Christianity: ur doin it wrong

Our family got back to church today for the first time in a long time. Part of me missed the community of the church. Another part of me was just plain pissed off.

What I believe about Christianity
I believe the bible. I believe it is the divinely inspired word of God. I believe the God of the Bible is my God, my heavenly Father, and that His son Jesus is the Christ, that He was sent to Earth to redeem us from sin and to allow us to fellowship with the Father in heaven after our death.

I believe that as Christians we have been given an enormous responsibility to love and serve our Lord, love and serve our brothers and sisters in Christ and to profess the gospel of our Lord Jesus to the entire world.

I believe there are rules that we have to live by and there are commands that we must obey. And I believe, at this moment, that most Christians are screwing this up.

The commandments
Pretty much everyone in any advanced nation has heard the ten commandments. Some people may have had to memorize them at one point. Some people may even know them off the top of their head.

Every Christian should know these commandments, or at the very least, know where to find them. These instructions form the basis for any Christian’s religious beliefs. But regardless of your religious background, there is a pretty good chance you have run across this list before:

  1. Have no other gods before God the Father.
  2. Do not make for yourself any idol in any form.
  3. Do not take the name of your Lord God in vain.
  4. Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy.
  5. Honor your mother and your father.
  6. Do not kill.
  7. Do not commit adultery.
  8. Do not steal.
  9. Do not bear false witness against your neighbor.
  10. Do not covet that which belongs to your neighbor.

For Christians what is required of us does not stop at these ten commandments. Jesus Himself gave us two more (Matt 22):

37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’
38 This is the first and great commandment.
39 And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

So in addition to what we were told by God the Father, we also have two more, very important, instructions given to us by our Savior Jesus. And while this post is not at all the post where I discuss love and the type of love God has called us to, it is important to understand that after loving God with everything you have, your next great instruction is to love your neighbor even as you love yourself.

The great commission
After Christ was resurrected He revealed himself to several people. At the end of the book of Mark, He again gave us a command that is often referred to as the Great Commission (Mark 16:15):

And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.”

Now the stage is set for how Christians are really supposed to live. First of all, we are to love our God with all we have. Then we are to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Then we are to go into all the world and tell everyone about the good new of the Lord Jesus. Yes, the entire world.

Christians, where you at?
One of the things that has bothered me the last few years within the Christian church is how complacent the church seems to be. I have not ever received a call from my pastor just to check on me. Now in his defense, our church is very large, so it is not necessarily practical for him to call everyone in his church. Still, there are a lot of staff members that could reach out to the congregation, yet it seems like they all wait for the member to contact them.

I have also noticed what seems like a complete lack of outreach in our church. It appears that no one wants to go out and reach out to “the lost”. Seriously, it looks like throughout the Christian church that the prevalent attitude is “if you are hurting, if you’re in need, come to the house of the Lord and be taken care of”. That is so not how Christ did things.

It also seems like we are very quick to help people in other areas, other countries, other situations while at the same time neglecting those people that are closest to us. This can be your immediate family, your extended family or even your next door neighbor. Regardless, why is it that some Christians are totally fine with traveling to Africa or India or South America to minister while passing by their neighbor’s house without ever asking how they are doing? Why does it seem like Christians just don’t care about anyone?

If we are supposed to be Christ-like it would make sense to me that there would be some localized motion in the church. Christ took the good news to the masses, but he didn’t pass by His own folks. He talked to everyone, not with judgment or anger or condemnation, but with conviction and love. He didn’t wait for people to come to Him – though they did come to Him – but rather went out and sought out those that He could love into the kingdom. And he didn’t pass people by.

I am hungry to see this type of ministry presented in the Christian church. And I am more than a little hesitant to step out to do this on my own, seeing as I am pretty sour at the church right now and I am afraid I would only minister anger and discontentment if I were to reach out to anyone right now.

Still, in this midst of what I see as total confusion surrounding the call on Christians, my prayer is that someday the true commission of Christ to His church will be fulfilled, that Christians will start to care about everyone, not just the sick children in Africa or the persecuted church in China or the polytheists in India. I pray that someday a Christian in my church, or even in my neighborhood, would listen to what was commanded him and actually step out, in love, and pursue his neighbor, ask me how I’m doing or if he can pray for me and actually love me, for who I am, how I am and where I am.

Christianity and the church

Since when has Christ been about getting people to church?
This morning at church my pastor showed a video he had put together as a pitch for his newest series that he is teaching. The series is about making church relevant and the pitch basically asked the question “What can we as Christians do to get those from the culture of the world… the unsaved, the student, the businessman, the Muslim (or other religion), the educated, etc … to church?”. As I sat and thought about that question for a minute the answer hit me like a ton of bibles. Stop trying to get people to church and start trying to take church to those people.

When did the focus of the gospel become about getting people to church? I understand the concept… get people to church where they can be fed, be led and be released into ministry. But even in that I am left wondering where the commandment was that Christ gave us to get people into a building.

If a church, as in a building, were so important don’t you think there would have been mention of the synagogue Christ attended in the bible? Or any temple for that matter? The Word does mention they attended, but the importance of the building seems to wane right there.

There is no mention of a specific synagogue or specific temple, and I think that this is because the church, as it is referred to in the bible is not about a building but about the community of believers that are inspired by the Word of God. When Paul wrote letters to the church at Ephesus, Corinth, Phillipi, etc, he wasn’t writing to the members of the First Assembly of God in Christ in that city, or the First Presbyterian Church in that city. No, he was writing to the body of Christ in that city, the community of believers that were gathered there. Somehow church has moved away from being the community of believers it used to be to now being a building where you can worship, pray, cry, hug and do all the things one does when they are “in church”.

I am not part of the Christian church because on Sundays and Wednesdays I go to Jubilee Christian Center. I attend that church, but I am a Christian, a member of the Christian community, the collective body that calls itself by the name of the Son of God. I don’t need a building to tell me that I am Christian. And neither do new believers.

In our zeal and zest to win souls for Christ I think us Christians are losing the breadth of the greatest commandments we were given by Christ: Love God, love your neighbors, love yourself, preach the gospel.

Why should we have to convince anyone of the love of God?
When is the last time someone had to convince you to go to the grocery store to get food so you and your family could eat? It seems stupid to even ask that question. We already know that if we need to get something to feed ourselves we go to where the supply is and get some.

Yet we as Christians are constantly trying to convince people that they need to stop living the way they are living and they need to go to church so they can be saved. Or we constantly try to get people to attend a church service with the hope or prayer that by attending that one service they will miraculously and immediately give their hearts to God and become a Christian. If we preach the gospel, the good news of our Lord Jesus Christ, why would there be a need for convincing? It is the good news.

If someone is hungry spiritually they will find food. If they are yearning for love, real love, they will seek it out and eventually they will find it. They don’t need to be convinced that they need love or that they are hungry. They just need to be shown where the source of the supply is.

Imagine if a Christian actually did what Christ commanded and loved someone, regardless of their skin color, political affiliation, sexual orientation, lifestyle, age or cultural heritage. What could happen if we showed someone the love of Christ? And if they see it, and get hungrier for the blessings of God, what are the chances that they will seek a source of replenishment? Do you think you would need to convince them to go to the store to get the resource they’d need to be fed?

Yet we push on people as though they are some number, some statistic that would look good on a sheet of paper as we stand before the gates of heaven and the Judgment of God. “Look Father, I saved this many souls. See?”. Why do I see God looking on that and responding with “And how many of them did you love without cause, as I have commanded you?”.

Where is all this coming from?
I am really not sure why I have such an issue right now with Christianity as usual. I am just getting more and more turned off by how much of the bible we expect everyone else to learn while we choose to live outside of that covering. We are children of the most high. He is not only our God, he is our Father and our King. We don’t need to convince anyone they are royalty. We only need to show them that they are loved by the King like we are loved.

But in order to do that we need to come to grips with the fact that that we are loved. And not for our works or souls won or church days attended or offerings given. We are loved because it pleases God to love His creation. He wants fellowship with us and wants us to bask in the love and mercy and grace and abundance and blessing that only He can give.

God’s love is so much bigger than any person can imagine, it is bigger than words and bigger than anything we could ever even dream. But no one who doesn’t know this will ever learn this if we, His chosen generation, continue to focus on putting a warm body in a chair while we completely forget to show them what love is, and specifically what God’s love is all about.

It is my hope and prayer and desire to learn what it means to be loved by God. I struggle with this as much as the next guy. I know I am loved, but I sometimes wonder if the wretched person I am can separate me from that love. A part of me still wonders if God can really love a person like me. Most of me knows, however, that He loves me more than anything else in the world. I am the apple of His eye and He would willingly die for me.

In fact, He proved that He would on Calvary. Now if I could only wrap my head around how to show others that the same love God has for me he has for all I would so be able to put some feet to this disdain I have with “winning souls” and get to the business of loving my neighbor.

When Christians go crazy

This morning at church my pastor told us of a story about a pastor in Illinois that was shot dead in front of his entire congregation this morning. Very little news was offered about this at the time but more information surfaced later that has brought about a little more information:

Investigators have charged a 27-year-old man with first-degree murder in the shooting of a pastor at a church in Maryville, Illinois, authorities said Monday.

Fred Winters, the pastor of the First Baptist Church, was shot and killed during an 8 a.m. service Sunday, and the attacker and two members of the congregation suffered knife wounds in the attack, authorities said.

Incidents like these are very difficult for me to wrap my mind around. I know that times get tough. I know some people have mental issues which would make something like this make sense to them. But I still get so flabbergasted by things like this because they make absolutely no sense to me at all.

Truth is I don’t want to understand this. My heart goes out to the minister’s family, those that were hurt directly by the incident and those that were affected both directly and indirectly by the incident. For those Christians out there that might be reading this, this is not a call to hole yourself up in your home and stop going to church. This is indeed an opportunity for you to put your faith into practice and step boldly into the throneroom of you God. Fear cannot be allowed to take hold of anyone in this.

I would ask that you join me in praying for that church, the pastor’s family, the suspect, his family and everyone else that this has hit.

I do not like your Christians

Mohandas Ghandi is quoted as saying:

I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.

westboro baptist church and gandhiThis statement makes a lot of sense to me given the nature of the Christian church today. We have blown it so bad as a religious group that many people have no idea who Christ is because his ambassadors are so tore up.

But the most ironic part of Ghandi’s quote about Christians is that he made it some time before 1948, when he died. That means that in the last sixty years we, as Christians, have really not changed much. Please understand that this is not meant to be a blanket statement covering all Christians. Every religion has its wierdos and freaks. Christianity surely does. But isn’t it somewhat beneficial for the religious group to at least try to make its image a bit more, well, in line with its ideals?

Something I have noticed lately, even from the pulpit at times, is that in an effort to be a strong Christian we have sort of lost site of the fact that Christianity is about taking the message of the cross to all the world. We are not supposed to be bringing a message of stupidity to those we feel are in need of our salvation the most. We are not supposed to try to save the saved. The message is simple and unchanged: Love.

Love is the primary commandment of Christ. When Christians become judgemental fools the only message that is taken to anyone is foolishness. We cannot embody the image of love if we are broadcasting that we cannot love. And I am not talking about toleration, but true love, the love that can look right past the outwards appearance of sin (to a Christian) and look right into the heart of the person.

I think when Christian begin to learn that there is a heart in everyone regardless of the actions of that person Christians will begin to understand how it is God loved humanity enough to send His Son to die for all of mankind.

We’re off to see the wizard!

A few weeks ago Sarah and Adriannah got invited to an Ohlone College performance of The Wizard of Oz as part of their drama team from church. This was something that they have looked forward to for a while now and I was glad they got to do something as part of their teamwork with the drama team.

Unfortunately Sarah has not been feeling well the last few days so she was not able to attend. But Rebekah, being the team player that she is, took her sister’s place and attended the performance for her. What a sport.

So late Saturday night Rebekah and Adriannah had the privilege of going to see the Wizard of Oz featuring Callie Garrett as Dorothy. They not only got to see the performance but hang out backstage afterward and meet the cast, get autographs and generally have a blockbuster of a night with their friends and the cast of the play. Adriannah loved it. Bekah did too.

My heart has to go out to Sarah though, who was really looking forward to going and who couldn’t go because she was sick. I hope she gets to attend something at some point to redeem this event. It meant a lot to her and it saddened me that she was sad because she couldn’t go.

But thanks to the Jubilee Christian Center Drama Team leadership the kids were able to experience something that not a lot of kids get to do. And they enjoyed it. And I enjoyed putting my three remaining kids to bed, one each in their own room, without a lot of fuss. I so need more nights like that.