A digital commonplace for a Regular Guy called Charlie Pharis

Category: Missional (page 1 of 1)

The Barn…

(Image via flickr.com/mytimemachine)

Ed Stetzer has some thoughts on the evolution of the Church Growth Movement. This quote grabbed me early this morning…

The church can never become the place where I live, work, and play. My neighborhood is where real people live. I am not sent by God to a church facility, ever how convenient and impressive it may be. I am sent away from the church gathered to my tribe and household with the Good News of the Gospel. That is where transformational movements take place that engage every man, woman, and child with the Gospel. So, too many in church growth focused on the barn, rather than how we might live on mission among the white fields. When focusing too much on the barn, we sometimes forget that the wheat will not harvest itself.

I’m living and leading in such a context right now.

(OK, not leading so much. There, I said it….)

Not Really Ready, Am I?

Went with the lovely and gracious “Mrs. Just Charlie” to our favorite little Eye-talian place for lunch today. (I had just talked about getting back to the basics of church, and how the mission of Jesus to seek and save the lost must be our driving passion, etc.).

So we pull up to Provino’s and there they were, in all their redneck-hip-hop-wannabe glory: about four guys and a girl,  all of whom appeared to be in their early 20s. Standing right outside the door, smoking, swilling Budweiser longnecks.

My first reaction was something like…

Crap! Why can’t they move it somewhere else so I can get in the door?

We went around this crew and headed in for lunch. Well, it gets better. As soon as we were seated, that whole crew came in and joined another very similar crowd at a large table across the room from us.

Another young woman joined them shortly, and it became apparent that this whole bunch was celebrating the first young woman’s birthday. (Or that they were continuing to celebrate her birthday might be more like it!)

I’d like to think that the language they were using would be offensive to the young woman (with the obligatory and very evident tramp stamp), but since she was the loudest and most obnoxious, I guess not.

Every third word from her mouth began with “f” and ended with “-kin'” and there was no “rea” in between. I had almost had all I could stand when she made this comment…

S**t! I was so f**kin’ messed up, I f**kin’ woke up with nothin’ but my f**kin’ bikini top on, and my f**kin’ bottle of Everclear was f**kin’ gone!

The rest of the table laughed and commented favorably.

And that’s when it hit me. Or I should say, that’s when He hit me. Right in the face. Hard.

My buddy, Gary Lamb, often says that most pastors who say they want to reach the unchurched really don’t want to, they just want to have cool, different ways of doing church for the already-convinced.

I know he’s right, but it hit home in a big way this afternoon over a plate of manicotti and garlic rolls.

I am not really ready to advance the Kingdom. I’m not really ready to storm the gates of hell and rescue people who are far from God. I’m good with nice, decent folks who just don’t go to church. But there were people, loved by God, created and designed by Him for a great purpose, people for whom Jesus lived and died, people being passionately pursued by God, and I couldn’t handle them. My anger and discomfort soon turned to great shame and I wept over my last bit of manicotti. Sitting right there in the restaurant, I wept over people far from God, and over my lack of passion for them.

God, help me see those who are far from You as You see them. Give me patience for the things I don’t like so I can have a passion for those You love. Help me be ready next time…

Taking the Pressure Off a Little…

As both of you loyal readers know, I serve a small traditional church as pastor. I just finished up a message series yesterday about our mission as believers. The final talk was a challenge to be “messengers of hope” in our neighborhoods and our city. Included in the talk was this statement…

You are not the hope of your neighbors. You are not the hope of our city, our county, our state, our nation, or our world. That job is already filled! Jesus – and only Jesus – is the hope!

I told our folks I hoped that would take some of the pressure off their lives. But then I said I wanted to put a little bit of it back on: The only way some folks in our neighborhoods, our city, our county, our state, our nation, and our planet will ever find the real Hope is if we start being messengers of hope ourselves.

My Prayer Today…

After discovering anew the Matthew 10 passage at the hospital this afternoon, I made it back to my office. I went down into the Prayer Room (Hey folks! Did you know we have a “prayer room?”) and spent some time with God. Here’s what I prayed and journaled…

Today, Lord, I ask You to call out workers into Your harvest. Send me out to work in Your fields.

Don’t let us get so enamored of “missions over there,” that we look right past “missions right here.” There are lost, confused, harassed and hurting people in our neighborhood. Help us tell them in ways they can understand that Your kingdom is here.

Help us bring health to the sick. Help us raise the dead to new life. Help us touch the untouchables and untouched. Help us kick out demons. Help us be generous people, giving what we have been given.

Help us see that we are all the equipment we need. Help us not to wait until we think we have all we need, for if we wait until the conditions are “just right,” we will never get busy about the awesome task at hand.

Give us the essentials – and help us be grateful, generous, and faithful to use these essentials to multiply the harvest.

Lead us to receptive people. Prepare the way and the hearts of people before us.

Show us those who are receptive. Give us wisdom and discernment to know when to persist, when to change, and when to move on!

Help us be wise but harmless.

Help us persevere even when the pressure is on, even when the pressure comes from those we love the most.

Keep us focused on You and Your vision and mission, even when others don’t understand or when they speak evil lies about us, or when they try to smear our reputations.

Help us to be bold and courageous, even in the face of persecution. No matter who the authorities are – civil, government, or even (especially!) religious! Give us courage. Give us the right words to share the Good News of Your kingdom. Speak through us.

Keep us from being intimidated. Help us not to fear the threats of bullies outside or inside powers-that-be. Help us to fear no one but You! Not men, not their opinions, not their threats, not their blind confusion, not their failure to see what You’re doing now.

Thank You for making us valuable, for loving us more than anything else.

Help us confess You before the world, so we can know the glory of You standing up for us in the presence of the Father.

Help us to be worthy of You and Your call.

Help us forget our own preferences, our own comfort, our own agendas, and focus with all we are and all we have on You and Your call.

Help us give away all that we now are, so we can become all that You truly mean for us to be.

Thank You for trusting us as Your partners in this awesome and daunting task! Help us not to be overwhelmed by its enormity and scope. But help us see the small things, the starting place – the first thirsty person who needs a drink of water. And help us give that cold cup of water unselfishly, as an offering of obedience to You.

Look, Pray, Go…

One of my favorite scripture challenges has always been Matthew 9:35-38, and the follow-up in Matthew 10. Today, I spent a little time with one of our couples in the waiting room at the hospital. I’m reading Thom Rainer’s Eating the Elephant (the original edition, not the revised edition with Chuck Lawless) and he just mentioned in passing the vision of Jesus in Matthew 10:7. I had my little pocketknife edition of The Message with me, so I turned over to Matthew 10 to check Rainer’s reference.

I’ve read that passage hundreds of times I’m sure, but something about it in Eugene Peterson’s great paraphrase really grabbed me today…

Jesus sent his twelve harvest hands out with this charge:

“Don’t begin by traveling to some far-off place to convert unbelievers. And don’t try to be dramatic by tackling some public enemy. Go to the lost, confused people right here in the neighborhood. Tell them that the kingdom is here. Bring health to the sick. Raise the dead. Touch the untouchables. Kick out the demons. You have been treated generously, so live generously.

9-10“Don’t think you have to put on a fund-raising campaign before you start. You don’t need a lot of equipment. You are the equipment, and all you need to keep that going is three meals a day. Travel light.

11“When you enter a town or village, don’t insist on staying in a luxury inn. Get a modest place with some modest people, and be content there until you leave.

12-15“When you knock on a door, be courteous in your greeting. If they welcome you, be gentle in your conversation. If they don’t welcome you, quietly withdraw. Don’t make a scene. Shrug your shoulders and be on your way. You can be sure that on Judgment Day they’ll be mighty sorry—but it’s no concern of yours now.

16“Stay alert. This is hazardous work I’m assigning you. You’re going to be like sheep running through a wolf pack, so don’t call attention to yourselves. Be as cunning as a snake, inoffensive as a dove.

17-20“Don’t be naive. Some people will impugn your motives, others will smear your reputation—just because you believe in me. Don’t be upset when they haul you before the civil authorities. Without knowing it, they’ve done you—and me—a favor, given you a platform for preaching the kingdom news! And don’t worry about what you’ll say or how you’ll say it. The right words will be there; the Spirit of your Father will supply the words.

21-23“When people realize it is the living God you are presenting and not some idol that makes them feel good, they are going to turn on you, even people in your own family. There is a great irony here: proclaiming so much love, experiencing so much hate! But don’t quit. Don’t cave in. It is all well worth it in the end. It is not success you are after in such times but survival. Be survivors! Before you’ve run out of options, the Son of Man will have arrived.

24-25“A student doesn’t get a better desk than her teacher. A laborer doesn’t make more money than his boss. Be content—pleased, even—when you, my students, my harvest hands, get the same treatment I get. If they call me, the Master, ‘Dungface,’ what can the workers expect?

26-27“Don’t be intimidated. Eventually everything is going to be out in the open, and everyone will know how things really are. So don’t hesitate to go public now.

28Don’t be bluffed into silence by the threats of bullies. There’s nothing they can do to your soul, your core being. Save your fear for God, who holds your entire life—body and soul—in his hands.

Forget About Yourself

29-31“What’s the price of a pet canary? Some loose change, right? And God cares what happens to it even more than you do. He pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail—even numbering the hairs on your head! So don’t be intimidated by all this bully talk. You’re worth more than a million canaries.

32-33Stand up for me against world opinion and I’ll stand up for you before my Father in heaven. If you turn tail and run, do you think I’ll cover for you?

34-37Don’t think I’ve come to make life cozy. I’ve come to cut—make a sharp knife-cut between son and father, daughter and mother, bride and mother-in-law—cut through these cozy domestic arrangements and free you for God. Well-meaning family members can be your worst enemies. If you prefer father or mother over me, you don’t deserve me. If you prefer son or daughter over me, you don’t deserve me.

38-39“If you don’t go all the way with me, through thick and thin, you don’t deserve me. If your first concern is to look after yourself, you’ll never find yourself. But if you forget about yourself and look to me, you’ll find both yourself and me.

40-42We are intimately linked in this harvest work. Anyone who accepts what you do, accepts me, the One who sent you. Anyone who accepts what I do accepts my Father, who sent me. Accepting a messenger of God is as good as being God’s messenger. Accepting someone’s help is as good as giving someone help. This is a large work I’ve called you into, but don’t be overwhelmed by it. It’s best to start small. Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance. The smallest act of giving or receiving makes you a true apprentice. You won’t lose out on a thing.”