Churches and Public Toilets

Church Public Toilet

Without being crass, but I was in a public toilet recently and I couldn’t help but think to myself “This is the way that many people treat church”

How can you say that?

Well it’s like this… People come to a building and the do ‘their business’, they dump their trash and they get rid of anything that makes them feel uncomfortable.
They might be lucky to be in a public toilet that plays music, however the station that’s playing isn’t really to their liking.
They complain about how uncomfortable the toilet seats are…
They come, they do their business and leave… and they’ll hold on until next week when they will do it ALL over again.

In fact the only people who come into the toilets to do anything else are the cleaners and maintenance staff, who often struggle to keep put with the amount of people who enter while they try and keep them feeling like this toilet is a place to come back to.
Some toilets even have a trust of people – volunteers who help with the upkeep of the toilet and who have a heart for the community the toilet is in. Often they don’t even have the power to change much within it.

OK… so it’s a metaphor and like almost all metaphors there has to be a point where the similarities stop, however there is enough for us to think, ‘Is this the way we should be treating what the Bible calls “the Bride of Christ?’ or ‘ do we really get OUR role within the church?’

How often have we been guilty of just coming to church and ‘dumping’ our problems on God, complaining about the music that is being played, complaining about how the temperature isn’t to our liking, the seats are uncomfortable and the list goes on?
But I wonder, if we ARE the church, then should we be seen as the maintenance staff and volunteers of the trust rather than the people using the facilities?
Wouldn’t this change in mindset stop us from thinking that church is “Just a Sunday thing”?

I mean, what are YOU doing for the church?

But I’m too busy… I’m not qualified… I’m (insert excuse)
How easy is it for us to come up with excuses for only doing church on Sunday in a “you serve me” capacity?

Church was never about just meeting on Sunday… in fact church was always about a gathering of people, a movement.

Friends of mine recently said “What does your church do that points to God?”
When you think of church in those terms “What do I do as part of church (the movement/gathering of people) that points to God?”
My lifestyle?
My daily interactions?
My work?

Church is an idea that is SO much bigger than just a meeting on Sunday… and a building…

How do you look to view your church?
Are you the cleaners?
Or are you just coming to church to dump on God?

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Living with the tensions…

Holy Spirit painting

Holy Spirit painting (Photo credit: hickory hardscrabble)

Sometimes it bugs me that the church is filled with ‘camps’ with their own agendas… I guess it’s the same with most work places… however it really gets under my skin the fact that this happens within church.
Jesus says in John 13:35 –

Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples. (NLT)

Know I’m not saying that we should agree on EVERYTHING… that would just be crazy… the reason it would be crazy is because managing the tensions is a great way to cover the most ground. For example take men’s ministries, if they demanded all the attention then it would only diminish women’s ministries… and vice versa… or if evangelical ministries got all the funding and support then it could take away from discipleship programs. I know there is more depth to the ministries than I have given but you get my point right?

The same can be said about the orthodox camp verses the radical camp… they seem to be at each others heels all the time.

The orthodox church doesn’t seem to take anything that the radical church has to say… good or bad.

Many of us would have instances of someone giving  ‘a word from the Lord’ … and it sounds more like some just trying to manipulate a group of people than anything else… so we reject anything that sounds even remotely like that. The orthodox camp often does exactly this.

Sometimes it’s for good reason… bad teaching, false prophets etc these need to be called out on their biblical inconsistencies. However rejecting everything just because it comes out of the ‘radical camp’ could mean that you are getting close to “quenching the spirit” or treating “prophecies with contempt (1 Thessalonians 5:19-20)

However the same is true for the radical camp… often they are so eager and excited about the Holy Spirit they take it out of the biblical context that it was meant to be in… they go too far. They add to the scripture by changing interpretation so it ‘fits’ what they believe… this gets dangerous when they start listening to distortions of the truth… rather than from the Holy Spirit. They think that the Orthodox camp need to get a life and  discover the ‘freeing power’ of the Holy spirit.

The truth is… to a point they are both right… just on opposite ends of the bar.

How can both of these camps be compatible?

The orthodox church is committed to living in the truth word for word of the Gospel… however large chunks of this camp are quenching the Holy Spirit because ‘The Holy Spirit wouldn’t ask me to to that”. They are making fun that the things that are happening within the ‘radical’ church  but by doing so could themselves be treating the Holy Spirit with contempt, because how can they know which things are from God and which aren’t.

The Radical church is willing to do whatever and go where ever the Holy Spirit leads… and it’s freeing they are pushing the boundaries. They would admit that sometimes it doesn’t make sense, however they could tell you countless stories of the way God has provided and worked miracles in their lives. However these people can often be quenching the Holy Spirit by not filtering out the things that are Bibically inconsistent.

However both groups together… working on a dynamic Gospel that is based on the words of God… and is lead by the tangible leading of the Holy Spirit… and Whoa… we have a church that is both radically new able to push boundaries but that is also so clear on the words of God that it pulls itself up on anything that doesn’t quite fit… meaning it takes away the ammunition that most secular skeptics have of the church and the churches ‘prophecies’.

Could it work… of course it could… the church in Acts was made up with Jewish converts and their were even Rabbis within their numbers… With the power of the words of God and the Power of the Holy Spirit within us… we can be a truly amazing force.

“Test everything. Hold on to good. Avoid every kind of Evil” – (1 Thess. 5:21-22 NIV)

Why we don’t pray

Mary Magdalene, in a dramatic 19th-century pop...

Prayer

Our Church (Hornby Presbyterian Community Church or HPCC) has just finished 21 days of prayer, however I was talking to my friend Mel who made the comment “there isn’t that many younger people at the prayer meetings” – and she’s right, there is certainly more ‘older’ folk… so why is that?

Could it be the fact that we’re to comfortable? – are we just so comfortable just so blessed that we don’t feel the need to pray?

If you talk to some older people you will discover that prayer was the thing that got them through lots of hard times… but that’s just the thing isn’t it? They have something to pray for.

Is it because we don’t know HOW to pray? Maybe we’re just so out of practice that we have forgotten what words to say and so when we do pray our prayers are vague and shallow…

I wonder if part of the reason we are not very good at praying is because we’re not really good at reading the Bible. Pastor Mark Batterson once said “You don’t read the Bible… You pray the Bible”.

You see the really BIG miracles in the Bible were from people standing on the PROMISES of God. When Joshua asked God to make the sun stand still so he could finish his battle… it was because he believed that the promise of God. God had said he would always be with his chosen nation. I’m not sure Joshua knew exactly what he was asking for… however I believe he knew the immensity of the prayer.

I wonder if our prayers are so boring because we’re not willing to let God be God. We’re scared to pray a BIG prayer just in case God doesn’t do something.

But do you know what? I believe the main reason prayers go unanswered… is because they are not asked.

All through the Bible we are told… “Pray first…” but it seems that we have put prayer as our last resort… and for some it’s not even an after thought.

If you want miracles… you need to stand on the promises of God and trust that God will fulfill those promises.

 

 

Pray First

"Women pray during Friday noonday prayer ...

Image via Wikipedia

There are a lot of things I like about our church and the church leadership… The church I go to is called Hornby Presbyterian Community Church (HPCC) in Christchurch New Zealand…

What makes me proud of our church is the fact they they have decided every year to have 3 weeks of prayer.

Why does this excite me?

Well first of all is that it is Biblical… all throughout the Bible we are told to pray first… It would be easy for a church like ours to try and get stuck into doing community work and start big ideas to have through the year… but here is the thing, unless we pray first all of the things that we are doing haven’t been given to God to deal with.

And Secondly… it’s not about us.

It’s easy to get stuck into the rut of praying for ourselves… our own needs… our own problems. However what my church leadership has done (and what other churches around the world continue to do) is given us an example of putting prayer first, but it’s more than that… it’s reflecting as job of the Holy Spirit – interceding for others.

What a great way to start the year… bringing the needs of others before the altar of God.

It shows that it’s not about us… it’s about a God who cares for all.

It shows that in all things pray first… or as it says in 1 Timothy

“I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.” 1 Timothy 2:1

 

 

We want community but not the pain of it…

Community (TV series)

Community is messy.

Thanks to my friends at The Well I have been thinking about community.

For me when it comes to anything to do with community or church I go straight to one of my favourite books of The Bible… the Book of Acts.

Acts is great because it’s about the start of the church before we got ‘organised’ and put structures in place… which in turn became rituals or habits (but that’s a whole new blog)… and church wasn’t about a building it was about ‘ecclesia’ a group of people… a community and the cool thing is they came together over one thing… the resurrection of Jesus. These were people from ALL walks of lives, and they were bound together in community.

Now in this day and age when people start to talk about community they talk about sharing everything… their house, their possessions, they give things to the poor… then for the more focused they start to talk about going ‘green’ and making fuel from banana skins and only wear hemp… and then it starts to turn a bit… hippie.

Now please hear me… I think  we should do everything to save our planet for the next generation… however it seems to me that it starts to be less about community and more about the effort we put in.

Acts 2:42-47 gets bandied about ALOT during these topics.

 42 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, 47praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Now think about it.

And now think about it in terms of your community… would you ‘break bread’ or share a meal with someone you have never met before, or maybe someone you started talking to in a queue???

It says “the Lord added to their number daily” … now I don’t think it meant that random people just starting lining up outside peoples houses. It would seem to me that it was the community engaging with the world outside… and if you think about it, it would look pretty messy.

The reality is that people want to live in community… but they only relate it to people they know.

They live with people they know… they eat with groups they know… they talk about issues in their lives with people they know….

that’s not real community… that’s just being clicky.

That is actually US and THEM… something that the people who fight for community say they are against.

You may share your house, share your possessions etc… but you need to be in THE community for the Lord to start adding to it.

When you’re at church… how often are you seeking out someone you don’t know? Because when we’re living in community we need to get out of our comfort zone… and we’re starting to meet others… all the time.

It can’t be about when we choose, and when it suits us…

Community is ALL the TIME

Community is MESSY…

and Community is sometimes PAINFUL.

When you continue to read through the rest of Acts you start to see splinter groups, following Paul… you start to seeing the need for meeting to clear things up… and you start to see that community isn’t as easy as some people might think!

 

lights, curtains & God

Sometimes I wonder if sitting in a plush church is a good use of the Money that has been brought into the church… shouldn’t the money we spend on lights and drum sets on something that could help the kingdom more… like feeding the hungry, or clothing the poor? Maybe this is part of the drive for peoples interest in ‘home church’… (but I’ll talk about that in a later blog)

I mean, how much is the environment important for a church?

When does it go from aesthetics to just environmental engineering?

Are we looking to much into this?

If you read Exodus you’ll find that God has devoted 12 chapters to everything to do with the church building from the curtains colour and thickness to the type of wood used and the gold plate on the walls and furnishings… so if God doesn’t care about all the grandeur (because he looks at the heart) then why is he so picky about the inside of a church building?

Is the brightness of the lights, the audio quality and the building temperature so important?

I think the answer lies in the lack of distractions… in the old days when people made cathedral, they made them to look upwards… these days the thought is still the same but it’s more about comfort…

But it shouldn’t be about comfort I hear you say??? Well maybe it is… maybe it’s about ‘us’ getting out of the way and letting God making people feel uneasy (after all it’s the holy spirit that draws people to Jesus) … maybe we need to take away the things that distract from God and let people focus on him… and if it means to be socially up to date with ‘the world’ and what it feels most comfortable in – then we need to do that to help us keep out of the way and let God do his part.