Category Archives: Churchiness

The Church Farce: Are You and I In On It? (Free Quiz Inside!)

I’m realizing more and more the true condition of humans —  you and me.

Brokenness.

We spend our whole lives making sure no one sees the cracked pieces we’re trying to hold together.

Take 10 of us Malayalees, and we’re no different from any other culture in our brokenness. Somewhere among that 10, there’s at least one: abusive spouse, molested child, porn addict, paranoid schizophrenic and someone who can’t keep food on the table for their children. And plenty who feel irreparably guilty either for something they’ve done or something done to them.

It’s human nature to feel like everyone else is normal and try to act like you’re normal, too.

In Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, the characters spend much time pretending to be someone else or being mistaken for someone else.

Believers are hungry for the realness of God. I think He’s real when He takes messed up people and heals their brokenness. When I’m with believers, I want to acknowledge that we are all so flawed. I want to talk to that person who [insert sin here] and say, I feel ya, man. If I were to look at this person in shock and judgment, I would be judging myself. And contributing to the farce that our churches are made of perfect people.

THE FARCE (Are you and I in on it?)

Have you ever gone to a wedding where a speaker talks about the wonderful reputation of the bride and groom? She’s in the choir, he’s a Sunday School teacher, and so on.

Apparently the activities you do in church make you a good person. Sometimes I don’t like the idea of being on stage because I don’t like the idea that I’m projecting some image that I’m any more righteous than the person sitting in church that everyone is afraid to talk to because they committed some unforgivable sin.

Our churches buy into the lie that once you commit the wrong offense and it goes public, your place is sitting stone cold in a pew (if not outside the church). God forbid that there is still a divine purpose for your life. God forbid that you could get back on track, become a servant leader and be a symbol of God’s restoration and amazingness.

Christ died on the cross and shed his blood because you and I need his grace and forgiveness. The minute you think you’re any better than an “outed” sinner, you’re fooling yourself.

You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. 2 I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard?3 Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?[a] 4 Have you experienced[b] so much in vain—if it really was in vain? 5 So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? – Galatians 3

Could we do this —

Could we create an atmosphere where the woman who had an abortion — the pastor’s wife, the single college student — where they could find the help they need? Where church/God is their answer?

What is the purpose of church?  Is it a private country club to let you socialize and keep your children safe? Or does it have a responsibility to feed the hungry and teach the homeless, to welcome the sinner and prove the worth of the cross?

THE FREE QUIZ

When a broken person knocks on your church door — disheveled/homeless/hungry/abused, whatever, how do you respond?

A) Sorry we’re having a service in our native language right now.

B) There’s a [insert ethnicity here] church up the road. Good luck.

C) Call 211. You don’t have a phone? Good luck. 

D) I think there’s a food pantry 15 minutes from here. Don’t know the name. You don’t have a car or Google Maps? Good luck.

The past few months I’ve witnessed churches who have taken the gospel to heart and are taking responsibility for people who need help. They refuse to limit salvation to people of their color or perceived status.

I will be sharing some examples in posts to come. I’m not an expert on the purpose of the church or serving the broken, but I welcome discussion so we can all make good decisions when opportunities arise to serve Jesus in disguise.

  42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ – Matthew 25

Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/paullonghurst/3539716916/

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The Church With No Sinners

These days I think churches are fighting the perfection complex. The idea that we only want “people like us” who live perfect lives on the outside.

Years ago I heard someone debate whether a divorced person should be welcomed in their church. “What if they set a bad example for our kids?”

I wanted to throw up. I think today traditional churchgoers  are moving toward stopping the pretending. They know their own lives are dysfunctional live everyone else’s. We all need help.

I work at a charity where neighbors come in every day to get food and clothing for their families. One woman told me how she got tired of nothing in her life working out. Her mom was sick and her sister had MS. When her son got cancer, it was the last straw, and she almost lost it.

One day as she argued with her husband she just left the house. She didn’t know where she was going. She just wanted to go to church. She drove around searching, still in her house clothes, with a voice inside telling her no one would accept her looking the way she did. She was used to not being accepted.

She arrived at the church. As she turned the doorknob into the sanctuary, the voice taunted her again. But she spoke out against it and was so hungry for something more. God started speaking to her. She started to see her circumstances in a new way and somehow discerned that she didn’t have to worry anymore; God was in control of everything.

The people in that church warmly welcomed her when she most needed it.

I hope all our churches can respond with warmth and welcome for that desperate person in need.

Because we’ve all been there or will be.

“What Would People Say?” And Other Perceived Barriers

Can’t do this. Can’t do that.

What would people say?

Sometimes you’re at the mercy of a community that holds your reputation hostage. IF YOU LET IT.

My friends have two of the cutest dogs you ever saw. Every time I knock on their door, the dogs bark like crazy, excited to lick and paw at whoever comes their way. But they’re stuck behind a little indoor security gate that leans against the wall at the bottom of the stairs.

If these pups simply tipped over the fence with a nudge of their nose or even jumped over it, they would be free.

But fear and obedience keep them behind that weak little gate. That’s their routine, their sense of security. Continue reading

The More Spiritual You Are, the Less You Need to Think.

“Part of the problem in contemporary Christianity, I believe, is that talk about freedom of the Spirit, about the grace which sweeps us off our feet and heals and transforms our lives, has been taken over surreptitiously by a kind of low-grade romanticism, colluding with an anti-intellectual streak in our culture, generating the assumption that the more spiritual you are, the less you need to think.”

-N.T. Wright

Read more in Glenn Packiam’s Why Thinking is a Vital Part of Christian Growth.

For the past few years, I’ve found myself less interested in the praise and worship songs portion of church and pining for a deeper understanding of scriptures and their greater context.

What are the questions I need to ask that I haven’t been asking?

What spiritual myths have I been accepting just because I’ve heard them enough times? I recently heard that the Bible doesn’t state a requirement to be baptized before taking Holy Communion. Something I need to study for myself.

I had a friend who enjoyed the Presbyterian church because it was cerebral and not overly dependent on emotion.

Glenn Packiam says we should let Truth define Experience instead of letting Experience define Truth.

What can our churches do to be places that offer that type of truth? To be a place where it’s OK to think?

What can we do to be members that encourage truth-discovering?

What happened in your life that led you to find truth? Did it happen in a church or elsewhere?

Why a Non-Believer at Your Church Would Throw Up a Little

Atheist Gina Welch faked a conversion, got baptized, went on a mission trip and attended Thomas Road Baptist Church for two years, taking detailed notes that she published in a book.

I’ve always struggled with the preaching-to-the-choir, inward-looking nature of the church.

I’m a believer, and though I attend churches and see good things come out of them, I also see how institutionalizing faith can lead to degenerating faith and advancing false teachings.

And institutionalizing faith also leads to clones, what I often call “stupid sheep,” who listen and accept their environment without thoughtfully questioning it.

This makes churches unwelcome places for people who don’t already believe. Plenty of times I’ve cringed in church at intolerant language, hoping that no non-believers were around to witness it.

Welch points out inconsistencies she saw in the church she attended and notes certain token phrases that don’t necessarily make sense to everyone.

“Evangelical language was a language of its own, where the rhetoric often didn’t mean what the words seemed to signify in English. Words were encoded symbols used to describe feelings evangelicals  understood. Sometimes I was able to understand these feelings and crack the code on a turn of the phrase. But not so with the personal relationship with God. With this I scraped and scraped for a more direct meaning, but each layer I revealed was just another picture of a picture.” (236)

When you’ve been in the same culture or environment for years, of course everything makes sense to you. But does that rule still make sense when you leave that context?

Non-spiritual example: I’ve met people who think women can’t understand computer science or make 3-pointers in basketball. In their world, they have observed this consistently. In my world, I’ve observed the opposite. Just because you’ve consistently observed something in one context doesn’t make it universally true.

Spiritual example: Some people believe wearing jewelry or make-up means you are pleasing your flesh or being materialistic. While others see it as a neutral activity that has no bearing on spiritual identity.

Doubt, Debate and Decide

It’s when you step outside your box that you begin to doubt, debate and then either reject your previous views, adjust them or fortify them.

Two Ways To Avoid Being a Church Clone Continue reading

Facebook Status of the Month

listening to secular music reminds me of how great God can be. listening to christian music reminds of how gay christianity can be..

My friend posted this status online. So poignant! I’m not a fan of using the word “gay” pejoratively, but he gets his point across.

There’s a website called Jesus Needs New PR. You could start a similar website called Christianity is Gay. (But again, it’s not nice to use “gay” pejoratively.)

I love being out in the real world. Learning how different people think, what logic works for them, how they were raised differently. I love when my worldview is challenged, when I run into a brick wall and have to reshape where I had gone wrong and was shortsighted.

I love that I don’t have all the answers, but I will be a lifelong seeker in my quest to get closer to them.

I love that sometimes the answer is actually more questions and more cloudiness and that in that way I can walk away from narrow-minded, easy, second-hand “truths.”

God exists in the real world. Christianity gets real cheesy when you pretend God doesn’t exist in the real world. We are so quick to divide between right and wrong. If you do X, Y, or Z, you suddenly fit into the bad person group and ostensibly have no connection to God.

But the truth is we all make mistakes, and that’s when redemption becomes truer than ever. You can’t strip away someone’s humanity out of self-righteousness.

I love the world outside of church and outside of the deceptive “order” imposed by culture. In the real world, in complexity, in brokenness, you find God and why He’s so freakin awesome.

That’s why you won’t find me singing hymns and scriptures all day on my blog (as much as I love them). Sometimes I feel like we mask ourselves when we put on our “church” words and voices. I want to be real! For some people, churchiness is real and sincere. But I’m more of a nitty gritty “let’s talk about drugs, sex and poop” real. Hope that’s OK.