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Keeping the main thing, the main thing---; but what IS the main thing???
Topic Started: Mar 20 2010, 12:14 AM (1,599 Views)
DeanZF
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Everybody's got a theory, a theorum, a formula, a pondering about how our personal and corporate lives ought to be focused. Part of that is viewing life on earth through the filter of earthly giftings. That's not a bad thing, necessarily, but is it the right thing?

I have struggled with this at various times of my life and I have watched congregations large and small try to deal with the concept. There are so many different aspects to my personal walk (and yours :) ). We are supposed to be "moderate in all things" and yet we are to be radically committed. The word that many use is "balanced". Many of you know that I really do not like that word. Can I be a balanced radical for Jesus? Something oxymoronic about that, somehow.

I'm not talking about things like the faith message or name-it-claim-it theology. I'm interested in some of the real basics of what most Christians see as essential aspects of our corporate life. I don't want to label them as "ministries", but rather as facets of our corporate life. Liturgical churches and evangelistic churches see these things differently and put different emphases and labels on them, but some of the biggies in our life together include outreach (to unchurched or lapsed believers), evangelism (to unbelievers and includes missions), education (catechesis for children, youth, adults), praise/worship (including sacramental life, music, and movement in large and small groups, and in individual lives). Governance, leadership building, church planting, and a host of other things are out there, too, but I'm not not sure of how to group them all.

Some churches are so "Word-oriented" that nothing is considered unless it supports the promotion of and study of the Word. Teaching heavy, classes, classes, and more classes. Sunday morning, Sunday evening, Tuesday evening, and Thursday evening, plus a teaching evening for the youth and a teaching afternoon for seniors, early morning for work-a-day folks, later morning for the home-makers. That's radical, but is it "the" formula?

I'm reading a little book about how every congregation needs to become a house of prayer. That's the thing that will fix everything else because when it's the center of congregational everything, then everything will just work better. Prayer is the big thing and the other things will just come along as part of the package. Well, that's certainly a radical view. Prayer becomes the focus of the body and drive all the ministries. But is that "the" formula? Yes, I'm trying really hard to spin this thing out toward the extremes. Personally, I think Christianity cannot be viewed in tepid, middle of the road terms--"balanced".

All of those things are important. Having prayer as an integral part of these earthly ministries is certainly mandatory, not to be ignored. It could be seen as an integral part of the fabric of our congregations, the threads that bind much of what we do together. There are all sorts of analogies that can be offered. I want to offer a little different view.

For many years now, Helena and I have been trying to guide our lives on what we view as Kingdom principles, and actions of eternal significance. Kingdom principles work no matter who uses them or for what. Proclamation of the Word is a Kingdom principle. His Word never returns void, it always accomplishes His intentions. Confession (literally "saying with") is a Kingdom principle. God shows me where I've missed the mark. I confess it as sin, agreeing with Him, and He forgives me. Agreement is the place of power. When I agree with Him about that, His power cleanses me. These are clear, biblical, Kingdom principles. Let me introduce you to more.

Revelation 5:8 describes corporate life among the Church Triumphant. There, before the Throne (Kingdom principle), are twenty four thrones for twenty four elders (elders leading in actions of worship and praise is another Kingdom principle). Each of those elders holds a harp and a bowl of incense. This is yet a third Kingdom principle in this one verse, a verse that describes an eternity in His presence. For me, Kingdom life is about three things: the Throne of God, each of us involved in worship, and each of us involved in prayer (the harp and bowl are acknowledged biblical symbols of worship and prayer). The prayer and worship components represent the largest portion of what our eternity will look like. Because of that, should we not focus on making the eternal a larger portion of our temporality?

I am confronted now and again by my lovely wife about my tendencies to over-analyze and over-plan. My boss wags his finger at me regularly and tells me not to overwork my projects. He tells a lot of people that very same thing. Guys mostly. I think it might be just a guy thing. A friend of mine thinks that it's also a leader thing. Many of us fall into the trap of becoming human doings instead of human beings. It's an awful trap because we have these deep needs to plan and label and subdivide, to do and hone and polish. This is not Kingdom thinking and has no place among the Kingdom principles. Watch:

In the Revelation 5 verse, the principle humanoid characters on the stage were the twenty-four elders. Elders: it's who they were, not what they did. They held a harp in one hand and a bowl in the other. Their hands were FULL! No backpack, no grocery cart, no briefcase to lug other stuff, nothing tucked under their arms, no pockets, just the harp and the bowl. It's almost as though each of them were busy being, but had these two accessories to help express what they were called to do while they were about being elders. That's important. Each of those elders was modeling for the glassy sea of the multitudes surrounding the throne. They were busy elding. They were focused not on the harp or the bowl, but on the One upon the Throne. Did they worship or sing? Yeah, I'll bet they did. Did they pray? Yeah, I'll bet they did. Prayer is a broad topic, but it's mostly about conversation with Him, right? Not just about presenting one's "list". They were conversing, communing with Him. It was just a natural, normal part of their being.

That's what I see in the verse and the scene. And it's what I want my life to reflect. I want people to recognize me for what I am, not what I do. As one who loves life near the throne, I have to avoid tendencies to over-define and "over-work" the relationship. Worship is a natural part of life near the throne. Conversational prayer is a natural part of life near the throne. I strive to not allow myself to get in the mode where the worship or the prayer is the driver for my life and motives. My heart is toward HIM and worship and prayer are the means of communication. Neither worship nor prayer should drive my life--my love for Him has to drive my life. If it is any other way, I'm off track, not living in Kingdom mode.

More in part two.
Blessings!

Dean
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DeanZF
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Part two.

This is not a mind game. It has to become reality in my life in order for me to move from human doing to human being. Think about powerful people that you've met.

Some people are powerful because of their position, their rank, or other label. Have you met these? They often make requirements of you, demanding respect, demanding recognition of their rank, demanding obeisance, demanding that you follow or do as you're told.

Some are powerful because of who they are, not because of what they do. Have you met these? They generally do not demand, but rather command. Command is not a military term in this case, but in one good English sense, it means to deserve and receive as due. Isn't that what Father does with us? He never demands that we worship Him. But His presence draws my attention. He deserves my all. He is due my attention and affection, but never demands it.

When we as leaders walk in the authority that God has given us, as the elders did in part one, there is no question about who we are. Again, this is all about a human simply BEing. No need to demand, just BE. God doesn't demand. He just IS. Even His name: I AM. It is very hard for this man to simply be. My questioning mind continually wants to finish the sentence, to be WHAT. No, just BE. Prayer and worship are expressions of my being, nothing more. For years, I would have defined myself primarily as a worshiper. I continue to work on just being, not being something. Does that make sense? When I learned to be comfortable just BEing, I found that people treat me differently. I don't have to ask for respect or my "due". It's not arrogance or attitude, it's confidence in Whose I am, a son of the King. That is Kingdom living in the shortest of terms, learning to live as a son of THE King!

Does worship drive the church? It shouldn't. Does prayer drive the church? Or missions or evangelism or teaching or education? Any one of those things can drive a church...or drive it crazy! None of these things should drive the church, in my opinion. We have to be careful to keep the Main Thing the main thing. This is subtle, but really important. Prayer is not the main thing. HE is the main thing. Worship is not the main thing (yes, you heard it from my cyber-lips), HE is the main thing. My love for Him drives all things. Yongee Cho had it right a long time ago: "I pray, I listen, I obey." My bishop has it right: Wait to hear Him. Listen to what He's saying, then act on what He is saying. Back to Revelation 5:8, that's what a good elder does.

One definition of "elder" is a senior member of a tribe who has influence or authority. He does not have to whump up anything. An elder simply by "being" has influence or authority. His white hair by implication says that he's lived a long time, experienced a lot, and has enough wisdom to have lived thus far. A favorite commercial from years gone by was about a financial advisor, that when the financial advisor spoke, everyone listened. Everything in the commercial stopped and ears were bent toward the speaker in anticipation of what was about to be said.

Are we that way with our God? Do we hang on His every word or even His very Word?
Blessings!

Dean
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Part 3.

I have this thing buzzing around in my head and it just won't let go!

My bishop also is very strong on following St. Paul's statement:
"Col. 1:28"
 
We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.

"Complete" is also translated as full-grown, mature, or perfect. This is the word teleios again. It's one of Bishop's favorite words. It so well describes God's aspirations and intentions for us.

I've had a thought that has chased me all week. What does teleios look like? How would I as a human describe it? What would Father say that would cause Him to say, "Aha! Teleios!" I can relate to the human experience and have to think about those whom I have considered mature, full-grown Christians. One can more readily recognize immature than mature. I know that a 16-month-old child is not fully mature. I sense that young men and women near the age of 16 are not fully mature. They are far more mature than the 16-month-old version, but there is still a very long hill to climb. I think about some of the leaders whom I've served who were good teachers but who behaved scandalously, who were careless with their words outside the pulpit. We all know about great personalities in the body over the years who've shown their feet of clay. Were they mature? They had great knowledge, and some had great wisdom, but were they mature?

These are the extreme examples, obviously. Think about people who share the pews with you and hook them up to the mature-o-meter, the teleios-o-meter. How do they do? On what criteria would we base our assessments? These thoughts have pestered me all week!

And the parallel thought is always the same, Revelation 5:8 with the elders around the throne. I believe that these were modeling teleios- for us through God's eyes. These elders' hearts, minds, and spirits were fixed and fixated upon the Occupant of the throne. They had two means of communion with Father: prayer and worship. Were they pray-ers? No. Were they dedicated worshipers? No. They were and are elders and doing what elders ought to be doing, praying and worshiping at His feet, communing with their God.

This is a pretty radical view of maturity, but I think that it is what God is intending for us. Look around. No, look in the mirror! I do not measure up. I've been walking in Christ for 35+ years. I was asked recently, "Do you consider yourself a mature Christian?" I smiled and tried to pick a good answer from the many that gathered behind my lips. "Some days..." "As compared to what or whom?" "Are you kidding?" "Getting maturer every day..."

But if that is the goal, I want to be pursuing that kind of communion with Him. More meaningful conversations with Him, as I drive, as I walk, as much as I can while I work. Conversations, not mindless chatter filling up the spiritual airwaves. I want to let Him know I'm paying attention, but more than anything i want to hear His mind and His heart for me and for my world. If I pray His heart and His mind, "my" prayers are more likely to be answered.

More on this view of teleios- in my next edition.
Blessings!

Dean
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