Category Archives: Church

All things related to real men being real Dads in relation to Church

Hey Church! Stop Holding Your Breath

I’ve heard stories about children who hold their breath to get what they want. Thankfully none of my kids have ever done this, so I’ve never seen it happen. But my wife has.

She used to babysit for two boys the youngest of which would cry to get what he wanted. He’d cry so much, that he wouldn’t take the time to breathe. So when he decided that what he wanted was more important than air, he would turn blue and pass out for a few seconds then wake having forgotten what he wanted.

As a dad of 4, soon to be 5, the practical side of me doesn’t think that’s a bad trade off. Let my kid pass out if it gets him through throwing a fit? Sure! But then, it’s probably not very good for his brain if he’s deprived of oxygen. As I think it through, I’m very sure his mother wouldn’t believe it’s good either.

So I officially advocate for breathing. We must breathe. Glad that’s settled.

Believers in Christ are no different. The Church, Christ’s body, must breathe. But as rule, it appears America’s model for the Church is that it inhales “Christian stuff” but exhales far less items of redemptive value.

Let me tell you what I mean.

Christian retail distribution and online sales are a 4.63 billion dollar a year business.[1] The majority of these are items are produced so that Christians can purchase and use them to learn more about God, Jesus Christ and His Church. The Church’s #2 “thing we do” next to Sunday worship, is Bible Study. These are not bad things right?

However, they are bad if all our consuming leads to nothing. No life-change, no other lives changed as a result.

Jesus’ Church is on the earth for one purpose and it isn’t to study the Bible in perpetuity, read popular theological books, enjoy Thomas Kinkade or to feel self-actualized. The Church’s purpose is to accurately represent Christ to the world and share the truth of Jesus so the world can be saved.

If all we do as Christians is receive Sunday sermons, study the Bible and buy “Christian stuff”, we are in serious danger of turning blue and passing out.

So what should we do? Exhale. And then inhale, and then exhale some more. Feels more healthy already doesn’t it?

Pour it out. Pay it forward. Give some back. Deny yourself, pick up your cross, follow Him. However you’d like to say it. Do not become a warehouse for information or stuff. But use all that God has breathed into you to breathe out to others. This doesn’t just mean Bible information or theology, but effort, comfort, peace, kindness, joy and gentleness. All of it.

If you’ve received salvation from God in Christ, then you must return that salvation to the world on behalf of the One who gave it to you. May we hold each other to this standard as we struggle onward.

If you’d like an opportunity to “breathe out”, the Schuyler County (Illinois) Ministerial Association(SCMA) has scheduled this year’s “Together for Rushville” community service workday for Saturday October 3rd. Please find the event on Facebook.

[1] Phillip J. Clements and Sharon Nolt, Christian Retail Industry Research, (New York, NY: Cathedral Publishing Group, 2008)

Advertisements

Giving Hope to Ferris Bueller

I really like the 80’s movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. It reminds me of me when I was a kid. I hated school and tried to find any reason not to go. Like Ferris, I even came up with reasons to stay home that technically weren’t true. (Something that cost me later in life.)

There’s a scene in the movie where he’s getting ready for his day off. It’s the kind of story where he often looks at the camera, as in conversation with the viewer, and share’s his thoughts. At one point he says this:

“Not that I condone fascism, or any -ism for that matter. -Isms in my opinion are not good. A person should not believe in an -ism, he should believe in himself. I quote John Lennon, ‘I don’t believe in Beatles, I just believe in me.’ Good point there. After all, he was the walrus. I could be the walrus. I’d still have to bum rides off people.”

“-Isms in my opinion are not good”. Let’s think about this.

Do any of the following statements sound familiar?

  • “All religions are one path to God.” (This is called Plural-ism)
  • “All religions are true and valid for those involved in them.” (This is called Relativ-ism)
  • “All religions exist to serve the needs of human-kind.” (This is called Human-ism)

Teachers and preachers in Churches have been called out repeatedly for their adherence to any of these three philosophies. Christians agree with Ferris; these -isms aren’t good.

Each “-ism” presents a problem. If all religions are one path to God, then we can’t say Jesus is the only way. If all religions are valid, then none of them are truly valid. If all religions exist to serve people, then it’s based on what we want, not on what we need or what’s right.

The thinking Christian community have accurately responded by stating, “Jesus Christ is the way to God, whether we believe in Him or not, and it is way more about Jesus than it is about us.” This statement is true. This statement is Biblical.

However, we sometimes fail to recognize how the “-isms” aren’t just abstract things floating around in the air. They are real thoughts, from real people who have real feelings attached to them.

The folks at www.rzim.org say that people ask four main questions in their lives: Origin (Where do I come from?), Meaning (What is the point of all this?), Morality (What is right and wrong?) and Destiny (Where will I go when I die?)

Let’s not forget how Ferris finishes his thought in the quote above, “A person should not believe in an -ism, he should believe in himself. I quote John Lennon, ‘I don’t believe in Beatles, I just believe in me.'”

Ferris’ answer to life’s questions, “Believe in yourself”.

Let’s walk through what Ferris might be thinking. To him, allowing others to believe in themselves means it’s disingenuous, disrespectful and disheartening when we don’t pay close attention to the journey and experiences of others. If we believe in ourselves, then everything and everyone is valid.

Ferris, and others like him, arrive at pluralism because if everyone were pursuing their own answer, every answer would have to be correct, right? He arrives at relativism because if someone finds their answer, it’s respectful to them to allow them their viewpoint. He arrives at humanism because if religious people do nothing while millions die needlessly, then religion is useless.

We must understand that beliefs outside of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior (no matter how misleading or untrue) are human attempts at making sense of the world. In the Bible, wise Christians have thought to introduce Christ to people in ways they would most understand.

  • Acts 17:22 (Paul preaching to the Athenians) “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious.” (Pluralism)
  • 1 Corinthians 9:22 (Paul teaching the Corinthians) “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.” (Relativism)
  • James 1:27 (James to the Jewish Brothers)”Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (Humanism)

So how would I communicate hope in Christ to Ferris Bueller? I would tell him that I have the same questions about life that he does. I would tell him that I respect the journey he’s taken to answer them.

Then I would tell him, “I’m a Christian and I don’t believe in -isms either, I believe in Jesus.”

Then I’d see where it goes from there.

RCC Sunday Bible Study “God Creates His Church with Diversity in Unity”

I feel that our Sunday morning study group at RCC has great Bible based conversations each week. I know not everyone can make it to take part, so I will do a blog post periodically to unpack some of the material we cover in our Sunday morning group. You’ll get the most from these posts by checking out the links to scripture and reading the other links as well.

The Theory

The message in worship on November 25th wrapped up the “Creation Series”. We examined Ephesians 4:1-16 in the final message. The Apostle Paul wrote to early Christians about the kind of Godly humility, gentleness, patience and love it takes for a Church to become a fully mature and healthy community. All people in the Church are growing toward becoming a family where people are built up into Christ’s image and not torn down. Paul teaches the Ephesians that a life which lives up to the greatness of Jesus protects the unity of God’s people by maintaining peace amongst the believers. The Church is called to be one in hope, in faith and in baptism as we are partakers of a God that is one: Father, Son & Holy Spirit.

Then in the same Ephesians passage, Paul contrasts the call to unity with the understanding that each individual believer has been given grace in variety from Christ. (Verse 4:7) This is the truth that in salvation Jesus gives each believer a role to play in the Church. He gives the depiction that Christ actually designs diversity into Church leaders to teach and guide believers in becoming more spiritually mature. We see in 1 Corinthians that Christ designs diversity into the Church itself. (1 Cor. 12:14-20) Jesus uses all Christians in unique ways for His purpose in building the community surrounding Him. It’s a beautiful picture of what Church is supposed to be: Unified yet diversified.

The Reality

I love theory, and the Ephesians passage is a great one which proposes the ideal outcome. It proposes a Church where there are no divisions, no arguments and no factions of people who seek their own interests. However, practice proves the worth of all theories. When we study the books of 1 & 2 Corinthians we learn about the difficulties in unity and diversity in the Church at Corinth. While Paul gives the Ephesian Church the “formula” for Christian harmony in the reference above; his writing to the Christians at Corinth show their Church to be experiencing great trouble with unity and diversity in actual Church life.

Paul shows part of his eyewitness to the division in the Corinthian Church in 1 Corinthians 3:1-17. He finds at least three groups of people who have committed themselves to three different men as “the revelator” of the faith. Instead of these “people-praisers” saying, “I follow Christ” they were saying “I follow Paul”, or “I follow Peter”. Paul rejects the notion that he or any other teachers are follow-able over Christ. When the sole interpretation of the faith is attributed to one preacher, pastor or teacher, Paul says those following them are immature in the faith and in need of being re-taught the basic tenets of being Christian. The truth; a preacher, pastor or teacher is nothing more than a called servant of Christ in the Lord’s quest to bring the world to himself. Paul says any leader who founds faith or Church on anything other than Christ will see that foundation crumble when tested. The Corinthian Church had great potential to crumble.

The Resolution

The teaching in the book of Ephesians exists because of the reality we see in the books of 1 & 2 Corinthians. Most likely the Ephesians experienced similar struggles with harmony in varying degrees. (Ephesians 4:1) Sometimes we are led to believe that Christianity is an attempt at perfection; ultimately it is. Except any semblance of perfection in Christianity is only gained through accepting and following Jesus Christ. (Philippians 3:12)

I love theories because they are clean, logical and sensible. You can hypothetically see how a theory works. Unfortunately people (all of us) happen to struggle with messiness, irrationality and foolishness. The general sense amongst the Sunday morning group was that we never arrive at the “perfect” representation of Church that Paul described in Ephesians 4:1-16. “Attaining the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” is a process we as Christian communities engage on this side of Heaven and realize fully on the other side. (Ephesians 4:13) Absolutely essential is Christ’s humility, gentleness, patience and love which Paul talks about in Ephesians 4:2. It is the prescription for unity and diversity to the Corinthians, Ephesians and the post-modern Church of the new millennia.

%d bloggers like this: