Commercial Community

slowyourroll2

I was going to call this post, “An Unsexy Gospel” initially, but then I realised that I would just be falling into that old Christian trope of giving your literature a controversial sounding name in order to inflame passions, so I decided against it. You’ll note, though, that by mentioning what I had intended to do, I get away with the results without actually going through with the action.  Bear with me here, you’ll see what I am getting at shortly.

This is one of those anti-consumerist Church posts, but to not kill the overly used word “consumer”, I’ve instead gone with the word “commercial”. I feel like it accurately describes what I want to get at anyway, which you can tell by the title is Community. I’ll be honest, I could probably write a book on community. It’s a vast and far reaching subject with so many different aspects that we can talk about, and I have no intention of covering all of those things in this post, or even in this blog. I mainly want to discuss how we’ve begun to commercialise our relationships and how that hurts a society so desperate for authentic community.

I want to take this chance to be a little more open, a little more honest, a little more raw, with you. Up until now, this blog has done a pretty good job at keeping people at length from myself, but I am going to try and invite people in a bit more. Allow a peek at the me that I am not trying to present online. For the last few weeks, I have been depressed and I have been beating myself up existentially. I discovered that I have not so much a fear of commitment, but some real issues with it (not just relationally, but in a few areas). This in turn got me thinking about all the areas where that was evident and I really started to feel down about myself. I began to question my ability as a leader. I began to wonder if I was even in the right job, or if the idea of eventually becoming a pastor was even worth it for a guy who was so clearly messed up. I wanted to talk to somebody, but I was so afraid of them agreeing with all of these fears that I would lose my opportunity to be as involved in my church community as I have been. I became distant from people, I became quiet and unplugged. That is until I finally did talk to a really close friend, who also happens to be my pastor but has just been the greatest friend ever since we met. I shared all of the things I was struggling with, and all of my fears behind them and we had a very encouraging conversation. I shared how great it was to be able to share because in a job like mine (a pastoral job) the temptation is to feel like you need to be “on” constantly, to always be performing and to not let cracks show for the sake of others. Truth is that pastoral workers need the chance to share their very real struggles and fears as much as the next person.

I also visited with a really awesome friend of mine last night, and we both shared that we had been wrestling these past couple weeks with slightly different things. Though they were different, the results on both our lives had been roughly the same. We were able to encourage one another and had a great evening hanging out! I am telling you this because it is decidedly unsexy. There are so many times where I have been on something like facebook and saw people complaining about their lives and thought to myself “Facebook isn’t for sharing this kind of stuff, keep it to yourself”, and I bet that I am not the only one. Social media communities are about presenting the best and most exciting version of yourself to the world as possible. Having friends has always been treated as a kind of popularity contest, and friendship and community have increasingly become more of a commodity and commercialised. This doesn’t just happen in social media. If you get one thing from this post, please don’t let it be that social media is bad. Social media just happens to be a place where it is very easy for us to keep people at a distance while presenting a marketable version of ourselves.

A couple years ago I wanted to work on a comic. I have these creative spats where I absolutely need to start a project that I swear I will see to the end which usually lasts until the end of the day (remember that whole commitment thing). I had this idea of creating a story around a society that had allowed commercialism to inform every single aspect of their lives, and more importantly, their relationships and how they treated people. A persons worth was measured by what they could bring to your life, friendships were merely decorations and marriages were like corporate mergers. In this story, a man was going to introduce a very dangerous idea that would undermine that commercial society. He was going to suggest that people had worth beyond what they could do for you, and worse yet, he was going to live his life in a way that reflected that belief. There were also some bits about couriers carrying ideas like computer files and spreading them like viruses. It was all very wacky. I even managed to find a way to add super awesome fight scenes and killer code names.

Who would have thought that this was already the reality of the situation? Christian or non-Christian, we all do this. We surround ourselves with people who will assist in our presenting a certain image of ourselves. We get involved in only the newest and most trendy projects to assist in this process. The clean up after a flood doesn’t demand a great deal of our time. Volunteering with the poor and marginalised demands a long term sacrifice of our time and doesn’t get you the ticker-tape parade. The Gospel tells us to go to unsexy people with unsexy problems and to love them because Jesus said that they are worth loving. Not to earn favour, not show people how great we are, not to puff ourselves up. It says that loving those who are easy to love is nothing special, but to love those who are hard to love, this is the transformative power of Jesus and his Gospel. Jesus calls us to love others as he loves us, sacrificially. Can you imagine whole communities of people loving simply because they are loved? I feel like we’d get so much more done!

Authentic community/relationships are unsexy. They are hard work, and they involve a level of honesty with people the means laying yourself bare and open to potential judgement. Authentic community peels away all those layers we’ve surrounded ourselves with and gets to the soft, and vulnerable core of ourselves and nobody likes exposing that core, let alone putting it into the hands of other people. Community is messy, and complicated and comes with problems, because ultimately communities are people and people are not perfect. People want to be loved, and people are afraid that if others begin to see the parts of themselves that don’t get broadcast to the world that they might not find love. Jesus says to love my neighbour as myself. It’s a beautifully simplistic statement with far reaching consequences. Community around the idea that I can love people simply because I am loved, and simply because they are worth loving, not because of what they can do for me, but just because. As a follower of Jesus Christ, I should know that I am loved. The reality is that I often forget this, but I should know it. Knowing that I am loved, should motivate me to love others because if I am loved, so are they. The reality is that I love people who are easy to love, and only because they provide me with something. But the good news is that Jesus continues to transform me so that the reality of my situation, and what should be, begin to swap. The Gospel is good news for all people with all of our unsexy issues.

Love for Love’s sake.

Not Just for Me

Skyline_002I have been reading Deuteronomy in my private devotional time. It was no easy choice as there are so many questions and subjects that I would love to look up and I found it more than difficult to sort of hone in on any one place. I suppose I could have just gone wherever I wanted to go, read whatever I wanted, looked for something that very specifically addressed my current need. But Jesus hit me hard with that kind of thinking and behaviour not to long ago.

My church has been going through Nehemiah in our series called Magna Civitas. We have been looking at how God rebuilt his people as they rebuilt their destroyed city of Jerusalem and the take away is how we as followers of Jesus Christ are to approach the city we are in. It has been something rich with the Gospel Story, with Discipleship and the call to mission and to leave our comfort zone so that we can identify the broken gates in our city and help repair them. Not a week goes by where God hasn’t challenged with with this. In fact, it was this very series that was pivotal in my decision not to go back to Manchester, but to remain in Calgary (more on that another time). It’s the reason I started this blog in the first place.

We had been going through Nehemiah 8 a couple weeks ago and it occurred to me just how selfish my time in the bible tends to be. We go to the bible because it is a great source of encouragement to us. We learn about our identity and how it is rooted in Jesus. We learn about our purpose and why God created us. We learn about who God is, not just through prophets and poetry and divine acts, but in the life of Jesus Christ and the impact he had on people. When times get tough, we can go to the bible and we can find steady footing again, we can recentre ourselves on Jesus and find security in him.

Confession. I do not always do this.

It is hard enough to remind myself in times of doubt, or times of loneliness or when I need to be uplifted, to find those things in the bible. So imagine how hard it is to not just go into the bible for myself, but for others as well! The challenge that Jesus laid on my heart was that I was using his word as a means of settling my own problems which was keeping me back from an incredible and much more full expression of community. Yes, there will be times where God can speak through his word directly into a situation in my life. But there are other times where I might be reading something and have  trouble making sense of it. My immediate reaction is drop whatever it is that I am reading, and flick through until I find something that deals with my problem. Again, it isn’t bad to want to find encouragement in God’s word. My question is, what if God gave that piece of encouragement to someone else, to give to me? Better yet, what if that difficult passage I am reading and having trouble with isn’t in fact for me, but is in fact for me to share with another person?

Kind of puts a new spin on things, eh?

It occurred to me that I was missing out in engaging with other people because I would crawl inside my own issues and seek a private answer. Yes, it is important for us to see the value of the bible in our lives, but it is equally as important to encourage others with it as well. This is a part of mission, this is a part of discipleship. When it comes to mission, we get to live these encouragements out, maybe people ask us about them, or maybe, if you’ve developed a good relationship with a person, you can just tell them about it. When it comes to discipleship, what I am learning is what you are learning and what you are learning becomes what I learning. I was intensely convicted by this. I was challenged.

I love challenges.

Sometimes a challenge can put me on edge and start to question the worth of pursuing it. Other times, most of the time, it is an opportunity to rise to the occasion. Don’t leave here thinking anything special on the part of my character here. There is a very good chance that this desire stems completely from my bull headed stubbornness. It’s a family trait.

In Nehemiah chapter 8, the word of the law, the words of God, are read to the entire nation of Israel that had helped to rebuild Jerusalem, and they were made to understand with the assistance of the priests. After they were convicted, they celebrated together because they understood together. This is a community thing. The word of God is a community thing, something we do together and not alone. How cool is that!? Doesn’t that excite you? It certainly excites me, and it lit a fire under my ass to want to get into my bible more, not for head knowledge, not even just heart knowledge (heart knowledge is an amazing thing), but for Heart Application as well. This conviction certainly stopped me in my tracks for a moment, but then I grew excited at the prospect of being made closer to people for it. I yearned, from that moment, even more to understand Jesus so that I could be drawn closer to him, but also closer to the people, all of the people, that God has blessed my life with.

I hope this challenges you. Like it did me.

I hope this encourages you. Like it did me.

I hope this draws you closer to Jesus. Like it did me.

I hope this draws you closer to people. Like it did me.

It’s kind of funny, I had started this post in the hopes of sharing what I am learning in Deuteronomy…looks like that will need to wait for another day. Did I mention I was unorganised?

What is in a Name?

“Oh great, another Christian Missionary Blog.”

“What kind of name is that?”

“Dude looks like a hipster…paaaaassss”

“YOLO!”

“Ooo, an introductory post, those are always real gems!”

These could very well be one among some of the many things you might be thinking if you’ve stumbled across this blog. And honestly, I get it, I’ve said the same things.

Well…except YOLO.

It feels like the Christian Community has taken to blogging their thoughts on the world with an unbridled passion. And in true Christian fashion we all seem to be trying to out “contraversialise ” one another by choosing to write around subjects that are likely to generate a lot of interest and discussion, as well as a great deal of death threats and hate mail. There are a few people who don’t, and they are pretty awesome. I hope to be among those few who don’t, though it is likely that I’ll step on a few toes. It’s pretty much unavoidable when it comes to sharing your opinion online. Somebody is going to take umbrage with it.

My hope is that I can create a space where I what I am learning will be shared and that it will be as encouraging to you as it has been to me, regardless of your background. I just want to meet people, hear their stories and have a chance to share my own in the process. So if you think you’re down with that, well then welcome!

There is one thing up there I would like to address.

The name I chose for this blog.

It’s more or less an inside joke, though I doubt there are many people who wouldn’t get the humour behind it.

I have a bit of a pet peeve, and it was/is one that I derive a great amount of joy in getting to express with some of my friends, more in particular, a friend of mine from back in Manchester. The two of us on many occasions had joked around about the kinds of names that surfaced in Christian Ministries and Church Programmes. If it wasn’t something being set on fire, it was something being drowned in water, blown up or sent in some direction with extreme force, or an obscure Greek/Latin/Aramaic/Chaldean/Hebrew word, that was more often than not, taken entirely out of context. My friend had told me about numerous occasions where he had been stuck in church meetings for hours on end as they worked to develop and pray over the name for their new programme.

Oh, and acronyms, can’t forget those!

I don’t know about you, but that would drive me nuts.

My friend, in exasperation, finally exclaimed, “Call it Charlie Sofa Face Fun Time! Who cares!?” (try to imagine this being shouted in a Northern Irish accent, it makes it a great deal more amusing)

We both had seen more than our fair share of overly deep names given to various events and programmes, all in the name of marketing and sounding attractive. Don’t get me wrong, there isn’t anything wrong with wanting a name that will reach out and grab peoples attention, but there are some pretty standard tropes when it comes to naming Christian Stuff that we really need to let go of.

Engage

Refresh

Renew

Restore

Regroup (there is a great story behind this one. Feel free to ask!)

Impact

Fire

Elijah Project (one of my own)

Tahilla

Rock

Initiate

Detonate

Action

Dinamus

Ignite

Living Water

Rain

Radical

Radiate

[something] Revolution (we love revolutions, nothing like a good ol’fashioned revolt)

Crave (no, not the cupcakes)

i[something] (cus iPhone, get it?)

Reach

etc.

You get the point I am sure.

Before you paint me as some kind of pessimist, I don’t think these are terrible names, in fact I contributed to a few of them myself. I just want you to get a little bit of insight into my own sense of humour and as to why I chose the name I did for this blog. It’s a bit of a throw back to some of those more humorous conversations with friends that often involved us making up silly names for things. It seemed the best one to capture a little bit of who I was, a guy with a real sarcastic streak and the ability to laugh at himself.

I figured I will have covered most of my bases with the name. I found a website with at least 26,000 ministry names. Mine has got to at least pool together like…half of those or something.

Anyway, I look forward to continuing to update this blog on a bi-weekly basis. I promise that it will be much more interesting than just me ranting about names.

I’ll probably rant about other stuff to.