Head First: December 2005

Friday, December 23, 2005

I'll Be Home for X'mas (a not-very Christmas message)

Sorry about the last post. You have to be a terminally hardcore Python fan to remember that one. I don't usually put up such impersonal stuff as that. I wonder if it's a sign that I've got some walls up. Have I been subconsciously engaging in my own building program, of sorts?

I have to confess, while I can't complain--things are going well with me, overall--there's this nagging little undercurrent of a funk that seems to be creeping around with me lately. This is my first Christmas as a...well, let's call me an "almost-churched" person (My only remaining participation is Sunday School--Caro is an awesome teacher who preaches a genuine Christ [I wish he'd start blogging]. Then I usually greet some people I don't get to see during the week, and split before the service starts). Ordinarily, at this time of year, I'd be neck deep in choir, worship team, youth activities (I throw one kick-ass youth party!) and planning all the holiday services. This year...well...I'm on the outside, looking in, I guess.

It recently occurred to me that this small empty spot I feel isn't from not being in leadership anymore, it's the closeness of the relationships that I miss. We used to open choir practice with a 2-minute meditation (always turned into 20) on a verse or an idea, and then we would pray for one another. Man, we totally connected with each other during that time. We weren't there for the building, nor even the idea of singing on Christmas Eve. by the end, we were there for each other. Same with youth, same with the worship band, etc. When I would overhear that people in the choir (or youth group) were following up with each other (phone, cards, email, meet for coffee), I would get such a rush! This was now no longer a "program." This was Church (with a capital freakin' C!)!

But it didn't start that way. Initially, we came together for a task. I think therein lies the difference. Given the intensely relational dynamic of the Gospel, the the ultimate goal of spiritual leadership must be to teach and facilitate (and participate in, pastors!) the building of relationships. The only valid purpose of facilities that I can see is to give people a place to come together, so that they can be led to relationship (usually in the process of a task). But then, there's a further step, helping them take those relational abilities outside the buildings and into the world, demonstrating an everyday, living, breathing gospel that actually has some relevance to the lives of people.

The problem is that the religious system has been set up in such a way that many good leaders have been lulled to sleep by the status quo, and the resulting lowering-of-the-bar has enabled many inferior ministers to sit on their asses and become the served instead of the servers. These guys remember that they're supposed to get people into the buildings, but they can't remember what for. So they stop at the first step. Let's get them in the door and do what we have to do to keep them happy, so they won't leave. Let's instigate more programs, so that everyone will be busy. Like a rocking horse, lots of motion, but no progress.

Imagine what would happen if an eagle never kicked her hatchlings out of the nest. Not only would she have to keep building a bigger nest, none of them would ever learn to fly, or hunt, or survive on their own. So the eagle, stretched ever thinner, is now under pressure to feed all the hatchlings who have neither the wings nor the sense to fend for themselves. So it is with the church.

Instead of bottling people up inside the building, I prefer the image of people flowing through the building like a stream. The bible talks about equipping people, and we equip them with our busywork mindset. We retain people who should have been booted out into effective ministry to the world long ago. The buildings have become a dysfunctional nest instead of a staging area.

Only a mindless idiot believes that the building is God's house. People are God's house. If there's to be an organized church, people must be it's priority. Facilities are simply useful tools to that end. The same is true if church means getting together for drinks and discussion at my house. A building (or no building) doesn't validate (nor invalidate) the work of the Church. As many have demonstrated, authentic relationship can happen anywhere. But the point is, it's the relationship, not the setting, that matters.

"Let us go right into the presence of God, with true hearts fully trusting him. For our evil consciences have been sprinkled with Christ's blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water. Without wavering, let us hold tightly to the hope we say we have, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.

Think of ways to encourage one another to outbursts of love and good deeds. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that the day of his coming back again is drawing near. (Hebrews 10:22-25)"

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Advice to Goats

All goats should avoid:
'The Holiday Homes for Pets Pie Co. Ltd.'

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

"Jesus was a Calvinist"

"God planned the fall."

"I believe God did not exist before creation."

"God only loves Himself."

"I saved a bundle of money on car insurance."

These are some of the fightin' words you'll hear from sofyst, a student at Criswell College, proud Texan, proprietor of sofystication blog and self-proclaimed pope of the ad.hoc forum. This kid is SO Calvinist that John Calvin himself was once overheard saying, "Damn, that kid sure is a Calvinist!" (although, in sofyst's defense, he prefers to be called a supralapsarian, to avoid, uh, confusion).

I drew sofyst's name in Zeke's really cool Santablogger gift drawing, where we all select a gift ($25 limit) for the person we draw and blog about it. The recipient then purchases the selected gift for him/herself and (what else?) blogs about it.

Whether it was a preordained event or the luck of the draw, I'm pleased to have drawn sofyst as my Santablogger buddy (his real name is Adam, after the guy who screwed it up for all of us). We don't agree on much, and each of us is firmly convinced that the other is completely wrong. But the beauty of our relationship is that we've never (that I can recall) exchanged angry words, we don't try to fix each other, and even though we taunt each other endlessly, I think we both take it with pretty good humor. I feel respected in our exchanges. To the extent that it can be said of web-based relationships, I genuinely consider him a friend.

It didn't really take an awful lot of thought to come up with an appropriate gift for Adam. Here's a quote from a recent post:

"If anyone knows me, they know that I have a silly-boy-crush on Ann Coulter. She is genius, she is militant and she is beautiful. What else is needed?"

Someone recently put up a phony comment on his site, posing as the conservative hottie. He was convinced that I was the culprit and swore revenge. Well it wasn't me, but I found out who it was (someone who is related to me, but I won't name names. I'm no snitch!).

Given his adoration for the leggy right-wing lady, I thought I'd offer Adam something from the "Coulter for President" campaign HQ. He can choose from bumper stickers, buttons, shirts, caps, mugs, or even a cotton camisole, all bearing the "Coulter '08" logo. He will surely be the envy of all his Texas buddies.

Adam, I wish you peace, joy, and all the love and happiness you can handle. I hope you have a very excellent Christmas, my friend.

You're still wrong ;-)

Saturday, December 10, 2005

The Answer

Ok, by now you've had some time to think it over (see previous post). Do you stand for the TRUTH, at the expense of this dear woman's feelings? Or do you sacrifice your soul to hell and BEAR FALSE WITNESS in order to spare her delicate emotions? Some of you seem to have assumed that anyone with such a hairstyle couldn't be all that intelligent, and therefore wouldn't notice if you dodged the question or changed the subject. Well, given such a direct question, I think an indirect answer communicates even more. Now, she can correctly infer that I neither like her hair, nor love her enough to be straight with her.

After several days of struggling, the correct response came to me like a flash of lightning:

"Your hair looks great!"

WHAAAT? (At this point, the fundamentalists in the crowd just swooned. Don't wake them up. Leave them be. They're not going to get this anyway.)

I think part of Christ's point in "summing up the law and the prophets" by proclaiming the Great Commandments (Love God, Love your neighbor) was to free us from such legal conundrums as this one, and to further assert the priority He gave to relationships.

The law of LOVE is the truth that surpasses my temporal and completely subjective opinions about style. The law of the new covenant says, "I love your hair, because you're wearing it. You're more important to me than anything else, including my need to be correct."

Fair enough? Then go love.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

A Rock And A Hard Place.

I was preparing to comment on Sofyst's forum, where someone raised a question about rules and law, when it occurred to me that I haven't posted here in almost 2 weeks. While I'm sure you enjoy seeing the face of my blue-eyed beauty every time you visit, I think I owe you a change of scenery. Besides, now that she's 13, I think I'm going to just kill her (Don't worry, though--all New Jersey Correctional Facilities have broadband access, so we'll still have each other).

Anyway, the discussion over there called to mind a question that was posed to me recently by my Yoda. I wrestled with it for a week straight before coming up with the undeniably correct answer:

A woman whom you know greets you at the refreshment table before Sunday School. You immediately notice, and then comment that she has changed her hairstyle.

"Do you like it?" she asks, with an expectant smile.

Well, the fact is, you don't really like it at all. You absolutely don't want to hurt her feelings, but you certainly don't want to lie, either. How do you respond?