Pickle Heaven Press-James R. Johnson

something to help you laugh and think about life with Christ

planting a new church — July 1, 2020

planting a new church

It is quite popular these days to include the word “point” in the name of one’s church.  I know of a Lake Pointe, North Point, Life Point, Center Point, New Point, Mission Point and City Point Church and there are many more. 

I have occasionally toyed with the idea of planting a new church.  I already have a name.  It would be, “What’s the Point” Church. 

In my work as a Hospice Chaplain I have encountered many church dropouts who think of the church and wonder, “What’s the Point?” 

These folks were often raised in church and have sweet memories.   But somewhere along the way they were wounded by church people.

One young man was falsely accused by a church lady of stealing from her purse.  Another person was pointed out by the pastor from the pulpit.  Another was turned off by ugly church politics. 

There are those who are disgusted by the hypocrisy that grips so many in the church.  Then there was the adulterous pastor.  And what about the church board that tried to cover up the abusive Sunday School incident.

Some have been repulsed by the pastor that drones on about money and the monthly tithe reminder envelopes that come in the mail.  Others gave up on the church because they were forgotten during their hospital stay. 

These wounded understand what the church ought to be and are discouraged by what it is.  They rightfully wonder, “What’s the point?” 

What can we say to these dropouts?  What can we do to make sure that we do not become, or cause the next casualty?

1. Remember that we continue to be sinners, saved and sustained by grace.

Take a spiritual selfie.  What do you see?   Can you honestly say that there is never inconsistency in your own spiritual life?   We understand that we are sinners saved by grace.   Once redeemed we remain to be sinners, sustained by grace.  The apostle John wrote to Christian people saying, “If we say we do not bear the guilt of sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.” – 1 John 1:8

          Most of us do not want to fail the Lord and or each other – but we do, and we will because we are still made of flesh.  Expect to be disappointed by others.  If needed apply Galatians 6:1, “If a person is discovered in some sin, you who are spiritual restore such a person in a spirit of gentleness.”  Don’t skip the last half of this verse.  “Pay close attention to yourselves, so that you are not tempted too.”

I had a seminary professor that used to say, “If you should ever find the perfect church, don’t join it, because you’ll ruin it.”

 2. Keep your eyes on Jesus

The author of Hebrews pictured the Christian life as being a race.  He then advised us to keep our eyes, “on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.”  Hebrews 12:2. 

          Every competitive runner knows that taking even a fraction of time to glance at the other runners, slows you down.   We need to stop looking at others and fix our eyes ahead on Jesus who stands at the finish line

He is our master.  He is the one to whom we answer, and He will one day address the dumb things that each of we Christians have done.   Let’s leave the judging to Him. 

3. Keep His commandments

When I served as a pastor, there were times of frustration when I asked the Lord, “Are you sure that the church is your best idea for managing your people?”  He ignored me because He already answered the question in Matthew 16:18. “…I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.”   He expects us to be an active part of a local church (Matthew 18:15-18; Hebrews 10:25)

Recently my grandson asked, “Why do some Christians give up on church?”  I explained to him much of what I wrote above.  Then I said,” Buddy, I have personally been so wounded by church, that I would probably drop out if I could.  But I can’t – because my Savior expects me to continue to be an active part of His church.”   He says to me, “If you love me, you will obey my commandments.” (John 14:15)

My mom was a fantastic cook but there was a time that she burned dinner.  I was so upset, I vowed that I would never eat again.  That’s ridiculous of course. 

We will be burned at times by church people, but never should we forsake Christ’s church.    The blessings of being with the people of God far outweigh the bumps along the way.

Biblical references come from the NET Bible ®

my roughneck dental hygienist — July 3, 2019

my roughneck dental hygienist

jim johnson

A roughneck is a person who works hard with dirty calloused hands.  A dental hygienist is a person who sticks their hands in other people’s mouths.  The two don’t usually come together, but they did for me. 

I waited in the lobby for the sweet young lady who typically cleaned my teeth.  My eyes were buried in my magazine when I heard a deep, raspy voice say, “Mr. Johnson.”   

Oh no – my hygienist must have a cold.  That’s bad! 

I looked up to see a man – with a smock on. This may be worse!

He walked me back to the room while explaining that the former hygienist had moved on and now he was the man. (literally) That’s OK I can do change or so I thought.  But then he told me that he was an oil field roughneck who got tired of it and became a hygienist instead.  This was the first day of work in a dentist’s office.  Oh my – this could really be bad.

He put on his mask and gloves, tilted my chair.  Once I recovered from the whiplash, he took his pick attacked my gums like he was fracking a well.  With every muscular jab, my head rebounded.  I gagged when his big thick hands reached back for my molars.  

I suppose that everyone has their gums bleed a little during a cleaning.  But this guy hit a gusher.  

To clean up, he could have used the little sucker thing that sprays water and then vacuums it from your mouth.  He chose, instead, to cram my mouth with gauze.  He just kept jamming it in until I looked like a chipmunk on steroids. 

The dentist passed in the hall, and I cried, “Help me” but it came out, “mmmm mm.”

I learned a valuable lesson that day – when you are doing dental – you need to be gentle.

But maybe that should carry over into the rest of life as well.

I listen to the mean-mouthed politicians speak to and about each other and I wonder, “Is such vitriol necessary?”  How about a little gentleness?  The apostle Paul advised, “be peaceable, gentle, showing complete courtesy to all people.”  – Titus 3:2

We sometimes overreact when the kids disobey?   Can’t we be firm and yet gentle at the same time?  Again, Paul says, “If anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness…” Galatians 6:1

Boss – must we use our authority to bludgeon those we manage?  James asks, “Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct he should show his works done in the gentleness that wisdom brings.” – James 3:13

99% of the time I have been gentle in the way I speak to my wife.  She knows that, and yet, what she remembers is the harsh 1%.  This is what I need to remember, “A gentle response turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath.”  – Proverbs 15:1

The apostle Paul advocated gentleness 10 different times in the New Testament.  I suspect he did so because he was inclined to be harsh.  (father issues – who knows?)  Peter chimed in at least once and James twice.  Jesus told us that it would be the gentle who would inherit the earth (Matt. 5:5) and 1 Timothy 6:11 equates gentleness with godliness.

Should we ignore such a pervasive theme?  Or should we steal away for prayer, asking God to cleanse us from past failure in this area and asking Him to fill us anew with His Spirit that we might bear the fruit of gentleness.  (Gal. 5:23)   

Need a lesson in gentleness?  Jesus offered to be our tutor. “Take my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle…”  – Matt 11:29

If you struggle with being gentle, you might consider speaking to a pastor or a counselor.  Sometimes our harshness is rooted in the past and we may need a little help as we work through it.    

Well I survived my dental cleaning and on my next visit I found that my roughneck friend had moved on, probably recruited by the CIA to interrogate terrorists.   I was relieved to learn that He was replaced by another sweet young lady who practiced gentle dental.

(all Scriptures references are from the NET Bible®)

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