South Lake Tahoe School of Missions
The Church In the New Creation
I get lots of email asking how the new book is coming along, so I thought it best that I answer here. For those who don't know I'm writing a book called Finding Church: What If There Really Is Something More? I had hoped to have the rough draft done before I depart next week for Israel, but it isn't going to happen. I've got about 80% of the book done and have three chapters left to write. On a personal level, I am thrilled with how this book is turning out, though it has been a harder write than I anticipated. There is so much on my heart here and finding a way to say it that is clear, compelling and accessible has been a challenge. But I enjoy that kind of challenge. Days spent home writing are some of my favorite days, so don't feel badly for me.
I am working on the pinnacle chapter now: "Unity Without Conformity" that pains a picture of what his church looks like in the world as she takes shape, but also how she fulfills her mission by demonstrating God's character and being on the cusp of where the new creation confronts the brokenness of the old. It will be one of my favorites and help people appreciate why Jesus wants to make himself known through the church that is not built by human hands or ingenuity.
After I finish the rough draft, I'm going to go back through and tighten it all up. It is about 20% longer than I want it to be, so that means cut, cut, cut. And while it's always hard to throw out paragraphs or stories that I spent so much time crafting, I learned a long time ago that writing is a discipline. You can't say everything you want to say and keep people engaged, and cutting forces you to do better writing. I learned that while I was a Contributing Editor at Leadership Journal years ago. No matter how long an article was, they always wanted me to take another pass and cut 20% out, because it forces you to write a better piece. So I was not surprised to discover that this book as I'm coming to its end is about 20% longer than it needs to be. I'm actually looking forward to cutting it back about and shaping the writing to be more focuse and more disciplined. My theme verse at times like this is Ecclesiastes 6:11 "The more the words, the less the meaning, and how does that profit anyone?"
I'll continue to work on that when I get back from Israel and hope to have the book completed by late spring and hopefully out this summer. Who knows? It's a journey and I'll get to the end when I get to the end. There's an excitement in my heart that continues to bubble up through this process and I'm looking forward to getting it done just to engage the conversations it will spawn, both with pepole who will resonate with it, and with those who will find it threatening. I can already see that in this season of my life I want to be involved in the conversations that help people recognize how Jesus' church is already taking shape in the world and to spend time with those who have a heart to facilitate its life where they live, and have no desire to build a kingdom for themselves.
On next week's podcast, I'll also be reading the rough draft of the second chapter for those who want to hear it. I did the first chapter a few months ago. You can find it here if you missed it. For those who want to get a taste of what I'm working on, I am including an excerpt below to give you a taste:
A number of years ago I was invited to speak at a black, inner-city fellowship near Boston. As I joined their meeting for the evening I was struck at how passive the people were even as the pastor railed at them for not being as faithful in attendance as she wanted them to be. We went through all the motions. We sang. I spoke, they listened, and while those times are not valueless, they are not what church life is all about.
The next morning I met two young men from that congregation for breakfast at their request. As we ate they shared their stories and their spiritual hungers, which were not being met where they were. They talked about the community they lived in and their desire to see a display of Jesus’ life available to them. We laughed, we cried, and we prayed unaware that others were listening to us.
After a couple of hours of conversation two ladies in their seventies suddenly appeared at the end of our table with tears in their eyes. “You don’t know how long we have been praying for God to touch some young men in this community who have a passion to share God’s life in such a desperate place. We have enjoyed listening to you three for the past couple of hours and know this is part of the answer to what we’ve been praying.” We all knew we were in a moment bigger than any of us and for that moment the church had taken shape in a restaurant in Roxbury, Massachusetts and was far more soul-shaping than the meeting we’d had the previous night.
If you’ve ever had a taste of authentic fellowship you’re a marked person. Nothing religious will ever satisfy you again. You’ll know that it can appear where you least expect it and it will capture your heart in a way no obligation can. You won’t see it as a meeting you can organize or invite others to, but as real and growing relationships with others on this amazing journey. Nothing we can do, even with the best of intentions, can produce or maintain it.
Though we see its reflection in fits and starts now, I don’t think any of us can yet conceive of what his church will yet look like when thousands upon thousands of people freely live in the reality of Jesus’ love and respond to the voice of the Shepherd simultaneously and spontaneously around the world, without the need to encase it in human institutions.