IN THIS UPDATE:
LAST SUNDAY, in our message series on the book of Hebrews, we delved into Hebrews 10:19-25 and learned, order to flourish, we need deep relationships with God and others. We saw the importance of being committed to a church family, in which we allow others to love us enough to both encourage us and to even “spur” us- irritate us, challenge us- when needed. As painful and uncomfortable as that can be, it plays a vital role in how we grow and mature to be more like Jesus. As Proverbs 27:5,6 says, wounds from a friend can be trusted.
Our culture has produced a generation of church shoppers and hoppers. But God calls us to be committed to a local church family, through thick and thin. Jesus actually places his family, the church, above earthly families (Matthew 12:46–50.)And yet, if we treated our earthly families as casually and nonchalantly as some treat their church family, others would be shocked!
The following article from Jonathon Seidl, entitled, “Are you guilty of one of the ‘most damaging’ attitudes within our churches?” touches on this very theme. It’s a good, short read.
My wife and I recently moved about 40 minutes away from our church. As covenant members of our congregation, we met with our pastors and told them we would like to find a church closer to our new home and would appreciate their blessing to do so. They didn’t think twice, and in fact gave us recommendations about churches in our new area that aligned with the gospel. What a relief!
But that started a months-long search for a new church home that revealed some things in our hearts that we needed to work on. Let me explain.
See, we started trying out different churches every week. We’d go to one, then talk about what we liked and didn’t like, and then not go back. We’d go to another, talk with a pastor there, and then go to lunch and pick apart what he said. We’d grade the worship, the preaching, the greeting, the children’s ministry, and even the parking situation. We started keeping a type of unofficial points system in our minds.
After one Sunday, we started feeling exhausted. And that’s when we finally did what we should have done from the beginning: we took it to the Lord in prayer. The answer came pretty quick: One of the churches we had visited but “docked” for less-than-perfect worship was where He wanted us. Within a week we started the membership process. If only we would have done that sooner we would have saved so much time and wasted energy!
Here’s what we realized. We were treating finding a new church like used-car shopping. We were looking to be wowed and sold. And when we found the tiniest thing we didn’t like, we picked at it until it became something big enough to make us move on. A church could have “everything” we were looking for, but if we didn’t just “feel it,” we kept looking.
In other words, it became all about us. In his marriage course, Kirk Cameron made an observation: What if marriage isn’t about making us happy, but rather making us holy? I think the same thing goes for churches. My wife and I were looking to be tickled just the right way, instead of seeking the Lord about where HE wanted us and where we would grow.
And that brings me to the “most damaging” aspect of this article’s headline. I was scrolling through my Facebook feed yesterday and came across an article for Relevant Magazine. The author, CM Joyner, details “The Most Damaging Attitude in Our Churches.” That attitude? Cynicism. Are you looking for a church that will make you “feel all the feels,” or are you looking for a church that God will use to challenge you, grow you, and bring Him glory?
She explains: Subtle cynicism, or the overly critical nature of our culture, is a toxin Satan uses against the Church. And it’s all the more damaging because we often don’t even realize it’s happening…
But when we recognize the dangers of subtle cynicism, we are able to engage in honest conversations that are productive, loving and full of grace.
When Paul wrote to the church in Philippi, he addressed a steady stream of negativity. He pleaded with the church to rally around their shared love for Christ, sacrifice for each other and “do everything without grumbling or arguing.” With this as our example, let’s remember the following when we are tempted to snap sarcastic quips or offer unsolicited insight.
Unveiling flaws outside of ourselves requires little to no personal sacrifice. Examining the depths of our own brokenness requires vulnerability and risk, both of which are essential for growth.
Life in Jesus involves the death of self (Mark 8:34-35). This is difficult to do while clinging to the belief that we know more than someone else. But as we move into a space of grace, our eyes are opened to lessons we were blinded to before, and we begin to find the places in our hearts God longs to address. If we are too busy discussing the ways everyone else needs to change, we lose the ability to see our own need for restoration and we get stuck rather than grow.
And she gives some examples:
“Worship was great this morning! I can’t believe all those people were just standing there and not raising their hands. Some people just don’t take worship as seriously as I do.”
“Worship was great this morning! I was trying to be still and reflect, but the guy next me was moving so much and flinging his arms around. Some people just don’t take worship as seriously as I do.”
“The sermon was good. If he had just said this, it could have been better.”
“I was so annoyed by this guy at the mall. He had no common sense and was so rude. Nobody teaches people how to be polite anymore.”
“The problem with the Church today is ___________.”
That’s exactly what my wife and I were doing while “church shopping.” And it wasn’t helpful. And cynicism can be as prevalent among current members as it can be forpotential ones.
With all that said, let me give a couple caveats. First, we live in the Bible Belt: Dallas, Texas. That means there are churches on nearly every corner. I understand not everyone has that “problem,” so this may not be everyone’s exact reality. Second, don’t let what I’m saying be construed as encouraging you not to do your due diligence in finding a body of believers with sound gospel theology. I’m not suggesting if you need to find a new church that you settle for the first thing you see. What I am saying, though, is that the process should be Christ-focused.
In other words, are you looking for a church that will make you “feel all the feels,” or are you looking for a church that God will use to challenge you, grow you, and bring Him glory? That may mean there are seasons where you are uncomfortable and being uncomfortable doesn’t mean you should leave. I’m not saying being satisfied and being sanctified are always mutually exclusive, but if you’ve been “shopping” or even church-hopping for a while, you might want to stop and think.
When my wife and I did just that, we found the place we had dismissed earlier was exactly where we needed to be.
THIS SUNDAY morning we’ll be looking at Hebrews 11:1-35 and see the kind of faith that pleases God as well as the kinds of faith that don’t. Hebrews 11 is called the “Hall of Faith” chapter in the Bible and we’ll be spending a couple of Sundays in it. You’ll be encouraged. Looking forward to being with you, worshipping and growing together!
SPECIAL NEEDS MINISTRY LUNCH MEETING, THIS SUNDAY, JULY 1, AFTER THE SECOND SERVICE: Meet in the Youth Room from about 12:15-1:45 pm. This is for anyone who would like to be part of being a blessing to people affected by disabilities in our community! We will discuss current and upcoming events and activities that are going on in the area, like the Ed Hunt Rehab Point Project, Buddy Break, the Disability Christmas Shoppe, and more. To sign up, write “Special Needs” on your Connection Card at one of the services on Sunday or contact Tana at email@example.com or 805.485.5433.
PRAYER FOR MISSIONS THIS SUNDAY, JULY 1: On the first Sunday of each month, please gather in the Worship Center after the 2nd service to pray for the missions and missionaries that Gold Coast supports. Contact Mike or Lynne Yeaman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 805.331.3899 for more information.
26TH ANNUAL REHAB POINT PICNIC, SUNDAY, JULY 8: The Ed Hunt Rehab Point Project is a 900-foot concrete path by Oxnard Beach Park that gives access to the beach for people who use walkers and wheelchairs. Each year a picnic is held to provide resource information to people affected by disabilities as well as offer some food, festivities, and activities for the kids. Stop by Gold Coast’s Special Needs Ministry tables! Let us know you’ll be attending or just show up! Contact Tana Seufert if you have any questions at 805.485.5433 or email@example.com.
Time: 11 am-3 pm; Location: 1601 South Harbor Boulevard, Oxnard Beach Park
RESCUE MISSION OUTREACH, SATURDAY, JULY 7, 4:15-6:15 PM: Sign up by writing “Rescue Mission” on your Connection Card on Sunday or contact Stuart Baker at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 805.427.5528.
MEN’S BREAKFAST, SATURDAY, JULY 14, 8:30 to 10 AM: Men, let’s get together for a great time of fellowship, encouragement, and challenge in our spiritual growth. Breakfast will be served. Cost is $5. First time guests are free. Guest Speaker, Tim Kanter, made loads of bad choices as a teen. God got a hold of him and changed his life. Now a Christen playwright, traveling comedian, and pastor, come hear how God shifted his life mission to lead others to Jesus. Sign up at the table in the lobby on Sunday. Questions? Contact George Garcia at email@example.com or 805.302.8475.
DAILY BIBLE READING SCHEDULE FOR THE COMING WEEK
Friday June 29 Amos 4-6; Ps 86-87; Titus 1
Saturday June 30 Amos 7-9; Ps 104; Titus 2
Sunday July 1 Is 1-3; Titus 3
Monday July 2 Is 4-5; Ps 115-116; Jude
Tuesday July 3 Is. 6-7; 2 Chr 26-27; Philem
Wednesday July 4 2 Ki 15-16; Hos 1; Heb 1
Thursday July 5 Hos 2-5; Heb 2
Friday July 6 Hos 6-9; Heb 3
Saturday July 7 Hos 10-12; Ps 73; Heb 4
Sunday July 8 Hos 13-14; Ps 100,102; Heb 5
YOUTH CAMP AT ANGELES CREST — REGISTER BY SUNDAY, JULY 8: For Grades 6-12, summer camp programs are an opportunity for students from any background to have fun, make new, like-minded friends, explore nature and, most importantly, grow in their relationship with God. When campers aren’t in organized worship or hearing from inspirational speakers like Josh Best, they’re busy with tons of awesome activities like paintball, basketball, digglers, Zip lining, volleyball, archery, a climbing wall, a trampoline, hiking trails, swimming, games, and more! Cost is $335. Contact Christian Schaefer at 541.601.7131 or firstname.lastname@example.org, if you have any questions.
HIGHTIDE YOUTH GROUP meets on Wednesdays at 6:30 pm in the Youth Room. Middle school students also meet most Sundays starting at 10:45 am in the Worship Center and are dismissed later to the Youth Room. Contact Christian Schaefer at 541.601.7131 or email@example.com, if you have any questions.
STEPHEN MINISTRY: In difficult times, God’s love is especially precious to us, and it is very important to know someone who cares. Our congregation has trained Stephen Ministers who offer a ministry of Christian caring. To find out more about receiving a Stephen Minister’s care, write “Stephen Ministry” on your Connection Card tomorrow at one of the worship services and place it in the offering basket or call Art or Rose Flatray at 805.987.1428 for more information.