Wednesday, December 06, 2006
I'm on a mission (revised)
A couple of Summers ago, my husband and I were a part of a weekly home group Bible Study. Some churches refer to this as a Life Group, Home Team or Small Group. If you have ever been a part of one of these, you are familiar with the format. You may have a small portion of social time with snacks and drinks followed by a Bible Study with a tiny bit of discussion. Then the group time ends by prayer requests and prayer. One night in this home group, I walked away extremely bothered. There was an unsettled feeling I could not shake.

On this particular night the prayer requests were pretty heavy. The first person to share a prayer request was a lady having problems with her three year old son. Everyone in the group knew of this little boy and knew that he had behavior problems. Every Sunday I would see him bolt through the doors of church after he had escaped from children's church. His behavior was extreme and his parents had no idea how to handle him. Actually they lacked skills in a major way and needed to be taught. Whether or not that ever happened, I do not know. As this desperate Mom began to share her request regarding her son, she said something that shocked me. "My son is out of control. I feel like he is going to end up on the news as a serial killer when he grows up. He's just out of control in every way possible." While I was not a seasoned parent at the time, Josiah was only one and a half and I was pregnant with Ava Beth, I felt her desperate cry as a mother. The group as well as the leader just stared at her and said nothing. I could sense that she had just unloaded something big, something that took guts and the fact that the group AND the leader said nothing, made me angry. Quickly, I spoke up and said something. "NO. You can't believe that about your son. God has a plan for you and for Him. Don't speak that over your son! God can bring healing to your son." The group looked at me like I was a wacko but I felt like this poor Mom knew my heart and could see the tears in my eyes and that I truly cared. All of the sudden the leader said, "Anybody else?" Just like that! We were moving on to the next request! Now in a group of twenty, I can understand the time constraint but there were seven people there that night, not twenty.

The next one to speak up with a prayer request told us about a little two year old that was diagnosed with Leukemia. This person had been told about this little boy by someone else. It wasn't anyone that we knew but the fact that there was a little boy struck with such a relentless disease and parents who were fearing the worst for their child, caused my heart to feel heavy. As soon as the person finished giving the request, the leader asked again, "Anybody else?" No one spoke up so the leader told us that his boss' boss lost his two year old over the weekend at a party. There was a pool in the backyard and the baby girl died. The age alone of all the kids mentioned that night was enough to break my heart. But it did not break my heart near as much as what happened next.

All of the requests had been presented so the leader prayed. He was not one to allow others to pray if they felt lead. On occasion but rarely. His prayer lasted less than sixty seconds. It was a blanket prayer asking God to bring healing and comfort to all of the families mentioned but no specifics were prayed. Maybe he didn't know how to pray, maybe he was hurrying, maybe he wasn't bothered by the severity of each one. Or maybe, he and the group just didn't get it.

A few months ago I finished reading Rob Bell's Book, Velvet Elvis. Then I read it again and this week I have just about read it once more. The book is full of pages that I have marked up with a yellow highlighter or pages I have folded so I can go back to and read something that spoke to me. It's a book I highly recommend and I would consider it to be a life changing book when it comes to your spiritual well being. The only problem with the book is the fact that it will make you examine all that is going on inside yourself and all that is going on around you. It could make you uncomfortable with your church, your leaders, your mission and the for sure the status quo. Over the last few weeks I have been waking up all hours of the night. This is what happens when you reach the final weeks of pregnancy. I try hard to go back to sleep only to wake up an hour later for a trip to the bathroom. Needless to say, I have lots of hours in bed in the wee hours of morning where I am wide awake. So I take the opportunity to pray and think about things. This morning about 5am, I thought about this book and all that my husband and I have faced over the last two years regarding church and where we feel God is leading us. I have spent over a year now grieving over church. It's not so much a grieving over people but a grieving over what I once was content with, what I once was okay with. It was much easier when I was okay with how things were. Now, there is no way we could ever go back to where we came from. I am not referring to a particular church, I am referring to a mindset.

Rob Bell sums it up perfectly in Velvet Elvis. Perhaps you have been around Christian Communities enough to want nothing to do with them, and one of the reasons is the talk all seems so shallow. Like no one is talking about what really matters. I think this is a direct effect of the state of the souls of many pastors and leaders. So many leaders in Christian Communities are going so fast and producing so much and accomplishing so much that they become a shell of a person. There is no space to deal honestly with what's going on deep inside them.

Rob goes on to explain how leaders cannot lead others somewhere they are not willing to go themselves. I don't have to have arrived, I don't have to be perfect, but I do need to be on the path. And that's why for so many the church experience has been so shallow-so many leaders have never descended into the depths of their own souls. They haven't done the hard, difficult, gut wrenching work of shining the bright lights on all of the years of baggage and destructive messages. It is so hard to look deep inside yourself. My experience has been that very few people do the long, hard work of the soul. Maybe that's why Jesus said the way is narrow. I am hoping that wherever you are on your journey, you are tracking with me. I beg you to get help wherever you need it. Go to a counselor. Make an appointment. Go on a retreat. Spend a couple of days in silence. Do whatever it takes.

Not long ago, I was chasing a title. I was worried about my name being in a bulletin or being in charge of my ministry. I did not want help, I did not want anything but status. I wanted the title. I wanted the stage. I wanted everyone to know what I could do and how well I could do it. But something began to change. I began to dig. I have always been a digger. I have always been pretty open with my past, my struggles and my shortcomings but I wasn't interested in finding healing from it. I didn't believe I could find healing. When God finally got a hold of me and began to show me some things, I began to feel very uncomfortable with everyone around me. And sometimes I still am. It's hard for me to understand why some don't get it. Why can't we talk about the important stuff and quit wasting time on all the fillers. Too much game playing going on, too much social crap going on, too much forgetting about the main thing. As a result,the last two years, we have sat out. Oh sure we have visited churches, attended for a while and then decided we would much rather sit out. It's been nice. It's been refreshing and I can honestly say with all of my heart that I have grown more during this time than ANY other time in my life. Iron sharpening iron? Yes. I may have been out of church but I can assure you that this gal did not lack for iron. No iron deficiency here! The interesting thing is I have continued to search, continued to ask questions and continued to grow without the body. It's not something I recommend for everyone, we need the body. But in my case, it was a must!

Finally, the time has come to step back in. I'm ready. I am not ready for social games, networking, dinners, Praise Teams and Bible studies. No. But I am ready to be a part of the bride of Christ. I need her in my life.

And once again Rob Bell explains it for me. This is how I feel. This is what we will look for and this is who we want to be. I say the system has to be changed. It has to be destroyed and replaced not with another system but with an entirety new way of life. I see it happening and it gives me great hope. I see leaders getting help and refusing to stuff it anymore. I see communities embracing their brokenness and the brokenness of their leaders, and healing is taking place. I see honesty. I see people who want to be fully alive. I see people who want the life Jesus promises and who are wiling to let go of ego and prestige and titles to get it.

So what about you? Are you allowing Jesus to heal your soul? I am. That's what I want, that's what I need more than anything in this world. And I am on a mission to find others that want the same exact thing.

***I end with this. Something I forgot to put in here the first time. I have come back to finish with this excerpt from Rob Bell's book Velvet Elvis. This is something we should all be longing to find in ourselves and in others.

I'm learning that very few people actually live from their heart. Very few live connected with their soul. And those few who do the difficult work, who stare their junk in the face, who get counsel, who let Jesus in to all the rooms in their soul that no one ever goes in, they make a difference. They are so different; they're coming from such a different place that their voices inevitably get heard above the others. They are pursuing wholeness and shalom, and it's contagious. They inspire me to keep going.

  posted at 9:27 AM

At 9:53 AM, Anonymous cindy hodge said...

O.k. I've heard you mention this book several times and now I'm just going to have to go and buy it! I'm glad that you are doing well with this pregnancy. I'm just 5 or 6 weeks behind you and we are having a boy this time (Ryan Matthew). Peyton and Ryan will be 20 months apart so I'm going to have my hands full! I may be e-mailing you for advice! :-)

At 9:57 AM, Blogger Kim said...


I've not posted here before, but after reading your last entry I would like to recommend another wonderful book about church called, "The 9 Marks of a Healthy Church" by Mark Dever. My view of church has been forever changed from what I *thought* before. A church that puts the gospel at the core and preaches and teaches first and foremost is a beautiful thing! Blessings on your journey towards finding a family of radical believers who are sold-out for Christ not just in their talk, but in their walk!

At 11:32 AM, Anonymous Kelly Ann said...

Hey Sweet Friend!
Our journeys have been quite different, but we desire the same things. I feel like you wrote my heart today! I've got to get a hold of that book!!
Love you!

At 2:27 PM, Blogger Christy said...

Jeremy & I have been praying about several of these things for a while now... I have got to this get book!!

At 8:33 PM, Blogger V. said...

I'm in the same place.

I'm watching the death of our Small Group. A group with mature, long-time Christians.

the problem is, nobody wants to get real. Everyone wants to put out an issue to make it seem like they have issues / need prayer, but nobody ever wants to talk about their NEED for prayer, their NEED for communion with the only one that can change things.

I should probably get that book...I can likely identify with it based on what you have written.

I love my church, I love my small group. Something tho' is just wrong and I haven't been able to figure out what yet. I pray for more revelation, and I pray to be the conduit for healthy change.


At 12:00 PM, Blogger Dionna Sanchez said...

I want to be the kind of person you end your post with. I always have. I have never heard of the book you mentioned, but now my curiosity is peaked.
The world needs Christians like you who are willing to dig into the tough stuff with others and not simply say "anyone else?"
Thanks for the post. :)

At 6:42 AM, Blogger mommyofangels said...

Wow, that's all I can say right now. This book is going on my Christmas list.


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