LentBlog 2015, Day 38: Truth-Telling As a Core Value.

Colossians 3:1-9, NRSV

 So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your[a] life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.

Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient.[b] These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life.[c] But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive[d]language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices 10 and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. 11 In that renewal[e] there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!


“Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self and all of its practices.”

Been thinking about this one a lot lately. Stefanie and I are planting a church in the Muncie, IN area. Part of working out what this new congregation might look like is developing a list of core values (or something). I’ve gotta say, we’ve come to the place in our lives of ministry that we are pretty solidly set on “truth telling” as core value #2. “Being Christian” (whatever that means) is core value #1. But #2 is “Being Honest.”

We intend to tell the truth:

  • to each other
  • about each other
  • about God
  • to God
  • to ourselves.

A good friend of mine said to me last week, “a good way to avoid answers you don’t want to hear is to avoid asking the question.” He’s right… and he wasn’t suggesting that as a healthy course of action… but such practices reek of dishonesty. It seems the way of discipleship is paved with honesty. Confession… grace… love… healthy relationships with God and people… healthy conflict resolution… all of those things can’t really happen the way they’re intended without honesty being in the picture in a big way.

I think a lot of good folks are living-out lies. I think maybe because the truth sometimes hurts. Sometimes acknowledging the truth will prompt changes we aren’t comfortable with or think we’re ready for. So it’s easier to avoid or bury the truth, give in to fear, and avoid the necessary, perhaps painful change.

But it’s better, especially as leaders, to face a painful truth head-on than avoid it and continue living a collective untruth.

Blessings all…

Mark

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LentBlog 2015, Day 5: A Church with a Reputation

Ephesians 1:15-17.

15 I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love[e] toward all the saints, and for this reason 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. 17 I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him…

NRSV


I read more than just these three verses tonight, but the later section spoke of something I want to consider more tomorrow and hit in another post.

What kinda got me tonight was when Paul says he has heard of the Ephesians’ faith in Jesus and love towards all the saints. It turns out the Christians in Ephesus had a reputation. In their case, having a reputation was a good thing. I was reminded of the passage in John 13 where Jesus taught his disciples the world would know they are his disciples because of their love. Sounds like the folks at Ephesus were known by their faith and love. Not a bad rep to have.

In light of this, can I say what I’m tired of and convicted by this evening? I’m tired of hearing about churches (and larger denominational structures) who have a reputation of unfaithfulness and not love. I’m tired of hearing about churches where dysfunction is rampant because folks love getting their way more than they love the Lord and their neighbors. I’m tired of the reputation churches have as places where people fight over stupid non-essential junk. I’m tired of some churches that flail around, beating the air with their fists, because sometimes their pastors are asleep at the wheel. I’m tired of seeing churches who are being led out of fear and not faith and love. I’m tired of hearing from my non-Christian friends the reason they aren’t involved in church is because of how the church lives out its so-called faith. ::end rant::

I’m convicted by these verses, because I am so. totally. ready. to pastor a church with an Ephesians kind of reputation, and our church plant isn’t off the ground yet. I’m convicted because I, too, live out of fear sometimes… fear of failure, among other things.

So let me ask you, so you can join me in this self- and church- examination: What’s your church’s reputation?

Blessings,

Mark

LentBlog Day 34: Don’t Be Conformed…

Romans 12:2.

I have to admit, I read this today through my lens. My lens is that of a pastor in the Nazarene tradition, Seminary grad, married to a pastor, having seen some of the best and the worst the church has to offer in a life of ministry…

My mind goes to a fellow pastor and mentor of mine. He told me a couple years ago that he’s begun to realize he’s spent the last 30 years of his life worrying about the wrong stuff. He’s looking at the remaining years in ministry (may they be numerous!) and is determined not to spend them “worrying about roofs and parking lots.”  I identify with his deep sense of God’s call to be involved in the transformation of lives, not just the building of an institution.  I see my friend living out Romans 12:2. I see him breaking the mold his generation of pastors and church leaders have squeezed him into (and he would admit he was a willing participant).

So I’m reading this through my lens tonight. And sometimes I think “conforming to the pattern of this world” could be talking about more than just blatant sinful behavior or something.  I think it might be, in this case tonight, speaking of patterns of church life that just might be shooting at the wrong target. And maybe, just maybe, a Kingdom Way might do it very differently.

I was talking to another friend this week whose church has spent a ton of money on their facility recently, most of it borrowed. And while the facility is impressive to be sure, the thought that crosses my mind is if we put all our financial eggs into the attractional, facility- and program-driven, Sunday morning attendance basket, and yet we didn’t make any disciples, then we’ve blown all that money. Poof.

To think differently means something’s going to have to bust us out of this mold. God must transform us by the renewing of our mouldminds. My mentor-friend has spent significant time recently rediscovering his passion for the deep theological work that forms the foundation for pastoral ministry. He’s reading new stuff and old stuff. He’s sharpening his sword, so-to-speak. The renewing of his mind is transforming his approach to ministry, and it’s busting him out of that 1990’s Church-Growth mold. Thanks be to God!

I don’t know how many pastors read this blog. My suspicion is not many, because not many total people read it, I think, according to the statistics. But I will say this: If you’re reading this and you’re a pastor, may this passage from Romans 12 rock your paradigm as it has rocked mine. May none of us be content to spend the Divine Calling on our lives building roofs and paving parking lots.

Blessings,

Mark