Hi guys!!! I know we’ve been absent on here for quite a while (again), because our focus has turned to growing the jewelry business. All our efforts have been poured into God, our marriage, homeschooling, serving, and obviously, my newest hat of jewelry designer. But I have been thinking for several weeks now about how to keep up with posting things regularly on here, and I think I’ve found a solution! Yall know I tend to be wordy-both out loud and on here-and there’s really no way around it. I’ve come to terms with it just being how God made me! LOL!! But I have decided when I see something on facebook that I end up wanting to make a very long comment on, instead, I will come and post it here. Hopefully, this will give me an opportunity to post about once a week or so.
Naturally, in order to start this first post, I have seen something on facebook that challenged me. First I was going to respond via comment, but after writing one paragraph and not being done, I decided it was a great time to move it over here. Some friends of ours posed the question “What is church?” (there are no wrong answers, a just curious kind of thing). There were a few responses, mostly pointing out the fact that many believe “church” is a building”. It was also brought up that there is a focus on serving the church itself, but not necessarily serving the outward community. Those who do serve the community, tend to publicize it well, perhaps in an effort to incite more people to come in the doors. I think for every body of believers, it’s truly different. And of course, in every body of believers that meets at one particular “church”, there are those with varying degrees of faith. Some with sincere faith, seeking hard after God may be in a place where they truly see what God is calling them to do, and radically act on it. Some may be true believers, but have become lackluster and stagnant, in response to any number of life’s situations, and remain that way until God uses a catalyst to break them, convict them, and set them back on fire. Some may be imposters, merely going to church as a social gathering or because that’s what you do, especially here in the south. They talk a lot about God but don’t actually have any real faith of substance. Others are seekers. These are the folks we have to be really careful about. Sometimes I think we put too much emphasis on attracting those sinners on the other side, by the big song and dance. I’m not speaking particularly about worship-my church has very contemporary worship with a band and we love it. Still, we sometimes pretend its solely our job to draw others to Christ, as if we could take the credit. We put a big effort into drawing them in.
We have rock music with light shows, we even have souvenirs and t-shirts! We sugar coat our messages so we include everyone and offend no one. After all, people won’t come back if they are offended, right? We want to draw unbelievers in right?!
We promote promote promote community service events and activities to outreach our community, as if to say, “Look at me!!” or “Pick me!” as if God wasn’t capable of drawing those who needed him most to the church where they needed to be. We pay no mind to John 6:44 when it says, “”No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.”
Now, don’t get me wrong here. I’m not saying all of these things are bad. I’m just pointing out that the modern day church in America, as a whole, has got it wrong. That’s not to say every church is blasphemous, but it is flawed. Seriously flawed. After all, it’s made up of only flawed people, right? I think sometimes we forget that. We so desperately want to invite people in that don’t look or speak like we do, because we assume they can’t be believers. So we get out in our community and serve some hot meals at the local homeless shelter, refusing to actually touch these precious people as if they had leprosy. Or we organize a drive for dozens of people to donate that bag of old holely, stained clothes to the battered women’s shelter. Good on us!! (Where’s my applause??) We find the drunk, the prostitute, the gambling addict, and we want them to come in our doors in a nice new suit, or modest dress, or tithe away all their gambling winnings, thinking okay, now maybe they’ll come to Christ! We might buy the homeless guy on Union a sack full of McDonald’s burgers and feel like we’ve done our Christ-like deed for the week. Maybe we’ll even say a prayer for him before we pass out from exhaustion at the end of our packed too full day (too full to actually spend any time alone with God out of real sincere need for it.)
I am NOT criticizing anyone who does good for others -least of all, with a sincere heart. There are many broken people I know who have served our community and been the bride of Christ. I have friends that have started a clothing ministry for those in need, friends spend time with men in prison each week, friends who organize a safe place for hurting teenagers to meet and come to know Jesus and grow in him weekly, friends who have served at the Memphis Union Mission–and that’s just one family! It’s people like this we as the church need to be surrounding ourselves with, because they push us to change.
I know for me, one of the biggest catalysts for the change in me was my depression. My own admission of depression was the hardest thing I’d ever done, or so I thought. It was judgement-from folks IN “the church”- that did the most damage to me. There’s this attitude I think of if you only had a relationship with Jesus, you wouldn’t be suffering like that. Like me. Like the homeless man with the booze in the brown paper bag. Like the woman selling herself out for drugs. Well, maybe that’s true. Or Maybe not. Its certainly true that we ALL need Jesus, and I believe with my whole heart, if we choose that, we can’t ever loose that. But why do we feel like we get the right to judge or assume things of others we’ve never even had a real conversation with. We make a call about them, based on what our little human minds think fits into our inadequately small “God box”. Oh, and we’ve crammed Jesus in that box too.
But we assume that because someone doesn’t look or think or speak like us, or Heaven forbid have different political beliefs than us, that they can’t be as real of a believer as us! Obviously, people who love Christ usually act on those beliefs. But love itself is an action. Despite Christ’s unending love for us, our love waxes and wanes at times. Who’s to say the person you are judging is not also a believer, if you’ve never gotten to know them. I know I’m guilty of this, more so in the past, but even so. One of the best things that God has used to change my perspective is Celebrate Recovery. Some of you may have heard me talk about it before, or perhaps you are a part of it. For those who don’t know, its a Christ centered 12 step program. It’s not just for alcoholics though. It’s really truly for anyone with any bad habit, life hurt they’ve buried down deep, or hangup they are struggling with. When you walk through those doors, despite your fears, you should know that you won’t be judged. It’s a truly beautiful thing! The people in that room are broken. The leaders and ongoing members are former meth addicts, drunks, porn addicts, women with depression, mental illness or severely low self esteem, abused spouses and abusive spouses (sometimes together, and that’s beautiful!!!). You’ll meet men and women who were sexually abused as children, and see the damage that’s played on out intheir life You’ll meet the man who cheated on his wife, and the wife who is working through forgiving him (something I used to judge women for.) You’ll meet the guy who just lost his job and the mom who’s teen just attempted suicide. You’ll meet all these folks and more. Oh and tattoos. We have lots of tattoos. And smokers. And people who swear like sailors, but they’re working on it. Ha!
I would have never taken the time to get to know any of these people before. But the truth is, these folks are more the church than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s beautiful to see the transformation that God can do! It’s truly so beautiful. And we don’t have fancy light shows, and we don’t hide the ugly. We have the scars on our arms to prove it-but we use these things to help God redeem our story. We let him take the ugly, and use it for His own glory. He transforms our backstory into something amazing-a testimony for Him- and its amazing. These people truly love eachother, but don’t try to fix anyone. They will hear your story and not judge. They will pray for God to work as He will, and sit back and watch! All we have to do is love eachother. Really love eachother.
Think about, if we expanded that to globally…if we really were truly motivated out of love. If we looked outside of our American Bubble and remembered that Christ’s bride is global. It’s not only here for people who look and speak and think like us. If we did everything we did out of love for God and love for people, what would our world look like? If we did it with no expectation of anything in return, but for our Savior to be pleased with us, out of a deep deep satisfying love for him and people.
That, my friends, is the church.