Monday, January 21

Church

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I get an amazing amount of mail and messages asking about where we go to church, what kind of church it is, what we believe, and so on. Some of you are non-religious and just curious, which makes it sweet that you take time to ask, while others, many others, have been burned by church experiences.
 I understand this.
I understand that it is easy to say churches are full of hypocrites.
 Some days, I know I'm the biggest one there.
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Our church experience is not meant to be perfection-on-earth.
Do you hear me?
God calls the imperfect, not the perfect.
If we're perfect without Him then we have no need of Him.
God calls the church His bride and then has His prophet Hosea marry a prostitute so He can demonstrate His perfect love with an imperfect bride. But we want none of that.

No, this does not excuse unbiblical churches or abuses of power or celebrity Christians. Celebrity Christians are the antithesis of what God calls his followers to be.

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I've attended the same church for over 30 years and have seen time and time again God change lives and situations I thought were impossible to change. It takes imperfection for perfection to be seen clearly.
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So where do we begin?
We begin by making our church experience not about us.
Realizing it is not about us.
It is not about how we're treated, how the worship *moves* us, how people reach out to us. 
Worship is a heart attitude, not a feeling.

We begin by recognizing what is important: mainly, preaching from the Bible, not from the culture.
And love.  There needs to be a deep love for the things of God.  Which brings me to my next thought - pray for God to give you a deep abiding love for His people.  If church is cold, seems superficial, culture soaked - then those are the people who need love and your extension of God's love to them might be the only genuineness they experience.  I'm amazed how we can tolerate and reach out to the lost outside the church doors but shun the lost inside the church doors.
 
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One of the things Sean and I love most about our church is spending time at the International Campus right in the center of the city. This campus is invaluable not because refugees aren't welcome into our edge of city main campus - indeed any of the weekend services are multicultural - but because logistically, many lack transportation and having a central campus for food, clothing and furniture distribution, classes, services in many languages and a place for community events has been fabulous!
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I wish I could share each story I've heard from folks I've met. One friend gave birth to her first child on bare earth in a refugee tent. Another woman lost her husband after he was accused of spying, but really he just loved the Lord and lost his life for it. Another young man, who accepted Jesus on his own, has been ridiculed and outcast by his entire community and family for his faith. He is the first convert to Christianity in his entire cultural population.
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At the end of the photos is a clip from our friend Rick, who runs the International Campus, explaining what God is doing.
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If you're having trouble finding a church that is meeting your needs, find a Bible teaching church where you can serve.  If there's no family outreach, open your home. 
When you're hurt, forgive.
When you're forgotten, make sure no one else is and reach out.
My husband's favorite thing to tell me is "Hannah, be the change that needs to be seen".
It drives me nuts sometime but no doubt he's right. :)

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The International Campus from redeemer.tv on Vimeo.

5 comments:

Roller Mill Farms said...

I love to hear about how your church is embracing and loving the international community! Thanks for the encouraging words on this subject, it's been challenging for me the last few years, not because i've been burned by church but i just want MORE... Diversity, love, depth. all those things.
it's right that we "be" the change. God is so faithful.

Mandi said...

Great post! Really cool ministry!

Julian said...

Thank-you. I've been burned way too many times by church. Thinking that I have something to give others well,what can someone like me give to someone that seems to have it all together. I can cook them a meal,be their friend,open my home give clothes. My heart. Church is not a cozy word for me. I had a hard past in a bad church. Only to go to others and find hypocrites,and people who wanted to put me to work so I had no time for my family. I'm praying for God to heal me. To heal my heart. I love Jesus,and I love people. Trust is hard to give. And I don't want to give that bad experience to my kids. Your husband is right about being the change. I like that there are people from all walks of life and in all stages there. Thank-you for writing this post.
Christina

Anonymous said...

You have a beautiful blog, and you made some very good comments here about helping the international community.

However, your sweeping judgements about why people leave church are wrong. You give the same sort of answers I've heard from many Christians and they are false. I left the church, and I've tried to rationally explain to my extended family time and time again why I did this, but it always comes back to the same thing--you left the church because you must have been offended.

Can I say this any more clear--many, many people leave Christianity and the church and it has absolutely nothing to do with being offended. Please, inform yourself a bit more by reading the book called Faith No More by Phil Zuckerman. This author interviews many people who have left Christianity. They give intelligent, real reasons as to why, and it has nothing to do with a petty offense!! Yes, it's obvious you think we are wrong, but have a tolerant enough view as to realize there is something bigger, more intelligent than just saying "oh, they are offended"

I have followed your blog for years and have respected your beliefs and even be inspired by many of them, even though I am no longer a Christian. However, I do not intend on viewing your blog again. It's obvious that in your eyes, your views on God and the church are the absolute truth and everyone else is wrong.

Me said...

Roller Mill Farms, me too! Thank you for the encouraging me in my faith too!

Thank you, Mandi.

Julian, I'm so sorry. Church has not been a cozy word for me either. I'm praying God works His healing in your heart and surrounds you with genuine Christian community. Much love from me to you...

Dear Anonymous, my post was not written to you. I get so very many notes asking about our faith and church life, mostly by people who have been hurt by unloving or legalistic churches or are wondering how to find the perfect church community. I can't think of one note asking me how to deal with offense. :) So you see, these weren't "sweeping judgements" but just answering questions and offering hope from my perspective of being hurt in a church body and changing my perspective and asking God to work His love in my heart.
I'm so sorry this post offended you so deeply but clearly, since it wasn't on the topic of offense - I'm not sure why it did. Grace and peace to you and I wish you well.
Hannah