Last week I had the opportunity to give a 30,000 foot view of where we've been as a church and
where we're headed. If you weren't able to attend please listen to the
podcast on All Saints' mobile app or on the website. The message is titled
"What If...". If you're a regular at All Saints, put the talk into
action by fulfilling the "asks" listed near the end of Bill's message. If you are checking us out, come take part in what we are up to! If you are listening from another part of the country or world, pray for us!
I met with a friend today who taught me a lot about sustainability in organizations. I learned that sustaibility, if practiced now, will lead to healthier environments, corporations, neighborhoods, churches, forests, etc. I think this is an important discussion, especially in urban settings. I subscribe to SustainableCitiesCollective, they can take the discussion a bit deeper if you are interested.
This discussion made me reflect deeply on the church I lead, are we living out a sustainable community? In other words, are we caring for neighbors, each other, the poor, the oppressed, and the disenfranchized? And are we caring, serving, encouraging, teaching and loving the members of our congregation?
Just recently, I was grieved to learn a neighbor, in the neighborhood our church is in, committed suicide. I was convicted that there was a failure of community on our part. How do we create a sustainable community where people are known and loved? How can we create this community where needs are met; where there is no such thing as a stranger, where care is happening on a regular basis? Can All Saints Church be warm enough to thaw the Seattle freeze?
I believe it is the purpose of the church to be this kind of community. At All Saints, we exist to make the city better, I am convinced this is part of it! It is not easy, but it is necessary.
"It is surely a fact of inexhaustable siginificance that what the Lord left behind Him was not a book, not a creed, not a system of thought, not a rule of life, but a visible community." - Lesslie Newbigin
Being visible is learning to love without limits, give sacrificially, serve at all times, pray without ceasing, and looking for opportunites to practice all four!
I have learned, over the years, to appreciate sitting in the "big chair." In other words, being a leader. However, I have also learned that just because you may sit in the "big chair" doesn't necessarily mean you are qualified. I have made a ton of mistakes, I have celebrated a few wins, I have unitentionally hurt people, I have intentionally celebrated people. All in all, there are some really wonderful and really tough aspects to being the "big chair" person.
Fortunately, I have been blessed with some amazing "big chair" people. One of them is a friend, Dave Kraft. Dave has taught so much about "big chair" character. I want to share with you his latest "big chair" advice and allow you to soak in it a little bit. Thanks Dave, you are the example of all us sitting in our little "big chairs." Here is the list, what would you readers add, delete, change?
You are okay with being misunderstood, disliked, and unpopular
You can delegate responsibility for making decisions to others, not just tasks
You are willing to feel alone and lonely at times
You can make decisions without second-guessing yourself or being fearful of what others may say or think
You can get over trying to keep everybody happy
You are more interested in being trusted and respected rather than being liked
You are willing to lose friends or followers. Many, perhaps most, of the early followers will leave
You are comfortable with change and ambiguity
You can say with authenticity that we did it rather than I did it
You can think outside the box and color outside the lines (What lines? I didn’t see any lines!)
You see people as valuable for who they are in Jesus, not just a means to your ends. We should love people and use things, rather than love things and use people
I am talking on Beauty and Sex this Sunday at All Saints Church. It's always a topic of interest. There are people wanting to prove how prudish the church is, that the church is closed minded, and puritan in their thinking about sex. There are also some who are wondering what to do with their sexuality. So, I hope to clear up some of that. We are going to look at the Proverbs and see what wisdom is there for us when it comes to beauty and sex. Go ahead, invite a friend. At the very least, you will have something to chat about at lunch.
Here is a great article by Rachel Held Evans on modesty, consider it a bit of a primer for Sunday.
This Sunday, I will be teaching what the Proverbs says about anger. This might surprise you, anger isn’t the opposite of love, hate is. And
the final form of hate is indifference. True love always gets angry.
I think most of us would admit that we experience anger on a daily basis. Not only in ourselves, but from other people. Is anger ever good? Is it healthy to get angry? When is anger is destructive? Do good people get angry?
Join us this Sunday at All Saints as we understand anger. See you at 10am.
Also, our staff is excited to serve all of our volunteers a BBQ lunch (catered by Jaspers) this Sunday directly after the 10 am gathering. If you volunteer at All Saints, please join us!
I met Dale Kuehne at a conference this past Spring. I enjoyed his intellect and his passion to engage the culture in ways that challenge and embrace. I would encourage you to read this article he wrote on the latest SCOTUS decsion. You can read it here.
Our church is going through the book of Proverbs this summer. The main point of the series is that we need wisdom in this life; wisdom is more than morality, ethics, and behaviors. It's knowing what to do when the issue, problem, or person doesn't follow the rules, life isn't a plug and play endeavor, we need the wisdom of God to navigate it.
Being an urban church provides us with all kinds of opportunity to need wisdom. I just read an article describing the 5 trends impacting America's cities. Essentially, with globalization, changing demographics, and technology the world is advancing, however, cities haven't necesarily been able to keep up. Therefore, our cities are struggling to solve problems and provide answers for the many needs that are arising. People are being impactied, this is where the church needs to step up.
The article lists the 5 trends to be financial strain, inadequare infrastructure, poor educational outcomes, skills/job mismatch, struggling housing market. These trends are putting all kinds of strain on systems, governments, employers, and churches.
I believe urban churches need to join the conversation and help bring some solutions. We need wisdom, not a religous voice nor a politcial voice. The voice of wisdom carries the burden of helping people, transform lives, usher in justice, and help the flourishing of the city. If we care about our cities, we need to get our hands dirty and get around the table. Jesus loved cities, he wept over his city. Do you weep for your city?
To have margin in your life gives you the ability to respond to a need, rather than react. In our culture, we are conditioned to "push the limits, do as much as you can, you only have one life so take as much as you can." This leads to anxiety and stress. I like the invitation of Christ when he says,
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matt 11:28-30, The Message Bible)
This week, take some time to make sure you have margin in your life. I like what Joshua Becker suggests to help us get "un-busy."
1. Realize that being busy is a choice. It is a decision we
make. We are never forced into a lifestyle of busyness. The first, and most
important, step to becoming less busy is to simply realize that our schedules
are determined by us. We do have a choice in the matter. We don’t have to live
2. Stop the glorification of busy. Busy, in and of
itself, is not a badge of honor. In fact, directed at the wrong pursuits, it is
actually a limiting factor to our full potential. It is okay to not be busy.
Repeat this with me: It is okay to not be busy.
3. Appreciate and schedule rest. One of the reasons
many of us keep busy schedules is we fail to recognize the value of rest. But rest is beneficial to
our bodies, our minds, and our souls. Set aside one day per week for rest and family. Intentionally schedule it on your
calendar. Then, guard it at all costs.
4. Revisit your priorities. Become more intentional with your
priorities and pursuits in life. Determine again what are the most significant
contributions you can offer this world. And schedule your time around those
first. Busyness is, at its core, about misplaced priorities.
5. Own fewer possessions. The things we own take up far more time and
mental energy than we realize. They need to be cleaned, organized, and
maintained. And the more we own, the more time is required. Own less stuff. And find more time because of it.
6. Cultivate space in your daily routine. Take time for lunch.
Find space in your morning to sit quietly before starting your day. Invest in solitude, meditation, or yoga. Find
opportunity for breaks at work in between projects. Begin right away
cultivating little moments of space and margin in your otherwise busy day.
7. Find freedom in the word, “no.” Seneca wrote, “Everybody agrees that no one pursuit can be
successfully followed by a man who is preoccupied with many things.” Recognize
the inherent value in the word “no.” Learning to say “no” to less important
commitments opens your life to pursue the most important
I have spent 12 years learning, thinking, studying, and praying as an urban missionary. I was an outsider to my context, and have made it my life to become an insider. I know the language, the culture, the tribal dances, I am urban. This has affected how I think about what I believe in, though, it hasn't changed who I believe in.
It is important to understand that all theology is contextual, all theology is relational and rooted in community. This is what helps understand urban neighborhoods and the people that live in them. It is so easy to be a critic, to judge, and cast off. In the city, I am learning to let others have a shot at being the critic, to have a voice. As a Christ follower, I believe the voices needed today are treasure hunters rather than trash collectors. This is the love of God. I learn to approach everyone I meet as a long lost relative, rather than a critical voice.
While having a theology that is sound, perhaps it is more important to lead with a pastoral voice. This is the voice that heals, intrigues, loves, heals, and provides hope. Those voices don't speak loudly, yet they are powerful. The Christian church isn't speaking like this in the West. Instead, we perpetuate the chasm that seems to define America at this moment.
So, instead of making statements, perahps we should ask more questions and listen. Treasure hunting requires observation, and a good map. I think the people we live in the city with are good clue givers, the problem is that we don't ask for the clues. Some good questions might be:
1. Is God incarnate or cosmic?
2. Who do you say Jesus is?
3. Is God a rationalist or a grand story-teller?
As we listen to the answers, (I am sure there are others and probably better), we can then speak with the pastoral voice that leads to the Holy Spirit encounters, the healing, love, hope, and joy of Christ. There will be indifference, even hostility, but Christianity was never meant to be mainstream.
I propsoe Christ followers practice the soft voice, thus allowing for transformation in our neighborhoods, cities and friends. This is the soft voice of love.
“Love is the expression of the one who loves, not of the one who is loved. Those who think they can love only the people they prefer do not love at all. Love discovers truths about individuals that others cannot see” ― Søren Kierkegaard