Just when you thought you’ve seen everything, along comes something to make you wince. You’ve heard of Fight Club. Well forget about that. I now present Fight CHURCH! No joke here. In fact, an actual quote from one of the participants is, “The hope is that through the fight I can create a relationship with the person I’m fighting and extend Christ to him.” Um, okay…. Watch it below.
“Let’s get ready to RUMBLE….in Jesus name of course.”
So yesterday Andy Stanley preached an amazing sermon at North Point Church (as usual). He is doing a series called “Christian” and what that term means. My wife is convinced Andy read my book because some points sound so similar. I even have a chapter called “Christians” in which I challenge the Christians to not call themselves a Christian for a short season. You can read excerpts in my post called “Lose Your Religion, Christian.” I assured my wife I probably stole my ideas from Andy or someone else.
In any event, yesterday (Part 2), as an illustration Andy spoke about the famed vampire novelist Anne Rice becoming a ‘Christian’ and then leaving ‘Christianity.’ Clarifying, Andy highlighted what Rice wrote:
“For those who care, and I understand if you don’t: Today I quit being a Christian … It’s simply impossible for me to ‘belong’ to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years, I’ve tried. I’ve failed. I’m an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else.”
“My faith in Christ is central to my life. My conversion from a pessimistic atheist lost in a world I didn’t understand, to an optimistic believer in a universe created and sustained by a loving God is crucial to me…But following Christ does not mean following His followers. Christ is infinitely more important than Christianity and always will be, no matter what Christianity is, has been or might become.”
Who could disagree? Being a Christian is different than being a follower, or disciple, of Christ. Rice is correct.
>But Andy Stanley left something out about Anne Rice in his sermon.
Rice’s comments are nearly 2 years old and, subsequently, the core illustration is incomplete. Rice has since gone a step further.
Anne Rice is no longer even a follower of Christ as defined in the Bible. In a recent interview regarding her new book The Wolf Gift Rice admitted:
“Everyday, I’m asking myself that, because my faith in the Christian belief system totally collapsed. I realized a lot of what I believed about Jesus was rooted in lies and falsehoods. What I’ve tried to preserve is a love for and a trust in God. Jesus coming here is the most beautiful love story I’ve ever heard.
I know I feel a palpable God — with a human face. I can’t really tell another person what I believe that is. I believe that there is a maker of the universe that knows every hair on our head — and has made this entire universe and is very aware of us and I hope and pray this maker of the universe loves us and — and I think he does.”
She says she remains “committed to Christ.” While I respect her views I’m not sure what that means anymore. It sounds a bit more like the Christ consciousness that New Agers speak of. This all-roads-lead-to-heaven spiritual vanilla is not what Jesus lived, spoke of, or died for. Jesus spoke of following Him and a narrow path (or road), but I guess if you don’t believe the Bible anymore, it is irrelevant.
Although I would not judge Rice’s heart, based on her comments, I question if she is still a follower, or disciple, of Christ. No, that is not essential to the sermon illustration, but it is some information that is important to know.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard something like this, “I don’t have to go to church in order to be ‘saved.’” Many people hate going to church and I get it (as I’ve written about).
Often people will cite reservations of ‘organized’ religion in defense of statements like this, as if disorganized religion makes any sense. And why is that people get defensive when saying things like this? That should tell you something about your spiritual state, shouldn’t it? Plus, what do you think people who told me this when I invited them to church were doing during church?
It is true. You don’t have to go to church to be spiritually maturing or growing, but most of the time it helps. It’s supposed to. It creates fellowship and accountability, as we say. We need this. Lone Ranger Christianity just doesn’t work to well.
>As I look over last 25 years there’s no way for me to separate my spiritual health from my church attendance and involvement.
There is a direct correlation. And I challenge purveyors of these statements to be truly honest with themselves about their actual spiritual state and maturity. Often, self-awareness is lacking.
In Hebrews it says,“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)
Sure, there are many different contexts to accomplish this. Be it one-on-one friendships or small groups of fellow believers sharing life together and gleaning from each other’s experiences.
>But there is also something very healthy about regularly meeting in a large group setting: learning together, singing together, and hearing from an experienced and seasoned teacher of God’s word together.
It’s different. It’s good. Going to church matters. It just does.
Here is an heated news report from the land down under and to the right a little (New Zealand). It is a segment about a church that has put “Jesus Heals Cancer” on it’s billboard outside (pictured to the left).
The sign has created quite a stir because some people say it is false advertising since there is no way to verify this claim. And they are trying to get it taken down via government regulations to that end.
In particular, there is a mom in the report whose son has leukemia. Obviously, this is a grievous situation for any parent to deal with. Since Jesus didn’t or isn’t healing her son, she wants this sign taken down forcibly.
Also interesting is the second half of this segment. It really brings into question what free speech is and to what end the government, with regard to faith, can curb speech for the sake of the ‘safety’ of the general population. You know, because religion only hurts society since it holds and promotes ideas that allegedly can’t be proven.
It makes you wonder how far this can all go. If you have 7 minutes definitely watch it below.
A lot people like this stuff. There’s something about Pentecostal preaching that makes me nervous–just being honest. Either way, the best part of this clip is the lady trying to do sign language in the bottom left of the screen. Get revived!
Here’s a church sign I drove by yesterday. I know, I know…I’m mean. I just don’t like these church marquee ministries trying to be all cute and catchy. It’s not that I’m offended or anything. I’ve even seen some in my time that were pretty good. But overall I just can’t stand them. They’re stale, old, silly, and embarrassing. Is this the best we can do to be relevant? My version would say, “Church Signs Like This Are Like Diapers, Crappy.”
It’s a holiday week so posting will be lite and fluffy. So here is a crazy camp meeting preacher. If you’re not sure what a ‘camp meeting’ is, it’s like a business conference. But instead of learning skills to improve service, production, goods, or management and leadership, you get filled with the Holy Ghost—HALLELUJAH! Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but sometimes people take it to seemingly fearful extremes. Like this guy, especially his screaming like a little girl. Have a Holy Ghost filled daYAH!
This is one of the strangest things I have ever seen a church service do. And if you’ve read my book, then you know I’ve seen some strange things. WARNING: I cannot vouch for any of the other videos this youtube channel has if you decide to click through. Enjoy!
Been busy with visiting family this week so I haven’t had much time to blog. But I can’t forget to give a laugh for the weekend. Last week I posted the Screaming Pastor. Today, here is a crazy preaching lady who LOVES Spiritual Enemas. Enjoy!
Happy Friday! I now present to you the screaming pastor. I don’t know what his problem is, but let’s enjoy his quirks together. Have a great weekend!
PS-These are the kinds of things that make Christians look like weirdos.
There are a few elements of Christianity that often get avoided. For obvious reasons, we don’t like talking about some strange areas and elements of our faith. Perhaps, rightly so. I mean who wants to talk about sin, Hell, or the Devil? No one.
If you don’t know, I attend North Point Community Church. Yesterday (Sunday), my church ventured into the weird zone of Christianity and talked about Hell in the series Shocking Statements of Jesus. Of course, it was done very tactfully. I’ve been attending there 6 years and listening to their messages for 9 years, and I can’t remember this subject ever being breached so clearly. I’m probably wrong, but at the moment that’s what I seem to remember.
Now, I understand why. Weird Zone Christianity doesn’t help a church grow, make friends, or make for good marketing. But it needs to be talked about. Why? Because it brings the gut-level perspective we so often need.
I’m not saying we need to talk and learn about that stuff all the time. But if we don’t ever talk about these things, it gives the impression that we have to apologize for God or be ashamed of what He says? We have to be familiar with and be willing to talk about the full council of God (as I call it). That includes the harder issues (like hell even), but apologize, hide, avoid, or feel ashamed? No. It’s all part of the territory. Otherwise it also gives the impression that those areas of Scripture aren’t all that valid or worth defending.
We need to keep in mind what’s really going on here, because it can even affect our day-to-day. For example, perhaps a fellow Christian has a habit or personality trait that drives you nuts, maybe you even think it’s a negative trait that needs to change. No one’s perfect, after all. As time goes on, you never talk about this trait with them and eventually decide to end the relationship because you deem it ‘unhealthy’. Sure, you pray about it and for them, of course. That’s the spiritual thing to do, right? Not really. You’ve lost perspective of the big picture and what’s really going on here.
The spiritual thing to do is to talk to your fellow Christian right away as is modeled in Matthew 18:15. Go to him or her, because there is a real enemy here–and it’s not that so-and-so is too sarcastic or talks too much. The real enemy wants to get a foothold via some stupid trait and ruin your relationship and ruin all the peripheral relationships as well.
When something as simple as a personality trait never gets talked about it can lead to gossip (as you’re likely talk to other people about this problem, but never talk to the actual person you have a grievance toward), pride (as you become oblivious to your own flaws), and religiosity (since you’re ‘praying’ for and about this, but never actually doing what the Bible says and go to the person). And by the way, ‘going’ to the person does not include dropping a bomb on them and listing all the things wrong with them as reasons for ending the relationship. That’s mean and cowardly–and not spiritual. And the enemy wins here as pain and destruction rain down on these relationships.
If we don’t talk about sin, Hell, and the Devil then we don’t really understand the good stuff of forgiveness, Heaven, and God. And we won’t understand reconciliation and how important it is to handle relationships correctly.
So I am trying to learn to talk about the weird zone of Christianity tactfully in order to keep the big picture in perspective.
I’m convinced most human beings are innately curious about spiritual things. We recognize there’s a spiritual element to life that can’t necessarily be explained; yet, it’s there nonetheless. We can even be drawn to it unknowingly.
After all, being part of a playoff baseball game in a stadium full of people is a spiritual experience of sorts.
That’s how I felt when the Red Sox finally won the World Series in 2004. I’m not even their fan, but I was rooting for them with my friend Bob, who’s diehard, and who told me they hadn’t won it since 1918. I was moved to my core with the rest of the fans when their team finally broke the “Curse of the Bambino.”
Getting a sneak peak at a highly anticipated movie in a packed theater can also be a spiritual experience.
In 1997, when my wife and I were dating, we got tickets to a preview showing of Titanic. It was intense, and the theater was silent the entire three hours. We all walked out quiet and somber. Without a doubt, it was spiritual like no other movie, which is why it’s still the highest grossing release of all time.
Watching your favorite band at a sold-out show can be a spiritual experience too.
It was for me when I saw U2 on their Joshua Tree tour at the Orange Bowl in Miami back in 1987. It was amazing. It took hours for the stadium to empty out because no one wanted to leave. We were moved deep down and didn’t want it to end.
Most people are interested in spiritual things on some level and curious to understand them more. And many of us recognize that church at least should be a nexus and catalyst for spiritual matters.
Just as joining a gym keeps us accountable in our health, church can keep us in check spiritually. It can help us attain healing and wholeness deep down. It seems to function much like a combination spiritual gym and hospital. It challenges and trains us to grow beyond who we are, so we can be better equipped to go out and meet the world each day. Doing life can be draining, so we need help in refueling. Doing life can be confusing, so getting a little guidance doesn’t hurt either.
That’s why I think church continues to play some part in many peoples lives. Certainly, you don’t have to go to church to be spiritual. But it’s hard for me to separate regular church attendance from my spiritual health over the years.
What do you think?
This post is of a very personal nature. No lesson or thought today. I simply need to tell this story, because the events of yesterday will stay with me for the rest of my life. So although this is long, I hope you’ll stay with me. I have a feeling you’ll want to.
Sometimes something happens that burns in your mind in such a way that you know it will stick to you forever. It’s sears into the wall of your memory and affects you. When the experience is fresh–like it still is for me right now–you’re not really sure if it is good or bad. That’s what church was like for me yesterday.
On any given Sunday, you will see my wife and I walking into the 9 o’clock service at North Point Community Church with our four boys. Since this is a church of thousands we are very strategic about where we park, sit, and the routes we take to pick up our four kids afterwards in order to navigate the crowds. We split up. We each take two kids. This Sunday it was my turn to handle the two youngest: Carson who is 4 and Ethan who is 4 months.
After service I picked up Ethan and was annoyed right away. Sure, it was amazing as the nursery volunteer handed him to me and he smiled right away when he saw me. Unfortunately, the joy of that little moment was muted by the embarrassment of calling him the wrong name, especially considering I did the same thing signing him in before service. There’s nothing like feeling like a bad Dad.
She handed him to me, then his car seat, and then his diaper bag. I was fumbling and wondering why he wasn’t sleeping. He should have been in the carrier out cold, per our instructions. So I asked, “Did he take a nap?” “Oh yes, a whole 30 minutes. And he has a clean diaper too. We just woke him up to change it.”
I appreciate the policy. When I ran a children’s ministry it was my policy too. I wanted to make sure all visitors knew how much we cared about their children, so we didn’t want any parent to pick up a child from our nursery with a butt load of poopy diaper. Here’s the thing, I’m on number four, so a sleeping baby in a poopy diaper is way better than an awake baby who should be sleeping but is awake with a clean diaper. Why? Because the baby being awake now would change the rest of the day–and not for the better. I know I’m a jerk–and I know it was wrong–but I was getting more annoyed.
I mustered up a hollow “thank you”, since deep down I know these volunteers are wonderful and generous for watching children on Sunday morning when they could be sleeping in. With Ethan in one had, I clumsily put the carrier on the stroller and dropped his bag in it. I decided to try to defuse my annoyance by carrying my smiling baby and doing the “proud papa” walk.
About halfway out of church I realize I totally forgot the other one. Carson was still in his classroom. My heart sank. I felt terrible. How could I get forget my child? I’ve never done that. Proud father no more.
I quickly placed Ethan in his carrier, turned the stroller around in the crowd (no easy feat, mind you), and picked up Carson from his class. About halfway out again, Carson looked up at me and let me know, “We forgot the picture I colored!” I said we’ll have to leave it this time. He responded, “But we have to go get it, Dad!” Not this time. He was mad. And I was further annoyed. Not at him. Just at the small amount of chaos going on.
With relief we broke free of the crowded hallway and reached the light of day. While waiting for the other half of my family next to the main entrance, I decided to strap Ethan back in his carrier hoping he’d fall back asleep. So I turned around and proceeded to straighten the straps, click the chest piece, fasten the bottom harness, straighten his arms and head, and pull the shade down. He was content. I was starting to relax again and took a breath.
All the while, people were walking out of the church laughing. I barely noticed. What do I care? Except one lady peaked my attention. She was crazy with belly laughs walking all the way down the walkway to the parking lot. I looked to my right down the sidewalk wondering what everyone was laughing at. That’s when I turned to see what I was oblivious to a moment ago.
Carson had his pants and underwear down at his ankles and was in full peeing mode on the tree right in front of the church.
The horror. The embarrassment.
I was mortified. Hundreds of people were walking out seeing this, and many were likely first-timers. Plus, the church has visitors from around the world every Sunday–many who are leaders and pastors–trying to glean wisdom from how North Point does ministry. Perhaps this was not the best first impression for them to have.
I bolted to him with arms stretched out yelling, “What are you doing? You can’t pee there! Stop peeing! STOP PEEING!!!!” I pulled his pants up in midstream. I lectured him about “not peeing in front of church.” I saw my wife in the corner of my eye and abruptly blurted out, “He has to pee hurry up and take him to the bathroom!” She rushed inside with him.
While in the bathroom he let her know, “I don’t have to go, Mommy.” “What? Daddy said you need to go so keep trying.” He let her know, “I already went pee.” “What?” “I peed on the tree outside.” That’s when she become mortified with me.
In shock, we get it together and get in the car. Leaving the scene of the crime, I told everyone the story. As we all laughed hysterically, my 7-year-old let’s us all know, “Peeing is not the Big Idea!” You’d have to go to North Point to get how funny that was. You see, the team at North Point teaches the kids a main point every Sunday they call “The Big Idea.” And peeing is not the Big Idea, for sure.
So I got home and decided to put a blurb about it on my Facebook and Twitter status, of course. I shared: Caught my son PEEING on the tree right in front of CHURCH as everyone was coming out. Slightly embarrassing.
I got the cursory “likes” and such. And then I get the kicker toward the end of the day from an old friend down in Florida:
You’re not going to believe this, but my boss (our senior pastor) was visiting NP today from down here in West Palm and texted me a picture of a kid peeing on a tree after service. The text said, “Only in Atlanta”. How crazy is that!? Now to read that was your son is hilarious!
Funny? Yes. Embarrassing? You bet. Ironic? Unbelievably. This puts the whole ’6 Degrees of Separation’ to shame–literally.
Believe it or not, I managed to get the picture forwarded to me. Here it is. It looks like I am helping him pee on the tree. Not so much. That’s me trying to stop the stream.
Lastly, in the evening Lisa asked Carson, “Why did you pee on the tree?” What did he say? “Because I had to go and I can’t go to the bathroom by myself.” In a strange way, it was so sweet. He had to go, so he looked around to see who could take him. He didn’t see his Mom or brothers, saw that I was busy with the baby, and decided to take matters into his own hands–literally.
Looking back I have to wonder why no one said anything to me for the minute or so Carson spent emptying his tank? Were they enjoying my shame? I suppose I am very glad no one from the church walked up and said, “Excuse me ‘sir’, but these trees are purely decorative and not meant to be used as proxy toilets for little boys,” or, “Sir, would you mind having your son use the restroom and not the tree in front of our church.” And I agree. Will I need to change the service we go to or look for another church? We won’t. But the thought did cross my mind since we’re in front of the church every Sunday at the same time and everyone will think I meant for it all to happen. Ugh.
The real irony in all this is that I just submitted a resume for a job at the church hoping to put my writing to work.
What are the chances?