Sunday, May 19, 2019

 
Being  CHURCHY smothers friendship, does not promote love, and hinders the work of the Gospel.
   That is why we must make every effort not to be "Churchy" Christians.
   When we are, we hurt people.
   We drive people away.
   And sometimes, we drive them away from more than just ourselves or our church fellowships....
   
CHURCHY Christianity, produces a paradigm I call "Churchianity."
   
What does CHURCHIANITY look like? I'll share a  personal experience as an example.
   I had plans one evening to attend a regularly scheduled Bible Study at a local assembly I love to visit several times a year. The pastors and I have known and respected one another for many years. And, because the pastors of this church are much more than acquaintances to me, I call them friends. But I am forced to use the term loosely, because the reality is, they fall shy of being true friends. 
   The reason is CHURCHIANITY. 
   I can love them and support them [and their ministry] in many ways, but cannot include them in my inner circle of friends and confidants, because I fully appreciate their limitations in relating to people in the capacity of equality and friendship--which requires transparent honesty [while maintaining healthy boundaries], and genuine respect.
   These are good people. They are not dysfunctional in the traditional sense--they are truly lovely in most respects. But they are dysfunctional in the religious sense.
   You see, the shield of their "pastorship" stands on full alert against the equality and intimacy that true friendship demands. 
   Do not misunderstand. I do not encourage disrespect of callings and positions of leadership, we should love and honor leaders who exhibit good examples of Christian living. And even CHURCHY Christians generally have many admirable traits which unfortunately are often diluted due to churchiness. What I am addressing in this post, is hiding behind titles, positions,  religiousity, and CHURCHIANITY, things which have a track-record of taking priority over relationships
   I have observed that many [well-intentioned and basically good-hearted] Christians seem to be unable to lower the shields of their "position" or CHURCHINESS...ever. 
   And it does damage in the lives of God's people.
  Sadly, most seminaries teach future pastors and Christian leaders, that the attitude of the couple in my story is the correct posture for pastors and their wives to take--but I disagree with that position. 
   The family relationship that connects every member of the Body of Christ  cannot flourish in a hierarchical, military-like, chain-of-command, structure that overwhelmingly produces CHURCHY and JUDGEMENTAL Christians, who fail to relate fully with those who may need their love and friendship but are instead rebuked, even rejected, when they make choices that may not be wrong at all but fall outside the paradigm of CHURCHIANITY.
   While appreciating this couple's many gifts and strengths, along with their sincere passion for the Gospel, I understand that they embrace the paradigm of hierarchical Christianity which includes filters that cloud discernment and prevents true empathy and bonding in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.
   Back to my story:
   Since I had communicated with the pastor's wife about my plans to attend that evening, they were expecting to see me, so I felt it only right to let her know I would not be coming.
   The reason? Earlier that afternoon, I had learned that a dear friend [of almost twenty years] had passed away. This person had been a beloved friend, a part of the landscape of my life for twenty years. And now that landscape had been unexpectedly and dramatically changed...and I was heartbroken at the look of it, at the loss of a friend, ally, and mentor.
   Since I was expected to be at the Bible study that evening (I was not teaching it), I texted the pastor's wife and told her that I would not be there and briefly explained that a dear friend had died, I had been very weepy all afternoon, and simply was not up to interacting with people or going anywhere, not even to church.
   The well-meant but "CHURCHY" response I received to that text,  flabbergasted me. 
   And to be honest, it totally ticked me off. 
   I had obviously shared my sad news with the wrong person, but more importantly (I'm sharing this the way it went down--the way I felt at the time), I felt I had shared it on the wrong day.
   In her texted response, I was told they were sorry for my loss (so far so good), then I was rebuked for skipping church and condescendingly assured that they would pray for my "strength."
   Wow. How does being rebuked for not attending someone's 501c3 group meeting that night translate into love one another, bear one another's burdens, and weep with those who weep?
   What would have been wrong with saying, "We're so sorry to hear. We love you and understand. Would you like some company later? We can stop by for a bit after church?" 

   I certainly would  have appreciated their understanding and their offer, though I likely would have declined as I really did want to be alone that evening.
   What I did not understand and did not appreciate, was being told that church was the "best place to be" that night [despite my wishes to the contrary] but they would "pray" for my "strength."
   THIS, is an example of what CHURCHIANITY looks like and what to do if being a CHURCHY Christian is your goal.
   Please understand, that I never, EVER, turn down prayer. I appreciate and solicit all prayers on my behalf. And I generally believe gathering together with other believers is [or should be] one of the greatest places on earth to be. But I'm old enough to remember the days when people who called themselves your friends CAME TO YOU in times of sorrow and loss, instead of expecting you to come to them. And they certainly did not rebuke you for preferring to be in your own home during an evening of private grief because your news had the bad taste of inconveniently arriving on a day their 501c3 organization was holding a regularly scheduled meeting.

   I thank God for local churches, but almost all local fellowships are 501c3 organizations where the ekklesia meets. It is the Christians themselves (not the 501c3 faith-based non-profit organization) who are the CHURCH--the ekklesia.
   Sadness over the loss of a friend does not generally make one weak
   I did not feel I needed strength that day--only the time and space to grieve the loss of my friend. At the time, I felt the statement about praying for my "strength" was more connected to my choice to stay home from church rather than the fact that I had lost a dear friend. I felt that my choice to spend the evening at home in private grief rather than come to church was viewed as weakness. I still feel that way.
   But I felt my grief was normal, appropriate, and even healthy. What was wrong with wanting to mourn my friend's passing in the solitude and privacy of my own home instead of at a public church meeting?
   Right or wrong, I felt both remarks [praying for my strength and the rebuke for not coming to church that night], were condescending, "CHURCHY," and lacked empathy. And in the emotional weepy state I was, it impacted me in a much more dramatic and painful way than it would have had my sorrow not been freely flowing from my eyes and down my cheeks all that afternoon.
   Being sorrowful because someone we love has died, is not a "weakness." It is completely natural. What I would have loved and appreciated, would have been a positive message that my sadness was understood and that I had friends who  loved me without placing inappropriate "church guilt" on me for not attending their meeting simply because someone had died.
   I realized that I was emotional and worried that I might have been over-reacting to what I felt was a CHURCHY response. I knew this Christian did not intend her message to hurt. But her religious response, containing a thinly-veiled criticism and condemnation had injected a sense of injustice and even anger into my grief that did not belong there. I did not feel that I was doing anything wrong, but they obviously did, and now I had to deal with that judgement on top of everything else (and I wasn't dealing with it too well at the time, I didn't think). 
   I did not feel I was being a bad Christian, but they obviously did. I did not feel I owed anyone any explanation at all as to why I did not attend their meeting that night--except as a courtesy, because I had made special plans to be there, and had told them to expect me.
   I was offended. I admit it.
  I discerned the rebuke and condescension and felt they were passive-aggressive "CHURCHY" remarks, intended to set me straight in a way that would hopefully not make the person making the remarks appear or sound uncaring.
   But that's exactly the way they looked and sounded to me.    
   Now, I know that the person who made these remarks generally means well and probably spoke without thinking how her remarks might sound or how they might be taken by someone who had just admitted to her that they were in an emotional "weepy" state. But "CHURCHY" attitudes [from this person] had come out more than once over the years. We have communicated together about this "issue," but to no avail as of the time of this writing. Everything is swept under the rug and remains unresolved. 
   How much of this can any relationship bear?
   I write this, in hopes that light can be shed on the the problem of "CHURCHY CHURCHIANITY." It is widespread. This is not the only example I can give--and have heard from others whose experiences are even worse. My hope and prayer is that God's people will see CHURCHIANITY for the shallow and hurtful, lose-lose, fraud, that it is... and change it. 
   Yes, this interaction affected me in a personal and hurtful way. Did it cause me to write them off and vow never to visit their church again? No. I have fellowshipped with them many times since. Did it cause me to question and doubt their good intentions and faith? No. We are all works in progress. Did it cause me to question God's love for me? Of course not. 
   But I have spoken with many people who testify that has not been the case for them.  
   CHURCHY Christians do not intend to drive people away from fellowship with other Christians or even away from God, but they sometimes do!
   Loving one another other is not rocket science, and religiousity has no place in relationships.
   People of God, it is time to throw out CHURCHIANITY. It is time to repent of the times we may have been "CHURCHY" Christians ourselves [if we are truthful, we can admit that, at some point, we all have been], but through the help of the Word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit we can be convicted of hurtful behaviors and attitudes...and change them when they appear in our own lives. We can stop churchianity in its tracks.

Have you experienced hurtful and disappointing CHURCHY CHURCHIANITY? How did it affect you? How did you deal with it? Share your experience in the comment section below.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Who is Greatest in the Kingdom?

Perspective
Jesus had 12 disciples who had grandiose plans for themselves, and they were not at all bashful about pursuing them. But, Jesus put them all in their places when they approached him wanting to know who was the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven (I imagine they were hoping he would say--"why you twelve of course!").
   
 His answer was direct and to the point.
   
He called a trusting little child to him, sat the child down in the midst of his disciples, and said, "if you want to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, you must become as this little child.
   
Well, that should have set all priorities straight immediately. Here the disciples filled with their own self importance because of their intimacy with The Messiah, were told to stop worrying about who would be greatest in the Kingdom and get focused on simply making it into the Kingdom.
   
Here we see those closest to Jesus being told, point blank, that they needed to be converted. How many of us need to be converted?  
How many of us need to become as little children?
  
How many of us have grandiose plans that need to be trashed?

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Under His Wings

Contributed by Author Diane Yates
“Death, the great equalizer, takes us regardless of wealth, fame, or zip code.” --Johnnie Bernhard, How We Came to Be.

   When we’re young, we believe we’re in control. We’re fearless and believe we can do great things. We make plans, advance our careers, but truth is, we didn’t birth ourselves and we’re not in control of how or when we die. 
   My niece recently found Jesus. To her, the Savior had been missing, but ever since her soul rested in Him, she would go to bed at night, roll over on her side and feel Him cover her with a wing of comfort and care.
  Last night, she went to bed and awaited the morning return of her love who’d made a night run from Arizona to California in his big-rig. She nestled into a deep peaceful sleep, and in her dreams, a pounding persisted, fists hitting glass; the glass of the window pane in her room. 
   In a fog, she rose to her feet. Placing one foot in front of the other, she shuffled into the living room. Red and blue lights flashed through the curtains. Dazed and with eyes half-closed, she cracked the door. There on the steps a highway patrolman; behind him, her beloved’s boss. Didn’t they know it was the middle of the night? 
   As the patrolman spoke, her eyes opened wide. Pain like a sword pierced her heart and her legs gave way.
   We have no control over when we draw our last breath. 
   When I was eleven, a friend of mine lost her mother, two sisters, and a brother when their car stalled on the railroad tracks as the train barreled toward them. “That Sunday morning, Amy’s family didn’t know their lives would soon be over. I realized you didn’t have to be old to die. You could be sixteen or twelve or even five.” --Diane Yates, All That Matters
   The only thing we have complete control of is a decision. Just as Jesus asked Peter, “who do you say I am?” Jesus asks us the same question. Who have you decided Jesus is? He said, “No man comes to the Father except by me.” 
   So, take control, and answer that question wisely.
   Psalm 91:4, He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.


For more information about author and speaker, Diane Yates, visit her website at DianeYates.com. She is author of, Pathways of the Heart, and, All that Matters.

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Margaret Fell: A Woman with an "Agenda"


 In honor of Women's History Month, The following is an excerpt from my book, Woman this is WAR! Gender, Slavery and the Evangelical Caste System:

Margaret Fell
Margaret Fell lived in the Seventeenth Century, and is credited with being the first feminist. Her cause? The right of women to preach the Gospel.

Co-founder of the Society of Friends, the Quakers, and called the Mother of Quakerism [1] Fell is credited with being the first woman to publicly advocate for the right of women to participate in the public arena and to be involved in the leadership of the church. 

In 1666, she became the first woman to publish a fully developed treatise on the right of women to speak publicly.[2] Her argument was compelling and based entirely on scripture. There is no record that, during the course of pursuing her “agenda” of helping to establish the Society of Friends, and the equal rights for women promoted within that society, that Fell ever abandoned her faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, or forsook her family to embrace an immoral lifestyle. Fell’s husband, Judge Thomas Fell, trusted her entirely with the running of their estate while he traveled extensively in the course of carrying out his duties. 

The Society of Friends acknowledged the practical equality of all people from their inception. Although it took them a while to learn how to implement the concept, they did finally succeed, and as a result, many “Friends,” both men and women, became involved in the early movements for women’s rights.

The first national Woman’s Rights Conference was organized primarily by women who had already gained experience in public speaking, administration, and organizational skills through their activities in Quaker meetings. As the first woman to speak publicly in the United States was not permitted to do so until 1836, the providence of God is evident in preparing Quaker women for public speaking and in providing them with opportunities to gain the organizational experience needed for furthering the causes of abolition and women’s rights. 

 The first American “Woman’s Rights” Conference held at Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848, was a largely Christian event. It was held at a Methodist Church. Most of the organizers were Quakers, and the majority of attendees were professing Christians.
Margaret Fell advocated not only for freedom of conscience in worship and religious matters, for which she was imprisoned on more than one occasion, but also for the right of women to preach the gospel, teach the Bible, and participate in the affairs of the church on an equal basis with men. No one who reads her writings can doubt her high esteem for God and his Word, the Bible.
Jesus said, “Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” What are the fruits of Margaret Fell’s labors? Following Fell’s example in the seventeenth century, history records that in the centuries to come, the voices of “Friends” are heard speaking out against societal injustice and were instrumental in effecting many changes that to this day benefit children, women, and men.

According to Angelina Grimke, an abolitionist and member of The Society of Friends herself, the very first Quaker voice raised against slavery was the voice of an American woman who lived during the 1700’s. Because of her outspoken stance against slavery--before it was acceptable or popular to do so--that courageous woman was excommunicated from her Quaker fellowship, but stood her ground until her death.[3] She made such an impact, that after her death, the Quakers never excommunicated another Friend for speaking out against slavery... but rather for owning slaves.

Such is the legacy of Godly women who dared to stand against false religious tradition and corrupt public opinion.


[1] The Society of Friends is known more commonly as the Quakers
[2] Women's Speaking Justified, Proved and Allowed of by the Scriptures, All Such as Speak by the Spirit and Power of the Lord Jesus And How Women Were the First That Preached the Tidings of the Resurrection of Jesus, and Were Sent by Christ's Own Command Before He Ascended to the Father (John 20:17), by Margaret Fell, 1666
[3] “They know that the first Quaker who bore a faithful testimony against the sin of slavery was cut off from religious fellowship with that society. That Quaker was a woman.” Angelina Emily Grimke, An Appeal to the Christian Women of the South, 1836



  ... ......   This book traces history of women’s rights, much further back than usual, to the very first feminists…who were Christians—godly women, who brought the issue of women's rights to the forefront as they struggled to alleviate the suffering of others, and found they were hindered in doing so for no other reason than the fact of their sex. This work provides valuable historical insight into Christian initiatives in the movements for women’s rights, that are rarely included in Christian literature.