Monthly Archives: June 2009

Safety and Comfort (lyrics)

Safety and Comfort (lyrics)

A church of believers it is…

Not one of servants, although there may be some.

Not one of teachers, no students come.

Not one of seekers, as they are barred from the door.

The verse of the lukewarm seems oh so relevant.

———— Chorus ——–

I had high hopes, yet things move so slowly.

I really thought this was the call.

Yet, I found no sacrifice, no service, no danger at all.

Escape and family tradition reign.

They put up barriers to Christ, and lock the door.

———— Chorus ——–

I honestly thought I could make a difference…

Instead, they demand it safe and comfortable

The cost of discipleship is too objectionable.

No leading required, they just need the pulpit full.

What signs did I miss, where is the door.

————  Chorus ——–

The sandles are shaken, a new call awaits

Lord Jesus, prepare the path, and heal my soul

The Gospel is preached, the bell tolls

Its not safe, its not comfortable, Jesus is here

He set me free, I am no longer captive.

—————–

 Chorus…

Safety and comfort are paramount.

Where is ministry, when ears only want tickling?

Can the Gospel still be heard, despite the bickering?

Shall I shake my sandals at the door?

Safety and comfort are paramount.

******************

Not exactly the type of tune one would use in worship, but sadly the tune often felt by recent seminary grads sent to dysfunctional congregations.

To some extent, such can be self fullfilling prophecy. Ie, if one views ones congregation as dysfunctional, it likely will be, and a look in the mirror is needed. Yet, to deny the fact that there are congregations from hell is a serious dis-service as well. There has to be an element of realism… and hopefully one will identify such, well before the newbie pastor ends up either so disillusioned and shredded, they quit ministry entirely, or worse.

Concepts for this came from a kazillion pastor’s I’ve know over the years, and as of late Pastor Joelle’s and Father A’s blogs.

Churches and Coffeehouses

Dwight, over at Center for Renewal had a cool entry on the coffeehouse phenomena, where he noted the activity, and wished for the same at Maundy Thursday services. It got me thinking quite a bit, and rather than hog his comments, here goes a few thoughts.

The allure of the coffee house.

What the coffee house provides beyond coffee and free wifi is the following:

  • A calm, and reflective environment, ideal for creative work.
  • A sense of social connectivity, in an ultra non-threatening environment. No interaction is assumed, but casual interaction may occur. This human desire for connectedness, but not interaction per se is fascinating.
  • Overtime, relationships may or may not build. Being that’s not really a primary goal, coffeehouses foster a very organic relationship building process. Its vastly different than the traditional restaurant that has a coffee clique crowd so to speak. I don’t know whether this is intentional by design, but it might be. Ie, the tables for 2-4, the sofas, comfy chairs, free wifi, etc, encourage folks to linger and as such purchase more $5 coffees. A restaurant on the other hand, wants to get people in and out, and at $0.50 for coffee it makes sense. (not a coffee drinker so unsure on prices, but do cherish the coffee house environment for work and meetings)
  • There is much collective wisdom. If one is bold enough to ask, many will step in to help, but its often facilitated more so by location tools like brightkite/twitter than 3d. Ie, I will jump in to help anyone on twitter, offer opinions, comments, etc. I might do so in 3d, but if not directly asked, I wont.

The church is sort of there, but not quite:

  • The church has collective wisdom, but few will ask.
  • The church has the capability of organic relationship building, but often its forced, or worse clique driven.
  • The church has a problem with the threatening aspect. Ie how many of us would pull up to an unknown church and go and crash them? (when I traveled a lot, I did this, and its cool, but its a seemingly bold thing to do, and failure is common, ie doors locked, no one around). Imagine what would happen, if churches opened their doors, physically, as well as spiritually?
  • The church often forces interaction, rather than a passive; ok if you do, fine if you dont, approach at the coffee house.
  • Many sanctuaries are ideal for contemplation. Back in my CCM days, egads, the amount of writing, contemplation, and I must admit naps also  occurred in the upper balcony in churches all across the US. The thing is… it would sort of be odd, to grab a laptop and hang out in the upper balcony, even if it had free wifi, also the nature of a sanctuary doesnt align itself with collaboration either.  As a traveling musician, despite a janitor, or pastor being surprised to see one or more of us sleeping in a balcony pew, knowing our travel schedule, it was seemed to be acceptable to them, albeit likely a bit weird.
  • Fellowship halls, are often seriously lacking in environment, ie they foster eating together, not so much socializing. In many cases they are pretty sterile, and the existence of sofas, reading chairs, or tables for 2 or 3 is exceedingly rare.

Changing the Christian Label ?

I was asked recently if labeling something anything other than Christian was misleading (if it has a Christian focus). I dont think it is, in part due to my study, but also, the head banging of being behind the scenes when www.christianforums.com changed to www.foru.ms. It was not a trivial, nor easy call, and although the name changed back when the site was sold, I still firmly believe the name change was the right one at the time. The Godtube folks likely also struggled with this, when they changed to their name to Tangle.

3 reasons why Christian may not be an appropriate title/label:

1. The title Christian creates expectations, ie orthodoxy, but usually as defined by individual members, and that does cause conflict, as very few folks agree. In another case, member expectations, ie how can a Christian message board not allow me to use scripture anyway I want, including to bash and flame others? How can anything other than sugar coated G family friendly topics be discussed? How can you allow crude or sometimes explicit language to be used? How can you allow folks to express anger at God? How can you allow a Jewish person or a Muslim to share their faith, and why they believe what they believe?

2. The title Christian for hurting individuals often carries negative connotations, ie bashing and hypocrisy are the most common, but in some cases, there is so much focus on politics, guns, flags, homosexuality and abortion, that Jesus and the Gospel gets missed almost entirely.There is also the issue of outreach. Ie In talking with folks who outreach to Muslim’s, if you say you are Christian, they often will ignore you and walk away, if you talk about following Jesus, there is a bridge to the Qur’an.

3. The title Christian can be a marketing hijack… Ie, folks come, because its Christian… not because it necessarily exhibits the fruits of the spirit, or even that the Gospel is present.  Sadly, the label far too often results in putting a lampshade over ones faith, and hiding away from the world, rather than engaging the world. In other ways, its preaching to the choir. (not that there isn’t room for that, nor that such is improper, it can be a good thing). One of the concepts of foru.ms was that google was indexing topics… you want to know of redemption, google would bring you to foru.ms. You are looking for a recovery group for those previously in the sex industry, google would bring you to foru,ms. And if you were looking for Christian, there would be so much of a Christ focus, that google would bring you to foru.ms. The intent in part was foru.ms would exhibit the fruits of the spirit, and rely on the love of its members to bring folks, not the title.

To counter this…
The use of a Christian title upholds us to higher standards. Ie, if its Bobs forum, and it goes south, its just Bobs reputation. If its named after or includes Jesus…. pretty much bad stuff tends to make Jesus not look so good. From a pragmatic pov… using the word Christian is not cool. From an idealistic pov… using the word Christian, and upholding Him in all things is pretty cool.