Love too much…

A while back I asked Khad Young (one of my favourite bloggers) about a dilemma that I had been pondering (and still do from time to time) as I grow into certain leadership-type roles; namely, how do you present grace to people without mixing it up with permissiveness? I wrote:

I know they’re poles apart, but in reality I’m worried because I’m rubbish at confronting people and usually let my principles slide in order to people-please, for instance if I had someone who…called themselves a Christian but was having an affair or had issues with consumerism or something, I wouldn’t know how to handle the whole ‘should I confront them? should I leave it?’ thing. How have you dealt with this sorta thing?

He wrote a really great reply and then turned it into a blog post, which I’ll reprint here:

How does one show grace without antinomianism? My secret? I would rather show too much grace than not enough. That usually takes me pretty far.

If God calls you into ministry, it will be hard to escape the call. Part of any ministry is going to be doubt and temptation. In my opinion, the biggest temptation you will face if you have not already is to become legalistic. Fight this unto your death. Grace is all we have.

Metamorphosis is not a place for people to come and be “better people” in the sense of obeying the Law and subscribing to a certain morality. I want to have conversations with people, building relationships. That is the entire goal of Metamorphosis: loving and serving God by loving and serving those he has placed around us.

It’s the Father’s job to judge, it’s the Son’s job to save, it’s the Spirit’s job to convict.

It’s not my job to convert, convince, or otherwise cajole anyone into believing anything. I’m just called to love them. As soon as I start judging, the Father wants me to back off. When I think I am saving souls, Christ reminds me He has already done that. If I begin to convict someone’s conscience, I find the Holy Spirit already there doing what He does best.

We are by nature legalistic enough that even when we strive to focus exclusively on grace, the Law comes through on its own. If there ever is a moral dilemma in the group, my friends come and speak with me privately about it. We search the scriptures and pray about it. Did you catch that? They come to me. I don’t preach morality at them. Ever. Maybe that means I am a bad Christian, but it sure means I have a lot of friends who know that I love them and don’t ever doubt it because of my moralizing. I like what C. S. Lewis said:

“A cold self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute. But, of course, it is better to be neither.”

Live by grace and God will give you the wisdom to know when to confront. I find that most often people already know when they are sinning and merely need to know that God still loves them. There isn’t really any confronting to do if confronting is defined as “pointing out their shortcomings.” They know.

Love them.

“I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.” (Galatians 2:21)

Be accused of loving too much today.

House churches, virgin births and cancelling Christmas…

housechurch

This made me chuckle. Via TallSkinnyKiwi.

And I found this gem of a post by Jeremy at Hacking Christianity about the virgin birth. Jeremy claims the debate on whether Mary was really a virgin or not is irrelevant:

It is true that the Creedal writers were affirming the Virgin Birth by calling Mary the Virgin Mary. But their belief that it happened mattered much less than that it happened to one particular person. It’s identifying that Jesus was born of this Mary, this woman, Mary the Virgin.

In the gnostic Gospel of James, it reads that when Mary was in the manger, there was a bright flash of light, and Jesus appeared next to her. Really.

Why? These heretics couldn’t stand the idea that Jesus was born of a woman.
Birth, it’s a messy time. Blood and water, pain and joy.
The real messiness of human life begins in the messiness of birth.

Jesus must have just appeared, wrapped in white cloths next to Mary, already potty-trained and never woke up crying at 4am.

To which the Creed says otherwise….Jesus is found in the messiness of life.

And for the Gnostics, with their soul/body dualism, birth was too messy a way for a dignified son of God to come into the world.  There’s no way Jesus, son of God, could be born of a woman.

Finally, I recently rediscovered a great post by Feminary about churches skimping on Christmas celebrations:

According to the closing churches, they are giving people the “day off” to be with their families, where, and I swear I’m not making this up, the real celebration of Christmas takes place. Christmas, if you didn’t realize, is about being around a tree (opening gifts and stuffing our faces) with family and loved ones.

Oh, shit, I thought it was about God becoming human. I must be so confused. Is that Hannukah, then?

This is one more way the Evangelical subculture has supplanted Christianity with American values. How on earth can one believe that our faith is about spending time with family rather than with God?

This makes me think. For me, I usually pay lipservice to the fact that Christmas is about Jesus, but in reality it’s more about family, board games, presents and bad TV. I wonder what I can do within my own context to refocus the day?

[EDIT] PS: Go read this article by Nadia Boltz-Webber. Now

Quick hit: from crap to blessing

Tony Jones has an interesting roundup of thoughts on his blog about the Christianity 21 conference he helped organise. It was, of course, immediately pounced on by a troll called Ted saying words to the effect of ‘yeah, well I bet no-one came’. After a couple of people retorted ‘who cares?’, someone with the moniker  ‘Apostle of Blessing’ wrote this really beautiful and insightful comment that I just had to repost:

Crapped on people crap on people.

Blessed people bless people.

The trick is to bless the ones who are trapped in the “crapping system” in order to convert to the “blessing system”.

God-ish weekend

Yes kids, that is what my pastor showed us yesterday evening at the emerging leaders huddle (where he and his wife are trying to train up the next generation of leaders). In fairness he was trying to make an actual point – that ‘bitty’ is what most churches do for their congregants. His objective was to get us to call that image to mind whenever the whole ‘consumer church’ thing kicks in, throw up in our mouths a little, and do whatever we can to stop it.

So, what we discussed last night was mainly ‘how do we stop it?’, and the main solution seemed to be reproducing our leadership, through God’s power, in others.

Leadership is such a hazy concept, because we have this idea that leadership, particularly in church settings, is the pastor/church planter/whatever. But really, everyone is a leader to someone, everyone has a sphere of influence, be that a whole church or a group of friends. Leadership can mean just being infectious, passing on whatever flammable material you have to others. You can turn passive consumers into active servants by identifying who’s got the right character, then passing what you’ve got on and letting them in turn pass that on to their friends. For instance, my friend Grace, who I mentioned in a previous post, passed on to me by proxy her passion for prayer and worship, which I otherwise wouldn’t have bothered with to the same extent. Grace, likewise, was influenced by other more on-fire friends of hers, and in turn I will hopefully pass the virus on to others. At the end we prayed that God would help us identify our sphere of influence. Did I mention I love praying?

Some other random notes from last night:

– How to reproduce yourself: Identify, Recruit, Train, Deploy, Monitor, Nurture. “One of the most important aspects of leadership is the ability to identify and recruit leaders and a work force to carry out the work of the ministry. This ability is the principal missing link in the non-growing, non-disciple-making church today.”

– Consumers need to be affected by DNA of more active members and catch the disease.

– Character over gifting.

– There is a theological basis for recruiting. Jesus modelled ministry and the disciples ‘caught’ his heart and were called to pray for help.

– God is the one doing the recruiting, we just need to have our eyes opened. Pray, look at who is drawn to you, pray some more…

– There is a testing process (1 Tim 3:10) – are they flaky or reliable?

– Never recruit to fill a need – always recruit with a vision for what God wants to do in mind.

– Just pray like a mofo against the consumer church! Without a servant heart hungry for growth, the Jesus movement is sunk.

So, that was part one of my God-ish weekend. This morning I went to Healing on the Streets, where we just pray for people on the High Street, usually for physical healing, but we’ll pray for pretty much anything, prayer-whores that we are. Sometimes it’s like wading through treacle, as few people are interested (although we take the pressure off by reminding ourselves that it’s the Holy Spirit’s job to attract people to us, not ours), but today was off the hook. Seriously. I was just so excited all morning, so much cool stuff happened. People remarked about feeling the presence of God, I was able to pray for my friend Max with absolutely no awkwardness, and we had some lovely healings take place. In particular, one woman was set free from some oppressive stuff. I don’t want to get too much into it, but she came to us for hormonal imbalance, then as we prayed for that she developed a headache at her right-hand temple. She told us she had a sense of some sort of spiritual oppression, as it’s always that side, and that it might be generational as her mother had it too (don’t ask me what generational means, some Charismatic jargon). So we prayed and took authority over the headache and whatever was causing it, then when we’d finished she asked us to pray again as she had a feeling it needed to be cut off at the source immediately. So we prayed one more time and she began spasming uncontrollably all down her right hand side as we prayed our best prayers! Then eventually she just sank back in her chair, drained but released, and we prayed for strength and protection. It was almost scary, but all in all one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. What a privilege to partner with God in this kind of thing!

It’s such a joy to see the Holy Spirit at work, you can visibly see her lifting burdens off people and filling them up with peace, joy etc. Their body language just shifts, like the sun’s come out, and they are visibly moved. It’s beautiful. And I could feel God’s presence all morning.

Then this afternoon I went off to shoot a video exercise with a classmate round the duck pond at uni, and had some spiritual moments looking at the beauty of nature and thinking about a certain someone who made it all…

Tonight I get to skype my Orthodox friend Lindsey and tomorrow I’ve got church, and I just can’t wait.

I can only hope that as the work starts setting in I still have time for all this God-ish stuff, to just be around him. My schedule’s already whacked-up and it’s only the first week!

He LOVES us

I have so many meandering thoughts dashing through my brain that I can barely cohere them (a little like when I started to write that psychoanalytic film theory essay on Mulholland Drive, whatta mindf*ck), but I just wanted to share with you a delightful conversation I had yesterday evening when my delightful friend Grace came round for dinner. Background information you should know is that (1) Grace is ridiculously into worship, (2) you can tell she worships God a lot, she just glows, and (3) this has inspired me to try and devote more time to praising God in my prayer life, rather than just ask for stuff. Also, this is paraphrased.

Me: I need to start worshipping God more. All my prayer life is is just treating God like my sugar daddy, asking for stuff all the time. And, I mean, I’m asking for stuff that he’d like me to ask for, like ‘God will you protect so-and-so’ or ‘God would you send workers into the harvest’, it’s not like I’m asking him like ‘God, would you build me a fairy castle’ –

Grace (interrupting): But Aideen, he would build you a fairy castle, because he loves you so much!

It’s a pity I can’t convey Grace’s joyful exuberance, her smile or her tone of voice on the internet, but that outburst was one of a woman who had genuinely encountered the love of God. I hope one day to experience the same thing.