Monthly Archives: June 2009
when we first walked in the smell of animal excrement, mold and filth rushed on us. every open space had trash in it. one room was the bird room – a room that served instead of a cage – birds roamed free, never cleaned and food flung into the room every now and again. dead rodents were scattered and found in any crevice and in the furniture, and were only dead because an exterminator came in a few days before we did. 50 years of memories, clutter, neglect and animals of all sorts had turned this house into a garbage heap.
dementia settled in the last few years of her long life, but the paranoia had been resident for decades. she would not let anyone in the house. she lived with her special-needs daughter-in-law, carmen, who was 20 years younger than her. when she died a few months ago at 98, other family were brought in to care for carmen. they also determined to clean out, fix, and attempt to sell the house.
this is where our small group came into the story. we had heard of this need through thecommon.org, which is a site that people can post up things they need assistance with and such. another member of our group had seen this and thought it would be a good thing for our group to help out with.
i’ll be honest, i did not want to do it. we were told about the conditions at our wednesday night small group gathering and this sounded like something messier than i wanted to be a part of. when kate and i walked in and were physically overcome with the stench and horrific conditions, we wondered aloud to one another if we would be able to stand working in these conditions for very long. we spent the morning filling a dumpster, bringing down trash and salvageable things from the two floors upstairs and cleaning up poop, broken glass, and rodent carcasses.
there was something that struck me more than a house in this condition only a 5 minute drive from my door; more than the fact that the next-door neighbor was a church with a brand-new church building that had done nothing; more than being thankful for what God has blessed me with; even more than horror at 2 people living in those conditions for that long.
what struck me the most was my own selfishness.
i prefer to spend my time fixing my stuff, playing with my kids, doing what makes me happy. i am very concerned with my needs, my wants, my little world. the fact that i didn’t want to spend a few hours helping out people who clearly needed it put an exclamation point on this for me. luckily, God did not let me weasel out of that day. he put me there and exposed my heart to me – and i did not like what i saw.
the last couple weeks God has been really kicking my butt all over the place. from listening to messages by one of my favorite authors, to what my own pastor is talking about, to reading crazy love by francis chan. God is trying to slap me across the face and wake me up from my stupor. in crazy love, chan says this: “the thought of a person calling himself a ‘christian’ without being a devoted follower of Christ is absurd.” i think for too long now, i have subscribed to the comparison game of christianity – i look better than some people on the outside, and i must be doing alright.
God calls us to leave our selfish desires and follow him into the sewers of the world, bringing light. i learned this weekend that i have been busy trying to make my light look good on the outside and not using it for what it was intended – going to dark places.
Jesus not only spent time in messy places during his ministry, he calls us to do the same. in mattew 28, Jesus gathered up the disciples and has some final words for them. he says, “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. therefore…” i will show my glory to the entire world and all will see that I am the Lord.
we all know that is not how it goes. but doesn’t that make more sense? Jesus conquers death, has all authority over heaven and earth, and he entrusts the job of showing his glory to the world to us? doesn’t seem like the best plan to me. but then, he didn’t ask for my feedback.
God has a heart for all people, and he is calling us to go to them and show them his glory. we are God’s first and only plan. here is a short passage from servolution by dino rizzo:
“it’s time for you to pick up your towel and join the servolution. there are no excuses worth someone else’s eternal life. with God’s help, you can lead a servolution that can revolutionize your city. the troops are followers of Christ, the companies of soldiers are churches, and the weapons are towels for service. once you have experienced the sense of purpose that comes from serving others with your time, resources, and every bit of energy you possess, you’ll find yourself wanting to serve more and more. and so will your entire team. through our lives, through our families, and through our churches, God is about to touch the lives of millions of others in ways we never dreamed possible. we can’t let them get away.”
the next chapter in geoff surratt’s ten stupid things that keep churches from growing is on “favoring discipline over reconciliation”. talking about church discipline brings up many opinions among both church members and ministers. we all know that reconciliation is the goal, but when and to what extent do we need to discipline? geoff tackles these issues in this chapter. here is the opening story that geoff tells. how would you counsel pastor bob?
a friend of mine pastors a church of fifty people. he has pastored several churches in the time i have known him and every church eventually averages fifty people. i’m pretty sure he will always pastor a church of fifty people. the interesting thing is that he seldom pastors the same fifty people from year to year, so there is certainly variety. the pattern is almost always the same. my friend, we’ll call him pastor bob, will move to a new church in a new community. he will spend a lot of time getting to know the people in the church; he will visit them in the hospital, officiate at their parents’ funerals, and perform their children’s weddings. pastor bob will invite people in town to his church, and the congregation will begin to grow. everyone loves pastor bob and everyone comments that they have never had a pastor like him. before long pastor bob’s church has grown to sixty, seventy, even eighty people. and then it happens: someone in the congregation has to be confronted. someone is stirring up trouble in the church. an attendee may be spreading rumors about pastor bob, a leader may be living in sin, or a deacon just won’t get with the program. whatever the cause, pastor bob knows what has to be done. he sets up a meeting with the offending member and confronts this individual with his or her misdeed. this meeting seldom goes well; few people like to be confronted with their shortcomings. sometimes the censured members decide to leave the church; sometimes pastor bob asks them to leave the church. when they leave, they take several families with them. soon the church is down to seventy members, then sixty, and finally fifty. pastor bob would love to see his church grow beyond fifty, but he can’t just ignore issues that require church discipline, can he?
geoff writes in the chapter about free passes for everyone, what effective church discipline looks like, and profiles dino rizzo at the end of the chapter on the subject.
how about you? what situations have you dealt with in the realms of church discipline? what lessons have you learned? how does your church handle discipline? the first 10 commentors who leave a comment between now and next tuesday, 15 june, will get a free copy of geoff’s book, ten stupid things that keep churches from growing.
can you make popcorn by spitting kernels through a flame? are you willing to try it?
on tuesday, july 14 fred von kamecke, author of busted will be touring the blogosphere, talking about his book.
like the guys on the popular show mythbusters, fred wants to put to the test myths associated with Christianity, such as:
- you can’t trust the bible; it’s been translated too many times
- the ot God is a God of wrath, but the nt God is a God of mercy
- science has proven that miracles don’t happen (so the bible is a fairytale)
- all religions basically teach the same thing (so all paths lead to God)
following a brief summary of a recurring myth or misconception about the christian faith, he explains why the myth is false and provides biblical and historical evidence in his response. he weaves together serious discussion with a touch of humor in his responses, and focuses on the scriptures.
if you write a blog and are interested in joining the busted blog tour just follow these steps:
- leave your name and blog url in the comments section below
- email church at zondervan dot com to receive a free copy of busted in advance of the blog tour (disclaimer: we will only send you a free copy if you have a blog signed up for the tour).
- on tuesday, july 14 make sure to post your review, thoughts, disagreements or whatever else you have related to busted up on your blog. fred will stop by to answer any questions you and readers might have.
- if you dare, record a video of you (or even better, the youth pastor at your church – they are always up for these types of stunts) trying to pop popcorn kernels through an open flame.
let’s do some mythbusting!
Participating Blogs (so far):
Special “Busted Book Giveaway” – Thursday, July 16