a purpose. I want to share a mission.
…living as if my comfort means nothing.
…seeing need around me.
…taking ownership for my part of the oppression and sadness that surrounds me. “We’ve gotta hold up the mirror and share in the blame.” (that’s Caedmon’s Call, by the way).
…BEING the incarnational church (the body of Christ incarnate in this world) to those around us. There are millions of people who are hopeless, downcast and oppressed. We are called to love our neighbor as ourselves. If someone treated me the way I see others being treated, I would not keep silent. So, I must speak on their behalf anytime I can.
…seeing what God has given me and figuring out how to use it to bless others. From my used clothing to my cans of beans to my photography skills to the love my family has – it’s not just for us. It is to share.
…being willing to sell my plot of land, bring the money in and put it in a pot for anyone who needs it. I want to live where I can give as easily as I can take – but where I feel the freedom to do both. We are too proud most of the time, and are not good at taking when we need to take. I’d love open pot living, where money is given freely for whoever needs it, and those who need it feel the safety to come and take without fear of judgment or second glances.
…not caring what music is played, what color the chairs are or who shakes my hand. I am way too consumeristic. I need to lay down my ideas that things need to be pleasing to me and instead, actively search for God in everything. I get too caught up in my own opinions and comfort.
…realizing that church happens more outside of Sunday service than inside. Sermons are great, as is gathering and fellowship and communal worship – but the vast majority of our lives happen outside of Sunday morning. God doesn’t stop working after the closing prayer. On the contrary, most of what he’s doing is in the streets, houses, schools, soccer fields, swim meets, office buildings, gyms and coffee shops. We need to remember that Jesus CAME TO US. And we are called to do the same. Sometime I think most of the work that we do on a Sunday morning falls under the category of Modern Day Pharisee. “And it feels like the church isn’t anything more than the second coming of the Pharisees. Scrubbing each other ’til their tombs are white, they chisel epitaphs of piety…” (that’s Andrew Peterson).
…remembering the greatest commandment(s) – Love God, Love others. And, to quote DC Talk (gotta love that old school christian rap!) “Love is a verb”. We must go. We must do. We must reach. We must give. Not because we have to. But because we love, and loving is doing. You can do without loving, but you can’t love without doing. Talk is cheap, right? We’ve got to BE the church – Jesus body in motion as an outpouring of His love for all that He created and died for. Again, NOT BECAUSE WE HAVE TO, but because when we love, our hearts are compelled to.
This is vague and somewhat abstract, I know. It’s because I want you to jump in and add detail. Where is God calling you to live with mission? How do you share life with people? What do you think needs to be changed? What is He changing in you? Who has He called you to love? How is God calling you to live more communally, more missionally, more intentionally, more uncomfortably, more freely? What’s next for you? I know things are changing and I am listening intently for you to tell me how. God’s expression of church, body, mission and love are different everywhere (though He is unchanging). How do these things express themselves where you are?
Originally posted May 12, 2009
Oh, how things are changing. I am changing. The world is changing. You are changing, even if you don’t notice it. For hundreds of years we have lived in the same mode of modern culture. It’s really best seen in education, wherein students were sat in rows, information was written on the board, and the students were expected to copy down the information and memorize it. But in the last two decades or so we have learned more about how people learn, and that has changed everything (educationally speaking). It has been documented how students need a variety of learning methods, such as movement, conversation, cooperation, trial & error and experience. It has revolutionized the way our classrooms are run, and in doing so it has revolutionized us as thinkers about everything – academics, life, God, people, relationships.
At the risk of scaring people with theoretical terminology, we are moving from the modern era into the post modern era. And let me clarify. Post modern does not mean liberal. Post modern does not mean realitivist. Post modern does not mean democrat. Post modern does not mean athiest or New Age or “e-van-jellyfish” (as some pastors have taken to calling evangelicals who don’t see things in complete black and white). Post modern means the era after the modern era. It means we’ve moved past modern. We’ve moved past thinking we are right and others are wrong and they need our message in our way from our denomination with our style of worship. It means something different is happening.
Some are very afraid of what is new. Some run for the hills when a new song is played on a Sunday morning, or when the sanctuary chairs are in a different pattern, or when (gasp) a new person delivers the Sunday morning message. But when it is culture that is changing perception and this changes how we relate, it is inescapable. So, what is it that we are changing into? Let me dive right into that…
The church is entering into an era in which people are realizing that the church is not the leadership, it is not the building, it is not the doctrine and it is not the slant from which you see the bible. It is the people. The church is me. It is you. It is whoever lives the incarnational message of Christ. For the last 400 years we’ve lived under the rigid structure of Church. Service times, Sunday Schools, worship styles, elder boards, event after event after event. Take any of those things on their own and examine them and they are in their nature good things. But we have used them to define us. We have used them to give us identity, purpose and satisfaction. And we have also used them to show how we are right and others who do things differently are wrong.
Instead, we are walking down a path, like it or not, that is deconstructive in nature. It is not about inviting people in to our building or to our events. It is about going out. It is not about telling someone four steps that will lead them to the magic prayer of repentance. It is about showing someone that God reaches to them right where they are. It is not about boosting our numbers at our events. It is about making our neighbors welcome in our home. It is not about fourmula. It is about love.
As I read through the gospels I have noticed something. There is no where (that I can find) where Jesus lays out the Four Spiritual Laws to anyone. He does not even usually admit outright that he is the Christ, coming to save them. What he does is love and serve. He talks to people who are used to being treated like garbage. He cares for the sick. He eats meals with people – usually people seen as unfit to eat with. He visits people’s homes. He loves on children. He goes fishing. And we look at these things through our glasses of modern thinking and say “How can we plan events that model these things so we can reach the maximum amount of people?”. Now that is a decent goal, but we are looking at it incompletely because no matter what event we host, few people come from the outside community. Most people attending our events are US. However, if we look at what Jesus did through the glasses of postmodernity, we will see a different picture. We will be asking “How can each one of us be loving people in the way Jesus did?”
Do you see the difference? Instead of hosting a men’s breakfast where men are free to invite their friends and neighbors – and maybe 5 visitors come, we teach our men how to reach out to their neighbors and have men from their neighborhood (or work or t-ball dads) over to their house for breakfast on a Saturday morning. Instead of hosting a giant Easter Egg Hunt on the church lawn as a community outreach, we pass out eggs to families who host Easter Egg Hunts in their front yard for the neighborhood. Instead of the leadership and elders trying to scheme to get people in the front door, we teach our congregations how to be equipped to go out the front door and do the ministry of the church in their daily lives of work, sports, school, neighborhoods, and friends. And then we give them the freedom to do the ministry of loving people outside of church events without guilt, expectations, rules or formulas.
This is a hard change to make, but it is so necessary for the church (as in the people who follow Christ) to live relationally (valuing the development of relationships), conversationally (always being willing to talk, listen and interact) and incarnationally (as a bit of Jesus walking around in this world loving and serving as He would). This is how the secular culture already functions – willing to delve into relationships to seek or to give love, willing talk about ideas and pursue them as if solving a mystery not pounding a point, and waiting with baited breath for someone to reach out and touch them as Jesus did the leper. Jesus always went, always talked, always loved, always gave. After all, people don’t want to know they are welcome in our building or at our events. They want to know their neighbor loves them. I’d rather have one person really love me than 500 simply tolerate my presence. It’s not about welcoming people into our church buildings, it’s about welcoming them into our lives, our homes and our families.
Next up: Living Missional – Part Three What’s The Next Step…
This week I was scheduled to speak at my MOMS group. The leaders wanted Colin and I to share about missional living. We were very excited to talk about it and had finished our planning on Monday night. Then, later that night (about 2am), Payton started throwing up. Every 30 minutes he threw up. By morning he couldn’t walk upright because his stomach hurt so bad. At noon on Tuesday I finally got a hold of his doctor’s office and they suggested we take him to the ER. Likely appendicitis, they said. We were in the ER at SWWMC for 6 hours with no conclusive test results when we were transferred by ambulance to Doernbecher’s Children’s Hospital. Eventually the surgeons decided that it was probably some kind of abdominal infection and sent us home with instructions to bring him back if it got worse. Luckily, he began to feel better. Wednesday Colin woke up sick and didn’t go to work. But everyone felt better by the end of Wednesday (except myself…I was worn out) so our talk was to take place as planned on Thursday morning. Thursday morning at 2am, guess what happens. Ellie starts throwing up and Colin wakes up feeling sicker than ever. I went to MOMS alone (well, with Shiloh – who is the only other healthy Rush) and decided to wing it. Apparently there must have been something secretly profound and amazing that God had to say through me for the Enemy to work so hard at keeping me away.
So, since the subject was missional living this morning and everyone seemed to be interested in it (and since Satan seems to want to keep me from sharing my thoughts), I have decided to repost a series I wrote last year on the subject. I don’t claim to have the answers or do anything perfectly (or even “well’), but I love thinking about loving people. Feel free to join in the conversation.
Originally posted May 8, 2009
There has been a question floating around me lately than I am very interested in. It is shaping my life, in fact. People want to know what it means to live missionally. I know in the Christian culture words are thrown around, catch on and are overused. They are twisted, morphed and changed to mean something they are not (gospel, ministry, community, authentic, “share your faith”, outreach, worship…just to name a few). Missional living is a very popular idea in some circles right now and I want to explore what it really means before the church twists it into something else. And just as a disclaimer, I am not an expert on this so please feel free to engage in this conversation with me. I am still learning and in no way want to be one that misunderstands being missional. By the way, if I use the words I listed earlier in their morphed and twisted way, I’ll put them in quotes. Later I’ll explain what I believe their true definitions may be.
In my experience, living missionally is a very difficult thing. Not because it is hard in itself, but because it is completely the opposite of how most of us were raised and taught. In order to effectively be mission minded we must reverse our thinking of what the church is, what ministry is, what the body of Christ is and what it means to serve.
In the last 400 years or so Christendom has been a part of the modern movement. It begun as scientists discovered new laws governing the way the world works. Things became clear and concrete. Everything was run by rules that were very black and white. This took Christ from being the God of the affluent to being available to everyone (a good thing). After all, rules are rules and the truth does not change because you are rich or poor, farmer or banker, sinner or saint. “The gospel” became a clear cut list of facts you either believed in or you didn’t. Missionaries and preachers went out sharing the “Good News” with lost people, showing them their sins and letting them know the steps to repentance and forgiveness. All of this was a good thing. The message of Christ reached far and wide and, in most cases, was very clearly preached. There were also many negatives of this movement. Preachers who “knew the truth” often became arrogant, fake and mocking. They preached the message but did not care about each person they were preaching it to. They became more interested in winning converts and increasing the numbers in their “saved” book than caring about the desperate state (financially, emotionally, physically) of the people that they were trying to save. Saving them spiritually was enough for them – they didn’t need to worry about saving them in any other way, because in the eternal perspective those other ways didn’t matter. Now, not every preacher was or is like this. This is a generalization of what could happen to modern style preachers.
Most of us were raised in this style of church. There is a lot of difference on the modern spectrum, but a generalization would state that the modern church of the 1960′s and beyond focused on preaching “the gospel”- which was telling people 1. They are sinners, 2. Christ died on the cross, 3. He bridged the gap to offer us forgiveness and make a way to heaven, 4. We can live in forgiveness if we accept his offer and pray a little prayer. You were encouraged to bring your “unchurched” friends to events so they could hear the message. You were instructed to pray for the lost, support missionaries traveling across the world to save the lost in other countries and help organize events at your local church building so people could be invited in.
Now, those things I just wrote about are very good things. But they are incomplete. They basically state “I have what you need. Come here, to my turf to get it. Join me in the right way of doing things.” As you can see, this can leave many people out. What if I am seen as an outcast by those on your turf? What if I am covered in tattoos and piercings with a bright pink mohawk? Will you welcome me in your building for events without staring and judging? What if I am housebound? What if I am so hungry that I don’t want your events, I just want food? What if I have been burned by the arrogance and judgment of a fellow Christian of yours and I don’t want a God like that? What if I don’t want to be accepted and welcomed into your building for an event – I just want to know that someone loves me right where I am at (at the bar, the nightclub, the little league diamond, the PTA meeting, the grocery store)? What if I don’t need to be convinced that I am a sinner (for that is all too clear to me) and I have no faith in anyone who says they love me because I have never known unselfish love (or any love at all)? What if I am tired of people trying to convince me that I need God when they don’t even take the time to know me?
As you can see, there are a lot of things that prevent people from responding to this kind of ministry. And even more so, the way people think about truth is changing. The way people think about everything is changing. The way people communicate, receive love and view God is changing. The modern ways of doing things and seeing things is changing. And no matter how many events we hold at our churches, we cannot push the tidal wave of culture back in the other direction. As Bob Dylan says, “The times, they are a-changin…”
Next up: Living Missional – Part Two Where We Are Headed…
By the way, please comment with your thoughts, questions, input. I intend for this to be a conversation, not a lecture or sermon. There are many things I have questions on and need to learn as well, and as I write I am not saying I know it all or even fully understand anything. I am just trying to put words to what I think is happening, as best as I can in my very limited way. Please, add to the dialogue.
Every year, as we get near to Christmas, I am overwhelmed by thought of buying everyone in my family and extended family a gift that is meaningful, thoughtful and useful – while remembering that they really don’t need much of anything. I want to remember those around the world who are living in the midst of poverty, malnutrition, disease and hopelessness. AND I want to spend my time with my family, not shopping or driving all over the county looking for the “perfect” gift. This year is also different, because I’m going to be taking care of a newborn during the holiday season. So, I came up with an idea that I want to share.
This year I want to share my money with those who really need it, but I still want to give gifts to those that I love. So I started looking around on the internet for organizations I want to support. I found that most of the places I would want to donate money to – places that do wonderful work to end poverty, disease and desperation – have online stores or catalogs. The proceeds from their goods, clothing, water bottles, etc… go to support the ministry or aid work they are undertaking. So I found groups and ministries that the people I am giving gifts to support and believe in, and I purchased gifts for them. All my money is going to people in need, and yet I’ll still be giving gifts to the family I love.
Feel free to take my idea and run with it. Below I have listed some great charities, organizations and ministries that need our support this Christmas. They all offer some sort of store or catalog that sells goods to support their cause. I hope many lives can be changed through the gifts we give this Christmas.
Shades of Us (Thanks for the suggestion Alyssa!)
If you have a great Christmas idea, please comment and let me know. I love hearing new ideas for making this season more about caring for the widows and orphans and all those Jesus came to redeem, and less about standing in line for 2 days to tackle someone over a wii. And if anyone knows of another organization I need to add to my list, also let me know. Happy giving and Merry Christmas. May the Spirit lead you to love, worship, give more and spend less this holiday season.
Ok, maybe that’s not correct. I love to give gifts. It is my “love language”, for all of you who read that book. But Christmas is hard for me. Our church is going through the Advent Conspiracy this Christmas and my views of giving are changing. It’s basically based on a few ideas – that we need to worship more, spend less, give more (relationally) and love all. (Click here to find out more). So, I have been challenged this year to really think about what I’m giving. The people I know don’t really NEED anything. I walk into a store and can’t find anything to give them. So I’m just not. I’m not giving them anything – except my time. I am trying to spend time with people I love. I am trying to give gifts that promote relationship and community. And I am redirecting all of the money I would have spent on useless gifts to people that really need it – a village in Africa, people affected by the floods in Chehalis and Centralia, and some families in my town whe can’t afford to give Christmas to their children. This is a challenge for me and I’m still working out all of my feelings about it in my heart, but I’m trying to be faithful to what I think God is calling me to do. After all, it’s Jesus’ birthday and on someone’s birthday you give them gifts, right? And he clearly stated that “What you give to the least of these you give to me”. So, I’m giving to the least of these on Jesus birthday.
And I want to do this not just for me or for other people, but to show my kids that Christmas is about Jesus, not about them. We’ve had some great conversations and they are so sweet and precious, but it’s a constant battle. I feel like I have to be ever vigilant. Patterns of Christmas Past are hard to break. Here is where I become a Scrooge. People love to give my kids gifts. A lot of them. Tons of them. Way more than they need. And I have come to the conclusion that I have a problem with that. I don’t want my kids to think that Christmas is about presents, presents, presents. And I don’t know where to draw the line. I am having a hard time accepting presents on behalf of my kids because of the change in my perspective of Christmas. I’m not saying this is right. I’m saying I am very confused on this subject. I don’t want to take away the joy of giving from grandparents, yet my kids are not in need. They are not. There are millions of kids that don’t have clean drinking water. Just $1 would go so far for them. Yet, hundreds of dollars are spent on my two children every Christmas.
I want to encourage people to give relationally to my kids – because that’s what they will really remember, time with the people they love. But how? That can’t be unwrapped Christmas morning. That can’t give the giver the pleasure of seeing my kids smiles as they tear off the paper. It’s too late this year. The presents have been purchased, wrapped and put under trees. But I know there are a lot of wise people out there that can prepare me for the years to come. The years when presents get more expensive, more complicated and more quickly tossed aside in our world of “the next new thing”. So, again, I’m asking for advice, knowing that in many ways I am probably wrong.