Hello, My Name is Church

Hello, My Name is Church
Written by the “unappreciated pastor”

Hello my name is church,

I’m sure you’ve heard a lot about me. I have no shortage of critics. Perhaps you have heard that I am…

Boring

Shallow

Cheap

A waste of time

You’ve heard that I am full of

Hypocrites

Clowns

Greedy people

The self- righteous

Maybe you have visited me before and discovered

Horrible music

Passionless singing

Dry preaching

Rude congregants

 

Maybe you needed me and I was

 

Too busy

Too “righteous”

Too broke

Too blind

Maybe you joined me and found I was

Distant

Demanding

Dull

Preoccupied

 
Maybe you tried to serve in me but were caught off guard by

Business meetings

Committees

Teams

Bureaucracy

Maybe you left and were surprised that nobody

Called

Cared

Noticed

Invited you back

Perhaps your experience has driven you to

Speak negatively of me

Swear to never come back to me

Proclaim that no one needs me

Believe you’re better off without me

If this is true, I have something to say to you

I’m sorry

I was wrong

I blew it

I made a huge mistake

But remember, I never said my name was

Perfect

Flawless

Complete

Arrived

My name is church. I welcome the

 

Hypocrite

Dry

Self-righteous

Shallow

I welcome the

Sincere

Passionate

Forgiving

Selfless

I cannot shut my doors to the people who make you

 

Angry

Uncomfortable

Impatient

Self-conscious

 

But I would remind you that we couldn’t always worship in the same room. In the Old Testament there was a division between the

 

Gentile

Jew

Man

Woman

In order for us to all worship in the same room Christ was

 

Shamed

Beaten

Killed

Resurrected

 

Which is far worse than being

 

Bored

Uncomfortable

Embarrassed

Ignored

 

So why not come back to church and let all of these messed up people

 

Challenge you

Sharpen you

Strengthen you

Humble you.

 

I can’t promise you that the people will be great.  This is church. It’s not

 

Heaven

Paradise

Beulah Land

The Celestial city

 

Come back.

God wants you here

The body needs you here

The world needs your witness here.

You belong here.

Hello, my name is church

 
I miss you

I love you

I’m sorry

Can’t wait to see you.

This Isn’t Church

 

Before Jesus ascended into heaven he simplified his ministry into just a few directives . You can look through the entire Bible, everything in it is summed in these proclamations.

  • Love the Lord with all your heart, with all your strength and with all your might.
  • God is Love
  • I am the way, the only way. Jesus is the son of God, the Messiah, the same prophesied by the great prophets. Through him all sins are forgiven.
  • Love one another the way I Loved you.
  • Go out to all nations and tell them about me and my father.

I may be over simplifying some things, but for the most part, I believe in my heart this is “Christianity”. All of the other things people bicker and fight about are irrelevant. If you don’t understand or comprehend these fundamental lessons, nothing you do will matter.  I have worked in the ministry long enough now to realize the purpose of the Church and how its’ existence has been perverted by lifelong members who either never have been taught the truth or choose to ignore it. The church is not a social club, it is not a money making business, its’ not a show or entertainment venue.

Before Jesus left this earth he told those he left behind to tell the world of his life and ministry. He knew the task he was asking of these men would not be easy. They would be laughed at, humiliated, imprisoned and even killed. The “world” was evil, early ministers would have to overcome a mountain of discouragement. They would need a place to rest with other Christians.  Believers that would be focused on the positive changes going on around them. They could come together rest, have their hope and faith restored before heading out into the world again to continue their mission. That is the purpose of the Church, ANY CHURCH!! 

It is disturbing to look upon people who think their soul is safe, their place in heaven is secured. However, they don’t know anything about the words Jesus spoke or the life he expects from us. I don’t want to be misunderstood. I Love being a minister, I humbly accept the challenge of sharing Jesus’s love for everyone. But, discouragement is a powerful tool and everyone deserves a place where they can rest and be renewed. It is a shame a lot of Church’s are not the places where this can occur. I hope yours is different; if it is; please invite someone with you, let them see that Church’s are all different. Some actually do worship.

Parental Support

I was told before going into ministry. If you’re happy doing anything else and can make a living, do it. Stay out of ministry unless it’s the only thing that can make you happy.
Not heeding the warning I have become a youth minister, only to find the darkest of hearts and selfish of egos. Below is an excerpt from a letter I received about summer plans. I volunteer my time and the church resources to other denominations in an effort to promote cooperation,  especially for youth activities. We also planned to be counselors our week at summer camp to help us gel and solidify as a group.
What follows is just one of the parents in our group. ..

Taking the youth to camp involves a trip down on Monday and a trip to pick them up on Friday.  By no means do you need to consume your entire week.

Preparations for VBS should be well completed before June except for last minute details…

It really doesn’t matter when FBC has VBS.  We are not members of that church, whether someone decides to send their child to their VBS is a personal decision, not one you can make.  And what we do at … is not decided by some other church.  It happens every year…you cannot schedule around every church in S. county…no matter what week we have VBS some other church will also be having it.

You need to learn to talk to the parents who have active  church members children in our church  before you FINALIZE any schedule.  They are the ones who know about conflicts, what works and what doesn’t.

My child will not be going to camp in July.  She WILL be attending in June.

Is it me or is this behavior unsuitable for an adult

Allyson A. Thomas, Pharm.D.

Hypocrisy Month

I came across this looking for help ministering to a difficult member of our church.  I can never seem to realize how much God speaks to us. I thank you for this lesson.

LENT: SEASON OF OUR HYPOCRISY

by Ashley Makar

From to-do lists to angels in the wilderness.

Ash Wednesday, I was marked the hypocrite that I am, one of the repentant hypocrites we all are who don’t do all we can to live our values. Especially we who walk around with the sign of the cross on our foreheads: two smudge-strokes of ash made by the fronds burned from last Palm Sunday, to mark the beginning of Lent, to mark the season of our hypocrisy.

We who attend Ash Wednesday services confess our own fault in thought, word, and deed; by what we have done and what we have left undone. My to-do list mocks me: send thank-you card to Grandmother; check yoga schedule; call Stacy. I confess my done list: got ashes; dropped off clothing donation; cashed checks at bank; had lunch with a friend; neglected the elderly; judged a stranger. I confess my left-undone list: didn’t send the thank-you card for the gloves Grandmother mailed a month ago; didn’t make it to yoga; haven’t called Stacy, the cancer survivor who’s going in the hospital for a biopsy of her lung tomorrow, who said a rosary for me the day she met me, the day I first drove her, as an “interfaith volunteer,” to the doctor and the grocery store. I haven’t called her today, I confess, because I don’t feel like it.

When I saw Stacy’s number in my missed calls last week, I groaned. It was the third call in five days, the third request for a ride to the grocery store, the third time I would hear about how her daughter’s too unreliable to take her, so she calls me, because I’m “an angel.” A begrudging angel, I confess. An Eeyore in angel’s clothing. A wannabe angel, with misanthropic tendencies.

This time, Stacy wants me to take her to pick up a prescription, the morning of the afternoon I’m flying home to Alabama to visit my family, the day she said she would get a friend to help her, so I can get ready for my trip. After I calm my inner misanthrope, my aspirational angel has an idea: Ask Stacy if she’d like me to take her to an early Ash Wednesday service before we go to the pharmacy, before I need to go to the airport. When I asked her if she’d like me to take her to get the ashes, she says “I’d feel like such a hypocrite.”

“Isn’t that what Lent’s about?” I say. “Being a hypocrite?” Stacy agrees.

My friend Kim says a big part of being a Christian is being a hypocrite. I agree.

And maybe Ash Wednesday’s about admitting we’re hypocrites together, bearing the sign of the cross on our foreheads, knowing it’s always-already a symbol of suffering we will not take on, a telltale mark of all we have left undone.

The Litany of Penitence goes on: We have not loved [God] with our whole heart, and mind, and strength. We have not loved our neighbor as ourselves. We ask God to accept our repentance for (among other things) uncharitable thoughts toward our neighbors.

On the plane home, I sit in the bulkhead row, next to a woman who orders a drink: “What kind of wine do you have?” Neither Chardonnay nor Merlot suits her, so she orders a Screwdriver.

*

I’ve given up drinking for Lent, because I love wine; because I self-medicate with a glass or three, of Shiraz or Pinot Grigio, a time or three a week. And I know that the drinking keeps me from my better self. It keeps me from the grieving I need to do, from the deep joy I want to live into. It dulls my attention and my compassion. It keeps me from loving with my whole heart, and mind, and strength.

I don’t practice what I preach to myself. But I’m trying, with a modest sacrifice, knowing I’m a hypocrite: I call Stacy reluctantly. I’m glad my friend’s wedding is after Lent, so I can eat, drink, and be merry. I hope giving up drinking for forty days will help me break the habit of using alcohol to dull my emotions, but I’ll probably backslide.

And I have uncharitable thoughts about my next-seat neighbor on the plane: Why is she being so choosy about her in-flight alcohol? Maybe she’s self-medicating too. Who am I to judge?

And I judge her more, I confess, for not having a book with her. I scorn her, for flipping through the SkyMall magazine until her Screwdriver comes. I curse her in my head for chatting with me as she sips her drink. I chat back, begrudgingly. We talk about the rude stewardess, the weather, her nine-month-old grandson. All the while, my misanthropic monster is screaming inside, This is not a cocktail party! Can’t you see I’m trying to read?! How dare you interrupt my Lenten reflection time!

When she looks out the window, I peek back at the page from the Ash-Wednesday lesson I’m reading:

Is not this the kind of fasting that I chose: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your kin? (Isaiah 58:6-7)

How will my “fast” from drinking help me loose the chains of injustice? Let’s see, if I donate the $20 a week I would spend on wine to the soup kitchen, I could help feed a poor family. And if I connect with people at parties without the social lubricant of alcohol, maybe my compassion will sharpen, and I can come a baby step closer to loving my neighbor as myself. And since I won’t be numbing myself with wine while I’m visiting my family, maybe I can not turn away from my kin when they drive me crazy.

I make these Lenten calculations while exchanging pleasantries with my next-seat neighbor on the plane. Yes, Birmingham will be lovely: sunny and seventy degrees. My mother says the dogwoods are blooming already.

When the woman looks out the window again, I take another peak at Isaiah:

If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday. The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail. (Isaiah 58:10-12)

I wonder what would happen if I quit casting silent aspersions on this neighbor’s big-diamond-ringed finger over the SkyMallmagazine on her lap. What would happen if I repent of thinking evil of this woman who spends money on jewelry, who doesn’t bring reading material on flights, who interrupts my Lenten contemplation with friendly conversation? What would happen if I listened to this extravagant, chatty woman as if the good news of Isaiah’s scripture were fulfilled in my hearing? Would my aggrieved angel light rise on the darkness and my Eeyore gloom be like the noonday? Would the Lord satisfy my needs in the parched places I medicate with wine? Could I be a drop of that unfailing water Isaiah prophesies?

I don’t know, but I learn by listening, to my next-seat neighbor. She’s on her way to her brother’s funeral. He was afflicted with dementia, then cancer. The hospice people were “angels.” They told the family how he was talking to people in the room where he died, calling to lost loved ones he could see coming to take him to the next life. “He didn’t die alone,” she tells me. “And that’s a comfort.”

When Jesus was in the wilderness for forty days—the “temptation of Christ” we commemorate during Lent, Satan tried to tempt him to turn stones into bread to feed himself. But Jesus resisted; he fasted among wild beasts; “and the angels ministered unto him.” (Mark 1:13)

Perhaps the fast we choose this Lent should be so hard and so easy: to be angels ministering to each other, even when we don’t feel like it.

RESPOND · SUBSCRIBE

March 10, 2011 
Related: Bible, Christianity, faith, family, holidays, Jesus

Killing the Buddha editor Ashley Makar is a writer who works with refugees resettled to Connecticut. She does community outreach and grant writing for IRIS–Integrate Refugee & Immigrant Services. She’s currently writing essays about living as exuberantly as humanly possible with metastatic cancer. She thanks the goddess of door hinges for the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen Writers Workshop and repents not her trespasses through the Irish bogs of Connemara. Ashley has published essays in the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute weblog The Struggle Continues, The Birmingham News, American Book Review, Tablet, Religion Dispatches, and Prison Legal News

As a Minister I say AMEN!!

I do not know, nor ever heard of RJ Dawson. However, I sit in a pew week after week debating these same questions. Often defending myself for wanting to try something new. To question the faith of others in this place. Where is their service, what is their goal or direction? Simply to survive or carry on traditions. That’s not what a church is for. We have a community in desperate need of our facilities and assets, yet we turn away from the need and tell ourselves it’s the fiscally responsible thing to do. I don’t want to be fiscally responsible, I want us to be spiritually accountable. If we go broke, at least we did so serving our savior in a manner reflective of the works used to build it.

 

This photo is not of our church

“But I Have This Against You, American Churches”

Posted by 

Sinking Slowly… Listing to the Left

        He had done everything right. He did everything he was told. He was dutiful, and thoughtful, and slow to react. He always considered the implications of his actions.

        But yet, the closeness he desired never arrived. Rather than trying to get personal with God he stayed at a distance. His preference was going through the quotidian exercises of his religion.

He was a nice guy, always helping others, and quiet—carrying on in a relaxed and measured way, looking people in the eye with the hint of a smile, as if his job was to serve whoever may come before him. He enjoyed such actions, things someone else might callministry, but it was just part of his life.

He wondered about God often—who He was, what He was like. He had been given answers as a child that God was essentially unknowable and far away. As a result his wonder never blossomed into an outright search, because he had far too much respect for his family and local church, especially the well-respected ministers he had been associated with.

Of course, that is a very loose term. Most churchgoers are not associated with their ministers. They are people seen once a week for an hour or two while attending to their profession. There may be a mini-chat every so often after services or a low-key counseling session. It is the same with most church members. Though rubbing shoulders with many, they deal mainly with simple surface relationships and remain distant from each other’s heart.

One may wonder why there is so much passivity within traditional Christianity. Very few ever buck any trends. There are certainly never any instances of someone like the Lord cleaning out the temple. Is this because everyone thinks their own church needs no cleaning out? Are the majority of churches in America clean and orderly and right with God? Do they teach Biblical truth and demand loyalty to the Lord Jesus and New Testament teachings?

Or are churches actually corrupt in that quiet passive way? Is the fact that most church-goers sit down in orderly pews and chairs without ever raising an eyebrow a sign that all is perfect and well? Does the man in the pulpit have it so together that there is never a discouraging word regarding that which he preaches? Are American churches doing their job?

This must be the case, right? It must be that such perfect order proves all is right and that God is pleased.

But how do they know this? If God remains unknown, how do the people know He is pleased? Does church order reflect godliness in this sense?

Whoever thinks this is true does not read the Bible and certainly not the New Testament.

“Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven. Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to SET A MAN AGAINST HIS FATHER, AND A DAUGHTER AGAINST HER MOTHER, AND A DAUGHTER-IN-LAW AGAINST HER MOTHER-IN-LAW; and A MAN’S ENEMIES WILL BE THE MEMBERS OF HIS HOUSEHOLD. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.” [Matthew 10:32-39]

Have you ever heard this passage of Scripture as part of a Sunday morning sermon?

How about this one:

Then some Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why do Your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.” And He answered and said to them, “Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?” [Matthew 15:1-3]

And He said to them, “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME. BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME, TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.’ Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.” He was also saying to them, “You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition.” [Mark 7:6-9]

What would happen if the Lord Jesus came to your church? Would he see it as everyone there sees it? Would He simply go along to get along? Would He never say a word or mention the things going on there that don’t line up with His teachings? Would He simply love everybody and tell one and all to keep on keeping on?

He went to seven churches as recorded in the Book of Revelation and was none too pleased with the vast majority. Remember, these were His people gathered in His name supposedly doing what He taught them. At least, that is what they claimed. He had some good things to say but He also railed against them and demanded they get their act together. I submit that most American churches are worse off, and the reason there is so little change for the better is because the Lord Jesus is not welcome. The sinful culture of this country has taken over most traditional churches, regardless of denomination.

Believe me, if He ever did show up in the greatness of His power, all would know it.

“But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent.” [Revelation 2:4-5]

“Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” [Revelation 2:10]

“But I have a few things against you, because you have there some who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of immorality. So you also have some who in the same way hold the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Therefore repent; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth.” [Revelation 2:14-16]

“But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray so that they commit acts ofimmorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, and she does not want to repent of her immorality. Behold, I will throw her on a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds. And I will kill her children with pestilence, and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds.” [Revelation 2:20-23]

“I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God. So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. Therefore if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you.” [Revelation 3:1-3]

“Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown.” [Revelation 3:10-11]

“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.” [Revelation 3:14-19] [1]

© 2011 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.