Each morning now I wake up with a strange compulsion to write. I often wonder if Oswald Chambers when capturing his words ever prayed, "God why am I doing this?" not knowing that ten years after his death, his wife, Biddy would pull together his thoughts, framing the classic, My Utmost for His Highest.
No pressure, LaDonna (my wife), I'm trying to save you the trouble, now into my sixth book! Maybe one day before I die I'll be fully downloaded.
It used to be that I could get up, read the scriptures, say my prayers and after a shower, be on my way with a sense of excitement about my work in the community, as well as the church. Now, I find myself equally excited, but with a sense of catalytic calling, not always comfortable.
I had stepped back from church at one point with the intent of a community focus only, my sweet spot. Ha, I even wrote the book, but during the two years it took to write the book, it seemed comfort was not my calling.
After fifty years in the scriptures, they seem to speak quite differently now, my heart and head immediately engaged at first light in a conversation with the Spirit. It seems there is both a deep hope that change is coming, and a sad awareness of the growing challenges facing the institution to which much of my life and resources have been given. The chaos within our communities are symptomatic of the Institutional Church's failed impact, though one stands on almost every corner, and on our watch. Hear my ownership!
For those who do not know me, something happened to me in 2008, on the morning of December 28th, when I heard, "My Church is in Foreclosure."
Since that time I have actually attempted to pour myself more deeply into both church and community, yet the very posture of my life calling had shifted. It would no longer be business as usual. The message was awkward, moreso even then, given that I was a small town mayor in a very conservative community. I seemed to fit in well, until I began to act with a more deliberate awareness of such impending change.
The filter through which I saw the institution of church gradually shifted, I became more laser focused on the actions of those who professed a faith publically, especially when politics were involved. My mayorship even seemed providential, as I was positioned to observe believers where the "rubber met the road" in terms of community impact. It now seems that those six years in office actually capped off my life calling, one that has privileged me to serve in multiple professional sectors.
God what were you up to?
Now, fourteen years later, I have the benefit of perspective.
As I have watched that foreclosure unfold, churches now struggle against a growing decline, finding respite only in fresh plants with robust sound systems, a new beat of music and an ever refined online presence. Young pastors turned out by institutions designed to support the industry of church!
Still the Great De-churching (my present read) continues. These authors seem optimistic that with a better knowledge of God (the One who is beyond finding out), more self awareness, better listening skills and yes, cultural awareness, and I quote, "we can move out in confidence that God has already prepared good works beforehand that we should walk in them (Eph. 2:10), and that it is God who has interwoven our story with the stories of those who have left the church by intentionally placing us in the neighborhoods, workplaces, and relationships in which we find ourselves (Acts 17:26)."
The various awarenesses mentioned above were part of the focus of my last book, and are excellent people skills.
If you are a new reader or do not know me personally, you probaly think I am dechurched! Rather, I am in an amazing church, supporting new plants, involved in Christ-centric nonprofits.
Though fully aware of a reality written in my soul; we have forgotten that it was never the result of leadership skills or religious institutions that birthed the Early Church!
Had it been the great Temples, the ancient scrolls, the well-skilled priesthood, the legalistic leadership that strived to follow the religious law to the letter, even stoning those who lived otherwise, we would never have killed the One who finally and fully kept the law.
What changed all that?
A power from on high, that afforded uneducated fishermen, at least in Peter's case, to do the things John Q. Public remembered that only Jesus had done. Blind eyes opened, language skills unlearned which cut to the heart with true remedy and wisdom from on high, awkward conversations with prostitutes, and street people exemplifying demonic behaviors, mentally deranged suddenly delivered.
Men and women then asked, "What must we do to be saved ( i.e. transformed in a manner such as those people of "The Way"). Their response was power from on high, not an invitation to a nearby temple. Their cities and the world, according to one observer were "being turned upside down!" Acts 17:6.
When they went to the temple, it was quite disruptive, with beatings that usually followed.
A favorite piece comes to mind as I end this post:
“I would like to buy $3 worth of God please, not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep, but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk or a snooze in the sunshine. I don’t want enough of him to make me love a black man or pick beets with a migrant. I want ecstasy, not transformation; I want the warmth of the womb, not a new birth. I want a pound of the eternal in a paper sack. I would like to buy $3 dollars worth of God please.”
-Wilber Rees 05/18/1925 — 07/06/2018