I was recently listening to a podcast (EntreLeadership: Simplify Your Life with Digital Minimalism) on which the presenter, Cal Newport, explained how Social Media apps are designed to promote greater and greater user interface. He used an example of a person who may spend up to six hours per day on their mobile device. Of course this six hours is spread out over a day’s time, built up over many check-ins, viewings and scrolling. But six hours, or even three hours, in one day devoted to one’s phone is a lot! To the point where such usage distracts us from other things in life. These distractions may include our work, our family, and even our faith.
There is a name for this kind of distraction: FOMO – fear of missing out. It’s the fear that keeps us checking FaceBook, Twitter, Instagram and SnapChat to see what our “friends” and “followers” may be doing. It’s the fear that they may be living a life that is much more interesting, or exciting than ours; and that they may be doing it without us!
Leading is a challenge in the most tranquil of circumstances within congregations today. When you add the layer of introducing or working toward change on top of the myriad of things already required, “challenging” may feel too soft a word. But there are ways to lead past the common internal and external obstacles to change.
Know that relationships are key.
Being a person of impeccable integrity is without question a
need in any public leadership role, most especially in the church. Taking time
to know and love the people whom you lead, including those who are at times
hard to love is also important. In a word, it comes back to relationships. Good
leaders, leaders who earn the right to lead change, know that relationships are
key — building them and maintaining them. Mobilizing the right people to
support the change initiative is far easier when one already has a solid
relationship with those people.
“Phyllis Tickle, in her book, The Great Emergence, quoting Anglican Bishop Mark Dyer, suggests that about every 500 years the church has undergone a significant change. She refers to these periods of change as “rummage sales” and states that we are in the midst of such a period today. Tickle identifies former 500 year rummage sales as The Great Reformation (Oct. 31, 1517), The Great Schism (1054—Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic), the leadership and influence of Gregory the Great (540–590—following the fall of Rome and start of the Dark Ages), and the Crucifixion of Christ, which led to the birth of the Church at Pentecost.
I, (Dan), despise rummage sales, but it seems to be my fate in ministry to have served congregations that used them for fundraisers. Here’s my view on how they work. People bring their junk, their cast-offs, the stuff they want to get rid of (rummage) to the church and clutter it up. A committee spends an inordinate amount of time sorting through it all and arranging the rummage for others to peruse. Then, on the day of the sale, folks come with an eagerness to riffle through other people’s junk, finding prizes they simply cannot live without and paying pennies on the dollar to haul it away.
A word of introduction: Earlier this year I challenged the congregation that I partner with in ministry, First Baptist – Columbus, IN – in a sermon on the Lord’s prayer to use this prayer as a guide in their own prayer practice from that day until Easter. I know some have taken my challenge as they have reported to me what their experience has been thus far. It is my intent to blog through this familiar prayer of Jesus during the Season of Lent, in hopes my reflections further encourage participation in the challenge. We will further engage as a congregation in the study of Jesus’ prayer through a post-Easter engagement with the book The Revolutionary Power of the Lord’s Prayer by Alice Greene. Now – on to this week’s blog . . . . .
They are among the first words spoken by a child – “da da”, “papa”. Easy perhaps in their short syllable and repetitive sound, but important for the intimacy and relationship they signal. When Jesus responded to his disciple’s request “teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1), this is the first word he gave them. In the common Aramaic language of his day it’s the word “Abba.” Most often it is translated “father” but to our ears this is perhaps a bit too formal. No, this is “da da” or “papa” God. It conveys an approach of complete trust and affection that we too soon grow distant from, embarrassed that others might think we’ve a childish faith or devotion.
When I was a kid, I remember a couple of family reunions we attended. These were usually held on a hot summer day in our local city park. It was one of the few times each year we came into the town park, and it was one of the few times in my (as then) short lifetime that I met most of these “relatives”.
I remember being rather astounded to discover we were related to so many people, of such variety. At least they seemed varied to me – not at all like my family of origin that was rather polite and reserved in demeanor. Not these relatives, at least the ones that left a memory mark. They were different. Bear in mind these memories come many years removed from who I was then – a child of 7 or 8 years. Still, the fact I remember suggests an impression was made.
How could you not remember, though, the man (somehow related) who hovered over the food tables insisting that you try the dish that his wife made? In his mind it was not optional. Everyone was required to eat a bit of the Mrs.’ dessert or salad, and then make a complimentary remark about it!
Or what about all those elderly relatives who insisted on pinching my cheeks, or commenting on my growth spurt, or saying how much I looked like my Grandpa. I’m sure they meant well, but what little boy of 7 wants to be told he looks like his Grandpa? What are you supposed to do with that?
Then there were Grandpa’s brothers and nephew who were as loud and brash as he was quiet and reserved. I could never quite work out in my mind just how they were possibly related. In fact, I would have bet on adoption had it not been for the fact that they looked so much alike.
Family. “You don’t get to choose your family.” Or do you?
The Apostle Paul uses several family references and terms when writing to the churches of the first century. He calls his fellow Christ followers “brothers and sisters”, talks about our “adoption” into the life of the Spirit, and says that we are “heirs” with Christ. Why so much family verbiage?
The family or “household” unit in first century Greco-Roman society was the primary unit of the society. A household, however, was not limited to one’s immediate relatives, but likely included several others: slaves, servants, hired laborers, clients, business associates, and extended family. It was a relationship of dependence, not mere kinship, that constituted the household. All of the individuals were in some way dependent upon one another in sustaining a day to day way of life.
Might Paul have had this reality in mind as his prototype when he writes to house churches about their family units? Society already provided something of a diverse model in terms of socio-economic status within a household; but under the grace of Jesus, Paul extends this diversity to include: Jew and Gentile, slave and free, male and female (see Galatians 3:28). The family of God, or household of faith, was to become a place where divisions were broken down and persons of different backgrounds came together in the common identity and mission of Christ. You choose to become part of this family by virtue of your profession of faith, but you still do not choose who your family members are – you simply grow to understand and celebrate their differences within your common household of faith.
The new tag line we have adopted at First Baptist Columbus, complimenting our new logo is “Come join our family of faith.” During the season of Advent I will be preaching a series under the theme “A First Baptist Family Christmas”. This Sunday’s message is titled: What is (God’s) Family?
I hope you can join us for worship (9:30 a.m.) in person or via live stream.