Posted tagged ‘Body of Christ’

Static Church Cling

April 9, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                       April 9, 2018

                                      

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer…All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.” (Acts 2:42, 44-46)

A few days ago I pulled one of my tee shirts out of the dresser, put it on, and started another day. It felt a bit different, tighter maybe, but I attributed the snug feeling to the two servings of lasagna I had eaten the night before. I often associate tight clothes with the previous night’s dinner entree’…not the oversized bowl of ice cream!

A few hours later I went to change clothes to go to basketball practice. When I took the tee shirt off I discovered one of my handkerchiefs attached to the inside of the shirt. Static cling had drawn it to its hidden position while in the dryer. The crackling of the static electricity still present sounded as I unconnected it. I felt a bit silly, but at least the hanky wasn’t hanging out behind my shirt like a piece of toilet paper!

The first church in Jerusalem could be said to have static church cling… in a good way. They hung together, developed a deeper level of fellowship, and relied on each other for love, life, and support.

The description of who they were began with the verb “devoted”, and then three times in three verses the adverb “together” is used. They clung together! The health of the Body of Christ depended upon the connectedness of its parts.

With static cling in our clothes there are certain products that we use to reduce the “togetherness” of our clothes.  There are fabric sheets and other antistatic agents that lessen the chance that a handkerchief is going to be sticking to the seat of your pants.

Our culture, in many ways, is an antistatic church clinging agent. People are busy, and busyness is an effective reducer of people connecting with one another. On the other hand, to have a church fellowship meet together more often…just because!…is not the path to deeper bonding either. Church busyness is simply cultural busyness spiritualized. There needs to be purpose behind the clinging.

Two of the draws of social media are its superficial solution for the need for relationships and its availability when the person wants it.

Our culture lends itself to relationships that are superficial and meaningless. Church culture usually mirrors that. The most meaningful relationships in these uncertain times seem to come about because of causes that seek justice and correction, but, once again, they are mostly short-lived and lack relational depth.

The decline of churches can be attributed to a number of factors. Perhaps one of the ways of renewal will lead us through the rediscovering of our devoted purpose and the re-clinging of our belief that the gospel guides us to personal transformation and also transformation together.

Helping Each Other Up The Hill

July 21, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                July 20, 2017

                               

At Quaker Ridge Camp there is a peak high above the camp called Soldier’s Peak. Each year the kids at camp make the climb to the top where they encounter an incredible view of the wooded forest areas around it, and the other mountain peaks in the distance. Down below they can see the grounds of the camp and pick out the building they sleep in at night, the dining hall, the swimming pool, and other spots of activity.

But getting to the top is a struggle for many of them. They aren’t used to the hike, the elevation, and the physical exertion. Some begin the adventure with eager anticipation, but then realize it requires more than a video game controller and gradually lose their desire to reach the summit. Others begin to display the characteristic that usually rises to the surface when they meet a challenge that requires effort. They whine!

And then there are the Daniel Boone’s who blaze the trail, enjoying these moments in life to the fullest, ready to head across the valley to that next peak over that they can see after they reach the top.

And then there are the encouragers who want the whiners and the weak to accomplish what they know they will accomplish. They want all of their camp friends to make it up the hill, no matter how long it takes.

I was listening to our elementary camp pastor, Rev. John Mark Brown (Yes, he’s got half of the gospels in his name!) talk to his camp kids about the journey…kind of a debriefing session! He had been talking to them about what it means to serve in Jesus’ name…what might that look like? It was encouraging to me to hear a number of these young campers talk about helping each other up the mountain. That sometimes it’s not how fast YOU get up the hill that’s most important, but rather what each person does to make sure everyone gets to the top!

There’s a valuable lesson in there for all of us, not just eight, nine, and ten year olds. The church, when it is being the church, is a community of believers helping each other up the hill! And you know something! There are a lot of whiners who journey with us, and there are a few who are weak and aren’t sure they can go much further, and there are the trailblazers who look to run ahead and get to a location that will take the majority of the flock a long time to get to, and there are the encouragers who understand the celebration of having everyone standing on the peak…no matter how long it takes to get there!

It seems to me that the church needs to catch some of that understanding of the journey. It is a snapshot of what being in community with one another is all about!

The Church That Mutually Submits

September 12, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          September 12, 2016

                               

Churches can be incredible places of grace…and churches can be intolerable places of ungodly treatment. I’ve seen both. We dream of the first and too often experience the latter. It’s been that way since….ohhh, say the first century!

The Corinthians could be a reality TV show. Lawsuits, disorder, self-centeredness, strong personalities, dysfunctional church life…they could make a ten year run on Bravo! And most of the seven churches in the early chapters of Revelation…talk about issues!

Churches are comprised of people with issues, otherwise known as imperfect people, who are incapable of perfection. Every church has problems! Every church has warts!

The difference is when a church recognizes that and brings grace into the midst of the fellowship. Grace paves the way for dialogue, forgiveness, and reconciliation. A church that is committed to grace values the principle of mutual submission. That is, each person in the Body of Believers desires to be serve the others. Personal agendas get thrown into the trunk as people in the Body value one another more than they value their own wants.

Here’s the thing! People don’t trust mutual submission. They are afraid of being burned, and afraid that wrong decisions will be made if everyone is treated with equal regard. They are afraid of pushy people pushing their wants, and loud people drowning out those with soft voices. It is easier to be suspicious rather than servant-minded.

The dynamics of the Kingdom of God are written in a different book than the one most of us are living by. Mutual submission means that we recognize that we need each other, we have a deep love and respect for each other, and that we value each other. When “a wart” surfaces in the life of the church the members of the fellowship respond with words of commitment like “We will work it out together!” Judgment and demeaning decisions get thrown into the trunk with the personal agendas and everyone gets a firmer grasp of the hands of others as a storm of conflict is faced. There is a bond that will not let go. People say things like “What’s it going to take to bring our relationships back to the trusting level? Let’s work on it together.”

The dilemma for the church is that she puts up with people that no other organization would tolerate. Our commitment to grace shows in how we love those who believe in grace but never practice it. That takes us back to the reality of the truth that depresses us, that we all have issues and we all need the grace of God. Woe is we!

The reality of our fallen nature, of being people with issues, will not, however, deter me from  believing the church is to be that place of mutual submission and grace! Even though some of the behavior I see or hear about makes me grind my teeth I haven’t given up on the fellowship of Christ-followers yet!

 

Known and New

January 2, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                           January 1, 2015

                                               

I don’t know when it was that I discovered that stovetop burners can be hot, or how to tie a neck tie, or cars only run on “E” for so long. What I do know is that at some point in my life journey the status of each of those situations went from unknown to known. Each went from confused to clear.

Much of life is learned from experiencing it. We become wiser, often as the result of really dumb decisions.

If you stick your finger in the light socket bad things happen!”

     -Never call your fifth grade teacher “an old bag!”

     -Never tell a young lady you are trying to impress that her body proportions are full in one place and small in another. When she switches which part of the body you’re inferring is small and which part is plentiful… it will be your last date with her.”

     -The airlines doesn’t care that you were held up in traffic. No matter what your situation, they ain’t waiting for you!”

      -Don’t say ain’t when you think you might be meeting your future in-laws!”

These are just a few of the things that I now know. Experience is sometimes a teacher with a snap to it.

I enter a new year with a volumes of knowns that I no longer need to question. I know I have three great kids, each with unique talents and characteristics that I’m thankful for. I know I love and am loved my a wonderful woman who joined me on a marriage journey thirty-five years ago. I know that I have great friends in various locations around the country, and I know that friendship, unlike NBA basketball, is never over-rated.

I know that I am loved by God and made free to be by the cross of Christ.

I know that the Body of Christ gets trash-talked and cast aside by as many cynical self-absorbed Christians as non-Christians; and that very few believers understand what it means to be a community of faith. Perhaps these last “knowns” are the result of pastoring for a few decades, and are now known as I gaze upon the wounds of leading sheep.

January 1 is about about new. It marks that beginning point of another leg of the journey. It’s a dividing point between what was and what may come. As I look at “new”, I’m pondering what new knowledge I’ll encounter this year, what new developments will dot my life that cause the picture to become clearer? What new revelations will God bring forth that leave me with my mouth wide open? What new glimpses of his hand of mercy and grace will cross my path? What new understandings of scripture will I marvel at as it meshes with my personal experiences of life?

It is always important for the student to approach a new chapter with a sense of expectancy and excitement. Like a child opening Christmas presents there will be those gifts that cause our hearts to giggle with glee, and there will be the present that holds a new pair of jeans…essential, and yet about as exciting as a new cooked spinach recipe.

I walk ahead knowing that I’m never alone, and that He knows me intimately.

Adult Bullies in Churches

February 18, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                     February 17, 2014

 

                                  

 

    We shouldn’t expect it to be different from how it has been. The church has always had bullies. John wrote about one in his third letter. His name was “Diotrephes.” (3 John 1:9-10) He had a reputation for gossiping maliciously, being inhospitable, and keeping others from being hospitable. Diotrephes didn’t invent bullying. He just excelled at being one.

The Sadducees were bullies. They were also “sad, you see!” Sorry, reverted to my Southern Baptist childhood Sunday School class there for a moment!

In this age when there is a growing emphasis on “anti-bullying” in our schools, at our workplaces, on our sports teams, and in our neighborhoods, we must realize that churches have the worst kind of bullies. They are the worst because they clothe the bullying in spiritual language and act like Jesus has ordained their actions.

Churches are also the worst place for bullies because we believe strongly about grace and forgiveness. We’re suppose to love our brother…even the ones who will use that to intimidate us. As one person said many years ago: “Churches put up with people that no one else will.”

Adult bullies in church come in all legal ages. They are not gender-specific, or based on a certain level of income. They come in all shapes and sizes, some with frowns, but others with smiles that fool.

How do adult bullies in church do what they do? One vehicle that is used is making people think it’s all about the person instead of the mission of the church. Bullies think they are irreplaceable, that the church’s one foundation…is them! Part of their intimidation, strange as it sounds, is getting people to buy into that idea. When that happens other members of the church start saying things like, “We can’t afford to lose them. They give so much money!”

     Money is a power play for much of our culture, but it should never hold that kind of sway in the church. Money is a way of showing gratitude, not getting people to follow what I want to do.

Adult bullies in churches use fear to keep themselves in power. Fear fosters spiritual immobility.

Other bullies in the church use their special talents to hold people hostage. “If she leaves who will teach the elementary age Sunday School class.”  

     “There’s nobody else to play the organ. Give him what he wants.”

     Talents become a trump card, not a way of performing an act of service.

So what does the church do when adult bullies throw their weight around? Love them, but hold the door open for them also. The church is bigger than any one person. The mission is more important than any one threatening individual.  The agenda of the Kingdom of God is more urgent than the preference of any “self-proclaimed king.”

There are times in any church’s life where it is essential for someone to step up and give words of conviction or exhortation. That’s not bullying, that’s motivating. there are times when a church needs someone to lead the charge. That’s not bullying, that’s spearheading a charge.

It is easy to forget that Paul compared the church to a “body”, where every person is a part, and every person is important. God’s plan is for a smoothly functioning Body of Christ. The reality is we often fall short. The reality is that there are periods where the Body is functioning smoothly, that there is a rhythm…and then long gaps of dysfunction.

May the Lord help us!

Between The “Want To” and The “Did”

September 11, 2012

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                      September 10, 2012

In a recent Time magazine article (September 17, 2012), Doctor Oz shared some insights that he has discovered about people who want to change a certain behavior or lifestyle tendency and actually doing it! He says that when he hears the words “I know I should…” bright red flags go up.

Without getting to deep in the psychology of change, the five steps to getting unstuck are mentioned as “Pre-contemplation”; “Contemplation”; “Preparation”; “Action”; and “Maintenance”.

But Dr. Oz makes this statement in the article that needs to be trumpeted:

Throughout time, religion has been about not just worship but also life lessons, self-improvement and redemption, with earthly accountability to the community and congregation to help keep us in line…Alcoholics Anonymous was launched in the 1930’s with a 12-step model based on the same idea.”

In other words getting from the “want to” to the “did” requires a transforming decision, and a group to hold you to it.

We call it conversion, but we also need people to have on-going conversation with about the shift in life focus. Conversion is radical enough! To repent and turn to see that you are completely alone in the next step of the journey too often results in “I know I should have” hit-the-wall moments.

Many believers try to go it alone.

It’s an unwise decision! Proverbs would probably label it as a decision made by a fool.

Adam wasn’t made to go it alone, and neither are we. (Let me clarify! That is not a reason for a single person to say “I need to go out and find a spouse!”)

Being a part of a church should offer a level of accountability. Mega-churches do many things well, but I fear the lack of accountability that many of their attenders are drawn to. To be fair, small churches have issues as well. Many times small churches have “ownership issues.” “This church has been in our family for five generations, and, dog gone it, I’m not going to just let Jesus come in and take over Lordship!”

Accountability, a band of brothers, someone to walk the road with me, is a vital part of getting from “want to” to “did.” The days of The Marlboro Man are in the past. Cigarettes kill, and spending too much time with a herd of cattle may only convert someone to being a vegan, not a surrendered follower of Jesus.

It’s interesting that the early Jesus-followers clustered together in groups and called themselves the “Body of Christ.” The Body-healthy moved together, took action, supported each other in phenomenal ways. It does something to you when you realize that some of those gathered in your group might not make it to the next Sunday. Crosses for Christians became a common theme.

We’ll walk together all the way from the ‘want to’ to the ‘did’!

Such accountability without a doubt enabled Paul to say “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)