Safe is Insufficient

August 7, 2020 1 comment

What’s the good word? So over the past two days I have been attending the Global Leadership Summit virtually this year, of course. I have attended the GLS for 13 of my 15 years of ministry. My first year was actually in Chicago, and it was there that I had the realization that everything rises and falls on leadership, and when a leader gets better, the people they lead get better. This year, day one, was quite possibly the best I have seen. One thing really stuck out at me at that was the title of this post: Safe is Insufficient.

Over and over again we hear that we are living in unprecedented times. This is most certainly true, as Luther would say. But what is it that we are learning during this time. I think to myself, when we begin to worship again in person. what will change. If we go back to the way things were before this pandemic, we will be playing it safe. That’s the safe route. But if this is truly “unprecedented”, then I believe it calls for something more, and safe just simply isn’t sufficient. Let’s take a look at the facts. Before the pandemic, churches in the United States were declining. We were loosing ground my friends. Between 6,000 and 10,000 churches were closing each and every year. We would only add 300 churches, not enough to keep up with population growth. More and more people were turned off by “christianity” they found in the pews.

Enter COVID-19. Many churches have seen an increase in attendance ONLINE than they were in person. People sought prayer and faith to help them cope with the unknowns of the pandemic. But let’s render that “virtual” worship is certainly not a new concept in this country. My congregation has been online for at least the past 5 years, offering live streams of our worships. And have we forgotten Billy Graham’s Crusades that were transmitted over the airwaves and into our living rooms?

Churches MUST use this time to really ask themselves what matters when it comes to being the “Ekklesia” of Jesus Christ. We can no longer rely on a group worship experience once a week. We need to be looking to boosting our online presence, looking to build house churches, looking to disperse our members into our communities more, looking to confront racial and social justice issues facing our brothers and sisters of color, and empowering parents to truly be priests in their own homes. COVID-19 has happened, it can happen again. We must prepare for the worst while working for the best. We cannot be afraid to move forward. If we simply go back and play it safe, we will only end up with the same declining numbers we have been accustomed to for the past decade. Nona Jones once said, “You cannot make a lasting impact while also feeling safe.” Impact requires feeling unsafe. Safe is insufficient. We are called to go first. There’s a line in Hamilton that speaks to this very thing: History has it’s eyes on you. History has it’s eyes on us. What will we do moving forward? And that’s the good word for today.

 

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Sin and the Moral Law

What’s the good word? Let’s talk about sin for a moment. Your sins want to take you over. To put you in a position where you can’t stop it. When you sin it doesn’t go away. It creates a presence in your life. Something that’s there, that slowly weakens your ability to be what you ought to be.

 
When your selfish instead of choosing to serve, worried in stead of choosing to truth, payback instead of choosing to forgive, tell a half truth instead of whole truth, you create a presence that remains in your life that prevents you from doing the right thing the next time.
 
Paul in Romans 7 v 5: “When we were controlled by our old nature, sinful desires were at work within us, and the law aroused these evil desires that produced a harvest of sinful deeds, resulting in death.” It didn’t quash sin, it aroused sin in him. Surely though when you start to obey the law surely you squelch sin. Right? Paul says it does not. How’s that happen?
 
St. Augustine recalls a time when he was young when he stole pears from the local orchard. He climbed over the fence. And he wondered why? He wasn’t hungry and he didn’t even like pears? He says the reason he did it because he was told don’t take their pears. It was forbidden. He reflected: “The moral law instead of shriveling up the part of my life that hates being told how to live, the moral law aggravates it.” Why? Because sin is rebelling against God by putting yourself in the place of God. Living for your own glory. Deciding how to live your life for yourself. Your own glory for your own pleasure. Augustine said, “when I was forbidden to do something all it did was stir that up inside of me that says, ‘No one is going to tell me what to do.'” It arouses moral disobedience.
 
Take that and look at what’s happening around us today. “Nobody is going to tell me what to do.” How many times have you heard that? I have heard this uttered in stores many times over the past few weeks in regards to sheltering in place, and wearing masks in order to protect others. Every time it was about “Me” and not about “We”. This isn’t a political post, it’s a post about humanity and decency towards our brothers and sisters. The good news is, as we hold up a mirror to see our hearts, the law shows us the bad, but the Gospel shows us the good and the hope we have to be better people. And that’s the good word for today. 
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Surely God Was Here

What’s the good word? There’s an ancient story about a man named Jacob. It’s in the older testament of the Bible. In this story Jacob has a magnificent dream. When Jacob wakes up he says, “Surely God was in this place, and I, I wasn’t aware of it.” I have been thinking about this verse in light of worshiping online. I have heard from many that they have enjoyed worship online. It wasn’t as bad as they thought. And it has opened up our community to many folks we weren’t reaching before. Then there are a small few who don’t see it as “real” church. But is God still present? Don’t we proclaim that where two or three are gathered there God is? Has God been there the entire time- in our living rooms, next to our pools, etc. as we worship and we just didn’t realize it? Home is/can be church too. Some of you know that I take folks overseas with me on my trips to Ethiopia. One of the biggest misconceptions about “mission” work is that we are taking God to them. In fact, God is already there.

The power of this story of Jacob is its timeless reminder that God hasn’t changed. It is Jacob in the story that wakes up to a whole new awareness of who and where God is. Could it be that after this is passed and we begin lives anew that we too will have a new awareness of who and where God is? That there will be an increasing number of followers of Jesus that will wake up in new ways to the God who has been here the whole time?

And that’s the good word for today.

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Jesus is in the Boat

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Jesus Knows Your Name

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God Is So Good

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No Fear

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Have No Fear

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Let Your Light Shine

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Devotion on Love

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