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Where Does My Tithe Money Go? (Kelly takes a vacation)

When you give to a church it's usually understood that the money goes to support the church's finances and keep it running.  Being a...

Saturday, March 24, 2012

You are more than a number

Philippians 2:12

...continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling...

Can we agree for a moment that the decision to become a Christian is something to be thought out and not to go into lightly?  This should be a life altering choice.  You should understand what you are getting into, what this decision involves and what it will mean for your future.  

Yet we've turned a personal, discerning, thoughtful act into a hard sell.  The idea is that if you just get your friend to church by any means (force, bribery, coercion) that the Holy Spirit will move them to salvation.   The pastors are treating this like a multilevel marketing scheme: you just get them here and we'll do the rest!  

Now it's not enough to simply get the person to an Easter service.  You must also lead one person to Christ.  So what happens if the person / people you've brought aren't ready for this?  What kind of shame will you be feeling?  Or what will you do to make sure you make your number and get that one to do it?!?  For the very determined person this won't be all that difficult to find a vulnerable soul who is having a hard time in life to get emotional, stand up during service and pray the prayer.  See 00:47 "you need to lead one person to Christ".
The illusion at this point is that something magical just happened.  Now they are saved, check one off your list and move on.  Sure your church got high numbers for people standing up and/or bowing a knee and giving their life to Christ but what happens to this person now?  Well according to the Crossing that's not really their problem.  If this person doesn't join a small group, start serving, tithe (a lot!) and get on board then they are S.O.L.  Their growth and journey after that isn't a concern.  (And if they don't like this then they will be escorted out the back door.)  

So is our faith path a singular event or is it a long road of questions, doubts, revelations, reevaluations, joys and suffering?  

People need to be seen and not treated as a number.  People need to be heard and not silenced.  People need to be allowed doubts and questions and not forced into thoughtless submission.  

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

How many people are you bringing to church this Easter?

Easter is coming and the Crossing, and so many churches like it, are making their usual attempt to pack the seats.  Sorry no cars or TVs this year.  You'll have to work very hard to bring those far from God to church this time.  You are to ask one person per day to come on Easter and do anything possible to get them there.  "If you don't get your friends to church and they go to hell then it's your fault."  OK, not much faith in a sovereign God but doing a fabulous job at shaming your members.

Why the big push for Easter?  Well this is one of the few days, including Christmas, that the heathens will darken the door of a church.  The hope is that they'll see an amazing production, hear a pleading message and "give their life to Christ".  Eliciting this emotional response is choreographed from the moment they walk in.  Happy people greeting them and making them feel welcomed.  Lots of smiles and sunshine faces.  Entertaining band with the church members joyfully singing along.  The pastor is charismatic and the message is tailored to someone who would not normally go to church.  Then they'll go for the slam dunk.  Poignant music starts playing softly in the background.  The pastor has a couple cracks in his voice sounding on the verge of tears.  The plea is made for you to stand and take Jesus as your savior.  Many do stand up and say the "sinner's prayer".  They are given a booklet that congratulates them and tells them next steps: serve, give and join a small group.  Hurrah!   

There is nothing new going on here as this is reminiscent of the old church revivals.  In the terms of Charles Grandison Finney, a revival was something preachers and communicants did. It was a deliberately orchestrated event that deployed a variety of spiritual practices to provoke conversions especially among the unconverted "youth" (men and women between 15 and 30) in the community. In the book "Growing Up Fundamentalist" one of the gentlemen interviewed describes it this way:  What we call fundamentalism is really a product of revivalism, which is a separate theological tradition in many ways.  Back in the nineteenth century the revivalist preachers would travel around, setting up their tents and preaching the sawdust trail.  Down in front they would have what they called the "anxious bench", where sinners who were thinking about being saved could sit.  When they got ready they would jump up at the alter call.  The appeal was largely a hellfire-and-brimstone approach that said, "You'd better come right down here now or you'll burn in hell forever."  It was extremely emotional and experiential.

The Crossing claims 900 people were saved last Easter.  Huge number.  So where are these 900 people now?   Without getting into a debate whether by saying the sinner's prayer that you're saved for life or it's not quite enough without actions, I'll simply pose the question as to whether those people's lives were truly changed.  My friend and her daughter stood up that day.  They were among many counted as "being saved".  One goes to a Universalist church now and the other goes nowhere.  Was there life change?  

Instead of bringing people to church shouldn't the focus be to bring church (Jesus) to the people?  Your light shows, productions and egg drops aren't helping anyone.