2019-06-12 Where Everybody Knows Your Name

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples,
If you have love for one another.”
John 13:35

So, my friends, we have had a long look into a radically new concept. As you might guess, I haven’t come up with a new idea. This has been around for a long, long time. A good friend of mine is in a home church in St. Cloud. I joined them one Sunday. What a breath of fresh air that was! If you are interested in this sort of thing, feel free to contact me through Facebook Messenger, the website or by email.

https://www.facebook.com/2Cor4/
https://hislightshines.com/
scott@hislightshines.com

Melissa and I have been doing this for a couple months now. We’ve talked to a few people we know who are disenchanted with church-as-usual. Some have dropped out of church completely. Others would like something different but can’t imagine leaving their church family. We understand this. We didn’t arrive at this decision overnight. It took us many months before we pulled the trigger.

Let me talk about that, but first, I want to talk about those who have dropped out of the church scene altogether. I USED to try talk these people back into church, usually along the lines of Hebrews 10:25. I found it odd how people who studied the bible daily and truly worshipped and obeyed Jesus would stop going to church. Yes, it is true that there are far better teachers of the bible on TV, radio, and the internet, so it is not necessary to belong to a church for that. I felt they were missing out on the social aspect of the body of Christ. I’ve come to change my mind on all this. I see things much differently now. I get where they are coming from.

As I really started to look at things at church and think about them, I started to notice things that weren’t quite so obvious to me as before. One thing is that there are a lot of people who are searching for something different. I have belonged to two different bible-believing churches. Both started from scratch and grew like wildfire. I was a member of both when they were very small. As they got big, more services were added. Soon, it became harder to recognize people. It became difficult to know when someone was brand-new or when someone quit attending altogether. At some point, it was difficult to find a familiar face.

I think it’s not easy putting a finger on what exactly is going on with the crowd. Certainly, there are some who are simply visiting members. Others might be just curious to see what all the fuss is about. Most, I would think, are dissatisfied with their current church and are testing the waters with different churches. Over time, one should expect the number of familiar faces be the vast majority of a church like this. I didn’t find this to be true. It seems to me that there is a very large turnover of people who are dissatisfied, even in the trendy, new megachurches. Here’s one thing I DIDN’T find: the pews stuffed full of brand-new Christians. We aren’t “converting” nearly as many people as we like to take credit for.

Church-as-usual tends to try change the attitudes of the person who has a tendency to look over the fence. We are quick to label them and assume they have some sort of spiritual weakness (sin) that they haven’t properly dealt with. I’ve heard preachers teach (scold) the congregation about error in this and the necessity for them to stay put and be satisfied for the sake of the congregation. It’s not that the pastor/church isn’t willing to change. They often do. Unfortunately, change is usually in the manner of compromising and/or weakening the delivered gospel message. I’ve seen it happen before my very eyes.

So, you see a lot of church-hopping. Yes, some people need to learn to deal with difficult people. Even so, there are a lot of mature Christians who are looking for something different, something much deeper than what they see. Some of these drop out. Others keep searching.

Home church simply doesn’t enter our minds. Certainly, there is a caricature that comes up in my mind when I think of a group of people who won’t fit in with society. You know what I mean. However, one does not need to become Amish to want to disassociate with the world. After all, we are not of this world.

John 17:13-19 But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.

Without a doubt, we are called to share the Good News with a lost and dying world. We are to interact with it. On the other hand, we are to separate ourselves in our faith. When the church looks very similar to the world, it’s time to make a change. If the church won’t, then we must.

Here’s the biggest hang-up that I see – the perceived loss of friends and social circle. This was the only factor that kept us in church the last couple months. However, we found that when you test these friendships, they are pretty shallow. Now, some people are NOT going to like this comparison, but I say that church-as-usual is much more of a social club than anything else.

Remember the sitcom Cheers? Remember that song?

Making your way in the world today
Takes everything you got
Taking a break from all your worries
It sure would help a lot
Wouldn’t you like to get away?

Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name
And they’re always glad you came
You want to be where you can see
The troubles are all the same
You want to be where everybody knows your name

You want to go where people know
The people are all the same
You want to go where everybody knows your name

Some of my fondest memories are from McRudy’s Pub in St. Cloud. Everybody knew my name. But time goes on and booze turned to ashes in my mouth. Those beer-drinking buddies weren’t really my friends, after all. Sure, I still am friends with many on Facebook and even occasionally see some, but we didn’t bond like we thought we did when we were arm-in-arm singing songs and immersing ourselves in the spirits.

I have several very good Christian friends that I am tight with. These are guys that I can call 24/7 for anything. I know that’s a fact because I have needed to. I’ve tested these friendships. They’ve tested it back on me. Long-term relationships. We talk regularly. We see each other often. Guess what? Every one of these relationships I made OUTSIDE of my church. We met each other in parachurch organizations. They experienced the same thing as I did. We are all from different churches, but our best friendships are not in our own church.

It’s a shame that I’m not able to make these types of friendships within the church. It’s not that I haven’t tried. Honestly, I have tried very, very hard, but I just haven’t been able to do it. Why? You tell me. What I do know is my true friends are so hungry for the gospel and so impacted by it that they go out into the world with the gospel on their lips. That’s how we met. Outside of church, sharing the gospel. Like-minded men who build each other up and stick together like family.

So, in time, I started to see that church-as-usual wasn’t so different than Cheers. The idea of love was in both places, but there was still something not right.

Now it’s time to move on. I’m really excited about this journey! I can’t wait to see what God has in store for us!

Thank you, Father.

Copyright © 2019 Scott Powers

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

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