Oh, the colors, the figures, the ties, the layers, the design, the warm and fuzzy's, the candy canes and nature thangs.
Step right up, it's time for a new sweater. The latest, the greatest, better than the other brands.
Designed just for you, with the substance of your passions and desires in the latest colors and finest sheep wool.
Now who am I selling this sweater to? That's later.
The automobile industry was never designed, built or marketed for someone who doesn't drive.
People and companies are paid out billions to get you to "switch" to their brand. Money is not spent on trying to get people who don't believe in cars to "see the light, embrace the vehicle and watch your life change".
Ok, I'll admit there are people in the automobile industry who's job it is, is to influence young people who will have the right to drive someday. Like candy cigarettes of the 60's and gum cigars, the marketers were gunning for us before we could smoke. But, the lions share of dollars are spent on companies trying to get folks to move from one brand to another.
The corporations bottom line, the executives that run them, and their stock holders or financial base (for the NFP's) are based upon ROI and the bottom line. That, is the bottom line.
I'll say this before moving on. "There are no perfect people". Not you and certainly not I.
Most of the planet are not leaders or shepherds, they are followers and sheep.
Willing to believe, do what they are told and give their wool to the sweater makers.
Now me? I didn't go to the Warton School of Business nor a prestigious 2yr M.Div program. But i can tell you by those leaders who did, that in their implementation of classes into their values, vision, mission and carnage, what kind of sweaters they have and are creating from the teachers that taught them.
Creation. What is it? In it's natural state it "is" God. The constant of the womb, the soil, the water, the air, the suns of unknown systems. Creation creates to create, not to be sold.
And here is where a good sweater went bad. If you are happy with Jesus current church, you most likely should stop here and read "Our Daily Bread". i like that one. If you ask questions and then pray about them, you might learn something from the rest of this. Might...
Where creation goes bad... "ascribing value".
Enter money into creation for sale, and Judas comes to life. Believers with more justifications and lies than Walter White in Breaking Bad. Entering Religion into money, and trying to manage that oil and water has become the game of shake it up and say its all ok. Ok for a few seconds until they naturally separate on our lettuce.... entertain you salad served in a new sweater. For me, there is really no turning back that I can see, since justifying our actions has become the basis for our wealth, and then our ability to give back that 10% makes us Walter White. Oh the sweaters we allow woven from our wool.
|: No wonder so many moral people fall for socialism when given the state of religion :|
And yet, in all of that, we find pockets of pristine beauty. Pockets filled with love and healing and grace on those sweaters. Friendships that make you stay in a job or a building. That make you accept the unacceptable like an abused spouse afraid to lose the house and family and friends.
And the more pockets they weave on your sweater, the more chance you'll keep it for what good, of good report, you have put in those pockets.
My first question was "Now who are we selling sweaters to?"
Or better yet. With our wool, who are we giving wool for sweaters to and why, and what's the ROI....
This becomes the foundation to which I pen this blog today.
In my successes and failures of 60 years, one thing is clear, not much.
For a man named Solomon used to confuse me in his writings, and a man named Paul's words seemed so clear and direct from old to new Testaments.
Now, 45 years into this faith journey, this has reversed in so many ways that I do not have time to o-pine about here.
Yet, in and thru it, I believe in the eternal life of these words and the ever living power of and in them. In them long before they were written or printed, filmed or blogged about... For Truth is Truth, whether used for good or evil. Love is love in the same manner and we apply this to "choice" as well. Now, Deciphering each "use of" for good or evil is the eternally difficult question for all choices.
So, again, who are we selling sweaters to? You already know the answer if you understand my question. The only other question becomes, what reasons or (to some) excuses will we give to justify our sweaters. And in the end who's responsible for that? You & I, or the Shepard, or his teacher, or his father, fathers father? Where does the "buck" stop?
Ask a Jew, A Palestinian, A native American, A Shite, A Sunni. It doesn't end, even if you somehow think you were a grasshopper last time.
First, I would submit this.
In following Jesus as a group, we have confused the offices and buildings completely.
I have been and may continue to be a part of this very broken system for many reasons, but truth to me is truth as I see it and observe it from the side line or the fine line.
A couple simple questions for Christians (or) Jesus Followers as it relates to scripture?
1. Why do Christians meet? To build each other up for a life of service or to build and fill seats?
2. What should Christians do when they meet? Build each other up for a life of service or plan and do events to give out sweaters and fill seats.
3. What is a Christians mission in life? To love the Lord God..... or to build better sweaters for jesus to increase the size and scope of one church over another through sweater envy.
So how would Solomon answer that? And how would Paul and how would Jesus himself?
Do scriptures and statements from each of these men come to your mind as you read this question?
See, I'm not here to give you answers. I'm here to love you and ask questions to myself, and to you so we can think about, and to meditate on and to listen for answers that resonate in each soul as truth from God's Holy Spirit.
So here it is, here's my current issue today with Christmas Sweaters...
Pretty, novel, ever changing for another dollar, ever changing with pop culture, layered with fake layers of real things. (vests, pockets, ties, shirts) that from a distance look real, show value, get you to buy in, but up close are just not the real thing. One layer of many fake layers. Folks can tell you you look great in it, you can say it's warm, but unless you get a new one every year, you're not as happy as you could be. And if that other sweater maker move in with a new location down the street that has better colors or sizes or features... Well, it's the" all about me" world we live in, so see ya.
That is unless the sweater maker has been schooled on this wolves tactic and so has invited you to make best friends with those in the weaving guild.. Or the design guild or refreshments guild or greeting guild or children's guild., or 12 step guild. Or better yet gotten your children into the children's guilds programs on shearing and preparing wool for sweaters. Classes with trips to foreign countries to show them the value of wool and giving sweaters to the sweater less. After all, we live for our kids till they are gone and then we live for their kids...
If all this is done, chances of you leaving for a cooler sweater company will be diminished by your friendships and relationships that in the core are designed to help you keep put. It can be an ugly thing pulling back the curtain. And even if you do, there will be even more justifications than your grade schooler coming home with a hickey.
Movties... What are the root motives..really...
I turned on the TV a few weeks ago, and got a miriad of Web Based ads in Dec.
It was like Vegas and Branson and Europe Cirque Du Soleil with Jesus goin on. Super creative, Professional everything, best in camera, video, lighting, comedy, harmony, symphony, dance, Latte's, decorations, christmas sweater'd everything. Our company's productions are hipper and better than anyone elses, so come join the best of the best with the best and we will out sweater the world in ©Jesus name.
And I've been a part of this (in Jesus name).
But don't write me off. For I've seen lives changed and hearts touched, including my own. I still love hundreds of people and sheep I've looked over. And 1,000's I never got close enough to.
Yet why am i'm still sickened at seeing the latest version of our christmas sweaters on TV and the Web. Why does it feel like sheep dip on my soul. Why?
Because of the fall out? Because people matter?
Because all people matter, and I've seen enough behind the curtain of it all and it's root motives?
You see, people are not wool, They are not a commodity. Should not be lined up for use based upon size, shape, color sex or smell. They should be loved, nurtured, forgiven, and taught to live in community in love, not obligation or fear or guilt to give and serve and obey.
As Jesus followers, we are to go to the ends of the earth with His love and story of redemption. Beginning with our own story of our lives changed in word and deed, and then bringing that to our own circles and out ward from there to the world around us. If we wear a sweater, it should be one He wove of our lives. One people can see is really us. One that a lost world would envy to emulate. Ask honest questions of and want to be like. One that the Holy Spirit speaks thru one heart at a time. Then if your wool leads another to the Shepherd, you can invite them to come celebrate with you, do life with you, be apart of your circle if they choose. New Sheep in a flock, not an NFL trade or switching schools or promising a cooler newer sweater.
Here it is. What place does building a sweater factory to get people to move from one sweater factory to another have in the big picture of the great commission. Church Shifting for sweaters as an acceptable form of a business model at it's root, is just another cute but fake sweater with a short shelf life. Yes, shiny things will bring short term wool for sweaters and inflated egos of numbers, but they will leave, and leave with heads down in time, looking for the next sweater and another shepherd to love and tell them they matter for not their wool.
I would submit that the place where believers meet should be a place where the Book of Acts is lived out. Where the words of Solomon are balanced with the words of Paul and the words of Jesus are the final authority against the rest in each mans heart.
Radical Theology and Ideologies are not born over night. Bad ones take generations and centuries to justify by their actions. From the outside it can seem so clear. And over the centuries we've seen this over and over.
Intent? So leader... what is your intent, and are you humble enough to accept responsibility of defeat for a future victory that may look like a total loss for you.. well there it is. And why would you be willing to do this?
If your answer of "yes" contains a " but" upon discussion, you need something kicked.
If you have not noticed, I've been mainly speaking to leaders here today. Our leaders.
Questions to help sheep ask real questions of eternal consequence for the greater church.
I have not discussed music, or worship today, which has become the tip of this knitting needle. The color of the thread and the designs of the sweaters for most leaders to play with for their survival.. Another time....
Community with Faith, Hope and Love is an unbreakable rope. We as sheep try to find and make this happen with churches we give wool to.
It usually fails in the end, because at the top, it really has become business. Business about the survival of those in charge making choices to implement survival for a few, by the lure of beautiful sweaters, and keeping up with the competition at all reasonable costs with scripture filled explanations. And yet, for me the Sheep are innocent. Not because they don't have a brain, but because they are not stained with ownership and leadership over each other by under shepherds.. They have entrusted under shepherds to lead them for better or worse.
Well, "do not grow weary in well doing sheep", but do not also stop listening to your heart beat or stop being willing to "dust off your robe" and move on. Re-think old teachings. Move on not for the next coolest Christmas Sweater but for a community that moves you , that you want to do life with. Well, perhaps you've done this so much that you're done moving now and you just say, "here's my wool, Jesus will deal with you over whatever you knit from it, I'm just here being faithful with my wool"
Ok, I Totally.. get that, and that prayer would be a great prayer to meditate on and listen back from, every day.. Every life matters at any age, don't forget that.
My prayer this next year is for Jesus sheep to honestly, prayerfully, humbly review the role of church.
It is not to be a glittery evangelistic outpost. That would be the gift of the evangelist. They should give up churches and just do evangelism thereby sending people from there to churches.
And, It's not a Health Club with memberships and a list of perks either. But you'd never know that today.
For to many young evangelists building churches today have no pastors or teachers in sight. And to many pastors reject their evangelists passions to allow this to happen. And so it is with all the gifts God has given to his children.
And now sadly to many shepherds and sheep are working in shopping malls doing life ministry now, because they just could not accept the christmas sweater business model.
So, looking forward, if Jesus shows up wearing a Christmas Sweater on a white horse with LED lights dropping packets of miracle water with a .god web address ... well, I'll be very disappointed as i plan to be shouting whooo hooo for the twinkling of an eye. But something tells my soul that's not very likely.
Love hard, Forgive more, and as I say to my kids, make more good choices than bad ones each day. It will all work out in the end as the Holy Spirit speaks to our choices, if we humbly listen after speaking.
Humbly listening. hmmmm There's a mortal oxymoron for most leaders, unless of course your business or church is 10 times bigger than mine. Then i won't just listen, I'll follow you based upon your epic sweaters.
And in the end I say, Forgive me Father for I have sinned again. Help me see mens true motives through Your eyes and act according to Your words.
And if you have made it through another long CT blog, I pray that God will somehow give you wisdom to see through my shallow words to some truth, for your soul.
No, not from my words mind you, but from your prayers as a result of questions to a loving father.
Happy New Year and may we all expose our roots this next year, get them planted into good soil, get our vines trimmed and see less but better fruit....