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

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)"


nj gordon said...

Thanks Dorse...

We need each other for encouragement..

Thanks for the reminder..

Zeke said...

Let's see what church looks like without paychecks and power. And I'm talking to you, pastors.

Kc said...

You make a good case for having a funk around.

Kc said...

Dorsey I really hope and pray that His love will always surround you and yours and you'll continue to be blessed in every way. ;-)

Caro said...

How was this not a Christmas message? Wasn't one of God's essential purposes in His Gift the restoration of a failed relationship? Didn't JC come to seek the lost sheep so they could be restored to the fold?
Loved your rocking horse!
Have you noticed that when people move out of the building, they are often omitted from official lists? Seems that they should be pursued and their departures made into reasons to change programs' focus.
I miss the class during this season.
Wonder what would happen if a choice were offered between the single service and SS?
I have received the greatest gifts this year-I have family in the spirit and in the natural and friends who just keep goin' and goin'.....

Herobill said...

Thanks for sharing such personal things, Dorsey. & some great thoughts, too. Of course, I'm up really late - maybe they only seem like great insights! (?)

I love the idea about eagles learning to fly... but why must they leave the nest? What about "booting them" to "effective ministry" in the church?

I mean, how come (usually) only one or two guys ever get to bring the sermon? How come they never boot their hatchlings into sharing the ministry during the service?

Hmmmm... (?)

dorsey said...

Good point, herobill. I guess that's where the eagle analogy falls short. It's not that each believer must leave the nest, but practical discipleship demands that each one be grown and stretched and made strong enough to be an "adult" capable of reproduction and discipleship of others.

But the analogy becomes useful again with your last question. The eagle doesn't succumb to ego. She understands that her success is measured by the propogation of the species, not the hollow adoration of a bunch of featherless chicks who only need her to keep from starving to death. It's a twisted symbiosis that pastors unwittingly create.

dufflehead said...

and what the eagle typically says is "all you chicks have to do is bring more to the nest so that they too can become eagles"

Craig Bob said...

"... this small empty spot I feel isn't from not being in leadership anymore, it's the closeness of the relationships that I miss."

I know exactly what you're talking about with this Dorsey. I think you and I both stepped out of worship leading on the same day - Easter 2005. And there was something really powerful about the relationships that form in that context -- uniting as a community to create art to God.

The fact that I haven't experienced that on the outside probably exposes some weakness in myself: like perhaps the need/desire for an audience?

But it's something I'd really like to explore. Maybe we should meet in the middle of the country somewhere for an out of fellowship art & worship blowout.

nathaniel adam king said...

I like, I like a lot. What you said, not you. I don't like you...:)

Just kidding.

I am beginning more and more to hate not the church, but the damned 'building'. I pray to God that He would move within our nation to pass a law where all church doors would be closed, all 'meetings' would be outlawed. I pray that persecution would swarm out nation and people would be killed for the gospel's sake. Perhaps then the 'church' can really grow. Persecution is not needed, but it is a hell of a lot better than what we have now - acceptance.

Is that freakishly morbid of me?

meh, I'll live with morbid. I prefer to think of myself as not morbid, but a lover of that which is seen by most as morbid. (sorry, that was sophistry).

If you could, could you email me? sofyst@gmail.com

dorsey said...

I've often said that the most devastating moment in the history of the Church was when the Roman emperor, Constantine, became a believer and the government subsequently endorsed Christianity. If modern authorities outlawed religious gatherings and started rounding up Christians, I think the new pope's wish for a smaller, purer church would soon find itself granted.

I don't want to be persecuted any more than the next guy, but I have to agree that the church has gotten so accustomed to comfort and luxury, we've failed to notice that we're naked, blind and bankrupt.

Caro said...

Maybe, besides persecution, the church should police itself and clean up the trash (from the Army concept of police the area). Your fwd entitled "Hmmm" seems most relevant at this point.
If the eagles consume the food for themselves, the chicks never will grow up. Is this not better for the eagles but murder for the species?

Anonymous said...

(A Friend From Afar)

Like the eagle nest analogy......
makes me ponder about why people who believe as you do can remain in the churches, which only seek to fatten their bellies with spiritual enrichment for themselves. And when the congregation is not "content" they whine to pastor. And he has to do summersaults to keep the $ flow. I've seen it way too many times it's sickening. If only more pastors had the balls to do the right thing.

The lost are hungry and sadly the last place they want to go is into a building in the presence of self-seeking Christians who want to get them "saved" and "in the church" because "they need Jesus!" I wonder how often Jesus laughs at shallow comments like this, when "Christians" utter them.

What's wrong with seeking out the lost? Heaven-forbid we give up OUR TIME with God on Sunday. I think the Christians who really want God to use them in a radical way should opt out of Sunday morning services and replace it with community outreach.

Just as Christ demonstrated with his disciples: go and find the lost(those places no one dares to wander), build relationships (and keep in contact; not hand them a card with local church info), then let the spirit of Christ intervene and do His part. And when that person asks you why you're not in church on Sunday morning, reply with, "God called us to go and share his love with others; you're more important than a Sunday morning ritual."

A seed "starts" with love, sacrifice,and allowing time to do it's part. So, with you, I'll give those chicks another push toward out of the nest!!!

Paula said...

You are so on with this post. Happy New Year and continue blogging.