In choir tonite we continued learning “Let the Church Rise”.  It has such a powerful message to the struggling church and the church in transition that I wanted to share it with you.

Music is a large part of my life.  I’ve done just about every kind of job there is in the local evangelical church, and in most of the churches I’ve been part of I  sang in the choir.  I have also been choir director, children’s choir worker and congregational worship leader several times.  When my children were young, I would rock them to sleep singing my favorite hymns.  Music – especially worship music – speaks to me.

The words of Israel Houghton & Jonathan Stockstill’s Let The Church Rise are instructive:

We are alive filled with Your glorious life
Out of the dark into Your marvelous life
We are waiting with expectations
Spirit raise us up with You

Let the Church rise from the ashes
Let the Church fall to her knees
Let us be light in the darkness
Let the Church rise

We are moving with His compassion
Spirit fill our hearts with You

Let Your wind blow, Revive us again Lord

And Let the Church rise from the ashes
Let the Church fall to her knees
Let us be light in the darkness
Let the Church rise

It’s a great song, with an easy 6/8 melody.  So I went looking for a youtube of the song to share with you.  What I found was an unusual mashup – an Anime video to the song.

Anime is the Japanese animation art form that is beginning to take hold around the world (in part due to Pokemon and similar shows).   It has roots in ancient Japanese myths (often from Shinto religion), but the themes are universal,  generally featuring someone of low status bringing light and power to overcome an evil force.

And so we blend old Christian themes into modern youth animation to let the message “rise from the ashes” as we are “light in the world.”

May your missional heart be stirred as you watch:

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In his seminal work Rules for Radicals, Saul Alinsky talks in part about overcoming objections to becoming active to create change.  The book is all about becoming a community organizer to create social or political change in general, such as union organizing or fighting City Hall.  It is a “must read” for fledgling politicians on how to build a grass-roots effort to back their cause or candidacy.

Note:  Rules for Radicals is at times quite vulgar in word use.  It was not written for use in churches, and while there is much to learn from the book, the reader must be ready to skip over some of the worst 4-letter words available.

Alinsky says one of the biggest obstacles to effective organizing is individual and group rationalization for what they do or do not do.  It is a reaction by many to a perceived accusation by the organizer, wondering why they haven’t taken action to correct so obvious an offense to their personhood.  They will often times be embarrassed they haven’t taken action themselves before and will justify their inaction by rationalizing why it could not have been done before.

The job of the organizer is to discover and uncover these rationalizations, to call them out and challenge their validity.  Usually they exist as vague notions without solid reasoning, like a thin hoar frost that disappears as soon as the sun shines the first warming rays.

As pastoral leader seeking to change your congregation, you must likewise look for the rationalizations of why your people are not acting like the people of God.  It might start with abandoning your own rationalizations of why you can’t grow, in favor of a missional mindset that says you  can do “all things” by the power of “Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly more than you could have thought or imagined.”

Then challenge the people to look to what could occur, instead of why it hasn’t happened yet.

——–

Alinsky, Saul.  Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals (NY: Random House/Vintage Books, 1971, reprint 1989), pp108-112

I found an interesting post from Rev. Dr. E Scott Jones from Oklahoma City’s Cathedral of Hope church.  Dr Jones asked the question “Now what are we going to do?”  It is a lenten lesson about restoration.  He uses as his text the valley of dry bones in Ezekiel 37, and readings from W.F. Lofthouse, a British Methodist and a Hebrew Scholar.

How, Ezekiel wondered, could this people live again? How, in the midst of this destruction, might they find new life? How if there were “no seeds of life or goodness from which the new obedience could spring up,” to quote Lofthouse?

The metaphor in the lesson is repentance, and Jones asks the question “How can a corpse repent?”   The answer is that it can’t, not as long as it is dead.  Once you die, your eternal fate is sealed and there is no more opportunity for salvation.  There is no more opportunity to beg forgiveness of a holy God before you stand for judgment.

Jones is making a point about punishment, that simply living with (or dying from) the consequences of your sin will not bring restoration.  No amount of punishment will bring repentance and restoration, but will only serve to highlight the magnitude of the offense.

The only way for a corpse to repent is if it returns to life.  Not until the breath of God came into their lungs did the bones in Ezekiel’s desert begin to breathe again.  Not until Jesus called power into Jarius’ daughter and into Lazarus did they begin to live again.  Elisha lay on the dead son’s body and prayed and breathed life into his body.  Action was taken by one with life to restore one without life.

And so for the dying church, the church that is functionally dead but has not locked the door for the final time, what is needed is the Breath of God and a spirit of repentance.  The restoration of the congregation will not come from programs or methods.  Programs and methods and surveys will identify areas that need to be repented from, and actions to be taken to seek restoration.  But it is the breath of God that is needed to bring healing to the struggling congregation.

p.s.  I appreciate this post from Dr Jones, even though I disagree with some of his church’s doctrine.  I’m glad our God is big enough for both of us to worship the core essentials of the Gospel of salvation, even if we worship in different ways, with different theology and with different outcomes.  May he continue in his service of God, and may God continue to teach and lead him.