Tag Archives: community

When Confession to God is Not Enough

Tuesday Re-mix –

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:16

Step 5: We admit to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

[I am using these Tuesday Re-mixes for a few weeks to think (again) about addiction to self-reliance and how that addiction is one of the biggest challenges to genuine community which we face in the American church culture.]

I grew up feeling sorry for my Catholic friends because they had to confess their sins to a priest.  It seemed to me that such a thing would be the most awful experience in the world.  My particular faith community taught me that, when it came to confession, I did not need an intermediary…I could confess my sins straight to God.  To be honest, I liked that a lot more, because it was easier to fool myself into believing I had actually confessed to God than it would ever have been to fool a priest.  I could go and spend a few moments thinking about my various wrong-doings and thinking about God, and maybe even whisper a few words to God about it all, and then leave feeling like I had done the whole confession thing.  Problem solved.  Easy to fool myself!

But it’s not that easy when there is a human being on the other end of the confession who can ask you questions for clarification and can make you say the actual words…out loud…describing what you did and who can tell you when they think you’re not “owning” your fault.  That, to me, is a less flexible and less manipulatable process.  It is very much like the difference …

Dealing with Secret Sin…In Community

Tuesday Re-mix –

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 
See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24

Step 4: We make a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

[I am using these Tuesday Re-mixes for a few weeks to think (again) about addiction to self-reliance and how that addiction is one of the biggest challenges to genuine community which we face in the American church culture.]

It was several years ago when a back injury made me finally give up my yardwork.  That was a difficult thing for me.  I actually enjoy yardwork…in my own yard, anyway.  So it was difficult for me to let someone else do it.  It is MY yard, and I know all of its nooks and crannies and secrets, and I certainly did not want some stranger coming in and caring for my yard.  But the biggest adjustment for me in giving up that little area of self-reliance was the fact that somebody else was going to get very familiar with all of the embarrassing hidden messes in my yard…all of those corners and hidden spots which were not well-groomed and which hid some not-so-nice things.

If you have ever had someone come in and clean your house, you have felt that same feeling.  They see everything…that junk drawer in the kitchen, that cabinet which hides stuff you haven’t seen in years, and that horrible, cluttered closet.  It is embarrassing!

Thinking about Step 4 in our recovery from the addiction to self-reliance, taking an honest moral inventory of our inner-most life is revealing.  Just like that secret cluttered closet in the house and that hidden ugly corner in the yard, our lives have secret areas of …

The Two “Higher Powers” in a Christian Addict’s Life

Tuesday Re-mix –

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. Hebrews 12:1-2a

Step 2: We come to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

[I am using these Tuesday Re-mixes for a few weeks to think (again) about our addiction to self-reliance and how that addiction is one of the biggest challenges to genuine community which we face in the American church culture.]

For pretty much anyone following this blog, step 2 in our recovery from addiction to self-reliance seems like a no-brainer.  I know that all of you believe in a power greater than yourself and that you would call that power God.  You don’t need me to point that out to you here, nor to find some creative way of showing you that truth.

Instead, I want to challenge you to consider another higher power.

There is a higher power in our lives which co-exists with God, in fact, it exists by His hand and is ordained by Him and empowered by Him…even indwelled by Him.  It is a higher power which He has determined to use as a Spiritual authority in our lives and, without it, we simply cannot overcome our addiction to self-reliance.  It is a higher power which is absolutely critical to our growth, our ministry, and our very purpose in this world.  That higher power is…Christian community. Without it, we are rudderless in the chaotic seas of this dark world.

The simplest and most convincing evidence of this truth is this: you cannot think of …

Outrunning the Bear

Tuesday Re-mix – Anonymity Anonymous: Recovery from our Addiction to Self-reliance

Step 1: We admit we are powerless over our addiction and that our lives have become unmanageable.

There’s an old joke about two guys out on a camping trip.  They are at their campsite and they spot a bear off in the distance.  They are watching it when it spots them and starts coming toward their campsite and then starts running toward their campsite!  One guy grabs his gun and starts loading it and grabbing extra ammunition.  The other guy grabs his tennis shoes and starts furiously lacing them up.  The first guy says, “Are you crazy!?  You’ll never outrun the bear!”  And the second guys says, “I don’t have to outrun the bear.  I just have to outrun you!”

In my addiction to self-reliance, i.e., my fear of being too transparent with my friends, i.e., my secret disdain for the type of “community” and interdependence described in the Bible, there is a perspective that “enables” my addiction.  It actually makes the addiction worse.  It is the perspective that I don’t really have to be as perfect as God desires me to be…I just have to be better than the guys around me.  It is an attitude that all but gives up on living the life God intends for me and stays content with living a life that looks pretty good when compared to lots of other people.  It is the attitude that says, “I don’t have to outrun the bear…I just have to outrun the guy next to me.”

You see, no matter how badly I mess up, I can always find someone else who messed up “worse” in my opinion.  And as long as I can feel like I’m doing better than most folks around me, I …

Beginnings…the Birth of an Addiction to Self-Reliance

Tuesday Re-mix –

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at.  People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” I Samuel 16:7

I am using these Tuesday Re-mixes for a few weeks to think (again) about addiction to self-reliance and how that addiction is one of the biggest challenges to genuine community which we face in the American church culture.

One of the ways I know I am not yet ready for even the first step of recovery (“STEP 1: Admit that you are powerless over your addiction…that your life has become unmanageable”) is that I am still looking for ways to fix my own addiction.  The “fixer” in me says, “If I can trace my addiction back to its inception and therefore know how it started, then I can stop it.”  Do you see how insidious addiction is?  Even my own attempts to heal myself betray me.  I will never be able to admit that I am powerless over my addiction to self-reliance as long as I keep telling myself that I can fix it!  And so I am asking your indulgence.  Sit back and have yourself a good laugh as I delve into my past to try to figure out where this addiction to self-reliance all started.

For me, I think it started when I was just a child going to Sunday School.  We would bring our offering in these little pink envelopes that the church printed for us.  They had our names on them.  On the front of them, they also had a little checklist of things a “good” Christian does.  I could check off the ones I had …

Addicted to Anonymity

Tuesday Re-mix –

I wonder if we in the American culture have become addicted to anonymity?

Dictionary.com defines addiction like this:

the state of being enslaved to a practice or habit or something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.

When I think about the community prescribed in God’s Word, particularly in the New Testament church,  I see plenty of problems for our contemporary culture.  We have become a people insistent upon our anonymity.  We value self-sufficiency and independence almost above all things.  We write books about “self-improvement” and “self-made men”.  We idolize individual achievement and we dream about financial independence, and we describe all of this as “the American dream”.  We live in gated communities to keep out the undesirable community.  And we see anyone asking for help as weak and sad.  We have created an entire body of law around the “right to privacy” and we guard our privacy as if it is our most prized possession.  There is no question but that we have, in many ways, worked exactly contrary to the type of interdependence described in the Bible.

But none of that necessarily gets us to “addiction”.  The question is, are we “enslaved” to this need for independence?  Is it psychologically habit-forming?  If we lost it, would we be traumatized?  These are troublesome questions for me.  These are the questions I ask myself as I travel around the country from one church to the next talking about Biblical relationships and New Testament community.  I have to say it…that kind of community is not easy to find, even in the church…maybe especially in the church.

I  believe our culture’s obsession with privacy and independence and anonymity have approached the “addiction” level.  I believe this because we …

The Missing Piece in Gathered Worship

Tuesday Re-mix – 

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.  1 Corinthians 12:27

If the goal of worship is to connect with God, then there are only two “grades” you can give a gathered worship experience: “A” or “F”.  It is pretty much a pass/fail thing.  That is because there is no such thing as connecting with God and it being anything other than amazing and wonderful…and if you are in a worship experience and you are NOT connecting with God, then, well…fail.  I had to get all that said before I take up today’s topic, just so you know that I know…because today I am giving our culture’s gathered worship experiences a grade somewhere between pass and fail.

Last year, I attended a corporate worship experience at a church in the town where my daughter goes to school.  It was well produced, but lacking in one way.  Other than my family, I did not know a single person around me.  Sadly, that was still true even as we were leaving.  That just seems wrong to me.

The truth is, it was an amazing worship atmosphere.  Very contemporary in style (I am blessed to be comfortable worshiping in almost any “style”), with a casual feel and lots of technology to help the worshiper stay focused on the message and on the theme for the day…great, introspective music, wonderful sermon, innovative communion.  To their credit, I thought the worship leaders did a fairly good job of keeping the focus OFF of them on ON the Lord.  That’s not easy to do in this consumer-oriented culture.  But there was one element missing for me…and frankly, it is missing in the vast majority of corporate worship experiences I’ve ever seen or heard about.  …

Your Next Step toward Community

Tuesday Re-mix – 

Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise.Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord.  And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. James 5:13-16

Passages like this one from Pastor James make us squirm.  We see them in scripture and we gloss over them, because they make us uncomfortable.  We honestly do not know what to do with them, because, if we’re being honest with ourselves, they bear almost no resemblance at all to the church with whom we are familiar.

The notion of being so involved in one another’s lives, so intertwined together, that we know each other’s struggles and are fully mobilized to help and to pray…the notion that we would be so interdependent on each other that we would share our deepest fears and our hardest temptations, i.e., that we would actually confess our sins to each other…the notion that we would live our lives fully open and exposed to our Christian community, knowing that it is safe and that they will love and support us even with all our flaws…these notions are all foreign to our culture of self-sufficiency and anonymity.

We have reared at least two adult generations of Christians who consider social interdependence a weakness in an individual.  Saying, “I am hurting and am needing help” is reserved only for the …

Creating Meaningful Community: “You Are Not Alone”

Tuesday Re-mix – 

I believe that loneliness is sweeping our culture in epidemic proportions.  I also believe the church is uniquely positioned and empowered to cure loneliness.  We just need to figure out what genuine friendships look like in the face of life’s most painful circumstances.

I have not yet met a pastor or a church leader who thinks their church actually has too much community or too much in the way of genuine relationships.  The truth is, all of us are always looking for ways to develop a deeper sense of community among our members.  We all understand that there simply is no richer, deeper, more fulfilling sense of God’s love and grace than to be fully known and fully loved, i.e., to have someone know our darkest secrets and struggles and flaws and still love us!

I have found that kind of community in our church’s support group ministry.  It is the absolute best way I have ever seen to say to hurting people, “We understand you and we love you anyway!”  I have come to believe that the more church members we can get involved in it, the deeper our sense of community becomes.  Here is a great example from that ministry:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-cqW0oe_h5c&fs=1&hl=en_US&rel=0]

The underlying message behind support groups is the same message which is at the heart of all genuine community: you are not alone. My church’s support group ministry is built on two simple foundational pieces: (1) God’s Word, and (2) friends who share your pain.  There seems to be no limit to how much healing can take place with those two elements working together in a person’s life.

Of course, there is much more to a good support group ministry than that.  But that is the core of it.  Anything about this message which …

Childlike Connectedness

Tuesday Re-mix –

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18:1-3

Have you ever noticed that, when it comes to choosing playmates, children don’t seem to be bothered by any of the same concerns which we hold? When we find out that our child has taken more than a passing interest in another child, we have a thousand questions about that child…and we are frustrated when our child doesn’t know the answers to ANY of them. Where does she go to church? What does he believe? Who are his parents? What does her daddy do for a living? Where does he live? WHAT IS HIS/HER LAST NAME? And when we ask, we get nothing from our own child about any of these concerns. Because children just don’t care about these things when choosing a playmate.

Of course, the longer they live in the world, the more and more the world teaches them about what “really matters” when it comes to judging people. Unless they are intentional about staying childlike, they begin to lose this ability to connect with anyone and everyone irrespective of outward appearance or social status or even belief systems. This makes me sad. And I believe it makes Jesus sad too.

This post comes on the heels of last week’s post about generational differences in the church today, specifically, how Gen X’ers and Millennials tend to BELONG first, and BELIEVE second and what that teaches us about how we connect with people in the church. Today, I am pinning …