Tag: Unity (page 1 of 2)

The President, Jesus and Our Allegiance

I am concerned about us. Not as a country. America will keep trucking along its progressive path as it always has. I am concerned about us as a church, as a body under the headship of Jesus. We are becoming increasingly divided. Of course division within the Church is not a new thing. I am fully aware of the many splits and the reasons for them, throughout our church history. I am familiar with why so many denominations exist. However, none of that changes the amount of distance this past political season has added to the divide.

Christian or Patriot

For over a year, leading up to the election this past November, I have seen and heard so many people equate being patriotic with being a “good” Christian. In fact, it is not simply the view that Christianity is the same as patriotism; it is carelessly viewed as a political issue on the same level as gun rights. Here is a couple examples of some memes that list Christianity among other political or social issues…

Allegiance

Christianity shows up right in the middle of a list involving patriotism and guns. Here is another one…

Allegiance

Again, Christian shows up right in the middle of an obviously politically charged list of issues. And it is presented in a blatantly divisive and excluding way. Not only is it polarizing, it suggests that a Christian cannot possibly hold liberal views. The inference is that a Christian has to be a gun-loving, conservative who runs around saying ‘merica. It rejects the possibility of any other view and alienates entire parts of the body of Christ. To be fair, there are many Christians who would view themselves as liberals that also contribute to this division and alienation. Unfortunately, it is the conservative side (typically White Evangelicals) who are often more verbal about the supposed marriage between American nationalism, or patriotism, and Christianity.

I did look for memes that expressed a liberal view of Christianity as American, but they almost do not exist. The best I could do was this one, that suggests conservatism is not consistent with Christianity.

Allegiance

Allegiance to Christ

My issue has nothing to do with whom you support as the president; support whomever you feel aligns best with your values. Moreover, if you are a Christian, God commands us to pray for the president regardless of your political leaning. Nevertheless, the truth is, Christianity is not synonymous with American patriotism. You can be a Christian fully apart from being an American. The reverse is also true. Still, the depth of your love for your country is not a measure for being a good Christian. Somehow, that continues to grow as the qualifier.

My concern is it seems many on both sides have forgotten the others are Christian. Maybe it is less of having forgot,and more of a rejection of the possibility. And why? Because they have different political views? With increasing frequency it seems as if Christians believe their commitment to a political candidate, or in this case a president, is allowed to trump ( see what I did there?) their commitment to fellow Christians. As Christians, when our allegiance to a political party, candidate, or president eclipses our allegiance to other believers, then by proxy it also eclipses our allegiance to Christ. The Apostle John says the same thing in 1 John 4:20. He said, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” When that happens, we need consider what we believe about unity and our allegiances.

Biblical Unity

So what does the Bible have to say about our allegiance and unity? A lot. The first commandment (Exodus 30:3) points specifically to our allegiance to God. It is clear that we should set nothing before God. From that foundation, the rest of the bible points toward full devotion to God and absolute unity among His people, both through Christ. In fact, the New Commandment Jesus gave to His disciples, and us, was to love each other so that the world would know we are His (John 13:34-35). The whole chapter of John 15 consist of Jesus explaining the importance of remaining in Him (commitment and allegiance). He goes on to describe how much the world will hate us because of Him and how unity, through loving each other, keeps us connected to Him.

In the end, following Christ requires that we be good citizens, but does not direct us to be patriots. Our real allegiance is not to the President, a flag, or even a country. Our real allegiance is to Jesus and His bride. We have to understand that His desire is unity among his body, not unity with the world. So support the President, pledge the flag, be patriotic for your country, but know it is just a shadow of what our allegiance to Jesus and His body should look like.

The ONLY “right” way to do church.

Right WayThere’s only one way to do church. That’s right, you read that correctly; only one way. And, because I’m a nice guy, I’m going to tell you what that right way is. But first let me say, it is definitely NOT the way that “traditional” institutional Sunday service focused church is doing it. I’m talking about all those churches like Saddleback, Mars Hill, New Spring, National Community Church, The Village Church and all of those similar to that model; big or small. It is also definitely NOT all those small community based churches, and that includes organic home churches, like SOMA, 1Body, and all the ones that I can’t mention because they’re so small they don’t have a webpage to link. None of them are doing it the right way. On the other hand, all of them could be doing it the right way.

You may be asking, “So, what’s the “right” way then?” I’ll get to that in a second, but first I need to clarify something and establish something else.

Clarifying: This post is NOT intended to dig at or cut down how any church is “doing” church. The model doesn’t matter and I’ll make that point in a minute. This post is also NOT intended to say that institutional church is doing it wrong. I grew up and met Jesus in “big” church. If not for going on Sundays and hearing the word preached, I’m not sitting here typing this.

Establishing: I want to be honest about where this post is coming from. Let me start by saying that I recently, with my wife and two long-time friends, started a small gospel centered community, all volunteer based neighborhood church. There are anywhere between 10 and 15 attenders (and that includes a lot of kids). So, my heart is for small church with big celebration. With that said, over the last few weeks I’ve heard and read a number of “institutional” church leaders, some from fairly large churches with decent influence, speak out about the topic that there is no “right” way to do church. A few of those posts/videos seemed really defensive and some even a little abrasive. Again, to to be honest, I’m not sure where this defensiveness is coming from. I follow a number of bloggers (both in large and small church settings) and I rarely see posts from organic/small/house church leaders that suggest that they have the “right” way to do church and big church is wrong or bad. What I do see is small church leaders sharing the call and vision that God has placed in their heart. I see them beckoning to those that are not in gospel community to come and join. I see them trumpeting God’s vision for church, for them, the same way I see large church leaders do it every Sunday. This post is not meant to put those leaders on blast. It’s meant to shed some light, reframe perspective and hopefully show the ability and necessity to be unified in one body and one Spirit.

It’s easy to point out what others are doing wrong. We can look at an individual, program or organization and see the little flaws that may be hurting them, whether they know or acknowledge them or not. Sometimes that’s good. If you’re a part of that organization, have earned a trusted voice there and have a heart for the vision and mission, “fresh eyes” are often welcomed. But, if you’re outside of that organization, aren’t trusted or don’t care about the vision, then voicing what you see is likely not helpful and will typically be taken as criticism for the sake of being a jerk and will often be disregarded. It’s also easier to make it seem like what you’re doing is better or right, if you can point out others’ errors. If that’s what you’re doing, then chances are you don’t actually believe what you’re doing is right or good. That’s what’s been happening in the Church.

Lots of big and small church leaders have written books or blogs about the “right” way to “do” church. Some of them point out all of the “wrong” stuff that the other is doing. I haven’t spoken to most of those leaders, but I imagine that the ones that point out what other churches are doing wrong and then counter with how they’re way is right, don’t really believe, deep in their heart, that they are really called to it. Or at the least, they haven’t spent time allowing God to cultivate the call in them.

As I mentioned, I’m part of a team that just started a small neighborhood church. It’s the culminated call of years of God’s cultivation and the beginning of His pruning and harvesting. I have journals, upon journals with writings about what church could look like, outside of the larger institutional model and different than the organic house church model. The vision God has planted in my heart falls somewhere in between those two models. But, I believe in it. I believe in that call and vision. And because I believe in it, I write about it and I plan to write about it a lot more. In that writing I always try to take care to not say either side is doing church wrong. Like I said, without institutional church, I’m not here. It’s never been about anyone doing church “right” or “wrong”. It’s about doing church the way that you feel God calling YOU to do church. Ultimately I don’t care how you do church as long as you do church. Realistically I’d like every Christian to understand what it means that we are church, but I’ll settle for doing church together in the mean time. What I, and many others, write isn’t an accusation toward big church “doing it wrong.”

My articles like Rethinking the Churches Front Door and It’s Not Your Pastor’s Job are not indications that I think institutional/big church models are wrong in the model they’re using or the work they’re doing. What it does mean is that I’m pursuing Jesus in a way that honors the call and vision that God has placed in my heart. It means that I believe in what God has invited me, and many others, to be a part of. It means that God has shown me that it works; both through my life and in the lives of others that I’ve been a part of. It means that God has revealed to me that there are people that neither traditional Sunday service focused church, nor simple organic home church will ever reach, but that this model will. It means that I know there are people that we will never reach with this model of church and I thank God that there are traditional Sunday service focused churches and simple organic home churches to do that. It means that I’m writing for those that God may be prompting to do something different or fresh.

My writing, and likely many others that are writing about the vision God has given them for church, is not a call to abandon the way that God has called you to be a part of or “do” church. It isn’t the antithesis of your model of church; it’s complimentary to it. It’s intended to be a different part of the same body. When you act offended at the notion that God may have shown someone else another way, you’re telling that part that they’re unnecessary. But “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you…’” I’ve heard so many pastors and leaders in traditional Sunday service focused churches say something to the effect of, “Our way isn’t the best or only way to do church, it’s a way and it’s the way that God has called us to.” If that’s a true statement, then the words directed at other churches should be ones of encouragement and building up.

The only way to do church is to answer the call to the community that God has placed in you. As long as it’s biblical and Jesus centered, you’ve got THE way to do church. Chances are, all of us have some aspect of church wrong. But, as long as we’re in a community of believers who’s sole purpose it to glorify and worship God, then you’re doing church “right.” Your full “rock” style band leading worship is no more wrong than your single guitar and djembe. Jesus said, the world will know we are his by our love for each other. Maybe we start by not being defensive toward one another and recognizing that we’re all doing the same work, His.

What are some ways that we can be unified as one body?

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I am for you

You, Me, WeWith Indiana passing the Religious Restoration Act into law, there’s been a lot of debate over it. I even joined the conversation. Even though the law doesn’t specify this, many Christians are looking to these types of laws to allow them to refuse service to people based on their own religious convictions; specifically providing services to gay couples that they determine would communicate an agreement with their lifestyle. My stance, like a handful of other Christians, is that Christians should not look to use this law as a means to usurp Jesus’ command to love their neighbor and to serve others. As I read through various articles, from both sides, I started to question what I’m trying to communicate through #ApproachGod.

I started to wonder if I had crossed a line and turned #ApproachGod into a vehicle for calling out all the things I didn’t agree with that Christians do; basically a “shaming” page for Christians. I also started to think about how unfair it must seem to expect Christians to behave a certain way and essentially let everyone else “off the hook.” Why should Christians be expected to be loving and welcoming and then not expect that from others? It just doesn’t seem fair on a lot of different levels. But that’s just how it is and it has to be that way. It’s what Jesus calls us to. It’s what sets us apart as His followers. The bible was written for Christians. Jesus was teaching His followers, us, to live and love a specific way. None of it was pointed toward or given to those that don’t believe in who Jesus is.

Jesus said, “…deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Self denial, carrying a cross and following aren’t easy tasks. Jesus never said it’d be easy. But, He also didn’t force us to pick up the cross. He actually gives you a choice and not everyone chooses Him; the rich young ruler didn’t. That’s the beauty of Jesus; He never forces Himself on you. Everyone of His followers are followers because they said yes; you chose to follow. He chose you, made an offer and you said yes. There’s so much more to that “yes,” but that requires a whole other blog, maybe 20, to cover that. But, regardless, YOU chose to surrender, which means you were accepting His command to love and serve others. There’s no way around that.

All that to say this, I’m for you. If you’re a Christians and you’re genuinely seeking to follow after Christ, I’m for you. If you’re not a Christian, and I’m for you also, just in a different way. No blog that I write is ever intended to call out Christians. They’re my people and I genuinely love them. I have friends at all different levels of maturity in Christianity and all different areas of conviction for various things, and I genuinely love them all. #ApproachGod is never intended to call Christians out, but it’s always intended to call them up. Every letter that an apostle wrote, that is now what we call the New Testament, was written with the intention of helping its recipients grow deeper and wider in Christ. My desire is that #ApproachGod will a dialogue within our faith communities that help others realize their ability, through Christ, to approach God and to help bring others into His presence. Jesus said, “…all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” I love you guys and I’m always open to dialogue.

I’ll end with Paul’s word to the Ephesian church,

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call…

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