Don’t Give Up On Church

Church is archaic, domineering, impersonal, hypocritical, irrelevant, contentious, petty, boring and stale. It’s institutional instead of authentic and religious but not relational.” That’s what many believe according to Barnabas Piper, son of prominent Christian Pastor John Piper. He has written an article encouraging us to hang on.  Lots of us have given up on Church. Plenty more think about doing so regularly.

Traditional church is being abandoned by many. Pastors are quitting or getting into trouble trying to measure up to what’s expected of them. I think that’s the core of the problem: expectations. Pastors are expected to be preachers, teachers, administrators, counselors, janitors, yard men, and, of course, good family men. It’s a bit much. In fact, it’s totally unreasonable.

The Church Mirage. Churches are expected to be sanctuaries where every one is saved, blessed, prosperous, always filled with joy and perpetually perfect examples of what it means to be a devoted follower of Christ. Look around friend. It’s just not so.  No wonder many are disillusioned.

Church is very much in need of a remake. We need to start at the top. The top, by the way, isn’t the Pastor, it’s Jesus. We need to reconsider who Jesus is; what He came to do; what He expects of us. We need to stop lingering on our vision of Jesus as babe in the manger, suffering sacrifice on a cross, or even risen savior. He was and is all these things. Nonetheless we need to think of Him principally as soon to return LORD. Jesus doesn’t need admirers, fans, or even saved sinners. He needs, calls for and expects followers.

Let’s look at pastors.  We need to stop thinking of them as supermen capable of leaping tall buildings with a bible in one hand and all the kids in kids church in the other. We need to see them as sinners with a gift. We need to look around the church for folks to fill all the jobs that our Pastors aren’t equipped or gifted to do.

Let’s look in the mirror. That’s where our view of the “congregation” needs to change. We need to stop thinking of them (us) as the audience. We need to think of them much as we need to think of pastors as sinners with gifts, that need to be identified, nourished and used. We expect nothing from the pews and it’s no surprise that’s what we get.

Expect imperfection. We should lose our “blessed” masks. We shouldn’t expect anyone at church to be perfect. We should expect mistakes, needs, struggles and hurts. We shouldn’t demand perfection. We should refuse to accept false fronts. We should demand vulnerability, honesty, availability and effort. Pastors aren’t there to be worshiped (that’s Jesus’ job) and the rest of us aren’t there to be pampered. We are in church to be led.

Imperfect Church Would be Perfect. We should expect our pastors to lead and we should expect to follow, not the pastors but the One they are following, Jesus. We should expect each other to stumble and we should expect to be lifted up when they (we) do. That’s a church we can hang with, work with and love with. That’s the church we need. That’s a church that folks won’t give up on.

 

 

The Law and the Gospel

I had a great time Wednesday night as I filled in for Pastor Jason. Pastor has been working his way through the Book of Romans. I took over at Chapter 7, Verse 1. My goal was to do no harm. I wanted Pastor to be able to take over next week where he left off.

Chapter 7 of Romans reminds us that we are under the law only as long as we live. When we are born again, the old man dies. With that death, our bond to the law ends and our connection with Jesus begins. The ancient prophecy and God’s promise to write the law on our hearts is finally fulfilled.

Our problem is that, like the Israelites, we want to go back to Egypt. We resist a life not governed by rules but by relationship. How would our marriages be if we followed all the “rules” of a good marriage, instead of living out our relationship from the love that is at its heart?

In our life in Christ it is possible, for the first time, to really overcome sin. When we begin to experience little victories, we get the crazy idea that it’s something we did instead of Christ workng in us. Pride leads us to think we can do it on our own. We begin to contrast and compare our lives with others. God doesn’t grade on the  curve. We can’t ever satisfy the law on our own. We can only progress toward that goal through the work of Christ in us.

We measure our progress not by comparison with others but by how much others see Christ in us.

When you have some quiet time, give a listen to our Wednesday night meeting. I hope it will bless as it blessed me. Follow the link and click on “The Law and the Gospel.” As a special treat, if you listen carefully you can hear me trying to sing. This has never been recorded before. This recording may be worth something one day for that reason alone. 🙂

Thanks for the opportunity Pastor Jason.

 

 

Ways to Ruin Your Reputation.

I recently came across an article entitled, “18 Ways to Ruin Your Reputation on Facebook.” As I read the article, I found myself repeatedly saying, “That’s right.” It then dawned on me that the way we ruin our reputation on Facebook, is pretty much the way we ruin our reputation in life. See if you agree. I have personalized these “ways” finding myself usually “guilty as charged.”

First, the ugly …

1. Post something out of frustration in the heat of the moment. 

Don’t say (or write or post) anything in the heat of the moment. Give it some time. You will be glad you waited.

2. Criticize people.

Sometimes we think we are being subtle when we don’t mention names. But in context, folks know to whom we refer and really isn’t that what we want?

3. Embarrass yourself.

Why do we say things online that we would never say in person. Trying saying out loud what you are about to post. You may hit “delete” a lot.

4. Embarrass your family.

I love my family and I think the things they do are cute. Before posting consider how you would feel if what  you are about to say was said about you.

5. Criticize other churches in the community

Lots of folks seem to love that church that you don’t think much of. Maybe they know something you don’t.

The self-absorbed …

6. Only talk about yourself.

People love it when you show interest in what they do. They quickly bore of hearing all about you and what you do. We tend to talk about and post what we are excited about. Most folks think their kids are the cutest; their spouses are the best; their churches are the holiest. Why not tell the folks you are proud of instead of posting to a world that will probably be bored.

7. Share everything.

There are some things about you I don’t want to know. I bet you feel the same about my life.

The disingenuous …

8. Act like your life is perfect. 

Nobody is perfect, and everyone knows it. If you act like everything is good all the time, you’ll be perceived as inauthentic, wearing a mask. This is especially important for Christians. We do a great service when we let others know we have problems and struggles, like everyone else. It puts us on common ground where real communication can occur and genuine relationships develop.

9. Act like you’re always “blessed.” 

We are always blessed. We just don’t always feel like it. Nobody is happy all the time either. A little honesty goes a long way.

10. Act like you have all the answers.

Nobody likes a know-it-all either. Share insight and advice when asked. Be confident but not arrogant. Just consider that just maybe you don’t know it all. You have two ears and one mouth for a reason.

The offender …

11. Act like the language/morality police.

Your Facebook friends are not perfect. They are going to swear, post questionable pictures of themselves and share things you don’t agree with. If something is really bad, consider contacting the person privately about it, but don’t call people out publicly for what is unfortunately common behavior in our culture. “Unfriend” is always an option. I am “friends” with lots of folks with whom I disagree on matters of morality, faith and politics. I think it’s important to keep doors open. I just don’t always like what comes through the door. That’s a compromise I’ve decided to make. It’s a personal decision for each of us.

12. Roll out the fire and brimstone.

I think there is a lot more talk about fire and brimstone than there is actual fire and brimstone preaching.  Be real, honest, loving, and courteous. Those qualities should not be mutually exclusive.

13. Be overly political.

Politics is important, yet not eternally significant. It’s fine to be political. Just remember this world will be a mess until Jesus comes back. No political party is going to change that.

14. Engage people in debates.

Discussions, become debates, become fights. Know when enough is enough.

The disengaged …

15. Post a lot of  stuff that’s over your friends’ heads.

I don’t discuss subjects in detail in which I consider myself an expert. I do this because it bores others; but I may also find out I’m not as big an expert as I think.

16. Log in once every week or two. Relationships require consistency.

Friends, in life and on Facebook, spend real time together. Just dropping in once in a while, puts you at risk of walking into a conversation or situation unaware.

17. Fail to respond.

People in life and on Facebook don’t like to be ignored.

Hope the above was helpful. It really doesn’t matter because it helped me a lot.

Be blessed.

Nick

Released From the Law – Bound to Christ

Released From the Law, Bound to Christ (NIV)

Do you not know, brothers and sisters—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law has authority over someone only as long as that person lives? For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law that binds her to him. So then, if she has sexual relations with another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress if she marries another man. So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.For when we were in the realm of the flesh, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death. But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.

Tomorrow night at Amana Christian Fellowship I am filling in for our Pastor. He is doing a word-by-word study of Romans. Our Wednesday night meeting is School of the Bible. However, we are moving to a Wednesday Night Live service on the first of December. I won’t try to do a word-by-word study. Pastor Jason is better at that. I will be discussing the topic, leading some prayer and praise as a preview of what Wednesday nights will be like starting in December.

I could really use some support. We start at 7. The Church is in Maurice just seven minutes south of the mall. I promise to have  you out by 8. On the day after the election, you could probably use some release from the law and binding to Christ, in addition to great fellowship.

Hope to see you then.