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Seeing visions, and dreaming dreams

November 28, 2009 Leave a comment

At first glance, Friday night was just a Church youth event. But actually it was a particularly significant evening.

One of the reasons is that it is the first year we have a youth ministry. When our Church began in 1995, there practically wasn’t a teen in sight. It wasn’t because our fellowship consisted of well-established older believers with grown children. It was the opposite! West End Christian Community just happened to be almost entirely composed of new believers in their twenties. As time passed, people grew up, Cupid drew back his bow, weddings abounded, children superabounded, and now here we are, with a gaggle of ‘tweens and teens. But now that you have them, what do you do with them?

One option is to hide them. Stick them all in the front pew at Church, so we can watch their backs. Or stick them in the back pew, so we don’t have to see them at all. Or stick them in a “youth room” somewhere in the building, and make sure there’s as little contact as possible between them and the adults. Or stick them in a “youth service”, so there will be no contact at all.

While these options may seem to have at least short term benefits, and would probably get uncharacteristic agreement from all sides in a room full of both generations, we feel we just can’t go there, because if we separated the generations due to our differences, we would be the poorer for it as the Church. At Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came on the Church in power, the prophecy of Joel was fulfilled:

“And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.” – Joel 2:28.

If the young and the old lived separate Church lives, who would our sons and daughters prophesy to? Just other kids? Who would our old men share their dreams with? Just other old men? And who would our young men share their visions with? Just other young men? I don’t think so.

It seems that as far as the Holy Spirit is concerned, the generations have something to offer each other. The younger generation needs the older generation’s wisdom and counsel, and the older generation needs the younger generation’s vision and passion. And we all need the Holy Spirit, who distributes His gifts to the Church for the common good regardless of how we prefer to divide ourselves. So the Generation Gap, which for so long has been constructed and nurtured by the world, needs to be torn down by the Church. We need to cooperate with the Lord’s integration of the generations, not the world’s segregation.

So how are we supposed to build a youth ministry that isn’t all about segregation? That’s why Friday night was significant.

It was a “progressive meal.” That doesn’t mean they ate modern food. It means that our young people, accompanied by a number of parents and other adults, visited the elders’ houses, eating part of a meal at each stop. At George and Sherry’s house, they had hors d’oeuvres (that’s French for “Just one. They’re expensive”), at Brian and Tene’s house they had something munchy, at our house they had lasagne, and at Brad & Michelle’s house they had dessert. The cool part was that at each house, the young people prayed for the elders and their families, and then at the dessert house, all the elders prayed for the young people. This mingling of the generations in prayer had a tangible significance to it. I felt that the Lord was saying, “Now that’s what I’m talking about!”

Of course, pursuing integration of the generations doesn’t mean that there should be no Chubby Bunny (if you don’t know what that is, you might not believe me if I explained it). If the older generation was forced alongside the younger in such exploits, it might end in tragedy. But it does mean that separate youth – and otherwise – events would take place in a Church culture of consistently worshiping together, praying together, studying the Word of God together, prophesying together, seeing visions together, and dreaming dreams together. When, as much as possible, we pursue generational integration in the Church, I believe we are near the heart of God.

Which is why I really liked Friday night.

May the Lord bless you,

Rob (www.weccwinnipeg.ca)

What did you get?

November 13, 2009 Leave a comment

I have to admit that when I was in school, I was a mark-comparer. I generally got good marks, but that wasn’t enough. No sir. No matter how good my marks were, they were only actually good if they were better than the marks that my chief rivals (read: friends) got. Of course, they were as much into this as I was, so after we would get a test back, we would have the “what did you get?” conversation.

“What did you get?”

“Well, what did you get?”

“I asked you first”

“I got an A”

“Oh (smiling), I got an A+”

“Did you study?”

“Naw” (not true)

“Me neither” (also not true)

 In the book of Revelation, chapters two and three, Jesus has John send a letter to each of seven Churches in Asia. Each letter was basically the Lord’s evaluation of how each Church was doing, and some did well while others didn’t do so hot. These seven letters circulated together to all the Churches along with the rest of the book of Revelation, placing each fellowship in the unique position of being able to look at the test scores of the other Churches, and compare marks.

As a long time mark-comparer, I can sympathize with the leaders of the Church at Laodicea. As far as they were concerned, they had done really well for themselves. Their fellowship was rich and popular – a really “happening” Church, as we would call it today – and as they received the book of Revelation and began to read it, they must have been looking forward to getting their A+ from the Lord. I can imagine their sympathy for that little Church at Smyrna, whose test scores were posted second after Ephesus. Ephesus got a real dressing down and a stern warning to repent. But poor Smyrna! It didn’t seem like the Lord had the heart to criticize them for the weakness they probably brought on themselves. Jesus even condescended to say, “I know your afflictions and your poverty – yet you are rich.” Rich. That was nice of the Lord to give them pity marks, even if the word “rich” did seem a little too much, even for Jesus. And I can almost feel the pride swell in the leaders of the Church at Laodicea as they read through the report cards of the other Churches, just knowing that they were the last ones on the list because they would get the highest marks from the Lord.

All of which made the blow, when it came, feel all the more devastating.

“I know your deeds (Nice! He must have seen our website!), that you are neither cold nor hot. (Is He talking about the air conditioning in the sanctuary?) I wish you were either one or the other! (What’s He talking about? Do we need a new thermostat?) So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth. (I’m not sure that’s positive…)  You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ (Ah, back on track. Self sufficiency. That’s a good thing. Here comes our A+) But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.”(Did we get the wrong letter?)

The Lord continues to humble them by stating, in effect, that the Laodicean Church had locked Him out of their building, and that it would be a good idea for them to let Him in, so that they could begin to recover from their desperate state of poverty and affliction.

Poverty and affliction? Wasn’t that Smyrna? Actually, that was the rich Church. Laodicea – the ones who were rich and needed nothing – that was the poor Church. From this apparent paradox, it seems clear that Jesus uses a different set of tools than we do to measure our success as the Church. Our measure looks at the outward appearance. His involves the heart. Our measure records the height of fame. His plumbs the depths of character. Our measure gauges ease. His notes perseverance. Our measure is short-sighted. His is far-reaching. In other words, Jesus tends to look at the important things, and we don’t. And it’s not like the Lord has hidden from us what He values. The Bible is an illuminating resource in that regard. I think the problem isn’t that we don’t know what’s truly important or what’s best for us, but that we don’t like it. It’s kind of like carrots versus candy.

One of the most frightening things about that poor Church – Laodicea – is that they sincerely thought they were doing great. By the world’s standards, they were extremely successful and popular – a credit to their religion. And yet, the opposite was true. They were failing. It took the Lord’s stern, yet loving, rebuke to wake them up and prevent them from building a Church that, although it looked really good, really amounted to nothing. And all this was because they simply mistook what they thought was important for what Jesus thought was important.

As the Church, and as individual followers of Jesus, it is crucial that we don’t make that mistake. It’s the difference between a rich Church and a poor Church, a rich life and a poor life. And since we only have the one life, I’ll take the carrots.

May the Lord bless you,

Rob (www.weccwinnipeg.ca)

See you later, alligator!

July 7, 2009 Leave a comment

JM_M_A.jpg 

 So we had a party at Marjorie Park. In true West End Christian Community fashion, it was going to be a unique event. Somewhere along the way, we got it into our heads that it would be a great idea to barbeque a shark. For most Churches, this would be a jolly joke that would quickly be forgotten. But not for us. As soon as he heard the idea, Guy got on his magic phone and ended up finding a way to have shark steaks from out west donated to the Church. They wondered if we wanted some alligator too. Of course we did.

 Now it was Shark in the Park. We arranged to have a pirate (Brad) entertain the kids, George was committed to finding a way to cook these sea creatures, and Ginny was willing and able to allow the Church to use her giant inflatable dragon kids’ play structure (it could pass nicely for a ‘gator!)Kids.jpg

 We should have taken the hint when the shark was stopped at the border. Sensitivities in Canada regarding sharks as a species made it impossible to get the thing across the lines, so we just settled for more alligator to be sent.

 Then we found out we couldn’t get any electricity at the park. We could if the party ended at 5:00 pm, but it started at 5:30. So no inflatable dragon.

 Then the pirate got sick. And the alligator almost made it, but the Manitoba officials wondered what we wanted to do with 40 pounds of alligator. It seems we ran afoul of some imported food technicalities.

 So we had the Park Party anyway. Burgers and hot dogs hit the grill, and chicken fingers hit the big deep fryer. WeGeorge_mime_1.jpg thought of telling people that the alligator just tasted a lot like chicken, but … no. George and his crew cooked away and served the people, John, Allyson and I beat the tribal drums, Ginny, Kim and Carolyn brought all the stuff they could for the kids’ games, and lo and behold! Over 100 people came out – many from the neighbourhood – and we ate, talked, got our faces painted, and had a good time in each others’ company. George’s face looked particularly scary. For me, he inspired an idea for another Batman villain – The Mime! (“Why so talkative?”)

 There’s a lesson in here somewhere. It seems that the essential ingredient in an “event” isn’t a shark, an alligator, or a pirate. It’s the PEOPLE. If you’ve got them, you can go a long way. For me, the people made the Park Party a huge success – the Church and the community gathering andWater_table.jpg spending time with one another. The other stuff would have been cool, but we actually had everything we needed – each other!

May the Lord bless you,

Rob (www.weccwinnipeg.ca)

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