As Jesus followers we are called into the Kingdom Life. This blog will help us converse and learn what that means. It will contain thoughts on Scripture, Sermon Reflection, Leadership Training and interesting reads. -Pastor Jeff

Monday, January 23, 2017

Top 10 Things We Value in Doing Relationships Well

This weekend I shared a list that struck a chord.  At Bridgeway we've always treasured being able to share life well with one another amidst our quirks, differences, and peculiarities.  However, it is good from time to time to be reminded of some of the ways we can act and behave as to honor and respect the relationships and communities that God has given us.  This last year has been a very divisive year on many fronts in our culture and society.  How we conduct ourselves in divisive times and how we conduct ourselves as we share life with people who aren't like HUGE!  Below are my Top 10 values for doing relationships well.  If the church can avoid being jerks in a time when being a jerk is accepted and celebrated, people might take notice and think, "Hmmmm...I want to be with those folks."

#10:  We respect that not everyone will think like us.
As a church we regularly gather as about 750 on any given weekend.  Shocking news...not everyone agrees on everything or sees eye to eye on every detail.  If you are like me, you often think, "You know, everyone could be right if they just thought like I did."  Yes, that is the arrogance in us all.  Truth is we come from all sorts of different persuasions (political, financial, etc.) and from many different backgrounds.  We see diversity as God's gift not a threat.  Diversity makes us better human beings.  There are things that we hold sacred and central for sure...LIKE JESUS.  However, there are many other elements of life that simply display our diversity.  We are ok with that.

#9:  Not everyone who thinks differently is wrong...sometimes they are just different.
Respect of diversity is HUGE!!!  Too often, we get trapped by our small mindsets.  We think "My way is the way."  We are too quick to jump to words like "idiot, stupid, dumb, pathetic, ridiculous, and ignorant" towards anyone that refuses to see the world the way we do (especially online).  Are people wrong sometimes, of course.  However, we needn't be jerks in the way we handle difference.  Many times, what we are certain of is certainty standing and looking from one angle.  People who stand and see a situation from other angles may see things differently.  Learning to converse well may mean enriching your perspective.

#8:  We don't jump to conclusions with insufficient data.
Careful what you swallow as the truth.  The person relaying the truth to you may be ill-informed and giving you a haphazard collection of details that strung together present a false picture.  We needn't be so ready to jump on what we hear without doing the hard work of finding out if what we are hearing bears any resemblance to the truth.  Consider the source.  Consider the spin.  Consider the big picture.  Consider slowing up in your reaction of getting worked up.  Consider doing your homework. Consider going to the source.

#7:  We don't talk about someone until we've talked to that someone.
How much grief would we save ourselves if this was the case.  Cowardice and gossip are nearly synonmous.  Gossip is discussing someone without having the courage to stand face to face with that person.  If someone says to me, "Hey did you hear about so and so..."  My first response needs to be, "I don't want to hear it.  You need to go talk to so and so."  Living well in relationships means the courage to have face to face conversations.  This is a biblical mandate when it comes to conflict.  Matthew 18 says that as the people of God we are never to trash someone's character based on a perceived injury.  We are to speak face to face with that person and let them know of their offense.  Go to the source.

#6:  We don't pretend to know more about a situation than we really do.
Often, a little bit of information gives us a feeling of importance.  People love to be in the "know." However, the temptation toward importance often tempts us to pretend to have more information than we really have.  We string people along based on our assertions, assumptions, and preconceived ideas.  Inevitably, if we aren't careful...we end up lying.  Having information isn't about importance, it is about responsibility.  If you've been entrusted with info, you have the responsibility to handle it well, truthfully, and with great humility.

#5:  We don't build camps and rally people around our private causes.
The Bible teaches us that a "house divided against itself will collapse."  There are times within the life of a community someone will get a wild hair that they know better how things should operate than everyone else.  They start to have a lot of side conversations, undermining, demeaning, and calling into doubt the character of others.  Slowly they begin to rally support and gather people around their cause.  They've then created a critical mass of dissent and anger.  This act subverts the health of the community. Disagreement is to be handled in a much different manner.  Again, face to face conversations with those with whom you disagree is HUGE!!

#4:  We recognize that "putting up with people" goes both ways.
We are all annoying to someone.  If you find yourself always "putting up" with people, understand someone is extending you the same grace.  The thought that we are a blessing to everyone and everyone loves being with us is a lack of self-awareness.  We all have a bit of obnoxious messiness in us.  Humility demands that we acknowledge that being in community is a constant dance of loving and extending kindness, not only to those we have a natural affinity for, but also those that "grate our ever-living last nerve."  Just think, if God has put you in community with someone that annoys you, God has just given you an opportunity to practice patience.

#3:  We don't judge people.  We take them out for coffee.
It's easy to stand from a safe distance and call into question someone's attitudes, actions, and motivations.  Judgement is critical observation from a safe, uninvolved distance.  I've found that if people actually spend time with one another, if they share breakfast, lunch, or coffee, and take the time to get to know one another, this shifts quickly.  Each of us have a back story.  Each of us have a story that informs how we live and act.  When we get to know one another, that story may enable empathy, patience, compassion, and kindness in ways you would have never been capable of before.

#2:  We seek to build bridges of care and compassion, not walls of religiosity.
This is particularly big for our Bridgeway community.  We're an intentionally different kind of church.  We seek to error on the side of love, care, and compassion.  We avoid wrapping Jesus in a lot of religious garb that makes the movement from searcher to surrender very difficult.  Those that love black and white life, clear lines, rules, and tidy religion will be frustrated by Bridgeway.  However, amidst the mess, we create patient, hospitable space for people to connect with Jesus and with each other.  

#1:  We practice the Fruit of the, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.
We believe that the fruit of God's Spirit is best cultivated in meaningful relationships.  Those relationships that are the most difficult are often those that create the greatest opportunity to grow.  We'd like to add two more to the mix.  Integrity which we believe means being the same everywhere, church, work, home and yes even online.  In addition, Tact which means that even though you "can" say something doesn't mean you "ought" to say it.  Learning how to prayerfully respond to others is key to healthy relationships.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Hospital-ity: The Church for Weary and Wounded

On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”  Mark 2:17

When a church makes a decision to join Jesus in this mission of caring for the sick and the wounded by becoming a hospital for the hurting a few things should be expected. (Note to my overly semantic friends, this is an analogy and all analogies break down at some point…I understand that)

1.) We ought to expect the place to get messy because folks will get their blood on our stuff. You might hear someone say, “This is why we can’t have nice stuff.” 

 2.) Sometimes people will come to us thinking they have a bad shoulder and wanting pain relief only to discover they have a clogged artery and are about to have a heart attack. The identified pain is not always the source of the pain. We must be willing to listen and patiently discern the struggle.

3.) Often short staffed and overwhelmed, the place becomes like a triage center. That means there are assessments made regarding which area of brokenness to respond to first. “Yes, I know your torn off toenail hurts like the dickens. Your pain is valid.” In that moment, that’s the pain you know. However, one room over the person lost an arm and is bleeding out. “Give us a minute, let us tend to that and then we will be back with a bag of ice and a band aid.”

4.) Often short staffed and overwhelmed, there aren’t always enough “healthy” people to help the wounded and what happens is that the “less unhealthy” or the “currently recovering” people lend a hand in helping those in a really bad place. Which means…YES…it won’t be perfect. One can’t expect someone still recovering from their own wounds to flawlessly perform assistance. At some point, we just need to be thankful they were willing to jump in an lend a hand.

5.) Yes, the food could be a bit better. The wait times could be a bit less. The beds could be more comfortable. The staff could be more attentive. The monitors are loud and obnoxious when they beep. The X-ray table is freezing when you lay down on it. There will always be something to point out and get frustrated with. Remember this is a hospital and not a country club or luxury hotel. Stick around long enough and we might graduate you from crutches to a mop to help clean up the mess in room 7.

 6.) Be careful jumping to conclusions about why someone is in the condition they are in. Take time to understand the back story of someone’s life. You might discover that what they are currently being treated for is far less life threatening than what they’ve already survived. In fact, when you take time to get to know someone you might walk away thinking, “The fact that they are still standing is amazing.”

 7.) There is not much you can do with someone who comes in but refuses treatment. Acknowledging the problem is the first step toward healing.

8.) The tricky thing about our hospital is that all our “doctors and nurses” have been where those suffering are and most of us are still being treated for ongoing symptoms of our wounds. 

 9.) Be nice to the other people seeking healing. Yes, I know…wounded people wound people. However, a sign of healing is recognizing you are doing that a lot less. Forgive those that haven’t been nice, they just found out their insurance lapsed and they are facing a major surgery…they aren’t in a good mood. 

 10.) A hospital is all about recovery and healing. We really don’t want to leave you in the broken mess you currently find yourself in. Healing and wholeness is possible. It may take an extended stay followed by long term rehabilitation, however, if you take steps each day, listen to those that care for you and walk with you daily, you can experience the great joy of hope and health.