No longer dodging Jesus

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I understand why Marti is asking that I stop avoiding conflict. How can I sing a new song of deliverance to those who have no hope, if, at the same time, I insist on remaining comfortable among those who do?

 She reminded me of my early Christian days where I was honored to be part of a movement built around songs of salvation. We were personally involved in ministries of mercy and issues of compassion and significance. We took on the voice of the prophets, penetrating into those aspects of our culture where the truth of God had a sure and true word for us. We articulated the vision of a radical kind of Christian discipleship. Our voices shined the light of God on the darkness of racism and injustice, and we awoke others to the realities of poverty and corruption.

 Many miracles occurred during that season. Yet sadly, few churches were ready for this new influx of radicals, so the movement thrived without many churches participating or offering invitations of welcome. There was more freedom and a far more receptive audience outside.

 Why were so many churches not ready? In my opinion, they were much too comfortable with the status quo. One of my earliest songs, “The Cold Cathedral” cried for spiritual reality in the midst of religious deadness, sameness, and a comfort-seeking isolation from the real needs of people — inside and outside the church.

While no longer cold, I fear many of our churches today are in similar places of complacency for other reasons. Instead of cold cathedrals, we might refer to many churches today as “cool” cathedrals – “cool,” as in “stylish, fashionable, in vogue” — the cool place to be. They are so “cool” to the needs of their people that relevancy could in some instances be considered the new god. Today, we seem to again reflect the concerns of the status quo, and the easy acceptance of a world where how we feel is the great crisis of our time. We produce a massive consumer niche of ready-to-buy wear, and applaud whatever fits in our pre-described mold of entertainment-oriented discipleship. We dress the way we want to dress, sing songs we want to sing, and hear messages we want to hear. Everything is catered to us. It’s also about a short list of predetermined social issues and not the widespread prophetic agenda of justice and compassion. We are consumer Christians.

It is time to stop avoiding conflict — stop dodging Jesus — for a more comfortable, more cool Christianity. God wants to drive us right into conflict so He can demonstrate His love and mercy through us where it is most clearly needed.

It is time we sang a new song – a song of deliverance and hope without judgment, as we apply the Gospel in a way that embodies Christ’s heart for the hurting, the weak, and the outcast. It is a new song of reconciliation that causes those with no hope to hear, to run to Him and not away from Him, because acts of love are occurring and not just words.

 We have a new song made even surer than the songs of those who mounted the countercultural Jesus movement of the early 70‘s. It is time for isolation and protection to cease. It is time to be the hands, feet and heart of the gospel. Time to venture out of our comfortable places and meet Jesus where He is.

And where is He? He is with the vulnerable and the poor. God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives. He is in the place where our deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet. God is with us when we are with them.

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6 Responses to No longer dodging Jesus

  1. I have to relay a story I heard last Sunday from a friend. She had gone back to her ex-in-laws family reunion, taking her daughter and granddaughter to keep them connected to that part of their family.

    She went to church with her mom, the church she grew up in, a rather dying small Baptist church, one that has been dying for years. However, things were totally different. A month or two ago, they decided to do a hotdog lunch and school supply party. They had lunch, bouncy houses, and school supplies for the folks in Eastern TN to come and get. And come, they did. About 150 of them! She said they were covered in tattoos, led very different lifestyles than the elderly church ladies, but they were welcomed with open arms.

    And then they came back Sunday. And the next Sunday. Now this church has redone it’s nursery room, which had been closed. And they have about 10 families who have come to know Christ and joined the church and stayed so far. With more visiting.

    When they saw a child come in, they didn’t say they didn’t have anything for kids, they just jumped in and started something right away! Now that is both a fine example of living out the gospel, and being prepared!

    It was such an uplifting story!! And all from the fact that people just decided that just because they had no young people in the church, it didn’t mean they weren’t supposed to reach out and be the hands and feet of Christ to their community.

    Thanks for letting me share!! That story made my week and hopefully it will give hope and fresh life to getting out there and being the hands and feet for God’s kingdom, even when it might look like it might not accomplish much.

  2. Lisa in Sunland says:

    One of the best phrases I’ve been given over the years about not avoiding conflict is this one: Conflict is the price we pay for intimacy. It’s helped me start discussions I knew would cause conflict, but if we got through the discussion would be better connected on the other side.

    Again… Conflict is the price we pay for intimacy. Blessings on ya!

  3. John- just a question: How did you manage to listen in on the phone call I had right before I read this post? Yet again, what I needed to hear… I’m grateful for you, and extremely grateful for the truth you’ve remind of that He is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives… in fact, he DELIGHTS in being there.

  4. Sandie says:

    There were many believing musicians raising the battle cry for the Church to take its rightful and necessary place in the culture of the 70’s. There was Petra (Rose-Colored Stained Glass Windows), Scott Roley (Mansion of Opinion), Don Francisco (The Steeple Song, and others. We covered some of those songs in an effort to rouse the people in the pews we performed for. Unfortunately, all of your songs are still relevant for today. It was easier to write a check than show up.
    Here’s my sad story – which has played into me developing quite a cynical attitude toward church in general:
    My last job was Youth Director at a mainstream church. Their youth program was practically non-existent and we were – along with the pastor – the youngest in attendance (in our 50’s). I managed, with the help of two dedicated volunteers, to resurrect a small teen group. I have to mention that I had a substantial budget at my disposal. My teens wanted to do a community outreach and settled on having a community field day – inviting the teens and families from a near-by (low-hanging fruit) apartment complex. Six weeks before the appointed date I spoke before the congregation, asking for volunteers JUST TO SHOW UP AND CHEER the guests and SMILE at said guests. That’s it. I already had food prep and serving, tents, decorations, prizes, covered.As of the week before the scheduled date NOT ONE PERSON HAD SIGNED UP. So I announced that the field day was canceled and had to face my teens with the fact that their plan wouldn’t come about. It broke my heart and their spirit. When the youth program was disbanded and I was let go (because I hadn’t done enough with the money provided), I was down to one teen. Even then, I couldn’t rouse a volunteer to at least see this young man through to the end of the school year.
    Despite that, we would have continued at that church if our music ministry there was utilized. It wasn’t the congregation, but the new music director that side-lined us – our style of ministry didn’t suit her and she refused to work with us. The people missed us, but again didn’t stick their necks out for what they needed.
    We then threw our energies into a local chapter of a biker ministry. Unfortunately that chapter died a lingering death for many of the same reasons my youth ministry did.
    We are left wondering, at our age, how many times we can re-invent ourselves…and know there’s no choice but to try…funny…I even wrote a song about that…still relevant today. Still i am tired.
    Sorry for the rant/pity-party…blessings to you all and thank you for a safe place to beat my weary head against.

  5. Mark D Seguin says:

    Good Catch, yet let me please comment on this: “Marti is asking that I stop avoiding conflict.” For one more time I’ll recommend a good book that will help you both find answers. Dr. Robert Rohm’s The DICS Method of Understanding Personality Types. Or, can guarantee this will be brought up again & again in other Catches…

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