God

Let’s face it. Finding a church can be as awkward as a blind date. You don’t know what you’re stepping into. You want to be a part of something bigger than yourself, but you don’t want to end up with a bunch of crazy people in some strange place with the exit doors blocked off.

To help you in your quest to find a church to belong to, here are five questions to help you navigate the awkwardness.

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Photo courtesy: Kevin Dooley

1. Do I agree with their core beliefs?

To make sure you don’t end up in a cult, you need to know what the church believes in. For me, as a Christian, I would start by visiting their website and reading their statement of faith.

As I read through it, I would ask myself the following questions:

  • Do they believe in the Trinity (Father, Son, & Spirit)?
  • Do they hold the scriptures in highest regard?
  • Do they believe in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus?
  • Do they believe in salvation by grace through faith in Christ?
  • Are they ultimately about loving God and others?

These are essentials that all Christian churches share despite their denomination, affiliation, or style.

If they do believe in the essentials, move on to question 2.

If not, keep looking.

2. Can I get behind their mission and leadership?

Can you visit a church gathering or website and clearly know why they exist? It’s important because you want to know what you’re jumping into. If they don’t have a purpose, proceed with caution. A church without a mission is like a person without air. A church that’s fully alive and on mission will often be strong in word and deed. They are sharing the good news of the gospel while also meeting tangible needs in the community and beyond.

If you do know their mission, can you go along with it, get behind it, and support it? Do you respect the leadership of the church? Do you want your name to be associate with them?

If so, move on to question 3.

If you can’t, and you’re a believer, why?
If it’s because their mission is off-track or leadership is suspect, keep looking.
If it’s because you’re a know-it-all who is never satisfied, get over yourself. :)

3. Are outsiders welcomed here?

When it comes to style and preferences, everything is subjective. The fact is, it takes all kinds of churches to reach all kinds of people. Mega-churches, house churches, traditional churches, contemporary churches, organic churches, contemplative churches, creative churches, and so on.

Regardless, could you invite someone who was exploring their faith to a gathering of this church and not creep them out? Would they be accepted and feel welcomed?

If so, please advance to question 4.

If not, consider moving on from this church. The stakes are too high, and those you know and love matter too much, to be involved with an insiders club.

4. Can me and my family connect with this community?

If you have a family, you must keep them in mind when considering churches. If you’re married, I urge you to listen to your spouse’s intuition. If this church isn’t a community she can connect with, it will be difficult for you to connect with.  As a parent, you would also want to know if there’s a vibrant and engaging children’s ministry for your kids to belong to. If you’re single, hopefully this is a community you can feel comfortable in as well.

Is there are strong sense of community here? Is there the potential for you, and your family, to have meaningful relationships with the people here?

If so, go to question 5.

If not, continue looking. A church should be a place where strangers become friends, and friends become family. Don’t settle for less.

5. Do they have grace on tap?

God loves us just as we are and not as we should be. God also loves us enough not to leave us there. Likewise, a gospel-driven church has grace on tap. At the same time, honesty and authenticity are a crucial element of the gospel. When we can admit that none of us are perfect, we can better see the One who is. When we can concede that we are not as we should be, we can grow to become who we are meant to be.

Is this church real, plastic, or something else? Chances are, if you’ve gotten this far, this is a solid church. Hopefully, they can point to God’s grace, smile, and call it amazing. Because it is.

No church is perfect though. If a church is missing something, you may be the one to fill the need. You may be the answer to a prayer. God may have brought you there for a reason.

It’s important to remember that as Christians, we aren’t shopping for a product or service, we are searching for a people to belong to. A people who are on a mission to be good news, and bring good news, in a world of bad news. All because of what the Good Lord did for us.

What things would you say folks should explore before joining a church community?

 

 

 

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“My arms are too short to box with God.” – Johnny Cash

You can find more manly motivation here.

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“Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.” {Isaiah 1:17} 

GoodSirs takes its cue from heroic verses like this. Look at the truth it’s dropping and tell me this is not the stuff of heroes?  It describes someone…

  • Who does what’s right.
  • Who seeks justice (evildoers beware).
  • Who defends those who can’t defend themselves.
  • Who takes up a cause that matters.
  • Who speaks up for those who don’t have a voice.

That fires me up! It reminds me not only why GoodSirs exists, but why all of us exist.

We are all designed to be heroes. And if you’re a person of faith, this should add fuel to what you believe. And what you believe should drive how you live.

Notice the verse’s use of action verbs (Learn, Do, Seek, Defend, Take, Plead). It doesn’t allow its reader to take a passive stance, it challenges us to play offense. To pick up our fists and fight for something that matters! It doesn’t allow a doctors note or any other excuses, it demands nothing less than action.

I love how it begins with learning to do right, because it speaks to what kind of person we are. It starts with us and what we’re made of on the inside. What you made of? What’s in your heart? Why are you here? Who you are will determine how you live.

From there, it requires us to know what is right so that we can seek justice (make things right). This calls us to know why we believe what we believe. This is soul work because that sense of right and wrong comes from somewhere. Is it from God, is it instilled in us, is it both?  It forces you to look at hard questions like: How come torturing and killing a little girl is wrong in all cultures in all times?  When you’ve arrived at the place where you see that there’s something (Someone) bigger than us at play, you will live for something bigger.

When you’re living out this verse, you quickly realize it’s not about you. It’s about how you can serve others. You see that the strong have a moral obligation to stand on behalf of the weak, especially those who are being pushed down and trampled on. When I see folks crusade against bullying, human trafficking, poverty, fatherlessness, and more, I see a divine spark. I see a hero.

To take up the cause of the fatherless is to find a wound in this world and to put a bandage on it. I take this one to heart because GoodSirs is taking up the cause of the fatherless. We’re fighting for fathers to be there in full and not retreat, because fatherlessness is epidemic in our country. 1 in 3 children are growing up without their dad around. Which also means1 in 3 dads are missing out on the joy of raising their kids. That’s a story that must change. Do your part to bring healing, joy, relief, and a remedy to issues in this world. There are millions of causes to take up.

Pleading the case for the widow is to speak for those who don’t have a voice. In a patriarchal society, widows were often left without ample provision and without a say. If they were fortunate, someone (often a family member) would look after them and any children they had. Today, there are many without a voice. Who will make sure they aren’t forgotten, neglected, or ignored?  Who will speak up for them?  We don’t have the option to look around, we have orders to look at ourselves. It’s on us.

YOU WANT TO BE A HERO? TAKE THIS VERSE TO HEART AND LIVE IT OUT.


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There are moments when I struggle with doubt.

When I hear of a little girl being raped and sold into the sex slave, I question. When an African-American man is tied to a pick-up and dragged on the ground just because of his skin color, I’m puzzled. When a loved one gets a disease that slowly takes her life away, I wonder.

I use to feel really guilty about it. Like the kind of guilt you’d feel if pushed down a one-year-old and stole her blanky. But I’m learning that it’s healthy for Christians to ask questions in order to strengthen their faith. Doubt is not the antonym of faith; unbelief is. As author Os Guinness explains,

“the person who knows why he believes is also in a position to discover why he doubts. The Christian should be such a person. Not only does a Christian believe, he is a person who ‘thinks in believing and believes in thinking,’ as Augustine expressed it. The world of Christian faith is not a fairy-tale, make-believe world, question-free and problem-proof, but a world where doubt is never far from faith’s shoulder.”

To believe in God is to believe in mystery. He exists outside of time, we live within it. He is everywhere, we are here. This is what’s so frustrating to us human beings. Sure, mysteries make for intriguing tales, but we often operate on the assumption that if we can’t comprehend it, it must not be real. This is silly of course. If the criteria for what’s actual or fictional is our own understanding, then we’re in serious trouble. We are unreliable and prone to make mistakes. I can’t even figure out my wife, how then can I be the standard by which all truth is measured?

Just because we don’t believe in something, doesn’t mean it’s not true. As Evelyn Underhill wrote, “If God were small enough to be understood, He would not be big enough to be worshiped.”

I certainly don’t have it all figured out, none of us do, but that doesn’t mean we stop pursuing answers. Still, sometimes the most freeing words in the world are, “I don’t know.” A phrase I’m learning to use more and more.

 

 

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