Quit prying into my personal life.
Just kidding. You already know I am a geek and one of my hobbies is playing Minecraft. I have mentioned in previous blogs about my desire or interest in planting a virtual church in the gaming community.
Anyways, I had a chance to meet a small handful of other geeks from the Nashville area who all are active and have a virtual presence in the Minecraft community.
You also know that I am incredibly introverted and the older I get the more I have to work to not let that rule me. Social Interaction is something I at times enjoy, but it just drains me. I do not like to be in situations where I am surrounded by people I do not know and having to talk about nothing deep or meaningful. You guessed it... I am a lot of fun at parties.
Anyways, this gathering was not so bad. I was nervous and awkward at first, and probably awkward all night. I still had fun. I enjoyed getting to know everyone. We had the whole who are you in real life conversation as opposed to our gaming names and personas. No one really freaked out when they asked what I did. One even referred to me as The Coolest Pastor they have ever met.
I quietly agreed! :)
The night rolled on and we laughed a lot. A few hours passed and one of these young men came and sat next to me. He began to talk to me about his faith. I asked questions. He talked about his struggles. I listened and asked questions. He opened up. He shared. We talked about Jesus. We talked about what it meant to Obey and Follow Jesus with your life.
It was a great moment for sure.
Then he said something I will not forget. This was the Tuesday after Easter. He said he was feeling all of these things for a while. He never felt like he could deal with them at Church. He even said he wanted to talk to someone on Easter Sunday, but did not have an opportunity.
Why is it this way? Why is the last thing we feel free to do when we gather is to have conversations about our real life? Or limit it to a 5 minute invitation or a few choruses of "Just as I am"? Why do we insist on having our Church Personas on. Why do we say things like "I had a rough week but am fine now" even though we are not. This has always troubled me. I am guilty of this myself. Sometimes when I have a horrible week I feel like I have to be that loving wise guy who needs to be Mr. Perfect and deal with others issues and neglect mine.
Not This Mr. Perfect...
But this Mr. Perfect...
I think you get my point...
If you have read my blog before you know I have a million thoughts about how we as the Church gets things wrong. I have a million thoughts on how we can do things differently. Today, lets talk about some things I have actually tried!
How can we create an atmosphere were deep personal interaction can go on?
This is one area I am blessed to say I have tried hard to implement some strategies to do this differently. I am blessed with a community that now seems to thrive on this interaction. Here are a few things that have worked for us.
Create Opportunities for Participation
I have for a few years now asked questions while I am supposed to be preaching. The first few times I did this I got some strange looks. It did not take long before people started to chime in and even raise their hands to question. I got to the point where I did not try to tell people how to apply what we talked about. I just opened the floor for discussion. The fear is that we open the floor to crazy, but that is not always bad. Let others share what the Holy Spirit is saying to them. You will be surprised at what you get when you allow others to participate. You will love the tears, wisdom, fears, struggles, and honesty around you.
If gatherings are only about you, your take on the scriptures, and how you think everyone should see it, you have severely missed the point.
Gatherings are Not Performances
This is hard. We want to do the best we can when we do gather. We want to do things with Excellence. We want to start and end on time. We want things to flow and look appealing. How do you do that, but still keep it honest, fresh and free? Flexadaptability is the key. Who cares if you start a few minutes late if it means you can have a conversation with a brother or someone gets welcomed. Who cares if you go a few minutes late if someone is expressing themselves. Who cares if you do not completely finish your sermon notes or trash them altogether. Sometimes no matter how hard you have prayed over a service and feel you are in control... The Spirit may have other plans.
It is impossible for me to have meaningful discussions in the few minutes after the gathering. I am usually drained. I am usually wanting to get out as soon as possible and recharge my mental batteries. I usually cling to someone I care about and I know understands me. These are things I have to train myself not to do. I also know that if someone does have an issue, it most likely is going to take time and energy to sort through it together. If you do not have the time after a gathering make a time to get together when you can focus on them, listen intently, speak confidently, and most of all show them the acceptance of Love.
We have to be the ones to lead on this. I have a hard time letting people into my life. I have a hard time letting people know who I am. I have a hard time of lowering my own personal expectations for myself. Genuinely share what is on your heart. IF you can accomplish this and not be fake at it you will be blessed. If you have to drum up false emotion so you can look like a normal person just quit. If I have a rough week I try to share it. I ask and allow others to pray for me. If they ask how I am I try to be honest. I try to not put on my persona, even though at times I still do. You are not above anyone else around you. If someone wants to Love on you accept their blessing.