Tuesday, June 28, 2011

"The Church is going to church at the church."

The Church is a group of people (aka the Bride of Christ), but it's also something that we have/do when we convene ourselves and it's also a building: "The Church is going to church at the church."

We have no building (on purpose), so that one point is cleared up.  Easy.  We are a fellowship of home churches so we are properly using the term "Church" in that sense.  Got it.  But what about that third usage of the term?  The one where we "go to church" or "meet as a church"?   Hmmm.

I was talking with a friend last week who was excited to have invited a neighbor to her life group.  The neighbor had come and experienced God and was glad to return the following week.  That's cool!  Really cool--I like that.  To her, "life group," can refer to either the group or the meeting that the group creates, and in this case what my friend had invited her neighbor to was the meeting called "life group."

At this point I'm part of the Jellyfish home church.  I build my relationships intentionally with that group always in mind.  But we never "go" to Jellyfish, because we've never made Jellyfish something to go to.  And, after five months of being church, I find that I do, after all, need something to "go to."  A meeting, regardless of whether it's consistent or spontaneous, is an element that is different from the social "being church" and has been a missing ingredient from SGF these five months.

So let's have meetings.  Let's not call them "Jellyfish," though, because I want to keep the terms cleaner than that.  Jellyfish will meet to seek God.  These meetings will have a name.  Tonight we're trying on the name GoDeep: "Tonight Jellyfish is meeting to GoDeep."  We'll see if it sticks...

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Gifted or Blessed?

I'm heading down to a presentation opportunity in Texas--later today, in fact.  I'm not nervous precisely, but I know I'm not as good or smooth of a public speaker as my heroes* are, and I suffer in the comparison.

What am I most afraid of?  I don't want for them to regret having offered me my first chance to keynote.  I find myself putting on a brave exterior--already mentally practicing my confidence as I enter the reception tomorrow night and smile and shake hands with lots of people--but on the inside I am not secure.  I know they like me, I just don't know that they are still happy to have chosen me to Keynote.  They consider me a "gifted presenter" . . . what happens when they find out that I'm just an ordinary presenter who's learned some good tricks?

The Holy Spirit tapped me this morning and had me consider how I felt when they asked me to come to Texas, first as "Featured Presenter" and now as "Keynote Speaker."  Did I feel like it was my just desserts for doing a good job with my other sessions?  No!  Not at all!  I was overcome with awareness of blessing.  "'Test me in this,' says the LORD Almighty, 'and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.'"

One explanation for being invited to keynote is that I'm just that good--my giftedness is opening new doors.  Every good gift comes from God, so that's not a less-pious explanation than blessing, but I'd rather have God's blessing than God's gift (I think right now I have both). 

When the achievement of being honored is based on my talent, that's a bit more secure.  I can have an easy grace and confidence because I really am that good.  If they don't like me, there are others who will recognize my gift and life will go on.  With blessing, on the other hand, I don't know if I can ever get used to the honors and accolades.  How can I, when I feel like an impostor who gets invited to all these great events and nobody seems to realize that I'm not "all that," after all?

With blessing, I remember who got me the job and lay responsibility back at His feet.  "Lord, standing up here is your blessing to me.  How people perceive me has some to do with my performance and lots to do with your blessing."  I have worked HARD on this keynote, and I'm ready.  But the outcome of the venture does not rest in my hands.

I'm blessed!

*My heroes, in the public speaking category anyway, are the TED Talks.  I have them in my iTunes podcast and I watch them for inspiration.  (I also pick out the best of them to show my students at the high school.)  None of them are longer than 20 minutes, and they are really amazing.  If I were you I'd start with a podcast called "A Taste of TED Talks" because those are pre-selected to be some of the best. 

Monday, June 6, 2011

"We don't GO to church . . ."

Can this public booth be my private confessional?

Last night I was asked--again--"So . . . where do you go to church?" And I felt awkward and I flubbed my answer--again.

It is a normal question. The question will NEVER not be "Where do you go to church?" in my lifetime, so I need to get used to it.

When someone asks "Hey, where do you go to church at?" this is not an invitation to converse about the negatives of church-building-based Christianity. We can get coffee and discuss the downsides of owning a church building sometime, but that's not the point when someone innocently asks which building you center your Christian experience at.

The flub of an answer that I gave last night was "We don't go to church, we ARE the church." Oh yes, it's theologically more correct, but I flinch at the arrogance. And talking with God about it afterward, I think I now have a better response. I've practiced it so it's ready, and I'm hoping that when the next person asks me "Where do you go to church?" I'll be ready: "We are Shepherd's Gate Fellowship."

Is that so hard? It's true that I can't honestly use the same verb they used--I don't "go to" Shepherd's Gate Fellowship--but I don't need to belabor the point. I am SGF--you are SGF--and that answer can answer the awkwardness of the "where" question for the rest of my experience in dispersed church.

Lord, forgive me for being theologically correct in my arrogance. Thanks for letting me be SGF rather than attending a building-based experience. It is good.