Wednesday, December 10, 2003

jenga 2

When I started up this little clambake of a blog, I wanted to tell the story of how I came to believe the stuff I do. Not that normal people care, but you might. And when others tell me their stories it makes huge changes in me. I guess that’s because it’s utterly real, utterly personal, and the real aquarium in which others can see the action of God in our world, in people, and in the earth. I hope it will encourage you to tell your story to a stranger like me, cause I need it too.

And I’ve used the Jenga game with its critical sticks which when removed brings down one’s assumptions and beliefs. It’s live De-construction—a postmodern phrase if there ever was one. And so I’ve previously written about the first stick of Vampire-hood.

The second comes from the life and heart of one Spencer Burke. You know him as the author and manager of Now, he doesn’t know that he’s ever had any impact on me. Which is fine, I guess.

Spencer has an amazing sensitivity to “using the church.” For anything; for financial gain; for power; for control of others; for avoidance. And frankly I never gave it any thought. That’s mostly because I’m not normally suspicious in my everyday life. I walk around and assume everyone has pure intent, and motives even when I know they may not. It’s just how I’m wired. Well, Spencer is my opposite. He kinda has a sixth sense which notices when people are up to no good, or have misguided values, or intentions. It’s not because he is bitter or compassion-less, hardly. It’s because inside he’s a real pastor and cares very deeply about the church.
I spent of three days with him in Newport Beach, CA. at a church planting workshop. In that time he got an opportunity to go into some detail about why he feels the way he does about church and where we’ve gone wrong.

The Jenga stick that he removed was to show me how much of what we do in modern church is simply to make money. And that’s because we’re running businesses, not churches. And it’s really disgusting. I just never saw it that way. Why? Cause I sold and trained those pastors and church leaders to be CEO’s, bosses, and strategists instead of pastors, friends, and monks. I was selling pastors on the beauty of being as modern as possible and didn’t see anything wrong with it. Build systems. Delegate. Build Teams. Get demographics on everything. I taught pastors how to run their businesses so they would grow fast. And I was good at it.
And in the spring of ’02 I was ready to admit it was all a house of cards and most was just attractive crap. Poopie. Mr. Hankie the Christmas poop. Now, by that time I’d heard of, but not met, Andrew Jones of fame. He was building a network of house churches in Prague, soon to be Berlin. Three weeks after mty time with Spencer he talked about how a church, a gathering of those following God in the way of Jesus, doesn’t have to have money change hands ever. It was a church with which I had all sorts of questions, as you can imagine.

The biggest unravelings I experienced were (1) you don’t need to get paid to serve God, you can always have another job to support yourself. It can be freeing and relaxing. And (2) without a paid professional, and “money flow” why you are there and what you should do with your time takes on a whole new meaning.It truly changes everything.

I’ll get to that next.


Way of the Heart

Way of the Heart
Been a while. Missed you. Another Christmas with kids. Buying gobs of stuff they really want. Today. Actually we've got it down to a few things they really do want and will use instead of the "present orgies" when they were 5 or 6. We got so many presents since we had the first grandkids. So one year we had to stop for a lunch break, and go back to work at opening the rest of the presents after lunch. Thank God we're not there anymore.

When I was at the Abbey for a week I listened to a three cassette, yes cassette, series of Henri Nouwen called "Desert Spirituality and Contemporary Ministry" You can get it from Ave Maria Press on-line. These sermons were given at Yale in the '70's and still ring true today. Nouwen pubished a small book of these sermons called "The Way of the Heart" in 1981. May I recomend it to you as a Christmas present for yourself.

Nouwen goes all the way back to St Anthony, the first "monk" we know of in 200AD, and describes three primary tools for having an authentic life with God. They are Silence, Solitude, and Meditative Prayer. The power of authentic solitude, which I experienced in 5 days where I simply kept to myself, showed me that I need a habit of being truly alone, (I wanna be where nobody knows my name, opposite of "Cheers") of "anti-community, with nothing to posess my attention except Jesus. It was almost physical work to consistently shut my brain down from talking, planning, writing, having imaginary conversations, etc. to be quiet before God. But it was discovering a new kind of peace which I want to continue to develop. I don’t know to treasure it yet. I don’t really see that it’s more valuable than almost anything else I do.
St. Anthony was in the Desert of Egypt alone for 20 years. Then he had decades of fruitful ministry. And then at the end of his life he went back to the desert to be with his God. Nouwen’s point is that fruitful ministry comes from solitude and silence with God. Very little else can help it. Inner silence is the basis of compassion, since silence and solitude force you to come face to face with your demons, and therefore you can forgive others their sins and compulsions.

Maybe Christmas has become so crazy now because as members of Western society we have no stores of inner solitude and peace to draw on. And as Americans we haven’t determined that two weeks of a family vacation doesn’t equal rest, recovery, and room to breathe.