Thursday, March 5, 2009

Lent 8: Open minds, open hearts

Several academics sat down recently with a pastor who had been their student a few years back. He planted a church a few years ago. The thousands of attendees are young and 70% are previously un-churched. The young man said, “We refuse to proselytize from other churches. After their visit, we contact churched people to thank them for showing up, but always add that we hope they enjoy their home churches.”

The music is loud and the style recognizable to surrounding culture, but the talks pull no punches: they are blunt, to the point, and elicit strong reactions. “Many people write after the first visit that they disagree with something I said, and that’s ok. We challenge them to think about what they believe and think through the claims of Jesus. They can take their time to explore, but we expect a transformed and committed life if they decide to follow him.”

My husband was enthusiastic and affirming when he came home that night. “This pastor gets it! He’s taken scripture and applied it in a very New Testament way, into the context of his surroundings.” In contrast, some others were offended that the upstart wasn’t running church as usual. They couldn’t wrap their heads around the success of a model which purposed to introduce Jesus to people within their culture, rather than the formal “withdrawal from the world” model they preferred. “It won’t last. It’s a fad that isn’t what church is meant to be.” (Sadly, for all our contemporary academia, we sometimes are uncomfortable when God works outside our box. Sometimes, the more learning we have, the more rigid our thinking.)

I asked my husband why his response was embracing rather than distraught or uneasy. “You and I were called as missionaries,” he said. “We expect God to interact within every culture, even the post-Christian one of the USA. We are on a mission path, so when we hear of God at work today in scripture, it causes excitement, not hesitation or resistance.”

This Lenten season, we are asking what God is doing that is new and fresh. How are people telling the old, old story? Where is the Wind of the Spirit blowing that makes us uncomfortable just because we haven’t experienced it before?

Let’s be open to joining, praying for, and supporting those who follow the Shepherd on paths to new meadows where his voice has not yet been heard.
God's peace to you today!

*If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:1-8 NIV

*So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. 2 Timothy 2:22 NLT

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