Church: can’t live with her, can’t live without her

On his Monday Morning Devotional Blog, a Wesleyan pastor and good friend of mine, Lenny Luchetti, has posed the question in regards to the church, “Why bother?” What are the reasons you feel you can’t live with the church, and what are the reasons you can’t live without the church? I gave him this response…

Why I sometimes feel like I CAN’T LIVE WITH the church:

Because people in the church can sometimes be the most judgmental, uncaring people in the world.

Why I feel like I CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT the church:

Because the relationships that God has given us in the church are the testing grounds where God allows his Holy Spirit to mold us into the people he wants us to be. In other words, God intends the saving and renewing relationship that he has with us to be experienced in the midst of other really crummy people who are at various stages of experiencing the benefits of relationship with God. If I can’t humble myself and love my brothers and sisters in the face of judgmental attitudes within the church, how can I follow Christ’s command to love my enemies who are outside the church?

I often reflect on marriage in the same way. The marriage bond is the closest of human relationships, and it is the place where the furnace can burn hottest to destroy the impurities in our own hearts, but it is also the place where we receive the greatest support and encouragement to go on. And that’s what the church is, the bride of Christ. And it’s within the community called ‘church’ where the Spirit of Christ purifies us like fire, but also motivates, equips, and encourages us to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Those two greatest of commands are inseparable. We can’t love God if we aren’t loving our brothers and sisters in the church. And a sign that we are loving God is that we are putting the needs of our brothers and sisters before our own.

So the church–as ugly as it can sometimes appear with all it’s fallen sinful humanity–is beautiful in God’s sight because Jesus is redeeming his people for himself. I could despise the church for all the ugliness of sinful humanity that is still present within her, but to do so would be to ignore my own faults and need for a Savior. Thus, to reject the church is to reject the only One who is able to save that church and me.

So what would you say?

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Strategy Development for a Bible Translation Movement

I have been asked along with every other member of my organization to contribute ideas for developing our strategy over the next 5-10 years to be meaningfully engaged in Bible translation and language-based development in Papua New Guinea. Before I meet with other members to discuss our ideas, I have gathered together some of my own thoughts and share them here. I have put them relatively in order of importance or priority. However, some items near the end (e.g. recruitment) I consider to be some of our biggest needs, although items that appear earlier in the list are often foundational for things that follow.

(These are my own ideas and do not necessarily reflect the values of my organization or anyone else. These statements of need also do not necessarily reflect any present lack in these areas, but may affirm current values that need to continue.)

(1) We need to desire God’s kingdom before everything else. The patterns that are indicative of who we are and how we live and work should be characterized by a love for God and others, and not by an atmosphere of suspicion, self-interest, and blind workaholism.

(2) We need excellent member care resources (pastoral care, counseling opportunites, and a managerial system) that can proactively address members’ stresses and problems before these become urgent concerns. Members should be encouraged and given every opportunity to thrive spiritually so that they can work and minister out of the overflow of their hearts. We need opportunities to meet with trained pastors, counselors, and managers for routine maintenance, and not only for emergencies, worst case scenarios, and required yearly assessments. Every member needs people that can hold one another accountable for our overall health—spiritual, emotional, mental, interpersonal, and physical.

(3) We need a shared language strategy that is whole-heartedly owned and supported by all of the membership. Primarily, I am thinking of the kind of unity of purpose and mutual support that distills any atmosphere of mistrust and division. This means that we should work hard to make such a strategy attractive to all of the membership.

(4) We need a synergistic strategy that allows for member’s differences, and creates opportunities to work together creatively to accomplish something far greater than the individual members could accomplish on their own. To accomplish this well, we need team-building trainers to help teams work effectively together. This may also mean that we probably need to move away from the perspective that each language team has their own program and anything else is time away from that program.

(5) We need a system of adventurous accountability that allows for self-direction and regular accountability, perhaps developed on the learning contract model.

(6) We need church partnerships at the appropriate local, regional and national levels for every language project.

(7) We need to train PNGeans to continue in the Bible translation movement in every place in ways that are appropriate for that place.

(8 ) We need to regularly reassess our own programs and consider if our methods are still appropriate for each situation. This also entails that we are willing to change our programs if we determine that something is not working well, or if something else has great potential to work better.

(9) We need sociolinguistic surveys to consider dialect clusters and teaming approaches.

(10) We need to assess bilingualism in PNG (in each place) and consider how the vernacular (and translations) will best function alongside languages of wider communication.

(11) We need local ownership of translation need. We need to evaluate if “close enough is good enough” for related language dialects in PNG. If not, then the remaining need in PNG may be much greater than we are presently thinking.

(12) We need translation to be a spiritual and social process.

(13) We need scripture used throughout the translation process.

(14) We need to all proactively recruit new members to come be a part of our shared vision. Interaction with potential and new members should be a mentoring relationship from the start before they even arrive. But this relationship should also allow significant freedom to work in the ways that they would most enjoy.