Most people believe in God. In fact, 9 out of 10 Americans answer “yes” when asked the question, Do you believe in God?
Another study shows that less than 2 out of 10 people regularly attend church.
Somewhere there is a disconnect between believing in God and participating in a church. People are leaving the church. Many of these people feel like they need to recover from their experiences. Enter Recovering from Religion.
Recovering from Religion is a group of atheists who plan to start a 24 hour 1-800 hotline to counsel people struggling with religious doubts. It’s an opportunity for people questioning their faith to talk to someone.
The idea may be crazy genius. It certainly will provide someone to talk to in a faith crisis. But should the person that helps you in your faith struggle be devoid of faith themselves? I can at least tell you this; the receiver on the other end won’t be struggling in their faith. Perhaps in a weird way, that makes them qualified.
What do you think? If you struggled with your religious views would you be comfortable talking with your pastor about it? Do you have a friend strong enough in the faith to talk to? Or would calling a self described, trained atheist be an option?
I never really struggled with my belief in God. But sometimes it seems that religion challenges my relationship with Him. This may sound a little on the Mad side, but come Christmas, when I’m working on several services and dealing with religious business that oftentimes doesn’t have much to do with the birth of Jesus, I may just pick up the phone and dial. (Complaints and hate mail may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org)
Happy Monday. It's been a long weekend and I had hoped to put together one video for Friday and Saturday and then a final video for my final Sunday with Bethany. But with so much going on, here's most of my adventure from Friday. Saturday and Sunday are coming soon.
…whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” ~ Mark 10:43-45
In the town I grew up there was a Denny’s. Open 24 hours it served every walk of life. People ate breakfast and grabbed their coffees on weekday mornings before heading off to work. Teenagers hung out on weekend nights getting ice cream with their friends because they weren’t old enough to stay out past their curfews. After 2:00 am when the bars closed there was a whole new group of people who arrived. (I think this group might be why there are pictures of the food on the menus. They can just point at an item and say, “I want that.” Face it, it’s hard to say Moons Over My Hammy” when you’ve had too much to drink.) I was a part of the crowd that showed up on Saturday mornings before soccer games. Denny’s is for everyone. It’s a church of fellowship of sorts.
I know a lot of people who treat their church like Denny’s. They always expect the church to be open when they arrive. They sit at their “table.” They may even have a waiter, aka usher, bring them to their seats. They see their friends and talk about the week in between Sundays. Everyone has a good time and everyone enjoys the fellowship. After a cup of coffee, they go home with the expectation of repeating the process the following week.
There’s nothing wrong with the fellowship of the church. Without fellowship, there’s something missing. We need that human interaction to feel human ourselves. But everything I just described can take place at Denny’s. The friends, the food, the fellowship…
If we want to get real about our faith, we have to accept the fact that the church is more than a place to serve up fellowship. You can get that at the church of Denny’s.
When you walk into your church are you ready to do more than receive something for yourself? Are you ready for yourself to be the offering? To give yourself over to Christ? To let him take you, not just your order or your tip, and use you to do his will?
Call me mad, but the church is not just a place of fellowship. And to go to church for the fellowship alone means that you haven’t grasped what it means to be a follower of Christ. The church is a place to feed our faith yes. But it’s a place where we go not to be served, but to learn how to serve others.
Are you ready to cancel your membership at the church of Denny’s? Then put on your apron, come into the church of Christ and be his servant.
Asher Wiesenthal and Rosa Rapp were baptized in Salt Lake City, Utah. Some are calling their baptisms sacrilege and the church that baptized them is apologizing. What’s even stranger to some, is that Wiesenthal and Rapp are both Jewish and two weren’t even present for their own baptisms. In fact, they died several years ago as holocaust victims. So what’s going on?
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) conducts what they call, proxy baptisms or baptism by proxy. It is an answer to the question of what happens to a person who dies before being baptized in the Mormon faith? According to Kathleen Flake, a Vanderbilt scholar who has studied the LDS faith, “Mormons believe that vicarious baptisms give the deceased, who exist in the afterlife as conscious spirits, a final chance to join the Mormon fold, and thus gain access to the Celestial Kingdom [the highest of the three heavenly kingdoms in heaven]” Flake adds that, “Mormons are encouraged to baptize at least four generations of forebears to seal the family together in the afterlife.” (The Washington Post online)
Jewish leaders believe it sacrilege for the LDS Church to insist that Jews are not worthy enough to receive God’s blessing and that it would take intervention on part of the Mormons to enable a Jew to be heaven (at least the Celestial Kingdom). Michael Purdy, LDS spokesman, has voiced regret on behalf of his church stating that the names of Wiesenthal and Rapp were submitted by an individual member of the church and only names of family members should be submitted. In fact, in 1995 the Mormon church agreed to stop baptizing Jewish Holocaust victims.
I myself do not follow the Mormon faith. I do not believe that I require baptism in order for my salvation. And I don’t know about the idea of being sealed together with my family in the afterlife. If I believed my salvation required baptism and I believed in baptism by proxy, I’d probably make sure a few family members’ names didn’t make the list. The holidays were bad enough. But an eternity? Someone’s name gotta come off that list.
So what do you think? Would you be upset if you found out that one of your deceased relatives was baptized by proxy into a faith he/she or you didn’t believe in? Is what the Mormons did offensive or was it worthy of at least a, “thanks for thinking of us” acknowledgement?
Dr. R. A. Vernon, founding pastor of ”The Word” Church in Akron, OH has declared a new “F” word for his church. He would like members of his congregation to go up to someone who has wronged them in some way and say “F” you. The “F” word he is talking about is Forgive.
What do you think? Too edgy? Is it ok for a church pastor to be edgy? Are you entertained or offended?
This video was uploaded to YouTube about a month ago:
Here are a few quotes from the clip [with my interpretation]
The noise… you are allowing to be called worship [Your music is invalid and God doesn’t like it]
I’m not mad at you I’m just angry that you’re not listening to common sense. [I’m mad at you]
You better watch out… [I have it in for you]
[This church] think they have financial troubles now? Just wait until somebody that knows what they’re doing gets a hold of this. [I am hoping this church faces financial ruin because you are playing music I don’t like and playing it too loud.]
It doesn’t have to be rock’n’roll music with quote Christian words unquote … it actually hurts the body. Why can’t you give something melodic and soft so we can come in and pray? [God doesn’t like your music. God likes my music. I think she also said Christian words hurt the body]
Yes we’re praying for you but please do something about the music. I’ll give you one more week. [I’m (not we) praying that you will become less like the man God is developing you into and instead become more like me. And I’m praying my will be done in 7 days.]
Thank you. [?]
As a pastor, a video clip like this drives me mad. Not angry mad, but mad in the sense that I have so many emotions I don’t know what to feel. I get a knot in my stomach and I just want to hug the guy that got this voice mail.
I believe I can wrap up everything I want to say with one question. If the caller understood that the purpose of worship was to reach out to a particular people and draw them in to experience the presence of God so they could be transformed and God glorified, would she have made a call like this?
So I ended last week with my favorite church joke. You can read it here. I also said I would tell you later why I love it. Well, it’s later.
I love that joke but it also drives me mad. I love that joke because it quite accurately represents what I’ve seen take place in churches every Sunday. That same joke drives me mad because it quite accurately represents what I’ve seen take place in churches every Sunday.
Imagine if you went to school and the answer to every test question was the same? We’d all graduate with honors. (However, I am forced to believe that even some people would miss the boat and have to take summer school.) But even though the rest of us would all be graduates, we wouldn’t be very smart because we’d only know one thing. And quite frankly, knowing one word isn’t a skill that will take you a lot of places. Not even the “magic word” can get you through life.
When a child assumes the answer to every question in Sunday school is “Jesus” or “God,” we’ve done something wrong. He/she hasn’t learned anything. They’ve only learned to say “Jesus” or “God.”
Think about the joke. That pastor is describing something small, brown and furry with a bushy tail that climbs trees and hides nuts and a little girl thinks the answer is Jesus! Aaaarrrrghghh!
When Sunday school started back in the late 1700’s it was to educate children who otherwise would not know how to read or write. The Church did a wonderful job of helping out society by providing a real education. The Bible was used as the text book so not only did children learn to read and write, they did so by reading the Bible and memorizing Scripture. They practiced their grammar skills by writing Bible verses. With the advent of public school systems, the Church was no longer needed to provide those skills. (Click here for a nice little article about the history of Sunday school.) Now we’re left with what we continue to call Sunday school but is very different from what it started out to be.
Since most kids today learn how to read and write in some kind of school, be it public, private or home, what is Sunday school being used for at churches; a place to “tend” to our children for an hour a week or a place to grow and develop a child’s mind and spirit? Of course, many churches have a great education system to stimulate young children’s minds and promote their spiritual growth. But I have to admit, based on my experience growing up, my guess is there are more churches than not that unintentionally teach that Jesus has a tail and climbs trees.
Call me crazy, but shouldn’t churches be taking advantage of what schools are doing? Shouldn’t kids be reading and writing about Jesus and other Biblical stories? Would it be wrong for churches to hand out homework assignments, have quizzes and a graduation system? Couldn’t those Sunday school graduates become qualified Sunday school teachers or other leaders in the Church?
Do you think the Jesus/squirrel joke reflects the majority of churches today or am I the one who is nuts? Whatever your thoughts, share ‘em and tell me why.
Sometimes churches just amaze me. And by amaze I mean baffle. And by baffle I mean drive me crazy. And by drive me crazy I mean, “Hello, I’m the Mad Pastor.”
I am a big believer that churches should have a mission and vision. How are you supposed to carry out your role in the Great Commission unless you’ve determined what it is? So I like to read other churches’ mission statements. Here’s a portion of one from a mainline denominational Christian church I’ve been to:
“We do not presume to tell people what to think or believe. Ours is a community of free inquiry. We explore together our faith document, the Bible, and the Tradition that has been handed down to us, using our Reason along with personal Experience to determine what we believe and how we will act. There is room within this spiritual community for a wide variety of viewpoints on faith and life. Indeed, we believe that we are enriched by this variety.”
Huh? I have no idea what this church believes in. Seems to me like anything goes. Believe Jesus is the Son of God and your savior? Then he is! Believe you have salvation because you did a good deed once? Bippity Bop - You’re saved! Believe you can finance your way into heaven? Good News! God accepts all denominations! (Get it? I made a funny!)
As a pastor, every Sunday I stand behind the pulpit and I tell you what to think and believe. That is my job. It is your job to determine if you want to believe it. You don’t have to. I won’t make you. But that’s my job.
A church without standards has nothing for which to aim. There can be no growth because there is no challenge. Anything goes. You will not have any spiritual depth because there is no standard of measurement. A healthy church cannot have “a wide variety of viewpoints on faith and life.” It needs to have one. Otherwise, Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life and no one comes to the Father except through him (John 14:6) …unless you believe in something else.
Call me crazy, but shouldn’t churches state up front what they believe and set standards and help people achieve them? Does that mean some people will disagree? Yes. But is that such a bad thing? What do you think?