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Archive for the ‘Testimony’ Category

There’s a lot of cynicism about the Church today.  And while I am stimulated by argument, by addressing something I identify as wrong, I don’t think of myself as a cynic.  Rather, this confrontation with status-quo is inherently hopeful.  I invest energy because I think Church could be better.

Before I left my last church, a few people were leaving slowly.  And my friends who were staying, they wondered why.  “There’s no such thing as a perfect church,” they argued.  “So why search for another kind of bad?”  Which reasoning rather baffled me.  What were they praying for?  Why did they do anything in the Church?  Didn’t they believe our community could be better?  And if we can get better, isn’t it possible that something better already exists?

Now, there may be other arguments for hanging around a church that is not as close to perfect as you hope.  But to say that leaving a church is for people with unrealistic expectations is silly.  Whatever your choice, your reason for staying should be the same as your reason for leaving: hope.  If you stay, be hoping to see God grow your church to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.  If you go, may it be because you hope that God has more designed for the Church than the divided and sterile institution you’re leaving.

I didn’t leave the institutional church in despair.  There was hurt and disappointment over the group of people I had been congregating with.  But there was joy over the release God had given me – not release from fellowship or love or truth, but release from schedules and structures and enduring a view of Church that I no longer believe.  I went out looking for people of God doing life together, praying together, participating together in teaching and worship and celebrating Communion.  My search has been for a high view of our Bridegroom as the Head of His Church, of a supernatural (but orderly) view of the Spirit of our God as He orchestrates lives and relationships and meetings.

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.  For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.  And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.  But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.” – Hebrews 11:13-16

I am persuaded that there is something better than what I have experienced.  And I will desire it and pursue it.  The things I write here on ChurchMoot really excite me.  What I read in the Bible about Church excites me.  The gates of hell will not prevail against the Church.  Christ is purifying and strengthening His gloriously beautiful Church.  He’s preparing a place for us.  There are visions of unity and purpose and power.  A joy in knowing that we believe in, serve, and wait on an Almighty and Good God.

What’s more, I have hope that the people of God are being awakened to the biblical descriptions of Church.  Now when people realize church is broken, they’re seeking answers from God, and acting on them!  No longer will they betray the Body of Christ by their silence, by their tacit approval, by being accomplices.  They don’t want the world to think that what it calls Church is the ideal Beloved Bride of a Radiant Savior.  He purified for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works!  They want the world to see a light set on a lampstand, not some pitiful ember fading into darkness.

We are not a cult.  We are the Redeemed.  Joyful.  Saying so.  Hopeful.  Believing it is our God who builds His Church.  Waiting for our Messiah to come back – begging Him to come quickly!  We are loving, caring for each other, not afraid to weep or to rejoice.  The God who created the universe, the Spirit who raised Christ from the dead, indwells us.  He speaks through us, comforts us, guides and instructs us.  The same God who rattled the Early Church prayer meetings with mighty rushing wind is among us.  Let that be known.  Let it be proclaimed.  Don’t contain it in schedules and corporate models.  Joy might be practiced, but not rehearsed!  Truth should be so familiar that it can be ad-libbed.  We share in a life that is saturated with God, with no distinction between the times when we are doing ordinary work and when we are worshiping.

God called His people to abundant life, life in Him.  My hope for the Church is that we embrace it.

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So young people are leaving the church: a disastrous omen for the future of Christianity. We must do something. Something different than what we have been doing. Because the church is failing this generation.
It is common to point to the pizza and games youth-group-without-accountability-or-education program as the culprit for the apostasy of college students.
Church should not be about entertainment, say the pious parents who with the next breath criticize the musicians on the praise team and complain that the worship style at their congregation doesn’t suit their tastes. Perhaps we are not sheltering youth enough. Maybe they need more authority figures, a connection with the whole church, including their parents.

Some on the conservative side of the question point to the content of what we teach young people. Survey after survey reveals that teens don’t know the basics of Christian theology, and certainly aren’t decision-making from a Christian worldview. These kids have no foundation to abandon, Christian leaders rightly argue. They’re hungry for answers. And when we don’t equip them in the realm of apologetics, high school and college professors have little difficulty refuting the shallow traditional faith of their students.

Maybe the church is too legalistic, parents and pastors suffocating kids with expectations of holiness, that ever-imposing scale of good deeds versus bad deeds on which to measure God’s favor and wrath. When at last free of the oppressive constraints, these young adults bust out with a liberal longing for pleasure, enjoying an affirming group of friends that encourages them to stop stifling their own feelings. So we the church ought to offer more grace, somehow imparting to the up-and-coming generations the relationship aspect of Christianity. Like so many who have been in the church for decades, these teenagers just want to know that God is love, and He wants to be your friend, to give you your best life now.

“These are the leaders of the future,” is quoted, by some with hope, by others with dark foreboding. But our model of ministry leaves a wide gap between involvement in youth ministry and being incorporated with the rest of the congregation. Smaller churches have no college ministry. Even those with college ministries have merely moved the disconnect to a later date. Those in the club of grown ups are unwilling to speak to or invest in the younger individuals – let alone take their advice – trying to move into life and faith that is overwhelming without examples. There is truth to the protest that kids are irreverent and disrespectful and self-absorbed. But listen to what we’re saying. Those are the kids. What toddler have you met who knows anything different than irreverence and selfishness? Yet the older people attempt to train them, not fight them. Church has failed to welcome the post-education demographic; can we be surprised they leave?

Yet maybe that is exactly what the young adults ought to do: leave. An institution so divided and impotent as the evangelical church, so lacking in love or substance, is more likely to inspire bitter memories of religious hypocrisy and to shore up doubt in the power of a God mostly ignored in the actual workings of the organization. I will say more: perhaps the adults should leave, and the young parents who feel they ought to raise their children in Sunday school should never come back. Christians should take on the personal responsibility of living a communal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ:

  • embracing grace as a gift both received and distributed
  • trust in the power and authority of the Creator God of the Resurrection
  • loving, serving, and discipling their fellow children of God
  • humbling themselves before the voice of God coming through Scripture, teachers, and youths
  • pursuing fellowship with God and with each other
  • and living out a life so different from the world that those exposed have no doubt that only the miracle of God could give such abundant life!


And just maybe when we see such a symptom of desperate unwell in our churches,
we should repent, falling on our faces before the Lord of Wisdom, desiring His healing and direction rather than the empty programs and various solutions proffered by man.

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(duplicate of the theme page listed at the top and side of ChurchMoot)

I’m in between churches right now – between congregations. All summer and fall I’ve been casually attending the meetings of various friends. I can’t tell you how wonderful it feels to not be obligated to make an appearance at any one building on a Sunday morning. I might tell a friend I’m coming, or I might decide Saturday night. Some Sundays I sleep in. Sunday morning heathenism is rather refreshing.
Except it isn’t heathenism. A lot of
what happens in those buildings on Sunday mornings is of heathen origin. But heathenism is a lot more than skipping a sermon and praise concert. It is a lifestyle of rejecting God, and that I certainly have not done.

I believe the Bible teaches Christians to gather regularly with each other. That isn’t something I have abandoned either. My recent experience is filled with times of fellowship and encouragement with other believers.  We do ministry together, hold each other accountable for our walks with God, philosophically tackle the dilemmas we’re facing, study the Bible, and pray. During these times we also tend to eat, to play games, to laugh and tease, sometimes to work. Kids running around get swept up by disciples of Jesus, who – like Him – love children.

About a month ago some friends invited me to their church. I went that weekend. This week they asked me what I thought, and didn’t I like it (since I hadn’t been back). And I froze, because, well, I did like it. The people were friendly and the teachings were biblical and stimulating. But I don’t think I’ll join. This Sunday I did go back there, though. And my friends’ thirteen-year-old son confronted me, “I thought you said our church was just ‘ok’.”

Hard to explain. This particular church is on the good end of mainstream churches. They have good doctrine. A lot of their money goes to missions. Kids are with parents in church for most of the time, and youth aren’t separated from their families. The music isn’t too loud or too self-centered. With a congregation of about 50, the pastor and teachers can know everyone.

After pondering for a day or so, here is my answer to the thirteen-year-old friend: (it’s alliterative so I can remember!)
1) Plurality. There is only one pastor at the church.  He’s the head man.  I believe Jesus is the head of the Church, and that leadership beneath Him must be shared among more than one equal. Whenever real life cases are discussed in the New Testament, the word is used in the plural. (Elders) In this way they can model cooperation and problem solving. Congregations and pastors are kept mindful that Christ is the true head, and that the Church is His project.  Also, when one is weak, there is another to be strong, the proverbial man to pick you up when you fall. Two are better than one and a cord of three strands is not easily broken. Pastoring is a lonely job, being at the top instead of a part of your congregation as friends and brothers.  My Bible describes a different sort of dynamic, where pastors are respected for being respectable and where everyone is exercising his gifts for the good of all: pastors, prophets, discerners, helpers, administrators, on and on.

2) Property.  This was quite confusing to my friend, who expects people to scorn his church for meeting in the club house of a condominium complex.  Whether you own a building, rent it, or have borrowed money from a bank to claim that you own it, all represent instances where the Church of God has used resources God entrusted to them not to do what He has instructed: caring for the poor, widows, orphans, and missionaries – but to have a separate place to meet. I believe churches are meant to be gathered in homes.  Limited in size, surrounded by hospitality and everyday life, the atmosphere of house church encourages the participation of everyone, the familial fellowship of believers, and the synthesis of sacred and secular.

3) Preaching. The New Testament describes and even commends preaching.  Except almost always the lecture style sermon was delivered to an unsaved audience. It is a tool of evangelism. And evangelism is not the purpose of the regular gathering of believers. In fact, the church meetings described in 1 Corinthians are much more open and unstructured than what we usually think of as church.  No one was scheduled to speak.  Anyone (any man?) was allowed to bring a word, be it a prophecy, a teaching, a tongue – as long as he spoke it for the edification of the group. He may share a testimony of God’s work or an instruction or challenge the Spirit laid on his heart to give to his friends. A teaching might be towards an identified deficiency of understanding or may flow out of the studies individuals are making during the week on their own. Prophecy may correct the direction the congregation is going, may identify weaknesses and strengths among them, may warn them, or may give them hope and vision for the future. Some verses indicate that individuals may also bring songs of their choosing to the meetings of believers, with which to encourage each other.

Now that I’ve said those things, I do believe that there is a place for the lecture-style teaching we call sermons.  I really enjoy Bible conferences, and am not opposed to worship concerts where the band has practiced and is intending to honor God.  When I visit my friends’ churches, I usually view those services as conferences, and I look for the Spirit-driven gatherings elsewhere.  At this stage of my life I’m not content with the small groups and Bible studies that have been getting me by.  So I’m still looking, reading books and searching websites from people who are practicing what the Bible teaches about Church.  I’m excited to see where that leads.

Some questions remain, stronger tensions between the familiar and the ideal: how is authority supposed to work in the church?  Is it important?  Is it a matter of exercising authority or of submitting to authority?  How much should we submit?  What shall Christians do for evangelism?  Wouldn’t it be better to team up?  But is it wrong to invite people in to hear the gospel, or should we go out to them?  Are women to be silent in the church meetings?  If not, why on earth did Paul say so? – Just to prove I don’t think I know everything!

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When I was 20, I started asking questions about the way we “do” church.  Not content to sit back with unanswered questions, I went to work looking for the truth.  I found that not many people I knew had considered questions like these before, so I took to the Internet, and to Scripture.  What I found unsettled and inspired me, but life must go on, and for a while the concepts I’d encountered were set aside.

The spring of my 20th year I taught a Bible study on spiritual gifts that changed the way I looked at Church. I knew the picture the Bible had of the Church was different from the various congregations with which I was familiar, but I had no idea the impact until I studied what the Bible says about spiritual gifts.  The passages are primarily Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 11-14, Ephesians 4, and 1 Peter 4.

My quest reinvigorated by a more complete picture of God’s design for the Church, I was excited to be able to attend a version of Vision Forum’s Uniting Church and Family conference at our Colorado Home Educators Conference.  The conference encouraged me, and increased my confidence in certain truths about the way God made men, women, parents, children, elders, and Christians.

Then I went home.  And I hit a wall.  The reality I saw and in which I had to function did not allow for the comprehensive ecclesiology that I had come to believe.  Yet I believed that God wanted me in this reality, that He had called me to it, and had a purpose for my presence there.

To a girl who lives for answers, not having them was a humbling experience.  I refused to think for several weeks.  In realizing how small and inadequate I am, I got to see more than ever before how big and great God is.  Gradually and unintentionally returning from my paralyzation to my search, I soon encountered a website called New Testament Restoration Foundation. There for the first time I found people who had actually studied the Bible to see what it said about Church, were trying to live by that model, and had invested time into explaining what they had learned in articles.

A friend recommended The Shaping of Things to Come, about which I was and remain highly skeptical, but which addressed a few biblical points, especially on Church leadership, in ways that will affect images in my mind the rest of my life.

God worked through these books, articles, conferences, questions, and most of all through study of His Word to teach me what you will find on this website.

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