THESE PEOPLE

jesus feet

An abandoned daughter discovers her Heavenly Father.
An angry ex-con encounters authentic friendships.
A controlling mother learns to let go and let God.
A one year clean woman mentors a struggling drug addict.
A relationship destroying alcoholic gains new tools and makes amends.
A recovering sex addict finds new purpose and is set free.
A guilt-ridden religious woman experiences grace.

Who are these people?

These are the people Brennan Manning celebrated when he wrote, “There is a beautiful transparency to honest disciples who never wear a false face and do not pretend to be anything but who they are.”

These are the people Jesus had in mind when He said, “I have come to heal the broken-hearted.”

These are the people Jesus said are the greatest because of their humility and commitment to one another.

These are the people Jesus would call the Church.

Yet…

These are the people most churches reject, ignore and outsource to other agencies.

These are the people most churches marginalize, judge, undervalue and under serve.

These are the people most churches hope go somewhere else.

Yet…

These are the people who are bringing huge blessings to my church.

These are the people who are showing us that God is still in the miracle business.

These are the people who are showing us how to be transparent and brave.

These are the people who are showing us the importance of accountability and genuine friendship.

These are the people who are showing us that we are all in recovery from something.

These are the people who are showing us that the ground is level at the foot of the cross.

These are the people who are showing us that everything is Grace.

These are the people that God is with, and if we are with them, then we are with God.

Yet…

Why are so many fleeing the church?

Because the church has rejected “these people.”

These are the very people Jesus said he would judge us by how we treated them.

These are the very people Jesus said that when we serve and love them, we will be blessed.

These are the very people Jesus said that when we serve and love them, we serve and love him.

We too often want the world to change when in reality, the church must change.

Until the church becomes transparent, inclusive, safe, brave, courageous, messy, grace-filled, humble and willing to sacrifice, serve, strategize, prioritize and make a high commitment to serve and be led by “these people”, then it will continue to shrink and be benign.

We too often want the world to repent, when in reality, the church must repent.

If the church is not serving and welcoming and allowing “these people” to lead, then it is really not the church, but more a building, more an exclusive club.

At my church, “these people” call themselves Celebrate Recovery, and they are leading the way towards blessings, miracles, redemption and an intimacy with God that is rarely seen.

Thank you for your example in humility.
Thank you for your leadership in transparency.
Thank you for your commitment to grace.
Thank you for re-introducing us to the presence of God.

May there be a revolution of “these people.”

“It is impossible to meet God without abandon, without exposing yourself, being raw.” Bono

Twitter @celebraterecvry

http://www.celebraterecovery.com

Measuring Success in the Church World: We’ve Gotten it All Wrong

leastofthese

One of the more difficult and controversial things to do in the church world is to determine what the right measures of success should be.

What is success and how do I measure it?

Is it the number of people attending weekend services?
Is it the number of people getting baptized each year?
Is it the number of Bible studies people are going to?
Is it how much people are giving?
Is it the quality of music?
Is it the eloquence and popularity of the speaking?

I guess, all of these could be and should be a part of measuring whether a church is going in the right direction, yet…

I’ve known churches that were growing in numbers and were unstable, unfocused and unhealthy.
I’ve known churches who were in a season where lots of seeds of hope were being planted, yet not a lot of people had crossed the line of faith, and the question is: Does that make them unsuccessful? “It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow.” 1 Corinthians 3:7
I’ve know rich churches, due to being surrounded by a strong economic community, wasting and underutilizing their precious resources.
Music, speaking? If it is an end all rather than a tool to propel people towards justice, mercy and humility, then it is a banging gong and clanging cymbal.

Church growth experts have said, “You measure by attendance.”

Discipleship movements have said, “You measure by Bible knowledge.”

“If having an orthodox theology is enough, satan is saved… Jesus wants more than theology” Tony Campolo

Jesus said, “You are measured by what you did for the least of these.”

American scholar and leadership guru, Warren Bennis wrote, “Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality. “

The main way we measure success at Green Valley Community Church is by answering the question, “Is the vision, that every Christ follower should be using their time, talents and treasures to serve the least of these, being translated into a practical, biblical, active reality?”

And though I love that our attendance is growing and many each year are getting baptized and most are taking the time in small groups to grow deeper in God’s wisdom and our offerings are generous and our music is really good and hopefully our sermons are informational, inspirational and practical, I STILL FEEL LIKE THE GREATEST DIAGNOSTIC TEST FOR A HEALTHY CHURCH IS: Are more and more Christ followers engaging in being a voice to the voiceless, are they, with their passions, giftings, experiences and resources, living out what Isaiah chapter 58 calls the true fast?

This last Saturday, at my church, I was able to see a clear answer to that question when over 300 volunteers showed up to spend an entire day learning how to be better at serving and caring for our community and world.

From children’s workers, homeless activists, car mechanics serving the underprivileged, pastoral partners, transition home organizers, Celebrate Recovery and Landing volunteers, foster care sponsors, teen-age student leaders, food and clothing directors, funeral and grief share supporters, the list goes on and on and I’m leaving out so many…they showed up in masses to learn how to better serve the least of these.

OVER 300 people showed up to learn about the skills of boundaries, listening, praying and healthy crisis intervention. They attended breakout sessions learning about mental health, mandated reporting and what poverty looks like in our nation and world.

We were hoping for 100. We were hoping that if some of our core leaders would show up for the training it would be a success.

When over 300 showed up, my staff and I celebrated two things:

One, in the words of Warren Bennis, the vision to serve the least of these, is clearly more than just words at Green Valley, but it is becoming a reality.

Two, we celebrated that the biblical structure of the church, understanding that we are the body of Christ, and that we all have gifts and passions to live out, is also becoming a reality.

When the whole body is working together offering its time, talents and treasures towards justice and mercy, SUPERNATURAL things happen.

Most of the time, when this isn’t happening, it’s because church leaders are not teaching and modeling Biblical structure.

I have always said, “Leaders who help release people’s passions allow love and hope to go viral. Leaders who try to get all the credit stop that possibility.”

It’s funny, there’s a lot of debate and confusion in the church world these days, about how to measure success, but I am starting to see that the scriptures are very clear:

“Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help…Then your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the LORD will protect you from behind. Then when you call, the LORD will answer. ‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply.” Isaiah 58:6-9

Would love to hear some of your thoughts.

Twitter: @kenburkey

The Difficult Journey

addiction

“Sobriety is a journey” E.V. Stankowski

One of the most complex, yet life changing decisions a human being can make is “to do a searching and fearless moral inventory of themselves” as Step 4 exhorts in the 12 Step Program.

People who lead 12 Step Programs will tell you that Step 4 is where most people drop out of the program and yet it’s also the step that propels many towards freedom, healing and a new way of living.

In order to take this difficult journey:

1) You will have to go to some dark places

When you are conducting a deep inventory of your life and you admit you are drinking too much, the reality is drinking is not the root problem.

When you admit you have an addiction, the addiction is not the primary issue.

When you admit you have explosive anger, your anger is not the ultimate quandary.

Admitting these things are a good starting point and an important step in the process, but you can’t stop there.

You must go deeper. You must ask more questions. This can lead to some dark places.

What pain am I masking through alcohol?
What hurt am I avoiding with my addiction?
What frustrations or fears are driving my destructive anger?

In order to experience freedom and healing, you must be willing to go to some dark places and it’s in those dark places that you will experience a strength that is greater than your own.

King David sang ”Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.”

2) You will have to find some safe people to do this with

There is an epidemic of loneliness that is creating inhuman actions.

We will never be able to experience a fulfilling life over the internet.

I can listen to a sermon online, but I can only become fully human by rejoicing and mourning with real people.

The world needs you. And we need each other.

As Desmond Tutu once said, “No one can be human by themselves.”

The only way someone can be fearless with their moral inventory is they must surround themselves with people who will not judge, but will accept, exhort and support.

The truth is that when we are afraid to confess, what we are really afraid of is rejection.

3) You will have to grieve

You will have to give up stuff that makes you feel temporarily good.

The numbing affect of alcohol, the temporary high of an addiction, the adrenaline rush of an outburst of anger, all make us feel good for a short time, yet lead to long term pain.

In choosing to live differently, you will have to grieve the loss of temporary pleasure.

Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

The enemy will try to steal your joy, destroy your dreams and ultimately kill you with immediate pleasures that lead to long-lasting destruction.

4) You will have to be patient

Patience in our culture means, “waiting to live”, not now but one day, I will experience life.

TRUE PATIENCE is the opposite of passive waiting.

The definition of patience is “living fully in the moment”.

PATIENCE means to enter actively into the thick of life and to fully bear the good, the bad, the victories and the suffering within and around us.

PATIENCE is an extremely difficult discipline because it counteracts our impulse to FLEE difficult circumstances or NUMB painful memories.

The great writer, Paulo Coelho says, “Why is patience so important? Because it makes us pay attention.”

5) You must believe that God has something greater for you

At the end of the day, we must embrace the fact that when we turn our lives over to God, he produces “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” in our soul, and nothing can take that away.

At the end of the day, life is grace.
Breathe in deep and enjoy every moment of it.

Stay close to God
Stay close to People who are PATIENT.

Someone very wise once said, “At bottom is the best soil to sow and grow something new again. In that sense, hitting bottom, while extremely painful, is also the sowing ground.”

I pray you choose the way of the difficult journey.

Thank you to all of my “Celebrate Recovery” friends who have shown us that the journey is worth it.