We have the Block Party happening this week.
- We get to feed and entertain believers and unbelievers
- We get to shine the love of Christ to the people of our community
- We get to serve
Here is the challenge:
MANY OF THESE PEOPLE HAVE HAD A BAD CHURCH EXPERIENCE
It is safe to say that some of us have had bad church experiences J
I remember going to Catholic Church with my Grandma in 6th grade.
- I was dressed in an Itchy brown hand-me-down suit
- They had NO youth program
- They had rituals I did not understand
I remember times going to church when I was bored to death with the sermons and thinking
- Please get over soon so I can leave
- I just want to hang out with my friends afterward
I remember having times going to church where it seemed completely irrelevant to me.
- Hearing sermons that had no application to my life
- Preachers that had deep information but poor delivery
These are just a few of my stories…
- You may have a bad experience story
- People coming to the Block party may have bad experiences
- Some people you work with won’t even step into a church because of their bad experience
The truth is that church is messy and we try to make it look like it is not
On any given Sunday there could be all these different people sitting in the church:
- A young person who is easily bored and prefers video games
- A wife who wants a sermon to help her husband in marriage and to help her as a parent
- A divorced adult who needs to hear about God’s grace and love
- A person striving hard to live holy who wants the church to be a place of no compromise
- Someone wanting lively worship
- Someone who wants things done the old fashioned way.
- Someone who wants a message for the nonbeliever so they can accept Christ
- Someone who wants to hear some new deep teaching
This list can go on and on. It seems impossible for a Sunday morning to be for and speak to every need. Even we in the church may have a hard time agreeing on how we want everything – So we must pray and ask Him to speak to us and be listening for His voice.
So church can be messy and very complex
Then there is the whole sin problem
- The church does not always do a good job of properly handling people with problems
- We want to look like we belong to the “good Christian” club, but we are still struggling with “bad Christian” stuff
- We have a church culture that tends to either hide our struggles and failures or go to a different church.
We have been looking at the cycle of sin that people struggle with.
- We all have sin living within us.
- Not talking about choices we make, but the desire that dwells within us.
Galatians 5:16-17 “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not able to do whatever you want. So those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit”
- We may have a conflicting desires dwelling within us (As believers)
- There will be many people come on our property this weekend that are completely driven by their sinful nature.
- They may be nice and live their lives by good conscience, but they have the desire within them to isolate from God. (Rebel, not submit to) His laws and standards
Isolation from the church and God means I don’t need you. You are irrelevant to my needs.
What’s really sad?
- What we need most is what we are pushing away!
- The church can be the vessel that God uses to bring life and health to people…
So the question we must tackle this morning is: how can we communicate to this world that God is not boring and that the church is not irrelevant?
Bad church experiences are a huge problem:
- These bad experiences may form people’s opinion on what God is like
- The church is the image of Christ here on earth. What do people see?
- The scary thing is that we may become part of someone’s bad church experience.
Bad church experiences have happened even in the Bible days
- John 8 The jewish leaders brought a woman caught in the act of adultery to Jesus
- Did she ever return to the synagogue? We are never told what happened to her
The Apostle Paul had great success converting Gentiles to Christianity, but they ran into the problem of how these Gentiles were to act
SAINT PAUL – He called himself the “chief of all sinners.”
- We like Saint better than chief of all sinners
- Saint Paul Minnesota
- Chief of all sinners Minnesota
There was an argument throughout the church as to how the Gentiles should live their lives.
- Do they need to live like us Jews?
- Can they follow God and not any of the Law?
The response comes in Acts 15:10-11 “Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? 11 No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”
- Some believed the Gentiles needed to become like the Jew
- Paul realized that it was unfair to burden them with something that they (Jews) themselves could not bear.
- He recognized that it was by grace that people were saved.
What were the requirements that they asked of the Gentiles?
- Abstain from meat sacrificed to idols
- Abstain from blood
- Abstain from the meat from strangled animals
- Abstain from sexual immorality
To this day we still heap a heavy burden on people to live by standards that are nearly impossible to completely follow.
- Don’t drink
- Don’t watch rated R movies
- Don’t smoke
- Wear dresses to church
- Don’t go to the bar
- No dancing
- Have altar calls
- Pray the Lord’s prayer
- We have grape juice for communion
- Bow your head and close your eyes when you pray
- The pastor must wear a suit or tie
- The church is a building led by one pastor
ALL OF THESE CONCEPTS ARE NOT BIBLICAL. THEY MAY HAVE GOOD REASONINGS. They may be wisdom
How can a person know that God is not boring and is relevant for their lives?
Here is how some people look at it.
- God tells me to not have sex out of marriage
- Don’t get drunk
- Be selfless and give away ten percent of your money
Some feel this means No fun, and He wants my money
Of course we know that God is not just asking for our money and He want us to have real joy.
Remember Jesus said in Matthew 11 “Come to me all who are weary and burdened”
- The Jewish faith placed a heavy burden on people that they could not live up to.
- We have the ten commandments and some 600 other rules for living found in the 1st five books of the Bible (Books of the Law)
- The Jews then created tens of thousands of other rules to guard a person from breaking one of these Ten Commandments.
And this is what many people see the church being – A long list of Do’s and Don’ts
We all know that this is not the life that God has for us.
John 10:10 “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full”
Look at the plan of the devil:
How does he do this?
- By getting people to isolate away from the Shepherd
What is God’s plan?
- To give us life
- Give life abundantly
1 Timothy 6:17 “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment”
- The world wants to tell us that there is happiness and security in riches
- The truth is that we must put our hope in God who richly provides for us
Philippians 4:6-7 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”
The world tells us that
- We will be happy if we get everything we want
- All this brings about is worry and anxiety
- It is the mindset of “I will be happier doing my thing isolated away from the Lord and what He asks”
- Do you see the sinful nature in their speaking?
- OUR SINFUL NATURE DESIRES TO REBEL FROM GOD AND ISOLATE AWAY FROM HIM
We will never receive the full blessings of joy and life God has for us when we follow the sinful desires within us.
CHRISTIANITY IS NOT ABOUT RULES
- CHRISTIANITY IS ABOUT RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD
- IT IS ABOUT TRUSTING HIM
- IT IS ABOUT DRAWING NEAR TO THE GOOD SHEPHERD
Let’s listen to David in Psalms 23
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3He refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,[a]
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
God is offering us everything that our heart desires
- Lack nothing
- Peace and rest
- Refreshing to our soul
- No fear
- Goodness in life
So how do we show the world God’s relevance?
- We must live a Christianity based on a relationship with Jesus more than good morals
What does that result in?
- Love the people even if you disagree with the sin
- Make people feel important and valuable
- Quick to forgive
- Love and accept someone without the expectation of receiving anything back from them
NOTHING IS MORE BEAUTIFUL THAN GOD. WE ARE A REFLECTION OF HIM AND NEED TO ALLOW HIM TO SHINE THROUGH OUR LIVES.