Life is hard and not fair. A good friend of mine, Joe, reminds people often that we cannot control our situations, but we can control how we respond to them. The platitude of attitude is everything comes into play here. When life hits you, a … Continue reading React, Repeat, Respond
Who turned out the lights for a brighter future?
Every once in a while an article or articles you post online blows up your feed. Clearly, lighting in a worship center is a sensitive issue. In the ground swell of discussion there are a few concerns and patterns that need to be addressed. The lighting issue is a symptom of a greater issue within the North American Church, issues we do need to repent of.
One God, sneaky idols…
Churches worship methods as Christians worship preferences. While churches decry consumerism, Christians can point out the out of balance focus on methodology. Shedding light on modern idols is essential. We should operate from our theology and not our methodology. Methods change, who God is does not. On the individual side, church is not a commodity or business, it is a family. Being the church via one’s preferences misses a major point in the Bible: It’s not about you. Let us be frank: method worship and preference worship are major idols we the church need to remove.
One family, many discussions…
We are too quick to end discussions, as if the truth is already clearly known or understood. We are too quick to take offense. For example: The no light crowd pounces on the non-biblical issue with a side of evangelism. The all light all the time crowd brings out the design and Bible issue. Boom. Then there are people on the entire spectrum who say we shouldn’t discuss such things as there are more important issues. All three shutter discussion that is healthy and important. As Christians we stop discussion way too often and to our hurt. Cue the passages that talk about listening.
One creator, numerous stories…
Design communicates. Design matters. How we act as a church communicates our message as much or more so than what we say. For instance: Try communicating about Jesus’ birth in a brightly lit room, or discuss heaven in a dimly lit dark one. In both these scenarios the environment is antithetical to the story. Both these stories also need to be communicated with utmost clarity. We must stop treating the arts, such as design, as a non biblical, minor issue. Our mission to clearly communicate and proclaim who God is requires that such be brought under the light of our theology to reach a darkened world. After all, artists are a part of the body of Christ.
One church, open back doors…
In the last few decades there is a price the church paid: the de-churched. The idolatry, shuttering of discussion, and schizophrenic views on the arts cost the church too much. After all, we are family. Perhaps church growth would improve if our back doors were what we shuttered and not discussion, if we valued the glory of God more and our little kingdoms less. We can open our front doors more with artistic brilliance as more darken the seats of our worship centers. That is a worthy discussion, but there are sins we as a church family must repent of first. We’ve already paid too high a price.
The bottom line:
How we light our churches is not a big deal. How we discuss it shines a light on a dark stains the blood of Christ can easily wipe clean. While lighting may not be significant, there is too deep a price we paid. So, why not have the discussion and let the grace which God lavished on us and predestined before the foundations of the world conform us to the image of His son. Why not focus on the long-suffering and patience aspects of love found in 1 Corinthians 13. As a family we can and must do better.
A change of focus
I’ve read frequently how the best leaders focus on their strengths. Focus on their weaknesses actually inhibit growth. Could the same be true for churches? I’m beginning to wonder if we’re so focused on what we’re not doing right/well that we’re missing what is our strengths. Let me suggest a few strengths we should focus on.
1) Jesus rose from the dead, conquering sin & death, and sits at the right hand of the father.
2) Jesus keeps his own, is in the process of purifying his own, and one day will return to be with his own forever.
3) Jesus states he will build his church, and it will be continued to the day of completion.
4) Jesus maps out a plan for his church that in the end results in her being pure and without blemish.
5) Jesus modeled humility & love while also showing holiness & doctrinal correctness.
6) Jesus told jokes and, after all, uses people like you and I.
7) Jesus gave us a helper, the Spirit, who also helps in our weakness, seals us, keeps us and empowers our ministry.
I could be wrong. But my hunch is the church needs to start focusing on its strengths.
The next thing…
Fresh paint makes the old stand out. Once its done you see the next thing that needs to get done. Once that’s done you see the next. Cleaning up a house or building is like growing in Christ. Everything can’t get done at once. But, once you finish one thing, the next thing stands out. Here are a couple things to think through as you head into the new year…
Set up a growth plan. Keep it simple, doable, and big enough to stretch you. People often get scared or short-circuit with words like “review” or “evaluate.” Developing a growth plan serves the same function but has an added bonus: A growth plan focuses on where you’re going and can do, not where you’ve been and fall short. This is why Disney focuses on growth plans instead of annual reviews.
Complete a step that will push you to the next step. It’s like dominos. Focus on what’s going to propel you to the next thing when you’re done. Watching dominos fall is sweet when things are place and well executed. The big secret to focus is saying no. The power of no is a stronger yes.
Rest and enjoy your work. God made us to work and He made us to enjoy life as well. People who are driven would accomplish more by trying to do less. For example, many people who are big into physical fitness overwork themselves. This prevents them from achieving the goals. They’re over working. A trainer of mine said most people who are into working out would become stronger if they did less.
If you’re clueless where to start, just start. The advantage of planning is that its easier to change with a plan than without one. The big thing about just starting is humility. Ask for help. Sometimes you need someone to just say, good plan, go for it. To quote photographers, the best camera is the one in your hand. Just get started.
Why not Wednesday? iDeas
The best ideas for your field is often not found in your field. I love collecting proverbs, and this one is a big one. The proverb came from 3 things: Bible, Graphics Arts, and Kelly. If you are stuck, here are some ideas on taking the next step.
In studying wisdom literature a key theme stands out: wisdom comes from afar. It is a key aspect and pattern. This isn’t a contrast between man and God’s wisdom, but it is a picture of how wisdom is a pursuit. It’s beyond and one must seek it. Between proverbs and Ephesians there is a relationship between godliness and wisdom. One requires and builds on the other. Ephesians describes wisdom as a process. “Be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise.”
Some of the best discussions and ‘how to’s’ of collaboration is found in the graphic arts industry. Successful graphic art involves taking complex ideas and making them understandable. It involves merging complexity, essential concepts, and organization. One could define graphic arts as the merging of left and right-brained activities for effective communication. One consistent piece of advice in graphic arts is getting away. Not to learn about their field, but to learn about something unrelated- and there is where some of the best ideas arrive.
“Old cars look like wagons.” Kelly and I were walking through the Henry Ford Museum. As we were walking through the cars section we saw the evolution of the horseless carriage. You can see lock in- a car must be a self-powered vehicle to a car being its own thing. Our understanding of technology and life changes things. You can see stages of development. The challenge is how to you get out of your box? The car industry is filled with failures and triumphs. There is a process: discovery, replication, barrier, new discovery.
The bottom line:
If you’re stuck, look outside your field. Sometimes you need a fresh look at something different to help you get to the next step. This is true of many things in life. After all, the Bible tells us to seek wisdom.
Why not Wednesday? Expanding the mission in hard times…
For success to happen God needs to show up. But the vessels that carry God’s presence is people. In challenging times we can focus on what we lack, or we can embrace constraints by being creative. In being creative you need to get back to basics. The key for expanding the mission is people.
The Y factor
Early on in my ministry I attended “The Leadership Summit” put on by Willow Creek. Bill Hybels discussed what he called “The Y Factor.” You can read about it here. In dealing with a resource crunch, a member on his team wrote X (paid staff) + Y (volunteers) = Z (bearing fruit). Their focus was to double Y.
Y>X= expanding the mission
Expanding on that idea, the Y factor should be exponential. Truthfully, our “volunteers” support the church, serve in it, and more importantly, they’re the missionaries in all parts of our community. The church reaches its missions best when Y (volunteer staff) is greater than X (paid staff). Paid staff is important and vital- think of them as the coaching and support teams. But, paid staff are not the players- that’s the members. The better our members are equipped and mobilized, the greater our ministry impact.
Church is family
Pastor Mark Driscoll describes church as family. Church is extended family. You can hear him describe this here. There are no consumers in church. (At least, there shouldn’t be.) There are two kinds of people: family and guests. One of the marks of being in the Spirit is hospitality. One of the marks of being dialed into God is love. We’re family, and we should be an inviting one.
Free people up to serve
I blogged about a conversation I had with Pastor Pasma, found here. In that conversation he walked me through significant ministries that developed at the church I grew up in- powered by the people. He invested much time in the conversation talking about how to free people up to serve. “Staff to meet essentials… work to free people to serve.” Pastor pointedly stated how the people serving in the church is the truest mark of health and growth.
The Bottom line:
The church is people. The church success rests on people. Church growth is about people. While in hard, difficult or crazy times, the solution is your people. God’s power is evident in three things: Prayer. Bible. People. Loving God gives us a foundation for expanding the mission. Loving people gives us the means to make it happen.
Why not Wednesday? Own depravity
We try to push the idea human depravity away. We hide it, talk it away, claim that it’s a negative outlook, etc. The last we want to do is own it. Some overplay the depravity hand claiming because we are depraved we are therefore worthless. This too doesn’t own depravity. We need to own it.
This idea did not go over well as I was training camp counselors in conflict resolution.
“People are naturally good, not depraved,” said a counselor.
“People who say people are naturally good have never worked with children,” I replied.
The group wasn’t buying it. To move forward and be optimistic you first need to understand and see reality. Understand the reality of things and you can move things towards the best. They still didn’t buy in. I told them to give it a week… it only took a couple of hours.
A church that had a large group of unchurched kids asked my advice on dealing with them. Apparently my answer did not have an appreciation for the situation. The rebuttal given was “but they don’t behave!” Aha, there is the problem. My advice was you need to love them first. We polarize discipline and love- they are truly one. If we love we deal with the reality of the situation and work towards the best. Love includes discipline, it’s not exclusive. Good behavior doesn’t come first and then we love. Despite our depravity, Christ acted on our behalf! Jesus loved, saved and then begins to perfect us.
Easier said then done
My kids pour on the love talk when they are in trouble. It KILLS me. They’re cute. They’re adorable, and I LOATH to see them hurt or cry. I knew this moment would come. I knew it would be hard. But love does what is best for the person. It doesn’t act with a cold heart, but it does compassionately deal with reality. This too is the Gospel. As God saves us He also lovingly shapes us. As hard as it is to discipline my boyz, hugging them afterward and showing forgiveness is a powerful moment. It communicates that even when they mess up, they’re still loved.
The bottom line:
We must own depravity. It means doing something that is counter-culture these days: taking responsibility. Bringing it back to the Cross, God knew we could not be perfect. That is why He gave us Christ. Owning our depravity isn’t seeing everyone as evil and worthless- it’s seeing people as being imperfect and need of redemption. Yes we are depraved, but that doesn’t have to be the end of the story. Yes people are depraved, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t love them and get involved in people’s lives. That is precisely what Jesus did, and one day we’ll be made perfect because of it.
Marriage paints a vivid picture of Christ’s love for the church. Paul’s uses the marriage relationship to teach about the church at the end of Ephesians 5. Too often this passage is addressed to marriage. While Paul agrees and consents to this, it is not the point he is making! Paul is describing the passionate unity between Christ and the community of those who believe and follow in Him.
I do not believe Song of Songs describes Christ love for the church, but the book describes what marriage love looks like. Love is not a feeling or a vain emotion. It runs deep.
“Put me like a seal over your heart, Like a seal on your arm. For love is as strong as death, Jealousy is as severe as Sheol ; Its flashes are flashes of fire, The very flame of the LORD.” ~ Song of Songs 8:6
Church is not trivial
Jesus died for His church… We forget this. While he died for you and me as people, He died for his church. He loves His church, and in giving Himself up for her, the church became a key purpose. Church is not a club, program, theological sub-point, intangible philosophical idea or a spiritual option. The church is the center of Christ’s attention. He gave Himself up for her.
Church is not ready
Jesus purposefully gave Himself up for the church. Paul describes the process of cleansing, purifying and readying the church. Getting ready with an aim for perfection is not an overnight task. Jesus’ sacrifice aimed at perfecting the church, and presenting the church blameless. Put another way, Jesus is aware of what is going on, but He isn’t giving up until the bride is ready.
Church is not leftovers
Jesus views the church as He views Himself. We do not have the mental capability to wrap our minds around this. Jesus is not drill sergeant Bob with a cigar in mouth shouting at us to drop and give him 20 as He pushes us to become a fine sanctified unit. Jesus doesn’t worry about His glory and, oh yeah, also the church. Jesus cherishes and nourishes the church. It is a picture of love and tenderness.
Church is Christ’s
Jesus will become one with His bride. What or how this will look, I do not know. Paul states that “this mystery is great.” Jesus paid for the church, Jesus purified the church, and Jesus will be with His church. Jesus did not, does not, nor will He treat the church as trivial or as leftovers. Jesus knows there is still work to be done, but He hasn’t given up. Love runs deep.
The bottom line:
Rather than runaway, maybe we need to wash up and finish getting ready. Church is elusive to us. With the alarming number of young people leaving the church, perhaps we need to look back at what the church is and should be as a starting point. For sure, we need curb the criticism of church. I’m not saying we ignore things, but the tone needs changing. We need to view church as Christ does. To claim following Christ, but harbor disdain for the church misses the mark. Perhaps people and culture treat the church as trivial, as dirty and leftovers because we do. Perhaps its time we medicate on what Paul is actually communicating via marriage in Ephesians 5.
Not Perfect is a Holy Thing: You and I
Person: You and I
Epic Fail: Pick any sin
God’s View: Holy
If you think God cannot use you because you’re not perfect: STOP! God uses imperfect people. Heroes of the Bible are viewed as heroes because of God’s grace and a heart of repentance. While some will be rewarded more than others based on the quality of our work, God will make us perfect and sinless one day. This week we will look at how ‘Not Perfect is a Holy Thing.’ People who had epic failures, and yet they pleased God. People like you and I.
Think process not product
The focus on holiness should be on the process of being who God wants us to be. The New Testament often speaks of of growth. Jesus used the analogy of the vine. Paul uses the concept of a body or a building. Maturity is not described as an event, but more the process of repentance. The Bible describes our walk with Christ in organic terms, and not as a college course. On this side of eternity holiness is about becoming like Christ. It is a process, not a product.
Holiness is being set apart. Think of it this way: If I do not sin am I being holy? I am being the person God wants me to be? Am I pursuing what He wants? The people listed in Hebrews 11’s were imperfect throughout their lifetimes and had epic failures. God’s final mention is one of admiration and pleasure because of their faith. Their success occurred from God choosing them for His service. These imperfects were set apart. God made them holy. God used imperfect people.
Epic fail: pursing perfection
We want our heroes and ourselves to be perfect. Jesus, who knew no sin, became sin on our behalf. This is the perfect picture of grace. Grace is the measure of a biblical hero. Grace focuses on on what God did. The heroes in the Bible were not perfect. People in life and in scripture succeeded and became highly esteemed because of His grace. Heroes in the Bible failed in epic measure, but that is not God’s final verdict! Pursing perfection is pursing self; pursing holiness is pursing God’s grace.
The Apostle John states: ‘If we say we have no sin then we lie.’ He goes further and states that the truth is not in us. Being sinless misses the mark. There is more to holiness than perfection. I would go as far to say that holiness does not equal perfection, though that is not a license to go sin. Holiness has more to do with purpose then perfection, pursuit instead of destination. All sin is covered by the cross. Real failure is the lack of repentance.
God’s final view is done and will be done
Our position in Christ matters a great deal! Once we are in Christ we are declared holy. God views us as holy. When we see Christ face to face we will be holy and lacking of all sin. All of this is based on what Christ did, not what we did or didn’t do. God’s final verdict on you and I who are in Christ is one of sinless perfection. This position is eternally secured by Christ and sealed by the Spirit. It is done.
Here is God’s verdict on you and I: “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. Phil 1:6” It will be done!