As a warning to those of you that follow me mainly for my life changing running stories and saliva inducing food pictures, this blog is going to be more along the lines of SEEDING and LEADING. Running, Eating, and Repeating will definitely take front and center stage again next.
As you may or may not know, I am planting a church with my husband and basically I run the whole show. I do, however, allow him to show up on Sundays looking snazzy and allow him to take credit for all of my hard behind the scenes work……..:) In any worthy endeavor in life there is going to be an element of tension. Whether you are training for a marathon, fighting off a craving for a 3rd consecutive gallon of ice cream, or trying to keep your kids from running in front of on coming traffic. This blog speaks to the tension of the great commission (going into the world, preaching the gospel, teaching people, and baptizing people in Jesus name). I hope you enjoy it and if you are not a Christian or not in leadership at your church or another charitable non-profit, you will still get some great information from this. Entrepreneurs, business people, leaders in the marketplace, and even the neighborhood Mom PTA president all have to deal with tension.
Most of life is navigating tension. Not all tension is bad. Tension is good. Tension is what helps a rubber band stretch and as a result of that stretch, it hold things together. The tension reveals its purpose. Tension is what causes your muscles to function and grow within a healthy body. The thing about tension is that without it, nothing grows or is held together, but with too much, things snap. As a church whose mission is to reach those far from God and those that have never known God, we must learn to navigate the tension of seeing people come to Christ and experience new life, while letting God do his work in His time. We want people to come as they are, no perfect people allowed, but we trust that God won’t leave them in the same condition that they came. The tension in this is that as human beings, we feel a need to change people and situations too quickly. It is hard for us to relinquish the control of life change to God. We know that if people will just lay aside every weight and sin and surrender to God that they can run the race with greater ease and efficiency, but they don’t know that yet. Habits, hurts, and hang ups plague people and only the Spirit of God can lead to transformation and break through. We cannot speed up that process. Because of this, we will see many people stumble and fall along the way if we are truly reaching un-churched and de-churched people. In fact, even the most seasoned among us will trip from time to time.
Navigating church life with a vision beyond ourselves, a vision into our community, and a vision focused on those outside of our “religious” community will require moments that we have to sink into and embrace tension. It is like raising a child. You, as a parent, provide a loving and nurturing home and show your kids how to function, but you can’t ultimately decide what path they will choose. As a parent, you can’t force your child into the next developmental stage prematurely or you can cause harm. For example, I fully intended that at some point Reese will have a job and pay his own bills, however, it would not be wisdom of me to expect this right now. He is still growing, developing, and maturing. He still says things about me that aren’t true like “you never let me have any fun all you want me to do is work on homework”. My responsibility to nurture and guide him is not removed by the fact that he is choosing to create tension and spread falsehoods throughout the house rather than just surrender to what is best for him developmentally in that moment.
I thought Reese would never potty train. It was getting down right ridiculous at one point. I was frustrated. We were in a power struggle, and, there was at least one occasion that he looked right at me and pooped on the floor of our living room instead of heeding my call to the toilet. If he had Facebook he probably would’ve posted something like “I showed my mom who was boss. I don’t have to listen to this.” He has no recollection of this now because he is growing into maturity. He is slowly learning that what mom and dad say is for his own good. The power struggles haven’t even really begun, but I’m geared up for the rebellious years because I’m praying for my children and I also know that conflict and tension are not always bad. They are what make us grow and move onto new developmental stages.
As leaders and children of God, our job is obedience. Our job is a faithful heart. Our job is action. Our job is to move forward with what God has called us to do, and not get distracted along the way when the rubber band gets pulled tightly.
In a 21st century setting, we will be dealing with a lot of insecurities and attention seeking behaviors from some people using social media to become the center of the world. We will see this from the “churched” “de-churched” and apathetic toward church.
My advice to such people is straight from the word of God:
1 Timothy 4:12, “Be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.”
We can’t control decisions made and words spoken by other people, but we can control ourselves. This scripture was advice from Paul to Timothy. Remember Timothy was a preacher of the gospel and was still getting attacked from people in and outside of the church. Paul’s reaction to Timothy was not to go publicly defend yourself, but to allow his life, fruits, and actions speak for themselves. If Timothy had Facebook, he wouldn’t have gone to Facebook to garner commentary and “likes” for his plight or to prove something about his character. He would’ve continued to use his Facebook to edify, build up, encourage, or just to keep in touch with people like it was intended.
The bottom line is that tall trees catch the most wind. When you are flowing with the wind of the Spirit and you are moving in a God given direction, there will be windbags and people with hot air to take the wind out of your sails. There will be storms that come and go, but I know that the identity of the Bridge Church and my personal identity come from Christ, not what other people say or do. I’m not IN-secure because I don’t look IN-side myself or to others for affirmation. I am in Christ, so therefore I am SECURE.
There will be people who say and do things along the way that shock us or hurt our feelings. This is actually GOOD news. A growing church, a growing body of believers, and people united in UNITY are a target for the enemy. If you aren’t being criticized it is because nothing is happening.
Stagnant ponds don’t attract surfers. There are no waves to ride on. Only oceans that bring in the tide and are moving with the WIND create waves.
Let’s be honest… sometimes, the church is the LEAST safest place for a human being, but this is NOT going to be said of the Bridge Church. We will rise with respect and honor and integrity for all people.
Speaking of Jesus, the book of Isaiah says, “He was despised and rejected–a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised.” It looks like false accusations and pain are sometimes part and parcel of pursuing Jesus.
Some people will USE the church at some point for whatever they can get from it and are not truly desiring life change from God. Whether it be money, attention, affection, or a whole host of other things they are seeking we shouldn’t be surprised. We can only pray that while their motives and intentions are not pure, that God can move on them and change their hearts. Only God can. We can’t. All we can do is create a space that allows people to grow. A space that allows people to throw tantrums during spiritual potty training (some people drop their CRAP everywhere they go because it is all they have ever known). We will teach them to go to leadership and talk things out. We will teach people who have been around God for a long time to have grace in dealing with people that are just learning to breathe. We will hold our tongues and not let our IN-securities as leaders make us jump to defend things that don’t need defended. We will hold our peace and let the Lord fight our battles.
Proverbs tells us that too many words stir up strife and the tongue of the wicked is the tongue wagging the loudest and brashest. The Pastor will deal with wolves that are trying to prowl on baby sheep and devour them, but know that sometimes baby sheep are learning to walk and learning to breathe and they will trip and fall on themselves over and over again. Sometimes there is no wolf and it is self sabotaging that is going on. Sometimes people just don’t want to take responsibility for their own behavior. They may break legs in the process. They may get cut. However, ultimately as a hospital and nursery, the church has to be a place of grace and healing and mercy.
Let God steer the ship and provide the correct amount of tension for our sails. Tension is necessary and forces us to grow and advance forward. Tension makes us stronger and wiser. We trust that tension in our lives means that God is working.
I Peter 4 Speaks to this tension far more perfectly than anything I could come up with.
12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. Do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.
18 And,“If it is hard for the righteous to be saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?”
Let’s make the Church the safest place for the most broken of souls.
Let’s be the most accepting to the most unacceptable.
Let’s extend radical grace in ways that are foreign to all but Christ.
Let’s BE the Church.
The tension of the springs on a trampoline keep it together for maximum FUN! What other things in life are more fun with a little tension? (Hint: FULL BODY MASSAGE)