Tag Archives: community

Belonging, Believing and Being a Boomer

Tuesday Re-mix –

I grow tropical plants in my backyard, specifically, plumeria and some hybiscus.  It is one of the wonderful “perks” of marrying into a Hawaiian family.  Mind you, I am no master gardner, which makes plumeria the perfect plant for me.  I can break off a limb, stick it in the ground, nurture it for a year or so, and it will take root and bloom just like all the other ones around it.  I just have to have some patience while I wait for the roots to grow.  That is the key…patience.

Besides being a gardener, I am also unashamedly a Baby Boomer.  Pretty much all the observations I have heard sociologists make about my generation are true about me as well, at least in some degree.  I was shaped by a cultural mindset that said anything is possible, that I can make a difference in the world, and that a common vision is critical to any “revolution”.  For my generation, the way this all translates into church is this: what I “believe” is of first and highest importance…if we don’t all “believe” the same central truths, our “revolution” will fail.  For my generation (and, by the way, for the generations which came before me as well), BELIEF comes first, followed by BELONGING to the church.  For us, without belief, there is no belonging.

So it is with great fear and trembling that I turn to Generation X and then to the Millenials, two generations who will lead the church sooner than any of us realize, and I begin to embrace their very different values and priorities when it comes to church.  These generations hold connection and community as much higher values than we Baby Boomers have.  These generations may well come to respect the concept of …

Pain and Failure as Keys to Community

Tuesday Re-mix –

“Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii,and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.”
“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.

Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.” Luke 7:41-47

I have two leadership roles in my church, two different “small group” ministries for which I am partly responsible.  I am pretty passionate about both of them, and I am always learning from each of them.  The Gathering is my Sunday morning Bible study group, open to any and all comers, all ages, all walks of life and all levels of spiritual maturity.  It is a slightly non-traditional offering as a part of my church’s “Sunday School”.  We meet around tables, effectively creating “small groups” of 6 to 8 people every Sunday morning for Bible study.  Heart 2 Heart is also a small group ministry, but for wounded people.  Every Tuesday night, these dear friends meet in small groups built around specific issues and pains in their lives.  Some of these groups …

When Gathering Together Does More Harm than Good

Tuesday Re-mix –

In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it.  I Corinthians 11:17-18

I once worked with a certain church in East Texas who had more than its share of divisions and unmanageable conflict.  There had been an ugly history of conflict in this church…dissension about a number of different issues over the years.  By the time I had gotten there, the pastor had become the “issue du jour” and was the object of much of the fighting.  Two camps had already formed: those who wanted to keep him and those who did not.  This was the church where I actually had a deacon sit with me, look me right in the eye and say, “I don’t care what the Bible says about reconciliation, I’m not doing it…I’ll deal with whatever consequences that brings in Heaven.”  I didn’t even know what to say to him.  I mostly just bit my tongue, but that conversation is perhaps for another post.

It was this church’s custom to have the Lord’s Supper (or “communion”, depending upon which parlance you favor) on the last Sunday of each month.  The pastor found himself in a dilemma.  He had to decide whether or not to move forward with communion or not.  If he decided to move forward, he would surely be criticized for holding communion when everyone in the church was fighting with each other.  If he canceled it, he would surely be criticized for that as well.

He canceled it.  And it was a right decision.  Because there was so much contention and animosity in that congregation at …

Bonhoeffer on the Benefits of Confession to One Another

Tuesday Re-mix –

As Christians, we have been given only one mechanism to deal with sin in our lives: confession.  There simply is no other means of prevailing over sin.  Confession is our only hope.

Much of what I understand scripture to teach us about confession comes from my old friend, Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  So today I will not bore you with my words; rather, I will challenge you with his.  Take a minute to let his words (from Life Together) about confession of our sins to one another settle in your heart.  Here was a man who understood some things about the transforming power of community.

Breaking Through to Community

In confession the break-through to community takes place.  Sin demands to have a man by himself.  It withdraws him from the community.  The more isolated a person is, the more destructive will be the power of sin over him, and the more deeply he becomes in it, the more disastrous is his isolation.  Sin wants to remain unknown.  It shuns the light.  In the darkness of the unexpressed it poisons the whole being of a person.  This can happen even in the midst of a pious community…

The expressed, acknowledged sin has lost all its power…It can no longer tear the fellowship asunder.  Now the fellowship bears the sin of the brother.  He is no longer alone with his evil for he has cast off his sin in confession and handed it over to God…Now he stands in the fellowship of sinners who live by the grace of God in the cross of Jesus Christ.

Breaking Through to the Cross

In confession occurs the break-through to the cross…Confession in the presence of a brother is the profoundest kind of humiliation.  It hurts, it cuts a man down, it is

Social Media, New Wineskins and Church Unity

Tuesday Re-mix –

Social media is here to stay. You may have sworn against Facebook, Linked-In, Twitter, and SMS (much the way you may have sworn against e-mail back in the day), but you may as well get used to them and do your best to embrace them…because social media is the communications vehicle of choice for at least the three youngest generations in the church today and is making pretty significant in-roads into the older generations as well. It is one of those “new wineskins” Jesus talked about which are necessary to communicate the gospel in our ever-changing world. As churches, we have moved way beyond asking whether or not we should engage this language. Clearly, we must. The only remaining question is: what impact will it have on our relationships, i.e., church unity?

I first started discussing this question here and here in previous posts. Now that I am a little further along in my own experiment with social media, I want to further explore the question about its impact on church unity. So, here are a few more observations:

1. A flood of testimonies of what God is doing. One of the things that builds unity the quickest in a body of believers is sharing testimony of what God is doing in our lives. Social media gives churches the opportunity for anyone to share that testimony through the written word, through video, through audio and then put that testimony out there for anyone to see/read/hear. It has never been easier to find out in a couple of minutes what is going on in someone’s life–someone with whom you may not have a close relationship, but from whose testimony you can still benefit.

2. Prayer concerns (and other needs) made easy and accessible. Yes, if you are able …

Why Church Matters to You

Tuesday Re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and reposted for your consideration and comments.

“Let him who cannot be alone beware of community. He will only do harm to himself and to the community… Let him who is not in community beware of being alone…If you scorn the fellowship of the brethren, you reject the call of Jesus Christ, and thus your solitude can only be hurtful to you.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

It is simple, really.  We are pre-wired by our creator to live in community with others.  This is doubly true for Spirit-filled believers.  Not only do we have our natural inclination toward community, but God’s design for His church is that His Spirit would manifest itself through individuals in a way which binds the community together.  In other words, we are actually stronger together than we are alone.  And we learn more together and grow Spiritually together.

We are not unlike the giant redwoods of the Western United States.  The largest single living organism in our world, these trees grow to be hundreds of feet tall and live thousands of years.  Walking among them is one of the most breath-taking experiences I have ever had.  But did you know that a giant redwood cannot survive by itself?  It can only grow to its fullest measure in community with other redwoods.  The reason is simple…it has no tap root.  Rather, its root system spreads out laterally in every direction, searching for root systems of other redwood trees.  These magnificent creatures actually “join hands” underground, their root systems growing together and becoming one system.  They actually draw their strength and their growth from one another.  It is why you will never find a fully matured giant redwood growing all by itself.

By that same …

Evangelism is Not So Much an Intellectual Process

Tuesday Re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.

I can’t honestly say that I love arguing, but I am fairly good at arguing (being a lawyer suits me in that regard).  Actually, it’s ugliness in arguing that I don’t like.  I do love an open and honest exchange of differing viewpoints. I think that’s what I like about the blogosphere.  It is a “pure” form of discussion, without any of the biases or prejudices that come with too much knowledge about a person’s background.  We don’t draw quite as many premature conclusions about each other in this “blogging” realm.  So, arguing (nicely) works pretty well here.

But I have come to believe something about the intellectual process and arguing as it applies to evangelism: it doesn’t work.  In my 40+ years as a follower of Christ, I have yet to see a single person listen to a compelling “argument” about why it is right to be a follower of Christ and suddenly succumb to the logic and fall on their knees in prayer.  I just don’t see apologetics as the key to evangelism.  I honestly do not believe the “lost” world is looking for persuasive reasoning, and I definitely don’t believe young “post-modern” thinkers are looking to engage in an intellectual discussion about faith.  I think the paradigm of a one-on-one intellectual exchange about God and faith is the wrong paradigm for evangelism in our culture.  I think it is a mistaken notion that if we just learn to say it smartly enough or persuasively enough (or loud enough) we will win and people will have no choice but to agree with us and come around to our way of thinking.  I think people today (maybe always?) are looking …