Saturday, September 23, 2006

Rock Stars

you know, i had a dream last night that really bothered me. some of it was funny, but more of it bothered me. i won't go into it-- you know how dreams are really most interesting to the people who actually had them, and our friends simply suffer through the re-telling b/c it's the polite thing to do? unless you're married and trying to explain why you kicked your long-suffering esposo in the shin in the middle of the night. anyway.

i'm thinking about that chrysler commercial that has generated a lot of conversation about making the CEO of the company the marketing face of an advertising campaign. it's so funny when a news agency really nails something interesting and relevant, and cheers to NPR who did it first, closely followed by the major networks. anyway, there has been confusion about the white haired guy with what really sounds like a fake german accent-- is he really the CEO of daimler-chrysler, or an actor? if he's an actor, or even if he's the real thing-- wuh? they have, apparently, yanked the commercials as of mid September, according to NPR. apparently that CEO is a really awesome guy-- has done great things for the company, is a really gregarious character, well loved and respected by his peers. but he wasn't doing anything for Mercedes numbers and was confusing the populace.

they cited only Wendys' "Dave" and Lee Iacoca's campaigns as successful, with Dave what's his name being in the lead for promoting a humble, hardworking American that most consumers would like to think they could relate to.

but hold on...what about the product?

now, i recognize that among my friends i have at LEAST five who are marketing/advertising people, and they will have a very, very unique insight into this. but here is where i shift into another thing i am thinking about: the body of Christ.

are we guilty of doing the same thing?

certainly, there is psychology out there which can explain why we almost always feel the need to create some sort of icon-- some would say that this is what we have done with all religions: man need god. man create god and insist on capitalizing name. now man have God.

we didn't do that-- He's real-- but we do it to people all the time.

NPR talked about the danger of making one person represent an entire company or product-- the company takes the risk of making their CEO seem silly, or while some connected with the product, the connection with the new spokesperson can dampen their affection for said product. they actually risk losing clients if the clients do not like the spokesperson. even if the product is as respected and symbolic of "the good life" as mercedes. studies showed that respect for the mercedes product took a spill as a direct result of the commercials.

in the church, we seem to be tempted to create idols of certain ones of us. a sharply charismatic writer/speaker/singer. a popular, outgoing youth minister. a head pastor with insight and wisdom and natural speaking abilities from the pulpit. a dynamic, gifted worship leader.

so, we're going to do this. people do it. it's human nature to make a find and camp out on it. but whose responsibility is it? i don't know the answer, honestly, but as a leader, i want to know. i know that there were some awesome high schoolers who, when don and i were dating, i was aware of every time i was tempted to break the standards i had been teaching them all those years. i knew they were counting on me to be true to my word. a close worship-leader friend of mine is aware of the fact that he might sometimes be seen as a rock star on stage, so for a long time, he kept in his guitar case a letter written to all the worship leaders in the vineyard church from a very well-known worship leader who had fallen, confessing his sin and crying out for forgiveness.

Jesus would not let the people crown Him king.

now I know that's a different story-- He WAS king but the timing was all off, and it was up to GOD to crown Him, but the thing i see in that is this: Jesus was ABLE to not allow them to crown Him king.

my prayer for us today, as followers of Jesus Christ who are all leaders in some capacity, is that we would be profoundly, closely invested in not allowing others to make rock stars out of us, and most specifically, those of us in worship and youth ministries. it is so important that we resist the temptation to be the most popular kid in the room.

"not to us, O Lord, not to us,/but to Your name be the glory, because of Your love and faithfulness" Psalm 115

when we allow glory to fall at our feet, when we allow ourselves to be "made much of", our usefulness as a stumbling block grows exponentially. and the consequences here are enough to sober our "we wish we were still the captain of the football team" tendencies when we see this: "Jesus said to his disciples, 'It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. So watch yourselves" Luke 17: 2,3

Watch ourselves. Only Jesus is the proper representation of our community. Not Billy Graham, not Bishop Earl Paulk, not the Pope, not Beth Moore, not TD Jakes, not Pat Robertson. See how there are mixtures here? Because for some, Earl Paulk is the very mouthpiece of God, and he did little to keep his congregation from supporting that. In fact, he encouraged it. Hubris led to sexual sin that stuns the imagination and yet I sat under his teaching as a child and grew in the Lord. Billy Graham is a man of God, but was heard on tape in conversation with Richard Nixon making what appeared to be anti-Semitic statements. Beth Moore is one of the most gifted Bible teachers today, and yet many disagree with her end-times theology (to which I would ask, who the heck cares? apparently the Calvinists do). and who hasn't shrunk in horror at some of the most recent statements made by an aging Pat Robertson who must be getting some bad counsel somewhere? and who hasn't at least heard of a beloved pastor who seemed to have his poop in a scoop, and next thing you knew... kaboom. adultery, molestation, you name it. They aren't discovered as Satan worshippers, but rather, worshippers of self-gratification. The flesh.

so lets stop feeding it. The glory for our success in ministry? To Him. The glory for our beautiful voices and skills at songwriting? To Him. The glory for our natural abilities in storytelling and public speaking? To Him. But not simply in our heads or on our lips, but let us NOT ALLOW it.

i have no idea how that is done-- i think that if someone had figured it out by now, every one of us in some leadership capacity would have bought the book or be wearing the perfume or taking the pill. no, we must depend upon the wisdom of the Lord. but a marker? to me, i think that the minute we find ourselves so dependent upon the flow of admiration we are receiving (that is, when we feel that empty place because it hasn't been stoked in a couple of days), or when we resent another person receiving it, or when we are so in need of it that we are willing to cross boundaries that are unethical or at least questionable, or when we feel that inner creep of pride that barks at the door like a stray dog who smells supper on the table inside, we must run like mad to the One who deserves all glory, all praise, all honor. and we cannot, must not, shall not revel in our popularity. when we do, we are done.

surely there are about 75 greek tragedies which support this theme... weren't mortals making the gods angry with this sort of thing all the time?

"not to us, O Lord, not to us/ but to Your name be the glory, because of Your love and faithfulness" psalm 115

Tuesday, September 5, 2006

Sacred or Secular

My friends,

Thank you so much for your servant hearts-- the lock-in was a great success, the kids seemed to feel encouraged and exhausted and had fun, and as for the "regulars", everyone was encouraged to see Special Forces in the form of the Availables and other friends walk through the doors., but I was especially gratified... You guys are such good friends, such special people to me, and my heart melts when I see you walk in the room. I feel like a mother when I see you... I have such dreams for each of you, and such a desire to guard and protect your hearts from anything that would hurt you--- and like an older sister, I have to constantly resist the desire to give you a hard time about the cute, funny things you do that beg chiding. But that can wait til you're in your late 20's/30's and far enough from that stuff that it would actually be funny to give you a hard time :)

You guys ministered this weekend. When I saw this article in a YWAM alumni newlsetter this morning, I thought of all of us, and of the way you served the Lord and ministered to the kids and their parents this weekend. Thank you for giving selflessly of yourselves, for loving the Lord and being willing to serve in any way.

I love y'all--Sam

(PS-- if you see Mulekicker on Myspace, know that Don caved and let me create an account for him-- friend him!)

Matters that Matter - Sacred or Secular?

A lot of us believers seem to think that spiritual gifts are designed for ministry in the 'church' only (mainly by recognized leaders and 'gifted ones' - the ministers). It is part of the whole misunderstanding of what is sacred and what is secular - in our lives.

I believe that everything a true Christian does is sacred (or should be). What happens is the continuation of the theory that the 'lay' person and the'ministerial' person are in different categories. This has created a dividing wall between followers of Jesus that has stood tall for centuries and is so ingrained into our thinking that we have come to take it for granted. One of my favorite trick questions when I meet a person is to ask,"What is your ministry?" Just about everybody answers with, "Oh, I teach Sunday School" or "I'm on the worship team" or an embarrassed, "I don't have one." We ALL have a ministry.

So we, as followers of Jesus generally believe that Christian ministry is essentially a Sunday-kind-of-thing based around a building; and what we do with our lives from Monday to Saturday is secular and worldly (unless we happen to attend a church-type meeting during those days).Paul, in Eph. 4:12, clearly states that spiritual ministry gifts are for the"equipping and building up of the whole body"; these gifts are not just for leaders to own so they can tell us what we should do. We're all in this together.

I believe that a person's ministry is simply 'what we do with what we've got.'As you can see I am very simple in my thinking; to me, to be an evangelist or a prophet or a teacher, etc, is to bring your ministry gift into whatever you do, be it butcher, baker or candlestick-maker. It's your ministry and you're using your gifting.Was tent-making any the less of a 'ministry' for Paul? Is a businessman any the less 'spiritual' than an ordained clergyman, simply because he 'works in the world' by managing a company and making money? Is being a mother less spiritual than having a title and a position in a church or other Christian organization?...

from Peter Jordan, inTouch Ministries, Youth With A Mission

Saturday, September 2, 2006

Where do we run when we need to talk?

So, Whitney and I were having this really interesting conversation about these wacky sites she found online, where people go to confess crazy things they've done or thought or whatever (Whit, you have to post the link to that one gross one you showed me before), and today I came across this on AOL. In the light of the last few days, I thought it was especially pertinent.

see you guys tonight--Sam

Intimate Confessions Pour Out on Church's Web Site
(from The New York Times, September 1, 2006)

(Sept. 1) -- On a Web site called mysecret.tv, there is the writer who was molested years ago by her baby sitter and who still cannot forgive herself for failing to protect her younger siblings from the same abuse.

There is the happy father, businessman and churchgoer who is having a sexual relationship with another man in his church. There is the young woman who shot an abusive boyfriend when she was high on methamphetamine.

Then there is this entry: “Years ago I asked my father, ‘How does a daddy justify selling his little girl?’ He replied, ‘I needed to pay the rent, put food on the table and I liked having a few coins to jangle in my pocket.’ ”

About a month ago, LifeChurch, an evangelical network with nine locations and based in Edmond, Okla., set up mysecret.tv as a forum for people to confess anonymously on the Internet.

The LifeChurch founder, the Rev. Craig Groeschel, said that after 16 years in the ministry he knew that the smiles and eager handshakes that greeted him each week often masked a lot of pain. But the accounts of anguish and guilt that have poured into mysecret.tv have stunned him, Mr. Groeschel said, and affirmed his belief in the need for confession.

“We confess to God for forgiveness but to each other for healing,” Mr. Groeschel said. “Secrets isolate you, and keep you away from God, from those people closest to you.”

LifeChurch, which is 10 years old, tries to draw back those who may have left the faith, Mr. Groeschel said. The church hews to a conservative theology on homosexuality and abortion.

Its nine sites, in Arizona, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas, draw a total of 18,000 people to weekend services. LifeChurch also has a “virtual campus” online, and it relies on technology to bind together its “campuses” through endeavors like broadcast sermons.

Still, mysecret.tv represents the first time the church has had an interactive Web site tied to its sermons, in this case a series that Mr. Groeschel began last month on the need for confession.

One of the best-known sites is postsecret.blogspot.com, an extension of an art project in which people write their secrets on postcards and mail them to an address in Germantown, Md.Mysecret.tv may be singular because it gives people at LifeChurch an easy opportunity to act on the sermons, said Scott L. Thumma, professor of the sociology of religion at the Hartford Institute for Religion Research.

“It’s not what you typically expect when a pastor delivers his weekly sermon, and you hit the back door and forget what he said,” Professor Thumma said. “Here it takes on a life of its own, and the folks that are here are not just those who go to LifeChurch.”

Since its inception, mysecret.tv has received more than 150,000 hits and more than 1,500 confessions, Mr. Groeschel said. Absolution is not part of the bargain, just the beginning of release.

“There’s no magic in confessing on a Web site,” Mr. Groeschel said. “My biggest fear is that someone would think that and would go on with life. This is just Step 1.”

The confessions are often just a paragraph or two. Some are eloquent, almost literary. Others are long, rushed and without punctuation, as if the writer needed to get it all out in one breath.

The starkness of the tersest confessions is jolting: “I have verbally and physically abused my wife.”

Another, referring to a spouse, said: “I tell you I love you everyday. Truth is I do love you, but I’m not in love with you, and I never have been. I just don’t want to hurt you and feel worthless.” Many women speak of their regrets over having had abortions.

Other writers say they cannot shake the recurring nightmare of being sexually abused as children. Most were abused by relatives, neighbors and friends. Some went on to abuse younger children in their families. They state simply how their parents often did nothing to help. A few wonder where God is in all this.“When I was 7, I was sexually abused by a guy,” a girl wrote. “Then, when I was 13, my mum did the same thing to me. Now I am 16 and scared. My doctor put me in a mental home. Sometimes, I think where is Jesus and why’s he not helping me.”

Because the site is anonymous, the staff at LifeChurch cannot reach out to those who are in danger of harming themselves or others, Mr. Groeschel said.

Professor Thumma pointed out that the resources section of the site could be improved. It now lists mostly religious books rather than mental health services.

Perhaps the most important activity the Web site has is letting people know that they are not alone in their suffering, Professor Thumma said. It harkens to the now rare practice of “testimony time” at evangelical churches, he said, when “you could hear stories about people overcoming problems, stories of hope, so that you felt you weren’t the only one struggling.”

Among those changed by the confessions is Mr. Groeschel himself.

“Knowing that so many people I see every week on the outside look so normal, and yet inside there is so much pain, that has been surprising,” he said. “When you hear about it in their own words, it’s hard to bear.”