One of the amazing things about the Psalms is their gut-level honesty in good and bad times. It’s also so cool to see how “theo-centric” so many of the authors are. (Theocentric means God is central, it’s the opposite of God being one compartment in an otherwise busy life full of others priorities.) So I got to wondering, how honest are we really when we relate with God? How often do we play games, pretending God doesn’t know what’s really going on inside of us? And since we know God knows us, what makes us not tell Him how we honestly feel? I’ve got doubts, I’ve got frustrations with God’s seemingly absent/non-involvement in things I think He should do! And I’m learning to now tell Him those things. I’m finding that if I start with honesty, then God can really work in me. If I try to relate to God from some image of myself that’s in my head but not real, then how can I expect God to transform me and grow me?
So I sit here in a Starbucks of all places in the middle of Greenwich Village, NY — I arrived here dropping Lisa off at a friend’s apartment while I head over here to study. Now I grew up 30 min from NY city and you’d think I’m all cultured and invincible, at least that’s what I’d like you to believe about me, but I can’t deny a “fear” that resides in me today. Maybe it’s been too long in Minnesota, maybe it’s the fact that I never really felt safe in NY, maybe it’s the reputation that it has? Maybe a combination of all of them – but I can’t deny the fear. So I wonder what is fear all about? I mean if I’m honest I live with a lot of fear and it feels wrong. I mean I’m a Christian, “what can man do to me?” right? Yeah, exactly – tell my emotions that! Why do I look at every person who sits near me or who I pass on the busy NY streets suspiciously? And how do I move past the fear to actually look at these people with love? I mean isn’t that what God is calling us to do? Not just to exist or survive near people, but to love them.
Ok maybe you’re not a basketball fan — but I am. I watched along with the rest of the basketball world as Lebron James made his infamous decision. And while ESPN and everyone else refused to even mention my NJ Nets in a sentence, I held out hope (but not really). Not because I didn’t think he would come to our team, but more because it went against why I started liking this team. It wasn’t about being in NJ (in fact growing up I was a Boston Celtics fan – Go Larry Bird!!). It was about the type of team NJ was when I started liking them. They were a team of blue collar hard working no-name players like Kerry Kittles, Richard Jefferson, Kenyon Martin, Jason Collins and of course their lone star: Jason Kidd who was known more for his passing then his scoring or athleticism. The fact that a team comprised of nobody’s could make it to the NBA finals was inspiring to me. I’ve always been a “believe in the under-dog” kinda guy. I like hard work and determination. I love seeing teams play like teams.
Ok, so I’m thinking through relationships. We often say here at Grace, that the church is people and yet recently we’ve been accused of breaking up relationships because the former “Adult Bible Fellowship” (ABF) program is transitioning. Allow me to give you some inside our brains and hearts kind of thoughts and then leave you with a question.
Behind the scenes…as elders/staff/leaders of the church our job one is what they call “shepherding” which involves everything from prayer, compassion, listening, leading and challenging. Let me be clear – we are very much concerned about fostering biblical community — I personally don’t know where I would be today if not for biblical community! We are also very much about unity. So the idea that we would want to disrupt or transition a program to “break up relationships” or hinder them in some way, is not on my (or any other leaders’ radar or intention!) We realized however that God was leading us to be very intentional in our discipleship and spiritual growth of our church (one of our big focus areas) and we realized that ABF’s would not be able to sustain the kind of deep growth and community we were clear God was leading us into. In short, ABF’s were doing a great job of giving people a taste of true discipleship and true community – but we all knew there could be even more. By shifting to two intentional environments (instead of one) we could better meet the needs on a deeper and more comprehensive level. Catalysts became the first environment focused on intentional discipleship and spiritual growth. By developing 9 very unique and intentional training classes we’re able to cover essentials in a way that propels growth for new and mature alike (while also giving a great taste of community and a springboard for building friendships). The second environment was a revamped small group ministry which would allow us in smaller environments to build authentic community and abiding relationships with people (biblical community). Plus by having the whole church working through the same thing we’re able to be united, connect with different generations, be exposed to people different than us more frequently and jump start authentic friendships. There’s a ton more that could be said about this subject and maybe I raised more questions than answers — but I want to be clear — the moves made were not about breaking up community – they were about building community for the long haul and for everyone in the church, not just the smaller group who attended ABF’s. And let me also say, I am “pro” ABF’s — I cannot deny that God worked big time through that vehicle in our church. God used it to connect people, to grow people — it’s got an awesome legacy that I don’t want to minimize — the decision (to transition) was more about the present and the future.
Got a couple of hours for about 4-6 weeks this summer?? I’ve got a data-entry project I’m working on that would really help and enhance our ministry here at Grace. This person would assist with getting my personal files into an electronic format to help with sermon preparation etc etc. I’m looking for someone to volunteer a few hours each week for like 4-6 weeks this summer — you would need to come to the church office and serve during normal hours (anytime between 8:30am-5pm). It would be good if you knew a little about computers. Are you willing? interested?