Mike Cope's blog

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

I enjoyed having Jeff Nelson back at Highland to lead the singing for Gwynneth's funeral. Over the years, some pretty decent worship ministers have been launched from Highland: Jeff (Oak Hills), Brandon Scott Thomas (Otter Creek), David Chrane (Lake Highlands), and Ryan Porche (Highland Street in Memphis) are among them. When do we get to quit launching and actually keep one? More now about the idea of being in a spiritual flat earth society. Years ago when I was speaking at Northeastern Christian Junior College, Tony Campolo was also on campus to address a luncheon crowd on the topic: "A Sociologist Looks at Churches of Christ." Among the profound things he said was, "YOU GUYS ARE THE RELIGIOUS EQUIVALENT OF THE FLAT EARTH SOCIETY." (You have to put Tony's words in bold and caps.) He wasn't mad at us. In fact, there is a lot about the restoration heritage that really resonated with him. But he couldn't believe the naivity it took to talk about "the church" and "the Lord's church" as code phrases for the denomination known as Churches of Christ. It does take a pretty good dose of blindness and/or pride to make that kind of assumption. We are surrounded by Christ-seeking people. But there are other ways in which people can be part of the spiritual flat earth society. Some have lost a sense of wonder and mystery as they plow through life getting tasks done. They don't have time or the inclination to stop in amazement at the bursts of joy and hope around them. With busy lives and with low-level exhaustion, it's easy to miss out on the wonders of grace leaking in from all sides: from spouses, from children, from friends, from prayers, from movies, from books, from W TX sunsets. Try this for an experiment. The next time you go to church, open your eyes to everything and everyone God puts in your path. For once ignore the expected; forget your routine. Pray as you walk in for everyone you see. Shake the hands of people you would normally walk right past because you don't know them. Pretend you've been appointed DEACON(ESS) IN CHARGE OF GREETING. Instead of looking through the worship schedule to see whether you'll like it or not, imagine every possible source of amazement and wonder. Jump into the songs with everything you have. Look at the people around you. (Some did that at Highland this past year and saw a fortysomething woman who was losing a battle with cancer but who was so full of life and love that she drew them into the upside down world of the kingdom.) Absorb every icon, every picture, every facial expression. Be amazed at the body of Christ and the blood of Christ that is shared with you in communion. Imagine brothers and sisters in Christ who are sitting in huts or gathering under trees or huddled in rented public buildings from around the world. This is the art of spiritual imagination. It is apocalyptic. It sees the hope amid the suffering, the joy amid the routine, the love amid the bitterness, and the shalom amid the wars.

24 Comments:

  • Beautiful. Could be, should be in a book (and in a blog) The part that opened my heart a bit more than the other prodings? Simple:

    "This is the art of spiritual imagination. It is apocalyptic. It sees the hope amid the suffering, the joy amid the routine, the love amid the bitterness, and the shalom amid the wars."

    Thanks Mike

    By Blogger Joel Quile, at 9/07/2004 06:54:00 AM  

  • What he said!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9/07/2004 07:05:00 AM  

  • Yep, you still got it! In today's lingo "that's what I'm talking about!" In former days it would have been "Preach on, brother!" Either way, you blessed us today. I pray God gives you the strength to continue to do so for MANY more years!

    In HIM,
    DU

    By Blogger David U, at 9/07/2004 07:09:00 AM  

  • MIke--this is a blog classic--just post it every quarter. SO true! I have always loved what you've said about approaching worship in that way and not deciding whether you'll "be in" to worship based on the style of songs or exuberance of the crowd. These are great words! Love you, brother.

    By Blogger Brandon Scott, at 9/07/2004 07:14:00 AM  

  • Wow! Thanks Mike for that blessing today! What an awesome reminder!!!

    By Blogger CL, at 9/07/2004 07:16:00 AM  

  • Something I think we all needed to hear. Thanks.

    I think we forget that God's word is "living and active." And if Solomon believed that the job of building a temple for God was a novel idea because this is a God whose glory fills the whole earth, how do we expect to keep him pinned like a collected butterfly between two leather covers? Before his word had thees and thous and the authority of King James, it had flesh and blood and the authority of God.

    I'm constantly amazed that we can look at this God who has painstakingly revealed himself to his people over a period of thousands of years and who continued to inspire and to equip his people even after the ultimate revelation of incarnation -- that we can look at this God and believe that we have the full picture seems to me arrogant. And probably blasphemous. I think maybe our wonder died when we decided we knew all there is to know about God.

    By Blogger Q, at 9/07/2004 07:31:00 AM  

  • I know Highland has had some contruction done in the not-too-distant past, but I wonder...when will we rip out the pews, and put folding chairs in, or tables that are conducive to this type of worship?

    I can't help but feel al little cynical when we're all singing "We Are the Body of Christ" and I'm staring at the back of someone's head...someone I may not even know because I'm sitting in a section other than "my "assigned section." I know part of that is my fault, but I hope one day our churches understand the importance of architecture on attitude, and even on theology.

    I loved it when that small table we use for communion was placed in front of the podium. It was a subtle move, but this seems to me that we now have a table, a communal meal we are invited to join by the one presiding over the feast. I try to imagine the person credited with "Prayers and Readings" in the Helper as Christ himself, inviting us to his table. Back when we used that table just under the baptistry (and we still do sometimes), it reminded me more of an altar, which the "high priest" approached to offer the sacrifice. But then again, maybe I've read too much Hicks.

    Regardless, one of the things I love about small, new churches is their absolute inability to afford "sanctuaries" that are nicely decorated, and arranged like an auditorium. Something about sitting on a log, next to an old African man, sitting across from African women on a blanket, all 30 people under one UN tarp, makes it feel more like "community."

    Okay, I'll go somewhere else now.

    Blog on, Mike, blog on.

    By Blogger Greg Kendall-Ball, at 9/07/2004 07:33:00 AM  

  • SFES: "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" (No imagination!)

    LEADER OF THE FREE WORLD: "Neither...this happenned so the work of God might be displayed in his life."


    "The Art of Spiritual Imagination" -- cool!

    By Blogger David Michael, at 9/07/2004 08:42:00 AM  

  • Mike,
    Is it possible to get a copy of Campolo's lecture? (audio or text)
    AE

    By Blogger Adam, at 9/07/2004 08:49:00 AM  

  • Ummm...seems to be what it means to fully embrace the Kingdom of God. These words blessed me today.

    By Blogger Josh Ross, at 9/07/2004 09:25:00 AM  

  • This is why I read your blog so faithfully, Guacamole, baseball, and "This is the art of spiritual imagination. . ." WOW! Grounding, convicting, and uplifting all at once.
    Have I ever said how much I love your blog? I love your blog! I still feel like a Peeping Tom peeking through a little window into your world when I read your posts. Insights into the mind of a minister/husband/dad/friend/coach such as you are truly inspirational! Thanks for leaving the shade up! :)

    By Blogger SG, at 9/07/2004 09:25:00 AM  

  • Mike, this is an amazingly powerful post! You should write a book along these lines--I'm serious! Thank you for sharing this.

    By Blogger Greg, at 9/07/2004 09:27:00 AM  

  • Thank you for those affirming words, friends. The world of apocalyptic vision is beckoning us! Adam, I don't think I have a copy of that Campolo speech any longer. I kept several cassette tapes but eventually gave them all out. (Note: What he said was stunning, as you might imagine. He knew so much about us. And, as always, he was prophetic.)

    By Blogger Mike, at 9/07/2004 09:55:00 AM  

  • I miss Debi. I miss Angela, who was also an angel of encouragement and hope in the Single Again class at Highland just a few years ago.

    I'm really glad to know that they were not among the "flat-earthers" when they departed this world.

    Thanks, Mike, for another glimpse beyond the gates.

    By Blogger Keith Brenton, at 9/07/2004 11:01:00 AM  

  • I miss Debi. I also miss Angela, another angel of encouragement in the single again class at Highland just a few years back.

    I am really glad to know that they were not among the "flat-earthers" when they departed this earth.

    Thanks, Mike, for another glimpse beyond the gates.

    By Blogger Keith Brenton, at 9/07/2004 11:05:00 AM  

  • It's not fair. I work all day (not at a computer) and when I get home and check out Mike's blog, everyone's already said what I might have.....

    Mike, as usual you inspired us today. I only hope sometime in my lifetime I can live up to this challenge to live my life to the fullest. For me, Highland is the family that is most likely to produce this sense of wonder, of God working in and through us. The Spirit is just bursting out all over.

    I, too wish we could have a full time worship leader. Meaning someone who is employed there for planning and leading worship. (Of course you know I would include a chorus that practices every week.) But when will we ever be able to justify the expense of this position, when so many other real needs exist? As it is, we have excellent leadership and, I must say, great worship teams, and if we take the attitude of your powerful message today, it matters little what songs are sung or how well, when we can receive great blessing from any "worship service" or gathering of God's family if we are open to accept this blessing. Someone visiting might be more likely to come back if we have a beautiful worship time. But then again, they would also be more likely to return if someone noticed them and welcomed them.

    By Blogger Sarah_RN, at 9/07/2004 02:36:00 PM  

  • It's not fair. I work all day (not at a computer) and when I get home and check out Mike's blog, everyone's already said what I might have.....

    Mike, as usual you inspired us today. I only hope sometime in my lifetime I can live up to this challenge to live my life to the fullest. For me, Highland is the family that is most likely to produce this sense of wonder, of God working in and through us. The Spirit is just bursting out all over.

    I, too wish we could have a full time worship leader. Meaning someone who is employed there for planning and leading worship. (Of course you know I would include a chorus that practices every week.) But when will we ever be able to justify the expense of this position, when so many other real needs exist? As it is, we have excellent leadership and, I must say, great worship teams, and if we take the attitude of your powerful message today, it matters little what songs are sung or how well, when we can receive great blessing from any "worship service" or gathering of God's family if we are open to accept this blessing. Someone visiting might be more likely to come back if we have a beautiful worship time. But then again, they would also be more likely to return if someone noticed them and welcomed them.

    By Blogger Sarah_RN, at 9/07/2004 02:36:00 PM  

  • OK, SO HOW DO YOU REMOVE A COMMENT THAT GOT DOUBLE-POSTED?

    By Blogger Sarah_RN, at 9/07/2004 02:42:00 PM  

  • I know why I read blogs, It's for times like these when you so clearly speak to me and my heart. Thanks for the inspiring words.

    By Blogger DJG, at 9/07/2004 02:43:00 PM  

  • Don't forget, we lost Nino also, now at Southlake Blvd.

    By Blogger Val, at 9/07/2004 05:57:00 PM  

  • Quite honestly, Mike, I do what you suggested every Tuesday night at our house church. I am more and more convinced every time we meet that "this is the way it's supposed to be." Not to negate the influence of a mega-church (defined as any congregation over 200), but our Tuesday night experience defines what I imagine was the first century experience. The Lord's Supper around a table, women completely leading the "service" (really a poor choice of a word because it implies some sort of firm structure or religiosity), children participating, and spontaneous intercessory prayer (before, during and after the "formal worship time").

    My wife and I still attend and teach children at a local congregation on Sundays and love it. But we find the deepest sense of community, accountability, and building up on Tuesdays. The house church movement is growing in America, and I'd challenge Christians everywhere to find out why.

    By Blogger Steve Jr., at 9/07/2004 08:20:00 PM  

  • I was really suprised to see the RNC blogs links on the Zoe home page. Thought you guys were above that.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9/08/2004 07:52:00 AM  

  • Anonymous - We don't have a link there. It is a link to Greg Taylor's blog in which he comments on something at the convention.

    I have been unable to post a new blog today. I don't know if my stuff was finally rejected by Blogspot International as too dumb to "print."

    By Blogger Mike, at 9/08/2004 12:28:00 PM  

  • I'm can be somewhat of a an introvert (in the same way that the Pope can seem mildly Catholic). So this is sometimes hard for me -- but I decided to start small last night. Wednesday night draws a slightly smaller crowd at our church; it's a little easier for me that way.

    It's amazing the way God works. He's so often a God of the reciprocal: in using us to reach out others, he often uses those same people to reach back to us. Compounding this with the other challenge of a dedication to wonder made for a special Wednesday night. Thanks for putting the seeds out there.

    By Blogger Q, at 9/09/2004 09:39:00 AM  

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