Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Too Small a Thing

I always look with interest when I see college students trying to pull together all the other Christians on their campus for a combined event, usually involving singing songs and listening to a well noted speaker.

I find it interesting because I devoted much of my energy during my time on campus toward that kind of expression. I was looking for a manifestation of God’s awakening and assumed it would take this form. My paradigm expected to measure spiritual activity by how many people who agreed with each other to come to an event.

Boy was I shortsighted.

How limited I was to think that I would be satisfied if I had a certain number of kids showing up to sing and appear to be really into my gig.

Let’s say in the unlikely event that I had every student who professed faith to come to my meeting held in the largest venue on campus. Play along and envision thousands singing the same songs, raising their hands in unity, swooning over the dynamic talk given by the hip communicator. Do you see it? Have you been to something like this?

What does it prove?

Future Pastor, this is what I mean when I say that it’s too small a thing to expect that attendance means anything in your quest for seeing real awakening and the ushering in of the Church of the Future. We default to this kind of thinking because it is easy to measure for reports and newsletters. Financial supporters and Boards of Directors feel better about their organization when they see lots of people showing up, but don’t be seduced by this. Look for real, authentic change. You will know it when you see it.

Position yourself to be free from numerical expectation put on you by superiors who don’t get it. Wait and watch for the evidence of what genuine awakening really means; men and women who are awake, not just at your meeting. Greet those who look groggy from the slumber of disbelief. Look for those opening their eyes to restored relationships and how to love well. These kinds of people may or may not show up at your meeting, but they will change their world.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Green Pastor

Future Pastor, beware of the New Morality as you lead toward the Church of the Future. You will recognize it because it has some of the same characteristics of the morality as The Church As We Know It. The “Green Movement” has taken us by storm. Many point to An Inconvenient Truth as the tipping point for the gale of environmental concern, but its origin is not as important to grasp as is its spirit. I’m old enough to remember the long gas lines in the seventies and the Ecology Now stickers we put on our school notebooks. We were taught to conserve and pick up litter along the side of the roads. We were given slogans like, “Don’t mess with Texas” and “Don’t lay that trash on Oklahoma.” Cars were being built small and more fuel efficient as to get 40 to 50 MPG. So the Al Gore thing is not new to me. Neither is the judgment that is easily passed on today by well meaning proponents of a better environment. Not using squiggly light bulbs feels a lot like not having a Quiet Time. The choice to serve coffee in Styrofoam instead of paper can elicit a response similar to not going to church on a regular basis. We will always get this kind of feeling whenever a movement is based in fear and not in love. Remember that we preserve the earth because we love the earth, not because we are afraid it will burn up. We seek renewable energy because we love the next generation and hope to leave it with a better prospect for its future. Fear won’t lead us very far. What happens when you aren’t afraid anymore? Fear got us the Ford Fiesta and the Chevy Chevette, but we once we got over the fear of no more gasoline, we returned to our ways in a few years and got back to the big machines like the Hummer H3. I have squiggly light bulbs in every socket in my house. I recycle glass and aluminum. I compost. I try to consume less and conserve more. But I want to do so in a spirit of abundance and not shame. I don’t shake my finger at the person in the store buying a pack of incandescent bulbs. The Church As We Know It gave us that kind of evangelism. It was more concerned about staying out of hell than it was in living an abundant life. The environmental movement runs the risk of being guilty of the same thing. We can do better.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

It's not about me, It's all about You...

One role we have as Future Pastors is to lead people to freedom. To do this we need to be able to reveal the hindrances in thinking. Ask a churched person the question, “what’s your favorite book?” And nine times out of ten the really spiritual ones will answer with a condition, “Well, of course the Bible, but after that it’s…” Why do we answer that way? I think it has to do with the basic assumptions of the Church As We Know It. We assume that if we don’t say that indeed the Bible is of utmost importance, then we will somehow slip into mediocrity and eventually become an atheist, leave our wife, or worse yet, stop reading the Bible. There are some things that should just be a given. Most normal people you and I know practice some form of hygiene on a regular basis, so it’s the unusual case that we would have to remind a guy to shave and shower. If I have to ask the majority of people I know if they took a bath today, at some point I would wonder what kind of upbringing they had. In the same way it makes sense to me to just assume certain basic things about our faith and let those beliefs rest as the foundation and build from there. But when the Church As We Know It needs songs to constantly remind itself that its not about me and its all about God, it shows that it is operating out of the basic assumption that we don’t know the difference. It’s as if the Church As We Know It is full of people who don’t routinely take a shower and must always be told to do so. Future Pastor, people have been shackled too long with the belief that their greatest desire is to wander away from God. Lead them away from that assumption. Remind them they are a New Creation. And encourage them to write better songs.