Thursday, February 28, 2008

My mansion is bigger than your mansion

My guy today on the radio was telling us about the importance of establishing our rewards in heaven. Salvation, he said, cannot be earned, but our good behavior will lead to a bigger heavenly home, more jewels in our crown, more blessings to enjoy. What I never have been able to reconcile with this teaching I have heard all my life is how this actually works. As I also have been taught about heaven, everything will be set right in relationship. There will be no more tears, no more sorrow. We will no longer envy or hold any jealousy toward our brother. There will be no need for a competitive spirit If this is the case, why would it matter if you’ve got more jewels in your crown than me?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Flies in the Ointment

I probably will go to hell for this thought, but I often like to consider how life might be different if the Bible had a few little changes in the story along the way. I am humored at the situations that I create in my mind, which is a good indication that I need a vacation. For example, King David is held pretty high in the eyes of most evangelicals that I have been around. He is, after all, the man after God’s own heart. How much better recommendation can you get? Who wouldn’t want to be known as that guy? Never mind that David committed adultery and murder. He gets a pass because he wrote lots of worship songs that we still refer to today. He killed Goliath and that gets lots of miles in both Vacation Bible School and Big Church. All those years herding sheep makes for good sermon illustrations. But what if David was bisexual? How would the story change? Instead of lusting for and eventually sleeping with the woman of desire, and then killing her husband, what if he had an encounter with another man? Could he still qualify as the man after God’s own heart? If not, why not? We assume a murderer and an adulterer can, but how about one who has a different sexual orientation? Every culture will have its imperfections. If the crusaders were to succeed in taking American back for Christ, what will they do with those who don’t think like they do, once they make it happen? After all, aren’t we all broken in some way? And aren’t we each searching for a way to be made whole? Future Pastor, you do not have to give up a sense of ideal when it comes to how you believe life is intended to be lived. Your faith is deeper than morality and how it is expressed in the culture you find yourself. Don’t allow the recovery of morals to take the place of searching for faith. This is what the Son of Man is interested in finding when he returns.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Wow, I'm glad I didn't step in it.

If you attended a form of the Church As We Know It today, may I ask what the topic of the sermon was about? Or rather, what was the tone of the topic? The further away I move from the Church As We Know It, the more I am struck by how negative are the ideas that get dispensed. As I listened to my porn station on the radio while driving one day last week, it dawned on me that every single message handed out during the short time I listened was negative in nature. Each preacher seemed to feel the need to remind us of how evil our culture is, how anti-family the democrats really are, how to keep teens off drugs and in church, how to not say bad words, how to not be in debt, how to not be influenced by movies and music. One guy bashed himself constantly against his sermon topic, reminding his audience that he struggles with this particular issue over and over again and is just another sinner saved by grace and that’s all any of us ever are and we shouldn’t expect anything more and God help us and be patient with us and forgive us and we are the problem and we are just all bad people, and lets bow for prayer….Whew! Not very inspiring. Future Pastor, if you are going to lead the Church of the Future, you have to change your orientation toward what it means to be a new creation. If we are in Christ, we are a new creature. I take that truth to mean that we really are new, brand new. Therefore, we can act like it. This also means you need to treat people like they are new. Expect them to do good, not evil. Act like they have the capacity now to know right from wrong. Trust them to be inclined toward the Spirit. The more you do this, the more they will believe it. The average leader in the Church As We Know It looks out from his pulpit at his audience and seems to think that these people are all about two minutes away from spiritual oblivion. This explains the tone of the sermon you heard this morning. The pastor doesn’t believe you are a new creation because he doesn’t believe it personally. My dad always used the old term, "He don’t know shit from Shinola." This is true of too many leaders in the Church As We Know It. It sounds harsh, but I really believe it is that simple. Future Pastor, the more you acquaint yourself with all things good and free, you increase the distance between what is good for you and what is detrimental. Then you won't need to spend so much time teaching people what is shit and what is Shinola.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Administering CPR

Future Pastor, I wouldn’t worry too much about your speaking abilities. I think the days of needing to hone your preaching skills are over. The Church of the Future will not need to be led by people who have to come up with something new to say to an audience every week. If you haven’t noticed, there is an overabundance of teaching resources available for consumption on the Internet. Anyone with an mp3 player can listen to their hearts content. Why does it need to come from you? The Church As We Know It is stuck in an old paradigm. Education through teaching and lecture worked better 20 years ago, before the Web took over. We learn through bits and pieces, a little here and a little there. Have you noticed what you do now when you have a question? You do a Google search. Need to know the capital of Romania? The latest on Darfur? The differences in political candidates? Chances are you’ll start with the Internet. If I were you, I would focus more on inspiring people than on educating them. Inspiration is the essential element to life. Breathing is more crucial than learning. Without air moving in and out of your lungs, you are essentially dead. All the best books and sermons in the world won’t help you one bit if you aren't inspired. Don’t choke the life out of those you lead.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

I'll meet you there

Dan Allendar said one time that in his years of counseling, he has determined that the only way someone breaks through an addiction is when they finally get bored of it. Addictions serve a purpose, and humans are not as stupid as they are just shortsighted, and as soon as the addict realizes he is not getting where he wants to go, then opportunity for change can be initiated. It appears to me that we are at similar kind of crossroads with the Church As We Know It. From where I stand, many are leaving it behind because, like any addiction, they’ve simply grown tired of it. It is not delivering what it promised. And since addiction is the exchange of control for the promise of reward, many are taking back the control of their spiritual lives that was given to the Church and finding that this new way of living brings more of what they had hoped. This movement is part of the journey toward The Church of the Future. It is a shift that will result in a more effective, but maybe not efficient, expression of community, healing and wholeness. It is this germination process that I am fascinated at watching while out at night on the wall. On the other hand, Our Culture As We Know It needs to keep going in the opposite direction. The further away it gets from the Future Church, the greater distinction there will be between the two. As it is, Culture looks too much like The Church As We Know It. I don’t see a whole lot of difference. Both seem to have little power to make effective change. So Current Pastor, if you are wondering why men are leaving your Church, ask yourself what you are giving them? Is it really worth their time? Be honest with me, and more importantly, yourself. Do you lay in bed at night worried about it? Let’s hope so. You’ve got to give them something that is Powerful, not Cultural. Do you know what I mean by this? Power flows from a source, and if you’ve lost a sense of that in your own life, its high time you do whatever it takes to get that back. This may include leaving your position. It may be sucking Life out of you instead of injecting you with it. If you are bored with what you are offering men, can you imagine what they might be saying when they leave your men’s meeting and go down the street to a sportsbar for a few beers and really talk? Future Pastor can, because he will be there with them.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

I thought I ordered a macchiato?

What is the Church of the Future, you ask? I’m not sure if I can even partially or adequately describe it. I confess I am only beginning my search for it, so in this way I am no expert or shouldn’t even be considered a leader. I was always told that you can’t lead people where you have never been, so if this is true I am disqualified to say anything until I have it all figured out. But, Future Pastor, if I can just speak to you as a friend, then maybe we can get somewhere together. I know I am guilty of oversimplifying, but here I go again. The differences between the Church As We Know It and the Church of the Future are pretty obvious and it helps me to narrow things down so I can get a grasp on the real issues. My experience with the Church As We Know It comes from a modern, efficient and practical approach to its function. For example, it meets on Sundays because most people don’t work on Sunday, so in this it is more practical than to try and do the same thing on Monday or Thursday. Its value for efficiency drives it to create multiple services so it can service as many people as possible in the time allotted. Starbucks takes a similar approach by setting up new stores with an easy in and out drive through lane. They also realized that brewing espresso by hand the old fashioned way takes way too much time, so efficiency wins out over quality by adding automated machines that kick out the product in record time. It’s not very good, but we don’t really care because everyone is in a hurry and don’t have the time to realize that we are settling for an inferior cup of coffee. But sugar and heat cover a multitude of gastronomical sins, so it’s all good. Our love of efficiency has led us to create the form of Church As We Know It. Never mind that we go mindlessly week after week never stopping to ask, “Is this what I really wanted?” It works the way it was designed, and we accept it and go on without asking any questions or thinking that it could be any different. Future Pastor, you can’t change Starbucks, but you can decide whether to go there or not. There are other ways to get an outstanding cup of coffee, you may just not be able to get it handed to you through your car window as you hurry along to wherever it is you are going. What will change your behavior is changing what you value. If savoring coffee as it was intended is most important, then you will figure out a way to make that happen, but if getting something sweet and hot in your hand without getting out of your car is what you want, then there are plenty of places to serve you. Do you see my point?