Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Am I Intentionally Exclusive?

I have worked with high school girls for the last couple of years. It was something that I promised would not happen in my lifetime, so it was bound to fall in my plate. I have found that as my immediate relevancy has grown with them, my cultural relevancy has fallen away.

Let me explain, when high school girls want you, they tend to want you now. As my life experience with them has grown, I understand that they are an immediate culture, living moment to moment, text to text. I am relevant to them in an immediate sort of way. I have no problem with that as long as it immediately stops at about 8:30pm.

The closer that I get to them and our lives intertwine, I realize that I am no longer aware of anything popular. It happened without my knowledge and I have very little emotional investment in this loss. They make me aware that I understand about 45% of all things that they talk about. So, my cultural relevance is completely gone, placing me in the best of over thirty communities, those who are no longer cool and no longer care.

The unintentional exclusion of these high school girls is fine with me because they are not telling me that I should be something that I am not. They are not assigning a value to themselves or me; their life experience is just completely different.

There are, however, lots of people in the world who are living exclusively, intentionally. They do so publically, for the intent purpose of assigning a value to themselves and me. Have you turned on the TV lately?

Celebrities, although not all of them, have the tendency to appear exclusive. They participate in campaigns intended to make you feel as though you are not complete, or beautiful, or thin, or cool enough. Their purpose is to alter the way that you think about yourself, and then alter your behavior to coincide with their choices.

We have all fallen for it at one time or another. When I was 18, I went to a cosmetic counter and a woman told me that I had to start using eye cream now or else I would look horrible in 15 years. There was the celebrity right there in the picture applying this eye cream and she looked perfect. So, of course, I did it. I have been using eye cream for 16 years, and I can say that I look exactly the same as other 34 year old women, and not any better.

People are constantly trying to gain influence with us. They will do it by buttering us up with compliments, or fear. How many times has someone flattered you into buying something that you hated when you got home?

Influence is a great thing, when the object is to accomplish good things. Mentoring is a wonderful way to influence others. My life has been changed because of my mentor for the better. BUT…influence can also be used to flatter you into an adult version of a pink polka-dot too too. Not good, my friends.

Paul talks about influence in Galatians. There are people that have come into the church and attempted to influence the gospel that Paul taught. They are emphasizing areas that take away from faith in Jesus, as the ONLY WAY to salvation. Pretty cut and dried in Paul’s eyes.

Galatians 4:17, “They make much of you, but for no good purpose; they want to exclude you, so that you may make much of them”.

I started thinking about all of the ways that people do this. I was sitting next to a woman during Sunday School that said churches are excluding people through fear. I needed to think through this idea of church exclusion, because if this is true, Paul has already given us his thoughts on the matter.

What do we tell people who come to our churches on Sunday? Do we encourage the idea that we are an extraordinary homogenous unit that necessitates assimilation in order to get the whole experience of Jesus?

In our efforts to point people to Christ, do we point them to ‘our experience with Christ’, instead of Him?

When people finally look like they are ‘on board with our vision’, isn’t it easier to serve with them, rather than find new ways for everyone?

I know, it is mind-full, and you may have just been looking for an encouraging word, but, we are the hands and feet of Jesus. If we are sucking people into our churches in the hope that they will eventually end up looking like us that is an issue worth thought.

Why, you may ask?

Paul encouraged the church to recognize areas of exclusion in order to protect the gospel. The gospel of Paul, revealed to him by Jesus, is not an exclusive one. We have to make sure that our recruiting efforts never dilute Jesus by making much of our ministry. In the end we stand on the Gospel. We stand on the life of Christ.

Have you experienced this kind of exclusion in the church, or in online ministry?

Father, thank you for letting Paul pave the way for so many situations in the church. Show us where we are exclusive and open up the door for diverse ministry, in its place. Use us powerfully today for your Gospel.

1 comment:

  1. I think you look better than all those other 34 yr olds!


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