Life is a Highway…

Posted: March 17, 2007 in Church, Perspective

Home…finally.

Once again I’m back in my own four walls after a few days of dodging stupid drivers and downing road trip food (Munchos chips, Mountain Dew, that sort of thing…).  I’ve only been gone since Wednesday afternoon, but…man…it feels like a month.

 The Unleashed Conference at Newspring Church rocked my world.  Sure, like a bunch of other conferences we’ve been to, they impressed me with their production values, their gear, their sheer manpower, and their style.  But all that couldn’t be responsible for their growth to like 6,000+ members in around 7-8 years.  I think they’ve grown that large because they are unashamedly committed to reaching people.  They make no apologies for being different.  They don’t water down their mission.  They’re not afraid to step on toes.  On top of that, they are committed to godliness.

I won’t presume to evaluate our whole church in comparison (that’s not my job).  But I can evaluate myself.

1.  Am I unashamed?  In short, no.  By nature, I want people to like me.  I don’t want to freak them out.  Sure, it’s fine if you know I’m a Christ-follower.  Heck, given enough time, I might even tell you about it.  And when I do, I apologize for fumbling over my words like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar.  But most of the time, I rest on other people’s efforts.  And that’s pathetic.  If others strike up a conversation about God, I’ll jump in.  But when’s the last time I did that myself?  Am I truly trying to not be that guy who’s armed with Gospel tracts and a well-polished gospel presentation that comes across so impersonal it’s more likely to turn people than help them – or – am I just afraid of offending people?  After all, I’ve caved in when friends of mine – even so-called Christian friends of mine – have mocked or ridiculed some stance I’ve made.  But I want them to stay my friends, so it’s okay to conform, right?

No.  No more of that crap for me.  How can I expect to impact the world swinging at a baseball with a toothpick?  Time to quit goofing off and get to work.

2.  Being different.  This I’m good at.  Or am I?  I’m not ashamed of being different.  I don’t even mind verbally sparring with people who criticize our style of worship or our church’s mission to reach people.  Different is good.  In a town with 130+ churches (where most of them are very similar), you dare to have to stick out to connect with people who are turned off by the other 130 churches.  Still, I have wo wonder if I’m doing enough, or am I just re-imagining my own status quo.  I mean, am I content to stay where we’re at, or do I truly want to think more out of my own comfort zones to make a difference?

3.  Do I water down my mission?  See point #1.  Though my personality tends to avoid conflict, I will only go so far.  I don’t water down my faith.  I will not compromise on the truth.  Period.  I will not buy a lucky rabbit’s foot, hug a tree, and wear a I (heart) Buddha T-shirt just to show the world how confused I am.  Instead, I will dialogue with people who disagree.  And, importantly, I will not judge others.  I will seek to not ever be bullheaded, but I will not misrepresent my faith.  I don’t want to be the sapling that falls over whenever the wind blows. 

4.  How can I step on others’ toes with small feet?  Get bigger feet, I guess.  Maybe it’s been well-intentioned, but my desire not to judge people has often led me to be so non-confrontational that I will put up with a ridiculous amount of stupidity before I ever speak up.  In fact, I’ve put up with my own stupidity so long about this very thing that I’m not speaking up about it until now.  True, I don’t like offending people or hurting their feelings.  But catering to people’s shortcomings (especially those that are supposed to be “on-mission” with you) is like trying to write with your little pinky toe.  You want to know how to be as ineffective as possible?  Then allow yourself to get wrapped up in people’s issues.  I don’t mean I shouldn’t have mercy, but – come on – there comes a point you just have to say, “Enough.  Stick out your big toe so I can shatter the bones in it.”

5.  Godliness.  This is one of those words that carries a lot of weight.  To those that get it, it’s an awesome word that sums up how we should live and act.  But to those who don’t understand our “churchy rules,” this is just another one of our freaky Christian words that summon images in their minds of Ned Flander-types huddled in Bible studies where they address everyone as “brother” or, worse, “Reverend.”  Yikes.

What it should mean is simple:  Godliness is to be like God.  Okay, I will qualify this by first stating that this is impossible.  We are not God.  We can not be God.  Don’t believe me?  Go make your own universe and populate it with life forms, then keep the whole thing running.  Oh, and do this in 6 days.

But we can seek to be like him when it comes to our character and our efforts:  We can seek to feel what he feels, love what (who) he loves, forgive who he forgives, etc.  We can seek to purge our own lives of the junk that we pile in there.

In short, we either serve ourselves or serve Him.  We’re about our own business, or we’re about his.  You follow?  Sitting at home, surfing the internet, and downloading pictures of naked people doing things naked people do when they’re together is probably more about our own behind-closed-doors business than his interests.  Scoffing at someone who’s gotten pregnant before they’re married is probably more about our own self-righteous disappointment than God’s will for that person.  Yelling at your wife/girlfriend for accidentally washing your non-washable wool jacket in the washing machine is probably more about your own materialism than the things God cares about.  Purchasing $5,000 in electronics – then complaining that our church never has enough money to do things also seems indicative of a discrepancy between our wills and his.  Having zero patience with people who also call themselves Christ-followers whenever they disappoint us or make a mistake (small or big) might also indicate a problem (the whole his perspective vs. our perspective thing again). 

See the pattern?  I need to wrestle with this.  Everyone who claims to be a Christ-follower needs to wrestle with this.

Why?  I don’t know how many times I’ve wanted to see God do amazing things through me and through my church – yet I have to wonder how often I let him even do amazing things in my own walk with him.  If I won’t let him work in my life to better me as a person and make me the godliest person I can be, how dare I complain that I’m not seeing him do things through me or around me.  My effectiveness as a leader depends on how healthy my relationship with God is.

“That’s gold, Jerry…gold!” (sorry, Seinfeld reference…)

Let me say it again:  “My effectiveness as a leader depends on how healthy my relationship with God is.”

If that relationship is not healthy, I compromise my integrity, I confuse the message, I stifle the Spirit, and I become an impotent servant wondering why other leaders seem to have it so easy.

My heart’s beating fast as I think about this:  I want to be a godly leader who’s not ashamed to carry the best news in the world out to a world that needs it, as bravely and as creatively as possible.

Let every other conversation about relevance, methodology, style, etc. begin AFTER I’m committed to this first.

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