Changing Minds

I discovered the pen of David Roper about 13 years ago while interning for a church in Atlanta. Each day the interns had to read a devotional thought from Roper’s book, A Burden Shared: Encouragement for Leaders. Each devotional takes about 2 minutes to read, but the thoughts are powerful, thoughtful, and yes, encouraging.

I frequently return to Roper when in need of a fresh, grounded, incisive voice. Today was one of those days. By divine guidance I landed on Roper’s devotional about changing minds. This is a difficult topic for me. It’s difficulty because, honestly, when people disagree with me or are resistant to needed changes to engage people with the gospel I secretly think them stupid, ill-informed, disingenuous, unthoughtful, power-hungry or ignorant. Of course, I never tell them that. And down deep I recognize that I’m wrong for thinking and feeling that way, yet, I oftentimes do feel that way.

Roper helps me recalibrate my instincts and behaviors in the face of trying to move individuals and the church forward. First quoting Paul and then expanding the thought, Roper writes…

“The Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will (2 Tim. 2.24-26).

“It’s a sin to bully people–to be combative and argumentative. Discussion and debate on the facts is one thing; assault is another. When we resort to coercion we’ve already lost our moral and rational force. The Puritans were right when they enunciated the principle of consent. Faith can never be foisted on another. Consent must be gained by gentle persuasion and reason rather than mandate. People are best charmed into compliance.

“So we should avoid what Paul calls ‘foolish and stupid arguments’ and always be ‘kind to everyone’–intelligent and relevant in our proclamation and nondefensive in our posture, gently instructing those who oppose, ‘in the hope that God will grant them repentance…that they may come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil who has taken them captive to do his will’ (2.24-26)

“Those who oppose are not the enemy but victims of the enemy, deceived and captured by him to do his will. They may be delivered, Paul insists, but only if we speak the truth in love.

“Truth alone is never enough. Without love it is mere dogma and it never touches the soul. And without truth, love becomes mere sentimentalism. Only truth delivered with lovingkindness has power to change another’s mind. Truth sounds good only when it’s spoken with courtesy.”

Good thoughts, David.

Me Worship

This video really captures much of the state-of-the-church. Like many things, it’s funny because it is true.

For readers of this blog, I don’t have to go into a lot of detail about the commercialization of the church. You know all too well the temptation of churches to offer more and more religious goods and services in the hopes of drawing people, not to Jesus, but to the empires we are building; to be successful by worldly standards.

The question is how do we move ourselves, our churches and pre-Christians away from a “me-orientation” toward missional living.

Anyway enjoy the video!

Humilty and Child Rearing

Having a child is a humbling experience. It’s most humbling for the mother; who is poked and prodded; shaken and stirred as doctors and labor and delivery nurses enter and exit her narrow hospital room in their seemingly endless quest to “measure” something. Then there’s the endless parade of nursery nurses and breast-feeding experts coming in and out of her room wanting to “check” to see how the nursing is going. Soon, I suspect, a woman begins to feel as though her body is simply on display like a nude exhibit at a seedy New York art gallery.

Newborns are humbling for dads too. As many of you know, I do my fair share of public speaking, teaching and preaching, so I’ve come to believe that I’m pretty good at it. Last night, my almost-one-week-old taught me differently. As her mother was slumbering, I began to tell Katharine about her family – who her mom, sister, and dad are, what she needed to know about Christmas and how we celebrate birthdays. Trust me, I was telling GREAT stories! Low and beyond, as I reached the crescendo of my magical story-weaving, I looked down anticipating the anxious eyes of my daughter and there she was…asleep!

Can you believe that?

I was insulted!

Yet, in my gentle, fatherly, comforting way, I leaned over to her ear and said, “Do you know people PAY to hear me speak?”

Alas I let her off the hook, telling myself; “This is just my first sermon to her, she’s got a lot more coming.”

::Your Inner Geek::

I’ve long held to the hypothesis that everyone has an “Inner Geek.” What I mean by that is that whoever you are, no matter how cool, there is something – maybe even multiple somethings – that you are a geek about!

I’m mainly a geek about church. When going out-of-town or away on vacation, one of my chief concerns is which churches I’ll be able to go to. For instance, this spring I’m going to Malibu, CA, and you better bet that I’ll try to arrange my schedule to visit Mosaic in LA. In addition the coming months will take me to Raleigh, New Orleans, Abilene, and some other places I can’t quite remember right now, and you better bet I’m going to try and catch some innovative, missional church in the area. As a matter of fact, this past Advent season I tried to make four different church services on Christmas Eve. Alas, my wife’s sensibilities and high gas prices colluded to reduce me to only two services plus the Pope’s midnight mass.

I’m just a geek for church!

In my free time I read books about church, I write ideas about church, and I blog about church. Amazingly, many if these things never reach the light of day. It doesn’t matter to me though, it feeds my inner geek.

I have other things that I’m a geek about too. The are the following:

Crossword Puzzles – don’t ask.
Preaching – which has something to do with church.
Gadgets – especially if it’s made by Apple.

So what are you a geek about?

Hospitals

I’ve had a small problem all of my life: I’m a complainer. Well, not really a complainer as much as someone who gets very agitated when things don’t go as planned or when people – other than me of course – don’t do what they’re supposed to do when they’re supposed to do them.

I’m a planner.

But I am a planner in transition. As a matter of fact, several years ago I used to be teased about being overly planned in my ministry, now I get criticized for not being planned enough. I’m learning – in big ways and small – to allow God to be Lord of my life and stop telling other people that they all have to met my schedule and time table in order to be in good favor.

The reason for the change, you ask? The place I’m sitting now; the hospital.

Three years ago, when our first daughter was born, things didn’t go well for me. I was agitated by being stuck in the hospital room for 5 days; When I went home one day to take a shower, I got there and discovered that I had left my keys in the hospital; and Malia had to stay in the hospital an extra day because she was jaundiced. All of that doesn’t begin to mention the cost of “living” as a well person in the hospital; parking, meals, drinks, etc. As I look back on how much I complained and fussed I am embarrassed. I behaved that way because until that point in my life I thought that a good life consisted of making a plan and working the plan. I was wrong!

That episode may seem kind of silly to you, but it was powerfully formative for me.

The fact – which I can clearly see now – is that I was complaining in the hospital, yet I was there for a joyous reason, and very few people get to celebrate in a hospital. Just a few floors up from where I was then and where I am now, someone is in a coma, a man is slowly dying from the effects of a stroke, a daughter and son are letting go of their mother who is passing away from breast cancer, a child is suffering from some horrid disability and disease that no child should have to face, and a young parent is saying goodbye to a spouse and children. That’s what happens in hospitals; people suffer and people die.

How in the world could I then complain because the servers, nurses and doctors did not bow to my family’s desires and needs?

I think hospitals are good places to find perspective, to celebrate life and meaning, and honor and grieve the dying. It’s been a blessing for me to be here this week, not just because we are welcoming Katharine McKenna into our family, but because her father is being reminded about life.

May you find life somewhere this week!

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By the way, if you’re wondering how to find a little bit of perspective in the hospital, think about this. When I asked Rochelle’s nurse when her dinner was coming, she said, “They always serve us last, (maternity) because no one here is sick.”