“But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.” Luke 10:33-37
In the Coffee household, we have been on our usual Christmas steady fare of Christmas movies. Christmas, it seems, is such an enormous cultural event, Hollywood just cannot make enough “Christmas miracle” movies. It’s a standard template: there is a hero (or a heroine) who is flawed and relatable in some fashion and who does not believe in the magic of Christmas. Enter conflict (or an antagonist or dire circumstances or a hilarious parade of unforeseeable events) and there is an ensuing struggle. Finally, there is a Christmas miracle and our hero is saved and now believes in the magic of Christmas.
This year, my attention has been grabbed by how the church is portrayed in these Hollywood versions of Christmas (if it is portrayed at all). It seems to me that, more often than not, the church is portrayed as a bit silly and irrelevant and disconnected from anything, well… normal. I don’t know, but I strongly suspect these portrayals betray the writers’ own stories about their church experiences growing up. …
And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.” 1 Samuel 8:7-9
“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” C.S. Lewis
Here is a fundamental truth for church leaders (including pastors): the church is not for you (not really), nor is it about you. If you think about it, that is actually a rather freeing reality. That means it is not your responsibility to manipulate every outcome. Rather, it is your responsibility to speak God’s truth to the best of your ability and to love your people well…and love often means letting them mess up royally.
Most of my own best illustrations of this leadership principle come from parenting. If you are a parent, you already know the phenomenon well. There are times when a parent can see a wrong direction a child is headed and the very best way to teach this lesson is to simply warn them and then let them make their own decision (and live with the consequences). Take bedtimes, for example. Toddlers are simply told when they will go to bed. But, as they grow older, we eventually get to a point where they must learn to use their own judgment about sleep …
Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”… Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” John 20:24-25, 29
The ears and the mind are necessarily connected. That is because hearing requires much more than just ears. When we were children, we could hear the wind blowing through a sea shell but we thought we were “hearing the ocean”. We could hear just fine, but we could not discern very well. Now, as I get older (alas), I am finding that my ears don’t always hear very well. I can be sitting with you in a crowded restaurant, trying to hear what you are saying and my “discernment” has to kick in so that I can make up for what my ears cannot hear. I suppose that balance shifts more and more with time.
Interestingly, our Spiritual hearing works in a similar way. When we are young (spiritually), we don’t discern all that well. We may hear God’s voice, but we hear it along with all the noise and may not have the spiritual maturity to discern that which is God and that which is other. I believe we develop that discernment over time, with the help of the Spirit. I also believe this spiritual skill is critical to our life together in the church. Wasn’t that the point of Jesus’ lesson to Thomas in John 20?
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 …
Tuesday Re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.
Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them… When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?”Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” John 21:20-22
When I work in a church where there has been a moral failure on the part of a leader, especially a pastor, I am always intrigued by the wide variety of responses from the church members. They range from complete denial (pretending it never happened) to cries for the death penalty, and every imaginable consequence in between. But the responses that break my heart the most usually come from some of the teenagers.
Oddly enough, it is often teenagers who are the most troubled by the moral failure and who are the most demanding that there be severe consequences. I believe this is true because of the way they have been taught to think. In many cases, they have been conditioned to believe that, for every good act there must be a visible reward and for every bad act there must be bad consequences. And when either of those things does not happen, their world is turned inside out, creating chaos and confusion. So, in an attempt to maintain some degree of “rightness” in their world, they are often the most vocal proponents of severe consequences in the life of the fallen leader. I can’t blame them for that. It is what their parents taught them.
You see, when we use behavior modification techniques to get our children to make right choices, this is what we get. When our motives have more to do with …