Friday, August 1, 2008

Trouble brewing . . .

Wednesday night I received an E-mail telling me that people are not happy with making some changes to the Narthex . . . actually makingg a Narthex in the back of the Sanctuary so that we can begin to have coffee fellowship before and after Worship right there in the Worship space . . . for the past month or so we have been doing this in a cramped, dark space instead of asking folks to walk through a breezeway to our Fellowship Hall . . . we usually lose visitors this way or if the weather permits or stand outside under the drop off where the heat index can be over a 100 degrees.

The E-mail indicated that they plan to come to the next board meeting to complain.

Now let me be frank . . . I don't think this is about physical changes, I think it is about change, but I also think it is about the possibility of the church actually growing.

It is human proclivity to say we want to see something happen as long as it doesn't mean that we have to change . . . I thought we were done with this discussion, I see that we aren't . . . perhaps, for some folks it hasn't even started.

The discussions we have had at our recent Visioning Team meetings have centered on the role of the church in people's life . . . they view it as their safe place . . . we have one member who has taken exception with this image as she believes that the church isn't called to be a place of safety . . . I am not sure I agree . . . this is what I sent to her . . . interesting, more and more of our communications here at the church, especially with some of the younger, professional folk is via E-mail . . . good or bad I don't know, but it resonants with me . . . so here is part of that E-mail:

We are not all in the same place spiritually . . . and this means a couple of different things, but for this discussion I confine it to our maturity on our walk. I am reminded of Paul's first letter to the church in Corinth . . .

"My friends, you are acting like the people of this world. That's why I could not speak to you as spiritual people. You are like babies as far as your faith in Christ is concerned. So I had to treat you like babies and feed you milk. You could not take solid food, and you still cannot, because you are not yet spiritual. You are jealous and argue with each other. This proves that you are not spiritual and that you are acting like the people of this world." (I Corinthians 3:1-3)

Now, I am not being critical of any one, but the fact is that like many churches we still have immature believers who need to be weaned off milk. It saddens me that this is the case just, as it saddens me to hear people think that we don't have to change . . . and although I hear this on one level as talking about the physical plant, I think on a deeper level, without even knowing it they are speaking about their spiritual lives.

What I have come to understand is that some people are happy where they are spiritually and do not believe in the process we know of as sanctification. [As an aside: I have also come to believe that happiness is not our goal in life as Christians, contentment is our goal.] However, on the other hand, in the past several months I have been privileged to witness lives being transformed in remarkable ways as the Holy Spirit is working in and among us in this intentional process of transformation . . . people are going deeper and further with Christ . . . the Holy Spirit is sanctifying them . . . making them more holy . . . more like Jesus.

The second place I want to push is, what is the Church, even the local expression, if not the Body of Christ? If it is the Body of Christ in and to the world, it is where I am called to and sent from, it is where I am comforted and afflicted/challenged, it is where I find my refuge/safety from the storms of life and where I am strengthen to go and face the storms of life and equipped to bring others in from the storms to find refuge and safety, comfort and strengthening for those storms.

The analogy of the Desert Mothers and Fathers is reminiscence for me of the movement of the Church/church -- being called in to contemplation on and in the Holy only to be sent out to share the Holy in and to the world in word and deed, being called in to contemplation on and in the Holy only to be sent out to share the Holy in and to the world in word and deed . . . a repetitive pattern lead by the Holy Spirit, grounded in relationship with the Father through Jesus Christ. Even in the Early Church my guess is that this metaphor played a large part in the church being though of in terms of a boat -- the safety of the harbor the hazards of the seas . Leonard Sweet, a UMC minister and transformational guy has written a great book called Aqua Church with this as the overriding metaphor. Recently, I have read of a new church called The Harbor.

When Tom Bandy first challenged Debbie, Brad and me to catch a vision, mine came through a song . . . Jackson Brown's "Running on Empty." I believe there are many people both in the world and in the Church who are running on empty and that we, the Church, have the One who can really fill them up, Jesus. Brad joked that maybe we needed an old timey gas pump outside the church -- "Stop here to fill up with Jesus!" As I prayed about vision the pump turned into a water pump pumping the Living Water . . . in recent weeks the woman at the well has been on my heart. These are my visions that speak to me about who Jesus is . . . THE Source of life.

It has dawned on me as I have prayed about the trouble brewing that it is brewing because people are afraid . . . afraid that is the church changes and grows it may not be the safe harbor for them . . . so how do we help them see that it isn't either/or but can be both/and. Just as they need a safe harbor from the storms of life there are others out there that needs the safety of this harbor and they need to find the Anchor of Life -- mixing metaphors, I know, I know.

Praying for the words when we make a premptive strike this Sunday by bringing it up for open discussion at a congregational luncheon.

May God's peace surround those of us who are discerning God's voice to move forward into the 21st century,


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