I wrote the following four years ago while still pastoring. I was still a year away from hearing “pancreatic cancer” pronounced over the love of my life. Retirement wasn’t even in my vocabulary. I thought I could possibly take a wonderful group of people I loved into an untracked era. It was not to be.
Four years later, no congregation, no weekly pulpit, and only a few who may or may not read it, it still burns inside. This was written for my eyes only, so it may not flow like my other writing, but I would sure like to know if this or anything like it resonates with you.
That our resources (money, time, strength, passions, talents), be directed in the most effective way possible to the fulfilling of our purpose of joining Jesus in loving and saving the world.
–The way we accomplish this now is through institutionalizing our resources, (Money, time, strength, passions, talents), and as a single corporate unit, acting as the agent of God’s love in our world. This creates the modern invitational/attractional model, a kind of “come and get it”, “one size fits all”, “we’ve got the answer”, “benefits”, mode of operation.
–The result is rigid programs that are one-size-fits-all. It causes a separation between the spiritual Sunday lives of people and their daily work and play lives. We go to church, do things for the church and live the rest (Monday-Saturday) of our lives away from the church. Life purpose is lived out separate from the “spiritual” part of us unless we are professionally called to church ministry. This creates the separation between clergy and laity, with clergy being the more knowledgeable and elevated in all matters spiritual. “Other” people (laity) come to church to receive instruction (interpretation) on what God says about things.
Clergy aren’t necessarily expected to know much about “real” life. That isn’t their specialty.
Instead of one life that you live joining Jesus on mission in this world, you split it into two: The spiritual one you “soak up” on Sunday and the “real” one that you live out the rest of the week. This one that you live Monday through Saturday you are made to feel guilty about if you don’t somehow use it to grow the institution on Sunday. That becomes your “spiritual” purpose, growing the institution, because people who you invite to church may “give their lives to Christ”, go to Heaven and join the church. Since this hasn’t been as effective in recent times, we have moved to an “attractional” model, which uses less guilt. Instead, it makes itself attractive through having bigger and better buildings, programs, technology, music and preaching.
You give 10% or less to support the benefits package you receive through the “spiritual” programs of the church. A small percentage of these funds are then designated to paying for other “professionals” (missionaries) to join Jesus in saving the world. Another very small percentage is used for benevolence and other community ministry. The vast majority of money, time, strength, passion and talent are invested in buildings, structure, staff, technology, maintenance and internal programs. We have consigned our real efforts, not to join Jesus in loving and saving the world, but to keeping Him inside our lovely and comfortable sanctuaries of escape from the world, and to keeping these icons (institutions, buildings, services, programs) alive and prosperous.
–The way I believe directing our resources to joining Jesus would be most effectively accomplished is:
- Remove our reliance and dependency on institutions, buildings, services and programs as the means of accomplishing our purpose (joining Jesus in loving and saving the world),
- Dismantle these icons via giving the corporate life to the common purpose (joining Jesus…). We must turn to dismantling for us and build for the common good, using what we receive back from the community. (“Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Luke 6:38 NIV).
- Our mode of operation must start with every person living out their God-design, fulfilling the unique calling to them by God’s Spirit in their spirit to do their part to make earth more like Heaven. This unique God-design may best be described as the topic in their lives that sparks a conversation that is the most alive, interesting and intense for them, with both God and others.
- This will create natural alliances, as common interests will surface in conversations that pique each one’s interests and desires. Groups will begin to form, acting in this world directly out of God’s Spirit at work in the heart’s of individuals and alliances. Some will be more “people” oriented and some more “project” focused; but all will be living for the common purpose of extending God’s Kingdom to earth; of reconciling people everywhere to God and making this world a place that is taken care of like God’s household, God’s family, again.
- Our times of meeting together must not be what consumes either us or our resources, but times of uplifting where we gather for teaching and joint worship and celebrating Kingdom progress and encouragement that helps us overcome whatever hindrances we are facing and whatever sins keep entangling us.
- Our resources (money, time, strength, passion, talents) must be prioritized for our purpose (joining Jesus in loving and saving the world). Our individual resources (tithes, investments, accumulations, time, strength, passion, talent etc.) and our joint resources (in alliances) should be invested directly where they will do the most good in accomplishing our purpose (joining Jesus…).
- Project and goal-inspired alliances will join with people and need-inspired alliances to actually carry out “God’s will on earth as it is in Heaven”.
My hope is that this will bring some thoughtful and thought provoking comments.