If you have been trying to track my posts, I must admit that I am having problems and my "editor" is doing her best to keep up with me. Maybe - just maybe, it would help you to look at the column in the right side of the blog where the titles are posted. And if you are still confused, you can always send me an e-mail to - email@example.com
Now to my thoughts regarding the church. I have attempted to give you some background on my experiences, so let's get you up-to-date.
I am currently attending two churches; I 'belong" to one as a member. The other is in my neighborhood and since my regular church does not have Wednesday night services, I enjoy being with other friends and close neighbors. I'll get to doctrine in a minute.
As you have heard I was raised in the Methodist faith and after reading a history of its founding in England and its role in establishing Christianity on our own shore,s I was convinced that I wanted to join them in their efforts to perpetuate the faith. Alas, in my opinion, they have strayed far away from the vigor and foresight of the Wesley's and the others. Looking back on my own journey, I suppose I was content with the various churches we visited and attended as my work efforts moved us from place to place. When I moved to Tulsa and was so warmly embraced by the congregation, I was in for a shock when I realized they were serious about their efforts to teach members to "speak in tongues". I would soon realize the influence of the Roberts family. Of course, they were Pentecostals and I had no problem with that except that I could not find anything in my Bible that taught that we must all speak in an unknown language. I resisted their efforts.
My problem was that many of my good church friends suggested that I was not serious about following Christ if I continued to resist. Then, one evening as two friends and I gathered to talk about a forthcoming Bible lesson, a dispute arose and to my surprise, my friends were adamant in their opposition to my thoughts. I suggested that we pray about the issue and as I was listening to theirs, I was shocked to realize I was hearing strange sounds attempting to come out of me. I let them go and then I was amazed to see the others beginning to weep. It remains to this day as one of my most inspired moments.
Did it prove anything? Not anything that I can or have recalled. Did I question the motives of my two friends? I did not, nor would I as I believe we all have spiritual eyes and ears, but there is nothing to say that we must employ them. It is not a physical matter, it is spiritual.
Most of us have eyes to see needs that we could address, but then we have feet to move us in that direction. Perhaps there is no coordination between them. It might be the fear of doing something we do not fully understand, but again it might be that we have tried - and failed, to act in similar situations. We are not robots although I often get the impression that there are leaders who treat their congregations as though they were.
Far away from the church to which we belonged at the time, my grand father taught me that -"God moves in my mysterious ways, His wonders to perform..." and I have held that close to my heart over the years, while observing that typically, God moves to inspire others to do what needs to be done.
That is where I tend to leave the church. The Bible teaches that "...all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." So, the church is the place for sinners as it is the place where most of us seek to find redemption. But the tendency I have known since childhood is that we - who attend church, are good - the redeemed, whereas the rest of the world is made up of sinners. That is wrong. The Bible teaches that we are all - sinners.
The problem arises when we have so many branches of Christianity. We begin to perfect the childhood game, "My dad is bigger than your Dad." We want to say, "My church is better than your church." As I write, here in our community, we have representatives of various churches writing articles suggesting that one church is better than the other churches. Or they suggest "My interpretation of the scriptures is better that yours."
I was intrigued to read a recent book entitled "Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth." written by Reza Aslan, internationly acclaimed as a writer and scholar of religion who was born in Iran. It is a fascinating read by a writer to traces the footsteps of Jesus from His birth to His resurrection. I was intrigued by his revelation of the numbers of itinerant preachers in those days. We know about Jesus from a variety of sources, but He is only one regarded as actually knowing the Father, the One we call our God.
Over Easter weekend I was reminded that fifty years ago, Cookeville had twenty churches and now we have a hundred. Would someone care to guess how many there will be, fifty years from today? Better yet, how many will dare to declare the truth?
Many years ago, I was in Charleston, SC, helping a Mission and when the manager left for a vacation, I took over the operation and the preaching. There was an increase in attendance at our Wednesday evening services and when the manager returned, one of the regulars suggested I take up "street" preaching and so I did. I started on Saturday nights and when some in my "congregation" suggested other nights, so they could bring friends, I responded and was holding "services" on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday evenings until the Police asked me to either stop or I would be going to jail for creating a public nuisance. I had to make a court appearance. The Judge asked me a few questions and then offered his opinion that the church he attended was the only "authorized" church and the rest of us were little more than vagrants. I was pleased that he dismissed me.
But then, I attended his church and I could see why the Judge believed as he did. That was my first ever experience and was saddened by the tone of the sermon. I noticed that no one greeted me as I entered and they stepped out of my way as I left,. The experience reminded me of the TV station in Atlanta - WSB, "Welcome South Brother".