Are you OK with slacking?

There are two categories for self-identifying evangelical believers: disciple on a mission, or backslidden non-contributor. We all want to be part of the first group, and we fear we’ve slipped into the second group while we were watching our favorite tv show, or making lots and lots of money. (Or maybe you’re in the second group and you never really thought about it, which I guess is part of what qualifies you as a non-contributor). If you’re like me, you’re sort of flirting with the second group but you’ve always had an eye on the role of world-impacting disciple, and part of “keeping an eye on” requires staying in tune with the John Piper’s, David Platt’s and Francis Chan’s of the evangelical world. Those guys will regularly kick you in the pants and remind you how little faith you’ve been living with.

These guys also transfer to their listeners a certain level of Godly urgency. There are millions of street corners all over the world with no church… get busy planting. And at this point guys like me whole heartedly agree that somebody needs to get to planting those millions and millions of critical churches. Sitting safely in our already played out suburban churches won’t get that job done, no sir.

But let’s be real. I’m never going to go on a church planting crusade. I’ve never even started a club, or successfully mastered a new skill on my own time… because I’m a slacker. And as a slacker I like to talk about big ideas and critique the good hard work of other believers, but it pains me to my core to imagine the long steady labor of planting even a small community of new believers. I’d rather just chill, thank you very much. I’d rather cheer on those Type A personalities running around for the Gospel, while I casually travel the path of least resistance and most pleasantness. I’m not even trying to mock myself. I really really want to live in a world where I can contribute to the Kingdom of God at a slow pace and as efficiently as possible. Does God have a plan for people like me, the guys and gals who aren’t pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps?

And that’s what this is, the home of Jesus followers who just want to chill. We love you missional organic church planter. We love you church anxiously re-inventing yourself for a new generation. We love you church conference hopper frantically taking notes on every session. But we will never be you, because that looks overly busy. I know this makes you look down on me, but is it possible that God made some people to plow forward productively, while he made others to stop and smell the roses?

In a world that honors the Martha’s, is there still room in the church for Mary’s? I’ll bet you love the Mary and Martha story, but you are just so sure Mary popped back into happy house maker mode the moment Jesus was done with his visit. But what if she didn’t? What if she was like that with every visitor, leaving Martha to clean the dust out of the corner while she just enjoyed the company? Is she still the hero of the story? That’s the theme I hope to tease out slowly over the life of this blog. Until then, just chill.

Let me clarify

I didn’t mean to communicate in the post above that my slacking was always in the form of “sitting at the feet of Jesus and just enjoying His presence”. I think that is the ideal for us slackers… to be believers that listen patiently and enjoy the day by day moments. We can also be the prayers of unhurried prayers. We can be the ones who slow down enough to see those needy people who so rudely interrupt our day.

But we can also be lazy. We can be critical even when we have no blood in the game. We can be unprepared. How do we balance these demons with the low stress life we want to live? I’m not always sure, but it’s a battle I definitely feel going on inside me. What I don’t want to conclude is that I’ve got to be an alien personality type in order to please God. I need to avoid laziness, but I don’t have to wake up every day and recite Steven Covey’s 7 Habits. That’s not who I am, and I’m pretty sure it’s not who God wants me to be.

When You Just Don’t Care If People Come to Jesus

He looked at me from across the table and simply said, “I don’t care if peopleEvangelism come to know Jesus.”

As a slacker, I am not easily shocked or surprised (both require energy.)  So, I just looked at him and said calmly, “Tell me more.”

“I mean I like our church and all.  I like that it is service oriented and focused on missions.  I like that it challenges people to share the gospel with others.  But, personally, when I look at my life, I would have to say that I just don’t really care if people become Christian.”

“Hmmm.  I appreciate your honesty.  Not many people, especially church leaders like yourself, would admit this.”

“So what do I do?  I mean, I am more about meeting people’s needs and whether or not they come to Christ is not really my concern.  Am I wrong for feeling like this?”

He asked, so I answered, “Yes.  But, I do know your heart.  You are not opposed to people coming to faith in Christ.  It’s not like you are booing loudly every time someone gets baptized.  It’s not like you lean over and say ‘what’s with all the baptisms already?’  No, in your heart you want people to know Christ but you just don’t feel personally motivated to engage in the process of helping people find Christ. I get that and think a lot of people feel the same way.

They might not admit it, but like you said, if you look at your life you would have to say that in reality you just don’t care if people become Christian.”

If my friend were a Calvinist I would understand his position (zing!).

But, he’s not and no amount of guilt tripping, cajoling, Bible referencing, verse quoting, book reading, evangelism training, or testimonies from people who seem good at evangelism will make him care.

So, what is he to do?  Is he wrong for just not caring, or at least caring more about helping people’s physical needs than their spiritual?

Setting The Bar for Slackers

Slackers don’t slack at everything.  We are committed to our convenience and our comfort.   We do things on our own time.  We drum to the march of our own drummer, or however that goes.

But, here is some advice if you are trying to help a slacker grow, improve, or be discipled in the Christian faith.

You can never set the bar too low.  In fact, if you just leave the bar lying on the floor, that’s good enough.

A slacker will likely just look at it and say something like, ‘I can do that anytime, so that’s when I will do it.’

Now, should you by chance put the bar too high, a slacker will likely look at it and say something like, “Wow.  I could never reach that.  So I won’t even try.  But, I will give myself credit for imagining what it would take and maybe even knowing about people who have reached it.’

Slackers live vicariously through other people at times and like the occasional challenge to reach a high bar.  But, in the end, it usually doesn’t lead to any substantial change, though we might try to reach for it for an hour or two.

After all, as I read somewhere once by accident, “only the mediocre are always at their best!”

So, now that I think about it, leave the bar at home altogether.  Don’t even bother setting it.  Just love them, pray for them, and do what God is calling you to do regardless of what anyone else does.

You will likely avoid a lot of stress that way.

Sometimes the weight of other people’s devotion moves others into action more than holding them accountable to predetermined ‘bars’ of excellence.  So live it out in front of them and see what happens.  After all, we are ‘compelled’ to follow Jesus not coerced.

Taking Christian Music to the Street

Here is a guy I have enjoyed watching on YouTube the last few years.  He’s DubFX, and he has several films of his street performances, where he mixes sounds he makes with his voice (live) to craft a complete song.   For some period of time in his career this was his only source of support, but as he has found more and more recognition he seems to spend less time on the street.  Most of his newer videos are performances done on rooftops, which is cool enough, but it does signal a departure from bringing the performance directly to passerby’s on the street.

As I have watched his early stuff, I can’t help but imagine a Christian version of DubFX.  DubFX himself advocates a sort of newage-y “let’s all love each other and pursue truth” world view, so it’s not hard to envision what these street performances would look like if someone who saw it as a ministry was at the mic.  And that makes me wonder, why is this sort of thing not default for musicians who see music as their Gospel message.  I realize that not everyone who identifies with the Christian music industry wants to “minister” with their songs, but some do, and to those I say: stop performing for the choir.  I’m not advocating anything that looks like street preaching.  Rather I’m thinking of something that looks a lot like the above video.  Give the people what they want, all the while teasing their minds with the lyrics.

“Michael, why don’t you follow your own advice?”  Read the title at the top of the page…. I’m a slacker, man.  Also, I can’t do anything anyone would stop to watch on the street.  But if you do have talent and you really believe in using it to change lives, I’m just suggesting that you consider finding an audience that would never come to hear you in a sanctuary.  There are plenty of preachers who try to take their message to the street corners, but it seems to me the message would be a lot more like honey if it was being sung.

Are you a busy slacker?

I had a friend once (I know, it’s hard to believe), who answered “busy” every time you asked him how his day went.

A common pic if you google it.

A common pic if you google it.

“How was work?”  “Busy.”

“How was dinner?”  “Busy.”

“How was your dental appointment?”  “Busy.”

It actually got kinda funny the longer I knew him.

I know busy.  Married.  Two kids.  Wife working.  I’m working.  The kids are in activities.  (My parents lament that we are living too fast.)

Then there is church stuff.

Sometimes we equate busy with hardworking, productive, or ‘gettin’ it done.’  But, busy people can be some of the biggest slackers you know!

We busy people sometimes take pride in how much we are able to accomplish in a given day.  We like our checklists.  We might even add things to our lists that we’ve already done so we feel like we’ve accomplished even more!

But, truth is, just because we are busy does not mean we are doing the right things, the important things.  We might just be ignoring or even hiding from the most meaningful things in life.

Sometimes those meaningful things require too much from us and don’t reward us like being busy for other people (who really don’t care about us).

Unfortunately, our world and even our churches reward busy.  We fill our lives and our church calendars with all kinds of stuff.  And the people who never participate are assumed to be slackers.  But, it might just be the guy who is on every committee, attends every Bible study, and volunteers for every project might just have a horrible marriage, struggle to relate to his kids, and has a hard time even praying.

Busy ain’t best.  Busy might just mean slackin’.

Christian Metal-Core: why you should care

You don’t know this if you are over a certain age… like 30, but young Christian rock groups have set up camp and almost taken ownership of a musical genre known as metal-core.  Apparently that name is a combination of Metal and Hard-core, and basically it’s music in the styling of power rock/heavy metal with a lot of screaming.  The bands can be categorized by how much they scream/growl.  Some scream/growl all the time.  Some combine it with few, well-crafted vocals.  Some split between screaming and vocals 50/50.  Some use screaming/growling sparingly, to the point that it isn’t metal-core anymore.

If you’ve never heard this kind of music before, you probably won’t like it, and I’m not telling you about it to make you a fan.  The reason I bring it up is that I find it fascinating that this genre of music, doomed to never be played in any mainstream arena, is populated by so many very talented Christian bands.  After decades of Christian music being a “me too” copycat of superior secular bands, the Christian community is blazing trails in perhaps the most rebellious musical form since rock-n-roll first came on the scene.  It would be like Christians dominating rap as it emerged (I wish we had).  I’m ecstatic about this development, and it lends an authenticity to communicating a Christian message in music that so much of the “safe for the whole family” set just doesn’t have.

Full disclosure:  I was raised with a lot of metal and a little bit of thrash, so nothing shocks me.  I am very fond of bands that use the screaming as musical trim.  I think growling adds just the right sort of emphasis in a good modern rock song.  But as the growling increases, I can stomach it in smaller and smaller doses.  Still, I am very happy to see the youth of Christian rock taking this part of the industry by the throat. Here is a sampler of just some of the bands out there.  I’ll start with Wolves at the Gate, a 50/50 band that is probably my favorite in the genre.  I highly recommend listening to more of their stuff if you like them at all.  Next is Oh Sleeper, generally considered the premier Christian metal-core band.  I know some youth who swear by them.  August Burns Red never sings a word, and that makes them hard to stomach for anyone with mainstream tastes, but their drummer is amazing and needs to be heard.  For Today is basically a worship metal-core group.  I’m also going to throw in Dead Poetic, one of my favorite modern rock bands, as an example of how to use screaming almost as a background instrument.  Unfortunately DP is no longer a band (I’m choking up).  I’ll tie things off with a band from New Zealand called Saving Grace.  I’ve included them because they make me almost pee my pants… every time.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg.  If you use Spotify, just follow the “Related Artists” links down the rabbit hole.