Tag Archives: neighbors

5 Reasons I Haven’t Left The Church

One of the better blog posts I’ve read in awhile. Especially #2 & 3. A great word that I needed to hear today! Thanks, Darren!

Discipleship Ink

Its widely popular to talk about how young adults, from my generation on down, (I’m 34, ouch, that hurts to write) are leaving the church. It’s a mass exodus of immense proportions (is that redundant?). I’ve seen a lot of bloggers talking about their reasons for walking away from church, so I thought I’d share the other side of the coin: five reasons why I haven’t walked away from church.

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Home Group Leadership . . . What Could Possibly Go Wrong!

At Real Life Ministries here in North Idaho, we’re what you’d call a “disciple-making” church.  Our mission statement reads, “Reaching the world for Jesus, one person at a time.”  Our role is focused around “disciples who make disciples”.  And, though we have upwards of five services a weekend, our primary focus on the discipleship process lies within the home group setting.

We’ve got a great couple who lead our particular Wednesday night home group.  We’ve also been blessed with an amazing, rotating cast of several couples and singles who participate.  And then you have my wife and me.  We’re what you’d call the “apprentice” couple: we are the ones being directly discipled by the leadership.  We will occasionally co-lead, and we’re being groomed to branch our group at some time in the future to facilitate a group of our own.

And that thought scares the bejeebers out of me!

If it were as simple as presenting curriculum given to us by the church, following along with the sermon series of the lead pastor . . . well, that would be one thing.  But have you seen what home group leaders actually DO??

Leadership requires a certain level of responsibility.  They don’t show up late.  In fact, they’re often early in order to help the host home set up for the group.  They help set up the chairs, make the coffee, hand out the curriculum.  And speaking of curriculum; they don’t simply read up on the material the afternoon of the meeting day, they actually study, sketch out the lessons, and prepare appropriate questions for the peculiar personalities within their group.

Leadership requires a certain level of emotional commitment.  They’re invested.  They actually care.  About us.  About you.  About your teenage son that refuses to take off the earbuds and engage with the rest of the family.  About the spiritual well-being of your alcoholic father.  About your Aunt Edna’s goiter that they swear they prayed for last week.  Even about your cat Mrs. Flufferknickers and that mysterious bald patch on her tummy where she’s overgrooming herself due to stress caused by that ugly tomcat that moved in next door.

Leadership requires a certain level of time commitment.  In addition to the actual reading and prep time involved with the curriculum; and lifting up the prayer requests for Dad, Aunt Edna and Mrs. Flufferknickers; they take the time to meet with people from the group outside of the confines of the host home: for coffee, lunch and, most importantly, conversation and the all-important answer to that universal ice-breaker, “How ya doin’?”

Leadership requires a certain level of “thick skin”.  We started too late.  We started too early.  We go too deep in the Word.  The discussions are too shallow.  We follow too many rabbit trails.  Conversations never go to the heart; it’s almost like we stick to a script.  They never serve good coffee.  All they ever offer us is coffee.  Some people talk too much.  Some people never participate.  “I can’t believe he said that!”  “I can’t believe he didn’t say anything!”

Leadership requires a certain awareness of spiritual attack.  Everything from sicknesses to job losses; internal tensions within the group; external influences that take precedence or shift focus; the difficulty in diving into, or staying in, the Word; burned dinners and dead batteries just before you leave; family fights on the way; all random, all out of the blue, and all keeping members, and leaders, away from gathering in the Name.

Leadership requires a certain level of privacy.  Leadership implies a certain level of responsibility and trust.  People are trusting leaders with their spiritual growth and well-being.  Therefore, people will trust leaders with many aspects of their personal lives, struggles, addictions and weaknesses that other group members may not know of, want to know, or need to know.  It comes with the territory.  It comes with the role.

Leadership requires a certain level of discretion.  Unless you yourself are a leader, you may not be aware of any of these other responsibilities and commitments.  These obligations, both big and small, that the leader of your home group defers to on a daily basis.  And, that’s okay; you’re not supposed to.  As much as their human/emotional/worldly side wants to, leaders won’t boast, won’t whine, won’t brag and won’t grumble.

And that’s what scares me.  I am Romans 7:19 to a fault. (For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. )  Still, when the time comes, I will graciously receive my role in spiritual leadership, because I know that somewhere there’s someone just like me that’s looking for that person just like them—warts and all—to look up to; to see the perfect imperfection and see what Christ can do with it anyway.  After all . . .

Leadership requires a great deal of submissiveness:

Romans 7: 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it . . . 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Proverbs 3: Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.
Do not be wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord and shun evil.

As does participation by all group members . . .

Hebrews 13: 17 Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.

 

A Whole New Can o’ Worms Based on “Hate the Sin”

There’s been a lot of good dialog over the past few weeks based off of a couple posts I ran entitled, “Quote ~ On ‘Hate the Sin’”, and “Further Thoughts on ‘Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin’”.

One person in particular, my good friend Maryann took me to task on a couple different points throughout our commentary banter.  She has a huge heart and a vast knowledge of scripture, and she made some excellent points within her responses.

In fact, her last response has prompted me to answer her within a whole ‘nuther post which furthers our discussion of “Hate the Sin” and hopefully sparks more welcome comments and discussions.  For full context, I encourage you to take some time and read both of my earlier posts as well as the resulting commentary from Maryann, myself, and others.  But for now, from “Further Thoughts on ‘Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin’” she writes:

Having a hard time equating the hating of sin in this world to being labeled as an unloving Christian who is out to condemn, or just trying to feel comfortable.   There is an increasing spiritual sickness in our society stemming from “acceptance” of MANY behaviors that have been forbidden by God.  Over the years we have become so “accepting” of sinful behavior that if you interview high school students, most of them no longer know the definition of the words “Chastity” or “Virtue”.   There is a vast difference between the abhorrence of the sin itself and the person who is struggling with the sin. Perhaps if those societies who have destroyed themselves through moral decay had kept a clear recognition and abhorrence for sin, they would not have sunk into oblivion. It was certainly not enough for them that ONLY God hated the sin. To state that people who use the phrase “love the sinner, hate the sin” do so to “allay their own feelings about a particular person” suggests that you have the ability to read minds and hearts. Throughout all of this discussion and the many interesting comments, I have seen no one “lump” people together with their sin.

Maryann, I can see that you’re passionate about your love of humanity—of all us ‘sinners’—as well as your hatred of sin and evil.  I commend that, and essentially I think you and I are saying the same things to each other, just in different ways.

When you say, “Having a hard time equating the hating of sin in this world to being labeled as an unloving Christian who is out to condemn, or just trying to feel comfortable.   There is an increasing spiritual sickness in our society stemming from “acceptance” of MANY behaviors that have been forbidden by God.”, I get that and agree, but please don’t misunderstand, either in my posts or within my comments, when I advocate looking beyond the sin of someone in order to establish a real base of relationship.  Please don’t equate this with ‘acceptance’ of that sin.

Here’s where I feel we agree: as you’ve stated in a prior comment, “One of the most powerful doctrines of Satan today is his misuse of the words tolerance and acceptance. Those who stand for truth and righteousness are labeled as
intolerant or ‘haters’.
”  I couldn’t agree more, yet that is a double-edged sword: Those who speak out for love, for gentleness, for bridging the chasm between the children of God and a fallen world, are labeled as ‘accepting’ or ‘tolerant’ of the sin involved in those people’s lives.  This mindset is just as wrong as the other.

Did Jesus speak out with intolerance and nonacceptance   Of course; but look to whom he was most often speaking to: The very religious hierarchy who ‘Biblically’ determined right and wrong for the people they were charged with shepherding.  Why did He call them out?  They didn’t even have their own house clean. (Matthew 23)

Where I tend to step out on a limb in espousing my faith and belief is that, for me personally, I don’t see the recognition or acknowledgment of “sin” as a necessary component of the conversation at all: Or at least not until the invitation is extended by the other person.  Is this philosophy Biblical?  I couldn’t tell you; but in my heart it’s the right thing to do.  In addition, I think it’s cold comfort for someone to say, “Well, we’re all guilty of sin and all sin is the same in the eyes of God.”  This is both true and Biblical; however, at least in this regard, our (Christians) actions speak volumes louder than our words to a fallen world.   And no, I don’t think that I can read hearts or minds; but I can read societal trends and the op/ed pages of various media.  This isn’t divination or rocket-science; it’s simple compassion and empathy.  It was something that Jesus was hung on a tree for.  Sure, He had compassion and empathy, just for the ‘wrong’ people; at least according to the religious leaders.

How do I feel about my own sin?  I hate it. I hate how it has suppressed my relationship with God and others.  I hate how it has robbed me of self-esteem for pretty much my whole life.  But that’s MY sin.

How do I feel about your sin?  I don’t know, because I don’t know your sin.  Furthermore, I don’t have the right to know or feel anything about your sin until I am invited into your life by you and asked to speak to that sin, to you; i.e. speaking the truth in love.  Just because one person’s sin may be more readily apparent than another person’s does not give us the automatic right to speak out on that sin.  That’s not speaking the truth in love, that’s judgment.  Both Christ and His brother James were very specific on judgment.  (Matthew 7:1-2; James 5:7-9), and that is where I tend to step very warily if at all.

Now, in summation, let me be very clear:

  • Does this mean we don’t take a stand on certain relevant societal issues?  No, that’s not what I’m saying.  What I’m saying is that there will probably come a time when a Christian will be faced with a choice: to make a stand, or to make disciples.  Just how important is that stand? will be the relevant question.
  • I am also not saying that Christians who hate sin and evil, who speak out publicly on various sin habits, or who even have opinions on those habits, are inevitably being ‘haters’, intolerant, or judgmental.  However, not being judgmental and not being seen as judgmental are two very different things.

In my humble opinion, being seen as judgmental will rob not only the Christian, but potentially all Christians, from being able to speak into the lives of a fallen world about what is truly important; about Jesus, about God, about sin, about evil, about anything eternal.  Or, as Justin Lee puts it in his fine article, “4 Ways Christians Are Getting the Gay Debate Wrong”: “If we Christians can’t show more love and willingness to listen, it won’t change one person from gay to straight, but it will turn a lot of people against Christianity.”

And that would be a sin.

Related Articles:
Quote ~ On ‘Hate the Sin
Further Thoughts on Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin
4 Ways Christians Are Getting the Gay Debate Wrong
When Christians Are Christianity’s Worst Enemy

Monday Rewind ~ How to Piss Off a Christian [Let Me Count the Ways]

Now THAT'S a protest sign

[Here’s a second look at a post I first published on 11/19/2012]

2.3 million hits when you Google “How to piss off a Christian”; and my humble little post from May 2012 is number #2 (no pun intended . . . stop giggling!)

[edit: as of 5/4/13 this very post has surpassed my original May 2012 post in popularity, yet currently sits at #4 in Google search results, dang it!  Still . . . ]

I’m so . . . umm, proud.

How did I get so famous?  Why are so many people looking to piss off Christians?  After all, is it really that hard?  Just tell them you’re a pro-choice, gay, atheist liberal, who voted for the African-born, Muslim Socialist.

See!  It’s not like its difficult.

I guess we Christians can’t complain though; we’ve got nothing on the Buddhists.  Type in “How to piss off a Buddhist” and you get over 14 million hits.  Then again, Muslims and Atheists really aren’t pulling their weight though, with only 1.2 and 1.4 million hits respectively.

[edit: Wow! Apparently they’ve really cleaned up the internet lately!  As of 5/4/2013, Buddhists now sit at 2.77 million.  Muslims are at 788,000 and Atheists sit at a comfortable 251,000.  Apparently no one’s upset with Atheists anymore, hehe!]

C’mon, people! We can rally animosity better than that!

Still, that’s almost 20 million [now 6+ million, or about the same as the search for “How to piss off your dog”] different sites, posts, articles and so on dedicated to poking the bear of just four of the top religious beliefs in the world.

That’s [a marked improvement in a few short months, but still . . .] a lot of venom.

I can’t help but wonder if there’s truly that much need for hatred and anger around the world or if this is just a hobby for some people: Like making those endless parades of overly cute animal pictures [can you say Grumpy Cat?!!] with the deprecating sayings on them; or the “do you remember what these are . . .” posts on Facebook.  (Yes, I do.  It’s an eight-track player. Please stop.  I still can’t listen to Rush’s 2112 without expecting it to fade out halfway through the twenty minute title track.)

And, I’m sorry, but the suggestions they give you on how to piss off Christians, honestly, are just silly.  I mean, some of them aren’t even trying. . . [and yes, these are all still there.]

Say [to the Christian]: “If you walk at an average speed of three miles an hour and rest 18 hours every day, you can circle the globe in 40 years. That must have been one big desert!”

*sigh*

Tell them: “Donkey’s sometimes talk. It’s in the Bible.”

You see, that’s the problem with an omnipotent God, he can pretty well do what he wants.  If he wants monkeys to fly out of your, umm . . . well, he can.  Just ask Bruce Almighty.

Atheists fare no better . . .

“Before starting an argument, say “You’re an atheist? That means you’re going to hell!”

Yeeahhh, that’ll work.  Or even better . . .

“Drink the last beer in the fridge.”
“…and buy natural light to replace it.”

I don’t even know why these two were on the list.  After all, that would pretty much annoy anyone.

I don’t want to come off with a Rodney King appeal of, “can’t we all just get along?”, but really, don’t we all have anything better to do?

Well maybe, maybe not.

Still . . . am I sorry I wrote that May blogpost?  Mmmm, not really; though the guy I was writing about wasn’t too far removed from the, “You’re an Atheist and you’re going to Hell” argument.  I will say I’m not called to judge people, and for any post in the past that I’ve written with that tone, I am sorry.  I’m also not called to judge whether or not people are going to Hell.  That’s not my job.  My job is twofold, and twofold only: Love God, and love others.  That’s it.  Done.

Buddhists, Muslims, Atheists . . . I love you guys!  Though I may not agree with you on faith and belief, I’m not called to agree with you.  I’m called to love you.  And that includes my Christian brethren who think that name-calling, hell-baiting, hate-spewing picket signs and replacing perfectly good beer with “less filling” is going to get people to change their ways.

How’s that workin’ for ya?

We’re not perfect.  We’re just human.

And as humans, we’re pretty easy to piss off.  Just ask the pro-choice, gay, atheist liberal voting for the African-born, Muslim Socialist.  Nobody likes that guy.  He pisses everybody off!