Category: Theo…

We need more stained glass windows…

 

Stained Glass Window
by Hauki-

“We will use these stones to build a memorial. In the future, your children will ask, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ Then you can tell them…” ~ Joshua 4:6-7a NLT

Where is the art?
Stained glass windows were used to communicate basic bible stories to a largely illiterate world. Part of this was an extreme case of the Bible being in a language people didn’t understand. To communicate the stories from the Bible, the church used art. The buildings, decor, everything was to communicate and teach something about God, to inspire worship. For better or worse, we’ve lost the sense of art in many churches.

Theology in Art
God frequently used artistic expression as a tool to both remember and pass on who He is. Think about this, how abstract is a pile of stones in a middle of a river? The picture itself has to be explained. Think of the passover where God uses taste to communicate bitterness- the bitter herbs. Intertwined through the Old Testament God placed artistic expression to generate conversation. Some expressions were very abstract, others very understandable, they all were intended to generate conversation and engage people in theology- understanding who God is.

Generate why….
We need awe. We need environments and opportunities that get kids and adults to ask why, to dream. There is a broader context to following Christ. Our walk of faith is not an island unto itself. God showed Himself to be the one true God. If the church is truly one body, then our story and the stories of others in history connect. Theology is not a vacuüm, its communicated and lived out in history, in life. Art understands this language, as God created that rainbow of grammar and syntax. We need more stained glass windows…

Questions:
If all the words in your ministry environments disappeared, what does it communicate about God and who you are?

What have you done to help people see what God has done through the history of your church or ministry?

Do kids in your ministry start asking questions and talking about God because of what surrounds them?

Methods and Content and Needs (oh, my!)

There is a tension between methods, content, and needs. With tensions we often pit one against each other, or take the “both/and” approach. This pours into another tendency; using nebulous terms such as balance, equilibrium or compromise. Everyone defines balance differently. We love to prioritize, especially if we’re analytical types, or just make bigger messes, if we’re mystical ministry as art types. How do we navigate these big three things?

The big three defined
What do I mean by methods and content and needs? Here are some definitions with examples of how they look when taken to an extreme:

Methods: What we do.
On steroids? Over emphasis on the non-biblical.. aka maximizing leadership, synergistic program developments, the latest greatest book based on statistical analysis.

Content: Who we are, theology.
On steroids? Over emphasis on the biblical… aka comatose preachy preaching, Word studies from languages we don’t speak, dead orthodoxy.

Needs: Where people around us are at.
On Steroids? Over emphasis on doing… aka the social Gospel, building self-help groupies, incredible families enterprises, political action.

What we need is balance right? In a word, no. Equilibrium? Not so much. Both/and? Sigh. These concepts often get people thinking in terms of 50/50 or compromise. I believe God cares about all three.

Think organic
The body is an incredible organic analogy. No one thinks to prioritize the heart, lungs or brain. Without each of these things you’re quite dead, and perhaps this is why many ministries are dying. We think in terms of health. We seek to sharpen our minds, and build a strong cardiovascular system. These are both keys to a long healthy life.

How the disciples succeeded
In Acts 6 the church was not healthy in an area. Hellenistic widows were being overlooked (need). The old program was not working and a new one was needed (methods). The Apostles recognized that focusing their energy on that problem would take away from what was essential, God’s Word and prayer (content). These things could have been in tension, but they weren’t. Rather the situation called for radical change, an opportunity to live out the Gospel and repentance, and a chance to reaffirm who we are. The church moved forward and God’s power was unleashed.

Where the disciples learned success
WWJD? Luke tells another story. 5,000 men were hungry and in need of food (need). The disciples thought the best idea was to send them away: there wasn’t enough food or enough money to feed everyone (program). Jesus was not about to stop what was essential, His teaching (content). Did  the disciples pass this test? No. But, they learned and God’s power was evident. (When we lack in an area, God will provide.)

The lesson
The disciples learned from failure that ministry is about health. Methods, content, and needs must have an intentional active focus. They did not sacrifice one area to bolster another. They brought up the weaker area through the power of God, while continuing the other essential areas. They changed when needed, tackled opportunities when they arrived, and kept their message front and center.

The bottom line
Think organically. The overall health of your ministry is related to the health of the three areas discussed. Ask: How is your health?

Methods:
Are in you a rut or open to radical change?
How well are you leading?
What steps of change or improvement have you taken lately?

Content:
How well do you know and understand God?
Are you still a student to the Bible & Theology?
What was the last theological topic you’ve studied lately?

Needs:
Do you know where your people are at?
When was the last time you studied your community to see how you can best serve?
How has your ministry demonstrated compassion?

Good Friday?

The name Good Friday seems weird to me. It does not quite fit. As I reflect on the death of Jesus, I wish I could rename it. Good Friday does not capture the full essence of the day.

The Good is not good

That Jesus had to suffer the absolute greatest injustice of all doesn’t fit the word good. Jesus did no wrong. He was the epitome of holiness, both perfect and set apart for God’s Will. It is marked by the rejection of a promised one who would usher in a new era of peace, prosperity, and worship. The rejection, used for the benefit of many, is still a rejection and not good. On top of this, the day is marked by death, an unnatural state that exists because of sin. Again, not good. That a father had to turn his back on a son who did nothing but obey and honor his father’s will is at the heart of sadness. None of this is good.

I know, the adage is that we call it good because Jesus died and paid the penalty for our sin. I’m sorry, but that doesn’t cut it for me.

The Good is an infinite understatement

Any sporting event we watch where a person does the impossible, we don’t say “It was a good game.” Good does not capture the incredible essence of what was done. Jesus demonstrated the impossible. He demonstrated perfect humility. He demonstrated the very essence of sacrifice both in a religious sense and love. Jesus, in utter agony, lead a person to heaven, took care of his mother, friends and enemies, and honored the Father who turned His back. On top of all this, Jesus did not abolish the sin of the present, or the past, but all eternity! He started the countdown to making sin only a somber historical concept and not a current struggle. To merely call this good seems shameful.

We need a new name

What Jesus did is the epitome of the commonly used word Epic. What Jesus did was perfect Sacrifice. What Jesus did was THE mark of Grace. What Jesus did was the greatest act of Reconciliation. We for sure need a new name.

If you could rename “Good Friday,” what would you call it?

Relevant!

Relevant, defined by the Oxford American Dictionary, means closely connected or appropriate to the matter at hand. If there is ever a battle in any ministry, it is relevancy! The key issue is that to be relevant means to change to match or be appropriate to the matter at hand. You cannot remain relevant and have no change. To keep relevant is to keep changing. Experiences in my life often get me to ponder what exactly the battle for relevancy is.

The battle of relevancy is keeping our mission as the driving force of our ministry.
What too often happens in ministry is that program drives the ministry and not the mission. (For those who like things defined, a program is simply what we do. To have no program is a program in and of itself.) Both the refusal to change (stubbornness) or the fear of being irrelevant (restlessness) are examples of the program driving the ministry. Change for change’s sake is not relevancy any more than maintaining traditions is faithfulness. In both cases the driving force is not the mission.

Relevancy is faithfulness to the mission!
As situations, opportunities, or just plain life occur, so will the need for change. The question that should drive change is: Are we fulfilling our mission to the fullest of our ability?  If the mission is what drives the ministry there will be times when a good program must go for a better one. If the mission is what drives the ministry there will be times when everyone else is changing, but we must maintain what we are doing. In the battle of relevancy, we rejoice when the answer is to keep doing what we are doing, and we roll up our sleeves with eagerness when the answer is a call to change. Faithfulness to our mission is demonstrated when we constantly live out our mission in our ministry. Relevancy is lost when the goal is relevancy or when change never happens. In both cases the program drives the ministry: ‘We gotta keep current.’ ‘If it was good enough for Paul.’ Both are ill. But when God gives us a mission, life happens. We ask for the mountains to conquer. And if we see a more effective way of doing things, we celebrate what God did with the former, and we act in faith with the new changes ahead.

Halls of Fame…
The real tradition of a church is God’s Word, and the specific mission that God has called a particular church too. Programs will change if a church is relevant. But, what God’s Word teaches, and the mission God calls a church to should not. It is very easy to begin equating our programs with or as theology. Such is false. Programs serve the the function of living out what God’s Word says and what the church’s mission is. As the meaning of God’s Word is specific, the application is often broad. As we better understand God by studying His Word (theology), it should be readily apparent the need to change ourselves and our churches to match up with who Christ is (application). Churches must never become ‘museums.’ In our communities churches must become ‘halls of fame’ of God’s Grace. For in times past, today and in the future, the church must proclaim the immeasurable greatness of who God is. They must inspire anew those who are seeking to become like Christ while eagerly expecting His return. Halls of fame celebrate and respect the past, while at the same time inspire and build anticipation of what is to come. And, while the actual game changes very little (all analogies break down at some point) how new generations of players engage in the ‘game’ keep it fresh, alive and exciting. God’s Word never changes, nor our mission. But, with a never changing foundation begs the question: What’s next?