I have long disliked the concept of a “call” in Christian ministry. Let me explain.
It has been a year since I left being a “professional Pastor” at a church. I am now an attender at a church. It is an interesting transition which is not complete.
North America (Canada) is a strange and critical place, and implementing the vision Jesus set before us in the great commission is complicated. Jesus never required a building or programs (it would seem) to implement His vision through his work. Of course, he did use the infrastructure in place quite a lot, so he did not seem to reject the notion that the places were useful.
The ongoing conversation (and one that I think needs to continue) is whether or not it is wise to spend millions of dollars on buildings, land, sound equipment etc., when the money could be spent to feed the poor in Canada and around the world.
Here is where the disconnect is for me. Remembering I work daily to feed children in Canada and around the world. Our mission as Christians is primarily to teach and live the teachings of Jesus. Literally, creating atmospheres and opportunities for more people to just hear about Jesus and what he taught. An outcome from living what he taught should be both extravagant worship of Jesus and God (think of the women who poured expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet with His approval) AND taking care of the poor (think Jesus asking in heaven why we did not give water and food to those in need).
So for me the answer is an ongoing tension. To build a building that can communicate in the vernacular of our time musically and through teaching makes sense, even if it costs some money. What doesn’t make sense is the Pastor or people in the congregation living high on the hog. That too, of course, is a sliding scale worthy of much debate, but at some point we must sacrifice things to live more simply and give more away.
Like I said, ongoing tension, but sometimes the tension can be created because the vision is not being viewed holistically.
Well we are back down in the old neighbourhood after all of the transition. As those who have read know, this year has been a wild one. Back in Dec of 2006 I started taking over as the interim Lead Pastor of my church to cover for the Senior Pastor. That led to 4 months of leadership and a tonne of transtition. Around that time we learned we were to have our fourth child, near the end of that time was the wild change in jobs which necessitated a change in geography and of course we no longer attended the church I worked at. So now we are in the new location, I am at the new job, the new baby is 3 weeks old and it is time to find a new church community to hang with.
I wish I could do justice to the complexity of this issue for me. I think of a book like Revolution by George Barna (his greater work here) and so many more. Having been in leadership in the church, I am sure some would say “and it is better now that you are out of it”, and having filled so may of the public and private roles that encompass leading a church, well I have too many opinions.
The debate can be seen raging right now within the Christian community and certainly outside of it. I am blown away by the American news coverage on the issue of “true” Chrsitianity, and all the iterations people are seeing.
Some, it seems, will die for the institution of church, others, although claiming to be Christian seem to think it needs a complete overhaul, a rebirth, maybe even a near death experience. Both parties claim an undying love for the teachings of Jesus. and there is the rub. How does one measure one’s adherence to the teachings of Jesus. By how loud one yells that they believe? Or, as Jesus himself said, wisdom will be proved right be her actions. (Matthew 11:18-19) Note the context there as well, very interesting.
Without playing all my cards (is that a respectable metaphor?) I think I am laying some sort of a framework to the difficulties. Relevancy without heresy, great teaching with outward focus. Community and family support, without a sub-culture that kills the ability to relate to everyone who doesn’t go to church – the majority of everybody I know.
So the journey begins. More to come I suppose.
Blogging is by its very nature a risky adventure, in that, it is very difficult not to be self-absorbed in both your posting and desires.
I blog in main to stay somewhat connected to those who might be interested in my musical pursuits. As much as it feels like I am doing a lot right now I know that by a professional musicians standards I am standing still. Nevertheless I fight on.
I also jabber about how hard life is, blah, blah. How I have left one job, on to another another, – yawn – blah, blah etc.
The new job. Helping hungry, sick kids around the world. God help me:
a) make a difference
b) thank you every minute for my healthy children
c) have the energy to do all of things I should be doing, not just what tickles my fancy
A mild self reprimand of sorts. Lots to do, some of it really counts. Better more that counts than less.
The ebb and flow of life has been poetically described in so many ways. I do like the biblical metaphor of hills and the valleys. I think it is nearly impossible not to identify emotionally with that metaphor if you can breathe, and you have ever taken in more geography than a flat square few miles of the prairies.
And what do you do when you ride the roller coaster ride of life, trying to piece together the bizarre, the illogical, and the blessing of family and friends?
You stay the course. What course? For me, the course that Jesus Christ set in His last words here on earth, to fulfill a promise God made to provide a way to know Him. Jesus said, what Ezra modelled – Learn, Do, Teach. He said go and make disciples teaching everything I have commanded you. (ref: the whole passage Matt 28:18-20)
I would love to say staying the course flattens the hills and valleys – but it doesn’t. It does give you strength, hope and vision to keep walking when at times you would rather not.
Ironically I am not talking about Christmas, although what I am pondering is related – closely. Life throws many different things and experiences at you. I would have to say that I have not experienced anywhere close to the harsh or tragic things others I know are dealing with or have had to deal with just to survive.
Have I had a easy life? No, I don’t think so, but everything becomes very relative quickly, and really it is not a contest. What I do know is that being able to go through life with others and do more than survive, indeed to thrive and grow, is a blessing.
Now you do get into the issues of what is surviving, growing etc., but I think if you read this blog at all you realize that, although I may struggle with materialism and the like, I uphold the ways of God as the ideal, and try to follow what the Bible teaches in that regard.
The mystery is in this. The Bible is simple enough that a young child can grasp and believe its fundementals, but complex enough to keep one pondering its meaning for a lifetime. Moreover, it seems as we get older, living those fundementals becomes more difficult to do, not easier. And yet, the basic concept never changes. Truth about life and its “keys” are given to us through the Bible. Christians believe that the Bible is the supernatural (although strikingly simple by today’s standards) method by which the Creator of the universe has revealed everything we need to know to survive this chapter of existence. 1 Peter 1:3
What strikes me as most important as a person who believes in Jesus and in God (Yahweh, the name that the Bible uses to describe the God of Israel) is that I live a life that is defined by my submission (a dirty word today) to what the Bible teaches. A life that truly seeks to learn what the Bible says, to do what the Bible says and to teach others what the bible says. That progression can be seen well in the life of a teacher of Israel from the old testament times Ezra. Ezra 7:10
I think the opposite is true as well. It is important not to be defined, if one calls oneself a Christian, by thoughts, actions or proclamations that do not help others see the truth of the Bible more clearly. In the end, too much time spent on ideas or thoughts not aimed at doing what the Bible teaches as the keys to life is simply a waste of time.
Living a life akin to that of Ezra harvests a God honouring crop as it were. That is a narrow focus I admit, and one which I am striving to regain. Simple, focussed and true. It is hard to vacate the mind of the wisdom of this world which can seem all too enticing and logical in favour of the wisdom that is contained in the Bible. 1 Cor 1:20 All to often techniques and thoughts that the world reveres are the exact opposite of what the Bible would teach.
The simple focus is that success will come with a life lived in the truth of what the Bible teaches. John 17:17 Jesus was clear on that. Success of course looks very different than what the world thinks is successful. That concept is true, but very unpopular, cliche, unrealistic and trite to many. But it is a simple truth to dwell on and study. Look at Matthew 5: 1-13, Jesus’ teaching is simple but completly counter to every human instinct it would seem. I am looking forward to preaching on that Dec 31.
So what is so interesting about this season? Well at a time when I could wrongly try to conjure up all that I think is right by the standards of this world to aid in succeeding in the eyes of many who may be watching, I am prfoundly pleased that I don’t have to rely on my own wisdom, or the wisdom of other men, but to jointly rely with other trusted friends on the wisdom of God to stay focused on this simple truth: I need to learn more of what the Bible teaches, do more of what the Bible teaches and teach others more of what the bible teaches everyday. There may be other strategies out there, but I think that is a simple way of describing what Jesus would have us do for life. John 8:31.
Do you ever feel that for all of your striving, you are ever failing? A walk around the block is a circle, not a journey, and a debatable amount of exercise.
Sometimes I relate too much to the movie It’s A Wonderful Life. By that I mean, I can’t see the good stuff. It might be there, but I can’t see it. As some other movie said, after a while the bad stuff is easier to believe. (because it is just way more prevalent)
I have been reading several blogs lately. Quite a few of just folk, linking through a friends blog to their friends etc., not artists or intellectuals, not “thinkers” or writers, just folk.
There is so much criticism in our society. It seems that many many people feel judged, not good enough. Like they don’t measure up. I am there. How can you not be. Almost everyday I/we are told how we do not measure up to someone’s standard.
Ironically that is a message that can too often come from the people who bare the responsibility to pass on the message of God’s hope for the world. The hope that the world would try and know who He is and hat He’s about. I know I mess up with this all the time.
So what is the message of God. On one hand, yes you don’t measure up to God, but…. you can. As has been said often, it is not easy, but it is simple. KISS, keep it simple stupid. Man do I need to remeber that. Just be the truth that is in the Bible. When you fall short, just try and be more the next day, knowing that the very exercise (humility, repetence, trying to live the truth, not just know it) is success in God’s eyes. Following the teachings of Jesus and the Bible (accepting and following them) allows us to live in this positive and hopeful reality. We are better than ok with our creator God.
Yes it is incredibly difficult to keep that simple focus, but I write this to remind myself, and I suppose others – Just Do It.