Tuesday, November 8, 2011

...In My Heart...

This video has crossed my computer desktop more than once recently and I’m just enough of a mystic to think that God may be trying to get my attention.  It’s part of a presentation Francis Chan gave at the RightNow Pastors Conference.  Here it is…

I love the last analogy about telling your child to clean their room.  How true!  We take Jesus’ words.  We parse them in Greek, then in English, in an effort to “mine the richness” as one professor used to tell us.  But in doing so, don’t we also often find ways to ‘spiritualize’ the teaching rather than ‘physicalize’ (new word there, I think) it?  We ponder, we meditate, we question, we delve, and when we’re sure we’ve cogitated the life out of it, we move on to more of Jesus’ words and begin again. 

We often sing, “Lord, I want to be a Christian….in my heart.”  However, the unsung expectation held by many seems to be something like this: “Lord, I want to keep my Christianity…in my heart.”  Instead of the seat of motivation, the heart has become a sealed receptacle of all things Christian for many of us.  I include myself, a clergyperson, because who else can better spiritualize the Gospel than one trained in parsing Greek/Hebrew, de-contextualizing, de-mythologizing, etc.?

Moving it from heart to mouth, or hands, or feet is risky business.  Proof?  It is so risky, so fear-instilling, to let this Jesus move from my heart to my mouth that, according to Doug Anderson, executive director of the Bishop Rueben Job Center for Leadership Development, the average United Methodist member invites only one person to worship every 38 years (http://www.umportal.org/article.asp?id=5058).  To be fair, I’ve seen others say the figure is once every 15-17 years.  Even so, we either are too afraid we’ll appear  pushy or we don’t really believe what we say we believe about the possibility of a transformed life, transformed community or transformed world.  In other words, what really is at stake when we fail to let Jesus out of our heart to become actual words and actions? 

Though there has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth over the seeming disinterest that the majority of the population under the age of 40 has in organized religion, it’s definitely not a disinterest in things related to faith or spirituality.  Far from it.  I’ve encountered many in that age category who are desperately seeking a way to incorporate a spirituality into their daily lives.  However, the post-modern mindset in this seeking process is most often this: Please show me a spirituality that is greater than something to merely think about.  The “middle road,” “I’m just going to think about a world where everyone cleans their room,” forms of spirituality and approaches to being the Body of Christ carry little persuasive power anymore.

Solutions?  The solutions are easier to describe than managing the response they generate in the average mainline church.  We know the litany of solutions: take seriously our membership vows, provide opportunities for real hands-on service, equip all to be able to tell their faith story, reorganize local church structures and infuse new leadership…  This list is barely a beginning, and more complete listings can be found at most church vitality websites.  The secret is learning to respond to and sometimes ignore those for whom this is a stretch and these expectations were not something they “signed up for.”  I know when I feel stretched – and when I’m confronted with something I don’t remember signing up for – it is at those moments when I learn what is actually…in my heart…

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