Wednesday, January 24, 2007

I Think They'll Think I'm Thinking Too Big

Lots of people have been emailing me since no post has been put up since last Thursday. I guess I blog with such regularity now that when I disappear for awhile it concerns people.... which is nice. Well, there' no big story or tragedy that's delayed my post. I've been held up by a combination of having a lot to do (about 50 hours worth of lecture all of us sat through over the last eight days), some lousy Internet service (it's been spotty here on campus, meaning that twice now I typed out a new "Ten Things I Think I Think" and in the uploading the post was lost..... arrrrgggggghhhhh), and simply having a difficult time trying to say everything that's running through my mind this ten days.

Considering I've been hanging out with a great Old Testament scholar (Dr. Bill Arnold) who is stretching the way I approach OT study/preaching, one of the most provocative and influential writers and thinkers in the Christian world (Brian McClaren), and probably the most interesting pastor/spiritual entrepreneur (Steve Chalke) I've met, maybe, EVER, I've got a lot brewing up inside, and this forum is hard to get all of it out. I end up writing too much, or too densely, or both.

Couple that with hours of work disappearing into cyberspace due to technical glitches, and you don't get many posts. So, here's the plan.

Over the next couple of days I'll be doing some thinking out loud in response mainly to what I've heard McLaren and Chalke talking about. The posts will probably be long, and if you aren't interested in how post-modernity is effecting the Christian church, you'll probably just want to skip over them. I can't really afford the time I've put into the writing, but I want to preserve those thoughts, and I can't think of another way to do it.

This post, besides telling you where the heck I've been will just give you some short snippet updates.

- First, Aimee and the boys did go home last weekend to spend time with her Dad. Now that the rest of family has gone back to their homes, Bryant is largely alone. I think he appreciated Aimee and the boys making the trip, and really appreciated the fact that the weather was bad enough that they needed to stay an extra day. Aimee is still processing this experience, so this time is both cathartic and difficult. You might want to keep them (Bryant and her) in your prayers.

- The boys are all sick. Xavier was the first to go down with this mysterious fever, stomach cramp, head cold thing, with Eli and Max following closely thereafter. I don't think Aimee is feeling the greatest, and quite frankly, neither am I. But, like most other things in life, this too shall pass. It just stinks when we're all sick.

- Some members of the SPRC and the Associate Pastor, Charlotte Hefner, from Shawnee are all coming for a quick visit tomorrow night, and surprisingly enough, it's got me a little nervous. You see, up to now, my talking to anyone at the church about this pending leadership transition just hasn't happened. It's like we're in a phase right now where there is conversation about the transition taking place among clergy, lay leadership, and those in the congregation (to varying degrees), but largely I have not been a part of that conversation. I don't want to dissect why this has been the case, but really, for the first time since the announcement last December, I'll be with lay-leaders and a key staff person thinking about the future at Shawnee, which is both exciting, and a little terrifying. I mean, the congregation accepts my leadership within the greater scope of serving underneath Joseph Bishman.... but will it without him?

And here's what makes this really hard.... when I was younger (well, maybe not too much younger), I'd try to preface anything I'd do in the life of the church with a lot of self-depreciating remarks about how slow or unpolished or thick I was, partly to get a laugh, but mostly to get people to lower their expectations. Didn't matter if they thought I was scared, or lacked self-confidence, or really just thought I was stupid..... just as long as the bar got dropped. That way it made it easier to exceed expectations, and makes for better storytelling on the other side.

But I tried that schtick with my compadres at the beginning of the year, and much like Keven Garnett after he swats a shot into the fifth row of the Target Center, my colleagues said, "Not In My House!". They saw through that facade, and told me they deserved better from me. And you know what, they're right, and I've been trying to give them something better ever since. Better preperation, better preaching, better questions, better hospitality....... I do have self-esteem issues, and they'll never go away completely, but I can at least pretent that God created me for a greater purpose, and leave my own self-agonizing in a quiet corner you can't see.

And you want to know something else.... I've been waiting for my own church for so long - sixteen years now - that I don't' want to go into this thing cautiously, or carefully, or slowly, or with great timidity. I think I'd rather succeed or fail boldly. Falling on my sword in the service of helping others find new life. I don't know if anyone at home is ready for this, or not, but I guess we'd better start talking about it, cause the future isn't getting any further away.

I'm nervous cause I think they'll think I'm thinking too big.

- Here's another thing I'm learning in new and profound ways down here.... it's too easy to demonize people for your own purposes. To take your enemies and turn them into something akin to the embodiment of evil as a means of personal or public motivation.

That would be a great lesson that I'm learning from Brian McLaren. After a number of hours with the man, and some great one-on-one time time tonight, I'm astounded by the man's willingness to try to reach out to people who are literally painting him to be the AntiChrist.

I mean, literally.

For years now, I've harbored a disdain for a lobby organization within the UMC framework called "The Good News Movement". It just so happens that this bunch of folks are based out of Wilmore, where they publish a magazine called "Good News" which is sent to virtually every UM-church, and most of it's pastors at least in this part of the world. Ever since the mid to late eighties this group, which purportedly was calling for renewal within the United Methodist Church, has pretty much hung its hat on the issue of homosexuality. These folks have for over twenty years now have beat this same drum in an attempt to scare people into believing that a grand agenda is being pushed in an effort to ultimately bring down, the country, society, the Christian church and Christianity as a whole. While I think this is an issue that should not be taken lightly, to build an entire fundraising strategy largely on painting one group of people as being akin to the aliens in the movie "Independence Day" just seems, well...... crazy.

Don't' think I'm just overreacting as some big out-of-control liberal on this matter. The Dean of the Beeson Program, Randy Jessen, once served on the Good News board, and realizing after a time what this group was doing in regard to the homosexuality issue, which in his words was not open it up as a topic to talk about, but rather as an issue to speak about, he resigned from the board. And he's a card-carrying evangelical conservative (who does work with AIDS victims in Romania, but that is another story). I know this because in some conversation after listening to Steve Chalke and Brian McLaren speak again tonight, I kinda got on my high horse about Good News, Randy told me his story, offered to introduce me to the current editor of Good News (Steve Beard), and then McLaren in further discussion illuminated further the need to listen to all camps in the Christan circle... whether that be Trappist Monks, English Charismatics, Hip Hop Street Preachers, evangelical Old Testament professors, and pretty much anyone else who wants to open their mouth and hopefully is willing to listen back. You don't have to agree with everything they say... but you do need to listen, and do so without realizing that they really aren't the enemy. Pretty classy statement from a guy getting beaten all over the blogosphere, and words I'll soon not forget, and a reminder that when you create demons, you just extend evil.

So, Steve Beard, I hope we can get together over a cup of joe, do some talking, and maybe a little mutual listening. I mean if I can try to pray in tounges in the ritziest part of London, surely I can give this a go too.

- Which leads me to this.... to all you young pastors, or pastors-in-training reading this nutty little blog, remember something: it is easy to create enemies as a means to your ends. As a young zealous preacher, I beat up people materially blessed by God pretty effectively and often. It was the subject of every sermon there for awhile. But then, it occured to me..... how in the world did I make one group of people the focus and cause of all the world's problems. I mean, it's easier to have someone you can hit with a stick over and over again, but in the end you overlook a whole lot of culprits in the systemic sin that eats away at this world. And in the end, what do you really accomplish?

Did Jesus motivate people by telling them they were going to Hell if they didn't change, or that they could enter Heaven if they did? Think about that all you young punk preachers out there.

- Finally what do you think of when you see this picture? Did you say "snow day"? Well, believe it or not oh friends of mine who live in the great midwest, or even the great white north, school was called off today because of snow. And this is the picture my wife took at about 8:30am today. I remember trudging through three feet of snow, barefoot, uphill, both ways, to school as a kid each every day, and this is the snow day my kids get.

Soft, man..... this generation is soft.

And yes, I do believe I now sound like my grandfather.

1 comment:

The Thief said...

My wife taught in Lexington, and they got sent home one day for snow. That never fell. We got some good rain, but nary a flake.

I was disappointed in your snow day story, however. You should have at least mentioned how happy you were to get an education, and I was very troubled that you made no mention whatsoever of the distance you had to travel.

As for mutual listening, I think the key is that each of us bring something to the table, some aspect of God and some part of what the Church is supposed to look like, and if we isolate ourselves (physically or elsewise) from any other voices, we miss out on aspects of God and/or the Church.

Sadly, that has seemed the norm for a long time.