Helpful reflections on the verdict in the Trayvon Martin shooting

From Matt Stauffer:
Please understand that this, today, right now is an opportunity for us to be bridge builders, loving sisters and brothers, beacons of hope and love.. but it’s also an opportunity to strengthen division, fulfill stereotypes, and act foolishly and out of selfish motives. (To read his full response, check out MattStauffer.org)
From Charlene Brown:
I am saddened and grieved by the outcome of the Trayvon Martin case. However, this incident and failure of our community, our laws and systems, have echoed in in me long before today. We continue to cry out “post-racial,” “diversity,” and “reconciliation,” but fail to live into a larger narrative that calls us to put to death our very safe ways of being in the world. (To read her full response, check out Reconciling Way) 
From Christena Cleveland:
We need to pay attention to the fact that America's consciousness (and in many ways, the Church's consciousness) is fractured along racial lines – for this misrepresents the cross-cultural and unifying love of Christ. And before we spout our opinions, join sides and dig in our heels, we need to pause for a moment and humbly ask ourselves, what is really going on here? Is it possible that I'm missing something? And how should I respond as someone who takes my cues from Christ's words and example, rather than my own personal experience? (To read her full response, check out The Exchange)

Book Review: All Things Considered by GK Chesterton

I love reading Chesterton. He's good for my soul.

All Things Considered is a collection of his essays published in 1908. Chesterton rants and rails and explains himself and defends himself. His essays cover linguistics, humor, fairy tales, logic, sports ... all sorts of things. 

This book is available for free online and can be downloaded for free on the Kindle. I'd recommend taking a look at it. I read it like it was a blog and found myself chuckling along and re-reading sections because they were so insightful (or ridiculous).

My favorite essay in the collection is: The Worship of the Wealthy

Here are some highlights ...

The real objection to modernism is simply that it is a form of snobbishness. It is an attempt to crush a rational opponent not by reason, but by some mystery of superiority, by hinting that one is specially up to date or particularly "in the know."

An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.

For, in order that men should resist injustice, something more is necessary than that they should think injustice unpleasant. They must think injustice absurd; above all, they must think it startling.

Before we congratulate ourselves upon the absence of certain faults from our nation or society, we ought to ask ourselves why it is that these faults are absent. Are we without the fault because we have the opposite virtue? Or are we without the fault because we have the opposite fault?

The Pagan said to himself: "If Christianity makes a man happy while his legs are being eaten by a lion, might it not make me happy while my legs are still attached to me and walking down the street?"

Precisely because our political speeches are meant to be reported, they are not worth reporting.

The old flatterer took for granted that the King was an ordinary man, and set to work to make him out extraordinary. The newer and cleverer flatterer takes for granted that he is extraordinary, and that therefore even ordinary things about him will be of interest.

It is the test of a good religion whether you can joke about it.

Imitate Mega at Your Own Risk

A lot of us look up to megachurches. Maybe they had a big impact on our lives. Maybe they helped us see something true and beautiful about God. Maybe the crowd and lights dazzled us.

But there's a danger when it comes to looking up to megachurches.

Where they are today doesn't reflect how they got to where they are today.

Say you admire the preacher at a famous megachurch. You try to imitate that preacher. And you fail. Because, before that megachurch preacher preached at a megachurch, he or she preached to a much smaller congregation dozens and dozens, hundreds of times. And that preacher learned and grew.

Beware imitation without practice.

Say you admire the set design at the famous megachurch. You hear people comment how the staging and lighting dramatically enhance the worship experience (and they do). So you imitate. But the set design is just one element of the Sunday morning worship environment. And you don't get a lot of bang for your buck until you're big enough for people to expect to see some bang. I expect all you can eat lobster on a cruise ship but not at a dinner party. The imitation shouts "Trying too hard" at best and "Phony" at worst.

Beware imitation as a shortcut.

Say you admire the Small Groups at a famous megachurch. They do so much well. Lives are being transformed and you're hearing stories about it. You want that for your church. So you imitate. But you lack the systems and the bench depth and the maturity to do what they're doing. You skip from hot idea to hot idea, planting and ripping up and starting over over and over again. It works for them. Why doesn't it work for us.

Beware imitation without infrastructure.

Megachurches almost always want to be imitated. They tend to be generous. They tend to want to see other churches thrive. I can't tell you how grateful I am for megachurches.

You should know this, though. Just because they are standing at the top of a mountain doesn't mean they know the path to the top. Just because they are standing at the top of a mountain doesn't mean the path they walked is still open. Heck, just because they are standing at the top of a mountain doesn't mean they're on the same mountain you're trying to climb.

Don't hate on megachurches, but be cautious imitating them. (And the same goes for campus ministries)

Don't forget your long-term friends

In the last week, I've had opportunities to catch up with several of the people I've served through InterVarsity over the years. In the process, they became friends. Good friends. But somewhere along the way, we lost touch.

I've been realizing lately how devastating the process of having children, moving to a new city and starting a new job has been to my long-term friendships. I've made friends here. Good friends. But something special happens when you talk to someone who's known you for a long time.

It's awkward at first. "We haven't talked in forever." I feel a wave of guilt and shame. I want to blurt out: "You're important to me. I don't know why I haven't picked up the phone. I have a dozen excuses but none of them are sufficient. Please forgive me." But I don't say it. The phone works both ways. And if love does anything, love picks back up without guilting or shaming.

I think the fear of being guilted or shamed for not having been in better contact keeps me from reaching out to people. In the short-term, I protect myself. But the cost is the loss of people who know my story, who share my history, who know a part of me that's been buried by the landslide of history but is alive under the rubble. I need those people in my life.

Calling someone you haven't talked to in a long time takes courage, courage that I often lack. But recently, a friend called me. He called me out of the blue. He wanted to catch up. He wanted to tell me about what God had done in his life. It never occurred to me to guilt him or shame him for not calling sooner. I was too busy being thrilled to hear his voice. Why do I assume that the people I love will be less loving than me?

Would you be willing to take a moment and ask God if there's someone in your life you should call? Calling will feel like a risk. But some risks are worth taking.

What if more campuses means fewer students?

Counting heads is the easiest way to measure the success or failure of a ministry.

One. Two. Three. Yada yada yada. One hundred and twenty-three. Success.

One. Two. Three. That's it? Failure.

But Jesus had only 12 disciples. And at most, he had 500 followers before he ascended into heaven. By our easiest means of measuring, he failed. Except that we know that he didn't.

I'm afraid of the cost that comes with our commitment to reaching unreached campuses and unreached corners of campus. Once, I felt fear because I feared the judgement of others: disappointed donors, frustrated bosses, smug colleagues. Now, I know that I mostly have my own self to fear.

Will I be able to stay the course? The siren song of BIG MINISTRY and BIG IMPACT threatens to draw our strategy over to the soft and sandy shore. Firmly pressed to that shore, we'll never set out to sea again. The shade of the palm trees and the fury of the waves on the rocks will darkly crush our dreams of further adventure.

The truth is: with the students we want to work with and the campuses we want to work on we have chosen a harder path. Not necessarily a better path. Just harder. And a harder path may mean fewer students. That's the cost to reach Latino students. That's the cost to be at a community college.

And some days I'm not sure I'm able to pay the cost. But today is not one of those days.