Monday, December 28, 2009

viral messages

This weekend was an out-of-body experience. I was so glad when the last celebration was over. I know I don’t have the gift of martyrdom; I was whining to anyone who asked me how I was doing.

On Friday, Christmas Day, I started feeling like a truck ran over me and my throat began to hurt. Saturday morning I was sure there were tire tracks down the front of me and I was having a tough time swallowing. Anita, being the good wife she is, said, “Don’t be a guy. Go see a nurse.” and sent me to a place called “The Little Clinic” in Kroger’s.


I had never heard of it, but she convinced me that it would be the quickest way to go, especially since I still had a message to write…and to speak that night. So on my way to the office, I swung by “The Little Clinic”.

Turns out that they can do a strep test quickly, no appointments are needed, and you can pick up a bottle of sauvignon blanc, brick cheese and Wheat Thins on your way out. Now this is healthcare that works.

The nurse asked me all the typical questions about any exiting body fluids and so on. My head felt like I was in a fog, so I made up stuff when she asked my medical history. She swabbed my throat, checked my blood pressure, stuck that thing in my ear (a major technological advancement over every other method of temperature-taking), listened to my lungs and my heart, looked in my mouth and said, “’Ewwww! That’s really red,” then said it wasn’t strep: “See, only two lines instead of three on this, uh, thing.”

I told her thanks because of what I do in my job: talk a lot. She asked me what I did and I told her I was a pastor. Turns out she goes to what she described as a “oneness” church. I told her I had some friends in the UPC (United Pentecostal Church) denomination. These are folks who believe Jesus is God…but they’re not Trinitarians. It’s complicated.

Then she asked me what church I belonged to. I told her and she said she had heard of it. Then she asked me what I spoke about last weekend and I honestly couldn’t remember…so I said, “Uh, God.” Okay, chalk it up to head fog, raw throat distraction or viral brain freeze, but that’s pretty embarrassing.

Anyone who regularly speaks wrestles with retention, or “how people learn”. I think that’s why we tell people that this thing that happens on the weekend is not “real church”. “Real church” happens in the framework of community and serving/wooing/healing those outside of the community.

That’s why it’s so important that churches become activistic. Any kind of “doing” connected with input is processed and integrated far better. Years ago the “Learning Pyramid” was promoted by National Training Laboratories and then discredited mostly because of unproven percentage stats (and a dude named Thalheimer who was on a crusade), but I think many educators would agree conceptually with it, though argue about context. Regardless, it’s interesting and from my experience, true. The short version is: people learn and retain information way, way better with “practice by doing” and “teach others/immediate use” than by listening to a lecture or reading.

That’s the reason we never wanted to be just a “come-and-see” church, but a “go-and-do” one as well. For instance, we never wanted ministry to the underresourced and marginalized to simply be a “drop-off-your-offering-for-the-poor”-type thing. We have to personally rub shoulders with the poor to understand the heart of God. Or as we’ve said many, many times: we need the poor more than they need us.

I don’t think we really understand—or integrate the message of the Kingdom—until we begin doing what the Father is doing. I have no doubt that there are too many people sitting in churches that really don’t get it, but it may be that they have done very little of what God says we’re to do, and that ranges from relationship issues (eg. forgiveness) to compassionate service to healing the sick to whatever Jesus did…and does. That’s when real learning kicks in. Or as Jesus put it, “Knowing the correct password—saying ‘Master, Master,’ for instance—isn’t going to get you anywhere with me. What is required is serious obedience—doing what my Father wills.” (Matthew 7:21 The Message).

That verse alone should have the capacity to freak us out, but I’m not so sure that’s the intention. It could be that Jesus was way ahead of the National Training Laboratories folks: we learn best by doing and showing others how to do it.

Anyway, I was back at “The Little Clinic” today. This time whining for amoxicillin.


  1. Really good thoughts here. In the message I just gave this weekend on "Gospel Identity," my theme was that our Gospel theology is Gospel practice. We can "gaze" at our Lord, but we must move from our gazing into going. Small groups are meant for way more than mere discussion, they ought to be a place of not only where Christian community is embraced and personal Bible knowledge is gained, but also motivation for fighting against the gates of Hell.

  2. I understand the learning by doing - that's how I've always learned best. Show me, then let me do it and do it again, and again.

    I hope you're feeling better soon Dave. The little clinic...hmmmm gives a whole new meaning to let's go Krogering.


  3. Best always to learn by doing lest you forget what you read or heard.
    Sorry I missed out then. I was down with the flu.( not the big one)

    Some times I have to think that bible study is not all that is is made up to be. I would think if bible study was more hands on and practiced what was in the scriptures, we might all be futher ahead in the lerning curve.

    I am talking of learning how to hear the still silent voice from God. About exploring the Spiritual Gifts and how they can apply to you. About the capacity to heal others and effectively tend to the needy and those in crisis. About effectively learning of prophesy as it applies to the 21st century which by the way, prophesy does exist and is flourishing today.

    I hope you are feeling better Dave.