How do you feel about the picture above? Mixed reactions and experiences I’m sure, some good and some bad. Where are you now ?
Disillusioned, misheard, mistreated, over-looked, disliked, unwelcoming; these are some of the words that come to mind, of personal experiences in various churches (Negative start , I know!) My family and I have sought far and wide to discover a suitable new church, and have come to the conclusion that is extremely difficult to find a place that shows genuine care and interest in people, and acceptance for who you are. You may be surprised to find, this has been a very difficult task, in a city. We moved from a close-knit community church where the pastor and congregation showed us genuine compassion and kindness and we fitted in almost straight away! And trust me, we have tried many churches in the city and yes, we have stuck some out for quite some time too, but still couldn’t seem to find one that felt like we were ‘at home’! We have come across many ‘cliques’ and although with time, you would hope the cliques would break down, we have found quite the opposite, the walls build up, when a ‘newbie’ arrives. In this case, I am not being picky, but unhappy that Christians are being excluded left, right and centre from a place where they want to belong ! I wonder if any of you have experienced this at all ? Please comment below if you have!
I come away from church on some Sundays and think ‘What’s the point?!’, ‘Is the Holy Spirit residing in these buildings and people?’ It feels as though some services are very fabricated and controlled, I can’t help but ask where is the organic nature of the Holy Spirit ? I know there are some brilliant Holy Spirit lead churches out there, but I cannot seem to find them in the city. I yearn to find a church that totally lets God take control of the situation. Although most churches being institutionalised means that the church has to run to ‘set’ beginnings, and endings and structure that is prevalent in tradition. However, I long for the 1904 Welsh revival where ‘time’ was not a problem, outdoor preaching was common and people of all ages were drawn to the freedom of the spirit and many fell to their knees. People literally packed out aisles and were desperate for God’s forgiveness. All ages wanted to worship God for hours and hours because they wanted to experience Jesus Christ for themselves. They were expectant and ‘on fire’ to find the truth . I often find that I am bitterly disappointed with feeling that I have been restricted in my worship to God and have not been free to speak or sing out . Where has the joy gone in when God’s spirit has been confined? The church in some ways has suffocated and suppressed its very people that need to experience compassion, hope, love and forgiveness. People are being made ‘lost’ because they are not being noticed, apathy has set in and people are treated with contempt and disdain in a place where hospitality should be of the first and foremost importance at the front door. What the hell is going on ? The one place where God IS MEANT to be found, has been lost ….!
It could be down to a number of factors, but one factor is that the outside culture has seeped in through the walls, under the door and through the windows. The door has been pushed wide open to a spirit of selfishness. Looking out for ‘number one’ and humans being a commodity to the church , used , worn out and replaced. How has this happened ? So here, I am , asking Why ? and wondering why I am not even accepted as a woman in a place of worship to speak out ? or to preach ?! Who among your church goers have you noticed that have slipped the net ? or have been disregarded and forgotten… ? How is your pastoral network ? Am I only added value in church when I can offer something to assist you in your commodity ? If you’re in a leadership position in your church … how do you view your own people ? do you sift, sort and prioritise those with the most talent and skill ? Everyone in the kingdom of God is equally valued whatever they bring to the plate (RICH OR POOR) Jesus accepts all and so should you. Jesus dined with prostitutes, loners, tax collectors, widows and so on. This was a key part of the ministry. It is important to find out about each other and have some sort of understanding between us, or we will always be strangers.
Church has lost it’s way, if it is about showcasing a concert to impress. Ultimately, we come together to share in Christ , to find out how each other is, and encourage one another through word, song or prophecy. We come before God to be humbled. We come to experience grace, healing, love and forgiveness. Why have some churches turned people into furniture to prop up their ministry? Is this right in God’s eyes ? People are not commodities; they are to be valued, showed love when no one else does in their world, in their workplace, or in their home. We are meant to be looking out for our brothers and sisters and those who are lonely, if the church isn’t then who will ? The number of times, I have entered a church building where I have known no one, and no one approaches me to even start a conversation?! …..The same will be true to many who have gone unnoticed and never wanted to step into a church ever again, as they have not be approached or even smiled at ?Why church have you abandoned your own people to the comforts and selfish interests of your own hearts?
So, what’s the alternative to God outside of church ? Here’s some positive thinking peeps! A significant time, where we felt we fitted in, was in the running of a Bible/worship group in an intimate setting at our home. There was no agenda, no one person in control, just meeting God with people who had a heart and passion for Jesus. We shared meals, prayed intimately, chatted long into the night and open ourselves to God through singing, crying and laughing and praying together. We shared our deepest thoughts to each other in a way I cannot describe. But it was honest, it was real, we heard answers to prayers weekly, God was faithful, he literally answered each request from week to week . He showed us his faithfulness. We prayed for healing and he answered us. I miss this setting and feel every Christian needs this vulnerability to grow together, to truly experience the Holy Spirit. We sang spontaneously as the spirit led, it was truly beautiful, it was as if we could carry on for hours and hours. It was a thin veil or hidden place between heaven and earth that God had revealed to us in a group. I believe God wants us to go back to the Early Church settings, where he will reveal his heart to us. Jesus had communion with his twelve disciples regularly and this is where in the sharing , many amazing miracles and people were saved. Think of the uprising in China of the Christian faith, it started in believers homes underground and not in the religious institutions. The same rings true, where persecution is rife, such as North Korea, people are being driven underground to meet in small groups. God truly meets with many people in this way. I believe God is an intimate God who wants a deep and meaningful relationship with his people where they are free to open up completely. I see a house, as welcoming, each person has a name, everyone is noticed, no one can go or come quietly as an observer, but everyone is counted in and participates fully. There’s nothing like a warm and welcoming home, where tea is offered as soon as you enter in the door. This is where you experience compassion, you can share your testimony and your story and you can build good solid relationships with people on an intimate level. I will end on the passage below, as I still believe that it is a good model for Church today.
‘They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved’ ( Acts 2 :42-47 )