A Pretty Important Book

jcalled

Every so often I take on a few books to read and review for various sites and publishers, and this was a book that caught my attention.  Within just the first few pages, I couldn’t put it down.  In fact, I put aside many other things on my to do list and pretty much consumed this book.  There is a lot that I like about this book, but even more that I loved.  It spoke right to my heart about things I already believed, and challenged my thinking on other aspects of the church.  And… it struck a cord and convicted me too.

I think there are important books being written for the church & ministries.  Word-filled Women’s Ministry, for example, I think is an incredibly important book for Women’s Ministry.  But, as I read through Jesus Called, He Wants His Church Back, I may be so bold to say that this may be one of the most important books that I have read.  Right off the bat, author Ray Johnston comes out swinging with some big points.

Jesus is still popular in America.  We currently have better resources, than ever.  Our buildings are world class buildings, corporate level leadership, mega churches scattered about, and better communications thanks to the explosion of technology.  With all of the resources we have available, we should be seeing exponential growth in the church.  However the prevailing question that Johnston asks (and answers throughout this book) is:

Why is it that nobody wants to go to church anymore?

To find his answer, Ray Johnston had to go to Africa.

What an introduction, right?  Readers, all of this and I hadn’t even gotten into the first chapter yet!  I was invested in riding this through, put my highlighter to the test, and I’m blown away.  Ray Johnston was able to put his finger on the pulse of the church, detecting that slowing rhythm, and then puts himself to task to understand what is happening in the American church and how to fix it.

By the time you finish with Chapter Two, a quick journey spanning seven decades of decay in the American Culture is outlined right before you.  It seems so obvious, as you read decade to decade.  However, when you look at the cumulative of seven decades of loss… you almost have wonder:

Why aren’t we losing even more people from the church?

The good news is that everything we have lost can be found in Jesus, and there are those of us in the church who know this.  However, we are doing a poor job in ensuring that everyone walking through our church doors know this to be true.  We are doing a worse job making sure the world is pointed to the answer, the Truth.

As the book continues, Ray Johnston tells it like it is.  We are starting off with cracked foundations that are being influenced by the world around us.  Christians are taking the initials steps of seeking Christ, and saying the prayers for salvation… but coming up short of real trans-formative change.  If we want to really have an affect on the exodus of people from the church, we must repair these foundations.

If you know me personally, Bible Literacy is a big topic for me.  I’ve written about it before on the blog, talk about it more often, and even teach small groups on how to study the bible.  I’m pleased by how often throughout these pages Johnston points us toward Bible literacy in order to shape our biblical worldview.

After addressing the cracks in our personal foundations, we need to look at the church as it sits today with very honest and open eyes.  Johnston helps us to gain the perspective of those who are leaving (or not coming in the first place) and you can’t get through these passages without a sting of conviction.  Sure, some will feel a stronger sting than others… but I don’t think any of our churches are immune from these thoughts. Johnston doesn’t stop there has he also calls attention to the lukewarm churches who may have numbers but lack substance.

It is at this juncture in the book, we begin a new course.  The overall problems are identified and now it’s time for the solutions.  What holds us back, how do we get beyond them, and why is this so important?

How do we give Jesus back His church?

As I said, I think this is one of the most important books written for the church.  I would highly recommend this book for not only your Pastor Staff, but any leader in the church who is part of that vision cast.  Church Planters should start here, and even our ministry leaders need to ask how this applies to their ministry.

Jesus called, and He wants His women’s ministry back…

…and His youth group, children’s ministry, MOPS group, worship band, and every other part of it.

The book Jesus Called, He Wants His Church Back was provided to me via BookLook Bloggers program for the purpose of reviewing, all thoughts on this book are my own and not influenced by the organization.

#Write31Days – Post 8 – Unacknowledged Hurt

brokenangel

Have you ever had someone hurt your feelings, and no matter how you try to address it with the person… they just won’t own it.    They may try to blame you for the issue, or even shift blame by giving you the “if you didn’t ___, then I wouldn’t have ___” excuse.  You may have even apologized for the things you did in the situation that were wrong, and yet the other person is incapable of even acknowledging their part in the problem.

Unacknowledged hurt, hurts.  It really does.  And, I have found, the longer that it goes unacknowledged the more it hurts.   Whether you have been quietly waiting for the apology or out right demanded one is totally moot, because you are not going to get one either way.  Some people are totally incapable of admitting to their wrongdoing.

In my opinion, it boils down to one of three options:

1. Victim Mentalityvictimmentality

The victim won’t admit to being wrong, because they are incapable of doing so.   They have a skewed perception of reality, and will even project guilt onto you that is actually rooted in someone who previously abused, mistreated, or took advantage of them.  You end up paying the price because of harm that someone else had done long before this situation.  The more people who mistreated them, the more victimized they become.  The more victimized they become, the more they will see everyone out in the world is out to get them.  They are unable to see anyone through an objective lens, unwilling to give the benefit of the doubt  or accept that they may have hurt you. 

2.  Martyr Complexmartyrcomplex

Martyr’s are a bit different than victims because they WANT to be a victim, or at least appear like one.  It’s not that they are incapable of knowing that they hurt you, they just don’t want to bear the responsibility of owning it.  So, they PLAY the victim in order to garner sympathy from others outside of the situation.  They also want you to feel bad, like it is your fault, and bear not only the brunt of the blame … but to do all the work to repair things with them.  Which usually means that you will go above and beyond to try and make things right.  The martyr knows that they were wrong, in whole or part, but you will never hear an admission or acknowledgment from them.

3.  Haughty or Prideful Heart haughtyhaughty

The prideful person actually believes that they are totally innocent of any wrong doing, but not like a victim.  On the contrary, the prideful person is always right and everyone else is always wrong.  This has nothing to do with past experiences or victimization, but instead is a heart issue.  If you are hurt, that is YOUR issue… they did nothing wrong.  You are either too sensitive, have no right to be hurt, were the one who was wrong, etc.  And, the thing is, they totally believe this.  It’s different than the person who knows they are at fault (or at least partially at fault) and tries to pass the blame.  The prideful person truly believes they are totally innocent of any wrong doing what so ever.

The victim will usually make you feel horrible for hurting their feelings, so that you will bend more toward their sensitivities.  The martyr wants everyone else to see how they suffered and how terrible you treated them.  The haughty person would rather walk way from you in their “rightness” than admit to being wrong and try to do the right thing.  But, what is really interesting to me is that there are some people who are mixture of all three.  I didn’t realize it until I wrote this piece, so I suppose there is a fourth category.

There are those who are so certain they are right, that they will put all the blame on you. (Pride)

They will also make sure you feel absolutely terrible about hurting them, even if you are the one who was hurt.  (Victim)

And, they will make sure the whole world knows what you did to them and how you treated them so poorly.  (Martyr)

So what do you do, when you have been hurt…

… and the other person in never going to acknowledge that hurt?

  1.  Pray for clarity over the situation.  Is this a relationship that is otherwise healthy and this is just a particular situation, or is this a toxic relationship and this behavior is repetitive?  Is it time to let this relationship go, or is there restoration possible now or in the future?
  2.  Pray for forgiveness.  Pray for God to forgive you in the areas you failed in the relationship, and then ask God to help you forgive the other person.  Forgiving the other person will be freeing for you, as you will no longer be captive to their dysfunction or the situation any longer.
  3. Pray for discernment.  We usually can not just entirely remove a person from our life.   It may be a family member, a coworker, someone we attend church with, or part of a circle of friends.  Pray that God will help you determine what kind of boundaries you can put in place to protect yourself.  This may mean removing yourself from that person entirely, but it may be a few key decisions that help keep the person at a safe distance.
  4. Pray for healing.  You can cry out to God about your hurt and pain, and ask for Him to heal you.  His healing is not dependent on their acknowledgement of wrong.  His healing can help you move on, more forward, despite their inability to be accountable and reconcile the relationship.

Regardless of their ability to acknowledge the hurt they caused has no bearing on your right to call it what it is.  You can be frank with them, making sure they understand in no uncertain terms that they have hurt you (and perhaps even identifying the level of hurt).  You can choose to draw a line in the sand that can not be crossed until they are willing to acknowledge the hurt they caused.  It’s totally appropriate to do so in a manner that is straightforward without being catty, disrespectful, or mean. 

You can acknowledge the hurt.

God will acknowledge your hurt.

Together, God will help you move beyond it to greater things.

Stop thinking and caring so much about a person, who was able to not only hurt you so deeply… but who didn’t care enough to try and make it right.

 

 

 

FRAYED – A Church Unraveling

fabricrip

My longest posts are, generally, the ones where I am pouring out my heart.   So, consider this your warning.  Grab a cup of coffee and get comfy, we may be here a for a while.   My heart is heavy to day.

In recent days my eyes have been opened to how others view the church, more so than ever.  In particular, it has been most apparent as more church/Christian scandals break the news.  From a popular Christian family (who is caught up in the sinful decisions of one of their sons), the Ashley Madison leak (which exposed the names of Christian men and women wrapped up in adultery), bakeries and state clerks (caught up in the gay marriage SCOTUS decision),  and into the press and debates over the released Planned Parenthood videos (and the push to defund Planned Parenthood).

We are called hypocrites for standing against gay marriage, while divorce is still rampant within the church.   In other words, they wonder why we consider ourselves an authority on what a healthy marriage actually looks like… since we can’t seem to get that right ourselves.  We lost our integrity.

We are called hypocrites for standing against something when our own past, or current hidden sins, are being exposed for the world to see.  We lost our transparency.

We are called a “hate group” because of the words of our mouths and behaviors/actions are anything but Christ like. We say the most terrible things about people who are not “just like us”.  We lost our love.

We tear apart people we have never even met based on what a news article says about them.  We cry paranoia over news reports and internet articles where we are only receiving part of the story.     We lost our discernment.

In stead of loving people, we feel justified in screaming “murderer” at a women who had an abortion.  Without any knowledge of the events that brought her to the clinic that day.  We don’t take the time to understand people, but feel justified in judging them.  We lost our compassion.

What does the world see, when it looks at us?  What are we known for?

By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

John 13:35 (HCSB)

We have become our own greatest obstacle.

We argue over translations of the scriptures, then we wonder why the world doesn’t trust the scriptures to be accurate.

We argue over personal interpretations of scriptures, to the point that we have divided from a unified body of believers into denominations.  Then, we wonder why the world doesn’t trust that we know what we are talking about.

We rake leaders and teachers, over the coals in public and social media forums.  These are our own sisters and brothers in Christ!  Then, we wonder why the world doesn’t trust us with their failures and short comings.

We put on a false purity, holiness, righteousness, knowledge, wisdom, and illusions of “Christianity” instead of being authentic, transparent, and vulnerable.

We use judgement as a way to sit above others making our sin look smaller, because they are so much worse than we are.

We sell ourselves to the world as people who “have it all together” or “have all the right answers” and then we stumble and fall and discredit ourselves and our faith.  When the reality is that none of us have it all together or the right answers.  We are not spared trials and obstacles.  We simply have a hope that carries us through, and a trust that nothing we do when we fail can separate us from the LOVE OF GOD!

I find myself over, and over again, praying the Holy Spirit would convict us all to get beyond this place of division over foolish arguments and reconcile us to a united body of believers who stand in one accord, sharing the Gospel to the ends of the earth.  That we can be like Paul, who admitted of the sinners he was the worst.   Using that as our platform to woe people to Christ, instead of our “holiness”.

We have become slaves to the traditions and human commands of what a “Christian” should look like, that we have neglected what the scriptures say.  These human commands, they sound good and right, but if we are not testing them to the scriptures, and not praying for the Holy Spirit to help us discern truth… we become trapped.

Colossians 2

For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you, for those in Laodicea, and for all who have not seen me in person. I want their hearts to be encouraged and joined together in love, so that they may have all the riches of assured understanding and have the knowledge of God’s mystery—Christ.[a] All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Him.

I am saying this so that no one will deceive you with persuasive arguments. For I may be absent in body, but I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see how well ordered you are and the strength of your faith in Christ.

Therefore, as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, overflowing with gratitude.

Be careful that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit based on human tradition, based on the elemental forces of the world, and not based on Christ. For the entire fullness of God’s nature[b] dwells bodily[c] in Christ, 10 and you have been filled by Him, who is the head over every ruler and authority. 11 You were also circumcised in Him with a circumcision not done with hands, by putting off the body of flesh, in the circumcision of the Messiah.[d] 12 Having been buried with Him in baptism, you were also raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. 13 And when you were dead in trespasses and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive with Him and forgave us all our trespasses. 14 He erased the certificate of debt, with its obligations, that was against us and opposed to us, and has taken it out of the way by nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and disgraced them publicly; He triumphed over them by Him.[e]

16 Therefore, don’t let anyone judge you in regard to food and drink or in the matter of a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day.[f] 17 These are a shadow of what was to come; the substance is[g] the Messiah. 18 Let no one disqualify you,[h] insisting on ascetic practices and the worship of angels, claiming access to a visionary realm and inflated without cause by his unspiritual[i] mind. 19 He doesn’t hold on to the head, from whom the whole body, nourished and held together by its ligaments and tendons, develops with growth from God.

20 If you died with the Messiah to the elemental forces of this world, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations: 21 “Don’t handle, don’t taste, don’t touch”? 22 All these regulations refer to what is destroyed by being used up; they are commands and doctrines of men. 23 Although these have a reputation of wisdom by promoting ascetic practices, humility, and severe treatment of the body, they are not of any value in curbing self-indulgence.[j]

The hard truth is the greatest obstacle to our sharing of the Gospel, has become ourselves.

We are not known for our love, hope, and faith.

We are known for hate, judgement, and we lack the basic understandings of our faith.

We are guilty of quoting scripture out of context; or stating the Bible says something that can’t be found in any book, chapter or verse.  We look past certain scriptures as being “out dated” or part of a different “culture”  in one breath, while claiming we believe in the full authority of the scriptures in another breath.

We are unable to defend our faith, because we have not learned it.  We are not students of the word.  We are repeaters of other teachers.  And, even worse, we are repeaters of the teachers who say what we want to hear.  (2 Timothy 4:3)

We look to the scriptures to learn about ourselves.  How does this pertain to me, when we should be asking how it pertains to God.

We are no different than many of the churches in the NT days.

And difficult times are still ahead.

2 Timothy 3

But know this: Difficult times will come in the last days. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, without love for what is good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to the form of godliness but denying its power. Avoid these people!

For among them are those who worm their way into households and capture idle women burdened down with sins, led along by a variety of passions, always learning and never able to come to a knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so these also resist the truth, men who are corrupt in mind, worthless in regard to the faith. But they will not make further progress, for their lack of understanding will be clear to all, as theirs[a] was also.

10 But you have followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, and endurance, 11 along with the persecutions and sufferings that came to me in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra. What persecutions I endured! Yet the Lord rescued me from them all. 12 In fact, all those who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 1Evil people and impostors will become worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed. You know those who taught you, 15 and you know that from childhood you have known the sacred Scriptures, which are able to give you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God[b] and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

We think that this warning in 2 Timothy 3 is about the world alone, but it isn’t.  This was a letter written to the church, about the things happening within the community and within the church.

We… the body of believers…. will become:

Lovers of self.

Lovers of money.

Boastful and proud.

Blasphemers.

Disobedient and Ungrateful.

Unholy, unloving, irreconcilable.

Slanderers, without self control.

Without love of what is good.

Traitors, reckless.

Conceited and lovers of pleasure over God.

We will hold to the form of godliness, but deny it’s power.

We will become so focused on loving people, that we will distance ourselves from The Word.  Or, we will become so legalistic to the Scriptures, that we will distance our selves from the people who need to hear it the most.

The lion doesn’t go after the animals in the pack, he goes after the one who is isolated, alone, and hurt.  Isolated from the body of believers, as we miss corporate worship.  Isolated from our sisters in Christ, as we hold grudges and fight against reconciliation.  Hiding from our family, instead of embracing them.  Isolated from the Word as we become more dependent on what others say about it, versus reading it for ourselves.  Isolated as we become too busy to – pray, study, attend service, fellowship with other believers.

Our “righteous” divisions are isolating ourselves from the greater body.

And we think we are being holy.

That we have some greater knowledge than they do.

That our self gratifying interpretation is better.

We argue with fellow believers instead of loving them.

We have become proud, and our pride is literally festering and manifesting itself in every area of our lives.

And then we wonder why we are not known by our love?

Our love, has been overshadowed.

We have overshadowed Christ, with our own self righteousness.

We want the world to see us, how holy we are, how knowledgeable we are, and how much will live “in accordance to the scriptures”.

But we are told that all of that means nothing, if we don’t have love. (1 Corinthians 13)

Being right, has become more important than love.

If you wonder why no one seems to listen to you, I wonder…

Are you the sound of love?  Or, are you just making noise?