Some thoughts in the middle of a bike ride this morning on a spirituality that is active, physical, and engaging.
brought to you from: www.plantmedina.org
Some thoughts in the middle of a bike ride this morning on a spirituality that is active, physical, and engaging.
brought to you from: www.plantmedina.org
I was waiting to meet a new friend for lunch this past Friday. I was a little more dressed up than usual, wearing a nice polo and pants. I began to reflect the various garments that I wore throughout the week and the responses they solicit from others. Then these words came to me, and I began to craft this short piece on my iPhone:
If I wore a polo,
what would you see?
If I wore ripped jeans and a tee,
who then would I be?
If my military uniform and gear,
would you respect me out of patriotic fear?
If a clerical collar and vestments,
could I bear your praise and resentments?
If I be clothed in Christ,
then my nakedness came with a great price.
What is the “Lizard Brain” you ask?
If you chose to skip the above video explanation, the lizard brain is that part of your brain (the amygdala) responsible for your “fight-or-flight” reflex. It’s the part of your brain that often sabotages you in overcoming the increasing pressure as you near the completion of a project or goal. Seth Godin has a very short explanation of the dynamics of the “lizard brain” and “the resistance” on his blog (if you want a more detailed lecture from Seth check out this presentation).
So what does this have to do with church planting? Church planting involves a highly creative process that requires the pastor or team to continually “ship”, that is, follow through on their vision for the worshiping community they serve. As you near an event, or a meeting, or a service launch date the pressure builds and the resistance/lizard brain spikes in volume. What was once but a whisper is now a loud shout: “Are you sure this will work?” “Maybe we need to delay the launch”? “Is my team ready”? “Maybe I should wait until I have a larger core team”? “Should I just cancel this event?” “Am I the person for this job?” The lizard brain demands attention near the end and calls into question those things which we so certain of just days prior. The Lizard Brain seeks to sabotage the potential of “what could be” with the comfort of “what has always been.”
This was my experience last week with a service I had labored over in one of the local parks. Two days prior to the event, I found out all the people from the church plant that I anticipated going, legitimately couldn’t make it. My lizard brain started to howl: “Should I just cancel it.” “Will anyone actually read the flyers I put out and come?” “Will people even be in the park?” “How embarrassing” … But then God’s Spirit reminded me that I’m not called to “false self-preservation” as much as I am called to faithful obedience to the Gospel.
So I overcame the mounting resistance and went to the park last Sunday afternoon. I spent a lot of time setting up and no one showed … finally my wife and daughter came … then my parents and their dogs … then two more couples with their kiddos. We met folks in the park and had a fun time together. Did revival break out? Did people come to know Jesus as Lord? Was my ego preserved? No… but I shipped! I followed through on what I told people I would do: I showed up at the park, grilled food and got to know folks better.
The above video offers some helpful tips to overcome the effects of the “lizard brain”, but I prescribe these words to you as well from St. Paul,
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
I love Seth Godin. He reads the currents of our times like a comic book and articulates the shape of things to come like a painter. I haven’t gotten to read his magnum opus, Linchpin yet but I have read articles, watched interviews, and know people who know him personally. So with that background, I usually listen to what Seth Godin has to say.
From Atheism to Theism:
From Theism to Christianity:
Like any missionary, I am in the beginning stages of getting acquainted with my mission context: Medina County, Ohio. In trying to understand the distinct history of Medina County, I went to the library and started reading and looking for details on its history. I found an informative DVD produced by the Medina County Commissioners aptly named, “The History of Medina County.”
The documentary goes all the way back to the last ice age and the formation of the terrain around Medina and NE Ohio. The early settlers came westward to the Medina area seeking to rebuild their lives after the fires of the Revolutionary War. It is amazing to hear how the original settlers of Medina worked together for the common good. Neighbors and residents depended on each other for their survival. Two days a month any man over the age of 21 was required to work for the welfare of their neighbors: building houses, roads, churches, and other infrastructure. From the beginning of the original settlers there has been a rich Christian heritage. One of the first buildings erected was a church. Construction began at sunrise and by 4PM that afternoon, the first worship service was held!
The documentary runs parallel with the timeline of major events in America’s history and shows how Medina has grown alongside our nation. As Cleveland’s industry began to boom (lets hope this happens again soon), there was a need for the workers to have food and Medina County’s agricultural industry really thrived. The documentary illumined notorious figures like A.I. Root and a giant couple (both were over 400 lbs and over 7 feet tall – their child was born the size of an average 6 month old) who moved to Medina. The documentary goes into the formation of all the county parks, businesses, and historical landmarks of Medina county. As unemployment and the Great Depression hit the broader nation, Medina county held strong taking care of each other and being secured by their main industry: agriculture.
As I watched the stories of WWII, Korean, Vietnam veterans, of business leaders and entrepreneurs, of visionaries and authors I got a sense of the unique heritage of Medina County. My prayer is that this heritage and story of Medina County isn’t lost as the landscape of Medina continues to change from rural/agricultural to suburban/residential. Just yesterday at a local coffee shop (owned by a Detroit transplant) I met a new resident from Holland! Although I am told, Agriculture still remains a leading industry in Medina County despite the influx of new residents.
The history of Medina County is still all around us. As you walk around the town square, visit the parks, and see the historical buildings a voice from the past calls you to pause and remember the sacrifice, innovation, and yes, the religious heritage of Medina County.
Too often IF discipleship comes up in a church setting it means a new program or a curriculum. It is a topic that every church knows is important, but doesn’t seem to really take place in most churches. Churches will say they value discipleship (and other sexy words like “mission” and “community” of course), but often this value isn’t embraced by the church culture. Discipleship is more often than not delegated to a program, a curriculum, or some class that people need to attend. Discipleship becomes a task instead of a relationship. A program to attend instead of an ongoing journey to discover.
Fortunately for me, this hasn’t been my experience with discipleship in the past and it’s not my vision for plant medina’s future. I view discipleship in the church as an invitation to a journey into Christ likeness with others. Discipleship is like being invited on a hiking trip by an experienced hiker and having this new friend show you how to use all your gear. Then actually going out and hitting the trails with you, showing you how to navigate tough spots and not just how to hike, but how to hike well.
I’ve been wondering what clergy should wear outside of Sunday’s worship, special services, or hospital visitations. As recently ordained Anglican clergy, I have been experiencing mixed reactions when I wear “clergy attire” out. So my question is, Does wearing clerical clothing (of any kind) hinder mission and witness?
Please … leave some comments below.
From my other site: www.plantmedina.org
Novelist, William Golding (think Lord of the Flies) coined the term, “the ordinary universe” to describe the numerous mundane tasks that go into our every day life. The ordinary universe is comprised things likes taking your kids to school, watching TV, eating dinner, golfing, riding your bike, etc.
Since the Enlightenment, the church has been great at engaging the private sphere of religion. A curtain was hung between the sacredness of a church service and the profaneness of the everyday. Between the silence of Sunday and the madness of Monday. The culture has gladly given the church a few hours on Sunday (and maybe even a Weds night) as long as it keeps its spirituality private, sanitized, and anemic.
How do we engage in mission in the ordinary universe? The answer isn’t “Christening” secular activities and abducting them into the “private sacredness” (think Church Softball, Christian Rock Music, Christian Tee Shirts, Bingo night…). No we need a paradigm shift to occur. We need to realize that the division between the sacred and the secular is a lie and walk into our everyday ordinary universe in Christ. This is a call to abide. This is a call to pray unceasingly. This is a call to “be being” filled with the Holy Spirit. This is a call to faithfulness. This is a call to be like Jesus in the context of our everyday lives.
By: Eugene H. Peterson
Article written by: rm Kocak
“Your task is to keep telling the basic story, representing the presence of the Spirit, insisting on the priority of God, speaking the biblical words of command and promise and invitation.”
- The Contemplative Pastor, pg. 139.
I am currently a transitional Deacon in the Anglican Mission who is planting churches, making disciples, and preparing for ordination to the Presbyterate (Priesthood) next month. Part of that preparation is being assigned a mentor. Fortunately for me, mine is a huge Eugene Peterson buff. So I’ve been reading through some of Peterson’s books on Pastoral Theology. This present book, The Contemplative Pastor rubs against the grain of the Protestant work ethic, the mega church leadership model, and current cultural definition of “Pastor.” It is a timely read for me personally as a young church planter and Pastor since the “tyranny of the urgent” is always at my heels begging me to be consumed with my “work.”
“A healthy noun doesn’t need adjectives… “Pastor” used to be that kind of noun – energetic and virile…. But when I observe the way the vocation of pastor is lived out in America and listen to the tone and context in which the word “pastor” is spoken, I realize that what I hear in the word and what others hear is very different…
The essence of being a pastor begs for redefinition. To that end, I offer three adjectives to clarify the noun: unbusy, subversive, and apocalyptic.”
- The Contemplative Pastor, pgs. 15-16.
Peterson is a poet and writes with depth, clarity, beauty, and passion about a vocational calling that is near and dear to his heart: “Pastor.” The term begs for redefinition because how it has been wrongly shaped by parody, diluted by opportunism, and hijacked by wolves in sheep’s clothing. For Peterson the Pastor is called to a quietness of soul in Christ and not the “business of running a church.” I don’t know about you, but I almost feel obligated to try to justify to others how “busy” I have been in ministry. And when I go through the litany of work, I usually leave out the essential parts of being a Pastor: prayer, worship, study of Scripture, and theological contemplation. Not that I don’t do these things, but because of the perception that these things aren’t as important as “doing the tasks of running/planting a church.” For Peterson, business comes down to either being vain or lazy.
By subversion, Peterson isn’t suggestion to Pastors to be “subversive” as the world is, but to:
“But this is my basic work: on the one hand to proclaim the word of God that is personal – God addressing us in love, inviting us into a life of trust in him; on the other hand to guide and encourage an answering word that is likewise personal – to speak in the first person to the second person, I to Though, and avoid commentary as much as possible.””
- The Contemplative Pastor, pg. 93.
There is a theme with language that keeps coming to the surface in this book. Whether it’s the need to reclaim the middle voice in prayer or using first language in proclamation, Peterson calls pastors to consider the words they use and the rhetoric they clothe them in. Peterson remarks at one point how the language of the community of faith often mirrors the image of the culture: a lot of information, a lot of publicity, but not much intimacy. While Peterson doesn’t suggest to do away with Tier II language (language of information) or Tier III language (language of motivation), he calls pastors to reclaim and primarily speak with Tier I language (language of intimacy and relationship).
“The Christian gospel is rooted in langauge: God spoke a creation into being; our Savrior was the Word made flesh. The poet is the person who uses words not primarily to convey information but to make a relationship, shape beauty, form truth…
Isn’t it odd that pastors, who are responsible for interpreting the Scriptures, so much of which come in the form of poetry, have so little interest in poetry? … Words create. God’s word creates; our words can participate in creation.” ”
- The Contemplative Pastor, pg. 44-45.
Another minor theme that comes up throughout the book is that of poetry (it reminds me of my friend J.D. Walt who encourages pastors to read a poem a day). The entire last section in the book is a series of poems that Peterson wrote himself. For Peterson it isn’t just a “taste” or a “preference” for Pastors to engage in poetry, but as part of getting immersed in the prose of Scripture. He sees a lot of things in common between poets and pastors: reverence of words, immersion in the everyday particulars of life, warn of illusions, attention to rhythm, tone, meaning, and spirit.
With the McDonaldizaiton of the Church in America, Peterson is offering another way that is more akin to quality, slowly cooked barbecue than fast food. Peterson’s way isn’t programmatic, easy, quick, or comfortable, but it causes one to consider what it means to be a Pastor in our current age of pragmatism, materialism, and hedonism. Peterson raises a lot of questions, calls out the “golden calves” of many American pastors, and offers an “ideal” for pastors to strive for. I find in my own life that everything militates against being unbusy, subversive, and apocalyptic. I must as a leader make it a priority to spend time in prayer, Scripture, and study or else no one else will for me. According to Peterson, they will gladly congratulate me for my busy work schedule, accomplishments in the community, long hours, and the sacrifice of my relationship with God and family on the altar of Pastoral Ministry.