Monday, November 21, 2011

How You Know You've Become "Religious"

I've been teaching through the book of Mark at Colossae and it has been enlightening to say the least.  We inched into chapter 3 yesterday and this is when I took time to take a closer look at 5 pitfalls we have seen the Pharisee's fall into up to this point.  For this post I will talk about one of those.  Here is one of the things that make them "religious" and a little bit of how we, unfortunately, can fall into the same trap.

They used their convictions as weapons.  For instance, they held the conviction that you couldn't lift a finger on the Sabbath, even if it meant having something to eat.  We see this issue being addressed in the grain field with Jesus at the end of chapter 2 where Jesus and his disciples are picking some grain to eat.  The Pharisee's had unfortunately made the Sabbath about another set of rules to uphold and therefore it became about things they could NOT do.  This is why Jesus combats their understanding and makes it clear that the Sabbath was created for man, not vice versa.

But this goes deeper than just missing the point.  The Pharisee's were using their convictions about the Sabbath to tear Jesus down (see 3:2).  This is when their convictions became weapons.  Although it may be more subversive, we often fall into the same trap.

Holding personal convictions is a good thing.  We all hold personal convictions about different things and the truth is godly people disagree on many different areas.  For example, some think home school is the only way to be a faithful parent, others think public school is the only way to be faithful and yet others think private school is the way to go.  But the truth is godly people land in each of these areas of conviction and each seem to have "biblical support" behind the conviction they hold so dearly.

This diversity is normal and I would suggest healthy, but it quickly turns unhealthy when we use our convictions to tear down other people.  This becomes religious, the very thing nobody wants to be a part of.  We become "religious" the moment we think of someone that doesn't hold our same convictions as less than us.  We, of course, would never say this out loud.  But we do tend to think of people as less spiritual than we are if they don't hold the same convictions as we do.  We can do this in our own minds or openly as the Pharisee's did with Jesus, but either way we have pulled out our weapon and used it to tear someone down.  We then go away feeling more spiritual than they are.

And this, my friends, is one way we know we've become "religious."

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

5 Things I've Been Saying To Church Planters

Over the past few months I have been getting more and more calls from church planters asking about our process of planting.  I get questions from how we handled finances, to how my family handled moving a thousand miles away, to how we handled leadership teams.

But the biggest question I get is something like, "What model are you using?" or it may be asked, "How are you structured as a church?"  Most I've talked to ask this because they are trying to develop something themselves and they are simply seeking to glean some insight from someone that has walked the road a little more than they have.

But I am only three or so years into this.  So here are 5 things I've been saying to preface any conversation about how we are structured:
  1. I didn't have a structure in my head when I moved because I didn't know anyone and I didn't know the culture of Portland.  So our "model" took a solid two years to develop in our minds.  It took even longer to articulate clearly and concisely in a way people could actually understand and carry.
  2. Our structure has just as much to do with the community we live in as it does how we see the people of God organizing themselves in the scriptures.
  3. Our structure is working great right now, but at our size (about 150 adults) any structure could work well.  We really believe we have a skeleton to build on, but we cannot say yet whether or not our "model" is actually going to work long-term.
  4. Our structure is helping us solve some of the "traditional problems" we see in churches.  But we are certainly creating an entirely different set of problems we don't even know exist yet.  This is a reality of living on this side of eternity.  Time will tell of the imperfections and problems.
  5. Lastly, I tell planters that we hold our model with open hands.  After three years we have landed on a few things that we will not change.  But these are principles, not methods.  The bottom line is sometimes we have to adapt what we do, so we don't change.