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Monthly Archives: May 2009

Two weeks ago I accomplished something I had never done before: I roller skated. I know you are thinking, “you are a grown man and just learning how to roller skate?” That’s right for all my 30+ years of life I’ve never successfully roller skated.

I had tried a couple times before but ended up flat on my butt. Even one year at campmeeting, the youth tried to get me out there but even with two people helping me, still fell down. And after one fall, I was done. Well my wife took me a couple weeks ago and she was determined that I was going to learn (when my wife is determined about something, it’s going to happen!)

So we went to the skating rink and she gave me some pointers. The dj gave me some pointers. People along the railing gave me some pointers. The great news is for the hour plus we were out there I didn’t fall. Not only that I got a nice little rhythm and grove going. (This in no way guarantees I’ll be able to discover this grove easily the next time).

But while going around I noticed a few young children doing what I did my first few times – they fell and they kept falling. I mean they were just taking spills all over the rink. Honestly if I were them, I’d be sitting on the sidelines after the first couple trips to the floor watching everyone else. But I learned something from them. No they didn’t become great skaters that night however I have a suspicion they’ll be pretty good one day. Why – because their initial difficulty hasn’t stopped them from keeping at it.

I think they helped me understand the secret to staying young. Have you met some really young old people and really old young people? I mean older people who stay young, stay current, embrace change and technology etc and then younger people who can’t stand change, are afraid of new things and opportunities.

Maybe we start getting old when we start being afraid of falling down. Afraid of endeavoring to learn something new because of the growing pains. Afraid of picking up a new hobby because we’ll lose or look clumsy the first time. Afraid of grabbing that new opportunity because it’ll take us out our comfort zone.

Well here’s the bottom line – we can either sit on the sidelines and lament the world passing us by or get in the rink, fall a few times and keep getting up and stay forever young!

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For you say, I am rich; I have prospered and grown wealthy, and I am in need of nothing; and you do not realize and understand that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. – Revelation 3:17

Our word for the day is “wack.” I’m going to use it in a sentence so that you don’t get confused with the way it’s used on shows like The Sopranos. I have heard it used by a young person to me commenting on a program we just had for them.

Me: “How was the concert? Did you like the music? Was it alright”

Youth: “Nah, it was wack.”

This word has been used by youth to help those who design ministry for them understand what works and what does not work. The refreshing honesty of youth allows them to honestly critique a program and let you know if it’s not effective (many times the frustration is they know what they don’t want but can’t seem to tell what they do want.)

However it seems like this ability to honestly evaluate a ministry program for effectiveness in reaching it’s target audience fades away as we mature into adulthood. Since this is a blog on telling the truth can I share with you honestly? Why does it seem that in so many churches we keep repeating the same programs that no one attends, produce no life change and prove otherwise ineffective but no one stops to question it (or simply say this is “wack”).

We seem to be so tied to the method that the mission of the program is no longer important. The church community silently says it’s not working by not attending and for some of our outreach efforts our community says it’s not working by not showing up. What is even more interesting is when we find something that’s not working we simply do more of it so that we can replace effectiveness with busyness. Do I sound harsh? Let’s look at an example:

I’m not going to call the name of the initiative but in many places we only have minimal baptisms resulting from it. So the solution that someone has come up with is double up the number of times you do this unproductive work.

Maybe just maybe we can take a cue from our youth and say “this is wack.” Maybe that’s the first step in us exploring what may work. If we stopped trying to revive stuff just for reviving sake and beating dead horses we may have energy to be creative, scratch where people are itching and do the mission of the church in a relevant way.

You see we sometimes hide our lack of success behind statistics. We pretend we are growing but have less in attendance at the church. I have seen us celebrate things that should make us cry – number of baptisms in a year that are so small and then we can’t even find the folks 6 months later.

Why is this important? When we read Revelation 3 – Laodicea’s biggest problem is self deception- they thought they had it all together but they were messed up.

Maybe if we stopped hiding behind stats and told the truth and really evaluated what we do to see what works and what’s wack we can figure out what God would have us to do…..I’m just telling the truth. Can you handle the truth?

Speaking the truth in love… – Ephesians 4:15

I sat in church this past weekend and the Children’s Story was told by a teenager. The content of the story caused many people’s eyebrows to raise. In it she shared a time not too long ago where she was given a spanking for using vile curse words. You must understand that this teenager is the daughter of a prominent church leader.

What makes her story so memorable? We usually don’t hear people at church admitting publicly to mistakes like that which have happened recently. If we confess stuff it’s usually pretty tame and happened hundreds of years ago.

I was impressed by her honesty and wondered what would happen if as a church we actually told the truth to one another. I’ve thought about it and my thoughts can’t fit in one blog so here’s part one.

THAT’S NOT REALLY YOUR THING

Have you ever had the experience of listening to someone sing at church and not really doing a stellar job (I’m trying to put it nicely)? In the churches I attend many times it’s followed by the congregation saying things such as “that’s alright.” Now I understand the need to encourage one another, especially a new or young believer. But my problem is when the same people who obviously are not blessed with the gift of leading public singing keep getting the opportunity to do it over and over again (when we can do better) and no one tells them that’s not really his or her thing.

Before you blow me off as harsh, hear me out. I’m just as bothered when we have greeters at church who are not friendly or people who work with youth who don’t like youth. You see I believe in what Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians 12 that we are one body but different members and we each have different gifts. I think it’s dishonest to not help people understand what their gift is not thereby getting them closer to figuring out what it really is.

I love the honesty of youth and I wonder if we as a church adopted that honesty in letting each other know in love what we are good and not good at if we can help the church to be better. You may be thinking that’s the best we can do and if it is fine. But maybe just maybe that non smiling greeter may have the gift of teaching and the teacher who can’t explain stuff may have a wonderful smile and make people feel great entering the church. If we try telling the truth in love and getting back to the New Testament model of everyone fulfilling the role God designed them for, I think our churches would function better.

Instead of laughing at or complaining behind their backs how about if we teach and explain that we are all discovering the ministry God has for us and that by observation what they are doing is not what they are cut out for. Don’t leave it there suggest others they can try. Think about it, if we got the right people in the right places at church we’d all be happier and the church would be moving along more efficiently.

Take a cue from the youth – tell the truth. Can you handle the truth?

You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom. Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble. – Jesus, Matthew 5:10-12

I think one of the things we seek for is a normal life – as defined by popular culture and those around us. When many of us go through tough times we start crying out, “why can’t I have a normal home, church life, neighborhood, relationship etc.” This is understandable. No one craves trials, pressures, stress and strain.

But the life and message of Jesus challenges us to pursue a life that’s not normal. It calls us to run away from the comfortable, safe and calm. It invites us to embrace trouble, rejoice in rejection, and find joy in pain.

How is that? Well Jesus says be happy when you are rejected for my sake. When you identify with Christ by lifestyle you automatically renounce the normal life and step into another kind of life. We step into a life of self-denial (not doing what we want to do but what He wants us to do) and a life of self-sacrifice (pouring out our lives in service to God and man). Will we get high fives and accolades for it – sometimes. But Jesus tells us more times than not we’ll be called weird, corny or abnormal.

Well I guess if the life of following Christ is abnormal, I want that. I think normal is overrated. I choose Christ’s abnormal life – let’s just call it an abundant life! Worshiping God, enjoying His forgiveness and grace, using our talents to serve others, growing daily into being like Him and even giving it all up for the one who gave it all up for us…sounds great to me!

Normal is overrated. I’ll take abundant any day. How about you?