Thursday, 29 May 2008
The First Stage: We begin going to a church, exciting, thrilling, love Jesus, the church is exciting, all things new.
Second Stage: We begin getting involved, learn behind the scenes things, feel privileged to know the church staff and leaders more personally, we are totally excited.
Third Stage: We see things you start to question, the thrill of the big church meetings wanes, as it seems more and more predictable, the leaders seem more human now and not as special as first.
Fourth Stage: We start to get tired of serving in ministry. It seems routine now and we only see it as fueling the big meeting that we don't really like anymore. The leaders we once were in awe of now seem not only normal, but there is a suspicion of self-serving vs. serving the church in their motives. We lose excitement and wonder if church is even something we should be part of. We grow more disillusioned by the day.
Fifth Stage: Total disillusionment, begin feeling bitter towards church leaders, and wonder why people don’t question things more. We sit in the big meeting and feel very alone. We look at the crowds around us and don't feel like we belong anymore. Is church just a produced big meeting? We are tired and it even angers us to see excited new people joining the church as we now know how it really works and how they too will eventually become tired like we are and see church is a program and organized religion.
Sixth Stage: We silently drop out of church. We read the Bible and early church history and see that they didn't have bigger weekly meetings in the early church. We read "house church" literature and begin thinking this is the real New Testament church. We get excited about really doing church the right way and not the big organized way. We find a few other disillusioned Christians and either form or join some sort of small house church gathering. We want it to be simple and not "organized" or programmed or big, but pure like the early church. Everyone all sharing together, true community will happen here, unlike the bigger programmed meetings.
Seventh Stage: Fairly quickly, we realize it isn't too easy leading people. Even in a small house church. People don't show up, or you have people dominating conversations. There is the same bickering, some gossip, people whispering to others that they are not happy with how the meeting went etc. We sometimes try to sing worship songs with ten people and it feels very odd. So you don't try to sing anymore, but do secretly miss the corporate singing that happens in a larger group. Eventually we find the same disappointments in the smaller house church that we did in the bigger programmed church, but at a different level. We get even more disillusioned, as we realize that even the key leaders (including ourselves) and the people of the house church are just as messed up as the big church leaders and people in those churches.
We also feel subtly uncomfortable that the house church feels a bit inward focused. It would be weird to have non-Christians break up the intimate dialog and prayer we have taken such a long time to establish together. But we know something has to be done, as we keep thinking about those who don't know Jesus and that our house church might not be the best place to invite them. Plus dealing with little kids running around every week during your meeting certainly limits your full engagement into the Bible discussion. We get more disheartened as our 4 year old knocks the entire strawberry shortcake dessert onto the kitchen floor as he was trying to get at it early before it is served at the house church.
Eighth Stage: We stop going to any church of any kind. We forget it all. Watch a lot of TV. Play video games. We go see the Dukes of Hazzard movie.
Ninth Stage: We begin missing other Christians, and regular fellowship. We do some introspection and eventually deal with the disappointments and high expectations that we had. We begin a new level of maturity and thinking about the church and church leaders.
We start thinking about our options. We don't want to go to a preaching-driven church that just has everything revolve around the senior pastor or the preacher, as that subtly creates passive spectators who depend on the preacher to "feed" them weekly - rather than maturing as Christians whom should primarily be "feeding" ourselves (since we aren't infants anymore). We don't want to go to a hyper-Reformed church where we feel guilty all the time and get caught up in the everybody else is worldy and wrong but us mentality. We don't feel good about the seeker-type of churches where everyone is so happy, the music is hyper-cheery and we fill in the blanks in the notes they give out. That excites us for a little while, when we fill in the blanks, because it feels like you are really learning. But after a while we see the stack thickening in our Bibles that we stuff them in and realize that we have never even looked at them since we filled them in. We look at our notes that we filled the blanks in on, and can't remember a single thing from these sermons, even the one from two weeks ago.
Tenth Stage: So, we slowly go back to our original church that we at first felt good in because of the overall vision and mission that drew us to it in the first place. We find that the leaders do admit freely to you there are weaknesses and flaws and mess ups and ego issues, but still try their best to blend both the bigger meetings and smaller home meetings for the purpose of the mission. They try to be organized, without being "Organized".
It's not perfect, but we begin to enjoy and even more appreciate the benefits and momentum of the church. But now we get involved with more realistic expectations of what church is and understand the leaders are just like us, trying their best to serve Jesus. We become happy again with a balanced life and imperfect church family all serving on a mission together.
Saturday, 24 May 2008
John Wesley was almost in despair. He did not have the faith to continue to preach. When death stared him in the face, he was fearful and found little comfort in his religion. To Peter Böhler, a Moravian friend, he confessed his growing misery and decision to give up the ministry. Böhler counseled otherwise. "Preach faith till you have it," he advised. "And then because you have it, you will preach faith." A wise Catholic once made a similar statement: "Act as if you have faith and it will be granted to you."
John acted on the advice. He led a prisoner to Christ by preaching faith in Christ alone for forgiveness of sins. The prisoner was immediately converted. John was astonished. He had been struggling for years. Here was a man transformed instantly. John made a study of the New Testament and found to his astonishment that the longest recorded delay in salvation was three days--while the apostle Paul waited for his eyes to open.
The Moravians assured him their personal experiences had also been instantaneous. John found himself crying out, "Lord, help my unbelief!" However, he felt dull within and little motivated even to pray for his own salvation. On this day, May 24th, 1738 he opened his Bible at about five in the morning and came across these words, "There are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises, even that ye should partakers of the divine nature." He read similar words in other places.
That evening he reluctantly attended a meeting in Aldersgate. Someone read from Luther's Preface to the Epistle to Romans. About 8:45 p.m.
"while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death."
It took him some time to learn how to live the life of faith, for he was not always possessed of joy and thought he had fallen from salvation. It took time for him to see that it is not Christ and good works, but Christ alone who saves, resulting in good works.
As time went on, John Wesley was mightily used of the Lord to reform England. His Methodists became a national force. John rode thousands of miles (as many as 20,000 a year) preaching as only a man filled with the Holy Spirit can preach, telling the gospel to all who would listen. He acted "as though he were out of breath in pursuit of souls." Wherever he preached, lives changed and manners and morals altered for the better. It is often conjectured that his preaching helped spare England the kind of revolution that occurred in France.
Thursday, 22 May 2008
And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.
However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise,be honor and glory forever and ever'. Amen.
Friday, 16 May 2008
Listen to this amazing piece of music from a young American guitarist called Andrew Gorny. The first time I heard this type of music was when I went with my wife to see the heart warming film ‘August Rush’. At first I was not sure whether the music in the film was truly the result of the ‘playing’ of the guitar or was artificially manufactured on an electronic instrument. In this and on his other pieces found on Youtube he shows that it indeed can be produced on the guitar, albeit by a truly gifted musician. Here he creates a sound that is both original and compelling finding resonance in the heart of the listener – like the sighs and groans from our spirits which can not articulated with words. His style of playing at times is mesmeric and reminiscent of that that found in music in the film ‘August Rush.’ If you like it, check his other equally amazing pieces on Youtube.
Tuesday, 6 May 2008
Christ wants daily communion with His children.The good news is that even if we make a mess of a day we can be restored and start afresh the next one.We must learn to keep short accounts with God.So if we have been missing out on fellowship with God,feeling estranged or depressed, we can go to Him now-He promises that those who come to Him, He will never cast out.
"This day:" -- For we are to take no thought for the morrow. For this very end has our wise Creator divided life into these little portions of time, so clearly separated from each other, that we might look on every day as a fresh gift of God, another life, which we may devote to his glory; and that every evening may be as the close of life, beyond which we are to see nothing but eternity.