Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Starting Over


I have to admit that I have struggled in my attitude from time to time about this whole subject of "church" However, I have to believe it is an ongoing concern because I know that my heart and beliefs about the church will and have ultimately affected my children. It is not about me, but all of our world views undoubtedly trickle down through the generations.

As I have shared my frustrations by opening up with a few trusted friends, I have experienced several different reactions. The people who stand out to me are those who do not judge me for the questions that I ask and for the thoughts that I verbalize. I am thankful that I truly have a couple of safe places that I can be free. This is one problem with many churches today. People do not trust Christians because they come across as judgmental instead of safe. That is another post.

On the other hand, I have shared my heart with some who have looked at me as though I am just this wounded soul who needs restoration and then needs to be added back into the church. But I am at peace knowing that I am a member of God's household no matter what the setting, activity or location. I will never go back to church as I have known it before. I cannot.

Yes, I admit there are many wounds and I could kick myself for remaining in some of the situations I stayed in. But when you are in the middle of it, sometimes you are conformed to the group or the system you are in. Therefore, one may not recognize the problems fully until they are removed from it. Yes I have been wounded. However, maybe we need to listen up to the wounded instead of categorizing them. Maybe we should stop and listen to the hurting instead of labeling them as having a victim mentality.I am so tired of hearing that phrase as though the hurting need to just get over it and move on. Jesus came to heal, to bind the wounds. After we have healed, we then are empowered to move on.

I am 44 years old. Up until about 2 years ago, I thought that church was mostly about going to meetings or a building. I thought that in order to be considered part of the church, this requirement had to met. I often heard the verse that we should not forsake the assembling with other believers. In addition, I thought that if I did not desire to go, then something was wrong with my relationship with God.

God said that "I am going to build His church and the forces of hell shall not prevail against it." Why is it then that as more time passes most churches are either closing shop or people are getting out?" Maybe it is because man has for so long tried to build the church through programs, buildings, evangelistic strategies and other avenues. If these methods are so effective, then why are so many "unchurched" people turned off by the church today?

I think we should start over. Man has made his castle. Yet the walls of the church are coming down as we have always known it. Many will be shocked when we begin to see the true church emerge and look like something we never imagined. Many God loving folks who have left the institution of church will be accused of a having a love grown cold. Many are even being labeled as rebellious, cynical, uncommitted to Chirst and many other things. I even had someone tell me they were concerned that I was damaging my children by my attitude.

If there has been any damage done, it has been in process for years. We have taken our children to the institutional church all of their lives and they have learned the same limited view of what church is to be and look like. We have been out of the organized system now for 9 months and we continue to try and deprogram our kids in what the church really is. We want them to see that church is so much broader and greater than what they have learned and seen. If the Lord leads them to an organized structure to serve at some point in their lives, I pray they will have a broader and more open vision as to God's house and what that encompasses. We want them to have the understanding that the church starts in them and their relationship to Jesus Christ.This is what we have been trying to impart to them in this season.

I have been reading through the gospels and the book of Acts in my search for answers. I write and speak out about this because it bothers me. I may offend some. And those that know me may say, "What has happened to sweet Ange?" Well a lot is happening to me. I dare to go against the grain and have other's opinions of me change. I am really past the conforming individual I used to be. I used to be afraid to speak my thoughts to leaders because of fear of man. And because I thought I was being disrespectful to them as people and leaders.

But I continue to fish for truth. I find that in the first church of Acts the people were about loving God and each other. That was how they evangelized to reach the lost. Others watched the family of God share with each other, give of their resources, and forget selfishness. The outsiders saw the genuineness of their love and wanted to be a part. God drew others in through the empowerment of His love in actions in and through the people of His house(an unearthly structure).

They probably did not sit around and have planning meetings about how they were going to reach lost people. They just found the needs and met them. If outsiders could see this in our churches today, they would probably connect with us and stay with us. People in the body did not go without. If there was a need, it was met. Everyone was strengthened so that the body could be whole. A whole body is a healthy body and one that is effective in the community.Therefore I have concluded that the best evangelism is just loving one another with no strings attached.

In the gospels, Jesus encountered many people. He drew the crowds. However, His one on one encounters with people who were hurting or sick is what is highlighted. Jesus never used his power with the motive of trying to get people to join a church. He loved without strings, without conditions.

My intentions here are not to be critical as I know there are organized churches who are living out the life of the true church. However, we have a national problem. Most churches are not being effective. I speak out because if we do not, change will never come. And I know the Lord is changing me and setting me free from mindsets I have lived with for so many years. It seems simple to me if we could all get the message. Start over. Go back to the basic and simple way of living and being the church rather than building walls and programs that will one day not exist anyway.

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