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Archive for December, 2009

A dear woman from our church is dying.  She has leukemia and has fought with every medical treatment possible.  About a year ago things looked bad.  They thought she was going to be dead before Mother’s Day, but she rebounded.  God blessed her with time, and she had ups and downs for months.  Little by little hope would grow for her life to be cancer free…but that hope is now dashed.  Tests show cancer is back, so now she’s living the long goodbye.  She has been an example of faith in the midst of trial, illness, and death on the door.  Her family, especially her husband, has been beaten but has always turned to Christ.  The church has been circling round this family, serving and praying.  They have been strengthened in weakness, and their faith is not broken no matter the terrible circumstances.  This time is no different, this news has not changed things.  Yes, this mommy is dying.  Yes this family is in pain, and they want to beg God for a miracle.  However, they are taking God’s will and are hoping to glorify God in life and in death.  It’s a hard thing to do, but so much grace comes from this life end testimony.  This mother, wife, and friend of many points to Christ.  She doesn’t try to be some sort of strong witness, she just turns to Christ.  The husband, daddy, and friend of many points also to Christ.  He leans on Christ and His church.  He begs for prayer, he also always says, “but God’s will be done.”   This little family just wants to walk in God’s will no matter the cost.

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I recieved this very good question and thought I would open it up to get some answers from people more experienced than I. 

“My question to you is…When we talk to friends about the situation with seeker sens/emergent etc….ie Rick warren etc. we are constantly told that we shouldn’t be bashing ministries that God is blessing. How can I argue with that?? What should be my answer???

Hope someone out there can answer this for me??”

My answer simply is that numbers in the pews (or whatever) and activity in a church is not proof of salvation.  Even acts of service is not proof of salvation.   A blessed ministry can have many attenders, or it can have very few.  A church may also not be blessed and can still be doing the right thing.  What about all those who followed God with faith in the past who experienced no growth, no following, and who were persecuted and tested?  What about Job…no blessing at one point in his life, in fact curses upon curses.  You just don’t know God’s will.  Your church may be full of people out there rebuilding their community.  How is that different than the local political action group who is out there getting jobs for people and feeding the hungry?  You know, if you offer free stuff people will come.  Will their hearts be changed?  Depends on if you are offering the message correctly, depends on if there is faith and if God is in it.  We don’t know God is in it because things look good (though as Christians we’re often guilty of making those claims).

Okay, I’m rambling a bit.  Anyone out there with a more coherant response to this one?

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With all that is happening in my sweet America, it’s time to remember what really matters.  Jesus came as a gift to save sinners and God is in control.  He knows the past, present, and future and I am so glad. 

Even though the date we celebrate the birth of Christ is not likely his actual anniversary of birth, I still love to commemorate his birthday with a cake.  So that’s what my children and I will do today, as well as get our house prepared for tomorrow.  I fully intend to retell the Christmas account to my family, and to focus on the gift of Christ rather than all the negative that the world gives us.

Merry Christmas to you.  Prayers for a wonderful New Year.

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I saw this as a search that landed someone on my blog.  I do think that is an excellent question.  I believe it’s there are many reasons why church is so hard.

First, sin.  Obviously, people are sinners, I am a sinner, you are a sinner, and so we’re going to be hard to deal with.  The church is going to be imperfect.  People get their agendas and their behaviors, and it is hard to deal with them.  I am hard to deal with.  Do you know how many stupid thoughts I have while sitting in church?  How many times I look at someone and think things about what they are wearing or how they talk?  I have to constantly check myself.

Church is also hard because people are confused as to why we have church.  Though I believe it’s clear we are there to worship God and edify the body, everyone has expectations beyond this.  Some of our hopes are that we’ll get all our needs met in church.  Then we sit there and don’t express those needs to anyone, and exactly how can that happen?  We have expectations for people to be our friends.  We have expectations that we’ll feel a certain way at Christmas or on any given Sunday.  We have expectations that the pastor will do someone this way or that.  We forget our fallibility and don’t always understand what’s being taught.  There are basics churches should have, some do and some don’t, and when our expectations are not reached, we can be disappointed. 

Some churches are bad, period.  This is not just your ordinary sin of each human here, it’s churches that are unhealthy and destructive.  I used tbe an RA on campus in a dorm, and we had to watch for groups that came in with cult like tendencies.  They would manipulate and shut a person off from their families.  Girls were breaking up with long time boyfriends because the boyfriend didn’t join.  They were being drilled and harrassed by the cult members, never alone.  It’s not just obvious cults though, there is abuse in church, there is twisting of scripture, power struggle, control, pastors who cheat on their wives within their congregation, and many other things that happen to erode trust.  Evil is everywhere and will find it’s way right into the church, right into pulpits. 

Waiting, it’s hard waiting.  Those of us in God’s family are still waiting for the return of Christ.  This isn’t always easy.  Sure, we have been given the bible and are told how to live.  We can love our Lord and worship Him, and we can at times feel near because of the Holy Spirit.  However, we are not physically with Jesus.  We don’t see Him with our eyes.  We have to wait.   We meet together every Sunday, and each Sunday it’s another week we have to wait.  We get accustomed to this life, and sometimes even forget we’re not made only for this life.  We get immeshed in the struggles here, and the waiting and hope is on the back burner.  It can be a faith stretcher to wait.  We can become complacent. 

Persecution, that can make church very hard.  I am in the United States, so I don’t have the real persecution of my brothers and sisters around the world.  We have a shiny building, we have cars to get us there.  We have bibles, many of us have more bibles than people in our homes.  We are free to preach from the bible as it is written here (so far).  Sure, we may get teased by media or others who don’t believe, but real persecution?  We actually have to TRY to get persecuted by protesting an abortion clinic or by doing door to door missions or maybe setting up a Christmas display in public somewhere.  However, in some countries, to be a part of a church means death.  It means abuse.  It means the government and your neighbors are watching you.  It means services can be raided and you can go to jail.  It means if you are teaching the bible as written, you can be punished for a long time. 

Yes, my friends, church is hard.  But, I’d rather have the church than try hanging alone in the world.  Why?  Because I really believe in Christ, and so do others who are in the churches I’ve attended.  We are family.  We belong together.  We have to deal with sin, and we have to work on making it better together.  If it’s right, the preaching is good, the fellowship is good, the church can be a wonderful place.  If I am willing to reach out, if I am there to worship, there to join my fellow Christians, it can be very good.

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I recently discovered a declining church in our area has looked to my former church for some sort of help.  I listened to podcasts, and the meetings were very interesting.  The direction seems to be a slow take-over by my former church.  *If* this melding happens, the small 50 member church will be under the authority of the eldership of my former church.  They will also get a new name, and no one can answer for sure who will own the paid off property from this little church.  Another issue is that this little church with it’s long history, has a Christian school that appears to be doing pretty well. 

I found a podcast of a meeting also on my former church’s site, and combining all podcasts available (for transparency), I hear a few concerns.  First, a church is down to 50 and that is deemed a failure. This is now an emergency according to both parties (actually, there’s some 3rd party involved) and because of this, the small church must be lead by the larger church.   I hear on the podcasts that the small church is going to get 3 pastors, at least one from my former church, one from outside (I think…it’s different) and the 3rd may currently be in leadership of the small church.  I am not clear on this exactly, but there is not a vote or anything really (they mentioned a vote of affirmation…).  The smaller church is likely going to get a name change, and the arrangements for the school are going to change.  One woman was very foward in asking why this little church wasn’t contacting former members who had left for help or relying and waiting on God instead of going to a big church to come in and run things.  Others have asked why my former church elders have to be in authority rather than the pastors and leadership at their site.  The leadership of the smaller church keeps mentioning (in podcast) the pastor who will be teaching there not from my former church who they like but have not met…but like him because people who have met him like him.  Uh…okay. 

Seems my former church is bringing a team over???and so is the outside pastor guy no one has met from the little church.  So, there will be familes coming in and becoming a part of the whole thing. The three parts joined are to make decisions, but of course, my former church elders are really the ones with authority.

I really feel very bad for this little church.  What say does the congregation have?  The focus is so much on outreach to the community with growth as the hoped end.  However, I only heard the word “worship” mentioned by one woman talking about how the little church has family worship.  The mention of glory to God, focus on Christ, being bible centered is not a factor.  It’s all business.  Sad.

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Well, this morning my husband has to work.  This means I alone get the kids ready for church.  My 6 year old, after we were about to get shoes on and go out the door, is telling me she’s ill and has taken out “the big bowl.”  So now, all my fancy dressed children are stuck at home with me.  We’re officially missing church.  However, I am sad.  In the early stages of switching churches, we might miss for illness, or even sleep in by accident and force ourselves to go.  We were still raw from our break with the former church, and church itself was a chore no matter how great the church.

We still do not feel relationally “plugged in” as most church lingo calls it these days.  We see people, they’re friendly, they pray.  The people we knew before we came to this church are connected and we can get in depth with them easily in converstation, but we’re not “in” yet.  Despite this, there’s enough there that missing is sad to me.  I really enjoy the messages/study from scripture.  The pastors really teach even more than preach in my opinion.  The people are friendly and though we’re not settled in, I know it will happen.  They serve and have offered though we’ve not taken them up on it yet.  It will take time, but they are surely going to become family.

So today marks an interesting moment, it’s not the social aspect drawing me…but it’s the fact that this church focuses on revealing Christ through the bible.   Every time someone stands to add membership, they say the same thing with different words.  They say this church teaches from the bible.   Most of the time they say they had been to other churches, but THIS church is different in that the pastors teach with an expository style, they do not get wrapped up in the popular but in the scriptural.  The second thing always expressed is the kindness of the people.  This is evident.  If my husband and I stand in membership, we’ll likely express the same thing.

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I have speculated, even heard tell of people on staff or in leadership who have difficulties with things going on in our former church.  (A few have visited in our new church and it’s only speculation that they may be taking a break where they can be fed, so it’s unfair to assume they are actually having a problem with the former church).   When the focus gets off of Christ and on to seeker sensitive doctrines, or maybe veers into contemplative practices, or church is on a corporate style plan rather than into the bible, there may be staff/leadership disturbed by this problem.  What are they to do? 

We suspect two staff members and maybe a few in leadership positions are unhappy with things at our former church based on a few clues.  First, support when we were starting the process of questioning.  This/these people listened in a different way.  One even addressed our issues directly (not at the church but with an organization our former church is still involved in).  Change did occur because of this person’s actions.  We believe this person is stuck.  There’s family to think of, uprooting kids.  In some cases, people in leadership are paid (a minister or some other type person like church administrator, accountant, etc) and have issues with how things are going.  They may confront elders/pastors directly or show strong support for the ordinary members who express frustration with teachings and influences being brought into the church.  This alone can be risky.

Stay or go?  People in leadership/staff positions have much to think about when the church starts to get toxic.  Should they stay and continue to provide for their family if paid by the church?    Sometimes a person who serves in children’s ministry or in adult bible study…or especially a pastor, can teach truth in a bad environment.  Though they may not intend to be “warriors” they may in fact be used to protect and train some of the sheep who find themselves seeking for some spiritual truth in a bad environment. 

Also, the staff/leader may need to confirm what is really going on before deciding to take a stand and step out.  It’s not something to be taken lightly if their role is visible in the church.  It’s easy to fall into tempation, easy to assume too much, easy to leave in a way that does not honor Christ.  There are ways to leave without causing more harm than good.  I believe each situation is unique and requires much prayer and discussion/counsel.  Some may slip quietly out the back door of the church, others may resign and make an announcement at the pulpit (especially asking for forgiveness if they were involved in introducing bad teaching initially).  It all depends on God’s will what would be best to do.

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