The cockroach that killed a Giant

This isn’t quite the story with the good ending, but it must have happened in my loungeroom for a reason! In Aesop’s Fables, the mouse chews through the hunters’ net and lets the lion go. In this case, the smaller somehow managed to kill the larger.

I have an aquarium at home which I love (although the live amazon sword plant is a bit irritating because it won’t grow). In the four foot tank swim danio’s, flying foxes, neon tetras and a beautiful blue lone Siamese Fighter (note to self – get some girls for him).  Being a fly fisherman, I love seeing fish hit insects on the surface, particularly if that insect is an imitation I’ve tied and it’s on the end of my line. In between fishing however, I’ve taken to swatting house flies and dropping them in the tank. Generally one particularly aggressive Giant Danio motors up and snaffles it, chewing hard as it swims off. The smaller fish usually don’t get a look in, unless the Giant is off his game, or two are dropped in at once (he only has one mouth).

The house flies were fine, until we started dropping in small cockroaches. These would get picked at until they fell apart and were digestible by the fish. It’s all a bit of fun of course…. and the giant danio just keeps getting bigger. In fact, he’s the biggest fish in the tank, and spends most of his time motoring from one end to the other chasing all the other fish around. We also suspect that he personally accounted for around sixteen of the neon’s. Poor things.

A couple of days ago, one of the kids noticed the Giant floating motionless upside down – dead. Upon inspection, the killer was located. It was a small cockroach, jammed down his throat. He’d literally bitten off more than he could chew. It’s crazy I know. Why would a fish eat something that is so big, they can’t swallow? Surely something in nature would program into its brain some kind of ability to estimate size? And that’s when I realised – It was a metaphor for my ministry career.

I think in most churches, the pastor is the biggest fish in a small pond. It’s only stepping outside the church that I realised how small a pond it was that I was tearing around in. I mean it seemed large because the workload was overwhelming, because we were dealing with hundreds of people, volunteers and staff, but really it was small. And like the Giant, I was rushing from one end of it to the other, chasing all the other fish around.

By the time we went multisite, I had that much on my plate from God to governance, and management to ministry that it was like biting off more than I could chew. I was the giant that swallowed the cockroach. I was chewing as hard as I could and working so many hours and weekends, but still couldn’t manage, until I burned out. That bad-ass cockroach strangled me and left me floating upside down in my little pond.

In the end, my emotions and mental wherewithall gave out. I guess in life, we can only have so much on our plate. We can only bite off what we can chew. Any more than that, and we’re liable to do ourselves an injury.

On the upside, the Giant annoyed us. He would literally herd the other fish and chase them due to his size advantage. He’s gone now, and so has my career and ministry. But the upside for me, is I’m discovering how to live, how to slow down and pace myself. And I think I’m a better person for it all.

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Christians of the future will be mystics or will not exist at all

I just read a fantastic article by Carl McColman called The Hidden Tradition of Christian Mysticism
where he says;

Karl Rahner, one of the most renowned Christian theologians of the twentieth century, once famously remarked that “the Christian of the future will be a mystic or will not exist at all.” For people whose experience of Christianity is, often, little more than a religion invested in obedience and in patriarchal morality, this seems to be a bold statement. After all, mysticism implies not legalistic religion, but living spirituality — heart-felt experience of the Divine, centered on a miraculous and joyful appreciation of the Spirit’s ability to heal and transform lives. Can Christianity and mysticism really co-exist?

It fascinates me that a consistent theme among burned out pastors and christians, is that they push back to Christianity’s ancient roots and themes. Even while I was burning out, I knew I was craving something deeper, more authentic and less structured and pedantic than the ABC’s of prayer and reading three chapters of the bible.

I started reading Henri Nouwen and was googling the practices of the Benedictines and chewing over the ideas of the desert fathers. I had begun to mediate and look for God within. For twenty years of my christian life, I thought that God was “out there”, but the contemplatives believed he dwelt inside of us, and that to commune with Him, we had to look within.

It all sounds a little “out there” to someone with a traditional western contemporary version of Christianity, but a quick flick through church history shows it has “always existed on the margins of the church” as McColman puts it. I mean, when you think about it, Christianity is more an eastern faith than a western one, and once the lens of western modernity is lifted, it does allow you “see” the possibilities much like seeing the 3D magic eye pictures.

He goes on to say

So mysticism is, in a very real way, Christianity’s best-kept secret. And even though some Christians of the third millennium remain suspicious of mysticism, many other Christians have begun to embrace the transforming power of such core spiritual practices as meditation, lectio divina (“sacred reading,” a meditative approach to the Bible and other wisdom texts), and contemplative prayer — the powerful form of prayer in which meditative silence is offered directly to God for the purpose of seeking and fostering deeper intimacy and communion with the Divine.

In all honesty, I think we’re all craving a deeper experience of the divine but the journey of discovery has been hijacked by an institutional, modern, western, attractional, business model of doing church, that hands us Christianity in a neat bubble-wrapped glossy package with the words on the back saying “This is guaranteed to work if you follow the following three steps to the successful Christian life”. Maybe the life of the contemplative is just what we need.

The future of Christianity ain’t here. Okay? – Rick Warren

Here’s Rick Warren’s take on the future of christianity:

“You may be surprised to know that there are more Christians in China than there are in America, by far. There are more Presbyterians in Ghana than there are in Scotland, where they came out of with John Knox. There are more Baptists in Nagaland, a state in India, than there are in the South here in America. There are more Anglicans in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Nigeria—any of these—than in England. Last Sunday there were more Christians who went to church in China than all of Europe combined. That is a fundamental shift. If you want to know the future of Christianity, it is the developing world. It’s Africa, it’s Latin America, and it’s Asia. It ain’t here. Okay?

—from Pew Research Center Forum (Nov. 2009)

Despite the fact that Christianity is exploding in the developing world, the developed world pastor’s are still not taking any notice. We are frozen into mindsets that bigger and better programs, services, events, conferences, preaching, and worship albums are going to build a church. We are stuck in some organizational management textbook in the attempt to build the elusive successful church. And it’s not a bad thing to want to build a successful church, but I’d suggest that the churches Rick is talking about have better discipleship, higher levels of committment and evangelism than ours ever will under the current mentality of doing church.

We might be slicker, we definitely have better music and media, our buildings are better, our tithes will definitely be higher, our people have greater prosperity, we have much more in the way of resources, and we’re probably having more fun, but I think a reality check is in order. Why don’t we just pause for a bit, and look at what we’re doing and our results, then look at what is going on in developing countries and do some serious thinking….

Jesus Manifesto

Check out the Jesus Manifesto by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola who state “We believe that the major disease of the church today is JDD: Jesus Deficit Disorder. The person of Jesus is increasingly politically incorrect, and is being replaced by the language of “justice,” “the kingdom of God,” “values,” and “leadership principles.”

I guess the one that relates most to The Scrapheap is number 6, which says:

It’s possible to confuse “the cause” of Christ with the person of Christ. When the early church said “Jesus is Lord,” they did not mean “Jesus is my core value.” Jesus isn’t a cause; he is a real and living person who can be known, loved, experienced, enthroned and embodied. Focusing on his cause or mission doesn’t equate focusing on or following him. It’s all too possible to serve “the god” of serving Jesus as opposed to serving him out of an enraptured heart that’s been captivated by his irresistible beauty and unfathomable love.

http://ajesusmanifesto.wordpress.com/