Tales From the Church Refrigerator | I’ll Take the Heat

Once upon a time…

A preacher greeted the congregation as they exited the sanctuary. It had been a blessing of a time, a gathering that included the faithful praying for God’s will, hearing God’s love proclaimed enthusiastically and the receiving of Holy Communion.

People smiled, hugged and even offered a holy kiss or two as the time for their gathered worship concluded.

One saint offered a blessing as he was leaving, just like most people that day. He included an additional offer. “I’ll take the heat for that,” he said to the preacher. Confused, he inquired, “Heat for what?”

“The ushers. I chose them,” apologized the saint.

The horror of what happened that day went right under the preacher’s clerical nose.

At that moment, it was too soon to judge the situation with complete accuracy. Had the ushers been chosen beforehand? Were the usual ushers unavailable? Was this a statement Sunday for the usher chooser? For whatever reason those ushers were chosen, that day they performed their role correctly, on cue. There’s no other possible explanation for the congregation’s collection to have been received in the manner it was.

And Communion?

People filed in line, following the hand motions and head nods of those ushers. The congregation received the body and blood of Christ.

So, what would be a saint to take heat for anything other than sharing the Gospel of Jesus?

As the saint left the line, it dawned on the unsuspecting preacher what he had missed. He met the ushers at the front of the sanctuary to present the offerings. He watched as they ushered the congregation for Communion. Actually, it wasn’t the preacher who was missing anything. It was the ushers.

For in their service that Sunday, they employed no tie, blazer or dress slacks.

And they lived happily ever after.

Yes, I cried

Y’all, I teared up.

I can’t recall the last time I felt this affirmed about the ministry God has given me! Out of the blue, unnecessarily, I received 2 words of encouragement and affirmation yesterday. They were unrelated comments and given by two totally different people. I usually struggle with compliments. Many of you know that. But I received those words as true affirmation. I didn’t think too much about it afterwards.

Then!

I’ve cried in Bible study before. I had tears when I read Same Kind of Different as Me–which I heard the movie is on Netflix now. Other than that, I don’t know that I’ve ever been emotional after reading something. Then last night I began reading From the Steeple to the Street.

Where do I begin?

I hope I do this justice.

The author wrote about “Petrine apostleship” and “Pauline apostleship.” The easy way for me to boil those terms down is by suggesting there are, for the sake of this conversation, 2 types of pastors: Those who pastor established churches (Petrine, considering the apostle Peter’s ministry) and those who plant churches (Pauline, considering the Apostle Paul).

I’ve wrestled with this for a long time. Because, I think, of my big mouth and personality, people have often tried to lead me to Pauline apostleship, church planting. Let me confess to you. I’ve considered becoming a church planter many times because I’ve often thought it couldn’t be anywhere near as difficult as trying to reform an already-established church. That doesn’t mean I don’t think there are challenges in church planting. I’m smarter than that. I don’t know how I would handle some of those challenges.

But starting new has its great advantages.

Trying to renew, it seems, merely has advantages.

To be frank, the Pauline pastors are the ones everyone wants to hear from. They, supposedly, have all the good ideas and are in tune with the new things of the Spirit more than anyone else. I don’t want you to think I’m ranting about anything. So, I’m going to keep that thought short. Just know that’s the way it is sometimes.

To be even more frank, there have been times where I have questioned what the Heaven I’m doing in these churches. People complain too much. Bicker too much. Criticize too much. Pray too little. And then tell me it’s all for the glory of God. Thankfully, I’ve learned to let all that slide off. I don’t take any of it personally–just ask my wife. But it is frustrating because we’re supposed to be dedicated to the kingdom of God, not to the kingdom of Me.

Have I bored you yet?

Okay, here’s the part that brought out some emotions in me. The author had something strong to say about pastors like me (See? I’m not the only one!). I’ve already considered that you might not find this as meaningful as me, but that’s okay. Speaking about Petrine pastors, he says:

Complex organizational realities and competing political realities don’t rob Petrine apostles of their joy. (Not completely, at least.) The needs of the world outside the church, and the potential meaning and joy that come from being a missional church, keep the Petrine apostles in the proverbial game. Petrine apostles will be misunderstood by both the old-schoolers within the traditional church as well as the spiritual swashbucklers outside it. From the one side will come unwarranted complaints that the Petrines only care about the new and creative ministries. From the other side will come unfair accusations that, if they had missional hearts, the Petrines would be out on the front lines instead of in an established church. They miss out on the hero status bestowed upon the pioneers, and suffer from charges of neglect from people who crave more attention. They are disparaged by tradition-bound pastors who view the Petrines’ creativity as frivolity, and, on the other hand, are dismissed by pioneers who assume the Petrines are motivated by fear or money or another one of the unseemly reasons why someone would want to draw a salary from a church.

The one called to love God’s sons and daughters as they are, and to draw out from them a God-given passion for those yet outside the family, are Petrine apostles.

I want to say something about every one of those sentences. For now, I’m thankful that God saw it fit to give some encouragement and a strong, renewed sense of affirmation. If you thought I was annoying up until now………

Stay blessed…john

Those people

By the time you hear a sermon preached, there are words, illustrations and maybe even a rant or two that’s been left out.

This weekend, I preached from 1 Corinthians 12. We heard that one of the gifts God has given us, the church, is the gift of unity. The unity of God’s Church is unique. No other group of humans can experience this unity in the same way because God has brought us together.

I left out a quote I had been considering. In the end, it didn’t fit, exactly, what we were hearing. I’ll probably use it some time in the future.

In the mean time, it’s a great enough thought that you should hear it now.

I read The Turquoise Table this week. The book is about creating community. In our ever-connected but truly disconnected world, that can be hard to do. We have a hard time trusting others. Seeing others differently.

Writing about our need to deconstruct the walls we put up between each other, the author quoted another author, saying:

We are those people. The truth is, we are the others. Most of us are one paycheck, one divorce, one drug addicted kid, one mental health illness, one sexual assault, one drinking binge, one night of unprotected sex, or one affair away from being those people. The ones we don’t trust. The ones we pity. The ones we don’t let our kids play with. The ones bad things happen to. The ones we don’t want living next door.
(Emphasis mine)
Lord, with that reminder, help us, as much as it is possible on our part, to live at peace with everyone.
Stay blessed…john

3 steps to reading

This is a great idea!

If you’re wondering how to get kids to read, it’s actually pretty simple. Have them watch adults who do. I don’t have to prove that. It’s been demonstrated forever.

But here’s the more difficult question: How do you get adults to read?

Parents expect their children to learn how to read the Bible, for example, but aren’t in the habit of reading it themselves. What I’ve learned is that the adults don’t read the Bible not because they don’t believe it’s important. They just don’t read anything.

That’s a problem.

Reading impacts so much of our life.

I didn’t always read. It’s only been in the last 15 years that I’ve actually been a reader. It was difficult for me for a long while. But I stuck with it. It’s been several years that I read at least 24 books a year. My goal is to double that, at some point.

So, here’s my advice if you don’t consider yourself a reader. This is going to be a novel approach–you might want to take notes. There are 3 things to remember:

  1. Just do it. You’ll find it’s not that big a deal once you start.
  2. Start small. Carve out 10 minutes each day to read. (That’s the same advice I give for starting to pray and read the Bible.)
  3. Start smart. If you’re not used to reading, don’t start with a book about brain surgery, unless that interests you. Find something that you’re easily engaged with. Remember, the goal is to get used to reading.

And no, none of that is novel at all. It isn’t Rocket Science. They’re just words that need to be read.

Speaking of novels…

Stay blessed…john

 

 

Now you can understand a procrastinator

I know people like you!

You mock people like me.

You get-things-done-in-a-timely-manner people always make fun of us procrastinators.  Yes, I am a procrastinator.  In fact, I’m a Pro procrastinator.

One time in seminary, I decided to do an assignment early.  It was a bit difficult to muster the right attitude to get it done.  But I finished the paper about 10 days before it was due.  I laughed about it and considered it a blessing from Baby Jesus.

Baby Jesus forgot to remind me to turn the paper in on time.

I lost a whole letter grade because it was late.

Since then I’ve learned that I’m a procrastinator and there’s nothing wrong with that.  It’s how I work best. And my work gets done.  And it gets done well.

Here’s a great explanation of how a procrastinator’s brain (kind of) works.

Stay blessed…john