Monday, August 29, 2005

Called to be . . .

I came across a good quote from Soren Kierkegaard:

"It is well known that Christ consistently used the expression "follower." He never asks for admirers, worshippers, or adherents. No, he calls disciples. It is not adherents of a teaching but followers of a life Christ is looking for."

Down to the River to Pray

We went down to the river to pray yesterday. Not just any river, but a particular place on a particular river. Stanley wanted to be baptized and had a very special place in mind.

Since I come from a baptizing tradition - I mean serious as hell about baptizing, or maybe it is serious as heaven. Either way, we were baptizers in a big way.

But Steve's baptism last week and Stanley's yesterday were not the result of "a sit down Bible study" which ends up with a dissertation on proper Christian baptism (with all the proof texts in tow) and the question "so do you want to be baptized and go to heaven or stay like you are on the road to hell?"

No, they asked for baptism as part of their continuing journey of being drawn to God. Their participation in fellowship and through being loved and accepted is what moved them to ask for baptism. Their faith was ready to be expressed in this new way, a declaration of accepting Christ and his way even more fully.

This new acceptance wasn't based on new understandings of modes and the meaning of baptism, but on their changing lives and deeper understanding of the need to rely on God. Conversion isn't a point in time like their baptisms, but a process over time with many "points" of newness and change.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Thinking About Our Future

Every so often I get an urge to think about where our spiritual village is going. Maybe it hit me this week because school has started, summer is over, and we are into the Fall. Maybe I started thinking about this because Mark is back from Honduras.

The truth is that I don't know if these urges are Spirit-driven impulses to embrace what God is doing or deadly temptations to direct our own steps through human ingenuity. I can't say that I've figured out the answer this week, either.

But I did think about our community and wonder what is coming/should come next.

When in doubt, it is always good to share those doubts with others. So I told Ken. We didn't resolve anything, but did discuss how thinking about what to do next might either be good or bad. If anything, being aware of the dangers means we are less likely to fall prey to them.

Probably, the Spirit is prompting me to think about our community's immediate future, but it is not likely that the Spirit is giving me the green light to generate awesome programs to accomplish a bunch of temporal goals. Nothing I've learned about the Spirit's work or the nature of our journey with others under God's reign would suggest this. I've found most promptings have to do with reminding me how dependent I must be . . . not how important it is for me to take hold of things.

So . . . I am reminded that we need to be aware, intentional, and active in pursuing God and let the Spirit's community arise out of a divine fellowship founded in that hunger. I am thinking about the future of our congregation - but less in terms of its organization, promotion, or funding - and more from the standpoint of loving only God.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Pragmatists and Christianity

The whole Pat Robertson speculation about given the option to invade or assassinate, maybe we ought to assassinate - is too easy a target for a rant . . . so I won't do it. On CNN last night Ted Haggard seemed too interested in making fine distinctions, and Jesse Jackson in making political points by calling for the FCC to go after Robertson.

The unanswered question is "what is the Christian response to the Venezuelean president's rhetoric?"

Loving your enemies doesn't seem to have made it as a viable option next to fullscale invasion or assassination.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Cool Days in the Hot Summer

Yesterday was a spiritually cool day. I guess I could say Spiritually cool - giving correct emphasis to the One who made it that way.

Cool things the Spirit did:
1. Our Barnabas Sunday seemed to touch hearts, when I thought it might come across (at least my meditation) as trite and shallow.
2. Andy and Jill, guests from Nashville, shared their thoughts and stories through music that made it one of the best "classes" we could have had.
3. Steve Watson was baptized in a swimming pool, giving God all the glory for his continuing recovery and changes in his life.
4. Stanley Autery said he wants to be baptized next week in Cahaba River where it runs through his uncle's property.
5. Our students and their parents got together to talk about continuing spiritual formation and ministry for the Fall. God is doing very cool things with the youth.

Can't wait to see what will happen this week!

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Can't We Be Relational?

I'm still stuck on this idea of questionnaires . . . which I think Paul would hate. He seemed to despise "letters of recommendation" and prefered the personal ties to be sufficient.

He vouched for Phoebe, which is a long way from filling out a multi-part critique of her various skills so it can be cross-referenced with a matrix of suitablility scores (gleaned from surveys received from 25,342 ministry and para-church workers, along with ordained clergy, from 46 states and analyzed by a Sun-Micro systems super computer on a proprietary program which generated a .46 correlation - quite good actually) which compares giftedness with task and role criteria to produce a "fitness rating" so we can find out if statisitically she is likely to perform well, under the Spirit's leading, of course, in the position for which she is applying. All of this was developed by Spiritual Analytical Ministries of Boise, Idaho - a thriving company dedicated to producing scientific instruments to decipher the Spirit's working (none of that wind blowing where it wills stuff) since 1987. The company's current work is on a spiritual prognosticator, which rather than measuring what the Spirit is doing right now in any given disciple, is intended to predict what the Spirit will do - all to develop more efficiency in plugging believers into the right ministry. Fitness, you know.

I read Post-Rapture Radio on the trip to my father's funeral (another subject entirely, which I will blog about . . . I think) so that might explain my sarcasm in the previous paragraph. But I'm not far off . . . am I?

If we are more relational, less focused on "is this person going to be able to contribute like we want" - if we had less of an agenda of what we want to do and were more focused on who others are, leaving the "what to do" more up to God, then we might act differently.

Or not.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Modern Questionnaires

I just filled out a recommendation for a friend concerning a ministry position. It struck me how the form asked for all very modern attributes: how organized, efficient, prompt, analytical, good at setting objectives, reporting on progress, is this person. Leadership was about communicating objectives, forming teams, making progress.

This would not be surprising but this friend isn't applying to work as a pastor in some institutional church, but to be involved in church-planting through a group looking at starting house churches in apartment buildings, among other things.

I suspect that some of the modern values are there because often the funding will come from modern churches - but the relational stuff, more creative attributes, personal attributes like genuineness, transparency, humility, goodness were almost missing entirely.

I would like to believe that we can assume that everyone looking to start new churches are prayerful, humble, accepting, people - but do we really want to look for all the business skills?

It occurred to me that what the questionaire was asking for is some of the least important stuff with regards to what I do within my community. I can't say that right now I have a better questionaire, but I've got to believe that a better one with less ties to modernity could be created.

Friday, August 05, 2005

A Christian Nation?

We invited a guest who has been worshiping with us this summer while in a Master's program to speak to us about what God has been teaching her. She is Jordanian, a Christian woman in a nation where only 2% of the people are followers of Jesus.

She shared many of her insights as she spoke about wisdom. Her faith, conviction, and pursuit of God came through clearly in her testimony.

After she concluded her thoughts we had a time for questions, and one asked what it was like living in America where there are so many Christians, as compared to Jordan which is overwhelmingly muslim. She said (as best I can remember and paraphrase) it's not very different. You see, the muslims believe in Jesus as a prophet . . . so they believe in Jesus. Here in America people believe in Jesus just like the muslims do . . . that he is a savior, a teacher, and they see themselves as following him, but they don't take him seriously.

This godly woman who has grown up in a muslim country sees "Christian" America as no more truly committed to following Jesus that a muslim country.

I think she is, unfortunately, correct.