Posts Tagged ‘Church’

Tita.Johns.ReceptionWe will be headed back to Florida in a couple of days to celebrate the life of Dorothy Guidry, my mother.  As a part of that service I have been asked to write out a memory that I have of her.  There are of course many individual memories that are cute and maybe a little angsty.  There is the time she was chasing me (in fun) and I headed out the storm door, missing the handle by inches, my hand went through the glass sending us on a trip to the nearest ER.  I remember how quickly the nurse in her came out as she wrapped my arm and instructed me to put pressure on the wound.  Her quick and calm response kept me from panic and you can be sure that I soaked the injury for all it was worth for years (If you have seen White Christmas you will know what I mean…)

There were strings in our string beans, hidden gifts on birthdays, Christmas scavenger hunts.  I remember her chain smoking as we waited for the movers to come during one of our many moves (she quit before I was a teenager).  I remember her patiently working with me to send a tape (mini reel to reel!) to my Dad who was posted overseas.  However my greatest memory of her is not any of these events.  It is a quality.  My mother pursued the heart of Jesus.  She loved and adopted people, just as He does. This love was without conditions and the adoption was freely available, it only needed to be accepted and there was a tacit understanding that this adoption extended to our family.

Whether it was the woman under the couch, the girl with the injured heart or the eleven year old smoker who would bruise me repeatedly standing outside our church, she brought them into the love of Christ in our home. Some of her adopted family will be sitting in the memorial service on Friday.  Some could not accept or persevere in their adoption and passed from view and some ended tragically bringing tears that few saw.  Some were (briefly) boyfriends or girlfriends but the love and adoption was never withdrawn.  Some are husbands and wives who stood by her side during these last days of life here on earth.  She has in this adopted family Peters, Pauls, Zaccheus’s, Mary Magdelenes, Marthas and even a few Lazarus’s. She has blessed so many and we have all been blessed in return.

This Spirit led heart guided our choice of church family.  We were never a “denomination”.  She taught us to seek the place the Holy Spirit would have us serve, not necessarily the place where we felt most comfortable or the place that served us best.  Our church family consists of Anglican,Lutheran, Baptist, Pentecostal, Independent, Calvinist, Wesleyan and Armenian members literally all over the world.  This was not born of an inconstancy of belief but from a solid faith anchored on the Rock that allowed her to grasp the width and breadth of the Kingdom of God as few do.

 

Read Full Post »

Meeting

In my 35 years of working experience I have come to recognize a phenomenon I call The Meeting Culture. Interestingly enough it crosses through the borders of the various regions in which I have been employed, across industries and even informal groups.  It became more salient in the later part of my career in the hospitality industry because I was engaged in trouble shooting challenged operations.  As I refocused my life on ministry and spiritual growth I was somewhat surprised to find the same culture at play within the fellowship of ministry, but then people are people no matter where we are.  Interestingly enough the heart of the culture has its genesis in both settings.

The early church, particularly the early Jewish church experienced a new phenomenon.  The practice of Judaism had long been tolerated by the Romans.  Zealots and radicals were put down but synagogues and temple worship were given a pass by the Latin conquerors.  However this new practice, these followers of Jesus were not content with their own kind and taught intolerance of other religions. Jesus was not just a god among gods, he was the God and the only one worthy of worship by all, not just the Jewish people.  Pack that up with the rumors spread by opponents and Christianity became anathema to 1st century rulers.  Gathering became dangerous.  It came to the point that the writer of Hebrews had to encourage and even mandate that the early believers meet together for fellowship and encouragement in the faith (Hebrews 1:25).  However there is a danger.  One that Paul clearly recognized when he wrote to the Corinthians and condemned their time together as not focused on their faith, “…because you come together not for the better but for the worse.”  He extends this warning in a positive sense when in Ephesians 4 he states:  “And he gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;”  Ephesians 4:11-12  When the meetings stop resulting in “the work of service to the building up of the body of Christ.” – and this is not your local church body – then it ceases to serve or follow the Gospel.

This is what I found as I started engaging businesses in crisis.  The deeper the crisis, the more meetings they had scheduled.  They would have manager meetings, department meetings, position meetings, strategy meetings, every kind of meeting that you can imagine.  They would plan these meetings, record these meetings and unfortunately never adequately execute anything that came out of these meetings.  In most cases the company had fully executable procedures and policies already in place.  So that raises the question, “What is the purpose, what is the drive for all those meetings?”  It became pretty obvious that even in distressed operations people need to feel successful.  This is what they find in their endless meetings…success.  They are able to have the most successful meetings.  They come out of the meetings feeling like they have made real progress.  They feel like they are fulfilling their purpose and calling.  The focus of success ceases to be the execution of purpose but becomes the discussion and planning of purpose.  However life and business are hard.  So when push comes to shove it is easier to have another meeting than to actually hold oneself accountable for the execution necessary for success.  This was fortunate for me as it kept me employed for a couple of decades.

So how does all this apply to our faith.  Let me be clear the gathering of the Saints is mandated by Scripture and empowered by the Holy Spirit.  The problem is when the meetings instead of focusing our faith become the focus of our faith.  When the center of our faith life is in a building instead of in our hearts; that building becomes a cage for the Gospel instead of a launching pad.  The impetus for this is the same as the meeting focused businesses that I have engaged.  We believe that we can find success in our meetings (services, gathering, experiences….).  We can be holy, inspired and powerful inside those four walls.  We are rarely challenged and often supported inside those four walls (unless we find ourselves challenging the culture inside those four walls!).  We are safe in the practice of our faith inside those four walls.  After the conversion of Emperor Constantine in 312 AD Christianity transitioned from a fringe group of Jesus fanatics to the primary religion of Europe.  It was during this period that a corollary to the Meeting Culture developed.  It is the idea that there are special “professional” children of God who really should carry the weight of the Gospel ( re-read Ephesians 4:11-12).  They get to lead the meetings where we can be so successful.  The newest class of these professional Christians is the worship leader.  Again worship is wonderful, but if the top of one’s life in Christ exists only in the midst of well engineered worship sets, we go back to the problem of the meeting culture in business.  The Gospel is contained, not executed.  The personal satisfaction and alleviation of personal responsibility that this culture provided made it grow.  It was easy to move from a fellowship of equals celebrating and sharing the gospel of redemption both together and in their communities to being a culture of meetings and rituals performed by “professional” Christians and from there to the place where the meeting itself became not only a celebration of salvation but the mode of salvation.

There was a time in my life when I measured the health of my faith by the number of meetings I attended.  This week I went to two church services, Wednesday night prayer, a small group, served at youth group and did the Friday morning prayer card session.  I am rocking for the Lord.  Now none of those things is bad.  Not event the collection is bad.  The fact that I used my attendance as a Spiritual scorecard is bad.  Honestly at that time in my life my immersion in the church was probably necessary to my spiritual formation but God had to rip the scorecard out of my hand.  I am particularly stubborn so my grip on that card was pretty tight.  It took pretty intense situations in my life to move me from a meeting scorecard to a biblical scorecard.  Now I know that you are ready for me to lay out all the check boxes on that biblical scorecard.  Sorry, no such luck.  It does  not work that way.  There are two metrics for the scorecard, the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.

Jesus tells the disciples in Luke 12 that when they are brought to judgement for their faith, “The Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”  Paul uses the Holy Spirit as a scorecard for his words to the Romans in chapter 9, “I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit,…” and in chapter 14 he sets the Holy Spirit as the scorecard for the very kingdom of God, “for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”  

David says in Psalm 119:11, “Your Word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You.” and Jesus uses His Word as the metric for a Hupomone life built on the rock in Matthew 7 as compared to the foolish life of the man who did not act on his Word and built his house on the sand.  This is what we do when we center our lives in the house instead of on the foundation.

Build your faith on the Rock.  Fellowship together with purpose (the Gospel) not as a purpose and you will see the hand of God move in and around you like never before.

But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. Romans 8:37

 

Read Full Post »

Silence

When did noise become a prime value for the Church?  Certainly as human beings our capacity to create noise and maintain it has grown exponentially in the last century.  We invest in state of the art sound and video systems.  We carefully choreograph our worship services to ensure that there is not a moment of silence.  We are encouraged to soak in worship music during our “quiet” times.  I recently saw a social media post in which the author was lamenting the lack of passion that he/she perceived in the worship of others.  The comments made it pretty clear that the overall measure of passionate worship was the noise and activity of the worshipers.  I would imagine that they would find an hour of silent worship before God unbearable. (For my pastor friends perhaps this is a challenge, hold a worship service of silence before God and let me know how it works out.)  Now don’t get me wrong, making a joyful noise to the Lord certainly has its place in our spiritual repertoire, I just think that worshiping in silence does too.

Peter Scazzaro quotes Dallas Willard in his book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality

Silence is frightening because it strips us as nothing else does, throwing us upon the stark realities of our life.  It reminds us of death, which will cut us off from this world and leave only us and God.

Silence strips us of the insulation between God and ourselves and between ourselves and ourselves.  This is a daunting place to be.  It is a place of revelation.  Ask Elijah.

After the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing. 1 Kings 19:12

The Hebrew word translated “gentle blowing” here is daq.  It evokes the picture of a think layer of fine dust.  In Exodus it is used to describe the coating of manna found in the morning.  Scazzaro asserts that this can be correctly translated as silence.  My knowledge of Hebrew idioms is not sufficient to fully agree.  However I am sure you can find some dust at home (if not we have plenty).  Go find some dust and focus on it.  Hear the sound it makes and spend some time listening to God.

 

 

 

Read Full Post »