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Consumed

Sometimes I get pretty scared about doing ministry. In my life I’ve regularly attended church on 2 continents and since I was a kid I can remember people talking about what they ‘like’ and ‘don’t like’ about church. I wonder if we’ll ever be able to escape our checklist mindset of church.

I recently attended a prayer gathering that coincided with the end of Ramadan. I don’t know much about Ramadan but I believe it’s a fairly significant period of fasting and praying observed by Muslims around the world. The purpose of this gathering was to pray for Muslims everywhere. I was there to lead a short worship time. Throughout the night we heard a number of testimonies from mostly former Muslims who had found new life in Jesus.

They were powerful stories, and they made me feel a bit uneasy.

One man told of how he ran for days through treacherous terrain attempting to escape his country because he was afraid that this time the authorities wouldn’t stop at torture and imprisonment. He made it out, but not everyone from his group did.

Another man spoke passionately about wanting to return to his country to share the Gospel with his people. They had a group ready to go, but Christians there are being slaughtered and it would not be safe for them to go at this time.

(Side note, please pray for the Muslim world. They need Jesus and the believers there need encouragement. www.30-days.net)

So we serve the same Jesus, right?

It sure looks pretty different here.

The thing is I don’t necessarily think that we have a bunch of disingenuous Christians here. If we do that’s not really for me to judge (though I do all the time which as a reminder to myself and you is probably a sin). I for one know a lot of extremely passionate Jesus followers and I truly believe they would go anywhere and do anything for God.

But personally, I just can’t shake this checklist mentality from how I approach church. I have my worship leader checklist. I have my service flow checklist. I have my audio mix, visuals, greeters, ushers, checklists. I don’t mean to, and sometimes it’s not really there but that would be a rare case. I suck, I feel brutal, but it’s the truth.

In October we are launching a new service at my church. I’m the Creative Pastor for this new service. I feel the pressure of not just my own, but hundreds of people’s personal checklists. Will it be cool enough? Will it be just the thing that the 20 year old is looking for to get back into attending church? Will it be innovative enough? Will it “work”?

Ugh…

We’re too comfortable here in North America, yet this is where we are and that’s not a mistake. I’m not calling for tougher times for Christians or less technology and distraction in church. As with anything that has to do with following Jesus the important thing here is the posture and focus of our hearts.

When we’re thinking about ourselves we come in with a checklist.

When we are fully focused on Jesus and His Kingdom the checklist is gone.

Once again the bible says it much better than I could…

The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I’m tearing up and throwing out with the trash—along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. I didn’t want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ—God’s righteousness. Philippians 3:7-9 (MSG)

 

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a rightspirit within me. Psalm 51:10 (ESV)

 

Will we go on “Consuming” or will we ask Jesus to “Consume” us?

 

9 Comments on Consumed

  1. Wow, can I ever relate to this Caleb! I appreciate your transparency.

    I have spent my entire life actively involved in the church between singing in choirs, worship teams, involved in dramas and being a youth leader… eventually leading worship in a small church for three years. Until about three years ago. The pressure caught up with me, I didn’t feel I measured up. A bit of a fail on my part for letting that take over, but I also knew I needed a rest.

    It’s been very difficult to bring myself into the ministry again, but I hope I’ll be able to jump that hurdle and face that fear (for lack of a better word)… let go and honor God.

    I look forward to hearing more about the services starting in October, I know that God has something amazing in store!

  2. Hey Caleb. As always, enjoyed your post! It made me think of all the caregroups & bible studies I’ve attended, and the intangible differences that made some a powerful encounter with the Holy Spirit, and some nothing more than an organized social event. Though both essentially ‘look’ the same (there usually does need to be some kind of pre-planned order to things – the checklists you mentioned) in my pondering this disparity over the years here are a few subtle but major things that I feel have made the difference:

    ~ Despite the need for a program of some kind, the ultimate direction and motivation comes from the Spirit and not from a leader’s feeling of pressure to ‘stick to the plan’ or please/entertain anyone attending. Some of the best God-moments I’ve ever witnessed are when He changes pre-laid plans last minute and people have been willing to let Him. Not only is His diversion always way awesomer, it’s also really inspiring for people to see what it looks like to let ‘Jesus take the wheel’ so to speak!

    ~ Someone gets the ‘vulnerable’ ball rolling. Most times, until people see someone else opening up, getting raw and real with Jesus, they rarely feel comfortable to do the same. This likely applies far more to the caregroup situation, but the principle may be the same. Anyone involved in ‘leading’ should be freely sharing and experiencing what they hope others will share & experience. If all that was involved was planning, we’d call you planners! ;) But leading, especially in church terms, should always mean ‘going there’ (wherever it is you are hoping to lead others), that they are made to feel safer in following. Even if it’s not always leaders being this example, allowing a time of open sharing for people to testify of how the Lord is moving.

    ~ Imitating Jesus is more important than talking about Him. This kind of goes with my first thought, but to explain better; I have seen entire sermons or topics get discarded or postponed because someone in the group/family has an immediate need, or there is another obvious priority that comes up. As I write this I wonder how it’s even possible to approach a service with this flexibility. It sounds scary. But I have seen an entire church stop to love just ONE of its members in a moment of need. I get chills remembering it, the best representation of Jesus I’ve ever seen. Loving the people who show up, and keeping that as a central focus above the need to stick to the program (although the program is still important and usually can still be stuck to) usually becomes that intangible feeling that makes the difference. Because that’s who God is.

    I guess all of these things just point to having open hands. Plan what you can, and let the Holy Spirit do (or undo) whatever He will. The fact that you can see and articulate what you have in this post is probably you already doing that, but I hope you still enjoy my 2 cents :)

    I am sure you guys will put together a creative, powerful and glorifying of service. God will use WHATEVER you do, and people will be drawn to Him by the sheer fact that He will be lifted up – whether it’s done plainly or impressively. But know that the impact you will have on every person who walks through the doors will not be because you resolved all your checklists. In fact, the only people who will be impressed with this are those who came and left with a checklist of their own (and usually miss Jesus while they’re busy checking it off). But those whose hearts God has been ripening, who He sends to the Exchange to start/continue/complete a work in, they will be impressed and changed by the authenticity of the people they meet and see. By the love they are shown, and the power of God they witness in other’s lives. And the only way to plan this, is to let it be unleashed in your own.

    Be real and it will be real.

    Blessings!

  3. Matt Papple // August 22, 2012 at 9:30 pm // Reply

    Great thoughts Caleb. Appreciate you making me think as well. Blessings.

  4. Well done, Caleb. Great thoughts – and many of the same things I face on a regular basis. Does this service hold up in the face of the real world and the things real Christians face?

    On that note, I heard a story the other day that you might appreciate:
    Grouchy worshipper after church: I just want you to know that I really didn’t like that last song.
    Witty worship leader: That’s okay, we weren’t singing it to you.

    ;)

  5. Good insights, Caleb! We feel pretty good about ourselves thinking that the checklist helps us do our best for God, not realizing that it often doesn’t stop there – we’re actually using it to judge others: “They’re not quite up to our standards, so God obviously can’t use them like He’s using us.”

    Keep up the good work. A lot of us seem to have a hard time finding the “Defrost” to clear the windshield so that we can see where we’re supposed to be going. In fact, we don’t even realize the windshield is fogged up. So keep running the Defrost. We need it.

  6. Well written Caleb. Don’t be so hard on yourself. God Loves you sooooo much and He
    will create in you a clean heart and He will renew a right spirit within you. We as Christians
    NEED to ask daily to do this and then sit back and allow God to do the changing in our
    lives/hearts. You are a blessing for God and those that God brings into your life. Keep on,keeping on,Marta

  7. I love lists. . . I am a Project Engineer, checklists are my daily life…. Never once have I taken a list to church – ever; even when I was leading service. I am there because Jesus said ” the Sabbath is meant for the people” I go to church out of obedience to the commands of Jesus, to worship God and to escape for a moment the lists that control my life….

    • I do remember the time I tried yo use a list for service… Dennis, demanded I give him the list and he ripped it in shreds, telling me to speak only from memory… Lol

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