Thursday, December 29, 2011

My Joyous life (follow up from yesterday)

I always find it discouraging that my negative posts always seem to get the most attention.  People seem to be drawn to arguing, and critiquing and critiquing critiques.  The most read posts on my blog are both where I call out Christian leaders for their very public statements letter to pastor mark and was very angry with pastor chuck.

Yet in some of my best posts I talk about wonderful people who have inspired me, and do inspire me pastor buddy or ray barbee

I share video bible studies, talk about our house church, all kinds of things.  But the negative stuff gets heard, it gets passed around, mainly because people wish someone would say something about all the crap they see.  They are happy that it is not just them.  Others, well just enjoy stirring up some shit. 

But today, I thought I might share a little bit about ways forward.  How have we tried to live an alternative?

We work hard to define church as our community not as gatherings.

When we do gather everyone shares.  Everyone cooks for the group at one time or another.  We occasionally meet in other houses, or in a park.  Everyone takes a turn at doing communion, leading confession, or prayer, or worship (almost never singing but usually interactive in a different way).  Everyone shares during a discussion, and everyone has an opportunity to lead the discussions as well.

We pay nobody, so all the money that is given gets spent on neighborhood needs, using a relational model.  If $50 or less is needed to help someone you personally know, you need one person in the community to agree that it is a need we should meet and the money is doled out.  If it is above that amount we put it to a vote, and we use consent rather than consensus, (I will explain later)

We recognize that our calling is not to build a bigger community, but rather give birth to a network of small communities.  We support, and help new communities start.

The use of consent is slightly different from consensus.  We try to reach consensus, which we have in almost every occasion, but if we can't we ask the minority group to allow us to continue in the direction the majority has decided and we will review it in an appropriate amount of time.  If they are adamant about saying no, then we wait.  We would rather go together than divide over being right.

We put regular cycles of service to our neighbors, and the neighborhood into our calender.  We learn to be disciples, by following Jesus example of loving those society has cast aside.  In our history that has been homeless people, drug addicts, punk rockers, pregnant teens, and mentally ill people.  Doing this together is important, as our friends learn what healthy community is like as we practice it with them.

There are many other things I could write, but I will stop there. I am currently writing a book that tells stories of  our ministry over the years, with no commentary.  It will not be negative at all.  If you can't stand my critiques, maybe buy my book when it is available. Far from being the angry curmudgeon that I may appear in caricature, I love life, I have great hope for the future, and I believe the church will be reconciled and redeemed.  I just happen to also believe I need to call us on our bullshit.  Rest assured everything I say, I say to myself as well.


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

If you build it they will come (my sad little world!!!)

I responded to a twitter message that was retweeted by someone I follow.  The message went something like... 80 percent of non churched people said they would go to a Christmas service if invited so get out there and invite someone.

My response was something along the lines of "why? so we can inoculate them with a small dose of consumer Christianity that keeps them from catching  a real cross following discipleship?"  Which I know is a bit harsh, but I am a bit harsh sometimes.

A brief conversation followed which ended in a statement that basically said, "I am not going to let you drag me into your sad little world"

Now, first of all I understand the issue.  I seem like a scrooge.  I seem like someone that hates the church.  I seem like someone who is taking pot shots at those doing something different, or arguably more successful than what I am.  I can see that, really I can.  But... I do not think I should be dismissed so easily.

 Not that I am in any way comparing myself to any of these great men of the faith, but John the baptist wasn't exactly a sweet heart, Paul was down right mean sometimes, even Jesus whom we follow was a killjoy on occasions.  The entire tradition of the prophets is not to say nice things, but to actually be a big downer.  So the question isn't: is what I am saying negative?, but rather: is what I am saying true?

Christianity as it has become defined in the western world, is subverted.  It is not the revolutionary, radical and sacrificial way of living that we see in the book of acts and in stories of the early church.  It has become rather a culture of its own, that mimics the culture of its day.  And unfortunately in most of the western world that means an adoption of consumerism.  We make a product of Christianity.  This product includes well put together services, with good music, good message, and good child care.  The product includes a very well put together handbook of beliefs, that we can convince ourselves of, and then be suitable for heaven.  This product in too many cases gives us an ideology that says our possessions are a sign of God's blessing, that our Christian duty is to take care of ourselves and our family first and then if we have some extra to give it through an agency to those that might need some help.

I remember one time I was sitting in a service that was all about God's plan for sexuality.  It had drama, and video, and a nice compelling message.  And then the band came out and was playing "in your eyes" by Peter Gabriel, and I leaned over to ask my friend that invited me a question about the service.  A lady in front of us angrily told me I was being a distraction.  A distraction from what?  A song you hear a hundred times a week on the radio?  I was distracting from a performance that was meant to be a consumable good, for a target market.  I was distracting from church, but not from being the church, but from the product of church.  Inviting people to purchase this product is not mission, though it is what we are asked to do by the organization that exists.

Jesus on the other hand calls us to go out into the world, not call people to us.  He says to make disciples, not converts.  And he says to teach them to obey everything he taught... which means, sell all you have and give it to the poor, store not up treasures for yourself on earth, feed the hungry, cloth the naked, visit the imprisoned and sick, stand up non violently against oppression, love your enemies don't bomb them, live out the kingdom of heaven.  Yes, Jesus calls us to something all together different than a service on Christmas.

We don't need to invite people to a service, we need to invite them to a revolution.  But first we have to live it ourselves.  Far from being a sad little world, it becomes a wonderful, joy filled, and also tragic world, bigger than can be imagined, as it is not bound by the physical.

come and join the revolution


Monday, December 05, 2011

Just a little encouragement

My friend Allen sent me an email this weekend.  He said he had taken some time to read over the last few blog entries or so, and he thanked me for them.  He said they were meaningful and moving to him.  He said they helped him understand things better.  He made me feel encouraged, he made me feel like if for only one person the writing I do here mattered. 

Now I know this might sound like a plea for everyone to tell me how wonderful I am, but that is not my point.  Well not my only point :)   What Allan did was encourage me to use my gifts.  The bible talks about this, encouraging one another towards good works, sharing with those that share with you, and the whole body needing one another.  I try to make it a habit to tell people how much their actions mean to me.

In the book Connecting, Dr. Larry Crabb talks about how one of the most important parts of Christian fellowship is seeing the Christ in others and calling it forth.  That is encouragement.  So today, and the rest of this holiday season, oh heck, the rest of your life, take the time to see the Christ in others, see their good works, look deeply and see the good, and praise it, encourage it, fan the flame.  There is enough in this world that tears us down, we should be people that build up.

Thanks Allan for building me up