Do you have “tourists” going to your church? (Are you one of them?)

Standard

Recently, I wrote a post encouraging people to read one of my favorite books, “Gospel Treason” by Brad Bigney.

In that book, there is a very thought-provoking passage in there from Elyse Fitzpatrick describing how going to church for many people is like a European vacation that she went on:

“A number of years ago, my husband and I had the wonderful opportunity to vacation in Europe. In about three an a half weeks we visited thirteen different nations. When we’d enter a country, we’d get our passports stamped, exchange currencies, learn a few key phrases, and then off we’d go to visit the natives. We’d walk through outdoor markets , peruse museums, sample the cuisine. We’d exchange a few niceties with the locals, sit on the steps of cathedrals, watch the life of the town go by, take a picture or two, and purchase a little something to remind us of our time there, and then we were off. We had a wonderful vacation. Our hearts weren’t changed in any significant ways by our little visits, but then they weren’t meant to be. We were tourists. It seems to me that what I’ve just described is very close to many people’s understanding of the congregational life of the local church. On any given Sunday or better yet, Saturday night, many tourists can be found in church. They pop in for forty-five minutes or an hour, sing a chorus or two, exchange niceties with the locals: “Hi! How are you?” “Fine!” “How are you ?” “Fine! Nice Fellowshipping. With you!” They sample some of the local cuisine, they might purchase a book or CD to remind them of their visit, and then they race to their cars to get to their favorite restaurant before the rush or home before the game. For many people, church is simply a place to go to once a week . It’s about being a tourist, and our land is filled with tourist-friendly churches. Pop in, pop out, do your religious thing, catch ya later!”

I’d like to ask you to be honest. Does that in any way describe you?
I’m not saying that going to church makes you a Christian, any more than your going to a football game makes you a football player.

But one thing your church attendance does is reveal something about your attitude and beliefs about the importance (and understanding) of your relationship with God (and your own spiritual health).

If you are not a regular church attendee, please be careful:
Proverbs 18:1 says a that “a man who isolates himself seeks his own desire”
Hebrews 10:25 says “not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as is the habit of some, but come together and look for ways to stir one another. Up to love and good deeds.”

Let me encourage you this week to get to church and while there, ask yourself whether you are a tourist, or a local (one of the native peoples) ?
After asking yourself that question, try two more: would God be pleased with my answer to that last question.

Lastly, in what specific ways, can I get more involved at my local church?

Advertisements

Top 10 posts of 2015- # 1 –“now, this kind of church experience makes sense”

Standard

….and here is my #1 post for 2015!!!     “now, this kind of church experience makes sense”

In my younger years of going to church, I did what many still do today. I attended the service and checked it off my mental list of to-do’s.
It would be an entire week (or sometimes longer) when I would again fulfill my expected duty to go to a church service.
Going to church was just one of many “rules of conduct” that I felt pressured to submit to.
What I was not seeing clearly was that no meaningful relationship can be established or maintained by forced pressure to follow external rules (with the threat of judgement hanging over your head).
Today,  I have come to a growing appreciation of a living and loving God who seeks to come alongside me to love, encourage, discipline, guide, and nurture me.  Being a follower of Jesus Christ is truly an adventure in doing life with Him.
Far from being a lifeless thing to do once a week, being a Christian is a 24/7 365 days a year experience  My Christian walk brings satisfaction, purpose, and meaning?  And going to church is a joy. It’s a time of celebrating His resurrection with others who understand the awesomeness of who He really is.
I think this picture of Jasonmy son-in-law Jason getting baptized, as a gesture of his commitment to follow Jesus captures wonderfully the joy of being a believer!
Let me encourage you if your past experience in church could be described as a draining, non-relevant usage of your time, then, try again.
Find a local church that has a reputation for being a place that is alive and find out why.
You will never regret doing so!

The need to ABIDE– please don’t think you can …

Standard

In the Gospel of John, there is a very powerful passage in the 15th chapter that talks about our need for “abiding in Christ”.

So, what does that mean?  That’s a great question and an important one.

Think of a tree and think of a branch of that tree. That right there, in all its simplicity is what is being described.  If we want to grow closer to God (and stay there), it involves our staying connected to Him.  Whenever we have an attitude of pride or independence where we go on our own, apart from God,  its like we have just cut our self off as a branch from the the tree.  Now, what is the chance of that branch surviving on its own for very long?  And, what good can really come from our life in a way contrary to the Word of God?

Let’s look at “abiding in Christ” from another point of view.

Is going to church 2 X a year (Easter and Christmas) enough for a person wanting to “abide in Christ”?

Let’s bump it up a bit– Will attending a church service  once a week now fulfill the meaning of “abiding in Christ”?

Okay for those who really want to ramp things up, is having a daily quiet time  enough to “abide in Christ”?

I believe going weekly to church and having a daily quiet time are very important, however,  I still don’t think they really address the heart of what it means to “abide in Christ”.

For example, can  a branch ever be separate from the tree and be healthy? No.

Can a branch be duct-taped to a tree trunk and be healthy?  Even though its in a close proximity to the trunk, the answer is still no.

Like a cut off branch from a tree, please don’t think you can do the Christian life apart from its source: God.

To be a healthy branch, it needs to be “all in”.  It needs to be “in” the tree all the time, not just in and out .   The branch needs to be engrafted in to the trunk, so that it  can derive its nutrients and very life to survive. Without that “all the time” connection the branch can not live.  Its that serious.  Fruit will only be born in that kind of environment.

So, my friend,  to abide in Christ is a 24/7 pursuit.  Its a continual longing to not stray from our source of life- God.  It means to be dependent on Him.  It means having a hunger to be in His Word daily, and to be obedient to His truths as they are revealed to you.  It means seeking to be led by Him throughout the day.

It means seeking to be aware of how God wants us to act and react throughout our day?

As we develop more consistently in walking in this kind of way, our joy grows as we increasingly bear fruit and as we are aware of His life coursing through our senses.

 

now, this kind of church experience makes sense

Standard

In my younger years of going to church, I did what many still do today. I attended the service and checked it off my mental list of to-do’s.
It would be an entire week (or sometimes longer) when I would again fulfill my expected duty to go to a church service.
Going to church was just one of many “rules of conduct” that I felt pressured to submit to.
What I was not seeing clearly was that no meaningful relationship can be established or maintained by forced pressure to follow external rules (with the threat of judgement hanging over your head).
Today,  I have come to a growing appreciation of a living and loving God who seeks to come alongside me to love, encourage, discipline, guide, and nurture me.  Being a follower of Jesus Christ is truly an adventure in doing life with Him.
Far from being a lifeless thing to do once a week, being a Christian is a 24/7 365 days a year experience  My Christian walk brings satisfaction, purpose, and meaning?  And going to church is a joy. Its a time of celebrating His resurrection with others who understand the awesomeness of who He really is.
I think this picture of Jasonmy son-in-law Jason getting baptized, as a gesture of his commitment to follow Jesus captures wonderfully the joy of being a believer!
Let me encourage you if your past experience in church could be described as a draining, non-relevant usage of your time, then, try again.
Find a local church that has a reputation for being a place that is alive and find out why.
You will never regret doing so!

Would you be willing to pause and …

Standard

“And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?”
Matthew 16:26 (NLT)

In light of this wisdom from the Holy Scriptures, have you ever taken the time to really consider if you what you are striving for in this life; impressive job titles, luxury items, fun, etc. really matters both now and in eternity?

When is the last time you picked up a Bible to read from it? When is the last time you’ve been to church?