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Church Leadership

Christian Refugees

Photo by Takver via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Mid-City, the area of San Diego I live in, has long been a place where refugees start their new lives. Families have relocated here from war-torn African nations, fled the Khmer Rouge of Cambodia in the 1980s, or even escaped to here from extreme poverty in Central America.

People from all over the world end up here to start over.

Traumatized. Homesick. Hopeful. Confused. Off-balance. Grateful.

Assimilation is both one of their greatest fears and one of their great hopes.

Their lives are conflicted. Emotionally bouncing back and forth between hope and despair. They are here to seek a better life. But their hearts burn to go home and start a better life there.

You Find Christian Refugees Everywhere

There are lots of Christian refugees out there, too. People who grew up in church but fled somewhere along the way.

You find them involved in local politics. Or coaching your kids soccer teams. Or living next door.

They’ve fled the church. They’ve fled church culture and church life to seek a place where they could live out what they believed more than the church was comfortable with. All they wanted was to love God with everything they had and love their neighbors as themselves… but the church was hostile towards them. (Perceived or real) They didn’t fit the program. Or the mission. Or the pastor’s agenda.

So they fled. They left quietly, found community elsewhere, and settled into a new life.

They’ve rejected the abuse of the church but not Jesus. Disenfranchised but not disassociated.

But they miss it. A piece of their life is empty. Just like the refugees who play soccer at the park down the street from me, they always hold out the simplest hope that they can one day return home. Reunited with the people they love without the fear of danger.

When there is peace, they say– When there is something to return home to– they dream of returning.

Church leadership is at fault

Just like you can’t blame refugees leaving a country on the people fleeing, church leaders need to own the fact that they have caused a massive exodus from the church. Jesus tells us, his disciples, to call people to Himself. We need to quickly rectify our internal squabbles, give every person in our congregation a voice again, and go out to seek reconciliation with those who have fled.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

Matthew 5:9

To make peace. We need to go out and make peace.

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Christian Living Church Leadership hmm... thoughts illustrations

Abram’s Call: An advent monologue

Photo by Stephen Weppler via Flickr (Creative Commons)

[Lights up]

[The main character, Abram, walking his dog through his middle class neighborhood.]

[His phone rings, the ringtone is Usher’s OMG]

[Abram bounces his head to the song as he pulls the phone out of his pocket.]

[Abram’s glances at the caller ID and stops cold. He raises his eyebrow for a brief second, thinking about letting it go to voicemail.]

Abram: Ah, man. I don’t really have time for this today. Give me a break… OK, whatever.

[Abram swipes to take the call]

Abram: [With a little frustration in his voice] Hello?

God: Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you.

Abram: You don’t even say hello anymore? For once it’d be cool if you would at least say who it is. [pause] OK, OK… what do you want me to do? Leave the country and go somewhere? What do you mean by “leave?” You mean go for a little trip? Or do you mean I need to pack up my house, quit my job, and move? Are you OK? Have you been creating planets again? A little more clarity would be nice here.

God: I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you.

Abram: [pausing, looking inquisitively at his dog, who just raised his leg to pee on a bush.] What does that even mean? You don’t even say hello, you tell me to leave the country…. and now, a great nation? All I ever asked you to do was to help me be a better dad. A great nation? I’m not into politics. I don’t want to become a great nation… I just want to now how to talk to my kids about the tough stuff… you know… sex and why the Cubs suck. Stuff like that. [Pause, catching up to the reality of who he’s arguing with.] Any way we can talk a little bit more about the blessing part of it and a whole lot less of this moving somewhere else bit? I mean… I’ve got my kids in a great school. There better be one heck of a blessing for me to talk about pulling the kids out of school. You know, I’ve got a wife. I’ve got to sell her on this idea. Blessing, yeah… talk about the blessing some more.

God: I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.

Abram: [Letting out a little doubtful snort] You want me to tell that to Sarai? Have you met her? [raising eyebrows and envisioning getting punched when he tells her.] She’s pretty comfortable in our neighborhood as it is. She loves our house. She’s got a whole bunch of girlfriends. Our kids our happy. We’re safe. And you want me to go home and tell her that leaving all of that is going to make our name great? She’s gonna throw that back in my face, you know? And I don’t think I like the sound of “you will be a blessing.” I can’t sell that to her. She’s going to want to here that you are going to bless us. Not be a blessing, get a blessing. Work with me here, G.

God: I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse.

Abram: [turning his heart from despair, slowly to more of a realistic tone.] Well, now we’re talking. Sarai’s gonna dig this part of it. So when our kids start at a new school and the other kids tease them because they don’t look right, don’t dress right, and live in a neighborhood they clearly don’t belong… you’re gonna have their back. And you’re going to make it pretty obvious that people are getting blessed because they bless my family, right? I’m getting the idea that you aren’t asking me if I’m willing to do this… so you’re starting to speak my language.

God: And all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.

Abram: [long pause, having been stunned into thinking deeply about those words] Whoa. OK… so what’s you’re saying is that if I go home and convince my wife to move from a house we love to a place to be determined later… that every person on the planet will be blessed through me? I’m not even sure how to respond. I guess I get to respond just by doing it, right?

[Abram realizes that God has hung up]

Abram: Hello? You still there? Yeah, I’m out here walking the dog… this canyon must have a dead zone or something. You’re breaking up.

[Pulling his phone down, he sees the screen displaying “Call ended.”]

[By this time, the dog has gotten tired of standing on his walk. So he’s laid down on his side. Abram puts his phone back in his pocket, stares off into the distance some more.]

Abram: [under his breathe] Yeah, easy enough for God to call me like that. Now I’ve got to go home and try to convince Sarai. How would God know? Not like He has a wife.

[Pulling on the leash and getting the dog going.]

Abram: Come on. Let’s go. Good dog.

[Light out]

Narrator: So Abram went, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran. He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Harran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.

Genesis 12:1-5

Epilogue: It’s one thing to take the call. It’s another thing to put the call into action.