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Church seems to be about following rules, not about Christ

Postby Queen » Thu Sep 11, 2014 12:05 pm

On Saturday nights my husband and I host a group of disadvantaged teens, who are undergoing incredible stress in their homes. While this is not an internet issue, I wonder if you could offer advice. I am sad to say if I brought this up with my church staff, it would be disapproved of. None of theses kids are saved or church members, and neither are their families. Some come every week, others once in a while. One thinks he may be gay, one has a severely alcoholic mother and a father who makes unacceptable choices with his daughter, approving of her promiscuous behavior. One girl was sexually abused as a child, and her father is in prison, we believe, or she does not know where he is. Another girl is in a home where divorce is a constant threat, her brothers are ADD and Down's syndrome, and she is so jittery at this point, she feels she needs to be medicated. Another girl is a child of a father who abandoned her mother, who is mentally ill, and now is remarried with several small children. One girl is from a religious background, but her parents are so overly strict, she is nearly to the point that she wants to get away from the church. They all gather here in our home to watch Dr. Who, as none of them have BBC America on their TV, and while this may seem very off from what you are doing, it is similar in that we are not using conventional means to reach these children. Many discussions have arisen as we watch the show as to the nature of God and what would God do in the situation presented on the show. Odd as this seems, this is the way that we have been given, and at least now they listen and discuss, where when they first came, it was "oh, no, no, there is no God"! I don't know how much progress we can make here, but I do have hope. I know if I get heavy handed and pushy about it, this will fail. Occasionally my son, who is 25, is also here. He gave up on our church long ago, and occasionally attends services in another church north of here. He is completely turned off by organized religion, and I can't blame him. So many churches in our area seem to be about following the rules, and little or no joy or love of Christ. I wonder sometimes if they even know we have been forgiven. Is just giving them your ministry cards enough? Is it too pushy at this point? My daughter has found all these "birds with broken wings" and has befriended them. They are all polite, very intelligent kids, truly a joy to be with. But they THINK, and are not, as you say, going to check their brains at the door and become religious idiots. I am feeling that I cannot be a part of what is considered Christianity here, because I refuse to reject or hate people that are in trouble, have made the wrong choices, and are lost, both personally and spiritually. How can we reach people if we feel we are different from them, or more special than they are? I have been through several churches, and am disappointed. Is it this way everywhere, or just in here in our county? We moved here from another metropolitan area, have been here 28 years, and still are stopped in our tracks from some comments we hear. It is such a "religious" area, yet I constantly feel disconnected and lost. More often I feel analyzed in conversations with others, as if they are waiting for me to make a mistake. I covet your advice. Thank you for listening.

Re: Church seems to be about following rules, not about Chri

Postby jimwalton » Fri Oct 03, 2014 1:54 pm

Thanks for writing. First I’ll say that you are welcome to talk to me any time. I would be pleased to converse and help about anything I can. I’ll give you advice that seems appropriate for what you have written, but feel free to write back if I have missed the mark or if you want to talk about something further.

Far from disapproving of what you do, I applaud it. Many of Jesus’ parables and miracles are about his reaching out to the lost, the least, and the dead. He reaches out to those on the fringes, to the downtrodden, and to the ignored. Jesus gravitated to acts and to people who operate way, WAY under the radar. The group that meets in your home are clearly “the least of these.” If the church cannot minister to these, we have lost our way.

Dr. Who is a show where the lead character works to save civilizations, help ordinary people, and right wrongs. It sounds like a perfect opportunity to generate conversation with people who may be far from walking into a church service. I often used video in my youth ministry to capture attention and promote conversation. It’s a great vehicle for the kingdom of God, because the young generation is very video oriented. Obviously, we have to be discerning about what we show, but Dr. Who is not a show that would generally cause concern.

You ask if “just giving them the cards is enough.” Absolutely not. Your relationship with them can be far more effective than giving them cards about my ministry. If you want to tell them about my website, I’d be glad to talk to them and answer their questions. I can’t in good conscience counsel them online; they really need the presence of an ongoing relationship for effective counseling. But I’d be glad to talk further to you, your son, or any of them.

I’m sorry to hear that you sense disapproval from your church as well as a less-than-godly attitude there. I know many churches that struggle to connect with our culture. Many do ministry in traditionally-accepted ways, and often times that fails to reach todays teens and 20-somethings. Part of the issue is that the culture has changed radically in the past 20 years, and the Church has struggled with how best to structure themselves and minister to this new culture. It doesn’t help that many long-standing church members enjoy the comfortable Christian expression of former years, and are not particularly open to new ministry styles and strategies.

On the other hand, America is more like ancient Rome all the time, and the church grew up and grew strong in that environment. We pray that God will bring new paradigms of ministry that will reach people who are in much the same position and mindset as the people were when the church was born under the ministry of the apostles.

You say it’s difficult of be part of what is considered Christianity in your church/town. I understand that, but the best attitude is that we all work together to help the Church be what Christ intended, not to bail from the whole mess. It’s not like public school, where if you don’t like the local schools you can bail and do home school. We can’t bail and do home church, because Christ’s plan, for all its pros and cons, is to assemble together and figure it out. Does your church REALLY reject and hate people who are in trouble, made the wrong choices, and are lost?

My advice? Keep doing what you are doing. If these teens listen and discuss, you are making progress. If they feel accepted and loved, you have succeeded. If you get to discuss the nature of God and God’s choices and ways, you’ve got a treasure in your hands, and God is using you to build his kingdom. But, as you say, don’t get heavy-handed and pushy about it. Jesus was never like that when he evangelized, but was very gentle. He only got heavy-handed with the religious hypocrites.

I hope this helps. Feel free to talk more.

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