Beyond the Walls

"All the money in the world doesn’t compensate for a lack of mission or a lack of heart." - Carey Nieuwhof

Lack of mission and lack of heart is the #1 reason I most likely wouldn't stay at 95% of churches for more than one service. There are definitely other reasons I would choose to not come back to a Church. But lack of mission and lack of heart are two biggies.

Teaching pastors and Sunday preachers, I think it's time to say some things that not many people are saying. I know you have a tough job. A really tough job. Crafting a 40 minute message is no easy feat, but the challenge of it is too often an excuse for mediocrity. So please, stop doing mediocre. 

Also, bad logic is a strong repellant for a lot of people. The bottom line is this: I have three degrees, and there are a ton of people like me. I'm not saying I'm some sort of intellectual (hardly; my wife could beat me any day in the intelligence department). I'm just saying that with people who have a bunch of post secondary education under their belts, it's helpful to not be subjected to 40 minutes of meandering and bunny trailing through a topic. I'd go as far to say that it's just a waste of time, no matter what your level of education is. People will put up with a lot, and I will sometimes tolerate (and sometimes accidentally celebrate) bad logic in the name of maintaining relationships. But the reality I wish we could grasp is that church would be more engaging if leaders would spend serious time developing the art of the sermon, or find someone who already has and use their material.

This isn't the the only thing. I love authenticity as well. If you aren't authentic, I'm out. I spent too much time being inauthentic to want to be around inauthentic people. What I mean is, if you struggle, just say so. If you don't have it all figured out, be honest about it. It's ok. I'll respect you more for it. Tell me your opinions as well. Just don't frame them as facts. Please.

And then on Sunday, if you can tell me one major idea, that's enough. One big point. Seriously. That works out to fifty-two major, life altering, gospel ideas every year. It's more than enough. It really, really is! If we are on minute 20 and I can't find a point to what you are saying, I will mentally check out. Not by choice, but by instinct.

At least if you provide a logical path to a big idea, I might agree or disagree with what you're saying, but I will respect your process and I will even suspend my own disbelief to look for larger lessons or points. I'll also engage with your ideas, playing around with them my head to try to form some bigger big picture ideas. I'll start dreaming about how your message, if applied, will change me, my relationships, my problems, my faith and so on and bring me closer to God.

You'll have me. 

And It appears I am not an isolated anomaly. P
eople like me are all over the place, wanting to step into something larger than ourselves. 

But if I don't see mission, vision or passion/heart then I will shrink into the background (or an obscure blog). A similar thing might happen if I see the vision doesn't extend past the room we are in. There might be great things happening in the church, but I want to know that there is a purpose to the things. I won't work for just because. I won't do things because "the bible says". Don't like that? I'm not sad about it, because I want purpose. And like it or not, if I'm not seeing purpose at church, I'll be gone, sometimes before you knew I was even there and sometimes after years of banging my head against the wall trying to make it work.

You might have the biggest food bank in the city, or a giant education outreach. But if I can't see how these things at church are part of a vision that is pushing us into something bigger than ourselves and our church, my first question will be, "Why are we doing this when it could probably be done better someplace else or by someone else? Is it already?" If the answer is yes, then the follow-up question will be: "Why not just support them and figure out what we can do that one else is doing?" These are becoming rhetorical questions for me lately. Why do something poorly if someone else is already doing it well and could do it even better with a big support kick?

Look, I am all about meeting needs. I want to serve the poor and I'm on board with social justice. But if some other group or organization is already doing a bang up job or innovating in those things, I'd rather support them than try to reinvent the wheel. This is practicality more than theology, method rather than message. But I think it has merit.

I'm part of a group of people who are often referred to as the millennial generation. I'm among the oldest of the bunch, along with all of the others who grew up with me through elementary and high school. We were the guinea pigs for just about every major school program that now exists, and many that no longer exist. In some bizarre way, maybe this is why I (we?) are comfortable with experimenting and innovating and piloting ideas that may or may not work. It's also perhaps why we (I) hate seeing things stalled out and going nowhere.

Look at these life experiences, and tell me I'm ok with going nowhere. 

I've started six blogs and two websites most of which are all still going, I've released two CDs professionally under my own record label, I've taught every grade level under the sun (well, almost), I can set up a google apps domain, I know Photoshop, Autocad and other software, I was a school administrator, I can make magic with excel, I know how to play several musical instruments, I've slept at the mouth of a volcano, and hiked through some of the most remote regions of the Rocky Mountains, I've taken a 'chicken bus' from Panama to Honduras. I once went from Nairobi to Mombassa without a plan, and I can make things sound good live, often regardless of the equipment. 

I am an experimenter and an adventurer; the result of the digital revolution. 

And I want to be involved in Church, too. But not every day of the week. Sunday and maybe one other day a week is enough (you see all the hobbies ... it gets a little cramped for time). Plus, I want to befriend people who don't go to church and do life with them, as well as with people at church. I'm not super interested in befriending the entire church. I like you and everything. I want to have a couple of core, deep relationships with wise, Godly people. In fact, this is extremely important to me. But I also want to have other friends. 

I want to be salt and light, and I can't do that if I am just hanging out with Christians all the time. Sorry, but it's true.

So, that's that. Church, I like you but sometimes you are just weird or boring or lifeless and even directionless. Sometimes it feels like all we're doing at the Men's breakfast/work bee things is putting lipstick on a pig ... because there's no direction or vision for it. We're doing it just because. I'm saying that out of a lifetime of going to men's breakfast/work bees. So I can see it, and I don't always know how to point it out because I don't necessarily know how to change what I see. But if you're willing to take some innovative risks and find a larger than life vision that will let us reach our communities together, then I'm ALL IN. 

Until then, I'll be half-sleeping at the back of the room hoping and praying.


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