Monday, February 23, 2015

Envy, Invisible Presents, Clubber Lang, Apollo Creed, and Akward Moments Pt. 2

I had a vision about 3 years ago.  No I don't think it was one of those visions, but I suppose it could have been.  I was rehearsing a sermon during Advent, preaching to my "empty" church, when I envisioned in front of me the most glorious and amazing gift wrapped present sitting between me and the pews.  It sparkled and glistened in my mind's eye, even giving off it's own soft glow.  It's amazing how clearly I still remember this day.

I stopped rehearsing long enough to ponder the image in my mind and I instantly had understanding.  I pastored a pretty wonderful group of people, but I often felt like I was banging my head into a brick wall as I tried to provoke them to a faith of action.  I don't think anyone had ever challenged them the way that I did (there's a reason why I'm a healthy 8 on the Enneagram personality test lol).  However standing there staring at that glorious, invisible present I understood that I was going about things all wrong.

By sheer force of will and personality I was trying to mold my churches into the Christians that I thought they ought to be.  I was not a taskmaster standing over them and this was always done with an abundance of love, but I was a persistent bugger.  Push, push, push.  What I understood in that moment was that my job, my challenge was not just to tell them about the invisible present before me, but rather to help them see it as well.  The present of course was representative of Christ and the very real, life changing, eternity altering redemption and freedom He offers.  In some ways, my job got easier in that it was not my job to tell them what the present looked like, but rather to facilitate their ability to see and experience it in all of its glory.  In other ways, my job got a whole lot harder; my job was now clearly defined as helping people to see that which is invisible, to believe where they might otherwise not believe.  Probably explains why I still incessantly challenge/ask, "Do you really believe the things that you proclaim?"  I see that present often and I'm pretty sure that at some level every Sunday when I'm pacing and stalking around the church, I'm very much aware that it is right there in between us.

Now I would imagine that some of you are crying out that I'm encouraging people to see the Jesus that they want to see; you obviously never sat in a seminary class with me (lol).  I have very strong beliefs, positions, ideas, and a clearly defined theology.  In that, I believe that there is only one Jesus Christ, one that is perfectly capable of communicating with others as He has done with me.  I also believe that He is perfectly capable of defining Himself through the revelation of the Holy Spirit and scripture.  And remember what I said in Part 1?  I trust the Holy Spirit to do His job.  I am only a facilitator to the introduction; and then a shepherd to the flock.

Why bring up the invisible present?  With all of the bickering, fighting, hand-wringing, and teeth gnashing going on in, around, and about the Church, I cannot help to wonder if the Church has forgotten the gift.  Is the Church even capable of seeing it anymore?  (I think it is, but it goodness does it ever need reminded.)  I see a whole lot of fighting in, around, and on the present.  I see people taking blind swipes at the gift in an attempt to seize it, when in reality they're only tearing its paper and pulling off its ribbon.

*****

When I talk with other churches, pastors, and Christians about what is going on at Grace, I often times get some weird looks.  They've heard the stories (I drive people crazy on Facebook updating about Grace), they've seen the results, and yet, I still get the same blank stares.  This is trench ministry here; you dive in, you get your hands dirty, and you don't worry about what might happen next.  I think sometimes they look at me in the same manner that I probably looked at others at another point in time, "Yeah that's all well and good, but it's not for me.  That type of stuff is for other people."

I want to be very sensitive here.  Ministry needs to be happening in all contexts; rich, poor, white, black, brown, purple, none of these things matter.  Ministry needs to happen whether in the nicest, biggest, most lavishly equipped churches to the most basic house churches to the streets.  But to what ends?  If it is not towards the ends of discipleship and loving the people that Jesus loves/loved, I'm not sure what we're doing.  I think about how I envisioned this calling going (lol) and the reality of where I find myself today, and I count myself one of the luckiest people on the face of the earth.  This place will allow you one of two paths, and two paths only.  You can hide behind the doors while rarely ever engaging the neighborhood.  It will indeed allow you to exist and to die in "peace".  The other path?  You can engage it in the totality of its brokenness.  There is no dipping your toe in here or there to test the waters; its all or nothing.  Folks in this context have heard and seen it all, especially when it comes to "Christians to the Rescue!".  You want to engage them, then by all means, but you'd better bring all you've got.  If they sense you're not all in or not being forthright, they will shut you out in a hurry.  They know in a pretty big hurry whether or not you believe and live the things that you proclaim.  Places like this demand authenticity.  It is intense, at times harrowing, and at all times beautiful.  It demands your best; it holds you accountable. It is such an invigorating breath of fresh air as not only a pastor, but more importantly, as a Christ follower.

I tell people all of the time that one of the greatest gifts and joys of pastoring in a context like this is that I never have to wonder what to do next.  The answer here is so easy; I simply have to go for a walk.  I look around the blogosphere, at my newsfeed on Facebook, my hearts breaks, and truth be told, I find myself a little irritated.  The ills of the Church, the failings, and all of the stuff we get so caught up in are so easy to remedy.  Ministry is not difficult, the solution hasn't changed, the example left for us some 2000 years ago, has not become obsolete.  Simply go for a walk.  Learn to see the invisible present again...or perhaps for the first time.  Help others to see it.

Part 3 to follow...




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