The Tension Regarding Intention

The idea of cooperating with God, of being an ambassador of the kingdom, is often scary or negative. Some fear it will lead to works righteousness or legalism. Others fear that people will become self-appointed, power-abusing religious leaders. I understand the fear. Terrible harm has been done in the name of God. When we try to bring about the kingdom of God by our own force, all manner of evil can be released. Thus, just about everywhere I go these days I sense tension regarding the intention to be the cooperative friends of God. There’s uneasiness about intentional evangelism and leadership. In most of the emerging, alternative church scene, it is not cool to enter a relationship with evangelism in mind or to lead a group toward a preferable future. But there is nowhere else to go. There is no legitimate place to run from our responsibilities as ambassadors of God. The answer to former evangelistic or leadership abuses is not to stay home or clam up. The answer is to go correctly – with a humble and serving attitude. (Christianity Beyond Belief, p. 86-87, Todd Hunter)

What Is Church?

A couple of kindergarten-level drawings may help us finally get an unforgettable image of the church in your minds. Take a moment to imagine yourself sketching a picture of the church on a restaurant napkin. What did you picture? I’ll be it was a square or rectangle with a pointed roof line, topped by a cross. Right? It would be so much better to draw a bunch of stick-figure people doing life and mission together. I’m not down on buildings; I’m up on the people of God. I want to make them the center of our image of the church.

Working against the image of the church as a sent people are three common misconceptions. The vast majority of Americans would define the church in one of three ways: church as a place, an event or a famous pastor. Hope to change these wrong ideas without casting local churches aside as irrelevant relics, I offer a definition of church that puts it in its proper, penultimate place: The church is created and governed by the calling and sending activity of God. The church is secondary to the kingdom of God in that it is the instrument or means through which God regularly expresses himself.

As long as local churches see themselves in this light and conduct their activities for the purpose of equipping and releasing God’s people to follow Jesus and serve others during the 167 hours of a week they are not in church, they are doing fine and need not be criticized. They have a legitimate, God-given role to play. These “team meetings” can be design to help people perform better as followers and servants in the real game being played outside of the church building.

Any church can do this. It is not necessary to have a big building, a big budget or a well-known pastor. All it takes is hearing the new story and deciding to organize around it. That decision is, of course, an act of leadership. In my many years in church work, I’ve never known someone so incompetent that they couldn’t make a decision like that. They may not have the gifts of persuasion to win the argument, but that’s okay. Even biblical leaders – including Jesus –heard the people say, “No way. We’re not following you into that story!” (Christianity Beyond Belief, p. 67-68 – Todd Hunter)

Do This In Remembrance Of Me

Jesus knew that the Father had put him in complete charge of everything that he came from God and was on his way back to God. So he got up from the supper table, set aside his robe, and put on an apron. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the feet of the disciples, drying them with his apron….

After he had finished washing their feet, he took his robe, put it back on, and went back to his place at the table.

Then he said, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You address me as ‘Teacher’ and ‘Master,’ and rightly so. That is what I am. So if I, the Master and Teacher, washed your feet, you must now wash each other’s feet. I’ve laid down a pattern for you. What I’ve done, you do.

… If you understand what I’m telling you, act like it—and live a blessed life. (John 13:3-5, 12-15, 17)

While the Eucharist rightly stands out in brilliant light, there was more going on in the Upper Room than just the special meal. If we are going to engage the spiritual practice of the Eucharist for the sake of others, we need to include the whole scene. For worship that leads to service, we need the chalice and broken bread and the towel of Jesus. The body and the blood of Jesus represent more than his death on the cross. They signify everything that made his death effectual and worthy as a sacrifice: his matchless life of love, service and obedience to his father.

Together the towel and meal show us how to participate in the spiritual practice of Eucharist so that we take on the desire, power and means to live a Christlike life. (Giving Church Another Chance, p. 142-143 – Todd Hunter)


Mere Information Is Not Sufficient

Most of us overestimate the power of information. Telling others what to do, or pleading with them to do something, does not compel deep or lasting change. For instance, at five feet, eleven inches tall I used to weight about 330 pounds. I was seriously round. I shopped in the big section of the Big and Tall shop. Friends said things like, “Is that your belt or the equator?” They addressed me playfully as “Your Circumference!”

Telling others what to do, or pleading with them to do something, does not compel deep or lasting change.

But calling attention to my girth or describing potential health problems didn’t change my eating habits. I was medicating pain with food. I was using food to entertain myself. I was using food to distract myself from anxiety. Those rewards were much more powerful than the information coming from weighing myself on a scale or from the remarks of people who loved me and wanted the best for me.

What finally broke through to me was answering some thoughtful questions put to me by a competent counselor. This gently led me to insights about my relationship to food, and about the inner realities that drove my addiction to it. Mere information usually is not sufficient to produce deep change. Neither is its cousin: pleading for change.

As a young baseball player I had lots of experience with family and friends sitting in the stands behind home plate and loudly encouraging me with comments like, “Come on Todd, watch the ball!” I had heard this so much by the time I was in high school, I wanted to yell back, “What do you think I am doing here? Watching the birds in the sky? Checking out the pitcher’s socks?”

I was trying to watch the ball! I needed an insightful coach to train me to actually watch the ball. This happened while playing for a great coach in college. He said, “Todd, next time you are up to bat, try to observe which way the red stitches on the ball are spinning.” It changed the way I hit the ball.

Mere information usually is not sufficient to produce deep change. Neither is its cousin: pleading for change.

For facilitating human change, yelling commands like “Watch the ball!” to a baseball player or “Quit being a jerk!” to a boss are seriously ineffective. But coaching questions, such as, “What did you notice about your heart or state of mind when Mr. Rude spoke up at the meeting?” accelerate human transformation.

Our Character At Work, pp. 112-113 – Todd Hunter

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