Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Lovin the Church!

I am very familiar with a number of people who feel that they need to De-tox from church. The current craze in our “christian culture” is to embrace a Churchless Christianity and for quite awhile I have been bugged by that thought and I finally understood why I was bugged. I can understand people tired of religion and rules but the church is the body of Christ…so in my head when I hear someone saying we need to detox from church, are we in reality detoxing from Jesus himself?

Some people seem to never tire of attacking the church. If it is not from those who are outright hostile because of their own lack of belief or ex-members who complain about the Church’s organization and its institutional quality with its rules an regulations. There are bad churches out there…we have a record of that from Revelation, but because a few are bad doesn’t mean all are.

I have personally struggled against the mainstream organization of our church community and what I am realizing is that an organism needs organization in order to survive, not to mention all the legal responsibilities that our government has placed on faith communities. Those who leave the church because of its organization often fail to recognize that all the other causes they rally behind also demand a certain level of organization. For instance, someone will leave the church mad at its buildings and programs and paid staff and go they go serve at the local homeless shelter instead. Personally, I say fantastic, but some of these people never stop to think that someone pays the bills for that building, someone turns on the heat in the morning, and someone maintains a calendar of events every month, not to mention that someone is on payroll to raise funds!

I am of the mind that people need to truly love their local church no matter how imperfect it may be and serve in it faithfully for the long haul. There is a tension that clearly exists for a church from being an organism and functioning as an organization, a community and an institution, a living entity with relationships and even some rules. There is no need to pit organism against organization, community against institution, or relationship against rules. These things are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, both exist in a healthy church. The problem is not organization, but bad, life-crushing organization.

Christ clearly taught that his mission was to build his church (Matthew 16). Christ is the head of the church, his body. Christ loves his church and gave himself for it (Ephesians 5:25). In almost all cases, those who choose to leave the church out of their faith experience can point back to a negative encounter with another believer. Communicating is not easy, talking is not easy, especially in this culture…and yet to be a part of community we all need to take a risk and attempt to communicate, care and allow people into our lives. If you think about it, it is even more difficult if things are tense in your life…

In our humanness there are times when we hurt each other and the tendency is to pull away and go it alone. I believe that we must resist that tendency. Psalm 17:6 GOD understood that humans are imperfect and make mistakes so scripture challenges us to go to GOD. All of us struggle in life at once time or another and all of our struggles are different for us. To be human is to be want to be listened to, to be cared for, to also be able to care for others…

God didn’t leave us on this planet to improve our understanding of Himself, huddle people into groups, create more effective worship services. Those are merely means God uses towards a much greater end. God left His church in this world so that followers of Christ might be made through the vehicle and power of the gospel for the purpose of drawing near to and worshipping the one who matters most: God. Out of this nearness to and love for God will come a group of people who have developed a heart for what He loves most. God’s heart is set on pursuing His glory, empowering His people, and reaching out to the broken and lost in this world. The church must reflect God’s love in reaching out to the hurting world around us, calling them to become followers of Jesus (1 Pet. 2:4ff).

Someone once said, and I believe it, that “we need to be reminded that the church that Christ loves is not a supermodel, but rather, a flawed and broken bride.” It may be messed up but it is still the Bride of Christ. So in a true cliché fashion. "Drop the ideal…live the real." Bonhoeffer said it best "Anyone who loves the dream of community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter even though the devotion to the former is faultless and the intentions may be ever so honest, earnest and sacrificial."

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

September Thoughts

So, I posted this on Facebook. “Is thinking that in of all the stupid things that keep churches from growing, the common denominator is leadership! Ouch.”
So, is there anything wrong with that statement? Some would say “NOPE, you are bang on” while others would say…”what are you talking about…everyone has a part to play when a church is not growing.”

So here I am reflecting and planning for the fall and this is what I am coming up with. As a church I believe that we should be in a growth mode. The church of Christ should be growing but there are a number of hurdles to growth. One is when a Pastor or paid staff member tries to do it all. Many pastors, myself included, have been known to have a Martyr/Messiah complex . We feel that “no one else will do a job or could do a job as well as I could!” This is made more hilarious when I try to picture myself in charge of women’s ministries!!! Many pastors feel that the success of any church rests on them and thus they want or need to be in a place of control. Many times pastors have a hard time releasing control because of the fact that many feel that they are the hired guns to do the work and they have a hard time asking people to volunteer. Or it is simply an ego thing. Regardless of the issue it is safe to say that leadership is the “common denominator” when it comes to different areas that keep churches from growing. Even in Exodus 18 Moses was dealing with people and people were getting frustrated and Moses was getting burnt out until Jethro stepped in. It is a timeless principle when we deal with people on any level life gets messy real quick. Things that appear black and white at times turn out to be very grey and then add emotions and person preferences to the mix and it is a no win situation.
I believe that I am at the point where we must ask some hard questions and find out what the reasons are in which the church keeps people away rather that growing and discipling it. The first question we must ask is what is the purpose of a Sunday gathering? What are we trying to accomplish? Are we focusing on just the saints? Are we there to carry on tradition? Are we trying to entertain visitors who may never come back? Are we driven to make GOD famous and bring honor to His name in whatever way it takes? I guess the question lies in who are we trying to reach? Who has GOD placed in our path that we need to reach with the Good News? Do we really see Sunday morning through the eyes of a first time attender?
I have numerous thoughts rambling through the brain that will begin to pour out on this blog, but I will leave you with an interesting concept from a book called “Made to Stick.” This is for all the CHURCH people out there. It is called the Curse of Knowledge and the basic idea is “you cannot know, what you already know; and once you know it, it is very difficult to remember what it is like not to know.“
I say all that to add that many of us have been in church so long that we have completely lost touch of what it is like not to know.