Friday, August 21, 2009

Naming a Church

Naming a church can be harder than you think. You have to consider the community in which your church will be planted. You have to consider your own DNA for ministry as well as the vision and mission of the church based on the needs and opportunities for ministry in your area.

You don’t want to go to a rural area and call your church “Hippie Chic Community of Enlightenment.” You don’t want to go to an affluent, urban area and name your church “Wildwood Chapel and Shekinah Glory Prayer Tabernacle.” And you don’t want to go to a retirement community and call your church “Fast Forward Future Church.”

Of course, a name also depends on your denominational affiliation. If you are United Methodist like me, Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrow is probably not a good option. If you are Baptist, Microbrewery Church is out. If you are Episcopalian planting a church in my hometown of Waco, TX, your best choice is probably First Baptist Episcopalian Church. I stole that last one. But playing off of it, if you are inter-denominational, what about First Bapti-Metho-Epsici-Presby-Ssemlby of the Naza-Catho-Luthe-Costals ?

Anyway, I think I have settled on a name, although until I get buy-in from all the right folks, I’m keeping it under wraps. Still, that "Perpetual Sorrow" thing has a ring to it.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Hide and Go Seek

The Game

The one childhood game I think we never outgrow is Hide and Go Seek. Players run and hide while the seeker is hiding his/her eyes . . . theoretically. After an acceptable time is allowed for hiding, the seeker shouts; “Ready of not, here I come.”

When we are little and first introduced to the game, we don’t hide well. I remember my sister hiding behind the pole of a clothes line in our back yard. She was skinny, but not that skinny. As we get older we discover and select better hiding places.

My favorite indoor place was the dirty clothes hamper with a few towels thrown on top of my head in case the seeker thought of looking there. Outdoors was on top of the garage door when it was in the “open” position. This was back in the day of solid, heavy wooden garage doors.

As I look back on those days and good times, it occurs to me that we never get over that game. How we play it has changed and it’s not that much fun anymore. Still, we continue to play. We don’t hide behind poles or on top of garage doors or in clothes hampers anymore.

Grown Up Version
Now we hide behind carefully constructed images we show to others. We hide behind success, portfolios, busy-ness and activity, social involvement, a cause to which we have attached ourselves and even church activity. Some of us even hide behind God. And what we are hiding is the darkness, the bankruptcy, the emptiness in our souls.

Then the seeker shouts, “Ready or not, here I come.” And the seeker does come. And the seeker’s name is Grace. Grace finds us out by pulling down our carefully constructed images. Grace flushes us out of the shadows by creating unbearable discontent with success, portfolios, busy-ness, activity, social involvement, causes and religious activity.

Sometimes, grace even shakes our faith in God. Why? Maybe so that we will stop using belief in God as a reason to feel good about ourselves when everything about us is so broken and unredeemed. Shaking our faith allows us to see that without the ability to profess a sure belief in God, we find there is nothing to us but a self-absorbed, fearful, insecure, sinful and broken human who has been hiding from grace rather than surrendering to it.

A Way to Win
Occasionally, something will happen in my life that makes me question some deeply held belief, either about God and faith, or about the extent of my own transformation as a follower of Jesus. Sometimes, one of my hiding places gets exposed. That exposure is usually some combination of painful and embarrassing.

But it doesn’t frustrate me anymore. I now receive “getting caught” as a gift because it always, always compels me to come out from my hiding, and draw closer to the heart of the God who gave himself for me. So maybe the game can be fun again after all. I just need to remember that the ones who get caught are the ones who win.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

A New Spiritual Gift

I went to the gym today. It is a routine I have taken up again since I was sunbathing on the beach a while back and a team of college students and marine biologists tried to drag me back into the ocean to be with my kind. But as the sun came out from behind the clouds, not even their Oakley’s could keep the glare from my excessively white skin from forcing them to give up the struggle.

When I got to the gym, there were four plus-sized women, obviously there together, all on the treadmills facing a wall of tv’s. I got the only one left – treadmill, not plus-sized woman. As they glanced over at me, they began to smile. I think they were grateful that someone even larger and with much more weight to lose was working out next to them. By comparison, I made them look quite svelte.

This reminded me of another beach experience I had one year in Galveston with about seven other friends for Spring Break. I have been and always will be melanin challenged. I don’t tan. My skin, as it turns out, is good at one thing – producing skin cancers. So I stay pretty white all year long in attempt to shut down such production. Now at the beach, on Spring Break, in the days before tanning salons, this was not all that bad. All of the girls who worried that they would look too pasty in their swimsuits for the first time out all season just loved walking down the beach with me. My white skin made them look as though they had been tanning in South America all winter.

But back to the gym. After I left the treadmill (the women who were there before me were still going, by the way), I went to the weights where two high school boys were working out. They did all of the exercises I did, but with considerably more weight, and with considerably greater ease, with one exception. I could still pull a heavier weighted bar down than they could, but I did outweigh them by a good 80 – 100 lbs at least. When they saw how much (or little) I was lifting, they smiled. I was a much bigger guy, but they could work out with far more weight than my much older frame and muscle structure could bear.

So I have found a new spiritual gift. Decrepitude. I can bring joy and encouragement to people by showing up where their images are at risk of being exposed, or where they might feel vulnerable, and just be a less attractive image than the one they see in themselves. Not many people can pull that off.