Monday, September 29, 2014

Looking to Gallop Again

An Inkling
This coming Sunday is “World Communion Sunday,” when we give special attention to the global breadth of those gathered at the Lord’s table.
Have you heard the phrase “world Christian?”  Many use the phrase to emphasize the importance of expanding our vision of Christianity beyond our immediate experience of the faith here in America.  It’s high time that we do so.
Consider the following (courtesy of church historian, Mark Noll):
  • Last Sunday more Christians attended worship in China than in all of so-called Christian Europe.
  • Last Sunday more Anglicans attended worship in each of Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda than in Britain and the U.S.A. combined.
  • Last Sunday more Presbyterians attended worship in Ghana than in Scotland, and in the Uniting Presbyterian Church of Southern African than in the U.S.A. 
  • Last Sunday more people attended worship at a single church, the Yoido Full Gospel Church of Seoul, Korea, than in several whole denominations of significance in the U.S.A., such as the Christian Reformed Church and the Presbyterian Church in America.

And that’s just a sampling of how things stack up in the church around the world!  Considering the way the gospel is galloping in Asia, Africa, and South America, we who live in the land of the crawling gospel had better take note.  How might we American and European Christians regain our stride?  Might it be that our primary tutors in this season will be those in the very lands to which we once sent the gospel message? 
The very upside-down quality of this “world Christian” business sure does makes it sound like a God thing.  Let’s see what we can learn from a whole world of Christians, and maybe we will see the gospel gallop again in our land!


Monday, September 22, 2014

And You Were Expecting?

An Inkling
The woman sat across the desk from the pastor and said, “After three weeks of enjoying the church’s services, prayer, fellowship, and counseling, I still feel a deep spiritual yearning.  So I’m going to sue your socks off.” 
Such is the picture in an old cartoon I recently came across.  It makes a joke of unrealistic expectations.  We may as well laugh.  For we inevitably (and painfully!) bring unworkable expectations with us into every new experience. 
For example, check out newlyweds.  The proverbial “you know the honeymoon is over” moment comes with the realization that one’s expectations are out of synch with marital reality.  Gratefully such expectations can be revised.  In fact, such revision is essential for the marriage to prosper.  And, of course, it’s not just marriage.  All of life’s significant arenas engage us in a continual process of retooling our expectations.   
So it is with St. Giles.  We laugh at the woman’s ludicrous expectations.  But what are yours?  Are they laughable?  Not to you.  You have reasons for your expectations.  One step toward making them realistic is to identify them, and the next is to ponder on their origins.  Whence came your expectations?  From previous church experiences?  From comparing St. Giles with neighboring churches?  From your own needs that you hope St. Giles will meet?  Yes, yes, and yes.  Of such are the origins of our expectations.
And as for guides in their revising, the most important is the Bible.  It describes God’s ways with his people, the very ways he works with us.  If we want realistic expectations of St. Giles in specific and life in general, it is well to know what God is up to! 
Being a church with you is a great adventure, and I thank God for your partnership – even if you are thinking of suing!


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Your Leaders in the Way of Jesus

An Inkling
Allow me to brag on your elders.  As I met with them last night, I was reminded again and again of how richly God has blessed St. Giles with leaders in the way of Jesus.  Here are some facets of their leadership:
They love you.  Many scorn the church, and find it easy to cite reasons for their derision.  But Jesus loves the church -- even knowing what he knows.  And your elders follow Jesus in that way.
They take risks.  The easiest way to "lead" is to find what makes most people the most comfortable and do it.  But that's not leadership in the way of Jesus, who has this nasty habit of calling us out of our comfort zones.  Your elders follow Jesus in that way, which puts them at risk, both of failure and of your disapproval.  Why would they take such risks?  Well, see number one above:  they love you.
They seek God.  They have to.  They're in over their heads and they know it.  So they desperately seek God.  And in that posture itself they are leading you in the way of Jesus.
They are well-partnered in the ECO.  God has blessed St. Giles with some amazing partners in our new denomination.  Your elders are being inspired by the vision casting and sharing of best practices in the ECO in ways far beyond what we could come up with on our own.  Check out their inspiration for yourself from last month's ECO national gathering.  To appreciate your elders' leadership listen to John Ortberg's sermon:  http:/  Then to understand some of our new mission directions, watch Alan Hirsch's three videos:
We're on an adventure here, and the Lord has provided some fine leaders in the way of Jesus.  Let's go together!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Better Than Tolerance

An Inkling
Blogs are well suited for light lifting – the humorous, the pithy, the heart-warming.  But today my thoughts are heavier lifting – at least for me!
Here’s what I’ve been pondering:  as best I can tell, the only virtue that can spring from relativism is tolerance.  But tolerance is anemic compared with the virtue that comes with an assured commitment to the truth of the gospel, forbearance. 
Let’s unpack that a bit.  Relativism is the assumption that truth and morality are not finally dependable because they are simply a product of one’s cultural and historical context.  It is the assumed belief of the vast majority in America, and all the stronger because they hold it unaware.
Tolerance is a willingness to abide beliefs or behavior with which one does not agree.  We cut each other some slack since no one really knows what’s true or right anyway!  Such tolerance provides a measure of peace when different sorts of people live next to each other.  And that’s good.
But it’s anemic compared to forbearance.  Forbearance is a willingness to bear with someone’s failings and errors because of a love for that person.  Tolerance withers when the dissonance becomes too marked.  Forbearance is more robust, for it is founded upon God’s own forbearance toward us in Jesus, and not simply on the idea that none of our beliefs are really assured.
This kind of philosophical thinking can make your brain run hot.  But it becomes simpler when one knows Jesus.  It becomes an of course kind of thing.  Because of his love for us Jesus forbears with us, even as his grace is transforming us.  So of course we would want to forbear with others.  Mere tolerance runs a poor second.
May the way we live make our forbearance obvious and the source of our forbearance apparent to all!