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Trusting God in the New Year December 31, 2011

Posted by thesociallyawkwardchristian in Christianity.
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As I write this, we are approximately 6 hours away from the year 2012. New Year’s Eve always brings a melancholy feeling of nostalgia to me, and like many others, hope for the future. Frankly, it is discouraging to be in more or less the same position I was last year. Though there are differences to be sure.

Last year I had a girlfriend who I loved; this year that same girl refuses to speak to me.

Last year I had no job at all; this year I have a job, though one that I am in no way passionate about.

Last year I believed that my sister could never have her own children; this year I anxiously await for my nephew to be born.

As you can see, and can probably relate to, 2011 brought it’s share of pain, frustration, and joy.

The things that I prayed for most did not happen. I’m still single and I still don’t have a job that matters.

And yet I applaud God’s performance in 2011 and eagerly await to see what He has planned for 2012. Because, being that God’s promises to me were not fulfilled in 2011, that means the chances of them being fulfilled in 2012 are that much better. This is what I want us to cling to in 2012. God is faithful. His plan is still to prosper. He has not forgotten us. The fact that His promises have not been fulfilled only means that they will be in the future. That is something worth celebrating in the New Year. Praise be to God Almighty, The Liberating King Jesus, the lover of our souls and the lifter of our heads. Let us trust in Him, and He will make our paths straight.

Happy New Year!

Why I DON’T Believe Everything Happens for a reason December 15, 2011

Posted by thesociallyawkwardchristian in Christianity.
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“I know everything happens for a reason…”

It’s one of the most common theological statements I hear. One that is stated without even a hint of doubt. People are supremely confident that no matter what happens, there is a reason for it. A lesson to be learned through the event. The problem is, I don’t think it’s true.

Just this morning, one of my Facebook friends posted this status:

If you love somebody, let them go. If they return, they were always yours. If they don’t, they never were.

Translation: If you go through a break up, there’s a reason for it. If you get back together, the “timing” wasn’t right. If you don’t, there’s somebody better out there.

It sounds good on the surface. Que sera sera. Whatever will be will be. Whatever happens is God’s Will, right? Well…not necessarily.

The false belief is that whatever happens, is what God wanted to happen. The conventional thinking being that the only reason God would ever let anything bad happen to us whether it be a break up, a job loss, the death of a loved one, or even something on a grander scale like Hurricane Katrina or the Japanese earthquake, is to teach us something to fulfill His purposes for our lives. In some instances, that probably is the case. God certainly does allow certain things to happen to us for a reason. But, everything? I don’t think so.

To say that everything happens for a reason is to say that everything that happens is what God wants to happen. This simply is not true. The presence of sin attests to that. Does God EVER want us to sin? Of course not! Yet, sin exists. In fact, I believe that some negative things happen to us because of our own sin and poor decisions. However, it’s a lot easier to say that the consequence of our sin was just God’s Will and there’s a reason for it than facing the real reason for it: our sin. Also, The Bible is clear that God never wants anyone to die (2 Peter 3:9), but while death has been ultimately defeated through the cross, people still die. This all goes to show that God does not get everything He wants.

Make no mistake, God is in control. But, that does not mean He is all-controlling. He is sovereign, but He is also sovereign over His own sovereignty and He has sovereignly decided to give humans free will. Often times, that free will results in chaos and things happen without any reason. Now, I must say, I find this comforting. It’s comforting because I don’t have to look for the reason in every bad thing that happens to me, I can just trust in God to heal me. It’s comforting because I can rest assured that God has my ultimate good at heart and is not predestining things to cause me pain. It’s comforting because God can bring peace in the chaos.

There is a reason for some things. I trust that God will be able to teach us the reason without us having to obsess over what the reason might be when there is a reason. When there is no reason, we can still trust in His promise that He will make ALL things no matter how painful, chaotic, or reasonless they may be, work together for the good of those that love Him (Romans 8:28).

My Catalyst Experience October 9, 2011

Posted by thesociallyawkwardchristian in Catalyst, Christianity, Judah Smith.
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If you read my last post, you know that I was attending the Catalyst Conference this year. Having just got back, I thought I’d share my thoughts with you.

First of all, the absolute highlight for me was worshipping with brothers and sisters from all different denominations, from all over the world. Every time Eddie Kirkland, Aaron Keyes, or Joel Houston took the stage to lead us, I was taken aback by 13,000 people with varying doctrinal beliefs lifting their voices in praise to our God. I think that experience alone changed me at my core. On that note, I must say that Joel Houston and Hillsong United are just ridiculous. They are an awesome combination of musical genius and holy anointing. They left me speechless.

Of the speakers, Judah Smith was probably my favorite. His message of Jesus being the only thing necessary to be successful in ministry was of great encouragement to me. His question: “Since when do we have to supplement the Savior?” was right on. Catalyst director, Brad Lomenick, summarized Judah’s message well on when he tweeted, “Jesus + nothing = everything.”

Surprisingly enough, I also enjoyed Mark Driscoll. But, maybe it shouldn’t be surprising being that I often enjoy his teaching when he’s not being arrogant, offensive, or too heavily proclaiming Calvinism. He preached on fear, and I thought he did very well.

I was thrilled when I got to meet Andy Stanley. Andy did a book signing and I was second or third in line. It’s difficult to know put leaders like Andy on pedestal, and I think I do that fairly well. But, I found it hard not to feel a little star struck when he was signing my book. I was also thrilled to meet Ian Morgan Cron, author of Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me, and Cameron Strang, publisher of Relevant Magazine. But, the person I was most thrilled to meet was a guy named Sonny Lemmons. I met Sonny on Twitter, actually, and have admired his obvious love for his son and wife. I’m also a big fan of his blog. I can honestly say that Sonny is just an awesome a guy in the real world as he is online. I am very happy that I can call him my friend.

I did experience some surprises at Catalyst, both good and bad.

Good Surprises:

Two great bands were on hand, almost as filler, to play in between sessions and during meal times. There names were Seryn, a folky/rock band and A-Town A-List, who apparently know and could play every song ever created it. Both were a treat to watch and listen to.

Appearances by Jeff Foxworthy, Paige from Extreme Home Makeover, and two acts from America’s Got Talent made special appearances to entertain attendees and in Jeff and Paige’s case, make us aware of homeless ministries and Extreme Home Makeover’s plans to help rebuild Joplin, Missouri.

Bad surprises:

The Catalyst Podcast encouraged attendees to either bring their own food or stay onsite to eat where “moderately-priced” food would be provided from Chick-fil-A, a local Atlanta BBQ place, and the concession stands in the arena. We chose to just eat what was provided, but were “moderately-surprised” by what they called “moderately-priced” food. A prepackaged box from the Chick-fil-A booth contained a chicken sandwich, a small bag of potato chips, a brownie, and a 16 oz. bottle of water. The price tag? 11 bucks. We stopped at a Chick-fil-A  on the way home, and I got a chicken sandwich, 12 piece chick nuggets, and 20 oz. diet Coke for less than $10. Also, a 20 oz. Coke from the arena concession was $4.25. If that was moderately-priced I’d hate to see what Catalyst calls expensive.

But, my biggest gripe was the crowds. Now, I was expecting a lot of people. It was no secret that there was going to be 13,000 people there. But, the traffic flow was horrible. Several times you would become stuck trying to get to a booth you wanted to look at, because a crowd had stopped to look at another one. It was not a friendly place for a claustrophobic. Not too mention, it was the only place I’ve ever been where there were lines for the men’s rooms. The crowds and lines at Disney World have nothing on the crowds and lines at Catalyst. I think it is something that Catalyst has to improve on.

Those complaints aside, I loved Catalyst. It was definitely something I needed and I hope to be back several times in the future.

Were you at Catalyst this year?

What were some of the things/speakers that you liked best? Some things you didn’t like?

Catalyst Expectations October 4, 2011

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Tomorrow I will be on my way to my first ever Catalyst Conference. Catalyst is the preeminent Christian leadership conference in the nation if not the world. Prominent evangelical leaders like Andy Stanley, Mark Driscoll, Dave Ramsey, Francis Chan, and many more will all be speaking.  Not to mention fun demonstrations like a human cannonball and a guy who throws knives at a human target are all apart of the experience. Needless to say, I have high expectations.  Here are just a few of them:

1. I will meet a famous pastor, ask for his autograph, then feel weird about asking for a pastor’s autograph.

One of the oddest aspects of current evangelicalism is the celebrity culture. Evangelical Christians have their own celebrities. These people are famous, but usually only to evangelical Christians. These celebrities are usually pastors or authors. Asking for an author’s autograph isn’t that unusual, but I can’t help but feel a little odd about asking for a pastor’s autograph. I mean, I’m gonna get Francis Chan to sign my copy of Crazy Love should I get that opportunity. But, I still can’t help but think that that’s a little weird. He’s really just another dude that loves Jesus, but he writes and talks about his love for Jesus in an enlightening way. And that makes him a celebrity? Hm. Okay. I’m still getting his autograph.

2. I will turn into a Chick-fil-A chicken sandwich.

Chick-fil-A is the official food of Christians. It is the new manna. I plan on eating Chick-fil-A for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and an afternoon snack at least one day there.

3. Mark Driscoll will say something I disagree with, yet I will still kinda admire him.

Mark Driscoll is probably the most unpopular speaker on the Catalyst schedule this year. At least, unpopular in the eyes of the group of Christians I usually associate myself with. He’s has said more to make me dislike him than like him. Yet, I have still learned from some of his teachings. And I do appreciate his frankness. I fully expect to not completely agree with his talk at Catalyst, but I am also expecting to learn something from him as well.

4. I will spend more on books, shirts, resources, etc., than I want to. Then Dave Ramsey will speak and I’ll be convicted.

I’ve heard exciting things about the crazy amount of free stuff (swag in Catalyst vernacular) that Catalyst gives it’s attendees. However, there is plenty more to buy in the conference bookstore. I’m a sucker for the kinda stuff that is typically pimped at a conference. My current plan is to bring only $100 cash for food and extra stuff, and when it’s gone it’s gone. But, I will bring my debit card for travel expenses, so if I go over my limit, my entire bank account will be in my back pocket in the form of plastic. But, hey, at least it’s not credit. Right, Mr. Ramsey?

5. I will be refreshed and encouraged.

This is the main reason I’m going to Catalyst. I’ve been dry, here lately. My quiet times have been consistent and I have not “fallen away” from my relationship with Jesus in the least. However, to get away from my town and my job for a couple of days and just be with brothers and sisters in Christ to worship and learn more about Jesus is desperately needed. Just the sound of it, is like telling a man who has been lost in the desert that there is beach just over the horizon. I can’t wait to dive in.

Those are my expectations for Catalyst.

Have you ever been to a Catalyst Conference before? What were your expectations?

Are you going to Catalyst this week? What are your expectations?

When Everything is Irrelevant August 14, 2011

Posted by thesociallyawkwardchristian in Christianity.
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A couple of weeks ago, I got the opportunity to go to a seminar led by two of my youth ministry heroes: Doug Fields and Duffy Robbins. The seminar was on speaking to teenagers. As I listened and learned about how to better communicate with the kids in my youth group, a thought crossed my mind.

“This is completely irrelevant.”

The teaching wasn’t irrelevant, of course. I felt that as just a guy who works at a feed store, with hopes of being in vocational ministry one day but that goal nowhere in sight, the teaching was irrelevant to me, personally. I don’t get to preach to teenagers on a regular basis, only a couple time a year, so I found myself thinking that this seminar couldn’t really help me that much, because come Monday morning, when everyone else at the seminar would start working on their next messages, I would be loading horse feed into the back of some old redneck’s truck.

To make matters worse, the night before the seminar I had a very emotional conversation with a loved one, that made me think pursuing God-honoring relationships and marriage could be irrelevant.

The problem with irrelevance is that it leads to apathy. Apathy is a dreamkiller. Dreams just can’t survive if you don’t care enough to nurture then. So when everything seems irrelevant, and we start to become apathetic, how do we fight against it? It’s hard to fight something when you’ve lost the will to fight. Frankly, there are no easy answers. It’s gonna be hard. Fights always are. Especially when you don’t feel like fighting. My best advice is nothing extraordinary. It’s simply this: do what Christ-followers are supposed to do. Worship. Read the Scriptures (The Psalms are particularly helpful when you feel like you are at the end of your rope). And especially…give.

After my emotional rollercoaster of a weekend, I went to my church’s young adults service which we hold on Monday nights. I left about ten minutes early so I could pick up some things from the Dollar Store and get to bed for an early day at work the next morning. As I got in the check out line, I quickly became annoyed when the lady in front of me had one of those prepaid credit cards that wasn’t working. “It’s supposed to have $50 on it,” she kept saying. Finally, she said, “I guess I’ll have to do without.” It’s at that moment when I said to myself (more likely, the Holy Spirit said to me), “Are you really gonna let her walk out of here for $8.93?” So I paid for her items. As the tears filled her eyes and she unexpectedly hugged me, I realized that some things are very relevant. Because of my lousy feed store job, I was able to pay for her milk, bread, etc., without even giving it a second thought. It wasn’t much at all to me. The look in her eyes said it was a lot more to her.

I didn’t change the world. It only cost me less than nine bucks. But, it reminded me that even though I’m not where I want to be, I can still be relevant where I am. Because everything is relevant.

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.

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.

Promises, Promises January 30, 2011

Posted by thesociallyawkwardchristian in Christianity.
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The hardest part about waiting on God to fulfill His promises is not so much the waiting as it is the wondering if God ever made you any promises at all. It’s even worse when you think God is starting to fulfill them, and then BAM! Out of the blue, you’re back to square one and all God is saying is, “Wait. Wait. My timing is perfect. Another year or two.” This is the part where you (or if this has only happened to me before, I) start to wonder if God is just toying with you. You begin to wonder if God is really for you and will ever come through for you. Is God nothing more than a omnipotent tease? Of course, every Bible verse about God’s character starts popping into your head. Like Numbers 23:19 which says, “God is not a man that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind.” But, it’s in this state where you’ve been so close to God’s promises that you could almost taste them only to have them taken away that you start to think, “If God were a liar, isn’t that exactly what He would say?!”

Despite our human tendency to doubt, if you’ve been raised in the Church like I have, usually those doubts morph into trying to win God’s promises as if he were Santa Claus and would give you what you want if you would just be good and not end up on the naughty list. You begin to think that if you just read your Bible more, or pray longer, or put more money in the offering plate, then God would give you what He has promised as soon as you get your act together. This mentality is a sad affront to grace and could possibly delay receiving what God has promised even longer. In Romans 4, Paul points to Abraham as a good example of how to receive God’s promises. In verses 13-14 he says, “For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be heirs, faith is null and the promise is void” (emphasis mine). It’s clear from Scripture that if we try to convince God that we are ready for the promise, then what we are doing is based on the law and not on faith, and “law brings wrath…That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace” (verses 15a and 16a). I’d much rather the fulfillment of God’s promises to me depend on his character and grace than it depend on my performance. The amazing part is as long as we have trust in God’s character and grace, it will increase our own faith. As verse 20-21 says, “No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.”

I firmly believe that if God got us this far, then He will keep His hand on us. He did not take us this far, just to leave us where we are. There is a reason why He has not fulfilled his promise to us yet. He still has to shape us so we will be ready to receive the promise, and He might even need to prepare the promise itself so it will be ready for us. So keep fighting. Don’t you dare give up. It’s gonna be so worth it.

When Grace is Disturbing January 8, 2011

Posted by thesociallyawkwardchristian in Bible, Christianity, grace, sin.
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Much has been written about grace and I am not one worthy to add to what’s already been written about it in anyway shape or form. I can’t imagine I can add to what people like Brennan Manning, Andy Stanley, or Mike Foster have written about it in their wonderful books. But, a recent conversation I have become involved in on Facebook (gotta love social media) has prompted me to write this blog. I ask a simple question:

What should our response be when grace disturbs us?

No one has a problem when they are offered grace. It is eagerly accepted and appreciated. To a certain extent, to a certain people, we can even happily give grace to others with as much excitement. But, what happens when grace is offered to people who disturb or disgust us? You know the people that I’m referring to. Those who repulse you enough that you would endure a few seconds of Hell if it meant getting to see them burn. Rapists. Murderers. Child molesters. Terrorists. Homosexuals. Abortionists. Muslims. Liberals. Conservatives. Fundamentalists. Lawyers. Politicians. Telemarketers. Whoever.

The conversation I am involved in began with a friend who posted a link to an article about men who were on the run from police for raping disabled women. Evil and disgusting to be sure. Along with the article, he made the comment, “Sadistic absolutely worthless animals like this do not deserve rights. Bullet in the head.” A few people commented and agreed and even added what they would like to be seen done to these men. While I agreed that they need to be brought to justice, I also stated that as Christians, I believe we should pray for them to be set free from the sin and evil that obviously has them in bondage and hope that God saves them. I believe that our attitude toward them should be one of grace and love, and not a desire for death. I argued this because when it comes down to it, we are (or at the best, were) sick, sadistic animals that need to be put down. The Bible is clear on this, just see Isaiah 64:6 or Romans 3:10-12. The only way we are any better is through the grace of God by the sacrifice of Jesus. Jesus died for those men just as much has he died for their victims. He weeps over both. While our heart rightly breaks for the victims, our hearts burn with hate over  the perpetrators while they should be breaking over them as well. This is not saying that there is not a place for righteous anger, but it is misplaced. The anger should be targeted at the “powers and principalities” behind them, namely Satan and his demons.

While it is a perfectly natural human response to see those people that repulse us punished in horrible, horrible ways, Christians are not merely natural humans. We are supernatural. And the grace and love we show to people, even people that disgust us, should be in supernatural amounts.

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.)

 

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