Friday, May 28, 2010

Sunday, April 25, 2010

I'm Only Going to Use Christian Electricity

I understand how it all started. We wanted to support our fellow Christians, so we decided to use symbols like the fish (Ichthus) or the cross to identify Christian business men and women. We wanted to make sure our money was used for the kingdom of God. Now, as a church history buff, I love the Ichthus and how it originated. And the cross: wow, any comment would be an understatement. But how far do we take this?

Like I said, I get the logic. If I use the services of the Christian plumber, then I'm helping my brother-in-the-Lord; then he'll be able to give a bigger tithe or offering in his church; who will send more money to the missionary; and so on (at least in theory). It is a great idea, and I hope that type of cycle happens. I'm just afraid that it leads to a mentality of exclusivity.

Is Christianity a club? Is it an exclusive group that you have to be invited into, by one of it's members, of course, then you get to share in the perks of the membership? And if you know the secret handshake, you get the special business deal. If that's the case, we're basically a variation of the Masons, or the Moose Lodge, or Elks. It's the club mentality that turns many people off. They don't want to join our club of Christianity because they don't want to go through the hazing process.

A wonderful Christian man named Keith Wheeler put it this way, "we should be insulated from the world, not isolated". I love that. So well put. When we as Christians separate ourselves from "the world" so we don't get tainted by evil and sin, we are actually isolating ourselves. That's not what Jesus taught us to do. Of course we are supposed to live Godly lives; and we should be different because of our walk with Christ. But we should stand out as being different because of our love, not because of our condescending snootiness. Remember when Jesus was eating dinner with the sinners, and the Pharisees gasped in horror? By eating with them, Jesus wasn't loosening up his holiness and saying to himself, "ah, what the hell, I might as well have fun while I'm down here". No, the Bible is very clear: Jesus lived a perfect, sinless life. So he was still holy, yet he did not shy away from sinful people (which was everyone). Insulated, not isolated.

You're not going to be able to buy products that only put money into Christian pockets. Probably 95% percent of everything you own or could own is putting money into the hands of selfish, greedy, evil, non-Christian, un-Christian, and anti-Christian people. But this isn't just about not shopping only from the Christian phone book. Far worse is when you separate yourSELF. If you are a sincere believer, then you have something to contribute to the world. But if you isolate yourself, then no one benefits. The world misses out on your influence, and you miss out on the amazing ways that everyone, good and bad, adds a dash of improvement to your life.

Many of the topics I've touched on could be expanded into their own book. But I hope you get the basic idea here. Go out into the world. Rub elbows with the world, hug it, let it get you dirty. Your mandate as a Christian is to stay clean on the inside. So it doesn't matter if you get some mud on the outside. That just means you're working. And don't worry about where your money goes. I look at it this way: when my secular, worldly company gives me a paycheck, I use THEIR money to spread the gospel of Jesus. So it goes both ways. And I don't think you can find Christian electricity.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Church of the Future

I have a dream. Perhaps even a vision. It's how church may look very soon. While the analysts are scrambling to gather data and statistics to see what is happening in the church and what we need to do to fix it, maybe we don't need to do anything. What if everything that is happening is by God's design? As we all ponder that question, here are some things I see.

I see a church where you feel the presence of God as soon as you approach the building, or at least when you enter the front door; not just hoping you may feel it later in the service after lights, video, music, and an entertaining orator give you an emotional buzz. I see people walking into whatever room they call the sanctuary and all you hear is the whispers and murmurings of prayer or worship; not the light-hearted chatter of people catching up with their friends' weekly events.

I see a church where only the humble are promoted to leadership while the proud and haughty are made to wait; a church where the body of believers are conditioned to respond to sincerity and honesty, not impressive cheerleading. I see believers who see through false spirituality and shun it; believers who can tell whether a Christian is looking at Jesus or himself.

I see a church where every coffee shop has been converted into a shelter for the homeless; and every bookstore into a wearhouse for clothes and food for the poor. Instead of youth recreation rooms with pool tables and ping-pong tables, I see teenagers praying at the altar for their friends and families. I see Sunday school teachers who don't feel obligated to fill up a forty-five minute class time with forty minutes of games and activities and a five-minute Bible lesson.

I see a church that spends less money on decorations if it means they could spend more on their missionaries. I see a church that refuses to spend thousands of dollars hosting a "conference", only to break even and over-work a lot of volunteers - all for the secret goal of promoting the church name and picking up a few new members.
I see a church that aggressively takes care of its own members like the church did in Acts 4:34 so that there would be "no needy persons among them."

I see a church that loves first, and asks questions later; where newcomers are presumed innocent and invited into the circle of fellowship without having to prove themselves. I see a church that loves the unlovely: a body of believers that gives the same attention to people who look vastly different than them, as to people who look like them.

When I hear about how church membership is dwindling and young people don't attend like they used to, I'm not surprised. I'm not even upset. The correct response is not, "what do we do about it?". WE can't do anything. We shouldn't do anything that we think would attract people back to church. If a church is dying, let it die. Jesus said every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. Why would you want to spend time, money, and effort to keep a church on life-support? That's not a church that is truly alive. That's a church that is dead, but technically alive through false methods.

The only thing we can DO is to improve our relationship with the Lord. God is cleaning house. It's His house, let Him clean it. Don't hinder the work of the Holy Spirit. When the cleaning is done, then the churches that are bearing good fruit will be stronger than ever. People on the outside will know who the Christians are because they will see a believer as someone who belongs to that group of people who is full of the power and glory of the Almighty God.

I want to be a part of that church: the church that has less stuff but does more stuff. I want to be a part of a church that either draws you, or repulses you: one or the other - not a church that is so safe and sterile, it has no effect on you.
I pray that the church of the future is just around the corner. We need to become the church, the body, that Jesus commands us to be.