Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Advice from an Old Guy

Young Man, you sound irritated when you preach.

Certainly, I am not.

But you come across a bit vitriolic, like you have something to prove.

No, nothing to prove. It must be the eyebrows.

Eyebrows?

Yes. They naturally slant downward, making me look perpetually peeved.

I would submit there is also a bit of downward slant to your voice.

Really?

Have you listened lately?

To myself? No, but we record the sermons.

I'd suggest you watch, and, more importantly, listen.

What am I looking for? Overused hand gestures and that sort of thing?

Not exactly. Look for the tone of love beneath the words of truth. Listen as if you hunger and thirst for righteousness, and crave intimacy with God. Listen as if you're tired, heart-broken, and insecure in you walk with Jesus. Listen as if you have been hanging on for six days, hoping to make it to this hour where a hallowed moment of song and Scripture might provide the answer to the weight in your chest. Listen as if you're desperate for grace and truth.

But most people don't come on Sundays feeling desperate.

That, Young Man, is why you sound like a prophet and not a pastor. Desperation is the deepest feeling--your voice (a conduit of the Spirit's) should draw them out. A commanding posture elicits insecurity and rejection; a gentle word will raise people up.

Whisper to them. Allure them. Love them.

Thanks for the tip, Old Guy. I'll take it to heart.

And there's one more thing, Young Man.

Yes?

Work on those eyebrows.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Proportions

My reading comprehension level is directly proportionate to my proximity to a computer. For every foot I place between myself and the computer screen, I gain seven extra minutes of reading. It's simple mathematics--1:7.

The problem with my office at the church is the computer in it. The machine sits eight inches from the edge of my desk, seven feet from the door, and eight feet from my comfy chair. At best, I'm an hour from a distraction. An email. A blog. A perusal of NFL statistics. An online bank transfer.

But I've found a solution. I call it a reading sabbath. This week I'm going away. With a book, a Bible, and a memo pad, I'm going to put miles between myself and this place. And since a mile equals 5280 feet, I should have at least three days before something steals my attention.

That is, of course, if no one calls my cell phone.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Organic Decay: A Parable

We bought forty-five pumpkins for the Leesburg Bluegrass Festival with hopes that kids from the community would come and claim them. I took great care picking each one from a local patch, but broke one in the process. Not thinking it was ethical to substitute a healthy pumpkin for a maligned one, I heaved the topless fruit in the bed of the truck.

By the end of the day fifteen pumpkins remained, the topless one among them. We brought them inside the building, so as to protect them from the infamous Leesburg Pumpkin Raiders. They slept peacefully beneath our roof.

But by the following morning, whether it was the previous night's foot traffic, the 3 gallons of left over chili, or a biblical plague, the church building was buzzing with flies. They outnumbered the locals in attendance at the festival. During the singing, arms swatted at the airborne intruders. During the sermon hands waved wildly at pesky insects. This was our closest brush with Charisma.

By Monday the flies had multiplied, playing sentinel at the front door and patrolling the kitchen. I armed myself with the fly swatter and rushed the building like a madman: knocking down plastic trees, overturning tables, flushing toilets and slamming doors.

I killed twenty buggers, but they continued to come. They were surging, spawning, swarming. And then I spotted their locus. They'd inhabited the topless pumpkin, laying eggs and hatching plans in the organic decay we'd brought into our worship hall. (Composting doesn't work at room temperature.)

So I did what any noble pastor would do, I grabbed the pumpkin and ran outdoors. I raced until I reached the edge of our lot and tossed the cancerous fruit from our property. Its decent was majestic, climaxing with a muted explosion.

And that's how a church really gets rid of flies.

Monday, October 8, 2007

The Confession

Each week our church has a confession. We draw truths from the Scripture about our identity in Christ. We read the confession, recite it aloud, and then I encourage everyone to revisit it during the week.

Few do. Perhaps it seems to puerile. Too obvious. Too boring.Or, perhaps it takes too much faith.

One girl who faithfully reads the confessions admits they are difficult to say. Admitting you're glorious when you don't feel your glory seems contradictory. But that's the point. Often glory isn't felt because it isn't stated. Quietly held truth rarely grips us.

The Identity element for the week is: I am a Masterpiece (Psalm 8; Jer 18; Eph 2:10). Here is our confession:
  • I am a MASTERPIECE
  • I am MOLDED by the Master Artist
  • I am VISIBLE
  • I am USEFUL
Do I believe this? Probably more spoken than typed.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Catalyst and Conformity

I'm wearing a Don't Conform shirt. I was one of eleven thousand people who got the shirt free today, proceeds of Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace ministry. One of eleven thousand people challenged to purge his life from consumerism, while booth-hopping for schwag and iPod drawings. Every ninety minutes one in eleven thousand will win.

This is the emerging, relevant, next generation church. It is cool, hip, and committed to redeeming the church from Christianity and restore it to the Way of Jesus. They do it with Pomade and embroidered button ups; they do it with pop culture and social concern. They do it with with people under forty.

I would be one, but my shirt encourages me not to conform (so does the free Bible I received, compliments of Tyndale).

Fortunately, my generation balances its appetite for image with a genuine love for Jesus. They show it in their growing concern for both mediate and global communities, biblical practice, and gaining an audience with unchurched people. They will gather, even if too groomed, at events like Catalyst to share in the movement of God. And they will listen to seasoned leaders cast vision and spout wisdom on shepherding the church.

That I can conform to.