Archives For church

I want to bring over a slightly edited archive post from one of my other blogs at RedLetterLiving.net for this Sunday’s post. It is from March 13.
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I’m not sure who brought up the concept but it is about how churches are actually more like clubhouses than anything else. They are buildings that are built almost exclusively for their members comfort. Yes that comfort does bring in some to hear the message but that seems to be very secondary at best.

I had a recent round of comments on this topic and it stirred up some heated words. It seems that calling a church a country club strikes the nerve of many Christians.  I think the ounce of truth in it is the reason.  Everyone wants to think that their church is somehow different from the others. They want to think that  what they give in weekly donations is for the greater good of God. But, facts simply don’t bear that belief out.  The majority of what they give stays within the church’s hierarchy.

When I was giving regularly to the small church I once belonged to I never deemed that the money I gave actually went to God’s work here or earth.  Being a regular member on the church board I realized that 99+% of what I gave ended up paying the mortgage, utilities and the pastor’s salary.  Did I feel guilty about that? No, not really. I know that this small church was struggling, and still struggles after almost ten years, to keep the doors open.  There is nothing wrong with needing a clubhouse.

But what is wrong is when we fail to recognize the fact that we are really not doing much in the community besides holding down a property.  We try to rationalize that giving a few families a turkey and canned goods during the Thanksgiving/Christmas holidays somehow meets our community obligations.  Being a church is supposed to be about showing God’s blessing throughout our communities. It is supposed to be about others and not ourselves.  When we finally acknowledge that fact and diligently plan on making  community support happen is when we turn the corner from clubhouse to church.  Sadly too many small churches fail to ever reach that point in their congregation’s life.

I am often accused of painting with too broad a brush in these types of posts so I want to  recognize that there are many churches out there that are very much valuable contributors to their communities. They run soup kitchens and food banks in the areas.  They open their doors on cold and windy nights for those who are homeless. In other words they act like they are followers of Jesus Christ. I celebrate every one of those churches.  But at the same time even those churches must be constantly tracking their allocations of funds.  It is impossible to give too much to your community instead of yourself.

Everyone needs a clubhouse that you can go to weekly. Where everyone know your name as the old Cheers TV show used to say. That is a valuable part of Christian fellowship but we must constantly remind ourselves that is supposed to be very much secondary to being our brother’s keeper and helping God’s kingdom come to earth as it is in heaven.

2014-04-03_13-58-04Here’s one person’s attempt to summarize the Gospel in a single sentence. It’s by Bruxy Cavey, the teaching pastor at The Meeting House. He says “The Gospel is the good news that God comes to us through Jesus to show us his love, save us from sin, set up his kingdom and shut down religion.” Just thirty words, but I think he does a great job of getting to the heart of what Jesus’ message is all about.

SOURCE:  The Gospel According To Who? | Stephen Jarnick | Red Letter Christians.

If you are interesting the the things behind these words check out his book entitled: The End of Religion

Rachel EvansWe want an end to the culture wars. We want a truce between science and faith. We want to be known for what we stand for, not what we are against.

We want to ask questions that don’t have predetermined answers.

We want churches that emphasize an allegiance to the kingdom of God over an allegiance to a single political party or a single nation.

We want to be challenged to live lives of holiness, not only when it comes to sex, but also when it comes to living simply, caring for the poor and oppressed, pursuing reconciliation, engaging in creation care and becoming peacemakers.

SOURCE:  Why millennials are leaving the church – CNN Belief Blog – CNN.com Blogs.

The above quote is from one of the bloggers in my Feedly stream. Rachel is a young religious blogger and author with a pretty large following of which I am one. The list above is part of a longer one about why so many young people  leave the church once they get out on their own.

I am definitely not a millennial as Rachel dubiously claims to be but I am certainly attuned to her list as many of the reasons I no longer attend a denominational service.

But this post is really intended to be about a mini-epiphany I had when I read this article. Almost everything on her list also could be said about the Republican party.  I’m not sure if this is a chicken/egg thing or an egg/chicken. Either way it means lost membership to the associated organization. I really mourn the continuing growing insignificance of both the church and the Republican party. I really want both to stay relevant in world today so I am hoping that eventually they will give up their stubbornness and destructive thinking and start listening to all the Rachel Held Evan’s out there.

Morf Morford considers himself a free-range Christian who is convinced that God expects far more of us than we can ever imagine, but somehow thinks God knows more than we do…..

As he’s getting older, he finds himself less tolerant of pettiness and dairy products.

SOURCE:  Morf Morford: It’s NOT the economy, stupid | Red Letter Christians.

I am going to do a rare cross post here between two of my blogs. I am doing so because I think this post has a spiritual as well as general message.

While the referenced source above is about life being more than just money, this post is actually just about the description of the author.  Besides having a very interesting name the author of this post over at Red Letter Christians has very interesting look on life. I am proud to say I share his views of God and getting older. But I guess I am luckier than hs is in one regard. I still drink lots of milk. They tell me it is good for my osteoporosis. 🙂

I too am currently a free-range Christian and have been for a few years now.  I am no longer instructed weekly in what I am supposed to believe. I no longer feel I need to jump through all the denominational belief hoops in order to be a Christian. I can now believe that God loves all of us and not just those who believe as I do.  Instead I now tend to look at the Lord’s word from a more personal, some might say naive, view. From what I can glean from the Christian Bible I also agree that God expects more from us than almost any of us can imagine or at least willing to put forward.

One of the things that pushed me out of the last church I was in (that is besides being nudged out the door because I did not tow the denominational line closely enough and was probably asking too many question in adult bible classes) was their stubborn insistence  that they have it all figured out and everyone else is just wrong in one thing or another.  In that regard, I also proudly share the belief that  God knows more than they do, or everyone else for that matter.

One of the things that prompted me to start my blog over at RedLetterLiving more than five years ago was that I just grew less tolerant to pettiness of some mainstream beliefs about the current version of church. In these five years I have learned that I am by no means alone in those feelings.

Thanks Morf for reminding me what it is all about….

Hunt Out The Good….

May 20, 2013

Banner - Will Rogers

“Hunt out and talk about the good that is in the other fellow’s church, not the bad, and you will do away with all this religious hatred you hear so much nowadays.” – Will Rogers, 11 March 1923

This quote from Will definitely applies to the churches in the U.S. but it equally applies to many other things that are problematic in our country today.  As I commonly state on my other blog over at RedLetterLiving.net there are currently more than 39,000 different versions of the Christian church in the world. Most are the result of splits around different beliefs about this or that. We seem to always be looking at why we should be different and split rather than what we have in common. If we only took Will’s words to heart I think the number would be vastly different.

The political parties in this country have now devolved into hatred for each other over our differences. We can no longer seem to come together for what we find good in ourselves. We no longer seem to be able to compromise. Much of this division is totally unnecessary if only we would swallow a little of our pride in believing that we are the only ones who have it right about  this or that.

I have found that sometimes it is better to just say “I know this is not the way I would have done (fill in the subject) but that’s ok. Not everything in life has to go totally our way in order for us to be happy. When we insist on that happening then we most assuredly doom ourselves to frustration and constant bickering. That is not a way to live during our brief time on this earth.

Banner -Off The Top

Pope1I spent my first fourteen years in the Catholic church but really haven’t kept up with the details except for an occasional theology study.  I know the picture here is a once in an era event. It has been centuries since a pope has resigned from office. The first thought that came to mind when I saw the picture here is that of two very old men embracing each other. I wish the new Pope Francis a successful reign, or whatever his term is called, no matter how many years it is. He was a Jesuit and I know they embraced simplicity and empathy as their worldview. I hope he carries out that theme in his time at the head of the Catholic church.

I think almost everyone knows that the Catholic church is one of the biggest bureaucracies in the world. If they were a corporation they would definitely be in the top ten or maybe even number one.  They have accumulated vast wealth beyond most comprehension. I also know that their structure is very vertical in nature.  That is the Pope/CEO has the ultimate authority and can veto almost anything that he wants.

I don’t know whether the Pope is like a monarch who is more of a ceremonial thing or like a CEO?  I am thinking maybe a little of both. But I do know that the previous pope has had a rough time of it while he was in office and can understand why he would want to resign and let someone else take over.  I’m sure he is exhausted from all the battles the church has faced during his reign.

I am surprised that the cardinals chose a South American as their next leader. Admittedly South America and Africa are where the most potential growth comes from. But those two continents are also known for bucking the edicts of Rome on occasion.  They just don’t always align with papal authority. Now that one of their own is in charge that may change but probably not.

Ending this post I really wonder just what went on in selecting the new pope. Rome as usual tries to keep this sort of thing hidden. Maybe that is to make it seem more mysterious or spiritual. I don’t know.  I know that most of my years in the church were spent hearing Latin; I didn’t really  know why that was either.  I guess I am just too American in that I want things to happen in the light of day and not behind closed doors or behind hunched shoulders.

I enjoyed all the cartoons about speculation of what went one in the pope selection process.  The funniest one was that the first cardinal to make a basket from half court was the new pope. 🙂  I don’t hate the pope as I think many of my Protestants brothers and sisters are taught so I wish him well in his duties whatever they are.  I don’t want to insult my Catholic friends here but I really don’t think Pope Francis has any different of the track to God than any of the rest of us.  God is just not into hierarchy stuff as the Roman Catholic church is. He is, to continue the basketball theme,  more one-on-one.