Archive for 2012

Reality Check 101 talks about how important it is that each congregation discovers its vocation or calling from God. Discerning congregational vocation is a lot like figuring out how to play a hand of cards.  Some congregations will discern that they are called to play the hand that God has dealt them in Hearts, that is by focusing on their heart for mission.

Once the core leaders realize that it's really ok for their church to be totally invested in mission, a subtle shift takes place. The congregation begins to think of themselves as a church with Christ’s heart. Thier identity becomes shaped by their vocation to be serving the needs of others. Discovering they are a "heart-driven church" is a releif. They stop being obsessed with church growth and balancing the budget and start focusing on doing what they find fun, that is, showing God's love. Not every church has this calling, but those that do find a lot of joy in fulfilling their calling.

In the closing scene of the Christmas classic, “It’s a wonderful life,” George Bailey (played by Jimmy Stewart) realizes that the world has been changed for the better by his actions. This, “I’m making a difference,” attitude is essential for success in playing Hearts. The church council should spend a few moments each month reflecting how this church has made the world a better place. Each committee meeting should include some time for evaluation of how successful this group has been in furthering the loving outreach of the church. In the same way, seek to interpret the church budget as a mission budget. Instead of saying “x was spent on office expenses and y on staff salaries,” break each line into how the money benefited the ministries and outreach of the church. If the paid youth leader spent a week with the teens on a mission trip, then that week’s salary appears under the mission budget. Cultivating a culture of charity is the chief goal of the council. Don’t get caught up in the trap of comparing your church to other churches or organizations. Having this church feel good about doing the good that it can do, is key.

As the fact that this church is choosing a ‘heart’ path is communicated, leaders should look for opportunities to verbalize what they have discerned. Adopting a mission statement, such as, “We’re the church that cares,” doesn’t instantly make it so. Using missional language in all of your communications, however, does shift the identity of the church. It would be nice if both your people and those outside the church stopped referring to it as “the church on the corner of Pine and Main” and started calling it “those nuts that are always helping the homeless” or “the church that raised $10,000 to defeat malaria.”

John 1:5
...the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

“What is light?” I asked my father.

“Well, that depends upon what you need it for.”  My father was somewhat an expert on the subject, having worked on optical design, first for Sandia Labs, and then at Goerz. “When you design a lens, light is like the waves that you see upon the sea. All of the colors of the rainbow are but different lengths between the peaks and troughs of light’s waves. But when you take a closer look, pondering the smallest bits that fall like dust upon a photocell or a roll of film, then you best remember that light is really a particle.”

This was my first encounter with what is known as a paradox. Two understandings that are both true, yet opposite. At Christmas and the holidays, paradoxes abound. 

To name just a few:
    •    Jesus, Mary, and Joseph as an example of family values.
    •     Peace on Earth, promised. Then Herod slays the innocents.
    •    Wisemen with extravagant gifts and Jesus’ uncompromising emphasis on simplicity.

I think its a good time to be uncomfortable with God’s built in ambiguity. What do I need him for? When I am desperately in need of his comfort, he is there like the waves of the sea washing over me. But when I do theology, and analyze God down to the smallest bits, then I’m better off accepting my own uncertainty. In the details of everyday life, I seem to be able to discern that something is good and God’s will for me to do, or perceive that something is doable and within my capabilities, but I can’t have both. It’s the darkness within me that still doesn’t comprehend the light. 

Light falling on Joseph
Christmas Eve