Now What?

I find myself in a weird place. I’m not supposed to offend people with my faith. Okay. I’d like to not offend people at all. However, that does leave a person in an odd place. If, by my faith, something is a sin, and I truly believed my faith, I should call a spade, a spade. Right? Unless it is a sin. Then I’m just supposed to love them? I don’t want them to change?

The new mantra (with which I don’t disagree) is we need to love people into the faith. What if they don’t want to be loved into the faith? There’s the rub. If I believe that by not believing they are destined for anything other than the Heaven (i.e., afterlife), why would I leave it (or them) alone?

These are, frankly, all unanswerable questions. Plenty of Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus have their answers to those questions. It still leaves me cold and sad. I love these people. I want them to be with me.

I’m not even sure why I’m writing this post, to be honest. I just feel the need to say something. I love you. I want you to spend eternity with God, me, and who knows who else? If I didn’t love you, I wouldn’t want you to be there. Yet, in the spirit of not offending, I’m now relegated to the dustbins of friendship.

Of course, someone will say, well, they weren’t much of a friend, were they? It isn’t about them being a friend. It is about me being a friend.

A Nazarene Movement

I wonder if it is time to dispense with the work "denomination".

As a member of the Church of the Nazarene, and gladly so, I see what is called a denomination as something more akin to a movement. I’m sure there are plenty of people who immediately shudder at the use of the word "movement", but I find that the work denomination adds to the separation between God’s people.

The Church of the Nazarene, for example, places itself under the "Wesleyan-Holiness" umbrella, which was a movement. It seems that much of what separates the church (specifically, the so-called Protestant section) is not core salvation issues (although some would disagree), but spiritual movements that have moved individuals to express their faith.

The Roman Catholic church, for example, has different "schools". From what I understand, much of what makes them different (Jesuits, Hospitallers, Carmelites, Benedictines, etc.) from other Roman Catholics is what "moved" them to express their faith. Some of them have developed additional layers of theologies, and others developed rules to live by.

Some Roman Catholic apologists point the finger at Martin Luther starting the disintegration of the Roman Catholic church, and the seemingly resulting infinite number of "denominations". However, the Roman Catholic church has its own historical issues in that area, specifically the split from the (Eastern) Orthodox church (and there was plenty of blame to go around on that).

The Church of the Nazarene is young as "denominations" go (est. 1904). One of the things it has done well is patiently (biblically, I’d say, long-sufferingly) work on keeping the theological tent as large as possible. That takes determination and humility.

Perhaps, that is the key. It takes humility to accept "movements", and pride creates denominations.

Isolation Versus Introversion

When reading my “assigned” bible reading the other day, I came across this passage:

Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire;
he breaks out against all sound judgment.

Proverbs 18:1 (ESV)

My first thought was, “wait a minute, I’m not seeking my own desire!” In truth, however, I am. My desire to maintain my sanity. For all the extroverts out there, introverts such as myself don’t “isolate” ourselves from people, it is just that people are exhausting.

What is being spoken of here is that peculiar form of isolation where a person sets himself away from others, so as to not interact, but yet make decisions that impact the isolationist and those “others”. The isolation that Proverbs 18:1 speaks against, versus the isolation of an introvert, takes the form of being against someone. The Hebrew sense is more akin to division/confrontation, rather than the removing of oneself that occurs with introverts. It is often difficult to differentiate the isolation of introverts from isolationists, as the external behavior is much the same, especially to an extrovert.

How is an extrovert (or even another introvert) supposed to tell the difference? I think the end result (or what comes after the period of isolation) is the key. An introvert who has isolated himself, will come out of isolation better able to interact with others, and have more energetic interactions with others. Some introverts (like me, but not all) will have better emotional health, as well. At least for me, I find that if I drawn down the tank (so-to-speak) too much, I struggle with depression more (if I haven’t already fallen headlong into it), and the isolation puts me back on my feet.

However, despite the defense of isolation for the introvert, there is a danger when the introvert isolates himself when depressed. The depression may then take a life on its own, and the introvert may not be able to break free. Obviously, I’m speaking from experience. Again, how are you supposed to know when this is occurring? That is different from person to person (I know, not much of an answer). And here’s the real kicker, sometimes the introvert has to claw the way out of depression on his own, so actually be successful in recharging the introversion tanks.

It’s not easy living with us extreme introverts. A lot of what goes on in our heads never comes out. We don’t talk about the internal dialog, nor do we want to.

Determining the balance between healthy and unhealthy isolation for an introvert is a balancing act.

Got Your Back

I have to admit, I’m not one for the whole dream thing. I remember my first foray into dream psychology, and thinking, “really? It’s just a dream.” I also understand that current thinking is that it is the way our brains process the previous day’s activities  into memory. I also have to admit that last nights’ dreams were bouncing all over the place. However, it was the last series of “pictures” that have put me on alert. I was having conversations with people in the midst of uncomfortable public situations (think of those dreams of going to high school without your pants, but worse), acknowledging the fact of the situation, but not allowing the situation to be distracting to the conversation. Then I was having conversations with “ministry partners”. Two strange things about that. Here in Bellevue, I have no ministry partners, per se. The pastor of New Hope Ministries is trying to plug me in, as is the District Superintendent, but it’s not really happening (just a statement, in no ways an accusation). So, to have a dream about working with my (yet to be) ministry partners was odd, to say the least. The other odd (but more funny) part, was that one of the ministry partners was like Jeff Jarvis, which, if you know Jeff Jarvis, is a bit strange. Then I met with the guy who was my primary partner. He said two things. 1) “God has got your back.” Can’t disagree with that. Weird to have that happen in a dream, though. 2) “We need someone who will bring the light to Seattle in this generation.” Okay, that was unexpected, and, frankly, totally out of left field. Did I know it was pointed at me? Yes. Seattle, though? Seattle has Marc Driscoll & Judah Smith. In my own denomination, there is Seattle First & the Church of the Undignified. Of what need am I? This generation?

Be Not Afraid

1 Six days later Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, and brought them to the top of a very high mountain. 2 He was transformed in front of them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as light.

3 Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Jesus. 4 Peter reacted to all of this by saying to Jesus, “Lord, it’s good that we’re here. If you want, I’ll make three shrines: one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

5 While he was still speaking, look, a bright cloud overshadowed them. A voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son whom I dearly love. I am very pleased with him. Listen to him!” 6 Hearing this, the disciples fell on their faces, filled with awe.

7 But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” 8 When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus.

9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Don’t tell anybody about the vision until the Human One is raised from the dead.”

Matthew 17:1-9 (CEB)

The above is the story of the Transfiguration, and it is often spoken of as an example of Jesus’ divinity. What struck me today was not the divinity of Jesus, but personableness of Jesus. The historic separation between God and Creation (even his treasured people, the Israelites) is pretty straightforward when on reads Exodus 19:18-25. The people (with exceptions) are to not even approach the metaphorical throne of God. We see God here as a distant God. When one comes face-to-face with God, as Moses did in Exodus 34:29-35, one is profoundly (and in Moses’ case, physically as well) changed, that separation is desired by those who have not been so touched, and graced, by God’s changing presence. In fact, in some ways, there seems to be a quiet desperation in the Israelites that says, Moses, you go take care of that God fellow. We’ll just stay here…away from Him…and you, by extension.

The three Apostles, Peter, James and John, immediately fall into the Israelite habit. The falling onto their faces, as much as it is a (deserved) act of homage, it is also an act of avoidance, similar to the game of peak-a-boo; I can’t see you, so you can’t see me. In the midst of all this, seeing Friends of God, hearing God’s voice, a blinding light, Jesus just says, “Get up.”

Hiding is no longer an option. On the other hand, there is no separation either.


Slandering & Evangelism

And when the town clerk had quieted the crowd, he said, “Men of Ephesus, who is there who does not know that the city of the Ephesians is temple keeper of the great Artemis, and of the sacred stone that fell from the sky? Seeing then that these things cannot be denied, you ought to be quiet and do nothing rash. For you have brought these men here who are neither sacrilegious nor blasphemers of our goddess. If therefore Demetrius and the craftsmen with him have a complaint against anyone, the courts are open, and there are proconsuls. Let them bring charges against one another

Acts 19:35-18 (ESV)
I find it very interesting that the city manager had heard of Paul–if not heard Paul speak–and thus had either an opinion or a lot of information. Yet despite Paul preaching and teaching about Jesus, the city manager did not believe the goddess had been slandered. Of course, it could be that the city manager was trying to keep the peace (or regain it), but from what we know of Paul, it would seem that he somehow managed to speak the truth about Jesus the Christ without slandering other religions. Can we say the same?

I ask this with nothing in particular in mind, nor anyone. Even Paul’s famous speech on Mars Hill was respectful towards those with whom Paul disagreed. What makes this respectful stance of Paul very interesting (to me at least), is that he was the central villainous character earlier in Acts. He persecuted (quite violently) followers of  “The Way” (the initial name for Christians). However, after his conversion experience on the road to Damascus, his entire methodology changed.

It would seem that there are some lessons there.

Is There a Future for the Church of the Nazarene?

Let’s get the easy/hard stuff out of  the way. I LOVE my denomination. Okay, I love a lot of denominations, but I love mine. I do not love it over the Church, but that’s a discussion for another day.
Back on the 19th of September, I quoted Ed Stetzer (on Google+ & Facebook) regarding his views on the house church and mega-church models.

…I think that the megachurch is a growing trend and the house church is also a growing trend– at the same time. For what it is worth, I am excited about both. God has used the megachurch to reach Korea and the house church to reach China. Let’s hold our models loosely and our Jesus firmly.

Ed Stetzer

It was with great sadness that I read about Shaun King’s resignation from the Atlanta-based Courageous Church. It was an even heavier heart that I read his wife’s emotional response to the turmoil. I don’t know either Shaun or Rai King, but I can “hear” the breaking of their hearts. I also cannot help but feel that there was a tad bit of gloating over at Stories From the Revolutions: The Journal of the LK10 Community, but that really is an aside rather than the point. If Ed Stetzer is correct (and demographically, he probably is), what does that mean for a denomination like the Church of the Nazarene?

The Church of the Nazarene is a collection (in the United States, at least) of many churches, of many sizes. Most are not house churches (though, there are more every year, but still, not the fastest growing segment), nor are most mega-churches (though, we have a few of those, too). The Church of the Nazarene is primarily made up of churches with a population of 50 to 150. This range doesn’t fit into either “model”. As the demographics of the church head toward the “well-curve” of the house/mega-church extremes, where does a denomination that is more of a bell-curve fit?

It doesn’t. Ooops. I said it. We, the Church of the Nazarene, don’t fit.

I think I’m okay with that. No. I don’t think I’m okay with that, I am okay with that.

I don’t think the extreme of house/mega-church will last long, it really can’t. Neither one really fits American tendencies particularly well. They seem to, on the surface, but they have no particular balance. I could be wrong, but I do think the face of the American church will change…for the better. Mega-churches will have their mega-star pastors who hold their churches together by force of will or by almost in-human organizational skills (this, by the way, is a stereotype, and does not apply to all). House churches will rise and fall almost as much as breathing, especially as many (as shown far too often by history) will start to split/form based upon personalities and minor (and not-so minor) theological differences. Both seem (again, a stereotype) to be non-denominational either by intent or by nature, so there will often not be a larger body that can provide the balance that often seems to be needed to the local body.

For whatever reason, the Church of the Nazarene seems to live/survive/thrive between the extremes of house/mega-church. I strongly suspect that much of that is based upon our Holiness heritage. Much of what the mega-church seeks is a body driven to serve Christ in a huge way (at least in their words and mission statements). The Holy Spirit is the best driver of that, rather than human will and desire. The house church seeks/demands discipleship (rightfully so) of the body, but often seems to leave that to individual desire (not always bad), with little balance or boundaries (can lead to very bad things). The Holy Spirit brings those with open hearts to Christ to do His work in the world, shaping them more and more to be like Him. That is Holiness.

Once the dust settles, which it will, from the church-size wars, the Church of the Nazarene will still be here, preaching Holiness to His people who have been called and have answered, and preaching it to those called, but have yet to answer.