Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Pondering Soul

So, as we approach Easter I have been thinking…no really I have been thinking. Lately, I have had a few emails and phone calls as to what kind of church is Soul Sanctuary. What I find is that many people in our culture want to label or identify something, especially those things that are associated with faith and it sort of drives me crazy.

So, for those who need more of a definitive understanding of what Soul Sanctuary is all about…

Let me say that we teach and hold to the traditions of Scripture, that the Bible is the Word of God, that Jesus was born of a virgin, He lived a sinless life, that He took our place on the cross and died for our sins to make us right with God. We believe in His resurrection, and there is a literal heaven and hell… and we believe God is Sovereign and reigns! So, I guess that makes us kind of traditional.

Soul Sanctuary was started so that people could feel comfortable to bring non believing friends and family members. “So, you are missional?” Um….the church is supposed to be missional! We are called to transform the community that we are planted in as well as make an impact around the world.

“So, you are seeker sensitive then?” This is a hilarious question, at least to me because whenever people ask this question, it is used as a term to attack the church! So, what is a church to be seeker hostile? I like to think that we as a community are seeker friendly because no one who is new to a church feels comfortable at all, they are all scared to death, so it is important that we are friendly. When people walk into Soul Sanctuary we try hard to make sure that the environment is friendly! We want people to come back, but at the same time we want to give people a lot of room to check things out without people looking over your shoulder.

“So, then you are an attractional church?” My first answer would be NO! But as I think about it, I would have to say that is a component to who we are. When a business attracts people we call it successful but when a church does it, there are morons out there who call it compromise! We do want people to come back, and we recognize that our style may not be for everyone but we work hard at trying to keep the environment clean, the kids ministry safe and the list goes on.
We have a purpose…we want people to experience the saving grace of Jesus Christ. We want to see marriages restored, addicts set free, we want to see the excluded included, we want to see teens and children make their faith their own. We want…well…I could go on and on. We have a purpose…and it’s not to be a group that gives our community the middle finger and tells them to go to hell because reaching them would make us uncomfortable! No, we invite all people to be a part…

So, here are some things I learned in our last five years at Soul.
Don’t say “we will never do _________.” BECAUSE…you probably will!

The more our church grows the bigger the target gets on our back. People who don’t even know you will form opinions of you based on something that they heard or thought they heard you said…and bloggers, pastors and such will make it their habit to read what you say/listen to you preach just so they can tear you down. May I quote Bono here “Christians are hard to tolerate, I don’t know how Jesus does it.” Thus, people will always misunderstand you…so I don’t waste a lot of time trying to explain myself.

I have also learnt that there is no formula for growing a church. In my case, the book and the movie are two very different things and comparing Soul Sanctuary to other churches will either lead to pride or feeling like a failure…I need to desperately seek Jesus consistently to see who HE has called US to be.

I need to learn from everyone…despite theological differences and I should spend way less time focusing on being “right” and way more time on being faithful. Add to that I don’t always have the best ideas. This list can go on but here is the bonus: the sleepless nights, the critics, the spiritual warfare, the long meetings, the frustration…IT’S ALL WORTH IT! When lives get changed, it’s worth it. When repentance takes place, it’s worth it! When hell becomes less crowded, it’s worth it. When marriages are restored, it’s worth it. When addicts are set free, it’s worth it. It is so worth everything we go through!!! SO…we won’t ever give up–EVER!


kmawesome said...

Thank you for your passion and your vision.
i know that even when i have felt uncomfortable in a church situation that there was always someone or someplace at soul that i felt comfortable.

(btw, i thought it was kind of awesome that your post was at 9:09)

CriticalDreams said...

I applaud your ability to let your ministry (& life) be formed, just as a rock is by water and wind.

I do not have much knowledge of the bible (in process) but can speak from experience. I believe that God opposes us just at the moment when we think we know something. God says "Nope!" and we learn a better way of being, albeit from an often, very painful process. How wonderful that He keeps challenging us! That is the mark of Christ's faithfulness to us.

Every time I feel my "flesh" scream because my pride was stepped on, or that I admit to being wrong (sigh) I know that God is further refining me. Attending a church that allows this process to happen, I believe, is what Christ wanted for us.

I will just say, well done and thank you for my wonderful new home called Soul Sanctuary. Thank you for always reaching out to us and offering yourself just so that we can grow in Christ. Without the support of my community of fellow-believers, I would (still) be lost.

Jimmy in Cowtown said...

Hey Ger - interesting approach. "Thus, people will always misunderstand you…so I don’t waste a lot of time trying to explain myself."

Perhaps a look at Stephen Covey's Habit 5 - 'giving out advice before having empathetically understood a person and their situation will likely result in that advice being rejected. Thoroughly listening to another person's concerns instead of reading out your own autobiography is purported to increase the chance of establishing a working communication' - may help you in your efforts and lessen the obvious frustation this area of misunderstanding causes you...

RosalieG said...

she wonders why pastor skirted the term "emergent"?

I sometimes use that term being careful of what circle and who has a loaded quiver.

Wiki has one definition of emergent church:

...movement...that crosses a number of theological boundaries: participants can be described as evangelical, post-evangelical, liberal, post-liberal, charismatic, neocharismatic and post-charismatic. Participants seek to live their faith in what they believe to be a "postmodern" society...those involved in the conversation mostly agree on is their disillusionment with the organized and institutional church...

I describe it as the church of this generation - the emerging generation.