Wednesday, 10 January 2018

"Welcome to our judgemental church"

A church near me dropped calendars into neighbourhood mailboxes.

Here's July's picture:

How a church can make a bad impression

And November's:

terrible Christian calendar

Their message:

The other months continued with that theme:

God's great. You're terrible. Stop being so evil because judgement is coming.

This is how they choose to introduce themselves to the neighbourhood. Basically saying "We're they negative judgmental church. Want to join us?"

Interesting outreach tactic. Perhaps not very effective and definite oblivious to the church already having a reputation for being judgmental and moralising.

At least they're up-front about it. They're as honest as they are totally unappealing.

Factcheck

I was going to stop writing here but then looked up that Hebrews quote. It's a classic case of a half-quote being the total opposite of the full one. Here's the whole thing:

Hebrews 9:27-28
And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment, so also Christ was offered once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him.

It's one thing to pick your harshest 'burn in hell' quotes from the bible. It's another to trim quotes about salvation to make them suit your mindset.

I take back what I said about them being honest.

Jesus turned water into ... what?

We're all familiar with the story. I'd remembered the bible to say Jesus turned water into wine.

But then came this kids book of bible stories (yes, it's a real book).


Isn't the whole point of the story that the hosts of the party were embarrassed to run out of wine at the party?

Now it seems we're too embarrassed to even admit that wine existed in the bible.

While some Christians advocate marriage "as the bible intended" it seems when the bible doesn't suit our values we just change it until it does.

It's probably not new news that we pick and choose which parts of the bible are important, but I think this is the first time I've seen the key part of the story re-written.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Church and Australia's same-sex marriage

So it looks like Australia will shortly be allowing same-sex couples to marry. Julia Baird writes a great article about this, which is more about the church than it is about marriage.

She finishes with this advice for those now confused "about the place of Christianity in the public square":

"It might be time to get back to that old thing, what is it again, that book... the Bible, in which there are more than 2000 references to poverty and a scant handful to sexuality. It might be time to closely examine the true preoccupations of Jesus (who reserved his harshest words for Pharisees and publicly pious Church leaders) – greed, selfishness, lack of love. It all boils down to love, he said. Funny that.

Earlier she contrasts the statements of major church denominations with the beliefs of people in the pews - including leading politicians from different parties. She also notes that even Martin Luther King saw this kind of thing coming as far back as in 1963. Some of his words were very prescient:

"Is organised religion too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world? If today's church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the 21st century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust."

Sunday, 24 September 2017

10 church things that alienate introverts

Introverts account for up to 50% of people. So why do we do things that make up to half our guests feel like running away?

I've covered a couple of these before (holding hands and over-intense attention) but have now found this list of 10 things we would be better off avoiding if we really want to show we care.

it's good reading - and very useful.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

What do non-church Christians do?

Recently, I've been writing a fair bit about Christians who no longer attend church. Today I found that some survey stats on this topic.

They compared Christians who had not been to church in 6 months, called "Love Jesus but not the church", to "Practising Christians" which refers to people who go to church.

It turns out the church-leavers still hold the same beliefs as church-goers. If anything slightly moreso.

So these are not people who have lost faith. They just don't see value in church.


When it comes to spiritual practices, there are some differences.

The "Love Jesus but not church" group do less bible reading, journaling, reading spiritual books and (perhaps obviously) less meeting in groups. But they do more reflection in nature and more meditation. Prayer is about the same.

It's fair to say that these people are still Christians. I also think it's unfair to imply that they aren't "practising" because they don't enter a certain building. Some continue to denigrate them, wag the finger and say they should go to church.

Sure they would probably benefit from meeting with other Christians. But sadly almost the only thing that is available is the standard sing/pray/lecture process that many find so futile.

I think there needs to be more alternatives. Alternatives that value following Jesus as much as following a worship style.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

What leavers say

The book "Life After Church" is written for and about people in the process of leaving church. Here are some of the quotes from "leavers":

"Church used to be exciting to go to. It's not like they did anything different back then but I guess it was new and we were younger and hadn't heard these sermons. But as the years have gone by it seems a bit like Groundhog Day. The church has failed us because it really only serves new believers. I'm not sure if that's what they're setting out to do, but everything seems so basic." - Dave

"Sometimes I feel like I would get as much out of staying at home as going, or better yet fishing or reading a good book. I might experience truth at the very least-more than the morning at church. It just feels like one more thing on my week of things to do and there is a lack of joy associated with it, an obligation moreso." - Crystal

"The thing that strikes me most is the manner in which church has become a routine. Everyone falls into line, follows the events in the service: when to greet and say hello, when to pray, sing, shout etc. I felt like one robot in the midst of others - emotionless, passionless, without zeal." - Joann

"The focus was always on what we needed to stop doing and never what we ought to be doing. There wasn't much mention of Christ's redemptive power. This combination caused me to fell hopeless because it put the onus of perfection on me and I knew that wasn't working. The only reason I ever went back was guilt." - Dan

"We're told not to go where the non-Christians are because it's potentially dangerous and we should be in church as much as we can. Wednesday night service, Sunday morning service, Saturday (7am!) men's group, a small group etc. Where are the relationships with those not in the church? It's almost as if we put the evangelism on God. No seeking at all. Just waiting." - Dave

What can we learn from what these people say? Clearly they're not done with faith. If anything they long for more than church can currently deliver.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

4 stages of leaving church

People leave church. Some are shopping for a better church. Some no longer believe. Others are leaving the church not God.

These leavers (the subject and audience of this book) are leaving because of their pursuit of God. They "want to do what is right and to live in a way that honours Jesus" but find that "for them to stay (in church) and to remain faithful to Jesus are mutually exclusive".

So how does this happen? Author Brian Sanders says there are 4 stages:

Contentment

You're growing and learning and everything seems fine. At least if it's not fine we are able to focus on the positives.

Disaffection

Physically present. Emotionally absent. Thinking about leaving. You and the church are in different places. This might have been from a crisis or just from maturing as a Christian.

Threshold

Physically absent. Emotionally present. Now you've stopped attending church events. You still feel connected. You may still hope for change.

Full Exit

Physically and emotionally absent. You've now disconnected from church. Occasionally you may try to reconnect but generally the stage of contentment will disappear even quicker than before.

The author wonders if this leaving, rather than being a problem, is exactly what is needed. Perhaps it is too late to change church. Perhaps we need to leave it and build something new. Something closer to what Jesus taught.