Monday, July 13, 2009

How Was Your Trip?

I recently returned from 10 weeks in Europe. 8 weeks were spent at The Salvation Army International College for Officers. I met some great people who will be with me in spirit for the rest of my life. The memories will be indelibly etched on my mind and heart for years.

As I have returned, people have asked me, "How was your trip?" I find that a difficult question to answer. I missed family and friends. I have thought about how much things changed at home and in my ministry while I was gone. Relationships changed. Procedures changed. Some of these changed for the better. Janet and I got much closer. Some of the other relationships and procedures are difficult to adjust to again. They are different.

I have begun to realize that my trip was bigger than a vacation or just a time away. It was a journey in a way. Trips have a beginning and ending point. They are for a set amount of time. Journeys tend to be longer, they are more about enjoying the scenery, the company and the time for reflection.

I took a journey. The company was great. The scenery was the learning experiences and the reflection time was plentiful. I have felt more as if I am on a trip with deadlines and restoring relationships since I have been back. It is not that they have been broken; they have just changed.

The fact is that journeys change people. They take people through depths of despair and also bring them to the peaks of delight.

The one thing I am learning on my journey is the real need for companions. We need each other desperately. As Americans, we value self-motivation, self-gratification and rugged individualism. I am not sure that those are necessary Christian values. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "We are one body."

I think the problem with our movement and the Church in general, is that we are in a hurry to get from Point A to Point B. We rarely stop to enjoy companionship or friendship. I think maybe it may be a trust issue. Maybe we are trying to get "results" from the latest Christian fad or mission slogan.

Whatever it is, I think that far too many people are taking the quick trip and not enjoying the journey.

So, what is that will enhance our journeys? How can we be the body that Christ wants us to be?

I think it is simple. It is about being vulnerable. It is about being accountable. In short it is about sharing the journey with friends and companions, not just having acquaintances.

Well those are my thoughts. Do you think too many of us are taking trips and not journeys? Do you think it is a trust issue that prohibits us from sharing the journey? Are we scared to be vulnerable because we are more about rugged individualism than community?

What do you think?

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Independence Day?

This weekend, we celebrated the birthday of our country here in the States. There were cookouts, parades and fireworks. There were people who travelled to be with family. Folks sang patriotic songs.

We value independence here in the States. We honor people who fulfil the America dream, by hard work, pulling themselves up from bad situations and make their mark in the world.

It seems to be a value of people to be that way in the Church. In evangelical circles, people seem to love to hear the testimony of those who are "trophies of grace." We love to honor them for their hard work and marvel at the work of God in the individual.

I just heard a good sermon this morning. The sermon was on the "body of Christ." It was based on the passage in 1 Corinthians 12. It was clear that there is a deep abiding necessity for community. Those who would take this independent view of Christianity, over-emphasizing personal salvation as the be all and end all seem to missing the boat. In other words, my salvation depends solely on me.

We have used the word "community" over and over again as a Christian buzz word for the past several years. Yet, there continues to be a fraying of community. We have few family members in the Church it seems and more acquaintances. The lack of deep relationships in the Church I believe leads to shallow Christianity, since there is little in the way of challenge or discipleship in the vacuum of independent living.

This idea of independence, I believe is overrated. We live in such an interconnected world. With the advent of facebook, twitter, blogger and youtube, we are living in world where it is virtually impossible to be independent of relationship. The world economic situation makes it virtually impossible for a country to stand alone economically. Even politically, we have learned in recent years that an isolationist policy is incredibly bad for a country.

If in the secular world, independence is evaporating, I wonder why I see us only paying lip service to community in the Church. There does seem though to be a movement toward ecumenism

I wonder if it is true that salvation cannot take place outside of the Church? Is the idea of denominationalism dead? Is independence an idea that may be extra-biblical?

So as with all my other posts, I ask...What do you think?