Friday, August 24, 2007

Explaining some terms

I had a reader ask me if I could explain my use of the phrase, The Church As We Know It, so here goes. The Church As We Know It refers to that part the Church that we can see, experience and explain. It has to do with our current practice and culture that we take for granted. It’s that part with which we are so familiar, that in many ways we have become unfamiliar with the central intent. Ask anyone you know to give a definition of church, and most will give you a very similar response, regardless of background. Terms like, Sunday, sermon, music, a building, helping people will most likely be used to describe a common understanding of the current practice of Church. In this way, The Church As We Know It is visible, and once something becomes visible, it is in danger of becoming less about faith and more about effort and abilities. Faith is being sure of what we DON’T see. The longer we go on living according to what we DO see, faith eventually gets pushed aside without even knowing it. We can fill page after page with problems in the Church As We Know It, and an equal number of pages with solutions, but without an answer that requires faith, it will be impossible to make any kind of real change happen. But change may never come in my lifetime. The Church As We Know It sometimes teaches that one is assured of a result if a step of faith is made. But The Story is clear that many died through the years without ever seeing what they hoped for. Cause and effect works in physics, but not so much when walking by faith. Every gambler knows that once the money is on the table, it’s no longer his. He hopes for a win, but he’s not guaranteed one. If he could see a guaranteed win, it wouldn’t be a gamble. Such is with faith. If we see what we hope for, it’s not really faith. I’m taking a gamble in looking for the Church of the Future. I may never find it, but then again, that may not be the point.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Free to be Angry

Often on the Christian Talk radio station that I shouldn’t be listening to, I hear preachers refer incessantly about the evils of our society. They constantly remind listeners about the problems of gambling or pornography or abortion or lack of prayer in schools. After outlining each of these in detail, it almost always comes to a shaming of the Church for not being more concerned, not being more involved or not being more politically active. In essence, these leaders seem to be saying that the reason people are living together and are having babies out of wedlock is because the Church is not angry enough. To me, the beauty of this country is the foundation of freedom laid out in the Constitution. Freedom is a core concept of the teaching of Jesus. Christ came to give us freedom. It is this very reason that He died. Its’ need is in our very nature. It’s why movies like Braveheart, Gladiator and 300 seem to resonate. They remind us of this fact. My kids disagree with me when I tell them they are free to make their own choices, despite what Mom and Dad say. "But we’ll get in trouble,” they would reply. To which I would say, “Of course you will, but you’re still free to make that choice!” Freedom is not a complicated condition. It means we are free to do whatever we want to do. It means we are free to good as well as evil. Whichever I choose, either way, I will bear the fruit or consequences of those choices. So to lay blame for the behavior of our culture at the feet of the Church seems a little harsh. The Church could be busy drawing lines all day long, but it seems to me that once the line is drawn, human nature feels the need to cross that line in order to see what’s on the other side. At some point, instead of fighting it, shouldn’t the Church just extend freedom and wait for the consequences to kick in? This is what the father did with the son in the story of the Prodigal in Luke 15. The son wanted his freedom, so the father gave it. He even went the extra step and funded it. No amount of rules would change the young man. His wisdom knew that the son must taste it himself. I would hope that the Church of the Future would adopt this approach to relating to its culture. Instead of yelling, picketing, protesting, defending, fighting, resisting, complaining, and opposing in order to bring about change, would it have more impact if it put its energy into living the true life of freedom, thereby experiencing (and demonstrating) the joy and beauty of doing good?

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Remembering Dad

My dad passed away two years ago today. My first thought when he died was that he would never see bread&cup. I thought it appropriate to post an exerpt of the words I spoke at his funeral. Hope you enjoy it. ------------------------------------------------- It took a while, as it does for most youth, to realize that the vistas of the world I was seeing was a direct result of the shoulders I was standing on. I thought in order to matter in the world, you had to go out and conquer it. But what I have learned from my dad, the man named Jack Shinn, I now believe that it’s just the opposite. You make a difference by simply letting the world come to you, and then offering blessing to each and every person that comes your way. From time to time, I would make it back to Route 2 Box 162, sometimes bringing university students with me to visit the farm and experience the country life. Without exception, every person I brought there was greeted by my Dad with a hug and a kind word. Sometimes those students would later tell me how much that meant to them. Dad seemed to think that it may be the only hug they got, so he would offer it. It didn’t matter the color of their skin or how long there hair was, they got the same attention. You make a difference by letting the world come to you and offer blessing to each and every person that comes your way. As I got older, this lesson became more and more evident. People would say to me how much they appreciated Dad’s smile or sense of humor or offering a piece of candy. They remark how positive he always was, how willing he was to help out. In his latter years, he dealt with much physical pain, but you would only know it through the grimace on his face. He never complained about it and never allowed it to rule his spirit. No summary, however, would be complete without the story I have told many, many times. It’s a story that encapsulates his life and what he valued most. It’s a story that happened when I was about 12 years old, but I didn’t hear it until nearly 20 years later. The story takes place at Route 2 Box 162 Bartlesville. With very few kids around my age, I had to learn how to entertain myself. Dad helped that effort by buying me a little Yamaha 80cc Dirt bike. That motorcycle provided me countless hours of fun. With 26 acres to my discretion, one would think that would be plenty of space for a 12 year old boy to ride. But for some reason, I decided to include the front and back lawn in that 26 acres. As you can imagine, motorcycle tires are not kind to growing grass, and it didn’t take long before a nice little path was worn around the front of the house, to the back of the house, then out to the pasture. Round and round I would go, living in my mind the adventure of being a world-champion racer, or being chased by bad guys. This path was pretty unsightly, given that it was visible to everyone that passed on the road out front. One time a neighbor had stopped by to visit and he asked Dad this question. “Jack, how come you let your son tear up the yard like that? Why don’t you make him keep out in the pasture?” Now this was a pretty logical question given the amount of land we owned, but my Dad’s wisdom sometimes defied logic. To know my Dad was to know what a deep reservoir he was. Even though he was a man of few words, he was also a man of countless thoughts and musings. In these past few days, I have read many of those thoughts recorded in the margins of his Bible. I believe what set my Dad apart was his ability to look at his choices and side with that which was of most importance. In other words, he had his priorities right. He responded to the neighbor by saying. “The grass will come back” he said, “but the boy won’t.” Now if you drive by Route 2 Box 162 today, you will see the grass has come back. The boy lives in Lincoln, Nebraska in a home of his own, with two kids of his own. He hopes to be the kind of man Jack Shinn was, a man who hopes that as the world comes to him, that he will offer blessing to each and every person that comes his way. We will miss you, Dad