Tag Archives: Relationship

Leading with Love

So maybe you have heard over the past few days about the Nashville Statement.  I honestly don’t know how widespread it has become, but as someone who works in a local church, I guess I might be more likely to have heard about it or read it than some others may be.  If you haven’t heard, a group of evangelical faith leaders met in Nashville in order to come to some sort of consensus on a doctrine regarding sexual stewardship.  They released this 3-page document this week in the midst of nationwide concern for Houston.  Besides Houston, there has been many other tragedies in the U.S. recently, for example, the show of hatred and evil in Charlottesville 3 weeks ago. Much of the Nashville Statement is directly in relation to the LGBTQ+ community.  If you’d like to read the document, you can find it here.

I know, you are all still reading this to find out all about my beliefs regarding marriage and God-honoring sexuality, but that’s not why I am writing today.  I will say that wherever you come down on these issues, I would try my best to understand your beliefs and how they have formed or changed throughout your life.  I write this today because I think many are missing the point as I did when I read the document the first time.

I can honestly say that I know some wonderful, absolutely good-hearted people who fall on either side of the debate regarding the Church’s affirmation of those who have accepted non-traditional sexual lifestyles.  And I do not write this to offend or send anyone into shock.  I write this because I believe that the overwhelming majority of the current dialogue regarding the Nashville Statement has not been fruitful.  There have been a lot of voices falling on deaf ears.

Before I go any further, let me clarify: I 100% believe that members of the Body of Christ have a responsibility to other members of the Body to hold each other accountable to live lives according to the calling that we have received as followers of Jesus Christ.

And now let me say: the only way in which we can or should hold each other accountable is within the context of a faith community in loving relationship with each other.

Think about it this way, has anyone that you did not have a relationship with ever scolded or chastised you?  I would assume that was not an enjoyable experience.  Has anyone that you don’t know ever said to you, “I’m not trying to tell you what to do, but…” That probably did not make you feel good.  Throughout my life, I have often resented being told what to do.  I’m working on maturing and growing, but man, that’s the worst!  Now certainly, there are times in my life where I need guidance, and I’m even learning how to ask someone else for their input (what a novel concept), but I will only receive correction well from someone that I know loves me.  Maybe this is just me, but I would bet you have felt similarly.

As followers of Christ, we are trying to be like Christ, right?  If that’s the case, we need to look at the way that Jesus lived to inform every aspect of our lives.  In Luke 19, there’s a story that I think really applies to this topic:

Jesus is traveling with his disciples through Jericho, and there’s a ton of people trying to see him.  There’s this short tax collector (social stigma implied) in town named Zaccheus, and he really wants to see Jesus, but he can’t see over the crowds, so he climbs up in a tree just to catch a glimpse.  Jesus sees Zaccheus up in the tree, and calls out to him, “Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today!”  Ecstatic, Zaccheus takes Jesus to his home.  But the people were not happy with this.  They grumbled to each other, “He has gone to be the guest of a notorious sinner.”  That day, Zaccheus’s heart was transformed.  Because of his interaction with Jesus, who just went over to his house, he vows to give half of his money to the poor and to repay anyone he has cheated four times over!

So let’s think about this story.  I would bet that Zaccheus knew that the religious folks disagreed with his lifestyle choices.  But guess what, knowing that a bunch of religious people didn’t like him really didn’t make him want to change.  All Zaccheus needed for radical life change was to interact with the transformative love of Jesus.  People in our world could use a little more of that.

When dealing with people, Jesus always lead with love.  He befriended many other “notorious sinners.”  Jesus offered the Samaritan woman caught in adultery living water!  Jesus had a quality about him that not only tolerated those who had been outcast by the religious establishment, but he attracted them!  You know what’s not attractive?  Someone that you don’t know telling you that you’re a sinner.

So let me bring this back to the Nashville Statement.  Whatever side you find yourself on, there are real people, living breathing people, on the other side who legitimately believe that what they are standing for is right.  People on every side of this issue are created in the image of God, and there are devoted followers of Christ who are still developing thoughts and views on these matters.  We cannot let this be divisive in our faith communities.

Too many times, we, Christians, divide ourselves into different camps.  We split ourselves by how we like to worship, our views on the Eucharist, our traditions, etc.  And in the midst of a world that has an immediate need for the love of Jesus, we have found yet another thing that divides us instead of unifies us.

We need to be known more by what we are for than what we are against.  We need to be identified by our love for one another, our neighbors, and our enemies.  We need to be identified by our desire to lift the lowly, welcome the outcast, and break the chains of the oppressed.  

And yes, we need to be having these important discussions in our faith communities regarding our views on these topics.  But any view that does not begin with a love for God and for our neighbor is not a view that is from God.  These topics need to be wrestled with in our faith communities, but not on Facebook or Twitter.  These are not topics to make decrees about.  These are conversations to be had together in homes and at coffee shops, not on the internet for the whole world to see.  And when we do have these conversations, we must give each other permission to still be working it out in our hearts.

I must say that when it comes to withholding grace from those with whom I disagree, I am the chief of sinners, but I am encouraged because through the grace of God I know I can grow in that way.  I pray that I will be a person who leads with love, and I pray the same for all of us.

Only through the power of God’s grace can we truly become people who can speak truth in love.

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Baby Dedications, the Body, and Car Mechanics

This past Sunday, we celebrated a new baby that has been born into our church.  So, aesthetically how this works is the biological family of the baby + really anyone who sees it necessary and the elders of our church will come up to the front of the auditorium during the worship service.  One of our elders will introduce this baby and charge the church with doing all things necessary in order to bring this child up in the way of the Lord through Christian community, to which the church replies together, “We will.”  For a long time, I have thought about this occasional moment in our church’s service as something that drags it on longer and cuts into our class time following worship.  For a while in fact, I would not reply, “We will,” along with the rest of the congregation, not because I wanted to introduce that kid to “drugs, sex, and rock & roll,” as some might say, but rather because that’s a long-term commitment.  That baby is a baby.  It’s not going away anytime soon.  Being twenty years old, that is a life-long commitment.  Life-long… Shoot, If I wanted to be responsible for the life and upbringing of a child, I would just have a kid… Not really HAVE a kid.  Because, after all, there are a few things that need to happen first, or at least one thing anatomically… but you get the point, right?  I’m not locking myself in to a bunch of babies for life, I got enough to worry about on my own.  

Anyways, my thoughts on the matter have changed.

It hit me on Sunday that nearly 21 years ago, I was the baby being blessed from that pulpit. Then I realized the power in that.  For my entire life, I have been blessed by many of the people that were in that building on Sunday, and many others who have sat through those dedications in the past.  I look around at people who are like my caring aunts, goofy uncles, loving grandmothers, respectable grandfathers, cool older cousins, and not as cool older cousins.  The point is that those people who made that commitment 21 years ago have time and time again come through on what they said.  They made a commitment and are still in the process of seeing it through.  Oddly enough, the guy who had the most recent baby was my first ever camp counselor ten years ago.  So, you know what I did when the elder charged us with bringing this kid up in the church? I said, “We will.”

The church is not something that is linear.  It is like a cycle that is constantly overlapping.  Potentially, there will be a lot of babies born into the church before I’m gone.  But at the same time, as those people who have played key roles in my upbringing are aging, I now have a responsibility to them.  For example, one of my two grandmothers passed away in February.  For the past few years, I had watched as my parents took great care of her daily.  Two incredibly busy people, but they still worked tirelessly to give her the best quality of life possible.  Now, my family is in that process with my remaining grandmother.  I am so blessed to be around two great examples of faith and the overlapping cycle of the Christian life.  So, while I am still young and am being encouraged by the church, I have a lot to offer to its other members.  Both young, old, and middle, the church is a body.

“12 The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. 13 Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.

14 Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. 15 If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?

18 But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. 19 How strange a body would be if it had only one part! 20 Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. 21 The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.”

22 In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary. 23 And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen, 24 while the more honorable parts do not require this special care. So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity. 25 This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other. 26 If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad.

27 All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.”

1 Corinthians 12:12-27 NLT

I know how cliche and overused this piece of text can be, but in all things that are cliche, there’s a reason for that.  Things are cliche because they are so useful and practical.  Let’s say that I am a thumb (I once had a friend describe me as a thumb. I didn’t know how to take it).  If I was a stubborn thumb and decided that I was only going to watch out for myself and do thumb things, A. I would not be able to accomplish anything, B. The rest of the body would be seriously inconvenienced.  So often we get caught up in ourselves.  Not normally in some evil way, but often we get so concerned about being stretched too far, or not being able to come through with something we say we will do.  Why was I originally super weirded out by pledging along with the church to bring children up in the way of the Lord? Not because I knew I would be a bad influence, but because I may not be around forever.  I may be somewhere else, and someday not know that kid from Adam.  But the pledge was not “I will do everything in my power to look out for this kid,” but instead “We will.”  On Sunday, I made that pledge on behalf of the congregation.  Am I currently a part of that congregation? Yes I am, but wherever I am, that church will still be looking after that child.  New people will come and go, but God’s plan for His church is forever.  God’s church is like a car, it has a ton of parts.  Sometimes these parts need fixed, sometimes these parts need replaced, and sometimes parts get added that have never been in the car before, but with the steady hands of a great mechanic, that car will run like new.  As long as we are holding to God’s steady hand, the church is going to keep trucking along.

We need each other.  Every individual person has something to offer. I have something to offer, and if you’re reading this, you have something to offer as well.

Much love.

-MC

COMMUNITY. WE NEED IT.

So this summer, I’ve learned a lot. A lot about youth ministry, about life on the inside of a church, and a whole lot about myself. I’ve learned some of my strengths, that some things that I thought were strengths of mine are not quite to strength level, and I’ve discovered a lot about how I interact with people. I’ve also learned a lot about doing things on my own. Being away from home for a few months will do that. The more I have been on my own, the more I have realized that is not what God intended. God made us to be relational beings. From the beginning of time on this Earth, that has been evident.

 Genesis 2:18: “It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.”

In Genesis 2, God was talking about a woman, but I think this rule applies in every case. Not just that every man needs a woman, or wife (in fact, I really feel like the church does a terrible job with singleness, but that sounds like a different thought for a different time), but that every person needs another person. AT LEAST ONE. Some people need more than that.

Luckily, I have found people here in the area with whom I have gotten to share in community with. Everyone, wherever they are, needs people who care about them, and people that they care about. I have been fortunate to find that here in California, and I am even more fortunate to have the awesome support system that I have back in Nashville. That is what I look forward to most about returning to my homeland in a week. If you ask, I would tell you that I’m excited for the fall semester to start. That doesn’t mean that I’m excited for the 8 am classes, the tests, the papers, and the absurd amount of books I’m supposed to read (which reminds me, I still need to purchase those). What I’m excited for is the opportunity to build on the relationships that have already begun and to form the relationships still to be created.

Acts chapter 4 lays the blueprint for the life of a church.

32 All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had. 33 The apostles testified powerfully to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s great blessing was upon them all. 34 There were no needy people among them, because those who owned land or houses would sell them 35 and bring the money to the apostles to give to those in need.

36 For instance, there was Joseph, the one the apostles nicknamed Barnabas (which means “Son of Encouragement”). He was from the tribe of Levi and came from the island of Cyprus. 37 He sold a field he owned and brought the money to the apostles.”

What we have is not our own. Living in community with others helps us realize that. It’s one thing to hold on to your possessions when you don’t have any friends who go without. We (speaking to myself here) need to be in conversation and in life with those who are in need. It’s easy to help our friends, not as easy to help those we don’t know.

Over the weekend, I got to hang out with an awesome group of guys. On Friday we hit up Santa Cruz and San Francisco on Saturday. These guys are like me – they’re not perfect. It was great being around 4 other guys for those two days. Yes, we were seeing awesome sights and experiencing amazing places, but I would’ve still had a great time if we had just sat in the living room and hung out for two days. The constant good-natured teasing and joking, the conversations only a group of college age guys have, and the comradery among us was just what I needed.

In conclusion, we need community. We need other people to care about. We need other people to care about us. But above all, we desperately need Jesus, or none of this matters.

ALSO.

I have a great friend, Drue, who authored a beautiful piece on his blog regarding this same topic. You should check it out if you’ve got the time. “I was created to… COMMUNE

Also, I have grown quite fond of the band Rend Collective.  On their 2013 album, Campfire, they filmed a video on the making of their album and the community brought on by a campfire. It’s about six minutes long, so you should watch it if you haven’t. “The Campfire Story