The Glorious Church


One of our home-group members sent this to me ... what are your thoughts?

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Hi Donnie,
I read this and just thought I would run it by you…

The American church, generally speaking, possesses very little openness, honesty, and realism. All across America people enter the doors of their church behind a smiling mask and locked-up heart. They sit front-to-back. Allowed by American tradition to be only spectators, they listen to one-man sermons, and then they go home. Very seldom, if ever, do they touch hearts with one another in a below-the-surface, meaningful, serious, edifying, and productive manner.

On any given Sunday, when millions of believers meet throughout this country, there is a very large percentage of those people who are struggling so intensely in their lives that they feel as if they're dying on the inside. They're struggling with their marriages, they're struggling with faith, they're struggling with addictions, they're struggling with unhealthy fears--the list goes on and on. These people look around in church, see everybody else smiling, and conclude that everybody else is healthy--emotionally, socially, and spiritually.

And because there is virtually no forum or atmosphere for openness and honesty, nearly all of these hurting people, like individual islands detached from the rest of the body of Christ, sit in their pews month after month and struggle alone and in secret until they become so pained, disillusioned, depressed, and hopeless that they break. At that point many leave the church.

I'm not advocating that people come together and always share with one another the intimate details of their struggles. Sometimes that would be acceptable, but at other times, of course, it would not be wise. Sometimes, just to stand up and be able to say "I'm hurting... I feel like I'm going under", and to know that in your weakness you'll be accepted, loved, and rallied around, is enough.

Unfortunately, this type of realistic sharing is unknown in most of our American churches, and I believe there are 2 primary reasons for this.

1. Pastors do not breed honesty. as much or more so than anybody else, they hide behind their smiling masks , trying to always project an image of invincibility and impregnability, trying to play the role of perpetual conqueror and victor. They’ve been trained to do that. Bible colleges and seminaries teach them to keep a distance from their flock, to not let anyone get close enough to see their humanness, lest their people lose respect for them. Society compounds that directive by putting these men high on a pedestal and refusing to let them be human. The expectations and pressures placed on them by the general public drive them to hide their weaknesses. But truth is everyone in ministry struggles in life just like every other believer. If ministers will start taking off their masks.... in a discretionary way...and being honest with people, then they will start breeding honesty.

2. Christian communities in America have become masters at condemning and abandoning those whose major weaknesses and struggles are revealed. Instead of creating an environment of honesty in which these people can find it easy to get help at the BEGINNING of their struggles, we force them to hide their weaknesses ---right up until the very moment they break or fall.

If we can turn the church into a place where hurting people can share their struggles while those struggles are still manageable. Then if we learn to rally around those hurting people with love, support, encouragement, prayers and heart-to-heart friendship and fight for them, not against them.
Bro. Donnie, do you know if this article was written about apostolic churhces or churches of all types? My gut feeling is that this description is true in a lot of churches, but I have no empirical evidence to support that. I wonder if anyone in the network has ever experienced what this article is describing?
Bro. Dave, I asked the sister in our home-group where she got the article. She said it was in a Christian fiction book, but she could not recall the title. She simply copied (typed) it from the book and sent it to me. The reason was because she said it was what I/we had been talking about and she found it rather odd and wanted me to see it.

As for others experiencing something similar, here's a response from another brother (who is a pastor) I sent it to:

Donnie, This is not only well written but absolutely correct. We are afraid to expose our weaknesses. How can we help those who are hurting if they feel isolated and sense that they are an esoteric few who face such problems?
That makes me very sad. We have attempted to create what we call a "culture of imperfection" at our assembly where people can feel that's it's okay to have problems. In fact, it's not only okay, it's the common lot of all mankind. I believe home groups are a real key to creating this kind of church culture. Frankly, in almost 29 years in the Apostolic Faith, I have never been in the kind of environment described in the article, for which I am quite thankful. I do, however, believe that it exists. God have mercy.
Brother, It is sad ... and I can tell you that at least some of this is true. I have read at least one apostolic publication (and may still have the book) that recommended, and practiced, that individuals in the “laity” call him pastor “so-and-so” to keep a certain distance and line of respect. There are some who believe that it is not wise to mingle among the sheep. Thankfully, I’ve had at least one to tell me that if you’re a shepherd, you’re gonna smell like sheep – which I believe is true.

Like you, I think home-groups are the best thing I know of so far. We started one right after the GC Conference last year in Sept. While I think all in the group love it, I’ve had one to tell me that if they had to choose between congregational meeting and home-group, the home-group is the way they would go. I’m thankful for your work, support and pioneering in this area.

I could make some other comments to support my opinion that the situation in the article may be fairly common – even among apostolic assemblies, but I’d rather see if, and how, others in the Network respond first.
Well stated, Brother Michael and I suspect others will join your "amen corner" as well. And ... it appears this fiction may be written around facts. I just received another bit of info about the book: it was written by man that was a missionary in Europe for over twenty years. Still don't have the name of the book ... yet.
O.K. I've got it now. The name of the book is Jordan's Crossing by Randall Arthur. As stated, he was a missionary in Europe for over twenty years.
Have finally gotten some more info on the book, here goes:

In the front of the book he says:
At age of 30 in midst of very fruitful ministry overseas, I lost my heart for everything that was good. I lost my heart for being a husband,father, missionary, and pastor. Over a 2 yr. period I made a complete swing from the legalistic right to the liberal left. I ceased to function with any "heart". I became a mere machine. I did not know who I was anymore or what I believed.

...I shut down emotionally for several years. During that time, I nearly ruined my marriage and my ministry. Only because of God's gracious intervention--through unexpected encounters, miracles, and conversations--did my life begin to turn around. Eventually, my marriage and ministry were salvaged. And so was my sanity.

Jordan's Crossing incorporated many of the feelings I experienced during those years of "faithlessness" when I swung to the far left and became extremely liberal in my philosophy and world view. The book was written to illustrate in a true-to-life drama just how destructive a life can become when one's perspective is totally skewed by liberal thinking. with no anchor. and no truth. (underline mine -DG)

...I hope this book will stir an unquenchable thirst in your soul for everything that is true and good; challenge you to forgive those who have hurt you; and inspire you to strengthen, nurture and love your family. (end quote)

So, we see he wrote, as Michael said, fiction built around real facts.

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