Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Would Jesus Recognize the Modern Church?

It's no secret that I am not altogether the biggest fan of how modern American church is run.  Or for that matter, modern day Christianity.

(Well, I should say I'm not a fan of how some modern American churches are run. I don't want to lump all churches together when there are some really amazing churches out there.)

Anyways. Before I get into this I just want to say that I know this post will be controversial and maybe offend some people. But honestly? Good. Things need to be a little shaken up. Because that's one of our problems as Christians isn't it? We've (and I am definitely including myself in this) gotten so darn comfortable and somehow have managed to turn Christianity into some watered down version of what it used to be. But let me not go there...at least not in this post. I'll get to that some other time because of course I have an opinion on it. Surprise, Surprise.

I want to make this post as coherent and un-rantiful as I can.  It's something I am extremely passionate about, and sometimes it can be hard to express that passion in an understandable way. But I'm going to try.

A couple of days ago, I was listening to a podcast from Francis Chan and something that he said resonated with me. He asked (and I'm paraphrasing here) What if you had never attended a church service in your life and all you did was read the bible? What if when you read Acts and all about the early church and thought to yourself "That's the church". Would what you read about the early church match the reality of the church now? Would you really expect to see a bunch of people sitting in neat little rows of chairs, singing a few worship songs, and listening to a timely 30-45min. message?


 The early church was real. I can't find another word that accurately describes it. People cared about each other. There was such a deep sense of fellowship and love between the members.

Acts 2:44-47 says, "And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord's Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity- all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved."

 There was genuine love between them. Love that gave freely and without strings attached. Love that sold their worldly possessions just to help those in need. GUYS. They sold their own land! I mean if that isn't doing something in the image of Christ I don't know what is. I'm not saying they were perfect, they did make many mistakes, but they were just so caring. And there was such an emphasis on fellowship that I feel isn't as important today as it used to be. And also please notice that it doesn't say that they met once or even a couple of times a week. No. They met everyday. Everyday, praising God and just enjoying each others precense. Can you imagine that? 

No. We can't. And therein lies the problem.

There's so much fire, and I feel like a pretty just fire in my soul right now that it's honestly getting hard to compose myself. An apology to my poor neighbors who are most likely hearing my grunts of frustration and anger right now. It's just...where along the line did we as a church get so...different? I mean, how did church that met everyday and probably for long periods of time get stuck in such a rigid schedule? When did we become this calculated church society?

And you know I can already hear the arguments against that statement. The excuses that will be raised in defense of the church. Excuses like "well my church does this and that for the poor" or "you can't expect people to sit in church all day everyday". Well for the first, I have to say that many many churches help their communities in big ways. I would be lying if I said the church used to attend didn't make an impact on their community. They definitely do. And I know most churches do the same. And some churches make great strides to give all they can to people in need. I know this. And again, I'm not trying to lump all churches in America together. As for the second, while I understand that we need to work and provide for our families...can we really not make room in our busy schedules for more than 2 hours of church each week? Would that really be so impossible?

 I know that we aren't supposed to judge. Especially by appearances, but it's crazy to me that so many churches today look like hotels. In Dallas, there's even an aquarium in a church. And not just a small one. A 75000 gallon tank. Seriously. Here's a link to their website so you can see it yourself http://ibocjoy.org/. I am absolutely flummoxed by this. That money couldn't have been put to a better use? Like, I don't know...maybe helping out those in need in your community?

It just makes me so frustrated. Why do we spend our money on useless crap? Why do we spend our money on material possessions? Again, people in the early church were giving those up so they could help those in need. And instead of following their example, church money is being spent on redecortating, or the latest technology, or coffee shops! I just...what in the world. And I don't want to hear the excuses of how these things matter. Why can't we just have a simple table filled with coffee and donuts? Why do we have to make a cafe? What because it "brings people together"? I'm sure we can find other ways to get people to fellowship. And yes, wanting your church to look nice is not a sin. But when it becomes the main thing commented on when you visit, doesn't it seem like a problem?" And since when did we start promoting the church while listening to a message? Being on your phone during church used to be seen as disrespectful, but now it's like you're expected to say something good about the message to your friends on facebook and twitter.

I could go on and on about this. And the sad thing?  Some people will read this and immediately close off because no one wants to talk about stuff like this. I've met people who will honestly refuse to listen to a single thing I say about this because they chalk  it up to bitterness. And yes, I do have some bitterness but it's something I am honestly praying to get rid of.

 But this post isn't coming out of a place of bitterness. It's coming out of righteous anger. Anger at how we've become a people content with surface church. Church that doesn't want to "offend". Hey guys guess what? Jesus was kinda offensive! So when did our services get to be this "let's not step on anyone's toes" mess? Where did accountability go? Where did feeling convicted or hearing a message that talks about how painful it can be to walk with Jesus in this world go? Instead we get this watered down "oh you know, you might struggle with some things in your walk with God, but it'll get better!" What if it doesn't ever get better? Do we teach about having joy in those circumstances or do we just quote the verse about Paul saying "rejoice in your sufferings". When did we start caring more about quantity over quality?

Where did that fiery, fellowship-driven church go? And how did we get to this?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

We're all cast-aways in need of ropes

The irony is that while God doesn't need us but still wants us, we desperately need God but don't really want Him most of the time. He treasures us and anticipates our departure from this earth to be with Him-and we wonder, indifferently, how much we have to do for Him to get by.” 
- Francis Chan

Today I was walking around the mall, when I was just hit with the realization of how much I desperately need God.

Of course it would be at the mall. Seriously though.

I can't begin to describe it. I was just floored with this overwhelming desire for Him.

I don't want to go too deeply into it, but lately I have been far away from Him. There have been things going on in my life that I have been having a hard time dealing with. Let's just say this summer hasn't been at all what I expected. And I was on the verge of breaking down, actually I did breakdown but luckily God put it in my heart to call a very special friend of mine who said exactly what I needed to hear.

Sidenote: (Shelby Newcomb. You are amazing and you will never truly understand how much you helped me that night. And I appreciate that you were there to listen to me cry and pour my confusing heart out to you even though you are a working newlywed. You offered so much peace and understanding. You have such a special gift . Seriously.)

Anyways. On top of this need for Jesus, I felt my passion for ministry begin to flame again. Because I have not been as close to God as I should have been, my love for ministry and teens was slowly dying down. I just recently noticed it and to be honest it made me very anxious. Since I was fifteen, I knew that I wanted to work in youth ministry, and to have that desire be hidden because of all the junk in my life? Well let's just say that I definitely have woken up from my haze.

Right now, I am restless. Restless because I just want to dive into ministry. I just want to work at a church, and be surrounded by a strong fellowship of believers. However, with the restlessness also comes frustration. Frustration at myself. I have let fear hold me back from doing so much. Even this morning (well also with the added lack of sleep) I let fear dictate my decisions. Enough is enough.

I don't want to live my whole life being rooted in fear.

It's funny because I always felt like God created me with too much passion. I think that's part of the reason why I often times feel so restless. I have so many desires and things I want to do and help out, that I can easily become impatient and frustrated.

I lost that passion for a little while. I lost it because I got wrapped up in my problems and myself. I got wrapped up in self-pity because of how alone I felt. But I've come to realize that although my circumstances aren't what I pictured, I have the ability to let my desires become a reality. It just requires me to take a determined step out of my comfort zone.

Of course, everything is not beautifully perfect right now. I am still dealing with the feeling of being lonely and desiring that connection of fellowship. I'm still worried about my poor baby Gremlin (car) and struggling with the need to be perfect for Jesus and trying to accept that He does indeed love me. But I feel more hopeful now. And I'm finally taking some action in my life.

I feel like I'm on the road to fully experiencing and knowing joy, not superficial-fading-away-happiness-that goes away...no, I mean true joy.