are you listening?

 

I had a thought last week- With all of the people who are speaking and writing about how messed up, misaligned, and disconnected the Church is from Jesus Christ… is there anyone within the walls of the Church even listening?

That has been a question I have been wrestling with over the last three years.  And, it is ultimately what prompted me to write a book about how disconnected from Christ the Church has become, but more importantly what it begins to look like for the Church to discover the Kingdom of God and then to begin embodying it.

The beginning point, of which I wrote about last week, for the Christian and the Church has to be Jesus Christ, centrally and unequivocally.  Oddly enough after that post, by buddy wrote a note to me and asked, “I would love to know what inspired your most recent blog post?”  This was my response:

I think the thing that sparked it this morning was seeing tons and tons of people on Facebook and Twitter continually posting the same old, tired articles about how broken the Church is…and never engaging the Church on what it would actually look like to begin changing.  I hope some people will read it and actually have a conversation about it.

I have certainly been one who has taken the Church to task over the years… and I will continue to do so, in love, because I believe the best days of the Church are ahead of us as we begin to look and speak like the Jesus we follow.  But my commitment is to go out of my way, not just to address the issues, but to help Christians and churches understand what it begins to look like to embody Jesus Christ in our community and the world.  Generalities only go so far.  We have to get specific.   

Our beginning point is Christ and Christ alone- with his spirit being submissive, gentle, loving, peaceful, humble, forgiving, and graceful…and his path being at the bottom, below everyone else in the world, so as to come up from below in humility and service.  The way of Jesus Christ and His Kingdom does not assume the position of honor at the front table rather it humbly takes the unassuming table in the back of the room.  It is an attitude of the last will be first and the first will be last.

There cannot be enough emphasis on this truth for Christians and the Church:  we must become people of the bottom; people who are below; people who are last; people who are in the back; people who are the least.  We are people who put the interest of others before ourselves becoming a servant to all- our friends, our spouses, our children, our brothers and sisters in Christ, those wildly different than us, and our enemies- in order to demonstrate the love of God.  We are not to be loud, showy, boisterous, obnoxious, or holier-than-thou.  We simply follow the low and humble way of the suffering servant and we do it in every situation and every context, for the low, humble, submissive, and loving way changes hearts and minds.

As such, we are to be transformed like Christ to the unfair boss, the slow store clerk, the rude or obnoxious salesperson, the junkie on the street, and the antagonistic loudmouth.  We are to be loving, patient, and long-suffering to those who offend, trespass, or violate us.  God’s love is to burst forth from our lives in such a remarkable and profound way that the world is drawn to this Christ whom they have never known before because they see Him demonstrated through us.  In our own power we do not have the capacity to act in such profound ways; it is only by the power of God working through us that we are able.  It is never us, only God.

Let’s get even more specific- too many times I believe that we as Christians become so identified with the culture of our churches and “the way we have always done things” that we leave the way of Jesus in the dust without ever thinking much about it.  We have enabled, rather than confronted, the small, petty antics that hardly look like Jesus and His Kingdom.  Think about how misaligned and feeble our ways are and how petty our ways look compared to the awesome, transformative, and magnetic ways of Christ and His Kingdom.

If you say you follow Jesus Christ, do you judge people by who they are, how they are dressed, how they look, or how much money they have?  The ways of the kingdoms of the world divide people into classes and judge them for who they are, what they have done, and what they have or don’t have. In the Kingdom of God there is no judgment because we only see others as the children of God.  We also recognize that we are the “chief of all sinners” not any better or any worse than anyone else.

If you say you follow Jesus Christ, are you easily hurt or offended by your brothers and sisters in your church- or- by people in general?  Rather than walking the pathway of humility, peace, and reconciliation do you run away to other churches and hide from your issues.  The ways of the kingdoms of the world encourage pouting and resentment when one gets his feelings hurt.  In the Kingdom of God we work toward humility, submission, and forgiveness with anyone and everyone who speaks poorly of us, hurts us, offends us, or even strikes us.

If you say you follow Jesus Christ, do you get your feelings hurt if you are not officially recognized by the preacher for your service, or accomplishment?  The ways of the kingdoms of the world promote accomplishment, recognition, and accolades for a job well-done.  In the Kingdom of God we are happy and joyful when we can serve our God in secret; in such a way that the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing.

If you say you follow Jesus Christ, do you withhold your offering in protest or organize to force your own way and agenda when you are not in agreement with a decision?  The ways of the kingdoms of the world are bent on political power and influence and teach us that it is best to manipulate in order to get what we want.  In the Kingdom of God we pray together in unity for the Spirit of God to be our guide, so that we may bear with each other in grace and love.  We carry each other’s burdens while seeking God on our knees in prayer together.

If you say you follow Jesus Christ, are you negative about someone or something in the church (or outside of the church) and work to divide one person against another with your words and/or actions?  The ways of the kingdoms of the world work to fracture, hurt, and divide individuals and relationships, pitting one person or group against each other.  In the Kingdom of God we work toward the uplifting, encouragement, and building up of each person in his or her life and relationships.  We work toward the healing and the restoration of people, relationships, and church bodies.

If you say you follow Jesus Christ, are you always demanding the way you like things, forcing your own individual way and your own individual agenda on others and on those within the church?  The ways of the kingdoms of the world teach us to look out for our own interests, the survival of the fittest, and the necessity of taking care of “numero uno.”  In the Kingdom of God we work together in unity considering the interests of others before our own while making sure that each person is taken care of and ministered to…most especially the weakest and most modest parts of the Body among us.

If you say you follow Jesus Christ, do you neglect the cause of the poor, the imprisoned, the widow, the orphan, or the oppressed?  The ways of the kingdoms of the world work to ignore, push, and marginalize those already on the edges of society further into isolation, destitution, and misery.  In the Kingdom of God the outcasts are met where they are at in mercy and grace and welcomed into loving, whole, and healed community that gives worth and value to every single person despite their circumstance.

If you say you follow Jesus Christ, do you still dislike or hate those whom you have labeled as enemies…seeking to avoid, not forgive, and/or get revenge against them?  The ways of the kingdoms of the world label and divide and actively pursue retribution against anyone who is seen as an enemy or adversary.  In the Kingdom of God every person in the world is a beloved child of God and a brother or sister to whom we extend grace, love, and forgiveness as we embody the way of Christ equally to friend and enemy.

If you say you follow Jesus Christ, are you a “minister” who seeks attention and puts your way before others in order to receive special recognition from the congregation.  The ways of the kingdoms of the world promote and give special attention to great leaders for their accomplishments and accolades, celebrating the achievements of one man.  In the Kingdom of God each part of the Body is equally important with no one part being any more important than another.  Each part of the body uses his or her God-given gifts, with all praise and attention going to God.  As a result, each of us ought to submit to one another, washing one another’s feet in humility and service as Christ would do for us.

This list of questions could go on and on forever, but don’t miss the point.  As followers of Jesus Christ, as those who have been made new by the Holy Spirit, as those who operate by a new set of standards in the Kingdom of God, we must confront and die to the wicked ways of the world and be the Church God has made us to be.  For His salvation has allowed us to embody presently, not the old, worn-out, and self-interested ways of the kingdoms of the world, but the Life-givingKingdom of God.  And this is the way we ought to live every second of the day.

Praise God that He can move in such spectacular ways in spite of our lack of cooperation.  Praise God that He does not give up on us when we continue to fall so miserably short of His ways.  Praise God that, even now, that He continues to patiently wait for each of us to surrender our hearts and our lives to His reign and His rule and His Kingdom!

peace…

Brandon

13 thoughts on “are you listening?

  1. Brandon, that is by far the best prophetic call to the People of God to stop complaining about the church and start being the church… good stuff!

    Like

  2. Hi Brandon, I read this post and your last one and I wondered if you ever think there is a good reason to leave a church.

    We recently left our church. We moved to another part of the city (we would have had to drive 45 mins to an hour to continue to go there and we were there multiple times a week) so we left to go somewhere in our own neighborhood, but we might have left regardless of the move.

    We discussed this for months. Neither of us take leaving a church lightly. So much bad stuff is said about church “hoppers” and “shoppers” and we didn’t want to be a part of that.

    It turned out that we didn’t have to make a decision, really, because we needed to move. But I guess I think that there are some situations that merit changing churches…I’m not even saying that ours was one of those…I just am wondering if a global statement against ever leaving your church is fair. Crazy stuff happens in churches, like pastors who come onto female congregants or are sexually manipulative (I feel like unfortunately this happens weirdly often) physical abuse in children’s ministries, leadership controlling people’s personal decisions, public shaming, etc. And sometimes only one party is willing to reconcile. Should people stay? Maybe they should, I don’t know. I just know that I’m so glad we don’t have to go our old church anymore, honestly, because the thought of raising my daughter in that environment made me feel very sick and scared. It wasn’t like we just thought the music was bad. But I am totally open to being wrong about that whole situation.

    Just wondered what you thought. Thanks for your posts!

    Like

    1. thanks for the note sara. and i am glad for the question and clarification. there are all sorts of healthy reasons for a person/people to leave a church. many times this can be done in a very healthy way. i am more concerned about the “consumerist” mentality with “church hoppers and church shoppers” and even further with churches that cater to the “christian consumer.” i definitely do not want people to suffer in a church where they are abused, slowly dying, not growing, etc. i will send you a longer response by email if that’s ok. thanks again!

      Like

  3. Brandon, We recently left our home church of eighteen years.

    Our former church is a conference church and it has become very political. The Superintendent has made some poor decisions which has affected the local church.

    Also, the leadership and others have become the opposite of what you encouraged us to be in your article. It had become very hard for us to be the people we knew God wanted us to be in that environment.

    The teachings have changed to a more “liberal” and “worldly” view, getting away from the authority of the Bible; instead relying on “programs”, etc.

    A quarter of the congregation has left and are now scattered among other churches in Columbus. None of us are church shoppers or hoppers.

    I pray for those remaining and the leadership there. I think it is very sad when the vision is lost of saving souls, and worldliness sets in.

    You have a God-given ability to teach us through your insightful articles.
    Thank you for what you do to be a kingdom builder and helping us to understand exactly what that means.

    Sincerely, Wanda J. Lunsford

    P.S. Another good one for The Republic!

    Like

    1. thanks so much for the kind comments Wanda. you hit the nail on the head… there are absolutely legitimate reasons for leaving a church. it is only between the person/people leaving and God. the only thing I would say is that it is imperative for those who leave to never compromise their character in Christ as they move along. I made that mistake in the past… and have learned from it in a big way. thanks for sharing your story!

      Like

  4. Brandon, you are so point on in many regards.
    I have worked with, and in, many churches and have seen so much of this.

    It is easy to talk against the church and sometimes the church will listen.

    Even when they do, often times, there are so many problems within the church itself that any desire to change gets pushed on the back burner.

    The biggest reason for this, from what I have experienced, is because churches have become corporations and thus are run as such.
    Many times the people who hold the most shares, (those who have been there the longest), get to cast the final decision. Even if that decision is not based upon Biblical direction or standards. More often than not decisions are based upon, ‘this is way we’ve always done it and this is the way it will always be done’.

    Then you have those people that are given authority in churches based upon their work history instead of being based upon the calling of God.

    Instead of being run under a theocracy, it resembles more of a democracy.

    The Pastor of the church then has very little influence in those situations and every effort to bring the church into a better state is often thwarted by committees or those who simply will not change because ‘it’s always been done this way’.

    There are Pastors who have a heart for the hurting and the lost and cannot make it out the front doors of the church because all of their energy and effort is put into their position which reads more like a CEO instead of a minister.

    When a church is experiencing a loss of congregants they call in a corporate strategist.

    For those churches that do decide to make changes there is much red tape to wade through.

    It looks something like this:
    The Pastor feels in his spirit that God is directiing the church to make changes.

    So a committee is formed to determine if the Pastor is correct.

    Once it is established that he / she is correct, a group is put together to decide what should be done about it.

    That group, once it meets several times over the period of weeks or months, then reports back that the best thing to do is hire a consultant to guide the church. (My 12 year old son speaks up about now and inquires rather loudly, ‘A consultant?! Isn’t God and the Bible enough?’

    So,a search committee is formed.
    They look for a consultant.

    Once they find one that best fits their purpose and desire, they present it to the prior committee.

    They vote.

    If accepted, then they take it to another committee for a second vote.

    Then it has to go to the board.

    If the consultant is to be paid, (and always is), then in needs to go to the financial committee, or, stewardship committee.

    If all goes well, then there is a formal announcement to the congregants.

    “Remember a year ago we talked about changing the church? Well we have found a consultant who lives out of state and he is going to direct our path”.

    Then the consultant is booked.
    After months pass he puts together a folder of a hundred pages that point out what the church should do.

    Are we catching the trend yet?
    By the time it’s all said and done, and, if all the boards and committee’s approve, the pastor is directed to ‘go for it’.
    But by then, where is the passion? Where is the drive that was there a year or two earlier?
    It’s been dried up or killed.

    This is happening all across America as we speak.

    Corporation mentality is putting out the fires within our churches.

    So, what can we do?

    Pray.

    Support the Pastors that God has spoken to and who is trying to follow God’s lead.

    Teach and pray that the younger generation will know the difference between church and a corporation.

    We need to develop the attitude of, ‘May those who come after me, find me faithful’. So that the next generation and those following will learn and be guided in the right direction.

    Yes, churches are required to file papers and to be established by state law, but that is where it should end.

    Corporate mentality should not be allowed in the church structure.

    Or, isn’t God’s leading and His Word enough?

    Like

  5. Thanks for this Brandon! It is so easy to get discouraged by goings on in your local church body. Its so easy to wrap your head around the ill conceived thought that your local body of believers is just another social gathering and if you don’t have a good feeling about where you are investing time you should leave. I am so guilty of this. Thanks for encouraging the body as a whole!

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s