Archives For September 2013

Church Shopping Network

September 25, 2013 — 4 Comments

churchbuilding

So many people today are “church shopping.” I despise this term. Christians are visiting different places of worship every week in hopes of finding the perfect church. They treat this task the same as if they were buying curtains or a new vehicle. Current fads, style, and design take center stage as they take notes from the pew.

All sin is grounded in selfishness. Unfortunately, many who search for a church, though it seems like a good thing, do so in sin. Its all about me. It’s what suits me. It’s what makes me feel comfortable. It’s what meets my needs. Me, me, me, me….

Enough!

Take this or leave it, but here is my suggestions in how to search for a local church body to join.

What to search for:

1) A church with correct doctrine and theology. This is of the utmost importance. If this point is not met, move on. Correct teaching from the Scriptures must be priority. Primarily the teaching of Jesus, the Scriptures, and salvation. Many churches have websites now and their doctrine of beliefs are available. If not, don’t be afraid to ask the pastor or church leader for a written statement of belief. This must be solidified first and foremost.

2) A church that practices the Great Commission. Evangelism and discipleship must be the focus. Every ministry should have purpose, either to reached the unsaved, or build up the saved. The gospel should be preached from the pulpit. (Yes, that means mentioning sin, death, and hell.) All members should be strongly encouraged to disciple others while continually being discipled by another.

3) A church that overflows with love. Jesus said the greatest commandments are to love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, and mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself. Faith and hope are great. But love exceeds them all. No true worship can flow from an unloving heart. No true ministry can occur without it being grounded in love. It’s a beautiful thing to see a body of Christ that would sacrifice themselves for each other. Money shifting pockets as needs are presented. Time spent with each other in sweet fellowship. Prayers rushing to the Lord for other peoples’ struggles. Selfless, pure, and righteous. The way God originally intended it to be.

4) A church that has a place for you. A believer in Jesus Christ is commanded to serve. Unfortunately, too many look for a place to be served. As we search for a body of Christ, we should be keeping an eye out for a ministry to join. We’ve all been granted spiritual gifts, and we should desire to use them to God’s praise and glory. So when we scan over their list of ministries, we are NOT looking to be taught, served, and ministered to. We are striving to find a place that we could benefit the mission of the church.

What not to search for:

1) A church with lots of ministries. Lots of ministries simply means the church is really busy. The question is raised, are they effective? A local body with two main ministries could be more obedient and successful then a megachurch with two hundred. This goes back to the fulfillment of the Great Commission and the heart of love.

2) A church with good music. Now realize that this comes from a worship leader. I can’t stand when people switch churches because they found another with “better” music. Worship is an attitude of the heart. And if somebody can only worship to a certain genre, sin is present, and worship is hindered. If our love for God outpours from our hearts, we should be able to sing a cappella and praise him. But no. We have to have a full praise band, the latest Powerpoint presentations, and room up front to bounce up and down.

praisemoshpit

Or on the flipside, we must only have hymnals in hand and have an organ accompany the song.

hymnal

This is SIN!! No matter what is played in church, you CAN worship to it. It’s not about the music. It’s about the Lord. You can listen to your favorite styles and genres all the rest of the week. But whatever is played during the service is not important. What is important is the truth of the lyrics and the focus of the worshippers.

3) A church building that looks good. The first church in Acts met in homes. Some worshipped in prison cells. Enough said.

4) A church with a well-known pastor. We like sheep have gone astray, each of us to the most popular church in the city. There are some great pastors and teachers out there. Some have written books. Others have TV shows. But it doesn’t mean you need to be there. God may want you in a small country church because he could use you best there. Don’t follow names. Follow God. Even Paul was glad he didn’t baptize people because he didn’t want to hear people bragging that they were “of Paul.” It’s all about Jesus.

I’m sure there are reasons I’ve overlooked but I don’t want this to drag on. My point is this. Church is not about serving ourselves. It’s about serving Jesus and his people. Find a church that you can do just that in spirit and in truth. Happy shopping!

Working in a Christian retail environment draws in a large variety of clientele. Most are Christians looking for a good book or gift. Others are not and are searching. Then there are those who are Christians hoping to find something to give to a non-Christian friend. This is great, but too often I hear this;

“They don’t believe in Christ so I need to be subtle. I don’t want to offend them and scare them away from God. So do you have something with a positive message that isn’t TOO Christian?”

Now before I rant, I understand this truth. “Let all that you do be done in love.” (1 Corinthians 16:14 ESV) “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23a ESV)

I am in no way telling anybody to be a rabid, Bible-thumping screamer on the corner of Main Street calling down fire from heaven on those who will not listen. This is an honest, and passionate, reminder to what Christ has called us to. We are not to be people-pleasers, tickling their ears with uplifting, positive messages. We are preachers of truth. And if we’re to be effective, we must understand three facts.

1) The Gospel is offensive.

To have the goal of evangelizing, but not offending, is a dead end road. For one to fully grasp and understand the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, it takes being offended. Nobody wants to hear or admit that they are the bad guy. In the story of the Gospel, Jesus is the hero, the blessed martyr for his people. We are the enemy. Having disobeyed his righteous commands, we separated ourselves from all that is good. We corrupted the world by our selfishness and greed. We brought about sin. Death reigned because of us. Our inability to approach the throne of grace is due to our pride.

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9 ESV)

“As it is written, ‘None is righteous, no, not one; No one understands; No one seeks for God; all have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.'” (Romans 3:10-12 ESV)

This truth is never good news. But it must clearly be understood to be able to repent. To show somebody the way to salvation is not just preaching the good news about grace and mercy, Jesus dying in our place, and rising again. It takes careful teaching about why we are dying. And that is hard to chew on.

2) Obeying Christ is priority over friendships.

Christ explained clearly what it took to be his disciple. But it doesn’t mean it’s easy to live. This verse especially lays out the intensity of devotion with which a Christian must serve the Lord.

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26 ESV)

Hate doesn’t mean loathing, an intense dislike for. Instead it means, ‘of relative preference for one thing over another, by way of expressing either aversion from, or disregard for, the claims of one person or thing relatively to those of another.’ (Vine’s Expository Dictionary)

Our devotion and passion for Jesus Christ and the instructions he’s given us, supersedes any other relation or plan that we may have. The Bible strongly commands us to love one another, but love for anybody or anything else fades away in comparison to our love for God and his Word. We have been commanded to make disciples of every nation. To be a disciple means sharing Christ with those around us at the risk of losing friendships and family.

Charles Swindoll said, “More than once Jesus deliberately addressed certain issues that quickly diminished the number of onlookers. It was commitment that thinned the ranks.”

I’m not saying its easy. But its mandatory to fulfill your responsibilities. Remember the last fact.

3) The ultimate show of love is sharing the Gospel

The Christian life is a constant paradox. To love a friend, you must risk the friendship. To freely enjoy the friendship without taking chances is not loving the friend at all. Every person’s greatest need is Jesus. If we refuse to talk about him because we worry about offending the other person, it tells much about us. We fear man more than God. We care more about our popularity and status than we do of the Lord. We love ourselves more than Jesus Christ.

To love a friend is to point to the one who is love. Jesus laid down his life so we could call him friend. What are we willing to sacrifice in order to be a friend to others?

The church has been commanded to be silent under the banner of political correctness. To offend somebody can be considered a hate crime. And what’s worse, we concede.

No more! At the risk of losing friends, popularity, and even our lives, if that’s what it takes, we need to speak up again. We must remove the tape that has covered our lips for far too long. Dust off your soapbox. And in love and gentleness, PREACH THE GOSPEL!

It’s okay to offend. If they repent, it’s all worth it. If they walk away from you, it’s all worth it. Love them as Christ loved you. Serve them as Christ served you. But do them a favor, and talk about Jesus.

It’s time to become loud again. It’s time to offend them with truth. It’s time to stop rolling over under the screams of atheistic and agnostic groups. It’s time obey.

It’s time.

churchsteeple

“I read in a newspaper article this week that the economy is doomed by 2020. If this is true than we better get on our knees. God wants us happy, but if this occurs, none of us will be. His will is for all of us to-“

Boom! Boom!

The lull of the sanctuary shattered. Two of the elders’ eyes shot open, and group of elderly women gasped. The intrusive banging on the front door paralyzed all inside the building.

“Is John Calvin here?” joked the youth minister in the back pew. Shallow, forced laughs followed. They barely cut the nervous silence.

Pastor Pete continued, “As I was saying, if we don’t pray for our nations economy, our happiness is in serious dan-”

Boom! Boom!

Every person now sat up straight. Mothers pulled their children closer into their side. The mounting tension brought the service to a halt.

Eventually, two deacons arose and made their way out of the room towards the front door. Fearful glances followed them.

“Don’t they know you can just come in?” one whispered.

Through the glass doors, they spotted a man, average height, dark hair, and sharp nose. His deep brown eyes watched them approach.

One of the deacons cracked open the door. “You need something, sir?”

The man smiled. “Yes. I was wondering if I could join you today?”

The door was opened completely, and they greeted him, shaking his hand. “Of course, sir. Everybody is welcome. There is no need to knock.”

They took his jacket and hung it up. “There was a reason,” the man chimed in. “I wasn’t welcome.”

coat

The deacons both smirked and motioned towards the congregation. “That’s crazy,” one of them chided. “We’ve never turned somebody away. What is your name, sir?”

The visitor looked him in the eyes. “My name is Jesus.”

“Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.”

This verse has been used countless times to preach the salvation of a sinner. A patient, lonely man standing outside waiting to be asked in to one’s heart. Paintings of this event are now classics as most have come to accept this view as Biblical.

But that is not the context. The door is not to one’s heart. It’s to the door of the church.

The angel is rebuking the church in Laodicea for it’s lack of passion, love, and dedication to Christ. They were going through all the right motions, but the heart was missing. A lukewarm church brought no joy to their Savior. And although they looked like the church, Jesus wasn’t involved. He stood outside hoping to be invited in once again. So instead of commendation, they received condemnation.

How many doors is Jesus knocking on today? Today is the day to stop acting like a Christian, and start being one.