The Final Frontier

“Virtual reality IS the final frontier.” Anderson over stated. He stood over his kitchen table, strewn with old pizza boxes, spam mailers, and his 27” plasma monitor displaying computer code. “We have to keep the platform adaptable for users to … Continue reading

Shadows instead of Substance

I think that in places like Northern Virginia and Las Vegas it’s easy to just believe that we have this great spiritual relationship with God, that we are great Christians and we are doing great things for Christ just based on sheer numbers.

Have you ever been to a church with ten thousand members?

It’s impressive to say the least: The building size, the streamlined six services every Sunday. It’s hard not to look at their success and think that they’ve got something good going on. However, in talking with the director of FREE International he expressed his hesitation to partner with a mega church because they have enough resources to take all of your work, label it, copy right it and go on a book tour with it…all the while the real issue is being left in the dust of their success. They didn’t want the substance of being committed they wanted the shadow of it… they wanted to look like they were outreaching. I wonder if that is the kind of culture which reigns in mega churches…there are so many people and so much money, but no one is really making that much of a difference.

We’re seeing a shift in church today. The mega church culture of the 1990’s is waning into the emergent church culture of the 2010’s. It’s not about numbers in service, it’s about numbers in home groups. It’s about having a mission, it’s about discipleship. I love this movement, I love discipleship and mission. I feel like this is closer to Jesus and his teaching than anything else. This, however, doesn’t make the distinction between substance and shadow any less relevant. Sometimes I wonder if we are satisfied with living the way Jesus lived or just looking like we do.
It’s easy to do some fun outreaches every once in a while, talk about that cool missions trip you went on, but never invest in real relationships with the people we are serving. It’s outreach drive by style. It takes so little commitment but looks so good when people ask… Really, though, if we were honest we would know that there is a substance which is lacking in this form of outreach, a substance which we so desperately need if we’re going to offer something to a world of the lost.
In truth it matters little how many church services we attended or how many people we got in our small group. What matters is how many disciples we made. How many people did we love and serve in a way that transformed their lives? Substance requires all of our life…not just the compartment labeled ‘outreach’ or ‘ministry’. The cost is higher, certainly. But do we really have a choice?
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The hard part is that people don’t necessarily know that they are, in fact, settling for shadow. Perhaps they have never seen substance to know that they are missing out on the fullness of Christ. This makes discipleship, community, and deep, intentional relationships so important. People can’t imitate what is not given to them as an example. If you don’t invest in deep, intentional relationships then the people who you lead won’t either. If you don’t make your life about the substance of commitment and intentionality in effectively reaching the lost and committing to their lives than the people following you and your community won’t either.
It is definitely a process, this giving up shadow for substance. It can look bad to the Christian community when a leader takes off the shadow and reveals that there is a short coming in the area of substance. Let’s be careful to invest wisely the energy and resources God has given us. Let’s give our leaders grace and encourage them as they take off the shadow and reveal the substance. But most of all let’s make sure that we aren’t settling for shadows in our own lives and ministry when we could be working humbly towards substance.

Standing on Giants

I think too highly of myself. I am a fool in that regard. I know that I am a fool too, which makes it worse. I try not to be so self involved, but it creeps back into my mind and my mouth like it was cold air seeping in between the window panes. And lately I’ve found myself looking over my shoulder and hoping that I would get some reprieve of my own self glorification. I dislike people who puff themselves up, and I dislike myself for it even more. So to fortify my efforts at the honest truth, I start to think about all of the people in my life which have made me who I am and I have begun to realize that I am not my own person. When you look at me you do not see me but you see the thousands of people who have fed into my life and created for me a foundation on which I stand. These people are giants, and as I look over my shoulder, looking for reprieve, I see instead quite clearly–sometimes feeling it for the first time–that I am standing on their shoulders.

 

I am standing on the shoulders of giants.

 

Last semester I sat on a bench outside my Macro Economics class. In the morning before our class began Brian would meet me regularly and we would talk. It didn’t matter what we talked about, it was that we talked and that someone had thoughts more profound and more beautiful than my own. My soul draws to those people. It restores my hope in myself and in the beautiful things of this world. He will never know it, but for a while on Tuesday and Thursday mornings Brian let me stand on his shoulders and see what life was above my fog. And he will never know that for a while on Tuesday and Thursday mornings I could stand on his shoulders and feel a little less like I was drowning or suffocating within the silence of my own thoughts. Though he may never know it, I know it, and it seems to me that when I look back on the road from which I’ve traveled all I can see is a mosaic of people building the path along the way leading me towards the journey which is set before me.

I imagine sometimes that this journey is leading me to reach for the stars. And sometimes I feel that when I stretch really tall I can almost feel the corner of the first star. But other times, times when I’m the most honest with myself I can see that the road of shoulders from which I have come is not a free one. It is one with obligation, one that behooves me to stop attaining my own glory and stand strong for the generation after me to come and stand on my shoulders while they reach. And that is what it means to be a giant, some will reach the stars and others will lift them up to do it. I will one day be a giant, I will stand and pull others up onto my shoulders so they can begin—or continue—the journey which they are purposed to make. And when I am a giant the shoulders of the people beneath me (the people of generations a thousand years past) will be standing in the shape of a cross, strong and unwavering. And their foundation will become my foundation–a calling: ‘Come and be a servant among men, that they might see my Glory’. And this I believe. That I am standing on the shoulders of Giants and that in standing I have seen and will lift up the glory of God.