Friday, November 30, 2012

Happy or heavy holidays?

For many people, the holiday season is the most joyous time of the year.  Office parties.  Family visits.  Exchanging gifts with loved ones.  Watching "Elf" for the trillionth time.

But, for a lot of people, this isn't the case.  

The holidays can be the toughest time of the year.  Some will morn the loss of a loved one -- maybe spending the first Christmas alone.  For others, there is a lot of pressure to find ample gifts for their family.  The holidays are a mixed bag for many people, with a spike in depression and a sense of alienation from the "joyous" celebrants.

Our challenge over these weeks to come will be twofold:
 #1, Be sensitive to the fact not everyone enters the holidays with the same feelings.
 #2. To incorporate and embrace as many people as possible into our circles.
As the Apostle Paul wrote: "Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep." (Romans 12:15 ESV)

I hope you have a blessed holiday season, a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Electronic church is faith-less traveled path

This morning on the way to work, flipping though the stations, I tuned into a familiar voice on the radio.  The sermon was on book the Revelation.  It was kind of interesting and I felt a little nostalgic since I used to listen to this preacher regularly on my way to work nearly 20 years ago, before I entered full-time ministry. 

I do not have an ax to grind when it comes to radio, TV or Internet preaching.  I'm sure there are some wolves in sheep's clothing out there fleecing the flock, but there are also good people in the "media-based" ministry.  The problem I have with media-preaching is the illusion of authenticity -- the hallow replica of the church Jesus had in mind.  

I know many of the sermons we see on TV, or on the Internet, or listen to on the radio are recorded in front of a live audience, in an active congregation.  And, I know some people are housebound and this is their main source of instruction   Still.  Our faith can't really grow very deep if we are merely observers, consumers, or dialing in to listen to a good sermon when it's convenient.

Here's why we need more than a sermon downloaded to our Ipod or overheard from the airwaves:

  • It's information tailored for a specific audience, geared for them where they live, and targeted to what they are facing.  You aren't in that city or their community; your life is disconnected from the life of that congregation.  So the message really isn't very applicable for you.  
  • Also, it's information without accountability.  Who's going to follow up on you, or check in on you?  Who will ensure you are active or participating in the life of the Body?
  • And, to merely listen to a sermon, is in a way selfish and self-serving. To only listen, or watch church without committing yourself to a local Body becomes all about you, and not about  fulfilling requirements to being a blessing to the Body.

There's a difference between something that's supplemental and a substitution.  There are all kinds of supplements to growing our faith but there is no substitute for immersing yourself in a healthy local church, if you want to grow your faith.

I don't care if it's a house-church or a mega-church, we need other believers to encourage us and equip us.  Faith only grows when we are active, when people speak truth into our lives, when we are loved on and when we love flesh & blood people, when we are held accountable, and when people invest time in us personally to develop our giftedness.

So far as I can tell, passively listening to someone on the other side of the country hasn't been able to provide the right environment for fully nurturing our souls.  Glean what you can from the vast resources that are presenting the Gospel at the speed of light, but don't just settle for a shadow of the church.