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What is Heresy? April 26, 2011

Posted by thesociallyawkwardchristian in Bible, Christianity, Rob Bell, The Church.
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The word “heresy” is one that is thrown around alot in the Church today, usually when someone disagrees with another’s interpretation of Scripture. And especially when that interpretation might not be considered “orthodox.” I have resolved to never call another Christian a heretic if they are honestly wrestling with Scripture and legitimately come to their conclusion. Afterall, we continually tell people to read and study the Bible for themselves. When we, mere humans, wrestle with the Word of the infinite God, we are bound to get some things wrong. I came across this series of statements on Twitter today from a pastor named Tim Timmons. His points are very compelling, in my opinion. What are your thoughts?

Thinking of those calling Rob Bell a heretic…(heretic is) only mentioned once in the NT. Peter speaks of destructive heresies…that diminish Jesus.

I don’t think that is happening w/Rob. A destructive heresy is literally a destructive opinion & that diminishes Jesus.

HMMM…a destructive opinion w/in the Church today might be thinking that the auditorium is the “sanctuary” of God, when each believer is.

Or a destructive opinion might be when one leader speaks ill of another (called gossip) & gets away w/ destroying a person’s reputation.

Or a destructive opinion (heresy) might be thinking that Christians have the power to go & convert the world to Christianity.

Or a destructive opinion (heresy) might be teaching that Jesus prefers mega-churches to the smaller version of the Jesus movement.

Or a destructive opinion (heresy) might be thinking going forward at an altar call or standing to say, “I believe” is all that is needed…

Or a destructive opinion (heresy) might be shutting the door on people from other cultures as they want to follow Jesus….

Or a destructive opinion (heresy) is thinking that Christianity is the way, when it isn’t! JESUS IS….

Or a destructive opinion (heresy) might be thinking Jesus was the founder of Christianity or that he was a Christian…that’s destructive!

And all of those opinions “diminish Jesus” and His preeminence!

Everything added on to Jesus as a pet theological belief oryour favorite commands or your religious system is a potential destructive heresy.

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Love Wins…and Still Kind of Loses April 3, 2011

Posted by thesociallyawkwardchristian in Christianity, doubts, Heaven, Hell, Rob Bell, The Church, theology, universalism.
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Welp. It took the entire Christian blogosphere commenting on one book to coax me out of my blog hibernation ( caused by the 60 hour work weeks I’ve recently had to endure). And while I sincerely doubt that many people will read this post because, let’s face it, this dead horse has been beaten just about as much as it can be while still being able to be recognized as a dead horse. But, still I feel it is my duty as a Christian blogger and wannabe pastor to review the most talked about  and controversial Christian book since the 1611 King James Version of the Bible (and yes, in 1611 that was quite controversial for several reasons).

First of all, let me say this: I like Rob Bell. If I had to go to war by his side or any of the “New Calvinists,” I’d easily choose him. He comes off as much more Christlike, even if his theology can be a bit wacky at times. Having said all that, I do believe that people who tend to like
Bell will like the book more than people who tend to dislike him. I also do not believe he is a universalist, at least not as I understand universalism.

As for the book itself, overall, I found it very enjoyable and I did learn a lot from it. It did stretch my faith in some ways. However, I did not agree with all of it. I think anyone who has a bit of knowledge about the Bible could easily point out the parts where Bell is deeply Scriptural, and where he stretches it a tad to match his thesis. We’re all guilty of doing this from time to time, I might add. My advice, as it always is, to people listening to sermons or reading books by pastors is to eat the fruit and spit out the seeds. I agreed with parts and disagreed with parts of the book. That’s not the issue. The biggest issue I have with what’s come out of this book is harshness with which people have discussed it. I’m guilty of being a little harsh myself in some of the discussions I have had about it. My problems being with people who claim that Rob Bell is a heretic and going to Hell himself. Personally, I don’t think anyone is a heretic who is honestly wrestling with God and the Scriptures to try to figure out the Father’s heart. What’s heretical about that? Just because someone comes to a different conclusion to what the Scripture is saying than you believe or has been taught for the past 1500 years does not necessarily make them a heretic. What makes a heretic is one who is trying to undermine God and the Scriptures just for the sake of undermining them. Bell is not doing this. I believe he really has studied, prayed, and wrestled with these issues and is simply teaching what he feels he has learned. That is in no way heresy.

The other problem I have with it is the people who are commenting on the book and on Bell personally without ever reading it. Most of these people just take the position their pastors take. This is typical, lazy, American Christianity. The saddest thing is that most pastors want their people to follow them blindly like this. If a pastor is gonna make a judgment on a book without ever reading it, and just wants their people to go along with him, how does he expect them to actually read the Bible for themselves? The secret is he doesn’t want them to. He just wants them to go along with what he says about the Bible and every other topic. Welcome to modern day conservative Christianity. Though let’s not pick on just the pastors. It’s the people, overcome by their own laziness and idol worship (their pastor is their idol) that force that away from reading the Bible and thinking for themselves.

This is my plea to you. If you decide to have an opinion on Love Wins,  or even on Rob Bell himself, please do so after reading the book and doing much research. Do not form an opinion based on news stories, blogs, book reviews, and especially not based on whatever your pastor says. You have a mind and Jesus said you were supposed to love Him with all of it. Not reading these books for yourself and blindly following whatever your pastor says is failing Jesus in that regard, because it is just plain stupid.

Retreating from the Church December 13, 2010

Posted by thesociallyawkwardchristian in Christianity, cynicism, introverted, prayer, socially awkward, The Church.
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Last month, I wrote a blog about a prayer experiment I was attempting where I would have a concentrated hour of prayer for 30 days straight.  The goal was simply to improve my prayer life, an area in my walk with God that I felt was lacking. While I felt that goal was accomplished (not without a fight, I’ll have a detailed recap of the prayer experiment up some time before the New Year), one surprising place that I felt God led me during it was away from the Church.

I have been growing frustrated with the Church for a few years now, as many young Christians have. But, I never stopped attending church services simply because Christians are not supposed to miss church services. As my pastor is fond of saying, “You should never miss church, because you could miss your miracle.” I used to agree with this statement wholeheartedly, after all the Bible does say, ” And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV).  Just a few months ago, both the Christian and secular media made a big deal out of author Anne Rice’s statement that she was leaving the Church, but not Jesus. Most Christian leaders disagreed with Anne’s decision because, as Andy Stanley (I think) said, “You can’t love Jesus without loving his bride.” While I believe the words of the writer of Hebrews, and I tend to agree with Andy’s view, I couldn’t help but sympathize with Anne. I was becoming less and less patient with people in my church who disagreed with me on theology and liturgy (how church services should be structured). Not only that, I also felt a bit of conviction on what I felt was a seed of arrogance growing in me. While this was a problem that I needed to deal with that was totally my own fault, I felt that some people in my church were just stoking the fire, so to speak. I would get to church excited and leave angry and bitter. I had no idea what to do, because I felt like I needed to get away, but my pastor’s words would ring in the back of my mind. Thankfully God led me to a blog series Ed Cyzewski was doing on surviving church burnout (click on the link to his blog, “In a Mirror Dimly,” on the right; Ed consistently knocks it out of the park). I felt like God gave me permission to skip church for a few weeks in order to get refreshed and refocused on Him through these words from Ed:

No Christian I know wants to step away from the church. This is not something done with glee and joyIf you’re committed to processing your church or ministry burn out in a healthy way, then the next important step is to seek out a period of rest. That means stepping away from ministry and possibly even a traditional church service for a period of time.

Those words gave me the encouragement I needed to do what I felt I had to do. Ed is right about no Christian wanting to step away from the Church. This was not something I was looking forward to. We are created to want to be in the Church and to assemble and worship with other Christians. But, for the sake of my own spirituality this was something I had to do.

The first bit of relief I got was when I realized that I didn’t have to force myself out of bed to take a shower on Sunday. After that bit of purely physical indulgence, is when I felt like the Holy Spirit truly was ministering to me. After I got up, I put on some worship music and just dove into the Word. I ended up fellowshiping with God through a lectio divina type of Bible study, followed by a time of worship and prayer. When I looked at the clock I realized I had been in God’s prescence for almost two hours, about as much time as the service at my church usually lasts. The difference being, I felt so refreshed and relaxed that I felt like I had just gotten out of a hot tub. 

I ran into some opposition, of course, particularly from my mother. My parents are very traditional Southern Baptists, and mom has never liked me going to a less traditional non-denominational church in the first place, so choosing to skip church altogether was completely lost on her. I might as well have told her I was now an atheist. This opposition from the previous generation of Christians is just something the next generation will have to get used to. As Gabe Lyons describes in his book, The Next Christians, Christians aged 16-29 are about to change the way church is done, but our parents and grandparents won’t understand or like it. I viewed this instance with my mom as just a glimpse of the things to come. The key is learning how to handle this with grace and honor to those who have gone before us.

Yesterday marked the third and last Sunday service I plan on missing during this “retreat.”  I feel refreshed, refocused, and am looking forward to rejoining my church in worshiping God together. I know that the things I disagree with about my church haven’t changed, and some things will continue to frustrate me. But, through taking a few weeks away from them, and letting God work in and minister to me personally has given me enough strength to where I feel I’m ready to handle the frustrations that churchlife and Christian community can sometimes bring, at least until the next retreat.

How do you feel about skipping church to get closer to God?

Have you ever felt like leaving the Church, like Anne Rice?

What are some suggestions you would give to someone feeling burned out by the Church or their Christian communities?

What are the things you most like about Christian community? What are the things you like least?

 

(It would be wrong of me to not mention how Adam S. McHugh’s book Introverts in the Church, has also inspired me through this time. Adam taught me that it is perfectly normal for an introvert to need more times of solitude than extroverts do, and churches usually are extroverted in nature. If you are a Christian and an introvert, or a pastor of any personality type, Adam’s book is  must read.)

 

Books Every Christian Should Read (Part 1) October 14, 2010

Posted by thesociallyawkwardchristian in books, C.S. Lewis, Christianity, Donald Miller, doubts, hearing God, John Ortberg, Mark Batterson, N.T. Wright, Peter Lord, The Church, theology.
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A staple of socially awkward people is that we’re well-read. Reading is usually an activity best done alone, so we get a lot of it done because we are usually alone. There are pros and cons to this, of course, but that’s not the point of this blog. The point of this blog is just to let you know some books that have seriously helped my faith. This list is by no means exhaustive as there are plenty of books I have yet to read. But of those I have read, I believe these are some that, if you are a Christian, you should definitely check out. (I’m not putting them in any particular order, so don’t think I rank one better than the other).

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

The only “classic” on my list. It’s hard to find any Christian, of any tradition or denomination, say something negative about C.S. Lewis. While Chronicles of Narnia is by far his most famous work, Mere Christianity is still one of the best resources for Christians who need a little help in articulating what they believe. You can buy it at http://www.amazon.com/Mere-Christianity-C-S-Lewis/dp/0060652888

   Simply Christian by N.T. Wright

Moving on from C.S. Lewis to the man some are calling today’s C.S. Lewis. N.T. Wright is a bishop in the same denomination that Lewis was apart of (The Church of England) and quotes him frequently. Wright uses more theological terms than Lewis does, but his theology his what makes the book so interesting. Wright’s goal is to examine what the early Church, namely the Apostles, believed and compare their beliefs to Christians of today. Along the way, Wright also provides a great theological defense of, as the subtitle states, “why Christianity makes sense.” You can buy this book at http://www.harpercollins.com/books/Simply-Christian-N-T-Wright/?isbn=9780061920622

   Know Doubt by John Ortberg

Some non-believers think they can never become a Christian if they have doubts about it. Some Christians, on the other hand, feel like they can never move forward in their faith because of their doubts. While other Christians feel that they can never even mention their doubts without being cast out of the Church. Ortberg, a Presbyterian minister, challenges all of those ideas and even sets forth the idea that doubt is not the enemy of faith, but an essential part of it. You can buy this at http://www.amazon.com/Know-Doubt-Importance-Embracing-Uncertainty/dp/031032503X

                                                                                                                    Hearing God by Peter Lord

Jesus said “My sheep hear my voice” (John 10:27). But, sometimes that can get a little tricky for modern-day Christians. So often we are confused as to what Jesus is really saying to us. Peter Lord, a Baptist pastor, gives practical ways that we can increase our ability to hear and discern God’s voice in our lives. There is a revised edition coming out in 2011. Until then you can buy the first edition at http://www.amazon.com/Hearing-God-Peter-Lord/dp/0801056500/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1287101729&sr=1-1

 Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller

Donald Miller has recently been popularized by Lifeway Christian Stores as an author that we should “read with discernment” (You can read more on that in a great blog by Shaun Groves at http://shaungroves.com/2010/10/read-with-discernment-especially-donald-miller/ ). Even with that dubious distinction, he is still my favorite author. Miller does not have the experience of a pastor or a theological degree, but what he does have is an outstanding talent to write,a deep faith, and extreme honesty. Blue Like Jazz is Miller’s own life story of dealing with various obstacles that many young American Christians face on a daily basis. You can buy  Blue Like Jazz at http://www.amazon.com/Blue-Like-Jazz-Nonreligious-Spirituality/dp/0785263705/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1287102617&sr=1-1 But, remember…”read with discernment.” 😉

 In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day by Mark Batterson

Based on 2 Samuel 23:20-23, Assembly of God Pastor Mark Batterson explains how sometimes God’s biggest dreams will only be revealed to us if we take risks and trust God. You can buy this at http://www.amazon.com/Pit-Lion-Snowy-Day-Opportunity/dp/1590527151/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1287103531&sr=1-1

I’ll be back with part 2 tomorrow, in the meantime, what are some books that you think every Christian should read?

The Truth About Being a Socially Awkward Christian September 24, 2010

Posted by thesociallyawkwardchristian in Christianity, confession, Danny Jones, extroverted, introverted, life, socially awkward, The Church.
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I get  a lot of compliments about the title of this blog. Most people think it’s cute at worst, funny at best, and the people who know me think it fits me well. I’m glad that people enjoy it, but honestly being a socially awkward person, much less a socially awkward Christian, in today’s culture is anything but cute or funny. Let me set up a little bit of what being this way is like. I can think of no better scenario than this past Sunday night.

Recently, my church started a new young adults ministry led by my friend, B.J. This ministry has two services a week; one for the young adults in Picayune on Mondays, another for the young adults living about an hour north in the college town of Hattiesburg on Sundays. This past Sunday, a small group of the “leaders” from the Picayune campus traveled with B.J. to Hattiesburg to both help set up as well as get connected with some of the students at that campus. I know the people that traveled there, but not that well except for B.J., who was driving the 15-passenger van with his wife riding shotgun. I sat in the very back, without saying one word the entire drive, at one point even causing B.J. to say “Brandon, you sure are quiet back there.” I really didn’t know how to respond, so I just smiled and nodded. The fact is trying to say something witty that turns out to not be so witty in front of the people I was with was absolutely terrifying.

We finally got to our destination and started setting up for the service. This went well enough for me, I can make small talk at times when everyone is working on an equal task. The big problems began when people started showing up. I knew some of them, but again not that well, and the majority I did not know at all. I don’t think it’s easy for anyone to introduce themselves, but for introverted people, I think it’s only slightly better than chemotherapy. I see new people and I lock up. I can’t make eye contact, my palms become sweaty, I become cottonmouth with no amount of liquid able to wet my dry throat. Thank God for my Blackberry. I start scrolling up and down, looking at nothing in particular, but at least the appearance of me texting someone will convince these people that I’m not a loser, and maybe even sway them from trying to talk to me. It doesn’t work though, some guy does try to make small talk, asking how I’ve been. I say good, and ask the same of him, he says good as well, and then just stands there, obviously waiting for one of us to say something that could start an actual conversation. If meeting someone new is like chemotherapy, this is like being tortured by shoving bamboo sticks under my fingernails. Eventually, I just look back to the safety of my smartphone and he walks away.

After a awhile, I talk myself up reminding myself that I’m a leader and am not supposed to be afraid of people. I see a group of people standing in a circle and laughing, I decide to try and go enter the conversation. The circle doesn’t open to let me in, so I stand on the outside looking in, as if I’m the only kid on the fieldtrip to Disneyland that forgot to get my parents to sign the permission slip and have to stay at school. Somebody then forgets what movie a certain line he’s referencing is found in, and I know it so I speak up. My answer is correct and he says, “That’s it!” and continues with his conversation, once again leaving me on the outside of the circle. I thank God when it’s time for the service to start. On the ride home, I’m more involved with the conversation, thanks to a lucky joke I made that was actually funny. Then I start to overdo it because of my excitement of being involved and try to think of more funny stories or witty statements, but I’m not that funny or that witty so I start to use other people’s stories or jokes and claim them as my own, but unfortunately, they only work for the people who actually own the rights to them. The agony only ends when I’m back in my truck, graciously alone.

They say the Christian life isn’t meant to be done alone. We need community to survive. I believe this is true. But, for people like me, the thing that’s supposed to keep you alive causes you so much pain and anxiety. It’s like drinking water that tastes and smells like gasoline. You know you need it to live, but drinking it can be vomit-inducing. I get jealous of people that others naturally gravitate toward. My friend, Danny, is like this. People naturally like him; and he’s just naturally good with people. I watch him when he’s dealing with the people in our church and I’m amazed. He might as well be wearing a cape and a big “S” on his chest. It’s unbelieveable to me. How is he that comfortable with people? How are people that attracted to him and others like him? It’s strange. We have even discussed the dichotomy of how people react to him and to me. He can make a certain joke and people will think it’s hilarious. I could make the same exact joke and people will think I’m just creepy. It all goes back to the fact that I’m socially awkward and he’s not. I’m introverted, and he’s extroverted. These are just common personality types. Being one way is not better than the other way, it’s just the way we’re built. Sometimes, though, being introverted can feel less like a personality type and more like a disorder or a condition. This is magnified in the Church, which is an extroverted culture. Introverts have a much harder time with it than people think they do. We often get the label of “weird” because they think we don’t like people, which is not the case. Introverts like people just as much as anyone. It’s just that we want to be liked and to be seen as “cool” so bad that we have a hard time socializing. People will say that’s shallow and that we should just be ourselves, but they don’t understand that we are.

One of the things I have noticed about social media networks like Facebook and Twitter is that introverts don’t exist on them. I don’t know what it is but introverts thrive online. I realized on Sunday night, that I would have a much easier time talking to these people through a screen than I do face-to-face. Through this blog and through my Twitter, I feel closer to my online “community” of people that I have never met than I do to some of my peers in my own church. I am not saying this is right or even healthy, I’m just saying this is what being socially awkward is like. It’s a prison. It’s not cute and it’s not funny. It’s lonely. It’s painful.

Where do we introverts, we socially awkward, fit within our Christian communities? Social awkwardness is not sin. Let me make that clear. I don’t think the problem is within us, though I do think that there are some things about our personalities that we need to overcome. However, there are also some things that extroverts, or people who are not socially awkward need to understand. Namely, we are not weird. We are not creepy. We are just nervous. We like you, and we want you to like us. We have wisdom to offer, if you will just allow us to say it when we finally work up the courage to say it. Be patient with us and continue to reach out to us, though understand that sometimes we will need more space than you might.

To others who are socially awkward like me I want to say this: God has given us callings and dreams, too. We can lead just as well as extroverts, God did not limit us to be followers. We can be pastors, teachers, prophets, artists, entertainers, worship leaders, and anything God has called us to be. We can do “all things through Christ who gives us strength” just like people who aren’t socially awkward can. We can overcome the aspects of our personalities that would hold us back. We can overcome the fear that often paralyzes us. I think we can even have an advantage over our extroverted brothers and sisters. The way we are forces us to rely solely on Jesus. We aren’t tempted to use our personalities nearly as often as extroverts do. When we find the courage to do what God has called us to do, we can have the confidence that we are not working at all in our own power, but in the strength of the One who loves us unconditionally, as we are. Our strength and hope is found in the One who at the sound of His Name, every knee will bow, socially awkward or not. Never forget this.

Gideon: “My clan is the weakest…I am the least.”

God: “But, I will be with you.”

Judges 6:15-16

Theology Vs. People September 23, 2010

Posted by thesociallyawkwardchristian in Christianity, Danny Jones, Fruits of the Spirit, The Church, theology.
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I read a tweet this morning from my friend and High School Pastor of my church, Danny Jones (a good follow on Twitter by the way: @thedannyjones), in which he issued an interesting challenge to his followers. He said, “Here’s a challenge for everyone. Let’s try and value people like we value our theology this week.”

What struck me as interesting about this tweet is that Danny assumes, like a lot of people do, that theology doesn’t value people. That’s when I started wondering, “At what point did theology and people become enemies?”

I am passionate about theology. I am also passionate about people (though admittedly, I have an easier time dealing with theology than people due to my social awkwardness). But, I believe that the theologies that I adhere to help me to value people more. Somewhere along the way, it has gotten into our heads that theology is a divisive thing. I think Danny tweeted what he did, because he has seen, like I have, people get into loud, obnoxious arguments over differences in theology. The problem with that ,though, is with the theologians and not the theologies.

Theology is good. It needs to be taught in our churches, but it needs to be taught in a way that lifts people up and explained how it can be used in everyday life. This is the whole point of what is called, “Practical Theology.” The reason some people value their theologies more than people is because they haven’t been taught that theology is for people. I think most churches have strayed away from teaching good theology because they have seen how it can be abused, so they leave it for the seminaries and Christian universities to teach. That’s the main problem. As a graduate of a Christian university, I have seen firsthand that most of the professors in those settings, while brilliant, aren’t exactly the most loving Christians in the world. So, naturally, the students who learn theology from these people have a hard time communicating just how people-friendly theology can be.

Bottom line, good theology values people. If a certain theology doesn’t value people, it’s simply a bad theology and should be thrown out. But, just because some theologies don’t value people, or some theologians don’t understand how their theology values people, doesn’t mean that theology is bad. I value people because my theology values people.  I can’t value people without it.  Theology and people are not enemies. They are not at odds with each other. We can’t value one more than the other, because they are not mutually exclusive. Our theologies should always be something that help us live out a Christian lifestyle. If your particular theology doesn’t produce in you the fruits of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control) towards people then you don’t have a Christian theology at all.

Let’s stop thinking of theology as a bad thing, and remember that it is a good thing designed to help us communicate who God is to other people.

The Nature of Revival September 11, 2010

Posted by thesociallyawkwardchristian in Bible, charisma, Christianity, cynicism, Holy Spirit, Revival, spiritual gifts, The Church.
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The video above is from a “revival” happening in Mobile, Alabama. I had the chance to attend this revival, which is now being held in the Mobile Convention Center, last night.

I am no stranger to revivals. I was raised Southern Baptist and actually got saved at a Baptist “revival” in my hometown of Picayune, Mississippi when I was ten.

A few years later, some friends and I decided to put on some Christian dramas in our school as a part of The Fellowship of Christian Athletes. That day is now often referred to as the “Pearl River Central Revival” because of so many students getting saved, and confessing and repenting of their sins. This day was even covered by Time Magazine. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,997088,00.html

That article came to the attention of Richard Crisco, who was the youth pastor at Brownsville Assembly of God in Pensacola, Florida. Crisco then contacted the school and requested me and a friend of mine to come speak at their Branded By Fire Youth Conference. We were unaware that Brownsville was claiming to be in a massive revival for the past several years. This revival was different from the Baptist revivals I was used to. In Baptist churches, a revival is something that happens annually for about one week out of the year. This revival had been lasting for years and was accompanied by alleged miraculous healings, all-night prayer meetings and worships services, and people being “slain in the Spirit.”

After my experience at Brownsville, I did feel as though God led me to leave the Baptist denomination and start attending more Charismatic, though non-denominational, churches. I tell you this to let you know, I’m very aware of the nature of revival in these types of churches. What I saw in Mobile was a typical Charismatic/Assembly of God/Pentecostal type of “revival.” God is definitely moving there, though I don’t know if what it is, is an actual “revival.”

I’m beginning to think we throw the word “revival” around a bit too liberally. God does wonderful things at what churches call “revivals.” I absolutely believe that God was working in Mobile last night. Just like I absolutely believe that God was working in Brownsville. Just like I believe that God works in the countless Baptist revivals. I just don’t believe that any of those are true revival.

When we say that we want revival, what we usually mean is that we want God to move strongly in our communities, cities, states, nation, and world. What usually happens at these “revival” services is that God moves strongly in those services. But, everything pretty much seems the same outside of the church walls. Sure, there have been reports of the occasional drug addict coming into a service, stating that he felt compelled to come in, and then being set free, and that’s awesome, but true revival, to me, seems like it would require entire crackhouses compelled to come to the services. Or better yet, the entire service moving to the crackhouse. If revival breaks out in a crackhouse, brothel, or a strip club (requiring those places to close, of course), then no one will be able to question the legitimacy of it, as some people do to the Mobile “revival.” When those things start happening, then maybe revival will actually go from breaking out in the crackhouse to the White House.

I’m not ready to say that what’s happening in Mobile is a revival. I think true revival is much bigger than that. I got pretty much what I expected I was going to get in Mobile. I think that true revival will actually be beyond what Baptists, Charismatics, and every other denomination or non-denomination expects.

I do expect true revival to happen, however, and there’s no question in my mind about it. Because the best thing I saw in Mobile was some of the kids from my youth group in awe of what God was doing and excited about God doing even bigger things. I believe true revival will happen because the Bible tells us exactly how it will happen, and those kids are following what the Bible says about it. They, along with several other Christians all over the world, are following out this verse:

“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

-2 Chronicles 7:14

That verse carries the formula for revival. I have hope that verse is being carried out in the lives of the kids I saw worshipping God last night. Therefore, I have hope that true revival will happen.

My Take on Shane’s Take August 27, 2010

Posted by thesociallyawkwardchristian in Christianity, life, The Church, Uncategorized.
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This is a response to my friend Shane’s recently posted blog called “Can You Handle the Truth?” You should definitely go to http://www.ShanesTake.com and read it.

As a wannabe pastor, writer, and blogger it’s one of my daily habits to read through the Christian blogosphere to get my spiritual, intellectual, and creative juices flowing. I read everything from Matthew Paul Turner’s irreverent http://www.jesusneedsnewpr.net to Rachel Held Evans endless questions at http://www.rachelheldevans.com to Jon Acuff’s hilarious observations at http://www.stuffchristianslike.net and every thing in between. I’ve read a lot of posts that have a certain amount of sting in them but the one I read tonight from my friend Shane tonight really cut deep. Maybe it hurt so bad because I know Shane and know some of his history, or maybe it was because I know there is a fair amount of truth in his accusations of the Church.

Part of me gets offended when people call out the Church so harshly, as Shane does, because I am apart of it and I feel a certain amount of responsibility to defend Christ’s Bride. But, when I read over Shane’s blog again, I can’t find much that I can argue with because I have seen many of the things that he has brought up, though I do see it from a different angle than he does.

You see, Shane and I had two very different upbringings. All things considered, I had an almost fairy-tale type of childhood. My sister and I got pretty much everything we ever wanted. Our parents were happy, healthy, and had a good marriage. Shane and his sister, however, tragically lost their mother at a young age, which sent Shane and his family into a tailspin. I met Shane a couple years after this when he came to visit his grandparents who lived in Mississippi (Shane was from Texas).  I remember being pretty apprehensive about meeting him due to my socially awkward tendencies. But, it turned out we got along fairly easily, mostly due to Shane’s sense of humor and easy going nature. He wasn’t without his own idiosyncrasies, though. He had an odd fascination with Tom Cruise on account that he thought he looked like him. I never saw it, but who was I to argue?

Shane would come down for a few weeks every summer and as we often talked about his past. He would ask me questions about God and the Bible and I would answer them the best I could. We both knew that Shane needed to fill a hole in his life and that whole looked a lot like Jesus. I remember on one night before he was about to leave to go back to Texas we were having an interesting conversation about his lifestyle when he picked up my Bible and said, “Well, believe it or not, I really want to get into this stuff.” I told him I wished he would, but in the back of my mind I didn’t see him doing it. I thought he desire for sex and alcohol would easily trump his desire for God.

The next time I saw him, he wasn’t the same person. He knew more about the Bible than I did, and even the way he carried himself was different. To this day, I’ve never seen such a change in anyone. This time instead of going to the skating rink or to the water park to try and make out with random girls, we actually went “street witnessing” at Wal-Mart. I absolutely loathe this practice now as it is easily the most ineffective for of evangelism know to man, especially in America. The last thing anybody wants is for someone to stick a tract in their face while they’re trying to find ripe tomatoes. But, we didn’t care. We just wanted to tell people about Jesus. In all honesty, seeing Shane change the way he did was a catalyst for my own faith. Knowing that God could do that kind of a work in someone whom I thought was beyond hope made me realize that God can do anything and that no one was out of His reach.

That was the last time I saw Shane, if memory serves, but his grandparents and his sister who moved here, did keep me updated on how he was doing. He married his girlfriend, Nicole, who was just as passionate about God as he was, when he was 19 and became a youth pastor. A few years later, I even saw him on a webshow called The Shimmy Show. It was hilarious and I can’t tell you how much it excited me to see my friend enjoying his life and having a successful ministry and family life. A few months later, though, I heard awful news. Shane and Nicole got divorced and Shane left the ministry. My heart broke. I heard lots of rumors about what happened, and I don’t know if any of them were true, but even if they weren’t through the modern marvels of Facebook and Twitter, I could tell my friend was hurting, even if he wouldn’t admit it.

That leads us to tonight. Shane has posted a couple of blogs revealing a little bit about what led to his leaving the ministry and the reasons he’s revealing are downright scary. Frankly, I really don’t know if Shane had enough time to see the ugly side of the Church before he got into ministry, which is currently making me thankful that God has delayed my starting time in it. Shane talks about how Christians cover up their struggles, because if they truly were to reveal them, most people in the Church would isolate them if not try to kick them out, or at the very least give them a bunch of cliched answers on what they need to do better. I realized this a long time ago when I went through something very painful in my own life that caused me to lose a lot of friends. But, even though I lost a lot of friends in that time, I did discover that I did a few (and I do stress a few), that really did love me were willing to stand beside me and even defend me. Reading Shane’s blog made me wonder where those people were for him? Did he even realize they were there? Did he really not have any? There was no one in his faith community that he could confess his struggles too and not judge him but love him through them? That’s hard for me to believe, but at the same time I can see how those few could get lost in the mob of the stone throwers. So much of what Shane says rings true. That’s why I really want us to take a long, cold, hard look in the mirror and ask ourselves as Shane asks, “Can I handle the truth?”

The key to answering that question honestly is to remember the truth about ourselves. I need grace. I need grace so bad. How could I not show grace to another? How could I be shocked at another’s sin and struggles when I know all of the shocking atrocities that I have commited?

Shane, I love you. Thank you for motivating me with your transparency, your grace, and even your pain.

If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. – 1 John 4:20

 

Wait, You’re Single…and Happy?! June 30, 2010

Posted by thesociallyawkwardchristian in Christianity, family, life, singles, The Church.
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The Church is a family-friendly place, as it should be. Every preacher in America has preached sermons on family, on having healthy marriages, and on how to be a better parent; most pastors preach on these topics several times throughout the year, some the majority of the year. In churches such as mine, where the majority of the congregation are married and have families, this makes sense. Sermons on building healthy families are needed, and needed often. The sad part is for single people, like me, is that we usually have to put up with the old, “You singles listen up! You’re going to need this one day when you have a family!” While this statement may indeed be true, I usually take it as a slap in the face. 

Now, I know some of you might think that I’m being too harsh because several churches have good singles ministries. In this you are correct, there are some excellent singles ministries out there. But, I’m talking about corporate worship services and the interactions we get from our married brothers and sisters.

First of all, singles are not guaranteed that we will ever get married. The old idea that “God has someone picked out for everybody” is proven untrue every time that a lonely single dies unmarried. This being the case, I may not need the sermon on how to build a healthy family, because we can’t be sure that I ever will get married. I’m hopeful I will, and I even think that’s it’s probable that I will, but it is far from guaranteed.

But, the thing that bothers me most about the Church’s focus on the family (I hope I don’t have to pay James Dobson royalties for using that phrase), is that it seems like most married people with families view the single person as lacking something.  The last time my pastor preached a sermon series on the family, one of his points was that, “being in a family adds value to your life.” So, my life as a single is less valuable that someone who is married? I understand what he was saying, and while there may be truth to it, that statement didn’t exactly edify me.

In addition to that, when singles tell married people they’re single we usually get this line: “Aw, you’ll find somebody. The right person is out there.”  The connotation there is that being that we are not married, we must not be happy. Granted, I know a lot of singles that are indeed unhappy and lonely, but sometimes I wonder if they are like that because those feelings have been willed onto us by our church family, because again, they make it seem like we are lacking something. 

Let me just say that if you are single, you are not lacking anything. It is well noted that even Paul thought it was better to be single than to be married (1 Corinthians 7:25-35). My request to the Church is that we get shown some love. Yes, a lot of us singles are lonely. Yes, a lot of us singles are sad. Yes, a lot of us singles do have dreams of being married and in a family one day. But, we are not lacking anything. Instead of constantly teaching us about how to build a healthy family or to find a godly mate. Teach us how to be content in our singleness, and how to best serve the Lord while we are single. Please do not just assume that because we are single that we are unhappy. Ask us if we are! If we are, please minister to us! If we are not, then laugh with us! Whatever you do, just don’t make us feel like we are lacking something!

Do you think that churches put too much emphasis on ministering to families and not enough on singles?

Have you ever felt like you were lacking something because you’re not married?

What are some ways the divide between married people and single people in the Church can be bridged?

Transitions & Changes May 24, 2010

Posted by thesociallyawkwardchristian in Bible, changes, family, Holy Spirit, life, The Church.
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I had an emotional day yesterday. I got up and headed north to Hattiesburg, MS to visit a church that is showing some interest in my services as a youth pastor. I was excited and nervous at the same time. Since I was 15, working in a church and having a ministry has been both a calling and a dream. Now, I was standing on that dream becoming a reality. Few people get to say that in their lives. I was shown around the church building. Everything was beautiful and sparkling clean. The worship was a good and the message was great. I ate lunch with the pastor and his wife who both were very gracious and nice. They invited me back to hang out with the youth in a few weeks.

I left feeling good about the meeting and looking forward to going to meet the youth. It wasn’t until I looked at my phone did I realize something was wrong. I had received a text from m, y dad about 45 minutes prior. All it said was, “If I call, can u talk?” I replied, “Now you can.” My phone rang immediately.

You see, my dad’s sod company has been slow lately, a victim of the economy, so he found a job working offshore. We had expected for him to leave for training some time around midnight last night, and then be back by the end of the week and leave for his regular six week rotation a couple of weeks from now. But, when I answered the phone and asked him where he was, I was surprised to hear that he was already in the Gulfport Airport, and wouldn’t be back for another 8 weeks.

Me and my family are quickly entering into major changes. We’re excited about the possibilities of new adventures, but nervous and scared about how the transitions will effect us. Personally, I worry if I’m ready to lead my own youth ministry, even though I know that I’ve had the appropriate training, and learned a lot of hard lessons through working underneath the youth pastors at the Journey.  But, the doubts still creep in. Will the youth like me? How will I mesh with the staff? Can the church feed me spiritually? Then I worry about my dad and my mom being lonely if and when I inevitably have to move.

Transitioning into changes is never easy,  but we do have the Holy Spirit to help us through them. I think about the disciples after Jesus died, and about how they were terrified. The Bible says that they locked themselves in a room because they were afraid that the Jews would come after them. But, then Jesus appeared to them and granted them both the peace and power of the Holy Spirit (John 20:19-23).  Later, after they had received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, these same disciples were no longer afraid, but bold when they were challenged. The Bible says that Peter, along with the rest of the apostles, stood up and addressed those that were persecuting, and 3000 of them got saved. Pretty good for eleven guys that were terrified to go outside a couple weeks before. The same Spirit that empowered the disciples through times of change, is the same Spirit who empowers us through times of change.

What are some big transitions or changes that you’ve had to go through?

How did you deal with them?

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