Good News and Better News… January 30th, 2017

 

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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good-news-lighthouse-point

I had the privilege of sharing in Lighthouse Point, Florida.

What a fabulous name. Opens the door for all sorts of clever interpretation–especially for a writer who might become overly exuberant.

But what struck me was that we were returning for our third occasion to be sponsored by Pastor Gabe, in yet another of her assigned churches.

She is a dynamic woman. Let me change that. She is an outstanding person–a breast cancer survivor, a minister, an individual with a delightful sense of humor, and also, as I found out yesterday, enjoys watching reruns of “West Wing.”

During a conversation with Gabe, she mentioned that this present church was about the same size as all of the other churches she had pastored.

Kind of small.

Although she did not express any sadness or misgiving about the size, I thought to myself, “We live in a country that thinks the bigger things are, the better they are.”

Although that might apply to hamburgers and ice cream cones, it certainly does not come to play in discussing a church.

For you see, a church is not an organization, a meeting hall, a service or a club. A church does not become more impressive because there are more butts in seats.

A church is a place where those who are seeking maturity can come together to strengthen one another.

Factually, I don’t know if you can do that with more than a hundred people at a time. You can jam fifteen thousand Christians into an auditorium, but it doesn’t mean that a single-mindedness of joy and faith will be produced.

Yes, the purpose of the church is to encourage people to “grow to the fullness of the measure of the stature of Jesus.”

Whenever you gather more than three or four hundred together, you’ve got to have a program with praise band singers and create some sort of atmosphere of worship, hoping that somewhere over the coffee and donuts provided in the fellowship hall, human conversation might somehow ensue. But that’s not who we are.

We need fullness.

In the human experience, fullness occurs when we allow ourselves to feel. So when I go into a church and people are reluctant to express emotion, I know they’ve convinced themselves that they’re in a worship service instead of a fellowship.

We also need to reach a certain measure.

What is that measure? A sense of survival. After all, we will never succeed if we can’t first survive. We learn to survive by hearing the testimony of others–like Gabe, who herself survived the horror of disease.

We realize we are not alone. For after all, there is nothing lonelier than being in a room with ten thousand people and knowing nobody.

And finally, church should grant us stature.

In other words, we know we can grow. Why? Because we just testified to people about our new discovery.

This is the atmosphere that was intended for the church of Jesus of Nazareth.

  • I can feel
  • I can survive
  • I can grow

And what Pastor Gabe, and all of us, need to celebrate is that the church is not noteworthy because of its sanctuary. It becomes the light of the world because it lights up its members.

The good news is that America is doing well because people like Pastor Gabe are on the job, with an attention to detail and a care for fellow-travelers.

The better news is that we in the church become a highly functioning organism when we motivate the souls around us to grow “to the fullness of the measure of the stature of Jesus.”

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Jesonian: Reverend Meningsbee (Part 9) Tongue Depressor … June 26th, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Reverend Meningsbee

Monday morning was no better.

Before noon, Meningsbee succeeded in offending three well-meaning souls.

Coming back from the church service on Sunday in a growling mood, he had tossed and turned all night, failing to get enough sleep. So when he was awakened at 8:45 A. M. by the phone, he was barely able to eek out a respectable “hello.”

The call came from Pastor Mickey Jiles from the Pentecostal Assembly Church just down the road. Mickey explained that he had awakened “concerned for his brother” after the events of the past week, and wanted to let him know that “prayers were going forth” and “if he needed anything at all, just give a buzz.”

Meningsbee was in no mood for generosity. He managed a curt, “Thank you, but I’m fine,” and hung up–wondering if Pastor Jiles felt the conversation was over.

In the midst of Meningsbee trying to don his socks, there was a knock at the door. It was young Danny, the paper-boy, who came to collect for newspaper deliveries. Suddenly Meningsbee found himself in a squabble with the fine lad over a price hike that had come from the big city without asking Danny’s permission.

Meningsbee begrudgingly paid the extra money as he slammed the door.

Then, somewhere in the midst of a bite of burnt toast, the phone rang again and it was his good friend from Chicago, calling to see how he was doing and how the great experiment was coming along. Meningsbee lied and said he was on his way out the door and would call back later. The sweet old chum remained jovial, but sensed there was some difficulty.

Tuesday was not much better, and Wednesday threatened to get worse. By Thursday, Meningsbee felt it was best that he not interact with any human for fear that he would generate emotional devastation.

So when Sunday rolled around and it was time to go to the church, every “negative nagging ninnie” notion came to his mind as he drove to the sanctuary. He sat in his car, trying to get in a better mood.

The transformation was aided by the fact that there was a pretty good turnout. With his professional pastoral “car-counting ability,” he judged that most of the folks who last week made the benevolent journey to the other congregation had made their way back to the flock.

It should have put him in a good mood, but it didn’t.

So it was time to fall back on his training. How should a good pastor act?

He took three deep breaths, emerged from his car and proceeded into the building.

He forced a smile.

He portrayed himself as jovial.

He hugged a couple of children.

In so doing he became a little too loud, a bit boisterous, and although he had set a precedent for allowing the congregation to determine the tempo of the service, on this morning he stepped in to become the “leader of the worship.”

It was adequate. The average person sitting in the pew possibly didn’t sense anything different, but Meningsbee knew better. He had lost some innocence. What was once a passion for constructive change had now become a competition by a company man.

He was so angry. Or was it disappointment? Or was it a feeling that justice was not being provided?

He remained human just long enough to greet all those who came, and then, before the building was even emptied, he slipped away to his car, climbed in and sat for a moment, staring at the departing friends as tears filled his eyes.

It was a shitty day.

Yes, the word “shit” came from his lips.

Profanity had speckled his mind all week long, but had been held at bay by propriety.

Now it was unleashed.

What the hell was going on?

He started his car, backed up and headed out the exit. He turned right, pointing his vehicle northward, and just started driving.

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There’s room in the front… October 16, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

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I pick my battles.church attendance

After all, it’s a free country.

I do believe these two statements are doing more to deter progress and the growth of human beings than any I’ve ever encountered. They are so frequently spoken that I wonder if those piping the notions might want to just have it tattooed on their chests.

Recently, it was shared with me by a pastor at a church, who was explaining why his congregation sat in the rear instead of moving up to the front of the church. In the most gentle way possible, I told him that I found this annoying.

He replied, “Well, what’cha gonna do? I pick my battles, and after all, it’s a free country.”

But here’s the problem: faith is not a worship service. It is not a eulogy of a once-great idea. It is about burgeoning relationships among human beings which need to be nurtured, fostered and even corrected, to assure that it moves forward instead of sliding back into tradition.

Case in point: at the first sign of a member of our family becoming ill, we step into the situation to get them treatment, right? Likewise, it is really sick to go to a church and see people gathered in the rear, spread all over the place, separated from each other, and to pawn that off as a “rightful choice of American citizens.” For when you isolate the reasons for such dispersion, the conclusions are a bit telling:

1. “I sit in the rear because I don’t want to be close.”

Fellowship is not defined as “friendly disconnection” or “surface amiability.” The Good Book says, “draw nigh unto God and He will draw nigh unto you.” So what do you get when you sit in the back? Less God.

2. “I sit in the back because I have always sat here.”

The back seats of a church should be reserved for those who timidly arrive in need, looking for a home, or the infirm. It is not for those souls who supposedly have been redeemed, set free and are there to celebrate abundant life.

3. “I sit in the back because I don’t want to be forced into participation.”

I’m sure they continue to pursue this practice when going to the stadium to watch the football team or huddling at the local amusement park on fifty percent off day.

4. “I sit in the back because I want to watch.”

With our society immersed in technology, we feel we have the privilege of standing at a distance and gazing at the horror of the lives of others without feeling any empathy whatsoever. But that’s not church.

A relationship with God is not a spectator sport. It cannot be downloaded. It must be infused.

5. “I sit in the back because I want to leave quickly. I’m willing to be here but anxious to get out the door.”

Wham-bam, thank you, God. This is not a very good advertisement for a contented lover of spirituality.

One minister recently told me that he “didn’t want to be a dictator.” I feel sorry for a generation of potentially good stewards who do not know the difference between being a dictator and a leader. A dictator makes everything a battle–true.

But if you take too long to pick your battles, the war will be over, and one thing will be certain:

You lost.

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