Monday, October 26, 2009

Surreal airplane conversation

Image source: Rolf Wallner
On my flight back to Zurich last week I sat next to a young man named M. He is a homosexual clairvoyant (fortune-teller, tarot card reader, medium, etc). This lifestyle is the polar opposite of the way I was raised. Honestly, it was a surreal experience. But I learned a ton.
Some of my fellow pastors would have begun to tell this man how much he was "sinning." And, of course, the Bible is pretty clear about certain lifestyles. But I decided instead to get to know M.
I learned that he grew up in a very orthodox church, and even experienced the presence of God at one of their retreats. He is a very spiritually alert person. But this spiritual curiosity led him in a very different direction. This led to him walking away from the Church, and therefore, Christianity altogether.
He also described his relationship with his partner, and how they met. They want to move to a new area and set up a "spiritual guidance" shop. He found a group of "kindred spirits" in this new town and is excited about the move. He even described some of his hopes and dreams, and some of his pain and hurts. While M described a life that I had never even imagined, I got to see his heart and learn a little bit about who he is.
Eventually the conversation turned to what I do. After I explained our desire to start a new church, he told me I was not like any pastor he had met before, which I took as a huge compliment. I got to share a little about the change Jesus made in my life, and how my mission is to please God. I shared about how God loves people -- even people that the religious world has written off. And when he said he has never really read the Bible (because the King James doesn't make sense to him) but expressed an interest, I was able to recommend an "artistic" version of the Bible for him to read.
My point is this... if we write off people because of their current lifestyle or beliefs, we shut the door to God being able to use us to speak into their lives. I find it interesting that the very people who didn't fit in with a religious worldview ("sinners") were the very ones that seemed to love hanging out with Jesus. And Jesus defended them to the religious elite. (see Mark 2:14-17 and Luke 15) And I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed my conversation with M.
We need to ask God to send more "sinners" into our path. And that He would give us wisdom in our dealings with them. After all, it's the kindness of God that leads men to repentance. (Romans 2:4) We cannot afford to be so "spiritual" that we avoid relationships with people that are in desperate need of God. After all, haven't we, too, been brought into a relationship with God by His mercy and grace?
This experience reinforced my belief that if you invest in a relationship with someone, you earn the right to speak into their life. Have you ever had any similar experiences?

We are visitors (part 11)

We visited another church in our area of Germany recently. We came just before the service started. Because we came at the last minute, there weren't five seats in which our whole family could sit together. Several ushers walked hurriedly past me. I finally flagged one usher down and I asked him if he had any more chairs. He never spoke a word to me, he just kept walking. Then, a few seconds later, he reappeared holding some chairs. I was glad that we could all sit together. However, instead of adding another row of chairs to the existing rows, he put them in the very back of the church along the wall. (There was PLENTY of room to add at least another 6 rows behind the existing rows.)

During the service, the pastor spoke about the value of bringing people into kingdom and how important each person is. Almost in tears he spoke so passionately about reaching this community for Christ.

Now the usher had no idea who we were. For all he knew we were just people coming into a church for the first time. My observation was that it doesn't matter how much you speak about or how passionate you are about winning the lost or reaching your community....the actions of your staff & volunteers speak louder than your words. While the pastor conveyed a passion, the usher's actions conveyed indifference. What if we were those lost souls that the pastor was speaking about?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Day #15,568

I just discovered from an online "Days Alive Calculator" that I'm now on day #15,568.  That's a lot of days!  Kinda makes you think about what your life stands for...

A common theme when I’m speaking to young people is “What do you want on your tombstone?” (And no, I don’t mean the pizza!)  What do you want your life to count for?  What do you want people to say about you at your funeral?  What legacy will you leave behind?

As for me, I want to have the same thing said about me that was said about David: “He served God’s purpose in his generation.” (Acts 13:36)  And I want those closest to me (my family) to think the most of me.  I want my wife and kids to have seen Jesus through my words and actions.  I want to leave a legacy of reckless obedience to the will of God.  And at my funeral I want them to honestly say that I loved people even as God does.

What do you want on your tombstone?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The importance of faithfulness

Moses led the sheep to the backside of the desert – 40 yrs of his life are summed up in just a handful of verses. What happened during these 40 years? The Bible only gives us highlights of his life… just the big stuff.

Certainly there were stories… there must have been something happening. While we don’t know what actually did happen, we can fairly well assume it wasn’t Bible-worthy. Maybe a sheep got stuck in a ravine. It could be that he had to fight off predators on a regular basis. Maybe he helped solve some family differences, weathered storms, took journeys, etc.

But no matter what it was, he ended up as a shepherd. This was certainly beneath the dignity of a son of Pharaoh. He had certainly participated in chariot races, probably fought in military campaigns, studied in the best schools… being groomed to rule. Here he was in the middle of nowhere. How incredibly boring! What could it possibly matter if he had a sloppy work ethic or a bad attitude? But we see him being faithful in a place where it wasn’t easy to be faithful.

What do we actually see him doing in the desert?

  1. Rescuing (he rescued Jethro’s daughters from the shepherds…)
  2. Being husband/father
  3. Working as a shepherd
  4. …He was faithful to a boring routine.

Moses is the perfect example of faithfulness in the “desert” season of life. Jesus told us in Matthew 25 that when we’re faithful in the little things, God will entrust greater things to us. And these steps of faithfulness actually prepare us for the next “door of opportunity” that God wants to open for us. I’m convinced that if we’re not prepared, this door won’t open.

So, let me leave you with a question… Will you prove yourself faithful when it doesn’t seem to matter?

Our next step

As many of you know, we’ve been in southern Germany for a year now, focusing on developing European church leaders.  We do mentoring, coaching & workshops, as well as teaching in Bible schools.  And God put it in our hearts a few months ago to plant a church here.

He absolutely blindsided us with that one.  That wasn't even on our radar screen!  So we're praying out the place, timing and team...

We're excited to see what God can and will do here.  We're honored that God would trust us to plant a church, although we're a bit apprehensive.  This is definitely outside our comfort zone.  But we know His voice and we're willing to do whatever it takes to follow.  We know that our target audience is un-churched and the de-churched young adults.

Here’s the video we made of Freiburg:

We are visitors (part 10)

Another thing to consider is the overall sound.  The sound is another area that no one thinks about until it isn’t right.  Then everyone is distracted.  This is what I know…
  • If the sound is too loud, it’s distracting… and you’ll have people (especially older people) looking for ear plugs.
  • If it’s too quiet, it will be unintelligible.  No one will understand what’s going on.  It’s just as distracting as if it was too loud.
  • With the worship team, if the ones singing harmony are as loud as the lead vocal (or worse, louder) no one know will know what the melody line is… and they probably won’t sing.  Harmony singers are there to compliment the main vocal.
And do yourself a favor, change the batteries in the wireless mic before the service… no one wants to waste money, but you can reuse the used batteries in some other device that won’t make a difference in the service.