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Chapter 32 - What to do about church.
A man once led a bible study for boys convicted of crimes in a detention facility. Frequently the boys what ask what church they should attend. The man was saddened because he could not tell them which was the 'right' church or the 'best' denomination. He warned them that almost any church they went to, they would be identified as 'youth' and sent to a youth group where they would go bowling or roller skating and have a pizza. They would have little instruction in Jesus, the bible, or how to live as a Christian.
A man once visited a church as was identified as a visitor by another man whose job was to make sure that new visitors received a complimentary coffee cup. It was a nice cup and the man had a sincere desire to be helpful in making sure that the cup was received. However, it seemed to the visitor that relational 'love one another' Christianity had been replaced by a sort of mechanical 'process one another' Christianity. The scripted and programmed character of organizational church systems often inhibit the relational character that Christianity was to have originally.
Many Christians find themselves in a church like the boys in a youth group or the visitor with the new coffee cup, faced with activity, but no presence of Christ, filling of the Spirit, growth in truth and love, or manifest presence of God. This can produce a growing hunger for the things of the Lord that activity cannot long mask.
Sometimes a person can change churches or denominations, find better bible instruction, or an opportunity to serve. However, often a Christian becomes restless in the constraints of scripted and regimented Christian activity. As a Christian considers 'radical' change, it can be helpful to first explore the possibilities where he finds himself.
There are two prominent features of the Christian life, learning to be like Jesus and serving others as Jesus would. Once the limitations of organizational systems are encountered, the radical Christian often seeks out individuals. One can seek an older wiser Christian that clearly shows the light and love of Jesus in his life. A request can be made of that person to help him learn to know Jesus as well as he does.
Considering how hard it is to find someone who shows the love of Jesus from whom one can learn, the second task (ministering to other Christians) is somewhat easier. In any given church there are most likely those on the fringe who are lonely, isolated, or overlooked by the activities, events, programs, and procedures. Often the elderly find themselves relegated to the sidelines. Here, just showing an interest in a person can be a considerable gift and ministry.
As one grows closer to Jesus, the limitations and expectations of church become less significant. The cultivation of relationships with others in the church, at different churches, and outside of church become the fabric of a less restrictive and deepening Christian life.
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