from dad

Dear Katy and Kenzlee,

As I sit here this morning preparing for a sermon, it is just past 6:00am.  I am at a coffee shop reading scripture and thinking about some of the most basic and important things in my life.  Your faces beam at me on my computer screen.

My prayer for you is that you realize, at some point in your lives, that the most important thing you can commit yourselves to in your life is serving God.  It will draw your life beyond immediate things or even your own lifespan and into eternity.  From this perspective, you will be able to find and see the eternal worth of persons, the scope of God’s purposes in the universe and even among us, the beauty of God’s creation, and the fragility of each moment and each life.

There is nothing more rewarding and more fulfilling, in the long run, than serving God and seeing life from this perspective.  To find it, you will need to have moments when you can be alone with God, in the silences, and take in the wonder and grandeur of seeing your own lives in this perspective of things.  God knows each hair on your head, and God knows and lives throughout the waves of energy, light, and space that stretches out into eternity.  And, in those moments, you will know and feel how God knows and always thinks of you.  I know my love for you and my affection are both a sign and gift that God gives me because it is God’s own love and affection for you.

As I prepare for a sermon today, I know, somehow, God cares for me and the people I’m going to worship with today in the same way.  Each worship service is a sacrament of our love for one another, shared in Jesus Christ.  What makes Jesus special is that his life, death, and ministry is the promise that all that we sense, believe, hope for, and marvel of in ourselves and each other can become real.  Jesus was the full bloom of God’s eternal love and purposes in one life.  We learn who we are and can be through him.  The love God had for Jesus came true in his life and purpose, even amidst confusion, misdirection, and tragedy.  I, too, feel and hope that the love I feel for you can come in full bloom in you – that you will grab it, grasp it, and pay it forward because it is just a small piece of God’s love that lives in me and so want to give to you.

I love you more that I can say.  I’m thinking about you today, as I prepare for this day, in scope of all things God has for us.

You are the miracle of my mornings.

Love, dad.

microchurch

This is the paradox.   Neither Jesus nor Christian faith is going out of style.  Not really.  I’m going by memory, but as I recall, people such as the Pew Trust, sociologist Christian Smith, and even the Gallup folks all tell us people do believe in God, do want to know what God and the scriptures to do with their lives.

The problem is that how we go about those things and to whom do we turn that is changing.

Specifically, denominationalism and corporate denominations are less and less important to faith.  I, for one, experience it most everyday as a denominational minister.  I am 35 and I’ve known the church that helped raise me and shape my view of God and the world be in decline all of my life.  My personal research helped me understand that officially, membership in my church in the U.S. began declining in 1980.  The trend remains in a downhill slope since.

By Namaska on Flickr

By Namaska on Flickr

Church-going practices actually started changing decades before.  Many babyboomers were baptized in the churches their parents brought them to, but huge percentages didn’t remain actively involved.  The 1960’s, the crisis of social and moral authority of churches in the sexual revolution and Vietnam War, all contributed to radical questioning about the real importance of churches as institutions.  We live in the wake of those questions today.

Alot more could be said.  But I want to cut to the chase.

As a minister, I’m not ultimately interested in saving the institutional church.   Institutions are important.   In the end, they can and serve the purpose of church.  But, I don’t confuse the gospel for institutional religiosity.

By kwerfeldein on Flickr

By kwerfeldein on Flickr

I do, however, believe in community.  I’m with the bible on this one.  I believe in the inseparable union of faith and human community.  It’s a biblical thing.  God and the Gospel go together, just like faith, salvation, and your present relationships.  I know God is real because of, not in spite of, our relationships with others.  Without relationships, Jesus’ call to discipleship and everything he says about enemies, peace, and love are just metaphysical niceities, religious ideas that go well on embroidered pillows and wall hangings.

I don’t believe the essential importance of Christ’s call to faith and spiritual community is not ultimately being threatened right now.  What is being threatened is the way we go about it.  Institutional denominations, corporate denominationalism, even Sunday Morning service are no longer the spiritual anchors they used to be.  Jobs, family, financial demands, and civics demand alot more flexibility from the church.  Churches, right or wrong, have to compete.  And, while this cultural shift may be a significant loss for America’s churches – they ultimately don’t have to be.  Think about it.  The opportunity we face is staggering.  We have the opportunity to see God unleashed into new forms, new spiritual practices, and new ways of gathering.

“For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” – Matthew 18:20

One of the struggles we seem to have as “church folks” is how to break out of the church model.  How do we break out of the idea that God is more than a Sunday thing?  How do we take church with us wherever we go?…put it in our pockets?…and make the blessings of our faith community available everyday?

I want to make a small contribution to solving this problem.  It’s a small idea.  A humble offering.  But, ultimately I think its just as much as part of discipleship as bible study and Sunday Morning.  I call it microchurch.

Microchurch is easy.  You can do it in 5 minutes, even less.  You can do microchurch on twitter, on facebook, at work, or between classes.  All you need in another person.  Microchurch gives you a chance to breathe a minute (Spirit means “breath”), remember who blessed us with our day, and let faith put things in perspective.

Microchurch is two or three people doing these four things.

1.  Gather.  Make your congregation of two or three.  Find a microchurch partner.  Meet in the hall between classes or do it over lunch.  If no one’s around, do it with who follows you on twitter.

By G. & A.Jimenez on Flickr

By G. & A.Jimenez on Flickr

2.  Rejoice or Release. Then, rejoice in a God-moment or release a burden.   This is like the “Good News” and “Prayer concerns” part of your service.  But, it’s simpler.  Tell about something or someone in whom you saw the living Christ today or since you last met.   Maybe it was in the sunrise, or a kind word between strangers.   Whatever.  Just, rejoice about something.  Or, release.  Release a burden you’re caring.  It doesn’t have to be a mountain.  Molehills are fine.  Something small, or something big.  Maybe you’re worried about the way something you said came across.  Maybe you’re having relationship trouble, or a friend is really depressed.  Whatever it is, release it.  Bear your burden with another.   Rejoice or release.  Do it whenever you can.   Faith is exercised in community.  Do it everyday.

2.  Pray. Next, pray.  Lift up the burden you released or thank God for your day.  Force yourself to make God’s Spirit a part of your mindset.  Talk to God.  Even if it is for 30 seconds or a moment of silence.   Talk and listen.  Remember the One who created you, gave you this moment, and Who is the hope of all things.

3.  Resolve.  Finally, resolve to commit an act of discipleship!  Resolve to do something for the Kingdom that day.  Jesus preached about his Father’s business.  The Kingdom is hidden in little acts of faith.  Think about your relationships.  Really consider forgiving someone.  “Forgive us as we forgive others.”  (Matthew 6:12)   Or, break the mold and hang out with the bruised, broken-hearted, or outcast.   Sit with someone new at lunch.     Vow to do something for the environment.   Sacrifice a coffee and make a small donation.  In short, live your discipleship in some small way that day.  Tell your microchurch partner what you’re going to do.  They are your accountability partner for the day.  Faith without actions is empty!  (James 2:17)  Resolve to do something for Christ.  If you want, at your next microchurch, you can tell what happened.  You’ve got something to “rejoice!”

So there it is:   Rejoice/Release, Pray, Resolve.  5 minutes.

It doesn’t matter what order you do it in.  Just do it.  It can take just 5 minutes.   You can do it on twitter.   When you do, you’re doing church.  You’re living your faith.  You’re growing in discipleship.  You’re doing something terribly biblical:  putting together faith and life together.

Microchurch won’t replace bible study, praise & worship, or breaking bread together.  But, it’ll let you have church wherever, whenever, every day.

“For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” – Matthew 18:20