Thursday, September 25, 2008

Creativity, "Church", Changes, Community, Culture


As my past 5 entries have shown - I've been thinking a lot about churches, the way the majority 'does' church and all the changes that are going on with my specific body of believers. This entry is the culmination of all those entries and everything on my heart... maybe SOMEBODY (please hubby somebody? hehe) will stick with me through this thought process.....

I'm at a point where I have no more concrete thoughts or statements that are on my heart... but just lots of questions.

I tend to always be that person that is on the middle, able to see all perspectives and why people feel/think the way they do. I don't get all the divides, animosity, divisions we have as the body. I mean... I DO get why we have them...I just don't get why we focus on them so much and allow it to divide us. How come others can't see the good in everything/everybody?

There's so much talk in the church community about being relevant to culture, about using our creative gifts as a way to glorify God and a way to reach our surrounding communities.

and I'm torn.....

The church isn't reaching people. The old 'way' of doing things isn't working. We have gotten out of touch with the sick & lonely and poor --- and spend a lot of time with people who are like us. We have failed so much that the people in our country are starting to believe it's the government's role to pick up where we have failed. It scares me! I DO NOT want the government to take over where we have failed. I do not believe in socialism/communism AT ALL. I believe in a very limited and hands off government. sorry for that tangent... my point is, we have failed as the body of Christ.

I understand changes need to be made....but what are those changes? What will they look like? Where do we start? How do we make theese changes while staying true to & not distracting from The Message?

I guess it depends on who we are trying to reach right? Are we trying to reach people in our peer group/same demographics but who just don't go to church? Or is our goal to help those in our community who are unlike us? People who live in different places --say "downtown" who are sick (suffering from addiction, wallowing in sin) poor (poorer than we are) and lost (because they don't know Christ).

The last thing I want our changes in our specific church to do is attract christians who just want a different or new 'experience'. I want to reach new people. I want to change our community. I'm ready for us to have a church body that is a microcosm of our greater society - a body that represents soo many different demographics & backgrounds! I want our church to be one of the first to cut through cultural, racial, socioeconomic barriers. Let's combine all our talents/gifts as separate groups in our city and really truly show people how to love and serve and glorify God by loving on each other and bringing out the best in each other despite our differences! Imagine how much He could use us if we were not divided!!!! There is power in unity!

I believe what our church is undertaking, this new venture... is going to reach people. but I believe it will be people like us. But one side of me says, that's okay right? Suburban middle class people need Jesus so bad too!! Maybe what we're doing is just going to be a springboard for reaching people different from us? a springboard for us to really begin to reach the hungry, clothe the needy & help the sick?

but sometimes I am just worried that what we are doing is just changing our look. Are we just changing our image, our facility, our locations, our 'look', our way of attracting others? These are just external things... are we going to make sure though the heart of our body is continually changing? Are we making sure that our heart is a reflection of our outside changes?

This I know.... God is at work and our leaders love God and love people. I have no doubt of that. God has been at work in many hearts at our church for a long time. I LOVE how the church is beginning to get creative and become relevant to culture while never watering down the meat, The Message. I believe in the leaders God has given me because I believe in Him. He has worked through them to touch me.

but I just have so many thoughts.... here's what I wrote on a fellow church member's blog:
regarding our new creative team & some of our external changes? I love it. I LOVE our creative team leader. I love how hard they are pouring themselves into this. They are totally devoted. I believe creativity is an awesome thing.... it's an awesome thing to use our talents to glorify God.

But I also believe the Word is always enough... it always has been.... and the Word doesn't NEED anything to supplement it. Is all this 'stuff' just unncessary when people in our own community are homeless, poor, sick and neglected? Should our resources go other places?... but then I think.... why not use your talents to glorify God?? We are being careful with our money & investing it for the long term right? If you were given creative talents --- shouldn't you use them to glorify Him rather than use them for secular messages?

but then my other side again says... yes the Word is always enough and it's important to never water down The Message....but God is a God of creativity and creation. What He creates and has created is captivating!! Just look around, He has lavishly created beauty all around us in extravagent ways!!

I believe He can work through us to make even more beautiful and wonderful creations!! Anything done for Him and to glorify Him can be a beautiful and wonderful reflection of Him.

Sunday mornings are only what they are ---- Sunday mornings. Who we are as a church shouldn't be Sunday mornings -- it should be what is done during the week. The real work takes place not in a building but outside of the walls. Whatever we do - we should do it to the best of our ability and whole heart. A heart poured out and expressed in any outlet can be glorifying to God. These creations that are taking place at our church are precious not because of what they are --- but because the heart behind it.

Either way we can't let this be another divide in us right?! I believe that Jesus would want us to focus on Him and allow Him to do the judging of a person's heart and motives. What is a beautiful outpouring of one's talents to glorify Him might seem lavish to others..... what is simple and stale and drab to some might be beautiful to Him --- because He is looking at the attitude and heart not exactly the content that is delivered.

I believe that's a gift I've been see beauty in anything and anybody - to seek it out. My church I went to for most of my time during adolescense was literally 10 - 20 people and it was beautifully a mess. It was a group of people slowly growing... learning to love God, each other and their community. I was able to see good in them and us as a group no matter how stale everything might have seemed to others --- I wonder why I was able to see good? I guess just because that's what I was looking for..... but others who came, would they stay around when they visited? no, never. we were a big * yawn * to them. We were so irrelevant to their world. We probably seemed real stale.

People who are searching do need to see an outside reflection of what's going on inside. They don't love The Word like we do yet. I believe it is important to attract people and just get them to stay around long enough to hear The Truth. The Truth is what changes people. God in the end IS all we need --- all this "stuff" actually becomes background music to His beautiful love & acceptance & approval of us once we know Him..... but will people stay around long enough to seek Him out? Do we show on the outside how much He has done for us!? Do we show how totally fired up, passionate, and enthusiastic we are for Him and The Message!?!? I beleive we should!!! Isn't it important for our outside to be a reflection of the inside!?

Ultimately though as seems to be my message always - we are to focus on Him -- not on these details & judging each other's motives, intentions or spiritual maturity. I think we have done enough dividing amongst ourselves & kicking of each other.... isn't it time to focus on the good in each other? TO LOVE the unique talents & roles God has given us? And to realize that ALL different kinds of people need reaching and God uses anybody and anything to get their attention! We need all different types of ministries & outreaches because the people out there are all so diferent.

My point again is... God looks at the inside, not the outside.... we should do whatever we can, to do the same for each other.

I love our leaders, I trust they love God and I believe through my 4 years with this body of Christ there is a love & passion for God... I know so many of us are ready to stop playing church and start being the church.... but all these changes, are they a reflection of how we're going to do church....or are they just external changes?

Please God change us as a body. Teach us how to do community the way you want us to. Teach us how to really reach the hurting & allow you to change them through us --- not just attract the church hopping experience addicts looking to find you in feelings & sunday morning experiences.

May our passion for these external changes be reflections of what you have done inside.

I pray that this passion to change is because we want our outside to match our inside..... and not us just trying to force the outside to change because we want to cover up our insides & how much we have failed as a body.


Neil Stewart said...

Reading your post reminds me of a song by Hillsong: From the inside out.
A thousand times I've failed
Still your mercy remains
And should I stumble again
Still I'm caught in your grace

Everlasting, Your light will shine when all else fades
Never ending, Your glory goes beyond all fame
In my heart, in my soul, Lord I give you control
Consume me from the inside out Lord
Let justice and praise become my embrace
To love You from the inside out

Your will above all else, my purpose remains
The art of losing myself in bringing you praise

Everlasting, Your light will shine when all else fades
Never ending, Your glory goes beyond all fame
In my heart, in my soul, Lord I give you control
Consume me from the inside out Lord
Let justice and praise become my embrace
To love You from the inside out

Chorus 2x
Everlasting, Your light will shine when all else fades
Never ending, Your glory goes beyond all fame
And the cry of my heart is to bring You praise
From the inside out Lord, my soul cries out

babyfordawn1983 said...

I have thought for many years now of how people find safety in church. To me, you can't just go to church to be faithful you have to live the church and teach the church to others. As you were saying, there are always people out there who are worse off than us and we need to reach out and help them find their faith. You have said everything so perfectly.

Randi Jo :) said...

great song, thank you Neil.

Dawn - u are too kind as always. I'm just a total mess but I know that God is putting me together and making something out of all this chaos and crazy questions & all my words hehe :)

thanks SO much for listening u all - I'm blown away u were able to follow all that hehe :)

dawn i emailed u

Candy said...

HI Randi :)
Interesting post :)
I hear what you are saying. The reason I think our Churches are not reaching people is because of a few reasons..
- most Christians, are unfortunately, not like you (or I), in that there are ALOT of Christians that dont even read their Bible every day, they go to Church to be entertained, there are many "baby Christians" and because of reasons like that, they dont see the need or care (yet) about this issue.

The problem I have seen is that the churches where I live (the bigger ones) are too busy being TOO relevant to culture. And theres too much fluff going on in the Churches these days (not all Churches, obviously alot according to the stats on why so many long time Christians are skipping church and no longer attending--why? Because they arent being spiritually fed...(maybe YOUR church is good. But Randi, most are not.)
So were not going to be reaching out to the world when we cant even keep the church-goers that we have..
There is definately problems within the church these days..
from having coffee stands in the church and making it a social hang out place to bake sales to dramas with girls in ballerina outfits swinging ribbons all around as they are dancing. That is what we see in our big churches here in Canada. And most people, that I know anyway, dont want that.
We want a basic, humble place of worship, be spirtually fed and yes, reach out to the rest of the world. But we are too distracted to reach out when we have all kinds of junk going on in our churches.
And thats what I believe is part of this problem.



Randi Jo :) said...

Thanks Candy for your thoughts as always. You have really made me think...... let me see if I can get all this out. I might just have to make another entry haha.....

I am not sure what has kept us from going out into the world and helping our communities and spreading The Message... but I am pretty sure it's not these distractions we are talking about.... maybe they are part of it... but it's been a long time since the church the body has done what it has been called to do... long before these modern churches so they can't be that big of an excuse.

I guess these distractions and 'experiences' at church could play a part in us not reaching out to others.... because we're not focusing on discipleship.... but actually I see a lot more people invite friends to a church that isn't so traditional because they know the church will be relevant to a non-believer.

I think we've lost focus for so many reasons.... but basically I think we have just gotten used to being around people like us and don't even know how to relate to the lost, sick and poor anymore.

we have distorted all of Jesus' teaching haven't we?

I think we have just lost focus on all things spiritual. We are soo focused on the flesh, the noise, the stimulation we get all around - we don't even know how to listen to the quiet Spirit anymore.

I think a lot of christians are embarassed regarding the stereotypes of 'church' as well. The stereotypical judgement, condemning, critical, think they are better than others type of churches out there.... Jesus says that they will be able to tell who we are by the way we love each other... but we clearly aren't loving on each other.

I know that a lot of my peers that are not christians would not come to a church building because of the reason of feeling unwelcomed & judged and past experiences.....

I do believe that mature christians do want to get fed spiritually and don't need all the fluff.... but I also very much understand the necessity to be relevant and attract newcomers. all of our churches will die if we don't attract younger people and new people.

I believe people out there are searching and I believe new people are going to these modern churches and would not step foot in a traditional one. so if these new people won't come to church the way it has always been - something has to change.

In the past, all people who came to church - even visitors for the first time - had heard the Word of God before and heard the message growing up at some point --- but since Jesus & God are getting pushed out of our society -- people can actually go through life in America now not ever hearing about God or hearing the Truth --- so that means that a person could visit a church and not be ready for the meat at all. Only ready for The Message. Only ready to meet Jesus.

So Sunday morning goals are changing. We are having to give meat but also do introductions as well.

So maybe Sunday mornings are turning into more about introducing new people to God rather than teaching the same old people every Sunday. maybe for those of us that already know God, that want to be fed spiritually --- maybe there is another place for that then Sunday morning... it's really a daily thing right? In the Word of God, in our small groups & with our mentors would be a great time for being fed and for discipleship...

Sunday morning is only one morning... I'm not sure where we got the idea that we have to meet on Sunday mornings to do discipleship there anyway. That's something humans created not God. He doesn't say to go TO church - He says to be the church right? and when He taught - He taught his disciples intimately in home setting - not only once a week. that's how He made disciples. by teaching 12 and then having them go out and then it grew from there --- exponential growth - networking marketing if u will :)

Sooo maybe the reason Sunday mornings are getting fluffy is because Sunday mornings are really about reaching new people and introducing newcomers to Jesus and to us community.

but again I believe the majority of what the church does should be throughout the week. in people's homes & out in the community.

but since new people don't understand that yet probably and recognize sundays as church day --- that is why sunday mornings are sort of getting catered to them.

but like I was saying --- there can be beauty in anything and I'm sure what might seem lavish and unnecessary to come can be beautiful to many because of the heart going into the art. I have seen beautiful dances with ribbons, visual art pieces, instrumental pieces that are clearly reflections of God's awesomeness and beauty and they can be glorifying to Him because the person does a great job of deflecting the praise and recognition to Him --- recognizing it's a gift He has given them.

sooo again --- I'll do the judging to Him and do my best to focus on the good in everybody/everything. the last thing we need is more hatred and condemnation and divisions.

I love that our pastor still brings the meat on Sundays.... but I also love that along with the meat there are elements that all types and all levels can relate to.

PHEW that was a lot - I'm tired hehe THANKS candy I LOVE YOU!

Ralph Harris said...

I had the same concern, about who these changes would be reaching. Seems like they will attract the same kinds of people that already go to the church, most of the downtown area too far away from the Blend and Southside in general. Hopefully we can reach out to everyone as that's what God called us to do. I have so much to say but this is a comment and I am just glad someone is thinking what I was thinking lol

:..Rebekah..: said...

Randi Jo,
I'm struggling right now because at the church we have been visiting it is evident that they are strict about the King James Version, and women can't wear anything but dresses and skirts to church. They think churches are really slacking when people don't 'dress' for church. And, my daughter got pulled aside after sunday school class when she read a portion of scripture from the NIV version. I just can't deal with it. When there is so much going on in the world, how can that stuff be the focus? How can it matter? I am SO frustrated and tired of churches focusing and pushing things that aren't written in scripture. The focus is so wrong.

Candy said...

Hey Randi
I hear what your saying, totally. But I have to say I totally disagree with it. Totally.
I dont have the energy right now to go into though. Some other time.
We wont let this divide us though.
:) we will always be sisters in the Lord and BFF's!!! ;)
I love ya too.

Randi Jo :) said...

thanks so much you all. Tre - talk more soon about this! :)

Rebekah -- thanks so much for sharing. Our hearts are in the same place. I will be praying for you all to be the change you want to see. Have you been at that church a long time?

Candy - we can agree to disagree - this isn't the first time we disagreed ya know!? :) we love each other and we love God - what a great testimony we can disagree and still focus on the good in each other and love each other. I think of you every day and pray for you. Love you!!!!