>Redux

>Confession: I like soccer.  

I enjoy watching it, I enjoy reading about it, I think the skill and passion is unreal.  The idea of running as much as Michael Bradley does in one two-hour stretch makes my abs hurt, and I’m just laying here watching.  However, my father does not.  At all.  He calls me regularly to make fun of it, calling it “my sport.”  He can’t handle the prima donna nature of most of these athletes (I’m looking at you South America and Eastern Europe) and the flopping.  Oh the flopping.  During the Ghana/USA match, a Ghanian player attempted a bicycle kick, missed, landed awkwardly, looked up and saw that he had missed, and immediately started screaming like he’d been shot.  No one touched him, no one was within 15 feet of him, but after he made a complete fool of himself he had to do something.  I agree with my dad on this…its absolutely insane.  They feel they are entitled to all the attention and drama, and that if someone had the audacity to touch them, they should pay dearly (with a frightening piece of yellow card stock) as if it was a national crime.  I spend more time yelling at them to suck it up and keep playing than I do anything else.  It is, in a word, frustrating.

My current reading project is an interesting one: They Like Jesus But Not the Church, by Dan Kimball.  In it, he discusses how the new emergent generation (which is quite a generalization, but that’s not what I’m writing about. This time.) has become so disconnected from the church because of what we’ve done to it.  I can’t disagree with this point; in fact, one of my favorite quotes from the book is by Bono when he states, “It’s hard to tolerate Christians. I don’t see how Jesus does it.”  If that doesn’t sting a little, then you need to reexamine your priorities.

There’s a brief history lesson in the book, detailing the early church and how it looked to those on the outside looking in.  One of my favorite parts of church history is our Incest/Cannibal stage.  Those who weren’t part of the cult of Christianity heard us call each other brother and sister (and then marry each other…) and saw us partake of a ceremony eating the body and blood of Christ and immediately thought “these people are NUTS.”  I don’t blame them…to the uninformed, that looks a lot like incestuous relationships and cannibalism were the norm and fully supported by all parties involved.  The way the early Christians defused this potentially hairy situation (which was compounded by claims of treason…worshipping a Lord that isn’t Caesar) was by getting out and actually talking to those not in the church.  We actually used kindness and words and explained ourselves. Shocking.

So lets roll the calendars forward a couple thousand years.  We’re in an era where Christians are labeled as bigots, intolerant, hateful, thrifty, elitist…I’m sure you can come up with more unfortunate names we’ve accrued over the years.  Especially if you’re in the churches of Christ, we are unfairly (sometimes…) burdened with the sins of others as well as a skewed public perception.  Yet, instead of getting out and fixing the problem, we tend to curl up in the fetal position and wail about the “world” and how mean they are and the evils of this lost generation.

That’s the beauty of Kimball’s book: this “lost generation” is actually receptive to Christ!  They want to learn about Him, about what it truly means to love.  We have just done a terrible job of showing that love to them, so there is this massive disconnect between Christ and His people.  So the next time you feel like complaining about being misunderstood or like the world is against Christianity, ask yourself what you’ve done to alter that perception.  If the answer is nothing (like it is for me), then shut up and play ball.  We’ve done nothing to earn this right to complain.  Just like the soccer players, when someone slights us even the tiniest bit, we think its breaking the Geneva Convention.  Really, we need to shake the dirt off, and get back out there on the pitch to keep fighting for our Lord.

“Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”  Acts 5:38-39

>Vanilla Worship

>Yes, its been two months. Sorry. All four of you who read this.

Since my last update, we’ve ended the school year, graduated a great class of kids, I’ve been to Uplift at Harding University, and Abby has finished her summer clinic rotation.  We leave for South Dakota in four days, and that will begin our whirlwind tour of this great nation of ours.  Hopefully I’ll be able to post some great things about our travels, but let’s be honest: I don’t update so well.

Uplift was a fantastic experience.  I got to know a bunch of the kids at Sugar Grove really well, met some incredible people like our counselor, Goldfish (a.k.a. Trever), and really got the spiritual boost I need to jumpstart into summer.  Being a teacher has it’s benefits, like summers off, but it also means lots of free time by myself when Abby is so busy, so I’ve had to find ways to keep myself busy, and constantly napping just won’t cut it.  I got a ton of great books at Harding and I’ve been hacking away at some other books I’ve had throughout the year, so it was a great starting point.

Something struck me as we were sitting in worship one night, hands and voices raised to our God in praise.  Every camp has its spiritual high, and every youth ministry has its “don’t let it end here guys” speech, which inevitably fails miserably.  I think I found one of the key culprits for that failure, and it may cause some of you to stop reading, respecting, or even acknowledging me: Church.

Now, I’m sure there are some angry thoughts swirling through your head right now, but hear me out.  Our kids, and even the adults, at camp are immersed in worship. We get up praising God, we learn about Him, we fellowship with likeminded people, we worship some more, and then (at Uplift at least) we have multiple baptisms and everyone is just soaking in the Spirit.  And then, after five days of camp, we come home, the vibes start to fade, and then we hit Sunday morning worship and it just falls flat.  We are used to vibrancy and life, excitement and passion, and for most of us in the CoC, normal Sundays just don’t deliver that. We stand when we are told to stand, we sit when we are told to sit, we pray (or “pray”) when others pray, we absorb or deflect the message, and then we figure out where to eat lunch.  After the high of camp, church can be incredibly deflating.

Here’s the goofy thing though: that’s how it should be every week.  We should be so moved by the Spirit that amazing, unbelievable things happen throughout the week, and we have this immense build up and we just can’t wait to get to Sunday mornings to tell everyone about it, and then we’re confined by this building and this structure and formality and we’re literally bursting at the seams to get back out into the world and let God shine His glory all over this mess once again!  Can you see it? Sunday morning should be the most boring part of our week!  Christ didn’t do His miracles primarily in the temple; He did them amongst the people.  There’s a reason Eutychus fell asleep listening to Paul in Acts 20–teaching is all fine and dandy, but God shows His power outside those walls.  I certainly can’t think of any story in the Bible that starts with “after an orderly worship service and an altar call…”

We need the church for support and rejuvenation, but to rely on a Sunday service to get us through the week is preposterous.  If anything, we should rely on the week to get us through Sunday, so we can get back out and experience God in the world.  Imagine a world where camp isn’t a spiritual high, but church is a spiritual low!

That’s certainly a situation God can work with.

“Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through Him, as you yourselves know.”  Acts 2:22