Tag Archives: church

Church Community

Community. It is a nice little tag word that Christians like to use at church. “Be part of community” “Join a community group” “What I am really looking for is a community”

It is supposed to communicate a close group of people that can really share life together. Unfortunately, to commonly our communities look more like a shared social media page than an actual community.

This past Sunday while I was at church we were asked both before and after a short video to answer a prompt, “What causes you to feel / press closer to Jesus?”

“Being in nature really helps me appreciate who he is… When you almost die from….” During the conversation it appeared as though everyone discovered their hands for the first time. One person was picking at their hand. Another yawned, examining their fingers. Everyone paid just enough attention to be able to respond.

After the video the same level of involvement continued. When I pressed one couple as to what they were going to change to make Christ a priority, they listed off reasons as to why it is hard. No commitments. No confessions. No one was sharing a part of their lives with any intent to keep up with the other people, to be held accountable, or to be actually known. They were answer prompts the same way people answer Facebook’s status question, “What is on your mind?” Thrown out to an audience that won’t walk with them.

If we really want community we need to put away the status update conversations, and the when in church relationships. Status update conversations are those that you have because, ‘it is the thing to do’ like standing up or sitting down when everyone else does. ‘In church’ relationships are those you have only at church. Not the weekend. Not in evenings, and certainly not when you need support, to be held accountable, or pressed on towards Christ.

You will really know if you are actually sharing life if you go to your group of people when tragedy strikes, or when you need accountable help. If someone suddenly dies in your family, would you show up to church? I have been a part of several groups I would have. In fact, while I was part of one bible study a very emotionally traumatizing event happened. I went to community group, and slept in the corner. I was able to be un hidden processing what had happened.

Strikingly there was a moment that could have shown the church as a community. A not very old individual had died unexpectedly just a few days prior. I don’t know if the family showed up to church. I don’t know if people cried in the previous service. But I began to really wonder, would most of the families show up to share their pain, or their joys, with the church family when it happens?


Muslims, Fear, and the Church

My passion is helping to connect the church to the world. Unfortunately the church has stood with many parts of culture that are fundamentally against Christ. These are often subtle and we miss them. I am thankful for several of my good friends outside of the Church to remind me of how we are, or are not, portraying Christ.

The gospel and Christ’ calling is more about what we are supposed to ‘do’ than it is about what we are ‘not to do’. My next several postings will be on the church as they can more effectively live out the gospel as a positive endeavor, rather than a negative calling out against something.

I was outside of a church recently when I was approached by a young-ish man. He loudly pronounced that he was not a threat and he dramatically emptied his pockets of his cell phone, wallet, and keys. Threw off what could be called a jacket and tossed down his hat and proclaimed that he was harmless to everyone minus an upside down cross tattooed on his neck. I ignored the gesture, ended my phone call and introduced myself. His name is Jason. He was drunk and coming off of a meth high.

He felt the need to proclaim that he was not a threat because he had been called an ‘Arab’ ‘terrorist’ or ‘Muslim’ before. Normally I would have glossed over this. But recently I read an article by Aziz Ansari giving a brief overview of his experience with racial and religious tensions. Although he himself is often greeted in the street by individuals wanting an autograph (he plays tom Haverford from Parks and Recreation). His immediate family on the other hand has experienced a much different response. They are often called terrorists, immigrants, told to go ‘home’ and other rude or fear inducing public remarks. Specifically he details the fear he had for his mother’s safety just after the attacks in Miami.

He specifically details in his article that Donald Trump’s campaign has increased the fear and tensions he has perceived. Whether it has increased or just brought to the surface what is already there is irrelevant. There is a systemic problem as it relates to the church. This hyped up fear of terrorism and Muslim extremists is pushed mostly by right wing conservatives. A vast majority of whom are Christians. What I want to focus on, and I pray that my reader can readily listen, is the Churches response to Muslims and Arabs in our country.

Here is my central point: Christians should never in any form be a part of spreading fear. There is no Scriptural basis for fear within ourselves or spreading fear to others. Specifically, we are called to only fear God, and to be a neighbor to all we come across.

Muslims should never reasonably fear for their safety from Christians. Even if a terrorist is a terrorist that claims to be a Muslim, what have we to fear? We have Christ who conquered death. Should we spread the fear of God? No. We preach Christ, him crucified and risen again. Fear is not of faith. Christians live by faith. If we perish in the process of spreading Christ’ love, then so be it.

The same is true of homosexuals, transgendered, hippies, pot heads, metal heads, nymphomaniacs, strippers, gang members, prostitutes, pimps, etc.

The Church as God’s voice to the world needs to be a place of safety for all others, with self-sacrificing reasonable caution. Should a twelve year old girl have spoken with Jason? Of course not. But any other college or high school male could have. If I become a victim of a very small pool of people intending violence at a church, then so be it. Christ calls us to fear him alone, so let it be far from the church to cause people to fear anyone but God.


Justifying Fashion for the Church

Often in Christianity we have to categories. Those things that are sacred, and those items that are secular. Recently I have been seeing more and more how this dichotomy is dangerous and even harmful to the Christian church. There are many perfectly good enterprises that are given up in pursuit of a life that is only sacred.

                God created a world for us to enjoy. We are called to follow Christ wherever we are at. Are plans are to be committed to the Lord whatever they are so long as they are in the character of Christ. When looked at this way, there is a great deal of life that is free to be enjoyed that is normally considered secular.

                Fashion for example. I have had the past had a great deal of difficulty spending money on anything related to clothing. I am more than my clothes and none of it will fit me for very long anyway. I never knew what to do with my friends who invested in a hundred dollar pair of pants, or three hundred dollar shoes. We are very quick to judge this as a waste of money that could be given to the poor.

                But, even a slight comparison to our other judgments will find this lacking. Do we judge the individual who spends three hundred dollars on a ski trip? Or buys a car with leather seats and A/C instead of a minimalist design with no power windows or air conditioning. Do we judge the one that remodels their kitchen? I have never heard of that. These are all things that are ‘expected’ as normal and good. But the judgement is arbitrary.

                Furthermore, I categorize fashion and clothing as one of the arts. How we dress and present ourselves can be as much as a form of art as a canvas. Matching colors, styles, seasonal clothes all with your particular body type in order to convey an image is an art. Especially if that dress conveys an image of your personality in line with who you are. I would be curious to see a fashion guide based on personality.

                Finally, how we present ourselves is important in ministering the gospel of Christ. Just as overtly expensive clothes can make those who are less ‘fortunate’ feel bad, so too cheap of clothing can cut off certain peoples. If you want to minister to the wealthy or LA and Hollywood culture, you had better dress like it. Clothing can also spark conversations.

                Use your money wisely, and follow Christ. In some cultures, it is considered rude not to wear your best. We are the ones that have to look at you all day, not you.


Teach Those in the Church to Serve Outside the Church

I have almost always been involved in some sort of church service or activity. As a small child I attended Sunday school. When I was in college I helped with a small youth group, and after graduation I taught high school and Jr. High. During the week I brought all of my bible college education to the bible studies I attended and attempted as much as possible to help share what I had learned. When I stopped teaching high school and Jr. High I began teaching a young adults bible study.

In total it was three to four years of being involved (with some gaps) directly in church ministry where I got to see the Lord work and people grow in their understanding of God. Then I got promoted to a full time position at UPS. The work hours have since prevented me from being very involved in any sort of small church ministry. Made worse I stayed in hotels at least two hours away for work during the week making attending the same bible study as my home church impossible.

I feel the pull and the desire to see the work of the Lord in the people of God. I love seeing the growth and sharing the truth of God with others. But at times that has turned into an idolization. Serving in church was a standard by which I judged my life. Since I was not directly involved I judged my life inadequate. Lacking. “God what would you have me do?” I would constantly ask. If my actions weren’t directly connected to his body where organizational growth and change was visible, I had problems seeing the value in my actions.

The idolization of being involved in church as the ideal work of the Lord is unhealthy and wrong. Do we need to be involved in “church” yes. We need to have deep close caring relationships with brothers and sisters in the Lord. It is a biblical expectation. The church is supposed to support and lift each other up, bear one another’s burdens and love each other deeply. However, judging my contribution to the Lord’s work based upon my involvement in church is false and unhelpful.

“Lord what shall I do?”

“Feed my sheep” is always the reply. Been that way for years. I always thought that meant his sheep in the structure of the modern church. Ironically now that I am still and listen, the pull I have on my heart is to teach those in the church how to serve God outside of the church.

The Lord is seeking to redeem all aspects of our lives. Our work, our play, our words and even our social media. I want to be one that shows the church (that is all my brothers and sisters that profess faith in Christ) how we are to redeem our lives before God. Now I often become overly technical and analyze every little deed and word, and I will write to that end. However, it is also true that to an extent we must commit our ways to the Lord and let him work in our lives. Enjoying his creation is just as important as carefully choosing how we live.

Tuesday will be blogs on redeeming every part of our lives.


Gay Marraige

I was at a LGBT workshop put on by the Flood church this last Sunday. It was a very well done conversation that highlighted several key points that should be considered when talking about the Church, Christ, and those with varying gender identities.

I seek to only highlight one thought from the discussion. Identity. The individual who shared, who himself was a man who was attracted to other men, and is also a brother in Christ emphasized one very important point. Ones attraction to one sex or another, heterosexual, homosexual, or bi sexual, or ones identifying as male or female is secondary to ones identity in Christ.

As a Christian, it is our relationship with Christ that defines us first, everything else comes from that.

For those that do not know Christ, lifting Him up and leading them to Him is the first step. For if they do not believe or know my Christ Jesus, why should I expect them to live as He calls me to?

I am very guilty in letting titles or identifying traits define me; male, adult, employee at such and such a company, boyfriend to so and so, brother, sensei, extrovert, etc. But first, my identity is in Christ, and I must live like Him.

For those that are not Christians reading this, please, don’t be shy about reminding my brothers and sisters where their identity is, gently of course. 🙂


The Church and Marraige

On Marriage: To the Church, with Love

It occurred to me recently that I present my blog as a culturally involved blog, and I have not been culturally involved much at all recently. In fact, I haven’t been very involved in anything but work and close relationships. So much so in fact, that it was a few days after the recent supreme court decision to mandate the allowance of a man to be married to a man, and a woman to be married to a woman, before I heard the news. When I found out, my response was, “really? I didn’t know it was being voted on. Oops. Should have kept up on the news more.”

As a devout Christian, it doesn’t bother me in the slightest that our government legalized it. I am not one of those Christians that happily adds a rainbow to his Facebook page to show support. I am not one who calls out that America is going to be under God’s judgement for this. I hold that the Bible says that the act of homosexual intercourse is a sin. However, it is also very clear in Scripture that though we are to uphold God’s truth, we do not condemn those who do not know Christ. They don’t believe in my God, so why should I hold them to His standards?

However, here I speak to the position of the church, not individuals (I believe there are slight nuances in how each should present themselves). I do not believe that the church should ever have spent much time fighting against what the government calls or does not call marriage. Because, Christians, in case you didn’t know, what the government calls or doesn’t call marriage has no effect on what God calls marriage and its place in the church.

It doesn’t change how husbands and wives should love each other or how the church should be taking care of widows and orphans. What the church should be fighting for is simply their right to continue to worship and serve God without hindrance. Pastors should never be required to perform marriage ceremonies for a couple they don’t believe should be married (homosexual or heterosexual), or host the wedding in their building. I believe that a good similar analogy would be that doctors, who take the Hippocratic Oath, should never be forced to practice euthanasia. It would cause them to act in difference to their beliefs and their character as they had made a promise. Do you think that is a good analogy?

Governments will do what they do. Our hope as Christians is that we may worship and serve him freely while showing care for all people, without acting against our conscious, or character of love and mercy as shown to us in the person of Jesus Christ.

(Note, I am not saying that we are close to churches being required to officiate weddings they don’t believe in. There is a lot of fear mongering out there of, “flaming liberals” trying to force churches to officiate homosexual unions. I have never met a homosexual who believes this, and to my knowledge these are the rare extreme, not the norm.

Furthermore, if I worded something poorly in this article that unnecessarily causes offense, please, leave a comment or shoot me a message.)


Reflecting God

Previously I talked about understanding loving God as obedience and enjoying life. I would like to summarize these with the proposition that the life worth living is the one that reflects the character and nature of God. If we know who God is, then we can live the life we want to.
Rather than try and urge people to just obey God in order to love him, if we focus on reflecting his nature, we include both direct obedience following his created order. We need to have a mindset that seeks to follow his design in creation. If we are only seeking to follow law, then what are we to do with the myriads of grey areas we run into on a daily basis?
For example, if I am to reflect the nature of God in my finances, I am going to give money to those in need, I will avoid debt, I will not stress over finances, and I will save for a rainy day. Giving money reflects God’s love and care for those in need. Avoiding debt follows God’s wisdom of not being bound to another human being. Not stressing shows faith in God’s providence and mimics the faith in God’s plan that Christ had. Saving for a rainy day comes from an understanding that God has made us finite and we have no idea of what will come tomorrow.
Reflecting God’s character, at least for me, helps to reduce the stress of individual decision. My goal is not to make the exact right decision every moment of my life. My goal is to as a whole act out God’s character and nature as much as possible. So where it comes to things that are not moral, I think of the organization and order in God’s creation.
Part of enjoying God’s creation is enjoying it on his terms, even when the sinful way is temporarily more pleasurable. Part of our faith needs to be in the goodness of God as expressed through his order.
For example, Scripture makes it clear that all forms of sexuality are to be saved for marriage. There are however no prescribed rules of physicality in dating. We have not rule of whether holding hands, kissing, cuddling, groping etc. are okay or not. God designed it so that sex means marriage. If you have sex, you are married. If we understand God’s nature as a holy devoted God to his people, and his view on marriage, then it is very simple to reflect God’s complete devotion to covenants by keeping ourselves from all forms of sexuality before marriage.
Though the Church continually rallies “no sex” there is a long list of un-Christ-like behavior between holding hands and sex. So, enjoy life through following God’s character, even if it means forgoing pleasure in the moment.