A Prayer For The Church – Control Alt Demerge

Courage comes from You. May we continue to cherish the precious truth that You reign so all may have the opportunity to know You. Provide the courage for us to reflect to others that You God, are closer than we think. “God doesn’t reveal himself to us just to make us happy or deliver us from loneliness. He also comes to us so that we may be conduits of his presence to other people. He invites us to join him in making things down here the way they are up there.” (1)

Teach us to live in accordance with the truth that Yours in unfinished business and requires us to unlearn as much as we claim to know. Help us to appreciate the fact that “the major challenge for leaders is not only the acquisition of new insights and skills but also unlearning what they already know. Today’s leaders need the courage and ability to risk their false sense of confidence and to surrender their predetermined, “wired” responses, and outdated and inaccurate mental maps.” (2) Help us to embrace the counterintuitive nature of Your gospel, that “To be great is to make children, the weak, the powerless, and the needy, the honored guests in our lives. (3)  May we continue to cherish the precious reality that greatness is not our aspiration. It is to be, to live and love those you place in our paths. We are Your children. “Only as we know who we are as children of the King can we be secure enough to lead from our knees. People will then recognize an authority that comes from above and will call us “blessed.” (4)

Remind us that each of us is a part of your Body. This privilege provides each with an opportunity to function in concert with other parts, in community. Remind us that “There are no spectators in God’s kingdom. God has given all members a task, a talent, a voice to share.” (5)  Empower us to relentlessly break down barriers to provide the essential entry points for all to participate in fulfilling Your tasks, contributing their talents and lifting their voices.

Lead us along pathways we have never tread upon.  Help us to live out the fact     that to be led requires us to follow. Give us the strength to do whatever is required to learn to truly follow you. “Those of us who follow Christ in this culture will never achieve all that He desires for us until we are willing to open every nook and cranny of our own behavioral house for remodeling and cleaning.  Only then will we begin to live the kind of lives that others will find intriguing and distinctive.” (6)

Answers seem to bombard our existence. Help us to become comfortable with the uncertainties, questions and doubts our journey is beset with. Help us confront the reality that “For many Christians, merely having doubts of any kind can be scary. They wonder whether their questions disqualify them from being a follower of Christ. They feel insecure because they’re not sure whether it’s permissible to express uncertainty about God, Jesus, or the Bible. So they keep their questions to themselves—and inside, unanswered, they grow and fester and loom until they eventually succeed in choking out their faith. The shame is not that people have doubts but that they are ashamed of them.” (7)
Leap hand-in-hand with us as we jump the curve when “”Jumping the Curve” means leaving one stage of development for another….it involves leaving the comfort and familiarity of the old world of conventional wisdom, processes, traditions, leadership styles and products…..If that were not intimidating enough, those who do jump will find that the next curve does not even exist yet. In fact, it is being created by the leaders who are in the very process of guiding their organizations through “midair” the gap between today’s fading epoch and the demands of the new era that is still unsettled and in evolution” (8)

Temper our enthusiasm as we come to places where we think we know something that others must simply understand. Help us walk with humility, guided by the truth that, “Christianity is a mystery religion.  When you’ve wrung the mystery out of Christianity, you’ve wrung its neck.” (9)

Deliver Your dream to us for how we must engage this world, its’ people and Your kingdom. Help us to realize the depth of Your desire in the phrase: “We need to dream again, and to do this we must cultivate a love for the imagination.” (10)  May our imaginations be inspired and directed by You. May we avoid the mistake of intentionally or otherwise, separating ourselves from this world, as portrayed in the following: “First, I am not an apologete if that means building a safe house to live in, so that we Christians can sit inside with safety and quiescence. Christians should be out in the midst of the world as both witnesses and salt, not sitting in a fortress surrounded by a moat.” (11)

Empower us  to embrace those the world rejects, demeans and belittles. Help us to move and live outside the camp: “If our theology is to be an authentic reflection and witness to God who is revealed in Jesus Christ as the God of the excluded, then we need to embark on the often painful journey to meet with  Jesus the Christ outside the camp, among the excluded. Such a journey will leave us uncomfortable and displaced in the “carnivalesque” postmodem world.” (12)

Miracles come from You. Perhaps the most magnificent miracle would be that during this upcoming year we could begin to impact this world in such a way that people would once again be attracted to You, for Your glory. Help us become your healing hands and feet: “It is time that we demand more of ourselves as Christians.  We are the hands and feet of Jesus Christ, and if the world is going to see, feel, and touch him, it will have to be through us.” (13)

Exceed our expectations. We have the faith that You can and You will. Help us to be those who release You from the box that man has attempted to confine you to. Help us become those whose lives shout hope to the hopeless, faith to those who have abandoned it, and healing to the wounded and suffering. “Hope is not a feeling; it is a decision.  And the decision for hope is based on what you believe at the deepest levels – what your most basic convictions are about the world and what the future holds-all based on your faith.  You choose hope, not as a naïve wish, but as a choice, with your eyes wide open to the reality of the world – just like the cynics who have not made the decision for hope.” (14)

Restore a way of life in us that says, “When we talk about Jesus, we must make it clear that he is not just interested in our well-being in the afterlife. He is a Savior who is at work in the world today trying to save the world from what it is, and make it into a place where people can live together with dignity.” (15)  Help us live Your Gospel in a way that says very clearly, “What I believe is not what I say I believe; what I believe is what I do.” (16)

Grow us God. “If our destiny is to grow on and on and on, into some far more beautiful creatures than we are now, that means that we need to have the shells broken quite frequently so that we can grow.” (17) Help sustain us during periods of growth. We are weak creatures when it comes to discomfort and pain.

Encourage us when we encounter resistance, discouragement, the unexpected, and failure. May we honor this movement of your Spirit by valuing the contributions of those who, since the Reformation, have remained sidelined as spectators in your Church. Help us to live out the wisdom in the following: “Ultimately, the moral and spiritual revolution that will produce the new Church will emerge from within the laity. The impetus to change and the creative focus and force reside within the frustrated masses, not among the distracted professionals. Marrying the resources of both the laity and the clergy could introduce an exciting era of Christian renewal. But the catalyst for this new reformation will be the people, not the professionals.” (18)

Summary

It is my prayer that the emerging church movement does not succumb to resting upon our laurels this year. There is an insidious form of paralysis that can occur when people become complacent and/or comfortable sitting on their butts: “But, what if…But that might cause…But I just don’t have time…But I can’t do it…But that’s not my responsibility… But, I’ve never done that before,” etc.

One dimension of my life in Christ is very different than the process of rebooting my pc. When I reboot the pc, all the same software, the functionality if you will, is the same after rebooting. When my spiritual life is rebooted, I am somehow able to see things that I was previously blind to, and navigate certain seas in life I had failed to explore and/or intentionally avoided. I pray for the same for the emerging church movement this year.

In Reflecting upon this past year, the emerging church movement has distinctly evolved. There have been tremendous contributions to the conversation. Yet, moving forward into the furure, I hope we avoid moving forward with one eye in the rear view mirror, engaged in some sort of self-righteous basking in the achievements of the past. This is a movement of God’s Spirit, never to be confused with credit afforded humans who participate in His process. The Glory is God’s.

My prayer is that the emerging church movement will be challenged by a Spirit inspired case of uneasiness so we remain reluctant to sit on our buts. Perhaps we are being led to a new posture; a posture that requires the ongoing conversation to become embodied in behavior. As George Barna has recently written: “He made it very clear that the proof of people’s faith is not in the information they know or the religious gatherings they attend, but in the way they integrate what they know and believe into their everyday practices.” (19)

Oh, about those year-end-update-letters that everybody now routinely crams in their Christmas cards that have become so widely accepted and universally adopted. It all started with just one person. So, for this next year, I am going to continue a new tradition I started in last year. I’m going to send everybody my personal, written, spiritual challenge for the New Year that emanates from the process I just completed, as described herein.

My spiritual journey in this past year is summarized by the challenge contained within the following:  “The Question “who do you say that I am?” demands not a theoretical answer but a practical answer, a lived answer.” (20)

Will you join me? Will you join Him? Will you join us? It’s all about us…God, you and me.

NOTES:

1 Rieger, Joerg Opting For The Margins – Postmodernity and Liberation in Christian Theology, Oxford University Press, NY, NY © 2003 by The American Academy of Religion, p. 154.

2 Gibbs, Eddie. LeadershipNext – Changing Leaders in a Changing Culture, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL © Copyright 2005 by Eddie Gibbs pp. 9-10
3 Ogden, Greg Unfinished Business – Returning The Ministry To The People of God,Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI Copyright (c) 1990 & 2003 by Greg Ogden  p. 224-225.
4 Ogden, Greg Unfinished Business – Returning The Ministry To The People of God,Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI Copyright (c) 1990 & 2003 by Greg Ogden  p. 225.
5 Gibbs, Eddie and Bolger, Ryan K. Emerging Churches – Creating Christian Community in Postmodern Cultures, Baker Academic, Grand Rapids, Michigan © Copyright 2005 by Eddie Gibbs and Ryan K. Bolger p. 96
6 Burchett, Dave.  When Bad Christians Happen to Good People, WaterBooks Press Colorado Springs, CO © Copyright 2002 by Dave Burchett p. 5.
7 Strobel, Lee The Case For Faith, Copyright © 2000 by Lee Strobel, Published by Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan p. 227
8 Imparato, Nicholas and Harari, Oren Jumping The Curve: Innovation and Stratgic Choice in an Age of Transition. Jossey-Bass Publishers, Copyright (c) 1996 by Nicholas Imparato and Oren Harari. P. 74.
9 Sweet, Leonard.  Out of the Question… into the Mystery – Getting Lost in the Godlife Relationship, WaterBrook Press Colorado Springs, CO © Copyright 2004 by Leonard I. Sweet p. 197.
10 Frost, Michael and Hirsch Alan The Shape of Things to Come – Innovation and Mission for the 21st Century Church, Hendrickson Publishers Peabody, MA . Copyright (c) 2003 by Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch, p. 188.
11 Schaeffer, Francis The God Who Is There, Francis Schaeffer. InterVarsity Press Downers Grove, IL. Copyright (c) 1968 by Francis Schaeffer. P. 196.
12 Rieger, Joerg Opting For The Margins – Postmodernity and Liberation in Christian Theology, Oxford University Press, NY, NY © 2003 by The American Academy of Religion, p. 59.
13 Perkins, John M.  Restoring At-Risk Communities – Doing It Together & Doing It Right, Baker Books Grand Rapids, Michigan © Copyright 1995 by John M. Perkins, p. 12
14 Wallis, Jim.  God’s Politics-Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It, HarperSanFrancisco San Francisco, CA © Copyright 2005 by Jim Wallis, p. 347.
15 Campolo, Tony and McLaren Brian D.  Adventures in Missing The Point- How the Culture-Controlled Church Neutered The Gospel, Zondervan Grand Rapids, Michigan © Copyright 2003 by Youth Specialties, p. 105.
16 Miller, Donald.  Blue Like Jazz, Thomas Nelson Publishers Nashville, TN © Copyright 2003 by Donald Miller, p. 110.
17 Laubach, Frank and Lawrence, Brother.  Practicing His Presence, The SeedSowers Jacksonville, FL © Copyright MCMLXXIII by Gene Edwards, p. 23.
18 Barna, George The Second Coming of the Church, WORD Publishing Nashville, TN Copyright (c) 1998 by George Barna p. 176.
19 Barna, George Revolution, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, IL Copyright © 2005 by George Barna, p. 25.

20 Rieger, Joerg Opting For The Margins – Postmodernity and Liberation in Christian Theology, Oxford University Press, NY, NY © 2003 by The American Academy of Religion, p. 154.

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