Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Jesus - Lite

Come to a church that's FUN. We have a great band and entertaining worship. Make a friend. We only share God's love - no words like "sin" or "hell" used here, ever! Network potential! Your children will win prizes and play in bounce houses! The best coffee and donuts in town! Fulfill your Sunday church obligation in less than an hour.

Jesus-Lite, tastes great - less filling, right?

I am still reeling from a recent church visit last Sunday. (If you don't care to listen to the ramblings of a very sad believer, then now would be the time to move along to another blog.) From the outside it was beautiful. The parking lot was packed. The children's ministry was decorated perfectly. Even I was tempted to hang out in the kids' sanctuary!

When worship began the music was awesome - what gifted and talented people. I almost expected Celine Dion to walk onstage and belt out a few numbers. Not to mention, the plush stadium-seating was fantastic! "Lord, could this be our church home?" I wondered. Then I began to look around. Hundreds of people hearing the same songs of worship I was hearing, yet almost in a trance, they stood up and sat down- like zombies. I have attended women's home Bible studies with more voices lifted up in praise. After almost every song the congregation clapped. Yes. Clapped. It made sense now, few were singing because they thought they were at a concert.

After the fog cleared and I was no longer in my free-donut trance, I began to look around closely. No one had Bibles. Seriously. I counted maybe five people in a crowd of at least a thousand. I leaned over to my husband and whispered, "Paul, no no around us has a Bible, no one." Even my seven-year-old comes to church with his Bible. My heart began to physically hurt for these people. Communion was passed out after a video. No scripture was shared with the people to explain the holy act of taking bread and juice in remembrance of my Jesus.

Even with a very entertaining pastor, I could see through the smoke and mirrors. He shared lots of funny stories. Lots. Of. Them. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE FUNNY, but this was ridiculous. Where was God's Word? Later, he encouraged us to abide in Christ, to draw near to God. Dying of spiritual thirst, I kept my lips pressed together, for fear I would scream out loud, "Tell these precious people HOW to abide in Christ, how to draw near to God! TELL THEM!"

But, he didn't.

There has never been a time I have felt a greater burden to contact a pastor before. This shepherd had the perfect opportunity to feed his flock a bounty of God's Word. Instead, he fed son's and daughter's of our King the spiritual equivalent of a pop-tart and diet-coke. Tears still come to my eyes when I think of the faces of so many malnourished sheep. They gathered on Sunday to hear His Word, to be filled with living water, with His daily bread, and walked away with little more than a concert and a donut.

There is a saying, "What we draw them with, we will draw them to." After experiencing quite a few churches recently, it seems to me that their focus is on numbers and not on the Lord. What is happening? Why do some feel they need to add to God's Word, to fun-up our faith and dumb-down the good news? How many believers are being lulled into spiritual mediocrity as the enemy of our souls wickedly laughs in triumph?

Jesus Christ is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me. I want everyone to know the saving grace that has made me whole again. He is the lover of my soul, my comforter, my rock, my redeemer. He is my ONE and ONLY, my most precious friend and the overwhelming, unexplainable, indescribable joy of my heart.

For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes--Jews first and also Gentiles. Romans 1:16 NLT


maudie-mae said...

When I was growing up, I was part of a church that had gone through a split and recovered. The pastor did the job God called him to do, then he turned his ear from God's voice. His son was hit by a car on a Sunday afternoon and Daddy went up to the hospital to see if there was anything we could do, even to the point of preaching for the pastor. Pastor asked Daddy what scripture he'd use and Daddy said, "Jeremiah 23:1." Pastor said he could preach, that it'd be okay. I think every pastor should have that verse framed and mounted on their walls. It is such a tremendous responsibility to clearly proclaim God's goodness, His justice, and His salvation.

Half-Pint Creations said...

Your blog is amazing. In this day and age it is so hard to find spriritual food for the soul. My husband passed away when I was 29. I blamed God- for a short time. Felt like he'd turned his back on me until I realized I had walked away. I now use my story as testimony to share along with my amazing new life. My hubby and I are a traveling worship team- and we try remind people that yes- you can get caught up in the worship and fanfare, but if you don't have that personal relationship with our Savior God, it is empty.
Thank you for sharing such a beautiful blog! Take care,

Beth in NC said...

Oh Joanne, I do hope you share your heart with this pastor. Sounds like he had an audience who could have heard the TRUTH.

Ick. I'm sure you wanted a shower after leaving there.

So disappointing.

I am so sorry.

Karen said...

I bless you as you search for a church that magnifies the name of Jesus. God has put that desire in your heart and He will provide.

Cherdecor said...

Joanne, Yesterday I asked my husband, "What does it mean to worship in spirit and in truth?" I had been reading the story of the woman at the well. The woman had asked, "Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem."

"Jesus declared, Believe me woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. .........
Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.

God is spirit and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.

Here are my thoughts. It is not about MUSIC!
It is about our heart attitude and obedience to Truth.

We are living in a day when the church has begun using marketing skills, and music being a part of that, to make people think that music is worship!

"for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks" helps us realize that it is about us and our walk with the Lord. The poor people (sheep) are not feeding on the Word of God so they meander to churches such as this not confessing their sin on a daily basis, not being fed the Word, so they accept anything. Like if they say the name Jesus, this church must be right.

The scriptures say that in the latter days, people will have itching ears, otherwise draw teachers around them who tell them things they like to hear.

I agree with you wholeheartedly about the way our churches are going. I sincerely hope that you find a church where you can attend and support, and can bring people to, knowing they will hear the unadulterated Word of God.

Blessings, my friend,
Cheryl from Cherdecor

CalvaryGirl said...

I might be in the minority but from the pattern I have seen, it seems like this church might be "purpose driven", if ya know what I mean. So very sad. I'm SO blessed to have the church home I do, and I realize a church like ours is now considered a "dinosaur" because we refuse to change our methods. What people fail to realize is, we're STILL growing!

But as you know, the WORD is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow! (((hugs))) I didn't realize y'all were searching for a church home. I'll keep you in my thoughts concerning that.

Happy WW :o)

My Wordless Wednesday

~*~ Wendy ~*~

LisaShaw said...

Joanne, I completely agree with you. I have seen this in my lifetime and it's very sad to see. Often people want the feel good cushiony messages and very much want to be entertained RATHER THAN focusing on the LORD, growing spiritually and learning how to really live this Christian life unto the glory of GOD. I often tell people we've replace the word SIN with MISTAKE but they are NOT the same thing. When we say "everyone makes mistakes" to cover over sin then we are disrespecting GOD and His Word.

I pray for the Lord to lead your family where He wants you to be.

Paula (SweetPea) said...

That is really sad. How deceiving to see such a beautiful place yet realize it is so empty...lost without the real fire of Christ.

Mari said...

This is so sad and yet as you said, it's getting too common. Churches are becoming a place to be entertained, not to worship or hear God's voice. I hope you do get a chance to pass on the that pastor what you felt.

Lisa @ Stop and Smell the Chocolates said...

Bravo for your post today! There are so many churches like this in our area! We tried one when we first moved up to this area several years ago and had much the same experience. We were really thrown off when the pastor showed a video clip from Sister Act with Whoopie Goldberg as part of his humorous message. The music was great, of course, but we never went back.

I also know some people that attend one of the large churches in the area and they try to find Bible studies and other church programs to fill their needs while still attending that big church! Why? Because they love the music!

Don't get me wrong - I love music and love praise and worship songs. We are very much lacking in that in our current church, but we go for a strong biblical message. Our pastor is not afraid to preach about sin so that we may know how truly great is the gift of grace that we have received from the Lord!

I'll be praying for your church search. Don't lose heart - there are good biblical churches around and the Lord will lead you to the right one in His time!

Elizabeth M Thompson said...

Boy have you hit a nerve today! We spent many months looking for a church home after moving to Elk Grove. We came from a church where the teaching was meaty, the worship Christ-centered and corporate, not concert-like.

After visiting one particular church for two consecutive weeks, I could not make myself go a third time. I remember asking Mike, "Is it too much to ask that a church actually shares from the Bible?" I was ready to start a home church. Seriously. (Except that my house would have to be cleaned more thoroughly and more frequently.)

Fortunately we connected with a Bible-teaching, Jesus-following, worship-filled church in our community. They still exist, they are just hidden like diamonds among the rock pile. (I did not say "dung heap" I said rock pile.)

I know God will provide a great church home for your family. And He will use this time of searching to make a better servant of you. You will never seek to "entertain" the women you speak to and write for, as much as you will teach and train and disciple them. Because you get it!

Jaclyn said...

I have a feeling I might know the church you are talking about, and I have felt the SAME way there. It IS really sad...especially since they could do so much GOOD, but are wasting it away on "fleshy" things. I will say though, if this IS the church that I am thinking of, be encouraged that there are a few good/sincere/very godly Christians that attend, and some of the pastors on staff are truely gifted and "on fire"'s just unfortunate that in order to find them it's like a "where's waldo" game.

Jensmere said...

Hope that you find a church where you can hear the Truth of God's Word and worship Him in Spirit and in Truth!!!!

Bless you for this post...

AlaneM said...

Oh that is just overwhelmingly sad! So many churches are too worried about offending anyone & thus have nothing to say. Makes me think of the term 'seeker friendly' or 'seeker driven.' Coming together is for corperate worship & getting filled by God's word so we can go out & do our job...spread that word!
I will pray for your search, I know you'll find your home eventually!

Barbara said...

Your article is have captured in words the "state of religion". People are looking for something to do, something to belong to and something that makes them feel good. But when the Word is missing, so will be the fellowship and understanding of worship. My pastor has said...anybody can praise the Lord, but you must "know" him to worship Him. I am so sorry for the struggle you are having but do not give up...I believe that God has a special place for you...and nothing will satisfy you until you step in that place. If you need some really good word in the mean time, go to The Moment of Truth blog from my site (my pastor for several years until he took one of our sister churches when that pastor retired)....he has an anointing to share the Word, but I believe God will lead you to where you need to be.

Mrs.Naz@BecomingMe said...

Joanne, this was absolutely fabulous. Very poignant...very true. I really do not have anything to said it all. Oh and your sweet comments the other day made me giggle. Thanks.

Deanna said...

wow! I would want to cry over experiencing 'church' like this too!

me and my family are just now venturing into Home Churching. It is very different. Never ever thought I'd do something like this. In fact, I sort of made light of people who Home Churched and thought they were sort of a cooky bunch..... um, and the Lord in His humor has led us to that one thing I judged as 'cooky'. He is such a Good God, He always knows just what we need, even when I proclaim that there is something I just don't need ((smiles))

Where God guides there he provides. I am loving the adventure of letting the Lord be in control (instead of me)~ let me not sound braggy--- it isn't always a piece of cake (cause um.. I'm a bit stubborn and impatient :O)

I enjoyed 'meeting' you in blogville :O)
I'll be back.

blessings and joy to you and yours, and may the Lord open the door to just the church He has already set forth for you and your family to attend.

Mrs. Bridget G. said...

Wow, i hope i never experience that. I probably would have left, that's so upsetting.

Raise Them Up said...

We're in the same position you find yourself in and looking for a new church home.

We, too, have found it so very sad to see where many churches are going. It is often all about entertainment and programs, with so little about God's Word and how to grow in a thriving relationship with him.

Thank you for sharing your heart. We need to pray for our churches when we pray for our county, for that is where the change must start.

Great post!
God Bless

Transaprent J said...

I love the honesty here.

When I first became a believer, my wife and I attended one of these churches. She would say "this is Church Lite" but went with me anyway.

I was attracted to the music and the nice folks, and eventually was ready for something more. Maybe that's the kind of people that are experiencing and enjoying this service? I have found the seeker friendly churches can be like that...

Sometimes my wife Shelli struggles with our church now for similar reasons, (even though it is seriously biblical based and teaches right from scripture.) I think Lifegroups/bible sutdies/homegroups are where true growth happens (more in depth study, more in depth relationships and accountability).

Sunday should be a rejoice, recharge and refill so you can go out into the world for the next 6 days. Sorry this didn't do that for you, I'll keep praying for you to find your church home!


Katie said...

Wow, this has been our experience week after week as well...I share your sadness! I SO desire to find a group of believers who want to be connected to the heart of God, instead of just going through the motions and "feeling good" about having gone to church. I'll be praying for your family!! God doesn't want us to go around without community forever - He must have a plan! =)

Best Life said...

I love this post! We have so often been in the same position. Now we homechurch and it is so beautifully close to the New Testament example of what fellowship should be. No entertainment, just love for one another and our community. Hebrews is clear that our goal is to eat the meat of God's Word and not just drink milk all of our lives. But churches like the one you visited keep their flocks suckling at the milk bottle always, never requiring them to grow up! Thanks for the post. Lisa~

A Stone Gatherer said...

It is so tremendously sad that there are so many people attending churches such as this and they think they are being fed. It reminds me of the verses in Ezekiel 13:9 & 10
My hand will be against the prophets who see false visions and utter lying divinations. They will not belong to the council of my people or be listed in the records of the house of Israel, nor will they enter the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the Sovereign LORD.

10 " 'Because they lead my people astray, saying, "Peace," when there is no peace, and because, when a flimsy wall is built, they cover it with whitewash

These pastors only tell the people what they wanto to here, not what they need to hear!

I pray that God will bless you with a church home that preaches the Word of God boldly soon!


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