Fiddlers on the Church Roof….

fiddlerAlmost every Christian community I’ve served in has had a preoccupation with

  • what we do over who we are;
  • what we say rather than how we live;
  • what we prefer rather than what is essential to our call as God’s people;
  • how church fits into our lives more than how to be missional disciples called to the places we find ourselves
  • getting people in as opposed to being sent
  • institution rather than movement
  • human safety over Kingdom risk
  • preservation over giving ourselves away

Our churches often have such a strong gravitational pull, not always because they’re so attractive and healthy, but because they are a demanding black hole of the time, money and effort needed to sustain such an institution.

As a leader, I confess to continually being sucked into the whirling vortex of maintenance over mission, programme over people, role over relationships, planning over prayer – all in the name of keeping the ship afloat.  Ironically, it is these positions that may need to shift most if the ship is to stay on the water at all and not in some breakers yard.

Most churches invest significant amounts of energy, focus and resource into the one hour Sunday special in particular.  Don’t get me wrong – it is important for the church to gather.  However, the quality of the church is only as good as the quality of its disciples. If the Sunday morning show is high on entertainment or even top-shelf religious education, but low on the transformative challenge that provokes an engaged discipleship for the rest of the waking week, it is but a noisy gong or clanging cymbal.

I have friends all over the ecclesiastical spectrum.  Everyone from high anglo-catholic to disestablished wanderers for Christ working it out ‘in the desert’ of the post-Christendom west, and I love them all.  I see value in what they’re all doing.  Yet, I also sense a great deal of confusion about what we actually discern as our fundamental reason d’etré.  I see the battle both to be released from the shackles of the Christendom-shaped church and on the other end, those who’ve struggled free but who now are spinning out of orbit.  I see people trying to cooperate on the tight-rope between the two extremes but losing the balance – like ‘Fiddlers on the Roof’.

And so I find myself in my thinking times, reflective times, and prayer times, sitting before God like a teenager with a math’s equation that’s beyond his grade seeking to discern what of the stuff he’s learned so far helps him begin to tackle the problem.   Actually, the fundamental problem is more acute than that.  The convictions within are often beyond the scope of possibility in communities where there is an acceleration of learning required to respond faithfully to the missional challenge.  That there is what I see as being my responsibility – to accelerate the focussed learning for the task at hand.

And so, it seems to me that the path with most integrity is the one that ultimately serves, tries to ask the pertinent questions, and seeks to model an alternative future with a certainty that looks convincing along with the necessary ‘heretical imperative’ to continually re-evaluate and maintain the pioneering edge.

In simple language:  we’re somehow broken and in need of the Healer; frantic and in need of the Comforter; lost and in need of the Saviour; confused and in need of a Guide.  Good job we’re not left to do it on our own.  Come, Lord Jesus.

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Our Narratives

freedom-bell2_rdax_65We all have stories that we tell about ourselves –  our lives, our families, our past, our present, and maybe even about our future.  These stories shape our behaviours in the present moment and are, without a doubt, shaping the course of our lives.

As someone who not too long ago invested significant hours of therapy working through inherited responses and behaviours in relation to particular stresses, I now have the rich insight through the help of a skilled and thoroughly Christ-focussed counsellor into some of those key areas that shape and provoke me in certain ways.

I recognise that I firstly had to articulate my ‘story’ before I could start to see an alternative vision.  It is easy to write about now, but it consisted of several years of very deliberate and hard work to get here.  In fact, one of the things my counsellor said to me in my last session with her was the admiration she had about how dilligent, focussed and intentional I was in working through the things at hand.  This was not a rushed process, but it was deliberate.

Why?

Ultimately because I knew that if I was to be true to the calling upon my life to be a minister of the gospel and in church leadership, I had to accept and tend to the things that needed attention.  Not areas of huge sin or failure, but woundedness, pain, hurt and exhaustion of continually seeking to keep on keeping on when all my energies were escaping through trying to stay afloat with the extra emotional baggage of earlier hurt.

I am telling this particular story today because I know there are people out there who try to limp along with the emotional equivalent of a tonne weight on the back of their minds.  I am telling it again because people need to know that there is freedom.  I’m also telling it because, in my experience, God doesn’t just take these things away.  Rather, it is in going into the wounds that we find the healing Christ.

It is a bit like the kids book, ‘We’re going on a Bear Hunt’ – you can’t go over it, you can’t go round it, you can’t go under it….you have to go through it.  Our freedom has already been won.  But as Paul reminds us in Galatians 5:1, we need to remain free in Christ and not take on our burdens again.

Why don’t you talk to someone about ‘that thing’ and begin the journey deep into your freedom?