Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Decapitation is lethal

Our church is likely going to be introduced into a season of transition in the near future as it has appeared possible and very likely that God is calling a great man, leader, and pastor to another church to advance the gospel. I am in a state of bittersweet prayer about this as I very much enjoy the preaching and teaching of this pastor, as well as who he is at his heart and core as a man convicted at the power of the gospel and the need to bring it to all people, regardless of their response. I have come to grips with the knowledge that God uses each of us for specific roles in His Kingdom to advance and exalt His Glory. One of these roles is revitalizing the local body of Christ and building them, through the power of God, into a body working in unison to accomplish the mission of the gospel to the benefit of their community. I count it a privilege to have been led by such a man,  and I am confident that the mark he has left on FBC-Nixa has equipped us to continue to reach into our community and serve our neighbors for the sake of God's glory and the expansion of His kingdom. I pray that this man's potential new church knows what they are getting into if they call him to be their pastor.

With that in mind, I have also been having these thoughts, provoked during discussion within our small group bible study, the question asked (in some form or another) How do we stay focused in times of change in the church? My answer is simple, we must remember that we are quite literally the body of Christ. Each of us important and vital to be a complete body, yet none of us so important that our absence is truly fatal to the body. To take this metaphor to a more literal place, I think of my patients... There is very few things that truly end up being a cause of death. In the ~75 deaths I have been involved with, when I am asked what the cause of death is, I usually respond with, "their heart stopped". But here's the thing, I can make their heart beat, I can make it restart, and when I can't I can hook you to a machine to make it continue to work. It is the head that truly defines the life of the body. In the field of battle, we can suffer numerous wounds and injuries, and many of them can be life-threatening, and many more can cause long-term alterations to the life of the body from that place forward... but what is the only guarantee of immediate, split second death? Decapitation... you remove a the head, the body dies right there, right then. All other maladies and injuries, when given proper attention, care, and work can be treated, resolved, or coped with. The success of these treatments depends mightily on the health of the body. A young, healthy, strong person stands a much higher chance of surviving any incident, yet a frail, poorly cared for, weak body can succumb to the minorest of afflictions.

So, how do we stay focused in times of change? We take stock of the health of our body, we recognize that we have not been decapitated, Christ is still our head, we must keep Him there if we are to survive. We identify the injury caused by the injury or destruction of the part of the body affected, did we stub our toe, or get shot in the heart? We identify the required action and treatment to mend the injury, we use our resources and those more qualified to help, sometimes we have to call in a specialist, sometimes we just need a band-aid. We determine the long-term effect of the injury, and adjust our daily activities as we rehab from the injury. We come through it stronger, more intentional, and better for having gone through the trial. We learn from our former wounds, we prepare for the next.

We are not defeated, we are merely hurt

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Vision Casting FBCN- Transparent Vulnerability

We were discussing tonight, during a vision casting series for our small group studies, the need for relationships...What strikes me as a dire need when it comes to forming meaningful relationships is transparent vulnerability. By this I mean that each of us, as a redeemed member of the family of God, should be able to be open, honest, and consistent with one another. This level of transparency has the benefit of dropping the need to save face, or hide potentially shameful bits of ourselves for the fear of no longer fitting in or belonging in the church. Its the equivalent of getting everyone to wear a sandwich board every Sunday upon which everyone chooses to write out their best and worst features. It allows for easy knowledge of just how screwed up we all are, and prevents any of us from achieving a place of judgement over others based on their sins, while ignoring our own. This transparency aids us in eliminating situations in which we must be reminded that those without sin should cast the first stones. It also allows for easy understanding, discussion, and loving support of each other in areas we find difficult to talk about, while eliminating the pious church culture that has formed in which we all are sitting around pretending that we are no longer sinners, or that we no longer struggle with the sins in our past. By being openly honest and transparent about who we are not only without Christ, but also with Christ we arrive at the common flat ground that is found at the foot of the cross, where all are welcome and where Jesus' atoning, perfect sacrifice was sufficient to cover all sins for all time for all people. By being open and honest to this level we also accept the responsibility that we stand the chance to be ridiculed by others who have not chosen to become a part of this openness. This vulnerability must be accepted in order to fully experience the depth and intimacy of a love that is to serve as witness to the unimaginable love of Christ that is to define his disciples. If we want to be a church known for the strength of our relationships and our adherence to the standard set by Christ to love each other as He first loved us, we must be willing to adhere to an understanding of this transparent vulnerability. We must be willing to say that we are broken, sinful, and that we don't know it all, we don't have all the answers, but we know that Christ's grace is sufficient for us.

The double edged sword of this swings back through us by needing to realize something... as much as people say they want to attend a church that is loving and caring, most people will be scared off when it becomes real. When confronted by truth, people are forced to respond... people are happy to commit to something or even just consider something, up until it reaches a point that it becomes too real. If we, as the members of the body of Christ, commit to having these relationships at this level, it is likely going to become very real, very fast. As an example, my own small group is full of men who are surprisingly open and honest, to the point of bluntness. We have identified that there is a very real risk that any man who happens to wander into our class on any given Sunday will likely be scared off and not return because, at times, we get very real, very personal in our discussion and depth we dive into scripture. As such, we have made an attempt, on Sunday mornings to hold a little tighter to the discussions we are having, making us more inviting and able to accommodate people of more diverse comfort levels. To balance this, we also get together on Sunday evenings as a group of men to tackle the deeper, more visceral parts of life we are dealing with. Allowing us to have that deep intimate relationship that we crave, while still trying to reach new people who may not be ready for the level of commitment required.

I hope our church can continue to grow in these areas, I hope we are known as a church that is honest to who we are, and who Christ is. A place where all are welcomed and able to seek help and guidance as they desire to grow closer to a God whose grace is sufficient to cover all of their transgressions, past present, and future.

Monday, January 14, 2013

I'd have been a bad disciple

A conversation with my wife, just the two of us, while the kids are asleep and the house is calm, is one of the rare, beautiful moments of life. I love my family, and there is few things better than playing with my kids, hearing them laugh, tossing them in the sky, and so on... but there is not enough time spent, just the two of us, talking. We try to make more time, and we do well sometimes, I never know where the conversations will head, and I have to fight my urges to turn conversations with her into attempts to teach, lecture, or talking at her instead of conversing. My wife is, hands-down, the smartest person I have ever met, and it is in these quiet conversations where, if I can sit and be a good listener, I am reminded of her lovely mind.

Last night we were talking about the disciples, in comparison to our own work, and she made a comment on the length of time they had been trained for the work that was placed before them. The disciples had 3 years! Three years to go from the dregs they were before Christ called them to himself, to being sent out by the Great Commission following Jesus' ascension. For those three years, they were in the physical presence of God, learning from him, seeing the miracles and signs that Jesus performed. Soaking in all they could, the disciples went from nothing to an evangelical force, in three years. Here is the kicker for me, its not like these men had the New Testament, they had no clue what was going to happen from day to day. They didn't know, heading into different towns, what would happen while they were there. They devoted these three years to a life of uncertainty, risking everything, risking being fooled and humiliated. If Jesus had turned out to not be the Christ, these men would have been ruined, and they followed still.

Three years of intense, on the job, get dirty, make mistakes, fail, be broken, be rebuilt, be built up, worshiping, following... and then... world shattered, the man they were following dies. What would that have felt like, those three days? Three years of pouring out, to be summed up in three days of feeling that they were made a fool... these men were not perfect in these three days either, just as they weren't for the three years that they followed Jesus, but, in an amazing act of love, Jesus still comes back to them.

They didn't have the complete, cleaned-up, tucked in, nice and neat, story of Christ that I get to have in the Bible. They didn't get to know that it all ends up good in the end. They had blind, day-to-day faith that they were doing what was right. I sit here, on my couch, the whole of the Bible, books about the bible, and entire assortment of information at my fingertips on the internet, no limit to the knowledge available to me, indwelled by the spirit of God, created to do His work on earth, for His glory... having been in a growing relationship with Him for 13 years, called to the same mission as the disciples... and yet, I do very little for the glory of God.

I hope to be better at allowing God to do His work through me, and stop getting in the way...