people don’t like Chrisitans

Churches can be really insular places.

It’s counter intuitive to say the least. Churches should be one of the most loving, welcoming places in the world. But we all know that often that isn’t’ the case. There are so many reasons why church isn’t welcoming and we’re not going to fix them here. We’re not addressing structure here.

We’re addressing you.

There’s a strong perception with people I know who don’t attend church that churches are harsh spaces filled with judgment and cliques.

This week we’re going to work on that.

This week talk to a co-worker, neighbour, etc. you’ve never had a real conversation with before. Try to speak with them more than once. Go outside the norm of your relationships. Go outside the church.

You’d be surprised how many people don’t know a Christian or even worse don’t know a Christian they like. The only Christians they know are ones they want nothing to do with and we know all the reasons why.

No more cliques, no more inward focus, no more rampant judgement.

Love and grace will be our mark.

We will be transparent and honest.

We aren’t perfect and we won’t pretend to be, or have the answer to make them perfect.

We will connect with people where they are.

People will know us by our love.

So go connect in some new relationships. It’s very possible you’re the first loving Christian they’ve ever meet.

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don’t get me wrong prayer is important…

Prayer is important.

I worry every I write about prayer that people will get the impression that I don’t see it as important. I do. I value it a great deal. If you’ve been following along here you know that I wrote three prayers (here, here and here) and then reflected on them the following week (here, here and here).

Prayer is important.

But so often we stop there. I’ve written about it before. The temptation to just pray. To see or know someone in need and just pray. We are so much more than that.

That’s why this week’s challenge is for you to think of someone who you have recently said or have been tempted to say “I’ll pray for you” and go the next step. Make sure you pray for them, but also draft a list of the things you’re really and honestly prepared to do to love and support them. Then give it to them.

Most of us truly mean it when we say “let me know if there is anything I can do” but I’ve found this to be more impactful. It shows time, caring and thought. It wasn’t something that just slipped out or was said out of duty.

They’ll know you’re serious and that’s the point.

To be serious about our love and to not just pray for support but answer that prayer with tangible support as well.

who is my neighbour?

This is it.

It’s finally here.

This is the first week I’m asking you to dip into your normal everyday life. To not change the way you interact with people in your life but to actively seek out a new interaction.

I want you to have dinner.

Or coffee, wine, cookies, hotdogs, whatever you want.

I want you to connect, probably over food and drink because it’s easier, with your neighbour.

Invite them over if you don’t know them well or accept their invitation to coffee you’ve been avoiding.

Connect with your neighbour this week.  And this not some sort of deep theological question around ‘who is my neighbour’? it’s the person who lives near you, in geographical proximity.

Go knock on somones door and say “Hi, I’m your neighbour. I was wondering if you’d want to come by for dinner/drink/cookies sometime. We’ve been neighbours for _______ and I thought it’d be nice to know who’s around us.”

No agenda.

No ulterior motives.

Just get to know your neighbour for who they are, as they are right now.

a small but exciting change

This week marks a small change. I hope it’s a good thing.

If you’ve ever checked out the About tab you’ll notice that one of the many ways I spend my time is as the Compassion Coordinator for the Kitchener site of the Meeting House.

My involvement with the Meeting House was one of the reasons I started writing again.

This Sunday we shared with the church that we are starting a new site wide compassion project and I wanted to invite everyone here to join us.

Every week from now until the end of the year we have a tangible compassion action that people can interject into their everyday life. The idea is to give everyone some easy points to start moving towards the life marked by compassion. They are just starting points, some of which I’ve mentioned here before.

I hope you jump in with me and do these.

Every Monday I’m going to share what the plan is for that week and then on Friday I’m going to share what my week was like. I’d love to hear if you’re trying these and what your experience was like.

Since I’m doing something different Monday and Friday my normal Monday and Friday stuff will be pushed to Tuesday and Thursday.

That’s right you’re stuck with me every day of the week now. Try to contain you obvious excitement.

So to start this all off, something super easy.

Say Hi to everyone you pass on the street his week.

I obviously stole this idea from my wife. Is that considered stealing? I gave her credit so I think I’m good.

If you don’t know what this is Sarah’s idea, check out here, here and here to find out why my wife is awesome.

So this week if you’re getting out of your car at home say hi to your neighbour.

Walking the dog, say hi to everyone who passes.

I bike home from work twice a week so I’m going to try and say hi to everyone I pass. It may be super strange but I’m going to try.

I don’t know what’s going to happen. Some of you will be drawn into conversations and relationships you never thought you would. Others might get some death stares. You may just get series of awkward smiles and Hi’s back. All of those are good.

This is about getting out into community and expanding your relationships outside of what is easy and comfortable.

Check back Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday for my regular posts and then again on Friday to hear how my week went.

I’m really excited about this. I’m excited to hear your stories. I’m excited to do this with community. I’m excited to see how this will impact my life.

I hope you’re excited too!

it’s not always them

 

So Quinn doesn’t sleep as much as I’d like him too.

I suppose I may be expecting too much of a 5 week old. Is it too much to want him to sleep 8 hours at night? Or 4?

But expectations are a funny thing aren’t they.

I remember years ago I was helping with a discipleship weekend where we took a bunch of teenagers and had them stay up all night and engage with God in a bunch of different ways. Pray, reflection, art, music, the whole gambit. The idea was to create some kind of a right of passage. A mark to look back on.

It’s probably 3 in the morning and one of the guys comes and sits with all the leaders for a moment. We ask how he’s doing and in the twilight of the night he shares with us one of the most insightful things I’ve ever heard.

He says “I think I know why I’m so angry. You see I have the expectations of people. I want to them to be this or do that. But I don’t even tell them. I get mad at people for not meeting MY expectations that they don’t even know I have! I’m gonna stop doing that.”

And he got up and walked away.

The kids brilliant.

He understood so clearly that his actions were being dictated by himself and not others, despite feeling it was the other way round. How often do we do that?

How often do I get frustrated and upset with people stuck in their ways or going to church but not being church? The answer is roughly always. But that’s on me. That’s me not seeing where they are and helping them take the next step as opposed to trying rushing them to some arbiraty finish and being upset they don’t see everything the way I do.

Or as a father (if you’re not then a friend, co-worker, son, daughter, etc) how what I want my son to be will shape how I see him. What I wish for him will impact what I see as ‘success’ or ‘failure’. I have these hopes and dreams for Quinn that he’s had no say in. They aren’t even based on his personality or the man he is. They are just some things I hope for me.

And if he never becomes them?

Or what if I set out to change a person? A friend or a neighbour who become a project. What happens if the ‘project’ is never finished?

Relationships ruined by OUR expectations.

This all isn’t to say don’t’ have them but we do need to be mindful because more than we would like to admit the problem is with us and not them.

let Jesus leak

I suspect by now you’ve caught on that I like stories.

I like stories for a few reasons. To me, stories are engaging. They help to make a point but in a way that is not just relatable but often easier to remember.

With all that said today I don’t have a story for you.

Also I’m married. I just thought you should know.

.

.

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Yeah, I agree that was odd and abrupt. Really kind of out of place.

It was also strange because if you’ve been reading here for any length of time you’ve heard (seen?) me talk about my wife Sarah. So why would I just abruptly and awkwardly throw that little bit of information in?

To make a point of course.

Isn’t that what we often do with our faith? We’re talking with someone and just out of nowhere force some sort of Christian statement. “I’m a Christian by the way.” Followed by the same awkward pause.

Why do we do that? Why isn’t it more organic?

Bruxy Cavey talked about this in his sermon yesterday. He referred to having Jesus leak out of you.

I didn’t have to force some awkward remark or step out of the flow of our conversations to tell you I was married. It came out because Sarah is a massive part of my life. She is a part of so much of what I do I couldn’t keep her out my stories unless I was actively trying.

Do we actively try to keep Jesus from coming out?

Maybe.

I think at times we worry about how to tell people about Jesus. We worry how to share our stories.

There’s a joke some friends of mine say a lot. We talk about sharing Jesus by loving people or building relationships or volunteering then someone inevitably says “yeah, but when do we hand out the tract? It doesn’t count if we don’t.”

If Jesus is as big a part of your life as I suspect all of you would say He is or want Him to be He HAS to come out naturally. How could you keep Him in?

How could you tell people about your weekend without mentioning being at church?

How could you tell people how your evening was without mentioning that you were out volunteering?

How could you be building honest and real relationships while holding back one of the most important people in your life?

Jesus wants to leak out into your everyday. Naturally, organically, in your day to day relationships.

You don’t force Jesus into conversation. You share who you are with people. Share love, grace, and how you found that in your own life and let Jesus leak out as you do.

as they are because they are

Now comes the hard one. We’ve been building to it.

Loving your community. That’s your neighbours, your co-workers, the man experiencing homelessness you pass every day. This is the hard one but in all honesty probably the most important. This is the one we’re called to. This is the space to which Jesus teaching should take us to. This is the great commission.

We will spend a LOT of time in this space.

To step back for a moment, I don’t think this is new. We know who Jesus hung out with. We know who he’s called us to connect with. That said, this is the space we so often struggle in. This is the space we make excuses in. This is the space we wish we knew HOW to do.

As we do here, a story.

Sarah and I wanted to be more involved in our community. We actually sat in our living room and said ‘so what exactly do we do?’. Sure we wanted to love people and get involved but HOW do we do it?

We decided on a community party. We’d go door to door and personally invite all our neighbours to come to a neighbourhood party. We’d have all the food, all the drinks, everything. All they would need to do is come.

To be honest we were worried.

One, going door to door makes me feel outrageously uncomfortable. But we thought it need to be personal and not just a letter in their door if we could. So we did it. I felt super uncomfortable the entire time but we did it.

Two, I was worried that everyone would think there was some ulterior motive. And not just some ‘thanks everyone for coming. If it’s ok I’d like to take a few minutes to talk about an investment opportunity…’ type ulterior motive.

No I was worried people would think ‘I think that’s that Christian couple. I bet they’re going to try and convert us or tell us we have to go to church or that we’re bad people or something. You know bait us in with free beer then tell us we’re all sinners going to hell for drinking the beer.’

I don’t know if it sounds ridiculous to you but I was honestly worried.

I was worried because the church has really screwed this one up. People are projects not people. People are a means to an end, a gold start for saving a soul. I was worried people wouldn’t believe that we honestly just wanted to get to know them.

I was worried that people wouldn’t believe that for Sarah and I they are our end. Getting to know them, building an honest, real relationship was our goal. Not to convert them or tell them how they should be living but to just get to know them enough that we could start actually loving them.

So the day came and despite it raining we had a good turnout. It was good enough that we did it again at Christmas. Was a super awkward start?

YUP!

But we met new people, shared some drinks, laughs, stories and had a ton of fun!

Yes this compassion in community is big and there’s a lot more to see but it looks like action. It looks like love. The life of compassion in relation to our community is us in relationship with our community. Not set apart but embedded in. Not distant but close. Not judgement but love and grace.

We get into the messiness of our community, our neighbour, co-workers and the man experiencing homelessness on the street. We do it because we’re disciples. We do it because we want to love everyone like Jesus loves us, as we are because we are. Not a project to be fixed or some goal to be accomplished but a person to be loved just as they are with no expectations of anything in return or any change from them.

We do it because that’s our call and our commission.

We do it because we are striving to live a life of compassion.