Kingdom living in community demands a “MINDSET” that is contemporary/historical

AGod16Let me say right here and right now that I praise God for Jesus-following history.  In other words, praise God for the last 2000 plus years of Christian history.  YES, it has been "checkered" to say the least…but it is a BIGGER story than human mistakes, fallability and futile efforts to be about the work of God.  How could we expect otherwise, frankly!  So, I'm not a critic of history as much as an appreciator of HIS-story…in other words, how God has worked in fragile, imperfect human lives to bring about and be about HIS mission on earth.  So, thanks to God for learnings, liturgies, movements, revivals…all of which can be specifically credited to the Spirit of God.

Evenso, I'm also a person who believes in the "contemporary" incarnation of the Presence of God.  In other words, God did not stop speaking or moving in the first century, fourth century, or the sixteenth century.  God is doing something NOW that demands that we embrace new language, new imagery, new imagination and innovation to be about God's Mission today.  So, when I read Walt Mueller's article on addressing pastors in how "communicating" to youth, I took keen interest.  You see, how we communicate (not just as pastors but as faith communities) to students is directly reflective of our ministry/mission mindset.  We can't complain about youth unless we are courageous enough to evaluate our current praxis in relation to youth.  To state it without qualification – if we can't communicate and live in community with students/youth then we are exactly what many people believe the "church" to actually be – irrelevant.  Again, not that relevance is our ministry's goal…relevance rather is a by-product of a faith community embracing a contemporary expression of the Spirit and communicating IN relationship through the stories, imagery and passions that specifically relate to a broader generational range.  The "church" is not owned by one or two generations…the church is Christ's Body and as such needs to be nurtured across generational lines for the building up of disciples no matter what age.  That nurturing needs to be relevant to those age groups.  SO, when Walt wrote what he wrote, I decided to put on my "paradigm" glasses and attempt to see how addressing "pastors" (i.e. entire faith communities and the leaders of those communities) can make a difference in how I do what I do in Kingdom work.  I tell you, if all faith communities had a paradigm from which to proceed in ministry that seriously takes communicating to and with students, the landscape of the Body would be different than what it is now.  Anyway, that evaluation can be seen better in other formats (specifically, read either "UnChristian" or "Next Christian" by Gabe Lyons).  

Here's the letter:

Download Dear Pastor letter

What it feels like to stand in the midst of history…

Awalking-through-history-purchased-from-istockphotoWe all take ourselves WAY too seriously.  I guess we should in some respects.  We have been given a gift of life to live by the gracious hand of God.  It is a gift that should not be widdled away by meaningless activity, lack of responsibility and purposelessness.  Our life is one nurtured by a woman's (our moms) body.   That was completely not of our own choice, a gift of love.  For all of us, we had a family surrounding our young lives.  That, too, was a gift.  Granted, some did not have the loving environment that would have lead to a healthier sense of self, a more positive view of life and even a feeling of hopefulness in our world.  Nonetheless, over time, the gift of life needs to be owned by each of us…there is no one to blame, shame or criticize for the steps we choose to take or not take with the gift we've been given.  Yes, broader  issues remain – there are systemic societal and cultural issues that impend pressure and/or discrimatory practices upon innocent lives.  Yet, sooner or later every person needs to take responsibility for what they are and what they are becoming.  

Yesterday, I finally got a chance to stand in the wake of history, over 5000 years of history.  King Tut came to town.  I missed the last time the boy king was hanging around for viewing.  That was in the 1970's and I was about as interested in history as I am now in fishing.  So, I jumped at the chance to take my turn in gazing upon history.  It is an amazing thing standing and looking at something that is 1000s of years old.  It puts life into perspective.  It is rather humbling, I might add.  The millions and billions of lives that have proceeded ours…very few remain fresh in our contemporary minds.  Only the wealthy or the few noteworthy throughout history garner any attention or mandate a traveling show of trickets from their grave.  For most of us, history puts us where we need to realize we are – in a BIGGER story.  I don't really think 5000 years from now (if the Lord tarries in His restoration and redemption of our broken world) that there will be 1000s of people viewing the "stuff" of my life nor, for that matter, yours.  We live in a flow of history…significant to a God who loves us and transcends the mortality boundaries that are laid on flesh and bone.  They are the bookends of our existence that we neither choose or personally mark.  Sooner or later, the life we live simply runs out of steam.  

I realized yesterday as I walked among the golden necklaces and alabaster statuettes that I am NOT the story of the universe or even of my little world.  I am part of writing the story of my life now but I do it in the midst of history.  I have, for the last few years, been writing the word, "history" like this = "HIS-story."  I do it for one reason and one reason alone, perspective.  I live my life to the glory of the King in my heart and life, Jesus.  His name is worthy to be praised…God's actions and interactions with our species throughout history is the one reality that overshadows an expensive display of archeological discoveries.  Though none may sing my praises in the future, there will be ONE whom will give my life meaning NOT because of fame, intellect or accomplishment but because of love and gift.  

I didn't think as I walked into the Seattle Center yesterday that I was going to see anything more than an exhibit of one dead guy.  What I walked away with was a sense of life so well explained in the following song from the book of Psalms:

Psalm 103 

1-2 O my soul, bless God.
    From head to toe, I’ll bless his holy name!
O my soul, bless God,
    don’t forget a single blessing!

3-5 He forgives your sins—every one.
    He heals your diseases—every one.
    He redeems you from hell—saves your life!
    He crowns you with love and mercy—a paradise crown.
    He wraps you in goodness—beauty eternal.
    He renews your youth—you’re always young in his presence.

6-18 God makes everything come out right;
    he puts victims back on their feet.
He showed Moses how he went about his work,
    opened up his plans to all Israel.
God is sheer mercy and grace;
    not easily angered, he’s rich in love.
He doesn’t endlessly nag and scold,
    nor hold grudges forever.
He doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve,
    nor pay us back in full for our wrongs.
As high as heaven is over the earth,
    so strong is his love to those who fear him.
And as far as sunrise is from sunset,
    he has separated us from our sins.
As parents feel for their children,
    God feels for those who fear him.
He knows us inside and out,
    keeps in mind that we’re made of mud.
Men and women don’t live very long;
    like wildflowers they spring up and blossom,
But a storm snuffs them out just as quickly,
    leaving nothing to show they were here.
God’s love, though, is ever and always,
    eternally present to all who fear him,
Making everything right for them and their children
    as they follow his Covenant ways
    and remember to do whatever he said.

19-22 God has set his throne in heaven;
    he rules over us all. He’s the King!
So bless God, you angels,
    ready and able to fly at his bidding,
    quick to hear and do what he says.
Bless God, all you armies of angels,
    alert to respond to whatever he wills.
Bless God, all creatures, wherever you are—
    everything and everyone made by God.

And you, O my soul, bless God!


Reading Lance Ford’s “Unleader”…reflections as of today

AUnleaderLance Ford is another one of those guys that I wish I could hang out with for a while.  I've read his blog posts, books and followed how the Spirit has been leading him for quite some time.  So, it shouldn't come as a suprise to him or you (for that matter) that when Lance released his latest book, Unleader, that I would pick it up and have some words to say about it.  I've reflected before this on the celebrity culture that has been built in "churchworld" here in America.  In fact, if you follow THIS LINK to read what I've posted in the past.  

I simply don't believe Lance is onto something…I KNOW he is putting his finger on a pulse that, once we "read" it, will bring some discomfort to a plethora of people and insitutional church structures. I grew up in a denomination that didn't necessarily "celebritize" its leaders but definitely had a theological system that put pastoral leaders on an ecclesiastical pedestal.  Truth is, I fought the whole "ordination" thing in my own life trying to resolve the inner tension I felt NOT about the process of call and service but the inevitable issues that come along with the pastoral office.  In the denomination that I serve there is STILL a wall of or an inherent "cultural" divide between the "clery" and the "laity."  In fact, simply using those words brings to bear a definitive separation that eventually deteriorates into an "us vs. them" or a sense that one is better than the other dyamic.  The truth is a person can talk about the Body of Christ all day…they can discuss how God has gifted everyone with specific gifts for ministry…they can discuss the economy of God's will in community all they want.  Even so, as soon as someone is given a title, a special set of clothes and a task that is exclusive from the rest of the Body, inevitably there are bound to be issues.  One of the reasons has to do with pure imagery…again, what we say is contradicted by praxis, that being, action that is rendered the exclusive territory of the ecclesiastical elect.  There is a sense alive and well in today's Christian community that the "pastor" is someone that is MORE special in God's eyes, has more of an important call than the average Christ-follower and, in some sense, is looked upon and listened to more by God.  If it wasn't so sad I would be tempted to laugh when someone specifically asks me to pray for a situation that they would never, ever share with another person…not because of confidentiality but because they believe I have a "hotline" to God.

Anyway, Lance comes along with this new book, Unleader.  I'm about a third of the way through it.  To say that there are sections that are truly prophetic would be an understatement.  Now, I'm not talking about predictive prophecy when I mentioned the word, "prophetic."  What I am saying is that God used prophetic voices to unmask distortions, blind spots and false idols within people's lives while at the same time, calling them to repentance.  That's what I feel is Lance's spirit in this book.  Many will badmouth him because they might sense he is "out of line."  Others will marginalize his words because they have too much at stake to take him seriously.  But truthfully, these are words that need to be heard and on which to meditate.  Every spiritual "leader", every pastor is tempted to fall into their own sub-culture of celebrity (whether that celebrity draws dozens or thousands).  

I think I stand with Lance in saying that I'm "over" the leadership talks and conferences.  While I have grown in my sensitivity to God's voice and to how He speaks in and through the Word, people and circumstances, I think that Lance nails it when he talks more about "followership" than leadership.  In the second chapter when Lance quotes Rousseau ("God created man in his own image. And man returned the favor") I knew that I was in trouble.  There have been times in my life where I have been MORE interested in growth in ministry whether with individuals or institutional systems where I know now in hindsight that my motives were NOT on God.  I don't think anybody these days desires anything else but celebrity. The trappings of book deals, public buzz, and adoring fans are difficult to withstand no matter how spiritually mature a Christ follower is.  Most of us feel that we're pretty humble until you put us in front of a big crowd over time…then it breaks down the best of us.  

I believe Lance is going to make a power move to the "basket" of servanthood and followership over/against leaderdom.  I've already seen hints of that in the opening chapters.  So far, all I can say is "thank you" Lance.  What's good about the book is that it is not filled with condemnation or naivete.  It is honest, forthright and truthful.  In addition, it drives to the point of what every Jesus follower's life is supposed to be about – servanthood in all areas of life.  I smiled when Lance wrote, 

"If you want to help me be a better leader…take me to your server, not your leader."

Now, let's not get too weird with this, OK?  I don't believe Lance is blasting or demeaning or attempting to pull the leadership gifting out of the Body of Christ.  In my humble opinion, looking at the issue of ecclesiastical leadership is a lot like analyzing the issue of "women" in ministry and roles in marriage. You can view this discussion as an egalitarian, complimentarian or from a heirarchical/authoritarian perspective.  I suspect Lance is looking at this issue from a complimentarian perspective…you see, leadership is good, leadership is necessary SANS celebrity, narcissism, power/control hunger and obession, all the other issues that transform once tender servants into "Jesus Jerks" (Lance's phrase, not mine – unfortunately!).  Anyway, pick the book up and read it.  Even if you are NOT in leadership, you might want to take a look at it and then join in prayer…pray for your leaders and for the Spirit's deconstruction of any tendency or temptation for them to fall into being a "leaderholic" (again, Lance's words, good words indeed).  By the way, if you don't like what I said, read Bill Kinnon's take on the book – Bill is smarter and better looking than me!  


Ok, time to admit it…coolness no longer

50272_102509789792643_7285_nOK, I don't get it.  I don't…I don't get music that is being played.  I don't get why movies today are often so dull, narcissistic, full of ridiculous verbage and sexuality.  I don't get why culture seems polarized by petty political discourse that is FAR from truthful.  I don't get why there are good leaders, people and spiritual practices  in small churches and "questionable" leaders and methodologies in mega-churches. I don't get why students "sext."  I don't get why anybody would be sympathetic or interested in Lindsay Lohan.  I don't get why Lady Gaga traveling in a transparent egg would make anybody smile.  I don't get why moms and dads encourage little girls as young as 5 and 6 to have a "Beiber fever."  

I don't get why cheating is at epidemic proportions and why national education officials want to take creativity away from teachers for the purpose of standardization.  I don't get why coolness is better than competency…or image means more than substance.  I don't get why pants hanging around someone's ankles looks good or why an oversized baseball cap on some dude's head makes sense.  I don't know why anyone would want to look like a gangsta.  I don't get why parents don't cook homecooked meals anymore and eat more meals with their kids in restaurants while complaining they don't have enough money.  

I don't get why Nicki Manaj or Snopp (whatever he's calling himself) have humongous followings.  I don't get why so many people have throw away relationships…I don't get why the government will call some people "rich" but will ignore the fact that most politicians, sports stars, entertainers, etc. are just as rich if not MORE rich than those who have a "normal" profession.  I don't get why texting is so addictive or why men would destroy a marriage over a video game or a curiosity over what other women look like on the internet.  I don't get why the same people who think we should legalize prostitution are also those who are against human trafficking.  I don't get why people aren't interested in what is really going on in the world and would rather watch Charlie Sheen or "How I met your mother" or "The Voice" than some media that would help them engage the world in a meaningful way.  I don't get Cee Lo and why the his most "famous" song was adored by millions.  I don't get why people would say "f-you" for any reason.  

I don't get why people will pay 100's of dollars for football game tickets but have a hard time giving more than a few bucks that can help touch a life.  I don't get why more and more people are getting fat while at the same time we have people and doctors YELLING at the culture regarding obesity (it seems like the louder they yell, the fatter we get).  I don't get why no one in the government seems concerned that we are 16 trillion dollars in debt.  I don't get why people feel they are entitled to stuff and that they DON'T have to work in the world.  I don't get why those who are dependents don't have more appreciation for those who are not.  I don't get why more people don't understand the sacrifices previous generations made for our freedom or why freedom is easily cast away for a "level playing field" without serious consideration about what that phrase actually means.  

I don't get "Five Shades of Grey" or the musical "Book of Mormon."  I don't get why anybody and anything of meaning in our culture is a target for public ridicule.  I don't get why the news media seems to be in the tank for a specific ideology or why it seems like churches that should be brothers and sisters in a common mission are overtly competitive.  I don't get 30-somethings living with mom and dad or why mom and dad allow a 30-something to live with them.  I don't get why a college education is so expensive or why everybody clamors to pay $5 bucks for a cup of coffee.  I don't get why people want to be so voyeuristic and take pictures of themselves naked.  I don't get why parents are not taking more responsiblity for their children's lives or why all people aren't taking personal responsibility for their own.  I don't get Oakland Raider fans or why people like to see hockey players fight.  I don't get the "morning after pill" when men and women I know "ache" for a meaningful, trusting, lasting and fulfilling relationship.  I don't get why anybody would see the unborn as that which is a throw away life…and I don't get why more of us don't listen to those of us who are older and wiser.  And, by the way, I don't get why people would rather be cool than be people with meaning and purpose in life.  

Ok…so I'm not cool anymore!  I get that!  In fact, when I talk to students these days at conferences, I tell them right from the start, "I'm not cool."  Truth is, I tell them to tell me in a unified voice, "Robin you are not cool."  So, my understanding about this reality is pervasive.  Maybe being cool isn't really what life is about and our obsession with coolness is taking us down a road of destruction.  Coolness, in many respects, is a life distraction…as long as we are obsessed with that which garners attention we will be anethetized into apathy and a blandness about life that will eventually lead to our ruin.  Hey, don't believe me?  Read some history…  A wise man, who indulged himself in every cool thing life could offer once said, "the end of the matter; all has been heard.  Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of a man or woman.  For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil (and may I ADD, "cool").  

And, two more things…I don't get why I wrote this long post…enough said!  

And, I don't get this -