W.W.J.D- if you aren’t familiar with this abbrev. then you might have lived under a rock.
What would Jesus do? The great abbrev. of the 90’s. Perhaps it was this abbrev. that started all this other abbrevs. (ugh, just so you know I hate when people use the word of abbrev.) LOL. ROFL. LMAO. (or the G rated version, LMBO), WTF, HIFHHIJE. (Yeah, try to figure that one out-ha!)
So, these bracelets were used to stop you in your tracks right before you smoked a joint, snorted up some crushed up smarties or smelt that dry erase marker a little too long (you know you tried it). But let’s talk seriously for a moment about this fad that was sported on the wrists of millions of Americans during that decade I try to forget- the 90’s.
I posted a status about how I HATE puppet ministry and the 90’s and WWJD bracelets. Well, I had no idea how much angst and defense people would take up on the subject. Apparently, it is a pretty touchy subject. So, I just couldn’t resist writing about it here. Because, my simple opinion turned into a 15 comment back and forth and it was really interesting and a learning moment for myself. First off, apparently there are people who enjoy puppet ministry. WHAT?! REALLY? OMG. I found it interesting though, that everyone who commented never said if they, themselves enjoyed it but that’s not the point. Of course, there are those who enjoy it and they most likely wear pig tails, love Hannah Montana and have to raise their hand in class. That’s great. Puppet Ministry might just help that person understand the love of Christ. I get it. My point through that a FB status could not share all the layers behind that statement. It had more to do with the purpose of the ministries our churches carry out than the simple example of Puppet Ministry.
Why do we do ministry?
How can it be affective?
What can we do to be relevant and creative?
As a youth minister and now a recent associate pastor at my church, I find myself challenging everything we do, how we do it and asking over and over, “What if?”
We have used puppet ministry in the recent past mostly because we happened to come across some puppets we used to have from years ago. I and a majority of the people there were confused (and frightened) by using puppets during a service. It brought back flashes of memories from the decade that said bowl hair cuts and high water jeans were acceptable. Some of the kids giggled, some cried and some couldn’t figure out why there was a felt creature spouting off about Christmas.
Now, say there was a huge congregation who were all about puppets. They were puppet people. They couldn’t get enough of puppets. Their understanding of the call to bring God’s kingdom to earth was more alive and engaging when the message was brought by a puppet. It sounds like that church better use puppets and not the cheap hand made kind.
My point is doing ministry is important. So important. It brings people in, helps them engage and be a part of a collective and individual calling and purpose and helps them go out and share who they are with the community around them. As ministers, as church “goers” (I hate the phrase…let’s use church beers…wait…nevermind) as disciples and lovers of all people we have incredible influence. We can either use that influence to continue tradition because it’s what we know without questioning why we do it and how it does or does not transform each other or we can use that influence to bring life. It’s a difficult thing. When you gather a group who all have different tastes in style, music, food, theology, politics, and morals it is very difficult to cater to every individual person. God’s message and calling is pretty exciting in itself. It doesn’t need doctoring up or a make-over. The love God pours out into God’s children is enough. It is exuberant, it is exciting, it is creative, it says “Drink this and let it absorb every cell and then pour out it to others!” It is enough.
So What Would Jesus Do when it comes to ministry? Here’s the problem I have with this phrase. When we ask ourselves and each other this question we enable an imitation not an engagement. I am not Jesus. Nor or you. I was made to be Sydney. I have unique qualities (some would say crazy). Those qualities are much different than those of Jesus’ and much different from Bob, Penelope and Beatrude. God doesn’t ask us to imitate Jesus. We aren’t puppets. (ooh, connections. your welcome.) We were designed and made to bring different gifts and talents and views and humor and dreams and creativity to the table. What Jesus would have done might not be how I would do it. BUT the why Jesus did it, now that is something I can resonate with. I might not turn water into wine but I can spend every Saturday night with crazy hormonal teenagers because the love of God has been lavished upon me and it can only pour out. Where and who and how it is poured out is unique to me and my calling. When I start asking “What Would Sydney Do?” The Sydney God made Sydney to be then I am challenged to engage in my calling instead of imitating Jesus’ calling. I bring my unique purpose to my congregation and offer it up for the collective purpose. How each congregation answers their calling and purpose is unique and different depending on who brings what to the table.
Now, who knew that a clumbsy Facebook status could spark this much thought?
I wrote a sermon just about this subject a couple of years ago for a Preaching class at Belmont and I thought I would repost it to this entry. Feel free to read (it’s really short).
Worship & Preaching
April 29, 2009
What if we unleashed ourselves from the notion that we have to try really hard to be a follower of Christ? What if we turned down the volume of our Christian praise music and freed ourselves from the idea that the higher we jump during worship; the closer we get to God? What if we shut up long enough to actually hear the breath of God flowing through our lives long enough to be transformed? I wonder what the church, the Body of Christ, would look like if we truly wrestled with these questions and chased after them.
Earlier on this week, my boyfriend and I were spending some time in his back yard enjoying the sun. Lucas, my boyfriend owns a beautiful, white and black border collie named Cotton. His name is very appropriate because he is very soft and fluffy like cotton- but his beauty comes with a price. Cotton likes to shed cotton-like tumbleweeds throughout Lucas’ house; therefore he now lives in the back yard…sometimes. Cotton also aspires to be Houdini. He has escaped many a chain, rope, steel cable and fence in his time. Lucas recently purchased the strongest chain he could find at the tractor supply store and tied it around a huge tree that stands in the middle of his yard. Cotton has not escaped this one…yet! However, he enjoys running around the tree- so much so that the grass around the tree has died and a dirt racetrack has replaced the old grass.
While Lucas and I were outside, I decided to let Cotton off his chain. No sooner then I unclipped his collar from the chain and unleashed him, he was gone like the wind. He began running around and around the yard as fast as his feet could carry him. He sprinted, twirled and danced the most beautiful dog dance. He rolled in the grass, played and smiled the biggest dog grin possible. This moment was a homecoming event for Cotton. He was free to be the dog that he was made to be! He did not shy away from it; instead he hit the ground running; embracing every ounce of freedom he could find, enjoying every whip of air that caught his cotton-like coat, savoring the cold air on his wet tongue.
I enjoyed observing Cotton’s glory moment- I envied it. I had forgotten how great it felt to be freed from my chains that are so often tied to the tree that bears my fears and insecurities, obligations and responsibilities on its branches. These branches bare the heavy weight of the notion that in order to be worthy, to be loved, to be a child of God, I had to try to be like some one else. The notion that in order to be an effective Christian in this world I had to strive really hard or break my back to bring God’s glory to my life.
I have often heard the teaching that I should try to be like Jesus, that I should try to imitate Him and live as He did. This is a very daunting task to take on, because let’s be honest- he set the bar pretty high. Jesus was a fine carpenter. I am not, nor will I ever be or desire to. Nothing sounds more boring to me. Jesus turned water into wine and we all know that is pretty impossible (especially since I am underage) but if I could that would be quite profitable. I won’t even mention the whole walking on water scenario.
I am not trying to discredit Jesus’ life at all- quite the opposite. What I am trying to say however is that I am not entirely sure I am meant to be a carbon copy of Jesus. Otherwise, I would have come out a Jewish male named Jesus. Instead, I came out a hazel-eyed American female name Sydney. With this in mind I can pursue my life with the knowledge that I can be Sydney. And just how Jesus ministered and loved God in his way, I can minister and love God with what I can offer.
If I am in correct in saying that I do not have to be a mini-me Jesus Christ, than it would most certainly true that I do not have to be just like my pastor, my church friends and family. I do not have to be sucked into the current church culture, I do not have to sing the most popular Christian pop tunes or wear the ‘Jesus is my Homeboy’ t-shirt (thank-goodness!) because before all of this “stuff” was around God’s love for me was present. My opinion is that we have made this whole being a child of God thing far too distracting and too hard.
Paul talks about his hardships in 2 Corinthians 7: 4-7. “We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind. We have been beaten, been put in prison, faced angry mobs, worked to exhaustion, endured sleepless nights, and gone without food. We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love. We faithfully preach the truth. God’s power is working in us”. Paul’s hardships are quite different than the ones that you and I face on a daily basis. When was the last time you faced an angry mob? The closest kind of angry mob I encounter is the youth group every Saturday night that are hyped up on caffeine and raging hormones.
Instead of worrying and striving to be the perfect cookie-cutter Christian, Paul ministered in the only way he knew how. He probably did not care about what he was wearing when he was doing it either. He did not strive to prove his Christian status via a ‘W.W.J.D.’ bracelet or a cross around his neck but looking at verse 6, he proved it through purity, understanding, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit and sincere love. These things cannot be bought at Life way or anywhere else. They cannot be bought at all. They have been given to us freely through the Spirit of God that breathes through us- if only we could hear it.
We do not have to break our back to figure out or posses these six things- purity, understanding, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit and sincere love. They reside in each one of us. The only thing we do have to try to do is uncover them; to dig them out from under all the debris we have collected along our journeys. But as Paul said in verse seven, ‘God’s power is working in us’. God’s power is enough. God just needs us to throw away all the other distractions and junk that’s hanging around in our souls and allow God to work in us.
I understand that it is not as simple as it sounds. We enjoy cushiness and so we should. But we should not allow it to crush, cripple and suffocate the breath of God breathing in and out of our lives. We should not allow it to chain us to the tree of heavy burdens.
When I think about the sheer freedom Cotton felt I envy the simplicity of it all. All Cotton knew was that he was chained to something, he did not like it very much and then he was unleashed. He did only what he knew to do; to be a dog. He did not let his bitterness and baggage of being chained to the tree hinder his freedom. Instead, he used it to only fuel his freedom dance.
Being chained to the tree of heavy burdens eventually causes death. For Cotton, it was the grass beneath his paws. For us, it is often the death of our purity, understanding, patience, kindness, allowing the Holy Spirit to work in us, and our sincere love. The good news however, is that there is always a new chance for new growth. Just as Lucas could spread grass seed around that tree and nurture the grass to new life, God can nurture us back to new life.
God is constantly yearning to unleash us- in fact God already has. Some of us have just been too distracted to even notice, while others are too scared to be unleashed so they have decided to strap themselves down. Whatever the case, until we stop trying so hard to be something or someone else other than the people God created us to be, we can not run with the same kind of zeal our dear canine friend Cotton has.
So, may you be unleashed from the tree of heavy burdens and run and dance in the freedom that God has given to you. May you be unleashed to love and be loved. And may we all be unleashed to run in this freedom together as a community proving our identity with purity, understanding, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit and sincere love. Go in peace.