Where is real Christianity – Where is the real Church?
How do I find my passion again – my drive? It was there and it was strong – somewhat impenetrable, yet it’s been bludgeoned and broken and the road of rehabilitation seems distant and out of reach. I was doing something I loved and was on fire! But it is now just a measly spark against the once roaring flame which was fuelled by fulfilment and result.
Now the internal (probably best described as the spiritual feeling), is like a vehicle without gasoline, and not only a vehicle without fuel – it also has slashed tires which inhibit forward movement, and now like a dark creeping virus, rust is beginning to eat away critical structure – it’s trying to take hold! So how does one arrive at this dreadful place – this canyon in life?
I was once a dairy farmer. I started my dairy career as a greenhorn cadet and had only ever stepped onto dairy farms to play with cousins and friends - building huts from hay bales, and riding bikes across the farm land. I did enter the dairy shed on occasion, usually to pursue a water fight or to look for empty syringes for water pistols. I really knew little else about the practice, than the fact that cows ate grass and milk came out the other end (I didn’t realise the connection between the two).
One of the first instructions I received as a young dairy cadet, detailed the importance of observation when working in the farm environment. Good observation, we were taught, will always give you a ‘heads up’ on the mood and condition of the farm and the farm animals. With regard to cows, we had it drummed into us that they cannot tell you what’s wrong verbally, but through good observation you will detect what the animal is saying. A conditioned farmer will be able to tell you how his cows are ‘feeling’; he will constantly observe them, ‘looking for signs’, and work to ensure a positive herd mood by careful management dictated to by the information the cows feed back to him. These ‘signs’ are quite obvious once you have had teaching and you’ve practiced the trade for a while, and they are essential to your success as a stockman and farmer. So… what has this got to do with losing passion or drive in an area that once burned strong?
I learned very quickly as a greenhorn stockman that, whether you’re dealing with either adult or juvenile cattle, the environment is essentially the crux of happy, content, and healthy livestock, or miserable sick animals. It means feeding them properly and monitoring that feed closely – grass is not ‘just grass’! There are quality grasses, grasses that taste better; there’s grass that’s too long, grass that lacks nutrient, and there’s even grass that is too old (as in years). These are all factors which animals will respond to either positively or negatively. It means nurturing them – sheltering them from heat, cold, and wet. It means keeping them in optimum condition for their purpose – not too fat or too skinny at critical times of the season [and yes cows can be too fat!]. It also means monitoring the soils and pastures on the farm; ensuring minerals and trace elements essential to good health are present. When these things are not done right, it would be fair to say that the herd has been subjected to, or are within, a ‘poor environment’. They will get down on it, problems will ensue, and it will sometimes take more than twelve months to get them back on par.
Therefore – what is the underlying reason for loss of passion and drive? POOR ENVIRONMENT!
Do not under estimate the environment and its impact on ones spirit! It may be sudden, it may be obvious, but sometimes it is ever so subtle – a creeping vain which quietly undoes ones heart. I had a boss once when I was farming - he had renovated the workers cottage just before my wife and I moved in. He gave me a tour of it when he interviewed me and I commented on how nice it was. He said “If a man’s happy at home – he’s happy at work, so if I keep his wife happy by providing a nice home, my worker will be happy”. I never asked him, but I assume he had discovered this through personal experience.
This man had discovered the essence of ensuring ones passion and drive was kept intact – environment! His vision in this area could almost be deemed profound. So why have I found myself in this canyon of disillusion and confusion, floundering, and seeking answers that I thought were givens? Again, the only real answer is environment!
The circumstances of my personal life in very recent years, have left much of that aspect somewhat damaged, and that’s been tough; some of the biggest blows of which have been dealt even more recently. Although there were parts of which early on in the journey I was petrified and unsure of, and have had to sacrifice so much through – I am surprisingly content with now. However as I reflect, I become increasingly agitated, and with regard to some things, borderline enraged, I digest what happened at the place that I was fulfilling a calling, and that place that my family felt safe ‘once upon a time’ – Our Church!
It has taken me to endure and experience such oppressive Christianity to appreciate that it is alive and well, and unfortunately in this particular Church – taking hold.
I do not believe, that presented with clear facts, it is too much to ask for your spiritual [Christian] family - ‘the Church’, to offer some support – real support, standing up for what we supposedly believe, and practising what we preach – real Christian love. Statements like this have seen me labelled bitter and unforgiving in recent times, but that is simply an excuse that the modern Christian has grabbed onto, in order to avoid dealing with real issues, and to avoid having to pursue the uncomfortable reality of justice and accountability. The pillars of grace and forgiveness are large enough to hide behind, yet the pillars of justice and accountability are almost [in this modern Christian world] too small to see.
I was told a story once by an elderly woman at the church I was attending. I had led the worship in the morning service as I was the leader of our Youth Band. I undertook to share about a young man (Jeremy) whom through operating in the wrong circles had ended up disqualified from driving for twelve months. The incident that led to this punishment caused Jeremy to rethink things a little, and he decided to buy a set of drums and learn out to play them to pass his time. He also decided to distance himself from the ‘crowd ‘ that he had been socialising with, so he moved from 3 hours away from his home town to take up a farm job. It turned out that he moved a few properties up from my property and over a period of months we became known to each other. We had chatted in my workshop on occasion and we often talked music as he was away of my affiliation with the youth band. One afternoon as I was organising band practice for that evening, I was made aware that we were going to missing our drummer for the practice – not the end of the world, but certainly not ideal. I bit the bullet; I text Jeremy and it went something like this… Hey Jeremy I know it’s not your scene, but we don’t have a drummer tonight for band practice, are you interested in helping us out – no strings!! I took a deep breath and pressed ‘send’. 5 minutes later my phone beeped and a text from Jeremy came in, and I opened the text with nervous anticipation – it read, what time and where? I couldn’t believe it! He was interested! I text him the details and sure enough he showed up. That night was a musical abortion, we had heavy metal drumming to worship and praise songs, the band were making all sorts of strange looks at each other as they tried to keep some sort of timing in between the crashing and bashing – it really was laughable with the drums at times being the only audible instrument, but we had fun and we had an un-churched dude, in a church drumming to Christian worship – Wow! This was what I shared with the Church people that morning.
So back to the old lady, and what she told me after the service that day… She put her hand on my shoulder and said “you know Jason; my son is a very good guitarist. Many years ago he wanted to play in the worship team at the Church we attended. The process for becoming a team member was to audition and have an interview with the worship team leader. The lady’s son auditioned and those present were very impressed. At the interview he was asked – “Are you a Christian?” to which he responded “No”. He was told that he had to be a Christian to be a part of the team and to “come back when you’re a Christian””. I felt quite angered to hear that and then she said something that I’ll never forget; she said “My son left the Church that day and has never returned”. Now I was really feeling some internal anger brewing! This was appalling – this is not Gods will! Yes he was a non – Christian, but he was willing to contribute the gift that God had given him for the glory of God. Here we had Christians unwilling to accept him in love as God would have done. I grieve when I hear stories like this one, this isn’t the way it is meant to be, and consciously turning people away from the Church and God is a serious matter.
Unfortunately this is the reality of too many Churches and too many Christians – Christianity in many instances has become an incestuous circle. It has become oppressive in its nature, and it is wrong! Our purpose is to serve God with our gifts and bring the unsaved to him – not to drive [them] away!
And so it is – oppressive Christianity has also seen my passion – my calling smothered - all but blown out. The resultant ashes have left my children questioning trust and loyalty – disillusioned by what ‘the Church’ is really about, and confused about what it stands for…it’s driven a wedge into young hearts, leaving them bleeding and questioning – what’s it all for? When your 10 year old son sits at a rally for youth and listens intently as the speaker asks the question; “have you ever had someone that you thought was a friend, but then betrayed you?” and then sobs as he realises not just someone – a whole bunch of ‘Christians’ that he trusted, you can’t help but feel anger. How does that impact a young child’s view of the Church (which was once his spiritual home), and of Christianity? How does it affect him as he watches Christians let his parents burn in the fire…a people overcome by weakness for fear of being left in the fire themselves by the Church? Afraid that if the say NO - this is wrong, they too will be bludgeoned and crushed by their own people. It only leaves one conclusion – Christianity has become a title, not a faith!
I ask you to challenge yourself today, and challenge your Church leadership…Is your Church just a feel good place, ticking the boxes, and riding the back of the Holy Spirit in order to gain a ‘high’? Ask yourself and your Church leadership…Is your Church Real? Is the Christianity that your Church teaches REAL? Is it really rising to the challenge of fishing for men unconditionally? Or is it so busy running and nurturing groups and activities within the Church that it’s lost sight of our purpose as REAL Christians on this earth? Is your Church a place for Christians only? Or is it a place of vision, openness, transparency, love with accountability, and WELCOME for everybody? A place for people filled with brokenness and shortcomings, from all walks of life.
Where is your Churches heart really at? My family and I lost our church for challenging leadership with the same questions that I ask here. Are you strong enough, and do you believe in Gods purpose enough that you are willing to stand with me today and with God’s purpose for the Church and its people at the forefront, ask these questions? Jesus paid the ultimate sacrifice for our salvation – what are you willing to do in appreciation?
Do not become another superficial Christian – take a bold step of Faith and lead a campaign for REAL Christianity; it’s a tough road, but it’s a real road!
Sometimes it is important to step back and see who is the real enemy here. Satan hates the church and will cause trouble wherever he can. If we can remember that he is the real enemy, and not the other members, we can more effectively fight him and be compassionate in our prayers for them.