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.

How sweet the sound

My sister-in-law, Katie, is a member of the choir at my church, Jubilee Christian Center. Our choir recently competed in, and won, the regional competition for the Verizon Wireless How Sweet the Sound competition, a competition that serves to find the best church choir in America.

In recognition of the Jubilee choir’s win, the entire choir, all 100+ members, were flown to Atlanta Georgia to compete in the national finale. So tonight I took my family to church to watch the finale. And boy was it awesome.

Verizon Wireless is a class act. I have to say this ahead of everything because the came to our church, set up a satellite and broadcast the entire event on a very large screen television that they brought. They also brought coffee, juice, tea, water and a host of appetizers and deserts. They also brought the staff to prepare these treats so that those watching the finale could be about the business of watching the finale rather than serving food and drinks. Way to go Verizon. I am impressed.

Now on to the goods. We got to church just in time to see our church perform first. I thought at first that this was a good thing but the more I think about it the more I realize that a church that performs toward the end of a two and half hour long competition has a much better chance of being remembered than does the church that started the whole thing off.

I thought because our church did not win. The top two churches actually performed in the last three routines. And while I thought both of these church choirs were good, I did not think the runner up had the vocals, the management or the sounds that our choir did. I had our choir squarely in the top four. The runner up was my number five. In the end though it didn’t matter what my list looked like. It was all on the judges. And they cast their votes.

Overall our choir kicked some serious butt. To see that many people of that many varying backgrounds on stage, singing together, with an African American choir director and a Philippine choir leader was amazing. Just the diversity alone was something to behold. Not to mention they sang their butts off. And they did this at the end of the week of Thunder in the Bay. That is truly a testament to their resolve to perform and perform well.

So to my choir I have to tell you congratulations for doing so well and for representing Jubilee Christian Center the way you did. It was awesome. And next year you will knock them out of the park.

Finally we were able to get back to church

Yesterday I was able to take about 5/7 of my family to church with me. 🙂

What that means is that we were finally able to get back to Sunday morning church after about a 6 week absence because of head lice that never seemed to go away. With the exception of my daughter Alaynah all of my children were able to go with me. And as much I as I hate going to church alone it was a good time.

The kids were able to spend some time with their friends that they really haven’t seen in a while and I was able to actually worship and learn a bit. I felt almost like the prodigal running back to daddy after being in the wild for a time. I know it wasn’t that bad, but it was pretty long for me.

The rest of the day afterward was a pretty big blur. We hit up Costco, came home and put some food together for eating, I cooked and cleaned then it was bedtime so I worked. But I think what made yesterday bearable for me was that it started out right. I like being able to go to church on a Sunday morning.

Now if I could just figure out this waking up alone thing I will be golden.

How to be lonely even though you are married

Most anyone that knows me knows that I go to church. I am there on Sundays with the family and I am there Wednesdays with at least Sarah and Adrianna (drama team meets on Wednesday). And I am usually pretty happy about going.

Recently though I have noticed a growing dissatisfaction with attending church. Please don’t misunderstand me. It has nothing to do with the church. It has everything to do with the fact that I am going to church, for the most part, alone.

I have been married for 13 years now. And it has only been lately that I have been doing things pretty much in a single fashion. By single, I mean as a person who is not espoused in any way may be.

I go to church by myself and sit alone on Wednesdays. On Sundays I usually sit with my sister-in-law Katie. It is getting to a point now where folks think Katie and I are married.

I go to the grocery store with all my kids. I take them to dinner. I take them for walks. I take them to the park. And mom, because of her physical condition at the moment, is nowhere to be found.

I know this sounds a bit like I am whining. If it comes across that way to you, so be it. Maybe I am. I am married and have been for 13 frickin’ years. I should be living a single man’s lifestyle. But I digress…

I love my children and being able to spend time with them means the world to me. But I love my wife too and being able to spend time with her means more than anything to me. I just wish I could spend more time with her and less time taking care of the things that need taking care of (because that necessarily means less time with her AND the kids).

I am happy though. At least she is alive and my kids are healthy. And I have enough energy to still have fun with my children.

Like today for example, I took all five kids for a walk to 7-11 to go get slushies. Since Sandi was out at a birthday party for a friend of hers I had all the children and no stroller (seeing as it was in the Suburban and Sandi took that).

So I got the kids dressed warm enough for a walk and we hit the streets. Even my two year old was walking. We made the (normally 15 minute) walk to 7-11 in about 25 minutes where we grabbed a small colony of slushies and a bag of Doritos (it has to be chips… it is normally Funyons, but it has to be something in a bag). We then hit the sidewalk outside 7-11 like a family of vagrants that were asking for money and we sat and communed and had drinks and made merry with our family.

The kids scarfing down slushies and Doritos

After this little pit stop we walked home together, taking a slight detour along the way. We got home and the kids lazed on the couch for a bit. Aaron fell asleep H-A-R-D and we just chilled until mom came home.

And therein lies my one issue with the day. Mom was not with us. I was, again, feeling like a single father out for the day with his kids.

I had a great time. I just wish these types of things could included mom more. And I especially wish that she would at least be able to attend church with me.

Until then however, Katie and I will continue to chuckle as more and more people either confuse her with Sandi or think that she and I are married.