I have a good friend by the name of Dennis Tooley. Dennis is a Christian who is a comic. The unique thing about Dennis (besides his off the wall humor) is that he suffers from MS. His particular form of MS seems to change in the way it affects his body. As a comic he uses his MS as a part of his routine. You laugh (and cry if you know him) when he tells the audience that he has MS and could fall down at any moment. He is being very truthful. He then tells the audience not to worry. If he does fall down, he will continue the show from the floor.
Lately Dennis’ MS has been playing games his vision. At times he is totally blind. It just comes and goes. Here are his latest posts from Facebook:
As many of you might be aware, I have gone back to being in the dark. Not really sure what is happening in terms of my brain short-circuiting and leaving me blind for these times, but I know that God is in charge and has all of this in control.
For a long time I have referred to this as a speed bump on the road of life. It might slow me down but it won't stop me. I continue to hold that view even though I can't see. I guess I will have to do standup comedy blind. Hope I don't get too close to the edge of the stage. Kumquat May [Come what may] I will continue to bring the joy of the Lord wherever I can go.
I am leaving for an event in Wisconsin. I fly from Indianapolis to Chicago at about 10 o'clock this morning. This will be the first time that I've had to fly blind. It will also be the first time I've done comedy blind. Please keep me in your prayers today and this weekend.
Nothing seems to get Dennis down. Nothing seems to stop him. Dennis really knows, unlike most of us, what it means to “feel” his way through life. I can see my friend feeling his way through his home. Yet because of his faith in Jesus he does not live his life on the basis of his feelings. Dennis has overcome this problem. He has overcome this even though he now feels his way through each location in which he finds himself.
This month 177 young leaders from YFC International met in Thailand for a young leaders’ conference. They had the privilege of having Ravi Zacharias as their Bible Hour speaker. According to my friend Eric Kelly of YFCUSA, Ravi made the following observation:
"We have a generation that listens with its eyes and thinks with its feelings"
That is a hard pill to swallow for those of us who were raised in the modern era of our culture. Those who look at life this way are from the post-modern era. The most important thing for us from the modern era was knowledge, understanding and defending the gospel. But this new generation could care less about how much we know. They could care less about how well we can string an argument together in order to prove our faith. This new generation is moved by the reality of what they see as real in a person’s life. This is coupled with a strong emphasis on feelings.
“How does that make me feel?”
“How does what I see in your life make me feel?”
“I won’t believe what you say until I see the reality of it in your life.”
I sat and thought about what Ravi Zacharias said. What he said is nothing new. It has been confirmed by many social scientists. It did reinforce my present understanding of Christian ministry. It reinforced my present paradigm on discipleship and outreach. I became even more convinced of the importance of the church moving from an event/message approach to ministry. I became even more convinced of the importance of the church moving into a new approach to ministry. If you have been reading any of my blog posts you will know what I am talking about. This new approach must be based on the attitude of Jesus. I call it Invested Ministry. The attitude of Jesus is focused on who he was (and is) first and foremost. What he was here on earth was demonstrated by what he did. His ministry was a ministry that put him up close and personal with people—especially his disciples.
The 20th Century North American Church developed in the modern era of our culture. It based much of what it did on knowledge, understanding and the correct philosophical constructs of logical arguments (Theology). Today most still focus on these areas.
Is that good or bad?
It is imperative to know what the Bible teaches. It is imperative to have a correct understanding of Biblical truth. Life based on anything else is far less than Christian. However I believe a problem developed last century as we tried to stand strong on faith issues. Here’s the problem as I see it. Philosophical constructs of thought and argument became the emphasis of how we presented our faith. The emphasis was not on how we lived as a proof of the power of Jesus to change a life. That was almost treated as optional compared to the heavy emphasis on what we believed. Oh we talked and preached about how we should live. Yet you were ok if you had the theology down and stayed away from the “Big” sins. Often we would just let the rest of the pragmatics of faith slide. It was what you believed that was the emphasis. How you lived your life was secondary. Our emphasis on constructs of thought and argument were true both inside and outside the faith community. The results:
“If we understand it, it is a reality in our lives.”
“The more we know, the more we become.”
Knowledge was the guiding principle of both discipleship and outreach. Many of my friends will not understand the problem with this approach. This is probably because it is the only way we experienced the Christian faith. But get this! In many countries where there are only a few Bibles to go around, God is moving in a mighty way! Why?
Because the Bible is not important?—NO!—Never!
Listening to people who have been in these countries gives one simple insight to what is happening. People in these countries take what they know and live it to the fullest. They may not know much but what they know—they live!
I am convinced that when I stand before Jesus he will not focus on how much I know. I read nothing about a theological examination for God’s people when we stand before our Lord. He will focus on how much I lived out what I knew. That can be a very scary thought for many of us who “know” a lot about the Bible. Don’t get me wrong. I know we will not be judged on the basis of the morality of our actions. That is covered in the blood of Jesus. But we will be judged and rewarded on the basis of the worthiness or worthlessness of our lives. Then we lay those rewards at the feet of Jesus.
Here is another quote. This one is from Cory Booker. Cory is an American politician and the junior United States Senator from New Jersey.
“Before you speak to me about your religion, first show it to me in how you treat other people; Before you tell me how much you love your God, show me how much you love all His children; Before you preach to me of your passion for your faith, teach me about it through your compassion for your neighbors. In the end, I’m not as interested in what you have to tell or sell as in how much you choose to live and give.”
I put this quote on my personal Facebook page. The responses were interesting. The more deeply seated a person was in the 20th century North American Church model, the more they attacked Cory Booker. Those who grew up and were trained in the modern era of our culture were bothered by this post. However the younger the people were who commented on this post, the more they understood what Cory was trying to communicate.
Some see this new way of looking at living by listens with eyes and thinking with feelings to be very dangerous for Christendom. I believe it will be if we let what we experience set our faith standard. If that takes the place of Biblical understanding we are in big trouble. If all people are doing is looking for an experience that makes them feel good, we are doomed.
But maybe, just maybe, it is a blessing. Living in a culture that will not take us serious until they see the reality of what we say may help us. It may just help us out of our rut of arguing our faith to each other and the world around us. Maybe, just maybe, it will be God’s way of screaming at us, “Living my word is not an option!” You see knowing God’s word is a precursor to living God’s word. It is not an ends in and of itself. Faith produces obedience.
I love the church. If I did not I would be like a lot of people I know. They have given up on church.
I believe there are many people who are tired. They are tired of living in the trappings of the 20th century North American model of Christendom. They are tired of just, “Doing church.” I believe there are many who are looking for something different. Many have responded to my posts with encouraging words. They talk about pockets of people who are living this thing I call INVESTED MINISTRY.
Thanks for that encouragement. I see it as well.
Here is my encouragement to those of us thinking about and living out Invested Ministry. If we and a pocket of our friends have left the self-centered, self-promotional, self-sufficient culture of America; If we and a pocket of our friends have focused on the needs of others; If we have done this while being totally satisfied with Father giving us our daily bread; If we and a pocket of our friends are more focused on living out self-sacrificial love; If we and a pocket of our friends are doing this to the point that we are willing to empty ourselves; If we are willing to empty ourselves so others may see a living example of Jesus; we will know it is real if:
We are being misunderstood by those who are comfortable in the old models of church
We are seeing this spread throughout your community of faith (a little leaven leavens the whole lump.)
We spend more time in sacrificial relationships with those we can receive nothing from.
We do not focus on events, meetings and messages but are focused on helping each other obey all that our Lord has commanded.
We focus more on intentional invested relationships (doing life with each other) than meetings and a business model focused on strategic planning.
We focus more on intentional invested relationships (doing life with each other) than preparing sermons and Sunday school lessons.
I’m not totally there yet—actually far from it.
I wish I was there.
It is messy “talking the talk” while tripping and falling over my own feet as I live it out.
But I keep picking myself up.
I keep pressing in.
I refuse to turn back.
How about you?
Please continue to hold me accountable--please, as I continue to try to speak and live God’s truth through sacrificial love.
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