TOO MUCH CHURCH?

Jan and I went to three worship services at three different churches this past weekend. Not that I needed to go three times (maybe Jan did), but we did have reasons for going to each one.

The churches and their services were all dramatically different. One had less than 20 in attendance, one had a few hundred present, and one had thousands worshipping. The music in one was almost like a concert, one somewhat contemporary, and one used a piano and organ.

One of the pastors read his sermon, one used notes, and one spoke without notes except when reading the Bible. One preached for 40 or more minutes, one around 30 minutes, and one about 25 minutes. Two of the preachers stayed with one Bible passage and the third used multiple passages.

One church building was quite old and traditional, one was an older building with a somewhat traditional set up, and one was new and contemporary. We were warmly greeted at all three, and we participated and worshipped at all three churches. Was going to three different churches and services too much church? I don’t know, but I was reminded of some important things.

Churches are different—no two churches are exactly alike—and that is a good thing. People have different preferences when it comes to style or philosophy of worship. Pastors and preachers are also different—and that too is a good thing. Not every church is suited for every person. The church and style of worship you like is not necessarily right and best; nor is the style of worship and church you do not prefer necessarily wrong or bad.

The church universal is incredibly diverse in terms of local congregations and believers who make up those churches. The three churches we attended are all in one city within a 10 mile radius; how much more interesting it would be to go to three or more worship services in churches in three or more different cultures. Some readers have probably had that experience, but I have not. But even within the same city, circle of friends, or family there is a great diversity of “tastes” among followers of Jesus. I wish we all would be more open to the differences and less critical of that which is not exactly suited to our taste.

While I was writing down these thoughts I received and read an article by Karl Vaters on this very subject. I especially like his observation: “There are at least as many ‘right’ ways to do church as there are congregations.” Later he challenges, “Let’s stop looking for a one-size-fits-all way to do church. And stop insisting on it for others.” He rightly acknowledges “There are definitely some wrong ways to do church.” But I would add that just because we don’t particularly like something doesn’t make it wrong.

I think the two most important things I was reminded of this weekend by going to three different churches and worship services are these: the Church is God’s idea and we need it. And while I’m not interested in doing it every week, I don’t think there can be too much church. Disregard the photo at the top–its purpose was to get your attention; while I too have my preferences, I wasn’t bored in any of the services.

Feel free to reply below and share these thoughts on Facebook or other social media.

photo credit: cseeman <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/7702423@N04/27846427391″>Flappy on a Lazy Saturday in Saline</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

Advertisements

ARE YOU TALKING TO ME?

Usually the question “Are you talking to me?” is confrontational, but in asking it this morning I mean it. Like I have done the past several years, I am again reading the book of Proverbs during the month of January. There are 31 days in January and 31 chapters in the book, so I read a chapter a day. The last verse in yesterday’s chapter and two verses in the first 13 verses of today’s chapter got my attention.

The last verse yesterday, 17:28, is a verse I have always liked and often quoted: “Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues.” When I read this I thought of all the people I know who could benefit from it if they would just listen to it.

When I read 18:2 this morning, “Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions,” I remembered the last verse from yesterday and then thought about the current state of political discussion on TV, Facebook, and in Washington. I said to myself: “many of those people could certainly benefit if they would take this verse to heart!”

Eleven verses later I came to “To answer before listening—that is folly and shame.” That reminded me of what I had read a little earlier so I went back and read verse 2 again. I was right, the two verses relate. Then I remembered what I had read yesterday, went back to 17:28, and thought “these three all relate.” I looked the verses up in a couple of other translations and what I thought was confirmed. The GNB rendering of Proverbs 18:13 is especially strong: “Listen before you answer. If you don’t, you are being stupid and insulting.”

I was thinking about all the back and forth I read and hear from pundits, politicians, Facebook posts, and other discussions and how great it would be if those people would read and put into practice these three verses from Proverbs.

Then I had an epiphany. The reason I read the book of Proverbs each January is to learn and put into practice its wisdom. I’m not reading Proverbs to be reminded of the foolishness and folly of others, I’m reading this book of wisdom to have my own shortcomings pointed out and to be instructed in how to do better.

And so I asked the question, “Are you talking to me?” Perhaps I should listen more and more carefully as well as talk less.

Feel free to leave a reply below and share this post on Facebook or other social media.

photo credit: marneejill <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/7675787@N06/30590978751″>Donald and Hillary</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

A DYNAMIC WALK

The Christian life is a dynamic walk in which no one can ever say “I have arrived.” That’s a statement I have made many times in a variety of contexts to describe what being a Christian is. It doesn’t come from the Bible, but I believe it is what the Bible teaches. It certainly doesn’t say all the Bible says about the Christian life, but it does say a lot. Read it again: the Christian life is a dynamic walk in which no one can ever say “I have arrived.”

Describing the Christian life as a walk suggests a certain amount of effort on our part. You cannot be passive and walk at the same time. When we walk we are going somewhere; even if we are just taking a casual stroll we are moving. To make sure I wanted to stay with the word dynamic to modify walk I looked up the definition. The first definition given was “a process characterized by constant change, activity, or progress.”

To speak of the Christian life as a walk characterized by constant change, activity, and progress implies growth in our Christian lives. I hope all of us who are Christians want to be growing in our walks. It is helpful for me to remind myself that to grow in Christ there are some things I need to stop doing and some other things I need to begin doing or do better. I have no idea what those activities, attitudes, practices, and disciplines might be for you, but I have zeroed in on a few for myself as we begin the New Year. (In my previous post I indicated I want to chip away at pride and cultivate humility this year.)

When it comes to growth and progress in our Christian lives the reality is that we are not always growing at the same rate. There are seasons when we grow rapidly and other times when our progress is slow. In my life there have been and are periods when I make little or no progress; and to be honest, for many of us there are times when we actually regress. What seems most important to me is that if we graphed our walk in terms of time and growth, even though the growth line would be up and down, the overall direction would be up.

One final observation: to say the Christian life is a dynamic walk in which no one can ever say “I have arrived” affirms we never get to the point in our walk when we have no more room for growth. We make progress for sure, but the movement and progress is never completed in this life. Hear how the Apostle Paul says it in Philippians 3:12: “I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ first possessed me” (NLT).

Heavenly Father, thank you for the call, opportunity, and privilege to walk with and follow Jesus. We know we have not done anything to deserve what you have done for us by your grace. We ask that you show us the way, convict us of things we need to stop doing and show us what we need to begin to do or do better, and help us to grow and become what you have called us to be. We know we will not become perfect in this life, but help us never use that as a reason not to press on. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Feel free to leave a reply below and/or share these thoughts on Facebook or other social media.

photo credit: Keulkeulmike Photography <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/44332725@N03/30170370251″>&#8221; Walking on the Moon “</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

 

IT HURTS!

I’ve been writing a weekly blog for just over 18 months now and my most read and commented on blog was entitled “It Still Hurts.” The title of this one is similar, but the basic idea is the same. Loss hurts.

A couple of hours ago Jan and I had to put down our cat. She had been sick for a couple of weeks and got worse and worse and nothing the vet did helped. We didn’t want her to suffer and we believe we did the right thing. But believing (knowing?) you did the right thing doesn’t take away the hurt.

Spiff (a crazy name given to her by Jan) had been ours for almost nine years. A couple of months earlier we had taken in a stray dog someone had dropped off at our church property. Then this stray cat starting hanging around our house. I didn’t like cats and discouraged Jan from feeding her, but she stayed. Finally I told Jan the cat could stay in our garage but we were not going to have a stinking cat in the house. It didn’t take long for me to fold and she was welcomed into the house. She and Macy (our dog) hit it off with no problems and I became a cat lover.

I have tears rolling down my cheeks as I reflect on the way that cat became a part of our family and my life. Rob played with her, Jan took care of her, and I loved on her as she sat in my lap as I read, studied, and watched TV. I’m more emotional than I ever thought I could or would be over the loss of a cat! But loss hurts.

It seems a little strange to me that I am writing about my hurt from the passing of a cat when at the same time I have a friend grieving the loss her husband and another friend grieving the loss his mother. Our loss is not in the same category as theirs; but the truth is loss hurts, doesn’t it?

Loss and the hurt that accompanies it are a part of life. But it doesn’t take away the joy, satisfaction, and enrichment that what we lost gave us. If I had it to do over again I would encourage Jan to feed that cat right away and skip the time in the garage!

(If you would like to read “It Still Hurts” you can at https://bobmmink.com/2016/04/06/it-still-hurts/)

Feel free to leave a reply below and/or share this post on Facebook.