Possiblities vs Guarentees

I just got a puppy.  I know…stupid move right?  Well, you’re probably right.  Honestly, the sleepless nights, the random “accidents”, and needing the patience of Job to cope with his mischief have me second guessing the whole transaction.  Ah well…  Still, we picked a great breed.  If you’ve ever researched dogs you know that breeds have very different personalities.  Take for instance my old dog, Rigby.  He was an Australian Shepherd, a herding dog.  And guess what, he was constantly herding us, constantly working. We’re convinced that he never slept.  It’s amazing, we never had to teach him to do that. His instinct kicked in. He just did it. Born that way I guess.

I think that’s how I’ve viewed the church.  Like a dog.  Engineered for certain behaviors. No effort needed.

The funny thing is that it’s really not how it works, with dogs, with humans, or with the church.

It’s why you can’t seperate a pup from it’s mother too early.  If you do, it can’t learn the things that become “instinctual” to it.  The mother conditions it and socializes it to become what it eventually does.

With humans the same is true.  Go to a human development class, you’ll find out.  It’s all about conditioning.  And there’s a variety of opinions on what kind of conditioning works, some think constant and rigid training is neccesary while others say it needs to be hands off.  But everyone agrees that there’s an element of grooming that is absolutely imperative.  Or else?  Ever hear of feral children?  Tarzan or Moglai or Nell?  The rat girl from Texas? Without socialization, without training, without that conditioning kids acculturate to the void that surrounds them, be it rats or wolves or monkeys.  We become what we’re around.  Even though we have the possibility to function as a full human there is no guarentee…the right conditions have to be in place.

It’s true of the church too.  She may have the right genetic code but without early socialization and conditioned relationship with her parent she becomes a wild and erratic aberration of what she was meant to be. That’s why you find Paul freaking out in 1 Thessalonians where he was only able to spend a couple of weeks, “I long to come back and impart some sort of spiritual gift to you”.  He realizes that the right foundation requires time, energy, and interaction. And some will point out that it turned out alright in Thessalonica considering the second letter.  Except…the truth is the second letter is just as frought with concern as the first.  Paul is terrified that it wasn’t enough.  It keeps him up at night. He is grieving.  I can just hear the mystic home churchers: “Come on Paul…just trust the Spirit…These guys are the church…just let them BE.  When are you going to develop faith and not worry so much?” I love it because I’ve heard those words before…

The truth that Paul knew and that life confirms is that anything born to a particular destiny has the possibility for the glorious but NOT the guarantee.  Just like life the church requires effort and labor, we must “work to preserve the unity of the Spirit” (wow…I guess that means that unity of Spirit is something we can lose…), we must “press on towards the goal”, we must “set our minds on things above” (which by the way means, set our priorities on the things that Father values…this isn’t some kind of commendation to become of no earthly good).

Just “being the church” doesn’t guarantee that we will actually express Christ’s Body, the Church.  Alot of people get confused on this point.  They throw out “wherever two or three are gathered in my name there I am” as a reference for “church happening” as Christians get together for coffee.  I can just hear a latte foam lipped guru saying: “See…THIS is Church”…over a cup of joe.  But that verse keeps going doesn’t it?  It’s about church discipline primarily and Jesus is saying that we should feel a sense of freedom in dealing with issues even when the larger gathering isn’t present.  He ends by saying, having taken the issue before the two or three, if nothing changes, “take it before the church”.  Hmmm…it would seem then that according to Jesus the two or three certainly have Christ among them, but they are not the church…just parts of it.  Again, go back to life…my own body.  My hand IS the body…but it’s not the whole body…it’s only a little piece…without the whole it won’t work.  Again, I hear an argument coming.  This is really about the universal church.  We are parts of the universal whole.  Yes…true…but unless Jesus was advocating teleconferencing, when he says “take it before the church” he means the local, locatable, assemblyable, gathering collection of interelated people.  My point?  The Church isn’t just pie in the sky atmospherics that we ARE simply by the nature of being Christians.  There is an intangible element to it that seems to congeal mysteriously and takes us from being simply Christ followers to actually representing His eternal Body.

There’s no guarantee that this moment will ever come.  Just because you get a bunch of people who love Jesus into the same room you don’t necessarily have the full expression of the Church.  You may have the raw genetic material for it.  But, as in life, it requires some growing up…some conditioning…some socializing…

Referring to the last post…it requires the kingdom…it requires some space…it requires the brush being cleared, the gospel being declared, lives rearranged…and then, in mystery beyond mysteries people might notice a change, a difference…they might not be able to explain it, but they look around and comment, “I think the Church touched down. I think it’s being expressed.  We didn’t try for it. We weren’t aiming for that…we were simply responding to Him.”

When I think of planting a new church…

Have you ever heard a three year old kid freak out because they want to put the star or the angel on top of the Christmas tree?  They whine and cry and whimper and demand to anoint the tree with a topper.

But, what if that obnoxious call to action came in July, long before December, the Christmas season, and a new doug fir freshly cut in our front living room? It’d kinda be weird wouldn’t it?  It’s just a thought really…

And so I wonder if trying to set up a church, an expression of the Bride of Christ, expressly appointed to live in organic relatedness as a many membered multi functioning physical incarnation of our Lord…whew…I wonder if trying to construct and produce that isn’t like demanding to put the tree topper on a Christmas tree before it’s been cut, long before December.

I don’t mean that comment in the ways that you may think. I’m not saying that it’s inappropriate to plant churches or form new congregations or any of that.  Really…I think there is a time and place for that.  And I’m not making this comment out of that ultra pious uber spiritual position that “man cannot build anything” kind of mentality.  I think that God has given us sanctified minds and has called us to be “co-workers” with Him. He calls ordinary fisherman to tend to his sheep as shepherds, he calls super spiritual religious elite to become foolish evangelists trekking the globe ministering to churches, he even appoints young men to raise up “elders” in congregations…I’m not challenging the fact that God uses women and men to do His work, we are as always His hands and feet.

No, what I’m saying has to do with an order to things…first things first…

Jesus came preaching the kingdom, right?  He came proclaiming a whole new way of arranging our lives around God’s priorities.  He came making the radical suggestion that God’s good dream was at hand, extremely near, and that it was accessible by those who were willing to violently reach out and take hold of it, becoming participants in God’s solution to a world corrupted by a downward spiral of fallen choices.  It seems that everywhere he went, Jesus was communicating God’s reign, God’s rule in the here and now.  This was His primary message.

Guess what he mentions twice?  The church.  2x, seriously.

And I’m not devaluing it by any means…rather I’m saying that if you look at the book of Acts, a collection of stories focussed on early believers, you find God’s ekklessia, His Church.  My point? The church comes out of the kingdom.

Allow me to further illustrate.  Jesus told a parable about a treasure and a field.  The man who wants the treasure must first secure the field. He must give everything he has for it.  Then, and only then does he gain the treasure.

jesus teachingThis is an example of seeking the kingdom first.  As we give our everything–as our lives are radically changed into his image–a space is gained, a field is secured, a clearing is made…a clearing where something can be built upon.

Before the Church can be revealed in a locality or a church can be planted, there must be a space created for the possibility of it.  That space is opened up through the proclamation of the good news of His kingdom and the practicing of the instructions of the Master kingdom citizen, Jesus.  As we hear His words and practice them we are compared to “wise builders” laying a solid foundation for a building…that building is the church…

So…let’s make this really local and practical…before there is a congregation of people organically fitted together a space must be created where people can hear the words of Jesus and evaluate their lives in the light of that reality.  The kingdom must be proclaimed to a collective of individuals.  As they choose to respond as willing vessels to God the church very well may emerge…praise God if she does…

But…we start with the kingdom…creating a space for Him to speak into peoples lives and to be transformed into His image…

From the past 8 years of organic church…that’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned…learned the hard way…still…we learn.

death and renewal cycles

Today I’ve been thinking about death and renewal cycles.

I guess what I mean is the expectation of permanence that we (or at least I) bring to most things in life.  Everything will last. Everything will endure and everything that doesn’t needs to get fixed until it does last.  So, we prop things up…we stretch it…we hold it up until we can’t keep up the charade.

I don’t know if that makes sense or not…

but, it reminds me of a relationship i had in highschool.  we dated 10 months past the point of general “badness”–where, at least, I knew there was no love in between us.  Why? Because we were trying to fix things. We were working on our relationship.  And those 10 months were hellish. They ended hellishly too.  The whole thing was appalling.  the thing is that we couldn’t quit. we couldn’t look at each other and say: “it’s over”.

kinda makes me wonder how many churches or denominations have been living out that scenario for, oh i don’t know, 500 years…working on it…fixing the problems…stirring up the embers..

because we don’t know how to say: “the life is gone. let’s move on”

it, for me, goes back to that sense of permanence…and that’s what church planters today and house church guru’s are all selling.  i actually heard one guy say: “come to our house church…join our movement…our churches last…”

really? and even if that weren’t a whopping lie…would that even be realistically desirable?

does any living thing live forever? is it supposed to? or do living things (and the church is a living creature…a SHE…a Bride…a Body) all have death and renewal cycles?

Maybe what we need are new ways to live well and die well.  Maybe what we need are new forms that make saying “it’s over” acceptable…where “it’s over” might actually mean “it’s just beginning”.

isn’t that the nature of resurrection?

isn’t death required to be raised anew?

i don’t know…

True Worship (an out of context quote)

I found this…I love the definition of worship it provides…Worship is movement…it’s being moved. Truly and positionally moved…great stuff

True worship is:

When we willingly forgo other things to come together as a community and put ourselves under the Word of God- when we listen to Him, and allow Him to speak to us, push us, challenge and change us- that’s worship. When we respond inwardly and outwardly…saying “Yes God- You are more worthy than my job, than my possessions, than my hobbies and than myself of my love and devotion,” we worship.

Worship is trusting God, not myself, and it’s loving God- not my idols. It’s actively pulling my focus from myself and my wants and putting that focus on Him- His desires for this world. I think about who God is, what He’s done for me, and I am moved.

The whole point of worship is to “move us.” But when I say that I’m not talking about simply whether or not we had an emotional, charismatic-like experience. When I say “moved” I mean: If we don’t find that our hearts have been moved from idols, whatever they are, toward God, we haven’t worshiped.

Find the rest here…It’s interesting and I’m thoughtful about it’s implications within the original context it was written in–provoking I must say (especially from a house church/organic/emergent type perspective which tends to reject [along with the rest of modern culture] the role of sermonics)…

Use and Abuse

Reaction is popular no matter what way we try to slice it. And of course…we’re never living in reaction…we simply learned from our mistakes (READ: “I was wrong THEN and I’m right now”).

There are three reactions I’d like to mention…I wish I could look at them more specifically and maybe y’all can help me with this. I have some thoughts on the matter but they’re pretty tightly packed together so it’s hard to post a short thing (which I’m trying to do)…so I’ll simply bring them up:

1) BAD LEADERSHIP HAS BEEN REACTED TO BY THROWING OUT LEADERSHIP ALTOGETHER–some of you won’t get this statement…but for some context, I would identify my “tribe” as the organic/house church world. It seems like this world has two extremes a)heavy handed sheep herders or b) communist societies where everyone is equal (though inevitably some are more equal than others)…I would relate more to the latter expression. In my case, I feel that we exchanged bad leadership for no leadership. My feeling right now though is that this is not a fair exchange…The opposite of bad leadership is not no leadership, it is good leadership (that is, servant leadership as modeled and taught by Jesus to those who clearly led the New Testament church).

2) ABUSE OF BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION HAS BEEN REACTED TO BY NO LONGER USING IT AT ALL–I’ve said it…you’ve said it…we’ve all said it: “Anyone can make the Bible say anything they want to”. And I think here it is important to point out that rarely is this an esoteric statement…usually, whoever is making the claim has actually had this happen to them and feels damaged in some way (or perhaps even darker–they themselves have “beat someone over the head with their prooftexts”). And because snakehandlers, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Name it and claim it/health and wealth exegesis exists and exists convincingly we’d rather not emulate their trend of (in our eyes) badly interpreting scripture…so we leave well enough alone…we don’t. But again, I would argue that the opposite of abuse of the scripture isn’t NO use, it is proper use…(of course here I know that some one will say “who determines proper use?” and while that’s a good point, I think that there are a tremendous number of resources which aim at objectivity and admit their own biases therefore making them tremendously helpful to “conversating” with the text). The point here with Scripture is not NOT to interpret…but rather to attempt to do so from as open and up front a perspective as possible…a) admitting my own biases b) admitting the authors biases as best I can c) drawing from outside conversation (such as commentary and the saints who have gone before us) while recognizing their bias and d) doing all of this in the context of a functional communal dialog. While I don’t think any of that will prevent getting horribly off base ultimately…I think that we stand a much better chance engaging in a discerning way that which is truly God’s word funneled through human writers to human readers–each with their own context and content needing to be unpacked…

3) ARROGANT ABSOLUTISM IS EXCHANGED FOR MORAL RELATIVISM–In a world where the guy who was “right” beat down everyone for differing ever so slightly we are now incredibly sensitive to propositions of “truth as fact”…And while I agree that there a billion and one “ways” and maybe not so many “goals”…I will say this…not all ways are equal. Take for instance Jesus…Jesus acknowledged that there were multiple ways which both held intrinsic benefits…but one was the way to destruction. As revealed by Jesus–Peace is better than war. Love is better than discord. Unity is better than disunity. Compassion is better than hard heartedness…I don’t mean this in any dogmatic way except to say that while all ways are real and valid–not all ways are equal…some are BETTER than others (read: Bro Johnny spitting out his coffee at this admission ;)) ). I’ve already referenced my son Judah wearing his bowl of cereal for a hat…and while I freely admit that this is a valid interpretation of a bowl–it doesn’t suit either of our purposes very well and we both got agitated…a bowl was a better interpretation in that context than a hat.

I think we need to have convictions and to carry them with the unction of the Holy Spirit–assured not of our rightness based on logic but of our calling based on leading…we also need to be humble in this and acknowledge our own frailties and foibles…but…at the end of the day there is more than one shade of gray…gray is not exactly all inclusive…The opposite of arrogant absolutism is not moral relativism and pluralism, I would present that it is humble certainty.

In the end, I need to learn to live in balance…these three point represent exchanges of one imbalance for another, one problem for another one that I have lived in and hopefully will learn from…but evolution and maturity isn’t exclusion…rather it is including that which we have done before but also being willing to transcend it. Transcend but include…balance.
What are your thoughts?