Tag Archive: church


At the end of a long, good conversation this morning, I stumbled into a thought I want to share with you. We were talking about the irony that those of us who desire more of church/Christian community are often the ones who find the least of it in our lives. Yes, we look at other forms of church and know they fall short of the ways Jesus describes walking out our faith together. And yet, we are no better off.
 
We desire relationships with vulnerability. We need people to walk the ongoing walk with us – sharing in moments of high and low, and all the mundane working it out in between. We want people to laugh with us, to cry with us. Other people to care about and help with our kids. Friends to pray with and that we can call when our car batter dies and we need help. We want Jesus-filled community.
 
I would suggest that this doesn’t come without commitment. Not commitment to a set of beliefs or a particular way. Rather, its commitment to one another in Christ – a deep, unique type of relationship that doesn’t require we are all the same. Its saying our expectations of one another and being ok when they differ, not making you be what I want you to be. Because the point is each of us being who God wants us to be. And we can be that best together!
 
What gets in the way?
1. We do. we don’t make the time, we don’t take the time, we have unrealistic expectations of one another, and we’ve all been disappointed so many times that we wonder if we should even try
2. The world does – our world defines community and friendship differently than we do. First, its superficial and we settle for less than we know we want and need. Second, its transactional – we should “do relationships” in order to GET something rather than to give – or better yet – to just be in it together
3. The enemy is actively working against this – because isolated Christians, isolated people, are forced to give up on what is right, or try to do it on their own. It’s been a strategy from the very beginning – keep them apart and they aren’t powerful.
 
There is a choice…
to be vulnerable
to risk failure
to give
to pray
to love
 
I want to choose these.
 
We don’t do these to be church. But in living this way, we are church. Love God, love others, love one another. Help others do the same. Seek God’s Kingdom. Journey together, mission together, be who you are meant to be together.
 
Its not meant to be fancy. It is meant to be freeing for everyone.
I want that. I need that. I’d like your help to live that.

Resonating

A picture that’s been rolling around in my heart and mind
filling pages of journal
spilled into conversation with my church last Sunday
received with some enthusiasm
given some words – maybe even a name for who we are together?
and now written down [unedited]:

I want to hum.
Like power lines charged full of electricity.
Like an object hitting its resonant frequency.

I know there is something built into each of us
DNA coded into our very being
that is the real me deep inside-
often latent, or marred, or out of balance, or afraid to shine, wounded, misguided
The Bible calls this the Image of God

What stirs this in us?
What causes it come alive, to come out
in just the right way that we SING
beautiful, earth-shattering, fully alive
resonating…

God’s Spirit calls to us in us
you are my beloved child!
love God, love your neighbours, love one another
seek God’s Kingdom
follow Jesus
live like Jesus
help others do the same

lives ringing with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control
from accepting Jesus’ invitation – “Come with Me”,  allowing his Spirit to revolutionize me – over and over again, a declaration that I will be the one I am meant to be

I become a person of love
housing God’s kingdom, power in me
a center of life and influence – ripples and waves
affecting the seen and unseen
resonating

But I join with others who are doing the same
spread across this city, this globe
We help one another to hum – i believe in you, encourage you, pray with you: and you me
and we do it together – a bigger pulse than any of us on our own – like five friends doing cannonballs into the swimming pool at the same time.
individual and collective lives of rhythm

lives changed
love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control
becoming who we are meant to be
prodding others to do the same
a movement of hearts changed
coming to life
finding our frequency
resonating

Resonance

In physics, resonance is the tendency of a system to oscillate at a greater amplitude at some frequencies than at others. These are known as the system’s resonant frequencies (or resonance frequencies). At these frequencies, even small periodic driving forces can produce large amplitude oscillations, because the system stores vibrational energy.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Resonance

Because I have people in my life at all stages of faith journeys, I’ve been considering how we relate to one another’s walks. Now that a young man in our church has decided to follow Jesus, who is meant to help him? And that mom who is pretty busy all the time but would love to be a little more intentional about her faith, what about her? And the woman who comes around every now and again that is curious about religion – is she all on her own? Whose responsibility is discipleship? Who is supposed to help me, you, and others to follow Jesus?

Some would suggest it is the job of a trained/ordained priest or pastor. Or perhaps you know a “super discipler” who seems to single-handedly walk anyone and everyone close to Christlikeness? Maybe it’s you! Do you think of yourself as responsible for helping everyone become the person they were created to be? The problem in every one of these examples is that they rely on one person to do all the work. Scripture – and history – and logic! – say something different.

It is the COMMUNITY of God’s people that is responsible for making disciples. Why?

1.We need communities to make disciples because God does not hold me responsible for your growth. He DOES hold me responsible for bringing to your life what He wants me to bring. God calls us to help one another, encourage one another, etc. We are actually created to walk with one another in the journey toward forever with God. It could even be that in most cases, people are critical in one another’s salvation. But there is an individual responsibility we all must take on our own discipleship and can’t put on anyone else.

2. We need communities to make disciples because I am limited. I don’t know everything. I can’t do everything. In short, I am not God… and neither are you. I will help you know and follow Jesus, but I can’t and shouldn’t cover everything. There will be times that someone else needs to cry with you or advise you. You will want other people to also pray with you, teach you the Bible, tell you to stop doing that. Because I am limited, we all are. You and I need lots of people helping us along the way.

3. We need communities to make disciples because the goal is not making you a copy of me. The goal is you becoming the person God has designed you to be in Christ. I guarantee, if I am the only person helping you know Jesus, you will look more like me, or like me following Jesus, than YOU following Jesus. You will pray like me, serve like me, worship like me. Yuck! We need a community helping us be disciples so that we get the best from all, and don’t need to replicate any. Sure, we will model and share how we live. But we share that as an example.

4. We need communities to make disciples because I bring my gifts. You bring your gifts. I bring my experiences. You bring your experiences. We need them all. You want a teacher teaching you. You want a pastor shepherding you. You want an encourager encouraging you. That’s what I want anyway. And I am not all those things. You are not all those things. We get all things in a community of disciples.

I hope you can see that in all this, I/you must take my own discipleship seriously. How am I giving God more room in my life? Am I being a disciple myself? And very importantly, PART OF MY OWN DISCIPLESHIP IS DISCIPLING OTHERS. Did you know that? Part of being a disciple, part of learning to follow Jesus, is helping others do the same! Too often, we think we will be disciples, then reach some magic point, then we will disciple others. When does that day arrive? When I know everything? When I’ve done everything? NO! It’s now. We disciple from where we are now. God does not ask us to have all the answers. He asks us to share what we do know and He will do the rest. If you think back to people who have helped you along the Way, I suspect they were memorable because they were prayerful and faithful lovers of God. And we’ve all had many people help.

We need all of us to be living this way because of the points above. You see, in saying that a community is best suited to make disciples, it does not absolve me of responsibility. I can not therefore count on “the community/church” doing it. Why? Because there is no community without me(s) participating. Yes, we play different roles. But we ALL play roles. It is NOT the role of leadership to make disciples. It is the role of a leader to help US make disciples – setting the environment, connecting the right people, providing opportunities. I do believe we all are gifted in different ways and each of us will play different parts in the spiritual lives of one another. That’s ok – we have a community to help. Each of us needs to be asking what God would have us give to whom, and talk about that with one another to serve together.

I’ll save “what does a community making disciples together look like?” for another post. I think that it can actually differ dramatically depending on time, place, and situation. But the question I want to leave you with is: how do you see your community making disciples? What has been your experience? What has been your participation?

Met a great couple the other night who are also wanting to explore what church can be. They are feeling pretty discouraged, especially in trying to find people who are willing to do more thank talk ideas. Why is it that so many people have time for a conversation about being church differently, but can’t make the time to live it out? A few suggestions:

  • We just want to complain, not actually do something different
  • We are lazy – they want different but aren’t willing to put in the work to help make it so
  • We don’t know what to do – we know things aren’t all they can be but we have no picture of possibilities
  • We feel crazy – can I think this? Do other people think this?
  • We just can’t break out of the system as it is to do what’s on our heart

What other reasons can you think of? Maybe you’ve been there, or there yourself…

One hurdle that seems difficult for many to jump over is the notion that the church is the place of religious life, distinct from the rest of life. This manifests itself in church being the “place we go to be with God.” Another more subtle, but perhaps more powerfully misconception, is that when we ALL gather in Jesus’ name, that time  is more holy than when some of us gather in Jesus’ name. So, a Bible study, small group, worship time, prayer gathering, or serving opportunity are NICE, but it’s REALLY church when ALL of us get together once a week? Why do so many people think this? Do you?

We need to think of Church as spirituality for all of life. Yes, it’s us helping one another do it. Yes, we need together. But we also need to think of all the “parts” as church. It’s not just the “once a week when we are together for xyz” that is church. It’s a loving conversation over coffee. It’s helping a neighbor fetch their kids from school. It’s sharing or studying scripture with a friend. It’s all of that. And more. It’s not some religious gathering we “do.” It’s the life with Jesus we share with one another.

Church is Jesus life together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

followers of Jesus = disciples of Jesus = being like Jesus = living the lives we were created to live

Sound good? That’s what we as the Church are meant to be about!
Are we?
(pause to reflect…. if not, why not???)

What do you consider critical to being a disciple of Jesus?

I ask because it’s one of those things we sometimes take for granted, yet it’s an essential question. And really, it’s a question we should be asking God, ourselves, and one another, right?

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-13).

If you claim to be apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, shepherding (pastoral) or a teacher, are you equipping God’s people for works of service so that we may be built up to the fullness of Christ? That is your calling! The point isn’t achieving your own glory. You are meant to be part of the Church, to strengthen the Church. Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost make the case in The Shaping of Things to Come that these are more than gifts, they are offices/roles of the church. AND, he maintains that God has placed each of these in all of us so that He can call them forth as needed. Are you open to fulfilling these roles as needed? If not, you are robbing the Church of needed function and robbing yourself of full life.

And church – are you allowing yourself to be grown and strengthened by apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers? If not, you will not become all God desires. Christ himself has designed his Church to function with their help. Notice, by the way, that shepherd is only one role in the equation. Interesting that most churches pay someone to do this, but not to be apostle, prophet, evangelist, or teacher (though many roll shepherd and teacher into one thing). We pay someone to take care of us, but not to challenge us or lead us into new things. Or, what we call pastor is a one-person show that is supposed to somehow fulfill ALL the leadership described above. We need all these leaders to be operating. Is it any wonder we don’t reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God? We are out of balance.

I am not making this up, it’s right there in Ephesians. It is not inappropriate or rebellious to seek balanced and Christ-instructed leadership, especially when we start by asking God how he might want to use US to equip his Church.

 

 

 

 

It seems like I know quite a few people who aren’t satisfied with their church.  I’m not talking about ultra-consumer Christians or people who can’t ever seem to be “fed” enough. I’m talking about people who earnestly want to grow in their discipleship of Jesus and are absolutely willing to give the time and energy to this pursuit – and helping others in this pursuit.

And I know a number of people who are interested in God, Jesus, or even just what might be termed spirituality. And they’ve tried this religion and that place of worship and their hearts aren’t inspired.

In both cases, we have a case of knowing what isn’t working. What frustrates me, however, is the seeming struggle to move toward something new, something amazing. I’m pretty sure God desires and pictures the Church to be something that is life-changing for us and pleasing to God! So, what’s the problem?

Walter Brueggemann, in his brilliant book The Prophetic Imagination, suggests that when God wants to do something new, there is a need to both criticize what is and energize to what can be.  Criticism without a picture of possibilities generally ends in frustration and paralysis. I find this to be true for many who know what’s wrong with the Church, but can’t picture something different. On the other hand, simply painting continual pictures of new possibilities is so prone to fads and quick-fixes.  Further, my experience has been that people don’t NEED any new ideas if they don’t think the current thing needs fixing. To really engage alternative ideas for Church, we need to lovingly examine what is lacking and courageously experiment with what God is leading us toward.

I am also convinced that too many people don’t believe they have the ability, responsibility, or authority to want more. I’m not talking about any sort of crazy schemes or clearly man-made efforts. But if God wants people doing this Jesus-following together (and God does – more in other posts), then aren’t we compelled to be as faithful as we can to God’s heart? And if our souls are what we are talking about, don’t we want what’s right and beautiful and life-giving? And don’t we want that for others too?  I do. I want that in existing churches. I want that to re-new churches.  I want that in new churches.

I must paint these pictures of possibility with others. Are you up for a little dreaming?

 

I find it interesting that many church-goers assume that there is some form of Biblical mandate to get together every week. Jesus never said that.  The Bible doesn’t say that.

Gather together – yes.
And do lots of other things for/with one another.
But what’s with the “every Sunday until we die” mentality?

In part, this is due to the idea of Sabbath.  God has told us that we need to rest. We need to take time to refocus on God.  Agreed! Take a day. I even support taking the same day as those you are in intentional Jesus-following relationship with (i.e. local church).

Does God say we need to all get together and sing and hear a sermon on the sabbath? NO!. I suppose that in the good old days, it made sense.  “Hey, we’re all not working this day, let’s get together.” But the world has changed, work has changed, how the week is viewed has changed. We don’t all have Sunday free. And honestly, I think that for some, what has become of Sunday is not much like the Sabbath described in the Bible. Yes, I just said that. If you are going to use the Sabbath justification, I recommend you do a little study of what the Bible says about Sabbath.

Do I think we should get together with people to help one another be like Jesus? Yes.
Do I think things can happen when we are gathered that can’t happen when we are alone? Yes.
Do I think it is helpful to have set days and times to help us actually do this? Yes.

But I think what we do is too often a matter of “that’s what we do” than what works best, or what God is asking of us. I think we need to live out our spirituality together in a way that integrates all of life, and that can’t be done in just one day. It needs to happen EVERY day. I think most would agree. Yet we still cram our “church” into Sunday…

So maybe in order to do this, we have to get the idea of “we must all get together every week on the same day” out of our heads. It’s not Biblical.  It’s not particularly effective for our discipleship. Let’s figure out what is!

what is Church?

If you were to describe what the Church is in a sentence or two(ish), what would you say?

I’m not looking for clever or anecdotal comments but actual best attempts to say what this is we are part of. My only suggestion is that there are likely “being” and “doing” elements to the definition, and you just might want to consider some of what is said in the Bible on the subject. But don’t let me lead you too much…

This question is one I think and talk about quite often. First, because I believe in the collection of God’s people we call Church. Yes, we are often flawed (or worse), but that doesn’t negate the importance.  Second, too many of us who consider ourselves part of the Church don’t actually know or agree on what we are! Makes it pretty difficult to seek improvement if we don’t know what we are aiming for 😉 Finally, we can be so much more, and I think that more is actually what God intends (not just the result of clever or strategic planning). What is this more that exists in God’s heart?

I am glad to share my thoughts on what the Church is, but let me throw it out to you first so I don’t bias you more than I already have. Of course, very good books and courses have been written on this subject, but I think it’s helpful to come up with a simple description, and one we can own for ourselves.

I am glad to talk with people who know they need others in their following of Jesus. The questions then turns to something like, “so what are you looking for in a church.” Fair question. And the part that is really good about this question is the assumption that the Church is meant to be fulfilling and helpful in our discipleship – and we want to ensure we are incorporating that as part of what the church is. Also, it implies that we are indeed willing to be part of something bigger than us.

However, we also need to remind ourselves that the church isn’t just what we think we want or need. It is God’s people, God’s agent of Kingdom, and a bunch of other really helpful metaphors (more on these soon) that God says it is. It isn’t simply a something for us to consume or shape into our own likeness. I don’t know about you, but I would probably craft something really fun and me-looking, and probably would avoid those bits I don’t enjoy. This of course does not mean that we are inconsequential – it is, in fact, made up of us! But our individual personal desires must be help in tension with what God desires and the others who are part. growth, satisfaction, or happiness are not the end goal.

I think it is really important to share a basic understanding of what the Church is and what it is meant to do. Then, we can talk about our individual needs/preferences/gifts in light of that. We can also get creative with HOW it’s done based on the best ways to help people experience God and grow into the likeness of Christ. Otherwise, we create something that is suited for us and perhaps no one else. This would miss the very clear mission of God (and therefore God’s Church) to be outward focused.

I am hoping that as we live into this, we can talk/do our way into what God has in mind. What does God want to create that will be a blessing to many, including us? Seems that if we are praying and God is in it, it could be really amazing. I am looking for a church that helps people (me included!) to become more like Jesus.

What are you looking for in a church?