Posted by: larry | February 26, 2009

Wandering Sheep

wandering-sheepCHURCHES THAT HAVE A PATTERN OF LOSING THEIR MEMBERS, especially new members, just might be due for some introspection.  It’s not always the fault of the church when a member leaves for another church, or goes back into the world, but when this process is repeated over-and-over without any apparent reason it’s obvious something is out of whack.  Realizing a problem exists is a major step in correcting the problem, and dropping to our knees in prayer is the beginning of the solution.

This problem is not new, and we can’t change God’s Word in order to placate unhappy church members, but if the church is at fault we need to make the necessary changes so we don’t (as my preacher friend aptly noted) have new members walking in the front door and out the back.

The following list of possible reasons some new members bolt for greener pastures is by no means complete, but only intended as a springboard for further discussion:

  • NO FEELING OF BEING NEEDED, UNDERSTOOD, OR LOVED. They are not accepted as equals and don’t feel like a part of the group. If we don’t make the new Christian feel that he/she is not an intricate part of the church they will not be around long.  We need to go out of our way to embrace new Christians, even if we have to break up our cliques in order to spend valuable time with the new converts.  Those who are neglected will go somewhere they are appreciated!
  • OPINIONATED AND LEGALISTIC TEACHING pushed down the throats of new believers in an attempt to form another cookie-cutter member, and finding fault with everything a person has ever believed will push new members out the door in a heart-beat.
  • MY WAY OR THE HIGHWAY BELIEFS are tough for anyone to swallow, but for a new christian these beliefs are deadly.  Those not encouraged to think for themselves, but pressured into accepting human traditions that have no basis in God’s Word is a formula for disaster.  Members not willing to accept a churches traditional viewpoints might find themselves outcasts.
  • LIFELESS AND RITUALISTIC PUBLIC WORSHIP SERVICE that provides little to uplift or inspire.  I know we have a tendency to cast this problem at the feet of the new members, but perhaps some churches have ritualized the worship service over time until it’s little more than pomp and ceremony.  God and His children deserve inspired fellowship, joy, and love in the public worship service, not a stale ritualistic ceremony.
  • FEELING LIKE A MUSHROOM because vital church news is only accessible to a choice few who are in the know. The church seems like a secret society because only the core group have access to what’s going on in the church.  There are things that should remain private, but not things that effect the unity of the entire group.  Always being left in the dark wondering what’s really going on can be disheartening, especially when you know everyone else has the information.  Soon you feel out-of-the-loop, and well…like a mushroom!

    Obviously this is an incomplete list and only reflects my opinions.  Your comments and additions to the list are appreciated.

    o   o   o   o   o

    Posted by: larry | January 5, 2009

    Two Things at Once

    cross-and-moneyIT HAS NEVER SEEMED APPROPRIATE (AT LEAST TO ME) THAT the Church of Christ combines it’s celebration of the Lord’s supper with passing the collection plate for money.  The two events are separated by a few words spoken by the person in charge which is always; “Although this is not a part of the Lord’s supper it is a convenient time to pass the collection plate.”  While it may be a convenient time, it detracts from the Lord’s supper when a collection plate is pushed under our noses asking for money while we’re still somberly contemplating the Lord’s sacrifice on the cross for us.

    Surely a better method of collecting money can be devised than tacking the process to the end of the Lord’s supper.  Why not designate a contribution location somewhere in the building (perhaps the office) where a slot into a lock-box would suffice for those wishing to contribute when arriving or leaving the building.  We are to be cheerful givers, so why push the collection plates…could it be because those in charge think there will be no contributions unless we’re faced with the plate every Sunday morning!

    Some churches are already providing ATM machines in the lobby for the convenience of its members; other members are transferring their contributions directly to the church online.  The big silver plate, or willowy basket thingy may soon join the now extinct Dodo bird.  I don’t think ATM’s are the answer, but probably not much worse than some of our current money collecting schemes techniques.

    I’m not expecting any changes soon; it has become a part of our tradition.

    And your opinion…

    o   o   o   o   o

    Posted by: larry | December 11, 2008

    America…A Christian Nation?

    atheist1IT WON’T BE TOO MANY YEARS UNTIL CHRISTIANS FULLY realize they lost the fight to keep America a Christian nation.  Weak protests and churches refusing to set aside their petty differences to unite under the banner of Christ will result in a nation ruled by non-believers who will seek to control what Christians believe, and how they practice what they believe.

    Atheists believe Christians are naive, old-fashioned and ignorant, and we continue to fortify that belief by not standing together and voicing our concerns about the direction our nation is heading.  If we continue to sit and do nothing we probably deserve what we get!  Perhaps we have relied on being a Christian nation too many years, and taken for granted our freedom to follow Jesus without government interference.

    Non-christian agendas are becoming more apparent every day in our country, and our elected officials, who refuse to acknowledge God as being supreme, are allowing a loud minority to influence their decisions.  Churches in the future will be hard pressed to keep the government out of  their affairs, and a return to the early church practice of meeting from house-to-house just may be the only way to separate the church from an nation no longer under God.

    Unless the Lord’s church decides to stand firm against the tide of anti-christian factions that are increasingly pushing their sordid ideas on America, we’re going to lose…big time!

    Now that the pessimistic opinion is laid-out, how about an optimistic opinion. Remember though; a pessimist is an optimist with experience!

    o   o   o   o   o

    Posted by: larry | November 15, 2008

    Not fit to be a Brother!

    handshake-2THINKING WE ALONE HAVE SOMEHOW MANAGED TO interpret God’s word exactly as the Holy Spirit intended, and certain that everyone who disagrees with our interpretation is up a creek without a paddle, places us in a small group of ultra-conservative Christians that believe only they have the answers.  Anyone refusing to lock-step to the same scripture interpretations these churches promote is deemed unfit to fellowship.

    Rick Atchley and Bob Russell, in their book; Together Again, Restoring Unity in Christ after a Century of Separation, quote an unnamed man who wrote:

    Believe as I believe, no more no less,

    That I am right-no one else-confess,

    Feel as I feel, think as I think,

    Eat what I eat, drink what I drink,

    Look as I look, do always as I do,

    Then and only then will I fellowship with you.

    Refusing to accept a person as being a child of God because they don’t conform to our understanding of His Word, or belong to our little church group, is a serious matter.   When we refuse fellowship to another person who believes in God, and is trying to follow Jesus, we make a judgment that only God is qualified to make.

    I had rather err on the side of extending fellowship to a person who I may differ with, than to exclude that person from my fellowship, then discover on the Resurrection day the person I refused to fellowship is God’s child; thus my brother…not good!

    Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. —Romans 14:4 (ESV)

    God can save whoever He chooses, under whatever circumstances, for whatever reasons; nothing is impossible with God.

    o   o   o   o   o

    Posted by: larry | November 10, 2008

    God in the Rainbow

    A BEAUTIFUL RAINBOW SCREAMS THAT GOD IS ALIVE AND IN COMPLETE CONTROL.

    rainbow

    Sunday morning there was a spectacular rainbow hovering over the lake that was so brilliant it looked like a painting. The colors were perfect with both ends seemingly disappearing into the water.  When such natural beauty appears it’s easy to recognize the handiwork of God…that is, unless you don’t believe in God.

    God set the rainbow to remind us of His promise not to destroy the world again by water. Many scientists only observe the rainbow as being reflected light, droplets of water, and some strange angles that produce the phenomenon, without seeing God as its creator, or realizing what it represents.

    Perhaps it does take more faith to be an atheist than it does to be a Christian!

    o   o   o   o   o

    Posted by: larry | November 7, 2008

    Never On Sunday!

    moneyChristians are as likely to grab some groceries at Vons, tank-up on gas at the Shell station, and eat at IHOP on Sunday as any other day of the week.  Since God set aside the first day of the week as a day of rest, and a special day to worship Him, is it right for a Christian to patronize a business that opens on Sunday, thereby preventing its employees from assembling with the saints on this special day?

    In the 1940’s & 1950’s nearly all business establishments closed on Sunday.  If you didn’t take care of your shopping needs during the week, you were out of luck when Sunday rolled around.  In today’s world nearly all retail stores are open seven days a week, some 24/7, and of course they would have us believe it’s for our convenience, but is it really, or does greed play the major role!

    Many Christians immediately head to the nearest restaurant to meet for lunch right after the final amen; would the employees be working on Sunday if we didn’t make an appearance?  I know some cafes that stay open on Sunday just to cater to “church people.”

    I plead guilty (if it is wrong) to all the above.  What are your thoughts about patronizing business establishments on Sunday?

    Posted by: larry | November 5, 2008

    The Day After the Election

    cross1Adapted from an email; unknown author

    The day after the election, regardless of who wins:

    • Jesus will still be King.
    • Our responsibilities as Christians will not have changed one iota.
    • The greatest agent for social change in America will still be winning the hearts and minds of men and women through the gospel, not legislation.
    • My primary citizenship will still be in this order – (1) the Kingdom of God, (2) America, not vice-versa.
    • The tomb will still be empty.
    • The cross, not the government, will still be our salvation.
    • Our children will still be more concerned with whether or not we spend time with them than with who is President.
    • My neighbor will still be my neighbor, and loving him/her will still be the second greatest commandment. (Do you know the first?)
    • The day after the election, regardless of who wins, the only way to see abortion ultimately overturned will still be winning men and women to a high view of life through the gospel of Christ.
    • The only way to see gay marriage ultimately defeated will still be winning men and women to a biblical view of marriage through the gospel of Jesus Christ.
    • My retirement will still not match my treasure in Heaven.
    • “Jesus Is Lord” will still be the greatest truth in the Universe.
    • We will still know that God is in control.
    Posted by: larry | October 30, 2008

    Strangers in our midst

    When you are not a Christian, or have been derelict for years in your service to God, it is very difficult to muster the courage on Sunday morning to walk into the church building knowing absolutely no one.  This awkward feeling is greatly eased if the church immediately makes it apparent that you are more than welcome with all the appropriate hand-shakes, smiles, and kind words.

    Visitors may be seeking a place to worship and are just checking out the atmosphere; others may be seeking God right now, and need immediate help.  Friendliness will work miracles in determining their comfort level, and ultimately their decision whether to become your brother/sister in Christ.

    Some visitors finding themselves in such alien confines quickly scan the quickest exit routes just in case an overwhelming urge to bolt for fresh air overtakes them.  The proper initial welcome should keep them in their seats, that is unless they have the innocent audacity to sit in the exact time-worn spot in the pew as ol’ brother Jones has for forty-years, and then being asked to move…not good!

    Visitors who never return just may be visitors who were never welcomed!

    Posted by: larry | October 28, 2008

    Noah in 2008

    From an old, but not out-dated email; author unknown.

    In the year 2008, the Lord came unto Noah, who was now living in the United States, and said; “Once again, the earth has become wicked and over-populated, and I see the end of all flesh before me. Build another Ark and save 2 of every living thing along with a few good humans.”

    He gave Noah the blueprints, saying; “You have 6 months to build the Ark before I will start the unending rain for 40 days and 40 nights.”

    Six months later, the Lord looked down and saw Noah weeping in his yard – but no Ark.  “Noah,” He roared, “I’m about to start the rain! Where is the Ark?”

    “Forgive me, Lord,” begged Noah, “but things have changed.”

    “I needed a building permit.”

    “I’ve been arguing with the inspector about the need for a sprinkler system.”

    “My neighbors claim that I’ve violated the neighborhood zoning laws by building the Ark in my yard and exceeding the height limitations.”

    “We had to go to the Development Appeal Board for a decision.”

    “Then the Department of Transportation demanded a bond be posted for the future costs of moving power lines and other overhead obstructions, to clear the passage for the Ark’s move to the sea.  I told them that the sea would be coming to us, but they would hear nothing of it.”

    “Getting the wood was another problem. There’s a ban on cutting local trees in order to save the spotted owl.  I tried to convince the environmentalists that I needed the wood to save the owls – but no go!”

    “When I started gathering the animals, an animal rights group sued me.  They insisted that I was confining wild animals against their will.  They argued the accommodations were too restrictive, and it was cruel and inhumane to put so many animals in a confined space.”

    “Then the EPA ruled that I couldn’t build the Ark until they’d conducted an environmental impact study on your proposed flood. I’m still trying to resolve a complaint with the Human Rights Commission on how many minorities I’m supposed to hire for my building crew.”

    “Immigration and Naturalization are checking the green-card status of most of the people who want to work.”

    “The trades unions say I can’t use my sons. They insist I have to hire only Union workers with Ark-building experience.”

    “To make matters worse, the IRS seized all my assets, claiming I’m trying to leave the country illegally with endangered species.”

    “So, forgive me, Lord, but it would take at least 10 years for me to finish this Ark.”

    Suddenly the skies cleared, the sun began to shine, and a rainbow stretched across the sky.  Noah looked up in wonder and asked;  “You mean you’re not going to destroy the world?”

    “No,” said the Lord, “the government beat me to it.”

    Posted by: larry | October 16, 2008

    Keeping Humble

    Nice little quotation attributed to Edward Wallis Hoch., Marion (Kansas) Record (1849-1925) that I have kept handy for years.  Sometimes when I say, or think something wrong, this little quotation has a way of finding a home in my thinker.

    There is so much good in the worst of us,

    and so much bad in the best of us,

    that it hardly behooves any of us

    to talk about the rest of us

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