Friday, August 13, 2010

Judging, Mispercieving, Not Real w/ Each Other

   This past Sunday I began my first teaching series at First Baptist Lockport. The title of the series is Beginning in the Beginning: The Beginning of God's Story and my first talk or communication was called "The Greatest Story Ever Told." I used the lyrics of a Five Iron Frenzy song call "The Greatest Story Ever Told" to illustrate my point--all too often we are not real with each other; we say we're fine and we're not and like the song says our answer smells like bile. We are afraid to be real because we are afraid that people will judge us and misperceive us. So, people are unable to learn our stories and we short circuit the relationships God intended us to have in order to grow and help others grow. We saw that with the Israelites. The same is true with God. We are not open and real with God because we don't know him and his story. This was true of Israel. They had forgotten God's story and thus forgotten God always has their best interest at heart. We also saw that all the ancient civilizations and forgotten God's story. Thus Moses writes Genesis and the entire Pentateuch to remind Israel of God's story so they can live out his story and remind humanity of that story. The church is to be like Israel today. We are to do the same thing. But too often we don't. We are afraid to take off our masks and be real with God--develop a real and close relationship with him and we are afraid to take off our masks and be real with each other developing real and close relationships. No wonder non-Christians are not interested in the Christian story. It appears to them we are a bunch of fakes, wearing masks and costumes that cover up the real and the raw aspects of our life. The world wants Christians to be real, honest and vulnerable. They want to see that our faith makes a difference in the real world.

So the other night I was reading the book Who Stole My Church and I came across a section that I wish I had for my sermon last Sunday. In this book there are a group of Christians meeting together to because they feel their church is being stolen out from underneath them. They miss the hymns. They wonder why they need more audio-visual equipment. They wander why they can't have a choir any more...etc. Essentially they had cleaned up the church and separated it from the real world. The result had filtered into their lives. They put on a show on Sunday morning to honor God but were not honoring him at all because they were not real with him and each other. It was all a facade.

Anyway, an outsider comes into the church. Ben, he has long hair, a tattoo, struggled with substance abuse...etc. One of the members of the little group, Ernie, makes some nasty comments about that Sunday's visitor only to find the person was a relative of another member of this group, Connie. God had dealt with her to take in this individual and help him. She had invited him to her church. To make a long story short this lady begins to share the things going on in her life and the life of her extended family. This opens the door for the whole group to get honest and real with each other.

The pastor of this fictitious church comments about the evening:
"What in the world is happening here? I asked myself. It was as if we were at a costume party where, at the stroke of midnight, everyone had to remove their disguises. People were exposing their broken hearts sharing the darker parts of their own private stories for the first time. Faces usually smiling and projecting confidence were now marked with deep pain and struggle. Burdens of worry, grief, confusion, and regret, never before mentioned, where being placed, as it were, right on the table.

"No one in the room was more shaken at these disclosures than I was. I'd been preaching to these people week after week and didn't have the slightest idea that some of these things were going on in their hearts. What in the world is church life about, I asked myself, if stories like these remain hidden in the hearts of the people you thought you knew well."
Later in the story Ernie--the one that made the negative comments about Ben--takes Ben to a ballgame. There Ernie opens up about the things in his life --some of the same things Ben has been struggling with. Ben, who had no use for Christians and Christianity in the past, is now open to God's story thru Ben's story.

I believe this is perfect example of why it is important for us as a church to open up with each other and share our stories. We need to hear how each of us is struggling to live God's story in our world and how we are being successful at it. The world wants to know we are real. They want to know that God's story connects with them right where they are. I want our church to be a place where it is safe for real, fallen people to come and learn God's story and see how God's story makes sense out of their world. I want us to be a people that can be open and real with each other and those who don't know God's story.

Here are a couple of questions:
1. What are some of the "church" things we do that may make an outsider like Ben feel like church is fake and doesn't connect with the real world?
2. What keeps you from opening up with other Christians

3. What would help you open up with other Christians?

4. What keeps you from sharing Christ's story with those who have misunderstood God because they don't have a relationship with God or other Christians have misrepresented God because their relationship with God isn't what it should be?

5. What can we do as a church to make it a place where people feel comfortable learning about God's story? What attitudes need to be adjusted if any?

6. Do you feel our church is a safe place to bring a friend who wants to learn God's story? Why or Why not?


  1. Good read , thanks Dave. I like your questions as well , some may require hard necessary answers.

  2. Hey Dave. I especially liked question 4 and the point made regarding how we can misrepresent God to others because we have an inaccurate understanding of God and have a a compromised relationship as a result. I guess we have to really get right with God before we can be an effective witness, but couldn't we also be a good witness if we are open about how we ourselves struggle to with relating to God?

  3. Great question Kimm, I thing you are exactly right--we need to be open about our struggle if we are to be a good witness as well.
    Church has tos be a place where we can be open and real with each other so we can help each other grow and so those outside the church see our faith matters with the many things they may be struggling with as well.