To love my enemies?

Two bombs. Three deaths. 130+ injured.

No motive. No answers. No one to blame. Yet.

My prayers go out to Boston, those affected, and their families.

How do we respond to tragedy like this? What is our paradigm for making sense of injustice like this in our world?

Blame? Revenge? Calls for Justice? This is often our first response. Shortly after the event, some vowed that those responsible would “feel the full weight of justice.”

And yet as Christians, our response must begin with prayer, mercy, and forgiveness.

Prayer for those affected: those injured, those who suffered loss, those whose peace has been taken from them. Prayer for those in authority: those who must oversee restoration of men and women, those who must restore trust, those who must lead us through. And Prayer for those who took these lives, that they might come to saving faith in Jesus Christ.

Mercy toward those affected: medical aid, housing aid, counseling, food. Mercy toward those leading: patience, willingness to follow, giving them the benefit of the doubt. And Mercy toward those who took these lives, that they may be given the chance to be reconciled to God rather than condemned to Hell.

Forgiveness. The story of the Good Samaritan teaches us to love our neighbor. But it also tells us that our neighbor is not only those like us, or those we like, but includes those who are the most different from us, those we hate. Jesus tells us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. And Peter reminds us that God desires that ALL might be saved.

What is our response to today’s events as followers of Jesus? To reconcile all things to God (2 Corinthians 5), including those who cause us harm. I am challenged to do this by Alex, a young Christian who forgave and prayed for salvation for the man who killed his parents.

Prayer. Mercy. Forgiveness.

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Emotive Metaphors and Truth

The other day I heard Jason Gray’s song “More Like Falling in Love” from the album “Everything Sad is Coming Untrue.” While I normally enjoy Gray’s music (and enjoyed the musicality of this song), I found myself at odds with the lyrics.

He declares that following Jesus has to be “more like falling in love than something to believe in” and “more like giving my heart than pledging my allegiance.”

Although I understand the meaning behind the song – that Christianity is not just a religion, but a relationship – I still take issue with the idea that my Christian walk has to be emotional to be valid. As a person who is more likely to analyze than emote, I am bombarded with messages that tell me that my relationship with God needs to be emotional. This is probably because the creatives making the messages are more likely to emote than analyze, but it still bothers me. It is as if our American church has decided that a relationship with Jesus is based on how it makes me feel, not because it is true.

That is what the song says. “I don’t want something to believe in. I want someone to love.” But Jesus is not just someone to love. He is the Truth. We love him because he is someone to believe in. And is that not what love is? Love is believing in someone. I won’t even mention that DC Talk taught me that love is a verb (action), not a noun (emotion). We do want something to believe in. We need it desperately. We love him because he first loved us (truth), not because he makes me feel good.

I am a Christian because I believe the Bible to be true, and that Jesus is the Truth, the Life, and the Way. How I feel is quite secondary. I don’t believe that Christians never get depressed, feel alone, or angry. I think we are allowed to doubt a little, to question God (see: the Psalms). But in all that emotional mess, the truth anchors me. My faith is greater than my emotion. He is bigger than my circumstances.

Have you ever felt like we trade the truth for emotion in our Christian messaging?

Did Moses Love the Egyptians?

Moses and Aaron (Photo Credit: Joe Alblas)

Moses and Aaron (Photo Credit: Joe Alblas)

There has been a lot said about the Bible Miniseries on the History Channel.  While there is much left to be desired (specifically the way the show depicts men and women acting in the name of God rather than God acting powerfully in history), one aspect of the depiction of Moses caught my attention.  I have read and heard and studied the Exodus multiple times, but I never wondered about Moses’ thoughts on the Egyptians.

Who are Moses’ People?

When I read the Exodus, I am caught up in the story of the Israelites.  They suffer, they groan, they are oppressed, they are remembered.  I am swept up in the mighty works of God.  He judges, he overwhelms Pharoah, he saves his people.  I rejoice with the Israelites when the death of the firstborn Egyptians results in their freedom.  I feel their pain and bewilderment when they are trapped at the Red Sea.  And I celebrate and worship with them as God destroys their enemies.

But what about Moses?  Unlike the other Israelites, his experience with the Egyptians is not simply one of pain and oppression, but also of love and family.  The Bible miniseries showed me a portrait of Moses I had not considered before.  In fact, in the miniseries, when the Angel of Death is drawing near to the Egyptian homes, Moses is not excited at the hope of freedom.  He declares of the now dying Egyptian children “I used to call them my people.”  He is a man torn.  He is working with God to free his people, the Israelites.  But in order to do so he must wreak havoc and destruction on his people, the Egyptians.

Then, as the Egyptians drown in the Red Sea, Moses appears downcast while the Israelites rejoice around him.  He has accomplished his mission, but at what cost?  The choices of his people, the Egyptians, have led to their own demise.  If they had allowed the Israelites to go there would have been no plagues.  If they had not chased them to the Red Sea there would be no drowning.  They have made their own bed, so to speak.  But still the people he grew up with have now drowned.  Sorrow mixed with Joy.

In short, the Bible miniseries depicts a Moses who loves his enemies because they are his people.  The book of Exodus does not give us any indication that Moses felt this way, but it does not give us any reason to think otherwise either.  Moses is an Israelite who grew up an Egyptian and so it is likely that he was both joyful at the rescue of the Israelites and saddened by the death of so many Egyptians.

Who are God’s People?

God was in the same position as Moses.  Who are his people?  The Israelites, obviously.  He has chosen them and rescued them from oppression.  But also the Egyptians.  In fact, in Isaiah 19:25, the Lord declares “Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance.”  He worked mightily to free his people from oppression, but at the expense of his people who were oppressing them.  All people are God’s people.  He has made them, he sustains them, he loves them, and he is waiting for them to turn to him.  When they sin, he judges, but they remain his people.

Why have I taken so long to see that God does not delight in destroying the Egyptians?  And that he does not delight in seeing any perish, but desires that all might be saved?

What enemies do you need to love?  What people are you forgetting are God’s people?

Minimize Confusion: Organize Your Staff

Org Chart ScreenShotOne thing no one ever mentioned as I was going through my education to prepare for ministry was org charts.  We talked about a lot of things, but never how to set up the structure of an organization.  Unfortunately, this is a major task of the pastor: to set up the organization called the church.  Although you may not have considered it, organizing your staff will help you and them.

Organization Minimizes Confusion

Although the chart above may seem to create confusion, the truth is that organizing your church’s staff will minimize confusion in your church on three levels.

Less Confusion Among Staff

When your staff is clearly organized, there will be less confusion among the staff.  It will be clear to them who is responsible for what, clearing up confusion over responsibility.  It will be clear to them who is accountable to whom, clearing up confusion over management.  And it will be clearer to them what success looks like for them, clearing up confusion over priorities.  An organized staff will have less time lost wondering what they should do, who should tell them to do it, and what their work should look like.

Less Confusion About Staff

An organized staff also creates less confusion for your congregation about the staff.  When you spell out who is responsible for what, the congregation will understand better who they need to contact about their questions.  They will understand better who is ministering to their families.  They will understand better who is not ministering to them.  And they will understand better who they are accountable to for their discipleship.  Taking the time to organize your staff and publicizing it (through a org chart made public or simply with clear titles) will help your congregation understand your staff better.

Less Confusion Above Staff

Finally, organizing your staff will give you less confusion.  In an organized staff the leadership has a clear understanding on who they are leading, where they need to lead them, and who they need to find to lead.  When the staff is organized, those in management positions have no confusion about who they are managing.  They also understand more clearly what success looks like for each staff member, allowing them to manage them better.  And they will see clearly what holes exist in the organization, allowing them to plan for future staffing more effectively.

It may take some time and energy to do it, but organizing your staff is going to minimize confusion for you, your staff, and your congregation.

What problems have you seen arise with an unorganized staff?

Starting Out

Hello-1782

Welcome to ORG Church.

ORG Church is my canvas to put out my thoughts on Church Organization, including musings on Church Constitutions, Volunteer Management, Ministry Alignment, and Church Leadership.  I have a passion to equip the Church and hope that putting my ideas out there will further the Kingdom of God in small and big ways.  In addition, I will often review resources that I think will further the Kingdom.

Please:

Check back. There will be new content 2-3 times a week.

Speak up. This is a discussion, not an essay.

Spread the word. If ORG Church is helpful, let others know!

– In Christ,

Matt McClelland