Monday, June 23, 2014

Fear vs. Faith

I had an interesting discussion with a friend of mine today.

We were talking about some current issues at our church, and she made the comment: "The church is living more by fear than by faith."

The church is living more by fear than by faith.

Read that statement again. Now read it again. Let it sink in.

She has a point.

In our current litigation-happy culture, people are suing over silly things like spilling your (obviously) hot coffee on yourself in the drive thru or getting hurt in your neighbor's yard (even though you had no permission to be in their yard in the first place).

Now this silliness is creeping into the Church. With a capital C.

My own church is so safety focused right now ... we have a security team, complete with monthly meetings ... we have a rotation list of church members (all of whom are on said security team) that take turns walking around the church property during all services ... we have CPR and first aid training classes ... we have parents fill out a two-page form with all sorts of medical and contact information for children to attend events ...

Now I'm not saying these are bad things. On the contrary, I think these are great and practical things to have. And these things are driven by a healthy sort of fear.

But, the problem comes when we stop reaching out to the community due to our fear. Because our fear has become unhealthy.

We remove the playground equipment (that was paid for by church members and enjoyed by the church's children for years) because a child may get injured (and his/her parents may sue), even though no child has been severely injured and no suing has ever occurred to my knowledge.

We don't allow our gym building to be used by church members for personal reasons (e.g., birthday parties) because a child may fall on the concrete floor and get hurt and the parents may sue. (However, we do allow kids to play in the gym during Awana, youth group meetings and VBS. I guess that a child attending a church function is less likely to get hurt than a child attending a non-church function. Hmmm...)

We don't allow our church softball team to practice on our church softball field because a non-churchgoer may show up drunk or be offensive in some way, or, again, may get hurt and sue.

But here's the question -- how do we expect to reach out to those in our community who need to hear that Jesus loves them just as they are if we don't meet them just as they are? If we don't provide opportunities for them to see that, hey, church people are normal people, too.

We watch the Super Bowl. We play softball. We have pizza parties and watch movies. We run races and play balloon volleyball. Shoot, we even sometimes fall in the gym and get hurt.

(Seriously, Beebee has fallen SO. MANY. TIMES. on that hard gym floor that, had we the inclination, we could've been millionaires by now from suing our own church. And would we sue? Will we sue? NO. Because kids run and fall and get hurt and cry and get back up. That's what kids do.)

And, I'm not just speaking about my specific church, but about the Church as a whole. We are so worried about what MIGHT happen that we are letting it get in the way of SHOULD happen ... which is bringing Jesus to the people he came here to save.

After all, healthy people don't need a doctor.

I think of the underground churches in China and other countries where our brothers and sisters in Christ are meeting under threat of imprisonment or worse. And yet, those churches are growing like wildfire, while US churches are seeing a steady decrease in attendance.

And, I'm pretty sure imprisonment and death is much worse than being sued. Agree? Yet, they continue to spread the Word, telling others about Jesus ... even risk being disowned by their families ... because Jesus tells us to.

So what's the difference?

The difference is, those people have FAITH. Faith in the God who created the universe (including the principles and laws our own legal system is based on). Faith that He will watch over them (even in the prison or on the gallows). Faith that He will not let his Word return empty.

Y'all, we are called to make disciples. That's the last thing Jesus said before he went to heaven:
"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, 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 28:19-20
We can't be scared of what MIGHT happen. We can't be afraid of the unknown or the weird or the dangerous or whatever.

Jesus came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10). And he wants us to do the same thing (Matthew 25:35-40). But he doesn't just leave us to go it alone.

He gives us his power and authority, and he promises to be there for us and to help us always (Matthew 28:18-20).

We have forgotten who we are. We are the Bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:22-32). We have let ourselves get wrapped up into worldly concerns. As Mark 7:8 says, "You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men."

We need to stop being afraid and start living in faith. If not, we are going to safely "secure" ourselves right out of impacting our community for Christ and right into an empty sanctuary.

Linking up with "Works for Me Wednesday" at the We Are That Family blog.

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