Tag Archives: people

Love the Porcupines…Quills and All

the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 1 Corinthians 12:22-25

porcupine quillsI’ve learned to be careful in my application of Paul’s “body parts” metaphor in 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12. Once you start assigning body-part descriptions to individuals in your church, the discussion can all go south pretty quickly. The truth is, most of us would rather not know what body part many in our church would use to describe us!

I am thinking today about the “difficult” people in the church, the “porcupines” (painful to love), the ones Rick Warren describes so eloquently as the EGR people (Extra Grace Required). Paul would describe them as “seeming to be weaker” or ones “we think less honorable” or “unpresentable parts”. These are the people we generally would prefer not to be around, the ones we wish would try visiting another small group rather than ours (except that we would not wish that on any of the other leaders). These are the extremely high-maintenance folks with negative outlooks on everything and everyone. They are “projects”, needing lots and lots of attention. They are exhausting.

As I consider this category of fellow believers, my first thought is to question whether or not I am perceived as one. I think it is worth our while as leaders to examine the evidence of how influential we really are …

Intensely Personal and Critically Communal

“You shall have no other gods before me…”  Exodus 20:3

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.” Exodus 20:17

God’s plan for growing a people dedicated to Him and blessed by Him has been consistent from the beginning. He created us for relationship with Him, but also for relationship with one another. This is even evident in His bedrock principles, the Ten Commandments. But it may be less evident to those of us whose first language is English than for most others.

10 CommandmentsEnglish is a bit odd in many ways, with all it’s “rules” for grammar and then the thousands of exceptions to each of those rules. It makes it  a difficult language to learn. One of those oddities is that our word, “you” is both singular and plural (The New York version of “Yous” and the Southern version of “Y’all” notwithstanding). So, when we read the Ten Commandments in our English bibles and we see “You shall…”, and we read the context of God speaking from a mountain to some 600,000 Hebrew men (and lots more women and children), it is easy for us to read it as a plural “you”. If there were a Texas version of the Bible, we might be inclined to translate it, “Y’all will have no other gods before me.” But that would be an incorrect translation.

You see, we English speakers are accustomed to living with this ambiguity between the plural you and the singular you…we’re accustomed to just kind of figuring it out in context, leaving much accuracy to be desired. But most other languages (including the original Hebrew language of the Old Testament) treat …

Investing in a Sure Thing

For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land. Jeremiah 32:15

“I’m not religious…but I’m spiritual.” It is the mantra of an entire young adult generation who has left the church. They would say they have not given up on God, but they have had quite enough of God’s people. To them, the church is seen as a failing institution, no longer worthy of our investment. There’s a story about that in the Bible.

Jeremiah’s cousin, Hanamel, was either such an amazing salesman he could have sold snow cones to Eskimoes, or he was literally filled with the Spirit of God so as to make his sales offer to Jeremiah miraculously irresistible. At a time when Jerusalem was about to finally fall to a Chaldean occupation and life as Israel knew it was about to end, Hanamel says to Jeremiah, “Hey, you wanna buy my field?” If it were not God’s doing, it would have been a laughable moment. Jeremiah made the investment.

old churchWhy in the world would anyone want to invest in Jerusalem at that point? It was ending…going down the toilet. Generations of wrong decisions had finally caught up to it and it was literally crumbling from the inside out. It had ample reason and opportunity to change in order to better fit God’s design, but it would not. The consequences of all those wrong choices were here…it was over. There was, quite literally, nothing left in which to invest.

In all these ways, it sounds remarkably like the church, doesn’t it? At least the church as it is perceived by an awful lot of people. They think of it as an irrelevant, rickety, out of date, embarrassingly stuffy institution whose time has come …

And We Wonder Why We’re Drifting

Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” And while some were speaking of the temple, how it was adorned with noble stones and offerings, he said, “As for these things that you see, the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”  Luke 21:1-6

What is it about this story that is sad and ridiculous and oh, so appropriate to us today?

While Jesus was watching the stuff of eternal significance, we were all watching the stuff that was just temporal and would be gone in the blink of an eye.

[sigh]

© Blake Coffee
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From Whom All Healing Comes

Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them. They were delighted to hear this and promised to give him money. So he watched for an opportunity to hand him over.  Mark 14:43-46

trusting_vFINALloRES

My ministry brings me into contact with a good number of people who have felt wounded by the church.  God seems to have given me the awesome assignment of being an encourager and exhorter to those people.  I co-authored a book with Debbie Taylor Williams aimed specifically at the pain of these same dear friends: “Trusting God’s People…Again”.  It is on my mind this week, because I will be speaking from it the next two Sunday evenings at my church.

Being hurt by the church is by no means a unique experience.  The statistics of those who feel injured by the church are pretty overwhelming!  But the pain itself, the feelings of betrayal by God’s own people…those feelings are definitely unique to these circumstances.  Being hurt by the church is just not comparable to any other pain…not really.  It is a deep and lasting pain of being wounded by the very place which should be the safest place in the world for us.  The healing process, therefore, is likewise pretty profound.

The good news is this: the One administering the healing from this pain knows all about it from personal experience.  That makes a big difference!  Here is the way I describe it in the book:

THE NATURE OF PAIN / THE PROCESS OF HEALING

Like physical pain, emotional or spiritual pain can be incapacitating.  When your leg is broken, no matter how much you want to walk on it, no matter how important walking might be to you, you simply cannot do it.  A healing process must take

It is Always About the People

Tuesday Re-mix –

My Dad had a kind of a rule when we went on vacation.  Well, maybe it was just a strong preference or philosophy.  Sometimes those things all can sound the same with Dad.  🙂  Dad felt strongly that, when taking pictures on vacation, there should be a person in every one of them.  In other words, a vacation picture without a person in it is just a waste of film.  So, anytime we saw something noteworthy or cool and wanted to take a picture of it, Dad wanted someone (ANYONE) to go and stand by the thing for the picture.  I followed that philosophy most of the time, but am just going to confess now that, as I have grown a little older, I have often broken that rule and have taken some pictures of some pretty amazing scenery…without any people in them.

But perhaps that preference says more about Dad and what is important to him than it does about his taste for photography.  You see, Dad is a pastor.  Irrespective of his various titles and positions in ministry, in his heart he has always been a pastor.  To him, people are important.  In fact, they are the most important thing.

I would like to think I have learned that preference from him, especially where the church is concerned.  It is all about the people.

I think it is easy to make it about other things…the buildings, the budget, the music, the parking, the numbers, the location, the constitution & by-laws, the committees, the votes, the worship planning, the strategic planning, the reports, the offices, the retreats, the concerts, and I could go on and on.  You get the picture.  But even as important as most of those things are, they are never more important than …

Attachurch!

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

O.K. I admit that I sometimes struggle with staying positive. I’ve been looking over some of my recent posts and I’m realizing I’ve been pretty hard on the American church. I confess that, when I look across its landscape, my eyes are foremost drawn toward broken relationships and other things that are not right. I suspect that is part of the peacemaker’s “gift package”.

So today we will celebrate some ways we are often getting it right. Today we will recognize that there are some communities of believers in the Western church who really are experiencing the awe of God daily and, from a peacemaker’s point of view, are teaching and practicing Biblical interpersonal relationships both inside and outside the walls of the church. Today we take our focus off what is wrong and put it squarely on what is right, what is deserving of a pat on the back and an “attaboy” (or an “attachurch” in this case). Here are some churches for whom I stand and applaud:

The People-focused church. While the debate rages on about being inward-focused versus being outward-focused (evangelism versus discipleship, attractional versus missional, etc.–whatever labels you want to put on the argument) there are local communities of believers who have decided to be people-focused…whether those people are found inside the church or outside. That was Jesus, wasn’t it? He was focused on the people inside his circle of disciples and He was focused on those outside it as well. He didn’t choose one or the other. He chose both. He was utterly passionate about people. There are churches I know who are like that–it is their culture. Their leaders have taught them to see through …