Tag: church (page 1 of 4)

4 Ways I Plan to Contribute to Building Community


Over the last several years I have had three different blogs, each with decidedly different goals. My last blog, TheWholeMan.co, was focused on helping men find healing and wholeness in Christ. You can read about how TWM ended HERE. But, after a year of writing toward that purpose, I realized that God had been moving my heart toward encouraging and helping other Christians build healthy and lasting community centered on Jesus Christ. My friends and I have coined it Gospel Centered Community (GCC).

Since August, when I stopped writing on TWM, I have spent a lot of time thinking about the focus and goal of this website. Here is what I want BrucePagano.com to be focused on:

Build and help others build lasting Gospel Centered Community (GCC).

For so many being a part of a church is simply attending a Sunday event. When I read the bible I don’t see church defined as someplace the followers of Jesus go to learn about Him. Instead I read about a community of believers that have committed to following Him, together, in their daily lives. There is so much more that needs to be said about what community centered on Jesus could and should looked like, but there will be plenty of opportunity to flesh that out in future posts. In the meantime, I want to focus on building and helping others to build lasting community.

Here are four ways at this blog will promote that:

1. Sharing our journey toward building GCC.

This past November I left the church, where I was on staff, so that I could answer God’s call to build community in our neighborhood. My wife and I discussed this for months before my last Sunday on staff. Every time we talked about it there was a recurring theme of “live where you live.” So we are going to do that. Over the next couple years we plan to really live where we live. We will shop; work and build a church community all near our home. We will engage our neighbors, prayer walk our neighborhoods and really make it a point to intentionally invest in relationships with those around us. As we do that and learn, I will share it on this blog.

2. Encouraging others in their pursuit of Jesus.

I am confident that community is one of the primary vehicles in which we experience healing and wholeness in Jesus. Because of that, the focus of a lot of what I write will be on encouraging others to really go after following Jesus. My hope is that what I write challenges us, as a community, to grow deeper into our relationship with Jesus and each other.

3. Contributing to the God’s story in healthy and beneficial ways.

God continues to write the story of humanity. It is a beautiful story that we get to be a part of. Everything that we create fits into His story; some in helpful ways and some in hurtful ways. My intention is that anything I contribute to that story is both healthy and beneficial to the Christian community, who are trying to share that story with others.

4. Inviting others into the conversation about what it means to live in GCC

I don’t pretend to know everything there is to know about building community, loving God or loving and serving others. Sometime I actually do all of those rather poorly. What I do know is I want to learn to love God and my neighbors better, and the key to that is community. I also know there are others who are farther along in their journey, in some or all of those areas. Because of that, I want to invite others to join me in the conversation about what it means to live in community with others. If you have questions, ask. If you have wisdom, share. Either way, I would love for you to join me.

I am excited about this new journey and even more excited to help others build lasting community.

photo: https://hcsj.org/community

Dear Millennials, It’s time to move on

MillennialI’m not a millennial, I missed being part of that generation by about 3 to 5 years. I prefer to think of myself as a recovering Gen X-er (1965-1984), although, depending on who you ask I may be a Gen Y-er (1976ish-2004ish), which I’d totally be ok with. Regardless, I ended up sitting just outside of the group dubbed millennials. But, even though I’m not one, I’ve spent a ton of time with a bunch of them and I’m married to one, so I do have some firsthand knowledge about them and I absolutely love them as a generation. That being said, I think it’s time for them to move on.

One of the hottest topics on the church scene today is their exodus (real or perceived) from Christianity. And everyone has something to say about it. Nearly every church is clamoring to find ways to get them back in the pews (or padded chairs). Pastors are writing articles and books about why they should comeback and millennials are writing books about all of it; why they left, what would cause them to consider returning and even why they’ll never return. There’s a lot of writing on it. In fact, if you were to Google the words, “Millennials Leave Christianity” you would get about 745,000 hits. Obviously some of those will be duplicates, and if you vary the word order or use slightly different words you end up with fewer hits, but the point is, a lot people are concerned about millennials leaving Christianity.

I get it. I’m just as concerned when people leave the Church. I hate the idea of people leaving a community that’s supposed to be drawing close to Jesus because they’re angry, hurt or longing.  But I’m lost for why that concern is directed solely at millennials, love them as I do. Lots of people walk away from church. And I’m convinced that if someone can willingly turn their back on Jesus and His bride, then they were probably sold a version of Christianity, unintentionally or not, that told them that once converted, “every little thing was gonna be alright.”  A person’s ability to walk away from Christ always causes me to question whether they’ve ever actually experienced the genuine love of Jesus. I’m certain that if they had, walking away would be a near, if not completely, impossible task. But, I digress, for some reason our biggest concern is millennials leaving. And that’s fine for a season. It’s prompted some great discussion for why people leave and how to get to a place of deep community and love.

Rachel Held Evans is one of the more popular voices on the subject, writing blogs and books, her latest being Searching for Sundays (which full disclosure, I haven’t read, but I’m sure it’s on par with the high quality of her other writings). In a recent article she wrote for The Washington Post she said that all her searching has led her to the Episcopal Church and confesses that it was the sacraments that brought her back. I’ve read a number of articles, in addition to her’s, suggesting that a liturgical, sacramental focused Christianity is the best way to win millennials back. Maybe. Others, like Matthew Drake, have said that not even liturgy or sacraments will entice him back into the fold. He suggests that liturgical and sacramental church is as inauthentic, just a different kind, as the mega-church that millennials are leaving. All that to say that a lot of people have a lot of opinions, reasons and ideas about why they’re leaving, how to get them back or why it’ll never happen. But none of that matters.

I feel like it’s been given the attention that it needs. There are other demographics leaving the church and no one is writing about them. Maybe because they tend to leave quieter. Maybe because they don’t exactly know how to articulate why they’re leaving. And what about the large number of people that stay in church, because they grew up in the church or because a “good” person goes to church, but never knows the changing power of the Holy Spirit? I don’t see any articles about the guy in his 50s that has always attended church, every Sunday, but never, in 30 years, actually allowed Jesus to change his heart. Where’s those articles? Attending church doesn’t make you a Jesus follower anymore than seeing a movie makes you an actor. But this is where we’ve arrived, millennials. I think there’s two types of millennials in this whole “leaving” thing; the nominal and the seeker.

Without a deep connection to Jesus sacraments and liturgy become inauthentic.

Tweet: Without a deep connection to Jesus sacraments and liturgy become inauthentic. | #ApproachGod http://ctt.ec/UbDXV+ via @bpags2 #Millennial

The nominal millennial Christian likely came to church because someone invited them, so they went, loved the atmosphere, connected with the idea of participating in a social justice movement and bought into the buzzwords around following Jesus. Eventually they began to feel that “church” lacked depth and realized that it didn’t take church to promote social justice. So they left. But, because they were in church long enough, they feel like they have the experience and justification to offer advice on what needs to change in order to create depth. All in all, the Church might win some of them back, but most of them won’t come back. There was a significant lack of genuine connection and communion with Jesus, so they don’t know that they should be missing something or that their could be and should be more. Liturgy and sacraments won’t draw them back. If it does, it’ll be short lived. Without a deep connection to Jesus, sacraments and liturgy become, as Drake suggests, just as inauthentic. Sadly, if they already view church as inauthentic, little may change that view.

The seeker millennial Christian may have arrived at church and may be leaving for similar reasons as the nominal, but there are a few minor, but significant, differences. They’ve experienced Jesus and encountered community. They’ve tasted and seen that He is good. They’ve known His love and they know that it moves you to something deeper and so real that it is open and inviting to everyone. That’s not to say that traditional church is wrong, but the seeking millennial is being drawn to a deepness that they haven’t been able to find in the church that they’re leaving. I’m not convinced that most of them will be back either, but they want to be back, it just may not be in the way that we want them back. Frankly, I don’t want them back, not back where they came from. I want them to return to the body, but in a way that creates deep community centered on Jesus and goes to others seeking the same.

I think the best place for the millennial that’s seeking a deeper more meaningful communion with Jesus and His bride is wherever they feel like God is calling them to do that. If it’s their house with a few other believers, awesome. If it’s the Krispie Kreme with people that aren’t sure what they believe, even better. If it’s in a liturgical and sacramental focused Episcopalian church, that’s good too. The point is, I think writing about what might get them back has run it’s course; and I say that fully loving the fact that we get to have these discussions, especially in the medium of the written word. The time for action is here. The more we try to figure out how to draw them back, the more we potentially neglect those already sitting in the padded chairs. I’m sorry millennials, I love you, but it isn’t all about you. Instead, what if we helped the millennial figure out what God is calling them to rather than what the they are calling for us to change? What if we partnered with the millennial and discipled and guided them through where ever God is leading their heart? Better yet, what if millennials got together around God’s word and waited for Him to move?

To be fair, I’m sure it isn’t as simple as a right down the middle split of nominal v. seeker, but from what I’ve seen and read, those are the two biggest players. To be even more fair, I know a lot of millennials that are already doing this and it’s awesome. You can check out a few of them at Fresh Expressions or 1 Body. I think what it comes down to is that it’s probably better to focus on what God’s calling you to and witout trying to change the vision that others feel God has called them to. We’re one body with many parts. All together we’re His bride, and she’s beautiful.

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Are You Discontent with Your Church?

Church GoersYou should totally tell everyone in your small group. If you’re not in a small group, post on Facebook all the ways that your church is doing church wrong. The best thing to do when you’re discontent with the church you attend is to complain until you can’t stand it anymore and then leave and start attending another church, but don’t forget the scathing email, disguised as “loving advice,” to the lead pastor as you exit. After that, start telling everyone how great it is and how they’re “doing” church so much better. At least until they do something that you don’t like. Better yet, instead of just attending another church, just across town, start your own “new” thing. But make sure it’s started on the grounds that you can do it better and completely based on frustration and anger at the “system” you left… is the advice that most Christian would never accept as “good,” but is actually the way that so many will leave their current church.

I know that for the last few years I’ve been an advocate for doing church differently, but I’ve never said that I had THE way or even a better way, just a different way. It’s the way that I feel God has called me to. It’s a model that is intended to serve and love people that traditional models would likely never reach. It’s the result of years of prayer, seeking God’s wisdom and collaboration with other believers. It isn’t built out of anger toward another model or a specific church. It isn’t even built out of frustration toward a model that others use. It was not built out of a discontentment, or dissatisfaction, with someone else’s model, but from seeing groups of people that other models, not for not trying, couldn’t reach. It was built out of a desire, that God placed in my heart, to see more people join us in the Kingdom and become disciples of Jesus, that make disciples of Jesus. It was built out of a God given desire to see the marginalized find healing in Jesus.

With that said, it wasn’t something that came easy. As I said, it took a lot of prayer and wrestling with what God was calling me to. At the beginning I did think, for just a second, that there may be a problem with the way “traditional” church was “doing it.” But, I had a great community of people that I was able to talk through it with. My lead pastor (at that time), coach and friend, Jeff Maness, helped guide me through it, wether he knows that or not (maybe I should make sure he knows). And, a lot of prayer and seeking God revealed that it had nothing to with the ministries that God had called others to and had everything to do with what He was calling me to. And that’s where so many, that are not happy in their current church, miss it.

If this sounds like where you’re currently at or potentially headed toward, I think there’s two main things that could be happening.

1: God is calling you to something else.

This was my situation. God had placed a desire in my heart that took years of cultivating and watering for it to develop. Being dissatisfied with something is a hard thing, especially when you don’t know what exactly you’re discontent with. Some of the most frustrating times in my life have been when I was discontent, but couldn’t pinpoint any particular area or thing that was causing it. Turns out that most of those times, it was a discontentment that God had placed in me because He was calling me to something new.

It’s so easy to misinterpret or mistranslate that discontentment and assign it to the very thing we’re being called away from. For me it’s because fear tells me I’m not good enough or equipped to do that new thing. So, instead of exploring and seeking where the discontentment is coming from and where it may be leading, we try to figure out how to change where we currently are, in an attempt to be content. In church that looks like attenders that convince themselves that their church is “doing” church wrong. All of the sudden, you’re more focused on what you’re not getting and why it’s your church’s fault, rather than seeking to follow Jesus well and being obedient to God’s call on you.

The truth is, if your church is teaching Christ and Him crucified, then the method they use isn’t wrong. If Jesus is central to the pastor’s teaching, chances are he is listening to the call God placed in his heart and the church model he is using is what God has called him to. You don’t get to influence that just because you feel like it should be done a different way. That leads us to number two.

2: You want something that you’re not getting.

This is going to seem a bit harsh, but it’s a very real possibility and potentially something that needs to be wrestled with. In some circumstances, there are people that perceive, for whatever the reason, that the church leadership is not giving them the authority or influence that they feel they deserve. Typically this is the result of the person having attended for a significant amount of time or having held lower lay-leader positions (small group leader, kids church class leader, etc.). Whatever the case, the person feels like they’ve gown to a level of maturity or leadership that their church leaders should recognize and reward with increased leadership. When that doesn’t happen, all of the sudden the church is “doing it wrong.”

This is a pride issue. If this is the case, then maybe maturity hasn’t been achieved in any great measure and maybe you haven’t gained the leadership traits you thought you had. When this happens and the person doesn’t seek God and wise counsel to deal with it, the result can play out in a couple ways:

1) The discontent member simply complains to other members. This just creates dissension, disharmony and disunity. This is no good. In fact, in Proverbs 6:19 God identifies “one who sows discord among brothers” as one of the seven sins that are an abomination. At the minimum it creates tension within the congregation. Worse case, if the person is someone that people will follow, it detracts from others’ relationship with God and that’s how church splits happen. I’ve seen churches that were started as a result of anger, pride and discontentment; they aren’t healthy and typically don’t last.

2) The discontent member stews in his/her discontentment until they can’t take it anymore and decide they need to leave. Typically they leave by sending the lead pastor a scathing letter/email written “in love,” but really it has no love in it anywhere. After that they leave and begin attending a new church that has an almost identical model as the one they left. In no time the person is discontent with the way that the new church is “doing” it and they’re looking to change them or they leave. Sometimes they get the idea to start a church of their own, but again, they typically aren’t healthy and don’t last.

So what do you do, then? Talk with others. But talk with them in healthy ways. Be honest that you’re discontent with something, but you’re not clear on what. Seek God. Pray, read the bible and journal. Let God clarify for you. And He will. He promises that if we draw close to Him, He’ll draw close to us. Continue to joyfully serve where you’re at. If you’re serving God and others, no one, not even you, will benefit from you being angry with something that you’re not clear on. If you just can’t get passed it, maybe consider stepping out of whatever roll you’re serving in and take a season of simply attending and seeking.

After that, if God is calling you to something new, awesome. It’s so exciting and scary and amazing and God is bigger than any of that. New things are God’s thing and you can leave a church well, with the church’s blessing. But remember, the most important thing you can do for God is be obedient in where He currently has you and the most important ministry you’ll ever serve in, is the one you’re currently serving in; be there joyfully.

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