My wife was listening to a podcast that claimed 3,500 people leave the church every month. I was really intrigued by that, so yesterday I sent out the following tweet/Facebook post to see what people would say:
I have to admit, I was really surprised at the passion this simple question stirred up. Some people were pretty hard on the church, while others felt church-goers just weren’t very committed these days. Some believed that the spiritual experience was lifeless, others that the Bible wasn’t being preached properly, and others that the church had lost cultural relevance.
One thing that really stood out to me was the pain that many people endured from the church. People felt judged, didn’t experience genuine community, felt misunderstood, were gossiped about, felt condemned, oppressed, and unappreciated. One person even claimed they felt some of these things from the church that I pastor. Ouch!
In this post I’m going to try to answer the question myself, but I feel the need to clarify a few things about the church. (more…)
What is God’s will for my life? It’s a question I (and most people I know) ask often.
To be honest with you, I really thought I would be well beyond that question by the time I reached the age I am now. Heck I’m halfway through my life and I still wonder what’s around the corner, if I’m doing the right thing, or if there’s another chapter in my life I should be preparing for. A while back, I blogged about the subject of finding God’s will. I just can’t seem t leave the matter alone.
However, I HAVE learned a couple things that have helped me quite a bit and maybe they’ll help you. They might even surprise you. Are you ready to find out what you’re supposed to do with your life? Check it out…
Finding a vision for your life requires finding a vision for who you are. Truth is, it’s hard to know what to do if you don’t know who you are or who you want to be. Try writing a personal mission statement. It makes a great course reference when distractions come. What character traits do you value? How do you want to be remembered? At the end of your life you will be remembered for the kind of person you were, more than for the things you accomplished.
Romans 12:2 says to “let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you…”
The key to developing a vision for who you want to be is to let God. Let God define success for you. Let God choose your priorities, your values, and your preferences. Then you will learn His will for you!
The next part of finding a vision for your life is this: A vision for our lives requires an ear for God’s heart. Think about Isaiah’s calling for a minute (Isaiah 6). Isaiah didn’t receive a direct word from The Lord. God’s will wasn’t sent to Isaiah in a letter delivered by an angel. Isaiah was simply in God’s presence and he heard God asking, “Who will go?” Isaiah heard the need, put up his hand, and said, “I’ll do it!”
I want you to notice something here. Isaiah saw a need and decided to meet it. He didn’t take a test to see if he had the correct “gift mix” to respond to the calling. He didn’t examine the need to make sure it aligned with his passions. He just said yes, and history was written because of his willingness.
It’s a tragedy that so many lives go untouched, and so many needs go unmet because believers won’t step up to the plate if they don’t feel a warm tingly feeling inside when a need is presented. If we treated our spouses the way we treated God, we’d all be divorced. I can only imagine what my wife would say if I said, “I love you honey, but I won’t help you with the dishes because my heart’s not in it and I wouldn’t be doing you any favors by washing them half-heartedly.” I would soon find myself sleeping on my mom’s couch, eating a steady diet of Chinese take away and Funions.
I recently read an article about career placement and fulfillment entitled, “Passion is Overrated”. The researcher found that those who spent their lives “following their passions” usually ended up unemployed and/or unhappy. Most people don’t even know what they’re really passionate about, so how can they follow their passion?
On the other hand, many people discover they are passionate after they do something! Think about the times you volunteered for something after someone talked you into it, and you ended up loving it! I have a friend who took a mission trip to Africa and the trip changed his life. He ended up starting a humanitarian organization because of the effect the trip had on him. He did not have a passion for helping African orphans until AFTER he stepped out!
So let me wrap this up by reminding you to be like Isaiah by spending time in God’s presence, determine who you want to be, and answer the call when a need is presented. You may be surprised to discover that finding what you’re supposed to do with your life isn’t that hard at all.
I don’t believe that a single good thing comes out of analyzing, criticizing, or “calling out” other believers in a public space.
I don’t believe that the role of “the watchman on the wall” is to publicly decry those who are giving their lives to expand the Kingdom of God.
I don’t believe that focusing on what divides us will ever bring greater fruit than focusing on what unites us.
I don’t believe that the church of today is a dirty, washed up prostitute (as the “watchmen” preach) that people should abandon.
I don’t believe that the church’s best days are behind her.
I don’t believe that a single individual could ever feed the hungry, clothe the poor, shelter the homeless, or lead the lost to Christ like a body of believers (church) can. In fact, I can’t think of any “watchmen” that are actually doing any of those things.
I don’t believe in judging others by half-baked Biblical interpretations, popular opinion, or talk show rhetoric. Jesus said that a tree is to be known by its fruit.
I don’t believe all pastors are crooks, all politicians are crooked, all Muslims are terrorists, all gays are going to hell, all Jews are cheap, all blacks are gangsters, all whites are privileged, or that Jesus ever stereotyped anyone.
I don’t believe that using fear to manipulate people into buying your products is honorable.
I don’t believe that mean-spirited political, religious, or cultural statements, memes, or sayings count for intelligent discussion and I don’t believe they make a person look smart, compassionate, or Christ-like.
I don’t believe in bullying even if you’re in the popular majority, unpopular minority, or feel entitled for other reasons.
I don’t believe that, because a Christian band has a symbol on their CD cover that vaguely resembles a pagan rune, they are Satan worshipers trying to deceive their listeners.
I don’t believe that God gave us the Bible so we can use it to show off how smart we are, right we are, or “holy” we are.
I don’t believe there is anything humble, Christ-like, or Biblical about claiming to be a part of a remnant and that other Christians are going to hell.
I don’t believe that the King James Version is the only “real” version of the Bible, that only hymns should be sung, or that woman shouldn’t teach in church.
I don’t believe that “conspirators who have infiltrated the church” will be the church’s demise. Jesus said “…I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.”
I don’t believe being an American 501c3 church automatically makes it a bad church. Each church is different just like each person is different.
I don’t believe anyone is “too far gone” to experience the love and forgiveness of Jesus.
I don’t believe that when Jesus said “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” he intended for us to behave like spoiled celebrities, selfish children, or angry pharisees.
I believe that Jesus loves me. I believe Jesus loves you. I believe that his death and resurrection is a complete work, lacking nothing.
I believe that if we spent more time loving, praying, giving, serving, and going, we might actually change the world instead of hating on each other.
I believe it would make us more like Jesus, who loves.
Most of you know that I had the honor of starting a new church last September. We’ve experienced some really great things, God is moving in our congregation, and our baby church is growing up fast. It’s been really cool and most of us have the strong feeling that we’ve stumbled on something really special!
When we first moved into the building, we all had to roll up our sleeves and get the place ready. You see, it had been a bar for almost 100 years before we moved in. We painted, put in new carpeting, did some deep cleaning, and of course tore out the bar.
The only thing we didn’t do was hang up any crosses. Come to think of it, there’s not a shred of religious symbolism anywhere. It’s not that we’re opposed to those things. It just never came to mind. In the midst of planning, reaching out to the neighborhood, praying for the sick, and worshiping Jesus, it hadn’t dawned on us that we should have a cross up somewhere.
An older gentleman asked me shortly after we launched why there were no crosses and I just scratched my head and said, “Uh…I dunno…”
My question is… should we have a cross somewhere on our church? Can God use us to bless our city and expand His Kingdom if we don’t have religious symbols? Please let me know what you think and why.
To cross or not to cross? Leave your answer below…