The Buchele Adventure

This is record of the Buchele Adventure, as reported from West Africa.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Lebh Shomea: Listening

Lebh Shomea: Listening

The first thing I realize is how cluttered my life has become, our house, my office, my calendar, my thoughts. The rule of the house Lebh Shomea suggests that we keep our rooms uncluttered, in line with the beauty and stark simplicity of the place. In the silence, great conversations are held in as I alternate books, a chapter of Love Wins,(Rob Bell-2011) then a chapter of Healing Everywhere, (John Banks-1966); read in one setting without distraction or interruption. And then the conversations begin as I listen to these two authors separated by 45 years. Both speak to this concept of salvation, but in much broader terms than we in the church do. Rather than a single salvific moment that awakens our faith (and saves us), salvation could mean wholeness, a process or journey that leads toward wholeness, in which our faith is just a component.

Lebh Shomea is a place where concepts gain clarity. It is the place when I was serving my first church that the guiding principals of

Grow the Kingdom
Become more Christ-like

were realized. It was like God was saying “Steve, I know you’re not the brightest bulb in the box, and so I’m going to make it real simple for you, just have your church do these two things: Grow the Kingdom and become more Christ-like.” I brought this idea back to the church staff and leaders and asked them, so what do you think? I spoke with my mentors asking them if they could see any problem with these twin ideals. After a few years the church warmed up to these guiding principals and the idea took root, and remains today.

Its also this place where the silence of 2004 taught me the proper ordering of life,

and Everything else.

I council young soon-to-be-marrieds on this rule, that everything else is anything else that isn’t God and Family, so its your job, career, truck, guitar, previous life… and if you change this ordering and put anything else above God and Family, you are choosing to make it difficult for God to bless your lives together. Priorities.

The silence brings on an evaluative or contemplation of what one has done with their life, especially in the realization that the time I have left on this earth is less than the time I have already lived. It becomes natural to wonder what difference have I really made? The computer games I wrote after college only lasted a few years, the research I did at after that, who knows, there is some of my imbedded systems code running around on our fleet of subs, and then all the long hours spent serving the church. What have I to show for it? It’s vanity of vanities, as the author of Ecclesiastes (chapter 1) wrote. More and more I realize the only things that last are the relationships I’ve built with people, or as my supervising pastor used to say “Its all about relationships, Steve”. But relationships are hard to quantify, and they take time, and there is noting to point to or admire, and say job well done until the time to nurture them has long passed.

It is also the place that I began to understand the true mission of the church, at least as I see it. Now I know we say the mission of the United Methodist Church is to

Make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world,

where disciple is used as a noun, and we measure those nouns by counting the number of people who made a first-time confession of faith, or are baptized. So one measure of our effectiveness in this mission statement might be to divide the number of new disciples by our annual budget, and it comes out to something close to $50,000/disciple  made (using 2009 figures, the grand total paid was $103,378,852, and in that same year 2099 professions of faith were recorded). I know that is crude, but if making disciples is our mission, then someone needs to say…we are not very efficient at it.

We need a broader definition of what disciple means. Instead of making disciples, the church could disciple people, using the word as a verb. Instead of the single event of making a disciple, it becomes a process where we disciple people; understood as a process, a journey toward wholeness. And so what I heard in the silence of 2005 was that the mission of the church (that is why we do what we do) could be:

Connect people to God
Connect people to those around them
Connect people to the lives they were created to live.

In other words, to help individual people connect to the divine, to be in community, to work towards living more fulfilling lives. Individually and collectively, we work toward this mission by attending worship, by being active in a Small Group, and by serving in some way that helps another person. Its not a radio button, or multiple choice, its all three, and when we understand and set the expectation that people in this tribe are on a shared journey that is always leading us to connect with God, to the people around us, and the lives God created us to live. Only by attending to all three do we seek the wholeness that is our salvation. But it’s a hard sell and few have caught this vision for the mission for the church. Maybe the connecting language doesn’t pay enough homage to the traditional mission of the institutional Methodist church, the whole make disciples thing. So this year the silence of 2011 brought me a refinement:

Make Disciples,
Disciple People,
Wash more Feet.

If we the church could just do those three things, maybe God would bless our efforts.

Next: Lessons Learned.


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