Saturday, February 21, 2009

Grow up!

Having had a close-up view of a church split a number of years ago, I came to a few conclusions.  One thing I discovered was that everything basically boiled down to two different groups -- the “haves” and the “have nots” – that were not willing to find common ground.  It was those who preferred the “deeper things of God” (expressive worship, spiritual experience, etc)  -- the “haves”, as in, “We have something from God that you don’t have” -- vs. those that preferred a more traditional style of worship and loved biblical teaching -- the “have nots”.

I had an excellent opportunity to spend a considerable amount of time both with the pastor and with one of the leaders of the “haves” group.  The “haves” group was pushing for “all that God has for us.”  They weren’t going to be denied… and didn’t want anyone else to miss out on “the deeper things of God”.

The other group felt just as strongly that these “radicals” were leading the church away from the pure Word of God.  From a “have not” perspective, the “haves” were only concerned with experiencing the love of God and seeing the “manifestation” of His presence.  The “have nots”, however, felt that the holiness and majesty of God was being overlooked.

The pastor, a gentle man and a true peacemaker, was caught in the middle.  And while he truly tried to make both sides happy, he really wasn’t satisfying either group.  And he was considered a milquetoast by both sides for not taking a stand on their side of the argument.  It got so bad that one group sat on one side of the church and the other group sat on the other side.  In the end, because neither group was willing to bend in its demands and the pastor wasn’t willing to take one side or the other, the pastor was asked to leave, and the church split in a very public and ugly manner. (Over the years I’ve seen this same scenario play out many times…)

For me it was especially sad because I could see the value of both viewpoints.  We do need to understand and experience the love of God.  But we also need to respect His majesty and holiness.  We need genuine “God experiences”, and we need to be grounded in His Word.

I saw that each side had some correct points in their perspective.  But they had totally lost sight of the Big Picture.  We are all pursuing the same thing.  Yes, we may prefer different methods; but aren’t we both pursuing a relationship with God?

I came across this in my quiet time recently…

…You are jealous and argue with each other. This proves that you are not spiritual and that you are acting like the people of this world. Some of you say that you follow me, and others claim to follow Apollos. Isn't that how ordinary people behave?
(1Co 3:3-4)

Other translations say that they were “acting like normal, sinful humans” or were “being unspiritual”.  While each of these groups had the appearance of spirituality, they were motivated by totally selfish motives.  The preceding verses said that they were being childish.  And according to Paul, this betrays the leadership and influence of Christ in our lives.

The point is this, when we get so caught up in our personal agenda we lose sight of what’s most important: representing Christ to a world that desperately needs His transformational love and forgiveness, even if they don’t know it yet!  God help us to grow up and see the Big Picture!

Friday, February 20, 2009

God knows what He’s doing

Sometimes we get frustrated when it seems like we’re not accomplishing much with our lives. Often this shows up in a mid-life crisis. This is especially true if you’re serving in some form of spiritual leadership. It seems as if you’re not really doing anything for God, even though you’re following Him and are striving to grow spiritually.

Even though it may not be plain to you what exactly you're supposed to do or how long you're supposed to do it, rest assured that God knows what He's doing. He's orchestrating the whole thing. And never underestimate the impact you're having on the people around you. As long as you're following God's plan to the best of your ability, He'll make sure your efforts count!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The purpose of light

Human nature is a funny thing. I read somewhere that the natural human tendency in relationships is to form a closed circle. In other words, we choose a set of friends and stay within this circle of friends. It’s comfortable, non-threatening and doesn’t require much extra effort.

During my teenage years, I was often told about the importance of not being “diluted” by those that don’t have a relationship with Christ. I was to go “preach” to the “lost”, but not befriend “them”. They would probably just bring me down and lead me astray.

How crazy is that? I mean, who would listen to someone that only wants to “preach” to them and not be their friend.

Let’s see what the Bible has to say about this…

“The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood (or overcome) it.” – John 1:5

Notice where the light shines… it doesn’t shine among other lights. It shines in the darkness. It shines where it can make the most difference.

This is how God has designed us to live. He desires that we not only connect with our friends, but that we actively engage with the world around us.

So how do we do this? Try being friendly! Get to know your neighbors, your co-workers (or fellow students), make conversation with the cashier at the grocery store, with the teller at the bank, with the waiter or waitress…

Let’s live the song many of us sang as kids:

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Bible translations

As the old saying goes, the best Bible translation is the one you'll read. I'm reading through the Bible cover to cover. This year I intend to finish my MESSAGE translation and move onto the New Century version. I find that reading in a new Bible and a new translation helps keep my devotional time fresh.

In addition to this, I'm working through a daily one-year Bible reading plan using the New Living Translation. I also read two daily devotionals... one on spiritual leadership and the other one on spiritual growth. And I'm always reading at least one book on the side.

Why is this so important? As a spiritual leader, this plan enables me to keep my edge. If I'm not growing spiritually (not just reading, but applying what I learn), then I have little (nothing) to offer those that look to me for leadership.

I'd be interested in hearing which translation is your favorite. And what advice do you have for others trying to keep their devotional lives fresh?

Monday, February 9, 2009

Great trip!

Robin and I got to go to Schweinfurt, Germany this weekend (four hours away… in Bavaria) and do a worship workshop.  We did the workshop for Schweinfurt Christian Center, a fun international church.  The pastors are Americans (that have lived there for about 20 yrs) and the worship team consists of a German, five Sintis (Gypsies) and a girl from Jamaica.  As you can probably imagine, they had a great musical sound!

They were very open to the training, even though some of it was a bit hard for them to swallow.  Artists (especially musicians) are not known as the most disciplined people in the world.  But especially when it comes to a church setting, the need for discipline is great if you want to elevate your game (do what you do better).

We absolutely enjoyed our time with the pastors as well.  Pastors Carol and Charles Furman are a lot of fun.  And we truly appreciated both their love for their people and their passion.  We laughed a lot with them.

Thanks to all of you that prayed for our trip.  It was a huge success!