Friday, January 11, 2013
Church Hoppers. I am certain that's how several local congregations know our family.
It isn't that we are hopping from church to church, like some dissatisfied, entertainment seeking bar hopper.
We've always known the reasons why you do and don't choose a church body. We grew up in a church culture. The rules were clear. Then, when we needed to explain to the children that we don't choose a group to worship with based on how much candy is given out in Sunday School, or how fun Sunday School is, we also had to focus on what exactly it is that we are looking for.
We won't be basing our decision on decor, or music, or even the cleanliness of the bathroom.
What was it about the church you currently attend that prompted you to choose that one, and, in essence, reject the others that you visited?
TheZoo is currently blessed to belong to a body of believers that does more than sit around believing. They do good work for God's glory in ways big and small. We love our church. But, they moved. Their location used to be closer to the community where we live, halfway between our city and the next one over. They chose to move into the heart of the next city over. As a result, TheZoo is looking to worship with a body of believers in our community. We haven't visited churches with any idea of long term commitment for over ten years.
Since we've had to re-examine reasons to choose or not choose a church, we came up with a short list. We'd like to find a body where there is a ministry for our family to be involved in. Or one that is open to members ministering in ways that haven't been formally established already. We are hoping to find a body that physically serves their community. Also, we'd be thrilled to find a bible believing, bible preaching, bible living group of Jesus freaks.
Here's what we've found so far:
1. A church whose leader is completely dedicated to denominational pride.
2. A church who's Pastor is excited about God and sharing what he has learned about God. It is obvious that this man lives for Jesus and wants to share the love of Christ with everyone he comes across. The rest of the church just didn't seem to feel the same way. When the music leaders sang a song that included the lyrics "It makes me want to shout! Hallelujah! Thank you Jesus!" There was not even a hint that anyone wanted to shout anything at all. This is what you might call a 'sleeping church'.
3. A Hipster Church. They do everything differently than anyone else. Bouncy Houses and video games for the kids. Greeters standing out front handing out coffee to visitors. No children allowed in the auditorium. Low lights, fancy cool stage set. Music that no one knows because it was written by the music leaders in the church. This church is so big, they have eight locations, each with a campus pastor, and one lead pastor who's message is video fed to the campus locations each Sunday.
4. A church that can give you a first hand experience to what it means to treat someone coldly. A smallish congregation, in which the only greeting we had was from the door greeter that handed us a bulletin when we arrived. We have seven kids. No one mentioned anything about Sunday school or any kind of children's ministry. That's ok. Not all churches have them. When we went into the auditorium, though, we found that we were the only ones with kids in there. After the meeting, people actually averted their eyes and walked by us. Now, I am not averse to introducing myself, but when someone pretends NOT TO SEE ME, it's a clear message that they don't want to speak to me. It's pretty tough to miss a family of NINE people new to the existing group of 50.
If I ever wondered before why there is an oppressive cloud of despair over the city where we live, I don't any more. The churches in our community must reach out in some way. I just don't see how a city of less than 10K people and so many churches is still so hopeless. The four houses of worship that we visited are just a small fraction of the local congregations.
What if we didn't have a choice? What if we just had to find people dwelling nearby that also want to worship, and get together. What if we couldn't choose what bible translation to use? What if we didn't have professional musicians to lead us in song, or passionate sunday school teachers to make the bible come alive for the kids. What if we just ministered by loving and serving people because there was no way to form programs?
So, then, do we just walk into the door of any church and commit ourselves to worshiping there?
Please be in prayer with TheZoo as we make the decision in where to worship.
At this point, it seems like it would be less trouble to sell our house and move to the next city over!
By the way, hipster church, my kids LOVE the bouncy houses. A lot!
Saturday, January 5, 2013
Kids, don't settle for just any job. Do what drives you. Find your passion and pursue it.
I've read a few impassioned blog posts of late, and watched a couple of videos on youtube that eloquently stir our children to dream of how they might best live their lives and touch the lives of others.
Currently, I am guiding a 16 yo in her last year and a half of childhood, helping her to prepare for whatever adventures the future may hold. The six children behind her will be glad that there was a guinea pig gone ahead of them!
It is absolutely true that I want my children to live a life that is fulfilling and happy. That they are pleased with their pursuits. I desire for them to discover their talents and hone them. How wonderful it would be for a parent to see each child succeed in becoming masters at whatever they choose to set their hands to.
There is, too, absolute truth in the fact that we must do unpleasant things. While charging our children with the arguably daunting task of achieving master status, success and happiness in their lives work, it is important that we include the whole of the message. That we cast the light over the entire pathway, that they may see there are places where the shoulder is soft, or not there at all. That there are places not clearly marked where one must turn around, that there are sharp turns and high earthen walls that hide from us what lies ahead.
It is with urgency that I plead with parents to remind children that there are times when we will not be doing with our lives what we dreamed in our youth, but we will, instead, be fervently asking God to give us passion for the work that we have been given to do.
I beg you parents, don't forget this. Someone must raise the children. Someone must scrub the public toilets. Someone must clean barnacles from the boats. Always, someone must do these jobs that are difficult. That don't require an Ivy League education. The irksome tasks that offer a paycheck, but no artistic venue. People must continue to fill these positions.
Truly, because my human Mommy heart wants only the best for my babies, I would hope that it isn't one of my beloved steaming gum from the busy city sidewalks. Who's call is it, anyway?
If you've been around TheZoo any time at all, you'll know that we believe wholeheartedly that God is the author of the universe. That when we choose to put ourselves at his mercy and follow his guidance, we will have what we need. When our children pursue their dream as it is coincides with God's direction, their pursuit will be blessed.
Be careful, parents, here, too. 'Blessing' doesn't ensure financial security and happiness. It doesn't guarantee there will be enough food every day, or a closet full of snappy clothes.
Let us be clear with our children that pursuing their dream isn't always the same as pursuing a passion that has been grown in their relationship with Jesus Christ.
Let us be clear that peace is a gift from God, and happiness is an emotion and a choice.
Let us be especially clear that our first priority in preparing for the future, is preparing for the Kingdom.
Let us guide our children to pursue their passions as led by the Holy Spirit, to glorify God.