Saturday, February 11, 2006

Church as Reconciliation Center

From a recent message on living the shared life...

I think the world desperately needs a working model for conflict resolution. We need to learn how to disagree with someone without ridiculing them or divorcing them. It seems like everyone I know is quick to say how much they "hate conflict" and it's no wonder. No one likes to do something when they are clueless.

I think the working model I'm looking for is supposed to be the church. I’m convinced that one of the primary purposes of the church is to be a reconciliation center on earth- a training ground for conflict resolution. We are supposed to become experts at this. And when we do, the world will get to see God up close in how we treat each other. Unfortunately churches have failed miserably at this. We can follow Jesus for decades all the while harboring anger and resentment toward people that are closest to us.

But that doesn’t mean that we can’t change. We can do better than that. And when we do the world will sit up and notice. They’ll see God in our midst and instead of running away from church, they’ll run to it, because they’ll see that we have the answers they are looking for. They long for these answers because God made them relational, just like us.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Are You Afraid of Becoming a Religious Clone?

I've been speaking at church about church being a community of believers that follow Jesus together. I'm passionate about that idea but I'm also not naive. I realize that the thought of doing anything together scares some people to death.

I think we often fear sharing our lives with other people in the context of community because we think we have to give up our individuality. We think that we have to look and act and vote like everyone else which makes us afraid that we are going to turn into some kind of religious clone. So we keep our distance. Sunday’s are in our comfort zone - passively listening and observing - but getting more involved than that is a little too scary! We don’t want to get sucked into some kind of in-grown spiritual community that makes us weird. Right?

I know that happens in some churches but that’s not at all what God wants for us. The truth is, you actually gain your identity in true community because you finally see how the gifts and talents that God gave you can be used.

I see this happen at Cedarbrook all the time. People live a life that consists of mostly work and survival. Then they come here and get involved. At some point they offer to help serve in some area and, what do you know, they discover a talent they never knew they had. Or, they find a place to use a talent that they knew they had but never had a place to express it. Their individuality actually blossomed in the context of community rather than it being stolen from them. The community called something out of them that was lying dormant all this time. And now their life is more fulfilling. cautious, yes. But don't keep to yourself. God has something that he wants to release in you and through you that can only be revealed in the context of community.