Friday, September 08, 2006

Chicken Legs

The year 2006 for me has been a year when I decided to get back into a routine of participating in various activities for the purpose of being physically fit. My wife graciously bought me a gym membership for Christmas and I've been faithful in my pursuits. It wasn't just another New Year's resolution gone down the drain.

One of the things I notice at the gym is that there are many, I mean MANY people who show up there and do what I think is absolutely absurd. They work one part of their body so it will be big and strong. In the end, the human landscape is quite deformed. You see huge chests and shoulders, then scanning down you will see large midsections and then...chicken legs! The sad fact is that these people have decieved themselves into thinking that a big chest or big arms looks cool or masculine and ignore altogether total body fitness. I don't care who you are, if you have twenty four inch biceps and can't handle fifteen minutes on a treadmill you're not fit. Who are they fooling? Then again, who am I Mr. Universe? Not yet anyway.

So what about Christian spirituality and how it relates to chicken legs, have you ever thought about that? Go ahead and visit some churches (if you have a territorial, competitive pastor he may frown upon that) and see what I mean. Many churches have different emphases in their ministries and it is affecting their overall "church health". There are some churches that focus totally on spiritual manifestations. There are some churches that focus on people submitting to authority (it's usually the pastor saying that one). Still other churches make foreign missions their top priority while others make God's prosperity to the believer their emphasis. Are we getting healthy churches out of this approach or are we left with the Body of Christ with chicken legs?

It happens in other ways too. Look at the compartmentalization of church ministry. The Bible shows us that we're a connected body, a family if you will, yet we separate our ministries into "men's ministry, women's ministry, children's minstry, youth ministry etc." These are NOT evil. They are NOT bad things to have but the potential for working one muscle more than the rest is great.

I sense that there is a movement afoot that gets back to our roots and pays attention to the whole body. Spiritual health is more than just money in our pockets or submitting to authority or a men's or women's Bible study. As a matter of fact, spiritual health has little to do with any of those things.

Spiritual health comes from being connected to a body that is healthy. It comes from ingesting the right food, and being involved in activities that promote good spiritual health. I have a suggested list of activities to help you become spiritually healthy. It's a summary of the teachings of Jesus and Paul the Apostle. You'll find that if you do these, you won't be dealing with spiritual chicken legs!

- freely you have received, freely give
- submit yourselves one to another
- love one another
- take care of widows and orphans
- love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength
- love your neighbor as yourself
- pray without ceasing
- obedience is better than sacrifice
- avoid the appearance of evil
- husbands love your wives
- wives love your husbands
- repent
- a soft answer turns away wrath but grievous words stir up strife

You'll find that these aren't relegated to a religious obligation. They can be performed anywhere at any time.

So if you are a "chicken legs", get out there and start getting spiritually fit. You'll find your endurance gets better as well as your strength. Who knows, maybe you'll inspire someone to do the same.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Am I Stupid, Crazy or Just Have Faith?

I have recently resigned and finished serving almost three years at one of New England's fastest growing evangelical churches. The church grew 733% in five years and averages about 1500 attendees per weekend, up quite a bit from 12 people 13 years ago. While there I was able to be involved in starting a small group ministry, an internship ministry, a young adult ministry and was very involved in the worship on Sunday mornings as worship leader. I had the privilege of sharing my life with others, seeing fruit for my work and enjoyed the dynamic staff and the camaraderie of my peers. For a vocational pastor, it was living a fairy tale in some ways.

Now that is all gone.

Now as a vocational minister of almost 15 years, I was supposed to move on to another "ministry job". I was supposed to go and look for a church to pastor, start small (the big churches don't have vacancies that often) and build something so it could thrive and survive on its own. It was expected of me by many to take a church of 50 or 60 and go from there. I mean, that's what pastors are supposed to do right?

I didn't do what people expected.

Now I'm in a situation with no job (that means no paycheck anymore by the way), no house or apartment, a wife and two children and I didn't do what I am "supposed to do". No, I did the unthinkable. I prayed, listened to God a lot and followed my heart. I searched the longings of my soul to figure out what it was God has crafted me for and what I wanted to do. What did I do you may ask? I decided to sell most of my earthly belongings, send my wife and kids to eastern Canada while I prepare to fly to western Canada to land a job, a place to live and carve out a new life for us.

We are starting over.

Yes, starting over, my life, career, location, EVERYTHING! I will be relocating 3000 miles from where I've been my whole life. Some may think that I'm stupid or crazy. You need to know that this is one of the biggest acts of faith that I have ever trusted God for. In this whole process I've learned to trust God for EVERYTHING! Finances, debt elimination, a place to live in the relocation process, job prospects, family provision and so on and so on. Each and every time we had an obstacle in our path, we have found that God always had an answer for it. I've not had a worry in the process so far. My wife is scared stiff, 100% supportive, but scared stiff. Me, I'm still in awe of the adventure of it.

"Pray, and let God worry." - Martin Luther

In light of starting over, people are realizing that I am not currently returning to vocational ministry. I'm going to work a job and provide for my family and serve the Lord with my gifts in ways that I've wanted to before but couldn't always do so previously. It is puzzling to some because they have this sense that I'm "called to the ministry" and should be a pastor. But I don't know why people think this as the Bible clearly teaches that ALL ARE CALLED TO THE MINISTRY. Being a pastor has absolutely nothing to do with being hired by a church to manage and administrate. That's being a manager and administrating. Being a pastor has everything to do with being up close and personal with sheep, knowing who they are and living where they live. Hey, shepherds even smelled like their sheep. You can't smell like sheep let alone feed them if you aren't in proximity to them.

So in a nutshell I feel like I'm discovering more of who I really am and what I'm really about. Isn't that what we all long for? Look at the statistics of those who hate their jobs and feel stuck in life. Do those people really know who they are and what they really want? Do they have an incling or even a plan as to what they want and how to get there? I feel like I do and it feels great!

"Make no small plans. For they have no power to stir humanity's blood." - Daniel Burnham, a 19th-century architect

So get out there and dream and dream big! Don't let anyone tell you what you can and cannot do. Listen to the voice of God and go for what your heart desires, even if people think you're stupid or by faith!