Tuesday, October 25, 2005
Len Sweet, in his book Summoned to Lead, spoke about the quality of “hearing” as an alternative to “vision.” Vision, in churches especially, is commonly understood as the leadership quality; yet, Jesus spent most of His time teaching us how to follow, not lead. We are made to be followers of Christ, more concerned with listening than leadership. With this in mind, we at Westwinds have begun efforts to attune ourselves to God through these four emphases:
Jesus spoke about four mission fields in the Great Commission: Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the ends of the earth. For our purposes, this truly means we are to be missionally engaged with our own city, our own region, those parts of our city that are destitute, and all the rest of the world beyond our borders. We must ask ourselves, ‘what is God calling me to do to engage these fields?’ and ‘who is He calling me to be?’
Imagination, practically, means that you can start any ministry you want at Westwinds. Whatever passion God has given you, whatever purpose, you need to pursue it and allow God to guide you in living out your dreams. We need to let our imagination run wild – to once again be a people of godly play, and let this spirit affect everything we do. If you have the passion and the drive, if you’re willing to be tested and walk the long road you can fulfill all of your spiritual ambitions as a part of our community
It is time we applied our imagination – not towards satisfaction – but towards service.
Too frequently in churches, people feel as if they need permission from church leaders to actually be missional, to be involved in ministry in their lives. They feel that, unless church leadership endorses their noble desires, they would be better off doing nothing. PerMission means that we need to be looking for opportunity anytime to help those around us, to serve our community, to bless everyone we meet and come in contact with in the name of Jesus Christ. We want to be vocal about giving our people permission to be Missional – go and bring peace and healing and love to our world.
We like to think of this as guerrilla ecclesiology.
When the British and French came to colonize the New World, they practiced a very direct style of warfare [everyone lined up in big rows and shot their guns at their enemies…ish]. This simple tactic led to many brutal losses at the hands of the Native American Indians who were fighting for their freedom and protecting their homes using guerilla tactics. They fought in forests, set up ambushes, and used clever military devices to cause great harm to their oppressors.
As christ-followers, we live with the reality of spiritual contests. These battles are not only fought in church or in “christian” environments, however, and our inattention to this little fact is tantamount to making the same mistake the British and French did in colonization. We take heavy losses because we think the enemy fights like us. But the truth is that real spiritual contests happen everywhere. Every bar and movie theatre, every restaurant and dinner table, grocery store and bus depot is a battlefield.
Guerilla ecclesiology means we’ve got to see our entire lives and every relationship as part of this great contest, as opportunities for us to be the church outside of church walls.
And you have perMission to do so.
Authenticity is the funniest thing. Truthfully, it’s not an end in and of itself, but a deliberate attempt not to be plastic and fake and full of garbage. There is so much advice on what a “good christian” looks like, but that is advice that – by and large – leads us astray.
To illustrate, I’d like to use the example of being cool. We all know there are certain rules to being cool. The problem lies in the fact that if you follow all of the rules, it doesn’t make you cool; rather, it makes you look like you’re trying to be cool [which is terribly uncool]. Take John Stamos for example. He follows all the cool rules and looks like a cheeseball. But Thom Yorke from Radiohead, who is skinny and whose clothes are out of style and has bad British teeth, is supremely cool and anyone who every sees him recongnizes that in an instant.
Cool is not contained by rules, but what’s inside of you. So, be cool. Be authentic. Let Jesus come out of your pores and don’t sweat all the little rules.
A major part of church is community, and community is tough. Though there are many aspects to community, such as reaching into our local neighborhoods and trying to demonstrate God’s love [as we emphasize in Imagination and perMission], the aspect of community that we’re referring to here is the love-one-another-somehow-get-along-live-missionally-with-the-preferences-and-beliefs-of-others-in-mind-and-demonstrate-love-practically-in-an-earthy-daily-kind-of-way.
Community is the hardest part about Christianity because it means we’ve got to make it work with people we don’t like and with people we might not care about. Sadly, most of us choose not to make it work and that can cause a kind of social cancer. When this is allowed to spread, to become competetive and mistrusting, everyone suffers and no one wants to remain in community.
Being in community requires depth, because it is hard work, it’s deep work, and we don’t develop a healthy community through education, we develop a healthy community through immersion and through transformation.
So, if you’re not in a place where you are daily struggling and fighting to love people who drive you nuts, you probably aren’t in a place where God wants you. Chances are, you’re comfortable…and might be a bit useless.
You have to be tested, and testing is true community.