I Chronicles 29:11 "Thine, O LORD, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty:for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all."

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Gated Community

**I promise this post has a point. Trust me.**

If you've never heard the Silly Song from Veggie Tales with the same name as this title, then you are missing out. It's a really catchy, fun song. It's on the DVD with Sheerluck Holmes. Go ahead and click the link, laugh heartily, (the only way worth laughing imho) then come on back.

Seriously, I'm not going anywhere. Go ahead and click it already!

Back? I waited patiently. I didn't even roll my eyes when you watched it twice.

Anyhoona-

I did some online research about abortion today, reading stories of women who have been through the experience, articles about different procedures, etc. while my kids were watching this video. The Lord really spoke to my heart with the idea behind this song.

I haven't lost you yet have I? Don't Silly Songs often speak powerful truths to you? No? It's just me? Alrighty then...

The Lord put the thought in my mind that sometimes church is like a gated community.

What do I mean?

Well, the purpose of a gated community is to only let in those who are "worthy". It is gated to keep out undesirables, troublemakers, and people who are dirty or could possibly be a threat. It also is a safeguard against crime, and keeps the community the way those living inside want it to be.

Have you caught on to my point yet?

Think back to the time when you first got saved. If you lived more than ten years of your life before coming to know Christ, the chances are high that you (like me) made some pretty rotten choices. The chances are also high that you made decisions to sin that still affect you, whether it be because of guilt, shame, or temptation the memories bring.

And if you're human, the chances are very high indeed that you think everyone else can see your sin just by looking at you. That your past is constantly reflected on your face, or isn't hiding in the shadows like well behaved secrets should, but rather calling attention to itself by whispering negative words about you in the ears of those you meet.

And since you can't see anyone else's sin, the logical conclusion is that you must be the only one who has it.

Didn't you feel like that at some point? I have, many times. I've thought that if anyone ever knew the real me, the person only God sees, they would not want anything to do with me.
So how does this relate to church? Well, we put on a facade many times. We hide what's really going on in our lives or families. Many people are secretly hurting, or questioning, or struggling, and will never admit it because they don't want others to know they aren't perfect.

And that sets the tone for what is considered acceptable in a church. People who are new see all the perfect Christian robots with their plastic smiles and proper responses, and are very intimidated. They go along with the flow, and instead of admitting they have problems, and seeking help, they are silently drowning in shame, guilt, and worry.

The church makes them look like undesirables because they have sin and struggles.

Let me just remind everyone right now, in case there was ever any doubt, that NO ONE comes to the cross pure. NO ONE is righteous in and of themselves, and NO ONE is less of a sinner than any other person. Or MORE of a sinner than any other person. We are equally lost, no matter what our past life experience.

So you've never had an abortion. You've never had sexual intimacy with anyone other than your husband. You've never taken any kind of illegal drug or cheated on your taxes. But you've lied at some point.

Maybe you've done all the things listed above and worse.

It doesn't matter. There is no qualifying of sin. They all condemn us. (But let me be clear that committing sin doesn't make you a sinner. You were already born one.) No one person who is in need of the saving grace of Jesus Christ is better than any other person with the same need. And it doesn't matter if you've been saved fifty years...you are still human. Still prone to weakness and sin.

So what's my point?

My point is that I've heard stories from people involved with drug recovery ministries who have gotten flack because they're bringing "those people" into the church.

And how dare those who come in off the street on Sunday, desperately looking for answers to the trouble in their lives (and who also maybe don't smell so nice, or have on their best clothes) violate the cleanliness of our gated community church!?!

Did you think back to your life before Christ a while ago when I asked you to? Aren't you glad someone took the time to show you a better way? Do you remember that you have sin, and that none of it is nice?

Then how did we get so far away from what's really important? Why all the fake smiles, always saying we're "fine"? Why do we look down our collective noses at others when we've been where they are?

I think it's because we've stopped practicing James 5:16:
"Confess your faults one to another, and pray for one another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much."

When was the last time you admitted a habitual sin to a good friend? Or told someone you struggle with faith-related issues? Or that you have been attracted to a man who is not your husband? Or any other thing that they could pray for you about that wasn't ministry/leadership/travel/any-other-neutral-thing related?

I don't know about you, but I think not doing this has contributed to the "Gated Community" complex in the church. When we confess our faults (sin) to one another, we are admitting we are human and that we cannot overcome them on our own. It keeps us humble to share our sin with a trusted, mature Christian friend. Letting a trusted friend in on my weakness helps me depend more fully on the Lord, and desire deliverance. There is nothing that will light the fire of change under me as well as admitting (out loud!) to another person my sin.

Do I think this means I need to run to E or WendyMom or Aunt Bossy every time I sin? No. I am to confess my sins to the Lord and He forgives. But when I am confessing my specific sin to God, and I notice a pattern of sinful behavior, I can go to a close friend and let them know that I am struggling with (fill in the blank), and ask them to please keep me accountable. Because who wants a friend to ask how we're doing (with _______) and have to admit we hadn't given it another thought?

We are commanded to pray for one another as well. Why? Because it is the power of God through the Holy Spirit working in our lives that will transform us. God will give grace to the humble. We can only be humble when we remember where we came from. And it knits us closer together as sisters in Christ when we pray together and for one another.

Sometimes we focus so much time and effort on the unimportant things. We get caught up in the planning of special events, the logistics of Sunday morning, the pace of life that our culture almost dictates, and we forget to take time for self-reflection. Or we purposely avoid it, because admitting we have a problem would pop the beautifully crafted bubble of perfection we've made around ourselves and our ministries.

When we do this, then we don't watch out for others who may be struggling, or in need of a mature Christian to come along side them and encourage them. We aren't sensitive to make sure we're real with people, and we surely aren't reminding ourselves how far God's grace has lifted us from the pit.

How long will people wait outside the "Gated Community" hoping to be let in, before they give up and go back to where they came from?

What can I do today that would help break down the "Gated Community" I've built around my own heart and life?

Psalm 145:8,9 "The LORD is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy. The LORD is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works."

I pray that I would strive to do likewise.

4 Comments:

  • Giovanna

    The first time I went to church as an unsaved sinner, I was made to feel invisible because of my Italian heritage. Not only did no one speak to me but it seemed as though it pained people to see a non-caucasian person in their church building. ( I didn't do back )
    The second time I went to church unsaved I was made to feel I must immediately conform to the baptist beliefs and condemn catholicism. ( I didn't go back )
    For a handful of times that I tried to visit different church buildings , it was always something different. It definitely left an impression on me and whether I would even ever want to go back to a church of any kind.

    In regards to letting other Christians know of our struggles and needs for prayer.... as a Pastor's wife, you have no real trust. You unfortunately are on your own in the church. The only others I can fully trust are other Pastors wives, because they go through the same kind of deceit and back stabbing that unfortunately is sometimes directed solely at the Pastors wife. There are different standards to live by when you are the Pastors wife and unfortunately it prohibits close friendships. Anything a Christian does can be forgiven it seems unless you are the pastors wife.
    Not to say that Christians do not have deceit and backstabbing that happens to them but for us it is daily and sometimes the entire church will collectively attack the wife cause it's easier to do than look at their own faults.

    Good post! So much more to say here but I don't want it to be a book : )

  • WendyMom

    Wow- Giovanna- I am so sad to read your comment. As a pastors wife, the ladies of your church should be supporting you in prayer- especially knowing the attacks you are under just by the position you and your family our in. How about this- I will pray for you and your ministry. I know we have never met- but we are sisters in the body and I will do that.

    Julie- this just came up at your last prayer meeting. I got pretty heated about it because I feel this is a HUGE issue at our church. When I was having my faith struggle after I lost the baby, I had people suggest to me that I might not be saved because I was doubting the Lord and the bible. I hurt so badly, and I wanted to trust the Lord, but it didn't feel "safe" anymore to me to do that. And Romans 8:28 wasn't cutting it anymore!

    I quickly found that sharing my type of raw pain and anger with some people left them so uncomfortable, that they had to throw some sort of "christianese" platitude at me to try and make me go away. I even had a pastor do that as well. So, here I was, in a church our size, hurting so bad that at times I wanted to die- and not feeling like I could talk about it. Don't even get me started about my sister's struggles with depression and the difficulties she's had.

    Praise the Lord for Erin- she is a true friend and sister in the Lord. I could share with her, knowing I would not be judged, trusting she would pray for me. She loved me through the whole time- kicked me in the pants a few times when I needed it, but just genuinely accepted me as a friend and loved me anyway- even though I was struggling.

    I think as a general rule, that we have lost our love of the Lord, and that has caused us to lose our love of other people. When we cannot look upon our brothers and sisters in the Lord with compassion, how can we adequately minister to the lost world. Or maybe we focus on all the ministry and outreach because it's easier to focus on the work than on the internal walk with the Lord.

    I praise God for my time of trial because He made me more real through it. I now do not doubt the veracity of the Bible- it forced me to do a study on where it came from and how it's been preserved for us today. I do not doubt so many things anymore, because my questions were fully answered through this trial and the year following it. We should never be afraid to question- if God is who He says He is- He welcomes it!

    I could go on and on about this- but let me just leave you with this- God gave me this scripture over and over again as I struggled, and I think it bears repeating- if we are to be like the Lord-

    Psalm 34; 17-19
    "The righteous cry, and the Lord heareth and delivereth them out of all their troubles. The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart, and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivereth him out of them all."

    I love you-

  • JulieMom

    Giovanna- I too am sorry for how you feel, and your experience. Are you in a small church, by any chance? Did your husband take over the church from another long-time pastor? If so, that's the most difficult thing to do.

    The best way to deal with it is just keep doing what you know is right, and leave it in the Lord's hands. (Although I know it's not easy!)
    I Peter 2:21-23 Even the Lord trusted himself (when He knew He was innocent) to the Father's righteous judgment.

    If you ever need to vent, I'm only an email away!

    Wendy- You know I love you, and cannot fathom what you've been through, but God has used it to make you stronger! Remember all the things you used to question? Praise God you have a surety now!

    I love the verse you shared. So great!

    I think when we decide what kind of people we will or won't minister to, we miss so many blessings. Those who have lost the most to sin stand to gain the most in the changing power of Christ! Who doesn't want to witness that?!?

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Love you both!

  • Giovanna

    Julie
    Yes it is a small church but they have yet to have a long time pastor. In fact, it seems as though they are one of those churches who prefer to not have a pastor. They go long time frames without a pastor , you know , "to build up the funds" then decide they are butting heads too much and get a pastor to abuse. After we got there we found out that the last three pastors were treated the same way we were treated. It is a sad situation for a church to be in.

    I finally have gotten to the point that I focus more on pleasing God than pleasing the congregation. (We are no longer ministering at this church) And though I am not really one of those kinds of people who wants to please everyone, I found myself trying to do so because of the attacks. I thought it was something to do with me personally but later realized it was their convictions. I am much happier now knowing what I know now.
    Does that make sense??? : )

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