You know, you need to quit saying, “I go to church.” Big deal. That is expected of every disciple of Jesus. I would prefer that you come to me and say, “Hey! Last Sunday I met up with my family of believers and boy did we have a time of celebration! We had a great time of worshiping our Lord!” That would impress me much more.
You shouldn’t “attend” church, you need to immerse yourself in a body of believers who worship, pray and give lots of hugs. A family you can depend on, share meals with, exchange phone calls with, people you know deeply — and they know you just as deeply! As Daniel Passini stated, “When Christ has invaded our lives, and we have truly had a collision with the divine, it will show in the fruit of our lives.”
Years ago, when we were much younger and newly married, we were leaving my parent’s home and we gave my mom a hug and I then stretched out my arms to my dad, who said, “Awe, I don’t do that kind of stuff . . .” “Ah, dad, that‟s okay, I do!” I replied and gave him a hug. Hey, most of you have never met me yet, but if we ever do meet, you better expect a “high-five” and a big hug!
I learned some of this from something Charles Swindoll wrote in the book “Dropping Your Guard“:
“Churches need to be less like national shrines and more like local bars . . . less like untouchable cathedrals and more like well-used hospitals, places to bleed in rather than monuments to look at . . . places where you can take your mask off and let your hair down . . . places where you can have your wounds dressed.
“It’s like my Marine-buddy, recently turned Christian, said, as he lamented the absence of a place of refuge:
“’. . . the only thing I miss is that old fellowship all the guys in our outfit used to have down at the slop shoot . . . we’d sit around, laugh, tell stories, drink a few beers, and really let our hair down. It was great!
‘But now I ain’t got nobody to tell my troubles to, to admit my faults to. I can’t find anybody in church who will put their arms around me and tell me I’m still okay. Man it’s kinda lonely in there!’”
Stop and think. Where do you go when the bottom drops out? Who do Christians turn to when stuff that is embarrassing or a little scandalous happens? Who cares enough to listen when we cry? Who affirms us when we feel rotten? Who will close their mouths and open their hearts? Moreover, even when we deserve a swift kick in the pants, who will embrace us with understanding and give us time to heal without quoting Bible verses? Without giving us a cassette tape of some sermon to listen to? Without telling a bunch of other Christians so they can “pray more intelligently“?
I know married couples who won‟t go to anyone within their church, even their pastor, for counseling because they are afraid of the lack of confidentiality, and discretion.
Charles Swindoll goes on:
“We need more shelters for storm victims. It’s okay if they look like churches on the outside, as long as folks do not act ‘churchy‘ on the inside. Most hurting people I meet are fed up with ‘churchy‘ Christians. What we need is that special something many people find in a local bar. Put on your shock boots and see if you agree with the following comparison between the bar and the church.
“The neighborhood bar is possibly the best counterfeit there is to the fellowship Christ wants to give his church. It’s an imitation, dispensing liquor instead of grace, escape rather than reality, but it is a permissive, accepting and inclusive fellowship. It is unshockable. It is democratic. You can tell people secrets and they usually don’t tell others or even want to. The bar flourishes not because most people are alcoholics, but because God has put into the human heart the desire to know someone else, and be known by someone else, to love and be loved, and so many seek a counterfeit at the price of a few beers.
“With all my heart I believe that Christ wants His Church to be a fellowship where people can come in and say, ‘I’m sunk!’ ‘I’m beat!’ ‘I’ve had it!’
“What if your wife is an alcoholic? Or your son recently told you he is a practicing homosexual?
“Let’s say your husband just walked out . . . or what if he is sexually abusing your two daughters? Or you?
“Who can you turn to if you were just fired? . . . Or you just got out of jail? . . . Or your 15-year-old daughter told you last night that she is pregnant? . . . Or you beat your kids and you’re scared — and ashamed? . . . Or you can‟t cope with your drug habit any longer? . . . Or you need professional help because you are near a breakdown?
“Do you know what you need? You need a shelter. A place of refuge. A few folks who can help you, listen to you, introduce you, once again, to . . . ‘The Father of Mercies, the God of all comfort; who comforts us in all our affliction’ (II Corinthians 1:3-4). Christianity may be ‘like a mighty army,’ but we often handle our troops in a weird way. We are the only outfit I have ever heard of who shoots their wounded. That is what my Marine buddy was afraid of. He had had enough of being shot. Frankly, so have I.”
Didn’t Jesus tell us that everyone would know that we are His disciples by the steadfastness of our commitment to each other; the way we serve each other so selflessly; by our intimacy with all purity; by our sacrifices for each other, our words of encouragement and affirmations? It is through these that all men will know! It won’t be by our impressive church buildings or by our charming personalities. Not by our up-to-date techniques or our command of the scriptures!
The greatest sin of Christians today is the sin of withholding love. When people in the world see authentic, biblical love within God’s family, they will believe.
Dr. Francis Schaeffer makes this powerful comment:
“In the midst of the world, in the midst of our present dying culture, Jesus gives a right to the world. Upon His authority he gives the world the right to judge whether you and I are born-again Christians on the basis of our observable love toward all Christians.
“That is pretty frightening. Jesus turns to the world and says, „I‟ve got something to say to you. On the basis of my authority, I give you a right: You may judge whether or not an individual is a Christian on the basis of the love he shows to all Christians . . .‟
“In other words, if people come up to us and cast in our teeth the judgment that we are not Christians because we have not shown love toward other Christians, we must understand that they are only exercising a prerogative which Jesus gave them.
“And we must not get angry. If people say, „You don‟t love other Christians,‟ we must go home, get down on our knees, and ask God whether or not they are right to have said what they said.
“We must be very careful at this point, however. We may be true Christians, really born-again Christians, and yet fail in our love toward other Christians. As a matter of fact, to be completely realistic, it is stronger than this.
“There will be times (and let us say it with tears), there will be times when we fail in our love toward each other as Christians. In a fallen world, where there is no such thing as perfection until Jesus comes, we know this will be the case. And, of course, when we fail, we must ask God‟s forgiveness. But Jesus is not saying that failure to love all Christians proves that we are not Christians.
“Let each of us see this individually for ourselves. If I fail in my love toward Christians, it does not prove I am not a Christian. What Jesus is saying, however, is that if I do not have the love I should have toward all other Christians, the world has the right to make the judgment that I am not a Christian.”
(I send out messages like this each morning in emails, and if you are interested in receiving them, send me your email address and I will add youm—a to the list: Mail List)
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