What’s the Church to Do?

The church in America is in crisis.  There are so many distractions and options in our culture, church is just one of a multitude of them.  Churches find themselves competing with one another with bigger, better programs.  Books are being published everyday, introducing new ideas and paradigms for the church to adopt.  Yet, we see little results.

So, what is the church to do?

Jesus said that we were supposed to “Go.” (see Matt 28:19)

Let’s start a new worship venue.

Jesus said “Go.”

Let’s build a new building.

Jesus said “Go.”

Let’s have small groups.

Jesus said “Go.”

Let’s attend this conference.

Jesus said “Go.”

Let’s adopt a bigger (or smaller) budget.

Jesus said “Go.”

Let’s have more fellowships.

Jesus said “Go.”

Let’s offer classes on…

Jesus said “Go.”

Let’s spruce up the place with new paint and furnishings.

Jesus sail “Go.”

Ok, Jesus, we get the picture.  We’re supposed to “Go.”  Well, where are we supposed to “Go?” 

Jesus said, “Love your neighbor”

Jesus, you don’t understand.  I don’t have time to love my neighbor.  I go to church 3 times a week.  Plus I work.  I’m on two different committees.  I’m planning on signing up for a small group and I’m even planning on going overseas next summer.  When am I supposed to love my neighbor?

Jesus said, “instead of going to church 3 times a week, why don’t you just be the church 24/7 and GO!  Get out of the church building and make friends with your grocer, the guy who does your dry cleaning, the girl who makes your Starbucks, the neighbor whose marriage is in crisis, the mechanic who changes your oil, the colleague who works with you five days a week, the teenage boy who doesn’t have a dad at home, your own kid who is dealing with peer pressure like you wouldn’t believe, the widow who is facing Christmas for the first time since her husband died, the friend with cancer, the guy who recently lost his job, the newlywed couple already in debt over their ears, just GO!”

Somehow the church in America has developed this notion that we are supposed to attract people to “come and hear.”  And all the while Jesus is waiting for us to “go and tell the Good News.”

Before you accuse me of passing judgement on the church in America, let me just say right now, “I’m the number one offender.”  I have spent my entire ministry focused on attracting others to “come and hear” and neglected “going and telling.” 

Father, please forgive me of going to church instead of being the church.  I desire to be obedient to your Son’s command to “Go.”  Please empower me with you Spirit, give me wisdom and courage to “GO and Tell.”  In Jesus’ Name, Amen!

Be Still and Know

When I was a kid my mom accused me of being a “wiggle worm.”  Not quite sure where she got that term, but I was indeed a bit of a wiggler.  (Is that a word?)  I just couldn’t sit still at church, in the car (no seatbelts back then!) or at school. 

If I ever got hurt and my mom needed to examine my booboo, she would have to constantly remind me to “be still.”  But if I ever got really sick or something really tragic happened, like the time we ran over our weiner dog, Fritz, there was really no need to tell me to be still.  You see, at those times of intense physical or emotional pain, I was helpless to do anything but lie there, waiting for someone to comfort me.

Now, as an adult I realize I still have those same traits and tendencies.  I spend my life distracting myself with one thing after another.  A new book, a new activity, a new obsession, anything that occupies my time and energy.  I read lots of books, but seldom finish any of them.  I waste time channel surfing.  I surf the internet.  I eat too much junk food.  All of these things serve as a distraction to my relationship with God.  I guess subconsciously I think if I stay busy I won’t feel guilty about my lack of discipline and devotion to God.

But then it happens; an illness or an injury that puts me flat on my back, a family crisis, the death of a loved one, news of a national tragedy, or a natural disaster.  My life comes to a stand still and there I am paralyzed in grief or fear or pain, waiting for someone to comfort me.  Could it be that this was God’s way of forcing me to be still?  I wiggle through my daily life, neglecting to be still before God, thinking I can do everything in my own strength, so God has to force me to be still.  Is that what it means in Psalm 23, “He makes me lie down in green pastures?”

I’m tired of wiggling through life!  Maybe it’s my age or maybe it’s the fact I don’t want God to have to get my attention through a painful circumstance, but all I know is, I am coming to the place in my life where I realize I’m totally dependent on God for everything.  I’m beginning to hunger and thirst for more of Him.  I’m beginning to crave more time away from the pull of the world and bask in His presence.

This Friday evening (11/16/07) our church is presenting “Be Still…” an immersive worship experience.  Last summer, Lance Leonard came to me with the idea of having a worship event centered on Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God.”  As we began to talk and brainstorm, we came up with the idea of offering this event as a way for each of us to come together right before the Christmas season to prepare our hearts and lives to focus on keeping Christ as our center.  The holidays can be filled with stress and overindulgences that so easily distracts us from the real reason we celebrate.  Our prayer is that we will be still before God and realize that He is all we need and He is all we truly desire. 

If you are in the St. Louis area this Friday, I would love for you to be here for “Be Still.”  You can check out http://bestillstlouis.org for more information.

Can’t a guy ever get any sleep ’round here?!

We have an unwritten rule at our house, okay, I have an unwritten rule.  And apparently I’m the only one who follows it.  Sally and I never seem to be on the same sleep schedule.  One of us is usually staying up later than the other.  Recently, I’ve been trying to get to sleep earlier and Sally has been working late on several projects.

Anyway, back to the unwritten rule.  Whoever comes in the bedroom late, is supposed to tiptoe in the dark, change clothes in the dark, quietly tiptoe to the bathroom in the dark, shut the bathroom door and THEN turn on the bathroom light, then do your business (flushing is optional at this time, because of the noise), use the manual toothbrush instead of the noisy high powered one, turn off the bathroom light, THEN open the bathroom door, tiptoe to bed, slide in and gently roll over and go to sleep.  This has been my routine for 27 years.

Sally hasn’t caught on to this.  Last night, Sally was the last one in bed.  Here’s her routine:  Wait until Tom finally falls into his REM (deep) sleep and then swing open the bedroom door as if she were Diana Ross In Concert, popping out of a giant screen on stage singing “Aint No Mountain High Enough,” turn on the closet light, change clothes, go to the bathroom and turn on the light, THEN shut the door, power clean teeth, flush several times, sing a song, open the bathroom door, THEN turn out the bathroom light, run  and dive into bed, snuggle and spoon me (actually, that part’s nice), ask me if I talked with Andrew,

“No.” 

Then ask me if I spoke with Jolee,

“No.”

“Well, who were you talking to?” 

“Mom and Dad, I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow, good night,”

“I need to turn on the lamp,”  Lamp goes on, lamp goes off.  Lamp goes on, lamp goes off.  Lamp goes on, lamp goes off.  I was beginning to think she was signaling Morse Code to our neighbor’s across the street.  Perhaps she was reminding them to put out their trash in the morning.  Finally the lamp stays off.

Resnuggle, and start laughing hysterically, making the bed shake, keep laughing…

“Tom, can I ask you a question?”

“Yes, that’s my *sippy cup on the night stand.”

More laughter and bed shaking.

Get up and go to the bathroom again.  (The first of several trips per night.)  Leave all the lights off. (hint, hint!) Finally fall back in bed exhausted.  Sleep…ahhh!

So I ask you, “Is it any wonder I ever get to sleep?”

*One final note about the sippy cup.  I recently came up with this idea in the middle of the night.  I get dry mouth in the middle of the night and I wake up but I’m too tired to get up and get a drink of water.  Also, I don’t want to leave an open cup on my nightstand because I’m afraid I’ll knock it over in the dark and get the phone wet.  So I got one of our grandson’s sippy cups and now, when I need a drink, all I have to do is reach over, get the cup and take a swig.  I don’t even have to sit up in bed!  Genius!  The sippy cup is the greatest invention since adult diapers!

Adult diapers…hmmm, now that’s an interesting idea!