Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Family Name

I have a confession... I don't love everybody equally! I am a Lancaster. I am especially partial to Lancasters. I don't hold them up as an example... as perfected... as better than any other family. I know some really quality Jones and Smith's... but I will never feel for them what I do for Lancasters. And the reason is simple... they are mine! Its what I come from... my DNA, my blood is Lancaster blood. We share common history, background, experiences. Admittedly, some Lancasters are not as loveable as others... some have checkered pasts... but I will always have a preference for my family over all others.

In the past few weeks I've heard more than one person say something to me like "I wish we didn't talk so much about Vineyard and just talked about being part of the body".  While I understand the meaning of this sentiment it is oversimplistic. It reflects a lack of community and a lack of connectedness. You see, to me Vineyard is not my church... it is not my denomination... it is not an association... it is my spiritual family. The family DNA... the bloodline... runs deep through me. Not because they are better than another family... we don't think of our family that way... as heirarchical... they simply are ours. I love Vineyard and I love them because they are my tribe. I understand the way they think because we share history, background, experiences. Admittedly, some Vineyards are not as loveable as others... some have checkered pasts... I don't ask others from different families to love them as I do... it would be inappropriate even... but to suggest I drop the family name and focus on the whole would be just as odd as someone asking me to drop Lancaster from my introductions and just focus on being part of the human race.

how does God feel about me?”

From blog of Robby McAlpine
A recent video that I saw on leadership challenges for the 21st century, that I found to that rare blend of challenging, well-articulated, and encouraging, is from Skye Jethani’s keynote address at a conference last year.

I highly recommend watching the entire video. It’s not a new issue, but Jethani’s resource is one of the best single-source items I’ve ever come across.

But within the video, Jethari shared a concern that really grabbed my attention, and inspired that I write about it.

It’s the issue of passing on to each generation a clear understanding that, in Christ and because of Christ, there is no condemnation (Romans 8:1).

In the video, at one point Jethani talks about a conversation he had with a group of college students, when they suggested they would like to talk about sin in their lives. Turning the topic just slightly (not wanting to hear their specific confessions in a public forum), Jethari had them share, one at a time, their response to this question:

“In the midst of my sin, how does God feel about me?”

Pretty basic question for a bunch of college students who had been raised in Christian circles and churches, right?

Without exception, each of these young Christian adults (some with tears) gave basically the same answer: :God is extremely disappointed with me.”

What I found amazing about this story from 2013, is how much similarity it bore to something I used to do with youth groups 25 or 30 years ago (there really is nothing new under the sun!):

I would go around the group with two questions (usually took up the entire youth meeting to do this):

1. If you could ask God any ONE question, what would it be?

The answers wouldn’t all be identical, but generally around 90% or higher would be some form of “if God is good, why is there evil and injustice in the world”?

2. If God could ask YOU any one question, what do you think He’d ask?

With almost no exceptions, the answers could be summed up identically to Jethari’s story: “God feels disappointed when He looks at me.” Some of the comments would be about “why are’t you doing more” or “why don’t you trust Me” or “when will you get serious about your faith”, but the bottom line was the same:

Their guiding perception was that whenever God looked at them, His first reaction was disappointment (if not impatience).

There are at least a couple of ways you could interpret and respond to this intriguing parallel between Jethari’s discovery last year, and mine from the mid-1980s.

1. The critical finger-pointing church-basher approach:

Shake your head in long-suffering exasperation and deliver a well-rehearsed rant on how the institutional church just “don’t get it”, and use this as another bullet in your church-killin’ arsenal.

2. The pastoral recognition of opportunity:

Every generation needs to “own” its own faith. Every generation will be bombarded with lies and twisted thinking about God and their relationship to Him. Every generation therefore needs deliberate, repeated, very intentional teaching about their Identity in Christ.

Each generation feels the same desperation in their struggle with sin that Paul rants about with such great anguish and passion in Romans 7:15-24:

“For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing… What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?”

And each generation desperately needs to hear Paul’s stunning and life-giving conclusion to this very same passage, emphasized with a sense of hope, thanksgiving, and wonder:

“Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord… Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 7:25-8:2)

There is no condemnation. God isn’t disappointed with you. God looks at each of us through the completed work of His Son and our Savior: Jesus Christ.

Every generation needs to hear this. Loud and clear. It’s an opportunity to bring freedom, encouragement, and life.

There is no condemnation. (Can I get an “amen”?)

Carl Tuttle on Missions

Decided I'd respond to this question in a separate post:

John Barnes asks, "Here's another one for you to chew on Carl Tuttle, where exactly is the mission field, going on a missions trip, missions ministry. Have at it!"

OK John and others - here are some thoughts on that: First of all, we live in a country in which most evangelical churches have adopted or gravitated towards a consumer-driven 'attractional' approach (in other words 'if you build it, produce it, provide it...they will come.') And I can't say that it doesn't work. What I do think I can safely say, is it doesn't produce disciples - the very thing we are commissioned to do. Therefore, in the vast majority of these churches...we are lucky if 20% of the people do 80% of the work. I won't say that people don't come to Christ through this avenue...they do. What I will say is that we certainly are not producing disciples. Jesus said to 'make disciples' 'teaching them to obey'. A disciple is not one who serves various ministries of a church, occupied with responsibilities and activity. A disciple is not someone who has bought into the pastor's or church's vision. A disciple is one who has encountered the living Christ, died to self and now live and orders their life around the purposes and plan of God. One whose time, money, body, energy, thoughts and attitudes are owned by Jesus. Disciples seek to imitate Christ and walk in love as ones who are dearly loved. Service within the community of faith, the Church, is based on serving others in the way He served us. He laid down his life.

Those who 'lead' in the Church are not meant to be served, but are to serve the community. Teaching, pastoring (caring for) maturing the gathered community. That includes not doing everything and letting others watch, but It means enfolding others in service by bringing them along side, modeling for them, equipping and releasing others to do 'the work of the ministry'.
How that relates to missions, the mission, doing the work of a missionary? It's the foundation upon which we build - it's the launching pad. It begins in first in our homes...then our neighborhoods, our places of work, our cities, other nations. But it flows from a relationship of submission to the priorities of the Kingdom and an eternal perspective. Again it's who we are not what we do.

Activity does not equal ministry. Wimber used to say, "we're an army not an audience" - and for the first several years of the church - I'd say as long as 20 years - he made no room for anything else. He would say commitment to Christ equaled commitment to His Church and His cause.

A little story: For years we met in temporary facilities. We rolled out carpet, set up chairs, the sound, the stage, the whole thing. We did that for a couple thousand people for years. We had arrive early in the morning and begin by rolling out carpet to protect the gymnasium floor. The chair were stored about 100 yards from the building. Every Sunday morning John and Carol Wimber would be there engaged in the process. I remember John rolling racks of chairs up the hill to the gymnasium, sweating profusely. We had bleachers that were pulled out for some of the seating and Carol would wipe down all of the seating areas. All that to say, that during all that time - they continued to see their role as serving God's people. Even after he became 'John Wimber'. They always saw themselves as having given up ownership of their lives the day they met Christ.

John would say, 'there's no magic in a plane ride' - meaning if you're not doing it where you live, what makes you think you're going to do it somewhere else.

It's just my opinion, but I think we have developed too many models of and for ministry that don't reflect the values of the Kingdom. Everything flows from loving God with our whole heart and others as ourselves. A devoted follower of Jesus doesn't need to be motivated or convinced to's just what a devoted follower of Jesus does. I sometimes wonder how many people would flee from the Church if we began 'teaching them to obey all he has commanded' - in place of trying to figure out what people like, want or desire? Let me repeat one thing: You don't have to motivate a devoted follower of Jesus! You don't have to convince them of their mission or purpose. It's not what they do, it's who they are.