The Fake Church – And Why It Needs To Die!

churchI’m H.A.P.P.Y.  I feel like I can fly, I’m going to heaven, I’ll get there by and by…
or so an old Sunday School chorus goes, but is that really true ALL the time?

Are we supposed to be happy all the time?  And if we’re not happy all the time – is there something wrong with us?  If happiness is the measure of our Christian faith, then I’m afraid to say that we have all failed.   I am willing to venture a guess that we are NOT usually happy every moment of every day…that’s just not going to happen.

pretendI think we do ourselves a great disservice in the Church when we pretend everything is A-Okay all of the time.
We sometimes have this temptation to “play” church because we want to keep up appearances to the false-fact that we have it all together.  Leaders and Pastors of churches are especially good at this.  We’re supposed to be the shepherds of the flock that we’ve been entrusted with – how could we possibly reveal that we struggle…too?

We sometimes run scenarios in our heads that sort of go like this:  “I must show them that the joy of the Lord is my strength, but I can’t reveal to them I have issues at home too.”  Or;  “Let’s just get through this hour of worship and then I can go home and wallow in my pain – no one understands me in this church.”  Let’s face it, we all know that pastoring and leadership can be a lonely place sometimes.  pastorsWe have to make crucial decisions, not everyone in our churches will like those decisions or even like us.  We struggle sometimes making real friends because it is hard to be vulnerable to members of your own flock, especially when sometimes some members have hurt you or stabbed you in the back with gossip, back-biting and malicious silly struggles for power.

I’m not condemning anyone today, I just wonder if this is all we can become as the body of Christ (right now, in our seemingly stagnant ways and phony pretenses) – or if there is more in store for us?

One of the hindrances of real, tangible church growth is also a two-edged sword:  Trust.
Pastors, Leaders and Congregants struggle with truly trusting one another.
It’s hard on all sides.  Guards are often left up.  Church-goers are afraid to be open and honest with their pastors; pastors are afraid to show any weaknesses or doubts in front of their congregants.  The two-edged sword slices both ways, and in this regard, it keeps us from truly experiencing authentic koinonia fellowship.

The Opposite of Trust is?  
Yes, you guessed it – mistrust.
If we continue to worship in the Fake Church, we will continue to wear plastic smiles, but deep down we will be a hollowed out building made up of cold individuals trying to warm a pew on Sunday mornings – it’s just not going to work.  Some have been playing this game for years.  Some blame their trust issues on their upbringing or their personality type, or timing, or….but the reality is we weren’t called by God to be a church of fakers.  NO!  We are called to be united as one body; but what happens when the body doesn’t work together or trust one another?  We get a bunch of people doing a lot of hard things but never together!

knife“But I’ve Been Hurt Before”
I get that!  I have too.  I’ve experienced the sharpening of knives in a place where God calls us to holiness.  I’ve felt the scorn of supposed “loving” church members (it kind of felt more like hate at the time).  I have witnessed leaders, with whom I had trusted, break my trust, burn the bridges and they stood there to watch it burn. I’m not pretending that these painful things don’t happen in Church – they do.  Should they?  Absolutely not!  But does that mean we stop attempting to trust one another?  Does that mean we put on our “church clothes” each Sunday and continue to hold up the facade while inside we’re struggling?  Absolutely not!

We’ve both been hurt a time or two.  Most likely (and I hope not) we’ll be hurt again.  This shouldn’t hold us hostage as Christ-followers.

I Believe believe
-I believe God WILL work all things for good to those who love Him (Romans 8:28).
-I believe despite ourselves, He is still prompting us to be holy!
-I believe in the transforming power of The Holy Spirit – do you?
-I believe that forgiveness is a game changer!
-I believe that the only way to transform our churches is to be authentic in our struggles and real with one another.
-I believe that God still has work to do in His Church!
-I believe that the time for fakery and phoniness (if there ever was a “time” for it) is over – unless we want to die a slow painful Church-death.

stopJUST STOP!
Pastors, Leaders, Church Members – Stop attending the fake church!
Put down the distractions.
-Stop playing on your phones, stop keeping to yourselves, stop sitting idle in the pews!
Stop pretending to care when you don’t.

This may sound harsh – but it’s true.
I’ve been there.
I too have played the game…and it goes nowhere!
This is why the Fake Church needs to die, and die fast!
In its place, I hope we find an authentic group of people who care for one another despite their faults, issues and struggles.  I might be naive, but I believe such a Church still exists, do you?

Something more to ponder today!
To God be the glory!

The Syrian Refugee Crisis…And You!

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
-Galatians 6:9

The Bad:

A Syrian refugee holds a baby in a refug...A Syrian refugee holds a baby in a refugee camp set in the town of Harmanli, south-east of Sofia on November 12, 2013. Bulgaria's asylum centres are severely overcrowded after the arrival of almost 10,000 refugees this year, half of them Syrian. The influx has fuelled anti-immigrant sentiment in a country already struggling with dire poverty. AFP PHOTO / NIKOLAY DOYCHINOVNIKOLAY DOYCHINOV/AFP/Getty Images
A Syrian refugee holds a baby in a refug…A Syrian refugee holds a baby in a refugee camp set in the town of Harmanli, south-east of Sofia on November 12, 2013. Bulgaria’s asylum centres are severely overcrowded after the arrival of almost 10,000 refugees this year, half of them Syrian. The influx has fuelled anti-immigrant sentiment in a country already struggling with dire poverty. AFP PHOTO / NIKOLAY DOYCHINOVNIKOLAY DOYCHINOV/AFP/Getty Images

Since the Syrian civil war took place five years ago, an estimated 4,000,000 (that’s MILLION) refugees have left the war-torn country.  Many have flooded into neighboring countries
It boggles the mind that there are countries in our world who would turn a blind eye to the plight of asylum seekers and refugees.  It has been reported that some of the wealthiest countries in the Middle East are doing nothing to help welcome foreign refugees from Syria.  The same can be said for some European countries as well.  Let’s call it for what it is.  This isn’t about fears of the economic mainframe and fears that a country can’t support a sudden influx of refugees.  This isn’t about resources at all, because either the EU would step in and help as would the United Nations.  In fact, just today one of the UN’s top officials said this current refugee crisis needs a global response (Source: UN Response To Current Crisis)   The refusal by some nations to help displaced Syrian families is abhorrent, wrong and despicable.   Apathy seems to be running rampant in parts of the world.  Self-interests are in play here, as is the practice of turning a blind eye and pretending it doesn’t really exist.  This is about inconvenience.  Some of this is also about ethnic and ideological differences.  Racism still exists.  Bigotry within cultures, religion and lifestyles still exist, and is alive and kicking.

The Good:

Fleeing bombardment of their village by Syria's Assad regime,
Fleeing bombardment of their village by Syria’s Assad regime, “Um Ali,” 38, as the mother of six children asked to be called, sits in the back of the cave they have found as their own shelter. The cave, just outside the village of al Sahriah, measures about 12 by 35 feet. (Andree Kaiser/MCT)

Germany was one of the first countries to step up and do something about this humanitarian crisis.
They have pledged to take up to 500,000 refugees a year!  That is amazing generosity, compassion and willingness to do something remarkable when others have turned a blind eye to the plight of these displaced families in need.
Now, the tide is (hopefully) turning – The Vatican has pledged support and is urging other nations and Christians to do the same.  Some countries, like the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada and France are beginning to feel the pressure to offer more than just a band-aid solution but, perhaps a new home to many who are now homeless because of this horrific civil war.

More Still Remains To Be Done:

DAMASCUS, SYRIA - JANUARY 31: In this handout provided by the United Nation Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), Residents wait in line to receive food aid distributed in the Yarmouk refugee camp on January 31, 2014 in Damascus, Syria. The United Nations renewed calls for the Syria regime and rebels to allow food and medical aid into the Palestinian camp of Yarmouk. An estimated 18,000 people are besieged inside the camp as the conflict in Syria continues. (Photo by United Nation Relief and Works Agency via Getty Images)
DAMASCUS, SYRIA – JANUARY 31: In this handout provided by the United Nation Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), Residents wait in line to receive food aid distributed in the Yarmouk refugee camp on January 31, 2014 in Damascus, Syria. The United Nations renewed calls for the Syria regime and rebels to allow food and medical aid into the Palestinian camp of Yarmouk. An estimated 18,000 people are besieged inside the camp as the conflict in Syria continues. (Photo by United Nation Relief and Works Agency via Getty Images)

There is still hundreds of thousands of men, women and children who are seeking peace and a new home.
Syria is most notable war torn country in the news currently; but other places in the world are suffering the same fate year after year; places like Sudan – currently in South Sudan there are more than 600,000 refugees who have fled to the Southern boarders while another 1.5 million people are currently displaced and without a place to call home. (Source: South Sudan Refugee Exodus Continues)

What Can We Do?
How can we help?  We are just soldiers, people, seemingly little in our community…but we are wrong, we do have a voice and must make it heard!
We must continue to give a voice to those who do not have a voice.
We must fight for the powerless, the suffering, the homeless, the refugee, the trafficked sex slaves, the child soldier.
In this current crisis, and crises like it in our world, we must stand against injustice.

In the United States:
Write your state representative or better yet call them
Here is a list of their numbers – Phone Numbers To Call
Urge them to apply pressure to offer more support to the Syrian Refugee Crisis.

In Canada: 
Look up your local/governmental officials and apply pressure to help
Contact Information

In The United Kingdom:
Here are some rather current information as to what is being done in the UK –
FactSheet
But more can be done and you can urge your government officials.

I can’t list all of your wonderful countries here today but I would suggest that where ever you live, you must apply some pressure to your governmental units.  Remind them, urge them to help.  We cannot sit idly by while innocent men, women and children are displaced and are suffering.  Turning a blind eye is a conscious choice to not care.  Don’t allow apathy and selfishness to invade your heart!  Do something!

More resources and information:
The Salvation Army Assists Refugees
The Greek Salvation Army Caring For Refugees
UN Refugee Agency
CNN News Report

Something more to ponder today!

Breaking News…”Misremembering” And The Quest For Integrity

Brian Williams has been suspended from NBC this week.
Longtime NBC anchorman was challenged by others within the media world as to the substance of his “encounters” while reporting on the Iraq war in 2003.  His “misremembering” of specific details has left some scratching their heads while others calling for his immediate termination.  Whether intentional or not, the fallout of “misremembering” at the journalistic level will undoubtedly have consequences.

Similarly, within the Christian world “misremembering” and/or inconsistencies of witness will also undoubtedly have consequences!  Like those who report the news nationally and internationally, Christians leaders are looked up to.  They provide other Christians and would-be believers vital information, sources of hope, and godly direction.  Integrity and honesty should be a given, although there have been some who have fallen from grace over the years. swaggart

The witness of Christians can become greatly devalued when inconsistencies and misremembering takes place.  What good is it to speak of love and grace and even Jesus when suddenly we misremember how we are to treat other people?  What good are these Christian qualities when our actions and attitudes do not resemble our words?  Worse yet, what good is it to go to church and sing all the right songs and pray all the right prayers only to walk out of those doors and resemble anything but a Christ follower in our unhealthy habits, speech and actions?

Do we run the risk of running empty on integrity when we misremember how we are to be as Christians?  You bet we do!  The unfortunate consequences of lack of integrity as people of faith is that we will lead people away from God. Why would people want to seek out Christ when His very own followers do not practice what they preach?

Two things happen when we live within the “misremembered” and dishonest walk of “faith”

hypo1. Our Christian witness is compromised, phony and detremental to others who are ACTUALLY living as God has called the faithful to live.  We are not only ruining the chances of potential new believers coming to the faith, but we are making it even harder on other believers who are living lives of integrity.   It only takes a few rotten apples to ruin the whole bunch.  When others look at the church they will mostly likely first see the rotten ones.  We must be aware of our witness to others…it matters THAT much!

2.  Our personal faith and growth will be stuntedstunted
…from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water? Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Nor can salt water produce fresh.”  (James 3:10-12)
Living a dishonest life within the realms of faith will inevitably shortchange our potential maturity and growth.  We cannot live this way.  As James puts it “this ought not be this way“.   We jeopardize not only the Christian witness to others, but we tarnish our own paths and limit what God can do through us by living this way.   Living a “misremembered” life that lacks integrity is cheap and unfortunately more common than not.  Dare I say that Christ has called us to live the uncommon life that is full of integrity, love and obedience!

BrianLet’s face it, Brian Williams isn’t the only one who has “misremembered” things, he was just caught.
Many are just as guilty of this same character flaw.  Brian Williams just happened to be in the public eye reporting the news.  Will there be more who will fall from grace?  Of course…but you and I do not have to be included in this statistic if we are mindful of this trap!  Integrity is a valuable, often tarnished commodity that many lack today.  As people of faith, we ought to make it our goal to strive to live integrity in all that we do and all that we are!

Let’s stop the “misremembering” madness in our own lives and start practicing honesty, sincerity and truth both in word and deed.

Something more to ponder today!

Ponderings on Je Suis Charlie Masacre…

Words that come into my mind amidst this recent tragedy –
Sad.
Freedom.
Terrorism.
Murder.
Criminal.
afraid1
I keep thinking of Charlie Hebdo’s final words: “I would rather die on my feet than live on my knees!
Talk about bold.
Talk about defiance in the face of certain death.
Talk about bravery in the midst of a cowardly attack on unarmed innocent people.

afraidMuch discussion has taken place this week as to who is to blame.
Was it the artist’s works of satire?
Was it the media’s fault?
Was it extremists?

Much like the US, there is the freedom of the press in France.
The United States is even partially modeled after the French model of government.
Some have asked if there are consequences to be paid for freedom of expression?
Should there be consequences?
While others have said, that the works of extremists and terrorists will not repress such expressions and the liberty to do so freely.

I keep coming back to Charlie Hebdo’s final words;
I would rather die on my feet than live on my knees!
pencil
My point: 
I abhor violence of any kind.
Violence upon unarmed innocent people equally abhorrent.
Violence for the sake of any religion – intolerable and wrong.
Repression of anyone’s freedom of expression – wrong as well.

On the subject of faith:
My mind is drawn to many places in the world where Christians are executed based solely upon their freedom (or lack there of) to express their faith.
Places where public murder is allowed.
Places where any expression besides the prescribed expressions by the majority are forbidden and punishable by death.
If religion = violence.
If religion = repression.
If religion = death
If religion = the strong prevailing over the weak…
then I don’t want anything to do with religion.
I don’t want to live in a world like that.
I don’t want others to die in a world like that.

              I would rather die standing, than live on my knees.
And yet, I hear the words of Jesus in the back of my mind –
Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”(Luke 9:23)
In other words – in my defiance to these things, I will live on my knees in utter humility.
I will pray for both victim and foe.
I will long for the day when violence ceases in all corners of the world.
I will kneel in this life and not attempt to become greater than others by stepping on them and silencing them.
How far will this take me?
To the foot of the cross.

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