Archive - June, 2011

Arrrgh, Halt Matey!

Okay, maybe I didn’t say that. I did though say: “Pirate!Stop!”  And, I have never been happier to see a pirate…

Just finished the conversation with a Zen Buddhist: prayed for his migraine, it began to lift and he became convinced that we were supposed to give him a Bible.  We were heading back to the center, 10minutes later than expected. Walking up the West End, a worker grabbed us. “Wait! Help! Some guy was sleeping at our table, two hooded Spanish guys grabbed him, dragged him down into the side street… can you go check on him?? Please!” How can you say no? 

Around the corner, we found our new friend, let’s call him Jack.  Quite wobbly, Jack was standing holding on to a rail, attempting not to roll down the street. Unfortunately had already been mugged, but seemed to still be in good spirits and was feeling up for a chat. To give you a glimpse of the hour long conversation that commenced: “Hi Jack, where are your friends? What hotel are you staying in? Can we help you get back home?” “I’ll be honest with ya, I don’t know. Hole in the wall. Good stuff. Aye. It’s your call” 

As you can probably guess, he wasn’t relaying any useful information. So, we sat with Jack. Helping him drink water, trying to jog his memory with questions, occasionally asking why he was dressed like a pirate- the latter was merely a curiosity as costumes are common with holidaymakers, particularly with stag do groups. So, we continued to sit with Captain Jack…

With no progress and little ability to extract the name of the hotel from his memory, we began to pray.Laying our hands on Jack wasn’t at all a problem since my teammate literally was holding him up in his arms, and I had my arm behind his head to prevent him from continually bashing it against the metal grates. Not even five minutes after we turned to prayer, I saw them stumble past us. One guy running down the street,drunkenly crashing into things, and the other more sober, but still pretty inebriated, chasing after him. 

via wikicommons.

Pirates! Yes! Pirates! “Hey pirate! Stop! Do you know this guy?” “Yes, actually I do.” Thank God! We found his friends, and I have never been happier to see a pair of pirates in my entire life.  And so, we helped guide the pirates back to their hotel, thanking God for their costumes and answered prayer. 

Saying a prayer that you would see some pirates stumble along a back alleyway seems a little strange, but God responds. Another great end to a night in the streets of San Antonio.  And, a reminder that perhaps we should take Paul’s advice to the Philippians to heart:

” Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” Phil 4:6 (NLT)

Vision of You/ Death of me.

I may have posted this song before, but it resonates too much with what I am learning right now to not share it again.

No matter what ministry or community we are a part of or what we do with our lives , unless the Lord is at the center of our work, it is meaningless. Our prayers and songs are just words, our charitable acts are no different than any other organizations, our religious services are just another meeting… as the teacher in Ecclesiastes declares:  “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”

“Unless the LORD builds the house,
   the builders labor in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city,
   the guards stand watch in vain.” – Psalm 127:1

If I am not at a place where the hope of the Cross is central to everything in my life, then my life is just passing moments. I know that Jesus dwells amongst us, but am I continuing to invite Him to be the all-encompassing center of my life?  Am I willing to truly pray that lyric: May the vision of You be the death of me? Am I willing to become less so that Jesus can be greater in my life? 

Lord, I know you are with me, but please come. Please be present in every aspect of my life, and may the vision of you be the death of me. May the challenge of St. Francis Xavier be the prayer over my life “Give up your small ambitions and come with me to preach Christ/save the world.” (not sure which quote is accurate, but the premise is the same). Lord please put to death my small ambitions, my tiny plans and dreams, my idiosyncrasies and insecurities… wash away anything that isn’t of You or centered in You. And please come with me, send me, guide me, allow me to be a part of what you are doing by doing your work and sharing your words in this world. I want to be a part of what you are building, so “Here I am. Send me”. Or keep me wherever. Just please be with me, and be the center of all that I am and all that I do.

Life of the Party (part 2)

A crowded room full of people, hands raised in the air, crying out for peace to fall down on the land,longing to experience something more than the mediocrity of daily life,strangers banded together by their passionate worship, they can’t help but dance, can’t help but sing, overflowing with joy they shout forth yelps of praise and clap their hands in agreement, praying that every moment could be as sweet as this…. 

Welcome to last Wednesday night in Eden. No, not the biblical garden or a metaphor for heaven: Eden is a nightclub in San Antonio,Ibiza. And, yes the lyrics accompanying the heavy beats literally cried out for peace (if I knew the song, I’d link to it). To quote one of the members on our short-term team, “there was a moment that night, where I was standing there dancing and I realized that there was no other place I wanted to be. It was one of the best moments of my life”.

Many dream of a day when the Church meets this description,but it is a much more common picture in nightclubs than religious services. Before I write any further, I know that for some this seems heretical. Think about it though: if you were to become more undignified in worship and let loose like King David did… would you be more likely to do so at the altar of your local church or on the crowded floor of a busy nightclub?

Last year at Pacha, when Bob Sinclar busted out“World Hold On”, I remember throwing my hands up and begging the Lord to bring it, crying out for the heavens to open and for the love of God to flood the place. 

” Look inside, you’ll find a deeper love
The kind that only comes from high above
If you ever meet your inner child, don t cry
Tell them everything is gonna be alright
World, hold on
Instead of messing with our future, open up inside” – from “World Hold On”

A few of the best worship experiences of my life have been on a crowded dance floor, hands in the air,praying in the Spirit, unashamedly dancing, amongst a crowd of mostly non-Christians who were celebrating the music instead of the God who created it.

What would happen if we made the places where people meet altars? What would happen if we worshiped God and prayed in public venues? I’m not suggesting being a public spectacle like the Pharisees, but going along with daily life by practicing the presence of God in every task like Brother Andrew. Didn’t the early church meet daily in the temple courtyards – culture epicenters where people gathered? What if we to places where people are seeking passionate communities and life altering moments, and prayed that God would meet them in their euphoria? What if we brought light into the darkness, by declaring God’s redemption in the beauty of the communal party?

Didn’t the Lord create music? Didn’t He fashion dance? Why should the best of these arts be reserved for those who have yet to meet Him?Shouldn’t we celebrate these creative expressions? When we dance to the beats,dressed modestly, completely sober, and have a great time…  are we not coming in an opposite spirit to the culture of drug induced hazes in nightlife?

I just finished reading a book called Night Vision. It’s collection of stories from those who dared to worship Jesus, pray for His love to be known, and serve people in the midst of the party culture.  One of the contributors launches into a discourse pondering the question of why parties seem like such dark places. Why do some Christians discourage believers from going into clubs? Why do bars and dance floors seem like such dark places? The writer shares this reflection from John Stott (13):

“Our Christian habit is to bewail the world’s deteriorating standards with an air of rather self-righteous dismay… “The world is going down the drain.” we say with a shrug. But whose fault is it? Who is to blame? Let me put it like this. If the house is dark when night falls, there is no sense in blaming the house; that is what happens when the sun goes down. The question to ask is, “Where is the light?”. Similarly, if the meat goes bad and becomes inedible, there is no sense in blaming the meat… the question to ask is, “Where is the salt?” Just so, if society deteriorates and its standards decline… there is no sense in blaming society; that is what happens when fallen men and women are left to themselves… the question to ask is “where is the church? Why are the salt and light of Jesus Christ not permeating and changing our society?” - John Stott, Issues Facing Christians Today, page 85.

How do we expect there to be restoration of Light if we refuse to be present in the darkness? How can something become salty if we never keep salt far away from it? If I can worship God through a few cheesy rock songs on a Sunday morning, why can’t we worship Him through prayer and dance on a Saturday night? Did King David dance passionately secluded in his room? No, he ran into the crowds- and, didn’t his worship glorify the Lord and turn heads toward heaven?   

Night Vision quotes a study that concludes 73% of all 18-24year olds regularly attend late night bars/clubs (11). If I am committed to loving, serving, and reaching my generation, how can I not be willing to bring Life into the party? How can I not share the love of Christ with those who are celebrating the creativity,community, and culture that He created? And if most clubbers are interested in discussing spirituality and the deeper questions of life (22), shouldn’t the people who celebrate their personal relationship with the Answer be there willing to offer companionship for the journey?

I’m more convinced than ever that my generation needs to be more intentional about being a conduit of Light, Salt, and Life in the places where people gather- and what better place to do it than one that will be even more undignified in celebration when the Good News permeates their lives?

Life of the Party (part 1)

Growing up, I spent a lot time hanging out around a bar orstanding behind a dj booth.  Mygrandmother was a bartender, my grandparents helped manage a local sportsman’s pub, myuncle had his own dj company, and my family has always been known for theirability to throw a great party. Personally, I loved it as a kid. Everyone always seemed friendly, peoplewere often willing to buy me a pop and some chips, quality music was anessential component of daily life, and I was related to some of the mostpopular people at any given venue. 
As much asI enjoyed growing up in the loving community of a local sportsman’s pub and ina family that loved a good time, I have mixed feelings about nightlife. Thoughmostly unrelated to the previous paragraph, I have also watched drugs, alcohol,and partying in excess destroy people. 

In the yearand a half since I have legally been able to drink, I have attempted to be “abovereproach” and avoid being seen in the places where it may appear like I am drinking.   (And,no I don’t think a drink or two is problematic for most Christians, but I amgoing to save that topic for another post.) While I am not equating partyingwith drinking, I must recognize that itis really difficult to be where the people are if you are afraid of peoplethinking you may be there to get drunk. Sadly, it’s difficult to find a partywithout drunkenesss, drugs, and dodgy behavior – unless the party was thrown byChristians with the intention of having a teetotaling affair.
Party- “a social gathering of invited guests, typically involving eating, drinking, and entertainment”- Oxford dictionary
Well here Iam, serving God for two months in the party capitol of Europe; and, Ibiza hasreminded me that I love, love, love to party. I love a good time. I love heavybeats and dancing the night away. Mostly, I love that connection that happens as you sit across the barand have a chat with someone. Or whenyou have a quality, completely platonic dance with a stranger in a giant vat offoam on the dance floor.  (Okay, so thelatter may have been a first, but it did happen last week). And, shh here’s a secret, on occasion,  Ieven love the taste of a carefully crafted lager or a well-mixed mojito.

I forgothow much the party is ingrained in who I am, and being that Jesus turned waterinto wine to keep a wedding going, I’m pretty sure he liked the social lifetoo.  After all, much of the Bible involves eating and hanging out with others.And where are all the people after dark? Either at home, at work, or in theirlocal pub or club.

 Thequestion that I am faced with is this: which is the greater witness? To just sayno to nightlife and to be above reproach? Or to live life in the open-championing a Gospel centered life where hanging out in the bar and a night inthe clubs in a way that glorifies Jesus?

Furthermore, where would Jesus be? Would he grab a pint inthe local pub? Would he rave it up with the crowds? I’m inclined to think thatHe would. 

Why? Well, because He loves that community of people thatlooked after me as a child: the regulars in the pub, the bartenders, the djs,the caterers… He also loves those who prove that alcoholism and drugaddiction can do serious damage. He loves the addicts, the dealers, the violent,the sick, the broken, the promiscuous… Jesus loves people, and He spent time intheir presence.

Tofollow His example, we need to do the same. I’m not saying that if you hateclubbing or if you have struggles with alcohol that you should suddenly become a party animal. But, I am pondering this: if I love the party atmosphere and I lovethe people and if I love celebrating the presence of God in those two things… whyshould I avoid being a light in the darkness?  Am I more afraid of what the Church may thinkof where I spend my time than I am committed to spending time amongstpeople who have yet to embrace the hope of the Gospel? (to be continued) 

Too much church, not enough Jesus?

You can learn much from a person by the books they recommend, and I plan on learning a lot through the book collection of the team here in Ibiza. Thus far, I have not been disappointed.

I just finished The Forgotten Ways: Reactivating the Missional Church by Alan Hirsch. It’s a fantastic read, and I highly recommend it for anyone who is passionate about advancing the Gospel and expanding the Church.

In summary, the book examines what makes up the DNA of missional church movements throughout the course of history, focusing particularly on the early Church and the contemporary underground church in China. Incorporating a wealth of scripture and a number of academic disciplines, Hirsch concludes that there are six components of “Apostolic Genius”:

  1. Jesus is Lord
  2. Disciple Making
  3. Missional-Incarnational Impulse
  4. Apostolic Environment
  5. Organic Systems
  6. Communitas (not community)

The theological belief that Jesus is Lord is the crux of the Church, and the other five factors are essential supporting elements. Rather than explain them all, I’m just going to encourage you to read the book and quickly reflect on what challenged me most.

In the chapter on Organic Systems, Hirsch references this quote from Neibuhr:

“there are essential differences between an institution and a movement: the one is conservative, the other progressive; the one is more or less passive yielding to influences from the outside, the other is active in influencing rather than being influenced; the one looks to the past, the other to the future. In addition the one is anxious, the other is prepared to take risks; the one guards boundaries, the other crosses [boundaries].” (190)

There is a fine line between the Church being a religious institution and being an authentic movement- the Body of Christ in this world. Discerning the distinction raises many questions. For instance,  Am I working for the expansion of an institution that contains doctrines regarding the Holy Spirit or am I working toward the advancement of the Gospel by yielding to and seeking the movement of the Holy Spirit?

In his conclusion,  Hirsch explains how the Church is returning to Apostolic Genius by incorporating lessons learned from a wide range expressions of the Christian faith. His last paragraph recognizes that the Pentecostal church has yet to truly embrace the Emerging Missional Church because its structure and systems are still reaping the success of the church growth models and methods (271). He suggests that the Emerging Missional Church is missing is the spark of the Pentecostal movement’s passion for the work of Holy Spirit. While this sentiment is only briefly explored at the conclusion of the book, I find it extremely interesting as I’m also praying that the charismatic church will find its place as a catalyst in the Emerging Missional Church.

Pentecostalism is the fastest growing religion in the world, especially in unchurched regions. This is the question though: is Pentecostalism concerned primarily with expanding Pentecostalism or primarily with advancing the Gospel?  I personally know a number of Pentecostal/Charismatic missionaries whose only goal is to follow Jesus and do His work. The concern doesn’t lie in the examination of the heart of individuals, but rather in the heart of the Church as a whole. Are missionaries and ministries too tied to organizations and jumping through too many bureaucratic hoops to follow and serve Jesus freely?

Of course accountability and structure are key, but has organization moved us toward following the ways of our respective institutions instead of being a fluid movement that follows the Way of Christ?

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