As you read Joe's story in part one, you might be thinking isn't it nice that Joe feels so comfortable going to Church as a non-believer? Isn't it wonderful that the Church is a safe haven, where anyone can come, fit in, and feel like they are part of the family of God? Maybe you are happy Joe found a niche within the Church that spoke to him, in this case it was a Christian biker group. If Joe hadn't found a group he felt comfortable with, he might have left and never come back.
I can assure you, while talking to Joe, my heart was anything but happy or at peace. There was a great grieving within my spirit for Joe who had been going to church for 10 years and never learned anything about God. Joe honestly believed he as a nonbeliever had the same eternal blessings in Heaven as those who are in Christ. Joe's false security in the Church is actually leading him strait to hell. Hell is a real place, with real people suffering in it.
Perhaps you are thinking the Church did everything they could do to tell Joe the gospel message. After all, 10 years of Sunday sermons should have made an impact right? Some church leaders would say it's Joe's hard heart and refusal that is solely responsible for his path to destruction. I'm sure there are many who would quote Scriptures to back up their positions that it's all Joe's fault for where he currently is in his walk of faith or lack there of.
But, after talking to Joe for less than 45 minutes, I can tell you honestly, it's not all Joe's fault. Joe truly doesn't understand the Scriptures or the history behind the Bible. He has no knowledge to base a foundation of faith upon. He has no understanding that the Scripture can be trusted to be the Words of God and that they are not the words of men trying to control others. Unfortunately, biblical teachings on the firm foundations of the validity of Scripture are not the typical Sunday sermons preached. Most sermons are preached from the basis that those in the pews already believe the Bible is the word of God. Therefore, the pastors rarely seek to educate the congregation on this simple fact, assuming they already know it.
Most sermons, at this church like so many others, provide superficial Scripture in a theatrical performance with a little personal anecdote added to connect the listener to the topic in a "relevant way." The entire Sunday service lasts for approximately 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes. The first 30 minutes is usually worship music, announcements/videos, and a short prayer. The second half hour is the sermon with the common notation among Churches being most people in the congregation cannot stay focused beyond 30 minutes. Meanwhile, these are the same people who will spend 3 to 4 hours diligently watching the Super Bowl or other sports event. Many in a congregation will play a video game for hours on end or watch a 2 hour movie without hesitation. What's the difference? Is it truly our limited attention span or ability to focus for 30 minutes, or is it our passion and love for what we are focusing on?
There is no way 1 hour a week in a highly structured Sunday service environment is enough to know God, understand His word, and build a relationship with him. The responsibility for Joe's ignorance does not fall solely upon the failures of a traditional Sunday sermon or any pastor of the church.
... to be continued in Part 3
Wondering how to improve your witness?
Here's a good book to learning how to witness.
I spoke with a man last month while at a friend's house. I'm going to call him, Joe (not his real name). Joe was definitely NOT a Christian, a fact he was very proud of. Ironically, Joe asked me where I went to church. This was a question, which led to Joe telling me how he and his wife had been going to a specific church for 10 years. Apparently, his wife was a woman of faith, but he had no belief or faith in Jesus or the Bible. Yet, he called this specific church, "his home church." While I can not fully articulate the animosity Joe had against Jesus in this article, I can tell you, he recoiled from any mention of God and was very hostile to the concept of anyone quoting or using of the Bible. He stated the Bible was a tool written by men to manipulate and control others... obviously not the inspired Word of God viewpoint many Christians hold. Surprised, I asked Joe what he liked about that particular church since he didn't believe in Jesus, the Bible, or the "other nonsense" being spoken from the pulpit as he put it. He response was mind-blowing.
Over the lyrics to Highway to Hell by AC/DC playing on his stereo, Joe explained, "I like the biker group at the church and the music. The music is usually fast and good." He went on to say that he really enjoyed hanging out with his "Biker Brothers" before or after church service. Joe really liked the fact he could dress like a biker to go to church. He was so glad to have biker brothers to watch his back while he was out on the road after church too. Joe explained the Christian biker group were really good guys who took care of his bike after he was in an accident last year, and it flipped. When I asked him about whether or not the Christian biker group focused on Jesus, his response indicated a negative. Apparently, being "biker brothers" was by far more of a mutual bond than being "Christian brothers," at least in his mind. Joe's view had been reinforced by the fact none of his church biker brothers had really tried to talk to him about God. He stated they knew he wasn't into God and left the topic alone. Joe said he was very glad he could hang with the church's biker group and no one bothered him about God while he was with them. That made him comfortable to be at that church.
The notion of God was real to Joe, but God was a vague concept that existed somewhere in the great beyond. Joe's God had no real tangible connection to his daily life. To him, God was "the man upstairs" that he would meet one day after Joe died. Additionally, Joe was convinced there was a test on Earth that he had to pass to please God. Once he had passed the test, Joe could "move on" to be with all his deceased family members and live happily ever after in Heaven. When I asked Joe, what was the test he had to pass, he replied, "I don't know, but as soon as it's done, I'm outta here."
to be continued...
On Friday, I had a dream, which I believe represented the state of the Church today, not one denomination but all of us combined. I have pondered on this dream over the past several days, debating whether or not to share it. The more I pray, the more compelled I am to share. I hope as you read it, you will not pigeon-hole the events to any particular local church. I know the meaning of the dream was not directed at any particular local body but represented the Body of Christ in general. While I mention two specific churches in the dream that have been in my life in the past, these churches and people in the dream were only symbolic of the majority of churches/Believers in the world today. I hope that no one will cause division in the Body through this dream, but that Believers would be encouraged to truly examine their hearts, thoughts and religious justifications, and the work being left undone all around us.
I had a dream that I was attending a large Thanksgiving event. The event was being held in this giant auditorium. Oddly enough inside the auditorium, tables were arranged in groups. Each group of tables was separate from other groups by either a small space of an empty row or by plants in pots. Every group had the same setting with round empty banquet tables and chairs until people from the church showed up to decorate. Behind all the groups was a large stage, about three feet off the ground. Behind the stage, a wall separated the dining area from the kitchen. You entered the kitchen by going through a door off the left side of the stage. The stage was fairly dark as there were no specific lights turned on to illuminate the area. It was void of any furniture or items, with the exception of a small row of flower bushes in pots that sat on the edge of the stage as decoration for the main room. I don’t know how I had come to the Thanksgiving event. I was not with any particular group, but sat and ate dinner at a table adjacent to the group from Farm Loop Church where my children attend youth group.
After finishing my meal, I noticed many of the other Christians who had eaten had left already, leaving the tables full of all their dirty plates and silverware. I got up and started clearing the dishware off of my table. As I walked with dirty dishes in hand toward the kitchen, I passed by another area where a group from my previous church, Church on the Rock, was setting up. They hadn’t eaten yet and were just beginning to decorate their section with different table centerpieces. Each group could decorate their area differently with a centerpiece or tablecloth. I walked on to the kitchen, noticing a different group of Christians off to my right were still eating dinner.
Inside the kitchen, everything was a mess. There were dirty dishes and spilt food on the counters. The sink was overflowing from people bringing in their dishes, but no one was in the kitchen working to wash them. I was angry that the area was left in such disarray. Out front, everything looked relatively clean, but here it was so dirty. Obviously, many groups had already eaten before I got there. I started filling the sink with soapy water to start washing dishes. I also began loading the one dishwasher too. After turning on the dishwasher, I started on the pile in the sink to clean by hand. As I was washing, the pastor from the old church came in and was very surprised to see me. He said, “Oh, Sharon are you using your spiritual gifts at Farm Loop Church now?” By this he was asking if I attended Farm Loop and was working on their behalf in the kitchen.
I replied, “No, I don’t attend Farm Loop, and there is no spiritual gift for washing dishes.”
He seemed confused and flustered by my comment. He grew very uncomfortable and was relieved when another person from his group came in the door to tell him it was time to eat. I didn’t know exactly where the food came from that everyone ate. There was no food in the kitchen, only a giant mess. What food was in the kitchen were leftovers on the plates. I remember food was on the plates on table as I had come in. I also remember a vision of seeing a giant buffet table, as long as the eye could see with all sorts of food prepared on it. I never saw anyone serving the food or handing out dishes of food either. As I stood in the kitchen washing dishes, I became more and more angry as I realized that the pastor’s question was the reason no one had cleaned up. It was the same reason most people had eaten and left, leaving their dishes out in the main auditorium on the tables for some unknown person to clear away. Everyone assumed someone else would do it. Someone else would clean up after them. They all had used the logic or excuse that those particular someones would be ‘anointed’ or called for the job of cleaning because they had a spiritual gift of helps. They believed wrongly that a gifted someone would come behind them to do this dirty job. This was a job that almost ANYONE and EVERYONE who was not severely handicapped could do if only he/she had the heart to see it needed doing.
After washing the dishes in the sink and those in the dishwasher, I returned to the main auditorium to finish clearing off the table where I had been sitting. I was passing the group from Church on the Rock, and most people had finished their meal and were gone. The leaders who had come into set up early were also leaving. Again, all the tables had dirty dishes on them. None had been moved to the kitchen. There were a few people on the fringes of the main tables of this group still eating. Most of them were finishing up their desserts. As I walked by the last tables before the empty row separating this group from the next, there was a woman struggling to finish her dessert. On a plate in front of her was a slice of three-berry pie. Others in her group had eaten it, and it was delicious. She on the other hand, didn’t like the taste of raspberries. She was in a quandary. She felt like she had to finish her food, but she really didn’t like to eat this pie. Walking by, I heard her discussing her problem with the person sitting beside her at the table. I stopped and turned to her and said, “If you don’t like it, don’t eat it.”
Surprised she looked up at me and replied, “But it will look bad if I don’t eat it. Others might think I’m wasteful, which I’m not. I just don’t like the taste of these berries.” She said pulling the fruit out of the pie with her fork.
I replied again, “If you don’t like it, don’t eat it. It’s really that simple. Stop worrying about what others think and go choose a different dessert.” Now she was really surprised. She hadn’t even considered for a moment that there were other desserts to choose. She felt because this plate had been set before her, she had to eat it. She looked at me questioning, but I turned to the table in front of her and started clearing it off. It had been the table my family had sat to eat dinner, and I felt responsible for making sure that mess was cleaned up. The table was empty of all the people. Just then, some of my family members came through the door. They had brought the car around front and were waiting on me to leave to go home. They were slightly impatient, wondering what could be taking me so long. I said, “I have to clean off the dishes first.”
Then one member of my family said, “Leave it. Someone else will clear these off. We were only invited to dinner.”
I was very frustrated. I practically snapped back, “Who? Who is this someone? I don’t see anyone cleaning. There is no one in the kitchen cleaning either.”
My family member responded, “So you want to clean all the dishes? For everyone? Seriously? Come on; you did your share by now. I’m tired and hurting and need to get home to bed.” Then I woke up.
I knew upon waking what this dream had meant, to a large degree, and through prayer I’ve learned more. The giant auditorium filled with lots of different Christian groups was the Church itself, the entire body of Christ gathering for Thanksgiving. Sadly, we had divided ourselves by spaces or rows of plants between us. Before we had separated ourselves, we were all invited to the same place to have thanksgiving. Originally, all our tables and chairs were identical, until we chose to decorate them differently. The local church leadership did the decorating, arriving before their main members to get things in order. The members simply came to eat without any thought of work either before or after. While I don’t feel decorating the tables differently was a problem, the obvious grouping off of Christians into regional/local church areas was a problem. It separated us from each other and from the collective wholeness originally designed.
The Thanksgiving meal was pretty much the same for everyone. No human brought food for us to eat. There were no servers or waiters. The food simply was there to eat in a variety of choices. I recall a type of buffet where you could go to get anything you wanted to eat represented by the large buffet table overflowing with all types of food and desserts. We could choose what we wanted to eat, but many people ate only what was in front of them on their table already. They worried and feared they might offend others if they refused the food they didn’t like. Some had never even considered the possibility that there was a different way, a different choice from that large buffet table. Most people also believed the food being served was from their local church group. People believed their church had specifically prepared and provided the Thanksgiving meal, but it did not. This is what led Christians to think that if they refused what was in front of them, they would offend their church members. The individual church areas did not provide the food. I had eaten a wonderful Thanksgiving meal while not being part of any specific group. The food was provided from the Father, not the people.
The biggest frustration of the dream for me was the fact that most Christians had a twisted or false belief what was a spiritual gifting, anointing, or “calling” from God. They somehow believed these special gifts applied to the daily necessities and work of life. While there are spiritual gifts from God, many of our daily tasks do not require them. Simple tasks like cleaning up after yourself or washing the dishes were obvious jobs that most anyone could do, yet no one really wanted to do them. Everyone acted as if someone else would serve or clean up after him or her, but in reality, it was not happening and was unfair to expect. Every Christian was responsible to help and clean up. There was no special “helps” anointing or spiritual gifting for washing dishes. The mentality that someone else would do the regular job others didn’t want to do was hurting the whole Church. It separated people and gave an entitlement mindset to many within the Body of Christ. Most Christians believed they could enjoy all the pleasures without any thought to the responsibilities that went with those pleasures. This mentality was rooted in selfishness, which pervaded the whole auditorium and universal Church. It even affected my own family. It was also the reason so many people had simply eaten and left without thought to those who would have to clean up their mess.
There was also a temptation for me at the end of the dream to give in to my family member who was hurting to take him home. I knew that it was highly unlikely that he would leave without me, since the family car was my way home. I wondered how many others had been pressured into leaving with their family. Could this be why there was such a big mess left behind? Perhaps they knew they should help clean up, but for the sake of avoiding an argument with their loved ones who wanted to leave immediately, they simply left with them. I was given two choices at the end of the dream. I had the power to prevent my family member from becoming increasingly uncomfortable and in pain by leaving and going home immediately. Or I could continue to stay and keep cleaning with the strength I still had. In staying I would offend my family member and cause possibly increased physical pain to him and also an emotional rift between us. I awoke before I made the final choice, though I hope I made the right one and offered to stay to continue cleaning and let my family go home.
The dream reminded me of the scripture in Matthew 9:36-38 where Jesus talks about the Work of God. He said the harvest was plentiful, but the laborers were few and that we should pray for God to send more laborers. In this dream, the people of the Body of Christ were many. They were the ones Christ was originally speaking about to be the laborers sent into the harvest. But the majority of Christians were apathetic to the work in the Church. The work was still great, but the willing laborers were so few that I did not see any at all. I felt this dream was warning the Body of Christ has become complacent and selfish. We were ready to gather together in a form of Thanksgiving among our local church groups to eat, but most were not willing to work. Most did not work in their own local church groups much less together and cross over spaces to work for and with other groups. Most Christians are simply leaving the work undone believing falsely that they’d only been called to dinner, to eat instead of work. They also believed wrongly that a mysterious anointed someone else would arrive to do the work around them, which made them feel justified in not lifting a hand to help.
If this dream truly represents the state of the current Body of Christ, then what a sorry mess we are in brothers and sisters. The mess is piling up all around us, and we don’t even realize it should not be. We each have the power to put our hands to service, simply doing what is right in life. Instead of being comfortably served and our own bellies sated, we should seek to serve after we have finished eating of the goodness of God. We cannot wait for a perceived calling or spiritual anointing before we put our hands to service. If you have been saved by the blood of Jesus and are in the Body of Christ, then His Spirit lives in you. The Spirit works through us as we work, but if we won’t work, how then will the Spirit move? We are His hands and feet, the physical body of Christ on earth. There are so many of us that we should be moving forward, using our hands to help and our feet to take Jesus wherever He is needed in this world.
Christians everywhere are called to finish the work left undone around us. There is no special anointing for washing dishes or the daily aspects of life. We must step into these chores and work for ourselves. We need to put our hands and our time into the messes of this life and make a positive difference, but to do so we must first lay down our selfishness and desire to please others. After we have eaten from the goodness of God and are full of Thanksgiving, we shouldn’t squander those pleasures in the comfort of our own beds. The fullness of God should lead us to the awareness of our responsibilities as fellow heirs with Christ.
An Alaskan Author, Prospector, Homeschool Teacher, Ordained Minister,
I welcome your comments! Before you post, please see my
Some of the links on this blog are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Also, some of the books and products featured on the blog I received free or heavily discounted for the purpose of review. All the opinions are my unbiased thoughts. I only recommend products or services I use and believe will add value for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising." I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program.