7.25.2005

1 Corinthians Perspective

We made it to church yesterday! I know you’re thinking – so what?! And I’d think the same, except I know our track record lately and it’s not pretty!! We’ve been pretty consistent about attending at least once a month. Sad, I know. Now some of you are probably thinking once a month is a lot, after all, church is only open for the two big holidays, right? Others are thinking, boy, once a month, have they ever backslid?! Most of you are thinking, who cares, just get on with it!

Alright, alright...I bring up our church attendance only because it’s in stark contrast to the life Danielle & I lived just a few short years ago. If we had been to church only once a month, not only would we have been out of a job, but we would have been viewed by many as dangerously close to losing our salvation! There would have been some sort of intervention planned for just around the corner!

All that said, we were glad to be back in the services at Open Door yesterday. It did seem like a long time away and it was refreshing to be a part of the worship service. There were a few things that came out in the message that I thought some of you might be interested in so I’m writing some notes and thoughts that have come to mind.

Speaking at the service was Pastor Al Schuck, formerly the Youth Pastor & currently the Pastor of Adult Life. Al is one of the few staff members at Open Door, aside from Dave Johnson (the senior pastor), that I truly enjoy hearing and I usually connect with his messages. He doesn’t speak often, but when he does, I like it. Al, as I mentioned, used to be the Youth Pastor which holds a special place with me. He is typically atypical and generally irreverent, qualities that I admire and fit well in ministry to youth. I’m not sure why he’s the “Adult Life” pastor (in fact I don’t really know what that means!), but that’s just the way it is.

Al spoke about 1 Corinthians. He will be covering this book for the next 2 weeks as well. As I said, there were some things that hit home with me and I thought I’d share them here for you if you’re interested.

1 Corinthians (2 Corinthians too most likely!) was written by the Apostle Paul to the Christians who made up the church of Corinth. (It gets better, I promise.) This was one of the earliest Christian churches in history. The church people were also getting to be very high maintenance – lots of issues to be dealt with. The most glaring issue was that of division among the Christians. Rather than living like Christ and preferring each other, they would try to one-up the other and make themselves out to be better than the next.

I picture a group of kids standing around talking about how their dad’s the best and each one makes claims that their dad is better than the last kids. That’s kind of like the Corinthian Christians, “I believe like Paul.” “Well, I believe like Apollos.” “Hmm, that’s nice, but I’m a follower of Cephas.” “Well you guys follow who you like. I listen to Christ!” Get the idea?! It got ugly. People were no longer living the Christian life, they were more concerned about how they looked and their position in the ranks of believers.

Paul needed to set them straight. He needed to get them back to the basics of Christianity and what it meant in their lives. What did it really mean to be a Christian? Was it who you knew and what you did that were important? Or was who you were inside and the intentions of your actions that mattered?

Right about now, if you’ve actually read this far, you’re wondering why I’m writing all this. Again, who cares Mike? This is supposed to be some interesting, or at least marginally humorous, collection of thoughts and ideas from within your brain, not a recitation of your last church service. I know, I know, but I’m getting there. (No guarantees on the humorous part, or the interesting actually!)

I bring this up because it was the next part that Al said that touched me. He recalled some of his times in ministry and leadership and working with others. He specifically remembered a time when some of his adult youth leaders, people he called friends, came to him and said they felt they were being called to serve in a different area of ministry. He got quite upset with them (not to their faces, but inside) and jealous that they would be working to benefit someone besides him. As he said it, “It was gross!”

I recalled times in my own life being on both sides of that coin. Times when people that were assisting me moved into other areas and I was ticked about it. And there were also times that I determined I needed to move on and those I was assisting were less than supportive. I’ve gotten the speeches about how God has a “perfect will” and a “permissive will” and how I needed to be sure to be in the right one! I’ve heard about all kinds of crap that others have been through and shovelled some of it on myself unfortunately.

Fact of the matter is church leadership is a tough gig. It’s not something that one should enter into lightly. It is also something that is apparently easy to abuse. There are many who have been hurt through the dereliction of duty (definition: 1. deliberate neglect of duty or obligations) by those who would call themselves Pastor. Some of those are people hurt are very important to me and of those I believe there are some who have never recovered – myself included.

As I listened to Al what got me was the fact that he recognized it. Not just years later for the practical purpose of the message he was delivering. He saw the ugliness of his reaction when it happened. And he went to those whom it was directed at and apologized and asked forgiveness for his thoughts. There was a side to it that I had not been exposed to. There was humility and the recognition of his humanity and that of the others. The realization and acceptance of the fact that he did it wrong, and his wrong needed to be righted. It was so refreshing for me to hear.

I find myself back where I started. Church attendance. Why does it matter? Who does it matter too? It matters to me that’s who. Thankfully I’m in a place that it doesn’t matter to anyone else really. If I go to church or not, that’s up to me. If I go it’s because I want to and I do it to grow in my walk with Christ. I no longer try to go to prove my Christianity to anyone else. I don’t go just to show up. I go because there are areas that I need to grow and, hopefully, give my supply as well.

I’ve been part of the petty church body before. I have thought much of myself because of my “status” in the church, or the things that I did to bring it benefit. All that is gone, removed by God I hope! I still have plenty of issues to deal with, and with God’s help I will. Each day I’m seeing that there’s many ways that I miss it. God’s plan is so different from what I thought it would be. He is patient and continues to prod and lure as needed.

1 Corinthians 1:26 says “For you see your calling, bretheren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. (27) But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; (28) and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, (29) that no flesh should glory in His presence. (30) But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God – and righteousness and sanctification and redemption - (31) that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.”

Basically what that passage says to me is that just about the time I think I’ve got it all figured out, God will bring His plan to pass in a way I never would have seen coming. And when I have no idea how it’s going to work out, He will make it happen. It’s His way of telling me, “Don’t get too big for your britches son, you have no idea how I’m going to take care of you! Just trust Me and I’ll do it.”

It’s a reminder to me to check my intentions. Why do I do the things that I do? Am I living my life in obedience to His call, or more to make a name for myself and see my desires come to pass? I can be as selfish as the next guy (have been actually). I can live ugly just as well as anyone. (No comments please on my appearance! I’m fully aware of my own issues there. [Reminds me of the old joke: “If my dog was as ugly as you, I’d shave his butt and teach him to walk backwards!”])

Anyhow, this got much lengthier than I planned. If you’re still awake, shake your head a bit to break the daze. If you’re sleeping, sweet dreams.