Monday, April 26, 2010

I Can Have My Own Thoughts, Can't I?

There is one good thing about having your own thoughts – well, if you can remember what they are! For over 10 years now, I have been contemplating church. Until then, I accepted church at face value. Whatever you think church is I am talking about my biblical perceptions. I have studied and thought about all kinds of worships styles, models, teachings, and moves of God from the Charismatic Renewal of the late 70’s to the more recent and short lived Lakeland Revival.

Have you said to yourself, “this is what’s wrong with church?” Followed by a thought or an idea that you felt would make things better and more spiritual? I know I have. I have been teaching and blogging about it for years. I suppose that many of my ideas and insights are not new, but bear with me for a bit.

I recently was talking to the elder of a church I visit from time to time. He told me that I should check out some of the books by Frank Viola. I didn’t buy any – sorry Frank. But I did go and read some of the reviews online. Any good church guy is going to stir up some stuff with new ideas. Isn’t that what Jesus would do?

Apparently Frank is not to hip on the institutional church and doesn’t care for a “hierarchical” leadership model.  In some respects, I am with him.
Listen, I didn’t read his books, and I am not going to review his books. I like having my own thoughts, even if they are a little off base, not opinions polluted with others thoughts. I want to hear from God, not from Frank Viola. In many ways, I am not into institutions or single leader controlled churches. But who cares what I think about that. What God thinks is really what matters. What I identified with in some of Viola’s quotes is that he was bored with church. Can I get a few sleeping teenagers to take out their iPod ear-buds and stop texting long enough to say “Amen!”

I an see this blog getting rather long – so let me get right to the points I’d like to make, and then I can follow them up with more detail.

-1 Church is boring, are we going to blame that on God?
-2 A lot of folks don’t feel valued in church for a variety of reasons. Relationship is the “big one” along with having a gift that is not recognized.
-3 I believe that everyone should be passionate and excited about church.
-4 Leadership models tend to focus on the pulpit, not on reaching the lost, making disciples and releasing ministers to follow God and make things happen in the Kingdom.
-5 Accountable, deep and meaningful relationships are few and far between.
-6 Regardless of what size a Christian gathering (meeting or service) is,  can we use some of the guidelines from 1 Corinthians 14? (basically to bring something from Heaven to His people.)
-7 (is such a spiritual number – I like it.) As Nicodemus asked Jesus, what must I do to have church like God wants it?

If you read the table of contents in Viola’s books, he and I think a lot a like. I can’t say that we agree on the solutions – but the fact that someone is addressing the issue of the passionless church is very refreshing.

I hope get deeper into these seven issues over the next few blogs, but I think this a good time to discuss a few root causes for the problems – well, in my estimation.

To get to a place where the church is without passion and love, we must have missed something (read that sinned!), wouldn’t you agree? I mean if it is working, why fix it? Here are a few thoughts for you to ponder with me.

-1 It seems that the love of the church has grown cold. I see less affection, less hanging out, and more of the ships-passing-in-the-night scenario than ever before. We’re too busy.
-2 It seems that folks in church are not desperate for much these days – save healing from a deadly illness. We have health care, money (or we file bankruptcy), cars, TVs and in return for 40+ hours a week, we still live paycheck to paycheck. We’re too self sufficient.
-3 Church folks seem to be easily left out, judged, and sad to say, even ridiculed – and all that, causes offenses that can become deep roots of bitterness. We are too selfish.
-4 Barna says that somewhere around 70 to 80% of professing Christians do NOT see the Bible as the only authority on the issues of morality. I think we’re getting a little arrogant too.

Before we can fix any real problems, we need to cut off the roots.
What can we do if the love of the church has grown cold?  At the very least we need to turn our calendars over to the Lord. I know that busy-ness has become a way of life. For years I have had negotiate real 40 hour weeks where I didn’t have to sit around for a 1 hour lunch. I arranged my hours to work from home, or drive during non-rush hour times. I did my 8 hours and ate a sandwich on my break.

I recently lost the battle to the 9 hour-a-day plus commuting schedule. Now I am busy too. I make time to get a 20 minute cup of coffee with my wife before the shower/traffic/parking garage waltz. When I get home I’m tired, need to unwind a little and get a dinner with my family. Then I try to spend some time with my little one, and whatever 20-something happens to be in the vicinity. My wife and I try to get some time to talk before bed, and have a date night once a week.

Busy is easy to do – and it is hard to make time for Christian fellowship.

Amazingly we are such a rich nation with many so entitlements that we need little from God. Sure, there are poor folks, but nothing like some other countries. But that is another story. Most of our citizens have shelter, have food, and  a large percentage even own homes, cars and TV – the basics of American living. So, why would we need God? Oh yeah, that cancer scare, the unemployment line, something big – that’s when Americans seem to need God the most. 9/11, lots of folks got back on church on 9/12.

In the dysfunctional church, we seem to have produced a generation of offenders and victims. There are problems with the hierarchy of control, management, pastoring - whatever you want to call it. There is a better way, but it takes digging deep into the word of God for answers and revelation. More on that later.

And finally, if the word of God is not the final authority, then honestly, how can we call our selves biblical Christians. I suppose I can call myself anything I want to, but if what I am does not match up with the biblical description, am I really that which I have called myself?

How about you, do you think the church is passionless for the most part?

Stay tuned for 7 radical answers fresh from the mind of yours truly.

9 comments:

Tracy said...

Adore your photo here.

Yes, I think as a whole, the church in America is without passion.

We see less and less of the 18-30 yr old age group in most churches across the country, and we have to ask why. I have heard so much about being seeker-friendly and ways to grow a church that have, for me, made the body of Christ in a specific location feel like a business that is being advertised. I repeatedly see a trend where church is almost like going to a concert or movie for church goers and I watch these folks hop from one church to another in search of a better show. I've also read statements from plenty of mainstream denominations that sound like the Bible is not seen as authoritative.

Having said that, I can also say that I'm grateful for the specific local church to which I belong. It's absolutely not perfect, and there are plenty of attenders who are most likely lacking in passion. But each Sunday I get to come together with other Believers and think about how awesome God is, to sing songs of praise, adoration, & thanksgiving to Him and to listen to the Bible being preached in ways that encourage my heart, convict me in areas of my life where I need to change, and fortify me in my faith. I get to facilitate some small groups during the week in which awesome people take part and my life is greatly enhanced because of these relationships. Through this local church I'm able to connect and reach out into our community. I have been here the 3yrs since I moved into this area and I'm starting to make friends here in this group; there are people that I sincerely feel warm toward and care about and can tell they like me, friendships are beginning to bud.

So I guess I'm saying that I can relate to the struggles with church and the need to look at ways to improve. At the same time, for me personally, it's still the best gig around.

Nicodemus at Nite said...

I've been thinking about this the past year. Especially since I was so controlling when we moved I quickly made our family join an Independent Baptist church (why? because I grew up baptist). I should have been a better leader of the home and prayed with my family about it. This church is definitely not where we need to be.

Having said that and seeing how church is, I have to say that church today is like Boy Scouts for grown ups. You go, killing time doing stuff, patting yourself on the back for doing good things, meeting up with people and eating food occasionally.

Plus, we are mimicking Farhenheit 451, shutting the doors so nothing gets out and nothing gets in. We sit so comfy in the church pew to help a lost world and we don't like it when a sinner comes in and we want to change and control them and scare them into accepting Jesus as Lord.
I like what Louie Giglio did one time, he showed all these clips of people standing outside stores waiting for the xbox360 and said they're giving all their glory to Bill Gates. What about the church? Are people standing outside our church doors to give their glory to God?

You talked about Nicodemus's conversation with Jesus, I remember Nicodemus was stuck in the old routine of thinking about God and Jesus said, "The wind goes where it goes, and you don't know where it comes from or where it's going. That's how it is with a person born of the spirit." That must have blew Nicodemus's mind.

I've dealt with controlling pastors in the past and that's a big no no. We always talk about letting the spirit guide us yet we want to control everything. I know if I told this to some of the pastors I know, they wouldn't agree at all or even want to have a discussion.

I remember someone said, "They follow rules made by man."

BTW, if you want to win the book "O Me of Little Faith" by Jason Boyett. Visit my blog for a book giveaway.
http://nicodemusatnite.blogspot.com/2010/04/1st-book-giveaway.html

GCT said...

"And finally, if the word of God is not the final authority, then honestly, how can we call our selves biblical Christians. I suppose I can call myself anything I want to, but if what I am does not match up with the biblical description, am I really that which I have called myself?"

Then you best start hating you some gays, right?

OK, that was in jest, but the point is one that we never seem to get around. Every single believer has a different idea of what the word of god is and what it means. Do you really think that some Xians believe they don't follow the word of god when they are interpreting the Bible? Yet, ya'll come to completely different ideas about what passages mean, etc. So, how can you know that your interpretation of the word of god is right while those who disagree with you are wrong. IOW, maybe you are not actually a Biblical Xian, while those who disagree with you may be the true Biblical Xians.

David said...

@GCT - Well, someone decided to make the word yes man yes, and the no mean no. Some how we have decided the light is good and darkness although needed would easily kill us off.

Biblical Christianity list the "fruit" of the spirit. Hating is not one of them. A lot of folks call themselves Christians, many have no desire to live out the word of God. As stated, somewhere n the vicinity of 70 - 80% do not see the Bible as THE authority on moral behavior. Unless they do, then technically they are not biblical Christians.

GCT said...

"Some how we have decided the light is good and darkness although needed would easily kill us off."

I don't agree that darkness is "needed," especially if god is omnimax.

"Biblical Christianity list the "fruit" of the spirit. Hating is not one of them."

Again, the "fruit of the spirit" seems to be a rather subjective measure.

"A lot of folks call themselves Christians, many have no desire to live out the word of God. As stated, somewhere n the vicinity of 70 - 80% do not see the Bible as THE authority on moral behavior. Unless they do, then technically they are not biblical Christians."

As stated by whom and using what citations/statistics, etc? I'd agree that most Xians probably don't agree with your interpretations, but that doesn't mean that they don't feel that they use the Bible as their moral guide or believe in the holy words in the pages therein. That's what you don't seem to want to grapple with.

David said...

@GCT - it was a George Barna survey that I read within the last year. I don't have time to look it up now, but I will.

The fruit of the spirit and lack there of is listed below. If someone does not display any of this fruit on a consistent basis, you have your answer.

Galatians 5:19-23 (NIV)

19The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

This is what God judges Christians on. (Not requires for salvation) and you should too.

The Bible as a moral guide should make a sinning Christian repent. The reason for the lists of moral codes is to make it clear what a Christian should be doing.

I do not want to make salvation sound like something we achieve by trying to be good, or even doing all the right things for the wrong reasons. I also want to point out the Christian, even the serious and passionate ones make mistakes - the difference is when sin is a way of life.

True Christianity is knowing God, knowing the rules and using the poser of Christ to obey them not because we have to, but because we love him and want to.

If you have ever tried to please someone you love, that should be the modus operandi of the true Christian. But just "doing the rules" to be good without knowing God is futile.

David said...

Here is the Barna Link see Importance of Doctrine 61%.

http://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:K2tyF_ZrnVYJ:www.bobyoungresources.com/articles/barna_default-religion.pdf+barna+%2B+bible+is+their+%22moral+guide%22&hl=en&gl=us&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESgMb-qvgqnBuySF3iMbpFfJbcDF6kaOa5-s5Pi80SNlWMavaUXBJmb3HH3TvnTjlobjEgZOrn5m2C80pl1hWJpSwfsi4Tx0eUUxlIC-gNJXHmkU4o-yzrNkKOuntx9aW_B00Bxo&sig=AHIEtbRkqz2BCRDGxDuswFYDue_OL2jR7g

Tony C said...

This series is going to be good...

(Picture freaks me out dude)

I'll post more about love at the series end.

GCT said...

David,
I would be careful with those Barna surveys. I couldn't open the specific link you provided, but doing some searching I found a survey they did on whether people have a "Biblical worldview." I found the methodology to be somewhat lacking, in that they defined a very narrow interpretation of what it means to have a Biblical worldview and then asked if people believed in their specific dogma - proclaiming that those who don't therefore don't have a "Biblical worldview." I trust that you can see the problems with that.

"The fruit of the spirit and lack there of is listed below. If someone does not display any of this fruit on a consistent basis, you have your answer."

Again, this leaves me thinking that it's rather subjective, is it not?

"This is what God judges Christians on. (Not requires for salvation) and you should too."

Since all are found deserving of hell, I don't think we should use god's judgements as definitive of what a Xian is or else no one would be a true Xian.

"True Christianity is knowing God, knowing the rules and using the poser of Christ to obey them not because we have to, but because we love him and want to."

It's good that you are trying to define your terms (i.e. True Xianity) but the definitions are still vague and subjective. Fred Phelps rails against gays because he's motivated to follow god and because he wants to warn all of us to turn away from sinful nature (check your own list). How can we determine whether he is really following the spirit or not? The list you gave could easily be applied to him based on interpretation. When we are left with such vague interpretations and definitions, it makes it virtually impossible for anyone to agree on what really is the proscribed actions/thoughts of true Xians, how one can tell who is or is not, or even if you yourself are a true Xian (for all you know, you may think you are but are really not because your personal biases and interpretations are wrong).

Related Posts with Thumbnails