Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Dear readers (both of you):

I am posting here a (long) letter that I've written to the leadership at my church. I am doing this in order to gather any thoughts that you might have before I actually send it to them. It came out of what I believe to be a Spirit-driven day of fasting, failure, long discussion with close friends, and restless thoughts as I lay in bed tonight. Feel free to e-mail any comments or input you might have. Sincere thanks, friends.

Joel 2:11-19
The LORD thunders at the head of his army; his forces are beyond number, and mighty are those who obey his command. The day of the LORD is great; it is dreadful. Who can endure it?
'Even now,' declares the LORD, 'return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.'
Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. Who knows? He may turn and have pity and leave behind a blessing- grain offerings and drink offerings for the LORD your God.
Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly. Gather the people, consecrate the assembly; bring together the elders, gather the children, those nursing at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room and the bride her chamber. Let the priests, who minister before the LORD, weep between the temple porch and the altar. Let them say, 'Spare your people, O LORD. Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, 'Where is their God?''
Then the LORD will be jealous for his land and take pity on his people.
The LORD will reply to them:
'I am sending you grain, new wine and oil, enough to satisfy you fully; never again will I make you an object of scorn to the nations.


I write these words in humility and out of a sense of inadequacy. I must write them, though. I believe the time has come for us to carefully consider these words of scripture, and to radically heed them – indeed, we are overdue. We have agreed in principle to the value of repentance and spiritual renewal, and yet I fear that we have yet to fully yield ourselves to the Spirit of God. We have yet to place ourselves so completely before our God on behalf of the people He has called us to serve and feed that we “weep between the porch and altar.”

I confess to you that despite the mercies of our great God and despite the trauma that the past year has brought about in our church and in my own life as a result, I have not yet fully taken a full sacrificial stance before our Lord. I have not allowed Him to thoroughly break through the hardness of my heart and my own insistence on comfort and cheap peace (which is no peace at all). I have not planted my face in the ground and cried out to Him for compassion and relief from the judgment that I and we deserve. I have given my time and my energy and my words. I have given my heart and prayer to a great degree. I count all of that as rubbish before a holy God. You have yet to see me passionately bare myself before you and our people. I confess this to you as sin and in God’s presence I ask for His grace and your forgiveness.

I have been a weak and defensive leader. I have often been more interested in patching up the broken things just to get by, and trying to obtain an artificial and shallow version of relationship. I confess to you that even as I write this, I want desperately for people to have a high regard for me and for us, and I am tempted right now to continue approaching my role as a leader in the same ineffective ways. And while I can only speak from where I am in this very moment, I commit myself to casting off the fear of man, the pride, the false comforts, and the desires of the flesh in order to obey the Holy Spirit. I will speak clearly and plainly in love, with boldness where that is needed, and gentleness where that is needed. I can guarantee that I will fall short in these efforts, but my strong desire is to give myself to this. I will gratefully accept your help in this.

I have a deep conviction that we as leaders need to prostrate ourselves before God with weeping and mourning, and beg Him for mercy. We must “rend our hearts and not our garments.” In our case, it won’t be good enough to have a Church Relations Ministry or precise verbiage in our Constitution and Bylaws. Putting a new structure of Elders in place won’t be good enough. It won’t be good enough to be organizationally excellent. If that’s all we’re doing, we are accomplishing little of kingdom value – we are whitewashing our tombs (Matthew 23:27), completely disregarding the rotting bones inside.

We have all come to know the grace of Christ personally. Based on that, let us call out to God and ask him to spare us from calamity. “Who knows? He may turn and have pity.” We as the appointed leaders need to take the lead and pour ourselves out in repentance. We need to repent of all personal and corporate sin. We need to continue repenting and calling out to God until He brings relief and causes us to come alive so fully that we are able to truly minister once again.

When we have done that, we then need to “blow the trumpet in [our church], declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly. Gather the people, consecrate the assembly; bring together the elders, gather the children, those nursing at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room and the bride her chamber.”

In order to be completely clear, I am proposing this as an actual process for us – not just a theoretical or figurative exercise. I am calling for this as a matter of urgency. We need to be ready to abandon any preset plans or programs in order to make this a priority. I believe there is a remnant left at our church that is ready to step forward and take back the territory that our enemy, the devil, has taken.

God is calling out to us, wanting us to be pure and holy. God wants to release His abundance of blessing. We need to tell the truth about who we really are. I do believe that many of us have begun that process, but I am not convinced that we have broken through our own desires for peace at any cost, or our demand for comfort.

It is not my intention here to stand in judgment against anyone but myself. Honestly, I believe wholeheartedly that I am not alone in this – specifically among the leaders of our church – but I do not have any individuals in mind. All I can do is write what is on my heart right now and trust the Spirit of God to enlighten the hearts of any who are in a similar position.

My desire in writing this is that God would “turn and have pity and leave behind a blessing- grain offerings and drink offerings for the LORD your God.” What an awesome thing that would be! Not only would He spare us more heartache, He would leave us blessings that we could offer right back to Him as offerings of gratitude and love.

I will leave you now to think and pray these things through as to how you believe we should proceed. Again, it is my conviction that we should work quickly and decisively. I trust you to know that I do not make this plea lightly.

Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus our Lord.

posted by Steve at 12:22 AM
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spirit farmer data

I'm Steve Lewis. This used to be my blogging home. My online home is now at SpiritFarmer.com. When this blog was my active online home, I lived in Seattle. Now I live in London, UK. I follow Jesus (poorly most of the time), worship simply, read a lot, watch culture, go to school, listen to music, write, enjoy art, and drink a lot of coffee.
e-mail me: spiritfarmer@gmail.com

seattle spots

victrola coffee
zoka coffee
university of washington
church of the apostles
quest church
sanctuary church
shoreline vineyard

sites i visit

off the map
nt wright

a few of the blogs in the feedreader

jason evans
joe boyd
kevin rains
alan creech
chris marshall
bill bean
eugene cho
jordon cooper
dwight friesen
john chandler
amy palmer
ryan bolger
rudy carrasco
ryan sharp
sings in the sunshine
rick bennett
scot mcknight
karen ward
alan hirsch
dan kimball
petey crowder

i'm reading it

colossians remixed
africa unchained

i finished reading it - 2007

generation me
jesus and the restoration of israel
god's continent
globalizing theology
gustavo gutierrez: essential writings
jesus and the eyewitnesses
garlands of grace
twenty poems to nourish your soul
the black swan
dancing in the streets
made to stick
signs in contemporary culture
hit the bullseye
the politics of jesus
readings in christian ethics
toward old testament ethics
the kite runner
principles of conduct
velvet elvis
the irresistable revolution
they like jesus, but not the church
the great omission
charisma: the gift of grace, and how it has been taken from us
the starfish and the spider
a perfect mess
the world cafe
the new faces of christianity
leaving church
journeying in faith
the creed
transforming mission
metaphors we live by
foolishness to the greeks
personal knowledge

states i've spent time: 2007

british columbia
oh yeah, denmark, too

i wrote it

managing conflict in the 'new world'
music review: over the rhine
film review: bonhoeffer
music review: fighting jacks
film review: the passion of the christ
how reality tv changes lives
the best tv article you've ever read
corks & caps: a wine lover's story of change
america's idols
random, disorganized thoughts about life after the katrina disaster
missional . . . plain and simple
on becoming post-gnostic

i blogged it

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