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Anxious Pastors Leading Anxious Churches (via Sarah Condon)

Local churches don’t need more people to come along to save them.
They have the task of sharing with others about the one who has already saved them.

From Sarah Condon:

The fact of the matter is that most of our ideas about how to fix the church are terrible, my own included. We over-exaggerate what we can do, and we forget that nothing happens that has not first be named by God. We figure that our ministry du jour will grow the church because we love our latest idea, and if we love it, how can anything be wrong? Well if we love it, then everything can be wrong with it.
All of this makes for anxious pastors leading anxious churches. When we do not care about the ancient of days God who we worship, when we fail to see his hand guiding us, then we have only ourselves, our egos, and our interests to fall back on.
I believe this description applies to a great many of our churches: nice places, full of kind people, who are told, Sunday after Sunday, that they need to bring more people to church or do more work for Jesus. It can feel like scrambling to please an absentee parent. Our anxious hearts suffer, all a while trying desperately to do more and more for God Almighty.

Sarah Condon, Churchy, Mockingbird, 2017, PCs 152-153.


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Every Beauty And Every Tragedy Is An Invitation (via Winn Collier)

More musing from fictional pastor Jonas McAnn, as written by Winn Collier:

If the idea of providence means anything, then it must a least mean that our life consists of all manner of truths and experiences we would never imagine and could never orchestrate. The old mystics liked to say that “all is gift.” I still scratch my head over this idea, but I’m learning to trust that everything we encounter, ever beauty and every tragedy, invites us deeper into God, deeper into our truest selves.
In other words, to become more like God (more Christian, if it helps to say it that way) is in fact to become more human. Jesus showed us what it looks like to be God, but Jesus also showed us what it looks like to be truly human. We often flour our human bodies, our human urges and aspirations, our human frailties. But to be Christian is to become more and more human.
Winn Collier, Love Big Be Well, Eerdmans, 2017 pg 84.


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Give What You Didn’t Get (via Justin Buzzard)

Justin Buzzard writes about that which truly brings healing for those whose lives are marked by loss:

Give what you didn’t get.

What didn’t you get?

A safe childhood?
A best friend?
A loving father or mother?
Opportunity?
Justice?
Words of encouragement?
Healthy touch?
A place to belong?
A good education?
A healthy church?
Physical health?
Stability?
Someone to listen to you?
Someone to mentor you?
Someone to grieve with you?
Someone to challenge you?
Exposure to diverse people, places, and cultures?
A good coach?
An example of a healthy marriage or healthy friendships?
A healthy work/life balance?
Wise and generous stewardship of money and resources?
A sense of purpose?
Adventure?
A place to call home?
Truth?
Grace?
Give what you didn’t get. Often it’s this place of not-getting—this tender territory of wounding, lack, loss, longing, weakness, and unfamiliarity—that can become your place of strongest character, greatest giftedness, highest contribution to others, and largest joy. This follows God’s counterintuitive J Curve, that our place of pain can become our place of giving and gain.

Quit waiting to get what you didn’t get. Quit stewing in bitterness over what you didn’t get. Quit holding yourself victim to what you didn’t get. Instead, realize that what you don’t have can become your greatest investment. Know that God is with you in your didn’t-get-ness, and his presence and power can transform this lack into a unique overflow of care that you lavish on others.

You can start right now, right where you are. See that person in front of you? Give them what you didn’t get. And watch how God’s supernatural mathematics show up, creating gains you couldn’t have imagined.

source


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The Ocean Between Remorse And Redemption (via Sarah Condon)

There’s a world of difference between feeling bad and being sorry.
A marker of that difference is whether the response to your wrongdoing is about managing the situation or seeking mercy.
Sarah Condon mentions the example of Judas:

This is where we learn the full meaning of what Judas has to teach us, one that’s less about betrayal and more about where we go with that betrayal, or you might say, how we handle sin. After all, a betrayal from one of the disciples should signal to us that our own betrayal of Jesus Christ is inevitable.
It is in how Judas handles his sin where the lesson is found.
Judas is seized with remorse. So he returns the bribe. But here’s the thing. He doesn’t find forgiveness. The chief priests send him away.
Remorse and redemption are an ocean apart. Judas has done what we all so often do. We try to fix the smallest part of our fallen selves. Because naming our sin and asking for mercy can require a humility we are unwilling to offer.
And so our sins follow us and haunt us, just as sin followed and haunted our brother Judas all the way to the grave.

Read the whole post at Mockingbird.


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A Fearful Symmetry

It was Queensland’s victory in the 2011-2012 Sheffield Shield season that was instrumental in Darren Lehmann cement the coaching credentials that saw him assume the role of coach of the national team when Mickey Arthur fell foul of something of a player’s revolt.

Now with Queensland’s victory in the 2017-2018 Sheffield Shield Lehmann’s tenure looks terminal, and the player’s culture that brought him into the job has expressed its full flower with poisonous results.

The question remains about whether the answer to the cultural problem will be seen in a repudiation of the notion of identifying a line in order to justify yourself by never having crossed it, or the cultivation of a sense that if there’s a line what is needed is to be as far away from it as possible.

Oddly enough in a culture that really wants to embrace the ‘I didn’t cross the line’ self-justification, the greatest crime is being caught on the wrong side of it and showing up the toxic impact of that lie.

That’s why the response to these actions has expressed more outrage than empathy. Yet the nature of the crime is so banal, so inept and doomed to failure that it invites pity rather than anger. What frame of mind thought they would get away with it, what frame of mind thought that consequences would be slight?

If your self-image is formed teetering on the edge of a line, what happens when you lose sight of where the line should be?

I know in my heart that the temptation is strong to wilfully cross lines, let alone inadvertently wander over them. Truth be told I’m a natural denizen of the other side and pretending by my identifying the line that I’m not over it.

What I need is a grace that finds me on the false side of the line and renews and restores me to the true side. A grace that rather than reinforcing my line encroaching, recreates me into someone who hates the line, and not just the crossing of it. A grace that grows me love all the space on the best side of the line rather than the false promises of the other side.

A grace that helps me know that it’s not a line that I’m talking about but a relationship with my creator, who subdues my rebellion through the death and resurrection of his son, and brings me into his family.

I always need that grace, and in Jesus, God gives it abundantly and eternally.


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Pastors Must Be What They Want To See (via Jared Wilson)

Jared Wilson points out that pastors must model the pattern of life they long to see in the Christians they serve.
A plurality of elders in a congregation helps provide a broader balance of these qualities.
From Wilson’s article:

If we want our churches to be of one mind, to be of one heart, to assassinate their idols and feast on Christ, to be wise and winsome with the world they have forsaken, to be gentle of spirit but full of confidence and boldness, to be blossoming with the fruit of the Spirit, we must lead the way.
A pastor goes first. In groups where transparency is expected, a pastor goes first. In the humility of service, a pastor goes first. In the sharing of the gospel with the lost, a pastor goes first. In the discipleship of new believers, a pastor goes first. In the singing of spiritual songs with joy and exuberance, a pastor goes first. In living generously, a pastor goes first. In the following of Christ by the taking up of one’s cross, a pastor goes first. All I am saying is that one who talks the talk ought to walk the walk. Don’t lead your flock through domineering; lead by example.
The pastor ought to be able to say with integrity to others, as Paul says to Timothy, “Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 1:13). It is not arrogant to instruct others to follow you, so long as you are following Christ and showing them Christ and giving them Christ. “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ,” Paul says again (1 Cor. 11:1).

Read the whole post here.


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Christianity As Identity, Not A Magic Potion (via Sarah Condon)

From Sarah Condon’s book Churchy.

Everyone has wounds from childhood that will follow us into the grave. Christianity is not a magic potion to make our pain vanish. but it will tell you to whom you belong. That is the best way I can describe “putting on the armor of Christ” (Ephesians 6:11) We are not necessarily fighting a battle with other people so much as fighting our own well-developed patterns of self-loathing sin. … Jesus interrupts this destructive cycle. He puts a safeguard around our hearts and whispers, “Remember, you are mine.”

Churchy, Sarah Condon, Mockingbird, 2016, pg 36.