Dear Christians, If Church is your foundation then you NEED to rebuild!

“Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to a garage makes you an automobile.” -Billy Sunday

Being a member of a church is not enough.
Carrying a bible and wearing “church clothes” isn’t enough either.
Saying all of the right prayers and calling out a timely “amen” isn’t enough either.

We can look the part.
We can act the part.
But if there is no difference in your heart.
Then it all that you have been doing is acting – not being.

We can often times get the “doing” before the “being“.
Do you know what I mean?

What I mean by that is this:
We can do church.
We can even do Christianese.
We can do all of the right things for all of the wrong reasons, and still not BE holy as God has called us to be holy. (1 Peter 1:15).

Doing requires works and action (Which in the right context are good, but AS the context can be bad).
Being requires deep, lasting change.
Being requires identity, the true source of context and provides us with the true foundation – God Himself.
We are made in the image of God.
We are His.
Being His requires surrender, sacrifice, dying of our old self and taking on this new image.

You learned Christ! My assumption is that you have paid careful attention to him, been well instructed in the truth precisely as we have it in Jesus. Since, then, we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything—and I do mean everything—connected with that old way of life has to go. It’s rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you.” -Ephesians 4:22-24 (The Message Version)

If we simply “do Church” we are attempting to “faith-hack” our relationship with Christ and with those He called us to minister to.

If our entire faith journey is all about how Church is blessing ME then we have corrupted our faith and have deleted the great commission from our ideology. We might rationalize it like this: “Sure, reaching people is good as long as they come to our church and as long as they fit the mold of what I think Christians should look and sound like.

I fear that our Western ideology has polluted our perspective of what being a Christ-follower looks like.
The Christ-following ecclesia (as found in the Acts 2 early Church) was about the Body (the group of believers) being unified, sharing everything while adding to their numbers by reaching out into the world and preaching, teaching and making disciples. The love (Agape love) was evident and was like a sweet aroma to the world around them.

Have we lost that lovin’ feeling?
In our attempts to grow our churches, have we lost sight of reaching out and loving others?

Jesus didn’t call us into the safety of a church building to being silos, develop our own church culture and making it hard for the “outsider” to relate let alone earn their membership cards to our exclusive club. We as humans can sometimes make Jesus almost inaccessible to the sinner when we ourselves are sinners save by grace.

Jesus didn’t call us to become comfortable and complacent in our faith.
He did not want us to leave people out or write them off either.
If we are hiding behind Church, or dare I say, if Church has replaced God as our faith in religious practices, rituals and observances, then we MUST rebuild our faith.

How About You?
Church is not four walls of a building where we practice piety.
Church is not about rituals and the styles of our expressions in worship.
Church is not about having an exclusive club membership.

Church is you and me, human beings, living out our faith expression first of all for the glory of God (and not because we prefer this style of worship music or style of service). Secondly, we express this living and active faith so that others might see the image of Christ through us. When we do this, we are helping others discover that faith journey too for the purpose of a Jesus relationship.

Burn the walls of division.
Burn the halls of exclusivity
Tear down the rituals that have hidden Christ instead of revealed Him to others.
Break the traditions that do not glorify but only serve to prevent new membership and fellowship.

YOU are the Church.
YOU are the prophet that God has called to minister to others (that only you can minister to).
YOU are called and equipped.
YOU must check your foundation and if it is in need of repair – begin the restoration process today!

-Something more to ponder today.

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Why We Are Leaving…and Where We Are Going.

Where do I begin…
For months now I have been battling this thing inside of me.
If I’m honest this urge, this calling, this prompting, this restlessness has been there for much, much longer…for both Shanais and me.

Do you recall what happens when you run from God?
If not, just ask Jonah…

There is a deep aching sadness in the leaving…
There is a sadness in the walking away from what is known and moving into what is presently unknown.

I believe the Lord has brought the story of Abram to me over and over again while we have been in this process. The story is about a rich man named Abram. He had lots of family and friends. He had it all. He was not in want for anything. He was comfortable. And then one day God tells Abram to travel out of his known lands and to live in the unknown places. The uncomfortable, unfamiliar lands…the place where he had no friends. The place where there would be no safety.

It was a giant leap of faith.
He had to trust his Creator.
He had to have faith that God would provide the friends, the comfort, the safety. And so he and his wife Sarai went. They traveled into the unknown land with alien terrain and different customs and people. God reminded Him of His faithfulness. Abram and Sarai were both transformed in the leaving. Sure, there were roadblocks and bouts of their own personal faithlessness, and yet God remained faithful to them. Abraham became the father of many nations. Sarah the mother.

When we do not rely on our own resources and lead from our own comforts we are inclined (sometimes forced) to rely completely on the Lord’s provisions instead of our own. It can be dangerous and yet also liberating, because our resources are limited and our experiences to what is known. What we know personally. We can be comfortable in our frames of reference…and yet God’s frame of reference is so much more infinite.

Back to this restlessness…
I could rely on my own resources…and limit my faith journey.
I could remain in what I know to be comfortable…and run the risk of becoming stagnant and run the same familiar patterns but not really delving any deeper. I could remain here (and here is an amazing, place called home)…but I feel it in the core of my being that God is calling me out of this. It is a leap of faith. It is extremely scary. It is heart-aching. Yet, I will follow Him. I will trust that He knows what He is doing. I will lay all of me on the altar and allow God to use me.

Where are we going?
I didn’t set out to find this.
I wasn’t searching for this kind of work.
It’s not something I am completely familiar with.
We are moving to Southern Alabama.
I will be working in one of the poorest counties in all of Alabama.
Have I ever lived there? No.
Do I have any family there? No.
Do I have friends there? No, not yet.

The ministry? – I will be running a Christian Foster Care organization. It’s a huge leap for me. (I keep saying I and me, and what I really mean is that it is a HUGE leap for both of us – Shanais and me.) We are both stepping out of our comfort zones. We are not abandoning God’s mission in this world, but rather embracing it more deeply. I am a fourth generation Salvationist, and you don’t realize how difficult this is for me to do. And yet, I am doing this, and I have a deep sense of peace about it even though it is scary.

Of course there are questions:
Will I do this for the rest of my life? Answer: I don’t know.
Will I come back to the Army as an Officer? Answer: Maybe.
Am I walking away from my faith? Answer: absolutely not!!
My church? Answer: No.

God’s kingdom is so much larger.
God’s love encompasses so many people, both lost and found.

What can you do?
Please Pray!
Would you pray for us?
Some will not understand why we are doing this.
Some will consider it abandoning our calling…I don’t see it that way at all. Rather we are embracing it more deeply. Some might even disagree with us and the decision we have arrived at. That’s fine, we understand.

I hope that I can count on you to still be a friend and a prayer warrior.
I believe God’s love is greater than any one organization or church. He can call us from one place to another and we can still remain in His will for our lives. Some remain called to one place, others to multiple places.

This might change how you view us, but I hope not.
We are still ministers of God’s love and grace. We still call Him Lord of our lives and we still desire to serve Him.

Thank you for loving us and praying for us while in this scary transition. Thank you to the leaders who have guided us along the way…we love you and are forever in your debt!
We are simply trusting that God knows what He is doing…and there’s nothing simple about it.

God Bless You.
-Scott & Shanais Strissel.





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Fear the Walking Faith…It’s a journey!

He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20

Oh how our faith can waver sometimes.
It seems that the gusting of a slight breeze of discord or worry can shake our quivering feet of faith.

Have you ever come to a moment of realization that your faith is not as deep as you once thought it was? We all encounter times, while on this journey, where the feel as though we have entered into the desert and we are found lacking in our resolve and fortitude. This journey will take us into places that require us to dig a little deeper and to endure the dry and thirsty places – where we find ourselves questioning everything and reaching further for God…who seems to have gone silent.

Have you been to this place?

I remember when I first learned to swim.
My parents would take me into the deeper part of the waters where my feet couldn’t touch and then let go of me, and as they let go of me they step back out of my reach. I remember there was a momentary panic. The saving hands were no longer on me and I found myself struggling to keep my head above the waters. I remember having to reach out my arms while kicking my feet so that I could reach the safety again. As I did this, without realizing, I began to swim by myself for the first time.

My intentions were not to swim. My intention was to reach the safe arms of my parents who were just out of reach.

There is growth within the tension and fear.
Growth that can only take place when we are left to our own devices.
Growth that can only transpire within the turmoil and desert places of our faith journey.

It is as if God steps back from us, and we are faced with the seemingly terrifying notion that we must step into the deep alone. The truth is that we are most certainly not alone, but rather there is growth that is only found in desert. And so we step out, unsure of ourselves…unsure if we can reach those safe arms of Christ again.

Remember Peter on the waters before Jesus?
He is asked to step out into a turbulent, uncertain space.
Peter takes a couple of steps, loses sight of the arms of Christ and begins to sink.
He takes his eyes off of Jesus.
He considers the impossibilities of such a journey.
He must have recalled his inability to do this feat, and as the doubt sinks in so does Peter.

We often chastise Peter for his lack of faith.
We often sermonize this passage to implicate the lack of resolve that ‘the Rock’ had…
But where were the other disciples?
Do we read about their steps of faith on the waters? No.
They were still in the boat watching it all go down.

We have to get out of our boats.
We will encounter dry and thirsty times in our faith journey.
It will feel as if we are all alone out in the wilderness, but we are not alone.
God steps back and watches us within the tension of deeper waters.
And it is within those deeper spaces that we grow.
It is through perseverance that our character and the very image of Christ becomes clearer in us.

Some have turned back and returned to the safe places.
Some have given up because they have felt abandoned.
Others have persevered and they have grown.
The Lord desires all of us to deepen our faith, and so these times of dryness should be seen as opportunities to grow up into this amazing faith.

Being like Jesus isn’t easy.
It takes determination and desire on our part.
Are you prepared to allow God to deepen your faith?
Is it your desire to get off of spiritual baby formula and begin to feast on more sustainable spiritual nourishment?

Take that next step…don’t be afraid, He’s got you, and He isn’t far from you right now!

Something more to ponder today.

Featured post

“The Phone Call”

Conversations with my “Grampa”.

My grandfather called me the other day. Me at the gas station, getting ready to tackle a busy day at work, my mind on many, many things. Whenever my phone rings and I see his name on the caller ID, I answer the call no matter what. Now in his nineties, he still checks in and still has so much love to share with his kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids.

“GranStan” Go Cubs Go!

Years ago, stern-faced and marked with his signature mustache, Grandpa (or Grand-Stan as the kids now call him) looked down at me with a level of intensity that could peel paint off a wall and said, “I’m getting mad!” To an outsider, one would wonder what had happened to evoke anger, but in his own way, he was expressing this deep love that he has in an expression of “I’m getting mad,” which was code for “let’s go get some ice cream.” Memories are funny like that, one minute you’re a grown adult carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders, the next you’re ten years old eating ice cream and heading to your first baseball game – the Chicago Cubs and Andre Dawson at Wrigley Field. I remember the smell of Gramma’s house, always warm and so inviting. The place I still long for when the days are longer than the hours I have to work with. Their home was safe and filled with Cherubs and delicate trinkets perfectly perched on mantels, coffee tables, and ornamental ledges.  


            “How ya been?” my Grandpa asks over the phone, with a voice still stern yet filled with care and concern. I tell him about my day and the kids, but I know he wants to learn more. He has a deep love for God, and he has a passion for all “his kids” to know the Lord too. “What is God saying to you these days?” He asks out of the blue. For a moment, I am caught off guard and wasn’t ready to answer a question as probing as this. Ministry is still running in my veins despite a pastoral career change, though some days I still ask the Lord, “am I on the right track?” Life is like that sometimes; one minute you’re ninety-nine year old, childless Abram plodding along in life; the next, you’re Abraham moving to an unknown land and trusting (albeit some days less than others) God with your very next steps. I still question God about things that I don’t have the answers to. I still find myself stepping out into unknown territory, saying, “Lord, I don’t know what today holds, but please hold my hand.”

You never really ever leave the ministry, you know?” my grandfather continues, “some people think ministry is just what you do at a pulpit on Sundays,” I tell him I know this, and I am drawn to the many faces I see daily. It is the “mission-field” of relationships in need of encouragement and love. It is a place I have been sent to minister within, and yet after years of focused service-based ministry, I am having difficulty with the tangible nature of “here and now.”

There are times where you miss what wasn’t healthy for you in the first place. Like God’s people, the ex-slaves of Egypt, wishing to go back instead of living free and waiting for a promised land. “I believe that God is blessing you, Scott,” my grandfather continues, “can I pray with you?” He asks over the phone. My heart is whole and overfilled with such love. The Lord is indeed blessing me, and I am so blessed to have such a loving, godly family and grandfather.

I will always pick up that phone when my Grandfather calls. Time is precious when we have so little of it to spend. The concerns of today always pale in comparison to the treasures that we possess in the wisdom and love of such people in our lives. Years from now, I will be old and coming to the end of my days. I, too, wish to pass that love of God and hope onto that next generation. I pray that when this happens, they will answer my call and know that they are loved…perhaps I’ll even “get mad.” I love you, Grandpa. Thank you for your relentless pursuit of God and me (and the rest “of us”). Keep calling, and I’ll keep answering just to hear your voice, and perhaps a “new” joke that you’ve already told me.

A Used Book (A Poem).

I prefer used books
pages yellowed with age
stains of coffee
smelling of baked bread
crumbs embedded
into the glue
of bindings

On this page
tears fell
hearts were broken
a reader’s trust
woven in two.
Another page
dog-eared and highlighted
wisdom shared
and eaten
and brought to life
with flesh and bone
tendon and sinew

These pages smell
like home
ancient in the way
that parchment can be
the only fragrance that
draws a soul
outward and pulls it
longingly into the past
where school desks
and raising hands
come back into
focus.

I prefer these pages
to be lived in
rather than hospital
clean and crisp
untethered and
void of hands
clasped to words
that penetrate the
wounded heart
and opens
gray matter to
create new groove
of thought.

They are the
well-worn paths
the fields of
ripened grains
of dreams bared
and dreams
yet to be imagined

Give to me
that used
copy
that treasure
trove
of human
thought
and I will
give in return
this battered
heart
this
dream that
dances on the tips
of anxious fingers
caressing brittle
pages
and dancing
to the song
of ancient
bards.

O, let the
sun
arise.


-S.Strissel
5/7/21s

The Gift More Expensive Than I Deserve…

“…What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” Psalm 8:4.

Do you know that about God’s love?
Most of you would answer, “why, yes of course I do!”
But, what if I asked you, “do you personally know God’s love?” Does that change the dynamics of this conversation? I mean, do we really, truly, deeply know that God loves us?

What if I asked you, “Do you know and love Him in return?” Some of you might begin to think I am meddling. Others, when thinking about this particular question, might discover the answer is not that simple. We as humans tend to make things more complicated than it really should be, and our understanding of loving God, might be tainted or influenced by the current situations of our lives – for good or bad. When we respond to the question “Do you know and love God?”, some might consider the it but then offer the response, “well, do I really know God loves me? How can I know this when my life is so troubled right now?”

I Don't Deserve Your Love - Chapter 44 - Wattpad


In spite of ourselves…
God’s one and only Son entered into this world so that we might be saved from sin and death…in spite of ourselves. In spite of our over complications… In spite of our bad days, months or years… In spite of every bad decision we have made, or potentially will make – God introduced flesh and blood, holiness into our impure world.

Have you ever been blessed with a gift from someone that cares for you and it was completely and utterly unexpected? How did it make you feel? Did you find yourself at a loss for words of appreciation? Did you feel embarrassed because you didn’t have anything to give in return? With God it is like that, but He doesn’t want us to feel guilty or embarrassed because we couldn’t possibly match the gift that He has given to us. He wants us to know how much we mean to Him. He provided us with the ultimate gift of love and grace – His Son Jesus Christ, who came to be our blood sacrifice, so that in His death we might be free from sin and death. He was born. He lived. He died…all for you, me and for every person in our world.

Light of the World' Posters - Mark Missman | AllPosters.com


God, who am I that you are mindful of me?
How can I be so important to you – the Creator of the Universe?
I don’t deserve such love and grace…
I could never repay such a gift…
I know I don’t deserve this…
But here I am Lord.
I accept and receive this gift once more.
Create in me a clean heart.
Renew a right spirit within me.
All I can give you in return…is me, faults and all…every shred, every blemish, all of me.
Help me to receive this grace and love every day,
and to offer the same to everyone around me
both neighbor and stranger.
I love you Lord.
-Amen.

Worry and the Seconds it Adds…(A Meditation)

This past Sunday, the message that was preached was meant for me.
It is cliche I know, but nonetheless, that passage in Matthew chapter 6 when Jesus talks about worry was like an arrow striking its mark. And I was the intended target.

The Pastor could not have known.
No one else around me, save for my wife, would know.
But I have been worrying as of late…
So much so that the worry has boiled over the pot, simmering on the stove…sizzling on the electric coils beneath and foaming all the way into full-on anxiety. It hasn’t been panic attacks per se, but there have been moments when I have awakened at times seized with disquietude and beseeching my quickening pulse to slow itself back into that desired slumbering pace once more.

In those sudden moments of unwanted wakefulness however, I have found myself conversing more and more with God. He and I haven’t spoken as much as we do now. Perhaps this is the ‘good’ that can come out of what was not meant to be so…I do not know. But we speak quite often about these sudden moments of alarm. He reminds me that this is small, unnecessary concern, and that He is, and will always be there.

His steady peace finds my heart once more, and yet it takes more seconds, perhaps even minutes to convince my storm-filled brain. Oh, how I wish I would step out of that boat like Peter, who was full of faith…yet I’m one of the others still in the boat, unwilling to move, frozen in my own silent attack of dread. We often internally chide Peter for not trusting Jesus as he finds his very soul taking on water, all-the-while looking up at Jesus Messiah who stands above that very tempest.

Come Follow Me: New Perspective about Peter walking on water - Latter-day  Saint Missionaries

Yet…Peter moved.

He stepped into onto that surface, which defied all sound logic (and physics).

Perhaps it is in the moving of one’s body, mind and soul that we begin to have a little faith…
Perhaps it takes courage to still the very waves of emotions and the currents of anxiety.
I have found that worry and the seconds it adds only fuels the panic and the untamed fright and flight.

The Preacher spoke on worry.
That worry had made a home in my heart.
Today…worry is homeless, and I find myself finally moving again…perhaps very soon, I will step out of my boat and finally walk with Jesus.

Jesus and Peter on the Water”, Gustave Brion (1863) – BYU Museum of Art

In The Glow of Autumn (when we fell)

Love fiercely, and expect that few will do the same in return…
This thought ran through my head…
tandem or inspiration?
Maybe both?
all the while, the sunlight hit your golden hair
all aglow and resplendent
at the peak of sunset on that cold October eve.
My heart leapt
as nature itself seemed to call out
that exception,
that ‘few’ kindred hearts…

I, transfixed, tried to close my mouth
like some dumb ox of a man
slipping and tripping head over-heels
helplessly, heart-sick with
wild devotion’s spell
which had cast its power

deftly upon me.

And having seen you there,
those words that had spilled from my mind
were now void of truth or solace.
New phrases welled up within me
feelings that defied words
far beyond their containment…
and I, awestruck by your visage there,
leaned in and shared that moment
with you…
all the while, determined to freeze time
capture it in a bottle
that is my heart
and pray they it continues to shine
into the very depths of my soul.

A Student of Grace (a pondering of forgiveness and enemies)

I am still a student of grace.
My Father in Heaven still has much to teach me.
I confess that there are times when it is easier to not forgive, to clench my teeth real tight, my face all flushed in anger and the world is filtered through the red that I see in my eyes.
I am still a student of grace.

Far too often I await the wrongs others will do to me.
It is almost a sick celebration of the “I told you so’s” and the laments of injustices inflicted on me or soon to be inflicted. It is far too easy to adopt the “woe is me” attitude, while in my heart I never even gave others a chance; I never allowed that much trust to take root and put down into the deep soil of REAL faith. One could make the leap that I have only trusted God a part of the way. That I still pick and choose with whom I will love…enemy or not. One could judge me based upon how shallow my grace really is…and it is rather slim.

I am still a student of grace.
Especially on the highway, when THAT driver is behind me, practically in my backseat, impatiently driving fast and soon will overtake me and then proceed to weave in and out of traffic…And some how, I have become the judge, jury and executioner of the world of speeding drivers everywhere. There is no need to search for that judgy old church member in the creaking pew, because he’s sitting in the driver’s seat, seat-belt clasp and I just glimpsed him through the rear view mirror for a moment…meeting his shame-filled eyes.
Ah, yes, I am still a lousy student of grace.

But you will see me in church every Sunday.
I will be active in the “hey how are you’s” and the occasional “amen’s”…but how far does my grace really extend?

Crucifixion Sunset Silhouette Series Photograph by David Dehner

I know, dear Lord that you ask me to love even my enemiesespecially my enemies and sometimes, from afar I can “get with the program”…but there are still those other times (we’ll call them the ‘Most of the times’) when my heart is far from your decree to love them. You have said it is easy to love those who love you, and how right you are. I desire reciprocation. I desire affirmation and declarations of care and concern…and I got nothing from enemies. But here I am, still a student of grace…using it as an excuse to overlook this demographic of your creation. And I am drawn to the very cross where you died and took upon the sins of your enemies. You took upon that cross my sin and the sins of everyone here BEFORE we reciprocated, and provided any affirmations and declarations of our understanding of love. You, yourself even asked God to forgive those who were killing you because they didn’t know what they were doing…

Could it be?
Is this what you want to teach…
me?

I am still a student of grace…

Love your enemies - A challenge that we must accept (Catholic Television)


but You are asking me to be much, much more than that.
Lord, you are calling me to be an ambassador or Your grace.
One who seeks out those who are still called enemy, stranger and outsider.
And as I say those names, I am reminded that those labels were mine before I knew you…and still you loved me.
Help me to become a professional dispenser of Your grace, without strings attached, or discrimination in my heart and mind. Grant me Your heart and Your eyes for those around me…until there are no more strangers, or enemies or outsiders.

5 Point Friday: UMC General Conference Reflections and Being Entrusted with  Grace (01MAR19) - University United Methodist Church


-Just a thought and prayer today.
Something more to ponder…

5 Opportunities for the Post-Pandemic Church

We are still in the throws of COVID-19 and obviously we all are hoping and praying for it to end very, very soon! Little did we know in 2019 that 2020 would be such a chaotic year filled with terms like “unprecedented” and “the new normal”…

The Church
Unless you have been living under a rock recently (you know there are some who are) you would know that church has taken to streaming their services online, prerecording messages, and even staging drive-in style worship experiences. We have all endured the many state mandates, quarantine procedures and even threats of penalties or jail time to offenders. It certainly goes without saying that the Church has had to adapt and adjust to such extreme measures. Isn’t it ironic that we often make jokes about how non-progressive and un-moving church can be when it comes to change, yet when it is thrust into a pandemic such as this, we have seen drastic change like we have never seen the church take before. It is almost (and forgive me for saying this) as if the church needed something like this to take place in order for it to change.

With that being said, let us delve into 5 Opportunities the Post-Pandemic Church should capitalize on. This is merely a projection and speculation, but I believe this could drastically change the landscape of what we consider to be “the Church” in the future. So here goes…

1) Embrace The Technology Platform

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Online streaming of worship services isn’t reserved just for those cliche televangelists who market their books and preach flowery sermons that only make you feel good. The Church has a tremendous opportunity to tap into the technology platform through the streaming of their worship content to social media sites with the touch of a cell phone screen or tablet device. This platform has been here for many years now, but churches, out of necessity, have finally begun to tap into its vast audience potential.

Flamingo Social Media Services GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY


I believe that the Post-Pandemic Church would be foolish to abandon this opportunity in the future and that many churches will continue to experiment and utilize technology to enhance their reach of the Good News. Of course there is always the danger of becoming too dependent on technology, but by and large if used correctly and carefully measured, it could be a tremendous opportunity both now and the future.

2) Get Out of the Four Walls (Where we worship)

Church Place GIF by For 91 Days - Find & Share on GIPHY


As with the technology platform and even the drive-in style worship settings popping up around the world, the Church and the Body of Christ as a whole (that’s you and me btw) have begun to see that we have protectively been meeting inside a church for years… Of course there are churches out there that pride themselves in doing this already, but by and large how we think of “Church” within this COVID-19 world has drastically changed. We no longer view Sunday mornings or midweek bible studies like we used to. There is more opportunity to adapt and change our approaches to how we worship and what that looks like. Perhaps the Church has grown comfortable within its respective four walls, and maybe even complacent in the Great Commission that we have all been tasked with.

I foresee the Church becoming more relaxed in how they approach worship and the mode of that worship. There will always be some churches who will slip back into comfortable patterns when this is all said and done, but I pray others will step out and get outside to do relatable, authentic ministry. Understandably, there are already churches who have been doing this, and perhaps to the churches who haven’t, it’s not a bad idea to observe, modify and emulate practices which relay the relevancy of Christ in our world today. The world needs Him more than ever before!

3) Eliminating Redundant Rituals and Practice for Practicality

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Tapping into what was just discussed, is the notion that certain practices within the ‘order of service’ a church might traditionally roll out week to week are now observed to be unnecessary within the context of the pandemic. Perhaps some of these unnecessary practices like the taking of tithes and offering (which has been replaced with a tithe box in the back of the sanctuary by some churches currently) will no longer be used in future services, but rather the new (to us, but church traditionally ancient) practice will remain. Coupled with that one could insert a number of practices such as the printing of bulletins, the morning “meet and greet” (introverts everywhere are now jumping for joy…internally that is).

Of course the danger of eliminating any practice could be a loss of observation or even honoring the sacred spaces. One must always be careful when deciding what should stay and what should go.

4) Exercising Flexibility and Creativity Like Never Before!
Along with the elimination of “worship bloat” the post-pandemic church will have the opportunity to tap into a far more flexible congregation and audience that it has ever had before. With this comes the need of more creativity when considering how “ministry” or “worship” should look and feel like. There will be a loosening of constraints within stodgy traditional molds and an opportunity to experiment with modern worship platforms. That being said, the danger with experimentation could be either the over simplification of the gospel or even the stripping away of biblical truths altogether.

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The post-pandemic church might have new found freedom, but should be sober in how it uses that new-found flexibility, all the while never forgetting or losing the primary purpose of the church in the first place. I would not be surprised to see an increase in ‘house church ministries’ as people are drawn once again to the need for intensive fellowship, prayer and praise all centralized around the simplicity of home.

5) Fearlessly Taking Risks for Evangelism

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Lastly, in a world so distraught and fearful all due to COVID-19, there will be an increase in people genuinely seeking hope and this notion of a ‘Higher Power’. The post-pandemic church should be spurred on into caring and loving evangelism. Make no mistake, this isn’t the “bullhorn, I’m going to thrust gospel tracts in your face” kind of evangelism. No, instead if the post-pandemic church wishes to truly reach new lives for Christ they need to be fearless and take risks like never before with a new found vigor for sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ. This will not come by just remaining in a para-house church, or stay in the parking lot of the new drive-in church, but rather get out (within our new understanding of social distancing) and love people right where they are at in life.

With so much in our world that has caused division, hurt and even hate, the world needs this post-pandemic church to step up and take risks for Christ and because they genuinely care about people and want to see people’s lives wondrously transformed.

So How About It?
This is really the end of my pondering today and where the proverbial “rubber meets the road”. It is up Christ-followers like you and me to not only hear what God is saying to us, but to actually do it.

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We, as The Church (big C) cannot simply revert into what we were prior to this pandemic…we have to move forward and in so doing, live this transformation so that others will see Christ through us.

Something more for this current and the future Church to ponder today.

I Am A Child Of God…(Devotional Pondering)

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.” –1 John 3:1

What a gift this is!
What a relief to be known as children on God!
We have this amazing title, this identity and belonging.
Can you even begin to imagine the depths of love this gift of being called a child of God truly is?

All of humanity was separated from God by sin and death, but God made a way for us to be reconciled to Him – through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Because of this blood sacrifice, which was impossible for us to atone for, we have been given this new life. We might have once been called “Dead man/woman walking”, but now it is possible for us to sit at the family table with Jehovah Jireh, our provider and Savior. Not only are we invited guests…because that in and of itself is a special thing, but we are more than just guests at His table, we are FAMILY! He calls us Son and Daughter. We are included in this illustrious inheritance of eternity with Him.

For some, this might sound like hyperbole…and nothing more, so it is dismissed and rejected. For others, doubts overshadow this good news, for surely we are unworthy of such a designation and title, and in part these rational thinkers are correct. None of us deserves this. None of us are ever worthy of such a blessing, and yet because of God’s grace and love, we are given this priceless opportunity to be grafted back into the Family of God. We never can earn this. We never can do enough good to receive the title. There isn’t enough good works to atone for our sinfulness. But Jesus, in the shedding of His blood, washes our sins away and makes it right.

Ah, but there’s a catch.
(and some skeptics would say, “I knew it! There’s always a catch”)
The catch is really this: It is our choice.
That’s right, it is up to you and me.
We decide if we wish to accept this offer, which is freely given to us.
But in the giving, there has been real sacrifice, pain and labor…it may be given freely to us, but the cost, when we consider it, is unconscionably steep.

This catch is…our belief.
We must accept the gift that has been given to us.
We must receive it with an open heart and mind.
Our joy of being called a Son and Daughter, a child of God, is received at the moment of our belief in His sacrifice and resurrection.

Questions:
Will you claim your title of Son or Daughter of God through your belief in Jesus?
How does this change the way you view yourself and others?
What does being identified as a Son or Daughter of God truly mean?
Are you willing to embrace this heritage and share it with others that you know who might not know about Jesus?
What can you do today that will reflect this rich gift of being call children of God?

Prayer:
Dear Lord, help me to fully accept this gift of being called Your Son or Daughter. Help me to share this great gift with those around me today. May Your light shine on me and light this path that You would have me walk. Thank You for loving me and for lavishly pouring Your grace on me in this way. I love You Father! -Amen.

The Post Pandemic Church…

As with any pandemic or sickness people have been affected, and some have died. I in no way wish to cheapen that and I believe we have lived through a very challenging time. At the same time the scripture verse that keeps coming back to me over and over again is, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

I believe that what was meant for evil will be used for good.
That is not to say that many have suffered through this pandemic.
That is not to say either that there is no longer other evils in this world.
But rather, I believe God is mobilizing the church in this strange and uncertain time. I should also say that God has always intended His people to be mobile, outside of a four-walled structure. God has always desired for His people to serve those in need everywhere and not just those who happen upon their individual church.

The Mobilizing Power of Christ's Church - Johns Creek Baptist Church

What does this mobilization mean?
Perhaps we have grown too comfortable in our buildings and sanctuary.
Perhaps we have become a little too lazy with our witness.
Perhaps we as a body of Christ are being prodded to take the good news out into all the world again.

I will openly admit (if you will) that I have at times grown complacent with my testimony of who Jesus is to me. I don’t say that to imply that we ought to stand on the street corner with a bullhorn and guilt people into church, but I do imply that I fear we are becoming the church of Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22). We are in danger of being a lukewarm, tepid Church that does nothing more than sing songs on Sunday and hear heartwarming messages that gives us tingles but we don’t change nor do we feel compelled to help others find Christ.

I believe God is mobilizing His people during this pandemic to become a Church on fire for Him once again. This is a wake up call…and I believe many are responding to that call. Many Christ-followers are hearing His prodding and are adapting, transforming and have found that urgency of evangelism once again. If there was a time that the world needed the Good News, it is now. And so the Church, post-pandemic has to wake up from its lazy slumber, shake the cobwebs off of its prayer life, take a hold of the armor of God so we can take our stand against the devil’s schemes (Ephesians 6:11) and mobilize out in all the world not just gathering in the safety of the walls of a church building. We aren’t called to be pew dwellers but soul winners with the power of the Holy Spirit flowing through us.

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The Danger
The danger of this pandemic and in life is complacency and a loss of faith.
We may be tempted to abandon our faith altogether, and yet with His help we can overcome. Be aware of the dangers around you, dear warriors of Christ. Satan won’t directly attack you, but rather chip away at your resolve, your relationship with Christ and the faith of those around you. Do not become discouraged or lose heart. The Lion of Judah is with us and His truth will overcome this present darkness. We must stand firm and not waver in our faith. We cannot allow any fear or doubt to falter our commission that Christ has given us. The Church He has called us to goes far beyond any four walls and must have feet with its faith. Evidence of fruit, love, compassion and grace ought to be seen.

200 Not-Boring Questions To Connect And Get To Know Someone Better

Questions:
Is there evidence of fruit in your life today?
Have you faltered in your faith?
Have you become lazy in your relationship to Christ?
What steps can you take to avoid the trappings of a lukewarm, lazy faith?

The post-pandemic Church must be more than denominational differences.
We have to put aside our issues with one another. There is far too much at stake here. We cannot be bound by our comforts, our patterns of ritual and worship…we have to go beyond all of those things.

If these questions and line of thinking causes guilt in us, perhaps that is the prodding of the Holy Spirit in our hearts today. Perhaps He is calling us into a deeper relationship with Him and we must not settle for our current state but instead become more resourceful, resilient and persevere. I see a Church on the cusp of greater things if we but listen to His leading and we love beyond our walls and into the lives of neighbors, co-workers, strangers and even our enemies. If we do these things faithfully for Christ, please do not be surprised with amazing, even miraculous things happen. We must venture into the unknown places, and purposefully seek out the lost, the hopeless and the hurting.

Something more to ponder today, may God continue to not only richly bless you, but prod you out into deeper waters.

-Until next time, Godspeed.

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