Transformational, or Just Busy?

Three years ago, we had a really great architect come and spend the day with us at Mosaic.  He spent the morning listening as we shared with him what we loved about our church.  People told their stories and how they got here and what mattered to them.  Then in the afternoon, he and his team began to sketch out what all those stories might look like as the blueprint of a building.  How do our stories shape a building that fits our mission and vision?

It was a wonderfully creative process, but like most creative processes there was a crisis moment.  In the middle of the day we hit a wall.  The architects were struggling to make the design work from a basic construction perspective, and we were struggling to figure out what their problem was.

Then we saw it.  They were trying to get rid of our loading docks!  And yes, to eraise the loading docks would have created a huge financial and feasibility impasse.  We have two of them, two different heights, on two sides of the building.  It would have made more sense to level the building and start over than to get rid of them.

The problem was that while the architects had heard our individual stories, they hadn’t yet gotten the big story.  They’d missed what makes us Mosaic.  We’re missional.  We aren’t trying to look like a church.  We’re just trying to make a difference in the world.  We actually want to be a church with a loading dock, because we hope one day we’ll be loading food in and out of our building five or six days a week.  In fact, we hope to be loading all kinds of things in and out that will make a difference to people in crisis, that will give us permission to speak into their lives spiritually.

When the architects finally got the big story of Mosaic it helped make sense of all the little stories.  That’s how we ended up with this master plan we have today.

Loading docks and all.

N.T. Wright says, “Only by understanding and celebrating the larger story can we hope to understand everything that’s going on in our own smaller stories, and so observe God at work in and through our own lives.” (Paul for Everyone, Ephesians)

It is really easy to let the details get in the way of the main point.  Whether in our personal stories or in our corporate story, we can program our way into all kinds of activities that make us look very busy and engaged, but still miss the big story.

In our quest to be relevant and busy and engaged, the American Church may have done just that.  We’ve allowed ourselves to become one more activity in a long list of family to-do’s, when God’s plan is not for the church to be one more activity but the basic building block in the formation of a new society.  As Eugene Peterson puts it in Ephesians 1:23 (The Message), the Church is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church.

Does the place you call your church intend to participate in God’s plan to build a new society, or are they just generating more activities to fill your calendar?

Read More

D’Marcus and the Kingdom Invitation

For several years, our church hosted a thing we call Cowboy Church.  This was our version of VBS, and we hosted it not only at our church but in several inner-city settings.

One year, we did Cowboy Church at Bethlehem Center in downtown Augusta (side note:  downtown Augusta boasts the fourth poorest zip code in Georgia). We got to hang out for a week with about two dozen precious children who live pretty rough lives.  I think the take-away image for me from that week was opening the door one night to the room in which I’d been working to find my husband, Steve, carrying little D’Marcus by his armpits … little D’Marcus had one foot on one door jam and the other foot on the other door jam, and he was screaming, “I don’t want to go in there!”  And Steve was so patiently smiling and saying, “That’s fine … But we are going in there!”  And you’d think that a kid being shoved into a room by his armpits would not bounce back, but five minutes later, little D’Marcus was having the time of his life, and the next day little D’Marcus was right there with us again …

And I think of Steve holding him by the armpits and I think of this passage in Isaiah:  In his love and mercy he redeems us.  He lifts us up and carries us through all the years.  And I wonder if God might have meant that kind of lifting sometimes?  Because sometimes I think the way we get in there … into that place where the mercy and love of God is … happens less like the gentle lifting of a baby and more like the way Steve lifted little D’Marcus.  Are you with me on that?  Have you ever been there?

“I will tell of the Lord’s unfailing love.”  A love so strong that it will lift us even when we don’t want to be lifted … a love stubborn enough to hang with us when we want to argue the point … A love so severe that, as Paul put it to the Hebrews, he would also become flesh and blood so  he could be in every respect like us … so he could be our merciful and faithful high priest before God … lifting us before the throne … Unfailing love, Isaiah calls it.  The kind of love that will not give up, that will stop at nothing, that will go to any length.  The kind of love that will suffer with us, die for us, lift us up, carry us.  The kind of love that is both whole and holy, giving and forgiving, universal and everlasting.  Psalm 139 says it is the kind of love from which we can not escape.  David writes, “If I go up to heaven, you are there.  If I go down to the place of the dead, you are there.  If I ride on the wings of morning, if I dwell in the furthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me.  I could ask for darkness to hide me … but even in darkness I can not hide from you.”  Unfailing love.

Do you know that the astronauts can testify to the truth of what David wrote?  One of the early Apollo astronauts … as he walked on the moon … said, “I felt something other than what we can physically sense.  A spiritual presence was there.  I realized (my partner and I) were the only two on this planet … the moon … another world … We were the only two there, but we felt (listen to this) we felt an unseen love.  We were not alone.”  Isn’t that something?  There is a love so real, so awesome, that it can not be contained … There is no sin outside the reach of his mercy … no stain too stubborn for the Blood … no person who can not be lifted up …

You know … I happen to think there is a little of the spirit of D’Marcus inside each of us … do you sense that inside yourself, or is it just me?  … a fight going on inside … and it seems to be come alive especially when we reach the threshold of a new spiritual room … a place God is calling us that we haven’t been yet.  We get right up to it, but then something within us resists and we end up with one foot on one door jam, and the other foot on the other door jam, screaming, “I don’t want to go in there!”  I fight not because I know what’s best for myself, but precisely because I don’t.  I fight, because like the Israelites, I’m afraid of death … not physical death … I don’t want to die to my comforts or to my place at the center of my universe or to my right to choose my own way.   But here’s the thing, folks … and here’s what I really want to say to you tonight … That fighting spirit inside of me and inside of you needs to hear that inside that room … only you know the name of it, but its the one God is calling you to walk into next … inside that room you will die, but you will also be met by the mercy and love of God.  So its okay.

Read More