“B”—“BE”—BE THE CHURCH
1 in 3 people quit attending Church during the COVID pandemic. Fifty percent (50%) 1 in 2; A full HALF of the folks called “millennials” who consider themselves Christians, don’t attend a church.
I’m a Baby Boomer, born in 1959. I was the Pastor of a church/parish all of my adult life. I love God, follow God, have Jesus in my heart, my personal code in relationship to all relationships is “Do unto others the way you would have do unto you.” The COVID Pandemic has brought something to light for me. It is time for us to stop “DOING” and start “BEING.” It has to start with Church. I have decided to “BE” the Church.
Modern day organized religion has a corruption in its spiritual essence. The check list for church leaders today include: branding the sermon series; state of the art technology; graphics to compete with day to day life; and any other bell or whistle they come across. Many church leaders make their efforts more on delivery of the “number,” rather than simply following Jesus. Whether it is their “bragging” rights as to how many people they “ran on Sunday” or the money they are trying to “raise” for whatever new project they can think up to separate you from your resources; their egos have run amuck and their motives are hideously removed from God’s design. The graphic screens, light shows, smoke machines, “worship teams” that mimic the top Christian song chart, and professionally branded sermon series–should serve as a warning that something is terribly wrong. The Good News of Christ has been exchanged for egos and entertainment; giveaways and bounce houses; snow cones and state of the art cafes. Pull your car in, buy a $6 specialty drink, and head in to hear a group that really believes they are the best worship band in their state sing the latest hit worship song, and the hipster pastor come out in jeans, a t-shirt, tennis shoes, a “relevant Bible message”—even if there is a hint of sincerity in your heart, you will eventually ask yourself “WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO GOD’S DESIGN OF WHAT THE CHURCH IS TO BE?” (The Glorious Church without spot or wrinkle?) Or, as my beloved Iowa Farmer Grandfather might have phrased it: “What the HELL happened to God’s design for the Church?” That.Is.It. HELL HAPPENED. The egos and entertainment have given into the flesh. Modern church has become a reflection of the modern world.
Missing is the Holy Spirit—the Spirit of Christ. The Baptism with the Holy Spirit in both the personal lives and ministry of the leadership tier of the Church AND in the teaching/preaching ministry of the worship event. Jesus, when visiting with Peter about the essential component of Christian faith was the belief that He, Jesus, was the Son of the Living God, Jesus underscored the truth with: “Upon this rock (the deity of Christ) I will build my Church and gates of Hell will not prevail against it.” The difference between BEING the Church and/or DOING Church is the vital component that is only accomplished through the enfilling of the Holy Spirit. Only through the Holy Spirit, that is, the Spirit of Christ is the Diety of Christ the center of the Church.
There has become a huge gap in the theological and Biblical interest of those who prepare to feed God’s flock. Those in charge fail to realize the Sheep of God are starving to death. They are using the technique and methods of the world to appeal to the flesh, rather than, leaning into spiritual dependency upon the living God.
The missing component in modern teaching is the admission that “I can’t do this in my own strength.” Most modern teaching provide statistics, graphics, videos, pithy titles, catchy phrases, all to show you “YOU CAN DO IT.” God is often mentioned, but our deep need for Him and our need to hunger, thirst, and follow after Him is left out.
If you think about it, no wonder 1 in 3 haven’t returned to it and half the younger generations don’t see a need for it. Now what?
If “NOW WHAT” is a sincere question, then I have formulated an answer. But before I lay it out, I want to be clear: I am asking you to join me. I am asking you to clearly become one of the those who are going to stop “DOING” and start “BEING.” If you accept my invitation to become “1 in 3” you will no longer “join a church” or “go to church” or “become a member of a church”—Instead—you have decided to BE THE CHURCH.
BEING, NOT DOING means you love God more, not less.
BEING, NOT DOING means you have decided to invest in spiritual life (God’s, your own, and others), not the propagation of a particular “brand” of organized religion.
BEING, NOT DOING means you are seeking to go deeper in God, not satisfied with the modern church’s need to rally you to its particular niche or “thing” it wants to be known for in the community or state.
BEING, NOT DOING means you are committing yourself to become a SELF FEEDER and not another lazy church person who sips his/her latte and listens to the latest worship song and take in another 30 minutes of blah, blah, blah, from the guy in jeans and tennis shoes telling you to somehow become “more like Jesus.”
“BEING THE CHURCH” is going to be HARD WORK!
Modern church is designed to make you feel dependent on them, NOT DEPENDENT UPON GOD. Modern church will take the world’s need to make you feel obligated to their case and create a carefully constructed “guilt trip” of neediness. I was a pastor. I did it myself. It worked. It always has worked. But the stakes are too high spiritually and time is too short. It needs to be “called out.” Christians have to become self-feeders. We are living at the End of Time. We have to grow up, develop, go deeper, press in (not just lean in) to the presence of God. The level of what each of us need spiritually in these days CANNOT be obtained through the light show or smoke machine!
Scripture says: “Forsake NOT the assembling of yourselves together….” Or “I was glad when they said let us go unto the House of the Lord” –and yet we miss completely that whenever “two or more of you is gathered in My Name there I am in midst of them.” “BEING THE CHURCH” involves finding fellowship with others who join together to equip, share, encourage, and challenge each other in the “BEING.”
SO WHEN YOU “GATHER” WITH OTHERS, GATHER IN “JESUS NAME.” Or in other words, keep Jesus at your center. Freely share with others what God is doing. Invite others to share in the love of Jesus in their own life. Live your own life in such a way people want to share in it.
Develop relationships with others by treating others the way you want to be treated. It doesn’t matter if it is your neighbor literally next door, or your neighbor who lives in a foreign country. Everyone is your (our) neighbor.
If you are going to BE THE CHURCH you no longer allow the modern church to use their “let us be your COMMUNITY” schtick on you. Don’t “join community”—quit “belonging to a community” SIMPLY “BE” COMMUNITY. “Being” is not “Doing.” Being is Being.
You “belong” to a “small group” because that provides you with community? That is just a schtick—it is propaganda—it is a trick. Your small group that you are “comfortable with” is just a clique. You are a group of people who enjoy hanging out. Fine. No problem. But your clique is not a spiritual group. It is a clique of people who don’t really want others joining. Let’s call it out and expose it to the light of God. “Small group ministry” = “organized cliques.” Wait. Wait. Wait. What about the early Church? Really? The early Church? You mean the group of 120 on the Day of Pentecost that were infilled with the Holy Spirit and become over 3000 by the end of the day? That Church? Is your “small group” going to be comfortable adding 3000 to it by the end of the day? DON’T BRING UP THE EARLY CHURCH. Nothing organized religion is doing today looks anything like the EARLY CHURCH. Read for yourself….ACTS in the New Testament.
Read the Bible. Start with reading the Bible. There is a natural flow to the concepts in the Bible. Even the Old King James version of the Bible has a flow to it—although I wouldn’t recommend that 17th century version unless you read other 17th century material on a daily basis, the original King James version of the Bible is for another time.
Read the Bible A LOT. I mean several times a day. Keep a Bible at your bedside, at your favorite chair, in your car, at work or school, and ON YOUR PERSONAL DEVICE. It is the Living Word. Reading the Bible is the number one, most exceptional way for you the hear from God. Hearing from God personally, is the gateway to everything spiritual. PLUS—no matter what anyone tells you, you will never experience God until you are completely submersed in the Words of God (Bible). Don’t allow your main spiritual food to be what someone else says the Bible says—READ IT YOURSELF. A LOT. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” II Timothy 3:16-17
While reading the Bible, pause everyone two minutes and ask yourself: WHAT IS GOD SPEAKING TO ME? OR: WHAT IS GOD SAYING?
When God speaks into you, write it down! Journal it.
Reflect back on it.
At some point every one, two, or three days….SHARE IT WITH SOMEONE. Keep it short. Keep it simple. Keep it personal: “Hey, I wanted to let you know, this is what God has been speaking to me through my Bible reading/study.”
READ—REFLECT—WRITE IT DOWN—SHARE IT. “SELF-FEEDING.”
Now, with the laziness gone, and your own personal experience with God back on course, start to pray. Start with the “The Lord’s Prayer”—slow and steady. Absorb the concepts:
Holy/Hallowed is your name,
Your Kingdom Come,
Your Will Be Done,
On Earth As It Is In Heaven,
Give us Today,
Our Daily Bread,
And Forgive Us Our Sins,
As We Forgive Those Who Have Sinned Against Us,
And Lead Us Not Into Temptation,
But Deliver Us From Evil,
For Yours Is The Kingdom,
The Power, The Glory Forever. Amen.”
Are you living the words to this prayer? In conscious prayer thought, go over and over the Lord’s Prayer and apply it. It is hard work. Are you missing the smoke machine yet? Isn’t it easier to sip your latte and check out the wardrobe of the worship team than doing this? Sure. You bet. Giving up church is harder than you might think! Ha!
Next, start making prayer lists. All kinds of prayer lists. When you hear something on the news that is troubling, write it down on your prayer list. When you hear of a need in the life of someone, write it down on your prayer list. Let your prayer list grow and grow and grow and grow some more. Keep the item, the name, the situation, on your prayer list for six months and delete it. If it is an on-going need after the six months put it back on PURPOSEFULLY then—pull it off–so that EVERY prayer list you develop does has your complete thought and heart process in it. If you keep something on a prayer list too long, it becomes what Jesus called “vain repetition.”
SHABBAT—A SABBATH—A DEDICATED DAY COMPLETELY OFF PER WEEK
At the very creation of the world, God created a day of rest. Rest IN Him. Time with Him. A whole day dedicated to Him. A day per week reserved for Him to be spent IN Him. Thinking about Him, talking with Him, worshipping Him.
The idea of one entire day per week may take many forms, but we have perverted God’s very intention and design for us (and it—the Sabbath—a day of rest IN Him).
SUNDAY = FUNDAY has become the theme. The hipster pastor in his jeans, t-shirt, and tennis shoes, is happy as a clam that you are sipping the $6 latte from his/her café, listening to his hired help, enjoying all the bells and whistles for an hour, and could care less what you do with the rest of your Shabbat, as long as you filled a seat and could count you and yours in his/her brag-(able) statistic, and hopefully pulled out your device and dropped some money into the church account. So….off we go….to brunch or lunch, to then shop or “catch up” on work or lawn work, as long as we put the hour in first—every one is happy. Except….I wonder what God thinks about it? SUNDAY is FUNDAY. Really?
I love Israel and try to take people there whenever I can. The Jewish people generally adhere to a strict Sabbath. Some are very legalistic about their Sabbath (pronounced Shabbat). Tour Groups are given the lesson about the Shabbat elevator that will stop at every floor on the way up and the way down so that people won’t violate Shabbat rules by pushing an elevator button. (This is a current practice in Israel and other places who practice strict Levitical Laws.) I am NOT advocating for legalism, but I am advocating for Shabbat. A very Christian and very Biblical day per week that you and your family give to God. This designated day is God’s Day, not my day, not your day, not your catch-up day, and certainly NOT your FUNDAY. It would help to avoid the shopping, and even the lawn work. Rest in God on the day you dedicate to Him. Doing so will make you BE THE CHURCH. In doing so you will no longer be just “Doing Church.”
Finally, listen to some different speakers, teachers, preachers. A wide variety of them. However, you do need a “spiritual covering” in the day and age we live in. Find one. It is likely a local Pastor who has a spiritual anointing for the geographical area. All through Scripture we see God raising up Leaders for a purpose. Find one in the area you live. Talk with this person and find out what they believe their spiritual purpose and direction is. Listen to them teach. Do they teach the Bible? Does it equip you to be a better Christian—or in the context of my challenge: “Does the teaching help you “BE THE CHURCH?” Share the concept about “Being” rather than “Doing” and see how the spiritual Leader responds. Be assured, there is a person within driving distance of you who is this person. It may be a large church, it may be a small church, it may be a home church, but that person is placed near you by God. God is raising up the Church, placing in our hearts that we need to “BE” not “DO.” Find a spiritual Leader who believes we are to “BE THE CHURCH” not “DO CHURCH.”
Just make sure your main spiritual food is coming from God’s Word into your life. What you hear from a spiritual leader, Bible teacher, or preacher is dietary supplement, with the exception of that one special person God has anointed over the geographical area you live, that person is regularly receiving a “nugget” from the Holy Spirit.
The Early Church in the Book of Acts after the Day of Pentecost; the General Epistles where the Apostle Paul started a bunch of churches in modern day Turkey and Greece and wrote them instructions in how to “BE the CHURCH” and not “DO CHURCH”; The Pastoral Epistles in the New Testament where the Apostle Paul gave instruction on how to develop a leadership design to manage the ministry of Church—they were functioning as “Being.”
Today, we are “Doing.” People are worn out emotionally and spiritually. The Sheep of “God’s Flock” are starving to death because the modern church wants us all to DO (and doesn’t allow us to “BE”).
Functionally—BE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOURSELF SPIRITUALLY. Answer to the Lord of your Heart because the Kingdom of Heaven is within you!
If you attend a Church make sure you are able to gain at least one good spiritual nugget. If you can’t or don’t—DON’T EVER GO BACK. If you can’t get something spiritual out of a modern church–which is called by God to provide people with their spiritual direction, and cover; it has given itself over to the pattern of the world.
Functionally—if you need a spiritual cover, reach out to me. Email me at my personal email address: email@example.com
We will figure this preparation process together. I don’t know what the future holds or what this is all about exactly. But I do know—God is calling us all to BE not DO. The best days of our spiritual lives are ahead.
WHAT ABOUT MY CHILDREN AND THEIR SPIRITUAL LIFE?
First, the spiritual lives of your children is a huge responsibility. Childhood is when most people find Jesus. Two/thirds of Christian believers today gave their hearts to Christ before the age of 18. The most important person in leading them to Christ, is the parents.
Children follow the example of the parent. Are you prioritizing time with the Lord? Do you make “Sunday” special – by NOT running around to games, travel sports, etc. Do you really spend time together slowing down, unplugging, and making the day different than all others? Do they see you reading the Bible? Do you stop and pray with them over meals, when you pass an accident, or meet an ambulance or fire truck? Do they see you concerned about others and living a life of God’s love?
Going to church with your child and making sure that from the nursery on, that spiritual lessons are taught, is fine. But it is only to reinforce what you are doing in your daily life. Volunteering in the children’s department of a church to make sure the Good News of Christ is being taught – the teaching that transforms lives—is another way to ensure that the correct concepts are being taught to children. If there is a vacation Bible school, go with your kids and help out – or teach the Bible lesson—to assure it is all not just fun and games, but that children are given the opportunity to give their lives to Christ. Be sure that the content is not just “stories” but real-life young boys and girls who stepped up and obeyed God and served God (Samuel, David, Daniel – were all very young when they stepped up and obeyed – just as examples).
We know that Jesus loves children and knows their hearts:
Matthew 19:14 – Matthew records (also in Mark 10:14 and Luke18:16) “Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’”
The responsibility is yours! Deuteronomy 6:5-6 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. Take these words to heart…Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you’re at home or away, when you lie down or get up. Write them down and tie them around your wrist, and wear them as headbands as a reminder. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” YOU ARE THEIR TEACHER OF THE GOODNESS OF GOD AND HOW HE SUPPLIES YOUR NEEDS. Deuteronomy 11:19 “Teach them to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.”
Yes, children need the Lord. And if you can find them a place where YOUR TEACHINGS of Christ are backed up and they are learning and memorizing scriptures—fine. But it is not the church’s responsibility to teach the children about God– it is yours.
ONE MORE THING—YOU AREN’T OFF THE HOOK WITH YOUR TITHE!
I personally believe that God designed bringing Him the “first fruits” while Adam was in the Garden of Eden. When Adam walked with God in the “cool of the day” he brought along with him a portion of all he was working on to show and then present to God. The idea of the offering was God’s design and idea at the very beginning of the world.
The first fruits always have and always will belong to God. The modern church has failed in the teaching on tithing (the first 10%). Tithing is Biblical. Tithing is God’s design for the world and all of our lives. However, the tithe is not just to the local church. The quotation from Malachi chapter 3—“Bring the tithe into the storehouse (qutsar)” has been used to say the “storehouse” is your local church. The “storehouse” actually means “eternal purpose” or “heavenly depository” OR—anything that helps God’s purpose. You need to tithe, you MUST tithe. Actually. Literally. Even people who don’t believe in the Bible or even believe in God should tithe. It is how God designed the world. Basically, the first ten percent of your increase belongs to God. Love God. Love your neighbor as yourself. If you help God’s work or help your neighbor, you are tithing with your resources.
But let’s get really practical. The first ten percent of my increase belongs to God’s work. What are the kinds of things are in this category? I believe modern churches do some good in some lives. I also believe if a Pastor says they are “called by God” that we should honor their calling. “Don’t muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain….” (The Bible says the “ox” has to eat, too.) Giving over and above – let alone tithe, is very important. If your church requires you tithe only to them, then don’t join it. If they require you only tithe to them to be on their Board of Directors, then you are “paying for your seat of leadership”—That’s entirely up to you, just don’t spiritualize it.
We spread our tithe around. There are so many worthy ministries, efforts, and needs worthy of your tithe. In a simple way to make my point, I will list a few ideas. THIS IS IN NO WAY A COMPLETE LIST! This is simply an ideas list for your “first fruits” of ways to invest at least the first ten percent of your increase that will fulfill the Malachi chapter three instruction to “bring all the tithe into the storehouse” and bless others instead of stealing from God. Some of my ideas on this list are very specific. I apologize if I embarrass anyone in listing them, but please understand they will represent many, many others (people you will know) who could put to good use God’s first fruits portion of your increase.
If you (and when) you find that person God has called and anointed over your area, make sure you bless them financially. The Holy Spirit helps them keep things balanced and in check. The original tribe of Levi in the Old Testament were the priests. They weren’t allowed to own property like the other tribes of Israel, but they were allowed to receive the tithe from all the other tribes. They did God’s work, and lived well because they had a constant source of income from the tithe of the other tribes. Think of this in terms of that person who God has anointed as the spiritual Leader in your life.
- Look among your neighbors. Is there a neighbor in need? Need comes in many forms. A neighbor in need might even be driving a Lexus, but may have lost their job, or been caught in an issue they didn’t have any control over and be struggling.
- Do you know a single parent, a widow, a single parent with children? These are all widows and orphans with plenty of need. Buy some food and leave it on their porch. Call the school and pay for some fees. Try to remain anonymous as possible. Refuse to use the talking track “let me know if you need anything”…..what is someone supposed to do with that? What is “anything?” Don’t wait for someone to ask. BE the Church, don’t DO the church.
- Do you know a custodian? Give them $20. Better yet, someone like my friend, R.T., a church custodian. He makes a fraction (yes a fraction) ministers of the church make, yet he will need a little extra in retirement, too. Send a person like R.T. some money to put back for his retirement years. Think about people like R.T. who work physically hard for years for a fraction of the boss. BE THE CHURCH! Think about R.T. more than yourself. J. K. is a great custodian in a school system in Indiana. A great person, doing a great job in custodial work. Hand someone like J.K. a note and some cash. BE THE CHURCH BY BLESSING OTHERS WITH YOUR TITHE. IT WILL CHANGE THE WORLD. IT IS THE EARLY CHURCH. IT IS CHRISTIAN LOVE.
- Give your waiter/waitress a larger tip. UP YOUR GAME. They aren’t serving you food because they really want to; they serve you food because they have to. Bless them. Double and triple your tip. Don’t leave them a spiritual tract. Leave them a huge tip.
- Pastor H.H. of Churches of the Heartland, Winamac, Indiana is the type of guy who manages God’s resources with wisdom and discipline. They operate an orphanage in Africa that is entirely supported by their Churches. Send him some of your tithe and you will be investing in God’s work is a much greater way then most any Church.
- P.H. of Wichita, Kansas, coordinates all kinds of efforts around the world including a Clean Water Initiative in Africa. Every single penny is tracked. They have the exact amount to dig and well and provide life for an entire village. Send some of your tithe to P.H.
- Give some of your tithe to a guy like my friend, M.W. A long time Pastor that just got torn to pieces for being a great Pastor. He got out of ministry. Fortunately, God used a mutual friend to help M.W. start a business. However, a couple years ago, M.W. was broke, through no fault at all of his own, but the circumstances. But the people of God need to come around him and pitch in financially and restore the years financially the devil stole from him. Find a “M.W. and bless them, again and again. Help restore those in ministry and service we have torn apart.
- Come along side a veteran. Don’t ask. BE THE CHURCH.
- Send people on work/witness trips.
- A Lady Pastor in Ukraine provides meals for widow ladies who desperately need food. (I’m leaving out names to be protective).
- Try to avoid all the big organizations. There are all kinds of corruption and “handling fees” involved in larger organizations. Know where God’s money is going. I will help it happen if you need help. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for many other ideas.