I got an email from Dalena with a ton of pictures of our folks “passing it on” at RIFA. I quickly uploaded them to Flickr, posted the gallery on the Thrive web site, and then fired off a “thanks” email to the wonderful people of Thrive Community Church. I had some other tasks to mark off my to-do list and once finished I decided to actually LOOK at the pictures I just uploaded. I saw their faces. I began to wonder about the stories behind those faces. What circumstances led to their position of need? What do their futures hold?
Two thoughts wrestled for attention in my head – both drenched in guilt.
First, I was ashamed of how I had been looking at these people. At the end of John’s Gospel an important story is told – the story of Jesus’ reinstatement of Paul’s apostleship. Jesus tells Peter to “feed my lambs/sheep”. I realize that it may be contextual massaging to connect this scripture in this way, but the Holy Spirit’s words to my heart are “feed my sheep”. The weight of this heart-call is especially potent to me because I often suffer the temptation to allow myself to judge these people.
When Jesus preached to feed the poor and to look after the widows he never attached the phrase “as long as they deserve it”, or “as long as they look for a job”, or “as long as they promise to come to church afterward”. He just said to feed his sheep. Now I realize that we need to be good stewards, but we better be careful what criteria we place on that stewardship. Merit has absolutely no place in such decisions. It’s never about whether or not they deserve it, but rather if we have the resources and the logistical capability to be of aid.
The second potential guilt-trap is one of expectations – expectations placed on myself. You see, as I looked at those faces I also began to feel guilty because I had not been able to be a part of passing those bags out on any of the nights for various reasons despite great intentions. I, the pastor of Thrive, did not make it to a single night. God reminded me that we have over 80 others who are a part of Thrive’s family who are quite capable of being involved. God provided people to handle every night. So there was no reason for me to feel guilty – God had it covered.
I wonder how many of us are tempted to allow guilt to make us feel like we MUST be involved at every plea for help or for every plea for funds. I am not giving anyone permission to do “nothing”. But, I wonder how many of us put ourselves into slavery by volunteering for everything instead of allowing God to steer us to the things where He wants us to be a blessing and steering us away from things when He wants SOMEONE ELSE to be a blessing.
In His grip,
Recently I was given a rare opportunity and privilege to participate in a task force challenged with assessing a revisioning of the Church of the Nazarene’s main web site. It seems that recently the CotN has made several moves to attempt to open up discussion about the future of the denomination beyond Kansas City (AKA Nazarene Headquarters). I have been lucky enough to have access to two of those gestures, this web task force is one of them.
We talked about specific areas of improvement in a fruitful candid way. But, what I am most excited about is having the opportunity to go beyond nuts and bolts. This task force was also an opportunity for a lot of grass roots focused people to discuss a bigger picture – what role should the site play in the denomination. But even more far-reaching, we were able to look at the even larger picture of what the headquarter’s role in the denomination ought to be, and therefore, how does the web site support that role. This is a reversal of the power-pyramid that most of us have lived with in the CotN, and frankly, it stirs some long-sleeping enthusiasm for the denomination.
It got me thinking about what role Thrive ought to play in God’s work including the church beyond the CotN, but more importantly, in helping the people of Thrive accomplish THEIR grassroots mission in their homes, places of work, and social circles. We don’t want to be in the business of programming, scripting, or approving your individual mission. Instead, we want to facilitate your mission. More to come about that from the ministry team, but also I hope that Thrive’s people begin to assess these roles as well.
In His grip,
It’s been a while since I have flown and I was pretty surprised at the level if security. It was condition orange, and they actually setup up a separate checkpoint well before the gates. I watched the pros get their pockets clean, shoes off and laptops out within seconds while the rest of us fumbled around like lemmings without a leader. It was chaotic and stressful and it took forever. Finally, once through the check points we were able to relax. There was an incredible sense of calm. People were back to normal on the “safe” side of the gate. We were free to move about as long as we stayed on the “safe” side.
It got me thinking (you know pastors are always looking for the theology within life’s moments). There are many “security check points” that we must endure. From dealing with tough relational issues, to struggling through financial burdens, to enduring severe tragedy. It always seems so unbearable while in the thick of it, but we can all recall many transitions to the “safe” side.
There is always a “safe” side (sometimes temporal, sometimes eternal). God promises it. As hard as it seems, we really must search for the gate to the “safe” side, marked by God’s love for each of us. “Seek first the Kingdom of God.” When He is in view, everything else fades and our conscience is filled with the destination, not the circumstance.