Surviving or thriving – a question


Don Merrit asked the question: how do “surviving churches” become thriving churches?

Further to yesterday’s post – my “outflow” left me with a very clear question (with the obligatory pre-question ponderings – of course!) 🙂

+ – – + – – + – – + – – + – – +

The ministers are “qualified” in theology. Qualified in many things. But rarely with the time for relationship of the Jesus kind (and rarely with the balls for relationship of the Jesus kind). Demons? Spiritual warfare? The freaky God stuff? Hugs and kisses? Spontaneity and fun? Deep thinking and teaching? Personal and personalised one-one? It’s just that they are human too. Just like you and I. And yet … we expect so much of them. We have such high standards of them. We see the label of “minister”, or “pastor” or whatever the official title used … and we abuse the person within.

And they “abuse” the person within. Having to hide who they are, what they think, how they feel, how tired they are, how put-upon they are, how pissed off at spending so much time negotiating trivia, compromising to achieve unity, keeping the paying-bums-on-seats happy – all of the “church” stuff WE impose on THEM.

That WE impose on THEM. Good church folk. Opinionated church folk. Church folk who acquire ownership of how church should be. When we say the church is “us” – why do we never like to look too closely at just what that really means?

It seems to me that “surviving churches” do not become “thriving churches”.

It seems to me that hungry God lovers get by EITHER on a scant diet of bullshit and bible, OR find a fertile field of pasture. And as each of us who hunger seek a slightly different diet – WE impose on our “add title” to serve up a menu no restaurant would or could ever serve. A menu no one “add title” can ever serve to the satisfaction of each.

Well hello … !

This bloggy church of computer chips and no other expenses allows just that. This church of thousands, this community of diversity, this place of fellowship, this community of giving – it has but one thing in common:

Hungry God lovers feeding in an infinitely fertile field.

Look around. Some are word crafters. Others are word mashers. Some are bible literate, others are bible blind. Some love music, others love pictures, some love logic, others love kite-flying. Some push as far into God as they know how, others stroke the feet of God in comfort.

And within and threaded through all – God moves. God connects. God allows. Love moves and connects and allows.

So I have a request.

Talk to your churches, your ministers, your committees. Let them know why YOU come to this community. Share YOUR “testimony “ – allow YOUR hungry God lovers to find a field in which they can feed. This community has the size, the scope and the diversity to allow all. To welcome all.

Maybe surviving churches do not become thriving churches because of the paid help only.

We can each become “thriving” in our relationship with God. One by one we can thrive – the cutters, the suicidal, the divorced, the atheists, the depressed, the happy, the gays, the less gays, the downright bloody miserables, the missionaries, the stay at home, the singer, the painter, the butcher and candle stick maker – faith by any name with Love as its heart – all of the different slice and dice denominations – all ARE welcome!

Talk to your churches, your ministers, your committees. Let them know why you come to this community. And invite them to come and sit awhile. To feed awhile. To share the Love that threads this community.

Because I have one question arising from all of this (finally! 🙂 ):

Why do we take the biblical image of “sheep” so literally? Why do we assign ourselves the status of “can’t, won’t … baaaaahhhhhh”? Why do we hang on to that “baaaaahhhhhh” state of mind for so long – maybe even a lifetime? Why do we assign the role of “shepherd” to the paid help? Why do we look to the paid help to tell us how, when and where? Why do we look to bricks and mortar, structure and establishment, tradition and teaching?

When will we look … to God Soft Hands Jesus?

My God. My relationship. My Love.

Even sheep eat grass without being told to. Even shepherds can only take their flock a certain distance. But my God can take me anywhere He wishes. I can feed wherever He takes me. I am not a sheep. God is not a “paid help” shepherd. We do not “need” a mentor, a qualified leader, a professional God worker. We have God. And He resides within. All we have to do is connect.

I feed in this church without bricks, borders, time-zones because there is so much to feed upon. All I have to do is listen to Him, be guided by Him, connect as He allows.

So please talk to your churches, your ministers, your committees. Let them know why YOU come to this community. Share YOUR “testimony “ – allow YOUR hungry God lovers to find a field in which they can feed. This community has the size, the scope and the diversity to allow all – to feed all.

Or do we really choose to be “baaaaahhhhhh”?

Advertisements

24 thoughts on “Surviving or thriving – a question

  1. Good stuff Paul. You know, I love church..love it love it love it. But you make some valid points about some of the things that happens to churches. People forget why we are there and get confused thinking it all exists for them and their needs…not good.

    I have been trying to bring people I am close to into this particular operation, and have had some success. It’s tough, though, as it is not “real”. If its not real, why to I spend several hours a day doing it?!!

    Peace and blessings today to you.

    • Wally – thank you. I was walking the dog after writing this one. And discussing the same thing with Him in all the greens and beauty of the woods.

      The thought of producing a “multi media blog” – video, music, images, words, sounds – came to mind. One that illustrates this “infinite fertile field”. One that could be used as an intro for others.

      Your comment got a whisper: “Where’s Wally”? (sorry – made that up – couldn’t resist! 🙂 )

      The whisper was – ask Wally. Ask if that seems like an idea worth pursuing, a collaboration of some of this community to produce a “blog” that could be “this is why”. One that “shows-off” what this feeding has to offer. I have no tech to do the job, nor am I eminently qualified. But a collaboration …. ?

      Is this whisper intended for you?

      • Hi Paul

        Hmm..It might be. I will honestly have to ponder and pray about that one. Some thoughts though

        I absolutely consider the blog world a valid and real ministry and think it can be used to reach those who might otherwise be unreachable.

        I am so technically inept it is sad. I’m not your guy there LOL. I can type and send and that is about it!

        And the final thought, and this is touchy somewhat. I worry about collaborative efforts becoming divisive. We don’t all agree on all things. I am the first to admit that I am about as flexible as a rock. That may be my biggest failure while at the same time being my biggest asset, if that makes sense. Does that make some sense? I hope so, because I can’t really explain it better.

        On the other hand, there is power in community, The Bible does teach us that “a threefold cord is not easily broken.” Let’s explore this and see where it goes.

        • Diversity! He gave us diversity (something we enjoy in nature and forget with each other). When we draw together … wow!!

          I will ask the question in a “post” tomorrow perhaps – and see what comes back.

          PS – rocks are absolutely necessary!! 🙂

  2. I’m not sure you want to hears… maybe I should just shut up. I’ll ask forgiveness in advance.

    The reason this “blog church” works is that we all mentor and “feed each other. When we go to the brick and mortar, we expect someone to mentor and feed us, so we look at the minister (or whatever the title) and resent the fact that he isn’t feeding and mentoring us and then we go home.

    Lost in all of this is the fact that brick and mortar church is supposed to be just as good, better in fact, than “blog church” but it isn’t because we don’t share anything there like we do here. Here, we each play a role in blessing others; there we expect others to bless us, and that simply will not work. Here’s a question: who blesses and feeds the minister? The answer is that nobody does. I wonder what would happen if we acted the same way in the brick and mortar as we do on the blogs…?

    • ” … maybe I should just shut up.”
      if you ever do, I will cry and cry and cry!!

      Don, you raise some lovely points. None of which I would take issue with (now isn’t that big of me!). I have the privilege of seeing behind the “cloth” of our minister. And the question you ask is the same I have asked him. And the answer? The “management structure” of the church. Really? So in this fine church of a few people we have an us and a them? How did that happen?

      I think what your A Challenge freed in my brain cells is this: at what point does each of us, meek, mild, loud and irreverent – all of us – accept that accepting God’s invitation to Love means just that. Acceptance. Not for “them” to show us how, but for this “God” we proclaim to show us how (and He does if we listen and trust). And just how does that step-change happen? When we bless and feed each other. When we listen. When we Love.

      Right now this bloggy church I see as yeast. A very powerful yeast – no structure no rules no uniformity no club no anything (counter-intuitive?). A place where the very diversity and lack of structure allows each to feed.

      I mentioned to Wally the thought of putting together a multi-media “intro blog” – one that could be a flavour, a taste, a “show and tell” – a collaboration. Something that I could take to my church, the minister, the people there and allow them – not me – allow them to see for themselves something of this Godly place. Something that more than me – all of us if we desired – could. Because – as with all things – persuasion is not the tool – acceptance is. And acceptance becomes ownership – and that might become loving stewardship – and when that happens …

  3. Paul, I have typed a response to this post and erased it many times.. lol… there is something so special about this blogging world.. while you throw thoughts out into the infinite blog world, there is also a safety behind the screen that you don’t have in face-to-face relationships. I think BOTH are important-especially in reaching others for His Kingdom. And we can all learn so much from one another’s testimony. I used to be a “baaaahhh” girl… blindly living my life- believing in God but having no idea of what “relationship” was… He speaks through each of us and it is beautiful!! It took me years to see His prevenient grace was drawing me to Him all the days of my life… and it wasn’t until I committed to trying things “His way” that I found relationship. I had to come to a place where I gave it everything I had because I had to know if there was more to life than “baahhh-ing”. Anyway… I have rambled on a bit, but wanted to chime in to say how wonderful it is to read all of your blogs and your bloggy friends blogs and that God is using you all and it is a beautiful thing 🙂

    • Dear Julie – thank you! For the time, the patience and the persistence in so many re-writes (done that myself – it is a frustrating experience!) 🙂

      So very true – “both are important” – maybe because both are the same. Like a coin – two sides of the same thing. And like a coin, it is “one”.

      And one small loving thought: “God is using you all and it is a beautiful thing” – I regard you as one of the most powerful “all” I know. You see details I miss, you sing words I cannot, and you allow me to be freer than I was. You are “us” – no more and no less. You free God in me to be even more the God He wants me to know. Thank You!

  4. So many questions, not enough answers. I think I have to just live in the questions today.
    My image of a sheep is one who follows God, not one who follows human. I know, it’s a wonky point, but I go back to Psalm 23 because that’s where it carries me.
    I know some people in my B&M (Brick & Mortar) church read my blog cuz twice a year or so I’ll get a comment or a like from someone there. 😕 Truthfully, though, trying to change the B&M is like trying to turn a battleship. It’s truly exhausting and takes a really loooooong time. (don’t mean to be Debbie Downer, but, well, you know…)
    I guess I have to admit I’ve given up on it. I go when I’m led to go, knowing I will be invisible (though not to Him), yet knowing I will have the opportunity to worship Him in a different way.

    On the other hand…I always thought of promoting my blog was about promoting me. Now you’ve given me a new perspective – it’s about feeding the hungry.
    Thank you.

    • ” … it’s about feeding the hungry.”
      And I find looking back that writing here has filled me up more than I ever imagined it would or could. Following where He leads? It’s got a lot going for it!

      Oddly – in conversations around this particular theme, what has just hit me like a brick between the eyes … there is no difference. Church is church just as God is God. Taking the bloggy church to the B&M, or taking B&M to the bloggy church … what difference is there? It is all just people, all just God, all just the same.

      (and my reality remains finding more food here than I have so far found in B&M)

      But as this is a journey, maybe this is just a necessary oasis, a fertile feeding trough – maybe I am ready for B&M&blog again! Who knows – I just follow where He leads! 🙂

  5. I would like to be a encourager this morning. After reading these post I would say to all of us. Never say never. Never give up what God has put on the heart and in the mind. After all it is God that put it there then it is God that will see it through. The task at hand for us would to remain faithful, patient and prayerful as God moves things along with each individual to do his will. In an endeavor to share with the folks in these different denominations we all serve and are members of. The churches or (building’s) folks meet in are relevant and paramount in getting God’s work done. Many are being fed and discipled through the different denominations that make up these churches. They all are a vital part of God’s Holy Church. We need to lift these folks up and be in prayer for them. Not forsake them and walk away. That is never the answer. The churches, these places we meet in all belong to God. It is never wise or good to criticize or cast them out.

    We have to remember that the church is full of folks being sanctified. They haven’t arrived yet. No one has and we all have lack and sin in our life’s. Many time I have almost walked away from church these denominations only to be pulled back by the Holy Spirit and reminded that their was a purpose for me there. It is not always like we want it to be at church. However we need each other. We all belong to the body of Christ and as such should never give up on each other.

    Prayer changes many things. Mostly us. A individual that is in a deep prayer life with God. Will hear from God and stay the course with God and his Church, of which all these denominations belong.
    We don’t need to reinvent the wheel so to speak. It is already there . We just need to humble ourselves and pray that God would heal our land and life’s.
    I love this community of bloggers and would always encourage all of us to stay faithful to our churches and denominations. We need them and they need us. If there were no churches and we left them because we felt like they were not getting it right then who would reach the lost. I would have to say there would not be enough of us to do that like God wants it done. When we become frustrated with the church then let us bend our knees and heart to the Almighty and repent for we have sinned against God’s church. None of us is above the other. Their is a purpose for this body of believers that share here on these blogs. That pray for one another and lift one another up. We need to keep doing what we do. Write and share and encourage one another.

    I would go on to say if God is pulling you towards starting a blog or internet church. Then pray about it and if you believe this is what God wants then follow His calling and you will not fail.

    I want to share with you a journey mine that might place hope and strength in your hearts to stay the course. I to will remain faithful as God leads to come along beside this precious group of bloggers.

    Seven years or so ago a mens group I met with on Tuesday mornings prior to work became very close. As we met we began to open up our hearts about the disappointment in their experience in church. This lead to many deep and thoughtful discussions all which grew most of us in our relationships with one another and God. One suggestion that came up was what would it be like if we just started on our own to say have a cook out at the house and invite our neighbors who most of us rarely spoke to and some strangers off the street as well. Then just have a good time with one another. No formal church program no agenda to share the gospel and tell these poor lost struggling souls about Jesus. Just food and drink and a good time with a good heart.
    Lets take it a step further. What if while doing this one of the folks there began to share about there illness or struggle or troubled child or finances. Now here was a opportunity to pray with them hear them care for them. Hey maybe help them with there finances out of my own pocket. Well we started a ministry of our own and began to meet and minister to some folks. After some time it died out .
    I would say at least two years went by. I continued to pray and my heart became more and more in tune to no division in the body of Christ. That group of men dissolved and we all went different ways yet remained in contact and each still working and starting up ministries in the name of Jesus. I was in and out of the church (building) for a couple more years. I still remained faithful and pulled to this one heartfelt desire. To unite my community of churches as one like mind in Christ Jesus.

    Fast forward about three years later. God began to speak in our community to different individuals, some pastors some lay people . He placed on their hearts a burden to bring folks closer to Him. One word he gave me was division and how much he disliked it, after all he is about relationships.Then he took it a step further and said he wanted the churches in our community to work together to reach the lost and dying world. He wanted us to work together as christians and disciples of Christ Jesus to come together as one body of believers instead of many different ones divided by pride and envy and doctrine.

    Ha that blew my socks off I said to myself never happen. You will never get different denominations doing anything together. Jesus would have none of that. Now remember the Holy Spirit is working in the background with other men who had ears to listen. Well I heard God when he said start encouraging the pastors in your community. So I called all of them and spoke with there receptionist and asked for there email addresses. I got some cooperation some not. Never the less I began to send out weekly emails uplifting and encouraging them. This went on for some time and I never shared it with anyone that I can recall except my wife who probably thought he is on another journey hehehe

    After about two years one day when I was in the office of a brother in Christ who is a worship leader I shared with him my burden for and my journey of seeing churches united in Christ. I told him I had begun to visit pastors in the community about what was on my heart and praying and encouraging them as I went along. He said wow he to had had similar thoughts and was in fact thinking about going over to visit with one of the pastors across the street from our church. I told him to get up and go to that. I am not sure how much on fire he was about it but he did go and the dialogue they had was good and encouraging I am sure.

    Yes all this grew me more and more. All my faults and shortcomings came to the surface and it was if though God was refining my life. He still is sanctifying me today. Well I was asked by a pastor to come to a nine at night to midnight prayer meeting. We were all from different churches and different backgrounds. He himself was getting ready to leave and go to Africa for a year or two with his family in the mission field. We prayed for revival in our community and our own hearts, for the pastors and leaders the churches that they would unite and meet with one another. Help each other and hold each other accountable to there calling. That God would speak through them that believers could be nourished and led the way God intended. We pray for their families and every aspect of their life’s. We prayed for purity of heart and too hear God when he spoke to us, we prayed for a deeper and more manful prayer life and the anointing oh the Holy Spirit on our life and our families life. We wept for and lifted up the lost in the world and the persecuted people of the world.

    There was about five of us who met and remained for around a year praying and seeking God to move in revival in our hearts for our pastors and the community. Almost two years have gone by since that first day this group met and seven years since God first began to speak to me about division in the body of Christ and his church.

    We are into our second meeting at a different church each time and denominations. We meet all from different churches and lift up the lost and pray for revival in our hearts and community as well as the world. We pray for many topics. So you see it took almost seven years for all this to line up. We are on our way to Gods church being united instead of divided in our community. We are doing something unheard of and unnatural to the world at large today. We have set aside pride and self for a bigger cause. To be obedient to Jesus and live in harmony and peace, working together and praying together with God’s church as it was the way he intended for it to be.

    We are in great expectation of what God will do in our own life’s and the life’s of others and his church at large. This is just the beginning for us. As we have gotten out of the way God has began to work in all of us.

    Well that my friends is my encouragement to you. Never say never, never give in remain faithful at what you do and to Jesus who has called you to the task at hand. The rewards are amazing. To be abel to watch and see God’s calling on your life’s unfold is joy unspeakable. He is faithful and he will go before you.

    Much Love Tom

    • Dear Tom, I knew there was a reason I could not sleep tonight. I just didn’t know it was you.

      I saw your comment arrive. Finished a round of Candy Crush and had a look. Yep. That’s why I am still awake Lord, sitting here waiting for these words.

      A) you amaze me
      B) you amaze me
      C) I love you brother!

      If you agree, I would love to add your words to their rightful position of a full post. They are full of more than I can take in now after two readings. So far I feel very humbled right now. And I feel very connected right now. Connected back to what is important.

      I feel no guilt in saying you surprise me. I have picked up little bits here and there. But to see your story laid out in one set of words … Wow!!

      Dear Tom, right now I feel like an empty wagon full of noise – and have just seen a very full wagon trundle silently by! I hope that is not a criticism of me, others or God. Just a recognition that in this beautiful world, every one has a story to tell. And when we join together to build each other up – we allow Him to make the impossible possible.

      Because your story and setting is similar to here – denominations overcoming “denominations”? Lots of talking, and lots of “turf wars” (obviously get loving turf wars) resulting in everlasting division. Impossible (obviously)!

      Thank you. You have made the impossible possible just by your words.
      ((Hugs))

      • That would be fine Paul. I appreciate your response and kindness. I Am blessed that what I shared encouraged you. There is ship much more. I just wait until I feel like the timing is right to encourage others and bring glory to Jesus. I enjoy so much reading the different blogs and wisdom that is shared. Most off all I am so touched of the folks that are pressing in and seeking a deeper understanding of what God wants from us.

        Bless you

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s