Out beyond the ‘cool’ cathedral

th-13I understand why Marti is always asking that I stop avoiding conflict. How can I sing a new song of deliverance to those who have no hope if, at the same time, I insist on being comfortable among those who do?

She reminded me of my early Christian ministry when I was honored to be part of a movement where we sang songs of salvation. We were personally involved in ministries of mercy and issues of compassion and significance. We were taking on the voice of the prophets, penetrating into those aspects of our culture where the truth of God had a sure and true word for us. We articulated the vision of a radical kind of Christian discipleship. Our voices shined the light of God on the darkness of racism and war with a Christian conscience that awoke to the realities of poverty and corruption.

Many miracles occurred during that season. Yet sadly, few churches were ready for this new influx of voices, and so the movement happened without many participating or offering invitations of welcome. There was more freedom and a far more receptive audience outside the boundaries drawn by many churches.

Why were so many churches not ready? In my opinion, many of the churches were too cold to those both inside and out of its pews. One of my songs during this time, “The Cold Cathedral,” cried for spiritual reality in the midst of religious deadness, sameness, and a comfort-seeking isolation from the real needs of its people — inside and out.

While no longer cold, I fear many of our churches today are in similar places of complacency. Instead of cold cathedrals, we might refer to them as “cool” cathedrals. They want so much to be “cool” that relevancy could be considered our new god. Once again, we seem to reflect the concerns of the status quo, and the easy acceptance of a world where how we feel is the great crisis of our time. We’ve produce a massive industry of ready-to-wear discipleship to go with our warm, fuzzy, evangelical entertainment experience. We dress the way we want to dress, sing songs we want to sing, and hear messages we want to hear. Everything is catered to us insiders. It’s all about us and a short list of approved social issues and not the prophetic agenda of justice and compassion. We want more of Jesus as long as we can avoid both what is uncomfortable outside our walls and those who are hostile to religion.

It is time to stop avoiding conflict — stop dodging Jesus — for our more comfortable Christianity. Jesus is more “out” when it comes to our churches today than He is “in.” He was often all about conflict, and it certainly followed Him wherever He went.

It’s time to stop and listen to another new song Jesus is singing, and wants us to sing. It’s a new song of deliverance and hope as we apply the Gospel in a way that embodies suffering with the prophetic truth and challenges evil with sacrificial love. It’s a new song of reconciliation that causes those with no hope to hear, to run to Him and not away from Him, because acts of love are occurring and not just words.

“God so loved the world that He gave .…” It’s time for us to go and do the same.

______________________________

Did you know that the Catch Ministry handles over 200 one-on-one  
counseling appointments every month?

Become a MemberPartner today,
because the Catch is so much more than just the Catch.

mwI wish that I had means to give significantly more. What I do give is a significant sacrifice for me. I am blessed toᅠ receive the daily devotionals. They are challenging and inspiring.

I realize that for many the Catch is more than just a daily reading and that the vision is to serve as a way to connect more intimately with the worldwide body of Christ and for those underserved by their local church. I applaud this vision and encourage those who regularlyᅠ receive the Catch but do not regularly contribute to consider becoming a MemberPartner today so that Hisᅠ Kingdomᅠ may be furthered.  

- Tim Johnson, MemberPartner

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Grace stepping out

th-8Inspired by “grace turned outward,” Colleen wrote:

“I can remember working in a cancer hospital, where a man lost part of his foot only to learn later they needed to remove more. His girlfriend abandoned him, and God put me in an awkward position. I showed up when his medication drip was not working. I do not like hugs, and this man grabbed my hand, hugged it, kissed it, and all I could do was be there for him in spite of my own feelings. Yes, Grace doesn’t just work on the inside, but grace reflects from the inside out, as you say, and I know this very well! Keep stepping forward and stepping out!”

1. Colleen found out some valuable things here. Often all we need in order to be used by God is to get ourselves to where the need is. The Holy Spirit in us is so eager to work that He will take over once we’ve overcome whatever barrier prevented us from stepping out.

2. Caring can be awkward and embarrassing. Someone hugging and kissing your hand could feel a little weird, but it’s genuine appreciation. Giving makes you as vulnerable as receiving.

3. Grace cannot be received in isolation; it is received so that it can be given out.

Pardon another baseball illustration, but it’s a coaching fact that catchers who can throw out runners trying to steal second base do so by learning that receiving the ball from the pitcher and throwing quickly down to second base can happen effectively only when it’s done with one fluid motion that does both receiving and throwing. It’s not a two-step process: receive the ball, and then throw the ball. It’s receiving and throwing all in one. I’ve seen catchers practice this over and over again in spring training, and the best catchers are the ones who have this down to a one-step process.

In fact, in Jesus’ teachings, receiving and giving cannot be separated. It’s one fluid motion. “… and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” The preposition “as” ties these two inextricably together. It’s a one-step process; you can’t have one without the other. Consequently, the reverse is also true: If I can’t forgive someone, that is a clear indication that I haven’t allowed myself to be forgiven. If I can’t love, it’s because I don’t believe I am loved. If I can’t give mercy, it means I haven’t received mercy, or at least I don’t believe it. If I’m wanting people to have to pay for their sins, it’s a clear indication that I think I’m still paying for mine.

Grace turned outward is an incredible joy. It’s a celebration of freedom and abandonment. “I can’t believe I get this; here, you get it too!” “If I’m forgiven, everyone’s forgiven!” “If I’m welcome, everyone’s welcome!” “If God can love me, I can love anybody.”

Thank you, Colleen, for showing us again what the Gospel of Welcome is really like.

Did you know that people like Colleen are being set free every day by the Gospel of Welcome? Did you know we have many stories like this of what people are discovering by showing up where the action is?

Become a MemberPartner today, because the Catch is so much more than just the Catch.

Click here to find out more.

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What’s different? Not much.

1356Jim and Shelly are homeless. Have been this way for over fifteen years. They’re married; they love each other, and want to be together, but that’s almost impossible on the street. For stretches of time they’ve been able to live off the street, though separate from each other, through community housing; Jim with the Salvation Army, and Shelly with a downtown women’s shelter. We met them through our work with the shelter and against the rules and the advice of most people who volunteer to help the homeless, we have established a relationship with them apart from either of these organizations. We send them money from time to time when things get desperate, and have rallied some of our friends to help donate a laptop for Jim to get his degree, and furniture for a small motel room they were able to rent for a few months.

Shelly struggles with severe depression (who wouldn’t in that environment?), alcoholism and drug abuse. Jim is schizophrenic. They’ve had jobs, but nothing steady. Jim wants to be a counselor for kids on the street, but he can’t get far enough away from the street himself to qualify.

People tell us we’re making a big mistake, saying they will never be anything but homeless, and we are pouring money down a drain. We defy that counsel, because we believe if we can make their lives a little better, even for a moment in time, it is still worth it. Of course, our goal is to get them off the street and together under one roof, and we did help them do that for a few months.

My first chance to meet Jim came when I rented a truck and took over a bed and some linens and furniture to help turn their motel room into something that might resemble a home. It was then that I was able to understand this sentence we’ve been focusing on these last few days…

If we could stand in someone else’s shoes and hear what they hear, see what they see, feel what they feel, wouldn’t we approach each other differently?

I approached them differently that day, when, after helping set up a bed, dresser, and a couple pictures on the wall, they were able to offer me some hospitality in their new home. In that setting it, was as if I was enjoying a few moments with any of my neighbors in our neighborhood. Jim proudly pointed out a few things he’d collected along the way. Shelly managed something that rarely crosses her face — a smile.

Sitting in their house that day was a real treat. Jim’s a talkative guy and I heard story after story, many of which made me laugh. We talked about our kids. We talked about the Lord. He dreamed of having Marti and me over for a barbecue. It was terribly normal.

But, in their shoes, I was also scared. How long would this last? If they couldn’t make a go of it, how much harder would it be to go back? Would I rather not have even known this?

The look on their faces showed me my answer. No. Hold onto this as long as we can. It’s worth it even if they have to go back out on the streets tomorrow. Sadly, it turned out to be not too much longer. A few weeks later the toilet broke. The landlord blamed them and charged them for the repairs. They couldn’t pay, and were evicted. We didn’t find out until after the fact. “We couldn’t ask you for that much,” they said. We wished they had. We would have figured out something.

So, as of this writing, they are back out on the streets. It hurts. Shelly called for laundry money the other day. On her birthday, we made sure they got a night in a hotel. We’ve entertained the thought of taking them in. Will it ever get any better than this? I hope so, but it doesn’t change anything if it doesn’t, because in the end they are just like us. There are no ultimatums here. I’m just as needy. I want for the same things.

Are we helping the homeless? Are we being philanthropic? Are we doing our civic duty? I don’t really know what any of that is. I just know we love Jim and Shelly, and they are hurting right now. We’re no different. We’re in the same boat, and just as desperate. They call us when they need something, and we make no judgment call. We call someone when we need something, and hope for the same from them. As far as I know, these are our friends. I expect to keep it that way.

Three things you can do today…

  1. “Did you know…?” Click here and listen to Marti and me on BlogTalkRadio last night talking about what you may not know about the Catch.
  2. Click here to go to our campaign contribution page and view the video there that will pull together these last four Catches into a whole.
  3. Find an appropriate monthly contribution button on that page and sign up to become a MemberPartner and join us for an exciting journey ahead, bringing the Gospel of Welcome to those around us – and around the world!
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A Message from McNair Wilson

th-9After the video, click on the button.

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Feel what they feel

If we could stand in someone else’s shoes and hear what they hear, see what they see, feel what they feel…

Bliss boutique, San Clemente, California

Bliss boutique, San Clemente, California

Over the weekend, in the sleepy little beach community of San Clemente, California, where my daughter lives, a man walked into one of the quaint little boutique stores that line two blocks of shops and restaurants on the main drag down to the beach, and amidst shoppers on a pleasant fall day, shot and killed the shop owner and himself. The two of them were in the midst of an ugly divorce that couldn’t possibly get any uglier. Ironically, the name of the store was Bliss.

Needless to say, Bliss is temporarily closed. Out in front there is a growing mound of flowers and candles that burn all night, along with a steady stream of people, many of them locals who knew the couple, who stand and stare in disbelief. You can only imagine the sense of helplessness and loss they are feeling.

On numerous occasions, when Jesus saw the crowds that were following Him, “he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). Jesus was constantly empathizing with people. In fact, I believe that’s why the prophesy about the Messiah was that He would be a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief. That would be the sorrow and grief of the people around Him. He so identified with them that He felt what they felt.

Sympathy is feeling sorry for someone; empathy is entering into their sorrow.

Jesus feels the sorrow and helplessness of the people on the corner of Victoria and Del Mar, staring helplessly into the windows of Bliss and wondering why. And He wants us to feel it too. It is through empathy that the Gospel of Welcome has its greatest chance of touching a person’s life. This is not just telling someone they need the Lord; it is standing in the shoes of that person and feeling their need for Christ and almost willing Him into their life. If you do this, you’re going to touch them with the love of Jesus; it’s inevitable.

Do you approach people differently when you have empathy for them? Yes. You approach them without judgment, without blame, without argument, without “I told you so,” and without fear or separation because you understand them, you can identify with them, and you can love them with the love of Jesus. If you feel what they feel, you are right next to them, and you will know what to do. If you’re feeling the same thing someone else is feeling, you will know what is appropriate to do for them and what is not. Sometimes the pain can be so deep that there is nothing you can do but sit with them in silence. If so, the Lord is in the silence. That’s the Gospel of Welcome.

We are in the middle of a membership campaign. We are looking for you to become regular contributors to the Catch by becoming a MemberPartner. This is not a nice-to-do. It’s not a convenience. It’s a necessity if the Catch is going to go forward, and we must move forward. To stay where we are is not an option. To find out more about a MemberPartnership — what it benefits you and what it entails — click on the video screen below to go to our contribution page. If you already are a member, write us and tell us why so we can encourage others with your story.

GTO SCREENSHOT

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See what they see

th-3If we could stand in someone else’s shoes and hear what they hear, see what they see…

Game 3 of this year’s World Series in San Francisco included a poignant moment with 45,000 fans, players, umpires, park personnel, and broadcast team all standing up and holding an “I Stand for ______” sign where they wrote in the name of someone they know who is currently battling cancer. Some on the field held up two. What made this moment so effective was the deafening silence from a crowd that moments before had been rockin’ and rollin’ for the Giants. It was powerful, sobering and personal.

slide #4It was a scene full of empathy, when if for only a moment, everyone tried to stand in the shoes of a cancer patient, who, like the man in our video, at some time had to find out that a doctor saw something on the diagnostic test of their body that didn’t belong there. Can we see what they see? The Gospel of Welcome says we can, and we must, if we are going to be welcoming anyone into the kingdom of God.

slide #10In another scene, two young people are texting their parents about how they are. One is okay; the other is not. To care for them is to learn how to see what they see. And how do you do that? How can you see what someone else sees? You do it through a relationship. You get to know someone. You ask lots of questions and really care about the answers. You get up close and personal with someone. You sit with them long enough to find out what’s in that phone. What are they seeing that is so important? What makes the news good or bad? The Gospel of Welcome is all about seeing what others see.

Of course to make this work, you have to make yourself less important. Our conversations need to be about others. Most people out of embarrassment or shame will try and get you to talk about yourself instead. If this should happen, don’t consider it an opportunity to seize the attention thereby revealing that this was what you were after all along, but turn the tables. Keep it focused on them. You will probably get an opportunity to talk sometime, but not now. Now it’s time to listen.

Here’s a little technique I learned from a seasoned interviewer about how to go deeper with someone. You pick something out of their story that you want to feature, and ask them to tell you more about that. Then find something in what they just said, and ask them to tell you more about that. If you keep doing this, it will seem as if you are peeling away at an onion (you are, complete with tears sometimes), and the more a person is willing to reveal, the more trust that will be built, and the deeper you can go. But you have to stand in their shoes and see what they see.

We are starting into the second week of our membership campaign in which we seek to add significantly to our number of MemberPartners who support us monthly via credit card deduction or automatic check issued monthly from their bank. We have a couple who do it the old fashioned way by writing us a check every month. However you do it, we need your regular commitment for the Catch to continue, and you will stand to benefit from the added access and resources that a membership provides. So click on the video screen below and you’ll be taken to our membership contribution page where you can be encouraged by our video on empathy, and find the appropriate level for your giving. Join us as a MemberPartner today!

th-4GTO SCREENSHOT

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Hear what they hear

If we could stand in someone else’s shoes and hear what they hear…

slide #5In our video, a man just heard he lost his job. Imagine hearing that, and you are a middle-aged man with a family to support, and you’ve had that job for 20 years, and it’s a job requiring very unique skills that you have learned and targeted to that specific situation, and there are no other jobs quite like that one out there. You specialized yourself right out of the job market that, of course, you never thought you would be in. You’re going to have to take a non-skilled job — or two — at non-skilled pay. Not to mention the humiliation. That’s what he’s feeling. Right now it’s just what he heard we’re thinking about, and it’s ringing in his head. If you could only hear what he hears…

slide #3The little boy, trailing behind in the video, has a learning difference. He’s smart, but he can’t access that smartness so that it connects with the language and math centers in his brain. He’s smart, but the tests won’t tell anyone that. He’s smart, but the intellectually disabled kids in the special ed group don’t know that. Won’t know that. Neither does he. He must be like them, he thinks. Why else would he be in this group? He’s smart, but all he knows is that he is behind. Way behind. If he can’t talk quite right, it’s because he can’t hear quite right, or maybe he can’t process what he hears. He hears it, but maybe to us it would sound like gibberish, or distortion, or like lots of words jumbled together. In a few years, he’ll be thinking trade school, or, if he’s really mad by then, criminal activity. What do most of the people in prison hear? Chances are they’ve never heard that they are smart, or talented, or bright, or good looking. What you hear can make or break who you are. If you could only hear what he hears…

What if she can’t hear anything? Could you stand inside those shoes? What would that be like? Can you only imagine? What if it’s a beautiful girl you fell in love with who can’t hear anything. If you really loved her, you would learn sign language in a heartbeat. But what if he wasn’t so beautiful, would you learn it anyway, because you see his beauty in other ways? If you could hear what the people around you hear every day (or don’t hear), it might break your heart. Knowing them as you do, imagine what the people in your life are hearing, and if you can’t imagine, ask them. Go on, ask them. Ask what they heard today that made them happy or sad. Imagine someone hearing they are a miserable failure every day. Even if it’s nothing, everyone’s hearing something. If you could only hear what she hears…

As bearers of the Gospel of Welcome, we want to learn to stand inside someone else’s shoes and hear what they hear. If you can’t even try to do that, or you don’t care, the gospel will not be very welcome. The gospel might even be hurtful or abusive. The gospel will be how we bring it, because we are the gospel to those who don’t know it. We have a pretty big responsibility.

Our responsibility at the Catch is to help you carry the Gospel of Welcome where you live and work and play. It’s what we are committed to doing, and we’re learning how to do it better all the time, and how to create better resources to help you be the Gospel of Welcome in your corner of the world. But that costs — especially when you are doing it full time, as we are. That’s why we are running a membership campaign right now. Becoming a MemberPartner will inspire you to be a better representation of the Gospel of Welcome; it will provide you with more contact with us, and more resources, and it will help us meet our expenses and grow into the future. Clicking on the video screen below will take you to our contribution page where you can see the video we are talking about and find an appropriate amount for you to commit monthly to the Catch. Or, if you prefer, at the bottom of that same page is a link to where you can make a one-time donation as well.

But whatever you do, step into the shoes of the people in your day today and ask God to help you hear what they hear. He’s very good at this kind of thing.

GTO SCREENSHOT

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