• RLM

    What is the context of these characteristics (urban, suburban, rural)? I have served as a pastor of many contexts and have learned there are vast differences in familial makeup, biblical literacy, experience with trauma, and diversity depending on the context.

  • Isn’t it interesting how we have very clear bible verses about remarriage after divorce but yet we’re totally okay with interpreting (or ignoring) them in a way that allows these people to participate in our churches and don’t condemn them as heretics. Might be something to learn there about how we treat LBGTQ Christians?

    Mark 10:11-23. He answered, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. 12 And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.”

    • blestou

      Not really all that interesting. Churches who teach committed male-female marriage tend to teach remarried male-female partnerships not to repeat the sins of their past.

      Churches who ignore biblical marriage tend to accept anyone who will not repent of their sins and don’t teach them anything.

      This has been happening for a long time.

      • Not sure what century you are in but I can’t remember the last time I heard a pastor preach against remarriage for someone who is divorced.

        • blestou

          I’m not sure what your point is. I only know of one Protestant theologian who currently teaches that remarriage after divorce is prohibited by the Christian Bible (John Piper; I’m not well versed on Catholic theologians). It’s not unusual that pastors do not preach what they do not believe Scripture teaches.

          • I guess we must not be communicating too well. :-)

          • 2010K

            Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.
            ///
            Andy, are you saying there is no mercy or forgiveness or love or help for those who have stumbled? Jesus gave us a new covenant with ONE law; love God and love others (who, btw, are made in the image of God).

          • I’m pointing out the hypocrisy of the way so many Christians treat LBGTQ believers vs the way they treat Christians who are divorced.

        • Mike Stidham

          I’ve seen a few in my day. They exist, but being divorced and remarried, I try to keep them out of my world as much as possible. More than a few Pentecostal pastors preach against it, as well as some of the ultra-fundamentalist types.

          I left one Southern Baptist church because I was told that if I remarried, I was in adultery and “that would be the same as letting a homosexual in.” Once I realized where I stood with them, I got out of Dodge.

  • Tammie

    Excellent article, but it’s not just special needs kids…..many adults have various special needs, too: chronic physical illnesses, mental health issues, chronic pain, deafness, other disabilities (many of which are not visible), etc. Even multiple chemical sensitivities can create a huge barrier to going to a church where many people are wearing perfumes and other scented substances, and where there may be incense, real Christmas trees, and poinsettias, etc.

    Roughly 30% of the population now has some degree of chemical sensitivity, and some are literally life threatening. Even those that aren’t can be very disabling, causing asthma attacks, migraines, dizziness, etc. The CDC and many Drs offices have begun to make their locations fragrance free, and some churches have also done so. Even making half the church and the soap in the bathrooms fragrance free (& avoiding air fresheners in there) could go a long way towards helping those with this problem be able to attend church again.

    There are also many things that can be done to make it more possible for adults with other disabilities and special needs to be able to attend church again. Wheelchair ramps and automatic doors are just a start. Sign language interpreters, wheelchair friendly seating, and having a few people who could park cars for those who cannot get into the church from a distant parking area would be very helpful for many. Having people who are willing to pick up those who are unable to drive to church would help many. And, education and awareness that many disabilities exist that are not visible would also be hugely helpful. I’m sure that there are quite a few other things that would not be difficult or costly to implement that would also help many.

    • Sallie

      Tammy,

      THANK YOU for pointing out many adults have a chronic illness that makes it impossible to stay in church. I have not attended church on or around Easter in probably nine or ten years. Why? Easter lilies make me ill due to problems with scents. I’ve left many regular services because perfume made me ill including just walking into the building behind someone saturated in it. Air fresheners in the bathrooms are overwhelming because there is virtually no ventilation. And on and on and on.

      • Sallie

        Sorry! Tammie, not Tammy!

  • wilbertmutoko2014

    Thanks Brian for such a great piece. Wow! The Church needs to be like a hospital. True that. For the same reason, Jesus ate with sinners to show them love and perhaps bring them into the kingdom. We need to love all people regardless of their sins, skin color or level of success in life.

  • Mike

    I would count myself among the de-churched. My issue is I need real community, not contrived performances. I need to know that I matter to the kingdom of God more than just being an audience for paid staff. I need to see a demonstration that Christianity is different than other religious systems with a clerical caste.

    • Brian Moss

      Fortunately, your worth is not determined by a church, but by the cross. You matter.

      I understand what you’re saying. When my family moved to attend seminary we found ourselves in a sea of churches. You couldn’t spit and not hit a church. However, it took us months to find a good church. It’s so important to the health and vitality of a believer to be connected into a healthy church family. We had one family who came to our church and told us, “We read the Purpose Driven Life and we were determined to find a church that looked like that!”

      It’s okay to give up on A church, but not THE church. Determine to find a healthy purpose driven church where Jesus is the centerpiece.

      • Mike

        Thanks for the encouragement, Brian. I definitely haven’t given up on THE Church, because I know as long as the world exists, the Spirit of Christ will be active and working in His people.

        I live in the Sacramento area in Northern California and our city has many churches to choose from. All the ones I’ve tried attending share the same structure and elements: paid pastors and staff that do fast songs, announcements, slow songs, message, benediction.

        And they all seem to be led by a common personality type: the high-energy, Type A go-getter that loves to tell stories and be the center of attention.

        My wife and I lost a child 5 years ago. I’ve dealt with depression, suicidal thoughts and one attempt because I don’t think I belong in today’s Christian community. It seems that church today is more interested in putting on a happy face and numbing the pain away through jokes and music.

        I know it sucks to hear about someone’s struggles and is a mood-killer, but isn’t that what the church is supposed to be? A light in the darkness? How can people really trust that God loves them, even the deepest, darkest bits when the church appears to be afraid to let their deepest, darkest bits be seen and be loved?

        • Brian Moss

          Wow, I am so sorry to hear that. I can’t even imagine the pain associated with losing a child. I lost both of my parents in a car crash, but as a parent I still believe that nothing could be more difficult than the loss of a child.

          Yes, that is the weekend worship model for many churches including mine. We look at the weekend as a celebration and our worship is definitely lively. However, there’s much more to our church than the weekend services. Our mission statement is to bring hope and healing to hearts and homes. We have tons of ministries for the broken and hurting. That’s where the lifeblood of the church really kicks in – in small groups and support groups. People doing life together – the good, the bad and the ugly.

          Keep searching until you find a church that not only celebrates on the weekend, but also focuses on real life throughout the week.

          • Mike

            Thanks Brian. It’s definitely the hardest thing I’ve gone through. She was a preemie and a twin. We lost her and were spared our son. It was an emotional roller coaster of celebrating one life while mourning another.

            For me, though, the hardest part was losing the purpose of the pain. There is no denying what happened. Death hit my family. And there are gonna be days it just hurts and there’s not a blessed thing that can be done about it. What hurts the most is that I felt like I was pushed into a corner and told to hide my pain. I served as a volunteer music leader at my last church. Prior to my leaving the senior pastor told me if I was feeling melancholy to go ahead and let someone else lead that week. That’s what hurt the most. I was quite literally told that my pain makes people uncomfortable and it’s best to go hide somewhere where people can’t see my tears.

            Let me ask you a question (no bitterness or anger, just curiosity and trying to understand why the church does what is does). Why do pastors and staff run Sunday morning the way they do? Why is it so important to have all those elements in the same order every week?

            I’ve attended church for almost 40 years and its the same thing over and over and over again. How is my life edified by sitting and listening to sermon after sermon? I’ve heard the rhetoric about small/life/cell groups but to me it feels like the major leagues and the minor leagues. You can participate and lead small groups, but hands off the main service. That’s for the big boys, the ones with the calling and the theological training. What are we so afraid of? Do pastor’s really trust Christ enough to let Him lead through the people in our gathering? Or is church really just a platform for pastors to enjoy the sound their own voices? (Okay, the last comment has a little bitterness around it). :-)

          • Brian Moss

            Good question(s). I don’t believe I have the authority (nor do I even want it) to speak for all pastors. I’m sure that just like everyone else there are some with right motives and others without. Most pastors I’ve met are passionate Christ followers who genuinely want to make a difference. Again, I hope that you are able to find a loving church family where you can serve and find hope and healing.

          • Mike

            Thanks Brian. I don’t doubt the sincerity of most, but have pastors considered that by making a lecture the focus of the gathering, they are doing more to hinder the work of the Holy Spirit rather than help it?

            In my opinion, people need an encounter with Jesus, incarnate in the Bride, not theology theories spoken from above.

            Anyways, I won’t keep you on this thread. Be blessed and enjoy the holiday season. :-)

          • Carl Vandiver

            Mike, I’m super disappointed that Brian never mentioned the Bible in his thoughtful replies. I myself have bumped in and out of churches, looking for more than three-songs-and-a-sermon. Young pastors don’t seem equipped to be ministers and mature pastors seem to love their limelight.

            I suggest reading the King James, 20 minutes a day, and seeking God’s personal involvement in your life. Church should be maybe 20% of your experience; seeking God out directly and earnestly should be part of your daily budget. Start small and see what works for you. God’s voice is strongest for me in the story of the family of Genesis, from Abram to Joseph. Most churches are focused on the NT and easier translations. Accept that on Sundays but diligently pursue the Lord as a priority, in addition. That is where you will find answers. God can also give you some clarity and peace regarding your daughter. He is so enormously glorious and the more He shares with me the more amazed I am. I pray he reveals some answers for you.

          • Mike

            Good word, Carl. In all honesty, the church hurt I experienced kept me from the Bible for over a year. I couldn’t read a verse without feeling the oppressive arrogance of pastors weighing on my shoulders and I put the book down.

            I recently started reading again. I’m going through the Psalms and letting David’s words wash over all the emotions in my heart. I keep telling myself it will be okay. God is good father.

          • J

            Mike, your story grieves my heart. I have a friend who had a similar experience in the last few years. They were also heartbroken and joyous at the same time. Thankfully, it sounds like you have begun your healing process.
            I can only give you advice in relation to my own experiences. While I haven’t had exactly the same experience, even though a miscarriage broke our hearts about 13 years ago, my family falls into the special needs category of this editorial. We have a child with autism, and to be perfectly honest, not only did they not have any way to handle it at our church, they didn’t even know where to start. And truly, neither did we.
            We went through all the stages of grief that I’m sure you did, although honestly I don’t think I have ever stayed with the acceptance part of this grief. How we have handled it is we have taken the past few years and learned everything we possibly can learn about how to handle special needs kids. And now we are about to help start the ministry at our church to help others who have children with special needs, not just autism.
            Sometimes healing and the spiritual nourishment can come from doing things like this. Since you were so heartbroken, you may not realize how God can use this to help others who might have experienced some type of loss. Maybe try to find a church where you can help with grief counseling, or begin a biblically based support group, or even a Bible study along these lines. Even better, write a curriculum that might can be used around the country, or around the world. Take a few classes at your local community college or university or Bible college, and couple that with the promises found in the Bible. Study everything you can find on the internet about handling grief and the comfort of God’s peace.
            As far as Sunday morning, yes, it tends to be the most evangelical service they have, no matter where we go, and that is important as that is our first calling to “Go ye forth”, but I also agree with Brian, most of my spiritual training comes from our mid-week Bible study. The Bible says that “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God”, and it also says “How can they hear without a preacher”, so this part is definitely important. There are churches out there that will meet these extra needs you speak of, but there are also churches who would be grateful for your help in getting something like this started. We did change churches twice since our son was diagnosed (we’d moved). The first change, I know now, was to learn. The second change truly was to teach and reach others. God’s timing is perfect. I truly hope you and your family can find a church home that will let you grow and grow with you as well.

          • Mike

            Thanks for sharing, J. My wife is a special education teacher and knows the challenges kids and families face. I can tell by your comment you guys have big hearts.

            Our loss opened up dialogue with one of my co-workers who has a daughter with autism. It’s been really good. There’s something about pain that cuts through all the facades and allows us to be real with each other. When I ask him how it’s going he knows I’m genuinely interested in listening.

            Thanks for the ideas about doing something. I’ve been in prayer about that, too. Losing our daughter forced me to grieve not only her but other hurts from my childhood.

            What’s been on my heart is finding a way to make church, the gathering, a place of belonging for those hurting.

            I actually just wrote a blog entry a couple days ago describing something God’s working in me overy the past four years. It’s a bit radical and challenges tradition… but it makes sense to me.

            http://silencio-dei.blogspot.com/2016/11/a-21st-century-reformation.html

          • Michelle

            Mike, one reason for the ‘Sunday Schedule’ may be that Sundays are a day to invite guests, non-believers and such. Some churches are afraid of scaring them off by getting off track, going on too long, or including deep intercession. I had a pastor that wanted very much to be led by the Spirit on Sunday mornings and he had to leave and start his own church. It is, about 10 years later, very sincere and heartfelt, but very small. And, to tell you the truth, a little uncomfortable even for me. We moved away, but even if it were close, I don’t think I would attend. However, from my experience, it’s hard to get into ‘real’ life in small groups as well, since that ‘happy face’ syndrome seems to spill over. But there are some churches that let you be real, and they’re worth finding.

          • Mike

            Thanks for the comment, Michelle. I think you’re highlighting something I’ve noticed. It seems to me the Sunday service isn’t so much for the believer but the unbeliever. In other words Sunday is an evangelistic crusade not church. It is geared towards getting someone to confess with their mouth that Jesus is Lord, but not the gathering of the saints for the edification of the body to become one with Christ.

            I wonder if the evangelical perspective on the purpose of the church is somewhat flawed. It seems we take the final instructions of Jesus to mean “go and make converts” rather than “go and make disciples”. The journey starts with the recognition that Jesus is the Messiah, but that’s just the beginning.

            To me this life seems to akin to a stone quarry where I start as a jagged rock and am slowly chiseled into a perfect living stone to be placed in the temple of the living God, Cheist being the cornerstone. The refining process requires that I live a wholly transparent and authentic life.

            I have to be completely honest and bring the deepest, darkest bits of my heart to the light. I need to be able to confess my sins to my brothers and sisters and hear the life-giving words of Christ, “Where are your accusers? You are forgiven and will continue to be forgiven. Go and sin no more.”

            To me that is what church is, not the staged presentation that encourages the “happy face” of hypocrisy.

          • Everett

            What would you really like to see? How would you plan a worship service?

          • Mike

            I suppose for me I’d like to see a meeting that encourages participation from all who feel led. I think this means more spontaneity and less planning.

            To me planning is equivalent to control. By having church staff decide the order of service up front they are controlling the atmosphere of the gathering. There’s an assumption that they always know what God wants to do when His people gather. This in my mind creates a clergy/laity separation that I don’t think can be found in the early church.

            Some tangible ideas I would like to see:
            – Testimonies from people
            – Opening up song selection to the entire congregation the day of the gathering.
            – Letting non-paid members give sermons.
            – Having a Q/A time following the sermon.
            – The incorporation of a full meal at the gathering
            – Adoption of contemplative practices, lectio divina or meditative prayer.

            Those are a few ideas but I hesitate to recommend those as normative practices for all. They are just things that would appeal to me and make me feel more like a contributor and less like a spectator.