As I am preparing a sermon for Sunday on Awkward Worship I have been struck by this song from Influence Music. “We breathe to worship you.” It is what we are made for, to worship. Our very breath is purposed for it. Let’s get after it!
Already March. Were you ready for that?! Things keep coming at us fast. Hopefully, you will get a chance to take a break and breathe in the rest of Christ this weekend.
A couple of items worth thinking through this week. Not a lot in the way of articles but some perspective from my roles as pastor and father.
First up is a tweet from Dan White Jr. A pastor and author with a forthcoming book on love. Dan tweeted a reflection from counseling that struck a chord on the Twittersphere, certainly with pastors.
Ghosting is essentially disappearing from someone’s life. You avoid them, you don’t communicate, not texts, calls or interaction on social media or more importantly, non-digital life.
I have been a pastor for nearly ten years and my experience is much the same. It is a strange vocation and since it is people-oriented role, meeting, becoming friends, and eventually losing people is normative. But it doesn’t make it any easier.
The hard bits are when it happens seemingly without cause. I get it if I was harsh or drove someone away, but even when you labor to care for someone and they vanish it can leave you broken.
I have even had people who have made a verbal commitment to commit and stand alongside me in ministry disappear over the years. My personality make-up doesn’t get as affected by it as some others but it is noticeable.
So maybe the take away is that we generally should try to avoid ghosting people, be open to deep relationships and allow our pastors to be among them.
And it goes both ways, sometimes pastors “ghost” people. As I was reminded by a young man who once served at my previous church. We shall call him “Marques.” Of course, he wasn’t ghosted since I stay in contact with him and even bought him burritos once when he visited San Diego! While moving away can feel like ghosting, hopefully, you have farewell parties to make the separation anything but a surprise!
Next up, and more importantly, is anxiety. And specifically anxiety in our kids. We have dealt with this in our home and are always on the search for solutions and ways of avoiding it. I am looking forward to some forthcoming work by Jessica Thompson to apply the gospel to kids and anxiety. It is everywhere and as a PTA member, I talk to parents about it all the time.
This article from John Thornton in January on Vox was super helpful to me. And the big takeaway is that kids carry their parents’ economic stress. From the burden of planning their futures so young and living with parents struggling to pay off debt and thrive in this economy can be too much.
I know first hand this is real, when my oldest daughter was in second grade she submitted a report at school that one of the things she feared was “taxes.” Clearly, she got that from me complaining about money and fearing taxes myself (which I am reminded I need to work on!)
Hear what Thornton has to say. Love your kids. Free them from some of these burdens. And live.
“The reach of a tree depends on its roots. Choose roots over reach.” Karen Swallow Prior
A few weeks ago my wife was cleaning or just moseying about when she bumped into one of our house plants. I love house plants. My desk is a miniature jungle and while we are not the best at keeping things thriving we give it the old college try.
When she made contact with the plant she noticed that it strangely moved. On closer inspection, the plant seemed to be rootless and not tied to the soil. It was without an anchor in a ravaging world of dogs, active Children, and a woman who dusts. It was befuddling because without roots surely a thing which is a plant must be dead. This plant, however, had the green appearance of life while actually producing no flower or other sign of life.
Thinking likewise of the church or even one’s faith, it must have roots to absorb nutrients, to sustain life and to grow.
As a small church pastor, I can get so wrapped up in a “blooming” church or the desire for a significant reach that I neglect the roots. The long process of being settled dug deep into the rich soil of the Biblical gospel and grace drenched community. It is the roots that determine the reach. And even if something seems to have broad leaves, without broad roots, it may be dead.
The stronger the roots are, the more sunk down into Jesus we are, the more likely we will go further.
We hate it though because we want results now, line items to prove and donors to appease. But life is in the roots. It is from them that fruit eventually comes.
May we sink the roots deeper that we would be truly alive and not just in appearance only.
As I continue on this journey of life and ministry I was reminded this week that our posture in building a church, discipling those around us, and sending people out to do the same must be founded in and focused on three things. Jesus. People. And Place.
“For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 2:2–5 (ESV)
Gospel-centered, Christ-centered, Jesus people, pick your description, Christians are meant to be “all about Jesus.” Paul says it here reminding believers in Corinth that that is all he offered, Christ and him crucified. A finished work of the cross. A Savior who died for us. Then the rest of the New Testament keep rolling with the same point.
As we preach him, as we center our life around him, he works, the Spirit empowers us and faith is birthed in us and those in our hearing.
The implications are broad but they are all a narrowing to that which is most important in the life of a believer and the church, Jesus.
“All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” 2 Corinthians 5:18–20 (ESV)
While the introverts among us might prefer the Christian life just be “me and Jesus” he actually makes us part of a family or other people that trust in him. And the purpose of that family is to serve as ambassadors for Jesus, God making his appeal through us. Imploring reconciliation to God.
While it is easy in the Evangelical world to recognize the need “over there,” awash in statistics of unreached people groups, most likely God has surrounded you with people he loves and desires to call his own. So as you cling to Jesus, you notice the people around you and you love them as you have been loved.
May the Lord increasingly give us a vision for how much he loves the people we come into contact each day that we would implore them to reconciliation.
“And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us,” Acts 17:26–27 (ESV)
Finally, God in his sovereignty has put you in a place. While that place may change over time, while you are there you are meant to recognize your placement, proclaiming Jesus to the people there, and endeavoring for the good of that city (or town or borough, etc)
In the exile, God would tell his people to labor toward the prosperity, or flourishing of the city they were in. As those living in boundaries determined by God claiming it as our own, becoming a champion of “local” for the good of the people around us that they might meet Jesus.
For me, this works out as a steadfast determination to know nothing but Jesus as I preach, have conversation and disciple those in our church, Reservoir. It also means I want to clearly see they image-bearers around me and reveal my own need for Jesus that they would recognize theirs. All while loving the place I live, where I am called (Escondido is my hood).
It also means that members we encourage, leaders we train and residents we prepare to send out all have to be conditioned likewise, to be about Jesus, People, and Place.
Are you down?