Posted tagged ‘leadings’

Feeling It!

March 25, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                         March 25, 2017

                                          

There is a TV commercial airing these days from a high-tech mainstay that promotes one of their products that can help assess the shooting ability of a basketball prospect. Showing it several times during each March Madness college basketball game gets noticed by viewers. They add a small “megabyte” of humor to it, but the point is clear: Technology is a valuable tool in assessing talent and potential!

Moneyball was a book and movie about how the Oakland A’s baseball team used statistics and probabilities to figure out how to put a winning team on the field with a small payroll. I loved the movie! Once again, however, it brought the concept to the forefront of using technology and statistics as the determining factors in making decisions.

“Feeling it” seems to be getting pushed further and further back in the decision-making process. I can appreciate that. Hunches, intuition, and feelings are prone to being misread and misleading. If the Cubs had ended up losing the seventh game of the World Series against the Indians their manager, Joe Madden, would have been crucified for following his gut feeling and using relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman on short rest. He would have been rooming with Steve Bartram!

But, thank God, there is still some room for following what a person is led to do or say. Thank God Martin Luther King didn’t say “I have a statistical probability!”; or Obi-Wan Kenobi didn’t encourage Luke Skywalker with the line “May the analytical findings print-out be conclusive for you!”

It seems that churches have bought into the information and analysis age as well. One program that is being sold right now promises to be able to help churches fill their sanctuaries on Easter morning. Follow the program and have success.

My cynical side has always been a bit suspicious of a church whose worship leader guides the congregation into worship, complete with raised hands and tear-filled faces, but ends the gathering after an hour because there are two more worship services scheduled that morning. It’s like we trust the leading of the Spirit to a point…er, a time…and then the emergency brake gets engaged. It’s like leasing God instead of buying into him!

What happens when a church is “feeling it?” What happens when the Spirit is truly leading? Unfortunately, most times in recent history when the church has “felt it” has gotten communicated in grandiose projects such as new building campaigns and launching satellite campuses. “Feeling it” doesn’t seem to surface in the relational areas of being led to ask for forgiveness and the practicing of grace. It seems to be in gigantic Solomon temple-sized visions! Perhaps that has made the church, and its people, a bit hesitant about the whispers and leadings of the Spirit.

In my old age I still lace up my sneakers from time to time and play hoop. A couple of weeks ago I was playing with some young guys and every shot I took except one went in. In two pick-up games I made like… ten baskets (Not that I was keeping my “statistics” or anything!)!

“Feed the old guy!” was the increasing emphasis because the old guy was…”feeling it!” It went against success probability and 62 year old player analysis, but they kept giving me the ball and I kept burning the nets.

That “feeling” doesn’t happen very often now, although I still have a “shooter’s touch”, but when it does you’ve got to go with it. To carry it a bit further, there is nothing quite so frustrating as having someone “feeling it” and someone else reluctant to feed the fire.

That sort of summarizes the church, doesn’t it?. We are a people of faith, hatched by an unbelievable God-story… driven most of the time by statistical probabilities!

Trends and Leadings

January 27, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                      January 27, 2016

                                       

Sunday evening, around 7:00, Carol and I entered the Target store a mile from where we live. We went there to find a certain item, but left with five…none of which qualified to be the one item we were looking for. As we entered the store, squarely in the middle of the aisle was an enormous rack of Denver Broncos t-shirts. Less than three hours after the team’s AFC title game victory Target latched on to a fan frenzy. I doubt that Target stores in the other 31 NFL cities had Broncos shirts front and center on Sunday. Lord knows Boston didn’t!

Target identified a trend…”Bronco-mania”…and made it a part of their store identity, at least for a few weeks. Most assuredly, they will sell hundreds of shirts to people who are drawn to orange and blue color combinations like bugs to a zapper!

Trends are a part of our culture. Remember bell bottom jeans? Remember eight-track tapes? Those of us who are old enough…bought into those trends. Many of us, although we begrudgingly admit it now, had “pet rocks!” Every Sunday morning when I open the newspaper there is a thick pile of advertisements that trumpet what the trends are.

People look for trends and follow. I’m sitting in a Starbucks right now writing this. When I think of coffee I now think of Starbucks, because I’m a “coffee snob.” I walk right past the  Folger’s in the supermarket, even though it is much cheaper, and head for the Pike Place. Folger’s is an antiquated trend from my parents’ day.

In essence, trends come and go like the wind. Trends lead us, but also mis-lead us.

How often has the church bought into a trend? Although most churches have bought into the trend of brewing better coffee, I’m not really talking about dark roast, lattes’, and decaf now.

For instance, we bought into the trend of convenience and started having worship services on Saturday night. I’ve got nothing against Saturday night services, but the idea behind them was to give people more choices in order to get them in church. Interestingly enough, despite more options worship attendance has dropped. That is, the typical church member attends less often than he/she did a few years ago. Making it convenient does not necessarily make it a driven need for a person’s life.

Disneyland is seen as being a place that kids become starry-eyed about. A lot of churches bought into that trend and tried to make their children’s ministry a Disneyland with Jesus. I’m sure that there has been some success in various places with that, but there has also been places where kids who come each and every week come out of that time in their life still fairly ignorant of the Bible. As their parents sought meaning in the worship gathering their kids were being entertained and slightly discipled in their age group gatherings.

I sound like a cynic! In some ways I am. From my cold perch it seems that the church has great confusion when it tries to distinguish between a leading of God and a trend of culture. When Jesus taught his disciples how to pray he could have been paraphrased with the words “Lead us not into the temptations of being trendy, and deliver us from evil.” Scripture talks quite often about someone being led by the Spirit. Leadings are not always events that lead to happiness either. Jesus was led to the cross by the leading of his Father. Ultimately, that pain became our gain.

I’m wondering if there are more leadings outside of the church rather than inside the church. Let me rephrase that! Could it be that God is leading his people outside the walls more than leading them to do something trendy inside the walls?

Mission has always been grounded in the leadings of the Lord. Programs, however, get joined at the hip with trends.

Perhaps this year…2016…could be a year that we pray for leadings…and stirrings…even a whisper!

Bad Ideas and Leadings from God

October 9, 2012

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                   October 9, 2012

 

Sometimes people say things to me like, “You’re a pastor! You’ve got extra influence with God.” Or “You’re a pastor! Would you say a prayer for me, since God listens to you more than me.” I’m tempted at that point to respond with a “Show me where Scripture says that” , but usually the person saying it doesn’t have muchof a grasp on Scripture.

And I want to also tell them that I often confuse bad ideas as being the leadings of God. After all, pastors are suppose to have leadings from the Lord, and when we walk through a desert period in our spiritual lives we’re sometimes guilty of inventing leadings. It’s kind of like when a group has a prayer time and the group members are told to pray that they feel led. Sometimes there are the heart-felt prayers that are spoken, and sometimes there are prayers uttered because of the uncomfortableness of silence.

Someone needs to pray something.”

There are leadings that are really reactions. People get ticked off at one another, and “are led” to do some things that I can’t believe God would lead them to do. Pastors have often been “led by the Lord” right after a heated church council meeting. I’d like someone “to be led” to do a study of what percentage of pastor resignations come within a week of church board meetings.

There are leadings that shine the spotlight on a person, and leadings that get leaked to the media. The word “revelation” gets substituted for leadings on occasion. For some reason it seems like it’s more spiritual for pastors to talk about “receiving revelations from God”, but everyone else has to use the term leadings.

Leadings can sometimes be responses from our tendency to not just stand there but to do something. Peter felt that urge after the Transfiguration of Jesus on top of a mountain. Spontaneous as he tended to be he came up with the “leading” of building three shelters to recognize the appearance of Moses and Elijah with Jesus. One translation uses the word “tents.” I remember reading that when I was growing up and I couldn’t get a Boy Scout camp-out image out of my mind. I started envisioning Jesus sitting around a campfire roasting marshmallows with his guests and disciples. I discovered that it was my imagination, not a revelation.

Leadings can only be so far, also. What I mean is that a leading can be so far out there that people lose sight of it. The shepherd doesn’t lose sight of the sheep because some of the sheep tend to lose focus. And yet the shepherd knows when it’s time to move…to be led to a new place of grazing.

Bad ideas sometimes emerge out of a desire to be relevant. Relevance is something that the people of God need to keep in mind, but sometimes it is relevance that is driving the cart. It shows when it seems that a lot of people are being led by the Lord to suddenly dress a certain way, or start a certain ministry. My cynical side asks why God didn’t lead someone to open a coffee house in their church back in the 70’s? Why does it seem that there are so many leadings of that ministry in the past five years with the Starbucks explosion?

Of course, you can take that reasoning and “why asking” only so far. To take it to an extreme is a bad idea. There is always a danger of questioning a new idea simply because we question anything that is new.

I pray consistently for the leading of the Spirit, but realize that the leading is in the Spirit’s time not mine. Sometimes the Lord leads with a stop sign, and sometimes he leads us in retreat.

My hope, as well as my fear, is that on Sunday morning when I stand before the gathered saints and faith journeyers that he will have led me to a word…a word from the Lord to share with the church. It is a moment of trepidation because of the fear of sharing, not a leading, but a bad idea…and a fear because of there always being the possibility that the Lord didn’t lead me to a word that week. Perhaps some Sundays the sermon should simply be silent!