Friday, October 16, 2009

"Where the hell am I?":What I learned about incarnational ministry from El Monte Slim, Depeche Mode, Joe Walsh and Bono's accidental lie

(Buy the T shirt here, Ironically (as you'll see by the end of the article), one of the companies selling this shirt is owned by Mrs. Bono)

El Monte Slim, the car dealer, was a huckster.

Televangelists...and even pastors who hate televangelism...can also fall into that trap.

Once when El Monte Slim ( a Cheech and Chong character apparently based on Ralph Williams, a SoCal car dealer) was finishing up his commercial, he gave directions to his dealership..which got even him so lost, he ended with "...then get out at the Shell station, and ask the man working there, 'Where the hell am I?!'"

One of our main problems in attempting to be incarnational and contextual is sometimes we don't even know where the hell we are.

It could be that's because the Spirit has blown us where he wills..
But it also could be because we suck at being incarnational.

Or even at being just national.

Itinerant or conference ministry is setup for lying:
"It's good to see you all again."

And when the visiting evangelist does know your name, it might be a Popoff moment; as captured so well by Steve Martin's amazing character in "Leap of Faith"

What I hate most about teaching and retreat speaking, as opposed to pastoring, is not having the ongoing community relationship with the believers who have gathered in your honor.

Even at home, if our home church is larger than a handful, we are vulnerable to what I have called the seduction syndrome (see this), especially regarding sheep in the 22nd pew:

Not long ago, a woman...obviously from a previous (and much larger) church I pastored... came up to me in a store, "Hey, Pastor Dave! Long time, no see! Your sermons absolutely changed my life!"

I was thrilled and honored; but I didn't have the heart to tell her the whole truth:

Not only did I have no idea of who she was; she had no inkling that I would not know.

We both knew we had never had a face-to-face conversation; that was not the issue. But in a larger church (too large for the senior pastor to know everyone's name), there is the "Johnny Carson" syndrome at work. Carson was swamped by people whenever he went out in public who called him by first name; after all he was in their bedroom every night (via "The Tonight Show"). The false intimacy that dogs media stars can be even more damaging in the church context.

I could tell the woman would be crushed if I admitted I had no idea who she was...most likely a quiet there-every-Sunday "22nd pew" saint; but I had no memory of ever seeing her. The default church culture automatically attributes omniscience to the senior pastor (He or she will not
only know my name, but know wne I am in the hospital, etc.) .

Of course this is impossible with thousands, even hundreds of attenders; but as skewed and doomed as this expectation is, it is originally based on a basic biblical truth: shepherds are supposed to know their sheep; even call them by name. Jesus flatly calls any other kind a thief.

Having good friends both in Peru and Chile, I'll never forget the first time I stumbled in the fact that that is one thick border. Just try to enter into a debate about which country makes the best Pisco sours!

So I certainly have compassion on Dave Gahan's gaffe the other's a version of the pastor's nightmare (even down to the level of "calling the sheep by name,"..... but by the wrong name:
Depeche Mode frontman Dave Gahan slipped up onstage this week, by thanking the wrong country during a recent show in Peru. The band who were playing Peru's capital Lima on Tuesday (October 13) finished the gig with frontman Dave Gahan shouting "Thank you very much, Chile!" to 30,000 screaming fans. The slip was particularly embarrassing since Peru and Chile are historical enemies, with a dispute between the neighbouring countries dating back to a 1879-84 war.

Years ago, my friend took me to a Joe Walsh concert. Walsh, known for his sense of humor (and prophetic sarcasm about the life of a celebrity) said with a wink, "We're all from Connecticut; it's good to be home." He knew he could get a huge cheer..but the catch is, people believed him.

I wonder if Bono has a cheat sheet in front of him, so he knows where he is each night. He certainly goes out of his way to speak to the city...and the spiritual principalities of each city..see this..

I can't imagine him thanking the wrong city, or nation.
(But Bono's quote at the end of this moving recent article was a good reminder).

All I remember him saying to contextualize in Sacramento in 2001 (though I hear some powerful "fall on your knees" prophecy to Sacramento embedded in the video of "Beautiful Day" here..a t3:33-4:00 ) was:

"We have not been this way before. How do you like Sacramento, The Edge?"

Edge gave a thumbs up sign, and of course the hometown crowd exploded.

But here's the catch:

They played there..same 1992!
Here's video of the whole concert to prove it.
I bet somewhere in that video he says something like:

"We have not been this way before. How do you like Sacramento, The Edge?"

"Where the hell am I, Jesus?" may be the only prayer we have.
Or need.

No redemption without incarnation.
No incarnation, or nation, without going local.

No clue as to where we are without all the above.

Thanks to Cheech and Chong for teaching me to pray.

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