Friday, September 13, 2013

Like The Hypocrites

Lately, I am praying more. Others' experience of having quiet time with the Lord made me want to pray more. I want the peace that goes beyond all understanding. I want to follow Jesus more. The problem is that it is boring.

Now, I am not saying that Jesus is boring, or that the Holy Spirit is, or that the Father is. Heaven forbid. They are infinitely exciting. I am talking about the fourth person in our group: me.

What a whiner. Get me this. Give me that. I want a new computer. I want … I want … I want. If patience was tree bark, I would stripped the patience off of a 500-year-old redwood, and that damage was only done in yesterday’s time with God. Talk about one shallow dude.

Do I pray for world peace? Nah, I ask for help losing weight. Do I ask for healing for those I see that need it? Nah, I ask for Pizza to be non-fattening. Do I ask for wisdom? Nah, I ask for my post to go viral and for people to talk about me. I did I mention me? I listen more to my culture than to God. My culture tells me that its all about me and my wants with Madison Avenue asking me to make my life about me, me, me.

After all, it is easier to sell stuff to the self-absorbed! (Suckers unite!)

I just happen to agree the ads and make myself a good consumer even when approaching the Almighty.

God, I didn’t like the weather yesterday. Rain? Really, God? I wanted to go outside for fun. I want my money back.

I understand that this weakness in me, and ask for God to make me a better person, one that others will admire and who others will want to emulate because of my strong Christian faith. I am like a self-absorbed cheerleader who gets an audience with the Queen of England and uses the opportunity to complain about her best friend being designer-challenged or her hangnail that is just so, so, so annoying. I really get a good look at my own shallowness within God’s attention.

Hence, why I don’t like it. It is more of a brief yawn of the soul rather than a dark night of the soul.
Hence, why it is important to do. Loving God and others is not natural for me.

And this why I find myself fighting going into prayer. See, when I prayerfully read the Bible, I always cast myself as the hero within the story. I am the hero that comes and blows the horn for the walls to tumble, or frees the Egyptian slaves, or even stops the injustice of the crucifixion. Hollywood movie hero to the rescue.

Finally, I have the really bad habit of thinking that I am doing God a favor by spending time with God. Okay, let’s do this prayer thing, I say, and I will give God a half hour of the day’s 24. Aren’t I good?

When I get to praying, I realize how shallow I really am, and I don’t like it. Notice, I am speaking to the creator of all, and I am prancing around thinking that God should be grateful for my face time. Really? Wow, what a jerk I am.

Of course, I know I am alone in my shallowness. Others pray for the important stuff like loving others. I must be the only one that makes prayer all about himself.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Age Old Problem of Millennials

In my day, when I went to Fuller Theological Seminary, we had to walk six miles up hill both ways, while fighting both the 100-degree heat and four feet of snow. When we got there, we were glad for the thimble full of wine and the piece of bread, which was all we ate for the whole day. So, get off my lawn, you Millennials.

I am hesitant to write about Millennials for fear of sounding like an old coot. I prefer thinking of myself as a middle age coot, or in reality I still think myself as a young coot with graying hair. My body has other ideas, though...

I attended Fuller in the last Millennium, the late nineties, and the hot topic then was why the Generation X kids were not going to church. Being a Gen X, I had some ideas as to why. Then, as now, going to church meant missing a large chunk of young adults. Then, as now, the complaints were of too much politics, too much judgment and too little Jesus. My, how times have changed. Instead of talking about better beats for our music, the church now talks about better lattes. I do like a good latte.
The question of millennials leaving the church neglect an almost century old pattern. Eighty or 90 years ago, one could find articles as to why the young people had stopped going to church and how to get them back. Should women with bobbed hair be accepted in church? But after the young adults sowed their wild oats, they'd return when it was time to start raising their children. So, one can say safely that when millennials will start returning to church once they, too, feel the urge to reproduce. Heck, it sounds like the Amish were right with Rumspringa. No problem, you say. I say, “Get off my church lawn.”

Why? Because, this is not the pattern of a growing church. Jesus' first followers were young adults. When one looks at the vital times of the church, and the current vital growth of the church worldwide, they'll see that young adults lead the church. These were and are people unhappy just being quiet and behaving. They seek action and adventure. Those points of vitality of the church are less about personal ethics and more about what Jesus said in Luke 4:18-21:

The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,     to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”[a]
Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

The wild oats were sowed and adventure was had within the church. Setting free the captives, what young adult looking for adventure could turn from that? Middle and older adults, of course, are afraid of such vitality as it means the kids are not sitting quietly in the back, but demanding a Jesus that shakes things up front. We want kids to behave most of all. So, we create programs to pretend we want them back and lament when they aren’t coming to church making noise and releasing captives. Who wants to worship with the poor and the captives? Come back when you have your own junior with you and then we will put you to work at Vacation Bible School.

When we see the church empty of the people who are the source of the church’s vitality then we have to question whether the church is proclaiming the Gospel or simply a place of telling their young to behave? Jesus riled things up by preaching peace beyond all understanding, and the young followed. We don’t like things riled up and want the peace that comes from behaving and keeping quiet in the back. Are we really telling Jesus to get off our collective lawn?

Join us for our next Coffee Talk at 10 a.m., Sept. 7 at Revel 77 Coffee for a discussion on "Engaging Millennials." Tinajero is a panelist.