Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Reclaiming the Lost - 5 Ways to Restore the Church

The hardest part of a task is the beginning. Writing that first sentence, running the first step, lifting the first weight, knocking down the first wall is half the battle. After we overcome the fear of the beginning, inertia starts to build and carries us through. As I wrote about yesterday, that can carry us to some really terrible directions.

Or we can use it for good.

The old couch can be made new again. The chalkboard of mistakes can be wiped clean. We are continually offered a new chance to start fresh, forgetting what has been left behind. The only thing that pulls us away is our own momentum.

red_scaffold (guess where berlin) by jonas_k, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  jonas_k 

Here are five changes to transfer our momentum in positive and health directions:

1. Give up on numerical growth

Let's face the music -- numbers are a terrible indicator of church health. The number of butts in the seats on Sunday morning speak to popularity -- not spiritual health. They can get up and leave as easy as they sat down. Depending on numbers to indicate success is a unhealthy and unhelpful metric, and it only pushes leaders to focus more on the shock and popular methods, rather than journeying with people through the decades.

Jesus demonstrated something very different in His ministry. Read about it in John 6.

2. Take responsibility for your spiritual health

No one is going to pull you into heaven. You get there on the grace of God alone. No pastor can pray, teach or lead you into heaven. Theologians use two terms to describe our process of salvation: justification and sanctification. 

Justification was the act of Jesus dying on the cross -- we are justified before God and made holy through that one act.

Sanctification is a process that is more involved. It is the process of being made more like God, and it is not a single moment, but speaks to the Christian struggle. Day in and day out, you and the Holy Spirit walking side by side working on your flaws, your weaknesses and your sins.

If you look back on the past year, are you closer to God today than you were then? Do you look more like Jesus or are the two individuals indistinguishable? Dare to walk with God and let Him change you.

3. Stop neglecting your community

We have become a generation of drive by Christians. We drive by our communities to get to our bastions of faith, and then drive right past them again back to our homes. The poor, the broken, the widows and the orphans are standing in front of us.

Are you involved in setting these injustices right? Do you know the people in your community? Are you a part of the community that knows and cares about the people around them?

Do not mistake that for saying that you are a part of a community that talks about it. Actions speak a million words. God does not care about our good intentions, He demands our action.

4. Give up your desire for control

Jesus taught us to lay down our arms, to surrender our pride to Him. He led Israel out of Egypt and asked them to trust Him for food, shelter, water -- and He delivered. Now God is asking you to trust Him to lead you home to glory.

Yet we clutch at our sinful natures like a child to their blankie. It is immature, weak and petty. Like a man or woman reaching maturity, it is time to let go of our old comforts and walk boldly into our new calling.

Then you look like His Church.

5. Recognize you are the problem

You are the problem. So am I. We eagerly await the time when Jesus will return and we will be free from the sin that constricts our souls and tries to drag us away from Him.

So why do we spend so much time picking on other people's faults as though we were perfect? We worry about the smudge on their clothes when we are smeared in oil. Other's sin is just that -- theirs. When you are perfect, you earn a right to start judging them for theirs.

Walk humbly with one another and speak with a great deal of fear and oceans of love. You'll find that the problem that once drove you to madness fades away quickly. After all, when we are so unlovable, it becomes a simple matter to pour undeserved love on others.

What did I miss? How would you reclaim your church and community?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

When It Isn't Working

Let's face a fact -- our western church is broken. Perhaps beyond salvage. We have existed in a Christendom imperialistic state for too long, and our spiritual muscles have begun to atrophy. Compounded by the fact that our enemy has not been idle. While we have lounged in the apparent comfort of our Christian culture, culture forgot it was Christian and moved on without us.

We listened to a lie.

Colorkey by 55Laney69, on Flickr

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  55Laney69 

You know that one I am speaking of, even if only deep under the surface. The one that tells you that you are safe -- you belong in this world -- you can look like the world and keep your Christian identity. It is the same lie that tells you that your money and your spirituality are not intimately tied together. It is the lie that has slowly wrapped around the churches neck and is now bringing her to atrophy.
Arrogance and self-awareness seldom go hand in hand - M.
 While we were growing fat in our opulent pews, Satan was whispering to our children. While we focussed on our careers and providing safety for our future generations, He was gleefully heaping worry on our shoulders.

Soon we forgot about our calling and mission. Our pastors stopped pushing, and started manoeuvring for a piece of the pie. We stopped depending on the One who leads out of Egypt and lowered our eyes to the Caananites in the Promised Land. They are too big, too strong. Their walls are too tall for us to overcome.

As if the battle was ever ours to fight.

The step forward is a big one. For some, it will be insurmountable. The faith that God is asking of us is not what they believe in -- it costs too much. What they do not know will kill them in the end, and so we must step forward with fear and grace to those who will not follow us.

It is a step towards humility. Recognizing that maybe we were wrong.

It is a step towards Scripture. Approaching it not to validate our opinions, but to learn.

It is a step towards our calling. To spread the Gospel in deed. Uplifting our communities and breaking the cycles of poverty, racism and violence.

It is a step towards our Saviour. Because it was always about him.

When it isn't working, it is time for something new. For insanity is trying the same thing and expecting different results.

Surrender to the One who can truly bring change in the world. Through our humility, we find freedom.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Facing the Darkness Within

More than any other fear in our world, we are afraid to gaze inward and face our own demons. Depression, anger and addictions are all symptoms of a deeper beast that lurks under our Stepford lives. Marriages are broken, children are listless and culture seems lost -- we are searching for something greater outside of ourselves without overcoming our darkness within.

The past few posts have been exploring the idea of peace in a global and local context. Scratching the surface of a massive topic, and something that I believe is crucial to living a life in weakness. We cannot be comfortable in our natural weakness without being at peace with a greater strength. We cannot be a part of the solution until we stop feeding the problem.

I am blessed to have been a part of a family with a strong heritage. The blog has been dark over the past two weeks as Nicole and I journeyed East for a family reunion on the farm. A great few days with Uncles, Aunts and cousins as we reminisced and enjoyed spending time with one another.

One thing my family has taught me is that no challenge is too hard to overcome. Through our relationship with God along with friend sand family, whatever demons haunt us can be faced and the wounds healed. Whether it be the loss of a child, the struggle with cancer inside of families, unknown medical conditions or other insidious ailments -- God is enough.

So why do we not live like that is true?

Why do we live our daily routines as though we were alone, as though God really does not look down on us and promises to care for us like the sparrow? Why do we listen to the lies that tell us we are too far gone for God's infinite grace? Why do we allow fear to be our guide?

Jesus' Kingdom stands as the antithesis. Everyone that he met was broken, carrying baggage from their past. Many thought they were too far gone, too far out for Yahweh to save them. Some carried those burdens physically... they were lame, blind, diseased. Others carried it within, having robbed their countrymen for riches, broken marriages through adultery or been told that they would never be good enough.

Jesus came to each of them, bringing a soothing balm to their festering wounds. When the world tells us that we will amount to nothing -- God offers us purpose. When we are told we are unlovable, God loves us all the same. When we are maimed beyond repair, God begins to knit us back together.

"Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, 'I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.'" - Jesus
When we are stumbling through the darkness -- alone, distraught and panicked, God offers us light. There is no darkness that can withstand the light. No wound that cannot be healed. No sin that cannot be healed with repentance.

To truly spread the Kingdom, we must find peace within. We must walk into the light.

What lies have you listened to?