Lord, Save Us from Your Followers

Several days ago, i was walking out of a Walmart when i saw a guy standing behind some tables right beyond the door. Somehow, i hadn’t seen him going in, but i noticed him immediately as i walked out. He was, after all, hard to miss with his many political signs.

“Life in prison for all child molesters!”

“Stop destroying human life in Iraq!”

People like that intrigue me. I have some pretty strong beliefs about issues like that too, but i’ve never been outside walmart displaying my beliefs on a sign.

So, i walked up to the man to have a conversation. I was curious. I didn’t really know what he was trying to say with his signs. I wasn’t even sure whether i would agree or disagree with him. I simply wanted to talk and try to understand his perspective on these issues. Maybe, and i know this is a long shot, he would say something that would help me think about these concerns that i hadn’t considered before. I just wanted a conversation.

“You wanna sign my petition?” He asked.

“No. Not yet anyway. I was just hoping you could tell me a little bit about your perspective on these issues.”

“Well,” he replied, “if you sign this one you will be helping us get rid of all the tax that is in the cost of gasoline in the State of Washington.”

Ok. I don’t like the price of fuel, but i wasn’t really there to sign anything. I simply wanted to talk.

“What about this whole child molester thing? What is your perspective about that issue?”

He pointed to a one sentence paragraph on the top of another petition. “Just read it. It’s right there.”

The sentence said something to the effect of raising the maximum penalty for first-time child sex-predators to life in prison. But, really, i had already got that from the sign. I was looking for a little discussion on the ramifications of that and why he thought that this might be the best solution.

So getting a little frustrated, I replied, “Ok, but what is YOUR perspective on this? How would this work?”

“Look,” he said. “Your not voting for it right now. Your just signing so it gets on the ballot and we can let people vote on it later. Why don’t you sign this one over here, it’s about bringing home the troops from Iraq.”

“Well, i’m not really sure i want to sign anything right now,” I re-stated. Was he even hearing me or just repeating what he had been trained to say. “I just wanna tal-.”

“Aright, are you planning on signing anything or am i just wasting my time?” he blurted out, cutting me off and getting annoyed.

“Well, no, i don’t think i’m gonna sign anything.”

No sooner had i said those words than he turned his back to me, started setting up another part of his display and completely ignored me.

So much for conversation.

Seems like it is hard to have a real conversation with people anymore, doesn’t it? Rather than sit down and discuss complex problems such as child-molesters, fuel costs, and war and their equally complex solutions, we would often rather reduce our personal beliefs to a simple sentence and see how many people will sign off with their approval. If you don’t agree, or in my case aren’t sure, well then we just don’t have time for you.

It is no wonder we live in such a divided nation.

I suppose my interaction that day got me thinking about my own response to people around me when they aren’t in agreement with my personal beliefs or haven’t come to a solid conclusion yet. It got me thinking about church and the way we as a group deal with people who don’t see life our way, or have yet to really decide one way or the other.

Maybe I have been as guilty as this petition-guy, at not getting involved in the humble and messy endeavor of “conversation” or “dialogue” and been too quick to dismiss people. Maybe the church that i love has been too eager to do the same.

That is why a new movie that is just coming out has been so powerful to me. Now, i’m not normally in the business of promoting movies, but in this case the movie itself carries a message that i think we all need to hear.

The movie: “Lord Save us from Your Followers.www.lordsaveusthemovie.com

We recently screened this movie at our church, with the director of the movie, Dan Merchant, there to help explain and discuss what we had seen. Though I was a little nervous about the response, the packed auditorium of people gave it a standing ovation at the conclusion.

The movie is a beautiful breath of fresh air about the need for us to lose ourselves in the lives of others. To look first to the sin inside of us rather than pointing out the sin of others. And most importantly, to exercise humility, compassion and respect in having dialogue with many different people who don’t necessarily agree with any one of our own personal or religious convictions.

It was Dan’s own words this weekend that touched me most. In response to a criticism at the end he responded by saying, ” You are right, the truth does divide. But, lets just make sure it is the truth doing the dividing and not us.”

This is a great movie with a greater message. There is no way i could recommend this movie any higher. It is truly amazing and needed.

For those of you who haven’t seen it, you can screen it at the website: www.lordsaveusthemovie.com. If you have seen it and enjoyed it, there are several other resources i would recommend very highly to you along the same vein.

1) “The Myth of a Christian Nation” by Greg Boyd

2) “Jesus for President” by Shane Claiborne

These are two great books that compliment well and continue the discussion.

May we never respond to people the way the petition guy responded to me. And may we always be willing to love and respect others above ourselves.


What if Christians were on the same team?

So, I wrote a few weeks ago about when Christians occasionally rise up and surprise you with their devotion to the mission of Christ rather than the construction of their own private enterprises.

Well, sadly, this week I was reminded about how often many Christians do otherwise.

Just north of Seattle, a small church (400-500 people) owns two properties due to their merger with another church in their city of the same non-denominational brotherhood. The merger, several years ago, was broadcast at the time as a unique story in the quest of “unity” among believers. In fact, I remember being very impressed at the decision of two leadership groups coming together (setting aside small differences) to be one body in their community.

The strange thing is that in the middle of all this a smaller ethnic (Filipino) church of about 110 people was renting the now vacant building of the church that had merged with the other. This Filipino church, though, was of the same non-denominational brotherhood as the other two, but somehow strangely left out of the “unity movement.”

Several years later, this conglomerate church has experienced tremendous upheaval in leadership and membership attendance and is now strongly pursuing a land sale of the building being rented by the Filipino church. Though the property is totally paid for and bringing in money monthly due to a cell tower and renters fees, this conglomerate church is approaching a multi-million dollar payout in a sale. Faced with this prospect of large sums of capital, the church is proceeding with the sale.

Now, the sad part is that this unique Filipino church, of their same brotherhood, has absolutely no place to go if this sale goes through. They have investigated other rental partnerships with churches in their city, but to no avail. They have looked into land purchase, but they don’t have enough capital.

And though the leaders of the conglomerate church are aware of their situation and have made small attempts to convince future buyers to consider a continued rental relationship with the Filipino church, the overall sense is that this little ethnic church is not their problem.

As I thought about this situation this week, I wondered what kind of leader I would be in the same dilemma. Millions of dollars, but small church dies? Or modest monthly income, but church continues?

Sell-out or status-quo?

My question is: Isn’t this more than a financial decision? Isn’t it at a deeper level a very spiritual one as well?
I guess my problem is that the whole situation gives me the same feeling as when I read about a large grocery chain taking over a small mom-and-pop store. It is the same feeling I get when an apartment complex is sold to a developer who changes them into condominiums and gives the un-expectant tenants 60 days to move.

The only difference: it’s the body of Christ evicting another part of the body.

1 Corinthians 12 says that we are all members of one body. Do we really believe that? Do we think it only applies to the individuals in our own pews? Does it only apply to people of our ethnicity or in churches we would label as financially legitimate?

Somehow I think that Jesus’ prayer in John 17 that “we would all be one as He and the Father are one” (my paraphrase) meant more than this. Maybe it is time that we embrace one another. All of us. Not just our own local church members, but the members of the local church down the street. Maybe it is time we see beyond our walls, beyond our pews, beyond our race, beyond our definition of success, beyond our own small empires and realize that we are all on the same team.

What is good for Christ’s name in this world is good for us all.
We are all on the same team.

“May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.” — Jesus’ prayer.

Maybe us realizing we are on the same team is what the world is waiting on.

Occasionally Christians Make You Proud…

Christians are embarrassing.

Pretty much everyday i find something that proclaimed Christians do that makes me embarrassed to be one. They vote republican blindly. They proliferate bigotry. They worship their church buildings. They talk in ways that no one else understands. They defend things they don’t need to and abandon people that do. They are more about material emperialism than God’s Kingdom. And, they look and act, well . . . goofy.

Ok, so not all Christians. There certainly are people that are trying to live their lives in the grace and love that Jesus taught and gave freely. But it does seem like there is a lot of disappointment among Christians in our generation, doesn’t there? In fact, most the time i don’t even identify myself by that title anymore. I prefer, “Follower of Jesus” or about anything else that identifies myself with God, but not the stereotypical “Christian.”

However, occasionally, a Christian might just pop up and surprise you. In this case, even a whole church body.

Several months ago a large storm hit the Oregon coast where my family lives. We are talking 85 mph winds, sustained, and gusts up to 120 mph for about 16 hours. And when the storm hit, it basically devastated the entire region. It was declared a federal disaster area, people were being helicoptered out of their homes, and every highway in or out was completely blocked by hundreds and hundreds of downed trees.

My dad is a preacher in a small rural church there on the Oregon coast. And after the storm, they found that their church roof was old, leaking, missing shingles and needing repair. However the cost of replacing an entire roof of the building was a huge cost for a church of 50-60 people.

So, one member went home and called her sister on the east coast to tell her to pray that the church would be able to finance it. This sister then went to her weekly small prayer group of women from her church. She shared the prayer request, they prayed, and at the end one woman said she felt called to help in the situation. So they took an offering among just a few women and collected $500.00

But the story didn’t end there. This sister then went to her church leaders. She told the story of this small church that was reaching the disenfranchised on the Oregon coast and the obstacle they faced with their roof. And these remarkable leaders looked at their church budget and saw that they had brought in more monetary gifts that year than they created a budget for. And so they had already sent 2/3 of this overrun to other ministries and had kept 1/3 for their own ministry. But, after hearing this story, these CHRISTIANS decided to send their third of the overrun to a little church in Astoria, Oregon that they had never been to so they could fix their roof.

Crazy thing. They didn’t just ask to pay for the re-roofing bill. Instead, last week, this small church in Oregon received a check from brothers and sisters on the east coast that they will probably never meet this side of heaven for $15,600.00.

Will the roof even cost that much? I doubt it. Maybe only 2/3 of it. But the church told them to keep whatever was leftover and use it to bless the community of Astoria by extending their ministry in it to the disenfranchised.

Wow. I don’t even know what to say. Most churches i know are so concerned about building their own little empires they don’t even consider the needs of other churches. How can we build a bigger building? What would a new HD projector cost? Would more kids be attracted to our youth ministry if we paid for a climbing wall? I mean, this church wasn’t even in their own denomination! And who would have cared whether a tiny church in rural Oregon that no one has ever heard of would have gotten a new roof?


I gotta say, when i see people acting in sacrifice and love, in the way of Jesus . . . it makes me proud to be a Christian. You can say a lot about the people just giving themselves the label of Christian but when you encounter people branded with the life of Christ and caring more about His cause than their own agendas, it feels different and their lives leave behind a trail of impact.

So, for today, I’m a Christian. I just hope I’m one that other people are proud of too.