Thursday, April 26, 2007

Leading from the Inside

Do we really need leaders? Do we need Christians to walk at a faster pace than the rest? To run to the front? The great missions movements of the 19th century began with shoemaker/botanist/baptist/missionary William Carey's, "Expect great things; attempt great things." Carey used this phrase in a 1792 sermon to urge his Baptist colleagues to enter the missionary enterprise. Many other movements withing Christendom have followed suit. Run to the front lines and see if God will meet you there. What he did not say was "Expect great things for God; attempt great things for God." Maybe I should take a second look at William Carey.

At the end of last year Wesley Autry jumped off a train platform to save a stranger who had fallen on to the tracks. This heroic act has been turned in to a good salvation metaphor. I like it. Christ jumps off the tracks, runs to the battle, walks deliberately toward the cross--all to save us.

But the logic is flawed. I agree with the thought that "we must do more to reach lost people for Christ." In and of itself you can't argue with working everyday, every moment toward a life that gives all for the Lord so that never an opportunity is lost to share and witness and help other to encounter the Risen One. But... for William Carey, he was so focused, so far out in front, so "into" his goal that many were appalled at the neglect with which Carey looked after his four boys and his wife. Carey simply ignored them. Is it possible to want to "reach lost people for Christ" to the point that we ignore those who have fallen on to the tracks around us?

This is where the story of William Carey and Wesley Autry intersect. Maybe William Carey's dream of a mission to India became an idol? Maybe running to the front is not the example Christians leaders are to portray. "I'm still saying I'm not a hero ... 'cause I believe all New Yorkers should get into that type of mode," Wesley Autry said on CBS' The Early Show. "You should do the right thing...I was like, 'Maybe I was in the right place at the right time, and a good thing happened for good people.'" A leader is not a heroic explorer, because a leader wants everyone to get into the type of mode their in. And if they are in the right type of mode then they can say follow me as I follow Christ.

Godly leaders don't always need to run to the front. Maybe a godly leader is always in the right place. For godly leaders maybe it is always the right time. I believe a godly leader will be driven, not by something outside themselves, visible in time and place, but by a fire in our heart that can't be held back no matter how hard we try. Our passion, our dream, our fire should not be "ours" alone.

From another Wesley...
Catch on fire with enthusiasm and people will come for miles to watch you burn.
John Wesley

Keep jumping

Friday, April 13, 2007

Easter Sunday

During Holy Week I had the privilege of burying a Christian man with a strong witness to the steady hand of God. It was very appropriate that during the week on which we buried him we as Christians were looking forward to the celebration of the resurrection the following Sunday.

Jesus of Nazareth lives outwardly, a life that looks beyond himself toward the needs of others. "He came to love, heal, and forgive" is how the Gaither's describe it. But the mission Christ the Messiah was always an other-worldly focus. He was passionate and committed to doing His Father's will and only his fathers will. Good Friday's "not my will, but yours, be done." Luke 22:42 reminds us of this.

Praise God that His mission is to create for himself a people, not just persons. And Praise God that Christ was willing to form that people by his own body and blood.

"When we embrace faith—when God embraces us—we become new creatures constituted and called to be part of the people of God. We are invited into the story of God's engagement with humanity"—Miroslav Volf

One half of God's mission involves calling a people to himself. When we heal, love and forgive we take part in this half. But the second half of God's mission involves centering that people, establishing that people, "constituting" that people in and around Himself. When we risk, when we give, when we ask for forgiveness, when we fall on our knees before God and say "not my will, but yours, be done." We take part in the second half.

The "Free Hugs" campaign is a nice idea, but it seem a little ways off from a faith that both embraces and is embraced by God.