The Wrong Questions

I’ve had some very interesting conversations recently about summertime and the church.  People are busy, busy, busy.  When the summer is upon folks, our schedules just really get out of control.  We are going, going, going.

And so what happens from a ministry perspective is this.  It’s tough to get things done, it’s tough get schedules planned, it’s tough to get events taken care of.  People are just busy.  And it’s not just a summer thing, it’s an entire year thing.

In Petal, there’s school and sports and hobbies and family and the beach and everything.  This true for both children, youth, families, everyone.

And here’s the biggest change.  In years past, church dominated folks schedule, especially here in the south.  People placed church plans and church events over personal, family, and school events.  And that’s not the case anymore. I put it like this to other pastors – if we make parents choose between t-ball and church, most folks are picking t-ball every time.

It is what it is.  It’s the reality of where the world is and is headed.  Complaining about it as churches and pastors does no good. What are we going to do about it?

What the church would like, to be honest, would be for you to be less busy with your stuff, so that you can be more busy with our stuff.  Church stuff.  Church events.  I think that we in the church don’t want you less busy, we want you less busy with stuff that keeps you from being busy with our stuff.

And I don’t think that’s right either.  You know what I want?  I just want folks to be less busy. To have the chance to just breathe.  Not less busy with their stuff and more busy with my stuff.  Just less busy.

968034_10154141700060043_1778051013_nWe’ve seen a shift in culture, from “modernity” to “post-modernity.”  People aren’t focused on institutions and structure like they used to be, they have shifted towards experiences and their own freedom.  Authorities don’t matter.  The Encyclopedia Britannica was edited by experts, Wikipedia is edited by you and me.  Everyone is an expert, everyone is free!

You can see (if you can read it) some of my explaination off to the side. The things that used to matter, don’t matter any more. What matters?  Relationships.

And the church is isn’t set up from that. We are programmed and structured and scheduled.  And people aren’t like that anymore. And with what little free time they have, they are going to cram as much life as possible into it.

So, the church’s schedule and events are good, only in that they fit into free time available or mean something to the individual.

The “church” is not set up for that.  We operate, most of us, out of a programing mindset.  We want you in worship. And education (small groups or Sunday school). We want you on Wednesdays.  We want you on Sunday nights. We want you at meetings through the week. We want you at church events.  We want you busy, busy, busy for church too.

And I honestly don’t think that’s what folks want. But that’s all that the church knows how to do.  It’s how we are set up.

The culture is shifting under our feet. People don’t want businesses. They want community. They want support. They want relationships. And church is set up most time to make you busy.

Not to give you relationships.

We’ve got to shift. We’ve got to move from a program/event mindset to a relational mindset. We’ve got to be authentic Christians that understand that faith and discipleship are not bound to specific times and place.  Yes, worship still matters, greatly.  Yes, small groups still matter, greatly.  But, the most “pastoral” thing I did today was run into an old friend today and drink coffee and chat about life for an hour.

Faith happens all over.  This shift we have to make as the church is this.  Relationships matter.  Relationships are how we are changed, how creation is changed, how lives are change.  We as the church have got to move beyond the 1950s method of locked in schedules.

We’ve got to live out the Gospel in coffee shops, and Walmart, and baseball games, and the beach, and everywhere.

We’ve got to be more simple. I ask people at Asbury to commit to 3 things. Weekly worship, weekly small group, and daily service.  That’s it.  You do those three, you are being very, very faithful.

I don’t want you at church every night. I want you living life, forming relationships, being Salt and Light.

I think we as the church have the answer, but we are asking the wrong question.  Jesus is what matters, Jesus changes things. The question is not why aren’t you busy for church, but the question should be is this – how have you seen Him today and how have you shown Him to others.

We have the answer the world needs. We’ve just got to ask the right question.

If the Devil Can’t Make You Bad

In our lives, we are all pretty busy. Each of us. We all have a lot going on, lots to do, lots happening. It sort of just is what it is. We don’t have a lot of time to stop moving. We just go. And we just do. We stay busy.

Staying so busy can create lots of problems for us if we are not carful. We can forget (or be too busy) to take care of ourselves. We can forget (or be to busy) to serve others as we should. We can forget (or be to busy) to do things in that strengthen our faith, like praying, or reading, or worshiping.

Getting too busy is a danger of our lives, our faith, our families, everything. I had an old preacher of mine that put it this why – if the devil can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy.

There’s some truth to that. So real truth to that.

Listen to what it says today in John 5:20-21:

For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.

In this passage today, I noticed something that being busy can cause us to do. It says in verse 20 – “so that you may marvel.”

When was the last time you just marveled at God? When was the last time you stood back and said, wow, God, you are awesome. When was the last time you had an awareness at just how big and mighty and awesome God is? When was the last time you just marveled at God?

We don’t do it enough, probably because we too busy. Today, take time to stop. To marvel at God, His goodness. His vastness. His strength. His love. His grace. Just take time to realize what a great and mighty God He is.

And take time to just marvel in His presence. He is a great and mighty God. And He desires to know each of us. That’s pretty awesome.

May we never lose sight of that.

Be Still

I’m not a person that sits still well.  It’s not something I like or something that I do well in any way.  I sit still behind my desk too long, I’ve got to get up and move around.  I just don’t have the wiring to sit around and do nothing.

And, that’s how it feel sometimes when I’m not active.  I’m just doing . . . . well, nothing.

And then, I read a passage like I did this morning in Psalm 37

7 Be still before the Lord *
and wait patiently for him.
8 Do not fret yourself over the one who prospers, *
the one who succeeds in evil schemes.
9 Refrain from anger, leave rage alone; *
do not fret yourself; it leads only to evil.

The Psalmist reminds us something important that I don’t like to do – be still before the Lord.  Wait upon Him.  Still your heart before Him.

Why?  Why is this important?  Why do we need to do this?

We get so busy. We have so much going on each day.  So many concerns, so many worries, so many things that seem to be so important for us to do.

We can lose perspective. We can forget what is really important.

What is really the most important thing today?  Another task? Having a right heart with God?

That is why we need to be still.  Breathe.  Listen.  The world pushes us towards busyness and activity.

God says – slow down. Listen for me.  Listen for my voice.  Seek me while I may be found.

You don’t have to quit your job today.  You don’t have to abandon your family.  You don’t have to stop doing what you are assigned to.

But, take a moment today.  And just listen. Still yourself.  Listen. Slow yourself.  Listen.  God longs to commune with you.

No matter what you have going on, take a moment today to be still before Him.  Perhaps on commute to work.  Over lunch.  In your office.  In the garden. Wherever.  Listen.

He wants to speak.  If we will just quiet ourselves and pay attention.  We will hear.