don’t.drink.the.kool-aid

Heads’ up! This is NOT a political posting.

With great hesitation, in part due to intense peer-pressure, I joined the Facebook social networking site last year. After a minor learning curve I became pretty adept at navigating the waters. Not only can I connect with my current circle of friends and family, but I can search for old friends from past associations, like companies that I used to work for or schools that I attended. It really has been fun to connect with all of these people. After a while you begin to develop a “Facebook etiquette” of your own, as you discover the possibilities and annoyances that Facebook offers. The unfortunate thing is that you cannot force your etiquette on others.

One of the things that has annoyed me is the avalanche of causes and groups that I am invited to join. In any given day, I have to hit the ignore button on between 3-10 of these user magnets. A brief explanation of how this works is in order. While being hypothetical there is a risk of insulting an actual Facebook cause or group, in which case I apologize beforehand. Anyway, hypothetically, let’s say that you think that all public schools should adopt school uniforms. You start a group called “Support Uniforms in Public Schools”, and invite all your friends. Then many of them invite some of their friends, and so on ad infinitum. It really becomes a virus of sorts. The particularly feel-good types of groups get large pretty quickly in this way.

I think everyone ought to be able to be a part of whatever group floats their boats and join whatever causes inspires their passions. But, personally, I am quite capable of searching out these associations on my own, and I really don’t need to be invited to every group or cause that every one of my friends thinks is important (end scrooge moment). So, I get this deluge of invites, and every time I hit “ignore” or “reject” (or whatever label means “no”), I feel guilty for dissing my friends and shrugging-off their passions. Well, OK, so I don’t feel guilty anymore (grin).

Back to the point of this post.

So, I am sitting there engaged in Facebook stuff and notice that nearly every news flash on my home page is about my WONDERFUL friends joining causes and groups. At first it was funny to me, then I got a little annoyed. It seemed that every group was some kind of bandwagon, often centered around some person, for some cause. For instance, if my memory serves me correctly, there was a “Join Obama’s call to make a difference campaign” group, and a “Al Gore’s friends of the environment”, and “Joel’s guide to being a Christian who smiles all the time”. It seems that everyone is peddling Kool-aid these days…

It really got me wondering – are we so detached from our compassion that we have to join some figurehead’s call to action to feel like we can make a difference in the world? When we do join these alleged crusades for the common good, do we actually participate in the cause or do we let our membership suffice to feel good about ourselves. I wonder how many people who join these groups actually do anything other than click a button to advertise their agreement with the sentiment being lauded. I got so annoyed thinking about it all that I created my own Facebook group – hahahaha.

One of the things we teach the people at Thrive is this: you don’t need me, nor our church to make a difference – you can make a difference on your own.

Folks, let’s allow Jesus to possess our compassion and our passions. If we do, then we won’t be content with clicking a “join my cause” link. We won’t be content to nod in agreement. We won’t wait for some leader to lead the way. We will, instead, let the Holy Spirit lead us with His compassion and His passions. The inevitable result is that we will act, under our own gumption, to make a difference in the lives around us.

more.than.words

We are nearing a crossroads here at Thrive. This year is going to be year of milestones for our young ministry. For instance, sometime before the coming convention, Thrive will move from being a church plant to being a church. I am both excited and nervous about this milestone. Looking over the past couple of years, there are a lot of things we are proud about, and plenty of things that we wish we did better.

One example of the latter concerns our finances. As is the case with most church plants, we are definitely not swimming in money. We have always been very careful with every dollar, since every dollar represents the hard work and sacrifice of a real person. There were some very lean days, and we learned a lot from God about priorities. I am very pleased with the level of stewardship and frugality we were able to muster with God’s help. However, I still feel that we fell a bit short. Let me try to explain.

From the very beginning we knew that God was challenging us to be very intentional about everything we do. There is no process in Thrive that has not been weighed and measured before going into action. We don’t do things just because that is what churches are supposed to do. We don’t do things just because that is what Nazarene churches are supposed to do. As far as we are concerned, there were/are no sacred cows – everything is game for scrutiny.

Having this extreme intentionality at our core, it is hard to believe that we had not been so intentional with our finances. Don’t get me wrong, we are good stewards – and I will stand by anything decision we’ve made. However, I have come to realize that being a good steward is not the same thing as being intentional. I can readily recall all the training and advice aimed at ensuring our intentionality, but with the intensity of actually doing ministry, we never really got intentional with our finances. While we were very careful, we found ourselves being very reactionary and sometimes arbitrary.

When times were really lean, stewardship was easy – don’t spend. But what happens as we begin to turn the corner, so to speak? As we can sense this “turn” is underway, it is imperative that our financial policies are intentional. Our purpose statement is “Love God, love one another, and pass it on.” Up to this point, everything we do at Thrive has fallen in line with this statement. There is an intentional alignment between our purpose and our processes – in all areas – except finances.

Realizing this shortcoming, I am leading our staff and leadership team down a path towards a financial policy that is aligned with our purpose. No longer will our financial discussions be dictated solely by a black or red pen. We will also evaluate our fiscal activity against loving God, loving one another, and passing it on. We have already developed a few ideas that we think will get us there and I am excited to see how they will look once they are in place. We have a lot of work to do – much of it will challenge conventional wisdom. But, I am reminded of a simple old challenge – “put your money where your mouth is.” Please pray for Thrive as we continue to let God shape us into His vision for us.