Spur Others On

God has given me & other Christ-followers a responsibility to each other. As part of His body we’re responsible to spur each other into good works.

This means I must be open to accept challenges to mature from my fellow Christ Followers. It also means that I mustn’t be so caught up in myself that I don’t make time to think of ways motivating others to acts of love and other good deeds.

I don’t get into relationship with God by good works but I am in relationship with Him also FOR good works

Pagan Christianity?: A Review

This was a book I never rushed to finish. Partly because I have been reading other books and working on my theology assignments. The other part of it is that I wanted to be careful to take as much in and reflect on some of the things put forward by Frank Viola and George Barna.

It is apparent that Pagan Christianity? is well thought out, researched and crafted. It was not “slap dash” work. Frank and George do communicate a heart for the Church as God intended. It is clear they have a sound understanding of the Church and her purpose.

Thus they wrote the book to explore practices that have been or are compromising the Church. This is a worthwhile endeavor. How the Church does things can detract and or compromise her identity and mission. Pagan Christianity? highlights the birth of some practices.

Frank and George highlight how they can and do compromise the identity and mission of the Church. They highlight some practices as originating from pagan worship. Man-made.

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They are upfront with not being agreed with. The publisher also gives a disclaimer. They make it clear that by publishing the book they’re not endorsing nor do they necessarily share the same opinions as the authors.

With that, there are areas that I don’t agree with Frank and George. They believe in the Church, the ecclesia, or gathering and community of believers to be organic. On this I agree with. However, I almost get the impression that “organic” is synonymous with house Church.

House churches are the story of the early church. They are not irrelevant now, but my take is that they may not be practical in all contexts. The object, for me, is not the venue, it is what the gatherings should produce, the purpose of the gatherings.

They must produce Christ mature Christ followers. This means that they are like Christ in both likeness and works. For example, Pagan Christianity? discourages a lack of Church buildings. One of the reasons is that they end up consuming a significant amount of funds and placing an undue burden on congregations.

I believe there must be a balance here. In some instances buildings, as venues and not sacred spaces, enable permanence, and consistency. In some instances due to modern life, it is difficult to run house Church or use other buildings or venues such as community halls etc.

With this my take is that the purpose of everything must remain clearly visible. (I am not saying Frank and George advocate ambiguity).

I’m a strong believer in the priesthood of all believers. I believe everyone in the Church, the body of Christ, has a role to play in her edification, so that as a collective and individuals, we become more like Christ.

There are principles on the identity and the mission of God through the Church that cannot and must never be violated.

I could go on and highlight a few more things. However, it might be more pertinent to communicate what I feel makes the heart of the book.

The most important take away from the book is that we look at the expression of our relationship with God. As individuals and community of believers.

We must constantly assess how and why we are doing things in the light of God’s word. We must be clear about the impact of all our practices and make sure that it enables community and maturity in the faith, producing Christ like people. A scripturally sound Church.

We must examine the origin of some practices against the backdrop of whether it enables growth of Christ followers, the mission of the Church and the glory of God.

I would recommend reading Pagan Christianity. However, that it must be read with openness to challenging thought and practices for the sake of making sure that the heart of all practices as Christ followers and the Church is as God intends.

I’d recommend reading it in a non-prescriptive way but facilitating conversation and reflection. Frank and George present their case and rest at saying readers must discern for themselves steps they need to be taking.

Ultimately an important thing to do is listening to what God’s Spirit says to you. Ultimately, and most importantly, no one’s opinion or perspective must eclipse God’s.

Again, I recommend reading Pagan Christianity with an openness to challenging thought and practices for the sake of making sure that the heart of and our practices as Christ followers and the Church is as God intends. Read in a non-prescriptive way but for the purposes of facilitating conversation and reflection.

[affiliate link to book]

Not Talking To The Guy Next To Me In Church

Church, rather the worship at church, is about to start. The countdown on the large screen is ticking too slowly for me. Every ticking second is excruciating and can’t pass fast enough so I can get over the awkwardness with the guy sitting next to me. We’ve just mumbled something to each other.

Wait, did we just pretend to exchange greetings? Not really. I think we wanted to greet each other but weren’t sure what made an appropriate greeting. It’s the first time we’ve sat next to each other in church. I’m thinking, “should I take the conversation further? Is he thinking perhaps we should be saying something more to each other than just the grunts we just exchanged?”

We’re “in church” and frankly, I don’t feel like or want to talk to the guy next to me [Click to Tweet]

What should we talk about? He’s a little older… What do we have in common? Do I really want to start another conversation like the one I just had in the foyer with the woman at the door? Yet another brief chat about the seasons change? No!

May be the guy next to me would like to talk but the phone in my hand is doing its job in keeping him from saying anything. A nice wall. I’d rather chat to someone in another part of town or the world than this guy.

not talking to the guy next to me in church

sitting next to a guy in church but I’m not really there

 

Does he want to talk or is he glad I’ve taken away the pressure of the chat through the focus on my phone?

Should we talk? What should we talk about? The countdown has only gone down by thirty lazy seconds. Can’t the band stop being slaves to the countdown and start with the music? They are ready, aren’t they?

Do they really have to hold hands and mumble final prayers on the side of the stage just to make sure God’s Spirit is with them as they do what they’re going to do in the meeting. Weren’t the prayers they prayed at rehearsals enough? Perhaps they just want to be double sure.

There’s still five minutes on the countdown. What could talk to the guy next to me about? Am I obligated to speak to him? I’m just here for church not for another meaningless conversation with another guy I might get to next to again in a year.

Wait, did I just say I came for church? Then am I missing the point?

What if I asked him how him and his family were doing? I mean not like how I asked the man in the car park, as a greeting, without even pausing for his response. But really asked how he was doing and I prayed with him of he needed prayer.

Maybe something great is happening in his life and he’s looking for someone to share how good God had been on his life and that could be one of the ways he glorifies God today?

Maybe if I talked to Him I might hear God answering some of the questions I asked him this week. Maybe?

Gee, I can’t believe I’m so impatient to have church instead of being the church with the guy next to me. How many opportunities have I missed to be the Church when I’ve come to church? How many people in this hall are having the same experience and thoughts I am right now?

Isn’t community about interacting with fellow followers of the Way and not just standing next to each other singing the words on the screen? I’m not saying we shouldn’t sing, I’m just wondering if I’ve made that the object and overlooked the other experiences God has for others and me.

What if God wanted me to sit next to this guy so that our interaction enriches both of us and He is glorified through that?

Is this dude next to me thinking what I’m thinking of just wondering why the countdown is being beat by snails? Maybe he’s thinking the stage guys have put too much smoke on stage today.

Uhm…

How can I claim to be a part of the community of believers when I’m not even making effort to be community? Everyone has a bad day; today is my turn to have one and not be bothered. Jesus, I’m sure you understand. Right?

Oh we’ll, I was about to start the conversation but the band just started the first song. It’s not like I can ask this gentleman to step into the foyer and tell him I’m sorry for shutting him out and I just didn’t feel like talking to anyone.

I’m so impatient to have church instead of being the church with the guy next to me [Click to Tweet]

I mean we’re here to worship God so why would I want to distract this guy? Will I regret not talking to this guy after the meeting? During the week? How long will the guilt last. Perhaps a week like when I didn’t talk to the woman in last week’s meeting. But with her I didn’t want to interrupt her checking her emails on her iPad before the meeting started.

Oops, I’ve been calling this a meeting; it should be “worship experience”. I should go back and edit this. Wait, what have I done by not talking to this man? Should I feel guilty? Have I failed God? Or failed this man?

Should I talk to the guy sitting next to me in Church? [Click to Tweet]

Ah… I wish I were sitting next to my friend on the other side. Gee, this third song needs to come down a couple of keys for the entire congregation to be able to sing. Is that a typo on the screen?

I’m still feeling bad for not talking to this guy but hopefully he’ll get over it…

What if my internal conflict and the question of speaking to this guy is God sending me? Am I running?

[Photo Credit: amslerPIX]

Church Clothes

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Human standards and practices are often what get in the way from getting to God. As Christ followers we’ve been guilty of misrepresenting God.

Often, it is not that God people aren’t interested in God; it is that He is misrepresented. Take Jonah’s story for example, he was sent to a particular city, a particular people by God, because He had a heart for them.

Others

Jonah decided to make his own call against that. He became the judge of who deserved God’s message and grace. There are times I’ve acted same. For that, God forgive me.

When God challenges us to reach someone or some people and I do the opposite I have declared they don’t deserve God’s grace. We, as the Church, must guard from this.

Lecare’s mix tape, Church Clothes, touched on this. He was addressing the experience of some people when it came to how they were unaccepted because of how they looked.

He challenged how we, as Christ followers, can create molds, which hinder others from a relationship with God. On the mixtape’s title track, he closes with:

If God’s goin’ to take me as I am I guess I already got on my Church clothes [Click to Tweet]

On point. If there’s a message that should resound strongly is God’s acceptance of people with the ‘clothes’ they have on.

Clothes can be baggage people carry, the way they perceive themselves or are perceived by others.

Real forgiveness and grace, the God kind, starts with complete acceptance of people [Click to Tweet]

I’m thinking through how I’ve created prerequisites for people to know God. False hoops to jump through. They don’t please God and get in the way of people knowing Him and the freedom and life He gives.

Me

While keeping in mind not to create conditions for others I also have to be careful not to create similar hoops for myself. Sometimes I forget that God loves me as I am. I forget that the same way He doesn’t want me to create conditions for others getting to Him, I shouldn’t do the same for myself.

Sometimes I forget that God already loves and accepts me as I am that I try to win His approval, something I already have. Sounds lame, but I sometimes suffer from ‘spiritual stupidity’.

I forget that I’m already wearing my Church clothes. That God accepts me as I am. I forget that God sends me as I am. I forget:

God accepting me as I am is that starting place to becoming who He wants me to be [Click to Tweet]

There are times I forget that God accepts me as I am to make me who He wants me to be and not the other way round. The Jonah I Am needs to remember:

If God’s goin’ to take me as I am I guess I already got on my Church clothes.

Making Sense Of… | Jonah Notes #01

Jonah notes is about highlighting anything noteworthy fitting into the I Am Jonah theme. This is the first (hopefully of many) of summaries of things worth noting.

The series will focus on things that we need to grapple with, in search for alignment with what God expects of me, of us, as Christ followers.

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The Meaning Of Christian Community

This was a post by Joel J. Miller, author of Lifted by Angels. His post, “What does ‘Christian’ community mean?” raises the question of how we are to be part of the community of believers.

What is the place for our preferences in light of the community? He asks: “But what can community actually mean if the individual is ultimate?”

Check out his post here

The Perfect Way To Do Church

Related to Joel’s post, Carlos Whittaker says, “I found the secret… THE PERFECT WAY to do church…” Carlos is a worship leader and has served in a large Church and varied contexts.

Carlos raises a point, which I feel we need to attention to. He makes what I think is the ultimate and most important point but I won’t spoil it for you. Check out the post.

The Pig Prayer

The legend, Jon Acuff, author of Stuff Christians Like, asks, “I read the Bible and scoff in dismay at people who cared more about their pigs than the healing of two demon possessed men. “How could they be so blind?”

He closes his post, by stating how torn apart He is between what God wants and how he wrestles. Oh, and the title of his post? “The Pig Prayer“.

On I Am Jonah

The most shared post was “Why I Am Jonah” which introduced the blog, journal, whatever you want to call it. It gave a general “why” for this blog, explaining the rift that sometimes exists between God’s desire for us and hour desires.

Someone Else’s Skateboard” was a glimpse into the reality of temptation, which some Christians will not give.

Similar to themes of Carlos and Joel’s post, incidentally I wrote before I saw the posts was “The Church: Loving Her While Hating Her Practices“. The post touched on the challenge of separating what the Church from her practices.

Outro

It is comforting to see how real others are about their faith and things they’re grappling with. From understanding the true meaning of community and the church to trying to really follow God.

My prayer: God help me to be a part and be the Church as you’ve intended. Help me know what it means to die to myself for the sake of community when I need to. Give me more courage to hold on to your desire and love for others and not my preferences or desires. Amen.

[image by cogdogblog | cc]

The Church: Loving Her While Hating Her Practices

The Church is not the massive building with a steeple. Neither are the fancy theatre seats, lights, smoke and screens on the wall some think it is.

Ingrid, some friends and I recently had a long talk about what the Church is and her practices. We talked for hours but there was still a lot unsaid when we stopped.

The consensus, we were not happy with some of the things the Church at large did. One of the things that was easy for us to agree on at the onset of our discussion was that we loved the Church but hated some of the practices people did in the Church.

None of us could stomach instances where non-biblical practices were taken to be what every expression of the Church must be doing. Looking into the Bible, we cannot find some practices, such as the order of how a ‘worship service’ is done now.

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that i’d see Your Church as you do and love her the same. amen.

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Frank Viola and George Barna did a great work researching the source of some Church’s practices in their book, Pagan Christianity. I agree with them in some instances on what the Church needs to be weary of.

At some point after that I did become critical, perhaps too critical of the practices of some local Churches I visited.

I love the Church. My wrestle is when she is made to be what she is not nor should be… That irks me.

The challenge with what I see the Church as in some contexts is that it could be reason enough to distance oneself from her. It is like the trend of young people wanting to shed the label ‘Christian’, because of the connotations it carries in the present culture, for the ‘Christ follower’.

We concluded we could stay away from the Church, as we know it or we could simply model what we see the Bible teach us it should be.

I resigned to not care about practices if they are not in violation of what Scripture teaches the Church should be.

I have preferences as far as practices are concerned. However, I need to be careful that my preferences don’t violate what God wants me to be as part of the Church and what to do in the Church because that is how He touches the world; through me.

There is still the question I’m trying to shake off from the book Pagan Christianity, so what if present day liturgy has its roots in pagan worship? If it is sincerely directed at God, is God not pleased with the worship?

How much do the methods or local expressions of the Church matter? Of course, they cannot, must not contradict everything that is Godly…

The Church is God’s idea not man’s. Some practices are man’s and not God’s.

The wrestle is separating the two. It is staying true to what God wants foremost and not my preferences. I am Jonah.

[image by Balaji.B | cc]