Posted tagged ‘led by the Spirit’

Living For Sameness

June 28, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                        June 28, 2016

                                   

I have my routines. I take a shower when I get up in the morning…every morning. A shower-less morning throws me for a loop. I function like a zombie in blue jeans. I can hardly even remember to put underwear on. (TMI!)

My life is sectioned into routines. Some of them are good and could even be classified as disciplines. Some are compulsive behaviors that make me think I’m just another Adrian Monk (from the TV series on USA Network Monk). Still other routines are simply things and actions that help me feel comfortable and in control.

In effect, I do a lot of living in sameness. My hamburger has to have tomato and onion on it. I drink a glass of soda whenever I have popcorn. I sleep with my personal blanket…otherwise known as my “blankie.” I sit in the same place whenever I watch television in our family room. I live in sameness. It reduces my stress level.

Sameness is okay…to a point!

A pastor friend of mine made a statement recently in describing a church. He said that the church was committed to living for sameness. I loved that statement because it describes a lot of congregations. On the other end of the spectrum are churches who are committed to constant change. They are hyperactive organizations that jump around like balloons that are released full of air but not tied shut. Both types of churches are committed to living for sameness- one to no change and the other to constant change.

Sameness, in some cases, becomes what we worship. I grew up believing that the Doxology was always sung after the offering was received. It was the cue for the ushers to bring the offering plates back to the front of the sanctuary. When I heard it sung one Sunday in a different point in the worship service I was caught off-guard. Did I sleep through the offering?

In my seminary days I worked for a year in a Presbyterian Church. The senior pastor, Dr. James P. Martin, was a great pastor and mentor. He taught me a multitude of things about ministry. But I had been raised Baptist all my life! I could see things only through a Baptist lens. When I questioned why the Presbyterians didn’t have a Sunday night service…”like we Baptists did!”…he gave me a great response that I’ll always remember. He said, “Well, Bill, what it takes Baptists two worship services to do we can do in one!”

Classic!

It helped me understand that things do not always have to be the same. Change can be a good thing. After all, the Christian faith is about transformation. A person, and a congregation, can’t be transformed and remain the same.

I’m not proficient in being sensitive to the leading of the Spirit. I’ve missed a ton of stop signs and Spirit whispers, but I also sense that if given a choice many congregations would choose to stay rooted to sameness instead of being led by the Spirit. Like my “blankie”, there is comfort and safeness in sameness.

What amazes me about the first church is that although they were rooted in Judaism they were transformed by the Gospel and led by the Spirit. They were changed, but anchored to the Change Agent.

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!