I just got through spending an incredible week in Dallas for my second semester in the Master’s of Religious Education Missional Leadership program through Rochester College. While this is not the purpose of my post, I want to take a second to say that I could not be more pleased with the education, relationships, and experiences I am getting through this program. You should check it out here. Back to the point…
So I spent a week in Dallas talking about missional church and missional leadership. One of the main things I have learned so far is the importance of a listening leader. One of the leader’s primary concerns, according to our amazing professor Dr. Mark Love, is to create an environment where the word of God can be spoken and heard. I have those thoughts floating around in the back of my head as I’m driving around today and I hear on the radio a recent study linking the importance of positive speech to migraine patients. You can read about the study here, but basically they noticed patients reported more pain relief when their medicine was associated with positive speech. That thought mixed with a recent lecture from Mark Love has really been weighing heavily on me.
You see, Dr. Love was stressing the importance of speech and listening. He said the way we speak to one another is a big indicator of whether or not the Word of God can flourish. Think about how often Paul speaks of the hope and newness of life found in the death and resurrection of Christ, and then shortly after that launches into warnings about slander, gossip, and unwholesome talk (see Ephesians for an example). Dr. Love is teaching us about this and then he makes a statement that really cut me: “Gossip, slander and other such speak creates a divisive environment that prevents a hearing and speaking environment for the Word of God.”
Wow! No longer will I approach this matter of speech with the mindset of, “Don’t talk bad about people because the bible says not to.” Now it is, “Watch how you talk about people because you may actually be hindering the Word of God from being spoken.” That cuts me. Next time I hear and see speech patterns of slander, gossip, and the like, I will think twice about jumping into that conversation.
One of the best lessons I learned this week was to watch my speech and be intentional about creating an environment where the Word of God can be both spoken and heard. In order to create this environment, we have to start watching our words and speech patterns. If the word package associated with migraine medicine is so important, how much more so the word package associated with speaking the Word of God?
My normal Monday nights are spent in a small group with some friends from my church. Tonight though, I had the privilege to go and help serve dinner to a group of children at a local apartment complex. To say that these children are “underprivileged” would probably be an understatement. In a town full of great wealth and extreme comforts, we pull into this tiny apartment complex and feel like we are in another country. I found myself at one point sitting at the table with two boys who showed up just for the food. They didn’t want the bible story, the relationships, or anything else. They just needed some food. It made me think as I left tonight, that’s exactly the kind of selfless ministry that Jesus engaged in on a daily basis.
So then I get home tonight and I’m thinking about the church, specifically my church where I am a paid minister. I live just about 1.5 miles from the apartments we served tonight and for some reason while I’m sitting here listening to my air conditioner roar, thinking about how hot it was tonight out there with those children who don’t have air conditioners running in their homes, I’ve just tuned out the world and I’m back on my plan for the week. I just polished off a cold coke and a bunch of kettle corn, enjoying the comforts and things that I have in life while beginning to think about what I need to do to prepare for Sunday. What seems to go through my head all week long is, “what will Sunday look like?” It feels like the bulk of what we do is prepare and get ready for that one day each week. And then on the beginning of this week God sends me a reminder, or maybe more like a slap in the face, that being “out there” is really what it’s all about. Jesus and His followers made tons of disciples, but I can’t think of any instances where that seemed to happen in a worship service. In fact, the Savior I follow was called a drunkard and a glutton, a friend of “sinners”. But somehow we’ve polished up our churches and our worship settings so much so that they’re unfriendly to “sinners”.
I thank the Lord tonight that He reminded me that most of the time when we are His hands and His feet, those appendages tend to get dirty.
I heard an incredible conversation today on a video interview with a church planter. She was discussing how we in America have reversed the work of a missionary. Where Jesus has told us to go, we’ve created a space and told them to come. Its the idea, “If you build it, they will come.” She ended the interview with the statement “what if people fell in love with Jesus first and then a church emerged?”
I think it’s time the church starts to reverse the trend. I think it’s time to create and be a part of missional communities all around the areas we serve. What if Monday through Saturday became just as important as Sunday? What if Sunday became the fruit and outpouring of joy from the discipling that takes place the other 6 days? As a part of a restoration movement, this is the area I would love to see restored to first century Christianity. Thank you Jesus for the reminder you sent me tonight.