Last week was one of those weeks where we saw the generosity of God show up in our lives several times in really tangible ways. It started with getting a large check that was totally unexpected from our mortgage company explaining that they had miscalculated something over 1 year ago and they needed to give us a refund. Then, someone in the church anonymously gave us money to get tires on our car replaced. And then a friend found out about a kind of bike I wanted to get, happened to have one laying around and brought it over and gave it to me.
All this was crazy, and honestly a bit overwhelming, but I had a hard time with it. When I think about generosity, I tend to like to be the one who’s generous. I like to be the one who anonymously gives a gift, or who gives up something that I have to help someone. I like to be the one who gives, but it’s hard for me to be the one who receives. When I get something, I want to have done something for it…I want to earn it, or deserve it. To simply receive something makes me feel a bit off kilter.
But really, a part of generosity is learning to receive. There can be no generosity without a recipient.
I’m learning that generosity isn’t always about what you give, but it’s about living with a certain posture. A posture that says everything belongs to the Lord. That sort of posture should make it easy to give, but really, that sort of posture should also make it easy to receive. Because just as I am generous with what I have because I believe that it really belongs to the Lord anyways, I should be able to receive it well also because it wasn’t theirs either…it was the Lords.
So, maybe in a culture where we are conditioned to feel good about ourselves by what we do for others and where we see generosity as an action that we do for someone else, maybe we need to learn instead to see generosity as a fundamental posture of how we live. A posture that lives with open hands that says everything is the Lords, and so all that I have is the Lords and all that I receive is the Lords.
Maybe for some of us, a part of learning to live generously will happen as we learn to receive well.
Christmas starts this weekend at Parkcrest.
It kicks off at our 7th Street Campus with their Urban Angels event on Friday night for women.
On Sunday we begin the first 3 of 7 Christmas Services at our Heartwell Campus, where we’ll have the final 4 services on the 24th.
At the Lakewood Campus on the 24th, there will be a Christmas Open House with a petting zoo and Christmas pictures.
And then all of our campuses will be having a special service on Christmas morning.
If you’re in the Long Beach area, we’d love to see you there!
I’ve stolen a mantra from Mark Batterson over the last few years. Change of Pace + Change of Place = Change of Perspective. Sometimes just changing the environment that you’re in can give you a whole new perspective on something you’re working through.
Today, I packed up and headed to the coffee shop to work through some of my Christmas message and a few things that need to get written in the next couple of weeks for early next year. Sometimes that simple change can spark something that sitting in my office all day can’t.
For me, sometimes I’ll leave and take a 20 minute drive without the radio on, or I’ll write in my moleskine with a nice pen instead of writing on the computer, take a walk around the office, or I’ll simply change the music that I’m listening to to something completely different. For me, I’ve found that those little things can help get me going when I’ve hit a wall.
What are some of the ways that have been helpful for you to change your pace or place?
Speaking of a generation having to lead churches through transition, the Crystal Cathedral is unfortunately a perfect case study of how quickly and easily this can all go wrong.
Yesterday, Crystal Cathedral Ministries died. The music stopped playing. In its place, in three years time, will reside the Catholic Church. The namesake of the ministry will be no more. Just like Esau, their birthright was sold.
I’d like to tell you this brings me comfort knowing that orthodox Christians will continue to worship in this building. But I can’t say that. It’s like telling a grieving a widow there are many fishes in the sea.
In one respect, this human metaphor falls short. The Crystal Cathedral isn’t a person, it is an institution. As such, its problems were not terminal. They could have been solved. My father attempted to fix these problems during his short tenure as senior pastor. He saw the Crystal Cathedral was headed toward bankruptcy. He attempted to restructure the board, cut his sibling’s salaries and establish fiscal responsibility. For these actions, he was fired by the board, which consisted of . . . you guessed it, his siblings.
Read the rest of Robert Schuller’s granddaughter’s thoughts here
“All I ask of you, especially young people…is one thing. Please don’t be cynical. I hate cynicism — it’s my least favorite quality and it doesn’t lead anywhere.”
~ Conan O’Brien from his final Tonight Show
It seems amongst my generation, especially when it comes to church, people move to one of two extremes. They either get cynical or overly idealistic. Really, in a lot of ways, they are two sides of the same coin. Cynicism happens when you stay focused on the present reality and can’t see beyond it, while idealism happens when you’re focused on what your preferred future is and you can’t see the present.
The problem with both of them is that they leave you paralyzed. I’ve talked with person after person who has left the church because they’re cynical – the church has hurt them in some way, it hasn’t done what they think it should do, or they can’t see past specific people or behaviors in a certain church, and so they give up on church. And at the same time I’ve talked with a large number of overly idealistic people who aren’t a part of any church, because they can’t find one that lives up to their standards and what they think church should be.
Several months ago, a friend, Nick Boring, introduced me to a concept called Parallel Pathing. It essentially looks like this
The concept is this – that you have to work within your present reality, with an eye towards the preferred future. As you do that, slowly your present reality will begin to fade out as your preferred future begins to take over. The reason a cynical person gets stuck is because they can’t see past the present reality and they stay in that place, and the reason an overly idealistic person gets stuck is because all they can see is the preferred future and they can’t deal with the present reality.
The person who will really gain traction and make a difference is the person who can learn to parallel path. They learn to operate in the midst of the present reality, while at the same time working towards a preferred future.
In the church world, in the next decade or so, we will see more and more baby boomers who grew their churches and had long tenures end up retiring out of their churches. There’s going to be numerous problems facing those churches as they try to figure out how to take steps forward, but one of them will be learning to parallel path.
I think a part of the reason that so many people in my generation aren’t able to take on an established church and be able to lead it into the future is because we struggle with this concept. There are great, established churches that will need to be lead into the future, but it will take leaders who can work with patience in the present reality and at the same time have a keen eye for the future, who will know when not to stay stuck in one or the other and who can navigate the convergence of the present reality with the preferred future.
“He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial”
If my generation is going to lead the church in a significant way into the future, it will take a rejection of cynicism and a rejection of over idealism, and an embracing of the church right where it’s at while being able to live in the tension of also having a vision for the future.
I recently had the opportunity to sit down at dinner with an incredible leader who I have a huge amount of respect for. As he was sharing some stories about leading his church, he told me about a time 10 or 15 years ago when they were growing rapidly and had quickly become the hip young church to be at, and as a result, they started attracting all the hip young people from all the other churches around.
When most people wouldn’t have paid much attention to where people were coming from, they would just be glad that more people were coming, it bothered this guy. He said he decided that for 3 months not to do worship music, and instead of doing a typical sermon, that he would each week give a 1 hour social commentary from a biblical framework on films. He said all the Christians who had left other churches went back to their church because they weren’t getting what they wanted, and the people who weren’t believers who were coming loved it. He told me that early on in his ministry, this decision helped to define who they church would be.
Then later in the evening, he was talking about something completely different, when he shared how they were recently $1 million behind on the annual budget, and at that time decided to get more invested outside their church and to challenge their church to give away huge sums of money. During 1 month, they gave away more money than they had given away in the entire history of their church up until that point. He then said this, “when we did that, we recaptured the soul of the church”
He told these two stories independently, they weren’t really about each other, and they occurred almost 15 years apart. But I left there remembering why this particular guy inspires me and why I respect him – he’s willing to try difficult things. He did it early on in his leadership to define the community he was leading, and he did it as the community had matured as a way of recapturing the soul of who their church is.
I wonder if the thing that simply separates the people who lead in a significant way, who end up defining for the rest of us what we want to do and who we want to become – is just simply that they are willing to continually do difficult things. Maybe the thing that separates someone like that from someone like you and me is just that they’ll do the difficult things that don’t make sense.
What’s the difficult thing that you need to do that will help to define the community that you lead, or that will help to recapture the soul of the community that you lead?