Sunday, July 31, 2005

Inadequate Agents of Change

"I'll keep the mohawk until we stop killing people abroad." (musician Eddie Vedder, quoted about his hair in the April 11, 2002 issue of Rolling Stone)

I'll wait while you read that first line again. I have time. Now get a picture in your head: a woman, graying, tired, standing with a sign on the Washington Monument Mall. Her sign declares "Protesting for Nuclear Disarmament since 1981." And she has been. Every day.

I'm tempted to ask her how it is going... but that would be cruel. While I often think cruel thoughts my inbuilt braking system (tuned regularly by Bible study and accountability groups) usually traps them before them become actions or words. I have learned that when I am faced with something that makes me want to leap into spasms of ridicule I should wait a moment and then ask "What can I learn from this?"

I know that wearing a mohawk will not stop killing abroad, or even locally. It might increase giggling, but it won't stop violent men from exercising their violent thoughts. Holding up a sign, even for twenty four years, will not cause nations to disarm. So far, so good, but now we need to go to Louisiana.

I just spent three days in southwest Louisiana with a tiny church in a small town. The nearest (tiny) mall is 55 miles away. Each of the members has a story and you wouldn't trade your life with a single one of them. Most came from a far right church across town: one that reveled in disfellowship and refused to take back those who repented. The refugees do not hate the church of Christ; they still feel a part of it. They weren't disfellowshipped but their friends or people they had studied with were. Others weren't welcome at that other church because of the color of their skin or their marital or pharmacological history. Now they gather, twenty or thirty at a time, including kids, and want to worship the Lord. They have the building -- rented, but nice enough -- a selection of praise CD's (acapella!) to serve as song starters, and some of the most sincere hearts and true spirits I have run across in some time. The good news: they know that having a building, worshipping right, and owning a communion set is not enough to take their town and a nearby Army base for Christ. They want to break into the hearts of the poor and downcast, the white and black, the locals and transient military types -- everybody. After some time doing church in their building they know they need to do something else.

Great! Way too many of us think that if we do what we do and the world doesn't come, the world must not be ready to hear the truth. Rubbish. The world is craving the truth like never before. People are so very hungry for Christ but they do not expect to find Him in the buildings they pass on their way to work. I told the little group that if they wanted to be the church in their community they were going to have to escape their building. Paths were worn in the grass to the side of their hall, worn by the comings and goings of people from the poorer, government housing units to the Family Dollar store or maybe to waitress at Ryan's. I told them to get out by that path and talk to those who walk by. Sing and pray by the path. Offer anyone who comes by not only your hand by also your heart and your time. Take them to work, give them something to drink, offer to babysit their children, open up your wallets and share what is inside so that they can buy some food or clothes, bring them into your home and make sure they know they can drop by anytime. Release your hold on the things of this world, beginning with the building, and live and give as if Jesus were coming back tomorrow.

When tracts or filmstrips don't work, it isn't because people don't like truth. It is because tracts and filmstrips aren't the best way to communicate the gospel anymore (and I will not disparage the great good they have done in many communities over the years). It used to be that we could argue someone into the baptistry and have a good chance of keeping them, but not anymore. Now you have to show them Jesus, in their homes, in their neighborhoods, before they are interested in visiting our buildings and seeing us worship Him. Today, more people are won by our characters than by our arguments, or our programs, or our worship styles. Emphasizing the things that aren't working is like.... well... wearing a mohawk until the killing stops.

15 Comments:

At 7/31/2005 04:31:00 PM , Blogger Stephen said...

Thank you for the inspiration Patrick! I was fumbling for an idea for my devotional tonight with high school kids here at camp. You gave me a great starting point thought I can build off of.

 
At 7/31/2005 06:35:00 PM , Blogger Billy D said...

As usual, your previous post set the bar higher, and you meet and excede with this one, setting the bar higher still. I'd like more organized churches to preach this more once in a while. It's not enough to show up, and just expect everyone else in town to too. The world doesn't work that way anymore. My daughter does a great job of asking her friends to go to church with her. A lot of the kids, when asked, will say, yeah, I guess I believe in G-d. Shame on their parents, but shame on us all too for not at least inviting them in. Inspirational as always sir.

 
At 7/31/2005 11:33:00 PM , Blogger Morris said...

Good slap up the side of head - again!
You're so right, only Christ living through us in deeds of compassion and kindness will attract people - to HIM. It keeps coming back to me time and time again that it's NOT about us but about our Lord and whatever brings glory to Him.

 
At 8/01/2005 08:15:00 AM , Blogger DJG said...

Wow! Amen! I wish I had said that...all of that!

 
At 8/01/2005 09:07:00 AM , Blogger TCS said...

Thanks Patrick, I think a good friend was the defacto youth minister at that church for a few years. I know you encouraged them greatly.

 
At 8/01/2005 10:00:00 AM , Blogger Dee O'Neil Andrews said...

I live a little farther to the east, but "escaped" such a fellowship not too far from there - or here - (in south Mississippi) back in the mid-80's and it was a horrible experience.

How did you happen to come to their little town here in this part of the country? I assume they somehow knew of you and invited you to come be with them. I don't know where exactly you are talking about and am a little too far away to be of day to day encouragement to them (I'm a member of Tammany Oaks congregation in Mandeville, on the north shore of Lake Ponchartrain across from New Orleans), but would love to be of encouragement (along with my fellow Christians over here) in any way we can. Is there any way we can encourage and help them, do you know?

Would like to know . . .

Thanks for telling us about them and your visit and all you experienced while there. I'll be praying that they, with God's help, can make some really good positive changes there where they are.

 
At 8/01/2005 01:08:00 PM , Anonymous Lee Hodges said...

Teaching Christ without "being" Christ to others may create members but seldom disciples. Thanks brother, powerful words of truth.

 
At 8/01/2005 01:11:00 PM , Blogger Cheetah, the cheetah said...

Excellent post. I'm tellin' ya, Patrick, you ought to write a book! What would you tell a person that has a loving giving heart but doesn't know where to start being Jesus in a big, busy city that is full of need?

 
At 8/01/2005 01:51:00 PM , Blogger Josh.Graves said...

Patrick,

www.lipscomb.edu has the full scope on Lipscomb's new President.

Great post...hurry back from Ohio and the ghosts that often VBS programs.

 
At 8/01/2005 02:06:00 PM , Blogger David U said...

PM, super duper post.......as always. I love the verse in I John that says: "This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did." When we hear people proof texting about who is "IN" Christ, I don't usually hear this one being brought up. You were just encouraging these brothers and sisters to "walk as Jesus did".

I like Lee's comments about discipleship. AMEN to that!

Thanks again, Patrick!

DU

 
At 8/01/2005 02:08:00 PM , Blogger thecoolestblog said...

Cool blog and cool message

 
At 8/01/2005 04:12:00 PM , Blogger Keith said...

This sunday is my last week teaching Colosians in our Sunday bible class. I am tempted, after reading your blog today, to forgo Paul's closing greeting to the brethren at Colossee and build off of the powerful thoughts you gave us today. How is our leadership so blind to practical outreach. I would guess that over 90% of our pulpit announcements over the last 3 months have focused on the "new building program" that we all need to get behind. I think we need to get "off our behinds" and get into the neighborhoods surrounding us. I don't forsee the downtrodden, oppressed, depressed, divorced, struggling souls who share a fence with our property beating our door down when a bright, shiny, new 2million dollar building comes out of the ground. Never do I see and example in the NT of money or buildings being necessary for the gospel to be spread. Monuments to Man. Granted, I don't need to wait for shephards to develop a program for inter-city ministry before I take a step that direction. Shame on me for not taking the initiative. You've reminded me of what is most important in our corporate setting and individual walk. Sorry for the rant. You got me stirred up Mr. Tentpeg. Preach on.
Keith

 
At 8/01/2005 09:06:00 PM , Blogger PatrickMead said...

Keith, let me brag on our elders. After we had to go to 3 morning services to get the people in many suggested that we sell our building and build somewhere else. The elders said no. They told us that enough money had been put into the ground and that it wouldn't be right to put more there. The money was to go to missions, evangelism, outreach, benevolence. We were going to escape our building and be the church! Thank God for these eleven men.

 
At 8/02/2005 07:54:00 AM , Blogger KentF said...

Wow - what a great message. Phenomenal follow-up to reading Colossians 1:15-23 just moments earlier this morning -

...He is the head of the church....and through him to reconcile himself to all things...by making peace through his blood shed on the cross....but now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and FREE FROM ACCUSATION...

The world needs Jesus and his grace, but I guess the world hasn't figured that out yet, and maybe we've hidden from the world behind our stained glass, assigned pews and manicured lawns.

 
At 8/03/2005 12:42:00 PM , Blogger JD said...

Awesome...I'm going to share that with our church this week. Bless you.

 

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