“Our Church is Better Than Your Church”

February 10, 2012 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

A couple of days ago, we were praying for unity among churches in Fayetteville.  As some of you may know, this is very important to me.  Other churches are not rivals.  We are not businesses competing for marketshare.  We are one group, trying to bring hope and life to a hurting world.  So, when we feel the need to compete that’s bad.  When we decide to publicly attack and ridicule one another it is worse.

It goes something like this:

That church has a big building. That means they don’t care about missions or the poor.


That church only has a few people, they must not care about reaching out to other people.

I could do this all day, because I have heard plenty of these.  We look at other churches and feel that we can not only judge what they do, but their hearts as well.  Two questions: How do you know that church has a wrong attitude?  Even if you do know (which you probably don’t) what is gained through your public criticism?

Typically what is gained is the self-satisfaction of knowing that you are “right” and “doing it right.”  You also get to justify your own weaknesses but comparing them to (your perception of) other people’s weaknesses.  Then you get to feel better about yourself.  It’s actually much easier to point out the blind spot of someone else than to discover your own and work on that instead. Criticism is easy and feels good.  Rooting out sin in your own life is hard.

I’m currently reading a book where the author laments how megachurches build huge buildings and also talks about how bad it is that churches create celebrity pastors that do video preaching.  I know that’s not unusual. It is however unusual for that to be from a pastor of a megachurch with a large building who offers simulcasts of some of his teaching. How is such a thing possible? Because “we” do it the “right way” and “they” have insincere hearts.

When I first was reading this, I’ll confess, I was violating my own admonition here and I became angry.  After thinking about it, I realized that I really was less angry and more disappointed and sad.  I wish it weren’t that way.  I wish that we could believe the best in each other.  I wish that we could present a united front to the world.  I wish that when we do disagree and feel that the issue is serious enough, that we would (novel idea coming) talk about it (another one) in private. (Side note, if they live far away and you don’t have access to talk to them, then try just letting it go and trusting that the Holy Spirit will work on them.)

There are some pretty specific commands in Scripture about what we do when we see a brother or sister in sin.  They say crazy things like go to them and try and restore them.  They don’t say “publicly rant about them in your blog.” (Irony noted)

I know “they” upset you, because “they” don’t get it like “we” do.  Hey, I’ve got some (bad?) news for you.  There is no “they.”  There is just “us,” and we need to show the world the love of Jesus, in part by showing our love for each other.

John 13:34-35

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Success: All the More Reason to Pray

February 3, 2012 by cloften  
Filed under Bible, Church and Leadership

Here we are, day 6 of Setting the Course.  For me it is 6 days without sugar and TV.  Throw in a full day food fast on Wednesday and it has been quite a week.  I’ve spent a lot of time thinking and praying this week.  It has been good for me personally, and for you Grovers out there, I hope it has been good for you as well.

I’ve been reflecting over the last few days about where we are as a church and what we want to see God do in our church and our hearts, individually and corporately.  Wednesday marked our 18-month anniversary at The Grove Church.  It has been an incredible 18 months. The church has more than doubled in attendance.  We have seen 20+ people give their lives to Jesus Christ.  We’ve seen God heal marriages and draw people closer to him.  We’ve seen missionaries sent out and orphans adopted.  I could go on and on with stories of what God is doing and has done this last year and a half.

I say all this not to brag on me, the church or you.  I don’t mean this as a boast at all.  In fact, as I have been reflecting this week, it feels more like a warning.  It feels like a reminder of how desperately we need God.  People often feel the need to pray when things are not going well, when they are struggling, when bad things happen.  Then when life turns around, we go back to living life.  We feel that we only need God when we need something.

What success can do to us is help convince us that we are fine, that we can be self-reliant.  My concern is that is where we may go.  That we believe that we have this “figured out.”  We are winning.  However whatever success we have can only be attributed to God being with us.  What we need is more of Him.  A building would be nice, more room for kids, more parking and more seats in the worship room.  Better finances would be nice as well.

All of that is meaningless if God is not leading us and filling us.  So as you pray over the next week, please pray that the leadership would be dependent on God.  Pray that there would never be a time where would say, “Remember when God was truly blessing us?”  Pray for humility.  Pray that we would not be victims of our own success.

God has tremendously blessed us, is tremendously blessing us.  We do not want to switch from that to “I’ll bet we can still do well.”  We want and need God’s blessing and leadership over everything that we do.