Thursday, July 13, 2006

How do you explain it

It happened again.

Yesterday I was at the post office and ran into someone from my old charismatic church club days.

Semper Fi is a really decent guy. I've always liked him. And he was so far outside the periphery of the church/izzy group political struggles back then, so he has no agendas, I'm sure.

So he asked, "How's the ministry going?" (izzy group).

"Uhh...fine"

"You guys are still ministering with the poor, right?"

"...sure"

"What do you guys do now? Where are you?"

"Agent Wife and I are just...hanging with our neighborhood"

"Yea? That's great! My wife and I are now part of a neighborhood ministry association. They just made me president of it"

I hate these conversations. What am I supposed to say? I'm ministering to the poor on my street? Yea, right. How arrogant. I would feel as if my whole life was a fraud if I said that out loud...or even thought it.

Or worse...what if I tried to "one up" Semper Fi and the many like him: Yeah...I'm doing the same thing you're doing. But WITHOUT an organization, or resources, a board of directors, a non-prof, newspaper stories, etc

This agent gig ain't a job. Once upon a time it was. But in recent years it's become...well, I don't know.

It's as though the CEO is testing to see if I'm going to be real...to see if we will still be true to him and our calling...even without:

-a facility
-a title
-a position
-recogition
-heroic popularity amidst a local church club
-a paycheck
-peer admiration
-dignity within the city

For the longest time I didn't understand what or who our "church" was. But the other day I saw it clearly.

If we were still in the church club, there'd easily had been dozens of people who would have a) thrown Agent Wife a baby shower, b) offered last minute baby sitting when needed and c) brought us food after our hospital stay, etc

A month ago, the Valdezes (from across the street) hosted a last minute baby shower for Agent Wife with all the neighbors. She had a blast.

Two weeks ago, Agent S calls up out of the blue one day, and of all things...offers to baby sit, just when we needed it. Badly.

And today, Jack and his family brought us a killer meal as sort of a baby gift. Just when we needed it.

Our neighbors...and the blog-o-universe...I think I'm starting to see our church and how it operates...

9 comments:

Jason & Nicole said...

Awesome! God is awesome! He works in ways we cannot see, but then every ten years or so we see it just for a second. I don't know if that's what you're talking about but that's what your post made me think of. I'm really thankful I get to read your blog.

And congratulations on the new babe.

-jason

Anonymous said...

I gotta say up front that my response to this is heavily filtered through the lense of my own personal experience of recent weeks/months. It may not really speak to your situation at all. I'll both let you decide and be brief for that reason.

I see a lot of existential style angst here. But, as the Body of Christ (more than just self) we do not have to justify our ministry or "keep up with the jones's" -ministerially speaking - to feel confident in what we do.

From my vantage ground, you are right to call the bluff on the mainstream church (to pluck a term for it out of the air) (you used a form of the ajective "organized") for thinking it's picture of organization is the only way or even worthwhile. Your blog calls that bluff very often. I am with you in so far as I have just characterized it just here.

So, in the last two weeks, the neighborhood where I church has been shot up by thugs. One of our little widow lady members got her window shot out in a drive by shooting. 4 people shot in all. 1 dead.

So last Sunday, I went to Bible class, walked in on a sleepy little discusion of evolution v. creation etc, and decided to walk back out on the street and search the highways and byways for straglers to bring to worship, rather than sit through the sleepy time of evolution bashing. I found some thugs. They were happy to visit with me, but refused to join me in church. (long story -wont tell it all)

Any way, I did find one man, his name was Moses, and he came with me. Smelled real nice too. We sat in the back in case he got too nervous to stay through the whole worship hour. He did stay, and visited with our spanish minister. That helped. But still, the earlier thugs I talked to declined but when I said I would come and hold services on the street next Sunday (this wkend) they said yes they would come to that.

So, I am planning to skip "class" this Sun AM and go preach down at ground zero Lubbock. I know several prostitutes, drug dealers, and their children on that street by name. I will preach from the back of my pickup truck whether anyone comes or not. I am not planning for a large crowd, but I could be surprised. Rather, I plan for practically no one, meanwhile, I suspect the evolution thing will draw about 20. And for what? I seriously doubt even one soul there really questions Creation. But perhaps they will get it settled.

Anyway, sorry I lied about being brief. Sue me.

Also, because of my blunt criticsm, I will hide my identity on this comment, however, I figure you and your regular readers readily know who I am already. Don't blow my cover on this one.

Many blessings...

Self impossed honorary Agent X

james said...

B

I hate to overuse the term, but it stikes me that what you are doing, in a sense, is much more "authentic" as you have no politics to wade through in order to keep your ministry flowing. And it does seem to me that what you are doing is so much more reliant upon Lord for your provisions.

Agent B said...

Agent X -

Always good to have you stop by. And your anominity is always safe with me.

I walk a thin line between "church bashing" and calling the bluff. I try to lean toward the latter, but often get tempted towards the former.

All in all, if the CEO can use an ass to tell Balaam something, then I believe he can use some dumb-ass system we've created called "church". Obviously, I don't care for that system much. But I try to respect it to a degree since people actually can come to know Jesus through...get this...a broken vessel called church.

With that said, bull shit is still bull shit. I have lived through many "evolution teaching" experiences like you. And yes, I too up and left to go hang out with the guys camped in the alley by the dumpsters, etc. In light of the sheep-n-goats story, I had a hard time picturing me standing before the son of man in all his glory...stating, "yeah sure...my church leaders told the homeless to get off the property because we're about to 'have church'. But at least I was in attendence and sat through a sermon on tongue-speaking"*

You've once said I'm prophetic. I think prophecy is in the eye of the beholder. With that said, here's some prophecy for you, X: you won't be in the church system the rest of your life. You may be there for another 3, 5, or 10 years. But not forever. Because the least of these are in your heart. And ultimately, the least of these will never fit in the church system. Religious spirits won't allow them in. Period. Read barna's book (Revolution) if possible.

Take it or leave it.

And btw...don't despise small beginnings with the pickup bed evangelism. It may start with you and one crippled guy. But obey the CEO, and there will be hundreds there in time.

...and keep your head, name and face real low when the hundreds come. (Matt 6:1-4). Avoid press of all kinds.

James & Jason - thanks for your words.

* - true story

agent wife said...

The CEO is really opening our eyes to the beauty of his body in action. Just before Agent S called, I was getting down about missing the perks of trad. church, to have a ready line of help as needed. I had prayed that someone would call or come to offer babysitting, and that is what agent S. did 1 1/2 hours before I was going to be in a potentially sticky situation. And lets just say, that one meal turned into a steady stream of people with meals. In a trad. church there would be a sign up list and peer pressure to give. What I love about this way is that the motivation is A) the Holy Spirit and B) love. It's awesome. May we be as gracious as we have opportunity.

cylec said...

What gets me is why you guys don't love the people in church like you love the guys in the street. You're just as religious as the organized church people who make me want to puke. I've been a pastor for twelve years. Real people with real needs go to really organized churches. Fake people who have completely hardened their hearts to God don't. And, by the way, what's so wrong with talking about evolution? If I believe man evolved, I believe man is an animal. If I believe man is an animal, I'll treat him like an animal, which means I'll walk right past the poor on the street. If I believe man is created by God, above all other creations, and valuable beyond worth, I'll serve him on the streets and in the church.

Anonymous said...

cylec,

perhaps you misunderstand me. Or perhaps you want to have a beef. Not sure which. But I gotta say, there is a disconnect here in the communication.

Usually, I am not anonymous in commenting on this blog. And usually, I am the pro-church guy. Still am. I view my position as much like the prophets of old offering a critique from within.

I share a lot of views and passions with Agent B and friends here, but not all of them. I believe the church, the assembly, the body of Christ, is built on the rock from which the gates of Hell will not prevail against. I love the church. I especially love the assembly I attend. I think they are more loving and neighborhood (poor people) sensitive than most.

However, I think the body is deeply flawed as well. The difference between me and B as I see it here is mainly that I have not given up on the church, and I think God works in His people despite them. But, the church has a lot of silly ideas about what it means to be the church. Very modern and western ideas -many of which are very foreign to the Bible actually etc etc. So I speak up about them from time to time. I think B's criticsm is often dead on accurate. I think his passion for self-less spirit directed living is astoundingly uncommon in church and sorely needed there. I go with him that far for sure. But, do not assume that all us guys here "don't love the people of the church", that is a mistake, at least where I am concerned, (I'll let B and others speak for themselves).

The evolution thing is nice, and there may actually be a time and place for it. Personally, I have a hard time imagining it, but I could be persuaded. However, my point in my comment has more to do with how that discussion is consuming the church while at the same time those "animals" are shooting up our neighborhood outside our doors.

I think the discussion should at least be tabled (if not outright abandoned) for a greater cause -that of reaching out to our neighbors, people who feel intimidated by both the thugs in the streets and the thought of coming in our doors for a discussion of evolution with a bunch of rich white people in their fancy clothes etc etc.

When you read the gospels, is that the picture you get of Christ's body. Holding stuffy white people services in air conditioning where everyone's had a bath today, and food in their bellies? Or do you see the Body of Christ walking dusty roads, talking with and healing/feeding the poor, the rebels in the mountains, and from time to time confronting the stuffy church people in their fancy synagogues and temples?

So, actually you might actually have a great discussion about how man is not an animal with people who (I'd bet 100%) already believe the same, and walk right past the poor -so to speak. And when I see that kind of crap going on -especially from people claiming they have the ultimate help to give, I speak up about it.

I have kept my identity to myself here, not to protect me, but them -the guilty. Because I have commented so much here that to identify myself is to identify them too.

I hope that clears things up. And I hope we are on the same team in this. I disagree about the importance of discussing evolution, but on the weightier matter of loving the church, I think I am with you.

Many blessings....

cylec said...

I don't really have a beef, except with narrow-mindedness. I try to beef like Jesus beefed. As far as I can tell, Jesus told everyone who would listen about His Father and how to get to Him. That included private dinners with probably wealthy people like Nicodemus and fish on the bar-b with poor fishermen. I have been both in and out of church. I have seen crap that makes elephant dung look like ant-hills, but I just can't check out on the church. I did for several years, but I just didn't do well outside of a local church. I've wanted to quit. Man, I've been reemed out. But, I've been reemed by in-churchers and by we-are-the-churchers. Maybe some are free to say that "organized religion is crap," and they can then just check out. But, they always organize somehwere, doing something. Even if they just do family church. Well, I say "they always", but really they don't always. Most, don't at all. I lived in the mother city for 14 years. One Sunday my wife and I attended a big organized church. We sat behind two blue-haired ladies in fur stoles. There was an empty seat between one of them and the isle. A street lady walked in . . . poor, dirty, wearing her best, I'm sure . . . she asked if the seat was taken. I thought the two ladies were going to have a meltdown. One of them said, "Yes, it's taken. My husband is coming to sit there." The poor lady walked out. No one ever sat in the seat. On the other side, I saw the poor, and especially the poor mentally ill and addicted shun the rich. See, I don't think Jesus did one or the other. It sounds much more noble to work with the poor, and I do believe that most in the organized church may really fall into the "rich-people-for-whom-it's-really-difficult-to-go-to-heaven" crew. The bottom line, however, in the Word is this. Jesus came for the whole world. That means he came for the street people and the church people. I can't ridicule B any more than I can ridicule those two blue-haired ladies, but I am afraid. I've been trying to do a 1st century model of church for about twenty years now. I want us to be church. But, I see so much sedation in the organized church and so much sedition in the emergent church. I'm scared for the future of our nation, for my children, and maybe one day grandchildren. I am in the prophet vein as well, and I've done my bit of fire-breathing, but I recoil at so much of the anger and resentment that's on the web on Christian blogs. I've got this theory . . . call me nuts . . . but I've got this theory that there aren't any perfect churches (organized, disorganized, house, home, family, emergenty, or whatever). That means that only someone who is delusional would leave one to find a perfect one. I am alarmed. It's like we have justified the abandonment of a form of church that has existed, in very similar ways, for nearly 2,000 years. I am afraid, and I am protective of the people that I love. I may have read it all wrong, but the language sounds hostile, condescending, and sectarian on all sides of this stuff nowadays. The blogosphere has done more to trash my faith than it has to strengthen it. Maybe it's time I checked out. But, it is ragged and real. And, that's what I love.

Agent B said...

Clyec -

Thanks for stopping by.

Where on freaking earth did you get the idea that me or anyone despises or hates church people as opposed to street people?

And please tell me where in the last 12 months of blogging that I made a post pleading for people to leave church?

Your defensive tone speaks for itself. Perhaps church as a religious institution is an idol for you?

I was once one of those hurting people who needed church. Bad. And I'm thankful they were there for me.

As I grew closer to the CEO over time, I learned (and am still learning) how to hear him and obey.

This church-less journey of mine is one of obedience. Not one of being more "advanced" than you or "I've discovered the true way" kind of thing. My journey is just different than yours.

You better learn to embrace and/or walk along with your brothers who are "churchless" and not get threatened by them. Barna's stats don't lie. Churches are losing ground yearly.

I wonder why...

The reason I and others (like agent X aka anonymous) sound "anti-church" is because we're not afraid to blow the bull shit whistle.

Why the hell would anyone sit in a class talking evolution or church business when the CEO's calling them to have relationships on the streets?