Here is an observation from a friend of mine. They have been reading each of my blog posts.
Wow Jim. I really like what you have been writing, BUT . . .
You sure have been hitting us pretty hard.
Don’t get me wrong, I think we need to be hit hard, but every once in a while give us a breather—PLEASE!
I agree with my friend. Quite frankly my head hurts from beating on those barricades. I thought about sharing some light stories, you know the kind we all like to hear. We all like to hear stories about kids who respond to the love of Jesus. The truth be told some are responding in some very neat ways. I could even share stores from the past and give my thinking cap a rest. (If you know me, you know it doesn’t take much to wear out my thinking cap.)
But I decided it was important to share my heart. So let’s anesthetize the old Battering Ram for one post and take a breather.
Why am I writing hard things about difficult subjects? As one man once put it, “Why can’t you just go along with the system Jim?” If you know me you know that will never happen. But you need to know why. You need to hear my heart. I am not just a Battering Ram (the animal or the instrument of destruction).
Let me share two thoughts before we get back to the religious barricades. You know the ones, right? The religious barricades that block us from all Father has called us to be—both individually and corporately. By the way, barricades by their very nature are hard to knock down.
I direct the first of my comments to my many friends who find themselves ministering in the institutional church. As you read earlier posts and discover future posts you may find yourself offended. This is not my intent. Please bear with me. At one time I thought about becoming involved in new expressions of church that are popping up across the country.
That thought has been banished.
While I still maintain a passion for troubled youth, a new passion is stirring in my life. It is a passion for those of us who consider ourselves part of the institutional church. You know the church model we grew up in; the church model we have poured ourselves into for many years. In the last post you read about the results of our traditional efforts. It is not pretty: Sputtering—Bleeding—Bankrupt—Hated!
My purpose is not to rub our combined noses in these disturbing facts. I simply believe there is a better way—as Paul said, “A more excellent way.” I also believe that Albert Einstein was correct when he defined insanity. Einstein defined it as “doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.”
We often hear, “If only we had a better preacher.” We often hear, “If only we had a more exciting form of worship.” We often hear, “If only we had a better _________.” You fill in the blank. Worship is essential. Preaching is a biblical part of ministry. However they should not be the focus of how we help people grow in the Kingdom of God. I hope this will become clearer as we move on.
Everything I share in my blog posts does not mean that I see myself as better than anyone else. I still struggle to live an invested lifestyle. The attitude of Jesus often alludes me. I still struggle in trying to become a part of true community around the biblical patterns. The fact that I seek a “more excellent way” does not mean that I am better educated. Anyone who knows me knows that is not the case. I simply believe that moving toward a more Invested Ministry Model will accomplish exciting things. Maybe we will be able to stop making excuses for why the early church life is not happening today. Maybe we will not have to make excuses for what “our” people experience in church life.
Maybe we will begin to experience authentic community not just social gatherings.
Maybe we will see more long-term changes in the very people to whom we are called as shepherds. Isn’t that what it is all about?
Think about it—instead of confessions made, we begin to see lives changed.
Think about it—instead of focusing on the “things of ministry,” we get to spend more time with the “people of ministry.”
Think about it—instead of sending people on their way after a prayer, we get to walk life with them.
Think about it—instead of focusing on business and marketing models, we get to watch the gospel spread organically.
I believe if we catch this vision we will jump for joy. When we see the fruit our lives sacrificially invested in the transformation of other’s—we will JUMP! Instead of focusing on doing ministry we can train others to minister by living our lives alongside of them. That would be a great cause for Jumping For Joy!
A community of people filled with a missionary passion for people. A community of people laying aside their position, power, possessions or prestige. Just think for a moment—then take a long breath. A breath of fresh air. It is not a fantasy story. It is the Bible being lived out in front of us. Isn’t that why we got involved in ministry in the first place?
I believe an Invested Ministry Model will release the desire many of us hold in our hearts. Most leaders I have met in the institutional church entered the ministry with a desire to honor God. They knew the way to do that was to allow him to make a difference in the lives of people. We were all told preaching a biblical message would make a difference—it doesn’t. At least not too big of a difference. Look at the results. Most people can’t even tell you what you had preached on Sunday by Wednesday. We were told teaching Bible centered studies would do it—they don’t. People learn ideas in classrooms—not a way of life. They definitely do not learn how to change their lives. Then we were told that attracting people with great shows would turn things around—it doesn’t. It may bring in more “noses,” but those who come bring fewer “nickels.” Yet it is not about “nickels” is it. The real problem is that people who are attacked to a “great show” very rarely conform to the image of Jesus.
Most of my friends entered the ministry with a passion for people. Most did not have a passion to put on shows. Most did not have a passion to simply speak. Most came into ministry for what God would do in the lives of others. Yet many have shared a deep frustration with me. The frustration simply put is that they find themselves so busy with “church” that they have very little time for people.
If you feel that pain, I understand. It is my hope that things will change. By developing a more Invested Ministry Model in the minds of our people, we will be released from “busy stuff.” We will find the fulfillment of our true calling. It is not a calling to run an organization. It is not a calling to sit in committee meetings. It is not a calling to focus on budgets and buildings. It is not a calling to make decisions. You remember that calling—a calling to be like Jesus and serve people.
Here is my second area of thoughts in concluding this breather while the battering ram is anesthetized. These are to my friends who sit in the pews. Oh I get it. I have been in both places.
I know you keep busy.
I know you just don’t sit. Well at least 20% of you don’t just sit.
I know you wish more of your friends could be taken care of by the leadership in the church.
I know how you wish you could minister to them yourself.
Cheer up! That is exactly what you are called to do. Leaders are called to equip you to be a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ. They are not hired guns. They are equippers. That is how God’s people are supposed to be built up into something glorious. But they cannot equip you in a classroom. That confuses them because that is the way they were “equipped.” But a classroom is for sharing information and ideas. Equipping for ministry takes place in the laboratory of real life. We all need to let go of our traditions and release our leaders to walk life with us.
I know many of you have sat in sermons and bible studies for years. I know after all that time “in the word” many of you feel totally inadequate to share it.
I know what it feels like to have your Christian life be too filled with stuff. I understand too many meetings. I understand too many rehearsals. I know (and my girth shows it) too many potluck lunches.
I know what it feels like to feel stale or stalled.
I know what it is like to be in the church and want transformation to come to your friends. I know what it is like to be in a church and want transformation to come to yourself. I also know how it is to wonder deep down inside, “If I bring friends here will transformation really happen? Maybe they will just get busy like me.”
I know what it is like to wish things were more “real around here.” I know what it feels like to watch new “noses” show up but nothing changes.
I know what it is like to watch a person pray a pray and then no change appears in their life.
I know what it feels like to wish there were more nickels in the offering plates. I know the big mistake of feeling that if there were more “nickels” we could do more. Yet there is a problem. The “nickels” we have are not being used to help people—only build more or bigger buildings and new programs. I know what it means to watch these things deplete our resources when real people have real needs.
I know what it means to see the organization grow. I know, the organization is growing but you are not seeing changes in the lives of people you love. You may not see changes happening in your own life. Getting FAT is not healthy growth.
I know what it means to be busy in business meetings while people you know are passionless for Christ. I know what it means to be busy in business meetings and watch your passion for Christ dwindle.
I know the frustration of “doing church” with all your heart. I know how deep down inside—where no one else listens—you ask, “Is this what it’s all about—really?”
My blog posts are not being written to allow my friends in the pews to point fingers at the leaders. They are not being written to allow them to say, “If you were different, things would be different. If we got a new leader things would change.”
My blog posts are not being written to allow my friends in leadership to point to those in the pews. They are not being written to allow them to say, “If you were different things would be different. Maybe if I went to a different church . . .”
My blog posts are being written to wake us up. They are being written to help us realize the problem is with the system—not necessarily the people! The system forms the barricades.
Sin is sin and must be dealt with—in leadership and in the pews. Yet this is not necessarily “sin” per say. At least it is not sin as we normally define it. What I see are people caught up in a system. That system is giving us different results than conveyed in the Bible. We are all doing our best but somehow the standard has slowly changed. Somehow we start to believe that the way the early Christians lived was part of their culture. It cannot be duplicated into ours.
I remember helping a small church remodel a room. I was one who had the privilege of shepherding. I am not a carpenter. I am not a handyman. But I figured I could help—I mean how hard could it be? Right! I was given a large stack of 2x4 lumber. The carpenter left instructions for me to cut the entire stack off 3 inches. He even left me one that had been cut as a pattern. He encourage me to be sure to use the pattern. So I did.
I took the pattern and laid it on another 2x4, drew a line and cut. I picked up the piece I just cut and used it to draw a line on another 2x4. Then I cut it. I picked up the one I had just cut and drew a line on another 2x4 and cut that one. On and on the process went until I finished the job. The problem—they were all different lengths. In fact by the time I cut the last one it was more than an inch shorter than the first. Did I know that? NOPE. I was so excited that I had finished the job. I smiled and was filled with pride. I accomplished the task—or did I? Only when the real carpenter returned and looked at my work did I feel the full force of my mistake. I used a piece cut from the pattern instead of using the pattern to measure my work on each 2x4.
Here is what I am asking. Here is the question that is filling me with passion. Could it be that we have lost the pattern and are working our hearts out getting the wrong results? Are we simply looking at everyone around us and trying to duplicate what they are doing?
The facts we talked about in the last post cannot be denied. We have failed. We have failed to produce people who live the attitude of Jesus. We have failed to create fully functional disciples of our Lord and Savior. His image is not seen in the results of our work. What will he say when he returns? Will he really say, “Well done my good and faithful servants?” Will the excuse, “But we were so sincere,” really hold up. We sincerely keep pressing on doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. Yep, do you remember Einstein and what he said about that?
There is a reason for the ram to batter against the barricades. Truthfully my posts are not really about the barricades. The purpose of my posts is simply to give each of us a chance to look deep inside ourselves. It is to give us a chance to ask,
“How did Jesus do it?”
Then we need to ask,
“Is that the way I am doing it?”
My purpose is to give us a chance to ask,
“How did Paul imitate Jesus in his ministry?”
Then we need to ask ourselves,
“Is that the way I am doing it?”
My posts are written to give us a chance to invest ourselves in each other to help each other transform. They are written to give us a chance to invest ourselves in a world that is dying around us. They are written to give us a chance to invest ourselves in a world that is moving further from us and from Christ. They are written to give us a chance to call out,
Watch and SEE!”
So was that a little lighter?
Did you get a breath of fresh air?
Now on to the barricades!
The ram awakens.
He has his horns ready.
The barricades still stand and deny us our reality.
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