When an Invitation Becomes a Sale

One thing that I’ve really learned over the past few years is that my relationship with God is a personal one.  And I really believe it should be that way for everyone.  Your relationship shouldn’t be pinned to what church you go to.
I live in the South now, which means that I live in the Bible belt.  There are literally churches everywhere.  And that’s fine.  But every single church here believes that you should attend that church.  It creates a competition.  That competition between churches is one that exists everywhere, but I notice it the most here because the volume is so much higher.  Most Christians believe that everyone should go to church.  The problem is that churches want you to go to their church.  Don’t go to someone else’s church, come to my church.  There’s a sign outside the church near my apartment that says, “Need home improvements?  Bring your family to church.”    

My boyfriend and I visited a different church today.  It’s a fairly new campus here (as far as I understand).  But he attended this same church when he was in college in Tuscaloosa, so he’s been wanting to visit it here, since he enjoyed the church so much before he moved back to Florence.
There wasn’t anything wrong with the church, and I actually enjoyed the sermon.  It was a type that I missed, because it was just theological enough for me to follow.  It was the first time I’ve been in a church with a bulletin for a while.  But this church is huge.  There’s campuses with multiple services all over Alabama.  So they have money.  It’s practically a mega church, and the sermon was live streamed from the main campus, which is not my thing.
They kept talking about how next week is Easter, and Easter is the perfect opportunity to invite someone to church, which technically is true.  Unchurched people are most likely to visit church on Christmas and Easter.  Those are the two times a year that people go to church.  But every time they talked about inviting people, it was like a pitch.  It was like they were selling something.

I personally don’t want to sell anyone on whatever church I go to.  I don’t even really want to sell someone my savior.  Yes, this is a consumer society, but faith isn’t something that should be bought.  It’s not something that should be pitched.  It should be personal.  Yes, salvation is something that I believe we all need, but telling someone that seems so impersonal.
I’d rather be introduced to a loving God in the same way that I’d introduce someone to my best friend, my dad, or my boyfriend.

I was afraid to talk about visiting a new church today, because it feels like people get so offended when you don’t go to their church, or if you even miss a week.  I didn’t visit a new church to offend anyone, or even because I’m unhappy where I am.  It’s not because of the worship or the sermon or anything else.  Church services, to me, seem to be a way to teach someone about God.  But I know about God.  I paid to study the Bible for four years.  Then I spent another year paying to focus on my relationship with God and his Spirit.  I don’t want to be taught.  I don’t want to be bored.  I want a family.
I have a family where I am.  They’re there when I need them.  But we’ve become a bit estranged, because I got used to a certain routine, and that routine was then disrupted.  I got used to the community that came from life groups that happened once a week.  It was something that gave me life.  One of my favorite things is doing life with other people.  Community is something that I have craved for a long time, and every time I seem to grasp it, it’s almost like it pulls away from me.  But I’m not going to blame anyone else, because I easily get too tired to chase a community that changes with the flow of the river.
“Life groups” are starting again, but not in the way that I’m craving.  They want to read a Bill Johnson book together.  I just don’t feel like going to a book club.  I don’t want to read another Jesus book that’s going to bore me.  Which is okay.  It’s okay that other people find life in an environment that drains me.  We are all different, which is something that I recognize and do my best to celebrate.  I believe that everyone who goes to these new life groups is going to get something out of it.  I’m just not sure that I would.

One of my favorite classes that I took in college was Teaching Small Groups.  Yes, that sounds boring.  The point of the class was to learn how to teach small groups.  But the class was so small, we actually got to be a small group.  We actually got to do life together as we learned.  That’s the kind of community that I’m craving.
So no, I’m not switching churches.  That’s not what this is about.  I’m not even trying to bash churches, like I have done so often.  I just don’t want to be told to sell my church.  I’m a terrible salesman, and I’m not even usually sold on church.  I don’t even always want to go to church, but that’s where my friends are.  I want to be sold your small group.  I want to buy your community.  So pitch it to me.  And I’ll invite you into mine, when I find one.

You can invite me.  And maybe I’ll invite you.  I just wish it was more about community and growing in relationship with God, than about selling all of the great programs and resources your church can provide.

And who knows, maybe I’m wrong.  Maybe I’m just too darn cynical.

Jesus Is

Indescribably beautiful, but somehow missed in an everyday scene
Hidden only because we’re not looking as we cry for Him to open up our eyes
Arms stretched out, reaching for us, catching us, as we stumble and fall in efforts to run to Him
Wrapping us in a silent embrace, weeping with joy as His prodigals have returned

A servant, born in a manger, raised by a carpenter, both creator and creation
Master, teacher, secretly king; He made the lame to walk and the blind to see
He walked on water, calmed the storms, made sure the hungry had food
Ate dinner with outcasts, let prostitutes bathe His feet, and, ultimately, let the captives free

Simultaneously, He brought both peace and conflict
As many still die in His name because He died for our sake
Innocent, perfect, He rolled away the stone and left the empty grave behind Him
Forgiven, washed clean in His blood, we too can bask in eternal life, leaving death behind us

Omnipotent, all-knowing, He sees all our sins, so we cannot keep them secret from Him
But He does not hold our fallen nature against us
He has already forgiven us, taking our place in punishment
Encouraging us not to punish ourselves

He is the Word that was spoken as creation came into motion
An artist that paints with nature and reality
A sculptor who uses mountains as His medium
Breathing life into humanity, so we can enjoy it all

Jesus is love!
As His children, we have messed up and disobeyed, like all children do
As our Father, He is not disappointed, but is ever pushing us toward something greater
Because He loves us, we have the freedom to choose something lesser

Jesus is our Savior
Because in our freedom we often make choices that lead to death
But He died in our place, saving us for life with Him
Life eternal, life in peace, life without sin

Jesus is more than just a name
More than just a great man
More than we could ever be
And if we let Him, Jesus is everything

Jesus Was Perfect: My Thoughts This Christmas

christmas 2007
christmas 2007 (Photo credit: paparutzi)

Jesus was perfect.  Imagine that.  He never sinned.  Even in a secular world, He did no wrong.  He probably never disobeyed His parents or lied to get out of trouble.  He probably never even got in trouble.  HE WAS PERFECT.  Now imagine being friends with Him.  Imagine having a friend that was perfect, that never messed up or broke any laws, or the covenant, or anything.  If Jesus was alive today, He probably wouldn’t have even driven over the speed limit.  That blows my mind.  And then He went and died for us.  We don’t deserve it.

Holidays.  Almost all of the widely celebrated holidays are Christian.  Well, Christmas and Easter are.  These are both celebrated all over the world.  Yeah, the reason and the story has changed, but people still know the original, even if they don’t believe it.  Are there other religions that have their holidays celebrated everywhere?  If there is, than my point is almost moot, because I haven’t researched it.

The Christmas Spirit.  This year, I am doing my best to love Christmas.  I’m not a fan of corporate holidays really.  However, this year, I started listening to Christmas music as soon as December began.  And I went to my school’s Christmas party, even though I started to freak out, I survived.  I put up a Christmas tree in my quad.  And, get this, I went and looked at Christmas lights with some friends.  I never do that.  I don’t do any of these things.  In fact, I’ve spent the greater part of my life hating Christmas music.

Where was I a year ago?  Last year, all I wanted was to die.  I wasn’t in a good place, but all of that has changed.  I’m making plans for my future.  I’m not sending good bye notes to those closest to me.  No one has any reason to worry.  A year ago, I didn’t see any point in anyone worrying about me.  This year, I don’t see any point in giving anyone anything to worry about.  Yeah, life isn’t good all of the time.  However, I can always find a reason to smile.  If I need to be alone, I’ll be alone, but forgetting all of the good things is stupid.  God’s brought me a long way.  And I’m thankful.  I’m happy.  I’m thankful that people care and that I have people to care about.  I’m thankful I have dreams and talents and a world to share it with.  I’m thankful I’m not starving.  Next year will be even better.