Wednesday, January 7, 2009

We Need Each Other & Blind Loyalty

I had some thoughts I wanted to throw out, but not sure I can put it into words. There is a song done by Ernie Haase & Signature Sound on their new CD that I love, called "We Need Each Other, that gets me on this thought. (Video posted below, first 5 minutes or so is the actual song). I am not out to attack people on my blog, so let me choose my words carefully, and I hope I don't bounce around too much or go in circles. :-)

There was a deal that has been going on for the last couple of years that involved my denomination getting sued to stop the sale of a church that the members voted to close. That is neither here nor there, but yesterday, while approving a friend addition on Facebook, a discussion popped up that this person was involved in that was criticizing my denomination. I made a few comments out of disgust, and amazed the fellow with my "blind loyalty". (As an aside, I decided rude or not, I would delete him so I wouldn't run into this stuff, but he beat me to the punch. :-) I think it may have been my bringing up his spreading rumors and gossip about me. Oh well, I tried to be his friend. :-) ) As a friend of mine commented, the same people who accuse others of blind loyalty, are themselves being blindly loyal to something else, in this case, he is being blindly loyal to someone set on getting their own way, no matter what the cost to others. The reason they are upset isn't because you are loyal to something, but that you are loyal to something that they don't agree with.

Anyway, this blind loyalty thing has got me thinking. Is there anything wrong with blind loyalty? What is blind loyalty as opposed to just plain loyalty? My family isn't perfect, but I would stick up for any of them, fiercely. My nation isn't perfect, but I would still stick up for it. My beliefs may not be what others are, but I am loyal to them. Along with that, my church isn't perfect - none are - but I will stick up for it. If someone says it is not perfect, I will agree, but attack it, and I will defend it, as with the other things in my life that are a part of me.

Jesus prayed that we would all be one, but the religious world is far from being one. I am speaking of the religious world that is following Jesus, not other religions. We have had more splits and splinters in just the holiness movement, than anyone could ever keep track of. In most cases, I think the problems lie with selfishness, and an unwillingness to come under authority. Case in point: the first church split I was involved with really rocked my world. People I had looked up to for years left, taking many with them. I was a teenager, or just out of my teens, and had no idea what to think. The main reason boiled down to the people who left felt the pastor didn't leave enough room for God to take over the service. He felt that they tried to get something going. Since it couldn't be resolved, a split happened. All good people, but that wasn't enough.

If we treated our Christian brothers with honor, deferring, would we have splits? Would churches pull out of their denomination and go off by themselves? Would people start their own churches in their homes? I don't think that would happen. I am pointing 4 fingers back at myself when I say this, but we have too many other things on our list of priorities to focus on loving our brothers, and wanting what is best for the Kingdom of God. We want what we think is best for us, and our families. We want to go to church where everything goes the way that we want it to go, not the way God wants it to go. We want padded pews (yeah!), a preacher that preaches around 30 minutes or less (guilty!). We want to be used. We want to be visible. We want our opinions heard, and followed. When that doesn't happen, we become offended, and unhappy with our place of worship. We go elsewhere, and it doesn't change. I have known people who bounce from church to church, and never find one that they are happy with, because their focus isn't on worshipping God, and adding something to a body of believers - it is on what they want to get out of it. Sometimes people do have very good reasons for changing churches, but it should be very good.

My family changed churches once. Well, twice if you count when we all moved to Ohio - we weren't going to travel over 2 hours to church! We had attended the same church for years, even Mom and Dad as children attended there. As I said, I am not out to attack anyone, but we had good reason to leave, and it was a tough decision, but my parents did it the best way possible. They left quietly. They did not try to take others with them, and we don't spend out time maligning that church or its pastor.

It seems anymore, it is the "in thing" to criticize the church or denomination you have left. I base this on the last few years of observing people, and what they say. They want the world to know why they left, and how horrible the church/denomination was. Why do we do this? If we love each other, and love God, we will not tear His people down, nor His place of worship, even if we highly disagree with them.

I feel at this point in my life, that I am attending the best church for me. Would I change anything? Sure, but really, what I want isn't important. Would I like to see more focus on people in my age group, as opposed to focusing only on the teenagers & children? Of course I would, but that would give me no right to start making a stink about it, or leave the church. I would rather sit quietly in my pew, and be what God wants me to be.

It seems so many criticize us. Holiness churches in general, and other holiness churches criticize each other. I have worked around many people from other churches, and have found that you cannot make a blanket statement. Some of them have lied, cursed, done highly dishonest things, but I can't say that all people who do not attend a holiness church are that way. Just the same, some holiness people, of varying denominations,
If we take the "I" out of the equation, everything changes. We truly are selfish and self-centered beings, even at our best. How often do we pray before making a change in our life, such as changing churches or denominations? If we do pray, is it really God's guidance and will we are seeking, or do we pretty much have our minds made up, and just go through the formality of asking God?

Surrender. It is a scary word, and I fear all too many of us haven't really done it. We think we have. We will testify to it, but when the rubber meets the road, "I" does what is best for "I". People move out of the reach of a good church for better money. To keep friends, they compromise, just a bit. It is better to be alone & friendless, and have God, than to be popular and drifting.

I had a conversation with a friend of mine who is single, and doesn't want to be. They admitted that the devil has told them "if you do thus and so, let down here or there, that you will surely attract someone easier and find true love". I struggle in this area. I ask "why me?!" But it seems God has intended for me to remain single. We always think we know what is best for ourselves, but that isn't true. Only God knows.

We do need each other a lot. It seems people are always busy. You only see people at church, and then they are rushing out the door. No one has time for anyone anymore. We are more worried about us and ours. We fight, we argue, we split. If Jesus tarries, we may need each other more than ever.

What can we do for each other? Pray. It doesn't hurt to take your church directory to pray over, each family, even each name. If God puts someone on your heart, send them a note, card, email, or call them. Life can be so discouraging, and if we are down in the dumps, discouraged, and going through rough times, we want people to do that for us. Even make a nice comment on their blog! :-)

There is always God, and will always be God, but we can be His voice, His hand, in helping and encouraging others. The thing is, we need to get off our butts, focus on more than us and our family, and do something for others.

A personal example to show both of my points in one: Before I moved away, my church did something that I enjoyed. Every other month or so, they would have the young couples and singles up through my age, and maybe a bit higher, get together. Food was always involved. I think one month, they would do something with the young people - teens - and the next, it would be the married. That has changed. I have been back here 6 months, and no gathering has happened. There have been school-related functions, but people who home school or have no kids often don't come to those. We now focus entirely on the teenagers.

I miss those gatherings, and feel my church needs to focus on everyone - not just the teenagers, but I am not going to leave because of that. I will continue going there unless God directs me elsewhere. It was good to get with others who believe like you for just plain fun. We need to worship with others - there is a growing movement of "home churches" - that's no good. We need to get with people on a regular basis and worship. God made us that way, and He wants it that way. Yet, we also need that outside of church. Play games. Eat food. Have fun and companionship with other Christians.

Some churches take this too far. They have more entertainment, than worship. Our main goal must be worship. Some things do not belong in church, but some things belong outside of church, and we need them. God has made us that we need the fun times too.

I have said a lot, and I am sure will ruffle someone's feathers, but remember, I am as far from perfect as a Christian can be. God has tons of work to do on me, but as the song says "He's Still Workin' On Me". I admit, I react pretty strongly to criticism of my church and family, but hey, you home school mothers can relate - you showed me how to do it! (That was a joke, not a criticism!)

The next time we feel necessary to criticize another Christian, pray for them. Feel the need to put down a denomination? Shut up, and pray. Still have the overwhelming urge to do it? Pray for yourself!

I have a tough time reaching out to people. This may cause laughs of derision, but I am basically a backward & shy person. It is difficult for me to believe people want me as a friend, so people like me have a harder time reaching out to others, but we all need to do it. We truly do need each other.


Christa said...

I could say ouch to some of that--that was a good sermon.
I am not saying anythng about your denominational problem--none of my business.
One of things we have done the last few years is jump churches. Since I left the church I had went to for 18 years, we have had a hard time finding a good place to settle. I would like some place where God comes, people are free to get blessed, testify, start another verse of song, where you get down and have a good season of prayer, etc.. Some of the little churches do that, but are just so sloppy with no organization (noone would think to study their Sunday School lesson so they wouldnt have to read it), and the big ones tend to be so formal. I am not totally happy with the one that I am at now because of the formality. ( I say that because I have told the pastor that,and we are still friends!) I fight such a battle, because I want my kids to see God move like I did when I was a kid, and yet I do want to go to a church where I can feel proud to invite someone to church. (proud--I am not talking about whether it looks rich or fancy--whether it is clean vs. filled with junk and some of it never cleaned for years. I am talking about whether they are going to be bored while the teachers, adult through childrens, read through the lesson.) It is hard to find such a church, I have found.But yet, I was raised not to jump churches--how can any church ever grow if people are continually jumping? You are certainly never very productive. My reasons for what I want in a church is not what you said, as far as being visible, being used, etc...--I have just found ways of being used for God outside the church, and I definitely dont care about being visible. I have refused jobs at the church I am at if they could find someone else to do them. I just want a clean, place where God is allowed to move. Yet as I told the children, there is never going to be a perfect church as long as I am in it!! I think it is time to stick for a while, and just pray for the church. Then although I say the good words, I think what if I lose my children meanwhile, if they dont ever really feel God enough to really want to know Him. I only have my kids so long. I guess, like John Wesley said, I need to get on fire so men will come to watch me burn, huh? Let my kids see Christ in me. I am sorry for rambling--I just have had a menagerie of thoughts going through my head.
My question is, do you think it was wrong for the people to leave who felt the pastor left no room for God to move? Did you think it is a good reason? What do you think is a good reason to leave a church?
You are right about needing each other. My sister in law used to be amazed about my church family--used to say it was like I had another family to lean on, like I had 2 families--of course, I did. I am a bad one for going right out that door after church anymore. It is not because I dont like everybody, cause I do. When I stay and talk, or reach out to someone, it is a good experience. Why do we do that, rush out the door??? dk Then when you have your own problems, you dont feel as if you have anyone to reach out to because you havent reached out.
Lastly, I do think there is a difference between between blind loyalty and plain loyalty. I wouldnt stick up for my family if they were wrong, however, I will always be there for them, and would never disclaim them.

Mark said...

Just in my opinion, and sure others could offer others, I think the main reasons for moving on is if you feel the church cannot further you spirtually, if there are major problems not being worked out, and sometimes the pastor is not what he should be - better to move on, than to stay and criticize. And I in no means was saying every person who moves on does so for bad reasons :-)

Mark said...

And much of the "sermon" was stuff I need to work on myself :-)