Archive for January, 2003
Posted by LT in on January 29, 2003
We don’t need another hero
Perhaps we are not called to be heroes. In the past I’ve posted my thoughts about how I liked the show Smallville and the role of superman. I think that God is trying to tell me that if there is any hero for the church it isn’t me, it is Him. I don’t know how many people have the desire to be the one valiant soldier holding back the darkness so I don’t know how applicable my thoughts will be to most of the people that read this.
I’m finding that when I try to live up to the standard of hero I never quite do it. I always fail. I’m always disappointed. I’m often motivated by the state of the church and feel as though I’m somehow more responsible to fix things because I am one of the select few that are brave enough to acknowledge the problem. I have tied my self worth to this role and it has resulted in no small amount of pride at times. My lack of stunning success in my first formal ministry position (an internship) struck a hard blow to my ego. I felt worthless because I failed in my mission to be the people’s hero, God’s hero.
I’m starting to learn that my role is to be faithful to God. To be faithful with what He has given me. I am not expected to be a hero. I’m expected to let God work through me. I can be honest and acknowledge there are major problems, these things can stir inside me, but I must remember that the biggest difference I can make is when I’m yoked with the Lord.
There are serious problems with the political wing of the anti-abortion movement.
1) The abortion issue is a political one and the right wing political parties use this issue to get votes but don’t have the courage to impose restrictions on abortion to an unwilling public. Those in the “Christian right” are used as pawns in a political game.
2) 1Cor 10:3,4 “For though we live in the world we are not carrying on a worldly war, for the weapons of our warfare are not worldly but have divine power to destroy strongholds.”
I don’t believe we are addressing this issue on the right battleground. The early church turned the Roman Empire upside down through the gospel and love. God used the Methodists to transform the social fabric of an entire nation. We have given up on our calling to be salt and light to pursue political change. It is convenient for us to blame society for its moral shortcomings because it removes us from our responsibility. We are the light blaming the darkness for being dark.
Once we start using the tools of the enemy we have lost. We have lost on this issue time and time again and are to blind to see it. This isn’t about political correctness, its about righteousness. When we mock, when we ridicule are we reflecting the character of God or our fallen human nature? Our little self-righteous barbs may make us feel better. They may convince us that we occupy some moral high ground, but in the end we prove ourselves no better than the people we criticize.
If the question of abortion is an issue of righteousness and holiness then political action will do no more for people than dead religion.
Lack of Commitment?
Thousands of people have left traditional institutional Christianity and claim that they have no problems with God, just church. I feel the same way. I’ve never stopped attending church worship services. I’ve supported bible colleges and bible camps in my area.
It seems most of the current church leadership views these church leaver” types as somewhat misguided people who share in societies fear of commitment. Most, if not all institutional leaders will admit the institutional church has areas which it can improve but they see an inherent weakness in the church leaver”. They are unwilling to commit because all of North American society has shifted that way. The church leaver” is reflecting the culture of the time.
There is some obvious truth to this claim. I recognize this in my own life. I don’t understand how people can work for the same company for 30 years. I live in a world of broken trust. Families are patchworks of divorce and remarriage. Multi-billion dollar companies defraud their investors. If you aren’t watching where you place your trust you can get burned.
People don’t want to commit because they aren’t sure where they can commit. Is the organization I support more committed to our shared ideals than their own self existence? If I participate in a community will I be serving something that is greater than myself? I think people are leaving larger institutions for house churches and casual fellowships because they are attracted to something small and transparent. People want to become fully committed, but they need to know that their trust is not misplaced. In a simpler, smaller group, the shared ideals are not lost in the complexity of organized religion.
Other people leave institutions because there is a considerably negative affect on their spiritual and emotional life and need to leave for their own good. It is funny how so many people view the church leaver” as some disgruntled church folk who can’t handle the humanity of church. Undoubtedly this is the case for many. However many people leave the church because they prefer spiritual life over death. It’s not about having a perfect church. It’s about coming out in better shape than you came in.
I’ve never really been a church leaver” in a technical sense. I’ve consistently attended worship services and volunteered my time in different capacities. Every time I try to go deeper and commit myself I find it very difficult. Not because it’s imperfect but because I think my resources can be better utilized in a different context. ROI” is a common business term. It means return on investment. If church was a business and spiritual fruit were the currency I’d have to conclude that there is to much overhead in church ministry. It takes too much to produce so little. We don’t recognize this because we think numbers, programs and facilities are currency in the kingdom of God.
Leadership and Humanity
In ministry there is a mortal fear of letting the people you lead see your humanity. I believe that is because the people have placed you in a privileged position of power. You are God’s special one, and their faith in you is somehow translated in to faith in God. Once you appear human you lose your pseudo-divine status. Without that status you no longer have the same power to persuade your followers. Ultimately it’s a loss of control.
The problem doe not lie in our ability to keep up a false appearance. The problem lies in our concept of leaders and leadership. People should know their leaders are real people with weaknesses like anyone else. We treat our leaders very poorly. We expect them to live up to our expectations and when they don’t serve up an appetizing bite of ministry for us to consume we abandon them or run them down behind their backs.
Leaders should be people of integrity. They shouldn’t have a lot to hide. Leaders should abandon all falsehood and give up on using rank and status to control people. Paul boasted of his weakness, because God’s power is perfected through it. We have a choice. Are we going to rely on our own power of rank, status and persuasion or do we trust in God’s power? Do the leaders of the emerging church have enough faith to believe that God will work more through their weakness?
Last night I taught an evening class on Mormonism. I was anxious about this class for a couple of reasons. Evening classes are 3 times longer than a normal class. Last semester I received poor reviews from more than half of the students.
There were some obvious weaknesses in the evaluation form and I was evaluated in direct comparison to a very good veteran teacher. Despite these modifying factors I was devastated. I’m not used to failure and I discovered how much fear I have associated with failure. In the last few years much of what I’ve set my heart to do has been a success.
Last night I had 5 different students do a more in depth analysis and things came back much much better. I feel so much better. I was very well prepared for this class and I tried very hard to improve upon my main weak area which was structure and organization.
I have another 3 classes to teach next week on biblical ethics. I know a lot more about Mormons than I do about biblical ethics. I hope I can do as well.
Posted by LT in on January 19, 2003
How much of church about control?
My study of Mormonism revealed that the church has often covered up embarrasing elements of their history. It seems as though sincere and otherwise honest people feel they need to lie. They deceive there own people because they feel it is the people’s best interest.
This practice isn’t uncommon in evangelicalism. It is more subtle. I know some people who were on a mission trip who were encouraged not to share any negative opinions about the experience. I once found myself in conflict with a leader because I felt the promotional material he wrote was dishonest. At times church leadership wants to mold peoples opinions about a particular event or program. As soon as we resort to controling people we have disempowered them.
The Kingdom of God is more about God’s power than our ability to persuade.
Over the past couple of months I’ve noticed a lot of dissatisfaction with church among a wide variety of people in my social circle. Even those involved in full-time ministry are questioning the validity of how church is done. In the past my cynical musings about church raised eyebrows and sometimes concern. Now, more than ever, people quietly share with me their misgivings about church. They are still too reserved to be as open as I am but some are much more disillusioned than I am. I’ve been surprised because I once felt like a radical but compared to some I’m moderate.
Last night I really enjoyed being part of a small fellowship group. It was nice to share, be myself and pray. I hope this little community becomes the heart of what I would call church. I’ve been thinking a little bit about house church networks and the potential to use the Internet to pool teaching and discipleship resources.
Where am I to go
This quote by Robert Webber has me stirring in side.
“Pragmatics, being fixed, have little room for those who are shaped by the postmodern revolution. A clash is emerging. The younger evangelicals will not have a voice in the pragmatic, fixed mentality. Stay there and your spirit will die (there are some exceptions, pray for discernment).”
You can read the rest of the interview this before.
This morning I went to my car planning to attend a Sunday morning service but I couldn’t think of anywhere I would want to go.
Later on in the article Webber suggests the following. “Leave. Do a start up church. Be a tentmaker. Build communities. Small groups. Neighborhood churches. Be willing to let your life die for Jesus as you break with the market driven, culture shaped, numbers oriented, Wall-Mart-something-for-everyone church. Be an Abraham and take a risk. God will show up and lead the way.”
I think he’s right.
‘What is an evangelical?’ we ask.
‘Who cares?’ they respond.
‘Revive preaching!’ we cry.
‘No one’s listening!’ they respond.
‘Reinforce the theological foundations of authority and objectivity, ‘ we write to another.
‘You confuse the authority of the Bible and the gospel with your own needs for control and prestige,’ they accuse.
‘Tell them they will die without church and the preaching of the Word,’ we intone.
‘But Church and preaching killed us!’ they cry back.
‘But we know the bible and can teach you,’ we plead.
‘We are no longer in awe of you,’ they calmly reply. ‘Many of use are better educated and more well-read than you; we are no longer mystified by the canons and subtleties of exegesis and hermeneutic; we occupy positions of far greater professional and social responsibility; we have far greater experience of the world; we can teach as well or better than you; our conversations have life and meaning that your erudition and eloquence never match-so tell us, why do we need you?’
‘Your postmodern and therapeutic themes will cut you loose from the Bible and the gospel,” we warn.
‘Maybe, maybe not,’ they muse. ‘We choose that risk, for we simply cannot go back; we have not turned our backs on Jesus or the bible, only on your constraint of our lives; we look for new places where the Bible and the gospel may ring true again.’
Strom, Mark. Reframing Paul: Conversations in Grace & Community
(Downers Grove: Illinois, 2000), p 230-231.