Saturday, November 17, 2007

Your church can be healthy. The question is, what are you willing to do about it?

When it comes down to it, our actions will tell volumes more than anything we can ever say, or anything we could ever know. It comes down to discipleship, if we are being discipled in the Word, then we will be modeling his character. How we are receiving our Lord, how we are, who we are in Christ, is how we are to ourselves, to each other and back to our God. What resides in us will either build the church or tear it apart in strife and conflict. Our agendas will be the vision and direction, weather it is Scripture based or self based, the vision will be the architect design to the church we build. The church the community sees and reacts to is what we make of it. Christ gives us the plans and the call, so do we do it in Him or to ourselves?

The apostle Paul knew what it was like to be strong in religious convection and weak, as in 1 Corinthians 2:3. Being a person guided by our Lord, allowing Him to be our strength and our will to become weak, then He will prevail, we will prevail. We must institute the true characteristic of leadership, forgiveness, conflict resolution, hospitality, renewal, responsibility, outreach, worship and prayer. Putting our best forward to give the Lord glory to build up our selves in Him, to build up His church, which again builds us up. We must be intercessors praying continually for people, our church, and how we can grow and be better.

We need to be imitators of His character, surrendered and poured out so there is nothing of us that remains, all that we are is who we are in Christ. Then collectively we can be the church that Scripture calls us to be. A heart for our Lord will translate into a heart for His church, for His people, and even for ourselves. So our esteem is not self based but Christ based. So our church is Christ based and not self based!

We do not want churches just going through the motions, doing things out of a since of obligation. It must be Fruit of the Spirit and not work of our will. It must reflect a sole bought by Christ, overflowing with a response of gratitude. If not get out of the kitchen! Get help, get spiritual counseling and renewal. Do not be in leadership, do not engage in ministry. Because we cannot do the work of the Lord, unless we are the people of the Lord!

· If you are not bringing out the best in people, then get out of the Kitchen!

· If you are always critical, then get out of the kitchen!

· If you are not focused on Christ, then get out of the kitchen!

· If you are not practicing your God given gifts, then get out of the kitchen!

· If you are not in the process of growth and learning, then get out of the kitchen!

· If you are not in the Word, then get out of the kitchen!

· If you are not working as a team, then get out of the kitchen!

· If you are not supporting the pastor, then get out of the kitchen!

· If you are not learning from failure, then get out of the kitchen!

· If you are open to change that is compromising His Word, then get out of the kitchen!

· If you are not including of others who are not like yourself, then get out of the kitchen!

· If you are not working under vision and direction from the Word, then get out of the kitchen!

· If you are not working in the perimeters of faith and Fruit, then get out of the kitchen!

· If you are not having fun, then get out of the kitchen!

· If you are not in prayer then get out of the kitchen!

The kitchen of leadership, and get into the hospital of His love and help!

Our Devotion Must be to Christ and not to Ourselves

I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power. 1 Corinthians 2:3-5

The biblical model for our church is clearly laid out in Scripture. We may not agree with one another on how to implement His call, or even how to do our government or run our services or the exact meaning of the Lord’s Supper. We may not agree on how we worship or on the subtle aspects of pre-millennial, post-millennial, pre-tribulation, or post-tribulation doctrine or where they will even be a great tribulation or rapture. However, those things we must agree on and what we must do cooperatively are found clearly in His Word. It contains the big picture and call to the essentials of what a church is to be, which is acknowledging His supremacy in all that we do.

Understanding Christ’s supremacy means understanding His holiness. Yet, holiness is not a part of a lot of churches because we have forgotten why we are there and what the true role of the church is. We have forgotten that the Lord of the universe has called us out and has set us apart for His use. We have replaced His holiness with our own experiences because we have forgotten our call, our definition, and the real biblical purpose. We have been placed in a church for a reason, and one of the main reasons is to be set apart for His purpose and not for our own. This is holiness. We have forgotten our adoption into His kingdom and the vision of what our church should be. We have replaced it with gothic cathedrals with magnificent stained glass pictures and architecture that screams, “God is holy,” yet the pews are empty; because the teaching does not show that God is Holy and discipleship are forsaken. We have moved the church so close to the consumer we have forgotten about our product and what we stand for. We have printed out ideas and motions as “core values” with Scripture that we think rivets His plan to a purpose, yet the people go untaught and continue to spread the disease of gossip and malice. Lust, greed, and power have taken over when peace, grace, forgiveness, and love are to be the route taken.

Well thought out functionally unhitched to the basics of why we do church misleads its members and community and displeases God! Even if the church grows, it is unhealthy church growth and misses the point of who and why we are.

We must see our unworthiness and inadequacy before our Holy God and seek His forgiveness and restitution. We must not let our sin replace the call of the church to holiness. We must allow His grace to work within us and through us so we can be the church that is healthy, vibrant, and filled with love. The goal is to have His love and our love, all working together and all surrendered and poured out to holiness and purpose that is not forgotten. The church is about us as the Christians who are in Christ, worshiping Him. It is not about our petty needs and ideas. The church was created for us to house His plan in our lives, to come together in community for worship, fellowship, teaching, and outreach. It is about us because it binds us together for Him. It is not about our replacing His desires and plans for ours, or putting the focus upon us. We are not the main characters in God’s drama of redemption, Christ is. Thus, we must realize that the church is about our Lord Jesus Christ and His plan for redemption. It is about our coming together and modeling His character. We are the supporting cast of actors and extras that make the story come alive to those around us. The church is not a place for grandstanding our desires and personalities.

We need to depend on the cross because we fall way short of the expectations, obedience, and the law. Now, with grace, we can go through life empowered and indwelled by the Spirit. When we have a growing relationship with Christ, we can go through life without fear; we can have the comfort of His presence and help build His church as healthy, vibrant, and effective. Our response is passionate devotion and obedience. We cannot be devoted to principles or even doctrine if we are not devoted to the person and work of Christ. Our church is not a about a cause; it is a about a Person¾the God and Creator of all things who loves us, who indwells in us, who empowers us, and who guides us according to His purposes.

Our devotion must be to Christ and not to ourselves, not to a principle or to an idea, and definitely not to trends. We cannot pour out our lives for false passion and conviction for a goal that has no eternal purpose, one that does not glorify our Lord. When we run our churches by our personal agenda and principles, we go astray because our principles are not in the Lordship of Christ; they are within us, our sinful nature. We become in “breach of the contract,” of His covenant of love and acceptance, rejecting it for self-interests that lead us nowhere!

We need to receive the love of our Lord from the Holy Spirit, and not allow anything to get in His way!

Friday, November 09, 2007

Have you had a bad church experience?

Get Over it and Move On

How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. Psalm 84:1-2

Have you had a bad church experience? Then what have you done with it? How does that differ from bad family experiences? Accordingly to Focus on the Family and other research organizations such as ours at Into Thy Word have found that approximately 20 million Americans who have professed to be Christians and made a commitment to Jesus Christ, have said they have struggled with such bad experiences at their church they are no longer going to any church. Barna Research has given similar results that in a six month study, 10 million of them; spiritual life has nothing to do with church (gleaned from and

Yes the church has problems as I have perhaps overzealously pointed out or maybe understated them. The church is a human institution, filled with our fallen sinful nature al converging with each other’s sinful nature. It is also about our interpersonal relationships and being a family. So we should expect a few flaws of unsatisfactory reactions by people. After all, you cannot please everyone. And what relationship or family does not have its good times and bad, its ups and downs, so it is with any church too. We should expect it, prepare for it, deal with is, take the responsibility for it and move on with forgiveness when we are wronged and repent when we do wrong. And there is no institution better; after all, who is going to marry you and bury you? Who is going to hold your baby up in baptism or dedication? These important stages of life are centered upon the church, all the richness of the traditions, and all the hope we have to look to. Would you rather go to the courthouse? Well, if we do not reform and turn our failing churches around, people will rather go to the courthouse as many today are. And then where does that leave the church and its relevance in culture?

· Perhaps you have been gossiped about, someone told lies about you and you feel betrayed from someone you once called friend.

· Perhaps you are in a conflict, coming out of a conflict or headed for a conflict with another church member.

· Perhaps you are in serious disagreement with the pastor and or the church leadership.

· Perhaps you are discouraged that your issues and troubles are not being heard or your needs being met.

· Perhaps you are so stressed out in life and find church too consuming or confusing and do not know where to start or go.

· Perhaps you have been humiliated and lost any courage to go that you may have had once.

· Perhaps you feel you have been fired and rejected by the church and see no other place to go.

By the way, these are the seven top reasons why a person leaves a church then to never come again and many to never attend any church again. That is why I am so passionate about this subject that few are willing to talk about or admit. That leads to the thinking…. what am I here for, this is not for me anymore. Consider that thousands of people each Sunday feel that way as the clock strikes noon! You thought church would be fun and safe you could connect and grow there. And yes you still can, it is never too late as long as you have breath. You may need to reform it or find another one, but you as a Christian need a home to grow and serve in. And realize that you are not alone. You also need to realize that you have to get over it and move on and Christ will empower you to do so.

As Christians, even avid churchgoers and leaders we are still human beings, we are prone to make mistakes, either intentionally or unintentionally. That is why we have a Savior. Yet, we all have hurt people, and we have all been hurt; we are all in the same boat of doing life together. So, when we refuse to forgive one another, it is like escaping the disaster of a great house fire, only to try to go back and relight it again. Yet, that is what so many of us do in life and in church; we sabotage the very thing that is designed to help bring us a healthy life and relationships. Why do we do that? Because, as hurting people, we hurt others; we become so hurt that we intentionally or unintentionally seek to inflict that hurt upon friends and family. We need to understand that in Christ, our escape from the fire is our redemption, which we do not deserve. Christ gives us the means to be free and that is forgiveness. Since everyone else who are there or fleeing needs the cross too, why try to sabotage another? All you will accomplish is to maroon yourself. To stop the replicable cycle of hurt, we have to step out of the fire and be willing to put it out by being able and willing to forgive! We may get hot, but at least we will not burn!

If you have been wronged and I have been there many times and I am the pastor, we all must commit to getting over it! And yes anyone can and most have had a bad experience at church. The big problem is not just the leadership ignoring and then doing nothing about it; it is the person who has been hurt and doing nothing to move on from it. We must not allow our pains to imprison us away from what the church can be and should be.

So few of us will actually step out and forgive. So, out of the mistakes we make, or those others cause us, comes our pain, hurt, and resentment. This resentment escalates into animosity, and builds into bitterness, until it distorts our faith and even destroys our church and causes all of its once vibrant members into isolation or pain. If we refuse to forgive, and built an impenetrable wall that caused bitterness and isolation all we will do is wallow in our troubles, blaming everyone else for them. If we would just allow forgiveness to take place it will break down those walls of hurt that would permit the building of life and relationships. Forgiveness is the only human force that can stop the disintegration of relationships in the church. This is why it is so essential. This is why our LORD calls us to forgive. If you have been hurt, or you have hurt others—and we all have—open your eyes and realize that it is the call of the Christian to dispel these conflicts. It is our call and mandate to forgive. It is also in our best interest and one of our main avenues to relationship contentment. Without forgiveness, our growth and maturity with Christ will stagnate, and our church cannot be built!

We may suffer betrayal from trusted church friends, church leaders, pastors, denominational officials and other members and even outsiders. However, we are called to forgive, anyway! Why? Because, we need it, and because we are imperfect, fallen, and full of sin. Even the Christian who is saved by Grace is still in process of growth and sanctification. We are yet imperfect, no matter what our level of maturity. If you are thinking, I refuse to forgive others, consider this reason to forgive. We forgive because God has forgiven us. If we do not, the resentment will build and build—like battery acid that slowly eats away a car—until, unless we fix it, it will destroy us. Even secular psychologists tell us that resentment is the most powerful, self-destructive emotion in our arsenal. Will you allow forgiveness to build, or bitterness to destroy your relationships and life? (See my book on Building Healthy Relationships for more helps on this subject.)

What you can do to recover from bad church experiences is simple.

· First as already said, you have to forgive, even if they do not disserve it. Remember you did not disserve Christ’s forgiveness, none of us did, and yes we have it in Him!

· Then, read about the life of Joseph in Genesis chapters 39-45. See how much he was betrayed and been hurt and as long as he honored God, God blessed him and he was even able to not only forgive his family but be an instrument of deliverance to them too.

· Then prayer over your experiences, seek God out and allow Him to heal you.

· Look at the Scriptural references to this chapter in the appendix and read and then study them.

· Then commit to get back on the horse that bucked you off, the church that threw you and move on. If you can’t stay in your church, find another one, one where Christ is lifted up and preached.

· If you need further help seek a qualified Christian counselor or pastor, but remember it is your responsibly to forgive, forget and more on!

The sooner we all realize that no church is perfect, the sooner we can move on to personal recovery and build up our faith more. Christ is perfect ad we are to look to Him. Remember each of us, as in you are the church too, and in order to make the church better you also have to make yourself better too. And this is what Christ is all about, the Redeemer and giver of mercy, grace and faith, take a hold of Him!

Reverencing Christ

So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 2 Corinthians 5:16-17

We must understand the importance of our reverence to Christ. We come before a holy God. He is not just a pal or friend or guide or the man upstairs or whatever allegory you like, He is our Savior and our Lord. A healthy church is all about
who Christ is and what He has done. He is not just a Savior and/or a best Friend; He gives us life, holds our lives, and will judge our lives. He is the One who overcame life and death for our benefit, and when we seek to run His church our way, we embarrass and dishonor Him and His Way. He has the keys in His hand, as the door to knowing Him and making Him known is only locked from our side. We have no need to fear our future when He is our Light, Guide, and Lord.

This understanding of who He is will help us be people who are humble and people He can use. One of the central themes of humbleness is if we do not do it, God will. God asks us to “humble yourselves” for the essential reason that if we do not, He will, and when that happens, it may just be too late. If we do not start to reform our churches to be as they were designed and destined to be, then it will be too late. The doors will close just as has already happened in most parts of Europe. The church once flourished there, but apathy, liberalism and disease took over and now her pews sit empty in the midst of a confused and decadent culture. We cannot just visualize what a healthy church can and should look like; we must act on it to make it happen. A healthy church is not just a question of believing in Christ, but of doing what He has called us to do with trust and obedience। A healthy church is not about our comfort or what we can experience, but about being people of faith and maturity and being our best at what we can be for His glory.

Is your church Reverencing Christ?

Place this from Scripture to Your Church’s Heart

The first church was, “devoted to the apostles' teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, prayer; and everyone was filled with awe.” Acts 2...

A medical stethoscope is used to hear ones heart by a doctor. Acts chapter gives us the call of our Lord, some of His principles that we can use to see our heartbeats function. From your church devotion, teaching, fellowship, and breaking of bread, which means community and doing it all in love.
What does the stethoscope “hear” from your church? What is your church devoted to? What are your motives and plans? What and where are your awe and wonderment? These will be the questions, and if answered honestly, will be the measuring rod to the health of your church. This passage in Acts gives us the purpose, vision, and call of the Church, both as a whole and individually to each congregation. Not just a certain church down the street, but your church, and all churches together as one body. The healthy church looks like Acts 2! This means we look like we are devoted to Christ and His call because we are. We are teaching effectively, we are in fellowship and community with one another, we are forgiving and honoring of one another, and doing all we do in love. We also look like people who are focused on prayer and our growth in Him. It is not just what we look like¾it is because we are. And we do this, with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. The healthy church can be your church; perhaps it already is, or maybe it needs to be tweaked or totally reformed. So, strive to catch that AWE, that passion and devotion to our Lord and the reason for our being!

Most churches that are failing did not wake up one day and just decide, “Hey, let’s fail.” They did not start off with “me first” intentions, ignoring our Lord’s call. They probably did not choose a purposeful direction of being critical and condescending to one another, and especially not with non-Christians. They did not come together to see how they can better hurt one another, how to have better conflicts and refuse to forgive and repent. They did not write their mission statements with a “how to do the disdainful disposition,” or hold seminars on modeling attitudes of puffed-up pride. There was a process that led up to the point of decline and apathy from a starting point of new birth and excitement. There was a point where the first love became clouded, and other dispositions took over the role of the church. Just as the divorcing couples did not go into their wedding with the vision and plan for the divorce, or say in their vows, “say, in five years, let’s become so miserable that we will hate each other then we will divorce and live frustrated and disillusioned lives.” Here, too, was a process that went from the love and excitement of newlywed bliss to bitterness, criticism, patronizing, defensiveness, and withdrawal, and finally, the decision to end the relationship. It has been my observation that the causes of marriage failure are the same as with church failure. The two relationships have the same perimeters for what works and what destroys. The church is a community of relationships-with one another, with the world, and most importantly, with our Lord.

The process begins with love and excitement for the ministry, the new birth for the new Christian, or the new church start for the seasoned Christian. It can happen being in a healthy church, or being in a non-healthy church, never having experienced anything else. But, at some point, the committed Christian who has received the election of our Lord, trades in that first love for a “lemon” of sin. Somehow, the love and passion slowly dwindle away as other things creep their way into the place of that excitement. And these “things” are the diseases of apathy, gossip, pride, legalism, slander; the list can go on and on. These form the relationship killers of bitterness, criticism, condescending attitudes, defensiveness, and withdrawal that create that church of perfidy. These are the sins that take the joy away from others; it is, in fact, stealing from God Himself. These were not the precepts that the church was founded upon; these diseases were not in the vision of her planters, just as the divorce court was not on the wedding planner of the couple getting married. Yet, it happened, and it keeps happening.

What does God's Stethoscope say?

Is Your Church Healthy?

Most pastors and church leaders would answer this question with an emphatic yes and a few would be honest and perhaps say not so much। So, what about your church? Are you being honest? If we are not willing to take an honest look at our Lord’s precepts and align ourselves up to them and see what is wrong and be willing to correct it, we are not being healthy and may even be betraying Him!

A healthy church is one that is filled with His presence, is motivated to serve Him, and has love for “one another” See Appendix…). In leading a church we must know that it is all about the centrality and supremacy of Christ. A healthy church is not about numbers, programs, services, location, facilities, amenities, conveniences or even theology (as long as it is biblical and hold to the essentials). A healthy church is purposely directed to glorify Christ and Him alone. It is a place where people are growing in Him and allowing His impact to invade their will and desires so the Fruit of the Spirit flows into His Church and His people. This simple idea, “Depend on the Cross,” encapsulates what this means and what God calls us to do. It is all about who Christ is and what He has done for us, and being poured out to Him.

In practice, this means we do not depend on trends or humanistic reasoning or a visionary or charismatic leader; rather, we are collectively depending upon His grace, forgiveness, love, and His empowerment to worship and glorify Christ, as He is our “all in all.” We need to understand and apply the simple point that church is about Christ and our adoration of Him. The healthy church will look like this: people who love and are growing, who are in the process of His redemption, and who are exercising the Fruit and character of our Lord. It is not about what we want, because we will have much more. We will have a healthy church glorifying Him, loving one another, and impacting our communities. Wouldn’t you want to be a part of a church like this? If so, what is stopping you? You are the church, you as a Christian, whether a leader or not, can direct your desires, manage your reasoning, and control your decisions. And as a communally as a church, you along with others set the tone and the direction, whether you are a pastor, a leader, or a volunteer. You can help navigate your church to glorify Him and be healthy. You, by your obedience, prayer and our Lord’s empowerment can turn your church around!

Simply and passionately put, as Scripture proclaims, what a healthy church is, and it is one that is poured out to our Lord। It practices the love of our Lord through worship, teaching, learning, loving, caring, praying, and outreach. It is a church that chooses to be a bag of marbles with different colors and sizes and all working together. Each marble seizing its call and exercising its gift for the love of the game. But, in our case, it is not a game. Rather, it is a very serious matter that is also joyful, reverent and fun. Have you ever tried to play marbles with just one or by yourself? Not much fun, is it? To play your best and enjoy doing it, you need more than one, each with a purpose and direction and with others playing too. In spite of that, a lot of people in churches choose to be the lone marble. Such a church really cannot be used to play any marble games, not because there are too few, but because the marbles just do not get along. Yet, the more marbles you have working together, the better you can play. And the “more” is two or more gathered in His name, people working together for a common purpose with vision and strength, all striving to give God the glory. So do not lose your marbles!, is Your Church Healthy?