Posts Tagged ‘church’

What Next? – Finding a good church.

Posted: February 1, 2012 by Nathan in What Next...
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One of the best ways to continue exploring the Christian faith is to find a good church to plug into. A good church will, in as many ways as possible, help you to find the answers that you continue to search for.  Each church is different but any church worth going to will bend over backwards to help you in a search for God.  Many churches put of courses such as ALPHA  http://uk-england.alpha.org/alpha/home or Christianity Explored http://www.christianityexplored.org/ which are specifically designed to help people who are exploring the various issues of faith. These courses are relaxed, informal settings where you can come with no faith, a shaky faith or even a strong faith and ask those questions that you have been wrestling with. Have a look on a church’s web-site and I’m sure you’ll find details of any such course they are running or if you live in the UK visit the websites above and search for courses running now.

 

So what is a good church?  Churches come in all shapes and sizes and vary enormously in terms of style, format, age range and feel.  What will suit one person will be a complete put off for another. So finding a good church is more than just finding a church with a good theology!  In many ways it can be a question of trial and error but we can rule a few things out first.  What would you be looking for in a church?  Churches in many respects fit the character of those that attend. Some people like to meet in small groups whilst others prefer larger gatherings.  Would you prefer to express thanks to God using modern songs or traditional hymns? Do you want to meet with just people your own age or a real mixture? There are enough churches out that to suit most people’s character.  The best way to find out what churches are like is to visit a web-site like http://www.findachurch.co.uk/home/home.php where you can see the churches in your area, visit their web-sites and even e-mail the vicar any questions you may have.

 

The beliefs of a good church. Below is a very short list that would form the basis of belief of all good churches.

  1. The Bible is the inspired Word of God.
  2. There is only one God.
  3. The doctrine of the Trinity that there is one God in three, eternal, and distinct persons.
  4. That Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary.
  5. The Deity of Christ, that Jesus Christ is both divine and human.
  6. That Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead.
  7. That salvation is by grace through faith alone.

 

If a church is based on the above beliefs then you can, at the very least, know that they start from a good foundation.  However, ask around – is the church a bit controversial or known for holding conflicting beliefs.

Other than that the main thing would be personal taste. Do you feel welcome? Do you connect with people there? Are there activities, courses etc. that are of interest to you?

 

I would encourage everyone to get linked into a good church and receive the support that a church can give.  Please do comment below if I can help in any way.

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What If I’ve been hurt by the church?

Posted: August 24, 2011 by Nathan in What If...
Tags: , , ,

As far as I know there aren’t too many people that have been hurt by the church worldwide. In fact there aren’t that many people that have been hurt by complete individual churches. However, when most people say that they’ve been hurt by the church they really mean they’ve been hurt by a particular individual or small group of individuals within a church. Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t make the hurt any less real or what these individuals did any less wrong. It does, however, help us to try and think about it with a better perspective. Would you blame a billion people for the actions of an individual? Would you miss out on winning the lottery because the newsagent was rude?

Whenever we enter into relationship with others we put ourselves in a place of vulnerability. If we are married it is our spouse that is likely to cause us more pain than anyone else. If we have children they are likely to cause us a different by still real and intense pain. Those we love the most and those that love us the most have the likelihood to cause us the most pain. Churches are meant to be places of security, love, care, intimacy, peace and trust. However, churches are made up of people, albeit Christian people. Now, people think that Christians are meant to be almost perfect. Let’s face it many Christians portray themselves that way. Christians should be better people than non-Christians, there is no question about it. Christians have a purpose, a calling, a God who instructs and a Holy Spirit that guide. Christian have been shown through Jesus and the Bible the way they should live and have been put into churches to help them along. However, Christians are still erring human beings with more faults than you can shake a stick at. Let’s be realistic a compulsive liar who becomes a Christian will still be a compulsive liar from one day to the next. Becoming a Christian doesn’t make to perfect overnight. The compulsive liar may double his efforts not to lie once he has become a Christian but he will still struggle with it for years and may never overcome the temptation to continue lying.

Christians are not perfect. The Bible tells us that if we claim we have no sin the truth is not in us and we deceive ourselves. If you join a church and enter into relationship with people there they will let you down, they will hurt you, they will fall short of your expectations and let’s be really honest you will do the same to them. I guess the reason that many people feel hurt, let down, disappointed by the church is that our expectations of Christians is higher than they should be. We expect Christians to be loving, caring, kind, compassionate, trustworthy, honest, patient and selfless. Not only that but we expect that of them 24 hours a day 7 days a week 52 weeks a year. So when a Christian has an off day and every Christian does it is a big shock to the system. We feel doubly let down. Also there are people in churches who not only are not nice and loving and caring they are downright horrible, spiteful, hurtful and abusive. I’d like to tell you that these people are just wolves in sheep’s clothing, they’re not Christians but just pose as Christians to give Christians a bad name. Unfortunately, I can’t. Although there are people like this who go along to church, say the right things, do the right things and act as if they were Christians but in they’re hearts are far from it, there are also Christians who are far far far from what God would want them to be. Churches, like most big organisations are full of a wide range of people, the good, the bad and the ugly.

Jesus knew that His followers would not be anywhere near perfect. In the account of Jesus’ life that Saint Matthew wrote we read…

Then Peter came and said to Him (Jesus), “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.

Jesus knew that we would continue to hurt each other. In this passage both seven and seventy are seen as perfect numbers so when Jesus say seven times seventy the implication is that we forgive our brother as many times as is necessary. I’m not trying to use this passage to say, get over it, forgive and bounce back. All I’m trying to show is that Jesus know that his church wouldn’t be this perfect community of believers who did nothing wrong. He knew that we would be needing to continually forgive each other because we would continually hurt each other. When people are in relationship together hurts happen – FACT! This is not an excuse – we should try and live together in unity, causing no hurt and being loving, caring, selfless individuals as much as we possibly can. However, we ALL make mistakes, we ALL have off-days, we ALL have things we struggle with, we are ALL tempted to do wrong, we are ALL human.

Now, here’s the thing… do we let our hurts, grievances, fall-outs and feuds keep us from what God has in store for us? Do we let these things get in the way of seeking the truth? Do we stop believing because we’ve been hurt? Do we give up the riches that God has for us because we’ve had a tiff with someone? Only you can answer these questions. However, I urge you to seriously think about them. Think about them in the light that one person or a small group don’t represent the whole church. Think about them in the light of Jesus being the only perfect person – he will never hurt you or let you down. Think about them remembering that people are flawed, faulty and very imperfect, but also think about them knowing that you are also flawed, faulty and very imperfect – but that God loves you just the way you are.

What about Homosexuality?

Posted: June 29, 2011 by Nathan in What About...
Tags: , , , , ,

Now here’s a subject not many people are brave enough to tackle. Not sure whether I’m brave enough or just stupid enough? Let me say from the outset that whatever I say on the subject there will be other Christians (even good friends of mine) who are bound to disagree with me. That’s OK! I’d like to say that the whole homosexual issue is very clear cut, very black and white – but unfortunately that is simply not true – there is so much grey – which is why it is such a difficult subject to tackle. So, let me start with what I do know.

God loves homosexuals. No matter what impression individual Christians give or what whole churches say – God unconditionally loves homosexuals. He loves those who refrain from sexual acts and those that partake. To go one step further if someone truly follows the teaching of Jesus they too will love anyone who is a homosexual, practising as well as non practising. I’d like to think that this is always the case and that the church has been very much misunderstood, but I know that this is simply not true. Christians all over the world have misinterpreted, misunderstood and completely gone against the teachings of the Bible, following their own agendas and using the Bible to try and justify their sinful words and actions. As Christians (as a whole) we get things massively wrong. We judge, we condemn, we hate, we sin and we are no better than anyone else. We let the passion that we have regarding our faith spill out in the wrong ways. We are, in many respects, human first and Christian second. We let our human emotions rule and things become twisted. So when it comes to the issue of homosexuality we see it as not being God’s ideal and end up giving the impression that God hates homosexuals. Fact: this is simply not the case!! God has many ideals, ideals that we as Christians fail to live up to every single day!

I can only give my opinion of what I believe that the Bible teaches and how we should live out that teaching in our lives. My understanding of the subject is open to change. If you disagree with what I say I don’t believe that that puts us at odds with each other. Each of us are on our own journey towards understanding and truth. I am always willing to learn from others and am hopefully open minded to the points of view of others. I urge you therefore to bear with me and dialogue with me instead of becoming annoyed or angry.

It is my experience that the major influence on a Christian’s theology of homosexuality is people they know well who are gay. It seems to me that a Christian who has a relative or close friend who practices homosexual acts is prone to change their theology to make sense of that relationship. Not many Christians would like to think of their child or sibling living a lifestyle contrary to that which God would desire. Therefore many Christians seem to change their theology to make things simpler, less awkward, less contradictory. It is very easily done, after all we live in an age where tolerance is at an all time high, belief is sidelined and everything is OK as long as it doesn’t impinge on someone else. However, does the church now believe that homosexual relations are OK in the sight of God or are Christians just falling in line behind a societal shift of homosexual acceptance? I believe it is the latter? I believe that the teaching of the Bible in not only what it says about homosexuality (not too much actually), but also its emphasis on family, marriage before God and man/woman relationships remains the same. Now I do believe that the church has gotten things wrong for hundreds of years in the way it has treated homosexuals. In my mind and I believe in God’s mind to, sin is sin. Why the church decided to single out the homosexual issue for more condemnation than any other sin is beyond me. I am as sinful as the next man. You are as sinful as me and I am as sinful as you. When it comes to sin, in God’s eyes we are all as sinful as each other.

So should a church welcome practising homosexuals? Of course they should! Should the church condemn homosexuals? Of course not? My view in a nutshell is this. I welcome homosexuals to my church, I love them and support them. However, if they were to ask me what they could do to draw nearer to God they wouldn’t like what they hear. I do believe that the practise of homosexuality is not what God would want for a person. I know of many people who would vehemently disagree and that is fine. I also believe though that the most important thing in the world to God is a person’s relationship with Him. I believe God would prefer someone to be a practising Christian and a practising homosexual than someone with homosexual tendencies to abstain from sex and not be a Christian. Practising homosexuals should be warmly welcomed into our churches. They are deeply loved by God and should be deeply loved by us as well. In my life I have been friends with a whole range of Christian and non-Christian people with homosexual tendencies. Of those who were Christians some having been practising, some celibate and some have pursued a heterosexual life. I hope that I have treated them all the same. When asked I have made my views clear, but I hope I have shown them that I love them whatever they do. It is easy to love and support those that agree with us and heed our advice, but we need to love people whatever! We are not here to judge, we are here to love, encourage, support, care and witness.”

Now, I know I’ve opened up a whole can of worms here, but I look forward to hearing from you. I know people will have differing opinions and as I said before that is fine, however please can we keep any discussions civil, polite and let’s understand that we are all coming from different backgrounds with different struggles and and are all on differing journeys. I will not remove differing opinions but I reserve the right to remove posts that I feel may be intended to be hurtful. That said, debate away!!!

As far as I know there aren’t too many people that have been hurt by the church worldwide. In fact there aren’t that many people that have been hurt by complete individual churches. However, when most people say that they’ve been hurt by the church they really mean they’ve been hurt by a particular individual or small group of individuals within a church. Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t make the hurt any less real or what these individuals did any less wrong. It does, however, help us to try and think about it with a better perspective. Would you blame a billion people for the actions of an individual? Would you miss out on winning the lottery because the newsagent was rude?

Whenever we enter into relationship with others we put ourselves in a place of vulnerability. If we are married it is our spouse that is likely to cause us more pain than anyone else. If we have children they are likely to cause us a different by still real and intense pain. Those we love the most and those that love us the most have the likelihood to cause us the most pain. Churches are meant to be places of security, love, care, intimacy, peace and trust. However, churches are made up of people, albeit Christian people. Now, people think that Christians are meant to be almost perfect. Let’s face it many Christians portray themselves that way. Christians should be better people than non-Christians, there is no question about it. Christians have a purpose, a calling, a God who instructs and a Holy Spirit that guide. Christian have been shown through Jesus and the Bible the way they should live and have been put into churches to help them along. However, Christians are still erring human beings with more faults than you can shake a stick at. Let’s be realistic a compulsive liar who becomes a Christian will still be a compulsive liar from one day to the next. Becoming a Christian doesn’t make to perfect overnight. The compulsive liar may double his efforts not to lie once he has become a Christian but he will still struggle with it for years and may never overcome the temptation to continue lying.

Christians are not perfect. The Bible tells us that if we claim we have no sin the truth is not in us and we deceive ourselves. If you join a church and enter into relationship with people there they will let you down, they will hurt you, they will fall short of your expectations and let’s be really honest you will do the same to them. I guess the reason that many people feel hurt, let down, disappointed by the church is that our expectations of Christians is higher than they should be. We expect Christians to be loving, caring, kind, compassionate, trustworthy, honest, patient and selfless. Not only that but we expect that of them 24 hours a day 7 days a week 52 weeks a year. So when a Christian has an off day and every Christian does it is a big shock to the system. We feel doubly let down. Also there are people in churches who not only are not nice and loving and caring they are downright horrible, spiteful, hurtful and abusive. I’d like to tell you that these people are just wolves in sheep’s clothing, they’re not Christians but just pose as Christians to give Christians a bad name. Unfortunately, I can’t. Although there are people like this who go along to church, say the right things, do the right things and act as if they were Christians but in they’re hearts are far from it, there are also Christians who are far far far from what God would want them to be. Churches, like most big organisations are full of a wide range of people, the good, the bad and the ugly.

Jesus knew that His followers would not be anywhere near perfect. In the account of Jesus’ life that Saint Matthew wrote we read…

Then Peter came and said to Him (Jesus), “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.

Jesus knew that we would continue to hurt each other. In this passage both seven and seventy are seen as perfect numbers so when Jesus say seven times seventy the implication is that we forgive our brother as many times as is necessary. I’m not trying to use this passage to say, get over it, forgive and bounce back. All I’m trying to show is that Jesus know that his church wouldn’t be this perfect community of believers who did nothing wrong. He knew that we would be needing to continually forgive each other because we would continually hurt each other. When people are in relationship together hurts happen – FACT! This is not an excuse – we should try and live together in unity, causing no hurt and being loving, caring, selfless individuals as much as we possibly can. However, we ALL make mistakes, we ALL have off-days, we ALL have things we struggle with, we are ALL tempted to do wrong, we are ALL human.

Now, here’s the thing… do we let our hurts, grievances, fall-outs and feuds keep us from what God has in store for us? Do we let these things get in the way of seeking the truth? Do we stop believing because we’ve been hurt? Do we give up the riches that God has for us because we’ve had a tiff with someone? Only you can answer these questions. However, I urge you to seriously think about them. Think about them in the light that one person or a small group don’t represent the whole church. Think about them in the light of Jesus being the only perfect person – he will never hurt you or let you down. Think about them remembering that people are flawed, faulty and very imperfect, but also think about them knowing that you are also flawed, faulty and very imperfect – but that God loves you just the way you are.