Categories
Christian Living

The Nature of Work & Vocation

Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking– more like rethinking— about the nature of work, vocation, and how all of that impacts daily life.

In short, I think I’ve over-specialized and/or overused “calling” as an excuse to embrace work-a-holic habits, expect overwork, and otherwise potentially make work an idol.

With those two statements in mind I’m asking you, my faithful readers and friends, to help me brainstorm some works that I should look into. (Books, articles, blogs, etc.)

  • Provide as little or as much as you'd like!
  • This won't be shared publicly without your permission, I'd just like to know who you are in case I'd like to follow-up.
  • This won't be posted publicly, just so I can follow-up with you if I have questions.

 

Categories
Christian Living

Reliance

Two things will make you act drunk, blind, and stupid.

Love. And fear.

Sure, there are real things to fear in life.

Instinctive fear in response to danger is completely normal. You hear gunshots and you instantly ducks down and wonder, “Is someone shooting at me or is it New Years Eve and I didn’t know?” Or you are weeding the garden, hear some rustling, and look to the side to see a snake slithering towards you. Or you are crossing the street while looking at your phone and you hear screeching tires.

But that’s not the type of fear I’m talking about. I’m talking about fear that paralyzes us from making a choice or taking an action. You know you need to go back to school… but you just don’t because you’re afraid. You hate your job… but you don’t do anything about it because it’s too risky. You feel compelled to speak up, to tell the truth… but you stay silent because you don’t know what’ll happen if you do.

I believe fear drives us to deeper and deeper levels of insecurity and, for Christians, further and further away from Jesus.

The more I’m afraid the more I’m thinking about me: “What will people think of me if I ____? What are the consequences if _____ goes wrong? What will they say to others if _____? Is that too much risk? If I fail will people think I’m a failure?

While not necessarily bad questions to ponder none should paralyze. Consider, weigh, make a decision and move along.

The Word became flesh and blood,
    and moved into the neighborhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes,
    the one-of-a-kind glory,
    like Father, like Son,
Generous inside and out,
    true from start to finish.

John 1:14, The Message

In Jesus-speak this is “the incarnation of Christ.” We believe God became a man to [among other things] bridge the gap between the Father’s divinity– His “not-humanness“– and to walk with us. The Son took all the risk in coming to earth, to become fully human. Here he experienced everything we experience, including fear. (Jesus got 1-on-1 time with Satan.)

Therefore for Christians, the people who identify with Jesus as their Savior and the measure of which is to live a Christ-like life… As we identify our daily life in light of Jesus’ incarnation we are drawn closer and closer to hugging our problems, pushing us past fear, realizing that our most dangerous life is one dictated by fear instead of faith.

fear-faith-reliance-teeter-totter

 

Think of fear as a fulcrum on the teeter-totter of faith and doubt. When we walk in self-reliance we are overcome by fear and all the insecurities and me-ness that comes with it. When we walk in faith-reliance we dwell in the knowledge of what’s worthy of our fear and what’s merely a human response we can push past.

Fear, by itself, isn’t bad. It’s not sinful to experience fear. But the consequences of living a life dictated by fear– or the avoidance of things which might be scary– can lead you to make lots of bad choices. (Indecision is a decision, after all!)

Two things will make you act drunk, blind, and stupid.

Love. And fear.

Choose love.

Categories
Christian Living

Long-term Missions

Last weekend Kristen and I volunteered to help with a clean-up project in our neighborhood. I should clarify… Kristen volunteered and I tagged along. 

As we were raking and hauling load after load of sticks, rotting organic matter, homeless paraphernalia, and pine needles to a 10 yard bin to be hauled away I got to thinking…

In some ways, as an American, it’s pretty easy to wrap your mind around a short-term mission trip. (I’m a huge fan of short-term missions!) In a way… it’s quite a bit harder to maintain a posture that living in your neighborhood is a long-term missions project.

Let’s unpack that…

We live in a society where affinity is king. We chose to see the things we chose to see because we like something. But things that we don’t care about we just don’t see. Our eyes see so many things on a daily basis that we tune almost everything out or else we’d go mad from overstimulation.

So, by default, we look after our own preferences as a primary thing. Things that we have an affinity for get unlimited attention. And we look after everything else as a secondary.

But, as Christians, we are children of a Kingdom where proximity is king. Jesus didn’t say, “Love the people you have something in common with as yourself.” He said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.

Each day we have to fight what our culture has taught us from infancy. Sometimes we need to divert our eyes to ignore the things we have an affinity for in order to see the things as a neighbor.

Jesus is asking us to empathize with the needs of our neighborhood.

Categories
Christian Living

Is Pietism Good News in a Post-Christian Context?

I posted some thoughts on Twitter this morning that I think deserve some unpacking, if even for myself.

The Inciting Question

There is a central, driving question that I think many people outside of the church are asking and those in church leadership are fervently avoiding: If you are inviting me into a life with Jesus is that life better than the one I’m leading without Jesus?

“Does it work for you or are you just trying to get me to come to your church?”

Actually, I don’t just think people are asking that question in an academic-y, wondering kind of way. Real life people are asking me this question.

Statement of Thesis

What I find, from outside of church employment, is that HOW I live the Christian life is much more important towards reaching people than WHAT my religious practices actually are.

This causes confusion because when I’m talking to friends they like the way I live, maybe even aspire to it, but some of the “HOW I live” stuff is oppositional to the people on the platforms at churches. I’m living a life they want but they know that if they step into a church the model for them looks very, very different.

Statement of the Problem

This is what people see. They are struggling with working too much. They have an inborn desire to connect with God (see Romans 1) but the life they see modeled through church is not a life they see as better, it’s really a life indifferent than what they already know.

In fact, they think, asking them to follow Jesus and get connected with a church is actually asking them to become busier and have even less margin.

They want a life worth living and the church seems to offer an alternative busy life not any better than the life they are already living.

In other words, if the Gospel (Good News of Jesus) being offered by the institutional church that people see isn’t really “good news” to them… why bother?

Obviously, the answer is… they don’t bother.

Where Does This Come From?

Theory One – The church is answering a question no one is asking

Back in the day, Seth Godin argues, advertising and marketing focused on features and benefits of products. The idea was that people carefully considered the best product before making a choice. But that all changed in the late 1980’s and 1990’s with Nike’s “Like Mike” campaign. Successful marketing became about identifying with a brand, people didn’t buy Jordan’s shoes because they were the best, they bought them because they wanted to be like Mike. A current version of this might be Dos Equis “Most Interesting Man” campaign.

Is Dos Equis the best beer? [No, they don’t win awards. It’s just cheap Mexican beer.] That’s not the point of the campaign. The point is that interesting people, people with swagger, drink Dos Equis.

Church leadership is often stuck in this pre-1990’s marketing mindset. Programmatic approaches are presupposing that people are looking for the best church. It’s a fundamental disconnect.

People make a choice. They go to a church they want to identify with. And, interestingly, church insiders will openly tell you where they are in opposition to their church because they might want to be identified with it, but not everything it stands for. So you’ll hear church attendees say, “I got to X church but I struggle with their position on women in ministry.”

But, when you’re asking someone to identify as a Christian they look beyond the activities of the church, they look at the people on the platform… who are literally “above” the people in the pews. (As Dan Kimball pointed out 15 years ago… there’s a reason you sit below the person on the platform. It’s not so you can see, it communicates subconsciously that you are below them and you have to “look up” to hear from them.) And the people I talk to? They look at those who work at churches as workaholics, whose life revolves around their work, who have very little social life, whose margin is forced or non-existent… and they think that they are living a better life without Jesus.

The programmatic church is based on felt needs of insiders. But outsiders are asking a question from higher criticism… “Is the life they are asking me to live better than the one I’m currently living?

Theory Two – Programmatic church answered a different question for a different day

spenerFor centuries the church offered few programs. The religious life of pastors looked very different from the one of today. Pietism brought into the church the idea that walking with Jesus meant being involved at church outside of the worship service. And, for a long time, this was a good thing.

But in a post-Christian world, the churches programmatic approach offers very little to someone that they can’t get elsewhere. I don’t need the church to provide a social structure, I have one already. I don’t need the church to provide daily religious activities… I’ve got Google, I can find that if I want it. I don’t need Christian music, I can find Jesus in the art of the world just fine. On and on.

Am I right on this? I don’t know. But it’s what I’m thinking about this morning.

Categories
Christian Living

We is Better Than Me

Sin divides us, Jesus unites

I’m tired of the divisions. I’m sick of divide and monetize.

I’m ready to be a part of something where “we” is better than “me.”