Jesus did a plain summary of the Torah: Love God, love your neighbor. The amazing thing about the Bible, the Old Testament in particular, is how many levels it works on. Too often we regulate the Bible as merely a theological book and fail to realize it is so much more. Loving your neighbor is a massive part of the Bible and covers and area we do not like to discuss: how do we live with our neighbors?
Defining the good life
The Bible quite clearly demonstrates that the good life is one that pursues God in a simple quietness. The issue of quietness meaning peace. It is not the pursuit of wealth, prestige, or achievement. Worship of God, hard work, and the companionship of good neighbors go quite well together. The later part, companionship of good neighbors, goes by a different word historically: Politics.
Ignorance breeds injustice
It was said that the only thing evil needs to succeed is for good men to be silent. While true, another key aspect is needed: wisdom. All that is needed for evil to succeed is abandonment of wisdom. In Ephesians 5 wisdom is the keystone to being spirit filled. To quote a chief of staff of a democrat senator: “If people knew how the government is supposed to operate, we would all be fired. Both parties.” His statement is quite correct. People dislike politics so they remain ignorant. This breeds injustice.
Avoiding conflict brings disruption
Avoiding conflict is a sure way to bring on huge conflict. Today people cannot believe the turmoil in the election process. This is a result of being ignorant and avoiding conflict. We then shut out other voices, do not engage, and then we avoid politics because of the mess that it is in… from our avoiding it. We the people, we the problem. And, the funny thing is, by avoiding it, you’re actually not loving your neighbor.
Better your city not your party
One of the ways the Old Testament unpack loving your neighbor is instructions on how to live in captivity. During the exile God tells Judah in the book of Jeremiah to build houses, marry off their children, and work for the betterment of their city. You can engage in politics- loving your neighbor- without having to deal with the party system. On a national level politics is a mess, but on a local level it does not have to be. On a local level politics is all about living with your neighbors and the betterment of your city.
Responsibility constrains freedom
The constraint of freedom is human responsibility. This is the difference between the tyranny of anarchy, or the tyranny centralized government. Either extreme gets born out of selfishness. For freedom to work we cannot be about ourselves. We must also be diligent in loving our neighbor. This involves engagement, humility, and responsibility. It is to work not merely for ourselves, but also our city. When we say “there ought to be a law that…” we fail in loving our neighbor. Rather than engaging the issue responsibly, we desire to create a higher power to deal with it… so we don’t have to. The process of peacemaking is a much more loving way to deal with situations.
The bottom line:
Jesus, God, the Bible says we need to love our neighbor. This is more than just kind actions of individuals, but also how we live in community. By avoiding politics, we actually fail to live up to the standard Jesus set. Politics, for the Christian, should not be about party but rather the betterment of their city. To do good, and not evil.
In my discovery of fountain pens and the fountain pen world, I discovered a company via YouTube that is brilliant. In answering the: How do I get started with fountain Pens? Go to Gouletpens.com. But there is more to fountain pens then the pen or a business selling pens.
Brian posted tons of video, including a Fountain Pen 101 series, on YouTube. Any info you need to know in getting started and beyond is answered there. You’ll also gain leadership and business insights that are quite helpful. Honestly, in the law of fountain pens, interacting with his content is a must. (There is no law of fountain pens.)
I discovered there is quite a community around fountain pens. It’s a hobby and niche, but it is a classy one. One big thing gained from being a part of this community is increased thoughtfulness and art in doing what we’re doing. It helps bridge the gap of work being a pleasurable experience, not just utility. (I write a lot for work.) This community develops a sense of thoughtfulness and intentionality in not just what we do but in how we do it.
Goulet Pens brings back what is really lacking in our culture. They prove that technology isn’t the problem in our increasingly impersonal culture. I am amazed at how accessible Brian and his team are. Classy, fun, and professional. There is more to a hobby or a tool. There are people. Goulet Pen company brings back the personal in a tech filled world.
The bottom line:
Fountain pens are a tool and a hobby. Finding a personal connection for information or as a vendor can be a challenge. Goulet Pen Company, while online, fits the bill amazingly well. I’m just a customer. If you’re looking at getting started, equipped, enjoying the pleasure of fountain pens, check them out.
The news and my social media feed, not to mention various conversations, filled up with discussion of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Discussion, particularly from a ‘conservative’ perspective go against CCSS. The viewpoint declares CCSS is a Federal take over of education. Given our fractured society, CCSS became a figurehead for fear of Federal intrusion. Where do I stand?
I support CCSS for three key reasons. First, I believe national standards are a prudent measure in an increasingly mobile society. Second, I believe that such standards should put local districts and teachers in control of curriculum decisions. Third, I believe that the main problem in education is a lack of parental engagement, understanding, and effective support. If opponents are successful in stopping CCSS, the three issues are still in play. I often ask my proverbial question: You get rid of CCSS, then what do you do? This post will deal with the need to national standards.
I drive therefore I can build a car…
In researching this issue as well as becoming a cheerleader for my local school district, one thing became clear: As a society we are woefully uninformed about education. I hope in reading this more grace and understanding is offered to our educator neighbors. For those who are parents reading this: we hold the trump card to radically improving education. We must not consider ourselves consumers of schools, but rather as engaged participants. Too many think they understand how education should work by virtue of being a student. This would be like saying we know how to design and build a car after driving it and doing standard maintenance.
National Standards are prudent
The first question to think through is: should there be national standards? An entire discussion could start and end right there. Our society is increasingly mobile. People growing up and staying in a certain geographical region is dropping. Society is becoming increasingly more urban. A key demographic in mobility is our military community. Having a national set of standards for education makes sense. If I move from one part of the country to another, it would be nice to have consistency. Also, a national set of standards helps benchmark our educational system to that of other countries.
Who should make the decision in developing national standards is a difficult one. My preference would be for states to collaborate together as well as with private enterprise. CCSS fits this model. While there is concern with some involved, such as Bill Gates, I prefer a state & private enterprise approach than a Federally controlled or mandated one. If Federal government started CCSS, I would not favor CCSS even though I do favor national standards.
We’ve been here before
The discussion is not new. An educator friend handed me the report of the Council of Ten, dated July 9th, 1892. The report deals with the matter of uniformity in education. It details standards for certain areas, and delegates others, such as the arts. A criticism often leveled at educational standards is that it diminishes the arts. Given this, there has always been a tension in education over should and what should be uniformed in education. Page 48 under the heading “Explanation of the Sample Programmes” it states this:
“The omission of music, drawing, and elocution from the programmes offered by the committee was not intended to imply that these subjects ought to receive no systemic attention. It was merely thought best to leave it to local school authorities to determine, without suggestions from the committee, how these subjects should be introduced into the programmes in addition to the subjects reported on by the Conferences.”
Standards vs Standardization
Things such as the arts have often taken the back seat in education. The highly viewed TED talks by Sir Ken Robinson attest to this fact. The challenge with any semblance of uniforimity is standards vs. standardization. Jacqueline Grennon Brooks and Mary E. Dietz discuss this danger of CCSS. They explicitly state that the standards are not the issue, but that “the initiative conflate standards with standardization.” (Educational Leadership Dec ’12/Jan ’13, p.65) Much criticism of CCSS seems more an issue of assumed standardization vs the standards themselves.
There are standards for english literature. News reports came out that “CCSS” are forcing students to read a book some disagreed with. While the book might be on a list of examples, we should note that “the only reading explicitly required in the CCSS is the Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution, Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, a Shakespeare play and one play by an American dramatist.” (CCSS Introduction, Aspen Institute) Timothy Shanahan illustrates how people took recommendations as standardization in his article “The CC Ate My Baby. (Educational leadership, Dec’12/Jan’13)
Curriculum choice is the real issue
Common Core is to education what HTML5 is to Web browsers. HTML5 is a web standard. There are multiple web browsers that interface with HTML5. Some do not interact well with HTML5- Internet Explorer. Some do a suburb job, like Safari. (I’m a mac.) Some curriculum and districts will interact well with the CCSS and some will not. Many of the criticisms of CCSS seem to be curriculum decisions, not necessarily the standards themselves. CCSS is not a curriculum. It is a set of standards.
The bottom line:
I believe we need national standards. Such is helpful to educating our children. These standards should be established by states, educators and private enterprise- the world which most will work. Common Core does this. There are things that can and need to be improved upon, as the issue of standards vs standardization illustrates. However, media punditry is making that needed interaction difficult. Rather than attacking CCSS, partner with your educator neighbors to do what’s best for kids. Why? The standards are not as much an issue as the curriculum choices are. Part two will deal with curriculum.
I’m asked often by friends and family advice on finding a new church family. This post is much longer than normal, and general advice on the issue, not specific to any one person. I say finding a church family because I despise the term church shopping. You’re a brother or sister in Christ, not a consumer. Church is family (Ephesians 1). I’m assuming you’re praying over every step. Pray. Pray. Pray! Ok, here we go:
Step 1: Leave justly!
If you’re relocating or if the church is sending you to another ministry, you’ve left justly. Sin is where things get messy. Matters of conscience even more so. It is ESSENTIAL to deal with matters. Leaving quietly to not create a mess robs you & the church of grace. If you are avoiding conflict or are being explosive, repent and work towards reconciliation! If you’re leaving on a good note, you should still connect with the church so people understand why and grow. Be a grace multiplier not a grace robber.
I am not saying it is wrong to ever leave a church family. I am implying that in North America we trend towards consumerism or conflict avoidance too often. Don’t be a tool of satan or live the sinful attitude of church consumerism. To be clear: Make sure you leave justly. Let’s try to avoid awkward when we’re in heaven moments.
Step 2: Take a good look in the mirror!
You are a saint because Jesus paid for your sins. Until you see Jesus face to face you’ll struggle with sin. Second, you are a unique part of the body of Christ. Your struggles and your gifting (often two sides of the same coin) are part of church growth. Before seeking a new family, take time to look in the mirror. How are you doing spiritually? What lessons have you learned from you earlier church ministry? Is there a new passion or calling God is giving you? Are you pursuing God or yourself?
Searching for a new church family will put you in a critical spirit. You will notice lots of things you do not like or worse you’ll overlook things because your consumerism tendencies kick in. (A big sign of that is compromising your theology for preferences.) Look in the mirror and make sure you’re very well aware of the log that is in your own eye. Church is family, meaning your job is to love and support the family. Church is not about you, but do not neglect how God wired you. God may be calling you to a particular church because it lacks what you have to offer, worts and all.
Step 3: Theology then method then people
Sound biblical teaching & theology is essential. If they’re not teaching the Bible, RUN! There is a difference between teaching from the Bible and teaching the Bible. If the church doesn’t hold to sound theology it will not be good in the long run. We act based on what we believe. Key question: How big of a deal is Jesus & the Bible to the church?
Next comes method. If method comes first, repent of ‘methodolatry.’ For example, if you’ll only look at churches with certain music or a certain program like AWANA, chances are good you’re committing to methodolatry. Don’t overlook something because it lacks a method or has a method you’re uncomfortable with. Don’t write off methods either. Use discernment, ask questions. Methodology matters. Sometimes a method that is important to you, but lacking to a church may be a result of no one to lead or support it.
People are essential. Are the people messy or are they white washed tombs? A church can be totally modern, cool, with great music, etc and be a dark, legalistic, dead church. Energy, coolness & size are often inaccurate church health indicators. (For an extreme example of why, just think of the under ground church.) You’re not the savior, but you are family. Can you say I’m here to love, support and serve these people? Solid theology and method is about supporting people in the mission of the Gospel. Healthy churches are quirky and messy regardless of size. Key question: Is the church a happy dysfunctional family?
Step 4: Examine the church
Here are three things to look out for after Step 3: Character over charisma, service over sensationalism, and people over programs. Our culture is driven by consumerism, which means you and I struggle with this too. You’ll need to attend the church for over a month to get some sense of this.
Character: Is the church more interested in who people are or what they do? This is the issue of being over doing. Look for a church that is concerned with who looks at you in the mirror each morning. Key thing to look for: Churches will make mistakes, do they own up to it?
Service: Is the church quick to love and support its church family first and then the community? It’s hard to serve the community if you’re not caring for one another. Both are essential to the mission of the Gospel. A church that isn’t outward focuses isn’t healthy. A church that focuses outwardly but neglects inward care is unstable.
People: Does the church focus on building people up or one what they can get out of people? Does the leadership seek your help in reaching the pastor’s vision, or do they help people pursue God’s calling? Is the church a business or is it family?
Step 5: Making the choice
This will be awkward because it is different. There is no perfect church because church is messy. It may not have what you want because God needs you there to make it happen. It may not be the size church you like or are comfortable with. There will be things you like and things you don’t. At this step the question is: Can you call these people family? If not, why not?
If you’ve been deeply hurt by your earlier church, a key question to work through: Can I heal here? You cannot avoid the healing process. Healing isn’t always about feeling good again, it can be a painful process. Be upfront with church leadership about the need to heal. They’ll give you sound counsel, and may even recommend a church that may be more helpful.
Finding a church family takes time. It’ll likely take 6 months to a year. Don’t rush the process. When you’re on Step 4 with a church, don’t work on creating a list of churches and then move to Step 5. If Step 4 checks out and Step 5 checks out, welcome home. For military families or others that move often, you’ll naturally pick up this process on a faster pace.
Don’t look for a church that has something for your children. Reverse the question. Look for a church where your children can be a part. Church isn’t about you and it’s not about your kids either. Activity doesn’t mean discipleship. A small church can be just as vibrant as a large one for discipling your children. Don’t fear large churches. Kids can be dynamically discipled in large churches too. We often hide our consumerism in the name of our children.
Discuss it as a family. Train your children to be mission minded. ‘Did you like’ is a bad question. What children need they often dislike. don’t ignore their input about dislikes, be cautious on how you respond to it. Children can be spiritual champions, we as adults often hold them back. Ask them if there are ways they can support and serve the church. Teach your children through this process that church isn’t about them. When you find your new family, remind your children that you’re there to love and support the people of the church.
What process do you use? What would you add to this?
I grew up through public schools. Over the last few months I’ve had the honor to help out a public school district. I’m seeing and sensing a greater antagonism towards public education that is unhelpful. Here is my bottom line: Public schooling is profoundly local, requires parental engagement and is not the enemy. I encourage you to consider these thoughts:
Educators are our neighbors
If you’re stressed from family life, the inner-workings of your job and wanting to make a difference, then you’re like many of our educators. Most educators are concerned with how to help kids learn how to read, write, etc., while also walking through life. They do have a life outside of school in the communities we reside in and the churches we attend. I’ve heard from many public educators that they sometimes feel like second class church members because they teach in a public school. This is a sin churches should repent of! Think of educators as your neighbors.
Parents are wanted
The number one issue I hear from my educator friends is this: There is often a lack of parent engagement. I’ll repeat that for those who may be shocked: Educators have as a primary concern the lack of parental involvement in their child’s education. Many schools are what’s known as Title 1. To be a Title 1 school, the school is required to support parental engagement. Parents and guardians, we’re the ones that need to step up and improve education. By just engaging with our children and partnering with our educator neighbors we can make a difference. Ok, I know we’re all busy, but family comes first. Our kids are worth it.
Apathy is the enemy
Too often people view public education through the lens of national news, especially if one comes form a politically conservative viewpoint. It is easy to attack public education through a national viewpoint because we don’t have to act. Public education is a profoundly local issue. Teachers are very open to parental involvement. They conduct themselves with class and professionalism. Are there things we disagree with? I’m sure if it. The issue is we’re often not willing to engage with our community and make it a better place. Rather than being apathetic, let us be the cheerleaders of great educators.
Trust is the issue
Many fear public education because trust and a sense of community has eroded in our culture. It is hard to trust someone you don’t know. It is hard to effect change through antagonism. We listen close to those we consider friends. We don’t presume to tell our doctors how to do their job, but we wisely partner with them for better heath. The same is true of education. Be patient, take time and be involved. Your community and your public schools will be better for it. Work on building trust, and remember they’re human just like you!
A huge thanks to my sons’ school district!
I’m fortunate that my boys are a part of an excellent school district that puts kids first. I am a better leader and parent because of my interaction with my district’s educators. I’m amazed by their passion, class and professionalism. My community is a much better place because of their efforts!
Freedom and Responsibility are the key to our society. No law will stop evil. There is evil and there is no replacement for personal responsibility. Undermining freedom undercuts responsibility. Lack of freedom and responsibility undercuts community. Lets focus on the problem and restore freedom & responsibility.
Mental health, not guns
There is a pattern: people struggling with mental health issues performed evil acts. We can blame guns, but that isn’t the problem. In a free society we have a responsibility to help (not condemn) those struggling with mental health. Such struggle does not make one evil, though its also no excuse for performing evil acts. We must deal with the problem of evil and not the tools used for evil. Tools can change: box cutters, pipe bombs, airplanes, fertilizer, etc.
Flight Schools, Apple & NRA
Based on current logic, Flight Schools enable terrorism, Apple enables manslaughter via distracted driving. Why you may ask? Because the NRA promotes the 2nd Amendment. In the bill of rights, it is listed second, right under freedom of religion, assembly and free press. Blaming gun advocates for enabling the tragedy is ludicrous. Attacking a freedom isn’t the answer to the evil that occurred. Labeling law abiding citizens as enabling an act of evil is bullying, not civility. It’s polarizing, not healing.
Freedom isn’t free, nor is it the absence of personal responsibility. Perhaps the recent tragedy shows how we’ve squandered our freedom in the name of convenience. How? In further reliance on government or allowing such we undermined what is critical to freedom: community & responsibility. An inward focus on self combined with outsourcing our responsibility leaves us baffled in tragedy. As community and responsibility drop so does prudence & wisdom. Further removing freedoms will only exasperate a growing problem.
You are responsible for your actions. There are choices. There are consequences. In our culture’s avoidance of consequences in the name of compassion or fairness, have we undermined the skills needed to recover from failure? Said another way, have we eroded our sense of ownership for our actions? Is our wanting compassion really about our own personal fear of failure? This is why responsibility is so important. Robbery of failure robs the responsibility required for a free society. Lack of community robs us of wisdom & prudence required for a free society.
The value of community is to wisely and prudently help people rise from failure and champion success. It takes responsibility to another level. Community needs freedom and freedom needs responsibility. If nothing else, perhaps the recent tragedy should focus us back on these critical elements, for here lies the problem. A hundred years ago there wasn’t regular mass shootings and many owned guns. Compassion wasn’t void either. But, a hundred years ago there was a sense of community, of freedom, of responsibility.
In eternity past God started time when He spoke the world into existence. As His crowning achievement He created mankind-in community- male and female He created them; in His image He created them.
Mankind fell into sin and so the epic struggle against depravity began. But in Genesis three there was prophecy by God of a future savior. Mankind continued to rebel against God. Cain killed Abel, and human government was established. But man, becoming vastly wicked and needed to be wiped out. So came the Flood. God was gracious, he allowed man to continue through Noah. Man, even after the flood, again rebelled against God by not going out, but instead built the tower of Babel.
God in His sovereignty chooses a man, Abrahm. And it was to be through this man that all nations would be blessed. This man’s family grew and ended up, again through God’s providence, in Egypt. While continuing to grow, God’s chosen people underwent bondage. God redeemed them and the nation of Israel was born, and God was to be their king. It was through Israel that all the world was to know God., YHWH, the I AM.
Israel rebelled against God. And God, according to his character and justice, punished Israel and sent them off to captivity- but not without comfort or promise. There would one day be a Messiah. There would one day be a new covenant where Israel would be fully restored and the problem of sin resolved.
The Messiah did come to restore Israel, but Israel rejected him. Not only did they reject him, but they crucified him. “And I delivered unto as of first importance that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures. And that he was buried and that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” Appearing to peter, the twelve and more than 500 hundred at one time. Christ conquered sin and death. But Christ did not remain here on Earth.
When the disciples asked Christ if now was the time to restore the kingdom of Israel, Christ said it was not for them to know “But you will be my witnesses.” The twelve disciples served as witnesses and the foundation of the church, something once hidden but now revealed. The church was born. A growing community of devoted followers of Christ. The success of the disciples is evident, the church is still growing.
When God saved us through His son and sealed us with His Spirit, He placed us into the church, a community of believers. Christ’s work binds us together and it binds us together for service.
For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.
Paul talks about it, James talks about it, Peter talks about it, John talks about it, our savior talked about it and lived it. God is concerned about how we interact and minister each each another. It is a responsibility that Everybody has. Church is not the same or complete with out you involved.
Ephesians 4:15-16 “but speaking the truth in love we will grow up into all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted together by what every join supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the whole body for the building up of itself in love.”
It is the work of Christ that binds us together. It is the one another’s of scripture that give us responsibility to each another and it is the growth of us as a community that God has us here. Study the one another’s of Scripture. The health and growth of the community is essential to spreading the Gospel.
Avoid…. Doom & gloom… The tendency when dealing with the church division is to get all critical or guilty. The Bible makes it quite clear that one day the church will be perfected and we’ll be ok. Rather than see a mess, let’s get together and put the puzzle pieces together. We really do have all the pieces!
Divided by age
A serious division I’ve seen in church since I started attending at 5 years old is age separation. There are huge advantages to meeting people where they’re at. There are huge advantages to kids being with kids, young couples being with young couples, etc. We often go to far. The issue with 20’s and young 30’s leaving the church is an example of the division by age problem.
Divided culturally by age
Each generation in America became its own subculture. Think about it. Each generation has its own style, music, language, literature, forms of communication, etc. Given culture’s push to move people into their niche, sub-cultures grow and multiply at a rapid pace. Society is overly divided and segmented. Who is going to bring life together?
Division by age results in a breakdown of discipleship. In talking with pastors, there is often a break down of discipleship post high school. A man goes to Bible college and maybe seminary afterwards, but post graduation continued discipleship is not a guarantee. It’s almost as if the churches we grew up in handed off leadership development to colleges & seminaries, seldom hearing from them during or after our training. That’s just pastors, a very small segment of our 20’s & 30’s. It is the trend in other areas as well.
Division by age results in loss of perspective & importance. The church needs the energy, ideas, enthusiasm, and I dare say mistakes of youth. Equally, the church needs its seasoned saints to offer their wisdom, be the voice to tell us when we need to slow down and let God, to make sure we don’t forget that God really is at work. Many problems could be avoided by listening to the older. Refreshing viewpoints and challenges to continue growing come by listening to the young.
Retire retirement. An example: I wish every church could have a “retired” pastor who shepherds the pastor or pastors. “Retired” pastors have been there. They know what’s human nature vs a unique situation. They know the questions to ask. They have the sense to let things work themselves out or to get involved. Elder pastors can fill a need in churches: pastors need shepherding too. Retirement is heaven for saints. Until then, seasoned saints have much-needed work to do. We need them to do it!
Take seriously body passages. (Romans 12ff, 1 Cor 12, Eph 4-6) We are truly one body! We are one church. Church should be a place where life comes together. Too much division hurts the body. Brining the body together is an essential because it is the Gospel of Jesus Christ that binds us together. Affinity based groups are not wrong! We need them. Having everyone together all the time is counter productive as is the division mentioned. Viewing church as body needs both.
We need to view and operate the church as one body. The danger of focusing too much on affinity is it becomes what binds vs the Gospel. The danger of too much division is you lose. Judges 2:10 There arose a generation in Israel who did not know God nor the things of God. Where did the breakdown start? It ended with not teaching children, but it did not start there.
The bottom line:
Seriously, we have all the pieces to do incredible things for the Gospel. We cannot accomplish it divided. When one part suffers, we all suffer. Growth happens by what each part supplies. At the day of Christ Jesus, we know the job is done. We or the saints after us will get it figured out. The key is putting the pieces together, and that has never been more available than today.
The ideas and energy we need is with the youth. The road map to get there is in the hands of our seasoned saints. Perhaps that leaves the rest of us carrying the middle. It gives a different sense and feel to leadership and our “most productive years.” Think of it this way: Can We be the hero? What if We is the hero? Is We what Jesus meant in His John 17 prayer? What would happen if We, the church, became the hero?
I think we over-programmed ourselves. People often do not know how to ‘just be.’ We fight it. Busyness is the vaccine against relational intimacy. We are very busy people, creating very shallow relationships. I wonder if the Simple. Community. Authentic. trend is a discovery of something lost, not something new?
In simple we over program. There are many Christians that are so busy doing good things that their faith is extremely shallow. In zealousness we forget that life is more than just activity. Some churches program their way out of the missions context God placed them in. We are the analogy of a chick-flic where the girl gets the guy and then…role the credits. (Ever wonder what happens next?)
Willow Creek discovered this. They were doing many incredible things, but they were not making disciples as they should. The leadership realized they needed a radical re-working of how they do things to focus on producing disciples. The book Simple Church deals with the same issue among many (most?) churches.
We need commonality for community to exist. The phrase “online community” is used all the time. Let us be honest with each other: we lost what community really means. Social media strikes a chord because as humans we really do crave community. Community is diverse. I disagree with the sentiment that states people are into social media because they want fame. Honestly, that is too complex. People want identity.
If churches traded simplicity for programs, it traded community for commercialism & commodity. The danger of being over programmed is we start treating issues and people as a commodity, as customers and not as they are: People in the image of God. God is infinite, which means if the church is to glorify God (show or demonstrate accurately who He is) it takes diversity. Relationships are organic not synthetic. Ministry is farm work, not lab work; a muddy or dusty field not an assembly line.
We know we have opinions and we know we are not perfect. I find it hilarious how academic writing requires 3rd person (as if that magically more objective) or how we can make things a production instead of just being together and worshiping. A business workshop aptly stated: If you say you’re authentic, you better be, because everyone says it. I often heard from people that: if you have to state something, you’re likely not. If something is true, it will show itself true. Here is the key question: Why do we feel we need to say we are authentic?
My English prof described a hard conversation with her parents. She wanted to know if her parents were saved. Her mom was upset. “Couldn’t you tell by how I lived?” There are eras where how we lived that was the true judge, not what we said. “We need both,” Mrs. Williams stated. “I feel as though we lost the art of our living communicating what we believe.”
The Bottom Line:
Simple. Community. Authentic. Maybe we should take off the mask and call them for what they are: three areas where we need to repent. I hope we pursue them less as fad and more as a call to get back to what God wants us to be. I can’t help but notice what is core to each of these three things: People. Love God…Love People…Simple. Community. Authentic.