Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Super Tuesday (Shaping of the Church)

Today is a decisive day in American politics and I have fortune and misfortune of being away from the country so I miss all of the hype of the presidential primary season. As I look at the candidates I am excited to see that at least this election will come with some new choices for American voters. We will have either an African American (Obama) or a woman (Clinton) on one side and we will have a republican who is willing to admit that his ideas change in time (McCain) or a Billionare (Romney)... okay so the billionare thing has been done before. Either way we look at it, we will see some type of change in the country, for better or for worse.
Without making an official endorsement for anyone or responding to any of his specific ideas, I did want to mention something that Barack Obama said that caught my attention,

" Today, you can join nearly half the nation in saying that we are tired of business-as-usual in Washington, we are hungry for change, and we are ready to believe again."

I know that this is a typical rhetoric among politicians but allow me to take these words and move them to the church. From this point on I will post an idea every week or two called "The Shaping of the Church" and it is intended to involve all of you in a conversation that will hopefully lead to the formation of some healthy ideas. For now, I want to begin with Obama's words for the nation, "Today, you can join nearly half the nation in saying that we are tired of business-as-usual in Washington, we are hungry for change, and we are ready to believe again."
As for me, I am tired of business as usual in American churches, I am hungry for change, and I am ready to believe again". I'm tired of basing the success of the church by the number of attendees or the money that comes in. I am tired of pastors giving simple sermons that they have been giving for years seemingly out of obligation and not an excitement for new discoveries of truth. I am tired of churches saying they "accept everyone" but get incredibly uncomfortable when "everyone" walks through their doors.
I have seen enough "church models" mimicked in communities all over the country in hopes that "mega-churches" will be duplicated. I have witnessed too many pastors and other leaders sacrifice their families, friends, and their own personalities, "in the service of the Lord". I am disgusted when the church works to follow the corporate model of leadership and labors to keep "the shareholders" pleased (I will address the "shareholders" at another time). I am done with the endless desire to build bigger buildings and bigger programs (buildings and programs are not necessarily bad, but how many needless buildings are built for image?)
I lose hope in this system when I hear endless stories of people feeling "burned" or rejected by their church and the leadership. I am angered when church leaders and/or volunteers hurt innocent kids and ignore the needs of the under-privileged or the justice of the oppressed. I grow weary with each story from those who are not followers of Jesus who say they don't want anything to do with the God of "those Christians" because Christians are not kind or pleasant.
I believe that the Church (the Bride of Christ) is a good thing and it is necessary for joining with God in His redemptive work on earth. Rob Bell, the teaching pastor at Mars Hill Church in Michigan, refers to the Bride of Christ as a beautiful thing. He goes so far as naming their church's conference the "Isn't she beautiful" conference. The problem is that for many, the bride is not beautiful, she is ugly.
As my family considers plans to return to the country and lead a church, we are wrestling with the desire to make the Church better in the process. It is time for me to believe again and to be a part of a movement that helps others believe again. I do believe that a gathering of followers (and people searching for truth) of the Risen Messiah can live in a way that causes others to believe again. I do believe that we can be a part of a movement that revolutionizes the Bride of Christ. Maybe I'm crazy but I guess I just have the "audacity to hope".

So here is an assignment. Read Isaiah 1 (which is about Jerusalem around 700 BC) and let us look for the heart of God. Let us take this passage out of context slightly and apply it to churches you know. If we were part of a renewed movement, what are some things it should (or should not) look like?


Mike said...

Homework! OK.

Anonymous said...

Having grown up in the "christian" church I have heard my fair share of sunday sermons and as Ryan says:

"I am tired of pastors giving simple sermons that they have been giving for years because they heard their seminary professors spoon feed the same information."

Info for any of Pastor's reading this: stop this horrible phenomenon, it feels cold, rehearsed, and beyond my seat in sunday church evokes no thought. Does anyone ever feel like they are in some sort of clown house (ok maybe this is a bit harsh but...) where everyone walks in and walks out with a big grin? Im not saying that these grins are really just masks, but personally I just feel that the majority of the churches I have been to have this sort of "front" or empty feeling.

I like the ideas that bring hope and restoration, refreshment and real into church community. Personally as a christian it makes me sad/disgusted to say that the church is looking like the bride of frankenstein to me, and to more importantly the people who are not believers and are turned away at the sight of what goes on in churches. (obviously we can't all be Jesus all the time and even people in church will disappoint you at times). I want to be part of a church that seeks to be as beautiful a bride as possible for our Lord.

Isaiah 1 :13 Stop bringing meaningless offerings!
Your incense is detestable to me.
New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations—
I cannot bear your evil assemblies.

Isaiah 1:19 If you are willing and obedient,
you will eat the best from the land;

and all God's people said Amen.

Kevin said...

Ryan is in school, yet still dishing out the homework...brilliant! I'm down.

Sara said...

A couple passages I really liked - "from the sole of the foot even to the head there is nothing sound in it, only bruises, welts and raw wounds, not pressed out or bandaged, nor softened with oil..." Instead of acting like everything is okay - address the hurts in our churches and actively healing (I do think some churches do this well). Also "Everyone loves a bribe and chases after rewards. They do not defend the orphan nor does the widows plea come before them." Another challenge for church leaders - to not preach the party line and make sure that high doners are happy, but to strive to take care of those who cannot afford to pay their own bills, let alone the church's. Again I think this is a challenge - easier said than done.

Mike said...

Chapter one is a first call to repent? Leaders and people alike.

Kevin said...
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Kevin said...

What I get from Isaiah is that God is looking for His people to either follow him or not.

Repent and follow me with a new heart filled with a passion to truly fulfill what I have command no matter how hard that may be.

Instead of continuing ritual after ritual of getting what we need from God, confession followed with a clear conscience and a clean slate, he wants our hearts to truly want to serve Him, follow Him and live how He wants us to live. (1:13)

Starting with myself-I think we often times live our lives by using and molding God to shape our lives when it should be the other way around. And when you bring Jesus in the picture, this is why many people have "a different Jesus".

We must repent and redirect ourselves toward God, wholly.