A colleague came back from teaching a senior Religion class and commented that one of the students had been particularly outspoken about her faith. In what, I imagine, was an attempt to separate herself from the Christian stereotype generally despised by other students, she began to draw out the distinctions of her particular denomination, speaking scathingly of the others and saying that she wasn’t like ‘those Christians.’
Suffice to say, it didn’t have the desired effect, and I imagine she did nothing to promote the merits of Christianity at all.
Unfortunately, though, I can relate to her efforts. I still recall sitting in a lecture theatre at uni, waiting for a class to start, as a fellow student slated Christians. I mentioned that I was a Christian and she responded, ‘yeah but you’re not one of those in-your-face born-again types.’
The fact is, that Christians come in all different shapes, sizes, and levels of sanctification. While it is important that we separate ourselves from cults that promote a false Gospel, I can’t help thinking that our general Christian-slamming and denomination promoting is doing far more to destroy the Church than build it.
The fact is, we’re all a bunch of messed up sinners. We have different preferences and a bent towards selfishness. We are all redeemed only by the grace and sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and it was He who said that the world would know us by our love for one another. Maybe we should focus on that.
In our world, if it can be sold, there’s someone selling it and a celebrity promoting it. The marketing machine of our culture is so normal to us that we rarely stop to reflect how mad we’ve gone.
This was highlighted to me the other day when I saw this article from My Christian Daily: “Prince Harry – Do good in your local church.”
I can almost see the frenzied Christian excitement as Prince Harry, a real celebrity, endorsed the church ‘brand.’
On one level it makes me roll my eyes, on another it causes me deep concern.
First, we need to be far more discerning about whom we follow. Are Christians really holding Prince Harry up as an example of someone from whom we should take life guidance? If not, then we shouldn’t grab on to one little thing he says that happens to suit our purpose and promote the heck out of it.
Second, and more importantly, why is it such a big deal when a celebrity says something that God already said? Does that really confirm it as good advice? The Bible is the word of our creator. It is unsurpassed in wisdom and power and truth. Bono, or Lady Gaga or Bear Grylls or Prince Harry cannot come close to adding to the credibility of anything that God himself has said.
The Bible stands alone. I will celebrate if they submit to it, but I will never need them to endorse it.
When we ask ourselves this question, we often ask it in the context of a success and fame driven world. While as Christians, we may not be wondering ‘how can I be great,’ but we often as not are wondering ‘how can my ministry be successful?’ or ‘How can I do great things for God?’
I’m not sure these are bad questions to ask, but as I was praying through this recently for my own life, I sensed God give me clarity on how to achieve success: I need to redefine the goal.
In my life, God must be the prize, not ministry success. The goal is to seek Him more; love Him more; find more joy in Him.
As I pursue God, I may find that he uses me for some great, joyous purpose. He may give me what the world defines as ‘success,’ but if He doesn’t? Who cares? I’ve already attained the greatest treasure.
Run the race so as to attain the prize, but don’t forget that He is the prize.
I don’t know the answer to this one, but I do have some questions, and I’m interested to know what people think.
If you’re like me, and you’ve grown up in the western church, you’ve probably noticed a huge focus on the preservation and upholding of the traditional, often nuclear, family model. We consistently have reinforced that Family is important; Family must come first. We even have a conservative political party named for this very idea.
But I’m starting to question it. Maybe it’s because I’m 28 and single. Maybe it’s because I realize that the only reason I’m not alone at Christmas is because I live in the same city as my parents and siblings. Maybe it’s because my heart hurts on mothers day and fathers day and at Christmas when everyone goes off to celebrate with their neat little nuclear families and I see others left to feel the gap; to feel like they don’t really fit in a world made for poster-perfect families.
Don’t get me wrong, family is important. Marriage is sacred and children are a blessing, but somehow I feel like the Bible offers us something better than the nuclear family. I feel like maybe the New Testament wanted to change our focus to the Church family; to turn from the nuclear to the community; to cultivate ‘all together’ rather than ‘us separately.’
If ‘focusing on the family’ means that some just can’t fit in, aren’t we getting something wrong?
The world has been looking on in horror at the atrocities being committed against Christians in Iraq.
The blatant arrogance of IS has shocked us as they’ve flaunted their brutality through the media.
As Christians we can feel helpless. We want to show our support, but beyond changing our profile pictures to the ‘N’ symbol, or donating money to humanitarian aid, there’s little we can do. Except pray. We can pray.
Times like this remind me of Hebrews 13:3, a verse that never fails to challenge me.
“Continue to remember those in prison [for the sake of Jesus] as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.”
We should be praying for them, as if it were us suffering along with them. As if we were there. Suddenly my sense of urgency increases.
It can be hard to know what to pray, but a friend of mine the other day prayed something that really struck me. We can (and should) pray for these horrors to stop; for the Christians’ safety and protection, but we can also pray for something else:
That they would stand strong to the end, and that they would die with honour, in a way befitting their Lord. That they would glorify their Redeemer in their last breath, confident that they will pass straight into His presence.
My Grandad had a fall yesterday. He’s 92 and still lives in his home. He tripped by the bed and managed to drag himself, with a broken hip, around the bed to the phone to call an ambulance.
Dad was getting ready for church when Grandad called him, and he left and went straight over there. My sister and I were down south having a surfing lesson at the time, and didn’t find out for several hours.
When I finally got back, mum and dad and I sat around the kitchen table and debriefed, and then dad got a phone call. Some life-long church friends called to see how Grandad was going. They chatted for a while, asking questions, listening and just genuinely caring.
Sunday night I went to church. Dad walked in a bit late, but I watched as several people approached him to see how he was doing and to show that they cared. As I looked on, it really struck me that this is how the church is meant to be. It’s my family beyond my family. How they knew what had happened when dad wasn’t even there that morning I don’t know, but they did, and they cared. And they’ll be praying.
Growing up in the church, I never had any doubt that if something happened to my parents I’d be cared for. The Church was instituted for many reasons, one of which was to be a family. What a blessing to see it in action.
Have you ever destroyed something before you even got to use it? I have.
The other day I bought a new outfit. It was something a bit different, that I wouldn’t normally buy, but it was heavily reduced. And, let’s be honest, it looked pretty good on me. Virtually the instant I put in on in the change room it was sold. I imagined wearing it to parent-teacher interviews at work, and to church on Sunday. My vanity was probably getting the better of me.
I was so excited about the outfit that it was a talking point that night when I went out for dinner with friends.
Sunday morning I got ready for Church and went to iron my new outfit before I left. I turned the iron’s temperature down, but didn’t wait for it to cool. I didn’t think it needed to. The iron was on the garment for all of two seconds and it was ruined. As I lifted the iron away, a big piece of fabric lifted too, leaving a crusty, melted hole.
For a minute I considered crying. I thought of going back to my room and not bothering to go to church. But then I remembered: ‘Sarah, it’s just stuff!’ How often have I let myself become consumed with things that are just things? I put on a different outfit, and went to church, acknowledging to God ruefully that He had likely saved me from my vanity.
Cinderella, Snow White, Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty: Life is pretty tough until you grow up and meet your prince charming and live happily ever after.
With a steady diet of classic fantasies, is it any wonder that countless girls grow up believing that life begins with the meeting of that perfect man?
While the Disney princesses may not have been forefront in my mind, it’s certainly the attitude I tended to have during my teen years. Romance, love and marriage were going to be a given for me. If I’d known I was going to be 28 and still single, I’d have died (in a teenage drama type way.)
I lead a fabulously rich single life, and I wouldn’t take any of it back, but isn’t it a shame that it took me until my mid 20s to decide (and yes, it largely had to be a decision) that life didn’t start at marriage?
Before that, my mind was far too consumed with how and where and when I was going to meet that perfect person. I felt like I couldn’t possibly know where my life was headed until I met them. I felt a bit like I was in a holding pattern.
Eventually I woke up to the reality that life begins at singleness. I wasn’t supposed to be hanging around waiting; God had a plan for me.
His plan means my life is going somewhere whether there’s a man involved or not. And it’s a great life.
Starting at a new church is undoubtedly tough, but there are definitely challenges on both sides.
No one doubts the importance of being a welcoming church, but what about being an easily ‘welcomable’ person?
Here are a few things that really make it easier for a church to embrace you!
Come consistently. If someone sees you several weeks in a row, they’ll start to realize that you’re serious about connecting.
Don’t leave as soon as the service ends. If you want people to be welcoming, you need to be available.
Say yes to invites. People who say no give the vibe that they’re not interested. It can be nerve-wracking for someone to extend an invitation to someone they don’t know. Getting a no can feel like rejection and makes them less inclined to ask again.
Join a small group or Bible study. This is how people in big churches get to know each other. If you’re not in one, don’t be surprised if you feel out of the loop.
Get involved in ministry. This is one of the best ways for you to connect with people and sends a message that you’re actually planning to stick around
Make yourself known! There’s nothing wrong with going up to someone and letting them know you’re new. Especially in a big church, people can be afraid to ask in case you’ve been coming for a long time!
Realize that good friendships take time to cultivate.