Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Hey Man…wanna get high?

I was talking with a friend the other day.  We were catching up about various things God was doing in our lives, places God was sending us, and the really big changes God was putting us through.  I talked about my job and how we’ve made a shift in our church’s youth ministry.  I talked about the mission trips to Costa Rica and Canada with my church in the coming year.  I talked about the birth of Melody and everything that goes along with being a dad and how it’s the best job ever.  He talked about some big Christian event that he’d been to this past year.  He talked about a pilgrimage he’s thinking about doing in the next year.  He talked about possibly moving to another state because of the “Big Things” God was doing in that area.  When our coffee cups were dry, we’d talked for a couple hours and, to be perfectly honest, I was a little jealous of the things he was doing or wanted to do.  Now I know that going to Costa Rica isn’t anything to shake a stick at, but still—it seemed like he was going to do “Big Things” with God, and I felt a little left out.

Well, a couple days passed and our conversation ran through my head over and over and over again.  I finally asked God, “Why can’t you let me do big things like him?  Why am I stuck here in Southwestern Minnesota?  Nothing’s going on here except potlucks and lutefisk.” 

And that’s when God said something to the effect of, “Aren’t I here also?  Isn’t my church here in Minnesota?  Can’t I do big things here?” 

Mark one up for the big guy—he’s right…again. 

So I started thinking more about the big things that my friend was going to do.  Each different thing that he had talked about would cause him to travel.  Each event was in a different state at a different time.  Each different thing promised “Big Things” from God.  And they did sound pretty sweet.  But why did my friend feel the need to do each of these things?  He would need to go to an event that claimed, “God is moving in (insert state here)!” in State A.  Then he’d have to go to State B that was claiming that God was doing the exact same thing there.  And then during the summer go on the pilgrimage in State C that promised that you’d find God over there.  All the while I was thinking, “If God is moving so much, God must be sponsored by U-Haul but doesn’t own a map since he ends up alone in the foothills of Appalachian Mountains.”

So why did my friend decide to try and find God all over the country?  My best guess is because he’s addicted.  That’s right—he’s addicted to the high he receives when he goes to these big events.  Now I’ve been to a few of these big events - they are cool and you do feel a huge emotional connection to God in the sea of Christians all worshipping together - but I believe that it’s this massive rush of emotion, that is largely addictive. 

You may be thinking, “But doesn’t God call us to worship as one?  Weren’t we created to worship?”  Well, yes. But we were also created to love, serve, and disciple.  The issue of going to all of these places to find the next best thing is that while you’re on the road, going from place to place, where’s your ministry?  Sure God might be doing big things with you, but what about the big things God could have been doing through you if you’d stayed home?  They’re not there.  The Big Things never happen.  And because they never happen, something else has been allowed to creep in. 

This “Next Big Thing” trend is really coming down to Christian Consumerism.  Instead of approaching church as a community we can contribute to, church has become a large event that is going to give us something, but eventually, the high will wane.  Due to the Law of Diminishing Returns, eventually you won’t be able to even FEEL like you’re worshipping anymore.  And where does that leave your faith?  Picture yourself at the end of the road called life after spending the entire time growing to BE something, but never DOING anything.  If I remember correctly, Jesus tells us to BE love and also to DO love.

Do I think that things like the “One Thing” or “Dare 2 Share” are wrong?  No, they have great ministries.  But when your faith revolves around these big events, there is no relationship, no intimacy, no charity.  If we truly want to worship freely and see God do Big Things, we should stay put.  Take up residence.  See what you can do for your town.  BECOME part of your community.  If you want to truly see the face of God, you need to invest yourself into your church instead of searching for your next big emotional high.

My 2¢.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Greatest Anti Depressant

The other day I was bummed.  I think it was the combination of a long, busy weekend, short nights and many other life happenings.  Things that, when confronted, are easily dissipated, but emotionally taxing when combined into one weekend.  The weekend was one I'd known would be busy.  I'd know there would be a lot responsibilities, but other things happened that pushed my stress level to the max.  So there I was, lugging myself into work: tired, worn out, and slight depressed.  Since I’d gotten through the long, dreaded weekend, I could finally take a breather.  Well, I looked at my schedule and found it somewhat full of planning, rescheduling, odd jobs, and of course…Meals on Wheels.

It’s not that I didn’t want to do Meals on Wheels.  Rather I wish I hadn’t volunteered for it THAT week with everything that’s on my schedule.  When you sign up, it’s a full week of delivering meals.  I thought to myself, “How am I supposed to drop everything and go do these meals now?”  Well, to get to the point, I will never ever try and get out of Meals on Wheel again.

I’d had a bummer of a week ahead of me, but after the first day of delivering meals had brightened everything up.  You see, delivering meals to the elderly gets you out of your office and with people.  And these people aren’t sluffs that waste your time.  No, these people are the gems of God’s kingdom.  I love delivering meals to the elderly.  It was just the thing to get me out of my beginning-of-the-week funk and refocus my goals for the week.  AND, it only takes roughly a half an hour. 

So I wonder, why did delivering meals turn my week around?  What makes life so much better now as opposed to an hour ago?  The only conclusion I can come to is this: we were meant to be relational beings.  Sitting in my office, getting the “work” done, doesn’t necessarily accomplish anything.  Especially as youth pastors, it’s easy to get lost in the planning of programs or trips or whatever else we fill our schedule with.  Without taking time to get out of your office and meet with people, you’re driving yourself further away from what ministry really is.  No, I’m not the best at this, and yes I spend way too much time in my office.  But I think it’s something that we almost have to plan for…to get out of our offices.  And if you’re going to get out of your office, why not volunteer somewhere?

My advice is this: get out of your office and volunteer.  I know not everybody has the luxury of a Youth Pastor’s flexible schedule, but if you’re in a job where you can take a little longer lunch breaks, maybe Meals on Wheels would be a good addition to your week.  And it will get the grumps out.