21 September 2011
I'm interested in what this book my add to the conversation on community. Most recent literature written about building community seems to miss big factors that cannot be ignored.
1. The current construct of going to church; listen to a sermon, watch a band lead worship on stage and benefit from a program put together by a high capacity leader, actually works against attempts to organize people into smaller community groups throughout the week that are more than bible studies. This is a habit most people and pastors are unwilling to be weaned off of.
2. The current culture of narcissism and emotional/relational dysfunction is the elephant in the room when it comes to sharing life with people. Sure you can organize people together, get them to do some missional activities and maybe even get them to pray together but true community will always squeeze "heart-stuff" to the surface most churches ignore in discipleship. Most say they want community and think its a wonderful experience when it happens but stuff like envy, jealousy, spiritual posturing, grudge-holding, selfishness with personal time, lack of appreciation for others unlike them, poor listening, cynicism and stubbornness in mutual submission end up filling up the communal space. These attributes get pushed to the surface quickly if community is really starting to happen. I don't see many church practice books seriously wrestling with what ends up consuming the discipleship in community.
19 September 2011
In the last couple years or so I’ve been increasingly aware of the phrase “for God’s Glory” or “to Glorify God”. In Christian circles this mantra is thrown around like confetti. I fully embrace that God is glorious and worthy of worship. Still, I’m not sure on a practical level if setting out to give God glory is actually giving God glory. I wonder sometimes if the pursuit might be misdirected and leading us away from where Jesus directed us. This “glory banner” seems to be causing us to smooth over unwise choices and trample love under its feet. I’ve been evaluating the effects of living by this mantra.
1. I don’t believe we have the power or vantage point to determine what does glorify God and what doesn’t. In our Christian culture we attach any semi-spiritual pursuit to the intent of glorifying God. On the flip side we speak quite confidently about what does not glorify God outside the church walls. How God gains attention or acclaim for Himself is a mystery and is something only He determines. Slapping “God was glorified” on our human actions is a little presumptuous on God himself; He is the judge and interpreter.
2. Glory is not the best target; Love for God and Love Others is. Jesus came to earth to rescue the broken human project because He loved it so much. He did not give into temptation that would take Him away from what holy love was compelling Him to do. Love for the “other” according to John 3:16 is the beginning point for “why” God did what he did. Now, because of Jesus’ laser focus on carrying out his mission of sacrificial love for every human that walks the earth, God was and is glorified. Yes, Jesus’ holy love glorified God. Love compelled by Jesus naturally glorifies God on His terms. But setting out to glorify God does not necessarily lead to a love-filled-life packed with love-filled-choices. Holy love forces our life through a refiner’s fire. It demands we push our lives through a sift (I Corinthians 13) that transforms us and transforms those around us. I’m saddened by the amount of Christians building their churches for the glory of God that are actually quite unloving.
3. Going after “giving glory to God” has caused us to blow past wisdom. Recently I heard someone say they were going to share the “plan of salvation” with someone. I asked if they were friends. They replied “well sorta.” I asked if they had modeled generosity, hospitality and service to that person. They replied “well they know what I stand for.” I began to question the wisdom of presenting God to someone they had not built a foundation of love with. They responded “well in the end all that matters is God is glorified.” He used that mantra to smooth over the lack of wisdom, patience and carefulness applied in the situation. This is not an isolated situation, I've observed this "smoothing over" with the use of that mantra all the time. Wisdom causes us to slow down, take into account the social habits of people, the history of an individual, their present needs and the complexity of human brokenness. Wisdom pushes us to be attentive, present, active listeners, thoughtful, patient and careful. Giving glory to God is too often used as a trump card over navigating situations with wisdom.
4. The attempt to give glory to God buys into the idea that God needs us to defend His reputation. God is big enough to defend himself. We don’t need to “stand up” for God. The best way to stick up for God’s reputation is by tethering to a Kingdom community of people sharing life; working to live selfless, humble, love-soaked lives with each other and amongst their neighborhoods. We have one simple life altering task; live like Jesus, love like Jesus and submit to Jesus.
5. Christianity needs a strong dose of "groundedness" instead of hanging on nebulous, head-in-the-clouds cliches. The Pharisees at one point ask Jesus what is the holiest law or “how is God most glorified”. Jesus responds with a shocking reversal; love God and love others. The way the Greek reads in this situation it could be interpreted “love God by loving others”. Jesus set a new precedent that our social/emotion/relational life must be dealt with seriously to follow Him and please God. I meet way too many “sold out for God types” who are awful at loving people well. They steam roll over others as they talk, they champion their call while not slowing down for the weaker along the path, they show favoritism to those who serve their agendas, ignore doing justice for the those who cannot reciprocate and they sing loud praise songs but neglect the emotional needs of their family.
If Christians became less obsessed with the marker of “glorifying God" and more consumed with doing the hard work of loving others the way God poured himself out in love towards us God would be supremely glorified. We’d also have a very different reputation in our country and in our local communities.