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Part two: Come as you are, but don’t leave as you came.

January 21, 2010 Leave a comment

I know, internet, I know.

I promised a follow-up post yesterday to my Tuesday post, but work and second work got the best of me yesterday. No excuses, I fail, but I figured I would offer a bit of explanation. In lieu of this unfortunate failure on my part, today, you are in for a rare treat!

DOUBLE POST DAY!

Yes, that’s right. Two posts…one day. This might be normal for some bloggers, but it is definitely a rarity for me. So enjoy, because I don’t know when (if ever) this will happen again.

If you missed part one of this installment, do me a favor. Go back and read it, so I don’t sound like a blithering idiot as I continue my discourse on what God is showing me through the statement which is the title of this post. Originally the comment appeared on a church sign that I happened to pass several days ago.

A quick recap…

*Insert wavy flashback lines*

I. Hate. Church. Sign. Messages.

Hate them. I think they are a blemish on the image of the church, but that really isn’t the point today, so…

*Dismounting soapbox*

God has once again decided to reveal himself to me in something for which I have a great disdain. This is not an uncommon occurence in my life. In fact, God uses these abhorrent instances quite often to show me how much I generally fail. This specific event was really no different.

Several days ago, I saw a message on a church sign that really caught my attention and has taken hold of my thought process since I read it. Usually, information comes into my brain, I process it, and discard the waste after removing and applying the meaningful pieces from the information presented. This one, however, has captured me a bit more than I expected. The statement was:

“Come as you are, but don’t leave as you came.”

*Insert wavy “coming out of the flashback” lines*

I discussed what the first part of that statement meant to me a couple days ago. I am not going to insult your intelligence. Feel free to read what I posted for the specifics. The first part of this statement affected me, but I really feel as that message is for those who have yet to find Christ or have turned their backs from his love. The second part of the statement, “but don’t leave as you came”, has interesting connotations for everyone, but, specifically, for the believer.

I started to think to myself, “Self, how many times have you graced the doors of the church and walked away wholly unaffected? How many events have you attended where the Holy Spirit has been at work where you have failed to connect with the Creator?” These instances in time began to play through my mind like an old black and white movie where I saw myself walking away from encounter after encounter with God completely the same as I entered. Intellectually, I know that it is not possible to walk away from a face-to-face with God and stay the same. You are either pulled closer or pushed further away. So how does one walk away unchanged?

God is the same today, yesterday, and will not change for eternity; therefore, he can’t be the problem. That leaves one culprit. The problem is me. The problem is you. The reason that these encounters with God don’t change us is because we get in the way. Our sin and flesh stop God from moving like he desires to in our lives. This is why Jesus calls us to deny our desires that get in the way of our relationship with Him.

The simple truth about humanity is that we are not good. The only good that exists in me is God in me. In my flesh, I am a broken lost soul-searching for meaning in a world where meaning is absent. This is why God changes us completely when we find him, so we can see the reason behind our creation.

It is so easy for us to exalt ourselves above God. Many times, we as “good Christians” appear to be walking in the light of God, but we are actually so far outside of the realm of what God wants for us that it makes Him want to upchuck. That’s right, our disobedience literally nauseates God. If that isn’t deflating, then I don’t know what catastrophe it might take to remove the wind from your sails.

It all boils down to selfishness and the casual attitude with which we approach sin. We see sin as a temporary problem for which we can just ask forgiveness. We forget that God is our Holy refiner desiring to make us more like him everyday. The hindrance to this process is the fact that we would have to give up things that we think make us happy in order to reconcile ourselves to his image. It is like two-year-old holding on to a leaf of poison ivy because he or she thinks that it is pretty, throwing a fit when the loving parent attempts to remove the leaf that is going to cause more suffering in the end.

It doesn’t make sense for us to throw a fit, but we do it anyway. It just shows how bratty we are in our relationship with God. On Earth, any parent worth their salt would do whatever it took to remove the leaf from the child’s hand, but that is what makes God entirely unique from us. He allows us to make choices. He tells us that the leaf is bad, but gives us the freedom to keep the leaf regardless of consequences. Then, when we are suffering from the rash that the leaf gave us, we curse God for allowing us to suffer. THAT IS REALLY STUPID, but we do it anyway.

The simple truth is that God desires us to look more and more like him every day and the only detractor from that is us. The time has arrived for the church to take a stand on the truth of the gospel and live out our faith every day in every instance. We will not recognize the vision that God has for us as a Church body until we are able to shove off the chains that bind us. The latch was unlocked when Christ died on the cross. All you have to do is shrug your shoulders and let the binding fall, step forward and let God take over.

When this happens, we will see revival break out because the world is looking for something real. They are looking for you to live out what you say you believe. I will leave you with one final thought that initiated the process of change that I feel taking over.

“Come as you are, but don’t leave as you came.”

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Consumerism

December 16, 2009 Leave a comment

I am a member and the interim worship leader of a wonderful little congregation in Missouri called Harmony Baptist Church. A few months ago, we had a tragic parting of ways where a significant portion of our congregation decided they did not like the direction that the church was heading and that they would be better off pursuing their idea of what a church should be elsewhere. Unfortunately, it seems that the decision of whether or not to hire me as the worship pastor was the final straw for this group. Honestly, this was a kick in the teeth to me. I have done nothing but give my heart and soul to this congregation for ten years, yet I was not good enough to pursue my call at Harmony in their opinion.

I’m not bitter. Really.

Everything seems to be working out in a positive Godly direction, though. I am still leading worship as the interim worship director and the congregation enjoys the music and my teaching,  so all’s well that ends well, right? Well, I don’t know about that, but the church is moving forward.  We are truly and earnestly seeking to be the hands and feet of Christ, but we are really still in our infancy. The church has been around for twenty-plus years, but this “new church” (which is really what we are considering ourselves) has only been attempting to get off the ground for about six months now. There are definitely exciting things on the horizon, but, honestly, I am having some issues with letting go of what happened and I believe that when we truly understand our mistakes, we have a much better chance of making the correct choice when a similar problem decides to rear its ugly head.

So what was the problem?

In my humble estimation, the issue that ripped Harmony apart (ironic, eh?) boils down to consumerism. Consumerism is the attitude that instills the thought processes that makes us ask questions like  “what can I get out of this?” or “what is this church doing for me?” The consumer is the person who attends church and says, “I didn’t really get anything out of the sermon,” or “I really got a lot out of the music today.” While one of these statements is positive and one is negative, they are both steeped in consumerism. I saw first-hand how people who are in church for the sole purpose of seeing themselves exalted or to be put in a position of power can literally stop a congregation that is working for God dead in its track. This has really been a heartbreaking experience for me. I couldn’t get over their selfish attitude. Or at least, that is what I thought.

Interesting isn’t it…when you look out at other people’s issues how God turns it all back into an introspective journey where you end up seeing just how much you fail. That is the point that I came to several weeks ago. I realized that I was just a younger version of the people who decided to leave. I realized that the consumerist attitudes that drove them away fall into the same consumerist ideals that I hold dear and propagate.

The  older group that left was staunchly against contemporary Christian music in the church. As I would lead worship, they would stand in the back (back row Baptists! Woo!) with theirs arms crossed and glare for the entire worship service. Honestly, this was extremely wearing on me as a worship leader. I used to think, “Man, how in the world can they sit there and stifle the Holy Spirit like that,” but as I said, God has a way of turning me back to the plank in my own eye.

As I began to really dig into what their problem was, God opened my eyes to my own problem and revealed that I have exactly the same atttitude as the group that left. I am not a huge proponent of traditional church music. That is not to say that I hate hymns. That isn’t true at all. I find that many hymns are relevant and amazing, but the style that traditionally accompanies hymns (read: Piano and an organ accompaniment) is not relevant to society as a whole any longer. So, there I was, pointing fingers and scowling under my breath and God looked me dead in the face and called me out for the hypocrite that I was. The truth is, I am just as unbending as the traditionalists that left the church. Try to take away my Tomlin, Hillsongs United, and Crowder and I would be just as upset.

Would I split a church? Probably not. But would I look for a different congregation that suited my preferences better? You bet I would and that is the root of consumerism. To spin an old JFK quote we should:

“Ask not what the kingdom of God can do for us, but what we can do for the kingdom of God.”

If we worship under the banner of preference and consumerism, then we really miss out on the amazing things that God has planned for us as the Church.

Beloved Church, the time has come to let personal preference fall to the wayside and return to the root of why we worship. That is the amazing love of Jesus Christ.

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