Monday, March 17, 2008

Breathing Underwater IX: Saying Goodbye To Performance Based Spirituality

Burnout history of churches and pastors I'm familiar with. Just this past week two more old friends opted out of ministry. It spoke to me of some truths God is teaching me via the ministry of Ed Smith that I want to share with you all this morning.

One of the first questions from a former leader upon our arriving at Hope was, "What do you do with someone who doesn’t (won’t) get well?"

It really is a lot of work fixing poeple, especially when we do it in our own strength!

Being a follower of Jesus is not about getting better but being whole, being complete in Christ, and relying on His strength, not our own.

Lord Jesus what do you want each of us to know today? Are we open to receiving it?

As a very logical, rational thinking person I loved Romans 12:1-2 when I was first exposed to it some twenty years ago:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

Who needs mind renewal? All of us. Most of us have a landfill of lies up here in our heads.

Denial, control, until a crack appears, we take a break from blaming & suddenly realize that all is not well. Lets quit performing and allow God to expose us. If we really want mind renewal we will become open to our faulty ways of thinking.

I still love that verse, but I’m learning more that there is an emotional part of the renewal. Our emotions match what we really believe.

My emotional state in any given moment exposes what I actually believe as opposed to what I logically and rationally believe.

Philippians 4:13
I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

We believe this verse that is until tomorrow morning when we walk into work and get fired. Now if we have an overriding sense of peace, well that the good shepherd has it all well in hand then we really do believe. But if that knot in our stomach keeps growing, maybe something else is going on.

This past week I’ve had knots in my stomach that have almost made me physically sick.

I’m being exposed through these feelings. We can trust our feelings and emotions to show us what we really ‘believe’; we just need to remember not to act on those feelings.

Those emotions REVEAL us.

Willow Creek Reveal study: “Does increased attendance in ministry programs automatically equate to spiritual growth? To be brutally honest: it does not. …Church activity alone made no direct impact on growing the heart…”

WCCC made assumptions, thinking that was flawed. We all do it- to their credit they are in the process of trying to change some of those assumptions. Assumptions about church are hard to surface, and difficult to deal with. Denial is strong.

What do you do when you are exposed?

Usually we suppress or move to blame, as we’ve talked about in the previous weeks. When we blame we make our emotional state dependant on another person. It’s like asking them, “Please allow me to have a happy day today.”

We sometimes say that to dead people, or to people we haven’t seen in years.

Philippians 4:13
I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

Paul wrote that while he was under house arrest, very likely knowing he was going to die soon. To top it off he was chained to a guard who could have likely given Kimbo Slice or Tank Abbott a real whooping! Notice he didn't say, "I'm screwed- do you see these guards?"

In his lifetime of mind renewal God had taught Paul that, "When we're on God's agenda, God's strength is all we need."

Colossians 3:15
Let the peace of Christ rule in your heart.

2 Thessalonians 3:16
Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way.

This is our choice: Let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts. It is an ongoing act of mind renewal to let God's peace rule in our hearts.

When we don’t have peace, when our stomach is in a knot we’ll pretend it doesn’t exist; we’ll blame it on sinful behavior (or others will! & it may actually be true); we’ll blame it on others or even the devil.

The devil doesn’t hurt us- he just exposes us to our vulnerability. When we choose to go in our own power with him it gets ugly.

Ephesians 6:16
In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.

Faith in this sense is belief. Allow your faulty beliefs to be exposed so that God can extinguish those fiery arrows.

Is exposure a good thing! YES! Does it feel good? No.

Exposure leads us to see our Performance Based Spirituality. It is difficult to detect because it’s clothed in righteousness and upheld with logical and rational theological thought. It’s caked in, ‘This is what the church is and does’ kind of jargon. Remember the Reveal study?

It has the appearance of being right but is driven by falsehood.

PBS is the ability to deny painful feelings. It enables us to look good when it feels like we’re falling apart inside, to look spiritual when we’re feeling defeated.

'Following Jesus through self-will' is the motto. Keep smiling and faking it.

Key assumptions of PBS:

1. Controlled behavior is equated with spiritual maturity. Self-control is a fruit of the spirit- but that’s the point- God is the one doing it, not us. If we are doing it it’s just willpower.

2. Abstinence is called victory. Now we have to start somewhere. An alcoholic must give up drinking- but there are many angry or sad sober people. They stopped a behavior but it was just a symptom. What if we can actually find some victory, which is the abstinence of battle.

3. Denial of inner emotional pain is seen as a virtue. It’s just really suppression.

We are encouraged to come to Jesus if we are weak and weary and then we learn to stuff our pain and act like everything is okay when it really is not.

One way we experience that here at Hope is trajectories. Some people come closer into the Hope community when they are hurting while others leave for a period.

4. Performance is rewarded while being in emotional pain is not condoned and viewed as spiritual weakness. The problem with that is all of us have pain!

PBS is driven by emotional pain, not peace. It is not a spiritual virtue but rather a defense against acknowledging our own pain & feeling what we actually feel.

Denial does have a place in life. It is God’s gift as protection against trauma, holding us until we can get to the Father with our grief. Think of war, or children when they face horrors. Remember the opening scene on Normandy Beach seen in Saving Private Ryan?

Luke 10:38-42
As they continued their travel, Jesus entered a village. A woman by the name of Martha welcomed him and made him feel quite at home. She had a sister, Mary, who sat before the Master, hanging on every word he said. But Martha was pulled away by all she had to do in the kitchen. Later, she stepped in, interrupting them. "Master, don't you care that my sister has abandoned the kitchen to me? Tell her to lend me a hand."
The Master said, "Martha, dear Martha, you're fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing. One thing only is essential, and Mary has chosen it—it's the main course, and won't be taken from her."

Notice that Jesus doesn’t rescue Martha. We really have a hard time with the negative emotions, the vulnerable feelings so we rescue each other.

Mary chose to sit at the feet of Jesus, to hear His voice. That’s the best way. The only way.

Our motivation for good works is often overlooked. Martha was serving God, being hospitable.

Martha’s spiritual gift was likely serving. Was she exercising it? No – she was using her own energy and agenda to drive her- her pain.

Church leaders are often those who can’t say ‘no’. But when they do say ‘yes’ they move from feeling bad to feeling mad! This leads to an inevitable burnout.

Our own performance drive (pain) often gets our agenda running contrary to the agenda of God!

Lets get busy and do something! It leads to predictable and eventual burnout. I’m well on my way, and many of you have been there for a time.

Psalm 127:1-2
If God doesn't build the house, the builders only build shacks. If God doesn't guard the city, the night watchman might as well nap. It's useless to rise early and go to bed late, and work your worried fingers to the bone. Don't you know he enjoys giving rest to those he loves?

Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain.

How do we say goodbye to PBS?

Sorry but these aren’t 3 easy steps. The only way is the way of Mary- to sit at the feet at Jesus & hear His voice in our pain.

We just plain stop performing. We stop denying, pretending sit down & listen. If don’t choose it we often have it thrust on us as a limitation, such as burnout.

We tend to do things to deliberately distract our minds off of what is going on inside. If we get still we might feel.

I’ll bet many of the exercises from past weeks haven’t been done because the pain of stilling ourselves to look at things such as what our experiences have taught us, both good and bad, is too painful.

Know that the inner pain and emotional turmoil you carry is understandable even though Jesus has given you a new heart. Our old thinking often keeps that new heart from taking over our life. Don’t resist the renewal.

Know that you are not alone. We are all in need of mind renewal!

1 Corinthians 10:13
No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.

Lets redefine authentic spirituality in the context of being real while submitting to the journey of mind renewal and growing in our experiential knowledge of Jesus.

Recognize abstinence, controlled behavior and performance for what they are- not spiritual traits but rather our vain attempts at managing pain through self-effort.

Drop your guard and cooperate with what God is doing around you to expose you. Cooperate with God. Allow yourself to be a mess.

"I am a mess."

Choose to acknowledge & embrace your pain and allow Jesus to help you discern its true source.

Sit at the feet of Jesus & listen.

Ever get mad when a favorite sports player didn’t retire when he or she was at the top of their game? Why? Because you couldn’t stand the thought of them not performing like they once did.

Who do you want to put a show on for?!

Some marriages break up because of that too. “She just doesn’t wow me anymore.”

We secretly fear that God may retire us if we stop producing!

"Top 1% of all Performance Based Christians!" is our motto.

What if it is true that there really is just ONE thing- sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening for his voice- that God expects you to do and it requires no real effort to accomplish it?

What if everything else flows from this?

This is Breathing Underwater.

Some of you are tired. Some of you don’t know you are tired or how tired you really are.

1 Thessalonians 5:23-24
May God himself, the God who makes everything holy and whole, make you holy and whole, put you together—spirit, soul, and body—and keep you fit for the coming of our Master, Jesus Christ. The One who called you is completely dependable. If he said it, he'll do it!

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.

Where is the performance? Where is the energy required? It comes form God.

Matthew 11:28-30
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly."

Release us to be real with ourselves, with each other and with you God.


Post a Comment

<< Home