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Posts Tagged ‘gospel’

Uh, it is so hard to be a Christian at times.  It’s been a long three years of learning since we began to really pay attention to problems in our former church.  Last night we had a meeting with one of the pastors from the church we currently attend.  The pastor could tell based on what we said that we have many hurts from our former church.  He said something interesting, that someone had decided to leave this church recently.  The man stated, “I am leaving here, but these are the things I have gained from this church…”  It was a disagreement, to be sure, but it was also a list of ways God had used the church to help him grow.

I do think we did experience good things in our former church.  There was fellowship with other believers, there was some good teaching (a few pastors in particular).  We did have some great times in our small group, made life long family, life long friends.  We also did learn from some people who despite the church had a habit of studying the bible.  Some lacked discernment (obviously we did and by the grace of God began to realize there were problems, how otherwise I do not know…blind I tell ya).  At any rate, we did gain things, we did grow.

However, there was false teaching there.  Most people preaching/teaching it had no intention to teach falsehood.  They had bought into it and didn’t know.  I know we all have, at times, had an uneducated concept of one thing or another about Christ or salvation etc.  I do believe there are those who just make mistakes and haven’t studied and know no better.   There are others who are deceived and despite being taught truth, they are convinced this or that teaching is the truth and is better.  There are others blinded by their own pride, their own agenda.  I think our former church was (and likely still is) filled with some true believers, some believers who are mistaken, some who are deceived.  Then it also has many who think they are believers but aren’t because the teaching has led them astray.  Then there are those who have come in and are being appeased, but are not in the faith.  Every church has some of this, but not outright deception. 

I believe our former church doesn’t just have doctrines with which people can agree to disagree, and can debate about.  I do believe there is more to it, and that is where the hurt lies.  No matter how nice the lead pastor, no matter how much you believe he has good intentions, he is teaching falsehood.  Spiritual formation as it is taught in our former church seems to be works based.  All the “seeker friendly” stuff is about filling the pews, and misses the mark when teaching the gospel.   The preachers spent too much time off message, and that is where my pain can be found.  There are people still going there, and even if they are true believers, and even if there is some growth, I cannot help but believe it is stunted.

And yet, God can use a bad thing for good.  Beauty from ashes.

So there I go again, thinking of my former church and realizing how stupid we were.  We were blind, and it hurts.  It hurts when others cannot understand things, and do not see the false teaching for what it is and challenge it.  It hurts to know their kids are in the church and are buying it all, eating it all up.  And then they wonder why they leave the church and don’t ever come back?  What are they being offered?

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I listened to a sermon by my former pastor and found it to be actually not that bad.  I could be happy that maybe he’s changing his ways, but I actually fear the flaw is more with me.  I am thinking I must not have it all down, I’m missing the wrong teaching in what he said.  Actually, it’s great if his sermon is better.  No wonder most of it was probably okay, he read the bible verse by verse and then preached on it…reading a few verses and describing the meanings.  I did have a few nit picky things I thought he could have worded differently, and depending on where he goes with it in the future, they could be problems. 

 He referenced “strangers” and “aliens” as refugees.  He kept saying that we (meaning who I’m not sure) are refugees and he prefers that though I couldn’t find the word in the text in the bible versions on bible gateway.  I guess I would prefer one from a good translation, but maybe he knows something about the Greek translation?  

He did do some illustrations he drew out, got off on a personal story…but this is minor and only bothers me because I don’t trust his teaching not because a preacher cannot share a personal story once in a while. 

Fact is, there are true things he has said in sermons in the past, there have been good things.  However, when he is off, he is usually really off.

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This is an excellent podcase from www.fightingforthefaith.com .  In this podcast, Rob Bell’s statements about what is gospel are so far off I’ve heard agnostics and atheists agree.  Mr. Bell’s gospel is so off.

http://podcast.fightingforthefaith.com/fftf/F4F072109.mp3

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My former church had a week long camp for kids with training for soccer, basketball, art, cooking, skateboarding, and dance/cheer. It was fun. It was also in place of vacation bible school.

I am not sure why this thing couldn’t have been called VBS, why they couldn’t do the same kind of thing and yet still had the focus on Christ and the bible. Yet, the church decided they would team up with a Fellowship of Christian Athletes and make it a camp-like week. The thinking is that it would be a draw for kids who had no exposure to church.

I cannot remember, but I think the cost for the week was something like $40 (I could be wrong, it might have been $25, cannot remember). Anyway, there was a cost because kids were getting instruction.

My kids did get something out of that week. My daughter still can make pizza from scratch, and rolls. She loves to cut up fruit, even pineapple and she’s a 10 year old. It was great for her to learn these things and I’m not opposed to a church teaching them.

However, when I ask what the bible lessons were for that week they cannot recall. I taught the bible section (which was a copied lesson with questions with very little scripture). I don’t recall what they taught. I know they had themes each day with a word for the day starting with D. Discipline was one word, but I cannot remember them all.

There was very little presentation of the gospel. The one time it was presented wholly, it was a variation of the bridge illustration on stage. Kids got up, said a prayer with the pastor, and that was that.

There were mini lessons that had something to do with the activity and the theme of the day, I recall a bible reading at that point. I was a group shepherd who took a small group out for a little lesson every day. I recall going through the lessons ahead of time and adapting greatly to inject the gospel back in. Sometimes the D word for the day was hard to make fit.

Fast forward a year, and my kids attended vacation bible school in our new (to us) church. They had a craft every day that had something to do with the gospel. They had verses to memorize every day. They had a story every day acted out on stage, the basis for the fun little story time was to bring the kids back round to the point that they should share the gospel. It seemed simplistic, but it wasn’t wrapped in glitz and glitter.

My kids learned their verses pretty well, and by the end of the week each one could tell me the basics. They used colors to represent the different aspects of the gospel with a verse.

All have sinned which means we all are sinner and need salvation. God so loved the world that He gave His only Son for whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. The children were taught that they sin, but the Holy Spirit can draw them to God for repentance.

They were also taught that Jesus had to die in our place for sin, that His blood (nothing but the blood of Jesus) makes the believer’s heart white as snow, cleanses the sin. They learned in this life once we are saved we grow and we learn more about God. When we die, if we are believers who have trusted in Christ by His grace and mercy, we will go to heaven.

Simple gospel message. My six year old can recite it. My three year old is starting to get some of the main points.

I asked my older kids which they liked better, the cool camp with the instruction in different skills including prizes, slick songs, and all that youth…or the simple traditional VBS. They said it was VBS. Why? Because they learned more about the gospel.

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Sometimes I feel so flat about going to church.  My former church was the feel good kind.  We’d gone there for 8 years before leaving.  It was a church with a lot of fun for our kids, a lot of contact through small groups.  We had gotten to know people there.  We were so blind to most of the issues, and though we knew people had been leaving over the years, we chalked most of that up to inconvenience. 

We live in an area with churches everywhere, so it was often true that people just left for whatever reason.  Until we heard of one specific couple who left because of the direction the church was going in…we thought our personal fears of the church were possibly just thoughts we were having…strange things we had to figure out but not real issues.  It wasn’t until we thought strongly about leaving that we began to run into people who expressed strong issues with specific things we were seeing ourselves and had left.

So now, we’re in a new church.  It’s got a lot going for it, most especially the word of God is preached from the bible itself clearly every Sunday we’ve been there so far.  This church staff and pastors recognize the problems in churches with emergent(ing) and purpose driven…etc.  This is refreshing. 

However, at this point I still feel a great distance when in church.  There are so many times when it’s a chore to get myself ready to go to church.  Once there, the message is great.  Until I’m there though, I am not looking forward to it.  I cannot put my finger on why though.

One thing I have learned in this process of leaving a church with a focus on emergent youth (even if they aren’t officially an emergent church) and going to another church is that you cannot trust your emotions.  Emotions are not faith.  Faith is something else altogether.  I do not buy that action preceeds emotion every time, and I do not believe that just by doing something you can always shape your emotions…that they will follow.  Some people are depressed no matter h0w much faith they have, and how much they pray. I was hurt by the whole process of leaving our former church.  I found out that my judgement of things was off, my view had been blocked, I had been fooled.

I even at times look back and think about how we came to seeing the issues.  It was really quick, actually.  The wool was pulled away and I saw the former shining church for what it was.  It’s not just that, but I saw that there was this network of churches.  I also saw some of my favorite things were not at all what I thought.

I used to listen to Focus on the Family daily, and other radio programs through out the week.  Finding them involved in contemplative and compromise took away my grounding and habits.  So much of what I did before was built on popular protestant trends….all not bad if the focus of these things remained on Christ and the bible. 

It was a shock to my system.  I can imagine maybe it’s like the way a woman feels if she finds out her husband is not who she’s always thought he is.  The church, and parachurch organizations who have let contemplative, emergent, purpose driven, marketing, and more enter and take over have been serving another master.  This has caused a great deal of confusion for me over the last several months.

So, the new church has a lot to overcome.  They are dealing with a woman who has been sucking off the marrow a bit on the wrong things and has been starving for it.  It’s not that I didn’t get good things from our church, or we didn’t have friendships and support when needed.  That church is right in these areas.  I think though the sacrifice of biblical teaching (not just using the bible for a means to an end) is not worth any connections and community. 

So now, I’m disconnected and emotionally not where I wish I was in the new church, in my life these days.  It’s not about emotion, it’s about Christ and following Him.  It’s about training my children in the church that is presenting the truth.  Now, I just pray for trust if this is the place for us to commit as members.  Who cares about emotions, I want the real deal….

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I remember all the altar calls in the Nazarene church when I was young and living with an aunt and uncle.  They’d have a message, they’d have the songs over and over again, people would go up to the altar as the pastor said, “just one more moment, Jesus is waiting…”  I went up many times.  I recall one time as my conversion moment.  I really do believe I did trust Christ and was saved, though I will say I’m not sure it was a moment in time so much as something the Holy Spirit did in me.  I was already a kid who believed in Jesus and had some understanding of Him and what He did as well as in my sin and how much I needed Him as my Savior.  I did pray often, did think of Christ being with me all the time.  I had a child’s understanding, and I must say my faith was strong.  I needed my faith to be this way when I was a child, I had it hard (I know many of us do…and many have it harder than I ever did).  I was shuffled from family to family, house to house.  I was abused by my aunt and uncle, and yes, wire hangers do hurt and leave welts.   Still, I believed and prayed to Jesus daily,  was convicted of my sins and frequently prayed for forgiveness.  I was pretty humble as a child as I think back.  Through moves into different households, through step parents and divorce, through it all, I knew I was saved.  So, how to share this with others?  I did get some opportunity to tell others about Christ as a teenager.  I recall speaking with a girl who was very depressed, I went with her to lunch instead of church actually.  I had been going to church in my small town and they had small bible study groups in homes before service.  She was there and had expressed some scary statements, cannot remember exactly what.  I spoke with her and prayed, I think.  I don’t know if she ever expressed faith in God, but I feel I did the right thing that day. 

In college, I was in Navigators.  I learned the bridge illustration.  Basically, you draw two sides of a canyon with a wide seperation.  Man is on one side, and God on the other (represented by the words “man” and “God.”  We were taught to use verses like, “the wages of sin is death” and those which show the seperation from God.  Then, you draw the cross as a bridge.  There are verses like John 3:16 and others showing that you must believe and receive (the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord).  You can ask the person where they are on this bridge…are they far, far away on their side of the canyone?  Have they taken any steps to being close to the bride?  Do they believe but maybe haven’t received?  Somewhere in there is an opportunity to pray, and ask forgiveness for sins. 

I tried this immediately my freshman year on a friend of mine from high school that was visiting.  I told her about heaven and hell, we talked about her place on the bridge.  I ended up scaring her to death, she thought I was in a cult, and she NEVER came back to visit me.  It wasn’t that I told her some deep truth, I gave her the fly by gospel really.  Then I pressured her. 

I don’t know how to evangelize properly, really.  My best experiences have been in just being friends with people, and writing online.  People have read my journal elsewhere and some argue and are offended, others are inspired.  I’ve had some “try” Christianity.  I have presented my life and often have written songs and scriptures I like.  I have shared experiences in miscarriage, job loss, friendship issues (without names) and church issues.  I have wrestled with topics of faith.  All of this just dumped in my online journal.  My joys with my kids, my struggles as a mom.  I try to encourage friends and other Christians in their walk.  I try to serve when I see a need.  I try to be a friend, to be a decent neighbor, and to live my life well hopefully in God’s sight though I know I fail.  I have given to missions when I felt I could. I have talked to agnostic/nominal church goers in my family about my faith, and I have taught my children as best I know how.  I know it’s likely I have still failed to do all I need to, all that I should to show I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ.  I learned bad methods to begin with, and find that some of evangelism is about how you live, some is about just being faithful to the God I love and serve, and some is about serving others with out complaint.  Much is about teaching my children well, and being ready when people ask questions or get into conversations about faith.  It’s also about being willing to make the most of the opportunities God gives.  I think it’s important to share your life with others so they can see God working in you, and it’s also important to know God’s word in scripture when talking or writing to others so His gospel can be presented accurately. 

Beyond this, I do not know anything more for me to do.  Maybe God will convict me otherwise, but for now, this is all I know.

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I asked my son if he was ever bored in our new church and he said yes.  To that I said, “good.”  Why would I say such a thing?  Because in our former church we were overstimulated with entertainment.   My son understood exactly what I was saying.  Being human, we might feel bored (in our weak bodies) when the truth is repeated to us.  We might have to stretch through and work to listen.  This is NOT a signal that the pastor is doing something wrong and needs to enterain.  If I am bored, I do not need a new and catchy song or a lazer light show.  I need the truth.  I need Christ.  I need the gospel.  If I am bored, I need to examine my heart.  I have time to think and examine my heart.  If it’s all about a theme, all about the great music to make me emotional, all about some false cause (that may sound good) then I can be distracted from truth of my condition.  At least if I’m bored, no pastor had to compromise the message.  The problem is with me and not the church.  This is NOT to say that we cannot be bored with a lie.  I know I became quite bored in a very agitated way with my church once I could see the real problems for what they are.  And I must admit now in the new church I’m actually not bored.  But if I do become bored I will not fret.  If the truth is preached, it doesn’t matter how I feel about it, I am glad to get the truth. 

Of course, what I wrote above is just my own thoughts.

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