Thursday, March 28, 2013

Only the Dead Live in the Past

Truth be told, I never owned one of these original Macintosh computers. Back then, only the über-trendy and financially well-endowed had a computer of any kind.

Joining the ranks of computer-users later, after a brief and dubious flirtation with the Dark Side (Windows), I have been a dedicated Mac guy for 15+ years.

But this is not about computer preferences (ouch: nerdy pun...).

I did have one of these during a dark period of my life known as the early 1980's. Much sanctification was squandered over this brain puzzle from hell. My solution to Rubik's Cube was the vigorous application of a sledgehammer. (One of life's guilty pleasures.)

But this is not about silly brain teasers from the past.

It's about discerning the difference between the hamster-wheel trap of feel-good nostalgia, and weeding out the superfluous and getting back to what is truly important.

A friend of mine tweeted the following recently...
"Don't wanna relive the past as if it was the future and mistake nostalgia for anointing... here's to the journey." (David Ruis)
...which started me thinking.

On the one hand, it's true: living in the past is only for dead people. There are countless blogs and books that warn of the paralysis of living in the past. Getting stuck at a certain painful moment and never moving on. Retreating from a full engagement of the present (and thereby truncating the future) because "it was better back then".

But on the other hand, when people (small groups, churches, organizations, etc.) find themselves stuck in some fashion, one of the best ways to get unstuck is to revisit their roots/foundations, their original vision/goals, and figure out what got them off-track. And then deal with it, and get back on-track.

So, how do you figure out which it is? Is it a time to put the past firmly behind you, or instead, to do the hard work of rooting out whatever caused things to get off-track?

Even in Scripture, you can find examples where it seems that forgetting the past and moving on seems like the most spiritual thing to do: "But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:13-14)

And of course, that perennially-quoted-in-charismatic-circles gem: "Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?" (Isaiah 43:18-19)

And there are also Scripture verses which clearly instruct/encourage us to get back on track: "You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first." (Revelation 2:4-5)

And the high-water-mark story of King Josiah; the guy who -- upon hearing the Covenant read for the first time in his life -- went to incredible lengths to get his entire nation back on track. (2 Kings 22 & 23)

The wrestle is simply that there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Only the dead live in the past, but only the foolish ignore their roots. Discerning how to live in that tension is one of life's more difficult learning curves.

I guess that's why they call it a 'journey'. If we didn't have the Holy Spirit to guide us (John 16:13-15), we'd be toast.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Meaning of Fish/Detox

Me exhaling my vocal chords @ The Meaning of Fish CD release party (1998)

When I first felt God was saying "go back and do the things you did at first", part of that picture seemed to be returning to my musical roots. And by "roots", I mean playing in a bar band. Sort of like being salt-and-light in a melodious and odious subculture of artists.

A poster on the wall of a local music store in Winnipeg led to a phone call, which led to an audition, which led to playing in a band with the curious name of The Meaning of Fish.

This coincided with our earliest days in the Detoxing from Church journey, and it provided me with (a) a therapeutic outlet, (b) an opportunity to meet many creative and colourful individuals, and (c) to discover (usually by tripping over) some interesting nuggets:
  • musicians live on a different internal clock than other people; "normal" things like inviting friends to church don't work very well
  • there is a definite subculture, camaraderie, and social network that flies under the radar to most other people
  • In Winnipeg -- and almost any other city, as I've learned in the years since -- there is a disproportionately large number of ex-church-goers playing in bar bands
  • a significant number of these ex-church-goers were once pastors and worship leaders, or their (now adult) children
  • everyone has a story; if you take the time to listen, it's amazing what you'll learn, and the impact you can have

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Nailed It (unfortunately...)

The late Mike Yaconelli doesn't resemble your typical "prophet". Mike probably would have -- in his usual self-effacing, humourous way -- reject the term outright. He'd just call himself a careful observer of the times.

Mike wrote an article entitled, "Getting Fired for the Glory of God" over a decade ago. It was true then, and even more so now.

Read on. I hope Mike's words provoke a sense of rising up against injustice. For the sake of the emerging generation of young people.

If there was ever a time for a revolution in youth ministry, it's now.

Getting Fired for the Glory of God
by Mike Yaconelli

After spending time with youth workers from all over the world during the Youth Specialties National Youth Workers Convention, there's no question in my mind that our calling to youth ministry and the current condition of the institutional church are on a collision course.

I'm beginning to believe that if those who are called into youth ministry follow the lead of the One who called them, getting fired is inevitable.

Why? Because, in general, the institutional church doesn't get it. The institutional church has become hopelessly corporate, hopelessly tangled in a web of secularism. Instead of the church being the Church, it has opted instead to be a corporation.

You disagree? Why don't you try these seven suggestions, and see how long you keep your job.

Keep Jesus #1.

Make your relationship with Jesus the first priority of your life, and expect the same from your church staff. Suggest that your staff meetings only allow you to talk about your relationship with Jesus. Forget about business; just pray together, and share your struggles with each other.

Be still.

Require as part of your job description paid time alone with God. At least one day a week of silence, three-day retreats every quarter, and one week a year for the entire staff.

Ignore corporate values.

Refuse to accept corporate values for evaluating your worth. What are those corporate secular humanist values?

How about:
  • Size
  • Productivity
  • Efficiency
  • Speed
  • Technology
  • Busyness
  • Measuring
  • Balance
  • Power
  • Success
  • Good grades
  • Sports
Just ignore all those values and instead …

Think small.

Keep your youth group small and manageable. Work hard to focus on a few rather than many. Don't let your group get larger than you can handle with integrity.

Be real.

Tell the truth. Tell students when you are doubting, struggling, hurting, and failing. Create an atmosphere of reality. Refuse to edit your meetings so that only the polished communicators speak and only the positive stories get told.

Put your family first.

Don't let a workaholic staff intimidate you into becoming a workaholic. Say yes to your family first.

Seek kingdom values.

What are kingdom values?
  • Time. Have plenty of extra time to spend with students one on one. Refuse to be too busy.
  • Awareness—sensitivity, empathy, noticing
  • Audacity—risk, courage, resistance
  • Intimacy with God
  • Humility
  • Grace
Notice: You don't have to confront the system. You can just get close to Jesus, seek intimacy with God, follow kingdom values... and it won't be long until you are out on the street.

And guess who will be there with you?

You got it... Jesus.