Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Going Extreme

This is an account of my efforts to put into action what I learn while reading the Bible, an account of my journey to become closer to God.

Now and then I receive a comment pertaining to a post I’ve made on this blog. The following comment came in response to what I wrote on November 4th:

“When I first came to Marietta in 1994, I sought a church with a rep for single activities. I wound up at a contemporary church and eventually went with the Sunday school class to a few Buckhead bars on Friday nights. I kept thinking ‘this ain’t right’ because some of the members would get hammered...I mean hammered. I like the tolerance of the new church…so to speak...but somewhere inside do you feel we've fashioned church around our lifestyles? I think extremism on either side is wrong, like the tee totaling preacher that would holler at you for an hour and then go outside and talk down about minorities. What do you think?”

I’ve thought about this a good bit. Now as I’ve said before, I’m no theologian, just a redneck with a Bible and a heart for honoring the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And to be clear, I’m not angry about or offended by the comment above, so don’t mistake my response for a fight. I’m just electing to give a lengthy answer. If you aren’t put off by what I’m about to say, praise the Lord, and if you are, chalk it up to my blissful ignorance and then please pray for me.

Yes, we, some of us at least and to one extent or another, have fashioned the church around our lifestyles. My church homes during the last ten years have been filled with a congregation wearing jeans and flip-flops. Worship music was delivered via a rock band rather than an organ and choir, we’ve had ballerinas and stomp dancers on stage (oh, and yes, we have a stage, not a podium), we’ve used black lights, spot lights, fog machines, big screens, stage props, movie and sitcom clips, visual artists, nerf balls, bad jokes, sports analogies and more to get a point across in a fresh and interesting way. Heck, once the preacher drove a Harley onto the stage. We even have a climbing wall, pool tables, basketball hoops, video games and a coffee bar in our indoor youth program, and a pool, ropes course and zip-line for their outdoor use.

So yes indeed, we’ve fashioned the church around our lifestyles. And as a result, we have three services each weekend to accommodate the swelling crowd (4000+ members and growing). Our teens hang out at church on Sunday and Friday nights! Hundreds of men attend discipleship groups on Monday nights (including me and the others who discussed Heaven while sitting in a bar a week ago), and over 200 volunteer ministries operate under our umbrella.

And we have baptisms, we plant churches, we serve our community, and we have communion every week. We offer a career support group for the unemployed, a divorce support group, a recovery support group, a counseling service, a youth mentoring program, an adoption assistance program and so much more, whether or not you are a member of our church.

So no, we don’t look at all like a traditional church, certainly not like the conservative ones I attended when I was a teen. Some might say we are extreme on the progressive side of the continuum. But I have to ask, when God looks down and sees that his house is full and his people are engaging the surrounding community, do you think he really cares what we’re wearing?

And yes, we have drunks, addicts, unfaithful spouses, self-righteous folk, liars, thieves, politicians – oh my, SINNERS - in our church, but where would you’d rather they be?

And yes, sometimes our meetings spill into the surrounding environs, including the bar down the street. But then Jesus hung out with the money changers, prostitutes and thieves, for he knew that those who needed him most were the lost, and through his mercy and grace, even the most broken could, and still can, become saved people, signaling to all that indeed everyone can inherit the great promise if only we’d follow Him.

So that’s my long and enthusiastic answer to a really good question, and thanks for asking!

Well, I guess that’s enough for today. Thanks so much for visiting my blog, and please pray for me and my family. Now go out and hug somebody!

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