“How’s it going Brother?”
That question really began to grate on my nerves, but why you might ask. It seemed like a simple and generally curious question, so I’ll explain.
I grew up Godless. My parents never once took us to church. We weren’t even CEOs – you know; Christmas and Easter Only. So, when I left home for a college that happened to be located in the Bible belt, you can imagine the confusion when I realized not everyone drank, partied and fought like I did.
Had I gone to the wrong college? No, I was exactly where God needed me to be. He’d separated me from the chaos I’d only known and allowed me to experience quiet for the first time in my dysfunctional life.
It would still take a few years before I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior. By then, I’d existed in so much pain, that I needed a total, radical transformation. When I found Jesus, it was like lightning struck, and I wanted to know Him and everything about Him.
Big Box Stores
I went to a traditional denominational-focused church and like a sponge, I was eager to learn. After the first service I felt so uplifted and asked one of the highly religious men what was I supposed to do next. He looked down at me (not talking height) and said, “Come back next Sunday.” So I did.
The next Sunday I walked into church and was greeted by a hardy, “How’s it going Brother?” I muttered, “Fine,” and found a seat. Again, I asked what I was supposed to do to learn more about Christ. I was told, to come back next Sunday.
The problem was from the time I was told to come back the next Sunday until the next Sunday’s “How’s it going Brother?” greeting, I had to live my life in the same dark turmoil that first led me to seek a relationship with God. The irony was I was seeking a relationship with God in a place that shared no relationship with each other or me. Those who were most religious and self-important, congregated in cliques while the lost and broken stood just close enough to hear their condescending conversations.
It wasn’t too long before I didn’t come back the next Sunday or the Sunday after that. As a matter of fact, despite the deep, fire that raged in my awakened spirit to know Jesus Christ, I stayed out of church for a few years. There was no internet, and only a few TV preachers, so I relied on reading the Bible on my own and trying me best to figure out what it was I was reading.
Body of Christ
Eventually, I was led to a Bible-preaching, Holy Spirit filled church. It wasn’t a ritual-based institutionalized collection of programs and processes, but a sincere gathering of the faithful. The physical structure was simply a spot for the body of Christ to congregate for praise and worship. Fellowship, community groups and discipleship training decentralized emphasis on the building of church and empowered the members to be the church.
I’d say almost all churches in America treat people this way. I don’t think the majority of them do it on purpose or even realize they are doing it. It may be a holdover attitude of multigenerational family churches where the focus was on those who attended regularly, and visitors weren’t expected to join the weekly ranks.
There is little more that’s detrimental to the body of Christ than exclusionary elitism by the religious cliques. Back in the day, they were called Pharisees and Sadducees. It’s odd that the more things change, the more they remain the same. I’m not angry with the institutionalized big-box store churches, but I am praying that they come to understand that collecting butts in their auditorium seats isn’t the same as Jesus’ Great Commission:
The Great Commission
16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Matthew 28:16-20 (NIV)
Stay or Go?
Should you get connected with a church? YES. A very BIG YES. But, don’t go because it’s where the important people go, or your friends or for any other reason than that it is where God meets you in the congregation, the worship, the message, in the parking lot and every moment from the time you arrive and until you return. Wash. Rinse. Repeat! That’s when you know you’ve found your church home.
Well, as long as Jesus is sitting away from the temple and hanging out with the sinners, I’ll join Him. How about you?
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