When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, “Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” Exodus 32:1
I am a fairly patient person. I actually think it is a gift of mine. Nevertheless, I have no problem at all understanding the restlessness of the Hebrew people waiting for Moses to return from 40 days on Mt. Sinai. At a time in their new chapter when there were precious few “routines” upon which they could rely, one routine had become Moses’ “felt presence” among them. Another had become God’s visible presence through the pillar of smoke (by day) and fire (by night). And now, they had neither. All they had was Aaron, who was pretty clearly a far cry from Moses’ dynamic leadership. So, with Moses’ disappearance up the stormy, thunderous Mt. Sinai for an unscheduled, undisclosed amount of time, the hours turned to days and the days turned to weeks. They had no idea IF or WHEN he might ever return. I have no problem understanding the immense pressure these people began to place on Aaron’s not-so-broad shoulders. “Don’t just stand there…DO SOMETHING,” became the mantra of a restless, fearful people waiting for their God to show up and really set them free. As a church leader, you are probably familiar with that refrain.
In my experience, patiently waiting for God to show up can be the most difficult assignment we are given as God’s people. There is nothing easy about it at all. In a world and a culture where we are taught to take responsibility …
Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. Genesis 15:13-15
And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child away and nurse him for me, and I will give you your wages.” So the woman took the child and nursed him.When the child grew older, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. She named him Moses, “Because,” she said, “I drew him out of the water.” Exodus 2:9-10
I can only imagine the despair and hopelessness that would set in after 400 years of affliction, and generation after generation born into slavery. Even with amazing stories of God’s work among and through their forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph, the Hebrew slaves in Egypt had to have lost their hope in the God of their fathers. After some 400 years of virtual silence, there had to have been a strong feeling of God turning his back on them, or even abandoning them altogether. And the tiny miracle of Moses’ life being spared and being raised in Pharaoh’s palace would likely have been completely missed or overlooked by the vast majority of those slaves. It would be 80 more years of slave labor before that tiny little miracle would even begin to bear fruit. Good news: God has a plan and in another 80 years or so, He will launch it!
When we (either individually or even as a church) find ourselves in such a hard season of slavery or hard work or otherwise feeling that God is …
Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?” But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. Mark 16:2-5
These women had two sleepless nights to start their grieving process. They had something along the lines of 36 hours to mourn their loss and to begin dealing with the harsh reality of life without Jesus. It had to have been painful and scary and confusing. As soon as the Sabbath was over, they started together for the tomb to take care of one bit of unfinished “business”. They were busy making their plans on their way there. Their biggest concern was how they would roll away the stone. It was in the midst of that mundane concern and preoccupation that God provided a game-changing turn of events…the empty tomb.
I think it is God’s nature to change the game on us, His people. I believe his ways are so very different from our ways, His thoughts so far removed from our thoughts, that we will encounter this type of “this-changes-everything” moment often in the church if we are truly seeking after Him. But we don’t dare miss them, right? Here are some observations about the church and our opportunity in this regard…
1. While you’re waiting, continue doing the last thing you knew you were supposed to be doing. Grief is a debilitating thing. It would have been easy for these women to just stay at …
I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13 (NASB)
I grew up with a pretty healthy dose of Zig Ziglar and Norman Vincent Peale and The Power of Positive Thinking…or at least with my Dad’s slightly more scriptural version of that philosophy. Dad used to always say to me, “Son, with God’s help, you can accomplish anything you set your mind on accomplishing…and you can be anything you set your mind on being.”
Honestly, I am not sure I ever really believed that.
I just never really bought into the promise that, “through God, I could do all things.” The whole notion of being some kind of spiritual superhero sounded glamorous and all, but it raised a few questions in my mind. First of all, what if I set my mind on being God? Could I accomplish that? Secondly, shouldn’t there be some moral correlation to that rule? Or is it really anything at all to which I set my mind? And what if what I really set my mind to accomplish conflicts with what you really set your mind to accomplish? Then what?
I had a thousand questions about this concept, especially the secular version of it. But even the scriptural version gave me trouble: I can do all things through him who strengthens me. It would be many years before I would begin to understand it.
As it turns out (I would later learn), being empowered by God is not quite the same thing as being gifted with super powers which I could then go and use either for evil or for good. Moreover, it does not even mean that my story will always be powerful or successful or even meaningful. In fact, being the kind of Christ-follower Paul describes …
Cultivate ’09 was a one-day conversation held at Park Community Church in Chicago among a hundred or so creative minds (some of us were less creative than others) about church communication. Born out of conversations among some highly respected consultants in this field (Dawn Nicole Baldwin, Tim Schraeder, Kem Meyer, among others), Cultivate was the first of what I hope will be many similar gatherings. This post is the first in a series on my impressions.
It has been a long time coming, but there is finally a bit of a ground-swell in the American church of a “new” staff position: Director of Communications. It is not so new in the mega-church world, but more and more smaller churches across the country are beginning to realize the importance of having someone on their staff whose entire job is to coordinate communication efforts both inside and outside the church. Different churches are coming to this realization in different ways, but they are in fact coming. Even the mainline denominations, who are often the last to follow church trends, are beginning to make the journey. They are realizing that telling God’s story effectively, both among church members and to the world outside the church, requires an increasingly wide range of skills and creative abilities, from verbal communication, to the written word, to video production, to web design, all the way to social media and beyond.
At Cultivate ’09, I was reminded that this community of church communications professionals is growing. I was encouraged that more and more of the American church is taking seriously its responsibility to tell God’s story in languages and formats in which it can be understood by our culture. I was seriously impressed that God has called young professionals out of their respective secular media worlds and has …