the weblog of Alan Knox

You are here

Posted by on May 5, 2008 in discipleship, synchroblog | 14 comments

This post is part of a synchroblog organized by Glenn from “re-dreaming the dream” (see his post called “Your Turn: May Synchroblog“). In this synchroblog, participants are supposed to tell “a little about the latest chapter of your story”. Specifically, he suggests thinking about the following questions:

  • How are you doing?
  • What are you doing?
  • What are you learning?
  • What are you dreaming about?

When I started to think about the “latest chapter in my story”, I thought about one of those maps which have an arrow point to your current location along with the words, “You are here”. Of course, when I look at one of those maps, “Here” is rarely where I want to be. I always want to be “There”, wherever “There” may be. But, the map is still useful, especially in determining how to get from “Here” to “There”.

But, where is “Here” for me? Where is “There”? And, how do I get “There” from “Here”? These are very important questions, and I hope to answer a few of them in this post and in some future posts.

I could focus on many different aspects of my spiritual journey of understanding God, trusting God, relating to people, and understanding the world. Since I write primarily about the church, I think I will focus on one aspect of my understanding of the church that has changed and how that change has affected my life.

When I came to Southeastern to begin seminary just over five years ago, I was very happy with the institutional church system. I had grown up in that system; I had learned how to operate within that system; I had been a lay leader in the system; and I planned to be a professional leader within the institutional church system. There are many good things that happen in and through institutional churches, and this post is not meant as a rant against church systems.

However, as I made my way through seminary, and as I studied the church from the perspective of Scripture, I learned something very interesting: Scripture does not focus on church as a system, but on church as a people. Slowly, my thinking, my studies, and my actions have shifted away from support and defense of an institutional system and toward the strengthening of God’s people – the church.

This change has affected every aspect of my understanding of the church – the clergy/laity distinction, education, discipleship, meetings, discipline, teaching, fellowship, and on and on. While structures and organizations can work to help people relate to one another, they always must be checked and re-checked to make sure they are not hindering God’s people from obeying him and serving one another.

That’s where God has me now… at the moment… that is my, “You are here”. But, where is “There”? Where is God leading me? As I continue to study and as I continue to attempt to follow God in every aspect of my life, I realize that my understanding of how God loves and cares about people is very shallow… very limited. Because of that, my love and concern and service towards people is shallow and limited.

In the last several months I’ve written about social justice, caring for the least, etc. The gospel – the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and his completed work in healing the rift between us and God and other people caused by sin – calls us to both worship God and care for people. As our hearts are turned toward God, our hearts are also turned toward people.

My heart is turning, but its not there yet. I’m still very selfish and self-centered, though I see a direction in my life – a direction that I think God is moving me, because it parallels what we see about God in Scripture. Where and when I do find myself caring about other people, the scope of my concern is still limited primarily to those that I know personally. God cares for all people, especially those who are hurting, oppressed, needy, hungry, fatherless, widowed, and living in a foreign land. My heart is not there yet. But, again, I can sense that God is moving me in that direction.

Honestly, I don’t know exactly what “There” is going to look like. I don’t know exactly what God is going to use to move me from “Here” to “There”. But… I’m willing… honestly, my willingness is shaded with hesitancy because I realize that I will have to give up many things that are special to me – much like the institutional church was special to me. I’m willing… and I trust God to do this… but again, my trust is shaded with doubt – doubt that I will be obedient. All I can do is cry out with the father of the demon-possessed boy – “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief”.

I am “Here”… God wants me “There”… Lord, you will have to help me get from “Here” to “There”.

——————————————————————-

Below is a list of other posts from bloggers who are participating in this synchroblog:

Glenn with “Feeling Free
Mike with “Lost or Found (Depends on your view)
Erin with “My Turn
Lyn with “Your Turn
Sarah with “Glenn’s May Synchroblog
Jane with “Part 1“, “Part 2“, “Part 3“, & “Part 4
Alan with “You Are Here
Barb with “One Year Checkup
Kathy with “It stinks down here, but I really love the smell
Heidi with “May Synchroblog
Jeff with “Mile Marker Reflections
Jeromy with “Our Story – Chapter 10
Sam with “Synchroblog Monday
Aaron with “Life after the Gravitron
Rachel with “Synchroblog
7catz with “May Synchroblog
Gary with “How am I doing?
Happy with “Better late than never


14 Comments

Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 5-5-2008

    I am also participating…Glenn must have left me out by mistake.

    Jeromy: http://mendingshift.wordpress.com/2008/05/05/our-story-chapter-10/

  2. 5-5-2008

    I wonder, Alan, what I’m hearing from a lot of people is the sense that they don’t really know where they are going, or how they will get there.

    It’s interesting, because in my experience in Church, there was so much emphasis on knowing our exact calling and laying out a path to get there. I’m sure even more so for professional clergy – to know where you are going and what you expect and what is expected of you…

    Anyhow, I kinda think it’s fun to not have to be a slave to a vision anymore.

  3. 5-5-2008

    “Scripture does not focus on church as a system, but on church as a people.”

    A very subtle, but important distiction. We have changed our verbage from “going to church” to “gathering as the church”. It becomes less about the building and event, and more about the people.

  4. 5-5-2008

    alan, thanks for sharing. like jeromy, i liked this line a lot: “scripture does not focus on church as a system, but on church as a people.” that can be so confusing when everything we’ve been taught has been about the “system” and that makes a much easier “there” than something untangible like “people”. i understand the here-there dilemma and starting to let go of trying to know what “there” really is supposed to be and somehow see what God is up to in the “here.” oh boy i just put a lot of words in quotations!

  5. 5-5-2008

    Erin,

    I have a general sense of the direction that God is moving me, but I don’t know exactly what the outcome will look like, or exactly how he will get me there. But, I trust him.

    Jeromy,

    I agree that the distinction between institution and people is very subtle… but also very important.

    Kathy,

    I agree! It is very important for us to take stock and determine what God is doing in our lives here and now and not continually live in the future.

    -Alan

  6. 5-5-2008

    Alan ~ I am one of the ones who fit into the category of I know where I’m supposed to be going, it’s just how to get there often plagues me. As I said in my post, I believe more and more every day that my “calling” is outside of the institutional church.

    I am also a fan of your statement about church as a people vs. church as an institution and would like to use that if I may…

  7. 5-5-2008

    Mike,

    You can certainly use the statement about the church being a people instead of an institution. I don’t think its original with me anyway.

    -Alan

  8. 5-5-2008

    I sure don’t know where we are heading either. Thanks for being so honest, and insightful. I will look forward to hearing more of the story as it happens!!!

    ~Heidi

  9. 5-5-2008

    Heidi,

    Thanks for the comment. I’ll keep writing about this journey… as long as God allows me to.

    -Alan

  10. 5-6-2008

    Not only do I not know where I am heading; I am not sure what vehicle I am getting there in.

    What I mean by that is, I am not so sure about what I believed about God is true anymore. What I knew to be true- that was what got me to the destination that I was heading in.

    Now, I only know very simplistic basic things;

    There is a God. He loves me.

    He probably is Jesus who died on the cross for my sins but if it didn’t happen that way; I can handle it.

    For me, not knowing where I am going is FREEING and CONCERNING at the same time.

    I found comfort in thinking that I had my destination figured out and stamped in approval by God. I had focus, things to do to get there…and security in knowing that I was in His perfect will.

    All of that has been taken away from me like pulling a rug out from under my feet.

    but I am thinking; this is a good thing.

    thanks for writing.

  11. 5-6-2008

    Thanks, Alan. I really enjoyed this post. I really relate to it. I relate to that feeling shallow part. :) God is doing something very cool, isn’t He? Making us like Him and all… :)

  12. 5-6-2008

    I think for me, God has me right where he wants me for now. Even though I don’t have any idea of where God wants me to go from here, I also know that there is a reason I am not there yet. I have some things in my life that I know has hindered me along the way and I know that if I dont allow God to work through me on those issues, then I will not get to where He wants me to go. I need to change where I am and I think it all begins in the heart. That is where the real change begins. I believe a change in the heart helps change our thinking. That is what I have been learning right now, “where is my heart.”

  13. 5-6-2008

    Alan ~ I always appreciate the perspective you add to these synchroblogs.

  14. 5-6-2008

    tera rose,

    It takes alot of trust in God to follow him somewhere when you don’t know exactly where he’s leading you. However, I think that’s the kind of trust that God calls us to in the Scriptures.

    Sarah,

    Yes, God is doing something very cool. A few years ago, I would not have planned or chosen to be where I am now. But now… I wouldn’t want it any other way.

    anonymous,

    Yes! “A change in the heart helps change our thinking”… and (I would help) is demonstrated by a change in action/behavior.

    Glenn,

    Thank you for organizing the synchroblog and allowing me to take part. I was not able to interact with everyone this time like I would prefer. But, I enjoyed the posts that I was able to read.

    -Alan