Not Just Another Hopeful Thought (I hope)

It is becoming increasingly difficult for me to continue living the way I have been cultured to live, and to continue to call myself a follower of Jesus.

I have begun to hear, as from a very muffled, fuzzy, static distance, the sound of weeping. I don't know who it is yet. My ears have only just begun to open after years of numbing deafness, and since I've only been tuned in to myself, it is probably my own whimpering I hear.

But the Grace in my faith acknowledges that Jesus promised his Spirit to be in us, and that he alone makes it possible for me to share in his pain--but that it is possible--to feel a tiny bit of his overwhelming lament for poverty, loneliness, consumerism, homelessness, hunger, etc. etc. etc.

If it isn't Jesus I hear, I pray that I will hear him soon, that my good intentions won't fossilize as intentions, but will germinate into practical action and I can be a useful part of the Body. That I won't be so selfish anymore. That my service could help to bring the Kingdom of God here, now, instead of my money used to continue to feed the American dream (even the Christianized version, which doesn't appear all that different sometimes...)

For the first time in my life (sad it's taken me this long), I think I've finally grasped the forever nature of eternity--it really is forever!-- in comparison with this temporary, dusty, earthly life. And for the first time, I think I've begun to sense the urgency of love in this life.

Honestly, I don't really know what's next. This is a new road for me. One that, God-willing, doesn't fulfill me, but empties me. I've been putting some thought into it. Will hopefully have a plan of action soon.


Funny about that word 'actor'

I can see this is becoming an unfortunate pattern--these few and infrequent blog posts of mine. When I had all the time in the world I would get frustrated when my favorite blogs went un-updated. The empty spaces loomed over me laughing, a symbol of what I didn't accomplish when I wasn't blogging. But now it's just a blog. I'd like to blog more, but there is life to live too. And I quite like life.

Thankfully my thoughts have not mimicked my blog these past few weeks. If you took a picture of them you would see something like a skillet of half-scrambled/half-cooked eggs with partly melted cheddar goo-ing through the mush. (Ah, the multi-functional Janzow cheesy eggs... good for high cholesterol, New Testament jokes and brain metaphors...) This is due in part to books, podcasts, discussions with friends and family (too many to list here) and in part to my own writing.

But probably what's cooked up the most is what I hope is righteous anger, not just narcissistic ranting, toward the topic of American Christians, especially leaders, lying by omission instead of speaking the hard truth. My mind was opened to this when I started listening to Mark Driscoll at Mars Hill Church. If you haven't heard of him, he's the main pastor at a church that started mid-90's in Seattle that has grown like crazy, mostly made up of Gen Xers and Yers and a lot of new Christians who I guess you would call hipsters (I dislike the buzz word, but I guess it's the best word to describe the people there). Driscoll is also one of the founders of Acts29, a church planting network.

Driscoll is pretty controversial and in the media often because he's not a pastor who speaks niceties and vague wishy washy faith to give the Christian public what they want to hear. He holds himself and the church accountable to handling sin, prayer, Bible study, finances, stewardship, leadership, community involvement, gender relationships, sex, etc. to God's standard. He even visits local coffee shops and restaurants around his church on Sunday afternoons and asks the managers if Mars Hill members tipped well after their meal. If they didn't, Driscoll takes out his wallet and pays the difference himself. But it's not a law based church. It's not a fire and brimstone church. It's a church motivated by God's love to glorify God in the way they live, and they're dedicated to holding each other accountable for it.

My point is not that Mark Driscoll is my new favorite Christian hero. My point is that recently I've heard of quite a few American churches with leaders who ignore the Spirit-driven courage to speak the difficult truth. Whether it's confronting a member or a staff member who is living in sin, or motivating a congregation to move outside the four walls of the church into the community, or teaching about God's standard for love, sex, marriage and gender roles within marriage, too often church leaders avoid the difficult parts of Scripture. And this is because we preach the Gospel (yes, this is the most important part--don't misread my theology) but then we stop there.

Lying by omission stalls the church and shuts our ears to God's desires. We do not lack motivation. Nothing is more motivating than knowing that God humbled himself to become one of us to save us when all we wanted was our own glory. But after a person sees how much they need God and gives their life to Christ, what comes next? How can you tell a new Christian he or she has to give up his un-married sex, his binge-drinking weekends, his selfish living without giving him anything to replace it?

The point to all of this: I believe the American Church is shrinking because we are not being given a mission. Maybe it's better to say that we are given a mission (especially if Christians are reading their Bible) but it's not taken seriously enough, and the Church is not teaching us how it can be accomplished practically. Or, we are not being held accountable to it.

The Church is begging for a call to action. We are the Church. What does the call look like for you and how can it be accomplished in your community?