Previous posts have looked at what it means to shift from being Church focused to becoming Kingdom focused and shifting from maintenance leadership to missional leadership. All of these efforts are in an effort to explain what it means to be a “cultural architect” in the life of the church. This installment invites us to look at something that every successful group in the history of the world has understood. We all know the story of the invention of the light bulb, specifically the number of failed attempts it took Edison to perfect what he was looking for. (As a sidebar, Edison did not create the light bulb but only improved it. Humphrey Davy actually is credited for “inventing” it.) It is not a matter of needing to share about the need to “get back on the horse that bucked you”, it is a matter of recognizing that we need to find the bucking horses! The Church has a bit of a reputation for playing it safe and looking “old fashioned” (take a look at the book Unchristian), and it might very well be rooted in our fear of failing. As argued in previous columns, the fear of failure is directly tied to the Church’s felt need to get members of the institution rather than seek to make disciples of Jesus Christ. When we are seeking members over Disciples everything we do will be pushed through the lens of “will this upset or drive people away”? Jesus did many things which did not make people feel very warm and fuzzy (driving out the money changers, pointing out the woman at the wells situation, not throwing stones at another woman, ignoring Pilate’s questions, etc.). God’s desire is not that we build up a wonderful institution with many members. Rather it is God’s desire that we build up the many members of the body of Christ! It is our call by Christ to go out into the world and Make Disciples, but it is hard to make disciples when we are fearful that we might fail and people might leave the institution. Of course this does not mean we fail for the sake of failing, but that we learn to fail forward. When (not if) we fail we must fail in such a way to learn from our failures so that we can advance the Kingdom of God. Perhaps one of the greatest numbers we do not count in the UMC is the number of failures we have had. I would argue that the rate in which we fail forward is directly tied to the amount of growth a community of faith sees. So the question is, have you failed forward this week/month/year?

Wanna travel through time. Fear the future.

For the first time in many years (the vast majority of my life) I do not have to prepare for classes. With the completion of my Masters in May of this year, this is the first time I can recall when I do not have the pending doom of class to countdown my summer to.

However, Estee still has her countdown to her classes. She will graduate in December of this year so this makes for her last semester.

As she and I were talking the other day and she said something that I have said in the past but not really thought about it.

"Uh. Class starts in like two weeks. This summer has gone by so fast. I cannot believe it is over."

Possibly the only reason I even made note of this comment was because I noticed that I did not feel the same way. My summer had not gone by fast at all. In fact I was excited for the summer to be over!

It could be that she and I had different summer experiences and thus made time 'move' differently for each of us. Or it could also be the more we worry/fear the future the more quickly time seems to pass us by.

Estee not only begins her last semester but also moves to a full time position in the beginning of September. These both are high stress anxiety laden events. Time moved quickly.

I am just doing what I am doing with no big changes in the coming future. Time moved slow.

Although this is not the most thought out of ideas and could be written more eloquently, the point is made. If we fear the future, does time move by us faster than if we do not fear the future?

What are the implications of those theologies which use fear as a way of behavior modification? What are the implications of those theologies which focus on dismaying fear?

Do you fear the future? How is time moving for you?

Feeling movement in my bowels

Ancient peoples understood that one's feelings come not from the brain but from the bowels. When we are in love or uncomfortable we can feel it in our bowels and so it makes logical sense that the bowels could be considered the location of emotions. Taking this into account, I am feeling a lot of movement in my bowels today.

After preaching a sermon on John 3:16 (thank you for all the comments and reflections, they were very helpful), I got several comments of the "good news" type. Good jobs, thanks, and that made me think sort of comments. This is to be expected for most preachers most of the time. It is hard for preachers to know if they actually did a good job or if people are just being nice. Anyway, after the accolades it became real to me that perhaps I should not have said what I said.

My argument is essentially one that does not originate with me, but one that I have taken on. It goes something like this.
If God only demanded Jesus to be sacrificed then Jesus would have stayed in the tomb. Jesus would have been like all the other sacrifices before him, dead and forgotten about. But Jesus was resurrected. And because he was resurrected it could be understood that God did not want/need Jesus to die in order for humans and God to be reconciled. It is the resurrection which is the Good News, not that Jesus was killed on the cross.

Anyway, I understand this may not be the dominate story told in Christian communities, however that does not mean that it is all wrong. I admit that there are some weakness in the argument which I need to work out (and I will continue to do that). However, I feel there are many ways to talk about the death and resurrection of Jesus. In the end I have taken the stance that, "I do not have to be wrong for you to be right."

The movement below comes from my fear. I am fearful that I may have upset people. I am fearful that I may have, in some people's eyes, spouted off heresy. I fear that perhaps I have stunted the growth of AHUMC in some way.

And that fear, makes me queasy.

I write this so that I will never forget how I feel right now but also to encourage myself. I spoke out of where I am right now. I spoke knowing that I do not have it all figured out. I spoke out of my struggles with John 3:16 and substitutionary atonement. I spoke as true as I know how.

Now I only hope for the courage to stomach my feelings.

Feeling VERY churchy for two days

I went with a few people (Darrel Carver, Raul, Nancy and Jim Allen) from the church to "Unity Park" yesterday as part of a pilot program of the TACC (Tarrant Area Community of Churches). The program is designed to break down stereotypes of what a "homeless person" is. So we were invited to talk with and listen to the homeless at Unity Park and then we all walked the three or so blocks of East Lancaster to see what agencies are there to help and what is needed.

Today the youth went to church on the Slab, which is a church for the homeless by the homeless on a literal "slab" of concrete under I35. Not as much conversation happens at the Slab as I would like, but there is a great amount of food and clothing distributed, so it 'feels' like you make a tangible difference right away. It is a good thing, although it is only a band-aid to the deep wounds of the community at the slab.

Walking over 8,000 steps yesterday (I know this thanks to a fancy new pedometer the central Texas conference health insurance has "give" to me to use this year) and then working one on one at the slab makes me feel not only closer to Jesus and God but closer to my own call. I know that as of now I cannot move to East Lancaster and walk the streets doing church with the homeless of Fort Worth (I cannot do this for a number of reasons most of which are self imposed thus proving that I am the rich man walking away from Jesus because I am very wealthy). However, I can find opportunities which I can camouflage as "paid work" but really is relationship building with the pushed out, the homeless and the hopeless.

Today is a good day... I want more of it.