Friday, September 05, 2003

I'm In The Land of Crazies and I'm The Land Manager

.....and I'm loving it I might add.

In fact, I'm indigenous to the colony.

After four years of being in church planting, I couldn't dream of a wilder ride than this. It has been predictably unpredictable on a quantum scale. I hasten to say that the only thing that has been predictable is the guarantee that church planting thrusts one right into the foray of rather dramatic human brokenness as well as celebrative victories. Okay, perhaps the other predictable tenet is that my old habitual pastoral patterns want to interfere (with greasy, manipulative gloves donned) wherever a raw work of God emerges.

The illusions of ministry past are the old haunts of the spirit of "Me." It's not that I intended it that way. It's not that in spite of myself that God could not and did not accomplish things because I see he did. I now have a greater clarity with which to see how so much of "ministry" was done under the pretenses of my own strength. Believe me, you can get a lot done under your own strength. And I "did" a lot....... and derived not only exhaustion, but great satisfaction. My pervasive busyness of the olden days were, however, a cover for something else.

My "something else" may very well be the same things with which we all struggle, no matter who we are or what we do. Suffice it to say that endeavoring to follow Christ with the singular totality of one's being for the sake of the Kingdom Come/Coming is enough to magnify the struggle on a cosmic scale.

My/our "something else" is our woundedness and we CANNOT minister out of it. Church planting places us right in the midst of a massive human pile up. It's downright messy. If there is a conceptual model for what we are doing, it might be that of the triage. We no longer wonder who's wounded.....who's hurt.......who's got baggage and issues.........we're just learning how to pull them from the wreckage. Some are walking and spout blood all over you, exclaiming, "'re bleeding......what's wrong with YOU?"Some are so dead and gangrenous that, in their rigor mortis,they castigate you for your returning patches of pink, healthy tissue (while forgetting you emerged from the same calamity). Yet we love them all.

We could choose the safe sterility of a nice hospital but most die before they even think about needing to get there. And a lot of hospitals have had their life-giving nutrition and meds closet raided by the healed who refused their discharge orders.

We should, however, choose these bombed-out netherlands where there's a human wasteland because God has given all of us the tools to proclaim life, liberty and release to these captives. Isn't that what church planting should be about? And why were we deifying and lauding church planting models when we should have been talking about: how to prayerfully encourage someone on the phone while they end a homosexual relationship and drug relationship with the person right in front of them? Or about how to befriend the pagan/Wiccan family two houses down? Or about how to disciple a newly baptized, former Wiccan? Or how about the demonized schizophrenic calling at 3 am in the morning and the ensuing months of minstering to someone who appointed themself your church's "new prophet?" Or how to handle investing a year and a half in the lives of people only to have them leave it all and leave it all in a relative state of shamble? Or how about how to handle the knowledge of higher level occultists in your community? Or how to handle two solid weeks of 2-3 hang up calls per day when you launch your church? Or how to minister to your church when, as a whole, at least 75% of them have had some encounter or experiences in the occult? Or even when the very ones who say they are your brothers and sisters in Christ, demean, gossip and speak all kinds of evil against you?

How do you train for what is really needed to intervene supernaturally in lives such as these? You don't. You can't really. For a real move of God to occur requires a real move of our will. Knowledge and skill are necessary accessories, but not if they sub for real Spirit work. And since God wants to do it through you and me, we can't give out pieces of bloody bandage from our gaping cuts and expect much to happen. That's why church planting is NOT primarily about what I/we can DO FOR God. It is first and foremost about Him and what he wants to do IN US to change our hearts all along the way.He wants our hearts as they are but dares not leave them that way. If he doesn't have the church planter's heart and soul in total, then he'll have nothing at all and we'll have all of nothing. He can use a BROKEN man or woman, but he can't a wounded person unwilling to acquiesce to the Gentle Healer.

For me, that has been the challenge, the joy and the incomprehensible mystery of church planting- that I am neither the same person I was starting out in this four years ago nor am I the perfected saint I once and for all will be. Bondages, strongholds, lies and the demonics that perpetuate them have been revealed for what they are and are being replaced with the One Who speaks Truth into those places. I am believing that God places us around messed up people to not only show us how messed up we are, but to lovingly and gracefully offer us the chance to see the possibility that, if we let Him, He can and will heal us from our brokenheartedness and our historical hurts.

When it boils down to it (and it will), this is really- and quite simply- all about people and what God's doing with them. The gift of God is that he grants us the choice of being Church rather than DOING it. So what if it's a freak show? Let's step right up.