This week has been intense... job hunting, kids, cars, graduations... I have also had some back-and-forth about "the church" with some of my blog readers. We've discussed the fact that many folks are disenfranchised regarding church, and leadership simply blames it on the world's influence. They say, "We are a fast food society and we want church the same way." "We are too busy." "I can't fit in anything else."
I just want to know why? It is not biblical to be too busy for God, or His people.
Romans 12:2 "Don't let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold." Phillips
For those of us living in first world countries, we are all working hard; usually both parents in a family, just to have a house, a couple of cars, and a few creature comforts. Some are working seven days a week and not taking a Sabbath. Now I am not saying that the Sabbath is a particular day, but it is a day of rest; a day OFF! It is one of the 10 commandments, right up there with adultery, murder, and not honoring God. Are you a 9 commandment Christian?
Honestly; most of us church folk spend so much time making ends meet, that we don't even know where the ends are anymore. The evidence of this is the amount of medicated depression in the church. Sure, there are some that are truly mentally ill, but there many more that do not want to stop and rest, and let God minister to them.
I want to know why? Isn't church supposed to be a healing place? A place of peace?
So many times we have a goal, an image, or dream that we pursue. I know I have. I wanted to have a whiz-bang car, a college degree, or a home in a certain place. For us first-world-ers, these are pretty normal aspirations. In many parts of Africa, South America, and even remote areas of China, they are not. (By the way, the church in those areas is seeing some amazing miracles, healings, and it is growing in size and number every day.)
For some, they are not really concerned if the church is doing anything outside of their world. It is enough to make it through the day. Worldviews can be very insulating. For instance, where I live, there are software engineers living in $400,000 homes, that are on food stamps due to unemployment. I hear that it is worse in California.
The downturn in the economy has brought many Christians to a tough place. There are lots of Bible verses about how God will take care of us, read Matthew chapter 6. But be honest with yourself, is your current need an opportunity for God to show you a blessing, or get you to see His plan for your life? Do you really need a miracle, or do you need to change what you are doing?
A few years ago, I lived in a beautiful coastal area of the US. After 21 years there, I was out of work and so was my wife. I wanted to stay, apparently squeezed into a lifestyle, that at times challenging, seemed to melt away as I walked the pristine North Atlantic beaches and rollerblade-ed along the canal. As I considered a real job in the big city of Boston, I was torn. After all, I had been working or looking for work for three years. God was after a change, and this was an opportunity to take the test again-- in hopes that I would do better.
Life in the city has been more stressful, from traffic to expectations at work, to finding something in the aisles of a gigantic grocery store -- crazy. However; in some areas I have made progress. It is tough to stop and make time for God, His people, my family, and manage all the regular stuff. The pressure to be molded is significant. Sometimes I fail.
As we look at the lack of meaningful Christian relationships, the steady decline in church attendance, and the exodus of young people; those that have grown up in the church, deciding to change religions, there is a problem that Houston can't help with.
I have looked at the handful of "hot spots" in the US where the church is growing, and it comes down to a few basic Biblical principals.
- Apostolic leadership with vision for the whole church to become involved; every member made to feel significant, gifted and free to be themselves. (Ephesian 4)
- Service to the community - the poor, those in prison, the sick, the widows, the disabled, and outreaches to those caught up in the American Dream, turned Nightmare.
- The gifts being taught, trained and mentored.
- And finally, a strong emphasis on relationship.
Yes, we need prayer, teaching, and church attendance, but without the above, we are just going through the motions.
I want to know why?