Category Archives: margins

More on Churches and Buildings

Some great comments on the last post have generated more thoughts.

Laurie, you DO make sense. Church buildings are an UnLearning issue. It is hard, and we are truly at a loss of how to operate and relate to THE church when the building isn’t there.

Monica, thanks for your thoughts too. First, this posting is meant to be an extreme statement to get us thinking, not a final and complete declaration. I would point back to Laurie’s comments though. Thinking outside the building, outside this church-box, is a hard adjustment. There are good uses and purposes of a building, but I’d challenge us to be more creative in how we meet those space needs.

Do we need to own buildings to house our presence? Can we rent, share, multi-use facilities? Cooperate with other, even non-church, organizations? There are many examples of this already. Unfortunately it is not the norm, and it is often perceived as a sign of weakness that a church borrows, rents or shares space.

Buildings tend to isolate us and separate the many Bodies of Christ from one another. We each need the ministry going on in our church. Ultimately I like the idea that we learn to head to people rather than a place when we have needs. After all, people, not places, will be how God acts sooner or later.

And face it, if I really want to go to a quiet place to meditate, I probably wouldn’t head to the kind of place we would be able to afford to do it, but would go to God’s great sanctuary out-of-doors, or to the Basilica, or maybe on the sidewalk outside our local police precinct, or the emergency entrance of HCMC anyway…

Lots of stuff to think about. Let’s be creative.

May churches build people always, and buildings when we must.

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Slippery Slopes

This is part II of my last entry, “Held Accountable.”

A comment I left off that blog entry was that when one begins the path of responding to needs around one – like throwing a party for a prostitute in the middle of the night, or simply listening to the people you are always talking to – things start to happen. There is something about making yourself available that gets out of control. Out of our control, that is, and into God’s control.

I believe, because I’ve experienced it, that when you make yourself available to God you get used a lot more. Makes sense when you think about. Jesus said in his parable of the talents (Mt 25)

‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.’

I knew that meant that when Jacob’s Well began to be available that we would experience an explosion of need. I didn’t think it would start so fast, however. My/our accountability is being tested right now. How will we respond?

Held accountable

I finished my message yesterday at Jacob’s Well with Tony Campolo’s story about throwing a birthday party for a prostitute in the middle of the night.

(Great story, if you don’t know it see his book, The Kingdom of God is a Party. You can also find it on the web on sites like this.  But buy his book anyway.)

It’s a powerful story that calls us out of our “nice and tidy” ministries and out into the “down and dirty” love that Jesus was about.  My concluding words were, “What if there was a church that threw birthday parties for prostitutes in the middle of the night?  I want to be the pastor of a church like that, and I hope that you want to help Jacob’s Well be that kind of church too.”

no-shoulder-sign.jpg

Afterwards a woman came up and said, “Great message, I love that vision of the church. But I wonder if you really mean it.”  She went on to a say a few other positive but challenging things and then ended by saying, “I’ll be watching you.”  I told her I needed accountability, we all do.  She had been burn by a church that didn’t practice what it taught, and is sharp enough to know that while I’m not Jacob’s Well, if I don’t believe and practice something it is pretty unlikely the church will either.

My first reaction – Wow!  Someone was listening and taking me seriously enough to call me on what I say.  That’s what preaching is all about.

Another reaction – Being a precarious pastor and a congregation that ministers from the margins rather than soft, safe center of its resources and comfort level isn’t easy.  We have to hold each other accountable so we will go where Jesus goes.  We also have to encourage each other and remind each other of the vision with which God leads us out of the wilderness of our comfort zone.

Anyone else ready for this journey?  What will we have to give up to be that kind of church, and are we willing to do it?

Why ‘precarious’?

Why ‘precarious’? Well, I’m a sailor. I don’t get to sail too often, but it is a passion for me and the main way I get to sail is by taking groups out. I took what I love to do most and made a ministry out of it at the church I served. If you’ve ever wandered through a marina you have noticed the wide range of names of boats, each reflecting something about the owner. With that in mind we ask everyone on our trips, “If you were a sailboat on the journey that is your life, what would the name of that boat be?” For me the name was obvious, my boat is The Precarious.

To be precarious is to be on the edge of what is safe, risk-free, known. I know all my life isn’t lived on the margins, but my calling is to go there and explore them, to discover what God is up to out there where many are unwilling to go.

One of the fun things about being precarious is that it isn’t only full of possibility, but it wakes people up. People step aboard with a little (or a lot) of fear and trepidation. By joining the journey they’ve made a few important decisions; they will trust me on the journey of discovery, and they aren’t expecting status quo.

I’m also a pastor. It isn’t just an occupation. It is who I am – my wife and kids are painfully aware of this, I think. This blog is intended to be the truth of my precarious journey as a pastor. This isn’t the path of making sure everything works out, so my posts will contain as many “won’t do that again’s” as it will “wow, that worked great’s.” What being precarious does is open me up to God’s promise which is the verse I cling to more than any other…

The power of God at work within us can accomplish abundantly far more than we can ever ask or imagine. Ephesians 3.20 (my version)

Thanks for reading.