I left this morning and the thermometer in the car read 20 degrees. My plane landed at John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana in Orange County California. I took off a few days to help a friend with a meeting at Fuller Theological Seminary. One of the most influential evangelical seminaries in the country. I will have some thoughts along the way about the relative nature of winter – relative to where you live in the country. We would not call a low in the 40’s and high in the 60’s winter – but some do.
Rick, a friend of mine, invited me to Texas to a meeting of the Texas Evangelism and Missions Conference. Oklahoma will hold its evangelism conference near the end of January. We shared dinner with a small group on Thursday evening listening to a young church planter from Houston. I have met and been in meetins withe Chris on a number of occasions.
On Friday Chris shared for a couple of hours and in the process used a great illustration to describe our approach to reaching the world with the gospel of Christ. He showed a few slides of bathrooms/restrooms from around the world. Teaching his five year old daughter how to avoid germs in restrooms has been a goal. He shows her how to turn on the water with your elboys and to really just, “not touch anything.”
He drew the parallel. We want to reach the world but not touch anything. Keep it at arms length. Don’t get dirty. This anesthetized approach to mission work does not accomplish the proclamation of the gospel in third world countries and it certainly won’t here in the good old USA.
Arms in or arms out? Using your elbows or your hands?
Kelvin Sampson chose these words to describe his feelings after being thrashed in Stillwater. Let me just say, there are not many who escape Gallagher-Iba unscathed. Away from home, the Cowboys were ambushed by the Red Raiders just a few days ago. This time the Cowboys played the part of the bully and beat up on the Sooners. I did not get to see the game – the score was frightening enough.
The description of the situation by Sampson left me thinking. Teams need to grow up?! Certainly. Anyone who has ever played a team sport understands it takes time to develop “chemistry.” And, it does not come simply by way of intense practices. Chemistry comes with repeated challenges – handling adversity and success in game environs. Still a young team, the Sooners will have time to grow up. I pray the armchair players don’t start talking about inserting recruits or alums after these two losses! Pardon the brief digression.
The illustration is important – those who come to gather as a local church too need time to develop and grow, to become. Often people approach a given congregation feeling it possesses all of the things desirable and has avoided anything undesirable. Illusions are usually exposed quickly. Seeking to fit in, understanding the particular environment and grasping the vision as understood by the church takes time – and patience.
Those words also came from Coach Sampson’s mouth – “I’m going to have to be patient.” Expectations often relegate pateince to some ancient discipline not often practiced. We would do well to develop patience in our excursions into community expressed in the life of the church. Sometimes our expectatoins represent preferential positions rather than healthy communal contributions. We long for a patient friend who takes the time and expends the energy to know “me” but often withhold a simliar expression when others need it.
To say a team needs to grow up is not a bad thing. To say a church needs to grow up is not a bad thing. Both Peter and Paul suggest the value of growing up in Christ!
I receive a “Daily Dig” every morning. Today my inbox held the following quote from my favorite artist.
Change for the Better
Vincent van Gogh
Many people seem to think it foolish, even superstitious, to believe that the world could still change for the better. And it is true that in winter it is sometimes so bitingly cold that one is tempted to say, â??What do I care if there is a summer; its warmth is no help to me now.â? Yes, evil often seems to surpass good by far. But then, in spite of us, and without our permission, there comes at last an end to the bitter frosts. One morning the wind turns, and there is a thaw. And so I still have hope.
We live most often in the winter. I read yesterday (1.13.04) where we might face some additional economic scandals from Wall Street. The news carried a story of a double-homicide-suicide. Another station reported the capture of alleged bank robbers. This doe snot scratch the international scene where there is still a great deal of concern about SARS and continued insurgencies in Iraq.
Some view the end of the world as our only hope. What if we understood our call to action as followers of Christ? What if our actions as followers of Christ brought an end to the world as we know it? What if we represented the hands, feet and compassion of Christ? Could we be the wind that turns and by God’s mercy begins the thaw that exposes his grace. Maybe the world will then have hope.
Nathan and Jason listen to WWLS the Sports Animal. I now listen in a bit every day. I am a glutton to hear the latest illogic by despairing Sooner fans. Last week the cry went out as to why Stoops did not insert Paul Thompson at quarterback to see if his “mobility” would offset the charging LSU defensive linemen. Again, we grasp.
The sports jockeys insisted you don’t put a greenhorn in the fight of your life. You go with the one who brung ya’. Mark and the gang were desperate to bring some sensibility to the conversation by offering some perspectives being grossly overlooked. Perspective will help White overcome two bad games.
Local news stations ran stories on the friendship between Jason and Brian. It is a beautiful thing. I will never forget Brian’s face as he was telling me Jason stopped by with the Heisman in tow, let him touch it and brought gifts from his trip to the Big Apple.
There is another story not often told, and there are likely others. A couple of years ago I lost a little friend. His dad, mom and sister found it meaningful that Jason would come by and visit. He took my friends sister out for some fresh air and a change of scenery. He may never know what that meant and continues to mean to that family. They sit in the stands and cheer him on. They cheer him on because they know him – not because he is a supersart. They cheer him on because he is a real person who has faced adversity himself and been there when others have. I don’t want to make Jason out to be Mother Teresa or something. Just want it recorded somewhere, Jason will live long after the game because he has some perspective on life and adversity. Sure hope others would exercise a little perspective. Maybe they need a little adversity.