Monday, February 28, 2011

Community 2

And besides the church chatter, have you talked to many average members lately? After years of pouring themselves into accountability groups and life groups and every other kind of group we have offered, many are just disappointed. They just haven’t had the experience they were hoping for.

This is not true for everyone for all times. I have been in groups that have changed my life in significant ways. I know you have too. I am talking in generalities that I am observing and hearing about.

Just observing the situation is one thing. Thinking through the why’s and looking for the what if’s and what’s next is tricky. But I have some thoughts roaming around in my head that I am still trying to land. I am hoping to explore a few more thoughts on this in different blog posts. I am thinking through the following thoughts:

1.Control: In community we still control how confessional we are. We are the gatekeepers of how much we put out there regardless of the community we find ourselves in.

2.Woundedness: Should our starting place shift in our desire for confessional community. Instead of assuming confession is going to flow in groups, should we focus on equipping individuals in self awareness so they know their wounds, know their behaviors that flow out of their wounds and can then begin the healing process.

3.Truth Asking: One hears a lot about Truth Telling. Usually defined something like this: I see behavior in your life and because of our covenant in community I get to share truth with you about your attitudes and behaviors. What if we transition to Truth Asking? Asking each other about the traps and triggers in our lives and not fearing the messiness of the answer. Truth Asking assumes one will walk the road of struggle with another without fear or judgment. It also assumes that we all in our brokenness have a road to walk.

4.What Are the Barriers to Confessional Community: I am struggling with an idea that I am still thinking through. In our attempt to Christianize our lives we have taken parenting, marriage, and finances and made them into indicators of our spirituality or maturity. An entire culture has developed around the family that has deified it to something I am not sure God ever intended. Perfection in parenting, marriage and financial management has solidified the “appear as all is great” mentality that permeates many Christian communities. What happens when you are not doing so well? Who is brave enough to stand up and say it? How can we grow confessional communities in the midst of the pseudo-perfection we seem to value. Does it really matter that you have no debt if you are bitter and not compassionate to the alien. Somewhere along the road, we have gotten distracted.

So.....I am asking God to help me discern through this muddle of thoughts.

Community 1

Community. What a loaded word in church conversation. It has been for a while. However it has taken on a whole new slant in the Missional church conversation. As we struggle with what it means to grow disciples versus just church attendees, community crops up with predictable regularity. In Missional communities we are trying to move from consumers of church goods and services to being outposts of the Kingdom of God where we live, work, play and worship.

It has me pondering. Are we asking “community” to bear a weight it was never intended to bear? It seems to have become the panacea to all our ills. A spiritual band-aid that is quickly applied in hopes of it healing the buried wound. I am having my doubts.

Please do not misunderstand me. I am all about intimate relationships, community, and accountability. I treasure my friendships and take them seriously. I pursue and I respond and I value what happens in spiritual friendship. So, hear these musings, as simply musings, from one who is feeling the push and pull tension of community.

Over the last 25 years, churches have been enamored with small groups of differing stripes. We have embraced the Family Life Group, the Accountability Group, Triads, Men’s Groups, Women’s Groups, Fellowship Groups, Prayer Groups, Study Groups, and Recovery Groups. And the list goes on. Yet still, we are struggling with solutions to isolation, individualism, sin, luke-warmness and we keep going back to Community as our solution. All of our groups are somehow still not meeting the need we see. It is almost like the solution we have come up with, while a good solution is for a question or a struggle we are not asking or facing. An authentic struggle and authentic answers, just not to the same question.

I have heard more than my fair share of ministry staff church chatter that poses the question: “why are we still not hearing about people’s crisis until it is too late. Why is divorce the next step when we first hear about the marriage struggle?” “Why is a return to addiction the behavior we hear about when we never knew there was a struggle to start with.” “How do we create community so that our members will become confessional?” You get the idea. We are still desperately looking for a way to form community to do what we think it needs to do. 25 years into intentional church structuring to provide it and we are still struggling. Big time.

It’s not due to a lack of resources. Go to any bookstore, peruse the internet, and look at church conferences. There are theologies, strategies, concepts and formulations to create community in every form you could desire. I’ve read more books on groups than I can even count.

When Willow Creeks study, Reveal, first hit the blogosphere and media, many church leaders were gob smacked. If Willow were struggling to form fully formed disciples of Christ, what possible chance did the average small church have. If Willow was struggling to create authentic community in an environment where church was being “done” via groups, how could anyone succeed at this?

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Volkswagen Commercial: The Force

I am not sure a commercial has ever touched me quite as deeply as this one. It makes me want to stand up and cheer for that Dad!

It has me thinking....about keeping dreams alive; about believing; about trusting; about fun; about what it means to allow other people to live their dreams; about who the light clickers are in my life. Thanks VW - incredible.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Public Ministry

If you know me, you know the discomfort I am feeling just typing the two words, "Public Ministry" as a title. However, let me go on.

When it comes to Spiritual Warfare and things unseen I am more than aware that a battle rages and most times we go on blissfully unaware. I am not a fan of the fear induced tactics used by some who rant and rail on Hollywood, Washington and the Media for every ill in the world. I often wonder why we would expect things not of Christ to be holy. I am not a reactionary to things that are sometimes called "secular." I see God in the strangest places and His heart is often shown best in the places we least expect it. And I do not live in fear seeing Satan behind every bush either. But that is another post. And to top it off, I am often a little "inappropriate" without even trying. So, when I refer to an attack of Satan I do not say it glibly, filter it through all I have just said. Some days it just feels like Satan, the deceiver, is waiting to pounce. And, it is always, I mean always, when I am about to engage in a very public form of ministry.

Right before I am heading off to speak somewhere or teach someplace or lead something, I hear his whispers in my ear. I hear him telling me that I have no business doing what I do. I hear him reminding me of how broken I am. I usually have the opportunity to take him up on the offers he throws out for me. And if in moments of distraction I do falter in some way, I hear his accusation proving that his original whispers were accurate. The message that always seems to sound the clearest is the one that says, "how can you go and teach women when you screw up so often."

That message used to work. It shut me down. Not so much now. On my best days in my best moments I know what is true. It is because I am so broken that God can use my life for His purposes. On a normal day in a normal moment, I know it is still true, it is just so much harder to believe.

Today, I am struck by a sudden onset of hard things to deal with in my heart. He lurks around waiting to pounce. And it is no coincidence that it is the start of a very public season of ministry for me this Spring.