Wednesday, September 26, 2007

A Clarification

I just wanted to take a quick minute to make sure people understood one thing I had said about home churches.  When I speak of them, I speak from a view that comes from a group of people that have left the body because of offense.  This in no way makes me an expert.  It only gives me one view of something.  That being said, I have little other experience to go on other than this, so I do not pass any judgment on all home churches.  If a home church was started out of a true desire to know the Father, lives out the Gospel, the great commission, and walks in true love with Christ and other parts of the body, than I am more than excited to know about it.

So I read the book

I finally had the chance to read the book mentioned by Steve Walden, titled, “So you don’t want to go to church anymore”.  I have to say, I was riveted.  I read the entire book in a day.  It caused me to be late for work because I was so engrossed in the story.

The story is great.  I was a little disappointed to find out it was only a fictional story, though.  I wanted to read it with an open mind, so I started by reading the first chapter and went to the end of the story, and then read everything else.  The writers did do an excellent job of putting together a story that captured your attention. 

I guess, to summarize the book, it is about a man’s spiritual journey closer to Jesus.  It is a story about Jake, a leader in a large church.  Jake is a very committed servant.  He works to maintain his position despite the growing emptiness in his life.  Things change for Jake when he meets John.  John is a man who wanders in and out of Jakes life over time and helps Jake find true relationship with Jesus.  Jake goes through times of loving and hating John depending on his circumstances, but he wonders if this John might not be the disciple John.

Through a series of events, Jake is forced to resign his position in the church, ostracized by his former friends and left with nothing but to rely on Jesus.  During these times John will pop out of nowhere and help Jake to see that there is nothing Jake can do to earn Jesus’ love, and that he needs to stop looking at circumstances and people for approval and true relationship with Jesus.  As time moves on Jake is drawn closer to his walk with the Father, and sees the hand of God moving in his life in ways he had never seen before.

Also during the course of that time Jake and a few members of his old church and even some other churches decide to try a home church.  Through this Jake and his friends realize what they are doing is trading one religious system for another.  John confronts Jake and his peers about this and shows them that true relationship with Jesus is not found in organizations, but in relationship.  John shows them how to care for one another as opposed to teaching each other. 

Through a series of events, as Jake moves closer to Jesus, he is restored with his former pastor and friend.  At one point this man, Jim, even asks Jake to take his position as senior pastor of the church.  There are a number of other things that go on, but in the end, Jake continues to fellowship with his community of friends.

On the positive side, I was encouraged as I read this book.  There were a lot of things that I could relate to: being hurt by leadership, rejection, bitterness, dying to self and our perception of Jesus, learning to lean on Jesus in the midst of difficult circumstances, and true relationship are just a few of the these.  As I sat reading I couldn’t help remembering different parts of my life and walking through the hurt to remember the healing.  This was great for me to reflect. 

I also thought of our local assembly and how we are changing.  I thought of things I lack as a believer.  I thought of wrestling with performance over the bigger picture.  I thought of being a person who lacks “love” many times in dealing with issues.  I also thought of this in our local assembly.  That caused me to think on the reality of the bigger picture again.  Often times I have been corrected, but I have always been cheered for by my local assembly to succeed.  Comically, I was brought to the end of Pirates of the Carribean 1, where Jack Sparrow looks at Col. Norrington and says, “I want you to know, I was rooting for you.”  This may not make sense to you as you read this, but what I mean by that reference is that over the years of dealing with my junk, though leaders got in my face and were rough, they were always behind me.

I have to say, the book is worth the read for the positive side, but…

There is a negative side.  What the book does a great job in about realizing the need for personal relationship with Jesus, and the body in the sense of truly knowing each other and sharing each others burdens, it does a poor job in proving its point about this smaller community of believers and does little more than make stabs at the “church” establishment.  There are several points I wondered on what bible the writers were reading to draw such conclusions.  There is a point near the end of the book, around page 113, that John teaches on church leadership.  Marvin, a former pastor, and part of Jakes home church asks him about needing teaching and leadership.  John says something to the effect of the fact that the first century church had no need for such people and that those who were called, were called to be servants of the body.  While there is much truth in his words, there is a lot there to lead the reader astray in the need for leadership.  I personally felt this was irresponsible as there was not enough clarification to this point.  In an otherwise moving story, this was a point I couldn’t let go of. 

My mind was brought first to experience and the issues I mentioned above.  My leadership was serving me.  My leadership was rooting for me, just as John had been rooting for Jake and his friends.  I was then brought to bad experiences with leadership at other churches in my history.  God was in that, and it caused the church to repent of its sin, and helped me personally take my first steps in being under authority. (This was a major situation similar to the one in the book, too.)  I reflected on other books I read about church authority.  I then had a million and one New Testament scriptures pop into my head.  I was brought to teachings from Paul on what qualities a leader should have.  I was brought to other points in scripture on the establishment of the church in general.  I was then brought back to Hebrews 13:17, which, interestingly enough, is also a scripture reference used by Brian Nash in his comments on my blog.

Hebrews 13:17:
Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.

Here in lies my original point about issues with home churches.  Many of them start out, as did the one mentioned in the book, as a group of hurt people trying to do something better than the establishment.  This is why I listened to punk music in the eighty’s.  It was my personal rebellion and expression of identity.  My contention with this is that many fall into self righteousness about this new “move” and reject a number of scriptures about the body and the bride, and, in my opinion, miss the better portion of the book; to really get closer to Jesus, to learn to die to self and our own concept of the way it should be, and to become a true community of believers who act out the Gospel, reach the lost, care for the sick and provide for the poor.

I think this book is somewhat irresponsible in how it looks at the church as a whole, and it does lead readers astray in this area.  I feel that the look at leadership is poor at best, and I feel that it is divisive in its nature toward an issue with some churches in some areas, while disregarding the good of the church.  I feel that it does men and women who commit their lives to the Gospel a major disservice in this area.  I wish this book had committed itself to its best messages, the message of redemption, and walking onto Jesus’ love, the message of dying to self conception and committing to let God provide, and the message of the body caring for one another. 

On the final notes, to reiterate how open I went into reading this book, I was disappointed to find the author being a pseudonym for two people, and I was bummed to find this was a fictional story.  It was worth the read, though, overall…

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Another Thing I Want To Be Able To Do

I want to play this song like this.

A Commitment to Read the Book

I wanted to take a few minutes to thank those who commented on the blog, “What Should the Perfect Church Look Like.”  There were some good thoughts and good views to consider written in your comments.

Now, that being said, there were a few things I wanted to address regarding the posts.  The first thing is very simple.  When I said my church, it was not as though I didn’t know who owns it.  I understand that the writer of that comment might have been trying to be funny, but there is a reason I bring that up.  That reason will probably be explored over a few posts, but let me sum this one up for the moment and get back to it later.  Many of us have college sweaters or root for different college teams.  Many of us have our home team.  Here in Michigan many of us bleed maize and blue in the fall.  The funny thing about that is that not many of us went to University of Michigan, and those who did, don’t own it either.  It is a sense of team pride and a sense of community.  We all share the common interest in football and U of M, well, except my Ohio State loving neighbor, but he doesn’t count;0)  (For those of you who don’t know, I don’t have an antenna, I don’t like sports, and I don’t know much about sports at all)

When I say “my church” I mean the place where God has put me to worship and serve.  It is the local team.  This brings me to something.  Those who have accepted Jesus as their savior are now a part of Team Jesus.  You wear a team uniform and have team colors.  Each local church and each person has a tiny slice of the identity of Jesus, and therefore wears a slightly different identity.  That is where “my church” comes from.  It has nothing to do with a feeling of ownership above the ownership of Jesus.  It has nothing to do with feeling superior because “my church” is better than “your church”.  It is just where God has placed me to serve.

Well, with all that being said I feel a need to explain “my church”.  Lord of the Harvest sits near the border of Warren and Detroit.  It is a church in a neighborhood that needs Jesus.  The body of believers who meet there are very focused on communitas.  What is “communitas”?  I found a good description of it on (no I am not sure of the whole website, but this line is very good.) “Service to the community lies at the heart of Communitas’ mission. By its very nature, to serve is a collaborative process; doing with, rather than for someone.”  Our local assembly not only believes in reaching the community, but t believes in partnering with the community to change it from within.  To take a few minutes to brag, we minister to over four hundred lost families a month through our various ministries.  We tithe more as a church than some families tithe.  We give more to the community than our Pastor makes in a year.

Now, I want to get to the thing that prompted me to post.  Many of you, as I already said, had some good points.  Brian Nash had some good points on his blog, and the only thing I would add to his points is about outreach and ministering to the poor.  It is funny that Jesus tells John the Baptist’s messengers to report what they see.  “Mat 11:5  the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear; the dead are raised, and the poor have the gospel proclaimed to them. “  You also cannot forget this one in “the perfect church”, “(Act 1:8)  But you shall receive power, the Holy Spirit coming upon you. And you shall be witnesses to Me both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”  To me, reaching the lost is really an important thing.

 Steve Walden and Russ mentioned a book called, “So you don’t want to go to church anymore”.  I will admit that I have yet to read this book.  One of them mentioned that it was free on line, so, with much searching the internet, I found it.  I have to mention here, that they both mentioned home groups.  I guess I have to go into this point.  I am not a fan of home groups.  Just as there are problems in the local assembly, there are problems in a home church.  For the record, I have found that many home churches are started by offended Christians who have not learned to be unoffended.  Funny, many of them are also home schoolers.   (I am putting my flame proof suit on because I know what to expect by saying such things.)  My major problem with both home schoolers and home churchers is doing either out of offense.  (For my youth, A Fence).  Many who do this, look down on the general assembly with a self righteous smug and a heart burned with rejection.  This cripples the church and the home church. 

 Now, since I am making some bold statements, understand I am speaking from my own experience.  I am not sure all home churchers are like this, but offense is a big thing I see in this subculture.  There are a couple of verses that I want those who are convicted by what I am writing to consider.

 1Co 12:11  But the one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing separately to each one as He desires.
1Co 12:12  For as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body; so also is Christ.
1Co 12:13  For also by one Spirit we are all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether bond or free, even all were made to drink into one Spirit.
1Co 12:14  For the body is not one member, but many.
1Co 12:15  If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?
1Co 12:16  And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?
1Co 12:17  If all the body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If all hearing, where would be the smelling?
1Co 12:18  But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body as it has pleased Him.
1Co 12:19  And if they were all one member, where would be the body?
1Co 12:20  But now indeed many are the members, yet only one body.
1Co 12:21  And the eye cannot say to the hand, I have no need of you; nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.
1Co 12:22  But much rather the members of the body seeming to be weaker are necessary.
1Co 12:23  And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we put more abundant honor around them. And our unpresentable members have more abundant propriety.
1Co 12:24  For our presentable members have no need, but God tempered the body together, giving more abundant honor to the member having need;
1Co 12:25  that there not be division in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another.
1Co 12:26  And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is glorified, all the members rejoice with it.
1Co 12:27  And you are the body of Christ, and members in part.

I can’t tell if your home church is based on the things I have written above.  Those are my experiences and why I am not a big fan of them.  If your home church is walking with the local church, and reaching the community, but you choose to study the Word of God differently, then great.  I am all for that.  I will add that I am going to take the time to  read the book mentioned in order to gain a better understanding.



Monday, September 17, 2007

Alone with the Wife Update

Well, as I mentioned in "Alone with the Wife", I had intended to get a lot of work done.  I was on a fast track to get all of the jobs on my list done as I said I would, but then I got tagged;0)  Replying to that tag really threw off my game and unfortunately I didn't get anything done at all.

Well, that is changing.  In the last couple of days we got a lot of the house work done.  I still haven't remodeled the kitchen and bathroom, but the outside work is nearing a close.  We mulched the back yard and planted a number of perennials.  We also put in tiles on the side of our drive way to keep us from walking all over the grass.  I think we did something else, but I can't remember, oh, I did start the laundry.

Yeah, I could have been done with all of this if it weren't for those tags!  Yeah, that tag really messed up my schedule.  I had everything all planned out and there was that tag I just had to answer.  I think I will tag Kristie with something....;0)

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

What Should the Perfect Church Look Like?

As some of you know, I work as the youth pastor at my church.  This is an exciting mission.  I love working with youth and providing building blocks for them to have a Godly future.  I love the church and desire to work full time ministering to the body and to the community.  My heart is to plant a church in the next five years at the very latest.  Even if I do this, though, I don't think I will stop working with youth.

Our church identity is currently changing.  I don't want to say what the identity was or is moving to as that defeats the purpose of this question, but the fact that it is changing got me thinking.  I have read books that share part of "How to Improve Your Church", and a host of other topics that relate, but I want to get more perspective on the matter.  So I thought I would ask the question, "what should the perfect church look like?"

If you read this blog, please take a few minutes to write a comment with your thoughts on the matter.  I appreciate your input.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Uh Oh...

I think I have a problem.
Camera Geeeeeeeeek

Well, at least I can be sure of this:

Anywhere I go, no matter what I am doing, I WILL capture the moment AT ALL COSTS!!!