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Duck and cover; that’s what I wanted to do. There were bullets flying everywhere. It’s as if explosions were going off around me. I was firmly in the battle. War zone at its finest. I was outmanned and seemingly outgunned. Crawling under the table seemed like a good option. Why in the world did I open my gargantuan mouth?
Flashback… to 20 minutes ago. We’re in staff meeting and we’ve already been here for an hour and a half. I mean, I’ll never get this back. During our children’s ministry update, I was trying to find a way to go to sleep with my eyes open. Not that he didn’t have anything good to say, I was just done with the meeting at this point. I thought I could accomplish this by just chilling to the point my body essentially shuts down to sleep mode. Nothing. Great.
As we moved off children’s update, we were brought face to face with THE problem for the church. (<- I’m embellishing). We were asked our thoughts on revisions to the marriage policy for our church. There is a component stating that we, as ministers of the church, are not allowed to perform wedding ceremonies for couples that are currently living together. Now to be clear, I don’t think it’s a grand idea to shack up with a member of the opposite sex outside the bonds of marriage. (Too much temptation and all that.) However, the issue at hand centered on whether or not we should be performing these ceremonies. I just sat there, for 20 minutes. Listening to decent arguments being made against our involvement in these proceedings. But I was getting this sick feeling beginning to develop inside. It was as if there were molten lava flowing deep inside, and the pressure was building, and building, and building. To the point that I erupted “but what about grace?” (I did not yell it, only interjected. And it was the first thing I had really offered up to this point.)
There it was. Game. On. I wanted to keep my mouth shut, I really did. Most of the viewpoints on this issue seemed to come from the same place most people identifying with Modern would start from. On issues like this, I know to just keep my post-modern “ideas” to myself. My ability to just let conversation happen had died a horrible death. “What about grace? Are we talking about someone new to the Church? What if there is no other option? How do we handle the mixed families that have 5 children? Do we ask one party to live apart until the marriage ceremony? What does that do to the family that already exists apart from the marriage certificate? If they’re wanting to get married, aren’t they trying to make it “right” in the eyes of the church and God?” These are all questions that I asked.
I can’t tell you everything that happened after I posed these questions. Honestly, it’s all kind of blur. Things were being said. I started feeling really small. I stabbed a guy with a trident. (Didn’t happen, just seeing if you were reading). The conclusion of the conversation really is insignificant for this article.
So what do you do when you find yourself in the war zone? I mean, we’re kind of conditioned to war within our churches. We’re going to walk in a firefight at some point. I’ve heard it said before, “The church is the only organization in the world that shoots its own wounded.” So how do we avoid bullet wounds? What do we do in these moments?
1. Pray. We are encouraged in scripture to “pray without ceasing.” I am of the firm belief that our connection with Spirit is meant to be so deep that it becomes a part of our subconscious. Throughout the Bible we see event after event where a battle is going on, and the unifying piece, God is fighting for His people. There is no greater thing than to have the God of angel armies standing over our shoulder. This is the God that leveled one of the most secure cities in the ancient world with music. Our security during the battle comes through His presence within us. That presence is never more powerful than when we pray.
2. Stay calm. War is no time to lose ones cool. My Marine buddies recount that during basic and on-going training, one of the fundamental elements taught is keeping cool under intense pressure. If you are looking to die, one of the quickest ways would be to lose your cool. (Metaphorically speaking)
As mentioned before in the other articles in this series, both Modern and Post-Modern are going to have intense feelings regarding pretty much any issue within the church. The last thing we need to do in the midst of the battle is to start freaking out.
3. Remember who the real enemy is. This one is key. Satan would love nothing more than for us to begin to believe that the other people around the table or in our congregation are the enemy. There is nothing that could be more false. Satan has been called “the great deceiver,” let’s not forget that.
The heat of battle is one of the most intense times that we can begin to question our calling. We can also question if our current ministry is where God has called us. I have one directive for anyone in the battle currently… stop it. Don’t question your calling or your position while the battle is on-going, It is the greatest weapon our enemy can use. When we question our calling, we get distracted. When we question our current position, we get distracted. When we start looking for ministry where the battles don’t seem to be present, or are at least more manageable, we cease to be fully effective for the Gospel.
4. Find freedom in Jesus. If there is one thing I know for sure, it is a freedom that has only come through Jesus Christ. Here’s what I mean by that. I am battle hardened. I’ve got the ministry “Purple Heart.” I’ve been wounded and, ashamedly, I’ve done some wounding of my own. In the past few years I have found an incredible freedom. I was trying to describe it to my wife, and I was having trouble. It’s not an apathetic “I don’t care.” It’s a different kind of “I don’t care.”
I’ve found this “it doesn’t matter what happens to me” freedom through Jesus. I know that He has placed me here. I am firm in what I know He wants me to do in my current context. It doesn’t matter what kind of bullets fly my way. I can honestly say that I can proudly walk to my death without flinching because of my calling. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. The battle cannot continue forever.
I’d love to tell you that my comments about our marriage policy actually made a difference. As of right now, the “war” over this policy is not won. Not that there can really be a winner. However, regardless of the outcome from our Elder’s meeting next month, my duty is to submit to the guidance and authority placed above me, and that will never change. But with prayer and patience the battles we fight can become less intense and less often over time.