Skeptical about Church
I have been on a journey for really about 16 years. Since I was about 15 years old I have been asking the hard questions. I have asked the questions it seemed like no one else was asking, part of this has to do with my inquisitive nature.
One of the best things my dad, whose been a pastor for almost 40 years did, was be radically authentic and give incredible freedom at the right times.
Through it all I have often found that people didn’t mean to quit with Jesus but quit coming to church for a variety of reasons.
- We were hurt.
I have watched people get burned by people who used the language of faith to strengthen their position as an authoritarian or in Jesus words “lord it over them.”
I have seen people experienced radically recovery from dark sins – only have to people in the church remind them of what they were…
People have spoke the truth about us and we left because we were tired of dealing with the pain of the truth…
- We didn’t want to be “talked at” any more.
Can I be frank with you? After a summer of services (this summer it was over 60 services) I don’t want to go to a church service and hear a message. I don’t care how good the speaker is. I don’t want to sit in a passive learning environment where I have to sit back and be a receptacle for any more information.
Our daily life is interactive. We expect to be able to take part in the process. That’s why Fine Arts is such a hit – you get to do something….
This is also true with adults. I watch young adult disappear from church all the time only to see them come back once they have kids…But then I see them disappear again once their kids are grown. It shows how self-confident we can be but…
- Adult Life/ College Life didn’t seem to mix
There are the obvious things, like scheduling activities on Sunday mornings (hint: young people tend to go out on Saturday nights), but there’s more to it. In college, and before that by our parents, we’re taught to explore the world, broaden our horizons, think critically, question everything and figure out who we are as individuals. AND I WANT YOU TO DO THAT….Though there’s value in this, it’s hyper-individualistic. But Church is more about community. In many ways, it represents, fairly or not, sameness, and conformity. This is because when you get together as a group you have to have shared thought – it just happens.
I’ll talk a little more about this….
- Christians seen or acted like Hypocrites
From the scads of TV evangelists busted for impropriety to Catholic priests sexually abusing children under their care, there’s a face on Christianity in the media that says one thing and does another. Though this is hardly the baseline for all Christians, there’s a phenomenon of human consciousness that tends to seek out examples that reinforce existing stereotypes. Things that don’t align with our prejudice get filtered out. The result: everywhere we look, we see examples that reaffirm what we already thought about Christians.
This may not be fair, but it’s reality. And the only thing that tends to change a social stereotype as embedded as this one is a concerted, collective effort to break the prejudice wide open, not with a competing media campaign or by shouting louder. Rather, it happens one person, one story and one relationship at a time. It’s the same way other stereotypes are dismantled, so why should Christians be any different?
We’re exposed to more ad impressions in a month today than any other previous generation experienced in a lifetime. This leads to somewhat of a calcifying of the senses, always assuming that whoever is trying to get your attention wants something, just like everyone else.
There’s also the more serious skepticism.
A dark night of the soul, a serious doubt.
I have found that doubts are often in people simplification of the Bible or of something they thought the Bible said…
Creation…the age of the earth.
- Nobody like me…
For all of those frankly good reasons…Here’s the real problem if you “quit church” You can quit Jesus.
Reasons to come back:
- Realizing that church is a place to experience God, with others, and sometimes in spite of others. For me it was about re-discovering James and the book of James all over again.
It will always take two men to make one brother. …What about forget the church, just love Jesus… This was the front page of Newsweek magazine. The real issue with this new type of forget your church is that it’s meaningless. How can one have faith without the tangible reality of our brothers? One cannot know faith without community.
Solo spirituality that so many are trying to practice is ultimately a dead faith. Faith without works is dead James says and so is favoritism if you read his book. Favoritism is also called selfishness, a life giving faith is one that has teeth. That puts its money where its mouth is so to speak. Its marked by a community safe enough to confess our sins to one another. There aren’t any lone rangers for very long…
James was the little brother of Jesus. You see God needed a person someone who would be faithful to prayer and set the foundation of his church. Who would be the best person to lead the first local church? Not Peter. But James. Who better than the brother of Jesus to lead the first church.
I believe James experienced more of a change than anyone aside from Paul in the NT. According to Mark 3:20-33, James and the rest of Jesus family seem to think that their kid brother had lost his mind. But after the resurrection James was reported to have Jesus appear to him. Paul states this in 1 Corinthians 15:3-7.
“I sought my soul, but my soul I could not see. I sought my God, but my God eluded me. I sought my brother and found all three.”
Whether its this church or another, church is really about finding a place to become a brother. It’s a place you belong.
For me, as much as I care about the Assemblies of God, at the end of the day, I care about people. This would be true for most of us. At the end of the day, we don’t care about how good the preaching is, or how elaborate the music program is, or what denomination or creed, or even how the church looked.
We can hear great sermons from the radio, and we can listen to more great music on our ipods than we can listen to in a life time, But what you can’t get is authenticity in a community of faith. Where brothers can really be brothers.
- I discovered that Faith is everywhere not just at church.
Faith is a part of every type of science and that all bodies of knowledge have a given that at the end of the day have an assumption…which is a leap of faith. I guess what I am saying is that to have any type of knowledge you’ve got to have faith. “Cogito ergo sum” “I think therefore I am.” was the philosophical foundation for Descartes. He was trying to solve the classic problem in philosophy. This has yet to be solved, which is why there’s such skepticism in philosophy. In the case regarding gravity you can see its effects, and it can be measured but your trusting (faithing) your senses and that the measured units. But again those measurements are based off of unitary constructs of a numerical foundation you have to believe in. But there is no foundation as of yet, we have theories building on theories. And these give us comfort in a system but there are potential gaps…for example have we solved Pi? To me all of empirical, scientific method takes as much trust/belief/faith as anything else. And so the very idea of knowledge as concrete as much a walk of faith as anything else. No one including Dawkins or anyone else have given us any sort of foundation. So to agree to their system of thought is still as much as ascent of faith(a given in the hypothesis) as any formal faith. No one has a proven anything foundational.
Let me demonstrate. A quick history of epistemology: Foundational theories of knowledge continue to have internal problems and after three hundred years of trying, philosophers (scientists, believers, atheists, people of every ilk) have rightly begun to suspect that the problems are insoluble. Second it has become more and more obvious that foundationalist theories do not adequately describe the acquisition or justification of our most highly respected bodies of knowledge, namely, the sciences.
As Kuhn has pointed out, if science fails to fit our current theories of rationality, then we have a choice: we can either say that science is irrational, or we can conclude that the theories of rationality need to be changed. More philosophers are opting for the latter. The history of modern epistemology and philosophy of science show that purported foundations (1) turn out to depend on the supposed non-foundational knowledge for acceptance, or (2) turn out not to be indubitable, or (3) if they are indubitable turn out to be useless since there is no reliable way to argue from them to any interesting conclusions. So it is the “facts” of our epistemic predicament, along with the idea that there must be a foundation that produce skepticism and relativism. It takes faith.
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I would thus argue that our experience of God is not irrational but that the theories of rationality need to be changed.
Consider faith as similar to a hypothesis in an experiment. Consider that the same data may give rise to multiple competing theories about the way things are. We have to ask ourselves how a successful theory is at making sense of the world while looking at other theories. The best explanation may not be the most reasonable or commonsense explanation.
Scientists don’t lay down in advance what is reasonable. Science would fail if it were forced to conform to human ideas of rationality. To quote Alister McGrath, “The instinctive question for the scientist to ask is not “is it reasonable?” as if one knew beforehand the shape that rationality had to take, but “What makes you think that might be the case?” Science is about warranted belief, not about rational belief. He goes on to say, the history of science is about the recalibration of notions of “rationality” in the light of what was actually discovered about the deeper structure of nature.” A perfect example of this is the Higgs boson…
I see faith and reason as being complimentary not in opposition. We have historical and personal experiences to point to the existence of God. This along with some history, archeology and reason gives us an opportunity to have a serious faith. It is a faith but at this point its been proven so is everything else.
- There is no place greater than church to find meaning and purpose.
Sometimes people walk away because they seem to get tired of the same message. If you died tomorrow, do you know where you’d spend eternity? Or Jesus could come back any day, It could be right now so get right with God. That can get old really quick. Yes you need to be ready for the after life but Jesus didn’t just die for your afterlife, he died for your life now too!
What I discovered through all sorts of philosophies and religions – yes I have copies of a Koran, and have read stuff from Marx to Dalkins, Is that it either had no historical evidence to even lead to a leap of faith or that it began to ring hollow. “When its all about you” commercialism begins to ring that way, you will start to search for something more.
Here’s the deal most people when it comes down to it associate church as being the times you get together on Sunday morning to sing songs and hear a message. The reality is that is the least important part of your walk. Its supposed to be the icing on the cake but most people trying and live off of it. If that’s all your ever doing its not going to satisfy. You’ve got to get into a small group of people could can talk with and do life with. If your not doing that because you cant seem to find some one to connect with keep looking and perhaps your suppose to be the one getting people together.
By the way so many Christians are unhappy because al they are doing is consuming. I’m just going to touch on this because I’ve talked to your young brothers and sisters about it already…
Believers have not been redeemed by good works but unto good works (Eph. 2:10); That means we aren’t saved by what we do but because we are saved we can do good works like no one else can. I have got to believe that I can do good works better than any humanitarian or government agency if I will actually get out there and do it.
God’s intention through the Church is that the rule of King Jesus – a Kingdom where freedom from sin and guilt leads to righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit – that rule might increase and affect the lives of hurting and needy people everywhere. That is our task.
Gifting creates influence and one of the best ways to be an influencer is to use your unique giftings to attract people to Jesus.
So lets talk about giftings for a second. Your leaders are preachers. Above all of the other things that they can do with themselves, the reason people look to them is that they have fanned the flame of preaching through 4 years of preparation. Most giftings take great preparation. I believe that walking in your gift is ultimately how you show love to others and to God. Have you ever received a meaningful gift that someone made for you? Perhaps the gift was their time.
Part of your own self discovery right now is figuring out what your vocation is? Vocation is different from occupation. Occupation is working to live. Vocation is what you live for!
The word “vocation” comes from the Latin vocare, which means “calling.” It suggests some grand purpose in your life, that there are unseen forces guiding you in making key decisions that will lead you to fulfilling your destiny. It has an air of grandeur and mystery to it. It sounds intentional and meaningful.
Occupation, on the other hand, has the same root as the English word “occupy,” which we all know means “to take up space.” And that’s just what most occupations do—they take up your time, energy and (in some cases) your dignity. It’s the thing you do to pass the time, while you dream of doing other things. While there is nothing particularly wrong with an occupation, there is nothing remarkable about it, either.
Most people in life live the life between the two. They struggle between the reckless abandon of pursuit of vocation with the stability of occupation.
Spiritual gifts are above all not about occupation. This includes pastors, teachers, evangelists, prophets…they are about vocation.
God has actually called some of you not just to occupy a job – but to hold places of spiritual gifts. You might not make any money or a career out of them – but they are as much a part of you as the color of your eyes.
You must hone them. If you want to be part of a ministry that is dynamic in worship start now. Its about practice and attendance truth be told is also about personality but practice and attendance are key.
For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ.” 1 Corinthians 12:12.
For far too long churches glorify the speaking gift and the music gift. But there are the administrative gifts. The gifts of compassion. Listen if you’re the person that wants to hug everyone as they come in, your probably not needed in the sound booth. You occupy your square inch of creation as a hugger. That’s the color God painted you. So if you’re red, be red.
Don’t underestimate your importance to the body of Christ. Also don’t overestimate your importance, I’ve seen many people fall as a result of that. Celebrate the diversity of the giftings. There’s something creative you can bring to your world. Find it. According to the Bible the Pastors actual job is to empower and involve the gifts. That’s their actual job, not preaching. They are supposed to find ways of integrating your gifts. That’s their job not yours. Yours is to stir up your gift, your talent, to make it sharper, to fan it.
- Finally I realized that all of the reasons many people leave the church, few of them ever about Jesus. Did they get in the way, perhaps – yes they were cognitive dissonance but ultimately Jesus stood there waiting for me and you to re-engage.. for me to continue our conversation together. Those who have “quote” walked away from the faith, haven’t generally meant to walk away from Jesus as they have other things but in the process they stop listening to the words of Jesus and hearing his voice.
- And perhaps that is why this can be so sad when people walk away.
- Some of our most powerful experiences happen in groups. The church is not Jesus but it is his body visible in the world. I am reminded again that Jesus is really is everything for me.
- Jesus is who I go to in my time of need for wisdom. I listen to him.
- Helps with my work….The Spirit of God aids me in my work. I think more clearly when I walk into the Spirit – (fruits of the Spirit) love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, self-control, – Love of the task, joy for the work, peace in my heart, patience to do it right, kindness for the people it will help, goodness in my thinking, self-control in how I use the tools.
- His yoke is easy, his burden is light. Its always better to work smarter not harder.
- For every 4-5 hypocrites, I found a person who was authentically changed but there is nothing really seeing life when you breath Jesus in and out. It makes the colors brighter, the goodness of life is stronger. I don’t have the words. You have to experience it for yourself. And no church service is a replacement. We experience it powerfully together at times but you’ve got to eat the Scriptures and breathe out their application in your life.
- Meaning for Life. God and the problem of evil. If God is good why is evil in the world? Let me ask the question another way…If there is no God, why is there so much good? Well and then theres the reality of freedom. Why would man have more freedom? Why the capacity to choose any path? Free agency leads to two conclusions either there is no God or that what God wants cannot be gained through compulsion. – HE wants you to want it! Consider trying to protect a pet from all danger and simultaneously give it complete freedom. Don’t let it run in the street – you cannot have freedom without the possibility of bad things happening. But God provides. God is sovereign. To be sure, gentlemen there is a mystery to this. I wish I had all of the answers for the question of why. But God……
Why did mom have to die? Why do I hurt? But there is in Jesus hanging on the cross for me what I need to know when my logic fails to answer what I need to say. Without the cross everything is meaningless…there is no meaning to the suffering of the world or to pleasure without Christ and the cross. There is no meaning to death and dying and to life and living. Its meaningless, meaningless.
The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. – Westminster Catechism – borrowed it from a wisdom King named Solomon.