Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Church: what in the world are we doing?

(Thoughts about church spawned by a conversation in staff meeting...)

No, I mean really, what in the world's are we doing? Our world, the world, doesn't matter. What are we doing that does matter?

When asked what they wanted in the open position for another associate pastor the church board suggested a family pastor and/or counseling. That made me sad.

I don't deny those are good things, and a counselor on staff would be good. But what do they really need? Do they need another pastor to hover over them, to provide events and activities for them?  As I look at our staff, everyone of us is for nurturing the people. None of us spend the bulk of our time helping our people reach out and be a light. What are we doing to equip the members? What are we doing to get them out into the world to make a difference? All of the pastoral staff work at taking care of the people. What about a staff position that taught the people to be the church rather than just go to church?

I am trying to think of something we do as a staff, on a regular basis, that trains members, that pushes them, encourages them to grow and stretch, to reach out and to follow their gifting. I got nothing right or hand.

What is our task as pastors, biblically speaking? Ephesians: training and equipping, preparing God's people for works of service, to reach maturity and grow up into Christ (4:11-16).

Not everyone would want that, but can't we have one who focuses on that? Can't we have some staff that take care of those who need it, and one who challenges, coaches, trains members how they can be a living witnesses? Will God say that we have been faithful to what He wanted from us? Huddled behind our beautiful stained glass, what do we have to offer the community?

I'm tired of catering to the people, providing for them when they should be able to provide for themselves. Doesn't that sounds bad? It is like we have become over indulgent patents always giving the kids what they want/demand. But we know in the long run that is actually doing more harm than the good we desire. The results are being taken for granted and having to compete with everything else that is going on in their lives. Maybe they will show up, what we provide is seen as simply one of many options.

How many people have been brought to church, studied with, led to accept Christ by members? How many baptisms have been a result of members investing in the lives of others? Why aren't parents studying with their kids, why aren't spouses studying with their other, friends study with their friends? Why are pastors doing the studying? Why are we the 'professionals'? Because we have stepped into that role. We have allowed ourselves to be viewed as such. We have failed to train others who would be perfectly capable doing those tasks.

We have coddled when we should have challenged, provided when we should have pushed,  loved on when we should have let loose. And because of that we now have a bloated congregation of satisfied, comfortable spectators. God's people need to see the power they can possess, they need to know the gifts the have been given, and they need to be unleashed from the pew mentality in order to grow into the fullness of Christ.

We claim to be the body of Christ. I don't see that. We are a body if the definition is a group of individuals gathering around common values and beliefs. But the Bible defines it differently. It isn't a gathering group. It is a functioning organism, with moving, living parts, each assigned a specific task. Every part connected in purpose, every part doing its job, every part led by the Head. Instead we have most every part staring at the back of someone's head watching a few others do the tasks.

And the crazy thing is this is generally accepted as how it is supposed to be, or at least as the best we can have for now. Is it really? If so I am saddened by how we claim to be people of the Book and yet we don't believe how it describes us to be.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Where have you been?

Been a while, huh?
Where have I been?
I have begun to fully embrace the journey I am on.

I am tired of theological abstractions.
I want experience
to experience God.
I have been looking for depth...
still am.

I want my complacency to look into the awesome majesty of God;
I want to feed my spiritual discontent,
I want to be moved to my knees,
renew my vision of the Glory.

So I've been reading.
Reading about other's experience,
Other people's journey toward the mystery that is our God.
I am finding my heart resonate with some of their words,
vibrating to some ancient tune.

I am drawn toward silence,

But I resist at the same time.
This is so outside my tradition,
but I feel this is who I am.
Or who I am becoming.

But there must be balance,
Without it I can be "so heavenly minded that I'm no earthly good."
So here I stand,
following a new path.

Where have I been?
Embracing the Mystery.

Friday, December 02, 2005


In November I attended the NYWC in Nashville. It was a good time, quite possibly a great time. I got to hang out with some of my best friends, hear some good speakers, and get fed professionally and spiritually.

But it wasn’t a mountain top experience. No, I would say that it was a sanctuary experience. It was an extended time in the presence and awareness of God. Rather than running around trying to get to all the seminars and meetings, I walked, listened, prayed. I attended to my soul in the hopes that such a thing would have a positive impact on my ministry back home.

I spent time allowing my soul to cry out to God. I stepped outside my denominational tradition and stretched my experience. I found God in solitude and in the voices of 7,500 youth workers screaming to a David Crowder praise song. I found Him in meditation and in an engaging conversation over Thai food. I found Him in the deep study of a scripture text and in quiet rest on the floor against a wall. I found Him in a professional hockey arena and in an old cathedral.

Through it all I kept thinking about what will happen when I get home, or how I can use this or that. And God kept telling me to enjoy the now. Enjoy the now. I’m much better at evaluating the past or thinking about the future. Enjoy the now. Why? ‘Cause God is in the now, I just need to pay attention.

Part of Enjoy the now is the need to be. Not do, not did. But be and have faith that God will. I have to admit to myself, and God, that I’m weak on faith in that will. Isn’t that my job, to do? And it strikes that maybe I focus too much on what my job is and too little on my being.

Of the things that I learned I hope that one of those I remember will be to be. Be aware of God. Be open to His voice. Be listening for His whisper, smelling for His breath, feeling for His heartbeat. Be. In His presence. Be. With my family. Be. Actively listening to whoever is talking to me. Just be.


Thursday, November 10, 2005


I’m just finishing reading the Circle Trilogy by Ted Dekker, so that has some influence on where my heart and mind went while reading this Psalm for devotions…

Psalms 63:1
Oh God, YOU are my God,
Earnestly I seek You
; [earnest – sincere and intense conviction]

I long for something so much more than I have inside, than what I see outside. There is little passion in this soul of mine, save that which is desperate for more passion. Can you be passionate about wanting to be more passionate?

(63:1)My soul thirsts for You, [soul – life, mind, heart, passion
My body longs for You, [long for – faint with longing]
In a dry and weary land
Where there is no water

I love my church, but I hate its lack of expression, vibrancy, and fevered desire for more. We have the Spirit, but where is the wind? Where is the down pour of creative power that pushes us to find more souls out there hurting? As I cry against others I look and see myself sitting down in the sand, content to just wait to be rescued.

(:6) On my bed I remember You;
I think of You through the watches of the night.

I lay there, restless, worried; my mind tossing around, trying to get settled. My heart calls out to Deep. I’m frantic for more of God, I know there’s more

(:7) Because You are my help,
I sing in the shadow of Your wings.

Not on a mountain top, but in a shadow, His shadow, I recite the song of the Great Romance. Only slightly louder than what is required for me to hear. As I feebly hum the cords, His passion floods over me, His heart woos me, pursues me.

(:8) My soul clings to You;
Your right hand upholds me.

Humbly I realize that though I am a man, I am but a small child. In my mind’s eye I see myself clinging to His leg as an unsure and frightened little boy would. Gently, but powerfully, I watch His large, strong hands wrap around my shoulders.

Oh Father, when will I grow up? When will I be the warrior, tall and bold and confident, that You want me to be, that You are making me to be?

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

A Picture of Home

The other night I had a picture of home.

It was a simple ceremony, but moving for those attending. My brother-in-law and his Army unit had just returned home from Iraq. At a local high school stadium the Brass had a welcome home ceremony. There were 5 or 6 distinguished guests giving there thoughts and the such. However, the most poignant moment came after all the speeches and thanks.

Here is what I saw. After the congressmen and government officials gave their commendations, after the generals and support staff concluded their appreciations and approval the unit lined up in formation, front and center. Their khaki desert fatigues clean and sharp, with hats on their heads and shoulders straight and tall.

The First Sergeant then read thru all 75 names in the unit, after each name (save one) that person would shout, "Here First Sergeant" in full military intonation. It was interesting to hear the brief cheers and hoots from some excited family members in the bleachers.

It's funny, but time didn't drag on like it seems to at say a graduation. Instead the slow process allowed for the magnitude of the moment to set in each of our hearts.

Finally when all the names had been read and everyone was present and accounted for, the First Sergeant passed the list off to the Captain who congratulated them on a job well done. Then in a commanding voice he said, "313, lets go home!"

The whole place exploded into shouts of joy and celebration. The sky was filled with hats as the entire unit threw them up. Struck with sudden emotion we in the bleachers had tears running down our faces as we breathed a sigh of thanks. It was as if we were finally given the OK to relax. They were home safe. They were finally home, safe.

There is a picture in the Bible. A huge crowd of people, dressed not in fatigues but robes brilliantly white with crowns on their heads, stand before their God and King. This time not in a high school stadium, but on a sea of glass. Slowly and purposefully Jesus reads off each name present, and just as slowly and purposefully the magnitude of the moment sinks in. Angels surrounding the crowd shout quick hoots and cheers. After all the names are read, Jesus turns to His Father and says, "They are all here Father, each one you gave to me."

Standing up the Father says in a commanding voice that rings through the entire universe, "Welcome home! Welcome... Home!"

With an emotional level they haven't felt since that dark day on Golgotha the angels explode with elation. Jesus' pride flashes like a supernova. Together in a concert of praise the crowd throws their crowns at His feet sighing a breath of thanks.

"We're finally home safe. We're finally home..."

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Honest to God

Oh, what joy for those whose rebellion is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight! Yes, what joy for those whose record the LORD has cleared of sin, whose lives are lived in complete honesty! Psalm 32:1,2 (New Living Translation)

Honesty. That is a loaded word, whose meaning can be pretty scary. Most of us don't tell lies or cheat on our taxes, if we've been given too much change we'll return it. But how often am I honest to God? I’m talking brutal, naked honesty.

Can I wake up in the morning with matted hair and eye boogers and say, “God I am a sinner. Just last night I let my mind run way past the pastures of purity. Yesterday I plunged a 6 inch knife of gossip into the back of one of your children. The CD I have in my player right now is a bit less than uplifting. I am incredibly envious of what so and so has. What I mean is I want it! NOW! To be honest with you I spend more time trying to get my hands on the latest tech gadgets or some sweet duds than I do developing a good character. I’d rather stay up late watching a not so great movie, and sleep to the last minute than spend time with you. Guess you could say that I’m pretty selfish, huh? Sorry God, I’m a mess.”

Honesty. Complete, brutal, naked. It is a scary thing, especially if you are a pastor. We aren't supposed to have issues like I mentioned above. We've got it all together. Right?

In Psalm 32 David tells us that those who live honest to God have a tremendous joy and freedom. Why? ‘Cause God is more than willing to forgive. If we are honest God will take out the trash in our hearts and lives.

When he refused to confess and tried to cover up sin in his life, when he pretended everything was fine and he had it all together, he was weak and miserable. He had no strength, verses 3,4. But when he confessed all his sins, and stopped trying to hide them, they were forgiven and gone. He goes on to say 'cause of this honesty God is his hiding place, trouble is kept far away, verses 5,7. Isn’t it kind of funny how we try to ignore or hide something from a God who knows it all anyway?

So I ask myself, "Do I have enough courage to expose myself before God? Am I open and true to who I am, baring all the weakness, sin, selfishness, inadequacy, apathy, and reluctance to a God who is crazy about me just as I am?"

Do you have the guts to be this honest to God?

Monday, October 10, 2005

The Victor

I just got back from my second annual Pop and Son fishing tournament. It is a silly little game my dad and I play, only now we are keeping score. It is a time where I go out to Colorado to spend a week fishing with my dad. My objective is to catch as many or more fish than my dad. Usually doesn't happen, but we share a great bonding time.

This year is a little different. This year in the closing hours of our challenge, thru freezing rain and blinding snow (really it hurt when it hit your eyes), and in the dark of the night I came away with two more fish than my dad.

I won!

Because of the snow and crappy weather we came back a couple days early. I got to spend a little bit of time with the rest of my family, which was good. However, I am being nagged by the fact that during that time they didn't see much of a change in me.

My family has seen me good, bad, and ugly. But they haven't seen me on a regular basis since I really committed to follow Christ, and since I became a pastor. Sure I don't' drink or use much of the same language I did back then, but what about me could show them the change God can make in a person's life, a person's character?

I mean they spoke God's name more than I did. I continue to struggle with how to share the God I love with my family who wants little or nothing to do Him? How do I invite my Dad to love God when he sees it as a grave weakness?

I feel like another opportunity slipped by, but I don't know how I was supposed to take advantage of that opportunity. How do you share Jesus with your family?

I drove home with the trophy in my backseat, but feeling like the loser in my heart.

Please God save my family...