Shelter from the Storm

shelter from stormWhat Christians Have to Offer the World Today

“You need to go to church!”. There was a day when people said this to one another. Usually it was said in a scolding way, as in “you need straightening out, a little religion will do you some good, so go to church”.  Today, if someone was told he/she needed to go to church, I imagine a common response would be “What for?”.

This is a fair question to raise, and describes our quandary.  We who are at church find it meaningful. But many, if not most,  are reluctant to participate in a community of faith for a number of reasons.

We live in an age where people are no longer obliged to go to church, where many are satisfied navigating their lives void of engagement in the faith. I am  hesitant to say those who do not attend church don’t believe God or don’t think God is important. I’ve had too many conversations indicating otherwise to make such assumptions about our non-church attending neighbors.

Consequently, the question then rests upon those of us who find value in church to be clear about exactly what it is we are doing and what we have to offer. The people who are not in our pews feel they have better things to do with their lives on Sunday mornings. So then, what exactly do we have to offer people?

Avoiding Two Extremes
Christians in America have gained a reputation for two extremes on this question. The one extreme is that a given church has all the answers. “Come join us and everything wrong with your life will be fixed, just go to our 6 Week Bible Study and start contributing”. Nobody actually says this, but often that is the impression that is given to people desperate for relief. So the hoops are jumped through, but the problems don’t always go away, resulting in frustration with God and the church.

The other extreme is reaction to the above scenario. So wanting to avoid the appearance of having all the “answers”, churches are inclined to diminish offering much definition to life and the challenges life presents. Again, to make a caricature of this position with the goal of making a point, these churches will say, in effect, “yes life is hard and we are not sure what God has to say or do with all this,  but we love each other and trust it will work out in time”. They often resorting to “journey together” language in its worst forms, saying things like “we don’t have the answers but we can help in framing the right questions” which is okay to say to a certain extent, but makes for thin soup in the long run, taming Christianity in ways I find both unhelpful and unfruitful.  If we Lutherans are guilty of either of these extremes, it is more this one than the first one described.

So let’s be clear on this point. Jesus Christ has power to transform lives. Jesus works in lives to bring new and better things. Christ is at the center of our life together. Christ offers clarity and definition to our fuzzy lives, proven for generations, ever since the resurrection.

This What We Have to Offer, as a Result of HIM
We will explore this question in a sermon series the four weeks following Easter. The Risen Lord has entered our lives….now what? What difference does Jesus make? What do we have to offer? The answer is encapsulated in four words that begin with “C”:

Connecting Story

The series is the last in our “3 Listenings” we agreed to embark upon this year. We have been intentional in listening to God, to one-another, and now after Easter, our community. Entitled “Shelter from the Storm”, we will consider what it is our church proclaims and offers. Life has it’s storms, and Christ is our shelter. Clustered around the 4 C’s, we receive relief, help, and direction from the Risen Lord.

This is not an exhaustive list, but it does help to name what it is we are about. I did not invent the 4 C’s. They come from a book that I have found to be helpful in my life and ministry, “Leading Kingdom Movements” by Mike Breen. For those interested an  articulation of a vision of what Church looks like in our modern context, I recommend this book as a companion to our series this Spring.

Preparation for Conversation
While we consider the 4-C’s, we will engage the community, drawing them into the conversation of what God is doing in and around Amazing Grace. To enter this conversation, we are mindful that above all we must  be good listeners, to God, one-another, and our neighbors.  We have been practicing that in worship and in our other listening activities this year.

The listening is leading to something, however: meaningful dialogue. It is often the case that in paying respect to a person by listening to what he is saying, the response to good listening is an invitation to speak, often through a question. Often times people will say to me, “You have heard my story…what about yours? Who are you? What are you trying to do?” We do well to be prepared for those golden moments, where we are given permission to speak to how God works. If and when people ask what it is that church has to offer a person, the more prepared we are for those opportunities, the better Christ is represented in the world.

Your Brother in Christ,
Pastor Jason Talsness

Posted May 6, 2014 by Amazing Grace Lutheran Church | Pastors Corner | Permalink |