Thursday, March 27, 2008

moving into action

I was listening to my newest CD in my car today and I was struck by the words of the chorus of one of the songs.

The CD is Holding Nothing Back by Tim Hughes.

The song is called God of Justice and these are the words that struck me:

We must go
Live to feed the hungry
Stand beside the broken
We must go
Stepping forward
Keep us from just singing
Move us into action
We must go
I just really feel like those are words we as a church need to be saying more often. We go to church and sing songs and read the Bible and all that, but we don't take the message of hope and forgiveness and salvation that we have to the world around us that needs it depserately.
When we do the things this song talks about, we're doing what Jesus sent us out into the world to do. We're following the example that He set for us when He walked on this earth.
My prayer is that we do exactly what this songs says . . . feed the hungry, stand beside the broken . . . move into action rather than stay comfortable in our church pews.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

dear church

I just finished reading a book that my mom has been after me to read since she finished it about a month ago. She wanted to know what I thought about it.

The book is call Dear Church: Letters from a Disillusioned Generation (by Sarah Cunningham)

Since it is written by someone who is probably somewhat close to my age (in their 20s), she wanted to know if I agreed with what the author had to say. All in all, I would say it was good and thought-provoking read.

Usually when I sit down with books like this I'm pretty skeptical of what is being written, because I'm really not a fan of anything that stero-types people, and I was somewhat expecting this book to do just that. It was pleasant surprise to find that it didn't do so.

One of the early chapters does talk about some characteristics of "twentysomethings". But, rather than seeming to put us (twentysomethings, which I know includes me and a lot of you who read this blog) in a box, the characteristics given did a good job of trying to explain how many of us see the world. Twentyseomthings were described with the following characteristics:

1) twentysomethings redefine the family

- possibly caused by the breakdown of the traditional family

- family is more of a commitment and a state of heart than something you'r born into

2) twentysomethings are comfortable with competing schools of thought

3) twentysomethings feel connected to their surroundings

4) twentysomethings don't see money as a trustworthy indicator of success

5) twentysomethings want instant gratification

- "One way churches can harness twentysomethings' rapid-paced energy is by calling for spontaneous involvement." (pg. 38)

- we don't always know 2 months ahead of time if we can commit to something, we're more likely to get involved when asked to stay after and help with something

6) twentysomethings like technology, but prefer human contact

- we want real life stories, not impressive special effects

7) twentysomethings are less relativistic than we seem

- we do believe in rights and wrongs

8) twentysomethings are idealistic to a fault

9) twentysomethings are transparent

10) twentysomethings value community

- our small groups may not always follow the "rules" or stay on topic, but we value the time together

- spontaneous get-togethers after church will get a higher attendance than most events planned weeks or months in advance

11) twentysomethings want to help

12) twentysomethings don't pledge our allegiance lightly

- this is why we don't become church members quickly, we want to make sure we really believe in it before we commit to it

I realize that these characterisitics may describe people who don't fit in the twentysomethings category as well. But, they do definitely describe the twentysomething category well. As I was reading this in the book, I was like: "yes, that's how I think, that's how my friends think."

There were so many things that followed int eh book that I agreed with. It felt like someone was putting the words and ideas I had on paper for me. I think there is much that we can learn from these thoughts too. And I know that growing up in the church I am also just as guilty of expecting everyone to be comfortable with traditional church as the next person. But, I'm beginning to see more and more that maybe that's not the way to "do church" to reach the next generation. There was a quote from the book that really made me think and the more I did, the more I realized that I agreed with it.

"To put it bluntly, there are moments when I wonder whether the talking-head-driven, program-centered, building-focused, mission-project-heavy version is the best expression of church that we are capable of producing." (pg 83).

"The church's ability to engage its diverse world is not a political issue, it's a missional issue. An obedience issue. A do-you-take-Jesus'-parting-shot-to-his-disciples-seriously issue. . . . Just as 'giving our lives to Christ' involves shifting our allegiance each day we wake up, one day at a time, 'going into all the world', involves being the church each person we encounter one person at a time." (pg. 70)

I found myself on this also agreeing with the author of the book. Sometimes I wonder if the way we "do church" is the most effective that it could be. And I wonder how seriously most of us take our call and our mandate. Most of my peers that I interact with today don't want to hear well thought arguements and proofs (although there are still those that want that), they want first and foremost to see it lived it out in my life as I walk through life beside them.

I've also been thinking a lot about church tradition lately. While I enjoy some of it and don't want to get rid of it completely, I sometimes wonder if we're so stuck to it that we're doing more harm to ourselves than good. To quote the book again:

"As twentysomethings in particular evaluate our definitions of church, we should avoid simplistic game plans that seek only to delete lines that don't go over well in our generation. We want to do more than just toss out previous lines only to draw a 'new' set of equivalent lines in their place." (pg. 108)

"We cling to the hope that we will arrive at increasingly accurate definitions of church as we continue to seek God's intentions." (pg. 108)

I think that last quote is key. We can change church all we want, but unless we're seeking God's desire and His intentions for the church, we will continue to be just as messed up in how we "do church" as we ever have been.

This brings me to another thing from the book that I agreed with. The author began talking about what we should call ourselves, especially given the reputation of and the picture that comes to mind when people hear the word "Christian."

"Sometimes I just skirt mentioning the C word altogether. Not to sell my faith short, you understand, but to get around all the assumptions attached to the label. Unfortunately, it is not easy to describe your brand of Christian faith without affilliating yourself with an institutional church. Simply saying that I'm a Christian would be an immediate giveaway of course. Christians go to church. Chruches are full of Christians. Everyone sees the connection." (pg. 111)

This is something I have struggled with for a while (and have written about before, see here). There are many things in church history and in present day church that make me not want to be associated with some of the people who call themselves Christians. But that, like said above, brings about a whole new question of what to "call ourselves" then.

The author is aiming to present to the church at large some possible reasons for the noticeable absence of twentysomethings in the church at large today. Often one of the reasons is because we've personally been hurt by someone in the church or we're close to someone who has. And we're waiting for people to come and apologize to us. But, what I like is that the author doesn't leave it in the hands of the church to do everything to make things right. as twentysomethings our attitude towards the church hasn't always been right either. And the author challenges both sides to apologize and forgive one another.

"It is easy to focus on how others in the church could apologize to us, rather than owning our own role and failures as we live church to the world around us." (pg. 154)

As you may have noticed by now, I'm a fan of this book and what the author has to say. I may not be one of the twentysomethings who has left the church, but I can identify with many of the struggles and opinions that the author writes about. I have dealt with them. I still deal with them to some degree. I know that the church on earth will never be perfect, but I think we fail one another in a huge way when we don't listen to where the other people are coming from and respect that they see something differently than we do.

There are people who want church to be the way it's always been. And there are people who are pushing for massive changes. I don't have the answers to how to handle this and I've seen different churches handle it different ways. But, I do know that every person who claims to be a follower of Christ has the same mission, and we detract from it when we spend our time arguing over the little details. We are surrounded by a world that is hurting and in desperate need of God. We have the ability to bring God to them, but we need to stop fighting amongst ourselves and do what we are commanded to do in Scripture. Your co-worker int he next office, your neighbour, the person at the drive-thru when you get your morning coffee, the driver in the car next to you stopped at the traffic light . . . they all need you to live Jesus - to live as a Christian should - to point htem towards Jesus and His saving grace with how you live and then with your words.

OK, I'm done my rabbit-trail rant there.

I like the way the author reminds us that as humans we are not the ones to save the world, but we are the carriers of that hope to the world around us.

"We Christians were never the hope. Yes, we were and are carriers of the hope. But we ourselves are only reflections - often dim reflections - of the hope we internalize: Jesus Christ. . . . Of course, in noting our non superhero status, Church, I am not suggesting that you have no role to play and are thereby exempt from any action. Obviously, the church is the key earthly player in Christ's unfolding drama." (pg.199)

We have a role to play, but the Church, made up of fallen human beings, was never meant to be the ultimate hope of the world. Jesus is that hope!

So, if you're wondering where or how that explains the lack of twentysomethings in many churches today . . . maybe it doesn't outline specific reason for the most part. But, I think this book and what I've written tonight does point out how we think and why we're maybe disillusioned with the church right now. I haven't nearly convered all the ground that the book covers, so it's definitely a good read. And I know that not all of you are twentysomethings and you agree with what I've written. In that way, these things are a bit of a generalization.

To finish up this long blog, let me just say. The twentysomethings I know who aren't sitting in church pews yet still claim to be Christians still love the Church. We're just not sure about all that people have made it to be.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

forgiveness and reconciliation

I've been thinking a lot about forgiveness for the last month. Mostly because God brought it to my attention that there was someone in my life who had hurt me a number of years ago, who I still needed to forgive. For the last 6 - 1/2 years I've been living life holding on to bitterness, hurt, and anger towards this person. And, all the while, thinking that I was hurting the other person by doing so . . . when in reality the only person it was hurting was me.

But, as I've discovered, after so long, the hurt and bitterness that goes along with unforgiveness, and even the unforgiveness itself, is hard to let go of. It becomes a part of you. It most definitely had with me. I had grown so accustomed to it, that I could hardly imagine what it would be like to let that go.

But, God knew that I needed to deal with that. And he got my attention about it one night at Alive (the young adults group at my church). When I broke up with my boyfriend 6 - 1/2 years ago, our lives very quickly went in opposite directions and we weren't living in the same place again. But, about a month ago, he showed up at Alive . . . which, with the size of the group, still meant that I could have easily avoided him all night without too much difficulty. Then, once the evening started, I realized that he was sitting in such a place that I could see him out of the corner of my eye all evening.

It was impossible to get him out of my mind! And believe me, I tried! But, when you really can't look anywhere and not see him, you're kind of stuck. And, it was God who ordained that for that night. I honestly don't remember much of what happened that night . . . but I know that God started a month long journey in my life (so far, I know it's not over yet) that night, just by having my ex-boyfriend show up back in my life.

I've spent many hours digging into Scripture about it and talking to some people in my life who's opinions / wisdom I value in my life. Forgiveness is a huge issue. God offers us forgiveness and we, in turn, should be offering it to those around us who need it from us. The Bible says that we are to forgive others as we have been forgiven by God.

So often when I've talked to people about it, they've talked about how forgiveness needs to lead to reconciliation. Honestly, this has probably been the hugest stumbling block to me in this whole situation. I can get to the point of forgiving him and letting go of the hurt from everything, but I struggle with the idea of having to reconcile my relationship with him.

At this point, I know that things should never be as they were between us. And, I'm unsure if there is room, or if it's right, for their to be any kind of a friendship / relationship between us again. Can we be friendly to one another in a group setting again? Absolutely! Can we truely be good friends again? I don't think so.

I've heard people say that they will forgive someone but they don't ever have to trust the person again. And, in the same conversations, I've heard people they were talking with tell them that then they haven't really forgiven the person. But, I really have a hard time believing that's true. I can think of many situations where you can choose to forgive someone, but trusting them again is probably the last thing you should do (ie. abuse, violent crime). So, does this mean that people who have been victims of abuse or violent crime can never really forgive the person who hurt them? That doesnt' really seem fair or right.

The way I see it . . . forgiveness opens the door to reconciliation. Forgiveness should change our attitude toward the person we have forgiven. But, I think we can forgive people without having to be reconciled to them. Reconciliation of the relationship would be the ideal outcome of forgiveness, but I don't think it is a requirement of true forgiveness.

But, at the same time, some of the people who have said to me that true forgiveness doesn't happen without reconcilation are people whose wisdom and opinions I value a lot in my life. It leaves me a bit torn. I know that I can (now) and need to forgive my ex-boyfriend, but I don't see any possibility of anything more than some friendly conversation in groups between us in the future. So, does this mean that I will never be able to truely forgive him, because our relationship can't and really shouldn't be reconciled. I'm just really not sure on that one. I still struggle with that.

Saturday, March 8, 2008


I was sitting in McDonalds just about half an hour ago chatting with some good friends and we ended up on the subject of worship - specifically relating to churches and church services. It seems that churches are often dealing with people who complain about one thing or another to do with worship. And seeing as most of these particular friends are involved in leading worship (unlike me) it was a topic that was something they had dealt with.

The whole conversation got me thinking about it tho'. I started wondering about our attitude toward worship in the church today and whether it really is pleasing to God or not. Worship is about bringing praise, adoration, and glory to God. But in the church we often seem to make it about ourselves and what we get from it. We go and expect to feel a certain way after the service, and if we don't, then we say that "the worship wasn't very good today." And if we "feel good" during the singing part of the service than we say that "the worship was good today." And we do the same thing based on the type of songs sung in the service and whether we liked them or not.

But this isn't right! How we feel when we're singing shouldn't be our determining factor as to whether the worship was good or not. We're there and singing to bring glory and adoration to God, and as long as that is happening, the worship IS GOOD!

The church today has lost sight of this. And worship has become a divisive issue in the church, when it should be one of the things that unites us. When we come together for worship we are gathering to worship the same God, and this should unite us, not divide us.

I honestly wonder whether God is pleased with what we call worship today sometimes. When we come with wrong attitudes and refuse to participate because we don't like the musical style or the type of songs (ie. hymns vs. choruses), do we really think that God is pleased with that? Do we really think that God is pleased when we refuse to participate because we don't like the song being sung? Or the volume of the guitar? Or what the worship leader is wearing? I don't think so.

Obviously, there are exceptions to the divisiveness that worship causes, and that is great. They are an example of what things should be like. But, I think, overall, worship has become what divides us in the church rather than what unites us. And this is very wrong.

Some people may argue that they have a hard time worshipping when things aren't to their liking. But, while I can see that it may seem more natural to a person to worship God in a way that they are used to; it does not mean that they can't worship God in a way that is different to them too. It may not be natural and they may not have the feelings that they are used to having when worshipping, but anytime we seek to bring God glory and adoration we are worshipping Him, whether or not the feelings come.

As I've been writing this, I've been convicted myself. I write about people in the church who do this, but I'm also writing about myself to a degree. I'm as guilty as the next person of rating how good a worship service was by how I felt or by whether I liked the songs we sang. But, looking back I can also see many times where I worshipped God more than ever before and the music was very different from what I was used to and what made me feel good. God has used those times to teach me a lot about what worship really is. But, I'm still learning. And I pray that, as a Church (the universal church), we would begin to really understand what it means to worship God.

Thursday, March 6, 2008


Grace is everything for nothing to those who do not deserve anything

I read that on a sign outside a church I drove by earlier today. It got me thinking about the whole idea of grace. It's such a strange concept if you really think about and that quote describes it so well.

When God grants us grace, He gives us the ability to come before and to be a part of His family, for nothing that we have and we most definitely don't deserve it. That's pretty amazing!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

humbleness / humility

I was reading in Numbers the other day and this one verse just really caught my attention.

"Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth." (Numbers 12:3)

What a thing to say about someone!

It got me started thinking. What does humble mean? What does a humble person look like?

In Scripture, the word humility is used to mean the same thing. Most often it is talking about putting yoursefl aside for God's glory; not being proud of oneself.

This is exactly what God calls us to! To be humble people . . . people who put aside our pride to bring Him the glory with our lives, not seek glory and recognition for ourselves. But being humble goes against what our sinful nature and our culture tell us. They tell us that we should be proud of ourselves and our accomplishments. While God doesn't say that we can't do things well or be successful; He does say that we need to do what we do for His glory, not our own.

The rest of Numbers 12 can read as an example of what happens when we become proud. Aaron's & Miriam's problems arose from their jealousy of Moses and pride in themselves. Pride always has consequences.

Scripture says that God give grace to the humble and opposes the proud. God desires for us to follow Christ's ultimate example of humility in dying on the cross for our sins in our place. And God extends His grace to those who are willing to humble themselves before Him and admit their need; not those who think they can do it all on their own.