Archive | May, 2010

When the church goes crazy

28 May

Of course there are good and bad ways for the church to go crazy. The good way is when we are so crazy in love with Jesus that we are willing to do anything to further his cause to get everyone safely home to him and his family. That is crazy love and all of us, and all of the unreached would be well served if we got that kind of crazy. What I’m thinking about today is not that kind of crazy. I’m thinking about bad crazy.

It can happen in churches and many times does. Good people get side tracked into bad ideas and bad ways of behaving. But I’m not even going there today.

I’m going to how the church seems to go crazy in forms beyond the local church. I’m thinking here about structures like districts, annual conferences and demoninations. The tendency is for those levels of the church to become corporate in nature, and not in the biblical sense. Those levels of the church become corporate in the business sense of doing whatever is necessary to preserve their existence. I’ve experienced this first hand several years ago when I was falsely accused ( the judge agreed and threw the case out with prejudice). The church at the conference and denominational level engaged in all kind of crazy thinking and acting, all for the purpose of being sure they were protected from me. I was suddenly not a brother, but a threat; I was not a person but a problem. If I went down, I might take the whole ship down with me.

That’s on my mind today because I got a call from someone who wants to talk with me about the same kind of thing happening to them. This person feels like they have to come to me in total secrecy because if “they” found out it would be hell to pay. Sad, but I do understand what they are talking about; I do understand that the fear is real, and rational.

C.S. Lewis wrote a science fiction trilogy called the Perelandra series. The middle book is called That Hideous Strength. It’s all about how a university becomes willing to do all kinds of crazy things to protect it’s image, standing and existence. Lewis seems to think that people and groups whose primary loyalty is to an institution become pawns and servants of the institution no matter how much or how passionately they continue to mouth the virtues of freedom and brotherhood. I think the same. C.S. Lewis thinks that people who give themselves to the “corporation” become extensions of it. A corporation has a spirit of it’s own and is only at the end of the day bent on serving itself. I think the same thing.

As long as everybody plays along nobody gets hurt. But whenever someone threatens the union by speaking up against unjust practices or unfair decisions or points out that what is being done is not faithful to the Lord, that someone had better beware.

It’s not just paranoia and cynicism that’s speaking here. It’s a basic tenet of family systems theory that those in the family tend to act according to the roles assigned to them by the family. In a corporate size “family” the same principle applies. In one of Friedman’s (the founder of family systems) fables he tells of an algae eater who gets tired of eating-well, what algae eaters eat. The algae eater stops and the whole tank gets off kilter. In a short while a giant hand removes the algae eater and another one is put in the tank, and all gets back to normal. What he’s illustrating is that if someone does not please the spirit of a corporate sized group, that spirit will punish, remove and perhaps even crucify that one, and replace them with someone who will play along.

And the values chosen to make those rash moves has nothing to do with the values of our Lord; it has everything to do with preserving the corporation-at all costs. It’s not bad people who do these things. It’s regular people who in giving themselves blindly to the corporation get to acting crazy, and probably don’t even realize it.

And so, when this someone and I meet it will be in secret, and what is said will be kept in confidence. And hopefully together, by God, we can find a way to cut through the craziness, and find some grace.

Knowing the spirit that is most corporations this message will self destruct in 30 seconds. And anyone who forwards this to the powers that be will automatically and instantly be raptured to hell.


Lost-No More

24 May

Wow! Was I ever surprised by the ending of Lost! If you are a Lost fanantic and haven’t yet seen it, stop reading this now! SPOILER ALERT! The ending told the story from the eye opening beginning, and every step along the way. And the most amazing thing about it was how absolutely soaked in Jesus following it was. Yes, the whole bunch ended up in a church and were on the way the forever happily ever after, but that is not what so warmed my heart and set my mind to dancing and satisfied my soul.

What they were celebrating then was the message of the whole series. It could have ended in so many ways, but this choice, this ending, defined every episode of the epic. And it was in harmony with just what I’ve been teaching about Godstory this spring at Heartsong (the entire series on CD will be available for you to have-and give-this Sunday). It’s all about the Kingdom of God-now and then.

Yesterday I asked the flock to text (or yell out if they were not texters) how they would tell Godstory to someone who did not know it if they had only one word they could say. A lot of people said love, some said saviour, grace, amazing, awesome and a lot of other wonderful words. Here is what I would say if I had only one word to tell Godstory: relationships.

The Kingdom of God now is all about building relationships of love and trust with God and each other-each other. Maybe the relationship will be lifelong and deep, maybe it will be for a season, maybe it will be those fleeting ocassional times with folks we don’t even know, but are genuine expressions of good will. Those tastes of the Kingdom now are also foretastes of the Kingdom then-finally and forever. Everything Jesus taught about the Kingdom come is cast in the context of relationships. Build them now and they will be ours forever!

That is just the way Lost ended. It was the relationships they had with each other that lasted-that got them through life-and that carried them all the way home. Lost ended just at Godstory ends. Niether Godstory nor Jackstory, nor Sawyerstory, nor Katestory, nor the stories of any of the others we had grown to know and love ended. That is the jubilant message of Lost, and the amazing offer Jesus makes to us!

Bravo, Hollywood for putting that Jesus infused message out to the world. Or did Cuse and Lindehoff sneak up on you? Either way God is glorified. I wonder if anyone will make it home to the Kingdom now and then because of that graceful retelling of the gospel of Jesus? I was surprised at the brave and true ending of the show, but I wouldn’t be surprised that if it helped someone find their way. Would you?

Denya Done

20 May

For four years now the Heartsong tribe has partnered with the Seed Company (a division of Wycliffe Bible Translators) to provide a mother tongue translation of the bible for the Denya people of Cameroon, Africa. This was a project that was right down Heartsong’s alley. These were some unreached people who did not have a written language much less the bible in their own words. We partnered with the Seed Company people (by God driven serendipity) to make that happen for them.

Here is how it happened. Our family went on vacation to the Outer Banks and arrived on Friday as we always did to take over the rental house. The only problem was that Dad (that’s me) did not notice that this particular house rented from Saturday to Saturday. We were homeless for a day-all 10 of us. I knew one person out there and called him. He and his family were leaving at that moment for a vacation in Memphis! His home would be free for the night-except we would have to share it with a couple of his friends from Williamsburg who were house sitting for them.

Those folks were delightful, and later that year Monty (the housesitter) was telling a friend of his that if he were ever in Memphis he should look me up. He was and did, and just happened (wink, wink) to work for the Seed Company. I asked him to tell me about his work, and I cried. He asked about what we were up to at Heartsong, and he cried. We were both trying to reach unreached people and help them find their way home. I told Mike Toupin that we would like to investigate the possibility of taking on a project with them. He said what kind, and I said one that no one else wants. That is how we came to partner with them on the Denya project.

The bible is now complete and will be presented to the Denya in a ceremony December 18. We have said all along that some of us would go and actually hand the bibles to them. When we recently learned that would cost over $5500 per person, we felt led to try and find another way to be a part of that celebration. That $5500 would sure go a long way to help some other people group get their own translation of the bible. We are looking into the possibility of being there for the bible presentation by cell phone or skype.

What do you say about it Heartsong faithful? Would you like to take on another project with the Seed Company? Let me hear from you if you do.


17 May

What a joy it was to feast on the love at Heartsong’s 12th anniversary! The morning worship was deep, and caught up the whole tribe in a raucous celebration of thanksgiving to the Lord for this precious gift to each of us-and to as many as we can reach. More than I have in several years, I felt the movement of the Holy Spirit calling us into true partnership with him taking root in the flock. Those who we being called to not only attend the Heartsong ongoing party, but to step up and take their responsibility to be among those throwing the party-did. It felt like a big turning point in the maturing of this tribe.
And the party last night was incredible. Words cannot describe the laughter and playfulness and good will and genuine affection that saturated the celebration center. Jesus was definitely in the house! Michelle gave the band a moving and well deserved thanks for all they do. Some who see them up front tend to think of them as hired guns, but they don’t realize the sacrifices they all make in time, energy, creativity and resources to show up for the paltry sum we pay them. The food was great, the skits were hilarious, the games a hoot, the trivia-educational-especially about my tatoos (yes, I do have three, but not the three Tony Goodwin said I have), and the fellowship-outstanding. And Tony Goodwin has grown from shy kid to skilled leader-one of the finest examples of what Heartsong can do with children and youth over a long haul!
What we have here together is something a whole lot of people cannot live without. They may exist, but they are waiting for the Heartsong faithful to help them find their way into this great hearted tribe for them to meet their Lord and find the love, joy, peace, and hope that will loose their heartsongs on this world. Keep your eyes peeled, Heartsong faithful, for those in your sphere of influence whom the Lord will nudge you to invite. And then, by God-do!
As I said in the message yesterday on taking the point, “Do you realize who we could be for Christ’s sake if we moved covenant living to the front burner of our lives? He does.”