Search This Blog

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

A revision and Why I am a Christian

After writing my last blog a few nights ago I realize now there should have been at least seven categories rather than six.

This added category is the spiritually complacent, lukewarm, couldn't care less, willfully sinning and have no desire nor willingness to surrender that sin - Christian. Now - some may actually call those that fit in this category non-Christians (they were never really saved to begin with). I choose not to do that because that's up to God to decide and really only He knows. I know Jesus said we will know other believers by their fruit and so in a way you can make a judgment based on the way someone lives their lives as to whether they are a believer or not; however, that being said... I, like many other Christians willfully chose to walk away from the Lord when I was in college. Over the next fifteen years I made a series of terrible decisions that took me step by step away from God. In all those years though I never forgot my faith. I felt the Holy Spirit telling me what was right versus wrong and I ignored His voice. I felt the guilt associated with bad choices. I felt the consequences of bad choices. Nothing I accomplished, no matter the amount of money I made nor the position I rose to made any difference whatsoever. I remember feeling content and loved and knowing I had purpose back in High School. All of that I attributed to having a real relationship with Jesus - the, "I can hear His voice speaking directly into my life every day relationship" and I desperately wanted to feel that way again. I had an insatiable thirst for something that I thought the world could fill and I was miserable.


I don't want to state that too subtly because it's the reason I can tell you that I'm a Christian today. I inwardly LONGED to be in relationship with Christ again. Every day. I had however no clue whether that was possible and given every bad decision I had made - believed it was genuinely not going to happen. Some people say, "oh what a difference Christ made in my life when I became a Christian" and that may be true for some but there are others, like myself who grew up in Christian homes, were taught right from wrong very early on, were involved with everything in the church from the moment they could walk or speak and loved Jesus as a child. Then they gave their lives to the Lord and at some point later, walked away from their faith.

Why? Who knows really. For every person it's different I think.

I started to walk away from Jesus because I didn't like the legalism of the Christian University I was attending and thought that wasn't what Christianity was about. I still don't; however, Satan used those feelings, a guy I thought was cute that was a non-Christian, a church that was too big and very impersonal and a fellow believer who did her best to quench the fire within me to lead me down a path that I didn't even recognize was taking me away from Christ until I was so far away I couldn't find my way back if I tried. Fifteen years I was away.

I'm not a Christian because logically it made sense to me - although logically it does. I'm not a Christian because my parents and sisters are. I am a Christian and a follower of Jesus Christ because of all the things I've pursued in the world, this is the one thing that challenges me, satisfies me, grips me. It gives me purpose and meaning. It helps me, comforts me and encourages me. It convincts and hopefully changes me. It gives me hope that this world is not all there is. It makes sense to me on every level - mind, heart, soul. Do I have all my questions answered? No but Christianity does offer solid answers to the primary questions of life and that is something I've not found to any satisfaction anywhere else.

Monday, 14 November 2011

The Six Categories of People at your Church

It's 1:35am and I can't sleep so this is a warning before this blog begins! :)

I was sitting in bed and thinking to myself about the people I have met in the various churches I've attended over the years and I thought I would summarize in a blog what I was thinking. You may think differently and if so I'd love to know your thoughts...

At any given time I believe you will find six categories which people fall into at your church. Very rarely do any of us stay in one category but I'm sure there are exceptions. Like me, you've probably experienced times when you fell into each of them - sometimes you hurdle two or more. So what exactly are they?

The first category is the group I call the "socially elite"
The socially elite group is all about who's there, what they've accomplished in the week versus what someone else has accomplished, what folks are wearing, who has the brightest children or grandchildren, what their bank account or retirement account balance reads this week, what social functions they have lined up to enjoy next and who is attending with them, etc. With the socially elite group you never really know where you stand. The people in this group try so hard to impress eachother and to make their lives sound so much better (or worse!) than others that they rarely listen to what you have to say. They talk primarily about themselves and when you begin to talk about your life, they look to see who else they can talk to. This leads others to believe they care solely about themselves. I don't think this group is altogether bad but they do seem preoccupied with a lot of "stuff".

The second category is what I call the "wannabees"
This group goes around trying to impress the socially elite group but they don't quite measure up to the socially elites ever-changing standards. The wannabees have tremendous insecurities (not unlike the socially elite group) but they measure their spirituality by if the socially elite think they are ok. You see them constantly attempting to impress, "suck up to" or otherwise lavish attention on the socially elite. They do this so they can occassionally be invited to hang out with the socially elite or get a compliment or two. The socially elite love the wannabees if only for the attention they get from them that they so desire and require.

The third group are the "frustrated"
They've been around the block a time or two - they've seen the church play church and they may have even seen the church be truly on fire for God. They've seen what they view as people being hurt more than loved on, ignored more than included and condemned more than accepted. They see those that claim to be Christians but refuse to give up areas of their lives that are sinful because that area is off limits to God. This group wants to make a difference but they've forgotten how. They are consumed with others - the way they act, the way they are treated, whether the church is performing up to their standards, etc. They do a lot of comparision thinking - "oh my church back home was much better at...", "the last church I was at didn't do that", "we've heard this sermon before", "the band really sounded off this morning". Whatever. Those that are frustrated complain. Maybe not verbally but in their mind you better believe they are struggling. They believe things should be "fixed" but they either don't know where to begin, don't want to invest that amount of time in the church or they may even try to make an attempt but usually they leave God on the sidelines while doing so.

The fourth group are the "hurting"
They come to church in pain. They are desperate for someone to listen to them, put their arm around them and say things are going to be ok. They look for someone to pray for them and to promise to continue to pray until things improve. They're going through a difficult time at home or in their workplace. They are struggling financially or they are sick. They have loved ones they are losing or they are depressed from trying for so long without seeing results. They come to church looking for answers, encouragement, love and a touch from Jesus. Whether they get those things or not depends on the church and the people that make up that church. They want to open up and share but are usually drowned out by the problems of others. This group is the one you find that overlaps with all the others at at least one point or another. The socially elite hurt, the wannabees hurt, the frustrated group hurts, etc.

The fifth group of people are the "disciples"
This group remains usually very low key. They always have a kind word for you. When they say they'll pray, you know they will. When they raise their hands to worship God it's not because the pastor told them to - it's because it's a genuine outflowing from their hearts. You often see them kneeling in church - humbleness and love epitomize who they are. Rarely if ever are they invited to be a part of the socially elite group as their very presence is convicting. You know this group is sincere. They will never say an unkind word about anyone and they won't hang around others that do. They love and give expecting nothing in return and they come to church truly to be in the presence of their savior. This group is the true Romans 12:1,2 group. They have been transformed by Jesus and want to be more like Him and only Him, every day.

The last and final group are the seekers
The seekers are for the most part, non-christians. They come to your church once - occassionally more to check things out. They are looking for the fifth group of people as they've heard they exist but more than likely they've only been around the first four groups their whole lives. If they are fortunate enough to meet someone in the fifth group, chances of them returning go up - unless they meet too many others in groups one through four and think to themselves that this church is no different than any others. They might be skeptical or hurting, frustrated or just truly investigating their options but your chance to reach them is usually limited to that day - that 1.5 hours, those 3 minutes of "meet and greet your neighbor" time in the service.

Maybe you will disagree with me - call the groups by different titles, add a category or two or disregard everything I've said as complete rubbish(! :))but this was on my heart and I thought I'd share it. I will say I have fallen into every category at one time or another. Our pastors wife said it, "spiritually complacent". All too often I am spiritually complacent. I get frustrated too easily, I try to impress others. I exclude and try to fit in. I complain in my heart and I don't forgive as quickly as I should. I get angry at stupid things and at terrible times. My quiet times become rituals I must complete rather than something that transforms my life each day.

I, like most in the church, am a work in progress. If we are truly Christians - God will reveal to us our shortcomings in His gentle, loving ways and He will discipline us to make the changes He needs to make in our lives. He is tough on His children but it is always for our good and for the good of the church. He wants us to be truly transformed by the Holy Spirit - to reflect Him when others look at us. I have a long way to go and I pray He never gives up on me. My sins are always in front of me staring me in the face. I can't run far.

The church is not perfect but Christ died for the church and He is the true head - no matter how much we love our pastors, they are just people like the rest of us. One day God will put an end to all that divides us and we will see how truly far we were from what He called us to be. Until that time I pray God will continue the work in you (and me) that He started and that we will be ever filled with His presence, peace and love.

Verses that came to mind for each of the groups if you're interested in reading further:

Socially Elite: Romans 12:2, "Don't copy the customs and behavior of the world" and Phil 2:3 "Don't be selfish; don't try to impress others."

Wannabees: John 12:43, "For they loved the praise from men more than from God" and Galations 1:10 "For am I now seeking the approval of man or of God?"

Frustrated: Matthew 7:2 "For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged" and James 5:16 "Confess your faults one to another and pray for one another than you may be healed."

Hurting: Matthew 11:28 "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest" and Romans 8:18 "For I am confident that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us."

Disciples: James 1:22 "But be ye doers of the word and not hearers only" and James 5:16 "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much"

Seekers: John 1:12 "But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God"

Sunday, 13 November 2011

My 40th year in a nutshell

Gosh, 40 seemed to go quick. Now with only four days left of my 40th year I'll try to highlight the last year with some of my fondest memories. Maybe in my next blog post I'll talk about our struggles and then the one after that I hope to share our goals for 2012 and what we hope God will accomplish through us.

So, let's see - last November 17th I was in Georgia. Alan and I came home in early November to raise our final support for our first year in Germany and fun memories from that trip were going to a GA game with Alan, my dad and Uncle Ron, picking Charlotte up from school and she was dressed like a Pilgrim (sooo cute!), going hiking in South Carolina, seeing Lily Kate be dedicated at church and our wonderful Thanksgiving trip to Walt Disney World with the family.
In December we got to hang out with some old friends at Christine's open house at Madison markets (Joe, Leigh, KB, Katie, Matt, Mel). My Uncle Ed also came for a visit which was great. I love this man and his sweet family so much. I only wish they lived closer!!

My dad was trying to sell his boat that month I remember and Alan had a battle with a duck for fishing rights on the dock of the condo. Christmas was great, as usual. Announcing that Christine and I were both having girls and Chloe Lee was to be the name of our baby was special for me and my parents I think. Fun memories.

In January we moved to Germany and started getting everything setup for our ministry here with Pioneers. In February we went on a retreat to Garmisch with our church called Victory International. March and April were all about learning German at the Vochochschule and the many friends we made in the process from all OVER the world!

May was about Chloe and June and July and well every month pretty much since! :) Late July though we got to go to England to see Alans family and our church family there. That was neat. In September it was back to school for Mary and Alan kept plugging away helping to renovate the buildingsat the CVJM. He also got involved ministering to young German school children with a couple of ladies from the CVJM. He plays music and plays with the children and He really enjoys the experience.
October was about starting a new college ministry at our church called Worldviews and handing out flyers with gummy bears attached to students at the University of Heidelberg. We had completed a survey analyzing spiritual needs a few months prior and the results of that survey are in a blog post from October I believe.

And now it's November. Work at the CVJM continues. We go to church there every other Sunday night which although 100% in German, is a blessing to us. Work with University students is also going well. We just had a hamburger social at our house and had a great time. I just love throwing parties and investing in the lives of young people. We have quite a few in the 18-30 age group at Victory so getting to know them better through monthly socials is the plan for now and then we'll see where God leads after that.

Looking forward, Alan and I continue to make plans for missions teams to come and work alongside us next summer. We hope to welcome students from the US, the UK and Croatia. Wouldn't that be awesome if it worked out? But God is in control so whatever He wants is just fine by us.

Well that's about it! My 40th year in a nutshell. Not too bad when I think about it. We moved to a new country, started a new ministry, had our first daughter and spent wonderful quality time with family and friends, Christian brothers and sisters and people representing every worldview imaginable. God did a lot through us and in us and although it was one of the most difficult and challenging years of our lives, it was definitely worth it. Praise God for His eternal faithfulness and love.