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Archive for July 9th, 2008

I think people would say numbers at church are good, that this might be a fruit of labor.  Also, it might be programs, yes, our church has many programs to meet the needs.  It might also be how much outreach we do.  If we’re in India, Mexico, New Orleans, Africa, and in the other regions of our local metroplex, then we’re producing good fruit.  If we have above 80% of our people in small groups, 75% of our  children who have “made decisions for Christ” and have 100% of all members baptized, this is good fruit too, right?  If we retain 90% of our youth into college, we’ve made good fruit.  All of this is supposed to measure good fruit, prove that our purpose driven thing is good (our church doesn’t have these numbers by the way, I’m making them up).  Being missional, believing in missional, having everyone march in lock step behind the wonderful pastors who read all these wonderful books, and raising our hands when we sing, this is all good right?  If we all practice spiritual disciplines and fast for 40 days, pray in silence, and practice solitude, we’ll have the good fruit of a deeper faith, deeper experience, deeper…better, my life as a Christ follower is better than your life as a Christ follower because I have taken up this author’s beliefs or this movement’s beliefs, I’ve joined the revivial/reformation/transformation…so I’m better, right?  These fruits are what we want, right?

So how come I felt unfed?  Do I need to be a “self feeder.”  Is that what Jesus wants for His followers, to be self feeders?  Though Rich Mullins spoke with Manning and did practice silence, and very well may have begun the mystic Christianity (I’m not sure how far he went into this) I keep thinking of his line, “I know that the thirsty listen, and down to the waters come…”  I’m in my church and I’m thirsty.  I’ve confessed my faith in Christ since I was about 7 years old, I’ve matured some.  Yes, I am not where I want to be, but I am no longer a baby in Christ, I do not need the foundations to be laid again, I’m past that.  However, I do need the pastor to have the foundations under his mission, under his ministry, under his words, under his purposes for our church.  Our pastor is starting with the premise that we have to fix what is wrong with our wealthy American local church.  We haven’t been doing enough, so we need to stretch.  We need to reach out, we need to give.  He even says it’s a myth we’re going to stop feeding the mature believers.  Then how come I feel so unfed there?  How come I can read for myself and feel fed, but AT church I often am trying to figure out how what the pastor says applies? 

So, if our numbers are up, or the mission is so good, how come the church is becoming divided and the mature Christians are leaving?  Some might say it’s because they are closed minded or want their own power.  Well, from what I’ve seen, those who have left have not at all been powerful.  They’ve not been unwilling to serve, or unwilling to give.  They usually leave with a statement on their lips, “I was feeling that I needed more biblical study here…” or, “my children are coming up in the youth ministry, and I don’t like the direction they are going, the focus is less on the bible than I wanted.” 

So, this is the fruit in our church…many youth going on mission trips and having the experience of their lives, many members “connected” in a small group with studies like “Walk Across the Room” by Hybells or “Five Love Languages” or some other such counseling style book.  We’ve got a church full of leaders that can easily “facilitate” a small group and pop in a DVD driven series from any number of books.  We serve in the community in really great ways, but some of them amount to just picking up trash.  We really do have some good things though like food pantry giving, or building homes.  We’ve got partnerships with churches in other areas where we help build homes and churches in those communities, this is practical and good.  But, we have many other projects we do that don’t relate to Christianity in any way.  We bring the local community in for dinner theater and carnival type activities.  At least at the carnival, there is no mention of Christ anywhere.  It sure is entertaining though. 

Galatians 5:22-23  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,  Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

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A few things are very difficult in this time as our family looks into the shift our church.  First of all, there’s the grief because ministers and people we love are buying this.  Though I did have some things bother me, and I recall having a few crystal clear moments of “what the heck is going on here” I still was walking right along with this stuff.  As I read through sermons now, it’s clear where our church is heading (we’ve really pretty much arrived).  I was just so proud of my church and what they did for those who are in need, and for the missions aspect.  I still think doing is important.  I believe a church should meet the needs of others as a body, and should try to help people in poverty or who have had a disaster.  This is a good thing.  It’s not enough though.

I now feel a burden to either teach as many as possible what I know.  I have to learn to do this appropriately, but the way I am I want to sound it from the rooftops.  I have half a mind to walk about the church and drop fliers and place books in the library.  I thought of taking the sermons in the library and putting post its inside with warnings.  I just don’t want my people to go down in error like this.  It’s so hard.

Then there’ s the realization that this is so deep in the local metro area.  Oh my, with the camps and the other churches we partner with, and the church plants, and the conferences, and the local seminaries involved, this runs deep. If it’s not Rick Warren materials it’s Dallas Willard or Brian McLaren.  So many people are following this without realizing it.

I am struggling with the idea of doing things somewhat differently.  I have to now wonder if “small groups” are a bad thing.  We’ve always been involved in Bible study groups, but these small groups the last few years have not been about the Bible but about books and DVD driven lessons with skits, and service projects, and signing a group covenant and the like.  I wonder if I’ll ever be able to trust the “small group” model again. 

I have learned how immature I am.  I let this all slip by me.  I feel terrible about that.  I have been knocked down, the wind knocked out of me.  I love these people, my kids love these people.  They cannot all be lost, right?  I mean, we are still Christians, aren’t we all?  I know in whom I have believed, but who have all these others been believing in?  I was talking with a friend, and she just cannot imagine certain staff being involved, but I say they are the most likely involved.  The kindest, most wonderful people, and I realize now they are the ones who have fallen the hardest for Dallas Willard, and probably contemplative.  Our pastors spend a great many hours reading books, going to conferences, and all the missions projects.  When are they reading the Bible?  I am sure they are reading, but when? 

We had over 100 kids “come up” at our summer VBS type event this summer.  What is going to happen to them?  What kind of food will they be fed?  What’s going to happen to my children if and when we decide to get out of this church?

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