Saturday, April 19, 2008
I couldn’t help but notice your distress the other evening when the topic turned to being a missional church. I agree that if anyone is saying that Faith church does not or has not had missions, outreach, and benevolence as a core value they are absolutely wrong! However, I don’t think anyone is saying that. I think the recent emphasis is that because we do have those core values we may be ready to embrace this newer “missional church” movement and take our mission to a new level.
I’ve been around Faith a long time. Not as long as some! I know benevolent giving is a strong value here. Actual personal involvement in service or mission at Faith, in my experience though, has been primarily driven by individual efforts. Some of those efforts have been broader and stronger than others. The broader the effort, the more inspiring it has been to us all. Faith has supported corporately the environment for those efforts but the efforts themselves have really been individually driven. Faith has also taken great pride in Frank’s efforts, and should. But I have sometimes questioned if we are relying too much on Frank and, in essence, saying, “Good, that’s taken care of.”
Early on in my faith journey, as well as my life at Faith, I went on a CASA weatherization team. Sounds simple enough; however the “house” we were assigned was literally a shack! Here we were putting plastic over windows while there were 1” chinks in all the walls!? The futility was overwhelming for me at the time!
I remember a Habitat for Humanity trip where there were way too many volunteers with inadequate supervision. The result was a support beam that had so many nails it had to have been weakened and useless. I am coming to understand that physical service and its effect on underlying problems are minimal in a fallen world. It is the spiritual support, relationships, and bringing of the gospel and its comfort that is at the heart of Christian service. This is a difficult understanding for me and I’m still trying to absorb it all; after all, I’m an engineer who wants to fix things. Without this understanding we are nothing more than a civic service club and likely doing service for the wrong reasons, i.e. personal gratification.
During the Katrina disaster, I heard that Eric Vroom was down at the Gulf and had relayed back that there was a big need for shoes. I wrote a short email and searched on the internet for just about any shoe company I could find and spammed them. I really didn’t expect much, but to my utter amazement the next day the administrative assistant of a VP for Shoe Carnival called. The VP was down there with a semi full of shoes, “Where would you like them delivered?” !!! I was stymied and put them in touch with Frank. I’m not sure much happened with it because I don’t think we were prepared for that. But it opened my eyes to such amazing possibilities!
I’m still trying to make sense of all this, but I personally feel that by embracing this missional church movement Faith can move something that is near and dear to its heart to a higher level. By becoming corporately involved in mission efforts, rather than simply supportive of them, we can truly become more focused and effective in the work the Lord really wants us to do. I hope and pray that this will lead us to better training and mentoring, better discernment, better matching of activities with individuals in different stages of growth, better discipleship, more real witnessing. We have such a wealth of resources at Faith; from willing servants, to contractor experience, to proposal writers that can chase grants, to business managers, to teachers, to health workers, to engineers, to loving caring faithful people. Much of it is untapped, waiting for the vision of our part in His Kingdom on earth to come into focus. If we let Him, where will He lead us?
Thank you so much for expressing your opinion! It has helped me to wrestle with mine and put it down in some semblance of coherent thought! I have been grappling with this for some time and will continue to.
Sunday, April 13, 2008
Dave McGhee 9/2/2007
I just started reading the book “The Dangerous Act of Worship,” by Mark Labberton. I’m only through Chapter 3 and it has been very enlightening! The whole premise is that we play it safe when it comes to worship. We’re looking for the comfort food. Worship, and here it’s defined as our everyday relationship with God, should be an outward looking affair. Not just between each of us and God, but between all of us.
Now this is a bit tough for an introspective like me to comprehend! There are good things about places of comfort, and introspection, and meditation. Why do we have to mess that up? Then it struck me, it’s all about ushering!
This whole point of being a Christian is following Christ. It is therefore a journey. We all like to stop and take a rest in the comfort zones but we are not supposed to stay there. The other point about this journey is that there is a long trail of folks on this journey. We are all at different points in that journey. And we are all called to help usher those that come after us! And accept ushering from those before us!
This concept of ushering makes more and more sense as I look back over the latest developments in our church.
- Missional Church - I'm starting to get the idea of the outward or missional nature of worship and service. However, I still wrestling with whether a lot of mission work is done from a sense of helping "those" people vs a sense of community or ushering.
- Sunday School - A good bit of the Sunday school discussion has been about what "I" need. There has also been a good deal of "what do others need" or there wouldn't be discussion. I can't help but think a sense of ushering would add a thread of continuity to the chaos? I think its starting to creep in.
I'm getting more excited about a sense of journey now! This is going to be interesting!
Dave McGhee – 5/3/2007
Faith Church has had some challenging times over the last five or so years. There have been many changes in leadership, staff, and membership. Much of the challenge stems from the fact that Faith was so stable for so long and then faced with so many changes at once. In that time Faith has stepped up to working through those changes at the same time as maintaining the day-to-day operations.
Much of the process for change has required Faith to take a good look at itself. We have looked at our history, our programs, our future, ourselves. We have done that all in the context of seeking God’s will for Faith Church. Such periods of introspection are necessary in understanding who we are and who God wants us to be. It is also sometimes difficult to break out of that introspection and start looking outward again and moving forward.
Much as we are all part of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-26), Faith’s body has many parts. We all know Faith’s history and reputation (heart), we have a strong vision to serve God (soul), we have established new leadership (head), we have an able, creative, and servant hearted membership (hands). We are, however, having some difficulty finding our feet with which to move forward. Some of our feet are sure and strong, but some are tired, some sore, some tender, some unsure. We need to rejuvenate and develop strong sure feet. For that Faith needs your help!
Faith needs to hear about some of our success stories. Not just the top level overview, but the nitty-gritty details. How was God’s will recognized? How did support for the call grow? What kind of approval did it need? What were some of the obstacles? What worked? What didn’t? These are the “in the trenches” stories all of Faith’s membership, particularly Christian “tenderfoots”, need to hear. Not as boastful pride, but as practical how-to guides. These are the stories Faith needs to hear to develop and nurture strong feet. Faith’s history with Christ is the rock (Psalms 40:2*) which make our feet certain.
Faith also needs to hear the fresh ideas from new members and those new to the faith. Where is God tugging at your heart? What are the new songs? (Psalms 40:3*) Even if it is an old song, new voices are always welcome!
So, if you have a success and how-it-came-to-be story to tell, Faith needs to hear it! If you are hearing God’s call to something new, Faith needs to hear it, even if you’re not sure exactly where it belongs! Is it an active vital ministry, a strong and connected Sunday school class, a past achievement that stands out, an idea for a new ministry? Tell your story, by word of mouth, by Sunday school presentation, by newsletter article, by email.
*”The Bible in Basic English”
Dave McGhee – 2/27/2007
A good friend of ours recently had to deal with the pain of having a parent in the situation of needing a living will. While such a document exists, there was contention among the family members about implementing it. Such a time can be extremely stressing on a family. Many issues can be brought to the surface, some old, some new, some unresolved. Issues and emotions can run the gamut; love, suffering, guilt, anger, fear, religion, healing, money and many more. All this can be compounded further by the fact that we humans often assume that others feel the same way as we do.
I began to wonder what instructions I would leave in a living will. Until this point my thoughts have been like many others. I don’t want to suffer if there is no hope. I don’t want my quality of life to be miserable. I don’t want to have a healthy mind trapped in an incapacitated body unable to communicate. I don’t want to be a “vegetable”. I don’t want to be a burden to my family. God wouldn’t want me to suffer like this. What if the doctors are wrong and I could pull through? It’s not right to take a life. I don’t want to die! Too many thoughts to make any sense of!
Then God touched my heart with an idea.
I am a child of God. I am here to serve and glorify the Lord. My Lord is always with me and will not forsake me [Isaiah 41:17]! I know God would not want me to suffer. But I also know He never promised that I would not [2Corinthians 4]. It occurred to me that if my situation can in any way provide a conduit for the grace of His “living waters” [John 4:10, 7:38] to flow and for God’s plan to unfold - that is the road I must take.
In today’s world we are often forced to make snap judgments. Often for no reason other than we are impatient beings. We do not take the time to consider our actions, pray for guidance, or allow God’s plan to unfold.
Given these thoughts and revelations I would have to say that my wishes would be these.
- I would want my family to know the Lord is with me and I will be OK! That tear on my unconscious cheek may well be a tear of joy!
- I would like the decisions that need to be made to be made as a family with the guidance of a Pastoral Counselor*.
- I would want my family to search out God’s will and to look at this time as a time of healing for all. That will may, or may not, include the healing of my body. I know it will include the healing of all our spirits.
- Romans 15:5-6, “5 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, 6 so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
* “Pastoral counselors are trained in both psychology and theology and thus can provide psychological as well as spiritual guidance to patients and families in health care settings.”
Dave McGhee 6/6/2007
We’ve all gotten the emails, the ones advocating a boycott of gasoline dealers, brands etc. in one form or another. The same ones Snopes.com characterizes as a long running urban legend chain dating back to at least 2001. They usually appear every time gas prices rise. My daughter forwarded one to me early this year. Normally I ignore those things, but when it’s your daughter, you give some careful thought to your reply; or no-reply. Here is how I replied:
How do you decide between gas, money, safety, time? And there it is! That point where different needs compete with one another! Well its all about stewardship, isn’t it?
As satisfying as the suggestion you sent may seem to someone who wants to strike out at somebody they think is to blame for gas prices, I think they are on the wrong track. Americans are free-spirited and gas hungry and always have been. The author of the forwarded comment was right in that we need to change our habits.
In my opinion, it is our habits of consuming too much gasoline that need changing. We drive big gas guzzling cars, drive fast, take drives impulsively, and carpool far too little. Even if gas were cheap, we still consume way too much for a healthy environment.
In addition to the fuel saving tips at this web site, http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/driveHabits.shtml, I still prefer the "campaign" I suggested several weeks ago; "At or Below!" If everyone drove sensibly and drove at the speed limit or 5 mph below the savings in gas would be significant. Significant to our pocketbooks, for the message to the energy companies, to our environment. Not to mention our safety on the road.
“The money I save I could donate to a good cause.” – not bad.
“Stewardship is about making choices, as individuals and in community. It is more than giving money to the church. Stewardship is about being faithful disciples, caring for and managing all that God has given us. Stewardship is not just one part of Christian discipleship; it involves every aspect of life in all the stages of life. Stewardship is the grateful response to God's grace and goodness. It requires a consideration of how our choices affect us and others, of how we can be good caretakers of the created world, and of how we can best serve God as disciples of Christ.” (http://www.pcusa.org/stewardship/)
“With the time I save I could spend more time with my family.” – admirable.
“I could donate a pre-paid gas card to a service organization.” – creative.
“I could use the extra time to make my needed phone calls.” – efficient.
The stewardship responses are as varied as we are unique as God’s children. That is, if we take the time to consider this as an opportunity for stewardship and response to God. That may be the biggest payback from slowing down; using the extra time to start that conversation with Jesus you’ve been meaning to get to, and Jesus yearns for.
Some of my clearest moments have been cruising to work with a Christian radio station playing. Oh, one other thing, you need to put the cell phone down…
Subject: Thanks for the LetterThough I may not be a Christian believer, I do appreciate you thinking of me. I do believe in God, but can't see that he intervenes in earthly matters. I still have my "fish bowl theory" of God, where he set the universe in motion, but simply watches but doesn't intervene. Maybe the sunami was the neighbor kid tapping on the glass. :-) If God was truly interactive, he would recognize that he made me to be a skeptic on all matters and would give me a break if I am skeptical of the elaborate premises of all organized religions. I also find it impossible to believe that a God who loves us, would send us to burn in hell for eternity just because we are skeptical that Jesus was the Son and that he died for our sins. I love my new dog. When she does wrong I spank her but would not dream of truly hurting her, much less burn her. I take the whole concept of Hell as the Church's fabricated "stick" to keep people scared and in line. Thanks again,
Sounds like you’re operating under the common misconception that God punishes or rewards people for what they do. Unfortunately this idea has been used for centuries by kings, cultures, religions, and some parents to, as you say, “keep people in line.” I don’t know of anyone that can tow that line. (I grew up Catholic and they can hold their own with any Baptist in a brimstone throwing contest!)
That is not what I have come to understand about a loving God that sent his son for us. Jesus was/is the “New Deal.” All that is being asked for anyone to “do” is to decide to turn toward God and he was gracious enough to send Jesus to follow on the way. It is that simple! It is that stark! Like we say in loads, “F=ma, everything else follows”; turn toward God, everything else follows.
Is God interactive? Absolutely! It’s not the plagues, floods, and earthquakes of the Old Testament, it’s the constant presence of Jesus and the Holy Spirit in my life everyday. God’s ultimate concern is for our spiritual well being, physical circumstances are in the noise. When I screw up (regularly) they are right there. They aren’t throwing me in a pit or even “spanking” me. They pick me up, put an arm around my shoulder, and say, “That didn’t go so well this time. How can we do better next time?”
Enough! I’m getting too preachy! Suffice it to say, God knows your skepticism, he knows your heart, he only wants the best for you.
John 3:16, “The Message,” “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.”
Dave McGhee November 4, 2005
At Wednesday night bible study we were discussing a vision of what it would be like to live in Jesus’ presence all the time. Our small group was attracted to the phrase “laughter comes as naturally as breathing.”(1) Two very exemplary women shared that they would like to laugh more and frequently felt anxious. I thought that odd because I could not imagine not having laughter in my life. I was moved to offer them a suggestion. “If you are feeling anxious and want to laugh more, you first need to learn to laugh at yourself. Sit down with God and have a good laugh.”
The next morning I was thinking more about that idea and the thought that laughter really is a prayer. If you can honestly laugh about yourself and whatever troubles you, you are telling God that you trust Him and recognize your silliness in worrying. But the laughter has to come from the right place.
There are many kinds of laughter. Many of today’s comedians use a very caustic kind of humor that is usually at someone else’s expense. There is also making fun of someone else in order to build your self up. Traditional ethnic jokes fall in these categories. There is also a way of laughing at yourself that is self deprecating and tearing yourself down. This is not prayerful laughter!
When you truly learn to laugh at yourself you are learning to laugh very humbly. You are not learning to laugh at your core being, which God made, but learning to laugh at your behavior. For those of you that are parents, I’m sure you remember times while watching your children, seeing them do something that embarrasses them terribly. But you just can’t help from laughing. You know you shouldn’t but you just can’t help it! Your laughter doesn’t spring from thinking them foolish or worse. It comes from an honest feeling of compassion for their pain but knowing that they will soon forget all about it. That’s what laughing with Jesus is like! You run to Jesus crying your eyes out feeling miserable. He snatches you up in strong loving arms. Safe in His arms you continue crying. You then feel his chest heaving beneath you with constrained laughter, you get angry a bit, and before long you can’t help but laugh yourself. Soon your tears of sorrow have turned to tears of laughter and neither of you can stop!
Laughter is also one of the ways the Holy Spirit works within us and allows us to hear what God is saying. Laughter can break down the hardest heart. It knocks us out of our attempts to solve our own problems and opens the path of communication with God that will lead us to the true solution. Laughter is the spark of creativity!
So, when things get tense go sit down with Jesus and have a good laugh! You just may end up peeing your pants!
1 “Soul Shaping,” D.J. Rumford, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1996
November 12, 2005
Please forgive me for being so remiss in getting this to you!
A while back you mentioned in Sunday school about a fellow down the street. You said he dutifully went to church with his wife, that he was an intelligent engineer who has done a lot of reading about Christianity, but just couldn’t accept the idea. You also said that he liked to discuss it with you but that you couldn’t convince him.
I was that guy once; until somebody invited me to listen to the sermons.
I think I can tell you several things about your friend…
• There is a longing in his heart. He would not be searching so hard otherwise.
• There is a fear too. That accepting Christ will require him to reject parts of his life. (This is true, but not the parts he thinks. Logic is OK.)
• He listens very intently to the sermons but weighs each statement against his own “internal model” continuously throughout the sermon.
• He suspects Christianity is a crutch people use when things aren’t going well.
• He’s very logically trying to determine the validity of Christianity.
And there is the rub; Christianity is outside of logic. Not illogical, just something bigger than logic. There is no way your friend will ever be able to prove logically anything about Christianity, one way or the other.
I was at that point when a friend asked me to try an experiment. It was actually two experiments that go hand in hand. The first is when going to church, listen to the sermon. Not critically or point-by-point, but empty your head of all expectations and objectives. Just listen to the “message,” in its entirety as if it was being delivered to you. The second experiment is to assume, or hypothesize, that the message of Christianity is real. Again, let down the defenses, the rationalizations, the fears. This is a different kind of experiment; you are in it, not just observing. After all, the point is, “How does the hypothesis affect me?” Live, for a time, listening, watching, expecting, and searching for Christ. Don’t be judgmental. Don’t weigh it against what you think should happen. It’s very much like brainstorming where you can’t judge the ideas as you go. After a substantial period of time (a month?), look back and gauge how you experienced Christ’s presence and how others around you experienced Him. Ask others how they have experienced you.
That’s how I found Christ, or I should say how someone taught me to open the door for me to meet Christ.
Hope that helps *****. I have faith it will. It’s hard to remember something so long ago. The hymn “Amazing Grace” talks about the “hour I first believed.” Sometimes I think He wants us to remember the hour before that; so we can help others.
In my prayers,
Dave McGhee - 2/12/2007
Let’s face it. Churches are not very introvert friendly.
Participatory worship, potluck suppers, public singing, mission outreach, committees, praying out loud, evangelizing, witnessing, and (Oh God help me!) small groups and youth group ice breakers! These are some of the things that will send an introvert, or shy person, trembling hurriedly to the exit.
First, I really don’t like the term introvert. It’s too clinical, too much of a label, and in our society has too many negative connotations. I prefer to use the adjective “introspective”.
Obviously churches are predominantly occupied by people that love being around other people. Introspective people are much more comfortable either with well known friends or large anonymous crowds. Including new people within their comfort zone is very difficult. Yet, God draws introspective people to church! In communion with God and God’s people is where we are supposed to be. [1 John 1:1-3(NIV); Acts 2:42(NIV)]
But do we drive people away from communion because they are different than us? Hugging an introvert is probably the wrong thing to do! A friendly smile, a quick handshake, and a “We’re glad you’re here!” is all that is necessary. It’s not our job to proactively “break them out of their shell.” It’s our job to be receptive and responsive as God moves us all toward communion. This slow approach is difficult for many fast moving people-people, or extroverts.
On the other hand, do we introspective folks push ourselves away from communion? I know I’m impatient and get frustrated when I see someone that can’t slow down to “smell the roses.” It’s our job to use our gifts to paint that rose so it becomes real and noticeable, even to “an extrovert.” Take that step and invite that next person into your comfort zone; at the pace you and God decide. Find your own way of sharing your quiet walk with Jesus.
The Toronto Observer had an article that was very informative. I was convinced of my thoughts above before I read this article. When I read the article I was amazed how close to home it hit!
I am also convinced that one way for churches to open the door to introspective folks is via the internet. Not as a preaching tool, but as an interactive means of communication. Faith’s website that allows two way topic conversation is a start, although it doesn’t have much of a following yet. I should say “was,” I just noticed that feature has been turned off!? Email discussion groups are another possibility. I’ve been experimenting with the Young in Christ Sunday school email group. I have found this very rewarding in both expressing and growing my faith. Reciprocity has been very slow to grow but God has placed several understanding people along the way!
I found this verse through a web based concordance (I had never heard of Philemon before?), “I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.” [Philemon 1:6 (NIV)] Reread that and check out who the beneficiary is!
See you in church! Or on-line!
Dave McGhee 7/29/2007
It has been pointed out that most blogs are probably not visited much and that they primarily meet the need of the blogger to express themselves publicly. An astute and mostly accurate observation! So why am I launching this experiment?
I would definitely classify myself as an introvert. In my old age and maturity I am functioning more extrovertly, but that is not my basic nature and it drains a lot of my energy. We introverts have to vent somehow though! I have found in the last few years that writing helps me organize my thoughts and has helped me greatly to express and grow my faith. You may say, “That’s what journaling is for.” And you would be correct. However, I have found that out of this journaling occasionally something really good comes forth. Something I feel that God has pressed on my heart to write down and send out! If it were just my journaling I would not be so bold to put it out on a blog! The articles I have come up with I have prayed about quite a bit and have tried hard to capture what I feel God wants me to say.
Galatians 6:1-10 along with other passages have some good advice on this subject. I would summarize these as a call to test our beliefs so that we are not deceived, either by ourselves or others. These verses also call us to gently seek guidance from our “brothers” and “instructors”. So by putting these blogs out there I am hoping to get feedback about my journey. I would be lying if I said I didn’t take pride when someone compliments one of my articles (maybe too much so, but that’s another subject). But I’m also looking for the “gentle restoration” in Galatians 6:1.
I consider Faith as my faith family. Even given that, being an introvert, these are not things that I can discuss easily face-to-face or verbally. Small groups and telephone calls are not my thing. An introvert needs to “chew” on things for awhile. I truly believe that some form of web based communication between Faith members would be a good thing; a means of extending and expanding our sense of community. Not as a substitute but as valuable augmentation. I don’t know of any other Faith blogs and if I am being called to plow the road, so be it. (Well, Pastor Steve has one now!)
I am trying very hard to structure this experiment so that it is not just me projecting outward. I very much want this to expose a new avenue for two-way communication. To offer ideas which have helped and grown my faith while also offering an avenue for others to connect with and find their own path; not to me and not to Faith, but through us to the faith in Jesus Christ that binds us.
In His service,Dave