Sunday, August 19, 2012

Getting out of church!

This is my response to a blog post by Donald Miller.  You can read his post here.

He asked some thought provoking questions about the goals and traditions of church leadership.

Love this topic!

Some time ago, I began to wonder if the methods of church are actually self-defeating in some cases.  It seems that we have mission statements and visions statements, but the organization itself is at odds, in some ways, with those goals.  

I felt guilty at a Christmas Eve service.  Guilty, because I was taking up space.  The place was packed--full of visitors.  All of a sudden, I thought, "Why am I here?  I know the Christmas story.  I feel like I am doing something selfish because I came to church and occupied a seat that could have otherwise gone to someone who needs to hear this story for the first time.  I should either be serving these visitors, or better yet, visiting some lonely person who can't be here."

Yes, I go to church. . . still.

I think we need to balance our focus.  I wouldn't say that we should change it altogether, but balance it.  We focus mainly on the community part.  We focus on Sunday morning.  A percentage of really committed 'members' go to small groups (whatever they happen to be called at your church.) And a smaller percentage still really build the habits of reading the Bible and praying all of the time.

Where does the balance come in?  Church is about discipleship, right?  Well, that sounds like it should be educational.  However, the church is the only educational organization insofar as I'm aware, that holds no graduation ceremony.  There should be a graduation.  The disciples had a graduation. . . or rather a commissioning.  There's a period of learning, and then you are ready for on-the-job training.

If we modeled church after Jesus and his disciples, wouldn't we have some finite amount of formal training?  We would start you out focusing on the individual, personal relationship with Jesus.  We would encourage people to begin reading the Bible all the time from the very beginning.  This would not be a habit practiced by only the most mature or learned, but by everyone.  From there, it seems to me that the process would be somewhat natural in its progression.

Goals for the educational leadership:
1. Teach people to read the Bible (focused on individual)
2. Teach people to discover their gifts and passions (focused on individual)
3. Support and encourage people to use those gifts and passions to show love in practical ways(focused on community)
4. Teach people how to mentor the people they are loving (focused on both)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Going to camp

Thinking (again) about the modern parable.  This is now the third related post.  If you're confused or want to refresh your memory, you could start by reading "Early Retirement" and "Princess Diana."

Several years ago, I had a paradigm shift.  I had several of them pretty much back-to-back, which you may have gathered!  I had just moved back to the northeast and I took a fresh look at an old New England summer tradition: going to camp.  

Now, this may be unique to New England but, 'going to camp' means a trip to a cottage.  Often, 'camp' is by a lake, river, the ocean, or just out in the woods.  It's a little glimpse of a simpler life.  You don't necessarily worry about the color or style of the counter tops.  You are simply there to enjoy life, whatever it happens to bring.  You don't worry about having stainless steel appliances.  In fact, some of the allure may be the 50 year old Frigidaire still whirring away in the kitchen!  When we first moved back, I had 'camp' on my list of things to achieve.

What changed?

I was listening to a co-worker talk about the limited time her family had been able to spend 'up to camp' that summer.  It was a 150 mile trek that they took every Friday night through the 13 or so weeks between Memorial Day and Labor Day.  I remember thinking about the amount of time spent driving versus relaxing.  It seemed so sad to have to leave camp and come back home at the end of the weekend.

I decided that camp would have to be closer to home in order for it to be worth the effort, to me personally.  But how close?  What if the simpler life were just 100 miles away. . . or 50. . . or 10!  What if camp could be less than 10 miles away?  I could have the simple life all summer long!  

But, wait.  

If I could live there all summer, why would I move back home in the winter?  If camp was just 10 miles away, would it be worth the drive in the winter, too?  I could have the simple life all year round!  If I were going to live at camp, then I wouldn't need my 'first home' at all.  Camp could be my first home. . .

What a life that would be!  

. . . then, it occurred to me.  I already had a modest house on a wooded lot.  I could open the windows in the morning and it would smell just like camp would smell 10 miles down the road.

My home is camp, already.  I just needed to rename it.  Achieving the simpler life is actually quite easy.  

It is not a location or a building.

It is a mindset.

Understanding the mindset was the only requirement to living the simpler life.

What a home!

What a camp!

What a life!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Princess Diana

I'm still thinking about that modern parable.  If you haven't read it, you can find it here.  It got me thinking about the late Princess Diana.

Now, I'm not an anglophile or anything, but I do remember the day Diana, Princess of Whales, died in a car crash in Paris.  I remember thinking and talking about how horrible it was.  I remember noting the irony of the situation: Princess Diana, like countless celebrities seemed to spend a great deal of time trying to gain what I take for granted every day.  She always seemed to be wanting a moment alone.

I have what she wanted.



A moment to myself.

I am sitting in my living room, right now, next to my wife and I am not worried about anyone interrupting me. . .

. . . well, perhaps one of my two young sons, but that's different.

When I look at the rich and famous of the world I can't help but feel the allure of what they have--just a little.  In light of my observations, however, I think my real desires are different.

I could climb to the next rung on the proverbial corporate ladder.

Would there be a big payoff for all the work?

What would it cost my family?

What if it's not all it's cracked up to be?

What would happen when I reach my goal?  What would I want then?  Perhaps, like Princess Diana, I would then want what I now have.  Maybe I should skip the middle step and decide that I am content.  Right here.  Right now.  Content.

Ahhh, there's the little guy.  Coming out for one last hug long after he is supposed to have fallen asleep.  Life is pretty good right here.  Perhaps my goal will not involve climbing to the top.  Perhaps, I'm already there.

Thursday, August 2, 2012


I love politics, and I hate politics.

I love it because it's all about people.

I hate it because it's all about rhetoric.

I love it because it's all about values.

I hate it because it's all about sound bites.

Someone starts out with facts, but then there's this flood of opinion which turns into rumor and stereotype.  We form opinions based on other people's opinions and we don't actually take the time to look at the facts.  The news becomes saturated with blame-shifting, name-calling and  accusations.

Have you ever seen a really smart person that invents really ingenious ways of causing evil?  Take the people who write computer viruses, for example.  If they could just turn their brains onto something productive, they'd be unstoppable.  I think this is like the computer viruses.

We've got a bunch of people who want to protect traditional marriage and they are ticked.  They want to make sure that we haven't lost our freedom of religion and freedom of speech.  I understand that.  I respect that.

We also have a bunch of people who want to make sure that everyone has equal access to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, right?  I understand that.  I respect that.

I understand both sides.  Both have respectable goals at the core of what they believe.  The thing I can't respect is that we don't use our passions for real change.  We get offended and we are instantly on the defensive.  You know what happens when you're on the defensive?  You don't make any real change.  You're just reacting.

What if we turned all of this emotion into something productive?  What if we really meant it when we said that we wanted to protect marriages?  What would that really look like?  I'm pretty sure eating chicken sandwiches wouldn't be the crux of the operation!  But, there are hundreds of thousands of marriages that are struggling.  About 1 million marriages will end in divorce this year.

What if we put down our chicken sandwiches and started talking with one of the 2 million people who are likely to divorce this year?  Who is protecting those marriages?

What if we put down our picket signs and talked with a few of the 4 million people who will marry this year?  Could we, perhaps, help some of those newly-weds find their happily-ever-after?  Who is protecting those marriages?

Am I going to boycott Chick-fil-A?  No.  I'm not a boycotter.  I don't boycott things as a general rule.  Did I attend Chick-fil-A Day?  No.  Those are really just distractions.  None of those chicken sandwiches saved a marriage.  If you want to protect marriages, love on hurting people.