Thursday, April 29, 2010

Leadership and God

Nancy Ortberg is speaking on leadership on Thursday morning at Orange 2010 and has made a statement that I paraphrase here: "If we want people to move from poor to great, we have to be OK with them going through the messy steps between poor and great." Good observation but it isn't limited to leadership. It is just as valid within the Christian life. Too many of us suffer from the idea – even if it isn't directly stated – that we have to "be the best we can be" all the time or God leaves us. Some believe that if we "grieve the Holy Spirit," the Spirit leaves us and so we perceive our salvation and position with God as something that ebbs and flows if not comes and goes as we fail and then perform for the Creator.

Of course this is not the case as a bit of reflection will reveal. Paul urges us to "be transformed; to become like God." The use of "become" implies – no, demands – a process. A process then implies that we, even though with God, are still un-transformed and un-God like as we travel from immature to mature images of God. We are imperfect and God knows that; He does not expect perfection per se at any given moment. We are saved by the blood of Jesus not whether or not we ever mess things up.

Our God personifies Nancy's leadership principle, but as something much more personal and broad than simple leadership. If God died for us "while we were yet sinners," His patience continues to provide the grace space for us to learn, to fail, to be lifted up again on our journey into the Image in which we were made. Neither God nor His Spirit come and go as we stumble along; God has never behaved that way. In fact, when He sent Israel into exile, God went with them to Babylon. He did not abandon them. It is OK that we fail from time to time in our pursuit of the life we have been made to live.

God expects it; He knows you; His love extends His grace and patience in our failures.

Rest in that today and in the future when tempted to kick yourself or perform a bit better to make up for your failings.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Christendom’s Challenge

I am becoming increasingly convinced that Christendom's main problem is our penchant to separate church from life. We have allowed to develop a church separate from life and this is not the idea given in Scripture. The church, rightly understood is not institutional in Scripture but refers to the community of believers – who live lives characterized by the Spirit. Christians assemble for encouragement and worship, but the community is understood to exist at all times. As a result we have created rules for church life that do not reflect or only vaguely reflect the actual lives of church members.

I recently had a hallway conversation in which those involved all grew up in congregations that didn't observe Easter, but in which everyone in the pews did observe it. We all received new clothes, the women wore new hats, and church on Easter morning looked like a fashion show. While "the church" couldn't observe Easter – everyone in church did.

This duality between the church and those that make it up has resulted in any number of odd behaviors, especially but not exclusively in my denomination. We have sometimes vocal "experts in the law" concerning what is correct behavior in and for the church. Churches can't contribute to orphanages, but everyone in the church can send their money to an orphanage if they choose to do so. We can all individually support a missionary, but the church's money can't be used for that. All of us are going to observe Christmas, but we can't have poinsettias on the church's windows because "the church doesn't observe Christmas."

But it isn't just "low church" groups that suffer from this malady. High churches with their priest class who must be available to administer the sacraments suffer from the same problem. A simple communal meal demonstrating community and the faithfulness of God has grown into a highly scripted rite with special precautions for flakes of cracker and drips of wine.

The Roman Catholic Church has in recent years debated the appropriate style of "church music" even though their members listen to and better connect with various kinds of music. In my fellowship we worry about singing a capella in church and then drive home with the local Christian pop station on the radio.

Another ripe issue for both the Roman Catholic and my group of believers is "women's roles." We quickly acknowledge that women are indispensable with various skills at home, but we limit their practice of those skills "in church."

It is clear that we have missed the point. God wants a community, an economy rather than a group of club members who know the correct handshake, meet in a special place. and practice specifically church rites. Being saved and living the life of God is intended to be the primary result of our being in fellowship with God. The things we do when we are together are to be directly outgrowths of that community life, not completely divorced from it.

Until Christendom figures this out, we will continue to strain gnats and swallow camels, continue to tithe mint and cumin, and miss the weightier parts of being God people. This is our problem and is the single greatest failure of congregational and denominational leaders. We simply cannot allow our members or our church rules to continue to create artificial separations between church and life; between us and God.

Welcome and legal mumbojumbo

Welcome to my corner of cyberspace! Make yourself at home and enjoy a few minutes of reading. Everything here (text and pictures), unless otherwise indicated, is original and enjoys copyright protection. For re-use information, please contact me directly.

Information provided here is simply the creation of the author and is not intended as life advice, counseling, or therapy for anyone else. The use of any information found on this site is entirely at the discretion of the reader as they see fit for themselves. The author makes no claims to any particular expertise, experience, or training appropriate to justify basing any life, career, or any other type of decision on any of it.