If we, as the church, just ignore this, it will go away, right?

Posted on by Cor in FAITH | 8 Comments

ostrich hiding its head under sand to protect it from strong wind“Ignoring is not the path to redeeming.” This quote comes from Wesley Hill.

If you don’t know him, let me introduce you. He is an assistant professor of Biblical Studies at Trinity School for Ministry in Pennsylvania. He’s written a book titled, Washed and Waiting, Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality. 

This is not a post on homosexuality. It’s much bigger than that.

In the book, Hill confronts this enormous issue in a highly redemptive manner. He confronts tired cliches and shoots down silver bullet solutions. He shares the experience of noteworthy Christian leaders as well as his own. And he offers a redemptive way forward for both individuals and the Church. Simply put, Hill does not ignore the issue.

The conversation I’m wanting to start today is asking the Church what issues are we ignoring? Where may we be standing in the way of God’s redemptive efforts rather than helping? What do we need to stop ignoring and start addressing?

shoved-head-into-sandThe temptation to ignore is great. I feel it most often as a dad. One son hits the other. The inner monologue starts, I didn’t just see that. Because if I did, I’d have to address it. But if I didn’t then I don’t. In that moment ignoring is more appealing than confronting. But it doesn’t help my kids. Ignoring isn’t the path to redeeming for them.

And I’m eternally grateful that ignoring wasn’t the path Christ took. Can you imagine?

God the Father: I’m sending you into the world.

God the Son: Great.

God the Father: You are to lead, teach, and serve. You will heal the sick. You will raise the dead. Many people will choose to follow you.

God the Son: Check.

God the Father: You will die a horrific death on a cross on account of the sins of the people in order to redeem them.

God the Son. Wait. What sin?

It’s comical when stated that way. But every Christian is eternally indebted to Christ for not ignoring. Our path to redemption is paved by Christ who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

And what I’m not desiring is a belligerent church. Right? This is the brand of Christianity that can’t wait to confront. They love the blistering sound bite. They live to invoke the name of God against the heathens. They don’t ignore. That’s for sure. But it’s hard to imagine much (any?) redemption coming from this approach.

reality-keySo, what does the Church need to stop ignoring?

This could be things happening within the Church. Two that come to mind for me are the exodus of young people leaving the American Church and the Bible as absolute truth.

It could also be issues happening outside the Church. What do you believe are the issues, such as poverty, happening in our world that the Church needs to stop ignoring?

What can we, all of us together, address in order to share in God’s redemption work? Because ignoring is not the path to redeeming.

Please share your valuable thoughts!

 

If the church is just after your money, what are you after?

Posted on by Cor in FAITH | 2 Comments

Screen Shot 2014-06-24 at 12.06.47 PMIt’s a well-worn defense: The church is just after my money.

I knew those words even before I knew the church was after my money. I knew the defense to the argument before I ever knew the argument.

My church (more correctly our church, most correctly God’s church), Hope Community, is experiencing a financial hardship.

We are not the first church to encounter economic realities. We will not be the last.

As an institution we rely on the generosity of the people we serve.

As such, there are times of overflowing generosity.

In those moments, perhaps, we don’t reflect back to our people and to God our supreme gratitude. Maybe they are unaware of how thankful we are for their gifts. It’s possible they don’t know how filled with joy we are when another week, month, season, or year goes by of financial solvency.

If so, that is our mistake as leaders.

THANK YOU, Hope Community Church! It has been months and years since we’ve faced such a shortfall. Yes, there have been family meetings in the recent past. But we have not considered delaying a payroll since 2005, nine long years ago. This has been sweet, sweet music for our ministry to dance to.

During the past decade, your faithfulness has permitted us to focus our energy, prayers, efforts, strategizing, thoughts, and passion into the work of the ministry. And the less work we need to do ON the ministry means the more work we can be doing IN the ministry.

Alternatively, there are lean times. The financial realities of the organization surpass what has been provided. Amidst a church where the average age is 25, we are well acquainted with stretching a dollar like a rubber band. We’ve been doing so for years.

But what happens when the rubber band snaps?

That’s what we’re facing. There are hard realities that we, as a church, need to address. (Hello, to you readers who are not a part of Hope. I trust you’ll be blessed as you continue reading.)

And we have and will continue to address this by asking the people of Hope to begin giving or increase their giving or offering a one time gift.

TCJWMMscreen“There it is! The church is just after my money,” the critic may conclude.

Let me respond to that criticism with a story.

A few years back my wife experienced a series of illnesses.

In her search for wellness she learned much about our food system. One lesson was the difference between organic and non-organic foods.

I couldn’t tell the difference. Both groups of food were labeled milk or eggs or bananas. They were shelved next to one another at the store. Apparently there’s a small USDA certification written in blue to delineate the organic from the non. I didn’t notice.

What I did notice is the organic food we were now purchasing was 30-150% more than the non-organic. I was having a hard time understanding why we would choose to pay more for eggs when we could pay less for eggs.

There were three ways that my wife helped me understand.

  • The first helper was the taste. I could taste the difference between organic chicken and non-organic chicken. The same was true for peanut butter. The organic eggs tasted fantastic. The non-organic eggs were kind of…blah.
  • The second was the name. Eggs are eggs, right? No. My wife helped me to see that when I purchase organic eggs, it’s actually a qualitatively different product than non-organic eggs. The two are not created equal. Nor do they taste equal. Eggs are not eggs if one is organic and the other not. They are two different products. So it stands to reason that the cost would be different between the two.
  • The third was they differed in how they were planted, grown, cared for, fertilized, processed, etc.

So is the church just after your money? Maybe. It depends. On what? On you.

What value do you place on your church? What amount of money are you willing to offer up to keep her healthy? At what cost are you willing to pay to ensure its unity? At what price do you commit so the staff is thriving?

Put another way, how costly is an unhealthy church? A burnt out staff? Leadership that can’t focus efforts IN ministry because all of it must be focused ON ministry? I can get you these things and make it quite cheap!

A church is a church is a church, right? No.

A church that is well led, well staffed, well supported, and well resourced will look and feel differently. It’ll have a different taste!

Money does not equal health. Only being close to Christ brings genuine health.

But money can be a helpful tool to make sure the best resources (which, in our case, means staff) are in place. They can then plant, care for, fertilize, etc. as God brings the growth!

Does-God-Really-Care-About-My-Money.pptxIs the church after your money? Well, technically, it’s God’s money (1 Cor. 4:7). But he has permitted you to steward it. You are free under God to use it however you wish.

But if you’re unwilling (don’t say unable…ALL of us has something) to share, why is that?

If the church is just after your money, what are you after through withholding your money?

QUESTIONS:

Do you believe the Church is just after your money? If so, what does the Church need to do in order to counteract that stigma?

When did anxiety become an acceptable sin?

Posted on by Cor in FAITH | 9 Comments

worry-445511There’s a form of anxiety that is common. You know it like the back of your hand. And you’ve learn to live with it and accept it into your life like a friend. This is type of anxiety most of us face.

There’s a severe form of anxiety. It affects fewer people. It is serious. And it has been given a serious response HERE.

This post is on the former.

Let me ask, when did anxiety become an acceptable sin?  

Is it because anxiety is so universal? As someone confesses, we all shake our heads in agreement with the confessor. “Yeah,” we pander, “anxiety is tough.”

Is it because it’s misunderstood? We could define anxiety as an excessive care or concern. That doesn’t sound too bad. I mean, if a little bit of care and concern is a good thing, then A LOT of care and concern should be better. Right?

Anxiety is actually a great prayer request. It’s akin to asking for
prayer for “caring too much and working too hard.” 

Imagine different styles of music representing different confessional styles. No one wants a small group filled with Hard Rock in-your-face-and-too-excessive-in-detail confessions. Nor is this the place for recycled/outdated/Oldies confessions from childhood. After all, we do want transparency. And we’re sure to balk at (or throat punch) the teenager-pop-station confession about how no prayer is needed because life is sooooo great. And do I even need to add the annoyance of country confessions? How often are you going to confess about drinking excessively after losing your truck, dog, or gal (or some combo)?

So we choose LITE FM confessions. Working too hard is confession LITE. Caring too much is confession LITE. Being anxious about (insert something that is truly important) is confession LITE. It’s not ugly. It’s understandable. It’s acceptable.

Screen Shot 2014-06-10 at 11.01.13 AMAnxiety just ain’t that ugly anymore.

That’s not how the Bible speaks of it. 

Listen to this almost biblical description of anxiety and what the response ought to be:

“Anxiety is practicing failure in advance. It is needless and imaginary. It’s fear about fear, fear that means nothing. Anxiety is diffuse and focuses on possibilities in an unknown future, not a real and present threat…’needless anxiety’ is redundant because anxiety is always needless.”

Wow. That’ll preach.

Where did this quote come from? Was it one of our contemporary rock star preachers? Was it the sage Keller or the excitable Chandler? Was it one of the famous dead guys named Spurgeon, Luther, Calvin, or Lewis?

Nope. None of them.

This seemingly Christian advice comes from a person I have no reason to believe is a Christian: Seth Godin. Seth is an author, entrepreneur, marketer, and public speaker. He has a lot of great things to say but he is not a preacher. And his advice comes not from the Bible but as attempt to help people overcome resistance they face.

Screen Shot 2014-06-10 at 11.04.27 AMOr consider this quote from Mark Twain: I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.

So, get this, anxiety is decried in the Bible (which should be enough). And by Seth Godin. And by Mark Twain. But not by us. Hmmmm…

Anxiety is fear about fear. We are afraid about what could happen. What could happen has NOT happened. Yet it could. And our response to it is fear.

We excessively concerns ourselves with thoughts of potential doom and how that would make us feel and change our lives. We plot and plan our own demise which has not happened (and almost certainly won’t, at least not to the degree we create in our minds). And then we consider how we could avoid it. Or overcome it. And when no exit or power is evident, our worry increases!

And it is needless.

Why?

God. 

“There it is,” you respond, “The trump card of all trump cards. I mean, which of us is smart enough to summon a defense against the Great Almighty? Okay, God. You win. You’re right. I won’t be anxious about this anymore.”

That last line morphs into “I’ll try not to be anxious anymore” which further dilutes to “I’ll ask for prayer for it.” Dah!! We’re right back where we started.

How do we get off this anxiety roller coaster?

  1. We turn from anxiety because God is over all. Simply put, because God exists, we need not (must not) be anxious. He knows what you need. Your excessive care and concern isn’t helpful. God’s got this.
  2. We seek God daily because he is first in our lives. Tim Chester says in You Can Change, “We often associate the sovereignty of God with theological debates. But for all of us it’s a daily practical choice” (emphasis mine).

“I can’t just not be anxious,” you respond. Yes, you can. Because of him. Turn away from it. Turn back to God. You may not even realize how far it has carried you away from God. Don’t accept that. Don’t ever accept that.

QUESTIONS
  1. What anxiety do you need to turn away (rather than just confess)? Does it help to recast anxiety from excessive care to fear about fear? How might God lessen your fear about fear?
  2. How can we, as a community of people, help one another to not let the sin of anxiety rule in our lives?

Stop treating the church like Old Country Buffet

Posted on by Cor in FAITH | 16 Comments

Ben GarvinConfession: I love buffets. There’s such a variety. And the quantity of food is the restaurant version of Costco. I mean, c’mon, the bacon comes in bulk. It’s an incredible invention. I feel like a king. I can choose exactly what I want and avoid that unidentifiable, seemingly discolored soup in the corner.

The reality is many of us are treating our churches similarly. We love the variety. We love the quantity of options available. We can hit up what we like and avoid what we don’t like. The fellowship is offered in bulk. We can be misled to think the church is here to serve us rather than us being here to serve the church.

Let me share a couple of examples to illustrate.

Years ago I led our “hands and feet” ministry. The idea is simple: serve the community around us. What I found is people loved the idea of being the hands and feet of Jesus. I’ve never seen so many people sign up for a ministry. You’d think we were petitioning the government to send Justin Bieber back to Canada. But in reality, on a Saturday morning, when rivaled against sleeping in, going for a run, or sipping a latte with a friend, Jesus’ hands and feet proved lame (in both senses of the word: boring and unable to walk).

I’m not hear to criticize others. I’m guilty of this. I’m a fan of the OCB church.

Another illustration comes out of small groups. Whether called small groups, cell groups, missional communities, soma communities, or yo-momma communities (okay, that last one was made up), the aims are similar. We read and study the Word. We encourage one another to keep living for Christ. We invite others to join us. And we experience “fellowship.” And fellowship is often where it goes pear-shaped (that’s a metaphor for “not good”).

Prayer-Youth-945212609_e9693e173bFellowship is an amazing reality where believers in Christ perform the “one anothers”. The Bible calls us to love one another, serve one another, care for one another, exhort one another, and forgive one another. Unfortunately, fellowship has been mistaken for friendship. Why is that problematic? Well, when many people think friendship they mistakenly (and often unconsciously!) warp this to mean someone is to be my friend. So someone in my small group should love me, serve me, care for me, *skip the part where they exhort me* and forgive me.

Again, I point the finger at myself. I find it much easier when someone befriends me with love, care, and forgiveness. It’s much harder when I’m asked to reciprocate and be a friend to them.

The OCB church has so much to offer me and asks nothing from me in return. I can receive. I don’t need to give. I take the best of the best and ignore everything else.

Just like too much OCB has consequences (“C’mon now, PREACH IT!”), so does treating the church like OCB.

To stop treating the church like OCB, we need to start viewing church more as a potluck.

What’s the biggest difference between the two? Unlike with a buffet, you and I are expected to contribute something to a potluck.

Back when I was a college student our church was quite small. There were a few founding families. And then there were a bunch of college students. I’m sure you can imagine what our potlucks were like. There were one or two crock pots which were quickly emptied by the first few through the line. And what remained were countless bags of potato chips and 2-liter bottles of pop. Neither nutritious nor filling but that’s all we college students could afford.

The church is rightly viewed as a potluck, NOT a buffet. The potluck church may not offer nearly as many options. There may be less variety. It may feel like the only thing coming in bulk is frustration. You may feel more like a servant than a king or queen.

Honestly, you may find yourself giving more to this potluck than those around you. You may be opening your house more often, sharing your time more frequently, and losing more Saturday mornings than others. Your potluck contribution may dwarf the contribution of others.

All I can say is “Thank you!”

Your example exhorts me to stop my OCB thinking. Your giving, rather than waiting to receive, preaches Jesus’ words that it is more blessed to give than receive. Your acknowledgement of the messy person in our midst calls me to stop playing favorites. Your “one anothering” of this broken, ugly, lame bride of Christ reminds me of how much more Jesus loves his bride. Thank you.

So let’s together exchange our a la carte, OCB spirituality for something much more compelling and filling.  

QUESTIONS:

  • Do you agree or disagree with the message that we need to stop treating the church like OCB? Why or why not?
  • What else do you think can be done so we can help one another to view the church more as a potluck?

  • I like to start conversations around the gospel in the areas of your life that matter most. Your comments are critical to the conversation!

    For the times in your life when you feel woefully inadequate

    Posted on by Cor in FAITH | 1 Comment

    comparing-300x232We all have feelings of inadequacy. Some are easily dismissed. Others linger. And some take root.

    So what is (or should be) our response to feelings of inadequacy as followers of Christ?

    Here is a cause-and-effect-and-response that we can employ in 4 common life situations.

    Situation #1

    Situation #2
    • CAUSE: You feel inadequacy to enjoy your life as it is.
    • EFFECT: This results in a perpetual pursuit of pleasure and comfort. It’s a life of seeking happiness through excesses in stuff, health, travel, recreation, entertainment, food, and more.
    • RESPONSE: Remember God is good! He is the source of lasting joy. Recognize Jesus is your source of comfort. Seek God’s Spirit to bring you joy.
    Situation #3
    • CAUSE: You feel inadequacy in your identity.
    • EFFECT: This results in a need to continually prove yourself and value to others. It can be observed in attention-seeking, appearance, social crowds, achievements, titles, positions, and relationships.
    • RESPONSE: Remember God is gracious! Let Jesus be your approval. Let your life be hidden in his in order to take on the identity of God’s child. May God’s Spirit be your seal and guarantee that your identity and inheritance are secure.
    devin_six_flags_height_chartSituation #4
    • CAUSE: You feel inadequacy to achieve what you want in life.
    • EFFECT: This results in a need to produce results. Your life constitutes a pursuit of power, success, influence, position, and control.
    • RESPONSE: Remember God is glorious! Let Jesus be your power. He has delivered THE result. This shows us our best pursuit is to live in His Spirit.

    Remembering that God is great, good, gracious and glorious allow us to confront feelings of inadequacy.

    And it keeps the other stuff (which can be very good) in their proper places.

    QUESTIONS:

    Which situation do you struggle with most often or most deeply?

    How might your life change as a result of changing your response to these feelings of inadequacy?

    * This was adapted from a seminar by Scott Thomas.