I’m glad so many of you were able to gain something from the homeschool socialization article. I had to reflect laughingly when my mother-in-law, a public school educator, visited on yesterday, and the preschooler was so excited about showing off her work. At least a couple of times, the preschooler said, “This is what my mom taught me.” I think the comment fell on semi-deaf ears, but it landed. I always say that you can criticize the method, but you can’t knock the fruit. I know, I know. I shouldn’t base my accomplishments as a homeschooling parent upon the praises of others, but I have to admit that as the preschooler rattled off letters and sounds, proudly displayed her coloring, and showed off her arts and crafts, I was quite proud. Now as I write, I’m beginning to realize that my private boast should have been in the Lord and not in self—I’m sure hoping for mercy on that one. I so hate struggling over the same mountain again and again, and it seems as if I constantly have to go before God saying, “it’s not about me, it’s about being in alignment with you.”
I’ve been happily “stuck” in the book of Acts since I posted about “Conventional Wisdom” on 4/26/07. I say happily because I have rarely experienced a time in my Christian walk where I felt led to study a particular book; in fact, when I set out to read the Bible in its entirety, I find myself fumbling amidst all the yearly Bible study plans that have crossed my path over the years. As the kids and I continued to read this month, I then found out that the church would be completing an abbreviated study of this same book for the next several Wednesdays. I was thrilled as the particular associate pastor leading us is very thorough, so I looked forward to a detailed perspective. Last week was the first night, and I was not disappointed. As grounding for the rest of the study, we talked about the major themes of Acts (listed in no particular order):
1) the early church community
2) the Holy Spirit’s problem
3) personal evangelism
4) the place of suffering for believer
5) breaking of human barriers
6) the sovereignty of God
7) teaching must proceed revival
WOW. I could end this post there, having written a mouthful. Yet, this concept of the earliest church—meeting people’s needs, socializing with one another, eating together, sacrificing for the greater cause of the gospel—is amazing in light of where we are today as a church community! I have never experienced a time in my life when I’ve met more people who worship Jesus Christ exclusively, seemingly love the Lord, but do not go to church, and see no reason to attend. This has increasingly disturbed me, and as I’ve tried to witness to people about the importance of attending church–using scripture and not just my opinion–I’ve really had to back up and study myself. Why should we go to church? It would seem as if there’s a simple answer, and I now know that there is, but like many that I interact with, I share the frustration between the purpose of church as I understand it vs. the reality of many modern-day houses of worship. For those that aren’t ticked off already, allow me to elaborate.
We’ve enjoyed satellite TV for several years now, and I particularly enjoyed The Word channel. You can see all of the major evangelistic voices on the channel, but you can also see many smaller urban pastors who aren’t “big enough”, so to speak, to have time on TBN. When I found this station, I watched and watched and watched. Then I began to notice something: everybody has a tape that you ‘simply must have for your library.’ Everyone has the “conference of the year”, and too often, the same speakers are attending each others’ conferences! Lastly, the number of bodyguards–YIKES! Our pastor has often discussed what he sees as a celebrity spirit which has crept into the church body, noting that even Jesus himself wasn’t so unapproachable that the woman with an issue of blood couldn’t touch the hem of His garment. (A dear friend of mine adds, tongue-in-cheek, “Yeah, but Jesus didn’t have a million-dollar television ministry!”) The whole premise of the gospel is that we live this life on earth so that we might be with Jesus in a much better place; what’s with the surrounding of one’s self with so many who would die for you–or would they?
We’ve also been blessed to attend some of these churches, either in the area or on the road. I think I can safely say that the megachurch is not for me. The words were prophetic, in some cases even life-changing for me personally, but I can’t get past the rest, and this is a partial list:
1) posted signs that alert me that my purse or other bags are subject to search
2) being politely, but firmly escorted from the main sanctuary to clear the way for the next service (what if the Holy Spirit bid me stay on my knees?)
3) the rules—no kids in this place (due to videotaping), no standing here, don’t sit there
4) the tables of additional resources for sale (and the pulpit advertisements)
Finally, I must share this experience. When our youngest was a baby, we decided for one night to experience a church with one of the most popular ministers in the world today. We were ushered to seats very close to the stage. To make a long story short, while feeding the baby, she wiggled, and the bottle dropped and rolled even closer to the stage. As I got up from my seat to get the bottle, I startled one of the bodyguards. He turned, hands near his belt as if to reach for who-knows-what. I’ve not been back since, and I don’t even watch the pastor on television anymore.
This post is too long, but I have to ask, how did we get here? I know that people are hungry, and tired of “milk”, as Paul described it. I realize that people will endure much to feast on a “meaty” word, and if it’s seductively surrounded with children’s areas that surpass any private daycare, a cafeteria for family meals on a busy church night, and lights and spectacle, it’s all that more attractive to some. I also know that not everyone who comes into these places is blessed to be, as the old saints say, ‘clothed in their right minds.’ But as for me, I’m going back to the book of Acts, and that’s what I’ll share with all my God-fearing, non-church-attending brethren. What is the church’s purpose? To create a place to richly fellowship in the Word. To bask in the love of Christ, walking in the shoes of man. To take care of one another. To nurture each other’s hurts and to rejoice in each other’s celebrations. Finally, to give, sacrificially, as Christ gave, to bless the kingdom of God and to further its mission. Why do we go to church? Because it was a part of Christ’s development plan (a good use of phraseology for all my professional friends who sit with their managers and put these together annually), not for pomp or circumstance, not for celebrity, but simply that we may become more like Him. God bless you.