One Last Study Break Blog
We didn’t “Face Our Fears” last night. The lack of enthusiasm was disguised as sleepiness, but I know better. I’m told we’ll face our fears tonight, with this being our last available night to do so.
Who knew intentional displacement was so hard? Sherry would even attach words like suffering and death as her children and husband plunge their tenderized, baked bodies into a dark ocean where sharks and giant squids have caught wind of our aspirations. All I can see are high fives as we emerge from the wet blackness having conquered our inner fears. All Sherry can see are family members being eaten by callused sea monsters.
Is intentional displacement hard? Is there suffering attached? Death?
I would say the answer is “yes.” Anytime you get people to move beyond comfort zones and pursuits of me-ness, there will be some pain. Mobilizing individuals and small groups to encounter culture with Jesus will be messy, time-consuming, resource exhausting, exhausting, and selfless. Does this conjure up mental images of sea monsters or high-fiving Jesus followers?
In chapter one of James, I was reminded this morning that trials which test our faith should be seen as occasions of joy. A lasting maturity develops for such believers. Intentional, gospel displacement is one such opportunity when testing, joy, and maturity come together for Jesus followers, and a movement begins.
Paul told the Corinthians (I Cor. 2:6-8) that such servant thinking about lasting maturity is counter-cultural, but nonetheless Godly. Serving may be hard, but it produces maturity and joy. For many, God’s kind of thinking and wisdom is somewhat hidden on all of this, but for Jesus followers, this kind of thinking destines us for glory. And God is the Lord of glory!
It’s the dance of glory. When we mobilize beyond our own blessings and serve on macro (corporately) and micro (individually) levels, we enter into the joy and glory of the Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Is it hard? Yep. Will there be suffering and sacrifice? Probably. Will you and I have to die to ourselves… again, and again? Absolutely. Will there be joy? Oh yeah. Will this intentional gospel displacement give God glory? Yes, and we will live in His.
During recent, past study breaks, I have read about the lamented, sad decline of the Western church. This year, I’m seeing rebirth, renewal, and Kingdom power again. It’s something we’ve been seeing at Cumberland as well. The full come back of Jesus’ Church wont’ be without more change, discomfort, messiness, suffering, and death. Unleashing the power of the gospel through serving the 67% of our community who are done with church will in fact be gloriously challenging. But what if…
The last third of “On The Verge” (Hirsch & Ferguson) was much more compelling. Dave Ferguson, a church pastor/planter, wrote these final chapters with great application, story, and ideas. The book does unfold a great question about normalcy. Let’s say you were at the beach, and a nice young couple walks up to water’s edge. They both pull their shirts off to reveal their perfectly normal swim attire. Nobody on the beach would think twice about such common behavior. However, take that same couple with the same attire, and place them in a church on Sunday morning. It just wouldn’t be normal when the t-shirts come off, swimsuits are revealed, and this just minutes before “How Great Thou Art.” Different cultures… beach, church, and otherwise… make different things normal.
What will become normal at CCC?
We did, in fact, face our fears tonight. Only four of the clan actually got in the water. It was scarier than I had imagined. We got out about knee deep in the dark waters and pitch black sky. It was then we saw something… uh, black… swim by. We decided to stop right there, sit down in the water, quickly get out, and call it a night. Those who stood on the beach watching began to laugh. Those dripping with ocean began high-fiving even though the fear facing didn’t go as swimmingly well as we had hoped.
Each Jesus follower has the changing power of the gospel inside of them. Some will mobilize and unleash the full potential of Jesus’ church. This may go great at times, while other attempts will be slightly better than an official bust. Those staying safe within the confines of church walls may even laugh at our culture crashing intentional displacement efforts. But in the serving… in the displacement… in the giving… in the dying… in the mess of salvation… there will be joy. There will be the dance of glory, and probably several of us high-fiving.
Seth Godin writes, “At first the new thing is rarely as good as the old thing was. But if you need the alternative to be better than the status quo from the very start, you’ll never begin.”
The Church must never be content with status quo. As God is always in motion, so must we be. Let’s go… “AS WE GO”…even if the going isn’t as polished, professional, and deemed successful as some would label. There’s a new thing that God is doing. Let’s face our fears. Let’s dance!
CONCLUDING NOTE: This study break has been great. It’s been great for me, my soul, my family, and hopefully for the Lord’s church. I have read four very good books (Church Planter; The Reason For God; AND – The Gathered And Scattered Church; and “On The Verge”). I read one chapter from George W. Bush’s “Decision Points,” and will finish this when I get back home. I studied through James, again… and will begin a series on James called “Faith Works” this September. I took long walks with and without my friend Lucy, with and without Sherry, with and without kids, and always with God. I listened to 4 Timothy Keller sermons, two John Ortberg messages, one message each from Darrin Patrick, David Platt, and John MacArthur. I’ve also played, swam, snorkeled, ate, relaxed, and had great fun with my family. As always, I’m so appreciative for the leaders, staff, and people of Cumberland for giving me this annual time of soul feasting. These times keep me fresh, enliven my family, build into my marriage, and enable me to continue doing what God has called me to do. Thanks.