So what do a priest, a rabbi, and a Jehovah's witness all have in common besides the start of a bad joke and now the title of this blog post? Two words come to mind: organized religion. Lately I've been contemplating the idea of the Church and exactly what that means for us, big picture as THE Church and small scale for our family. I got to thinking about why we do what we do when it comes to our practices and beliefs, how we fellowship and why we chose our path of worship. I also recently read a book that got me thinking a bit deeper a long these lines.
I first started thinking about all the things I love about different religions because here's the deal, I love people. I love all types of people. Even Muslims. Even Jews. Even Catholics. And even though I've chosen my own way to worship and like every one I tend think my way is the better way there are still many things that I genuinely appreciate about other religions and people groups. For example, I love traditions. I love routine and I have a hard time with change. This part of my self is extremely drawn to avenues of faith like Catholicism and the Orthodox Church. I love the structure, and the preciousness of different rituals and ceremonies that go deep with their meaning. I'm also a little wild and crazy. May be why the Pentecostal church draws my admiration. Sometimes I want to drop all the constraints of those traditions and run around the church screaming about how amazing my God is and of His amazing love and grace poured over me with out measure.
Here's another thing about me: I am a true missionary at heart. I have deep compassion for people who don't know this Love that I have come to know and can't live with out. I love the Baptist heart for missions. What an amazing work they have done all over the world. Another reason I love those of the Methodists stream. Hate the sin, love the sinner is their motto and you can see it by the size of their churches. You don't get that large by making people feel unwanted.
Jehovah's Witnesses. What can I say about them. Do I brace myself when they come to the door? Um, yes. But listen, something moves them to go door to door telling people of their faith. I don't know many others that do this. It is a strong belief and a strong love that brings them to a stranger's door to tell them about Jesus as they know Him. And I just can't judge a person for that.
I could go on and on because there are sooooo many different religions. But obviously there are parts of each one that I don't agree with because I've been called a different way. The number one reason I am pulled away from organized religion, non denominational or otherwise is this, any time there is a hard and fast rule about anything, a standard of measure for which to judge someone...eek that's where I want to jump ship pretty quick.
So I started thinking about this book I had read. It was one man's journey from being lost in a world without Jesus to pastor and finally leaving the typical church and having "house church". Our family attends a non denominational church and an even less traditional house church...of sorts. HA! I truly believe every church has the opportunity to be used by God in a unique and individual way not unlike each person is created with a specific design and purpose. Our church has such a beautiful anointing for healing those wounded by other churches, cause hey, it happens. Another church comes to mind that has a huge and fabulous children's ministry and in all the years it's been around I can't remember one time a public scandal has been a part of it's history. That's pretty amazing. But what if this author is right when he says the Church is supposed to be like family?
And that's exactly what I'm finding. A family. But why does that start freaking people out? Because it really does. You start talking about meeting as a family, worshiping God together, caring, and helping each other like a family and people start getting a bit uncomfortable. Why?
Let me back up and share some observations with you. These are my own personal observances and may not be true for anyone else. But what I've noticed in every single "church" that I've been apart of is this allowance for the possibility of what is most often described as "Guests" or "Newcomers". The pastor and worship leader are constantly aware of the possibility of guests, people who may never have been in a church, seen a church, heard the name of Jesus, or only recently started coming to their church. The entire service then caters to this possibility. For example, a church with, let's say 300 people is made up of 90-95% faithful attendees and in the case of Tulsa, Oklahoma those people are largely made up of families who consist of children of God who were raised in the church, who've been "saved" for as long as they can remember. And all of those God-fearing people are also aware of the possibility of newcomers. So when the pastor gives the salvation message again at the end of service everyone quietly, patiently, faithfully listens and hopes that perhaps someone will be saved today. But the odds of someone in that 5-10% not being saved are pretty slim, especially in this area. But nonetheless the entire service is custom made for what is lovingly known as a "Baby Christian" or someone who is "Lost" someone hearing the Word of God for the first time. So how does a church ever become grown up Christians made up of mature sons or daughters of God? Their own personal quiet time, small groups, discipleship groups, and Bible studies are an excellent place to start. But what if there is another way? What if the Church was a family?
What if when you gathered together with your family to worship you were all aware of who each other are? You would be aware if there was a stranger in your midst and you would cherish the chance to get to know him or her. And what if when you began to share with one another it was with a knowledge that you were all on a journey to maturity, to adulthood in your faith? And what if worship was about really touching the heart of the Father and less about getting everyone to sing the words or stand or not stand or clap or not clap or just be comforted because of bone weariness life lived alone apart from a family?? What if you went somewhere in worship? What if you, altogether as a family, accomplished something in the Spirit for the Kingdom? What if instead of spending time shaking hands with the stranger next to you, you hugged your sis and in that moment you knew your hearts where somehow joined as one? What if instead of taking up tithes and offering and hearing another message about why we take up tithes and offerings you spent time sharing about how God made provision supernaturally that week? What if, instead of listening to a message largely catered to a Guest, or someone who doesn't know of Christ's love, you shared and listened to what God is doing and speaking into the hearts of His grown up children TODAY??
Why is family so weird?? Because it's made up of crazy uncles, red headed step children, goofy cousins, and protective older brothers? Ha well there is that. For me if I had my choice I'd rather be THAT family, the big fat Greek family all up in each others business. Because what if your car broke down? Wouldn't it be nice if you had a cousin that could fix anything with an engine and could come fix it NO CHARGE? What if you had sister you could call when you were desperate for a babysitter? What if you had a mom and a dad that was just always there? What if you had an uncle that could build anything, home, barn, shed, or just be there to help hang a shelf or fix a broken cabinet? What if you needed help moving? Wouldn't it be great if there was an army of family to get you packed, loaded, and unloaded in one Saturday and the only thing they expected was some pizza at the end of the day? What if you went a little over board and bought a new entertainment center off craig's list made of real wood and it had to be picked up TODAY and oh yeah it's upstairs? Wouldn't it be nice if you had a brother you could call to help pick it up? And wouldn't it be funny if that brother accidentally dropped his end and broke one of the doors and then you had license to tease him for all time? What if there was always a birthday, wedding, or birth to celebrate? What if there was always someone to help keep you on the straight and narrow, to pray with you, encourage you, hug you, cry with you, SEE you for who you were created to be, and speak that into your life even if you don't believe it yourself???
Well all those things I have and are real life examples of my family outside of church. I'm not saying you can't find a "family" within a church but my prayer for the Church is that instead of watering down Christianity we could all grow up, see each other, and go outside those walls to find and rescue the "lost" instead of waiting and hoping they find us. And if that's weird...well wouldn't be the first time I've been called that!