The Lion, the Sheep and the Bathrobe

18 11 2014

Tuesday Re-mix:

I have a sort of recurring day dream about my first appearance before God at Judgment time. It’s probably horrible theology on a number of levels, but I just can’t seem to shake the picture, and it is all because of a cool little comment Jesus makes in John 17:12… While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.

I am haunted by those words, “…none has been lost”. I have this embarrassing picture in mind of my standing in my bath robe in front of God and Him asking me about all the people He placed under my influence in the church and who left the church at one time or another and I never heard from them again. I’m talking about members of Sunday School classes, choir members, committee members, etc. for whom I had some leadership responsibility (or at least a friendship) and who have disappeared from the church’s radar screen. Oh, how I wish I could look up and say (with Jesus) “None has been lost.” But I cannot. Can you?

It is what Jesus was referring to in Matthew 18 in his parable of the lost sheep. The context in which Matthew recalls that parable is a very different context from how Luke uses it. Maybe Jesus told the parable more than once. In Matthew, Jesus is clearly talking about the church and “sheep” who wander off. Jesus poses this question: what kind of shepherd would not leave the entire flock in order to go after the one lamb who wanders away? Of course, it makes perfect sense in that scenario that any of us would do that. So, why don’t we do likewise in the church? When one of our flock begins to make decisions that pull him/her away from the Lord and away from God’s people, leaving him/her vulnerable to the attacks of the enemy, why don’t we drop everything to go after that wandering sheep?

A herd animal’s vulnerability when it gets away from the herd is a scary thing. It is an image Peter has in mind in I Peter 5:8 when he refers to our enemy as “…a roaring lion looking for someone to devour”. Did you know that a lioness will follow a herd for weeks watching and waiting, studying the herd and looking for the weakest members? She patiently waits for that moment when one of the weak members pulls away from the herd and becomes vulnerable. Similarly, our enemy watches and waits, like a lion on the prowl.

One of our jobs as leaders in the church is to go after those sheep who have wandered away, and to find whatever creative means necessary to turn them back toward the flock. I know that is a tall order. I know it raises lots of questions about exactly what that confrontation looks like and how it works (that, of course, is for future posts). But surely it is our responsibility, if we take Jesus’ words in Matthew 18 seriously. Welcome to the Body of Christ!

So, if you look as silly in your bath robe as I do in mine, you better get to work, because there is an embarrassing accounting waiting for us. There are wandering sheep to be found…

© Blake Coffee
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, a link to this document on this website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Blake Coffee.  Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: © Blake Coffee. Website: churchwhisperer.com




In Way Over Our Heads

4 03 2014

Tuesday Re-mix:

What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?

You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor.  Psalm 8:4-5

Back in 1985, when I came out of law school and started work as a very wet-behind-the-ears lawyer, I expected to be stuck in the back of a law library for at least a year or two before I would be entrusted with anything which actually required much judgment on my part.  I fully expected I would be researching and reading and gathering documents and other such tasks which were reasonably “safe” for a baby lawyer to handle.  Imagine my surprise, then, in my FIRST WEEK ON THE JOB, when one partner handed me a file to take before a jury in just 3 short months and another partner handed me an appellate brief to prepare and argue before the Texas Court of Appeals in just 6 short months.  I was scared to death!  I was in pretty far over my head.  I would not have done it that way.  I thought to myself…they must really trust me!

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image24263066I say it often about God and the church…I would not have done it this way.  If I were God, I would not have chosen this strategy to reach this lost and broken world.  To be blunt, I would never have entrusted my name and my reputation into the hands of a bunch of broken, flawed people like you and me.  What an enormous risk!

In my work as a peacemaker in the church, I get the privilege of seeing the church often at its very worst behavior.  I am reminded over and over again just how flawed we are…how very capable we are of letting emotions get the best of us and of “losing it” in front of a watching world.  We certainly have not “earned” God’s trust in any way, shape or form.  And yet, God’s plan from the very beginning was to use us, with all our flaws, to be His spokespersons to the world.  Having created us “a little lower than the angels”, He knows our potential…better than we know ourselves.  He has crowned his church with honor and glory…made us His bride.

Do you feel like we’re in way over our heads?  I do!  All the time!  What a responsibility He has given us to carry His name through this world…to wear that name proudly, for all the world to see and to associate us with Him and Him with us.  What an awesome and amazing privilege and honor!

I would not have done it this way.  I would not have crowned us with anything but a good, strong thump on the back of the head!  But He crowned us with honor and glory.  And He still does.  He must really trust us!

© Blake Coffee
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, a link to this document on this website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Blake Coffee.  Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: © Blake Coffee. Website: churchwhisperer.com




A Timely Haunting

5 11 2013

Tuesday Re-mix:

Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.  Acts 11:20-21

In his book, Deep and Wide, Andy Stanley asks a question that has been haunting me for some time now: Who is church for?  Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it?  Seems like we should be able to answer it without even flinching.  But it is killing me…haunting me.

It is killing me because I know the right answer: church is for the lost and broken world around us…it is God’s one and only plan for reaching, saving and healing that world.  Church, when all the programs and budgets and theological debates are done, is for that world.  That is painful for me to admit because, once I admit that, I know it means I must then look at everything I love and want and do in the church and ask myself whether it fits that purpose…whether it is designed to reach that world.  I think you know where that inquiry will lead.

But that question is killing me at an even deeper level yet.  It is causing me to examine my own heart and ask some troubling questions about my heart’s inclinations and leanings, especially where that lost and broken world is concerned.  With the Lord’s leadership, I have crafted an entire ministry around loving, encouraging and healing the church.  It is my passion.  So, it is easy for me to want church to be for church people…because they are my audience, my market, the purpose for my ministry.  I love pastors.  I love church leaders.  I love church people…and there is a huge part of me which wants church to be for them.

So, when I read Dr. Luke’s account of the early church and its struggles to answer this same haunting question, “Who is church for?”, I am looking for answers for myself.  I am looking for how they got over some of these same biases and prejudices that I feel in my own heart.  I am looking for their way forward through that challenge, and I am hoping it will somehow show me the way forward as well.  After all, THEY were much more prejudiced than I…they had some very real racial issues at play, some very real doctrinal issues at play…I don’t have any issues nearly that severe…do I?

Imagine my disappointment, then, when I read that Peter simply stood up and told them the story of what he had seen and heard at Cornelius’ house, how he had seen the activity of the Holy Spirit in their lives, and how it all seemed to him to line up nicely with what God had been saying to him through his prayer life…and they listened and then said [paraphrasing], “Oh.  O.K., then.  We get it.  We’re good with that.”

What was their magical, mystical, secret and amazing way through the challenge?  They prayerfully listened to pastor Peter’s testimony, and they agreed and they moved forward.  Period.  That was all it took for them.  Aaaauuuggghhhhh!!!!!

I’m depressed.  And haunted.  You?

© Blake Coffee
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, a link to this document on this website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Blake Coffee.  Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: © Blake Coffee. Website: churchwhisperer.com