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09 January 2009

The Freak List

Sheesh, I had some great conversations yesterday!

A friend and I e-mailed back and forth on some things about the modern-day Church. I mentioned some hypothetical and real-world things about which I think we (and every church fellowship) need to repeatedly ask of ourselves, "Why are we doing this?" and be willing to change based upon how that question is answered.

His reply included the statement that if I wanted unity in the body of believers, some change shouldn't necessarily happen (though he wasn't suggesting that we stagnate). But honestly, unity is not the overall goal here. If half of the members of a church love Christ -- I mean, love Christ -- and the other half doesn't (by that I mean that they don't obviously and deliberately live out their walk with God), then trying to create unity is pointless. Half of the people will be unified in Christ and the other half will not be unified; probably not even with each other. Do you agree/disagree?

No, my goal is to continually develop a group of believers that loves Christ and lives it out. Unity will follow.

Following up on that thought, I asked my friend, "How many hardcore Jesus freaks do you think there are at Wall Highway?" His answer surprised me. It was lower than I'd have suggested, and I'm a pessimist. Now, I'm not talking here about good, nice, decent people. We're overloaded with those. I'm talking about the people who, no doubt about it, would take a bullet to the head if they could serve Jesus Christ while doing it.

At worship team rehearsal last night, I posed that question to the team, not asking for a verbal answer. My follow-up question was, "Are you among that group of people?"

And so that becomes my question for you. Say it out loud so that it has some impact (and so that people around you think you're weird for talking to yourself): "How many hardcore Christ-followers are there at [my church fellowship]?" Then answer it. Next out-loud question: "Am I one of them?" (If you're teetering on your answer to this one, ask yourself, "How many people would think of me as a hardcore Christ-follower?")

If people wouldn't think of you that way, why wouldn't they? Is, "No, I'm not a hardcore Jesus freak," acceptable to you?

(You obviously don't have to post a comment with your answers.)

"A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit... Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions." (Matthew 7:17, 20, NLT) and "But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!" (Galatians 5:22-23, NLT)

Be sure to reserve the most major assessment for yourself and your own life -- that's the point here. It's led to some real self-examination for me.

8 comments:

Jan said...

Good post Dean. As for the issue of change vs. unity (I understand that is not your point), I'm not sure that "Agreement" or "lack of conflict" equals unity as much as passivity. I believe unity is an issue of the heart that will bypass preferences and the angst many feel over change or even the lack thereof. Unity is not about just passively agreeing or not being upset over something. Unity is deeper than that.

If we are passionate about Jesus and our life with Him and the Kingdom, we'll disagree from time to time. Unity is loving one another and walking forward together even so.

Maybe you have to be a certified Jesus freak to be that committed to one another and to the Kingdom of God, and not just to your set of philosophies and opinions.

So maybe they are connected.

Melissa said...

Regarding what Jan said:

"If we are passionate about Jesus and our life with Him and the Kingdom, we'll disagree from time to time. [TRUE] Unity is loving one another and walking forward together even so.

Maybe you have to be a certified Jesus freak to be that committed to one another and to the Kingdom of God, and not just to your set of philosophies and opinions."

I've found that to be true in my own life. If I'm not focused on serving Him and walking daily with Him, it's a lot harder to be more united with other believers.

However, when my mindset is what it should be, and that is loving and serving Him, it's a lot easier to get along with, serve and be united with fellow believers (even when we diagree). The phrase, "agreeing to disagree" is doable then, when otherwise it wouldn't have been if I had not been ONE and united with Christ first and foremost (aka- certified Jesus Freak or not).

I've talked with you before on this, Dean, so I know your heart. I know you so badly want people to grasp what loving, serving and being sold out to Christ REALLY is about. You are right, you are always trying to encourage others to do just that and that's great.

The Holy Spirit is ultimately going to have to get ahold of people's hearts and they (we) will have to be sensitive and allow Him to change their (our) hearts. I have learned that firsthand from praying for someone very close to me, and I realize more and more (even this past week), that I can't change their heart or UNITE them with Him or other believers myself. It's going to have to be a choice they make themselves, and unfortunately, too many people (myself included at times) lose sight of the big picture and get our eyes focused on ourselves, our disagreements with others, etc., instead of Him.

So let's live out Hebrews 12:1-3, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."

Just my two cents. :)

Preston N said...

I will agree wholeheartedly here that "Half of the people will be unified in Christ and the other half will not be unified". What I seem to find these days is it is especially hard or difficult for not only people within the established church to change, but especially so for its leaders(for that is where it needs to start!). Why? Because they have more to lose and more is at stake - reputations, power, comfort, money, prestige etc (I am not speaking of all church leaders here, but I have found that a good majority often face this issue - Francis Chan would be a good exception here). Unless leaders of the church are truly willing to be emptied of themselves (and yes this may even require them to empty themselves of their position of influence) they will be of little use to God's kingdom. What I find is people of the world hate change. But as Christians we should embrace change, especially change that is dealing with issues of the heart. Moral and Spiritual growth (change) is a sign (or symptom) that God's knowledge and light is not only being revealed to us, but is actively alive in us!

The issue I often find is when church leadership experiences knowledge that something drastically needs to change in their church, they often baulk because of how it might then jeopardize their comfort level, reputation, or disrupt the lives of their parishioners - more often enough it is those who are not unified in Christ.

"Hardcore Jesus Freaks" typically will either find themselves utterly frustrated at most churches because their fire and passion for Christ will often cause so much "change" that it disrupts peoples lukewarmness and as a result they will be told to settle down or to leave. Just look at characters in the bible, who were mistreated or hated - it wasn't those leaders who got along with the faithful, but those who were hated by the religious. Jesus said we will be hated and scoffed at - how many within your churches are being mocked or scoffed at because of their desire to truly be more like Christ? If you can't think of anyone more than likely they have either left or they have been silenced or told to leave. (Again I am speaking in general terms here and not any church specifically).

Preston N said...

One other point - Was Jesus unified with the religious community of his day or was he hated? Jesus is the ultimate "freak" if you will and I find too many examples of where he is in "conflict" rather than in unity with the religious of his day. We could also throw in Paul, the apostles and John the Baptist as just a few others who found themselves in constant conflict if you will. Just a thought......

Dean Lusk said...

"Unless leaders of the church are truly willing to be emptied of themselves (and yes this may even require them to empty themselves of their position of influence) they will be of little use to God's kingdom."

Hey, you can't write that at a church leader's blog!!

I'm kidding (of course you can). And wow! Right on the money...

I'm in agreement with all three of these comments, but Preston's is really hits home with me, since that's what I do.

Now, the same can be said for everyone -- not just church leaders; don't get me wrong. Many people (most, I'd bet), fail to follow what God is telling them to do either because they're not listening or because they're scared that they'll lose their stuff and money and influence and power.

And isn't it much more incumbent upon those of us who do have responsibility as leaders in the body of Christ to be so absolutely sold out and in love with Christ that we'll follow Him wherever He leads? Even if it's somewhere we won't get to have our position? Even if it's changing, implementing, or opposing something within the church -- at the risk of our job?

Dean Lusk said...

Jan - those were excellent points. "Agreement" or "lack of conflict" does often (maybe most often) equal passivity; not unity. I spent several e-mails going back and forth with the original conversation friend about the good examples of unity... saying things like, "Here's an example -- I don't agree with this particular guy on several things, but he REALLY loves Christ, and we always find unity of purpose whether or not we agree."

Melissa - you noted that when your walk isn't what it should be on a given day, it's tough to be "united" with other believers. Absolutely! I identify with that. And just imagine someone who doesn't even think much at all about walking with Christ? How is that person going to be united with someone who's deeply in love with Christ?

And for all, while change and unity were key ingredients of the post, its nutshell was for each of us to ask ourselves, "Am I a hardcore Jesus freak?" (or if I were a little more sedate, I might ask, "Am I a completely devoted and consumed Christ-follower?")

If I can't answer with a resounding "YES!" then I need to ask myself how deep my love for God really runs, don't I? And I need to immediately be on my face before God asking for forgiveness and a massive change of heart.

That's the point I was trying to make. Unfortunately I wrote about that unity and change stuff first. :)

Leroy said...

The key to being a Jesus Freak is self. Wow, "self" IS good for something!! How do mean...we have to decide for ourselves if Jesus is the most important aspect in our life. Nobody can do that for me. Not my leaders, not my wife, not my friends...only ME. These other things are factors for the continuation of the freakiness (that just sounds weird) or maybe the "hey I want to be a freak too" aspect, but they can't flip the switch to our heart.

Beth said...

Great post, Dean...

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