Saturday, August 29, 2009

For All You Church Leaders Out There:

This will be short.

In the past 4 months I've read 3 books and attended 2 conferences on varying aspects of the missional movement. For the end of the day it boils down to these questions:
  • Do we church professionals (aka - pastors, staff, consultants, directors, elders, deacons, committee members, etc...) really want to change how we live?
  • Are we willing to make room for "the other"?
  • Do we want to engage in conversation with people that believe differently than we do?
  • Can we live lives that are poured out to a world that, for the most part, see us as irrelevant at best and intolerant and evil at worst?
  • Are we willing to change our church from the inside that we live the life we call our people to live?
How you answer this will determine the future of the missional movement for the
particular church community
you are leading.

OK - blast me. Tell me how wrong I am. I'm pretty sure I'm overstating this....but the more I read and hear....the more I keep coming back to this.

Storytelling In Worship:

Story is a powerful medium. Culture is created, changed, and memorialized in story. Our lives are often (if not always) remembered in story; much more than facts, trivia, stats, etc.. I've never been to a memorial or grave-side service and heard a loved one share stats about their dearly departed. "Paul was 220, blue eyes, with a birthmark on his right shoulder. He had a GPA of 3.9 in grammar school and his SSN was/is ___-__-___." Stories are how we shape our present by remembering the past.

Jesus was a storyteller and it was through parable (story) He communicated truth and wisdom in ways that connect far beyond the average 3 points and a prayer sermon.

I believe everyone has a profound story. Redemption, grace, victory, loss, mistakes, pain; there are countless stories dwelling within each of us. I also believe those stories are where we find God at work, how we understand what He is up to, and how we participate in His work of redemption and Kingdom Life.

Corporate worship needs to be a place where these stories are regularly shared and engaged.

Shared by the people who have the story and engaged by the larger community they are part of. It will be messy - unpolished - not always timely - but real, honest, and critical to changing the entrenched culture of institution that plagues so many Christian churches in America. This is where clergy and church professionals are critical. Find the stories - encourage people to identify their own stories - equip them to share them well - illuminate the stories by sharing where you see God at work.

Corporate worship is a prophetic venue. What you do in that setting can point to new horizons and challenge existing paradigms. Interview people - let them share their stories with their own words - capture their stories on video - find stories that have little to nothing to do with church programs and/or initiatives - encourage your congregation to become a storytelling people.

And pastors, to quote Mark Lou Branson, "more important than your preaching are your conversations."

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Revolutionary Road - A Grand Portrait of Selfishness

I just watched this film. I stayed up till 2AM to finish it and am so disturbed that I feel compelled to stay up another 30 minutes to write this blog.

Acting was amazing. Cinematography was flawless; as was set design, music, and directing.

What disturbed me was the story and the profound selfishness so powerfully displayed.

Richard Yates originally wrote the novel of same title in 1961 as an indictment of the conformity and desperate clinging to security so prevalent in the suburbs of America. I think the film captures that bleak sense of conformity and the emptiness that can happen when dreams are abandoned and imaginations squelched. I have no doubt that this happens often...especially in suburbia.

Unfortunately the story goes to such ends to demonstrate one woman's sadness over a dream unrealized that it ultimately descends into a portrait of profound selfishness. is hard, dreams are unmet, parents often live very sacrificially in order to provide for their children, and many are stuck in jobs that are not life-giving (to say the least). OK - I grant all that as true.....

But so is joy - fulfillment - love - goodness - peace - and profound gratitude.

Gratitude....I think that is it...that is what so bothers me. This story demonstrates zero gratitude...and fixates on all that is unrealized. It is as if the wife, in summary, simply said, "my dream of Paris isn't I give up....and I no longer care or love you. I'm done. I'm picking up my toys and going away." This really irritates me.

If we learn anything from Jesus it is that sacrifice and gratitude are pillars of a life lived well. I'm not sure how this best translates to suburbia, to our cultures obsession with security, to our own sense of frustration at work, to our unmet expectations at home, and/or to our unrealized dreams.

I do know that if we choose to live our lives as a little Jesus - poured out for our community - sacrificially giving of ourselves.....we will not end up like the lead characters in this script.

REVOLUTIONARY ROAD is an incredibly well made just misses the point...majors on the minors....and unfortunately offers little wisdom for our complex lives.