Browsing Category: Church

Owning the Fire

Church staff.

I was there once upon a time. Feels like a lifetime ago but it’s only been a few years since I walked away from that work. Three years as “volunteer staff” in college & two years as official staff at a church plant of sorts was enough to burn me out.

For a long time, I wanted to blame the church for that. The pastor. The people. It was definitely someone else’s fault that I got burned out. That I walked away feeling defeated, used, mistreated, & ready to jump on the “I love Jesus just not church” bandwagon.

As I find myself two years later already quite involved in church again & enjoying it, I’ve had to own something – it wasn’t church that burned me out, it was my approach to it. 

Being my stubborn self I had to be burned to the ground before I could grow back healthier. There was no telling me anything to help me put out the fire before it raged out of control. I needed to learn how to set healthy boundaries. I needed to learn it was okay to say no, to step back. I needed to walk in humility without the mindset of “If I don’t do it, it won’t get done.”

In the beauty of the ashes I found those lessons. I found an identity apart from my work. I found a relationship with God that wasn’t based on my doing for Him, but on my being with Him. 

I’d be lying if I said I had it all figured out. That I knew how to put into practice those things I’ve learned. But the truth is whether I like not the Martha in me, the taskmaster, still rears it’s ugly head where there are things to get done. 

But that’s not the church’s fault. That’s not a pastor’s fault. Volunteers’ fault. A congregation’s fault. No, no one can own that except me. 

 

It’s Live!

If you missed it, the STORY 2011 website went live earlier this week. I’ve already started counting down to September 15th. (133 days if you’re wondering :)) The team got together last Friday in Chicago & it’s full steam ahead from here on out. I’m excited to be working with a such a great group again this year.

Here’s a little sneak peak at the website, but I highly recommend checking out www.storychicago.com for a taste of STORY 2011. If you are part of the creative class, would you consider joining us in Chicago? We’d love to see you there!

The Twenty #10 – Why Church is Irrelevant for Me

I’ve gone back and forth on this post for several weeks. Written. Rewritten. Completely started over. Something about saying that church is irrelevant just hasn’t sat quite right with me.

But then I realized that perhaps it was the reasons I had claimed church was irrelevant that weren’t sitting quite right with me. A conviction that the reasons I had written about shouldn’t make church irrelevant.

Thinking back on the last 5 years of my life I finally admitted to myself that church is irrelevant for me because oftentimes it seems to brush aside pain. It wants to overlook our weakness in suffering. Yes, it’s tempting to preach a Gospel that will cure all pain & suffering but it’s false.

Pain & suffering are a fact of life. In fact God makes it pretty clear in Scripture that we will experience them here on earth. Sure they seem to set up camp more in the lives of some than others, but they leave a mark on every single one of our lives in some way. Yet despite that, something in our human nature wants to hide them…to pretend they don’t exist.

And when a church tries to claim that faith will take away all pain that’s when it becomes irrelevant for me. Because I know otherwise. I’ve experienced otherwise. It took years of physical pain & suffering to really drive this home for me but I get it now…at least a little bit. I know that talking about pain and weakness is uncomfortable. I know it can hurt to see others in pain. But my prayer is that as a Church we can get past that. Because if we don’t I think there’s a lot of hurting people in the world that are going to see church as irrelevant for their lives.

What, if anything, makes church irrelevant for you?

Photo Credit: Sarah Jensen

Learning to Love. Discovering Community. Living Justice.

When I visited Nashville a year ago I kept putting off going back to Wisconsin. First I was going to leave Sunday. Then Monday. And finally convinced myself to hit the road on Tuesday.

But after that Monday evening I was sure glad I stayed. I like to think that was God’s plan all along. Because that Monday night God planted the seed in my heart that He might have something for me in Nashville. And that something was community. It was learning how to love. How to simply be. All with the thread of justice running through it.

A friend invited me to come and hang out with what essentially was a big group of friends who got together to make food and serve it to the homeless in downtown Nashville. I remember leaving that night with a million thoughts in my head but blown away by the fact that I had shared my story…a 5 minute, honest, from the heart, version of it…to more people in those 3 hours than I had in probably 3 years. And I didn’t even know those people.

The group now has an official name – People Loving Nashville. And still meets every single Monday night…rain, shine, tornados, snow…you name it.

When I go and sit on the floor in a big circle as we gather for a devotion before heading out I am overwhelmed at what is around me. It’s a group of mostly 20 & 30 somethings, all with incredibly different stories, all from different churches…some not from any church. No one comes out of obligation. No one is getting credit for being there. They come compelled by one thing: love. And that love is the foundation of a community not just among those of us serving but the people we serve as well. It’s grown in size since I first visited but it still feels like a big group of friends getting together to cook some food and give it to those in need. A community strung together by love and a heart for justice.

After missing far too many weeks in a row I made it back downtown last night. And again I was overwhelmed. As I sat in that circle I couldn’t help but think of being there almost a year ago to the day…that first time was actually today…April 26th…and the community that I discovered that night. It was and is one of the most beautiful expressions of being the Church…of living justice…I’ve seen.

I don’t have it all neatly sorted out…perhaps I never will. And maybe that’s okay. But, I’ve discovered this past year that love, community, and justice all seem to go hand in hand. Sure, they can exist independently but their meaning and purpose is most fully seen when they mesh together in messy layers.

I found it fitting last night that the devotion last night was from 1 Corinthians 5 focusing on renewal…about leaving behind the old and living in the new because that is what Christ won for us with His death and resurrection. I have left a lot behind in the last year. A lot that too often I want to drag with me. But God has worked renewal in my life through love, community, and living justice. And it was all planted on a cool but muggy April night in Nashville.

 

 

Beautiful Words

Mark Pierson opens a chapter of his book, The Art of Curating Worship, with this beautiful poem by Mike Riddell. His words describe beautifully the awakening that is needed and that I sense is coming. I can feel it. And I burst with excitement with I catch glimpses of it.

We come from far and wide;
We have our own stories to tell who we are
Stories of places and people and experiences
Tales of discovery and disappointment

Somewhere between there and here,
God has become a part of our adventure;
Part of our walking and speaking and breathing,
In us and through us and before us

We have joined our lives with the story of Christ,
And begun to act as if it were true;
Taking the words to be gospel,
And the sound of them to be the breath of life

Sometime between then and now,
God has come to dwell among us,
Breathing the Spirit into our hearts
So that we may see and hear and feel.

With our friends and fellow travelers,
We have measured our days by the kingdom
And our nights by the joy of salvation;
Seeking what is lost within us

We are the substance of Christ’s dreaming
The first-fruits and the foretaste
The small and suffering people
In whom Christ has pleased to dwell

But we are also the lost children;
The straying sheep and the dishonest servants,
The rich young fools and the rock-bearing elders,
The timid followers and the traitorous disciples.

We often forget the story which came to us,
Preferring order to uncertainty;
Orthodoxy to love,
And religious piety to unmerited grace

Come to us again, Lord Jesus,
And whisper your words of welcome;
Fill our hearts with reckless wonder,
And our minds with splendid nonsense

Awake in us the dream of the kingdom;
Resurrect our dead and perished visions;
Alert us to the heaven in our midst;
And quicken us to laugh and love

Here we have no lasting city;
No temple nor castle nor club;
Here we have no religious refuge
In which to hide from your gratuitous chaos

So make us to be the dwelling of Christ,
The holy shelter in which the flame may burn;
That the story may go on and the truth be told,
And mercy come to your good earth.

Amen.

The Art of Curating Worship pgs. 54-56

Community or Socialized Christianity?

I was talking with a friend recently and she was telling me about a new church she had been attending. As she was describing it she said something that struck me: “I can’t figure out if it’s got good community or just great socialized Christianity.”

OUCH! That made me think. I took a step back and looked at what I currently called my community and what I had called community in the past. And without a doubt, what I currently call my community is good community. It’s Biblical community. It’s much more than socialized Christianity. Unfortunately, I think we get the two confused quite often.

What do you think makes good community rather than just great socialized Christianity?