One evening during my study break this past summer I found a documentary over George Washington on Amazon Prime. As Debi and I watched the preview for the docudrama, she got the sense the flick was more hero worship than historical. We didn’t take in the show so I can’t make a review. But I did wonder if maybe a little hero worship might not be a bad thing these days.
You see, we live in a culture of criticism today where anything that is not 100% aligned with our feelings is speculative and everything is open for potshots. Cynicism is supreme and praise is problematic. No, we don’t want to deify people nor turn a blind eye to blatant sin. However, when we are geared toward tearing down, we miss so much good intertwined with the weeds that we pull up the whole plant and have nothing to encourage ourselves with or learn from.
One arena where this is especially seen is in discussions about the church. Even celebrated Christian writer, Francis Chan, noted that his objective in a recent book was to “point out areas where the church is lacking.” Areas where the church is lacking? We all know that local bodies of Christ have issues. I’ve been in some form of Christian ministry for over 25 years and I can tell you plenty of stories of dysfunction. The question though is one of focus. What will we choose to spend our time looking at; the problems or the praise? This is especially true for followers of Jesus. Yes, there are issues to be discussed and strategies to be employed for improvement. However, when we do nothing but throw stones at the church, we are ultimately harming ourselves.
When I look around at the world today and see all the pains and problems, I am also quickly reminded that Jesus has the answers in his body, which is the universal church. Loneliness is alieved when people connect passionately with Jesus at the center. When the local church family is embraced, we find healing and purpose in a world of self-centeredness. In short, while there are issues arising from our broken humanity, we owe it to ourselves and those who come after us to pursue and praise the local church which is to reflect the authentic universal and eternal Church.
But on a more intimate note, one of my favorite Biblical pictures of the church is the Bride of Christ. It’s interesting to see the tension of this illustration with a book by Dan Kimball entitled, “They Like Jesus but Not the church.” Here’s the deal. I am not perfect nor is my wife. However, if someone began to trash talk my bride and say they liked me, but not her, well then, our relationship would be over with. You just don’t talk bad about my bride. Jesus probably doesn’t like it much when people talk down His Bride especially with a caviler attitude. That ought to challenge us.
I’ll be making some posts this fall on the church and I hope they will be of an encouragement to you. I hope that at the end of all this, you will love the church as much as I do. Yes, there are and will be problems. But it is my desire that we might own up to our responsibilities and stand together to praise the Bride of Christ as much as He does.
What are some positive memories or praises that you can give about the universal Church or your local body of Christ today?
Francis Chan, Letters to The Church (Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook, 2018), 211.
Here we go! This afternoon I’m fully back in the saddle after a three and a half week’s study break from my regular role at Cypress Crossings Christian Church and other ministry duties. I also used this opportunity for a social media fast which I highly recommend doing yourself sometime. After 25 years of full-time ministry, I have only taken one such a break before. Thus some huge gratitude goes out to the elders of Cypress Crossings for being more than willing to grant me these past weeks to rest, recharge, and refocus. Have your ever felt like you needed a re-focus?
I was surprised that I had to remind myself that I was actually on a break. While the plan was to ensure uninterrupted study and prayer time, it was also supposed to be an extended Sabbath. Here’s the reality that I’m speaking of. Often full-time Christian ministry never stops unless you purposefully schedule in times of Sabbath and rest. For me, even assumed social gatherings are work as I’m “working” to get others connected closer to Jesus and each other. So it was good for me to unplug as much as possible and remind myself that there was indeed some purpose to the pause. A good article by Trevor Devage speaks to the value of such times of retreat for preachers.
My study goal included three or four new books to read, but what happened rather is that I picked up a couple of older books of great worth to go through with fresh eyes. The result was a reminder of things forgotten and for a greater focus going into the fall and future with preaching, church leadership, writing, and other ministry. One of those books was Simple Church by Thom S. Rainer which I had originally read during our church planting work in California. In short, Rainer notes that it is easy to get swamped by programs and business and miss the simple path of leading people into a discipleship relationship with Jesus. Just keeping things focused and simple can be a very powerful move.
An exciting fruit of the break is the upcoming release of Confessions on the Audible format which should go public the first part of September. The physical copy is still available through Amazon and B&N. I’ve created a survey here for the future direction of the Mid-Week Challenge that ran every Wednesday last year at noon. So take some time and share your input before the survey closes next week. I’m truly interested in how this tool can be more helpful for people.
Over all it was a productive break. I am reminded of the value in the Old Testament where God called His people to rest and the times where Jesus commanded his disciples to get into a boat and cross the lake for a season of respite and refocus. The truth is that when we unplug from the clutter of culture and get alone with God it is so much easier to hear his voice and see his path.
What about you? Have you had some time this summer to shut the world off and sit with the king? If so, what did you discover?
I’m planning to take the rest of July and early August for a study break. This will include plenty of prayer and planning along with dedicated time for study. As well, will be taking a media fast. See you on the other side. What are you doing to get quiet and alone with God this summer?