Wednesday, November 3, 2010

holding pattern

I'd like to post my thoughts on the stuff that's going on at my church because that part of my community is huge for me, and also because people have said they don't know what to do with their grief over this and that it helps them to read they're not the only ones grieving. We need a fallout shelter of some sort. One thing I'm glad about is the pace at which this is going. It's been a month since the firing and the first congregational meeting (aka town hall) about it will be on Sunday. Then we'll know more. But since I consider my group email correspondence to be public domain, I'll share what I've sent the leadership of my church since the firing and introduction of the new worship vision. I want to share it because it sums up what I'm feeling and the core questions I have about what is actually going on. I hope it helps some people. I feel the need to talk about this out loud and on purpose for the same reason many people would choose not to. So anyway, here is the first email of Oct. 18.

Hey guys,

I just want you to know that my heart is heavy for you and I can only imagine what you're feeling, and I'm sorry you have to go through this. This bullshit has been happening since Acts, so know it's nothing new and is in the grand tradition of the ancient church. The ancient church was a mess and it still is a mess but God pursued it and cherished it then and he's doing it now.

So I just wanted to say to you I guess, that there's nothing new under the sun. God has given me things to say and it's scary, and I have an idea you have the same feelings, that it's scary to do what God is calling you to do. But God will protect us through it all and he hasn't given us a spirit of confusion but of a sound mind and I've been praying that for Grace Seattle as we're muddling through this.

You are dealing with so much and the powers and principalities are unfortunately all too real but I like what George MacDonald did when he saw a demon sitting on his bed, he said "Oh, it's only you" and went back to sleep.

I've been feeling for almost exactly a year now that I'm on the cusp of a big change, that something big and huge is coming up like a swelling wave and I don't know what it is but that it's going to be good. And I think that this church stuff is part of that big change. I just want you to be encouraged and to have rest in the midst of this somehow. I will pray this for you. CS Lewis said in Letters to an American Lady, "Underneath are the everlasting arms, even when it doesn't feel like it."

Love you, dear brothers!!

Here is my second email of Oct. 29.

Hey guys,

it's me again. The situation at Grace that's unfolding from the new worship vision has been weighing so heavily on me but I haven't been able to put words to my feelings beyond what I sent to you guys a week or so ago, and then last night I was reading something by Eugene Peterson and came across these three paragraphs that describe my concerns for Grace Seattle so well, I thought I'd send them along to you.

"Americans talk and write endlessly about what the church needs to become, what the church must do to be effective. The perceived failures of the church are analyzed and reforming strategies prescribed. The church is understood almost exclusively in terms of function — what we can see. If we can't see it, it doesn't exist. Everything is viewed through the lens of pragmatism. Church is an instrument that we have been given to bring about whatever Christ commanded us to do. Church is a staging ground for getting people motivated to continue Christ's work.

This way of thinking — church as a human activity to be measured by human expectations — is pursued unthinkingly. The huge reality of God already at work in all the operations of the Trinity is benched on the sideline while we call a timeout, huddle together with our heads bowed, and figure out a strategy by which we can compensate for God's regrettable retreat into invisibility. This is dead wrong, and it is responsible for no end of shallowness and experimentation in trying to achieve success and relevance and effectiveness that people can see. Statistics provide the basic vocabulary for keeping score. Programs provide the game plan. This way of going about things has done and continues to do immeasurable damage to the American church.

This way of understanding church is very, very American and very, very wrong. We can no more understand church functionally than we can understand Jesus functionally. We have to submit ourselves to the revelation and receive church as the gift of Christ as he embodies himself in this world. Paul tells us that Christ is the head of a body, and the body is his church. Head and body are one thing." — Practice Resurrection, Eugene Peterson, p. 118

Here is my third email of Nov. 2.

One more thing I thought I'd pass on. Our friend Pete is a Presbyterian pastor in Oregon and he told me this recently:

"I told Eugene in August that his books annoy pastors. He was surprised (which surprised me). But his books annoy pastors who want to create their own little empires — even while being completely self-deceived into thinking that they are really wanting to build the kingdom of God. But as Jesus showed us in his parables, the kingdom of God is already all around us for those who have eyes to see a mustard seed and a wedding and a field and a guy playing cello. But pastors and pharisees are too busy looking at stats and charts and wishing for a better demographic."


So for whatever all that's worth, this is where I am and these are the questions I'm holding. Very much in a holding pattern and trying to let myself feel all my grief and fear of what will happen. You know, the usual.

1 comment:

Still Breathing said...

God bless you and all the community. May God indeed take full control of His church and dothings His way, not ours.

Prayers, as always, from across the pond.