Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Church #7

Have you noticed how much praying for revival has been going on of late - and how little revival has resulted? I believe the problem is that we have been trying to substitute praying for obeying, and it simply will not work.
 ~A.W. Tozer

We went to another church on Sunday that meets in a local school a mere ten minutes from our home, the one to which we were invited by the man who pierced the Princess' ears (in my last post). I have done some research to find the senior pastor had been a missionary for two years. They are not really denominational, but are aligned with the theology of Church of God, which is Pentecostal. This church is on the conservative side, believing in the gifts but not making the gifts themselves things to be worshiped, so the pastor explained to us. The preaching was good and had my daughter in stitches for three minutes at one point--I thought I would have to ask her to leave to get back in control of herself. As common with the churches we have been visiting, it is come as you are and uses contemporary Christian music. It also stresses equipping its members to be the Church.

Before starting the church, the two pastors who planned it together visited many of the churches that were growing in the area and modeled theirs accordingly. What do growing churches look like in our area? Exactly the type of churches we have been visiting. That is not to say that all of the denominational churches are stagnant, some are growing, but most of the ones really growing have contemporary services and have the "come as you are" dress code.

Many of these churches, who are taking church outside the walls, also have really intriguing names. Now you cannot judge a book by its title, but a church name can give a person some insight as to their focus. Such names tone down the denominational thing, which is a huge turn off for many people who have had bad experiences within denominational legalism, but on the other side of the coin, such names seem to make those who are hard liners for their own denomination just as turned off. All that proves to me is that some of us have been going to church for far too long and are trying to protect our little corner of Christianity instead of boldly being His Church to all. When I think about it, churches used to have revivals (some still do), but what many Christians are feeling called to, as my husband and I are, is a movement to revive all of Christianity, to revitalize the very spirit of Christianity, in a matter of speaking, not just a church and not inside a church.

We have not been led to visit all of these churches and some are too far away, but I can appreciate all their ministries:

  • Hearts on Fire
  • The Journey
  • Elevate
  • Full Turn
  • Oasis
  • Vital
  • New Seasons
  • The Rock
  • Vertical
  • The Well
  • The Gathering House
  • Crossroads

When I think about the history of the churches during my lifetime, I realized that these upcoming generations had youth group names like Souled Out, Fusion, Power Source, Cross Trainers, Rooted, Stand, Awakening, Impact, Fired Up, Radical, Underground, U-Turn, Ignite, etc. Is it any wonder we are now seeing more contemporary churches with names having that same energy and allure? I mean, really, did we think that if the church catered to children from the time they were babies to older teens with contemporary music that reached them and catchy youth group names they would like while telling them how they look and what they wore was not important that they would later settle right into the plastic model Christian singing hymns at First Church of (Home Town) in their Sunday best as young adults? How many young adults fell away from the church because they just had no desire to make the adjustment from how they were raised in the church to how they were expected to be once they aged out of the youth group?

I loved the name "The Journey" when we were thinking of a name change with our former church, but another church moved in just south of us on the same road with that name. It did not matter, really, because the members voted against any name change 5 to 3, so no spirit of revival happening there.

I would go with whatever my Lord wishes, of course, but if I could name a church now, I think I would call it Revitalize, just so the people would remember their mission is to stay revitalized in the Lord so it would be effective in being His Living Church, to bring His Church, His Kingdom, to the people not in any church instead focusing so much on trying to get them to come to their own church.

~ My Lord, I pray for those who have been reading here. May we hear You, my Lord. May we learn to let go of how we think church should be and be Your Church to the unchurched and unsaved. May we stop counting heads of attendees within the walls and be out attending to the people according to Your leading. ~

9 comments:

  1. My church is on that list!!! :)

    Haven't been around lately, but when I heard (a bit late) that Google reader was discontinued, I went to see if I was "following" blogs from my own. I couldn't remember if I was following from there. Anyway, I was, and saw a new post from you and decided to stop by. Hi!

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    1. Oh, come on, Jennifer! You cannot leave me hanging like that. Tell me which church so should we visit it again, I find your to give you a hug.

      Yes, Google Reader is gone. There are a few free alternatives, but I have not chosen one yet.

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    2. It's the first one on the list. I LOVE my church. I came from 15 years in a VERY large church and didn't think I'd care for a small church. But it was started by people who also came from the same large church, and I love them dearly. Our son began going there many months before we did, because the youth there are those he grew up with and it felt like home to him. I didn't jump and go over there in the beginning, because it was not God's time for us to do so yet. But around Easter this year, He released us from our previous church and led us here. I didn't have ANY problems with my previous church, it just wasn't "home" anymore. HOF was breath of fresh air for us! It is different...and from what I've read here, may have a couple of the "cons" you mentioned, but I can't imagine being anywhere else at the moment. The pastor and his wife are truly led by the spirit. They were our SS teachers many moons ago, and I believe they are amazing pastors. Also, the pastor's wife is my boss. She runs our homeschool tutorial center where I work, Ruthi goes to "school" and CJ graduated from.

      I'm wondering if you've visited this one, and if we've unknowingly crossed paths? I was out of town for 3 weeks, so if you visited then, I wouldn't have been there. I know the way we do things isn't "for everyone" but I'm a bit biased in the fact that I think it's the best! I was raised in penecostal churches, and though this isn't specifically denominational, it's definitely in that category. And when the Spirit moves, there is nothing like it! It gets all kinds of crazy...but crazy good! I know without a doubt that we are where God wants us right now! Praying you find "home" soon as well!

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    3. I know of the homeschool school and the pastor's wife being the director, but did not know you worked there or that this one was your new church home. I am so glad that your entire family is worshiping in there in a place you all love! It definitely lives up to its name!

      We did visit Hearts on Fire once, probably before Resurrection Day. My daughter loved the worship flags. It is so far the most "pentecostal" of those we have visited.

      We really are not seeking a church home, although this concept seems to be odd even to us. We have been listening for God's direction on the matter while we visit variety of churches and experience the differences in worship, yet I feel quite at peace that we doing exactly what we are supposed to be doing right now.

      It has been a wonderful and growing experience for all of us, but particularly my daughter. We often get into church ruts and wrapped up in denominational legalisms that rigidifies our hearts against acceptance of other Christians. Worshiping at different churches has given us a wonderful opportunity to widen our perspective about His Church in general. We are not looking for a church home, we are in His Church and have been quite at home at every church.

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  2. Well, you visited before it was REALLY on fire then! If you thought it was "penecostal" then...well, it's been multiplied! A group of the women went away for a weekend to what we call "Holy Spirit Encounter." They returned on fire and encouraged their husbands to go the next weekend. A group of men went that next weekend (my son was one of them) and they did not come back the same! The change in my son's life changed the dynamic in our home like you wouldn't believe (and it's not like things were bad before...just different. He had lots of things broken off of him that weekend, and he brought back "the fire" with him!) The people of our church have not been the same since! And worship is through the roof!

    I'm very much looking forward to the chance to go to HSE this fall myself. It was something I "haven't been very interested in" until my son returned home...now I can hardly wait!

    I'm glad you are content where you are and are enjoying just visiting and worshipping with others as God leads you. I'm glad God has placed us at HOF and allows us to call it home...I love the security I feel in that. I kind of the the accountability of friends asking where I've been if I don't show up at church, so I'm thankful for a great group of friends who I also get to worship with.

    I'm thankful we still live in a land that doesn't dictate where and how we worship, and we can choose. And all that matters in the end is the relationship we have with God...not where we have it! So continue to enjoy this season of your life...no matter how long it lasts!

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    1. Sounds as if you are where the Lord has prepared for you to be at this time and that's a very good thing!

      You made two points that that I feel are worth discussing. One is security within a church. The other is accountability as in members asking where you were when you miss church services. They are kind of intertwined.

      I am being led on a different spiritual journey presently. The security that church provided enabled too much sheltering for me. Granted, I did need it for a long time, but not as long as I allowed it. My Lord showed me not long ago that what provides security can also imprison me...and had. I had to experience relying on God solely, not allowing church to interfere with the relationship, and it became obvious to us in the past year as to why we should not depend so heavily on any church. We started breaking free from church dependence and began really relying on God about three years ago when we fasted for forty days. (It is all on this blog so I will not go into the details.)

      As for accountability, I have seen that lead to legalism and judgement. It is one thing to ask for help in an area of your life as God leads and another for someone to be sure you are showing up for church because she thinks you should be there. I cannot imagine anyone asking Jesus what He was doing if He did not show up in the synagogue on the Sabbath. I am not disagreeing with you, just explaining what can be the downside. Giving someone else that authority, unless led by God to do so, can cause that person to stumble also.

      In the past few months I have learned that being comfortable in a church was what kept me from being His Church to the people who needed the church the most: the people not in church, the not-yet believers. Healings should be happening outside the church as Jesus did. That evidence of God's love is not just for those who show up for church services, but to convince the unbelivers.

      Church services for me now are a continuation of my personal worship along with other believers, not something to be confined or defined by any church. Worshiping in a variety of churches has kept me from being dependent of any one church and keeping my dependence on the One where it should be. It is likely that we will, at some point, again have a church home, but it will not be the same for us as before before and I believe that is God's plan for us.

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  3. I can see your point. I do feel secure in my church...but it's a secure similar to what I feel in my home...it's natural, and I'm totally free to worship as I please, and I don't have to worry about what anyone is thinking. So it's not a dependent security, just one of feeling that I'm where I'm supposed to be.

    And as the accountability goes, I certainly don't want anyone wanting to know every move I make...and that was a tiny bit of a concern to me before we moved there, knowing it was more close-knit, and you can't get "lost in the crowd." However, most of these people, I have known for up to 15 years, and they are my family, so I'm very comfortable that they let me know I was missed, or if I'm out for a while, will call and check on me. And I have never felt judgement from anyone there...that would surely make things different! So I definitely see how that could become a problem, and am very thankful that hasn't been the case for me.

    I guess I'm coming at it from a different angle in my life. I ended up with hurt feelings from a church where, after attending for 10 years, when we left, we received not ONE phone call to just see if we were ok. We didn't announce we were leaving, just didn't come back...and it just felt like no one cared. That hurt. So I'm thankful for true friends who do care.

    I realize too, that this is NOT what's most important...that my relationship with God goes far beyond my friends at church and elsewhere. But I'm an extremely social person, and I'm thankful that God has allowed me to be surrounded by people who I know without a doubt love me and miss me when I'm not around.

    I guess what I look for in a church is much more than just spiritual. And I'm thankful that God has granted me the desires of my heart with this church! However, I do always want to hear Him, and if He says it's time to go, I will go, no matter the personal connections I have.

    But I definitely see where you are coming from.

    And now I feel like I'm rambling...so I'm going to stop there...think I need to go get some sleep!

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    1. Still the Night Owl, Jennifer?

      As you wrote, we have come from different places, but the destination is the same! I can see we are both examining what we want and need in a church family as we have have this conversation. It is a good thing and I thank you for it. I often think about how many different lives our Lord is experiencing through us; He must love variety! On that note, the other good thing about visiting a variety of churches is that when someone is looking for a church, I am not trying to get them to come to my church, but giving them a list of churches praying God lead them to where He wants them to be.

      I am sad for you that no one called to check up on you when you made a quiet exodus just a short time ago, and I know exactly how that feels...it has happened to us a few times as well. This last time, God wanted it not to be a quiet exodus like my husband and I would have preferred, but then at the end we were basically running the services except for the sermon, so there was no sneaking out really--and no one called us either.

      My former church had become very small, usually around twenty people, and had always been very family-like when we were in attendance, but no one was really involved each other outside of the church or at least with us, except for one family. There was no one under the age of 35 except for my daughter and theirs. All the adults but two were 50 and over. We left the way we were directed by God and it was so very uncomfortable. Only the one family has ever really been our friends and they remain so, we told them a few weeks before we left because theirs would be the last child in the church and since then we even went away on a weekend get-away together.

      I care about all of the members, I was even led to go pray for healing of one of them in her home, but now being free of the burden of supporting a dying church, I can see were we all had made saving the church a higher priority than saving souls. The church we became got in the way of being the Church. We hoped to bring people to our church (which was not happening) instead of bringing His Church to the people, being His Kingdom at hand, being Jesus to those outside of our walls. It was as if the church was in spiritual bankruptcy and trying to hold on to its material assets rather stretching with its spiritual potential. Well, now we are free to be led by God solely instead of being burdened with church obligations...at least, for this season.

      We rarely have been called to a church that we did not have a ministry in it and we have done about everything through the years, but I think the Lord wants us to focus on a ministry outside of the box. Now I really want to bring Jesus to people and I believe my Lord wanted me to see Todd White's approach to learn how to be Jesus to people outside of the church:
      Healing on the Streets

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  4. Sometimes I'm still a night owl...but other times I find myself going to bed with the chickens!

    I agree...our destination is the same! And I'm glad God likes variety, or else things might just be a bit boring! :)

    I've long recovered from the hurt I felt by no one seeming to care. I spent 15 years in the next church and things were much different. Also, my skin is a bit tougher now, so it probably wouldn't bother me as much if no on seemed to care. Thankfully that wasn't the case this time though, as I received a few phone calls! Not to mention, facebook makes it MUCH easier to stay in touch with people!

    Seems you have been through quite a lot as far as churches go, and have learned much. I'll be reading to see where/how your journey goes and the impact you will be making!

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Thank you fellow travelers for walking and talking with me along this journey.