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."

8 comments:

JC Lussier said...

Could it be that one possible cause of this craze to De-tox from church is the fact that society encourages us to put ourselves first. We see this in marriages as well. As soon as something doesn't make us feel as good as it used to, and start to see it's faults and it now requires effort and work on our part. The world encourages you to just throw in the towel and say "it just isn't working for me anymore", "I just don't love you anymore".

Scott said...

In my experience, the moment I 'detoxed' from church was the moment I fell away from Jesus as well. I found out that Church on Sunday gave me the strength for the ensuing week ahead. Furthermore, the people I met at church became friends and through the week 'church' would continue to happen with those people. I don't agree with detoxing anymore. If it's [Church] getting boring, do something, get involved, and if that doesn't work, then maybe a change of scenery is needed. But there aren't many excuses to detox from God, and God is present in the church.

novice said...

Perhaps the challenge here is to create an environment people don't feel they need to "de-tox" from.

In the church we are often guilty of placing unrealistic demands on the volunteers we have since we have so few and so much to do. Sometimes as volunteers we turn our responsibilities into our own little kingdoms and rule over them without regard for other people - or we fight with those in charge to do things our way.

Why do people feel the need to de-tox? I think it's because everything is amplified when it's something that matters.

Bottom line: I don't think the onus is on the church to change or on those who are de-toxing to smarten up... the onus rests on each person who occupies a chair to treat the person in the next chair like a brother or a sister.

Scott said...

For me at least, detoxing was for a bunch of reasons, all of which were selfish. I just found myself complaining to much about things and not actually doing anything good to correct it. It isn't always the churches fault for their attendee's becoming bored. I think it comes down to discipline.

I like your last paragraph Novice, I agree!

Sky Strider said...

What do you do when you had been a volunteer very committed and passionately involved in your church but then you screwed up real bad and that church community completely abandoned you even though you did your absolute best to take responsibility and make amends?

What do you do when this community was the most important thing in your life and you would have died to protect it yet at the moment of failure and during the months ensuing those people not only completely failed to show God's love and try to work things out (even after countless attempts on your part to work things out) but in the end they pretty much told you they were not interested in attempting fellowship?

How could you possibly be interested in finding a new church? How could you possibly desire something other than what you had before your failure?

novice said...

Hey Sky Strider,

I don't think there are any easy answers to the questions you raise.

All I can say is what I found after my former church fell apart - to deal with my stuff, I needed to seek God. I had no interest in finding a new church but to truly seek Him, I needed to be with others who were also seeking Him.

Your post is brutally honest and it's clear there's a lot of pain there so I hope you believe I'm not trying to give you a pat answer. The honest truth is that if you're looking to replace your community, you never will. Can't be done.

If you're willing to earnestly seek God among a group of fellow believers I think you'll find, as I did, that He can start to do far more than you might have hoped for.

Hope this helps. I can only speak from my own experience and I know everyone's is different.

Anonymous said...

Jerry,

It seems that you have not fully thought through the comments you have left. Detoxing is actually a good and wonderful thing. Those who have dextoxified in the past have made everyone's Christian experience deeper and more enriching. Without the detoxers, many church movements would not and did not occur. The reformation is the best example of beliving Christians not comfortable with their surroundings and then decided to 'detoxic' the faith that they were involved. Isn't the movement you've begun in Winnipeg a detoxification of a church that you were previously associated with? Your vision is also mixed with a desire to 'do the faith' different then the others. It is no different than those who feel uncomfortable in their 'churchianty', then you did when Soul Sanctuary began. Those who are involved in fellowship with you have at times, I'm sure, been drawn to detoxic your vision and dream with a direction that caused a panic stop in your thoughts. Just as God is a lion of great unpredictablilty, like Aslan in C. S. Lewis' tale, so is the way you and I see how the Spirit motives others that is on the first appearance an annoyance, but in possibilty may even be the Spirit of God. We are all this journey together hoping that we all get it right. As Philo of Alexandria said, 'Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle'.

Also I wish to express my deepest condolences on the passing of your father. I never met him, but I heard great things about him. I hope your memories of him continue on for many years to come.

Randy

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with the post that expresses the hypocrocis of the church and it's members who fail to practice what they preach.
I still grieve over the break-up or split of our church. I can't bond with any other members because we have only a few new members, and our church has not grown. The former members don't want to break-bread with any of us, with the exception of one family that are true friends of me and my family. They don't care for our pastor and so we just don't talk about him.
It's as if our pastor and deacons blame those who left for lack of members and the message preached is to save the saved.... Pinpointing every bad thing in the world and not giving equal time to the goodness of God's creation. I am saddened by our leader's lack of outreach in our town and foresaking the lost.
The reason is often expressed as, " No one wants to hear God's Word. They go to the mega-church for a watered down version preached to make them feel good about their backsliding." I don't believe this is true with everyone. I don't believe that our church is the only one that preaches God's Truth. God wants the few members of our church to serve Him, he has blessed each one of us with spiritual gifts. When our church leaders don't want the women to play a role, when they don't follow through with asking people that come and leave, why, than what can be done. I am still wondering, and have had to find my spiritual gifts (which is a good thing) by following what God puts in my heart to do. I have to serve outside our church and feel like the members think I am doing this by my own will, and not what God wants. At least that is how it's been for the past decade, and then God called me to serve him in a way that made the leaders and member's hear that God calls those they don't care to.
I can't attend another church because I submit to my husband who likes to hear our churche's pastor's messages, and he plays a leading role as a church leader. No offense to him or the other leaders, but sometimes I don't think they are leading very well I think that silencing the woman-folk and leaving us feeling like non-entities will continue to perpetuate the cycle of low attendance.
Christ resides within me, and all who love our Lord Jesus, and who are faithful to obey him, and repent when He shows us our mistakes.
I want to go to church and desire fellowship but not just to fill an empty pew. I don't think that is what God created me for. How can you grow in Christ if the church isn't giving you spiritual meat?
I still don't know, but I do what I do for the Lord. He is my leader, and I will follow the path that Jesus provided us through his blood sacrifice because He first loved me. That thought overwhelms me, and I refuse to believe a message that tells me I am not going to Heaven. Jesus loves me, this I know for the Bible tells me so. God Bless You All