Monday, August 3, 2009

But First, a Little Background...

When I moved to Utah six years ago, it was to help a small church in Brigham City produce documentary videos about Mormonism. I didn't really know a whole lot about Mormonism...I didn't really even know much about making videos.

Nevertheless, during the five or so years that I worked with the church's video ministry, we cranked out four documentaries, several of which had a noticeable impact on the culture around us. The first one challenged the truth claims of Mormonism based on DNA evidence, and the issues that it raised became so problematic that the LDS Church altered the introduction page to the Book of Mormon to try and subdue the controversy.

It was a pretty good run; over those five years, we developed a significant web presence, managed to secure a solid reputation, and our materials became pretty well-known and appreciated among those who have an interest in ministry to Mormons. We also generated a lot of angst among defenders of Mormonism, and so we received our share of abuse along with accolades (neither of which were really deserved.)

But things are different now. Last year, the video ministry made the decision to separate entirely from the church. This put me in the position of having to choose between my vision and my vocation. To make a long story short, I chose vision. I chose to remain with the church, which had not departed from the vision that had drawn me here six years ago. It was the choice I made, based on a conviction that what was happening here, in Brigham City, through this little church, was what God was drawing me to.

I've never regretted that choice, but it has opened up an enormous set of questions. So what exactly
is God calling us to do here? How does He want me to fit in to the whole thing? The irony is that despite the unknowns, I have never, ever, ever, had a stronger sense of being in the middle of God's will and purpose than now. I kid you not. It's the strangest thing, to be in the midst of uncertainty, and yet at the same time, such an undeniable sense of God's orchestration.

We as a church have been criticized by some for what we "let go of" over the past year. They say we let the video ministry "clean house" on their way out. I don't have much of an answer for the critics, except to say that as we emerge on the other side of this transition, there is a very clear sense (among those of us who gather regularly to pray for this church and its ministry), that God is re-making us, and part of that remaking was stripping away the old--more thoroughly than we ever imagined-- so that He can build the new.

Of course, at first the "old" were difficult to let go of. It involved a lot of pain. But as we became convinced that God was, for whatever reason, allowing this to happen, we began to loosen our grip. First the roof, then the walls, then the floor have been systematically removed, until we're looking at bare foundation. By all human reckoning, we are essentially left with little. Certainly not enough to do much of anything with, or so it would seem. But that's by human reckoning. If we're truly about God's business, then what we lack is no limitation for God. And there is the lesson that He's been teaching us.

So here we stand, surveying our foundation, watching God sweep the remains of the rubble away, exposing the bare concrete. We watch as he methodically and purposefully fills in the holes and gaps and cracks that we didn't even realize were there. The scene that greets us is no cause for pride, that's for sure. But we take genuine joy in watching the Master at work; it is nothing short of thrilling. It's clear that he has a plan in mind. He hasn't yet revealed to us the details of his architectural plans, but it's almost as if we see him walking around with a clipboard, the blueprint tube tucked under his arm. He's got something waiting in the wings, of that there's no doubt. He's afforded us a few hints and peeks, and I'll say more about that in later posts, but the overall picture is still largely in the mind of the One who can speak the Universe into existence. In other words, His plan, whatever it is, is a sure thing.

Don't mistake this for word-faith doublespeak. We presume absolutely nothing except that He is faithful and that He will glorify himself. If there's anything we've learned, it's that God's economy rarely jives with our own. We humans measure success in terms of productivity and results and numbers and accomplishments. How much is in the bank account? How many people visit our website? How many DVDs have we sold? How many lives have we affected? And these aren't bad things, in and of themselves, so long as we maintain the right perspective.

But God's criteria for success are much different. All He requires of us is to trust Him. That's no small thing, to be sure, but it's remarkably simple and freeing. And when we trust Him, then we also let go of our need to have something to show for ourselves (it's all "filthy rags" anyway) because He already has something to show for Himself. But even so, He takes joy in letting us join Him. As a patient father lets an eager young child "help" him with his chores (even though the father could do it much more quickly and efficiently on his own!), He delights in letting us participate in what he's doing, and designs ways to include us.

So we'll continue to open our hands to Him and say "Okay. Here we are. What do you want us to do now?" And so now...we wait.

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