I want to invite you into something that I wrestle with deeply in my heart on a weekly basis. It goes something like this:
1) I care deeply about the formation of people into citizens of the Kingdom of God, here on earth, just as it is in heaven.
2) I think it's possible, and actually our proper place in the created order, to seek after the Kingdom of God in the here and now, discern what God's Spirit is doing in and among us, and order our lives to join God in God's work of renewing and restoring all things.
3) That means how we spend our days, what we do for work, how we raise our children, how we pursue our marriages and relationships, how we use our money and resources, how we vote, how we treat our enemies, and how we organize our communities - these ALL have connections to how we live into our faith in the present moment of everyday.
4) Faith is NOT an abstraction, or simply something that is going on inside of me. If faith is to have any value at all, it MUST have bearing on our real lives. Faith must have a tangible expression in our everyday living, from what we buy, who we spend time with, where we work, and how we order everything else in our lives.
5) Why follow Jesus? I truly believe, as Andy Stanley says, that following Jesus will make your life better, and make you better at life. I think this is true no matter where you are in your faith journey. Jesus continues to invite you to follow after his Way, which is the most difficult way, but the most life-giving way too.
6) I'm a Pastor by vocation, so I spend my working life leading, organizing, and dreaming about new and old ways of invite those connected to my church community into a deeper, more holistic expression of faith in the world in which they live and move and spend their days.
7) I know for many people who were raised in the Church, being part of a local faith community as adults has become something that has fallen to the back burner. It is not a priority For some this is because of bad experiences, which I completely get as someone who has had bad experiences in the Church world.
8) Perhaps I'm really bad at this work (see number 5), but my general impression is that the majority of folks that I'm attempting to lead, especially those close to my age (20s-40s), are not that interested in being part of a church community that would, in my opinion, help them live more deeply into their faith in a holistic way, especially in their work, their marriages, their parenting, and their normal, everyday lives.
9) I'm not sure what to do about this (above), other than to continue to make the invitation clear that our church is FOR you, that we are working hard to make this a space and a people that values you, and that we think there is a place for you to belong here.
10) My hunch, as a 36-year-old parent of two young children, is that, for many of my peers, faith has become more and more a private expression and experience, therefore many folks simply don't see the need to be connected to a larger faith community or tradition.
11) The problem with that approach, in my view, is that it ignores the theological nature and the biblical imperative of Christianity being a communal activity or expression. Meaning, you can't be a Christian all by yourself. You can't be a Christian all alone in your head. You can THINK of yourself being a Christian, but you cannot fully PRACTICE Christianity as an isolated individual. Confession, reconciliation, hospitality, care of souls - all of this only works in the context of a faith community.
12) This quote from John Ortberg has startled me out of some of my thinking and, and it's working its way into my behavior too:
"Again and again, as we pursue spiritual life, we must do battle with hurry. For many of us the great danger is not that we will renounce our faith. It is that we will become so distracted and rushed and preoccupied that we will settle for a mediocre version of it. We will just skim our lives instead of actually living them." -John Ortberg
13) I don't want to skim my life, and I don't want you to skim your life either. I want you and I both to fully live our lives.
14) I believe many folks my age who will not commit to being part of a local church use a sort of logic that goes something like this: "I don't find the experience valuable, so I guess it's not for me." This is what I would call the mentality of a well-verse consumer. I get this, because I feel this way about so many things, including church at times.
15) But this mentality is allowing us to divorce ourselves from the community of Jesus followers that has planted itself in the middle of our lives. At the church I lead, we have done SO MUCH work over the past four years to create environments that are geared toward folks in my generation. We're continuing that work in earnest over the next two years. All that to say, we're creating a community that is FOR the missing generation, or two, that have walked away from the Church.
16) Here's my deeper concern: many of my peers are so addicted to busy and hurry, that the practice of being part of a local church is simply not high on the priority list. As a pastor to many folks in my age group, I see how busy your lives are. I feel that same weight of busyness too.
17) John Ortberg asked a mentor over 20 years ago what he needed to do to be spiritually healthy, that mentor (Dallas Willard, no less) told him one thing.
What do you suppose that one thing was?
Read your bible everyday?
Spend more time with your family?
Go to church more often?
Get involved in more causes?
Give away your money?
Volunteer your time more?
Here's what Willard told Ortberg: "You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life."
Everything else can flow forth from that.
It must flow forth from that.
As a pastor, I want to invite you to live into this invitation today, and into this spring quarter.
Perhaps there's something (or many things) you need to stop doing in order to do what's most important?
Perhaps there are ways in which you want your life to look like, but you're choosing the easy path, the path of least resistance?
As Richard Rohr says, "What are you going to do with your now resurrected life?"
I pray that you'll slow down, so you can spend time listening to the Father, who is speaking to us, if we make space to listen. Will you pray this for me too?
I pray that you'll choose to organize your life to be part of a local church. God is indeed doing something in the world, and often that something is centered in the Church. For all of it's foibiles, I'm still here, choosing to renew and reform from the inside. I'd love for you to join me in this work.
And if you don't know where to begin, I can help with that. I am a pastor, after all, who dreams and leads on behalf of those who often can't see what God may be inviting them into. I can help.
You have to make the first move though.
See you Sunday.