Category Archives: Church Search

Noise

As I’ve written on my blog before, I’m an introvert. It’s something I’ve come to terms with and something I’ve struggled to understand my entire life. For a majority of my life I didn’t realize there was such a thing as an “introvert” or an “extrovert” personality type and that they were actually the way God created us. Growing up I saw all of the people who were the “life of the party” type of people and thought there was something wrong with me. I’ve always enjoyed solitude and easily get stressed out in the noise and crowds.

I know people have often thought of me as aloof and somewhat arrogant. I don’t enjoy making “small talk” and in fact find it really boring. I have a hard time chatting about the weather and similar things. However, I’ve always enjoyed deeper conversation and when I’m paired off with someone of similar interests as mine I tend to dominate the conversation because I enjoy talking about certain subjects so much.

In other words, because I’ve never been a “life of the party” type of person; I’ve been told much of my life that I’m anti-social. To some extent this is true because social situations give me anxiety, but when in smaller more intimate conversational settings I enjoy myself, which is far from “anti-social”. I just never will be the guy dancing on a table at an office party.

I recently finished reading a book by the name of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. The book is an in-depth look at the differences between introverts and extroverts and focuses on the traits of extroverts. The writer, Susan Cain, describes in-depth what she calles the “Secret Power of Introverts”. The quietness of an introvert allows for creativity, thoughtfulness, and introspection. Most, but not all, of the worlds greatest minds were introverts. People who literally changed the world. People like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, Martin Luther, and the like were all introverts.

Quite interestingly, the book has a section dedicated entirely to extrovertism in the American church and it’s effect on mainstream Evangelicalism. Susan Cain, in my understanding, is from a Jewish background and isn’t a professing Christian. Of all places she chose to use as an example of an American church that idolizes extrovertism, she chose Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church in Southern California.

In the section of the book mentioned above, Susan Cain met with a man who was a Presbyterian minister for an interview at Saddleback. They attended a service there in order to get the look and feel of what a service was like at Saddleback church. The basic gist of the interview centered around how “extrovertism” has gripped the popular American Evangelical church culture and how church services of quiet contemplation, prayer, and scripture reading are no longer a part of most of the American church.

 In order to draw the multitudes into the American Evangelical church of today there has to be plenty of excitement and programs to keep people interested in attending church. Saddleback church and Rick Warren with his Purpose Driven Life method of doing church has arguably had the largest impact on the latest church culture of “extrovert” idealism.

 As I said earlier, I’m an introvert. I enjoy reading and quiet. Although I’ve struggled with thinking there was something wrong with me all of my life, I now no longer do. I’ve come to understand there’s a place for solitude, prayer, and Bible study in God’s church.

However, for many years I attended an Assemblies of God church that had fully implemented Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life “seeker sensitive” church growth model. As time went on, I was considered “odd” and was cast aside. I enjoyed Sunday School. It was cancelled. I enjoyed Sunday night services. They were cancelled. I enjoyed Wednesday night Bible study service. It was cancelled. Once a month prayer rallies were cancelled in lieu of bi-yearly “praise rallies”.

In other words, all of the things than an “introvert” would enjoy about church, things like learning, Bible study, close relationships with a tight-knit group, suddenly vanished. In their place came large social events and activities designed to “pump” the congregation and build excitement with the church. Things to cause “seekers” to want to come to church. Programs to make it fun for the kids but little in the way of teaching them the Word.

I now know that God created me with the gifts he gave me. I know that I am a member of the Body of Christ. I may not be a hand or a mouth in His body, but I am a member nevertheless. I also know there are many others like me (my oldest daughter, for instance) who have become weary of the “rah rah rah” of the American church. We worship God with all of our minds, bodies, and strengths. We love to serve behind the scenes without much fanfare. We long to share insights into God’s word with others. We want to give without others knowing.

Today’s American churches make very little room for this. Much of the American Evangelical churches are geared more like high school pep rallies where the “cheerleaders” and the “band” are worshiped. The quiet and the contemplative and the faithful are increasingly moved aside for the new, the excited, and the vocal. The quiet ones are now looked at with suspicion as having some sort of spiritual issue because they aren’t “on fire for the Lord”.

I know this is the way it is, because I lived it for 2 years while looking for a home church. My family and I visited many churches across many denominations and to find one that actually was centrally on the Word, prayer, and music with sound doctrine was virtually impossible to find. And there are over 60 churches within a few miles of my home…….Hey, I live in Texas, you know.

Next Sunday, look around. Has your church become a social club? Is there room within the congregation for the quiet among you to serve and worship? Is there a balance between “excitement” and “reverence, awe, and solitude” before the Lord as a congregation or is it all “celebration. all the time”. Is your fellowship actually a true “body” of Christ that makes way for all parts or are only the “mouths” esteemed?

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Filed under Books, Church, Church Search, Churchianity, Life

Muchas Gracias

It’s been a long year, a hard year.

Since the beginning of the year we’ve attended more churches than I care to count. I spent the first eight months of the the year working a part time job from home, which certainly helped out, but after several months it became hard to pay the bills……then I was laid off from that job for around six weeks.

A few weeks ago I was hired back at my old company where I was laid off from at the end of last year. My new position at my old company is to help assist the Chinese with technical questions by helping them do my…….job.

And to top it all off, I’ve had about a 15lb weight gain due to some medication I was taking earlier this year making it difficult to do what I like best….running.

I’ve written here many times about faith and trust in God. This year has certainly put that to the test….I’ve failed miserably. My faith has been sucked right out of me to the point I have a difficult time even praying regularly. Through all of it I have such a hard time believing God is even paying any attention to little ol’ me.

Oh I know He’s there. I know He loves me and never will forsake me….but I seem to no longer find it easy to see it deep inside.

Yet somehow I still look to Him. Not knowing if I’ll ever get an answer or if He’ll ever cast a look in my direction again. But Lord, to whom else shall I turn?

The Bible says if we have faith as small as a mustard seed that we can move mountains. God has to be providing me with the faith I need to survive right now. Otherwise I’d have given up long ago. I guess my faith is as small as a mustard seed right now….I sure seem to be moving mountains. They seem to be falling all over me.

That’s where my thanksgiving comes in at. My God loves me enough to have disciplined me this year (Hebrews 12). He loves me enough not to break this bruised reed nor snuff out this dim candle that’s still somehow burning inside of me.

So tomorrow I wake up. I thank God I have a job for the day. I thank Him my children have more food than 90% of the children in the world and I thank him for a faithful wife…faithful to me and faithful to God. After that I’ll have to let tomorrow take care of tomorrow.

And most of all, I’ll give thanks for God for not snuffing me out, which is what I deserve due to my sinfulness and rebellion and whining and grumbling……

By the way…. I don’t care for quail anyway.

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Of Sheep And Men

This journey my family and I have been on for over a year, searching for a new church, has been a long and grueling one. As I’ve said before, there have been a lot of mistakes made on my part.

I don’t know why I’m having a difficult time letting go of the past. I guess it was because we had so much wrapped up in our last church. It was our life. It was where all of our friends were at. It was where all of our time and life was spent. It was where what we thought was God’s plans for our life were going to be fulfilled.

It was where we were tossed to the side like yesterday’s trash.

We first came to the church because my wife came to know the pastor’s wife through my daughter’s kindergarten class at school. In other words there was a friendship developed outside the church first. We were never invited to the church, and looking back, we had to even do a little research to find out which church her husband pastored.

Once we started attending this church, we were hooked. The pastor was a good teacher. He preached through certain books of the bible expository style. Just the way proper teaching of God’s word should be. In fact, when the pastor went overseas on mission trips he taught expository preaching techniques to foreign bible school students.

Over time this expository preaching style changed to more of a topical style. This main topic of preaching, of course, became a “Fulfill God’s Destiny For Your Life” subject nearly every Sunday for about 3 years. During that same time the pastor stopped Sunday schools, Sunday evening services, and Wednesday night Bible study. Outside of his Sunday morning preaching or his pre-taped DVD’s for home group use, there was no longer any group Bible teaching.

The youth group and children’s ministries had turned into nothing more than games and candy giveaways. There was absolutely no biblical messages at all. It was this more than anything that caused my wife and I to know it was time to go. My kids weren’t getting fed at all.

Before I made the decision to leave, I had a meeting with the pastor. Keep in mind we were personal friends. We had done much outside church with each other. We had gone on a mission trip together to the Republic of Georgia south of Russia. We homeschooled our kids together.

First off I asked the pastor if we were ever going to return to Sunday school or Wednesday Bible study or any other form of systematic Bible study. He informed me that was so “old fashioned” and now days people weren’t making decisions for Christ that way. It was through relationships that people made decisions for Christ and we were going to head in a more “serving the community” direction instead of studying the Bible.

Never before had we ever had cross words. At all. But after about a 45 minute monologue of his vision for the church I was asked to leave. Just like that. It hit me like a ton of bricks. In fact it didn’t really register until I got home exactly what he had told me.

Over time there have many good solid families that have had similar discussions with the pastor. All personal friends of the pastor and all have been asked to leave. The church has been emptied of its leadership. I can only guess that’s the way he wanted it all along.

I give all of this previous story for this: on the Gospel Driven Church Blog I ran across this post here called 10 Simple Things Good Pastors Say describing what a good pastor is like. We’ve ran across a lot of pastors this past year. You can see the ones that like the spotlight. The ones that like to control the attention. They’re the ones that like to use stories and a lot of illustrations in their preaching. The good ones get right to the scriptures without a lot of flamboyant excess.

I’m beginning to wonder if we’ll ever find a place to settle. I don’t know. I do know one thing, however, I can’t take another narcissistic pastor who puts no preeminence on the systematic preaching through scripture. I guess that’s getting harder to find the closer we get to Jesus’ return. I guess it’ll only get worse.

Again, take a look at this article linked here. It’s pretty good.

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Where’s The Flashlight?

for we walk by faith, not by sight. (2 Cor 5:7, ESV)

as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Cor  4:18, ESV)

I remember taking a trip to the Black Canyon outside Montrose, Colorado one summer about 12 years ago.

There was one point where you stand out over a ledge (with railing, of course) and look down and across the expanse of the canyon. I remember that the canyon was so deep and the walls of the canyon so tall and flat that my brain couldn’t register just how large it was. Over and over I tried to get an estimate of just how vast the canyon before me really was, but it just wouldn’t compute.

I looked down at the Gunnison River in the bottom. I tried to get a size comparison by looking at a pinyon pine growing out of a crack in the side of the rock walls, but I still couldn’t register how large it really was.  Oh, sure there was the sign telling me how deep it was. It even had a little graphic showing just how tall one of the famous skyscrapers were in comparison the canyon’s depth, but still nothing.

In other words, I had all of the information I needed for it to register in my brain just how magnificent the canyon was I was looking at. I had a vast amount of knowledge relating to the size of the canyon. I also believed and trusted the information wholeheartedly. Yet I still couldn’t make it work out in my head.

To this day it’s one of the weirdest feelings I’ve ever had….Staring across that canyon, at its enormity. Seeing it with my very own eyes, yet unable to understand.

There are some things that I know to be true about God. His love. His grace. His forgiveness. His patience. I know these things to be true. I experience them daily. Yet like my trip to the Black Canyon that summer, I can’t make them compute in my brain.

Just like that wall of the canyon that seemed so close I could almost reach out and touch it, yet was so vast in size and so far away that I couldn’t understand it, I guess that’s how I feel with God right now.

I’ve heard all of the cliché’s about how God works in us. How He breaks us so He can build us into the people He wants us to be. Frankly, I can’t hear another slogan right now. No matter how well-meaning it might be.

Our church search has hit a snag.

It’s been one year now that we’ve been searching. We’ve exhausted every possibility, yet still nothing. I know to pray without ceasing. I know not to give up. But one year is beginning to take its toll on my hope.

Looking back, there is little doubt that we were to leave our old church. It had simply gone too far off the deep end. There was no longer any teaching from the Bible at all. All of the messages were straight out of secular leadership books, melded with enough scripture to make them appear biblical.

I knew it would be difficult when we left. Yet somehow I was totally unprepared for what my family and I would experience. I know God never leaves us or forsakes us, even when we are dummies. I know that even when we’re “prodigal sons” He welcomes us back when we repent and run to Him. I know  sometimes in His unknown purposes, He’s honing us on the rocks of adversity.

These things I “know”, Yet here we are. Looking at the canyon unable to make sense of it all. Unable, at times, to even comprehend what it is we’re even looking at.

I guess that’s where the scriptures at the beginning of this post come in. Sometimes, I guess, believing isn’t seeing.

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