Coffee, Theology, and Jesus

working out our messy faith over coffee

Tag: Fellowship

What God REALLY wants from us – Rob

I think its a common thing to consider, “What does God want from me?”  I have often found myself trying to “figure out” what it is that God wants from me.  How on Earth am I to know what the God of eternity wants me to do?  Should I be really concerned about my choice of Raisin Bran over Cheerios this morning because maybe it was “God’s will” for me to eat the Cheerios?  Of course, I am not saying that God doesn’t care about our decisions and that whatever we decides becomes the will of God.  What I have had on my mind for some time isn’t a 10 step process to figure out what God’s will is in every situation.  I do have a one step process to know the mind of God.  I’m sure more able men/women could spend months explaining what I’m going to say in just a few words.

What I do not understand is that the answer to the question of knowing God’s will seems somewhat simple to me.  Let’s look at it a different way for a second.  My mom and dad have been together for over 30 years.  I think it is safe to say that they know each other pretty well.  My dad can be out at the store and can pick up a few things for my mom without calling and asking.  He can easily make decisions based on what my mom would want or like.  Why is that?  I would venture to say it is because he knows her.  Would it not make sense to apply that to God?  How am I to know God’s will?  Would it not be by knowing God?  I don’t know if that is too simplistic but it makes complete sense to me.

It is no surprise to most, especially Tim, that my favorite book of the Bible is Romans.  Well, I’m not getting this from Romans so fear not.  If I had to pick the wisest person in the Bible (beside God) I have a name in my mind that I would put in there right away.  Who would you say holds that place?

My opinion?  Oh I would go with Solomon.  So, if I am looking for someone to explain to me how I can “know God’s will” or “know God” who better to rely on than Solomon?  Let me take you to my favorite verse.  This verse has challenged me and changed me more than any other single verse

 My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways.       ~Proverbs 23:26

What a tremendous request.  God isn’t here asking for my knowledge, my money, my time, my education, my job, my car, etc.  Giving away all of my possessions won’t bring me an inch closer to God.  Giving away all of my money won’t find me more favor with the Lord.  Giving all of my time to benefit others won’t lift me to a better standing before God.  God is asking for my heart.

So how does this all go together?  Well, in my mind, it goes something like this.  Giving God my heart is really the epitome of submission and all out devotion.  Is that not what we mean when we say about athletes that “he plays with all his heart” or about a guy, “he gave her his heart?”  It is the deepest and truest meaning of giving something or someone your all.  God requires our submission and devotion.  In return?  He gives us Himself.  Oswalt Chambers once wrote, ” It is not that you have gotten God, but that He has gotten you.” Obviously, the more God has of us the more we will want to do for Him.  But it starts with giving God my heart.  I shouldn’t have to sit for months on a decision about what God wants me to do.  If God had my heart and I knew Him as I should, it would be so very easy to say “oh well this is what God would want.”  That all comes from spending time with Him in prayer, reading His Bible, talking with Him, meditating about Him, and enjoying Him in so many ways.  The key is to first give Him my heart.  The rest will follow.  God will never force someone to follow Him (not even a true Christian).  We are free-will beings and have the choice to follow Him.  When I gave God my heart my perspective changed and I started to see things as God sees them.  My view is still cloudy sometimes but I believe in Proverbs 23:26 we are given the promise that we can observe the ways of God!

How do we figure out God’s will?
We get to know God!

How do we know God?
We give Him our hearts and let Him do the rest!

What does God REALLY want?
Our hearts!

With a word the world came to be
and the sun did rule the sky.
With a breath the land came from sea
and the mountains did grow high.
My voice cried forth and brought to life
all the creatures I had made.
But with a breath I rolled the dice
on this man before me laid.
In everything that I had done
and the love I would impart,
I could not stop this war begun
or take from him his heart.
Pleading with man to just stay near,
not wander far from me,
I sent my Son, His mission clear,
to die upon a tree.
His cross cries out louder than words
the reason he came to die.
Yet the message remains unheard
as salvation you deny.
I do not ask what you can do
or give to do your part.
Instead my call goes out to you,
“My son, give me your heart”

Unlearning what we have learned. – Tim Whitaker

Disclaimers: Rob is probably going to disagree on many points. Sorry 🙂 You can blog about it later. 😛

There is a challenge a lot of us face.  By “us” I’m referring to the people that are re-thinking what it means to be a Christian.  I’m referring to people who are not content with the state of the church.  I’m referring to people who want to be known as disciples of Jesus not just “Christians”. People who want to go deep in to their faith, and who are willing to change their mindset in light of new truths when it comes to Scripture, Jesus, and the Church.  When I refer to “us” this is who I’m referring to.

So there is a challenge for us.  Most of us have grown up in the church and we have been brought up with mindsets that are not completely Biblical.  We have grown up thinking that church happens Sunday mornings, we meet at a “church” building, every service has the same format, we can’t change the format, and being a Christian means being morally right as much as possible.  We have grown up with a limited knowledge of Scripture, Judaism, and how Christianity and Judaism are so closely connected.  We have grown up with the answer (Jesus) without knowing the backstory to the answer.

And so there is a challenge because as we get closer to Jesus and the Kingdom, the more we are loosed of the traditions we grew up with.  Before I go any further let me be clear there is nothing wrong with the traditions we grew up with in and of itself.  I am a product of the traditional church, it is there that I learned who Jesus was, I met great people, and I had a basic community.  But now looking back, I can’t help but see the legalism I was rooted in, the legalism my family was rooted in.  And looking at the church now I can’t help but see how our tradition has become our prison.

The Bible I believe is intentionally vague on what a church body actually looks like and is crystal clear on what the structure of a church body should look like.  We see in Scripture that there are to be teachers, pastors, elders, deacons, and leaders in the church body, but what we don’t see is how that is fleshed out. Granted we have books like Acts, Corinthians, and Galatians, which show what church bodies looked like.  But you’ll notice that Paul doesn’t do much writing in regarding to how the church meeting should go.  He instead spends much more time talking about how we as the body are to live as people.  We see certain key things such as preaching of the word that are talked about in the structure of the meeting, but even that is not specific.

Nowhere in Scripture do we see Paul say “Here is what every church meeting should look like, songs for 20 minutes, preaching for 30 min (make sure it’s 3 points), alter call, and offering”  That is just not there in Scripture.  The problem is that the church is deeply rooted in this structure and is afraid (it seems so) to step out of that tradition.  It’s interesting to me because singing songs, sunday school, youth groups, alter calls, are nowhere in scripture, but we cling on to them like they are the foundations of church.  Then when someone talks about maybe removing one of those things, or changing the format of what we do every Sunday, people get defensive and will say things like “that’s nowhere in Scripture”.  This amazes me.

So the challenge for us is what do we do?  Well what we do is we allow God to free us from comfortability.  The first time I heard a church meeting in a bar in Belgium I wanted nothing to do with it. I thought it was completely unbiblical and I didn’t want to be a part of that body for the month we were there.  By the end of the month I couldn’t get enough of the community, the people, and what they were doing.  We have to be ok with being uncomfortable.  It is difficult to think about church meeting in somewhere other than a church building.  It is difficult to think about a church “service” not including worship music, or an alter call but we have to.  We have got to go back to the scriptures and realize that the church design is meant to be flexible.  The church body can most definitely meet in a church building, but it can also meet in a movie theatre, coffee shop, basement, or bar.  The church meeting once a week can definitely include worship  music, a sermon, and an alter call.  But it can also exclude those things.  A church can meet with talk, discuss, and be lead by the teacher in a discussion about a certain piece of Scripture.  That is just as Biblical as what we do every Sunday.

The most difficult thing for me these past several years have been unlearning all that I have learned.  I have had to unlearn that i’m not a “better” Christian because I go to church every Sunday religiously.  I’ve had to learn that it is ok if there isn’t a three point sermon during a church meeting, and I’ve had to learn that maybe creating a consumeristic atmosphere on Sunday morning maybe is not the best way to get people to own their faith.

Let me sum this up.  There is nothing wrong with what the church has been doing in our culture for years.  It has changed many people’s lives, and it has done a great work.  However there is nothing wrong with changing it.  Those traditions are not doctrines, they are not salvational issues, and honestly a lot of the things we do are not in the Bible.  The structure of the church body is clear in Scripture, what that looks like is not, and that’s a good thing.

Coffee Church continuation

I want to continue with this thought of the church body meeting in a coffee shop.   There are a few reasons this idea stuck with me when I first thought of it.  The first reason was because a cafe atmosphere is a breeding ground for conversation.  Probably the biggest drawback to our current Sunday morning format is that it just doesn’t allow for much discussion to happen.   I’m not saying that the current church model is not somewhat effective, that people have not been changed,  but what I am saying is that one of the drawbacks to the way we do church is that there is not much room for life to happen.  Most church goers are in a building once a week and during the majority of the time they are sitting and listening, or standing and singing.  yes it’s true we offer small or community groups outside of this, but the majority of the congregation usually does not come out to these things.  Again this is not true for every church, but I believe it’s true for most.

My motivation for this idea (which I really want to do in the future) is because we all agree the church is not a building.  Yet our actions show that we believe that the church is mainly a building.  Most things the church does is in the “church building” and not out in the community.

Imagine walking in to a coffee shop Sunday morning and seeing a group of people discussing the word of God.  Imagine seeing someone teaching others something about the christian faith in a circle sunday morning around a cup of coffee.  Imagine what a person would say seeing this coffee shop that the frequent full of life, of discussion, of community.  For some reason the employees are genuinely interested in the customers because the employees don’t see them as customers, they see them as people.  The church (the people) is a part of the community, they are smack dab in the middle of life where they are encountering people in the community daily.  It’s only a matter of time before Jesus comes up in a conversation, it’s only a matter of time before the regulars become friends.

To me this is one of the many ways the church can reveal itself.  This model might not be right for every setting, but i think for my generation it is a huge need.   Many people are not looking for a place to go, to sit, stand, sit, stand, repeat.  They are not looking for a place to go where they can listen to someone speak to them, they are looking for a safe place to be heard.  It is essential to realize that church is not a place we go to, it is a life we live.  The church is living, breathing, moving, and growing, if the majority of that happens once a week then it’s not really doing much the other 6 days.  We need to get the focus off of Sunday morning and learn to live in the church continually.  How we do this is for another blog post.

Worship music, a sermon, an alter call, announcements, they are great things, and all have been used by God.  But my question is are they necessary? What if people got together every Sunday morning, shared a cup of coffee together, listened to someone teach and then responded by talking about it in a smaller group?   Is this another viable option for our Sunday morning routine?

And what about leadership?  I propose a leadership team, not a single lead pastor.  Crazy you might say but hear me out.  When you have a team of people who own the vision, the responsibilities are shared.  Now a pastor can actually pastor (shepherd) people, and the teacher can actually teach people.  Elders can mentor and disciple the younger men and women.  When you’re in a group of leaders the will of God is able to be discerned in a clear way because now your thoughts are being bounced off of other people who share the same heart.  It’s no longer just about what one person is hearing, it’s about what the group is hearing.

This might be crazy, I might be in LA-LA land, but I don’t think I am.  I think this is possible, and I think it is necessary.

~Tim