In 1992 I led my congregation, where I was the Sr. Pastor, into a church-split. It was the darkest days I’ve ever experienced in ministry and my personal life. When I am gut honest with others, and myself, as I continue to process 18 years later, my side was totally consumed with having what “we” wanted on Sunday mornings. Naturally, the other side was consumed with what they wanted. It ended up being a religious power struggle that engulfed us in the very bowels of hell itself.
At the time I felt very misunderstood, judged and obligated to the Lord to facilitate the division. I was very wrong. My leadership in that debacle was about the most loveless thing I have ever participated with. That split released such a destructive seed, that the entire community took a side. That small congregation has had numerous splits since that time. They’ve never really recovered. It was so wrong. I was wrong.
I awoke this morning at 3:15am in a drenched bed-sweat from a dream. The message was simple and to the point: It is missing the mark to make our Sunday morning gatherings the main event or our primary witness of Christian experience. The Body of Christ has too much focus on Sunday church. “I am chief among sinners!” There are 168 hours in a week and we are too easily consumed with what happens in 2 of those 168 hours. Discipleship, love and character are on call constantly! Our anointing and our gifts are needed every day, in every aspect of life. If my or your value to the Kingdom is about Sunday mornings, we are hosed. If you are prophetic, do you prophecy all week or are you waiting on the microphone? If you have a teaching gift, do you use it outside of the church building? Is your giving gift, only exercised toward the offering plate? God help us! Most of what stresses us about “church” and “ministry” are the non-essentials. Kingdom people who live in covenant do not sweat the small stuff. When we are willing to believe that, we’ll have a chance to really look like Him.
I don’t always agree with one of my favorite authors, but I’m very grateful for the thoughts he stimulates in me. I could only wish to have the ability to articulate ideals the way that Richard Rohr can with his pen. Often, I’ll read something of his that causes me to set down the material and say, “How the heck does he do that?” I glean a lot from his insights.
Journal entry: August 12, 2010 So the boys were out fishing all night. HE comes to them and ask, “Your nets are empty? (HE already knew they were empty) There is little fruit for all your casting? Hmmmmm. Maybe you need to change your methods. Throw out on the other side of the boat. Good! How many did you get? One Hundred Fifty-Three? (symbolic of all of mankind and nations) Bring some of them over to me and let us be nourished. Peter, you are dripping wet. I’m sure the water was cold, sit here close to the fire and lets chat. Peter do you…?”
It’s interesting to me that God brings love to the forefront in the public restoration of Peter. The last time they had chatted intimately like this, Jesus prophesied to Peter his public denial of even knowing Him. So Jesus knew it was time to cancel the voice of shame and propel Peter back into confidence of Jesus’ love for Him and vice-a-verse. Doing covenant and spiritual community is impossible without love. The best you can hope for is an “arrangement” if love isn’t included in the process. We know that supernatural stuff happened with the early church. Acts 5:12 testifies of these truths and also points to part of the dynamics for such God stuff. “…and they were ALL with one accord.” We usually interpret the “one accord” thing as unity. That is partly correct, but (homothumadon) means that their minds, their heart, their passions and their love for one another was beyond what most of the current church has among its members. The supernatural was happening around them because they were allowing the supernatural love to happen in them. It was a deep emotional and spiritual commitment that held on and stayed connected no matter how hot the fire got. Love is the force that does that in us. It is the ONLY thing that can do that. Without that, without “one accord” love, the Apostles would have been handcuffed much like Jesus was when he went into a community without faith.
I’ve often thought and said that the Pharisees of Jesus’ day hated him. If we poke around on that a little bit, I think there is something in there for us that helps us (me) when we go into a place, area or culture that seems to be hostile to the Spirit and or Christ (uh…that could even be a church, denomination or a specific theology packed full of rules and regulations for governing the sheep).
Think about the personal encounters that Jesus had with just about everyone. Nicodemus (pharisee), tax collectors, sinners, prostitutes, soldiers, friends, children (usually very discerning about what and who to trust), multitudes of followers, his own chosen disciples, random people on the streets, even Pontius Pilate and Herod didn’t necessarily have a distaste for Jesus personally. Seriously, Jesus was so full of virtuous effect that you had to like him when you were around him. The hate for Jesus would usually manifest when the agents of Satan (demons) recognized him and knew their gig was up; or when religious power-brokers realized his divine presence was going to disturb their unchallenged status quo. He brought the message of the Kingdom where ever he went. That means He was always advancing the Kingdom in everything he was doing. Jesus, himself, wasn’t the problem. It was the change in the spirit, the challenge to the rule of darkness, the unmatchable force of pure love prodding deeply into the culture that was causing so much of the disruption.
When we walk on footpaths in various cultures or religious systems that seem to hate us, we really do not need to personalize the warfare. We are full of the Spirit. We are full of the seed of God. We are anointed and operating under the “dome” of the “King”. Of course territories under the influence of principalities are not going to be happy about that. Of course! But, love breaks the chains. Every step we take brings another level of the revelation of His light. We are advancing the Kingdom, not just holding down the fort. The rumble you hear and feel is the effect of the change that is about to come.
Instead of judging the culture you are working with, pray for “favor” with the people. People who “like” us, usually are very open to the truth inside of us. We feel oppressed because of that truth in us and we are reminded that we are in the right place to love.
I’m fighting like crazy here to keep from expounding on the gospel story of Peter jumping out of the boat. We’ve heard lots and lots about it, it’s all familiar and generally helpful, but from time to time we fall victim to the loss of focus. I read that story and I want to start screaming at the top of my lungs: “FOCUS dude, you are in the middle of a flipp’n miracle!”
You’d never know it by looking at my physique but I started messing around with weights in the year 2000. I had survived Y2K, the world did not end, nor did I need the 300 cans of tuna fish in the crawl space under the house any longer and thought I’d celebrate our birth into the 21st century. I had read in a health magazine for men that if I didn’t start building some muscle quickly I was gonna be a saggy-armed, flat-chested wimp for the rest of my life. I was 43 at the time, so I started to dabble a little. Just enough to tone. I’ve always been a runner, so it was a weird dynamic for me to be in a weight room. It had been High School since I had messed with weights. There were too many mirrors. People flexing and primping for themselves and all innocent bystanders. I was just trying to keep from looking like Professor Clump. The mirrors are still a a bit much for me, but I recently realized how much I depend on those mirrors to monitor my form while lifting. Maybe not so much the form as just something to focus on as I count out the reps while The Black Crows or Led Zepplin is thumping in my ears.
Since moving back to Colorado, we joined a health club less than a block from the townhouse . It’s convenient and cheap (under $10 a month). There are no frills or luxuries. Just cardio and weight machines. There isn’t cucumber water or fresh towels for the members. Nothing in there but a few T.V.s and lots of body odor. Because it’s so inexpensive, people are like ants in that club. No matter what time of day, someone is always wanting to work into your reps or waiting for you to get off the machine you’re working with. It wears me out, but that’s another subject. Inevitably, due to the number of people who are moving around in the club, someone is going to stand in your line-of-sight if you’re working near a mirror. Maybe I’m the only person on this planet that suffers with this dilemma, but if I’m counting out reps under strain and someone moves in to block my view, it totally interrupts my focus and strength immediately leaves me in that moment. I’m sure the problem is all between my ears, but the loss of focus for even a second brings the exercise to immediate closure. It’s really weird, but it happens all the time.
So, you make the application. Lost your strength? Lost your rhythm? Lost your will for discipline around your mind, your body, your physical health or spiritual life? Don’t allow anyone or anything to break your concentrated efforts to move toward your goals and the abundant life. You’ll have to fight through to maintain your intensity at times because there is always going to be traffic in the intersection. People get set in their patterns and without realizing it you’ll set your cadence to theirs. That’s all good if it is a team function and the leader is strong, but if you are flying solo and the plan is to stretch and bring discipline to your own life, you’ll have to set the pace with serious determination. Of course, solid accountability is great! It should remind you of the priorities you have already declared and bring lots of encouragement.
Peter later brought lots of solid teaching about focus. He had been to the school of trial and error. “Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” This word is spiritual but it also applies for the everyday grind. Have the courage to make honest assessments, make the adjustments, make the changes and then dive in. It takes discipline to develop the strength to swim against the world’s current and the appetites of our flesh. Any ole dead thing can float down stream.