Monday, May 23, 2011

Cause Oriented vs. Christ Oriented

I have been thinking quite a bit lately on whether or not I am (and the church is) more cause oriented than Christ oriented.  There is little doubt in my mind that we live in a culture that is very much cause oriented.  Through social media, the potential of rallying people behind the latest cause, program or product can be almost immediate.  It would also seem that people are quick to jump on one of these bandwagons because there is an unwritten expectation that the commitment will make me feel good and won't last long which then allows us to move on to the next cause, program or product. 

This may work to a certain extent in respects to getting things accomplished, but do we really want to be a people whose lives are defined by the latest cause we've attached ourselves to.  Is it possible that it is far easier to be cause oriented rather than building upon the foundation as Christ followers by being Christ oriented in all that we do.  I sometimes think that in both my personal life and in the life of the church, we find ourselves spinning our wheels because we have given ourselves over to the tyranny of the urgent and bounce from one cause, program or product to the next because we've moved away from a centralized focus upon Christ.

Imagine what each of us as individuals/church families could accomplish for God if everything we do is rooted in who we are in Christ.  A proper understanding of this will only come if we are daily spending time fixed upon (gazing intently) unto the Author and Perfector of our faith and listening to Him.  I would think that the natural outflow of a person/church that is Christ oriented would accomplish all that God has called us to accomplish.  I really believe churches would be much more productive for the Lord if we spent more time helping one another better understand Jesus and our lives in Him instead of seeking to rally people to the latest cause.

Still much to chew on in respects to theses thoughts and the practical implications of them for the church...

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Selfish, Shallow and Starving

This past week I heard a great statement that has given me pause.  It went something like this; "The problem with many ineffective churches is that we have selfish shepherds which leads to shallow services with the end result being starving sheep."

There is little doubt that we live in a culture that places self first with a huge desire to be comfortable and happy which unfortunatly leads to people seeking to fill the God sized void in their lives with everything and anything other than God.

As a pastor, I will be the first to admit that there are incredible pressures upon us.  There is the pressure of knowing we will one day be held accountable by God's holy standard on how we fulfilled our calling.  But, there is often the unspoken pressure of not only pleasing God but also the sheep and this can be exhausting and not always possible.  This at times can lead to selfishness, discouragement or other forms of coping for shepherds.

Unfortunately, the end result can be unhealthy churches because both the shepherd and the sheep settle for second best (shallow services) because it is just easier and feels better.  If we are not careful, we then begin to measure success by worldy standards.  Or, success is measured and talked about with what I like to call "psuedo spiritual speak" that sounds godly but is really just masking what is going on in the hearts of all involved.

Once we've reached this point, we have starving sheep who don't know how to feed themselves with the Word of God and they spend their days with their mouths open whining and crying to be fed.  I would suggest this is one of the reasons church hopping is so prevelant in the American church.  Is it possible that we have reduced attending church as just another means to filling our happy, feel good quotient?  Is it possible that people just want to be entertained and fed what they want to be fed and will continue moving from church to church like they are choosing a restaurant rather than a body of believers to belong and work alongside.

As you can see, the above statement has me thinking and these are nothing more than a few initial thoughts related to it.  There are so many more rambling around in my head and yet the heart of the matter is truly this, shepherds must have the heart to serve and live out their lives like the Chief Shepherd.  In fact, the Chief Shepherd is soon coming and prayerfully He will find all those who claim to be a disciple of His possessing a heart like His.    

Monday, May 9, 2011

Elephants, Bones, Emotional Health, Tuna & Friends

Elephants:  I just received my copy of the "Elephant Room" DVDs from the conference held a month ago.  I wasn't able to participate in the day but look forward to taking some time over the next few weeks to watch 7 pastor's debate and grapple with ministry philosophy.

Bones: I appreciated Dr. Jim Ayer's message on the importance of every member of the Body of Christ in accomplishing together God's purposes for the Church.  He used an analogy that spoke of the four types of bones in the Body of Christ.  There is the jawbone, wishbone, knuckle bone and backbone.  I will let you define each of those as you wish as they are somewhat self-explanatory.  The reality is that we need everyone who claims to be a follower of Christ to engage and be a part of the backbone of a ministry for the sake and glory of Christ.

Emotional Health:  I am about half way through the book "The Emotionally Healthy Church" that was recently recommended to me.  It is really helping me process and think through how I view people within the church and their discipleship within the church.  So much of my training revolved around the need to provide people with a place to grow in their spiritual intellect while growing in their spiritual disciplines without giving much thought or credence to the individual as a holistic person uniquely created by God.  God continues to grow me in my understanding of viewing ourselves and one another as holistic people who need to place priority on our spiritual, intellectual, physical and emotional health.  These four areas definitely intersect and are worth giving attention to.  This is well worth pastor's thinking about as the premise of the book very much builds off of the truth that as goes the leader so goes the church.

Tuna and Friends:  Just enjoyed an appreciation lunch with my wife (Teacher at Lititz Christian) and other good friends put on by a group of parents from the school.  Couldn't imagine doing life without solid relationships within my life.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Finishing Well

As I sit watching some hockey, I find myself reflecting upon my day.  It was a fun day as I spent time at Messiah College watching and cheering my children on at their track meet.  I am also looking at my bright red skin as the sun was shining hot today but that is another blog post...

One of the things that stood out most to me today was how kids finished their races.  There were three basic finishes I noted.  The first was the athlete who was obviously new to the sport as they had to work hard to just finish.  There were a few longer races whereby the majority of the field was finished and one last athlete was struggling to stay on their feet and finish.  Yet, every single one of them did finish to the cheers of the crowd and through their own determination to finish well the race they set out to run.

The second type of finish I saw was from the athlete who was obviously very talented and had every reason to win the race they were in.  Yet, on two occasions I saw these gifted athletes lose their race because they did not give it 110% the whole way.  They coasted across the finish line and it cost two of them the win.

The final type of finisher I saw were the athletes who knew how to run their race well.  From start to finish they maintained a sustainable pace and gave it their all until they crossed the finish line.  Some won their races and others did not, but it was incredibly motivating to see so many work so hard to finish well the races they set out to run.

As I watched all these races, I could not help but think about the race we as Christ followers are called to run.  Like these athletes, we all have a choice on how we will run it.  I was motivated by those who gave it their all to finish a race they weren't necessarily equipped to run and reminded myself that we all need to strive daily to keep adding to our lives the tools and truths needed to finish the race.  I felt a sense of sobriety as I watched how quickly very gifted individuals did not finish their race well.  We are all prone to sin and it is far too easy to disqualify ourselves from the race.  Finally, I felt the need to commit once again to running well the race set before me like so many of the atheletes.  It was a call to daily make the right choices in order to sustain, maintain and attain the rewards that await those Christ followers who run well the race God has set before them.

Thank you Jesus for being our ultimate example! (Hebrews 12:1-3)