Friday, January 4, 2013

Less is More

 So it's been a while! But I'm ready to get back into this writing thing. I really want to share my thoughts with those who care to read, and maybe it will open up some discussion about some pretty cool things! I realized recently that I am being convicted about something. I guess it sort of crept up on me slowly, over time, as God changed me and showed me things...then one day I woke up and BAM, the world seemed different!

 We've been doing a lot of talking and making a lot of changes in our day to day life. We live off of a low income and need to make it work, so we made ourselves a strict budget and got a LOT simpler than we already were. Cut back on little extras, and the more we did, the more we found we could live without! Now we're in the process of weaning ourselves off of using our dishwasher, because let's face's a huge waste of water and electricity, even if it is "energy efficient". There's nothing more energy efficient than elbow grease, and it's definitely cheaper! haha. So we are going to close up the dishwasher for good pretty soon...or maybe just break it out for special occasions when we really feel lazy. OK, that's a tangent. I was basically using that as an example of what God's doing in our hearts right now. Not that I think He is necessarily convicting us about the dishwasher (though I do believe it's Biblical to live simply and work hard, and live within our means, all things that will be helped by cutting back on the use of appliances).....but I think it's just another manifestation of the simplicity in which I believe we should be worshiping and serving our Creator. Now here's the real story....

This has actually been something that's been going on in my heart for....years. And Derrick too, although I think he got it before I did. Well, I know he got it before I did. :) I've been convicted after reading in Acts about the beginning of the early church, that American Christianity is a far cry from what life looked like for a believer then. It's just so easy to be complacent here. We're comfortable, it's not dangerous (usually) to go to a place of worship, so it's easy to just go and not really care about worshiping God. In countries where there is real persecution going on, this is not the case. Believers don't beat around the bush, there's no option to be "luke warm", as Jesus says in the book of Revelation. Either you love Christ and you're willing to die for Him, or you don't. It's that simple. But here, you can go to "church", sit around and sing songs that make you feel all warm and fuzzy, or really excited and emotional, about Jesus. Then you can just sit there silently and listen to a sermon, and act like it means something to you. Then you can leave without talking to single person (especially in a big church), or you can chat about surface things that don't matter. But then what? You go back to your life. Because Sunday morning is separate, somehow. It's "God's time", but the other 6 and a half days of the week belong to you. I'm saying this because I've done it...all of it. Not only that, but I've avoided church all together, because I didn't want to talk to anyone about what was going on with me, or I just plain didn't feel like giving my time to God. Either way, it was complacency. I was acting like I had an option. I didn't. And neither do you, if you claim to follow Christ.

 Last year God convicted me even further that the way we do church gatherings needs to change. We sit passively and act like we're supposed to just be filled up by those leading the service, then we leave. Never once actively participating. Just sit facing forward, chat with people about stuff, then leave. It's good to worship God as a body, but are we really doing that if we aren't connected during the time? If we're not sharing Scripture and what God is teaching us, and praying together.....are we really truly gathering in the name of Christ, and seeking to learn and grow together? Or we just checking it off our list, doing it out of obligation, and leaving without really unifying as the body of believers that we are? Not to mention the pressure we put on the leadership to plan, study, organize....shouldn't we all be contributing and make this time more interactive? The concept is often referred to as "organic church". I like that concept, to me that means simple, unaffected, and in its purest form. Hmmmmm....

Fast forward to this week. I learned that the Passion conference in Atlanta was live streaming their sessions for free. I went on their website and saw Francis Chan and John Piper as two of the speakers. I thought, "Well, I agree with the way Francis Chan looks at things, and with Piper for the most part, so this should be good!" I turned on the live stream and within minutes I was sickened. There was so much flashiness and worldliness, I felt guilty just watching. I really felt like I was watching a bunch of people make fools of themselves, all in the name of "God". Famous Christian musicians, dancing all over the stage and rocking out, people in the audience cheering and clapping, all excited. What were they excited about? Was it worship? Were they in awe of their Creator? Or were they thrilled to be seeing one of their favorite musicians a few feet away, singing a catchy tune that they really like? Then I hear a "commercial" by the guy who I think runs the conference. He was talking about how they are raising money to fight human trafficking, which of course, is a cause that should be on all of our hearts. But then he proceeds to advertise the digital media that you can purchase so you can hear your favorite songs from the conference. I thought, why not give all the money to those who are truly in need? And what about all the show and fluff? How much did all those bands cost? And speakers? Do you really NEED all that? Anyway, long story short, I turned it off. Sickened, and really sad. Sad that God's name got dragged through the mud like that. Sad that Christians in America just don't get it. Sad that I'm lumped in with the rest of them most of the time, when I desperately want to disassociate myself with that kind of worldview. And just plain annoyed that so many people don't get it.

 Then today I wasn't feeling well so I had a sick day and was flipping through channels on Roku, just checking out different church services. I couldn't turn a single service on for more than a couple minutes without feeling guilty about watching it, it was that bad. A lot of them had that soft, "prayerful" music in the know, I actually got scolded once by a pastor, when I played the piano at a church in Lancaster, PA. I thought it was absolutely nuts even then, before I realized a lot of this stuff. I was part of the worship team and we had a song at the end so we were sitting on stage waiting to play after the pastor finished praying. When he was done, he came right over to me and whispered in my ear that I NEED to be playing the piano in the background when he prays, to set the "mood". He was dead serious, and kinda mad at me that his prayer was accompanied by silence. I remember I finished playing with the team and went and sat in the pew....all I could do was cry. I was brand new to the church, excited to get involved, and my enthusiasm had been squashed by a man who wanted to create the perfect atmosphere for his prayer. I don't think I ever went back after that. Around that time, I visited another church and was literally stalked by them when they found out I play the piano (they had no musician at that point)....I didn't want to attend there, because the message had lasted about 10 minutes, and it was literally about nothing, I don't even think the Bible was opened. Later on, I was employed by a church in York, PA. I attended there sometimes, but it was so surfacey and fluffy, I couldn't stomach it. Not only that, but it was just way too was run like an organization, not a body of believers. It had more staff than my current church has members. It was very political, and all about the numbers, getting people through the door. When my time at LBC was over, I knew that I would NEVER be employed by a church again, I just hated it. It felt so wrong to me. Little did I know that Derrick would come to the same conclusion a couple years ago (I was sad at first because I felt afraid about losing the income. Now, I am SO glad he is no longer employed by a church). It just shouldn't happen. The office of pastor has been misconstrued and shouldn't even exist the way it currently does. If men who follow Christ would step up and lead, there would be no need to hire one person to do all the work of leading the body. It would happen naturally.....organically (there's that word again)....and we all would be closer to God and each other as a result. And we wouldn't see one man (basically anyone who has been or is a pastor) slowly waste away with the burn out and exhaustion that they all experience....that is another topic for another blog post, it just devastates me to watch men of God lose their spark and enthusiasm little by little. There is a better way....if only we all could see it and work together to make it right!

 So what is that better way? I've said a lot about what I don't like....what is the "ideal"? Well honestly, I think starting a home church would be awesome. BUT, that's not possible since we're already a part of a church body that we really love serving and growing with. And we're not about to sacrifice that for a dream. So maybe someday, if we live somewhere else. But for now, I think I just need to keep sharing, keep speaking the truth, keep talking about what's in God's Word, and keep loving believers and unbelievers alike. And reminding those who follow Christ, that when we gather, all we really need is our Bibles, and each other. We could sit on the floor with bare walls and no musical instruments, and it would be just amazing, because God is there in the midst of those who gather in His name. I think people would be surprised to find that when all the distractions are stripped away, it is much easier to draw close to God and our body of believers as a unit, all with the single purpose of giving Him all the praise and glory He deserves!!

See....less really is more! Less of us, and more of HIM.