A few weeks ago in church, a prophecy was given about an influx of people coming in from “the hollows” (this is WV, people). We were instructed to “get ready” multiple times. When I left the service, the phrase was echoing in my head, get ready, get ready, get ready. Why aren’t we ready? More importantly, why don’t we stay ready? Or why do people come and check out church and promptly turn away?
These are some hefty, thought provoking questions that I don’t know all the answers to. After some thought, prayer and conversations with God and whoever else would listen, I came up with three simple things we regular folk could do. You can find the first here. Here’s the second:
Become relationally oriented, not rules driven.
Before you think, I don’t have that problem, stop and think for a minute. How do you respond to people behaving in ways you don’t think are appropriate? Do you have an unwritten set of rules in your arsenal that shoot out when people don’t adhere to them? Confession- I do! If you do, you’re not alone.
We all have expectations and perceptions that are based on our nurture and our nature.
In our homes we were nurtured to behave in certain ways: don’t burp at the dinner table, do enter in conversation, brush your teeth before bed, we will have a bedtime story, we don’t scream at one another to get our point across and the list goes on. Our nature puts in its two cents. Introverts may not appreciate lengthy parties full of noise and surface conversations. The point is, we all have our isms.
The problem is when we extend the expectations of these unwritten rules or isms to new visitors in our home or the church- relationships are risked. This takes some forethought and self examination.
Is this rule fulfilling an eternal objective or just contributing to my comfort right now?
When a newbie comes into our church smelling of weed, speaking loudly with expletives or standing when we sit, what is our response? To build the relationship or the rules? What if a child comes into our kids church who can’t regulate, not won’t but can’t? What sort of accommodations do we make for him? Do we favor sitting in a seat over a child receiving unconditional love and planting the seed of an eternal relationship?
We aren’t the first generation to struggle with this issue.The early church had the same struggle. In Acts 15 we find some history of the early church. Some were being recited:
“Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.”
The modern version of the directive may be different:
You can only be saved if….
- You don’t drink
- Don’t smoke
- Don’t cuss
- Don’t follow my rules of behaving in church
The early church struggled with the adoption of a new culture and melding the old converts with the new Gentile converts. What kind of rules must be instituted? What sort of language should they speak? Should they memorize the Torah? Should they abstain from unclean meats? Be circumcised? How far did grace go and how much of the law should be observed?
It was decided that a letter should be sent with a few instructions. Don’t eat things that have been sacrificed to idols and keep yourself from sexual impurity. Simple and to the point.
It seemed good to the apostles not to overload the newly adopted Gentile brothers and sisters with too many rules (Acts 15:28-29).
By the same token, church newbies are learning to be part of a family and the instruction has to be limited and meted out with grace.
God sent His Son to die for each of us. God wants us to be in relationship with Him. We can’t behave our way to Christ, it’s because of our sacrifice that we are part of the family of God. If someone crosses the threshold of your home or home church, welcome them! Work on relationship. Pray. Let the Holy Spirit draw him. Rules won’t. Unrealistic expectations won’t.