Perspectives on Spiritual, Intellectual and Pastoral Issues: Host – Lowell Qualls

Archive for the ‘Spirituality’ Category

The Bridge

The Bridge

The Bridge - to Christ, Spiritual Maturity, and Hope to the World

The Bridge.  A new name, a new vision, a new pastor, a new approach to ministry, a new congregation.  By the way … I’m that new pastor.  I took the position in October, and it’s been great!  I love the people – “the survivors” is what I call the folks who made it through the turbulence of transition from former pastor/former church to new pastor/new vision.

Maybe you noticed the logo caption.  We, the people at The Bridge, want to be a bridge to Jesus.  We will never change the message!  It’s Jesus Christ, the Lord, Son of God, born of a virgin, lived in Palestine, taught disciples, was crucified, dead, buried and RISEN!  And coming King!

While we’re orthodox in our beliefs we will tend to be unorthodox in our approach to reaching out to the “dechurched” and the “unchurched.”

Matt Chandler (Google Matt, and look for him on You Tube as well) describes the dechurched as people who attended church when they were younger (pre- and even post-adolescence) but, for a ton of reasons, decided church wasn’t their thing.

I’ve come to the conclusion, after years of observation myself, that the dechurched may have thought attending church was pointless, irrelevant, dead/lifeless, populated by hypocrites, and constantly wanting more and more money.  The dechurched may have been hurt in a plethora of ways while attending church, and they’ve decided, “Who needs this!?”  Unfortunately, they may have seen hypocrisy in their own home and decided, “Why go to the trouble of going to church on Sunday morning when there are better things to do?”

The dechurched, after years of wandering the planet, wondering if there is a personal God that’s as sick of “church” as they are, believing that Jesus Christ is who He said He was, and investigating every spiritual nook and cranny there is have finally decided, “If I can find a group of REAL Christ-followers – authentic, transparent, loving, kind, other-centric, missional and more – I’ll check it out.  If I can find a group of Christ-followers who are honest about their imperfections and don’t make excuses for their misbehavior (they actually ask for forgiveness and want to make things right), I might check it out.  If I can find a diverse congregation that does not try to be politically correct but (instead)  tries to love each other the way Martin Luther King dreamed, I might check it out.”

It is my hope that The Bridge will be all those things!  I want to hang out with people like those I described above.  I want to build relationships with honest-to-God and authentic people who get the Gospel, believe it, and want to live in a community that looks and sounds a lot like Jesus if He were living here, and now.

Sounds idealistic?  Sounds impossible?  I don’t care what it sounds like – this is the vision I have for The Bridge.  Before my life is over I want to be with a group of people who want to do “Church” the way Jesus intended it to be.

Give me some feedback!  What did I leave out of my vision.  That’s an honest question.  I want to know.

The Signs of the Times

I don’t know for sure that I’m living in “the last days.” I suspect I am, in the biblical sense. For sure, I’m living in MY last days!

I was just telling someone today (oh, and when I did, I wasn’t thinking, “hmmm … this might make a nice post”):

“Let me tell you where I’m coming from … why I’m pastoring The Bridge. I think it’s information you’ll appreciate. When I was asked by my good friend to help out by speaking at Emmanuel Tabernacle from time to time, I saw doing so as temporary. Just for a few months. But it turned out that I really liked the people … and that “like” opened my heart to love them. The crew that was at the church at the time was beat up … bruised. The fights over petty things, and the power plays by some of the leaders, left people shellshocked. My protective instincts kicked in. I wanted to see, with my own eyes, a healing take place. It wasn’t long when they asked me to stay on. In October of last year I felt I had a green light from God to do so. I was on my face (literally on the floor of the former pastor’s office) asking Him, “What am I doing here?” and I felt I heard Him say, “Lowell, I love these people … and I WANT you hear.” It wasn’t a question of what I wanted to do – whether I felt sympathy for them or not. Didn’t matter. God was telling me, “THIS is something I want you to do for Me.”

“I’ve pastored/lead ministries since 1970, but I’ve never felt called to pastor. I have always felt called to do whatever He wanted me to do, where He wanted me to do it, and for how long. That, by no means, makes me an expert on followership. But all that time has allowed me to see and experience a lot. Also, being a preacher’s son, and seeing the ungodly underbelly of the Church from time to time from that perspective (how some in the family of God behave) has also been a part of my life experience, too.

“I haven’t always done so, but early on in my ministry life I decided/determined to be honest, and as transparent as I could be without being shameful or stupid. While I was experiencing the death of my first wife, that approach to ministry was dramatically reinforced. “Life’s too short to mess around” was the big message God gave me during her dying process.

“So … that candor that you heard last Sunday has been “purchased” – I’ve paid for it with the currency of my life. Forty years worth of life.”

I want to be candid without being harsh, and transparent for the sake of others … not because I feel this need to flush my junk out of my system.

I’m looking around me now … at my world … and I’m thinking, “How much longer can this insanity last? When will God say, ‘That’s quite enough!'” I’m watching TV like everyone else. I’m tuned into YouTube. I’m reading the blogs. It’s freaky. With all the reports of natural disasters, wars, the murder of innocents (and the killing of the ‘not innocent’), the economic uncertainty, the famines, etc., wouldn’t you think, “Yep, this is what Jesus, John (the saint/disciple), and the other prophets saw coming.”

Funny thing is, I’m not discouraged. I’m really surprised by that! I’m actually excited … and not because I’m some sicko hoping to see misery piled upon miseries, or like the rubber-neckers who slow down to see if anyone died in the accident. I’m excited because I feel I know what’s coming! And what’s coming will be tough, and will require sold-out determination, rock-solid faith, unwavering trust, and a depth of love I’ve never experienced or lived out but I’ve heard described in the stories of Jesus and His initial followers. But tough or not, it’s great! If … if you believe God’s in it all.

What are the signs of the times? Read Matthew 24, 25 and check out Luke 21. Then … you tell me. Comment. How do you interpret those biblical texts in light of what you’re reading and seeing and feeling right now. I’m interested in what you’re seeing.

The Heart of Worship

Manzese Church in Dar es Salaam

This is one of the churches in Manzese that ICM helped to build. The video is of Manzese B Church. Manzese A Church was built in honor of my Dad, Poppa Qualls. He’d be so happy! I’m leaving on July 22, 2010 for Tanzania – an extended teaching trip. I plan to visit Dar July 31 through August 3 – at which time I’ll find Poppa Qualls’ Manzese A Church! I’m so excited!!

Manzese Church in Tanzania from ICM Videos on Vimeo.

Life In A Faster Line

It can get so quiet in an airport. As passengers, and in my case, would-be passengers, wait for a weather update from up north it can become quite still – very much like the sound, or lack thereof, of a professional golf tournament crowd when a contender is standing over THE crucial putt.

Today it’s quiet in the main terminal of the Southwest Florida International Airport – the airport that serves Fort Myers, Florida. Eerily quiet, considering just a few hundred miles to our north the sky is exploding. Last night The Weather Channel estimated that “tens of thousands of lightening strikes” and roaring thunder filled the airways from Mississippi to the eastern Kentucky state line. They predicted that today would be “more of the same,” and they were right. Right now a gigantic storm 800 miles long and 500 miles wide is saturating the flight corridors of the whole Atlantic seaboard, from northern Florida to southern New Jersey.

A single storm.

I’m headed north, into the teeth of the maelstrom. I’m now separated from my travel buddy – Becky. She was able to get out on the Noon flight. Me? I hope to catch US Airways flight 1810 – Fort Myers to Charlotte, North Carolina – that is supposed to leave at 3 PM but has been delayed another two hours, to five.

What if I miss my flight?

That would be inconvenient … requiring separate trips to the airport, just hours apart – the first to pick up Becky and the second to pick me up. And what if I’m delayed again in Charlotte? Will that put me into Richmond tomorrow? Will I lose a whole day because God scheduled reservoir-filling rain for today?

I’ve got another trip coming up. My departure will be right on time, with no chance of delay. I’ve had my ticket punched since the moment of my conception – when Claude’s sperm met Retha’s egg. “I was woven together in the dark of the womb” that God sees like it’s lit up with noon-day sun. “Every day of my life is recorded” in God’s book – the one He reads like yesterday’s news. And I’m on time.

While I’m waiting at the gate, how will I invest my time?

Here, at SFIA I can enjoy a latte, read up on the NFL draft, make a few time-filling phone calls … just waiting. Just waiting, waiting, waiting.

Or I can be more pro-active in my waiting – writing, praying, strategizing (while I drink my latte).

I have this sense that we’re all waiting … every man woman and child on planet earth … we’re all waiting at The Gate. And every person’s ticket is in order; no computer foul ups or human error complicating things. And every flight to The Wild Blue Yonder is right on time.

With only two destinations on the board, there’s no clickety-clack in the background like you’d hear in a European train station. Two long lines of human beings – men, women, children – are snaking in opposite directions, one headed for Concourse A and one toward Concourse B.

Today I’m thinking about those who have made the flight before me. I’m wondering if my waiting time is making a difference.

I’m watching people in the line I’m standing in leaving the queue, running over to some familiar soul in the other line, grabbing their arm, shaking them up with the news that there’s life to be had in one line and death in the other, and gently but urgently pulling them toward the other line.

Funny, I watch people from BOTH lines running to family and friends in the opposite line, and debating the pros and cons of changing lines. Both parties chatter. Both parties insist. “Sure you can change lines!” “My destination is set in stone.” “My destination is better than yours.”

Nobody talks about change fees.

There seems to be a faster lane. I wonder if that means anything?

The Church … as Anyone Would Love It

I ran across a blog tonight that blessed my soul and challenged my lifestyle.  On a wonderful blog site entitled Shame The Wise (Brian McDaris) he wrote an article way back in February of 2009.  It reads:

WHY DEAD THEOLOGIANS ARE COOL

Epistle to Diognetus
Chapter V.-The Manners of the Christians.

For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity. The course of conduct which they follow has not been devised by any speculation or deliberation of inquisitive men; nor do they, like some, proclaim themselves the advocates of any merely human doctrines. But, inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of them has determined, and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life. They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers. They marry, as do all [others]; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men, and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death, and restored to life. They are poor, yet make many rich; they are in lack of all things, and yet abound in all; they are dishonoured, and yet in their very dishonour are glorified. They are evil spoken of, and yet are justified; they are reviled, and bless; they are insulted, and repay the insult with honour; they do good, yet are punished as evil-doers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life; they are assailed by the Jews as foreigners, and are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred.

Gearing Up for 2010

Thanks to all who’ve been supporting me, in every way, since I departed Trinity for points unknown.Leadership Training International

I’m still in uncharted waters, but confident that Jesus is directing my life.

Leadership Training International (or LTI) continues to excite me beyond words.  Since August I’ve become a “certified instructor” of the curriculum.  Not long ago I finished the highest level of teacher certification LTI offers – “Mobile Advanced Trainer” (or MAT).  That allowed me to travel to Lakewood, New Jersey and Washington, DC to participate with Neal Kelley (LTI’s operations director) in two exciting teacher training events.

After the first of the year the “I” in LTI becomes part of my experience.  I’m traveling to the Dominican Republic, to meet with the leadership of a denomination that has already purposed to use our Foundations for Emerging Leaders curriculum (all 12 modules) to train DR pastors!  I don’t have to “sell” them.  They’re SOLD!  I’m going with my buddy Neal, to meet the people we’ll be working with for years to come.  Neal will then stay in the DR for another week, overseeing our super training event.  Because LTI’s materials are in Spanish (and English, Russian and Romanian), these pastors will learn to teach our curriculum in their own language.  That’s invaluable!

I mentioned that Neal and I will part ways – Neal stays and I fly to Phoenix, Arizona, for the Tommy Barnett “33rd Pastors and Leaders School.”  Once again they’re expecting over 7,000 pastors and church leaders at the “school” – an intense three day event (February 1-3) that challenges conventional church thinking and methodology.  It’s all about “The GREAT Commission,” isn’t it?

Well, more updates will follow.

If you’d like to be one of my partners, write me at revgolf@gmail.com.  I’m looking for people who will enthusiastically share my travel expenses.  Donations of any size are welcome, and air miles would be great!!   I’m incurring costs almost daily now, and I’m serving LTI at no salary … so … any help would be wonderful!