The Church…

Today was the official ministry fair of Calvary Fellowship where all the ministries within the church were showcased and sign-up sheets were presented. Danny’s message was short, but definitely sweet because he focused primarily on what the church actually is. What I’m writing about in here isn’t necessarily what Danny talked about, but I might reference this morning’s message here and there.

From my short college career, I have seen several different types of Christians. I’ve seen conservatives, liberals, radicals, and probably a few heretics. But what I’ve typically seen within the more dedicated ones really comes down to two different groups: those who attend church and those who are the church.

You can really see the difference between a Sunday Christian and a follower of Jesus. A Sunday Christian is exactly that: one who attends on Sunday, but throughout the rest of the week is living his or her life however he or she wants to. I’m sure that we have all been there at one point. I know I have. In fact, the first four or five years of my walk with the Lord was spent in this manner: attending church and doing all the right churchy things, but not actually living it out in my day to day life.

The second category is a little more difficult to be and do. It means that your primary focus is what Jesus wants you to do and then everything else falls behind that. It means you’re not limited to Sunday mornings and that you actually serve out of a renewed mind and heart instead of strictly obligation. You don’t serve because people are pressuring you to serve; you’re serving because you want to serve.

As you can see, these are basically opposite ends of the Christian spectrum. You are either a believer who cares more about your own image or you’re actually gathering with the church because of your love for God and for Jesus. I do not mean to make it seem like I’m in the right and everyone else is in the wrong; I think I would be fulfilling the definition of a religious Christian in that case. No, I am here to simply point out the difference between what American society has made the Christian church and what the Christian church originally was.

The early believers never had anything called services like we do. They weren’t limited to Sunday mornings or even one day a week for that matter; they gathered whenever they needed to, regardless of what they were doing in the secular world. They’d get together for food, for prayer, for worship, and to receive God’s messages. Pastors (or prophets – basically teachers/encouragers) were numerous and there wasn’t any particular one who would do the speaking when they gathered; whoever felt it upon their heart would speak. Certainly there was some form of organization to it all, but it wasn’t structured like we have it today.

As many before me have defined it, church is not a building made by any human hands. It is a body of believers and followers of Jesus Christ who are being transformed collectively and individually by God into who He wants us to be. Throughout Scripture, it is clear that following Jesus is not limited to one day of the week or one week of the month or whatever; there are no limitations because following Jesus is an everyday thing. From the moment we wake up to the moment we fall asleep, we are called by God to follow and obey Jesus’ commands.

What I realized this morning is that our church should not be structured by when and where we meet and for how long, but rather who we are, where we’ve been in our lives, and what we’re doing now for Jesus. Reducing the revolutionary movement that Jesus started a couple thousand years ago is reducing the possibility of the world becoming a better place and the possibility of lives being saved. By “being saved” I do not necessarily mean people just turning their lives over to Jesus, but also having their lives transformed through Jesus. Drug addicts becoming clean, alcoholics throwing away the bottle, adulterers controlling their urges and revamping their minds, and the rich helping the poor.

These transformations are impossible if the church sits idle and conducts itself from service to service, Sunday morning to Sunday morning. I would not be where I’m at now had it not been for the church moving outside of its walls. I would still be seeking after my own glory, my own fame, my own agendas. I would still be so full of myself that I would be empty inside. No church movement, no transformations. No transformations, no advancement of God’s kingdom.

What Danny is intending with Calvary has a certain mindset, a certain attitude, that every follower of Jesus should at least consider. Going to service every Sunday morning is good, but if there is no change in the individual’s life and no impact on the collective, then it is a waste. It’d be better off for the person to not even try to be Christian if they aren’t going to commit to it. Danny said two weeks ago that you might as well believe in fairy tales since there’d be no impact on your life.

No, there isn’t a limit for the church. It is not restricted to walls, social statuses, racial backgrounds, political parties, or religious affiliations. The curtain that was torn from top to bottom at the moment of Jesus’ death was a curtain that divided the religious elite from the “sinners,” where the women and Gentiles were allowed to worship. They weren’t “clean” enough to worship with the religious elite. Jesus ended that division by tearing the dividing factor down. Likewise, there should be nothing dividing the church from each other and the secular world.

Danny’s message this morning was specifically directed to Calvary Fellowship. But this does not mean that any other congregation cannot take the encouragement. I think it was Wesley Towne, the pastor at Ekklesia, who put into perspective for me: don’t go to church, be the church. Being the church was never meant to be on one particular day or for a certain amount of time; it was a perpetual, day-to-day thing. It’s time for the followers of Christ to resurrect the passion, the vision, and the commitment of the early church. It’s time to stop putting on the fake Sunday smile and to start opening ourselves up to each other. It’s time to be the church.

End Note…

There was one slight thing I didn’t clear up after my first post. I had mentioned early on that my mother was addicted to meth, but what I didn’t mention was how she is now clean. I’m not sure how long she’s been clean, but I know she is now. In fact, she’s even turned her life over to God again and is being transformed on a day to day basis. Although she wasn’t there much in my early childhood, I’ve been able to keep in touch with her on a frequent basis.

Me…

Since this is the first issue of what I hope to be many, I must introduce a little about myself. I grew up in Lincoln City, Oregon, but I was born in Salem. At the age of three I was removed from the custody of my mom and placed into a temporary foster home. I was only there for one night and then I was back with my mom, I think. But for the next eight or ten years, this would be a common event in my life; bouncing back and forth between the custody of my mom and the custody of my foster parents, who were mostly my grandparents. I think it was around the age of eleven or twelve when my grandparents officially became my legal guardians and thus began a life of opportunity.

I say “a life of opportunity” because it was my grandpa who enabled my older brother and I to be who we are. With my mom there was no such opportunity. She was addicted to meth and allowing many drug-affiliated friends into her home while we were there. It was a bad environment. The man who eventually became my “step-dad” was a marijuana dealer who had verbally threatened my mother’s life on several occasions. He would yell these things at her regardless of our presence. He looked upon us with annoyance and disdain. My siblings and I felt worthless.

But he was quickly out of my life. When my grandpa finally adopted me, my drug-dealing stepdad was no longer allowed to see me. It wasn’t anything put forth by a restriction order or anything the government said; it was by law of my grandpa. If you ever meet my grandpa, he’s a pleasant man. He’s got a burly, God-like voice that demands your attention. And yet, he’s got a perpetual charisma that is deeply contagious. Since his generation and mine are separated by several decades, his raising me might have been different than how kids today are normally raised. He was pretty strict about rules within the household; no wearing hats, you took off your shoes at the door, and you didn’t punch your brother. And at a young age, I do believe I misinterpreted his rules and raising style. I took offense instead of reverence.

I had thought he was singling me out whenever he would lecture my brother and I about our “rough-housing.” And since I didn’t ask him to see if he was singling me out, I simply assumed it and continued on. This built a great dislike for him. Since he was at home, I didn’t want to be there. I would spend whatever time I could at school or hanging out with friends, but then those became troublesome as well. When I was at my friends’ houses, I would notice their fathers – something I’ve never had. And when I’d see them at school, I would remember their fathers and the horrible feeling of worthlessness would return. It was right around the age of 14 when I started to think about what life might be like if I were not alive anymore. I think if I had gone to a doctor about this, I might have been deemed “clinically depressed.” Regardless of labels, I knew I wanted to kill myself.

There came a week when I determined to do just that. I told myself, “This weekend; it’s going to happen, no matter what.” But then I grew quite afraid of it. I thought about what happens when I die in this world and the many uncertainties that came to mind made me tremble. I was afraid of staying in this world, but I was more afraid of leaving it. And then came God.

It was during the week I decided to absolutely kill myself when I was invited to a concert. It was a close friend whom I knew went to church who asked me to go. And when I joined them to help out with an Easter set up (I only went for the candy, trust me), their pastor even asked me if I wanted to come. With how much I didn’t want to be at home and how much I didn’t like hanging out at my friends’ places, I decided to go.

Retreats away from the familiar are wonderful. You’re so wrapped up in wonder and excitement of the new things you’re seeing and experiencing that you forget the pain you feel in your comfort zones. And that’s exactly where God met me. This concert, I would soon find out, was a Christian concert. Acquire the Fire – as it was called – was a massive gathering of thousands of Christians and almost all of which were youth ministries or just a bunch of kids my age. I don’t think it was any one sermon or testimony that made me curious about God, but I left that weekend wanting to know more. And within the next couple of months, I was baptized and given a Bible to read.

Although the pain of being at home or at school was alleviated with this new-found practice, another boring and equally destructive practice was produced: religion. My life wasn’t about what others thought of me or about how worthless I felt; but rather about going to church every Sunday and reading a chapter of the Bible a day. The good parts were learning a lot about something I didn’t know and finding a place where I no longer felt insignificant. But the bad part was that I wasn’t yet experiencing a relationship with Christ. Then came college.

If you’ve ever spent longer than a month or so in Lincoln City and around the people of Lincoln City, you might notice how secluded it might seem. All the while I was there, I felt cut off from the rest of the world, from different cultures other than the American, and even from other Christians my age. Certainly there were Christians my age in Lincoln City, but I sadly did not spend much time with them. When I came to college, I had pretty much no choice in the matter; they were all around. I started learning how to be a Christian amongst other Christians and also amongst those who have aggressively different beliefs. A few of these Christian friends felt the need to bring me to church events and churchy things. Jon Derby is the main one.

He may not know it or believe it, but he was the main reason why I even came to U of O in the first place. Back in the spring of my senior year in high school I was contemplating not even going to college. I saw that it was way too expensive and too much of a challenge for me. But he reasoned me into it and the next thing I knew I was accepted to the University, provided with a financial aid package that covers everything (though not entirely free – I know, a bummer), and was loading up my things to move into the dorms. There was another family within my hometown church who helped with some financial funding whom I am deeply grateful for. Apparently this family and Derby saw something that I didn’t: an opportunity from God.

Once I was totally settled into the dorms, Derb brought me out to a churchy thing called Cross Training. Through Cross Training, I was engulfed into a communal exploration of God; not just an individual one. I realized the porn watching I did throughout high school was immoral and had to be cut. I realized the many thoughts and feelings I had towards my grandfather were not Godly and had to be altered. I realized that I also could not force my beliefs upon another and humility became attractive. The winter break after my first college term was an eye-opening break. I had gone back to the same house I lived in, the same job I had, and the same kind of ritualistic life I lived when I was in high school. But something broke through.

It seems kind of funny now, but what broke me then was an episode of “Fresh Prince of Bel Aire.” I forget what the episode was titled, but I remember it being the one where Uncle Phil had a heart attack and the whole family was there to visit him, except for Carlton. If you haven’t seen an episode of “Fresh Prince,” just trust me with what I’m saying. I’ve seen so many episodes so many times I could almost quote it better than the Bible. Anyhow, Will Smith (who plays… himself, sort of) was the one to go find Carlton since he was the only one missing at the hospital. He found him back at their house and Will asked Carlton why he wasn’t there. He said he didn’t want to see his father like that; Phil had always been big and strong in his life and to see him so weak and frail would be too much. Will’s reply was what cut me deep; “At least you have a father to look to at all. Where’s my father? I don’t know!” At those words, I lost it. The pain of not knowing who my dad is, the guilt of watching so much porn, the guilt of holding such horrible grudges was all too much to bear and I spent the next two hours weeping. It was then that I experienced God.

The next couple of years were much harder to work through, but easier on the heart. I had a lot to change and though I disagreed with God in a lot of it, I knew it would only make my walk with Him stronger and would, in the end, provide healing. I threw away old desires that were only destructive to my walk and embraced new passions that weren’t really new. I now love writing and want to commit the rest of my life to it, but it’s not a new passion. From my early childhood I remember being enthralled in the world of literature, even if I wasn’t conscious of the love. Brian Jacques’ Redwall series was one I became addicted to and I am quite certain I read every last book. Then when I came to college the sudden speculating thought of “Could I create something like this on my own?” entered my mind. And soon enough it grew to become a way of serving God.

Which brings me to today. I’ve been thinking about writing something for Calvary for quite some time and after asking several people, I realized this could be something more than just me writing. This is intended to be something that draws people closer to Christ, both collectively and individually. I intend to write out my thoughts about life, love, theology, doctrines, and God and I invite all who read this into that journey. I hope my words may encourage, uplift, inspire, or at least point you to the One who does all that better than I. I hope to blog as often as I can, but with my senior year starting up, I can’t quite guarantee anything. Write a comment if you like or if you aren’t comfortable with that, shoot me an email, it should be on the profile. And “whatever you do, do all to the glory of God,” 1 Corinthians 10:31. God bless