Journeying With Jesus

The Adventure of Faith

Problems or Polarities?

                                     

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        Problem Solving vs. Managing Polarities

Organizations, be they highly structured or organically based, all have to resolve tensions arising from conflicts or differing perspectives. A key leadership skill is to discern whether the required intervention is to solve a problem or to manage a polarity. I want to explore in this blog the differences.

We are very familiar with problems to solve. Generally, we analyze the problem, search for and evaluate solutions and implement the best choice. Problem solving usually has an either/or dimension and then closure ensues. At that point you move on.

One example in the early church was when the Greek-speaking Jewish widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. Another case was when a Corinthian man was found sleeping with his father’s wife. In both cases these were seen as problems to solve and the church leadership came up with specific solutions. Once the solutions were implemented the problems were solved.

Managing polarities presents different levels of complexity and skill. The polarities have core values associated with them. Polarities don’t respond to right or wrong thinking. If a polarity is treated like a “problem” then you end up with a win/lose scenario. Usually interventions fall into the both/and camp. It often means we are looking at ways to balance polarities not to eliminate them. Polarities never disappear; they are ongoing. That is why leadership must learn to “manage” polarities because they are ongoing.

Some examples of polarities we face in the Gathering include:

Corporate needs                                       vs.     Individual needs
Outward focus                                         vs.     Inward focus
Contemplative worship style                       vs.     Demonstrative worship style
Priesthood of all believers                           vs.     Five-fold Leadership
Letting experienced believers minister          vs.     Giving opportunity for gifting in others to develop

Both sides of the ledger reflect important values held by the Gathering. We will never sacrifice one for the benefit of the other. But we will find an ebb and flow in how these polarities are balanced. During certain seasons we might emphasize one polarity over another. At times we might get out of balance and have to swing back. We might find our House Churches emphasize one polarity more while our Celebration Gatherings emphasize another.

When we see how Paul handled polarizing issues in the church, he warned against division, as well as attitudes of contempt and judgment. Those can be side effects if polarities generate hostility and hurt. He also emphasized love, unity, sacrifice, and edification of the body. As a leadership we hope to find appropriate balance in our polarities as the Lord leads.

What do you think?

February 20, 2013 Posted by | House Church, Lessons learned | , , | 1 Comment

The Power of a Child’s Prayer

child_prayingA couple of weeks ago we were enjoying a Celebration Gathering of all of our Santa Cruz house churches. During our study time, four of the adults took about 10 kids, ages 3 to 14 for teaching and training on prayer.  Julie was teaching the children, in particular, how to pray for healing. After a short lesson from the Bible, we decided to let the kids practice on a real life subject.  I volunteered.

You see, about 3 months earlier I had gone down to the L.A. region to celebrate my oldest son’s 28th birthday.  He had rented out an ice skating rink and had invited about 50 friends to play broom hockey. Let’s just say I was the oldest person out on the ice by at least 25 years. It didn’t take more than 10 minutes into the game before I slipped on the ice, tried to catch myself with my forearm, and tore something in my shoulder. I heard it tear, I felt it tear. Since that fall three months ago I haven’t been able to put a shirt on without extreme pain. Sleeping has often been miserable. You can now see why I volunteered to be a good subject for the kids to practice on!

All the children gathered around and laid hands on me. I think it was a 10 year old girl who began.  “Jesus,” she said sweetly, “will you heal Mr. Gschwend’s shoulder….by tomorrow.” With that short plea, a little 3 year old girl piped in, “Amen.” Then the other children began to pray for me…some with boldness…some with timidity…but all with the phrase at the end, “by tomorrow.”

To be honest with you, I didn’t think much more about it. The next day, in the afternoon, I was changing my shirt and expecting to flinch as I felt that anticpated pain…only there wasn’t any. I slowly began to move my shoulder and arm around in positions that were usually quite painful…NO PAIN.  Then I remembered their prayers, “by tomorrow.”  Nahhhhhh, I thought. Could it be?  I decided I would test it out by sleeping on it that night. Me of little faith! To my surprise I had a great night sleep without any pain.

Here I am a month later…still no pain. My shoulder is healed. It made me wonder, how often do we underestimate prayer?  How often do we underestimate a child’s prayer? However, I think the Heavenly Father is mighty partial to the prayers of faith of little children. As a matter of fact, I think that the prayers of adults would probably see more answers if we approached God from the position of humility and vulnerability of a little child. You see…we are children and there is real power in a child’s prayer. God does heal today. I know that. So do the children in our church.

June 8, 2009 Posted by | House Church, Lessons learned | , , | Leave a comment

What Is God Waiting For?

revival-crowd

Last Friday evening and Saturday morning I had a chance with about 150 other followers of Jesus to hear a report from George Otis Jr. about what God is doing around the world. George and his Sentinel group have documented over 1000 revivals and regional transformations over the last 11 years. Ironically, few have occurred in the West. I know we have been praying for revival for over 20 years and it seems no closer now then when we started. The question is asked…is revival solely a sovereign work of God or is He waiting for something from us? George had an answer to that question.

In his research, George had found that when the conditions were right, when certain factors were present, the presence of the Lord would come to a place and bring radical transformation and revival. The time lag between the conditions being right and God’s coming was usually between 36 hours and 30 days. Not one year, 10 years, or 20 years….but within days God would come.

From his research, George found there were three distinct phases that happened every time. The first phase was the Invitation Phase. That is where the people prepared their hearts, cried out to God, began the work of personal revival, and invited God to come with expectancy. The second phase was the Visitation Phase. This is when the PRESENCE of God shows up in a powerful way. This is not sensed in one church but all the churches and outside the church. People in schools, in shopping centers, everyone senses the Presence of God. In one revival on the Hebrides, ships passing near these islands had people on board fall on their knees and cry out to God for mercy. It was the Presence of God alone that shook them! The final phase is the Transformation Phase. Here the holiness and presence of God is so palatable that every area of society begins to align with His ways. Schools, churches, government, every sector begins to reflect His character.

So what is God waiting for? He is waiting for us. There are four qualities that He is looking for from His people. They are Holiness…Humility…Hunger…Hopelessness. He is not waiting for all of society to have these…He is waiting for his people to pursue them. One of the reasons why the West has so hard a time in embracing these qualities is that we are a “can do” people. Our own human initiative has served us well and made us a powerhouse in the world. We are problem solvers. We can always figure out a way. We build programs in our churches, we set goals and objectives, and we develop our plans. If the first one doesn’t work, we come up with another…and another… and another. We don’t get hopeless or desperate enough to CRY OUT TO GOD TO COME AND RESCUE US. We don’t invite God to come and have his way. We never reach desperation.

Unfortunately I fit that Western description. I desire the Lord to come…but I need to press into some personal revival. I invite you on this journey with me. As Isaiah says in 57:15 “For this is what the high and lofty One says- he who lives forever, whose name is holy: ‘I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite.’”

November 17, 2008 Posted by | Lessons learned | , , | Leave a comment

Be Prepared

The California fires in May underlined a stark reality for the Gathering- we were not ready or prepared to be first responders in the event of a disaster. Like many others we had not learned a thing from 9/11 or Katrina. People were made homeless in our own backyard and we didn’t know what to do or how to do it. Worse yet, we did not have the mindset that when disaster strikes we would be the first in line to help.

BE PREPARED!

BE PREPARED!

It was partially through the efforts of Jim in San Jose that things began to change. You see right after the fires occurred on the Summit Rd in Santa Cruz, Jim went up to see how the people were doing. He found 30+ had lost their homes and half did not have any insurance. People were sleeping in their cars, in tents, without running water or food. Many lost everything they had. “What are we going to do about it” he asked us?

It took three or four weeks of prodding by Jim before our first volunteers went up to the fire victims to help. That began the emergence of a neighborly friendship between the Gathering and those who had suffered devastation. Jim was able to mobilize other churches too and that site is going through clean up, reclamation, and hopefully rebuilding. You often wonder what one person can do…but in Jim’s case, not only was he able to bring hope and help to our Summit neighbors, but he was able to catalyze many followers of Jesus to live out their faith in practical service.

As a result of these events, we believe the Lord would have us be FIRST RESPONDERS in the event of a disaster. Be it the ever famous California Earthquake that will someday be here, a devastating tsunami, more fires, or a neighbor who experiences a tragic loss, we want to automatically step forward to help. We have discovered that to be a volunteer in the event of a disaster, agencies require that you have a measure of training first. So for this season, we have encouraged our people to be trained.

This past Saturday, we have now had 19 of our adults complete the CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) training being offered by the fire department. A few others are still in training there. We have had two people complete the Red Cross training and are already deployed to both Gustaf and Ike in the South. We are offering Pastoral Crisis Intervention training on the 26-27th of September which provides certification to act as a “faith-based” counselor for those suffering trauma in a crisis. More than anything, I am encouraged to see people step up and be ready to volunteer in times of need. That mental switch has been thrown…people see themselves as First Responders in the event of disasters.

We want to bring the love of Jesus to people in times of need. We see three practical steps for anyone to take to be a FIRST RESPONDER.

1. Make sure your own house is order. Is your family ready for a disaster? Do you have a family plan, extra supplies of food and water, a first aid kit, the necessary tools, and clothing? Do you know how to shut off the gas or water from your home, do you have fire extinguishers and do you know how to use them? We have some links to great resources and pdf files you can download from our web site to help you get personally ready (www.gatheringbythebay.org).

2. Get training. We have a list of great training resources on our web page. In most cases, if you are not trained you will not be allowed to serve. We highly recommend CERT training for people as a great way to get prepared for any disaster.

3. Be ready to disciple interested people. Tragedy tears down walls. When you come in with Jesus’ love people often want to know more. Be available to disciple interested parties and introduce them to Jesus. We have fifteen people right now learning how to disciple inquirers, new believers and peers. We avoid being obnoxious and we won’t make any service or love conditional…but if God opens doors in people’s hearts we want to have the joy of sharing Jesus with them.

Are you ready? How prepared are you?

September 15, 2008 Posted by | House Church, Lessons learned | , , | Leave a comment

The Two-Cookie God

Growing up in a household of five boys and a one income family, we were not privy to many of the frills I enjoy now. We used a picnic table and benches as our kitchen table, drank powdered milk (yes it had a blue tint), and daily had home made bread as it was cheaper than the store bought kind. How little we knew how fortunate we were! On occasion, my mom would make chocolate chip cookies. They were my favorite. However, we were instilled with the concept, “you can only have two cookies.” Without my realizing it, that became a life mantra.

I remember the shock when I left home and went away to college and found some of my roommates would eat three or four cookies at a time. I had no category in my head to understand that. Even though I wanted to eat three or four myself, I couldn’t find it in me to violate such a deep code of honor. Over time, I would eventually find myself able to eat more than two cookies but the life mantra stilled lived on.

Eventually I realized that I had a stingy bent to my nature. Somewhere in my soul was the thought that there wasn’t enough to go around. Abundance and overflowing were not categories I lived in. The greatest shock came, however, when I realized I saw God as a “two-cookie God.” He would give us good things…but only in small doses. We couldn’t ask for three cookies from God. I became aware of a bent in my soul towards a “spirit of poverty.” That is the mindset that says, there is not enough to go around, that the resources are limited, that we will always live right on the edge, and that we can’t ask God for more. After all, we already have had our two cookies.

During a prayer meeting the other day, God spoke to a couple of us at the same time to pray against a “poverty mindset.” As I began to pray I recognized that my soul resonated still with this wrong bent. We prayed for God’s abundance, His blessings, to open our eyes to His generous and gracious gifts…that we would not put God in a box. I needed to slay my “two-cookie God” and embrace the God of the Bible.

The next day I was reading in Joshua 10 about how the Israelites were fighting a major battle in taking the Promised Land. In the middle of the battle Joshua did an amazing thing, HE ASKED GOD TO HAVE THE SUN STAND STILL SO THEY COULD FINISH THE BATTLE. I noted that Joshua didn’t have a two-cookie God! You see, you can’t respond to God’s call in your life and extend God’s kingdom if you have a two-cookie God. You need a God who will stop the sun to help you complete the work He has given you. I now pray almost daily, in our house church planting work for the sun to stand still…no not literally. But I realize now that whatever need we have is not too large to ask. And I have begun to ask for it in abundance. It is refreshing. It is liberating. It is freeing. As a matter of fact, I think I will end this blog right now and go eat THREE OR FOUR COOKIES!

September 13, 2007 Posted by | Lessons learned | | 5 Comments

Thank God for Shoes!

Tests…can’t say that I like them…especially the type where God is testing you. That is where God puts you in a place without the resources to handle the job. All of your usual coping strategies become useless. The more you realize you are helpless, the greater the rise of inner anxiety and fear. Then the temptation arises to go into your grumbling and medicating mode. You know what I mean. You become grouchy and irritable and look for something to take away your pain…anything. It could be food, drugs, alcohol, video games, sports, rage, sex, or hyper-control.

I’ve been in one of those tests recently. You wake up in the middle of the night and can’t sleep. You cry out to God but you don’t necessarily get any immediate relief. Your mind races to all the terrible things that could happen. Fortunately for me, with this last test I “happened” to be reading Deuteronomy 8 in my quiet time.

Deut. 8 is all about testing and the purposes of discipline. In it I read, Deut 8:3

3 He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.

As I read those words I realized God often puts His children in places without the resources to handle the job. The resources are coming…manna is on the way…but there is a time between the need and the provision. That is the time of testing. God wants me to depend on Him, trust Him, be humble, and know He alone is my true source of everything I have.

A clue to God’s coming provision is what is stated in the next verse: Deut 8:4-5

Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. God’s faithful provision is evidenced all around us. For Israel they could look at the shoes on their feet and realize they had been wearing the same shoes for 40 years…and those shoes hadn’t worn out. God had been providing and He would continue to provide.

For me, God calls me in the time of testing…that time between need and provision, to thank Him for my “shoes.” My shoes are all those things God has faithfully provided over the years to show Himself to be a Good God. I can’t say it is the first thing my mind races to in a test…but I have found it a better answer than hooking up with drugs…alcohol… rage…sex…video games…

August 1, 2007 Posted by | Lessons learned | Leave a comment