Monday, January 28, 2008

Subjectively Honest

Some powerful things happened all weekend at the Vineyard. God seemed to "show up" in a different way. It seemed like lots of people were open to God. There was a good heaviness in the room at each Celebration.

So much of what I do at VCC is totally subjective. I probably get asked over 100 times each weekend, "How'd you do?" It's a more difficult and loaded question to answer that you might think. I really never know how to answer. I always do my best, but who knows what that means? For every ten people that say something nice, someone will e-mail something very negative. (In my first two months here I was called an anti-Christ with an agenda to destroy the church and a demonized egomaniac, but others have thrown around similarly ridiculous comments on the positive side.) Like I said, it's all way too subjective. It's forced me into apathy in terms of any performance language surrounding my teachings. I can't care too much if other people (or I) think I did a "good job." As a teacher my hope is that people learn, and in learning that they are moved to action. That's the only way to know if I'm doing a "good job." My experience has shown that it takes a few years to see if a teacher is really impacting a community.

So if you ask, "How'd it go?" and I seem disconnected or apathetic, that's why. It's a hard question to answer and it makes me uncomfortable on about twelve different levels.

Jesus dealt with this stuff. He was called a demon and a prophet - a trouble maker and the promised King. I'm not saying I'm like Jesus, but I do follow him. Maybe when your master is a polarizing figure, you end up that way yourself. Left to my own I'm very content to not make any waves, but Jesus followers always stir things up...maybe it's part of our cross to bear.

These are the things about my work here that make me uncomfortable. I hesitate to even write about it here, but it is a constant theme in my life and hard to ignore. One of the things I loved in my time away for full-time vocational ministry was not having to deal with these issues on a daily basis.

That was a lot of me talking about me to try to say it's not about me.

This brings us back to Gideon, whom we studied this weekend. I told 2/3 of his story, but omitted the ending found in Judges 8. It was a struggle to leave out the end of his story, but there simply wasn't time. His story is a much happier one without his final chapter. Gideon leads the people of Israel back to God. The people follow him for many decades and receive God's blessing. At the end, the people come to Gideon and ask him to be King. He gives them the perfect answer when he declines their offer and tells them that God alone is their King. Then he makes a huge mistake.

Gideon, in lieu of kingship, asks the people to give him their gold earrings to make a memorial for his battles and leadership. The people quickly comply and they make an ephod out of gold. (As I understand it, an ephod is some mixture of armor, underwear and a girdle - sounds very uncomfortable.) The people decide to worship Gideon's Ephod and it becomes a snare (trap) for the nation. It leads them back into idol worship and away from Yahweh. The second that Gideon dies, the people prostitute themselves to the Baals, the fake gods. It seems to be clear that their journey away from God started when they worshipped the ephod. Gideon made the best and worst decision of his life in one moment. He let God be King, but gave the people something shiny that they could worship apart from God.

Maybe my previous personal ramblings connect here. It is easy for people to see another person's gift (contribution to the body) as just another shiny thing to worship. Most church leaders are not so bold as to try to take God's role as King, though some are. Most leaders are content with just a little of God's glory, not all of it. "Just a few earrings melted into a golden girdle to remember me by." Forging just a small token of my accomplishment, my "good job," can't hurt anybody, right?

Yes, it can. This is the problem. Perhaps the greatest and most counter-intuitive task of a leader within the Kingdom of God is to reject the earrings. To turn down the mini-monuments. Truth is, if the gift is really God's anyway, who am I to worry if you dislike the gift or the person entrusted with it? Who am I to accept the glory if you like the gift?

It's all about being faithful. Let's pray for one another and build each other up as God builds his church using us as Living Stones to build his eternal temple with our lives.


LTorres said...

I thought you did a great job this weekend. But if some of the congregation has been harsh you might have used something other than stones as part of the service. I can’t think of anytime in the bible where people picked up stones in church and had good intentions.

I loved it all. Great Job!

Dyah said...

I agree about the heaviness..I was trying hard to shut my thoughts and said, "God, if you don't tell me my name I won't leave this building.." I asked one of the prayer team to pray for me and He told me what my name is...I tried hard to hold on my tears till I got to my car.

God is always real for me and your message is too. God bless you! Thank you!

g13 said...

the part about our polarizing master producing polarizing followers really rang true to me. thanks.

Mo said...

Obviously I missed your teaching (in more than one way), but I think of you often and the challenges we've faced and how much I've grown over the past 11+ years since your move to the desert. I'm currently reading a book that speaks so much truth, yet, I'm finding it a challenge to really wrap my mind around how to apply it. You know me...I like a "how to" checklist. Thank God we are all different, but that means it's not a one size fits all world and neither is our God. I think you might find this book appealing too. Pilgrims of Christ on the Muslim Road. But forget the Muslim road, we are just seeing the author (Paul-Gordon Chandler) share the story of a Muslim Background Believer (MBB) figure out Christ within his own cultural context. How do we (yes, you and I) apply the teachings of Christ, in a relevant way, to those we encounter daily. I think this book will speak to you and might be a good one to pass onto to others - it's changed my way of thinking (as if it hadn't already changed enough).