Category Archives: The Hole In Our Gospel

Why We’re Not So Popular Anymore

Christian-Hate

The Jubilee movement wasn’t a bless-me club; it wasn’t a holy huddle. These religious guys were willing to get on the streets, get their boots dirty, wave the placards and follow their convictions with actions. Making it really hard for people like me to keep their distance. It was amazing. I almost started to like these church people.

~Bono, ON THE MOVE

It is sobering, though not surprising, to read how un-liked Christians are how even more un-liked are those who call themselves “evangelical” or “born again” Christians. I see it everyday on Facebook. Close friends and family of mine, so angry and those who call themselves Christians. The hate that seems to come from so many posts. Until I realize, that the hate is not one-sided. It should be, for sure, but it’s not. I see the articles quoted, some of the politicians statements or even pastor’s quotes and sit there with my mouth open. The hate is not just on one side.

Where ever ever ever in the Bible, which as Believers is our guide, did we see Jesus spew forth hate on a person or a people? Sure he told the woman caught (set-up) in an adulterous affair, “Go and sin no more.” This was after he stopped the crowd from stoning her to death, this was after he told her that he was not judging her (John 8:1-11).Yeah, he did tell her that obviously her actions were wrong and not to do it anymore. But it wasn’t a message of hate.

Sure, he turned over some tables, he was pissed. He even had a whip and I am quite sure though it doesn’t specifically state it, that he caught a few people with it, in the temple (Matthew 21:12-13). In the holiest of holies where his own Father was to be worshipped, where people had turned this holy place into a scam, robbing people and taking advantage of those who wanted to come worship, to ask for forgiveness. He hated the actions. Not the people.

Rich made it pretty clear through the various forms of research that it is the actions, the “don’t” of Christians today that turn the world away from us and even more disheartening – away from the message, from the Good News. We are turning people away from the very thing they need, the Good, the Best thing they (we all) need.

Perception is reality.

I would find myself thinking, “No! Not right!” But as Rich so rightly stated, perception is indeed reality. And the reality is that those outside of the church think of these words when describing our faith:

  • Antihomosexual (91%)
  • Judgmental (87%)
  • Hypocritical (85%)
  • Old-fashioned (78%)
  • Too involved in politics (75%)
  • Out of touch with reality (72%)
  • And more

I can’t blame them based on the 2007 study that Rich quoted in this chapter which basically found that statistically and practically when you looked at the actions of those who claimed to be believers and those who claimed not to be, there is no difference. This study looked at actions (admitted actions) such as: looking at on-line pornography, physically fight or abuse someone, used an illegal/non-prescription drug, sad something to someone that was not true, to have gotten back at someone for something they did, having an intimate sexual encounter with someone outside of marriage…

It is our actions that define who we are and what we stand for, not our words.

I was thinking about my Grandad this morning. He’s been gone for over three years but still a daily thought for me. He was a pastor for forty years. One thing he was known for – asking people to come to church. Another thing he was known for – loving on people in real and tangible ways. The same guys who turned down his invitation for Sunday church in the coffee shop every Saturday morning were the same guys he was having breakfast with in that same coffee shop. He was buying their coffee, laughing and joking and getting turned down! (Little did they know that he had already written in his plans for the funeral that those gentlemen were to be his pallbearers so that one day he would indeed get them to church to hear the gospel… and you know, every single one of them were there, carrying his casket, sitting in church, with tears that their friend was gone). He was at basketball, football, volleyball, baseball, soccer, track events cheering on the youth long long after his own children and grandchildren had graduated and left. He at the age of 76 with his heart working at 8% went out in the winter cold to visit a house he had been invited to and found himself kicked out by another family member. He wound up with pneumonia. He was okay with it because he responded to an invitation to come talk, to listen, to just be there for someone.

Action.

I was at a small dinner party with Ken Blanchard this past week and he ended up the evening by talking about Jesus and the example he is for our lives because,

After all, the world loves Jesus. It’s the Christians they hate.

So true. I can’t change the view of Christians, but I can change the view of my friends toward me. I can control what I can control and that is my actions, my words, the love I show for those without having a checklist to make sure they are worthy.

These are the examples I have been blessed to grow up seeing and still surround myself with today. Our label may not be popular anymore, but it’s not a hopeless cause, it begins with me.

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A Letter To The Church In America

faucet-185x185This is a short chapter, yet powerful. Based on the letter to the church of Laodicean in the book of Revelation, Rich Stearns has taken multiple verses from the Bible to compose what he calls the “Letter to the Church in America.” Now, side note, of course there are those appalled that he would take Biblical verses and string them together out of their original context. I get that argument, but he got the point across and he did it without perverting the meaning of the verses. So I’m giving it a thumbs up.

The church of Laodicea was extremely successful, extremely wealth – it “had a reputation for self-sufficiency and pride.” Sound familiar? I first thought of me. I then thought of the country that I love. So much in common. Rich says that, “they had deluded themselves into thinking God was pleased with them and that their prosperity was a sure sign of His favor.” Do we not do the same? We think when things are going well this equals God’s approval. When not, well why is He so upset? Wrong mentality.

You need to read it, point blank. It’s short. It’s powerful, it gets down to business and they aren’t Rich’s words, they’re God’s.  And because I can’t take credit for re-typing all of this out (because I didn’t want to), I found it on this website.

Read and enjoy. Anything bolded is what really stood out and touched me.

To the angel of the Church in America write:

These are the words of the One who holds the seven stars and walks among the golden lampstands. I know your deeds. You live in luxury and self-indulgence, and you have forsaken your first love. I hold this against you. Woe to those of you who add house to house and join field to field till no space is left. Surely the great houses will become desolate, the fine mansions left without occupants.

Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it. Your wealth has rotted, and months have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded your wealth in the last days. You say, “I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.” Yet it is those who are poor in the eyes of the world that are rich in faith. I have chosen them to inherit the kingdom I have promised to those who love Me. Therefore, do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasure in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Seek first My kingdom and my righteousness, and all these other things will be given to you as well. Remember, even I, the Lord Jesus Christ, though I was rich, for your sakes became poor, so that you, through My poverty, might become rich.

Why do you call Me, “Lord, Lord,” but do not do what I say? Do not merely listen to the Word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says, for whoever obeys My commands–that is the one who loves Me.

What does the Lord require of you, you ask? To act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God. In fact, the entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

There will always be poor people in the land. I command you to be openhanded towards your brothers and towards the poor and needy in the land. Defend the cause of the weak and the fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and the oppressed.

Now let’s talk about fasting. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high. Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord? No, this is the fast that I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke. It is to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter–when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?

Even now, return to Me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning. Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and He relents from sending calamity.

I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Why spend money on what is not bread and labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to Me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. Then you will call, and I will answer; you will cry for help, and I will say, “Here am I.” If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and the malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become as the noonday. I will guide you always; I will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.

Therefore, My dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

–Jesus–

P.S. I am coming soon! My reward is with Me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done.

So there it is.

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AWOL For the Greatest Humanitarian Crisis of All Time

AWOL Absence With Out LeaveYikes. It is super hard sometimes to take a an honest look at myself, at my family, at the culture of church that I am so proud to have been raised in and be a part of. But to be open and honest with our faults and failures is the only way to be real. It’s the only way I believe to start making a difference and to truly loving on people. If a broken people can’t and don’t feel loved and accepted, if we can’t show each other the warts, we can’t fully build trust and love.

Well, this chapter showed the warts of the Church. There were times I was cringing! I was thinking of a good friend who is a very vocal atheist and flat out against “religion” (if he only understood that I TOO am against “religion”). But I was thinking of him while reading this chapter and hoping he never really found out some of this stuff, even though it’s such a huge vocal part of the history of the world AND the Church. But I would think, “Is this why? Is this why he is so angry?” There are moments while reading where I see his point.

We have historically been AWOL when it mattered. Nobody reminded us more of this than the great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.~

We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people… I felt we would be supported by the white church… Instead some have been outright opponents, refusing to understand the freedom movement and misrepresenting its leader; all too many others have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained-glass windows.

Yikes. I pray that God will reveal to me where I am more cautious than courageous. Where am I remaining silent? The Church, yes, the Church needs reform, we need to understand TRULY IN OUR HEARTS and lived out through our lives the normal automatic marriage of faith and works – this is the way to proclaim God’s love for a people who desperately need hope and who desperately need a meal. But it doesn’t start with “The Church”. It starts, with me. What am I doing? What am I not doing? What do I need to START doing?

The passage by John Stott that Rich quoted (I won’t write all of it but I highly encourage you to re-review it because it’s awesome) rocked my world:

Just so, if society deteriorates and its standards decline until it becomes like a dark night or a stinking fish, there is no sense in blaming society; that is what happens when fallen men and women are left to themselves, and human selfishness is unchecked The question to ask is “Where is the Church? Why are the salt and light of Jesus Christ not permeating and changing our society?” It is sheer hypocrisy on our part to raise our eyebrows, shrug our shoulders, or wring our hands. The Lord Jesus told us to be the world’s salt and light. If therefore darkness and rottenness abound, it is largely our fault and we must accept the blame.

So there it is. In black and white. Extremely clear. Lord, forgive me. Help me see where I have been a hypocrite and help me change, give me the courage to Do. Something. Because that’s where is starts. Without those two words moved into action, we really are AWOL for the greatest humanitarian crisis of all time.

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The Great Omission

Women washing their clothes in the river in Pignon, Haiti.

Women washing their clothes in the river in Pignon, Haiti.

Current running theme. It’s up to us. It’s up to me. DO SOMETHING. Anything, but do something. My favorite quote that has stuck with me for months and months since I originally finished this book is what starts this chapter –

The world can no longer be left to mere diplomats, politicians and business leaders. They have done the best they could, no doubt. But this is an age for spiritual heroes – a time for men and women to be heroic in their faith and in spiritual character and power. The greatest danger to the Christian church today is that of pitching its message too low. ~ Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines

I think it needs to be said again – the greatest danger of the church today is that of pitching its message too low. That is powerful. Here we have a running list of the dangers of the church – but no, it’s not our culture, influences of government, or extremists – it’s that we shoot too low.

The story of Rich addressing his church because they fell short of their Missions goal for the year rocked me. His bold address to the congregation that there was some “family business to take care of” made me think. It made me email our lead pastor and ask where we are as a church in our goal of Missions Faith Promises. We must be held accountable for this. If we believe in the leadership and direction of our pastors then we must get behind them and seek this promise God has made them. And if financially we’ve given what we can then we need to get on our knees and pray until what has been promised is delivered through His people.

James 1:27 – Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

Simple words to read. Hard to act on. Hard to act on because we live our lives. Ours. And they’re busy and they’re messy and they’re loud. I won’t quote all of Isaiah 1:10-17 (Message version) because it’s just too long but parts absolutely rocked me to my core:

  • Quit your worship charades
  • I can’t stand your trivial religious games… conferences, Sabbaths, meetings
  • When you put on your next prayer-performance I’ll be looking the other way
  • Because you’ve been tearing people to pieces, and your hands are bloody
  • Say no to wrong.
  • Learn to do good.
  • Work for justice.
  • Help the down-and-out.
  • Stand up for the homeless.
  • Go to bat for the defenseless.

Wow. Okay then. He was pretty clear, yes? And so with ignorance taken away, and excuses taken away. What’s left? What is our choice going to be? It’s a conscious choice at this point. We get to write the rest of the story and will stand in judgement for the path we choose. It’s not a threat, it’s not meant to make anyone feel guilty about anything they have or don’t have, have done or haven’t done. It’s simply a fact.

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A Tale of Two Churches

Port-au-Prince streetThis hit me. It hit me hard. To my core. You see, I have experienced these two churches, just in the past three weeks collectively I have experienced both of the churches that Rich speaks of. And it is life changing. I am so thankful of the experience, of the conviction, of the piercing to my soul.

As always, Rich opens up with something that doesn’t allow me to get past the first two sentences. Where was the church of Jesus Christ? What he kept asking himself as he took in the suffering of orphans in Rakai, Uganda. The Church in terms of the big-C church – all who claim, worldwide to follow Jesus. And little-c churches, our local congregations.

Being in Haiti and observing the school of College de la Grace in Pignon, Haiti the differences were stark. And not because of the buildings (although of course there are differences). In a world in the US filled with kindergartners who have iPads, the fact that Caleb is building a computer lab is huge. This same difference came to mind with respect to our churches as I organized Caleb’s personal library according to the Dewey Decimal system (which he had to school me on after an entire day and a half of doing it wrong – it’s been awhile since elementary school!) But I looked at just the book resources and was so grateful that Caleb had these, and the donations from church libraries all around. I wondered how often I took it for granted that resources like this were at my fingertips whenever I wanted or chose to make a small investment. The answer? A lot.

I underlined almost the entire chapter of Rich’s but two things really stuck out to me here: We are so blessed. And “We have been given much, and much is now expected.” Are we ready for part two? Have we realized it as a reality?

But the Church in America must confront the uncomfortable challenge of being endowed with an abundance of blessings in an extremely poor world.

The tale of the two churches rocked me. I love, love love love, my church here. We too have grown substantially into the thousands. We too have 3 services on Sunday (plus one on Saturday). We too have been able to reach the community. We too have been able to hire an awesome and amazing staff that 1. has a heart for Jesus and 2 is able to focus on their gifts, praise and worship, stewardship, etc… The difference (I hope) is that our pastors feel free to discuss money and the need to give, the commandment to give. I love that it is addressed and frankly love those sermons/series.

I also literally visited the Church of the Suffering Servant. Seven days ago. I was in tears reading through this story, remembering my experiences.

There is great joy in their worship as these people cry out to the Lord and feel His comfort in the midst of their need… There is pain in this church, born of illness and hardship; they are well acquainted with grief… A school is available… But it is Sunday, and this small community comes together to worship and to celebrate the gospel. Such good news, such amazing news- that God loves them and has actually sent His Son to die for their sins, save them in their brokenness, and grant them eternal life with Him!

The joy, oh the joy. It’s not a word. It’s not a concept. It is the reality of their worship. Both in Pignon and in Port-au-Prince, they cried out loud to the Lord. They felt his comfort. This was apparent. Through the language barrier. Through the culture barrier. He was their comforter. Comforter. Not an adjective. It’s a verb. They know suffering. Both just because they live and survive in Haiti, but also because of the earthquake. It touched more than just those in Port-au-Prince of course, but in driving to the church that Caleb preached at on Sunday, we drove past the fallen church on down the road to the one they have built (a temporary structure) post-earthquake. And looked out onto the new school, the first one Caleb built in Port-au-Prince after the earthquake. Oh yes. This community knows suffering. And because of this, they sang, they worshiped.

I was humbled. Completely. Totally. 100% humbled. And just so you have a heads up, when visiting a church in Haiti you may be asked to address the congregation. I was a bit taken off guard and had nothing to say. If, however, I would have had my wits about me. I would have thanked them. Thanked this amazing church body for allowing me to worship with them, in their house. To experience the love they have for our God. To experience the realness of God in that place. It reminded me that there is a time coming when people from all tribes, all tongues, all nations will gather together to worship our Lord. It will indeed be an exciting time. And, I’ll know what everyone is saying then 🙂

In Rich’s book he symbolically merges the pastor from the Church of the Suffering Saint to our church. To my church. To his dismay as he tries to move toward the podium at the end of the service people are leaving. He wants to tell the story of his church, of their need. That they/we must be their saving grace. By the end he is following people to the parking log, begging them to stop. Hoping they will turn around.

It wasn’t that they wouldn’t help the African congregation; they were just so preoccupied with their own programs and people that they failed to see the bigger picture; the reality of the church across the world… Sins of omission are sometimes the most difficult ones to address. To do so requires intentional and relentless self-examination, a commitment to serve those in greatest need, and a keen awareness of the broader world in which God has placed us. Only then can we become consistent and effective in using our considerable resources for the benefit of the church worldwide. (emphasis TA).

I agree with Rich and am in no way putting down the Church or my church. I love what God is doing at Christ’s Place. I see that we have people in leadership with hearts for the broken. And I am not on the board, nor am I even on a missions committee. And I have multiple times made my church my own “spiritual cocoon, to retreat from a hostile world.” I am guilty. A church is more than it’s leaders. If the Church is to do it’s part in leading a revolution, it takes all. It takes me. I am not exempt.

Morgan Chilulu, an African pastor of a small and humble church in the midst of the AIDS pandemic, once told me, “A church that lives within its four walls is no church at all.” ~Rich Stearns

This trip to Haiti, this plane ticket, one of the things that it did was force me out of my four walls. Force me to see a reality other than my own. It forced me to ask myself some pretty tough questions. The question now becomes, will I take that visit outside of my own four walls and make it a lifestyle? I sure hope so. That’s the goal. And to teach my children that it is imperative. That is is natural. I hope they one day know “no walls.” That would be an amazing legacy to live and to leave.

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Chapter 14 Finally The Good News

StarfishWhat a breath of fresh air. Fresh air and an incredible reminder and challenge that could shake our core. I loved this chapter (again). As harsh and hard as the last few chapters were I am always so thankful for how Rich sets it up and reminds us that “we must not, as Christians, stick our heads in the sand and pretend that the world is doing just fine because we are.”

Our reality is just that, our reality. It’s a good reminder. I loved most the two most basic reminders of actions we can take. We are NOT to sit here just pitying the poor. We must take action. And that action doesn’t need to be big and grandiose in the lives of the world, just of one person – the one we can impact.

It is possible to change the world’s realities, and that is exactly what God has challenged us to do. This is what it means to be “salt and light” in a dark and bleak world (Matthew 5:13-14). It’s what the Great Commission was all about.

Do something. A common running theme. The most impactful theme I’ve ever encountered.

And prayer. This is not just a physical battle, there are spiritual forces at work here. There is a legitimate battle taking place that we often can’t see – only the effects of such. We must pray.

And prayer is not the domain of the United Nations or of the governments of the world. Only the faith community can draw upon the power of God through prayer.

That’s on us. Again, two powerful messages to me in my mind. 1. Do something. 2. Pray. Call upon the most powerful force there is and ever will be. He is there. We must pray and we must act. Together, in tandem.

This is heavy on my heart and mind as I prepare to leave for Haiti. Remember when I said I was going to do it? Well, I am. Saturday as a matter of fact. What God has in store for me I don’t know. I pray I get to make an impact. I pray I can make a difference. And as selfish as it sounds, I look forward to what God has to teach me. My world needs to be rocked a little. I’ve been reading about it and doing what I can from the comfort of my own home – it’s time to get a little dirty, a little uncomfortable, a little real.

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Chapter 13 Spiders Spiders and More Spiders

I wanted to stop turning the pages. This is a chapter where I wanted to turn the channel. Rich has done a great job up until now of presenting facts but keeping things light. I think at some point though he needed to deliver the rest of the facts. The rest of the actual reality that the world faces that we don’t know about and quite frankly don’t want to know about. This was chapter 13. (I did peek ahead and the title of Ch 14 is “Finally, the good news” – I can’ wait!)

Absolute favorite quote that got me through what seemed to be a sea of drowning individuals and circumstances, Bob Pierce

Don’t fail to do something just because you can’t do everything.

I loved the additional microfinance stories, incredibly uplifting and a challenge for me personally to find ways to invest in such causes. The issue of gender made my heart hurt. Some parts literally made me nauseous. No, that’s keeping it too PC, some parts made my stomach literally turn, I tasted bile and had to force myself to keep reading instead of running to the restroom to throw up.

  • Little girls growing up in developing countries are more likely to die before turning five – I have a five year old. Prayse. The light of my life.
  • Two -thirds of the world’s eight hundred million illiterate are women
  • More apt to be forced to marry before age 16 and be the victim of sexual and domestic abuse
  • Some two million children, mostly girls as young as five years old are part of the growing commercial sex trade around the world. This is the point where I wanted to run to that restroom I mentioned. Prayse again was so vivid in my mind. And this is many parents’ reality. My heart hurts for them.

As a woman, I got defensive, my pride and my ego were hurt when I read that

Women own less than 1 percent of the world’s property. They also work two-thirds of all the world’s labor hours, but ean just 10 percent of the world’s wages.

I am not really a feminist but I got pissed at this. I am waiting for the information and the specifics on how I can help this piece because it ticks me off. One of my favorite quotes was from the former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan

No tool for development is more effective than the empowerment of women.

Nice. Love it.

That was my focus but if someone can please address the story of Margaret, who’s nose, ears and lips were cut off while six months pregnant when the Lord’s Resistance Army came to their village as she was working in the garden. How she ever encountered her attacker later and drew upon the strength of Jesus Christ to forgive him… well, I don’t know. It’s beyond me. I was 100% humbled however as I think back to certain grudges that I am struggling to 100% let go and let our God handle. For 100% true and real forgiveness. It seems so petty now.

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