I started doing some jogging lately and I really enjoy it. I like the idea of getting healthier and maybe even running a 5k or two, but the other thing I enjoy is getting to listen to some of my favorite music, enjoying the great outdoors and listening to God while I run.
This past week I have experienced several things that led me to this entry in my Blog. I listened to a CD from John C. Maxwell called “Success Classics – Part One”. I went to the Free Methodist annual conference in Dalton Ohio at Living Water Free Methodist church. I did some reading, I met with my men’s group and I bought some music on iTunes.
You might wonder what all those things had to do with each other. Well not much except as I was running today God helped me realize that all these events were speaking to me about being in this world and understanding what that means. Sometimes Christians call it secular or worldly stuff. You know, some things are Christian and some things are secular.
Let me explain. John Maxwell was talking about 9 classic books about success. Most of the books he mentioned were rather old, yet they had many great truths in them. Of the 9 books I have only read 2. None of them were Christian books. The one statement that stuck with me was that John said, he is willing to read anything, if he thinks there might be a nugget or two he can take a way. He mentioned the book “The Secret” which has been very popular in the “secular world”. He said that he read it not because it was a classic, but because so many people were reading it, he wanted to see what the author had to say. He went on to say that there were some good things in the book. He also said there were some things that he didn’t think were true and he clarified that. The point was, he was able to read it and take a away some good stuff and throw out the useless stuff, or at least have the discernment to know what is true and what is not.
At the Free Methodist conference on Friday we heard from our new Bishop. He was interesting and tried to be funny and relaxed. It was a nice change from some of the past conferences, but still pretty boring. However, I was able to take a way some good stuff. I am excited about the vision of reaching out to help the poor in our communities even more over the next several years. They also showed a video about a church that was built in a town about 40 years ago. At the same time a grocery store was built in that same town. About every 8-10 years the grocery store made major changes to reach its customers and get them to come to the store. They would change the type of food they offered and changed the look of the store often. The church did not change over those 40 years and eventually was closed. Evidently the church did not want to reach people and get them to come back or even come at all.
I have been reading a book called “What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There” by Marshall Goldsmith. I don’t think he is a Christian, as a matter of fact he mentions some Buddhist stuff he studied. I am learning some good things that are helping me be more efficient at work. I also am reading “secular” fiction books by John Grisham and David Baldacci, both great story tellers.
I also met with my men’s group this morning. We had breakfast together and had a great time laughing and talking. One of the guys is moving to Florida and we said our goodbyes, but we plan on staying in touch. He is now a friend of mine. Some of the guys in the group have really opened up and are sharing the real stuff going on in their lives. It is messy and dirty and not much fun. We are praying for each other and trying to encourage each other. Those guys all know that we care about each other and will be there for each other no matter what. This is a real group of guys that are building lasting friendships.
Lastly, I love music. I have been building my iPod collection. I listen mostly to “secular” music. Even the radio stations I listen to are mostly “secular” 92.5 WDJQ & 98.1 WKDD if anyone cares. Just today I downloaded “3 Doors Down” newest CD and I also bought a couple of “Cold Plays” new songs. Other groups on my iPod are Plain White T’s, OneRepublic, Nickelback, Matchbox Twenty, Maroon 5, Lifehouse, Linkin Park, Goo Goo Dolls, Evanescence, Daughtry, Justin Timberlake, Usher, The Killers, Augustana and The All-American Rejects. Of course I also have some great Christian groups as well.
My point of all this is that I don’t want to isolate myself from the world. I don’t want to be a typical pastor or typical Christian. I don’t want to miss what is real and relevant in this world. I want to know what people are thinking about and listening to. As Christians it is very easy to get into our own little world and talk our talk and walk our walk. We can put on a smiley face and be content with our safe little world. Most of the time we are only vocal about what we are against.
I don’t think that is how Jesus was. He was in the world. He got his hands dirty and met with and listened to the most undesirable people. He understood what people were struggling with and what they needed. This world can be dirty and ugly sometimes, but that what makes it real. That is why we are here.
It seems to me that most non-Christian people don’t think very highly of church and church people. At our church conference the Bishop shared that non Christians or seekers use words like judgemental, hypocritical, boring, out of touch and irrelevant about church and Christians. Wow, if that is how people are seeing us, I can imagine what they then think about Jesus. Why would they want to know more about Him?
I had to ask myself this question. Do I love this world or do I hate this world? I have decided that I love this world, because Jesus loves this world. God loves every person in this world, even if they have tattoos or piercings. He loves the alcoholics and the house wives. He loves the homeless person and the farmers. He loves the CEO and the factory worker. He loves the poor and the rich.
Because that is how Jesus is, I want to be like that. I want to understand what people are dealing with and connecting with. I want to be able to listen to someone and not judge them or think that I am so much better than that person. I am glad I am in this world, because that is right where God wants me. He wants us to get dirty, to get real and to be with people. He wants to use us to reach a lost, dirty, broken world. To do that we need to understand the culture in which we live. We can’t isolate ourselves and hope the people come to us.
That is how the church should be. It should be irresistible and real, the coolest most happening place in the community. It should be a place where everyone feels welcome and not judged. A safe place, a place to heal, to grow, to ask questions, to have fun and celebrate, a place to make lasting friendships, a place to be inspired and to be equipped for whatever God brings their way. In short the church should be the hope of the world.