Politics or Praise, what’s in your church?

Lately I’ve been doing research for a series of posts I plan to do in regards to why young people and even some older people leave the church, the Christian church. The reasons have been many and not all that surprising for the most part. After all, those that don’t like Christianity are happy to give you the reasons on air whenever they get the chance.

I will get in to each reason later, but it recently occurred to me that they all had something in common. Those in leadership positions of the church, elected or simply held in high regard, let the members of the church down. Why, because they are looked up to as examples of what a Christian should be. The fairly new Christians, and that is of any age, often see hypocrisy occurring when people forget they are a church and begin acting as though the church is some power organization that one needs to control or be a part of.

I’ve been part of a church that went from having to park on the grass and sitting in folding chairs of a 300+ capacity church to having only 100 show up for service. All because of politics. Most often it is because someone didn’t like the pastor and when that one influential person leaves, all those that are on that person’s side, follow suit. By the way, he was an amazing pastor who got my father back into church after being out for over 30 years.

While everyone is involved in the politics, as opposed to praising and praying, the people of the church are not being fed spiritually nor being fed the knowledge of scripture. Two very important things in a Christians foundation of belief.

Another thing that happens is members see the infighting and power struggle of the church and can’t help but notice the hypocrisy occurring. The gossip, the whispers, the sometimes outright lying. The causing of conflict and discord in the church.

Those involved in the conflict are so caught up in what is happening that they don’t realize they are failing others. They see their needs as being the most important needs, but they explain this away by saying it is also best for all those in the church. Is it really?

I am a fan of the Simple Church. It is a book by Thom S. Rainer and talks about how to cut out all of those things that a church doesn’t really need. In other words, back to basics. I heard him speak on this at a SBC conference once and the end to all the headaches of what was occurring in my church looked to be in sight. I’m a peacemaker. That’s what my spiritual gift has been identified as. That is one reason a lot of my posts seem to give a bit of two sides of things and rarely have an edge to them. As the head of the Deacons, and Sunday School, and Youth Director, I embraced the Simple Church.

For us it was almost too late. But we still survive.

I am not speaking about conflict in the church just be talking. It really dose run people off. If this is all you have experienced in a church, or the majority of your time, then why would you want to stay there?

With that I give you the following passage.

Proverbs 6:16-19

There are six things the Lord hates,
    seven that are detestable to him:
        haughty eyes,
        a lying tongue,
        hands that shed innocent blood,
        a heart that devises wicked schemes,
        feet that are quick to rush into evil,
        a false witness who pours out lies
        and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.” NIV Translation

This is a list from lowest of the things he detests to his most. Note his most despised thing, those who cause conflict or discord within the church. This doesn’t mean those who ask questions, because one who believes wants to know as much as possible and needs to know in order to be able to give answers when asked. This means those who are out for some kind of control or want to get their way in a dispute.

When whispers and gossip begins to spread and your church numbers begin to dwindle , there is something wrong. Look in the mirror and see if you have the heart of Jesus for all members of your church. If you are not happy in your church, then find another one, but leave quietly. Don’t leave with a roar in an attempt to break a church down. Because when you do, the young Christians, and I mean young as in new to being a Christian at any age, only see hypocrisy and the discord caused. They do not receive the spiritual energizing and feeding they need with their fellow Christians that is so important, especially in the early stages.

For those thinking God only spoke to the Jews in the Old Testament about conflict and lying and gossipers, check out Romans Chapter 1 and see what He says they deserve.

Finally, I give you one of my favorite verses.

Psalm 46:10

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Emphasis mine.)

This is the Old Testament and means Christians and Jews alike, should be still and remember that what we can do is finite, what God can do is infinite.

Be still can mean that people who believe they can do good works to show they are good and mighty are foolish because they do not give God the credit for their ability to achieve.

Christians should be still and observe all that God has done and can do, and realize that we shouldn’t sweat over things we can’t control. Do what is within your control, and as you do so with God’s help, you will be able to discover there are more things in your control because you have grown. This is what young Christians should be able to look forward to, not a conflict torn church that denies them the opportunity, or perhaps a young person thinking of asking Jesus into his/her heart and walks away instead because of what they see.

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It’s Sunday all over again.

Back in the day, which would be a couple of years ago now, I would spend Sundays on my blog sharing my thoughts about my faith. Please, don’t turn the channel yet. This particular post won’t exactly be faith sharing as one might think of it. It’s more like explaining, and that’s to Christians as well. We can all learn a little something we thought we knew already.

It’s Father’s Day here in the USA and in an article I read yesterday a celebrity of sorts was quoted as saying “It’s God first and family second.” I’ve seen and heard that phrase plenty during my years as a Christian, but when I read it this time, it occurred to me, for the first time, that many people probably misunderstand what that really means, including the Christians that say it. That brings me to my purpose for writing today.

I believe that a large majority of Christians today haven’t been taught properly about what being a Christian is, because I don’t see them being Christ like, and if you talk to them about Christianity, they can’t do what is called defending the faith. Meaning, they can’t explain why they are a Christian or why certain things are the way they are in the Bible. Even those who think they know it all continue to learn every day. And if they aren’t? They might need to be checked on by a brother or sister in Christ. No, there isn’t a Christ Cops airing on TV busting backsliding Baptists.

Christians are at various stages in their life as a Christian, ranging from Baby Christian, which is what I was at 23 when I was saved to Mature Christian, where I feel comfortable in saying I am now. Not telling you my age. But age don’t mean a thing when it comes to your walk with Christ. Here are some things any stage of a Christian’s maturity level in their walk and knowledge should think about when reading the Bible.  Or for non-believers who hear people quoting scripture to prove how evil Christians must be.

1) The Bible is a text book. More precisely, a History book. It’s not a book of fairy tales or approved by God events. If that were the case, the Bible would be a lot shorter. As with any text book, the author, God doesn’t have to, and most likely doesn’t, approve of every last fact in the Bible. God either directly told, as to Moses, what to write, or He inspired someone to write, as in the New Testament, those feelings and put them in to words that God approved of. Normally in the New Testament these are letters to either churches, mentors, or students who are helping a church.

2) The Old Testament is the history of the Jews and is included in the Bible to show us why Jesus had to come, and thus Christianity begins. That’s correct, Christians don’t follow the Old Testament. Christianity doesn’t begin until the New Testament. We don’t follow or believe in or even like the idea of the laws/rules that the Jews had to live by. There are some denominations of Christianity that do follow parts of the Old Testament, but they are in a very small minority but always seemed to get picked by media to represent all of Christianity.

3) All you really need are the words of Jesus to follow. If anything else in the New Testament disagrees with the words of Jesus then those words are incorrect and are just an opinion of whoever physically wrote those words. Usually the author will say, in some way, they are giving their own opinion.

4) If you are reading the Bible or hear a verse from scripture you need to keep these things in mind; where, when, and why (WWW). That goes for any historical text you might read.  I’ll give you an example. 1 Corinthians 14:34 Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says.” These are the words of Paul writing to the church in Corinth.

Where and When: Corinth, first century A.D.. Why is Corinth important? Because it is a Roman controlled city, under Roman law.

Why: Corinth is having problems with all sorts of members who are doing things to draw the attention of others.

Results of WWW: Roman law during this period forbade women from speaking in public gatherings and many other things. They couldn’t even own property. The house was their domain and that is where they were expected to talk and ask questions about anything from church to politics. Thus in order to keep the young Christian churches growing and spreading, it was important not to give Rome a reason to break up or give problems to a church. The use of the lowercase L in law is important here, as if Paul were referring to Jewish Law he would normally use the uppercase L, as he does earlier in the same portion of the text, not the lower which normally referred to Roman or local law.

I hope you see why the WWW is important to know when reading or interpreting something in the Bible. I’ve never really heard people outside of fellow Apologists who explain details like that. With Jews writing these letters, it is important to remember how important word selection and letter case is.

5) The Bible we have was put together by man. Man chose which letters and text to include in a unified book form. Constantine order for Bibles to be made for the Bishop of Constantinople and the churches in the area around the city. It is believed this may have been what prompted the idea of having just one version of the Bible that could be used, although some Bibles, even today, have a few extra books outside of what was finally decided upon. Some say it was divinely inspired as to what to include. Perhaps. I leave that for you to decide. I just know I stick to the words Jesus said, and I know I’m doing good. Although I still mess up in some way every day.

You are probably wondering what all of this has to do with “It’s God first and family second.” When many Christians see or say this, they really put God before the family in such a way that it interferes with family. The truth of it is, if you are following God, following Jesus, then you are not allowing what I call pollutants to contaminate your life and interfere with your relationship with your family. When you put God first you really are doing so in order to be a stronger and better person for your family. No, you won’t be perfect. No one ever will be. The whole point is for you to know that and keep trying, talk to God and ask for His help to give you strength to get through whatever might be giving you problems. Don’t confuse God and church as the same thing. I know people, like myself at one point, who thought if I am doing everything that I’m asked to do for the church then that’s what God wants me to do. But that can interfere with your family life. You can put God first everywhere you are and at any time.

It’s God, Family, then church.

Well, I hope I helped someone out there understand a little bit more about Christianity, at least how I see it. I’ve experienced a lot, learned a lot, and led a lot. I’ve fallen even more than all of those three put together. God isn’t about a building or what a preacher says to you or about a clique or club inside the church. God can’t be contained by a building. The only time God is in a church is when his followers are there to talk to Him, to worship Him, or praise Him. Because each believer/follower, has a bit of God in their heart.

I end with a New Testament verse that I live by and an Old Testament I live by that is still relevant for we Christians.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” Romans 1:16

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;” 46:10a This helped in my time of great confusion, distress, and fear. We all need to learn to be still. Pick our battles. Choose our moments. And let all the other insanity be. Do what we can, and let others do what they can, and be happy with what we have done while still living our life by living it not existing it.

Sunday Golf and the hard headed.

As you may have read in my last post I have been given the challenge to share three quotes with you in three consecutive posts by Greg of Potholes in the Road of Life.

Let me tell a little story.

A preacher repeatedly heard from his friends about the joys of playing golf on Sunday. Sunday players got a discount, they said, yet the golf course was never overcrowded like it was during the rest of the week. It was so peaceful, that a person could really concentrate on his game.

Being a man of the cloth, of course, the preacher worked on Sunday. But, also being a avid golf fan, the preacher found the temptation to try the Sunday game strong and persistent.  Finally, the preacher gave in. He called his assistant to say he was sick and to turn the sermon over to him. Then, he grabbed his clubs and headed for the golf course.

The day was sunny and bright. The course was peaceful and quiet. His friends were right. Sunday was a perfect day to play golf.

But, up in heaven, God and his angels were watching the preacher as he set up his first tee. “God,” said the smallest angel, “You have to do something about this! The man is a preacher! This isn’t right!”

“Don’t worry,” said God. “I’ve got the situation well in hand.”

The preacher took his swing. THWAK!!! The ball wisked through the air straight and true as an arrow. HOLE IN ONE!!!!!!!

At the second hole, the preacher takes a swing, and gets ANOTHER HOLE IN ONE!!!!!!

Finally, after all 18 holes, the priest has gotten a hole in one at EVERY HOLE!!!!!

“But, God!” cried the smallest angel. “This is terrible! How could you let him get a hole in one every time, when he shouldn’t even be playing golf today?”

God turned to the angel with a smile. “Who can he tell about it?”

I told that story one Sunday morning as I stood before the church stalling for time as the choir director and choir were late to arrive and we were on radio and could not have dead air. The only problem is I did not tell the story that well.

As I reflected on it I realized why. I have an aversion to golf. No, don’t get me wrong. I love golf. I enjoy watching a small amount of it at times. All those beautiful greens.

I even went golfing with my father. He tried to show me the game and I was not bad at it. He even gave me a set of clubs.

One day we were on the fairway and he pulls out a driver, a wood. This would end up being a fortunate thing. He wanted me to watch his swing to see how to do it.

He placed me in position to get the best look. About 20 seconds later a 16 year old boy named Ronovan was grateful the club had been a wood instead of an iron. You see the wood is large and slightly rounded. The iron, well the name says it all.

Ronovan was grateful because the head of the club hit him squarely, dead center in the forehead. Ronovan did not fall down. He did not cry. He did not even make a sound.

He did get  to drive the golf car the rest of the game and have a very nice meal afterwards.

I tell that story to show why I believe I did not do well at telling the previous story. I have an aversion to golf. Well that and the fact we were live on radio and my part of the service was finished on time and I had nothing left to go with. There is just so many times you can say Happy Birthday to the two little old ladies, especially when one was so proud of being the oldest lady in the church and was very smug about it.

A quote? I know that’s where this was to lead.

1 Timothy 4:16a ESV

“Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching.”

My Youth No More

My Youth No More

by: Ronovan

 

I was part of the group that had brought him to us. Sure, I had been one of those with some doubts but in the end I thought it would be best for the church as a whole. Little did I know that it would destroy my ministry.

 

There were a number of years you might have called me that Super Christian. I was of the younger generation in the church and thus willing to volunteer for whatever needed to be done. One such thing was youth ministry. As a high school teacher it was only natural that I was drawn to the youth group. I had watched from afar, and then God stepped in and led me to volunteer to help out only to discover weeks later the Youth Pastor was leaving for seminary school and the duty of leadership fell to me.

 

Even stranger is the fact this happened twice. I helped hire the next Youth Pastor and then slowly stepped back to let him take over. But then with the coming of the new Pastor to our church that I alluded to earlier, things changed.

Continue reading

A Father Leads You Through This World…not just brings you into it.

A Father Leads You Through This World…not just brings you into it.

by: Ronovan

 

I met my father in the second grade. No, it wasn’t that he had been away for so many years or anything like that. My father is what you would call a step-father. Too me, he’s the real thing.

Father

The person that brings you into this world isn’t always a parent. It’s the person that raises you and helps you become what you are that is your parent. That could even be a grandparent really. For some that is who raises them. My grandmother, who I wrote about in Maw Maw’s Lovin’ raised two of my cousins.

 

But my father showed up in the second grade. He never tried to push any of his own thoughts onto me. In fact years later when I became heavily involved in church he said he didn’t know how it ended up happening because I didn’t get it from him. It’s not that he wasn’t a Christian it’s just that we didn’t go to church. My mother wasn’t a Christian so my father didn’t want to force anything on anyone. I never stepped foot inside a church until my 20s and that was on my own. He had been a Deacon and Sunday School Director and all of that. Oddly I ended up doing the same.

 

People have seen him, my step-brother and me together and say how much my father and I look alike and that my step-brother, his actual son, doesn’t favor him at all. I think it’s the mannerisms mostly that show a resemblance. Well that and we both can cook anything. I get my adventurous foodie from him.

 

I’m proof that it’s not just your DNA that makes you what you are, but your environment as well.

 

One of the stories I like best that he tells is about his time in the military. He doesn’t talk about it much though. But he and some men were flying into someplace. It was a smaller plane and the front landing gear wouldn’t lower. The pilot made them all move to the very back of the plane so as they landed the weight would keep the plane on the back wheels and slowly lower the front of the plane down as they slowed.

 

Another thing about him, and this isn’t really a flattering story but it does show something about him, is that every time he was promoted in the military, he would go out and ‘celebrate’ and be busted back down the next day. He didn’t want positions and promotions. That’s not why he was in the military.

 

He’s in his 80s now, but you would swear it’s his 60s. I know someday it’ll be a last Father’s Day. He’s been through some heart problems and now has diabetes, but he’s actually one of the healthiest people I know. He stays active and is in church.

 

Years ago he came close to dying…again…because of some medications he was given in a hospital. I called my pastor after having visited him because he had wondered why no preachers had been by his room. Back in the days a preacher would have come around to visit, but there are rules and laws now.

 

It was a Wednesday and my church has services on Wednesday nights and youth activities. Well, I called my pastor and told him what was going on and asked if maybe he could visit him the next morning because he was going into surgery and was asking about a preacher.

 

I came back the next day and my pastor had dropped everything on Wednesday, driven an hour away, sat with my father and talked, and then made it back for church. As soon as my father was able to drive again he was back in church for the first time in over 30 years. Sometimes people think that God does bad things for good reasons. But that’s not it. God takes bad things and turns them around to make good things happen.

 

On this Father’s Day I just wanted to say that it’s not who brought you into this world, it’s who helped lead you through it. If you only have a mother, wish her a Happy Father’s Day today…from me as well as from you.

 

Much Respect and Much Love

Ronovan

 

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