The Pain (and Opportunity) of “Simple”

What a change to our personal worlds, and way too fast. One week ago today, I was not assuming we wouldn’t see each other in person, maybe for weeks. A week ago, you were not figuring out how to homeschool or juggle unimagined work-parenting challenges. And none of us have ever cared this much about toilet paper!

We are all being forced by a fallen world to pare down to what is most essential so we can weather this crisis. We’re being asked to remember how to do “simple.” All of us. Which means all of us are probably a little edgy, a little discouraged, a little skeptical, a little tense. Add up all those “littles” and it makes a lot.

Friends, our essentials were made for times like this. We believe community is essential, and our ministry team is doing all we can to keep you meaningfully (and spiritually) connected to a few others. If I could give you one word of wisdom today, it would be this: make connection essential. Meet with your group virtually. Call someone who might need support. Connection is how we will all stay spiritually healthy, how we’ll stay emotionally positive, and how we’ll stay together as a faith community.

Connection is how we’ll keep all those “littles” from adding up to “overwhelm.”

These are values we can lean into right now that will help us have bandwidth for connection:

K.I.S.S. That old acronym (keep it simple, stupid.) has never been more relevant. Conference calls with group members don’t have to be complicated. Worship doesn’t have to be complicated. A cup of coffee and half an hour of prayer and Bible reading may be the most life-giving thing you can do today.

Simple.

Pursue intimacy with God and one another. Intimacy with God is foundational to everything else! Reaching out to others doesn’t have to have a plan behind it. See point #1 above: simple is good! A simple call, a simple meal, a simple walk … these things breed sanity and compassion.

Trust the essential value of community. Have I mentioned this one yet? Because it is essential. When we pare down to survival, it is tempting to leave off anyone who isn’t essential to surviving at home or work. But friends, the Body of Christ is essential. It was built for times like this. Lean in.

Remember that you’re part of a family. The church is family, and healthy families are what make a healthy church. Who in the spiritual family can you reach out to? How can we together keep this family spiritually alive?

Walk in the Spirit, moment by moment. Listen, I get it. Staying in conversation with Jesus right now is hard. But hear me: how we live in this season is so important, and Jesus is our anchor. Join our prayer calls every afternoon at 5p (see my personal facebook page for current info; I’m trying different platforms to gather the largest prayer army possible, so go there for the latest info). Pray. Confess. Read your Bible. Be in a group. The means of grace matter. They’ve been tested over generations. Trust them and lean in.

Honor spontaneity. Pop-up small groups — even online — during the week will help us stay connected and will build a more organic community. Pick three people and ask them to join you online for an afternoon conversation. If you have an iPhone, this is very easy to do. And right now, it seems plans were made to change, so favor the spontaneous nudge.

Remember that we serve a supernatural God. Let’s believe together that God will do a miraculous work to heal our world. Believe, friends, that God will create a miracle in the midst of this mess!

Pray missionally. Our prayers must be for more than us and ours. Let’s fervently pray that we can become the answer to Jesus’ own prayer: “Your Kingdom come … on earth as in Heaven.”

Participate in the community. Everyone has something to contribute. Call someone. Help with online worship. Participate in prayer calls. Open your computer and set up a small group meeting. Run an errand for someone who isn’t able to get out.

Listen to Jesus. Not the hype, but Jesus. Trust this truth: “We who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.”

Lead by example. Mature leadership in crisis will model wisdom, compassion, and courage. We are all figuring this out as we go, so patience is critical. I’m amazed at how quickly real leadership exposes itself, and am grateful to see such leadership emerging among us. I encourage you to channel that leadership potential in yourself. Your church needs you!

Emphasize the creative. We serve the most creative being in the universe. Let him inspire you to serve, lead and care in new ways.

Friends, let’s step into this crisis with bold and simple confidence, and trust God to see us through. Things may get hard. They may get really hard. But we will survive, and the world will right itself. How we respond now will shape our future.

Anything … anything at all! I’m here, and I’m for you. Better yet, I’m for us. Best of all, God is with us!

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The courage to shift care

I had the pleasure some time back of being with about 1300 college students for two sessions on healing. Their morning chapel service was a requirement so I didn’t expect folks to respond in any great number. I was thinking we’d prime the pump in the morning, but that those who showed up for the evening service would be the ones who really entered into the opportunity for healing.

I was wrong.shifting-care2

Something like a hundred people responded in the morning session. Another fifty or sixty were seen in pairs all around the room, praying for each other. The incredible thing about it for me was that all those college students came forward, fell to their knees and then began ministering to each other.

They weren’t looking for an adult or a professional to do their praying for them. They didn’t ask me, the chaplain or any other adult to do what they could do for themselves. They just needed space and an invitation to care for each other.

It was beautiful. And biblical.

Carey Nieuwhof talks about having courage to shift care. It is the principle of Exodus 18, where Jethro confronts Moses about trying to do everything himself. He says (my loose interpretation), “You’re going to kill yourself by leading this way. You need to appoint others to care for the people, so that your strength is reserved for leadership-level decisions.”

When the church professionalizes spiritual care to the point that we make “regular” people feel powerless to care for one another, we have absolutely failed to be the church. Calling it “pastoral care” reveals the core of the problem. Pastoral care is what pastors do; “people care” is what communities do.

Nieuwhof says, “Even Jesus adopted the model of group care, moving his large group of hundreds of  disciples into groups of seventy, twelve, three, and then one. Group-based care isn’t just practical, it’s biblical.”

And it is most definitely Methodist. This was the foundation of Wesley’s structure. Wesley’s model of discipleship was rooted in a system of groups; in fact he didn’t let you come to worship if you weren’t in a group.*

Groups are what it means to be Methodist because sanctification is what it means to be Methodist.

The gift of it for the faith community is that it spreads out the responsibility of spiritual friendship. This is our vision at Mosaic. It is for relationships to be 360-degree relationships. Not just person to pastor or person to group leader, but person to person to person to person, building a web of friendships that build a strong community.

In our tribe, that’s how it is done. Any other formula only leads to burn-out and a poor imitation of what church is meant to be.

* See this article, especially the quote by Kevin Watson. http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/hows-your-spiritual-life-the-class-meeting-for-today

See also Watson’s exceptional book: The Class Meeting.

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