Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Church By Any Other Name...

I know I can be a bit naive occasionally, I realize that sometimes I can have a pie in the sky way of looking at things, that I can see the world through so called rose colored glasses, but sometimes I am honestly perplexed by a those of us who categorize ourselves as Christ followers, born again believers, and Christians. Yes, that means I am sometimes disappointed in myself too.

Most recently my confusion has been over some comments being directed towards "Church at the Joe" (Monday night services beginning Nov 7th at the Cotton Eyed Joe).
What began as a vision by one man quickly caught fire. Feeling it was God led, the churches leadership and Pastor that are hosting it moved forward with God opening doors only He could.
"Church at the Joe" is an offering designed for the unchurched and dechurched, for people who may not feel comfortable trying a traditional church first but who are in need. It's for those seeking and needing more from this life that it can ever offer without Christ. It's for some even already purposefully seeking God and a relationship with Christ, for some who may have had a bad experience with 'the church', and for those who have a deep personal relationship with Christ but maybe don't feel like they fit in where they have visited before.

So, with so much need I'm somewhat baffled right now about a few recent comments shared by some folks that are a part of the very category mentioned in the first paragraph of this post...

*You can't have church in a bar - Jesus wouldn't dare go in a bar if He was here"
Really? What Jesus did they read about in their bible? I read about the one that went wherever He could minister to those that needed Him. And Church at the Joe is held on a night that is normally closed where no alcohol is being served. I don't get the problem.
Maybe then the issue is that 'sinners' are there normally. Why is it that we so easily forget that Christ met, had fellowship, and shared His Fathers Love in the homes and places of business of sinners. Or in other words - those despised by the Pharisees.
And don't we all sit next to sinners each day that we gather together in our comfortable chairs and pews each week, including the seat in which my own rear end resides? Maybe its just me, just my seat.

*"It's a disgrace to have a church in a building that houses a bar"
I was under the impression that the church is alive, made up of people led by those who love and follow Christ and what He is about, people willing to meet folks in need where they are. I think of the church as those who don't stand back in a comfort and wait on 'them' to come to 'us' to find 'Him'... that the church reaches out, serves, and goes, just like Christ did when He put on flesh and walked this very earth.

*The only people that go to Cotten Eyed Joe for anything just want to get drunk and hook up"
Some people just go to dance and have a good time with friends, they don't drink at all. Some of them need Jesus. And the ones that find life so difficult that they constantly turn to a substance to numb the pain or forget the day, shouldn't they have every chance to be set free with the love of Christ?
And by the way, here's a real humdinger - some people like to dance that actually know Jesus very well :)

*That's not a real church"
Oh, so a church can only be in a building with a sign out front that designates it as such. And here I was thinking that anywhere people gathered where Gods love and the Gospel of Christ is shared, and people are loved on, becomes Holy Ground.

*The Ten Commandments clearly tells us 'Sunday' is the day we worship"
Hmmm... I've yet to find a version of the bible that says that myself.
I won't even mention that most of us at least occasionally eat, gas up, shop, and get other needs met at places on Sundays that require others to work. And because of that very reason some may get to come to Church at the Joe. Oh wait, I guess I did mention it :)

Please understand that I am not trying to start a debate, a fight, in fact I am sooooo not even looking for comments. I'm simply having a hard time today with how narrow the focus, how trapped and captive by tradition, and how uncomfortable at change that we "christians" can still sometimes be.

And believe me when I say I sometimes have to battle my own hang ups as I step outside my self created box of service - I do.

And please hear me when I say that I don't think that 'anything goes' in the name of the Gospel, not at all. But what I am saying is I really had hoped that we were closer than we had been to not being our own worst enemy when it comes to sharing the message of unconditional love of Christ and fulfilling the last words He gave us while He walked among us...

Matthew 28:18-20 "Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

They have no idea how long this offering will exist - it could be very short lived, or it could grow to see thousands enter through the doors. But you see, it doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things if its God's design and desire. All that is required is faithfulness on their part to follow where He leads to reach those who desparately need Him.

So, I guess finally I have to wonder why it's okay, radically commendable, and even 'Holy' to follow God to reach into the harshest places of degradation in a third world country in the name of offering Eternal Salvation, but we have issues finding the worthiness of reaching out with love to those in our own community and inviting them to meet a Savior, just because the 4 walls within which we do it doesn't look like where most of us spend time worshipping each week?

And if we feel that way what does that say about our heart as we stand inside our comfortable traditional churches, lifting up songs of praise all the while asking God to give us His heart, to use us, and to show us His Glory?


Which Candy Am I?

Halloween is over and the race for some to get those candy mark downs are on!
And just a few days ago I saw the familiar media stories surface that do each year - what our favorite candy we buy this time of year says about our personality. Kinda fun, but supposedly because Snickers and Reeses Cups are a couple of mine, I am some strange enigma of both being a "crowd-pleaser who makes friends in every situation" and "someone who tends to be creative, private and sometimes misunderstood".
I already sometimes have enough trouble figuring out who I am on any given day without some scientist or marketing intern telling me what my sweet tooth means when it rears its ugly head!

But God did use the news story to remind me of two things.

#1 That it's all of us thrown in the big bag of life together with all our differences that makes Life sweet:
1 Cor. 12: 4-6 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.
That when the bag is opened each type of candy that is contained within will sweeten the life of someone different. And without the differences in us think of how one dimensional our effect would be on one another for His Glory - each of us has a specific purpose!

#2 That I myself am a assorted bag of candy:
James 1:17-20 All generous giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or the slightest hint of change. By his sovereign plan he gave us birth through the message of truth, that we would be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.
All that He has equipped me with at any given time, the different aspects of me, all the sides of my personality, the changes as I grow older, the sides of me that different people bring out - its all a part of how He wants me to serve. Every day I am someone slightly different than the day before so I can relate to someone new, or at least someone familiar in a whole new way!

Psalm 139:14 "I will praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are your works, and my soul knows very well."

I am to revel in my differences, in who He has made me to be!

2 Corinthians 9:8, "And God is able to make all (not just some) grace abound toward you; that you always having all sufficiency in all things may abound to every good work."

Whoever I am to wake up each day and be, He has equipped me for it. All I need to do is be faithful to arise and ask Him to help me unwrap who that is and celebrate the sweetness and wonder of it all!