I don’t think I’ve ever read a Francine Rivers book, but this one intrigued me. And it rocked my world. It’s called And the Shofar Blew and it is about a young pastor who takes over a small, struggling, church in a small town outside of Sacramento, California.
It is over the top in places, but it is a narrative that challenges all of the ‘church growth’ assumptions that are so prevalent in American Christianity. The biggest challenge to me in reading the book was realizing the ‘at all costs’ mentality that we pastors struggle with. Is the growth of the church (that is in bucks and butts) worth: ignoring your own family, compromising your message, looking past those in your church who are not ‘cool,’ spending zillions on buildings, etc.? The book was moving and convicting to me and caused me to reevaluate my own ministry.
30 years? I guess this makes me old and irrelevant. I’m not even cool enough to be Emergent anymore!
If you haven’t read this article from the Washington Post, it about sums up the mission field outside your front door.
Basically, the Post did an experiment on American distractedness and inability to see the beauty right before our eyes. They placed Joshua Bell, famous violinist, in L’Enfant Plaza (Washington D.C.) and chronicled him playing for 43 minutes, seven pieces from Bach to Shubert. 1097 people walked by, 3 or 4 stopped and overall folks threw a whopping $32 into his violin case. So sad. One of the world’s greatest, yet people were to busy to even pay attention. But it says something about our inability to see with eyes that are not stuck in the pager-cellphone-ipod-blackberry-calendar-wethinkwearesodamnbusy
Is it possible for we, in the West, to see the Good the True and the Beautiful? Can we see He who is Good and True and Beautiful?
As many neophytes know, I grew up in the Pentecostal tradition. People often ask how I got so ‘far away’ from my Pentecostal roots, since now I am in the Anglican Tradition.
There are times when I look back at the days of my childhood with a bit of nostalgia for the passionate preaching and the unswerving confidence in God’s Word and in his Spirit; elements, sadly, that are (sometimes) missing in Anglicanism.
I know that millions in the Christian world claim Pentecostal or Charismatic identification and I certainly am still tinged by the fires of Pentecost myself. However, with the chaos and dis-ease that has plagued American Christianity, I wonder where the Spirit of God will blow next and if it is possible for Him to revive the Christian communities of the West, and our slice of the Kingdom here in the United States.
I find myself wondering where the Wesleys and the Whitfields are. If once in my recent theological past I had a disdain for the Great Awakening(s), I would sure love to see one now. I am not necessarily enamored by the glossolalia or drama that sometimes is overdone in Pentecostal contexts. But the passion, the ‘tarrying,’ the seeking of God’s Spirit–it is desperately needed in the Church, and in my own life.