Sunday Everyday

We are Not Called to Follow an Organisation but a Way of Life.

I am the way, the truth and the life’ Jesus did not call people to join an organisation, but to follow a way of life. Ray Simpson

In the last few years I have had a lot of people asking me about community, church, gathering, attendance  etc…  In the last decade  our understanding of what it is to be a Christian or what it is to attend church has become very entrenched with the institutional model of attending church weekly on a Sunday.  Singing three fast songs, two slow songs,  having announcements, offering and a message.

I challenge you to show me where this model is reflected in the bible.

I constantly hear sentences like:  Where do you fellowship?  Where do you find like minded people?  Where do you attend?

Jesus us told us to go OUT into all the world.  His own life models being present in community, in every day life.

I have been challenged of recent years to be more present in my community.  To BE the presence of God IN my community.  To be available and to be salt and light.  That means being accessible and involved in the life of the community around me.

Not living in fear.  Not living in judgement and condemnation.  Just being who God created me to be and loving those around me.

I am moving further and further away from the  ‘us and them’ mentality and closer to just ‘us’.  In doing so I have met and am doing life with some of the most amazing humans on the planet.  There is no longer ‘us and them’.  There is just us and that is enough for me.  In fact I have had more God encounters in the last 4 years than in the previous  30.

For God so loved the world that He gave his only son Jesus.

I am sorry Christians but God does not love you more than anyone else.  God IS LOVE.  HE LOVES – everyone.  He loves the whole world and everything in it.

When we love,  we make an environment where the spirit of God can dwell because that is who he is.  People are drawn to love, they crave it and need it.  Love is the greatest power in the universe.  “For the greatest of these is LOVE”.

Dear friends, let us continuously love one another, because love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born from God and knows God.

I no longer drive each week to a location to meet with other ‘Christians’.

I no longer spend all my time and energy ‘doing’ church I am the church.

I no longer worry about inviting people TO church.  I invite people to church every time I have a conversation with them and every-time I demonstrate the love and acceptance of Christ toward them.

This post from Rev Ray Simpson from the Way Marks of Life initiative explains it very well and it is different for all of us.  As long as we are following Christ and not the institution.

Way Marks Of Life

COMMUNITY IS NOT READY-MADE

I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually helped to spread the gospel… and most of the brothers and sisters, having been made confidant in the Lord by my imprisonment, dare to speak the word with greater boldness and without fear. Philippians 1:12, 14.

There is no ready-made Community on anyone’s doorstep. Unity with other members is rooted in the knowledge that we all follow the community’s Way of Life and that this reflects our deepest calling. Introduction to the Way of Life

Traveller        I want a community that is there for me every day where I live.

Guide             I encourage you to ask yourself this question: Which do you love most – God or your idea of a community?

Traveller        Why can’t I have both?

Guide             God comes first. God may give you what you long for but it will be on his terms, not yours.

Traveller        What do you mean?

Guide             The first issue to sort out is this: Is God calling you to live this Way of Life? If you commit to this, you will be led wherever God wishes to lead you. God may ask you to open your heart to local people and share in an existing group, or to draw new friends to meet together. God may, however, lead you to a different focus.

Traveller        Can you give an example?

Guide             The apostle Paul was asked to travel on missionary journeys. Then he was put under house arrest. He carried those he had met in his heart. He wrote letters to them and prayed for them but he had no ready-made community on his doorstep. This dispersed community of Aidan and Hilda may be like that.

Traveller        In what ways?

Guide             Some keep in touch through area groups, and occasional community events, others keep in touch with like-minded members through Skype, Facebook, email and other social media. All use the daily prayer diary. But there is something deeper that binds us together. When we truly ‘come home’ we are known as we are known.

Reflection

What is your deepest calling?

 

You can get Rays book here – Amazon.  Way Marks for the Journey

I am the way, the truth and the life’ Jesus did not call people to join an organisation, but to follow a way of life.

Under the guidance of Ray Simpson, renowned for his expertise in Celtic spirituality, this daily prayer book is structured according to the way of life adopted by the Community of Aidan and Hilda. Along with a short Bible reading and reflection, each day includes a step to enable readers to move away from what is destructive towards what is life-giving. There is also a unique spiritual breathing exercise following the rhythm with which our bodies breather, allowing us to pray with our very core, wherever we are.

 

If England Gets Beaten, So Will She

Last weekend in Australia we had three horrific murders of women at the hands of someone they knew.  Domestic Violence is so common now that it hardly makes the news.  One woman a week in Australia is still being killed by someone well known to them.

‘To say it’s been an awful week for women is an understatement. It’s been a horrific month and Saturday the 7th of July was diabolical’.  To date 34 women have been violently killed”.  (Womens Agenda)

According to the Counting Dead Women Australia researchers of Destroy The Joint it takes the number of Australian women violently killed in 2018 to 34.

Thirty four women killed in 27 weeks.

That is eight innocent victims of violence in a single month. Eight people forever gone. Countless more lives forever marked by this brutality.

If eight Australians had been killed in other circumstances – terror or negligence – tell me we wouldn’t have a task-force formed by now?

It is about to get worse.

Did you know that the statistics of Domestic Violence escalate when the football is on.

Ahead of this year’s World Cup, studies showing a correlation between violence and football were widely shared – with these reports finding that domestic abuse increases when England wins or loses a match.

The largest of the studies, conducted by Lancaster University in 2013, found that abuse increased by 26 per cent when England played and 38 per cent when they lost (source).

The reactive campaign for the National Centre for Domestic Violence has been launched as the World Cup picks up pace. It features images of national flags imprinted onto women’s faces in blood.

Statistics are the same in Australia for AFL Grand final and the Rugby League World Cup. While the State of Origin is playing, the  violence increases by 40 % (source). 

New data from the New South Wales Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research spanning six years from 2012 to 2017 indicates a 40.7 per cent average increase in domestic violence, and 71.8 per cent in non-domestic assaults across the state on Origin game days.

So while many of you are looking forward to the World Cup, Many women and families are dreading it.

Experts say the “disturbing findings” suggest the Origin’s “particular celebration of heavy drinking, masculinity, tribalism, and the toxic level of aggressive alcohol promotion have collided to encourage drinking to excess and domestic violence” (source)

Domestic violence

Domestic violence – refers to acts of violence that occur in domestic settings between two people who are, or were, in an intimate relationship. It includes physical, sexual, emotional, psychological and financial abuse.

 

Yes, men can be victims too, but the overwhelming accounts of violence are from male perpetrators.  Both women and men are more likely to experience violence at the hands of men, with around 95% of all victims of violence in Australia reporting a male perpetrator.

So while you crack open a beer and sit back to watch the game.  Think of the women who are dreading the results, in more ways than one.

 

The National Sexual Assault, Family & Domestic Violence Counselling Line — 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) — is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week for any Australian who has experienced, or is at risk of, family and domestic violence and/or sexual assault.

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Love Lisa

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How Much Longer?

How Much Longer?

Published on June 16, 2018 by Alisa Tanaka-King on The Bird Girls Blog

 

Alisa is a friend of mine who is passionate about halting the horrific body count of women lost to domestic violence.  Here are some of her thoughts which have been prompted by the recent shock of Eurydice Dixon’s murder.

Three things happened recently that made me lose a little faith in humanity.

A couple of weeks back, I was running an education program in schools called Respectful Relationships. The program is designed to assist schools in incorporating the new addition of Respectful Relationships into their curriculum. This is a direct result of the Royal Commission into family violence that found that one in three women experience violence by the age of 15.

I’ve put a lot of time and effort into designing this program with a group of dedicated, creative, conscientious, people. It has been a challenging, confronting, and exhausting process.

When presenting this program to schools, we generally receive very positive responses from both students and teachers, which is encouraging and rewarding. We’ve had brilliant conversations about gender stereotypes, deeply embedded social conditioning, and breaking down of barriers.

However, just the other week, I had an unpleasant wake up call reminding me how difficult it is to make fundamental change. At the end of running a school program for year 8, private secondary school boys, one of their teachers approaches us defensive and insulted.

Our boys aren’t like that.

Now I specify that this was a private all-boys school, as there seems to be an assumption that if you are of a high enough social class, you are immune to being a violent criminal. We don’t go to any school assuming that the students are rapists or murderers, and I don’t believe that any child grows up aspiring to be such.

The program we run is not directed at boys who already have a history of violence or crime.

The program we run is not only taught to boys – it is taught equally importantly to girls.  For us to make the ground-breaking changes necessary to end gender-based violence, everyone needs to be better informed.

But this teacher wasn’t finished.

Why don’t you talk about violent women at all? There are violent women too.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been asked this. It’s not even the second. Or the third.I’m sure it won’t be the last.

Yes. Of course there are violent, terrible women.

Unfortunately there are hateful and destructive people in every gender, culture, religion, and race.

But this program is designed to help address the family violence crisis we are facing. The crisis where women are statistically at much greater risk of experiencing physical and emotional violence, controlling behaviour, and death.

We try to approach conversations like the one with this teacher in a positive, patient, and informative manner. We explain the statistics, and how important it is for everyone to be responsible and active in making fundamental societal change.

But really, I just wanted to lose all professionalism and shout at her.Oh, did I mention this was a female teacher?

I wanted to ask her if she had ever wondered if her skirt was too short? Her heels too high?

Had she ever parked in a spot that was too dimly lit?

Did she carry her keys between her knuckles late at night, phone clutched tightly in the other hand, wondering if she would be able to dial for help fast enough?

I wanted to know if she’s ever texted friends to let them know she got home safe?

Does she know how to walk quickly, but not so quickly that the stranger behind her thinks she’s rushing? Does she know that she shouldn’t have to be afraid as a default?

Honestly, I wasn’t even angry at this teacher.I was just gutted that one of our educators was unable to see why this is so important. I felt like everything we are working so hard to do fell on deaf ears, and I lost a little faith in humanity.

 A close friend of mine is pregnant, expecting her first child, a little girl.

She mentioned to me that she is conflicted.

She is a very strong, intelligent, independent woman who believes firmly in gender equality.

She doesn’t believe in victim blaming – of course no one deserves to be raped or murdered, and that should never be seen as the direct result of the decisions the victim has made.

But I will still warn my daughter not to walk home in the dark, teach her to be careful, teach her to be afraid. What else can we do? It just seems too difficult to change anything else.

I tried to explain the education program that I am running, but it sounded weak and useless against the reality of one woman murdered every week.

This kind of fundamental societal change takes too long for us not to teach our daughters to be cautious.

If I had a daughter I would teach her the same thing, and that breaks my heart, because it feels like admitting defeat. It feels like I’ve lost faith in humanity. And not just faith in the way our society currently functions, but faith in our ability to change and be better.

 And then, after a long day, I logged onto Facebook.

Now, my Facebook feed generally provides me with pretty like-minded views of the world, as I’m friends with pretty like-minded people. So, for the most part, facebook provides me with a lovely (though probably naive) little bubble of progressive, open-mined opinions.

But when I logged on this time, a male friend (and yes, it is relevant that he is male) had posted a status stating that he agreed with the Victoria Police statement asking people to take responsibility for their own safety. He then went on to question why anyone would disagree with this statement. In fairness, he approached this conversation openly, was sensitive, and welcomed comments and thoughts.

Of course excellent responses flooded in, explaining the frustration, unfairness and helplessness felt around the implications that this statement made. While the brilliant responses from both men and women gave me hope, I was still taken aback that this sort of view had to argued amongst a cohort of people who I thought shared my beliefs without a shadow of a doubt.

There have been countless articles, comments, tweets, and even Facebook profile picture frames responding to the Victoria Police comment, and I think it is excellent these issues are being brought to light and discussed.

However, it feels like we are putting so much effort into convincing people why we need change, that we’ve got no energy left for change at all.

When the shock of Eurydice Dixon’s murder fades away, will we go back to treating precautionary behaviour for women as normal?

Will we continue to be blind to the violence taking place behind closed doors towards wives, girlfriends and daughters?

Will we conveniently forget that women are being raped and murdered on a weekly basis, just because they aren’t being laid out in a public park where we are forced to acknowledge it?

It has taken hundreds, if not thousands of years to establish our current gender climate, and there is a mammoth amount that must be undone. Not just by women, not just by men, but by everyone – from our families and local communities, to our global society.

From celebrating the birth of a boy and praising the continuation of the family name.To telling girls to sit more lady-like.To saying boys will be boys but in the same breath demanding them to man up. From the nature of our  porn and sex industry, to our struggle to support mothers’ and their careers, to teaching our daughters to feel weak and our son’s that they must protect them.

I repeatedly explain to teachers, principals, students and colleagues that the fundamental societal change needed to bring about gender equality will take time.

But the task of creating change seems so monumentally big, that it feels impossible to even begin. Instead of being inspired to fight with energy and passion, I am overwhelmed with helplessness.

Every life lost is one too many.

How can we possibly turn around and say well, this will take time without losing faith?

Who are You & What do You Do NNY?

The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members. Coretta Scott King

Who are you and what do you do?

One of the questions that I most often get asked at Not & Not Yet is:

“How do you actually help the community”  Or “How are the profits of the cafe used to help the community”

We are a registered charity with PBI status. We are a social justice enterprise.

What does that mean? We are here to serve the community of Warrandyte in whatever way that we can. Our purpose is to put the profits of the cafe back into the community.

What does this look like? We support asylum seekers with housing and employment. We support local families who are facing significant financial & emotional challenges by restocking their fridge, paying bills or supporting them with counselling & practical support. We support mental health by running a mind health support group fortnightly. We offer our venue free of charge for community group meetings like: Warrandyte Diary, Warrandyte Festival, Bendigo Bank , etc. And most importantly we make ourselves available to our community by being here 7 days a week.

To connect, to care and to do life together. We are much more than a retail space. 

“Our continued vision is to make a difference for good in the lives of the Warrandyte Community in whatever way we can”. 

It is very difficult to find language around how this happens as many of the people that we are helping are fragile and vulnerable and cannot have their stories told.  Some due to domestic violence and some due to privacy issues.

We help the community in a huge variety of ways.   Here are a couple of examples:

We fund the House of Hope which is on the property behind the cafe.  This is where we host asylum seekers and refugees by helping them find a place out of detention and into community.  We offer community, a place of belonging, opportunities for work and a rental history along with financial assistance with bills etc..

This is a picture of our dear dear friend Negethan who came through the House of Hope and our Asylum Seeker program.   Sitting with him is Flynn on of our volunteers who always supports the Asylum Seeker programme by volunteering for our Community Tamil Feasts.    You can read about Nigethans story here:  Click this Link

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There are many needs within the community of Warrandyte that we are told about or come into contact with in our daily job of serving coffee.  This could be helping move house, re-stocking a fridge and pantry if a family are struggling to put food on the table.  Paying a bill if someone is behind and about to have electricity cut off.  Finding out about a trauma or accident and popping in with soup and a meal to make sure they are doing okay?

If we are doing life with someone who has depression or who is suicidal, often isolation is a huge factor.  We will encourage them to come to the cafe for lunch of a coffee – just to get them out of the house.  We will of course pay their tab.

Tuesdays fortnightly we run a mind health group called Blur.  This is a peer led support group for people who are struggling with mind health issues or caring for someone with a mental health issues. Everyone is welcome.  It starts at 8pm.

As the Volunteer Coordinator at NNY I have the incredible job of looking after an amazing group of people.  Many are strong and fully functioning members of our community who have a desire to give back to the community by supporting our work by volunteering within the cafe and supporting our various events.

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Others are some of our communities most vulnerable.  Some of our volunteers are deaf, autistic, have Aspergers or downs syndrome.  Some are recovering from mental illness and abuse, some just find life very difficult to navigate.  We offer love, acceptance, equality and training.

We believe that everyone belongs and that everyone has a way to contribute.

I believe that some of our most valuable work is done by taking someones hand and walking with them through a difficult time in their life.  Offering them a place to feel safe and to contribute.  Giving them skills and confidence to navigate life.

In the volunteer programme I am partnering with incredible organisations like:

  • Epic Assist – who care for those with disabilities
  • Foundation House – which is a place that cares for the survivors of torture.
  • Interchange – a disability and support services group
  • And various VCAL educators who partner with us in helping educate and skill our youth.

Here are some testimonials from families we walk with: (names withheld in confidence)

“Blur is a gentle place of belonging.  A place to listen and to be heard”.

“She has made amazing progress, and we thank you for all the support you and your staff have given her to date. She is so very positive about her time at ‘Now and Not Yet’ and particularly enjoys being given the responsibility of helping with food preparation”.

“Her place at Not & Not Yet has given her a seat in the world and you wouldn’t need me to tell you how revolutionary it has been in her life”.

“Madeleine loves her work at the cafe – you can tell that by the smile on her face whilst she’s working as well as on her return home. It has definitely improved her quality of life as I feel it gives her not only great pleasure but a great sense of achievement and belonging.  That sense of Inclusion is golden and hard to come by.  She also loves the fact that she is working just like her sisters.  If Madeleine could talk, working at the cafe would be why Monday and Wednesday afternoons are highlights of her week”.    (Madelines family have given permission to use this.  M has acute autism and volunteers twice a week in the afternoon).

This is from Lisa who started off as a volunteer but who is now working for us as our apprentice chef:

“It was a steep learning curve for me and for all the staff in the cafe but they were wonderful and made me feel very welcome.  Everyone was so caring and helpful. At times some communication was difficult but everyone tried so hard to make me feel at ease and now it feels like home.  When I first started, Jack the chef took photos of the menu items and laminated them and posted them around the kitchen so that I could easily see what was needed.

This has been the most wonderful experience for me and I highly recommend the volunteer programme to others. I was never made to feel different or inadequate and have been supported and encouraged every step of the way”.

I hope that this has given you a broader understanding of what we do.  These are just few examples.

We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community… Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own. Cesar Chavez

Lisa Hunt-Wotton

The Way

A highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Holy Way; the unclean shall not travel on it, but it shall be for God’s people; no Traveller , not even fools, shall go astray. 
Isaiah 35:8.

The Christian movement was referred to as ‘The Way‘.  Ancient Christians were known as followers of ‘The Way’.  They did not follow a Church or a denomination.  They followed the teachings of Jesus.

This is a description written  to describe these new followers of Christ from The Epistle to Diognetes, c. AD 130..

They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers. They marry, as do all others; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring.

They have a common table, but not a common bed. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death and restored to life.

They are poor yet make many rich; they are in lack of all things and yet abound in all; they are dishonored and yet in their very dishonor are glorified. They are evil spoken of and yet are justified; they are reviled and bless; they are insulted and repay the insult with honor; they do good yet are punished as evildoers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life; they are assailed by the Jews as foreigners and are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred. To sum it all up in one word — what the soul is to the body, that are Christians in the world.

This post was written by Ray Simpson for Way Marks Of Life.

Traveller  1    How can I follow this way when I’ve had two still births, my one baby that survived has a chronic condition, and I feel drained day and night?

Guide             This way has lodging places that exactly meet the needs of each person. Jesus said ‘In my Father’s House are many lodging places (John 14:2). The Greek word suggests that Jesus had in mind the lodging houses that were familiar to people who walked along the trade routes.  By being fully present to your child just where you are, you show you are in fact on the right way. Your baby is also on a journey. Take each day at a time. Each day take a step of love.

Traveller  4    I am a mother of five children.  My life is taken up with household duties. I love my family and Jesus, and I welcome my neighbours to drop in, but everything revolves around relationships and the changing needs of people. I could not keep to a regular rule or routine. Surely that’s for people with a high level of energy and organising ability?

Guide             God has designed his Way for people of all types and circumstances. In today’s Scripture Isaiah points out that everyone can travel it, even fools; only the unclean will be unable to make it. Everyone who has begun to love their children and their neighbour has begun to walk this way. However, Jesus said ‘Love your neighbour as you love yourself’ (Matthew 22:39). In order to love yourself and others you need to renew the springs of care. Otherwise you burn out and cease to be a life-giving parent and neighbour. If you refuse to rest and to snatch moments for prayer and reflection you are disobeying Jesus who said ‘If you love me, keep my commandments’ (John 14:15). If you disregard the way your body is made you are disregarding Jesus. If you disregard the way the days and weeks are made you are disregarding Jesus. Jesus has built rhythm into the fabric of your being and of the earth.  So being mindful of the sun rising and setting, being aware of how the food on the plates came to get there, is not an impossible extra burden, it is intrinsic to you being a good human being, a good mother and a good neighbour.

It is true that you will not travel this Way in the same manner that a commando officer or an elite athlete would, but God does not want everyone to be like that. So relax. Breathe in God, take a step, and share the journey with a soul friend.

Traveller  5    Isaiah says the unclean can’t walk this way. I have unclean thoughts, my room is in a mess, I’ve broken up with my partner and I’ve got into debt, so even though I believe in God, I can’t walk this way until I’ve sorted everything out, can I?

Guide             Jesus enlisted a prostitute (John 8:11), he knew that everyone has unclean thoughts (Matthew 5:18), and he explained what people with messed up relationships and debt could do about these (Matthew 5:23, 24; 18:23-35).  The first New Testament followers of the Way did not include many big wigs and egg heads, for God chose people who looked foolish in their eyes to be followers of the Way (1 Corinthians 1:27).

———————

Into reflection

Jesus, you are ahead of me, I come to you just as I am.

6 Warning Signs Your Church Culture Is Toxic

6 Warning Signs Your Church Culture Is Toxic

Every church has a culture. But how do you know if your church culture is toxic?

More importantly, how would you know whether you’re creatinga toxic church culture as a leader?

I’ve interacted with many church leaders (and readers of this blog) and the sad reality is that there is no shortage of toxic church culture stories and experiences.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. And it certainly isn’t always that way.

Leaders are the architects of culture.

You create a culture whether you intend to or not.

Part of shaping a healthy culture is being aware of the signs of toxic culture and the signs of health.  I blogged about the early warning signs that a person may be toxic here. But organizations have different signs than individuals do.

So how do you know if your church culture is toxic? Believe it or not, the Bible gives incredible practical advice. The longer I lead, the more I use Galatians 5: 16-23 as a health check for me personally and for anything I lead. It describes what’s healthy and what’s not, for me as a leader and for the church.

Below, I outline 6 warning signs that are practical applications of that text.

 

church culture toxic

1. The Politicians Win

One sure sign of a toxic culture is that you have to play politics to get anything done.

You know things have gotten political in your church when:

Decisions rarely get made the way they’re supposed to be made.

Most decisions happen outside of meetings or any agreed-upon process.

You can’t get a yes without offering something in return.

You have to continually lobby to be heard.

If you’re always jockeying, lobbying and courting favour to get the right decision made, it’s a sign your organization is unhealthy.

In the local church, having to play politics to win is a sure sign there’s sin.

When you do what you say you’re going to do the way you said you’re going to do it, you bring health to an organization.

2. What Gets Said Publicly Is Different From What Happened Privately

Another sign things are becoming toxic is when what gets said publicly is different than what happened privately.

When there’s spin on every issue and nothing can be said publicly without ‘agreeing’ on what gets said first, things are bad.

For sure, there are times where a situation is delicate and you will want to ‘agree’ on what gets said publicly to honour everyone involved, but in too many organizations few things that get done privately can be announced the same way publicly.

And to be sure…when you’re crafting any kind of a public statement, you want to pay attention to the words you use and perhaps even find agreement on them.

But the end product should never be the opposite or even different than what actually happened

I have good fortune of being part of several healthy organizations. I love it when people pull me aside and ask (in hushed tones), “So what’s the real story?” and I get to tell them “Actually, that is the real story.”

Living in that kind of culture really helps you sleep at night too.

3. You Deal With Conflict By Talking About People, Not To People

The golden rule of conflict is this: talk to the person you have an issue with, not about them.

In too many churches and organizations, the opposite is true.

People talk about people rather than to them.

The church should be the BEST organization in the world in dealing with conflict. Often, we can be the worst.

The next time you want to talk about someone (i.e. gossip), talk to them instead. If you can’t or won’t, there’s something wrong. Pay attention to that.

Want to know what’s wrong most of the time? You’re gossiping. That’s what’s wrong.

Trying to resolve conflict by gossiping about the person you’re angry with is like trying to extinguish a fire with jet fuel. It only inflames things.

Sure, occasionally you need advice from a friend about how to approach a situation. When I’m in that situation, I try to assume the person we’re talking about will hear everything I say. Even if they don’t, the fact that they could speaks volumes.

Do I always get it right? No, but it’s a great integrity check, and I try to live by it.

If you want more, I outline 7 steps for dealing with conflict in a healthy way in this post.

4. Church Fights Are Normal

Conflict is normal. Church fights shouldn’t be.

Yet so many congregations are in perpetual fighting mode. One day it’s the music. The next it’s the carpet. The next it’s some staff member everyone ganged up on.

Failure to get point #3 right above is the way churches come to see fights as normal.

Another reason churches fight regularly is because personal preferences have trumped organizational mission.

Essentially, members decide that what they want is more important than what others want or the church needs to make progress.

When that happens, it essentially pits one selfish person or group against others.

And when that happens, everything dissolves.

If your church is in conflict there should zero mystery as to why it isn’t growing.

5. There’s An Entrenched ‘Us’ And ‘Them’ Mentality

The church should always be a ‘we,’ not an ‘us’ and ‘them.’

Fundamentally, being a Christian causes us to die to ourselves and rise to something bigger than ourselves.

Some Christians forget that.

Whether the ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality exists between factions in your church or between your church and the community, it’s always fatal to health and growth.

The job of a leader is to raise vision high enough and urgently enough for all of us to become bigger than any of us.

United, the church will always accomplish more than we will divided.

6. No One Takes Responsibility

So who’s going to fix your church?

No one.

Someone.

Anybody but me.

As long as things are someone else’s fault, things will never get better.

A final sign your church is toxic is that no one takes responsibility. Instead, people just blame everyone else.

You can blame the culture, the pastor, the leader or anybody, but until you take responsibility, things will never get better.

Blame is the opposite of responsibility. Leaders who stop the blame cycle and take responsibility have the potential to usher in real change.

But, you say…”I’m not responsible for all of it.” True.

But you’re likely responsible for some of it. Own what you can. Own all you can.

If no one else does, still take responsibility.

You’ll get healthier. And if they don’t, you’ll leave and will eventually join a healthier church.

Health attracts health.

Under His Eye : If Conservative Evangelicalism Gets Its Way

Posted with Permission by Chris Kratzer

Chris Kratzer is a husband, father, pastor, author, and speaker. Captured by the pure Gospel of God’s Grace, his focus is communicating the message of wholeness, equality, affirmation, and the beauty of Jesus particularly as it relates to life, culture, and church.

Under His Eye : If Conservative Evangelicalism Gets Its Way

One of the most important questions facing our time in history is this, “If right-wing conservative Evangelical Christianity had its way, what would the world look like?”

Despite how various Evangelicals might respond to this question, perhaps the best vantage point for an accurate discernment of the answer is to observe pivotal moments in history where conservative Evangelicals (as a whole) have actually won their desires. For nothing reveals the true content of one’s aspirations like the results they bring when successful.

Or perhaps, we could examine their commonly held beliefs and the future those beliefs envision. For in the end, the true sum of one’s faith can be found most clearly within the true impact their faith desires, regardless of what they may or may not claim to confess. We are responsible both for what we believe and the future those beliefs ultimately bring forth. Are we not?

Most recently, one of the prized accomplishments of conservative Evangelicalism is the election and continued support of Donald Trump as President. Say what you will about the politics involved, the bottom line is this—his character, priorities, and leadership are clearly creating a world where the wealthy become richer, the poor become more vulnerable, greed is expanded, bullying is desensitized, corruption is protected, white privilege flourishes, elitism is unleashed, minorities are further marginalized, racism is energized, sexism is normalized, the LGTBQ community is increasingly demonized, and right-wing Christian conservatism is prioritized.

Yet sadly, this is not by chance.

In fact, among many conservative Evangelicals, these are tacitly received as nothing less than welcomed results. For if this presidency was the first occasion in which conservative Evangelicalism has had influential success towards the fruition of these same kind of deplorable realities, then this moment in history would be less profound. However, from the slavery and lynching of black people to the belittlement and abuse of women, conservative Evangelicalism has long resulted in the increased spiritual justification of some of the most evil atrocities ever committed on planet earth.

In fact, now we have an administration, like never before, that increasingly creates economic systems that blatantly benefit the wealthy and exploit the vulnerable, brutally splits families with children apart who are seeking asylum in our country, aggressively sides with Israel in order to further the fulfillment of “biblical” prophecy, threatens to pull news press credentials over “negative” coverage, belittles and thwarts people with disabilities, and has dismantled highly important LGBT-protecting policies, all in the name of undoing the leadership and legacy of our first black President.

Yet sadly, once again, this is not by chance.

Conservative Evangelicalism teaches its followers that faithfulness to God leads to financial prosperity and wealth. Having pastors with six figure salaries, churches with multi-million dollar facilities, and followers with luxurious lifestyles are seen as a reward from God not a departure from the ways of Jesus. In the mind of conservative Evangelicalism, if you are struggling financially or devoid of financial abundance, it is likely that some aspect of your faith life is askew. Ministry and Christian “success” is largely defined by the increase and accumulation of “more”—more money, more power, more influence, more campuses, more staff, more baptisms, more attenders, more speaking engagements, more followers on Twitter. In the world of conservative Evangelicalism, more is never less, more is always more—even at the expense of others.

Conservative Evangelicalism sees people primarily as spiritual projects for the ultimate goal of conversion into their faith system. Even helping the poor and hurting is largely seen as a means to a faith-serving end that builds their kingdom with more converts and satisfies their obligations of obedience to their faith. Poor hurting people are ultimately helped only to the extent in which it somehow serves their faith system. In fact, within conservative Evangelicalism, poverty (and even hardship) is often deemed as a result of unfaithfulness and wrong belief.

Conservative Evangelicalism manifests a territorial greed that desires to conquer people, groups, communities, perceived enemies, and the planet at large, not for the purpose of serving humanity selflessly, but rather garnering its submission to their faith system.

Conservative Evangelicalism largely portrays Jesus as a white man. Not just a white man, but a white man who is a Republican, gun-owning, racist homophobic nationalist who is wrapped in the American flag.

Conservative Evangelicalism manifests a good-old-boy-club mentality for white male heterosexuals that gives them a hypocritical privilege, license, and authority over women, often leading to their sexualization, discrimination, control, and abuse. In fact, the only sins that truly matter in conservative Evangelicalism are the ones that are different from theirs and enable them to condemn those who would threaten their white male heterosexual Christian privilege and power.

Conservative Evangelicalism declares the Bible as being the infallible word of God and their interpretations exclusively faithful and accurate to the discerning of its meaning and truth.

Conservative Evangelicalism interprets the Scriptures as condemning the LGBTQ community, labeling them as “abominations,” cancers to our society, enemies of procreation, and deviants destined for hell.

Conservative Evangelicalism once asserted a biblical justification for black slavery and murder, and the demonization of interracial marriage.Conservative Evangelicalism portrays a god who is justified in killing his enemies, destroying entire of groups of people, and sentencing disobedient non-believers to a hell of eternal torment.

Make no mistake, what we see unfolding before our eyes is nothing less than the manifestation of the dsytopian dreams of much of conservative Evangelicalism. No matter how much they might sprinkle it with spiritual glitter and dress it up with stage lighting and smoke machines, the finish line of their faith understanding is a violent Armageddon that ushers in a kingdom where anything that does not prosper white, male, heterosexual, conservative Christian power and privilege is eradicated from the earth. Spiritually rationalized racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, nationalism, greed, violence, and hypocrisy are all merely pieces of a much bigger puzzle.

This is put on display perhaps in no more profound fashion than through the current television show produced by Hulu, “The Handmaid’s Tale,” based of the novel by Margaret Atwood. This prophetic drama puts forth many images, occurrences, and realities that can be easily seen as reflecting the dystopian fruition of the fundamental beliefs and values of right-wing conservative Evangelicalism.

The truth is, this powerful show does not require a suspension of current reality to understand its message, but merely a gaze into the future of what could be if conservative Evangelicalism continues to gets its way.

In fact, what should be most alarming to us all is this—if conservative Evangelicals were asked to publicly denounce every action and faith confession of the oppressors in “The Handmaid’s Tale” that they believe are contrary to their faith system, I suspect many would find little of which they could accurately object and honestly deny. In fact, nearly everything displayed in this prophetic drama is already currently taking place in one form or another, largely at the hands and influence of right-wing conservative Evangelicalism.

Read the Bible the way they read the Bible. Pray the prayers they pray. See the world the way they see it. Believe in God the way the believe in God. Spiritually justify what they spiritually justify. Then you will see, through a simple glance down the hall of its future, the kind of world conservative Evangelicalism envisions. For if conservative Evangelicalism gets its way, make no mistake, this is what the world would look like. To be sure, being “under his eye” won’t point us to the face of Jesus, but rather to the face of their evil.

Keep your soul vigilant, these are dark times for sure, and they’re only getting darker. Hear the call of Jesus upon your heart, “take up your resistance and follow me.”

America will die at the hands of men who exchanged a brown Jesus for white Christianity, and quite frankly, it’s beginning to seem like that’s just part of their plan—if they get their way.

Grace is brave. Be brave.
photo courtesy of Hulu

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Be a Bridge Over Brokenness

When you’re weary, feeling small
When tears are in your eyes, I’ll dry them all
I’m on your side, oh, when times get rough
And friends just can’t be found
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

The goodness of God fills all the gaps of the universe, without discrimination or preference. God is the gratuity of absolutely everything. The space in between everything is not space at all but Spirit.

(Feast of Lady Julian of Norwich)
Be a Bridge Over Brokenness

by Lisa Hunt-Wotton

All of us are broken.  All of us have experienced broken relationships.  We live in an imperfect world with imperfect people.  We cannot exist outside of relationships yet we somehow always seem to stuff them up.

I am sure you can recall many such times.  The gulfs and the gaps between you. The huge painful silences.  The road blocks, the impasse, the deadlocks.  When words have been said and can’t be taken back.  When actions have hurt and wounded.  When betrayals and rejection has created gulfs and chasms.  How do we move on?

Sometimes the gulf is so big it is impossible to cover.  Sometimes the water is flowing so deeply it is impossible to cross.

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As followers of ‘The Way’ we are called to be bridge builders.  It is in human nature to step back, take a side and dig in.  We retreat to our corners when we are hurt.  It is part of our fight and flight DNA.  When  Jesus came he bridged the gap.  He became the ultimate bridge builder.  The Way that he taught us to walk is counter intuitive.  It goes against our nature.

We want to defend our position, to explain and to blame.  Jesus teaches us to reach out, to extend our embrace and to be a bridge over the brokenness.  He became the ultimate bridge when he made a way for us to connect with the God of the Universe.

His ways are ways of gentleness and peace.  He came to lead us into the pathway of peace.  He is the Prince of Peace.  He came to bind up the wounded  and to heal the  broken-hearted.  As followers of The Way of peace we are to do the same.

The only answer to brokenness and ruin is reconciliation and peace, forgiveness and love.  The bible talks about these as fruits of the Spirit.  This is the demonstration of the Holy Spirit living within us.  The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, meekness, self-control and faith.  When we lead with our embrace, when we step out in peace and love and gentleness then we become bridge builders.

We become the bridges over the brokenness, bridges that make a way for others to follow.  These steps of faith fly in the face of everything we know.  We want revenge but instead we must be patient.  We want to demonstrate how wrong the other party is – we must walk in peace and faith.  We want to rage and rant – we must show self-control.  We want everything to change immediately – we must rest in long-suffering and play for the long game.

Bridges are nothing more than disciples of Jesus.  He knew that we would have trouble in this world.  He also knew a way for us to flourish and prosper in this world and that was  the way of love.

Who is this Jesus:

If I were to summarise the teaching of Jesus it would be two words only:  love and forgiveness.  Two thirds of Jesus teaching is about forgiveness. Forgiving an imperfect tragic world. In Jesus we have a God who does not blame, does not punish, does not threaten, does not dominate. We have a God who breathes forgiveness (Rohr).

All the betrayals, the abandonment, the torture, the unfaithfulness of almost everybody.  Instead he identifies forgiveness and peace with his very breath – constant, quiet, unlearned – but always given.  

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Each time we extend love, joy etc.. we make stepping-stones over the chaos.  Each time we chose patience and self-control we pave the way for peace.  As we become bridge builders we create pathways for others to learn and to cross over.

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The worst punishment you can do to a person is to cut them off.  Cast them out.  Shun them.  Rejection by someone who loved you is hideously painful.  Stress is bound to occur as a result of rejection since human beings are by nature creatures that wish to belong, which Browning (1996:169) portrays as follows:

‘Humans have social needs to belong to, cooperate with, and sustain the groups to which they belong.’

I know because I have been excommunicated from beloved family and dear friends.  It is a cruel and excruciating torture.  Even worse is the inability to reconcile.

Estrangement from family is among the most painful human experiences.  Social rejection occurs when a person or group deliberately avoids association with, and habitually keeps away from an individual or group. This can be a formal decision by a group, or a less formal group action which will spread to all members of the group as a form of solidarity. It is a sanction against association, often associated with religious groups and other tightly knit organisations and communities.

Social rejection has been established to cause psychological damage and has been categorized as torture

Stress resulting from Trauma and Disappointment

The stress resulting from a traumatic encounter cannot be overlooked, hence this opinion by Estardt (1983):

“Studies about stress show that expectation is an important factor in how a person will experience stress. Stress is often the disappointment ratio of the difference between the expectation and the reality”.  (Estardt 1983:149)

Often in a relationship breakdown the stress and trauma is around disappointment.  The loss of hopes and dreams.  There was an ‘expectation’ that this would be our life, this is what we do or how we would live.  Or it could be about a parent or person who has disappointed you.  If they really loved me they would do this or say this or behave like this.  These unmet expectations create disappointment, fractures and stress.

Thus a gulf forms.  Who will make the first move.

How you react and respond in these situations will determine the future outcome of the relationship.

There are of course times when reconciliation this side of heaven will never happen because you cannot control the other side.  My shunning is outside of my control.  I can wish for reconciliation, work on my healing and attitude, but I cannot force them to relate.

There are however many less extreme cases where you can be the one to build a bridge.  You can be the one to take the first step and lead out in peace.

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The beauty of this is that you are teaching the children and those coming behind you how to walk in the way of peace.  Your stepping-stones eventually become a highway of relationship.  The out reached hand, the embrace, the first steps eventually become a bridge upon which others can walk over and live in peace on both sides of the divide.

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Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down.

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