Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Big Things in the Works

It's funny how God works. Long periods of a lot of waiting, a lot of seeking, a lot of hints and hopes, a lot of promise and potential, a lot of pressing forward without a whole lot of actually going anywhere. Kind of like reading my blog I guess! But then, just when the heady, conflicting mixture of expectation and frustration reaches critical mass and you find yourself wondering, questioning and doubting... That's when everything explodes.

Right now, in my life, it's supernova time! I'm sure if I'm excited, eager or just plain terrified. Probably a mixture of them all. I'm just glad that wherever this all goes the author of this whole crazy, wonderful, God-story is right along side me as I go.

Monday, March 12, 2007

What is the Church?

Too often we think of 'church' as a building, or a denomination, or an organisation. Even when we break out of the shackles of seeing the church as a place we go as opposed to something we're a part of, we still seem stuck on the idea of individual churches. We talk of 'my church' what arrogance! We talk of different churches and different denominations and different organisations or governing bodies, we hear people saying 'the church is the body of Christ' but what does that even mean?

In an era when many major denominations face turmoil, dissention and even potential splits are we getting tired of denominations? Seeing them as symbolic of the religious organisation which seems so often to have little to do with the life of Jesus?
I believe the post-modern world is moving away from the idea of denomination altogether. I believe we are moving towards a post-denominational Christianity and frankly I like that idea.

In his letter to the Ephesians Paul wrote:

"That's plain enough, isn't it? You're no longer wandering exiles. This kingdom of faith is now your home country. You're no longer strangers or outsiders. You belong here, with as much right to the name Christian as anyone. God is building a home. He's using us all—irrespective of how we got here—in what he is building. He used the apostles and prophets for the foundation. Now he's using you, fitting you in brick by brick, stone by stone, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day—a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home." Ephesians 2:19-20 (The Message)

What an exciting scripture. As I read this I'm left in awe of God's plan for his church! That's a church I can get excited about. It's something organic, growing, changing, alive and vibrant. It began in the very beginning and it will keep growing and building right to the end. The foundations built in the likes of Abraham, Moses, David and Daniel, continued in people like Peter, Paul and John. Continued throughout the ages and right now, here today we are all part of that same project, new bricks, each with a specific shape and purpose, lovingly crafted and slotted into place by the master builder himself. It's 'a temple in which God is quite at home' Built by God for God, so it makes total sense to me that it stretches beyond our limited perception of a building or an organisation. God CANNOT be contained or described in anything we could make or build and his church is the same, bigger than any person, organisation or denomination, bigger than our understanding, it's all of us, from beginning to end, not bound by time or space from the moment he breathed life into Adam this church has been under construction. We are bricks, fitting in, each in his or her way in his or her time and it's all held together by Jesus, the cornerstone. I'm trying to write down stuff I can barely get my head around but I think in this scripture we have a glimpse of God and of what his church should be.
Like I said before, this is a church I am excited, awed, humbled and a little scared to be a part of!

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Musings; Idle and Otherwise

This is a piece I wrote back in January. Just some thoughts on life and youth ministry. I've refined a few of these thoughts in the couple of months since then but we'll get to that in future posts.

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately. And this is just a surface scratching of some of the thoughts that are churning within me. Please forgive me if I ramble or lose focus, change direction or get simply confused. This is my thoughts and they're far from crystallized at this point. In fact, considering how my head is these days this piece is remarkably clear and concise! I hope by putting some of these thoughts down it will help clarify a few things. Or maybe I'll just end up more confused than I started.

I've been thinking a lot about how we portray the Bible, the Gospel and our faith as a whole. We living in a post-modern world and when we work with and minister to teenagers today we have to understand that this is what has been referred to as a post-Christian generation. This MTV/MySpace generation has grown up without the foundation of church and faith of previous generations, and so often we find that the old ways of teaching, the old ways of discipleship are missing the mark. Teenagers today will question things which their parent's generation accepted and to exacerbate the matter the modern Church has too often presented a sanitised Gospel, watering down the truth and avoiding the difficult questions in the name of 'reaching a lost generation'. Desperation has led to an attempt to make church and Jesus relevant and cool. In a lot of ways this approach, while well meaning and motivated by a real desire to reach a generation which seems to be careening towards destruction, has resulted in exactly the opposite. The youth ministry world is now beginning to realise that young people live in a superficial, world saturated by exciting experience, fast-paced excitement and dazzling imagery. They live in a world of instant gratification and rampant consumerism and yet survey after survey is showing a deeper longing for spirituality than ever before. A recent survey found that up to 99% of teenagers in America believe in God in some form yet the number of young people attending churches is dropping and of the number who do attend church in their teens an alarmingly low percentage stay the course through and beyond their college years. Now I am not totally sold on these statistics, as Benjamin Disraeli said, 'there are 3 kinds of lies; lies, damn lies, and statistics'. Surveys and statistics can be used to show pretty much anything you want them to show and almost always in my opinion have an agenda. However, these points do raise questions which need to be explored.

The way I see it, in a world where young people are looking for spiritual depth in a shallow world, the church, in an attempt to meet them in their world has sacrificed depth in an effort to be relevant and cool and as a result has become just as superficial as the world which has left our teenagers are frustrated and unsatisfied. They seek depth and the church gives them 'seeker friendly'. In place of genuine spirituality they have been given sound bites and catch phrases. What Would Jesus Do? Well, his methods weren't flashy, he wasn't cool, and he spoke hard truths and asked challenging questions. Jesus was radical and counter-cultural in his approach, he turned leadership principles upside down when he washed the feet of his disciples, he challenge the establishment and while fulfilling the law he attacked those who were slaves to it. At times his message is difficult, at times uncomfortable, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer said "When Christ calls a man he bids him; come and die." Jesus' message, as lived out in his life is one of extreme compassion, radical humility, amazing sacrifice, terrifying commitment and unfathomable love. And in light of that message how do we respond? By toning down his life? Fitting him into our comfortable picture? Treating him as a mascot? Marketing him as a genie in a bottle ready to meet our every need? Will we show the world a nice, safe, comfortable Jesus who'll help us when we're in trouble and will help our teenagers become responsible and well behaved, good students who live clean lives? The truth is that even many of the teens who go to church, who confess Christ and who are passionate about him are also smoking, drinking and sleeping around. The truth is that an alarming number of kids who grow up in the church go wild at the first sight of freedom. Many young people see the church as getting in the way of their freedom rather than seeing Jesus as the source of ultimate freedom.

There is a song we often sing, 'Trading my Sorrows', it has a rousing chorus;

"Yes Lord, Yes Lord, Yes Lord, Yes, Yes Lord.

Yes Lord, Yes Lord, Yes Lord, Yes, Yes Lord.

Yes Lord, Yes Lord, Yes Lord, Yes, Yes Lord. Amen."

Yet do we actually stop and think about how dangerous a prayer that is? Saying yes to God is saying yes to a life of sacrifice, a life of servant hood, a life turned upside down. Jesus is not comfortable, yet that is the message we give too often.

We fill our lives with busyness, desperately rushing to 'serve', to 'do his work' and our lives are more empty and shallow than ever before. We do so much we leave no room for the one we're doing it for. We spend so much time working for Jesus we leave no time for spending time with Jesus. He does not want our words; His word spoke the universe into being. He does not want our hands; His hands formed us from the dust. He does not want our wealth; He owns the cattle on a thousand hills. He just wants our hearts. He wants us. I don't pretend to fully understand this but the creator of the universe loves me and wants a relationship with me so badly he was prepared to die for me. Because I sin, he died; not so I could be blessed, or so I could be safe, or so that I could go to Heaven when I die but so that I could know him, I can come to him, I, in my sin filled, messy life could have fellowship and communion with the perfect King of Kings. As Jesus dined with sinners, with thieves, prostitutes, crooks and worse he desires to dine with me. He set that example in his life on earth and we are called to follow suit. Saying yes to Jesus is saying yes to the kind of life he led. It's saying yes to a life of love, compassion, and sacrifice but most of all it's saying yes to a life lived, not for, but with him.

My point in all of this is simple; as long as we offer a superficial Gospel we will breed superficial Christians. But if we have the courage to stop, slow down, risk a few bumps and bruises and offer to share with others our journey of deeper devotion and real relationship with our Saviour and with each other, then I believe we will see change. If we commit to seeking genuine community, deeper spirituality and a life modeled after Jesus, then who knows what kind of revolution we'll see in our lives?

The Beginning...

Ta tatata ta Daaaaaaa! (that's a fanfare btw) So here's my first post. I have this nagging feeling that it should be something deep and powerful... or witty and erudite.... or at the very least funny and uplifting. But I guess I'll settle for rambling and incoherent!
Anyway, welcome to this blog, please feel free to comment... once I've written something to comment on that is. I intend (what is it that they say about good intentions?) to share some of my spiritual journey here. God is taking me in a lot of new directions and He's been challenging me in a lot of new ways lately, It's exciting, uncertain and a little scary. But it's a good scary. Anyway, hope it's of interest to someone, otherwise I'm wasting my time really.
There. I warned you. Rambling and incoherent. I'll improve though...