Thursday, August 30, 2007

who leads the church?

one of the more interesting things about being a pastor is how people relate to you as a leader and how they try to figure you out. In many ways it is like trying to piece together the true story of brittany spears from the tabloids. People get pieces and parts, from a variety of sources, and then try to construct an image from those assumptions, expectations, and sound bites.

We all feel it when we meet new people. Do they smile; how do they talk; how do they relate to their spouce or kids; what are their hobbies; how do they dress; what do they read; tv or movies that they like...and as we look at these things we form a composite image that evolves and we decide if we like them; respect them; enjoy them; want to be with them; etc.

Jesus knows what this is like. People wanted the Messiah to look like a lot of things. Someone to overthrow the zealots; a pharisee or saducee or essene based upon which clique or cult you happen to be in; a preacher; a pastor; a...

Even today we try to press Jesus and God into our mold and force him to conform to our assumptions, desires, and needs.

We've all felt it. The pressure from parents, coaches, church-people, teachers, pastors. Everybody trying to make us into something they think we should be. Usually for them.

Which brings me to my question.

Who leads the church? Jesus says "I will build MY church." He is the chief cornerstone and the function head of the church. But that sounds vague and theoretical. Is it?

I don't think it is. I think Jesus really is leading 5 stones. I think that the staff, boards, me, and other leaders are really trying to listen to him and follow his leadership.

so what? Well if Jesus really is leading it takes a lot of pressure off the rest of us. We can be free to be who we really are and who Jesus wants and is making us to be. People in the church can not so much lower their expectations about leadership...but grant them grace and acceptance to be who they are and not who we think they should be. That way Jesus can lead, and all of us can be followers and nobody has to play a game of trying to be perfect and have all the answers. Instead they simply go to Jesus with the questions and try to follow him.

Wouldn't that be nice.

Wouldn't it be great if we all looked to Jesus to lead HIS church and all of us just followed him. Wouldn't it be nice if we could all give or gifts in who we are [broken people] and have a community of grace, committment, covenant, and love that would accept us.

I think that is what Jesus is trying to do at EVERY church.

But when we follow fads, personalities, selfish desires, the new bright shiney things, charismatic individuals, momentum, success...we cheapen following Jesus because now we are simply following our desires and needs.

He no longer leads, we simply follow our own whims.

Which is, naturally, sad and pathetic and will ultimately take us nowhere.

In Esther it says "perhaps you are here for such a time as this." That has a lot of stuff packed into it. 1 it assumes God has a plan and has placed you here for a purpose. 2. If you know the story of Esther it is to be courageous and committed and not cop-out because of convenience or consumerism. 3. It assumes others at at risk for wonderful or terrible things based upon what you do.

But what undergirds everything, is that Jesus is leading us. Leading us sometimes into places we don't want to go, don't like, and don't enjoy. But his plans need our obedience more than our happiness to be the deciding factor in what we do.

And 5 stones as it tries to get back on it's feet is under pressure. A wonderful pressure that proves ones character and integrity...or shows us something else. All of us will face it.

We had a great Sunday...but is that why we like our church? I will preach good and that why we love our church? The music will be great and flat...small groups...youth ministry...childrens ministry...paryer...missional adventures... Is that why we love our church?

Or do we love our church because Jesus loves it...and he has us here for a reason...a mission. Those who are young in their faith won't fully be able to grasp this [and that's ok] but for the rest I want you to think about this.

Because Jesus has allowed what he wants to do to be by our love, obedience, and character. And one of my not-so-fun jobs is to remind people of that...and to remind myself.

I follow Jesus, and ultimately Jesus alone.
Today I struggled with this. I had a hard day, and wanted to be somewhere else for a few hours. But in praying Jesus said...just be with me...and wherever you are will be just fine. And that's true. Sometimes it feels like Jesus is sleeping somewhere out of sight while my little boat is tossed and turned in the sea. But then he comes out and rebukes the waves and all is calm. And then he looks at me and of such little faith.
And yes, at times I have little faith in the circumstances that seem beyond my control. And then he steps out and controls everything.
and I would have missed it all if I hadn't been on the boat. I would have missed the miracle. Talk about regret, man.
God help me to have you and you alone lead me. Help me to enjoy and appreciate my circumstances. And help me to believe the truth that these circumstances, not matter how hard they are, are here because and you have me in them "for such a time as this." Help me to not pursue the "other" things...but to pursue you right here and right now. That is all I REALLY need. Amen



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