Archives for the month of: October, 2012

So I was part of a church plant a few years ago that didn’t really go “well.” And yes, I started a post with the word ‘so’, take that 11th grade English. Essentially the church plant was developed with the intention of being “seeker friendly.” What does seeker friendly mean? It basically means this: don’t tell non-churched, non-believers that sometimes things are difficult. Make sure you make them feel welcome, and make sure you tell them Jesus wants you to be super happy and the whole world is a bounce house with him.
Is there anything inherently wrong with making the unchurched feel welcome? No. That is what we should strive for – open arms and open hearts. Side bar here, growing up, I went to a church where I heard on more than one occasion that we needed to be a church that made people feel uncomfortable because we were too into God. Right. Right, totally, we’re there to be the Holy Spirit and bring conviction. All that to say – seeker friendly, at least in the way it was displayed at our church was a huge disservice to the gospel. At no point does Jesus say, “Listen, if you follow me, the world will be your oyster. The schnozberries will taste like schnozberries, and you’ll be so darn happy, your blood will turn to sugar!” It seems to me that perhaps Jesus actually said the opposite (Luke 6:22) –

“Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.”

Well…great…thanks. That makes this all so much easier. When as believers did we decide that we must always be happy. Not full of joy mind you, that’s different, but “happy.” It seems to me that sometimes I just want to be sad. I just want to take my big goofy grin off my face, turn on Simon and Garfunkel and just gather my thoughts. Is this bad? I can’t believe it is since it’s an emotion that was given to us. Do I need to make that the only emotion I exude? No, that’s where the true joy of Christ comes in. Christ brings joy through sorrow, through misery, through afternoons in the rain.
Going back to the original thought though – our church plant that taught Jesus makes us “happy” was setting people up for failure, and I cannot believe that this church was/is the only one preaching that idea. If we teach people that the moment they follow Christ they become instant walking “Sweet N’ Low” packets, we are teaching them a perverted version of who Christ is. My goodness, read the Old Testament, that’s not exactly full of fun and laughs. We need to teach people the truth – following Christ is the same as any other relationship – some days are easier than others. There are expectations he will put out and you need to strive, with his help, to meet them. The power and love that he gives will far outweigh any and all sadness, but there will be dark days. Carry on though.

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I recently stumbled upon the blog “Year of Sundays” over on beliefnet.com and one of the posts stuck a chord within me. I could not find a date, but just know it exists and is titled “Full-On Faith.” The concept of the blog itself is rather interesting – two self proclaimed atheists visit various churches throughout Portland and give a review. This is the kind of thing that drives web traffic right? Two opposing forces meeting in the middle? Basically religious Wife Swap but far more intellectual. Suffice to say, peruse through there and get an outsiders view of the typical happenings on a Sunday.
Getting back to the issue at hand, the post that hit me was about a recent visit to a predominantly African-American church, but halfway through the post, the writer confessed her recent issues with her relationship, she framed it this way –

I’m talking about Joel and me. I’m talking about how hard it is for me to actually trust him to love me. Forget God, I can’t even have faith in a man who I can see and touch and smell and kiss. A man who tells me he loves me every day in words and kindness and perseverance. And maybe it’s because I’ve always been an atheist that the concept is so damn difficult for me to grok, but things haven’t gotten any easier…

So I laid in bed this morning after reading this (sure, like you don’t read internet articles immediately upon waking up) and I had a few different thoughts that bounced around my head. I immediately shook off my former legalistic Baptist thought process and I was left with a lyric – a lyric by the great theologian Charlie Fink. Oh you’ve not heard of him? He’s actually the lead singer of the British Folk/Hipster/80s Revival band “Noah and the Whale,” and they are a particular favorite of mine. The lyric that came to mind was –

“Oh and if you don’t believe in God, how can you believe in love?”

It’s a silly little question written at a time when Charlie was perhaps only twenty, and as most twenty-year olds are wont to do – he poses large rhetorical questions, but does not answer them. This question though rings extremely true, at least to me.
Basically the way I see it is: love is illogical, it doesn’t make sense and frankly, if I’m looking for evolution, I’m dumping love first. Now before you think I’m some jaded person holed up in a basement, I’m a married man with three kids, and yes I’m happily married, and yes I love my children. That being said, love makes no sense to me, truly. Why should we feel connections to people? Why should we invest into someone’s life only to see things possibly turn out wrong.
That’s how children work, right? You bring them into the world, pour into them and hope against hope they don’t throw it back in your face. When I saw my oldest for the first time, something within me caught fire and it still burns today. Why?
I think this is where the lyric Charlie poses and the issue the writer of the blog post collide. We shouldn’t love, animals don’t, some eat their young. We love, because it’s innate in us, it’s what drives us. We can’t help but love, we can’t help but yearn for the touch of a lover, the kiss from a mother, the approval of a father. We need it, there’s a hole inside us that needs to be filled.
When I say “hole inside us,” I don’t mean it in a negative manner. We’re crafted in the image of the Almighty and we know “God is love.” 1 John 4:16 puts it this way:

“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God and God in them.”

Perhaps Charlie Fink is more of a theologian than we give credit. God is love, we live in love, we live in God. If God is love, and we are crafted in his image, then it only makes sense that the very fiber of who He is would find it’s way into his creation. We can’t help but love because love was planted in us when God breathed life into Adam.
So going back to the blog, I’d tell her (Amanda) that the very fact that she’s denying the existence of the greatest source of love out there is the very reason she cannot accept love in the physical form. She’s trying to deny a part of who she actually is. We cannot separate ourselves from what we are.

We’re in the process of shuffling boxes around and will soon set up, hang tight.