5.24.2004

Okay, I'm at home now and just finished catching up on some bills. Back to reality. Being home is great and sharing with Kim and others about what God did and is doing at emergent and the EC is fun. My biggest fear is that some of the intensity will take with it some of the enthusiasm when it wanes.

My preaching style was challenged. My emerging (sorry) view of the Kingdom of God was reinforced and strengthened and my calling to be where I am was affirmed. There are times when I wonder (as I did in an earlier blog) whether or not this community of faith can become the kind of community Jesus calls us to. And then there are times (like now) when I know that the reason I stay and slug it out is because deep down, somewhere, I believe it can. It might not look like what I have in mind and may not happen as quickly as I would like, but I've got to come to grips with that; got to be at peace with that.

One of the most powerful moments came for me toward the end of a workshop on the transformational mission of the Church led by Alan Roxburg. The title was "God is Always Found in the Most God-forsaken Places: a Theology of Missional Transformation". I was tired and was wondering where he was going for most of the seminar, even during the more interesting bits. I honestly thought at one point that he thought he was teaching a different seminar. And then, within about 10 minutes from the end, he made his move. Everything up until that time had been groundwork.

He walked us briefly through Scripture and showed us how God had worked in the past. Through Abram and Sarai (a wandering, old, nearly dead, nothing couple by worldly standards); through and in the Hebrews (a wandering, nothing people); Moses, Ruth, all the way to the womb of a poor, young virgin girl named Mary. You get the picture. Everywhere God worked in a major way in Scripture was a nowhere place with nowhere people. They were not successful by worldly standards and values. They were, to use his term, "God-Forsaken Places" and people. That is to say, they were not the people and places the religious establishment would have picked for God to move.

And then he asked us in the midst of our success-oriented culture and church-culture, where were the successful places? They are the church plants, the new churches who enjoy enthusiastic success. And, he continued, where are the "God-forsaken places" today in the church culture? The answer? The older, established, "dead" churches. I almost fell out of my chair. And then I almost jumped up to shout "Hallelujah!" Imagine shouting praises to God at the top of your lungs when someone's just told you that you serve in a God-forsaken place.

The God-forsaken places are those places that, by worldly standards, are without hope. They are not the places where the most success happens, easily, if at all. These, he said, are the places God will be doing the next new thing on his agenda. It was a powerful affirmation that, although it isn't easy, although I have my doubts and frustrations, this was the place I needed to be. This was and is the place where God is doing and will do a new thing. My "God-forsaken place" is the nowhere place and people through which God will act. Amazing.

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