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Posts Tagged ‘healthy churches’

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 have discovered others who have become disenchanted with the direction their church is headed.  Frustrations are similar,  reactions too.  Solutions vary depending on the family and situation.

One woman left a baptist church that was seeker friendly and is seeking to understand all that is Lutheran.  She desires really the companionship and servant attitude in the Baptist church, but wants the systematic theology of the Lutheran church. 

Nazarenes are struggling as their churches have been infiltrated with seeker friendly and contemplative teachings.  This is very similar to my experience in non-denominational churches.

Some have noted the youth programs in their church are more for entertainment.  There may again be service as a focus, but the fruits don’t go beyond this in changed lives.  The youth group kids from church look like every other group of kids. 

So what is the solution?  Which church will best meet the needs of a person thirsting for a focus on Christ who recognizes a need to get into the bible?  I believe that answer is much more complicated than it might appear.  Just finding a church claiming to be a “people of the book” is not enough. 

I fear a big separation that will do no one any good in the long run.  I fear we’ll have the passion in service oriented congregations.  We’ll have the connectedness of the body in small group/seeker friendly congregations, and well have serious study in churches with liturgy.  I would like to see churches who value the bible as it should be.  I then would like to see the body of Christ in service to one another out of love.  I hope churches with serious bible study would also have fellowship with one another.  I hope there will be a passion to follow and worship, and a passion to support those who go beyond the local church to give the gospel to others beyond the walls of the church. 

I still carry the fear of being duped.  I see good things in my current church.  Pastors preach well and from the text, expository style.  People are serving one another.  There is a connectedness in the body (the pastor went out of his way to walk up to us in the hallway and ask about a family member he heard had health issues…we are very new to this church and people go out of their way to make sure we feel welcomed and remembered).  There are missionaries supported.  I’m just waiting for the honeymoon phase to end.

When will a program check out as tainted by contemplative?  When will I see the compromises?  Of course, I do not expect the church to be perfect.  However, I am still cautious.  I feel for those who haven’t yet found a church to scrutinize, however. 

We’ve seen good things in this church, many good things.  It’s horrible to keep trying churches and only seeing seeker friendly, contemplative, or emergent (or a mix of everything) tainting all.  I pray for brothers and sisters who don’t get any refreshing from the pulpit.

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