Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Let There Be Messy!

People and relationships are messy.
Churches are groups of people in relationship.
Churches should be messy.

And yet churches often try to be these perfectly well-oiled machines.  We put on a smiling face and try to minimize issues and eliminate the potential for any sort of conflict.

Is that healthy?!

When people get together, it seems there are only a few ways to keep things from getting messy:

1)  Make sure everyone is the same.
I like me.  I like people who like the same things as me.  I never have conflict with people who always see things the same as me.  The more a group of people is the same, the less messy conflict there will be.

And so we form churches where everyone is as similar as possible: race, political positions, theological beliefs, parenting strategies, economic class...

Can you imagine trying to worship with people who voted for the other guy (especially if he's the antichrist)?!  Can you imagine trying to run a smooth nursery for families with radically different parenting expectations?!  Can you imagine trying to plan worship music for those who listen exclusively to bluegrass and those who listen exclusively to rap?!

We often can't.  And so we don't.

We pick one culture and go with it.  Whoever fits that culture sticks around, and the others find another place.  Either way, messiness averted.

2) Let people avoid each other.
Alright, so we may have differences among us, but we don't have to let them cause conflict, right?

If we just separate people into like-minded groups, that helps.

Let the Baptists hang with the Baptists and the Methodists with the Methodists.
     ...the donkeys worship with the donkeys and the elephants with the elephants.
Let's have a service for the bluegrass crowd and a different (alternative?) service for the rap crowd.
Let the women have their women's group and the men their men's group.
     ...and for goodness sake, let's keep the kids away from everyone!

Or maybe that's overkill.

If we're honest, we realize that people have learned to avoid each other well enough on our own.  We don't need any help.  People do a great job showing up for church on Sundays and not talking about the controversial stuff.

We have learned not to discuss politics, money, race, parenting, sex, or anything else that might make relationships icky between us.  And if we can all just keep our opinions and personal experiences to ourselves, we may just all not realize how much we disagree with or dislike those we worship with.

3) Sweep it under the rug.
Even the best avoiders, given enough time, find their way into conflict.  If we stick around a group of people long enough, we are bound to have a problem with someone.  What then?

Well, in the interest of avoiding messy, you can do the "good Christian thing" and stuff it.  Ignore it.  Try not to be angry or frustrated.  It's not Jesus-like (or so the story goes).

...and if that doesn't work, you can always just go find another church and start the cycle over.

EXCEPT...none of these things are what we see from the Kingdom of Heaven that Jesus revealed!

Jesus was all about messy!

Jesus left the comfort of heaven and came to this messy earth (John 1; Philippians 2).

He reached out to the outsiders--the messy people everyone else tried to avoid (Mark 2:16).

He commanded his disciples to work things out with people they had conflict with (Matthew 18).

And we see a picture of heaven where people from every nation, tribe, people and language worship God together (Revelation 7:9).

Can you imagine that?!
Heaven sounds like a mess!

Maybe our churches could learn something.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Church with your Kids: Philippians 2

Philippians 2:1-11 (paraphrased)
Does being connected to Jesus mean anything to you? Do you feel better because Jesus loves you? Do you enjoy knowing he is always with you? Do you like how much he cares for you when you are sad?

If you do, then think and act that way towards other people as well.  Love people and think about them the way that Jesus thinks about you.

Don’t do anything just because it’s what YOU want.  Don’t think YOU are more important than anyone else.  Instead, be humble.  Act like other people are MORE IMPORTANT than you.  Don’t just think about what YOU want.  Think about what other people may want.

Think of other people like Jesus does.

Listen to the story of Jesus:
Jesus is God - the most important and powerful in the world.  But he didn’t brag about it.  He didn’t tell people they had to do what he wanted because he was God.

Instead, Jesus made himself not look important.  He decided to become a servant.  He became a normal person.  

And he did even more than that!  He even let himself be hurt and killed on a cross!  And it was all because he was trying to love others.

Even though that did not look very good, God saw what Jesus did.  And God told everyone how great Jesus was!  He gave Jesus a special reward.  God made Jesus king of everywhere!  Even heaven!

And someday, everyone that lives will know and say how important Jesus is.  And when they do, they God will be happy.


  • What would you do if you were a King or Queen or God?
  • Jesus was a King and God.  How did he treat other people?
  • What does it mean to treat others like they are more important?
  • How can you think more about what someone else wants?
  • What do you think happens serve others like Jesus?
    • What happens to us?
    • What happens to others?
    • What happens to God?

Pray:  Ask God to help you think more about others and less about yourself.  Thank Jesus for thinking about you.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Myth of Privilege - Part II

My problem with using the terms privilege and underprivileged, fortunate and less fortunate, is that it sets up a one-sided marketplace.

Just from the words alone, we have declared that there is one party in need and one that has something to offer.

And certainly the poor have needs.
They are indeed under-resourced, in more ways than just money.  The poor may lack money, education, role models, coping strategies, emotional and spiritual resources, access to justice, and much more.

And those with those resources should certainly do all they can to provide access for those who are under-resourced.  There should be a flow of resources from the well-resourced to the under-resourced.

The New Testament speaks frequently to this: Matthew 25:34-40; Luke 14:12-14; Romans 12:13; Romans 15:1-2; James 1:27; James 2:15-17; 1 John 3:17-18; et al.

But that is not the end of the story.  The market does not work just in one direction.  For there is poverty in the "privileged"as well.  As I pointed out last week, the New Testament reveals there is something about being well-resourced that makes accessing the Kingdom of God difficult.

What is that difficulty?  Distraction? Self-sufficiency? Independence? Greed?  Who knows?! Whatever the nature of the hindrance, there is something about the condition of the poor that they are not similarly afflicted.  In contrast, we saw last week that the poor tend to have great strength in their ability to grasp the Kingdom of God.  When it comes to the Kingdom, those with less resources are actually in a position of great strength.

So in the exchange between the resourced and the under-resourced, there is life change that needs to go both ways.  Both the "privileged" and the "under-privileged" have something to offer the other that the other greatly needs.

The under-resourced need resources.
The well-resourced need...perspective?  A clearer vision for the Kingdom of Heaven.

So who is "charity" for?  Both (the under-resourced AND the well-resourced.)
Who really needs "missions trips"? Both 
Who are those in need of a hand? Both

The myth of privilege rests in the belief that the privileged are better off.
What we need to acknowledge is that we ALL have needs, in one way or another.
AND we ALL have something to contribute, which others greatly need.

The market isn't one sided.
It's a bit of an equal exchange, where everyone participates in the giving...and the receiving.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Myth of Privilege - Part I

I don't like the term "underprivileged" or "less fortunate" when referring to those who have few resources.

Perhaps my bigger issue is with the terms "privileged" or "fortunate".

They assume something--that there is a connection between the amount of money or stuff that someone has and the quality of life experienced.

How are the "privileged" and "underprivileged" typically defined?  With a pocketbook and a calculator.

And clearly, by using the word "privilege" or "fortunate", there is an assumption that the desired position is the one with the higher account balance.

But that's not really true.

Consider these words from Jesus...
Matthew 19:24 I'll say it again.  It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of heaven.
Jesus himself tells us there is something about "privilege" that makes the important things of life much more difficult.  You could say that regarding the really important things in life, like the Kingdom of Heaven, living in "privilege" makes one "less fortunate."

Consider another quote from Jesus...
Luke 6:20 Blessed are you who are poor, for the Kingdom of God is yours.
Again, when it comes to the really important things in life, like the Kingdom of God, those "less fortunate" are actually in a "privileged" position.

And really,
if the "privileged" are actually "underprivileged"...
and the "less fortunate" are actually "more fortunate"
...then maybe it's time we stop using those terms.

They're just confusing everyone.