Monthly Archives: February 2014

The Church Is Irrelevant!

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Church Irrelavant

There’s an awful lot of talk these days by some pretty famous folks casting doubt on the relevancy of the Church. I hesitate to add my voice to the cacophony out there in the blogosphere, but I must…

I’ve been in the Church almost all of my life. For the past 57 years (except for about a year or so when I wandered), I’ve attended church gatherings faithfully. In fact, I did the math, and I’ve been to at least 7,000 church services in my lifetime.

I started my journey in a denomination called the Christian & Missionary Alliance, but I’ve also been a Baptist, an Evangelical Methodist and a neo-charismatic. For a huge part of my life, I’ve been in non-denominational churches like the one I pastor now.

Some of you are impressed. Some of you are depressed (you feel sorry for me), and some of you don’t really give a rip! It’s okay. Hang in there with me.

You would think my background in the Church would make me very confused. Am I a fundamentalist, an evangelical, a charismatic, or what? In truth, my experience has given me a great deal of clarity about the Church, its purpose, and its place on planet earth.Church NO

•    I know the Church is not a building.

•    I know the Church is not an hour on Sunday.

•    I know the Church is bigger than our pet peeves, our pet doctrines, and our pet organizational structures.

•    I know the Church is far from perfect. We are, after all, the fellowship of the broken yet redeemed.

From Johnny MacArthur to Jack Hayford, from “strange fire” to on fire, we are the Body of Christ, His Bride forever, and eternally linked to one another whether we like each other or not.

That being said, I also know the Church is irrelevant!

Unless…

•    Unless she is more of an organism than an organization, more of a living, breathing entity rather than a club akin to the Knights of Columbus.

•    Unless she provides a meaningful place for connection and functions effectively as a community of faith. It’s not about the size of the church (big or small); it’s all about the depth of our relationships with one another.

•    Unless she provides a place for celebration expressed through vibrant worship, public baptisms, Holy Communion, and authentic and relevant teaching. God does not live in a building, but there ought to be something unique and special about the Church when it gathers together to worship, pray and praise.

•    Unless she motivates and engages her members to live otherly-focused.

•    Unless she becomes a safe place for people to discover God’s grace and to develop along their journey of faith.

•    Unless she engages all involved to realize and utilize their spiritual gifts for the benefit of others and the advancement of the Kingdom of God.

•    Unless she pools her human and financial resources to do more together than any one individual can do alone.

•    Unless she provides a place for the demonstration of the glory and power of God to transform broken lives and to heal broken bodies.

Honestly, some have become good at doing church while they’re not so good at being the church, the body of Christ in our world. (Click to Tweet!)

Church BE the church

The first church was established with power and in the context of deep and abiding community (Acts 2). It was known for demonstrating God’s power and experiencing meaningful kinship that transcended race or status.

The early Church was anything but irrelevant.

May I humbly suggest that the Church of today becomes extraneous to a watching world, and especially to a younger generation, when we have a “form of godliness, but deny its power” (2 Timothy 3:5). We can become a stumbling block through an emphasis on “eloquence, persuasive words and human wisdom” rather than “a demonstration of the Spirit’s power” (1 Corinthians 2).

As my friend and co-laborer, Jeff Kennedy, wrote in his recently released book, Father, Son, and the Other One, “The contrast between powerless American religion and the first-century church is startling.”

If the Church, for you, has become nothing more than a weekly meeting where you sit and listen to a talking head, then it may very well be irrelevant!

Church Listening
However, God intends so much more for the Church. As Christ-followers, our mission and mandate is the mission and mandate of Jesus found in Luke 4:18-19. To follow Him is to live like Him. It’s just that simple.

And Jesus said, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father” John 14:12 (NIV, emphasis added).

Is that your experience? Does that describe your church?

If not, what will make your more church relevant and vibrant? What hope does your church offer the world that will draw people to Christ by the hundreds and thousands? And on a broader scale, what will mark the next great movement of God in our western culture?

I hope you wrestle with these questions as I do.

Perhaps it’s time to add to what we have learned in the past several decades about teaching the Word, worship, creativity, seeker-sensitivity, and leadership (all valuable and necessary). Perhaps the Church will rock our world again when she is a powerful community of sold-out followers who seek to set the captives free, to heal the broken, and to engage people in meaningful connection to the Bride.

We simply can’t play church. We can’t do church. We must be the Church, which means we must be just like Jesus. (Click to Tweet!)

Church Playing

So how do we get there from here?

•    We take risks.

•    We come to our gatherings (whether in a home, a theater, a former K-Mart, or a cathedral) with desperate and expectant hearts.

•    We hold on to the important values and practices we have become comfortable with while being willing to venture out into the uncomfortable and unknown.

•    We guard against the flesh. (I refuse to make something happen.)

•    We yield to and live filled by the Holy Spirit.

•    We let new wine fill new wineskins.

Let me be clear as I wrap this up. I’m not suggesting we all become Pentecostals. I’m not suggesting we have missed the boat as evangelicals.

I have never believed the Church is truly irrelevant.

I am, however, strongly suggesting it’s time to shut the mouths of those who call us outdated and irrelevant. And I am suggesting this happens best not through wise discourse or through a more creative show, but through the same means that turned the first century world upside down: God’s love, His power and a life-giving, authentic community of faith.

I agree with Bill Hybels, “The Church is the hope of the world,” but only when she is unafraid to live fully-surrendered and radically empowered. (Click to Tweet!)

Church POWER

 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me.

He has anointed me to tell the good news to poor people.

He has sent me to announce freedom for prisoners.

He has sent me so that the blind will see again.
He wants me to free those who are beaten down.


19 And he has sent me to announce the year when he will set his people free.”

Luke 4:18-19 (NIRV)

 

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6 Responses to The Church Is Irrelevant!

  1. Deer in the headlight moment??? Here are some of my thoughts right now. How about a smile for that clerk you saw at the store today? How about a kind word for the mailman or paper delivery person that you met? How about getting something off that top shelf for someone in a powered grocery cart? How about encouraging words for our Pastors, Teachers, Police Officers (met a State Patrolman the other day in a business I was in and I just walked up to him and said “Thank you for your service”. You should have seen his face, and we had a nice conversation), and anyone you come in contact with during our busy days. I believe that is putting a face to our beliefs. That is DEMONSTRATING the Love we have inside of us as believers and followers of Jesus. If someone asks for prayer, do it right then and there. Don’t be bashful, don’t be afraid….”God is with us, of whom should we be afraid?”. Practical things we can ALL do is what makes the Church relevant in our worlds. Kurt, you challenge us to do some thinking about what and who we are. Thank you!!!

  2. Many years ago far, far away…I was a missionary for the church I used to belong to. I found myself telling people inside and outside of this particular church, “The church isn’t for everyone.” I said this because of the negative messages I kept on hearing and receiving; Yes, I understand I am a good-for-nothing fleshly sinner and I am being judged and will be judged BUT feed me some meat to digest to encourage me to grow into the kind of person Jesus wills and remind me of the epic GRACE of God!

    My fiancee, and now my wife, introduced me to Eastpoint in 2011. I go to Eastpoint to gather among believers, the sick and the well to become strengthened by God’s will by song, by listening and by crying. I respect you Pastor Kurt because you are REAL. That is why I am able to listen to you and hear the words of Christ through you and do my darnest to be the change God wills for myself and for my family.

  3. The Church will be relevant and “rock this world” when we get on our knees and ask God to do what we cannot do. The first church started on its’ knees, the power of God came and “daily” many were being added to the church. It’s not about our programs but about His presence, His kingdom come…as the prayer goes.

    • On bended knees with you, Bro. Love you! Praying for you and the Church in Mozambique now.

Much Ado About Nothing (What really matters?)

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Much Yawning

Admittedly, what matters a great deal to me may not matter at all to you. There are things and issues I am passionate about that others yawn over. We all grow up with a set of values, and we tend to develop strong feelings through the years that are sometimes shared by others and sometimes not.

I get it.

But . . .

Are there times when we make a big to do about relatively nothing? Are there things we care about that really shouldn’t matter that much in the grand scale of life?

•    So your computer broke. Bummer. How does that measure up to someone’s broken heart?Much Ado Skakespear

•    Okay, your boss was a jerk today. Sorry. But how does that compare to a person who is facing divorce or the death of a spouse?

•    What? Your kid came home with a C instead of an A in algebra! The nerve. But what if you had a special needs child who will never be able to do math?

•    Dang! Your back is killing you. How does that compare to your friend with cancer?

•    You’re starving because you had to skip lunch today. Growl. But do you have any idea how many people will go to bed hungry tonight, and they’re literally starving?

Take a breath. I’m not saying you don’t matter. Of course you do. You matter to God, and what matters to you matters to Him.

I’m just asking some simple questions here: When you’re struggling, do you have a big-picture perspective of life? When you’re in the thick of it, can you see past your needs and struggles? Here’s a crazy idea: Maybe it’s really not just about you (or me).

Much to do NOT about me

Why is this important?

First, I’m convinced that the best way to maintain an attitude of gratitude no matter what you’re dealing with is to remember the needs of others. The secret to “giving thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thess. 5:18) is putting things into perspective. “Yeah, my back is bad, but at least I’m not dead yet!” Regardless of how bad things are, there’s always something for which we can be thankful, and someone struggling more than we are.

Second, when I stop being overly focused on my problems and I see the needs of others around me, it typically motivates me to action. It’s there I find the truth that it’s “more blessed to give than receive” (Acts 20:35).

And finally, I develop an eternal perspective and find hope when I remember that nothing, and certainly no problem, lasts forever. Paul wrote, “So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever” (2 Corinthians 4:18).

much birds

Perspective. It matters. A lot.

This morning I held in my hand our church’s weekly prayer requests. Twenty people presenting more than twenty desperate needs . . .

A parent struggling with a child over addiction issues.

Friends worried about others who are fighting for their lives with cancer.

Children with broken bodies and no healing or answers yet.

A daughter asking for prayer for her dad who just got out of prison and needs a job.

A wife separated from her husband and brokenhearted.

A half dozen Christians praying for their lost friends or family members.

It broke my heart. It also took my mind and soul beyond my relatively lesser needs. Sometimes I make much to do about nothing earth-shattering in my life and not enough about the agony of those all around me.

How about you?

It’s something to think about . . .

 

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13 Responses to Much Ado About Nothing (What really matters?)

  1. Well, as they say, if you can’t say Amen, say Ouch! I’m saying ouch right now. I really had to take a moment to step back and evaluate whether the things that I’m currently stressed out over are really as big as they appear right now. But you know, perhaps this too, is a ploy of the enemy: to blind us to the bigger picture and the bigger story, by keeping us so fixated on the little things in life.

    • Hi Shanique, Thank you for joining the conversation. My point exactly, sometimes there is a “bigger story” and we miss it because we can’t/won’t see beyond ourselves. However, I’m so glad Jesus cares about my/your story too!

  2. Kurt,

    God is patiently teaching me there is a story behind every face. It does not take long to find another who faces challenges far greater than mine. Thanks for the reminder!

  3. When I think about what I am suffering in my life I reflect on one of Democritus’ ethical sayings, “one should be cheerful at the thought of others, comparing one’s own life with that of those who are faring worse, and should congratulate oneself when one thinks of what they are suffering, and how much better one is doing and living than they are.” And gratitude, according to Robert C. Solomon, is not only the best answer to the tragedies of life; it is the best approach to life itself.” Nietzsche once said, “We love life, not because we are used to living but because we are used to loving.”

    • Hi Randy,

      I wrote the following in an email to someone who had some “push back” on this blog. Clarity is cool, so for the sake of a bit deeper of an explanation here are some additional thoughts . . .

      I learned a long time ago two very important things: 1) I’m not always right; 2) Even if I am, relationship matters more to me than being right.

      That being said, as I mentioned in the blog, it’s not that our needs are unimportant. They are to us and to God. If/when we are in the midst of traumatic loss/pain we do need to get healed, we do need the comfort of God and others. I didn’t say our needs don’t matter. They do.

      I was, however, attempting to address a common problem in our culture of thinking ONLY about oneself and not the often-greater needs of others. Far too many are self-serving narcissists far too often. I was challenging people to remember the sometimes horrific needs of others around them.

      The way of the cross is to think of others first. In fact, Jesus put the needs of others before His own, and here’s what Paul wrote:

      “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” Romans 12:10

      “No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.” 1 Corinthians 10:24

      “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Philippians 2:3-4

      Again, I encourage people to care for themselves and to love others as they love themselves, but I still contend that a self-centered perspective is one reason why so many are depressed, angry and unable to have an attitude of gratitude in the midst of their personal struggles.

      • Thanks Kurt. And thanks for your message this morning. I am looking forward to listening to your message next Sunday. Your words are always encouraging to do the words of Christ. Having an attitude of gratitude in our personal struggles is not easy in our sinful condition! I guess the Cross is where we must look “beyond” our struggles, our limited perspective, in order to have the courage to be what God sees in us.

        I try to remind myself that I move, live and have my being through the grace of God. And to be mindful that life is a free gift from God and my response to act responsibly by exercising my God-given talents and abilities that are to be done out of love with a heart of gratitude and thankfulness.

        A giving up yourself for others is not easy. It is hard and painful! However, the Cross alleviates the pain and makes it not only possible but a joy to sacrifice yourself as Paul knew all too well because he had the right to boast that he had “become all things to all men [and women”] that he might by “all means save some” (1 Cor. 9:22).

  4. Thank you again Kurt for another eye-opening blog. The examples you listed above are things that go through my mind all the time. I have to constantly catch myself because I can so easily get into the self-pity mode. This is such a good reminder to sit back and look at the big picture….PERSPECTIVE is truly the key. God Bless You for writing the way you do. I always find your blogs practical and useful for my daily life. I really appreciate it!

  5. Murphy’s law: No matter how bad things seem to be, they can always get worse.
    After 65 years, I am still working on this one.
    Curtis

  6. Thanks Kurt for your message. As always, your words are insightful and prodding. Working with the public can be draining. The demanding “me” attitude is an epidemic. Your thoughts bring encouragement and focus. I too slip into the selfish “me” attitude so I must look to God each day to give me that different perspective to see what he sees. There is always always a bigger picture!

    Have a blessed day.
    Kathy

Can Pain Become a Blessing?

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Pain Thunder Alley

One of the greatest Christian thinkers and authors of the 20th century, C.S. Lewis, published a book in 1940 entitled The Problem of Pain. In this masterpiece, Lewis claimed that pain is a problem “because our finite, human minds selfishly believe that pain-free lives would prove that God loves us.”

In other words, we tend to equate a life of ease and without pain as a life that verifies the love of God. However, Lewis is spot-on when he asserts, “Love demands the perfecting of the beloved,” because like gold, we are perfected in the fire of adversity.

For the past couple of days, my back has been killing me. I can’t walk, sit, or even lie down without pain. I’m miserable, but somehow my pain creates a focus in me that is too often missing. I know for certain, besides dropping me to my knees in agony, it drives me to my knees in prayer. I also know it reminds me of my desperate need for God.

Pain Back
Whether we like it or not, and we typically do not like it at all, pain can be used to perfect us. We are, in fact, best molded into the image of God’s Son through suffering. Even Jesus learned obedience through the things that He suffered (see Hebrews 5:8).

I know how this reality sits with most of us. We hate it. We fight it. We can’t imagine how a good and loving God could ever allow us to suffer. Some of us have turned our backs on God precisely because of the suffering we have experienced.

I did.

In my early 20s, I walked away from God for a season screaming, “God, if this is the best you can do to take care of your kids (me), then I’m done trusting you with my life!”

Pain B & W Guy
I had the false belief that God existed to make me happy and healthy. I hadn’t figured out yet that He’s way more concerned about making me holy. As it happens, being holy leads to true happiness and spiritual and emotional health.

Yet for so many, life is so hard . . .

  • A dear friend of mine is experiencing deep emotional pain right now.
  • A cousin is suffering through the reality of breast cancer.
  • A guy I’ve know for years as a mental stud is losing his memory to Alzheimer’s.
  • A couple that has poured their lives into their children is dealing with the tragic rebellion of a son, and it’s breaking their hearts.

The pain and suffering of my friends and family makes my current struggle pale by comparison. But pain is still pain, and we can resent it or embrace it.

I choose to embrace what it can produce in me.

Of course, I will pray for healing.

Of course, I will fight and contend for a miracle.

Not for a moment am I suggesting we just grin and bear it. I’m going to pray and pray hard for God to intervene for me and for others.

Pain Prayer

But in the meantime, and despite the struggle, I want to become better, not bitter. I want to embrace my pain with patience and hope in a Father who always wants the best for me (even when I define “best” differently than He does). I want to develop a trust in God that is not contingent on my comfort or hinged on my happiness. (Click on the last line to Tweet it.)

Perhaps, we need a different perspective of pain.

Maybe the suffering we know, and even the suffering that comes through the sin of others against us, can be a tool in God’s hand.

Some react, “Are you saying that I should be grateful for the sexual abuse I suffered as a child?!”

No.

“Are you telling me to be happy about the tragic loss of my child?”


No.

“Are you suggesting that somehow my pain and suffering can be redeemed and recycled by God?”

Yes.

Somehow, in a way that only God can accomplish, when we surrender our lives to Him (and I mean everything in our past, present and future to Him), He uses it to change us. God transforms our pain into a pathway to our perfection. (Click on last line to Tweet it.) He restores us and then releases us to comfort others as He has comforted us. (See 2 Corinthians 1:4)

Pain Surrender
As Lewis wrote, “”I am not arguing that pain is not painful. Pain hurts.” Of course, it does.

But pain is not the end of the story.

My friend, Wm. Paul Young, suffered sexual abuse and parental neglect in the most horrible of ways as a child. Was that God’s plan? Not even close. But over 18 million people have read his book, The Shack, and it’s a book about pain. Paul’s tragic story and horrific past has literally touched millions and changed lives.

Pain Shack

It’s what God does.

He takes our brokenness, our suffering, our pain and our wounds and He finds a way to use it to make us more like Jesus. You can reject that reality or accept it. I know from firsthand experience, acceptance is the wiser way.

Maybe, just maybe, pain can become a blessing in your life.

May I pray for you?

Jesus, you know suffering. You know pain. You know betrayal and even death. But that wasn’t the end of your story, and it doesn’t have to be the end of ours. Hold us close. Take our hand through this valley of the shadows. Protect us from evil. Heal our broken bodies and broken hearts. And in the meantime, help us look beyond the now to the joy that will be ours someday, either in this world or the next. Amen.

“Let us look only to Jesus, the One who began our faith and who makes it perfect.
He suffered death on the cross. But he accepted the shame as if it were nothing
because of the joy that God put before him.
And now he is sitting at the right side of God’s throne.”
Hebrews 12:2 (NCV)

Pain Fix on Jesus

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11 Responses to Can Pain Become a Blessing?

  1. Would love to have a “Share This Email With A Friend” button so I can forward to friends / family!

  2. As you know, I have had a few challenges this past year, and still have some ahead, but these have – don’t know the words – enlightened me … As to what is going on around me. The Lord has shown me how blessed I really am.

  3. What a wonderful blog. As you know it has been 1 year since my son-in-law Dwayne suffered a massive stroke. I know LaVonne (my daughter) has had a lot of those feelings. Why me God, which is what most of us say when a tragedy happens. God has brought Dwayne so far this past year, and I know he has a plan. I think and believe that this will bring them both closer to God. Keep praying for them Pastor Kurt.

    • So true, Dee. I think we’re watching a miracle in Dwayne’s life. Praying with you… You are loved!

  4. Timely, thoughtful piece, Kurt. On my blog, I have been discussing more *internal* pain (depression), how God can redeem that pain, and how the church responds to our pain.

    Also, your post here dovetails nicely with a piece at Gospel Coalition. “The mandatory happiness we require inside the church often perpetuates the pain people feel,” says Tullian Tchividjian. “But we have a faith that actually embraces suffering, that looks it square in the face and is realistic about it. The idea that God suffers for us and with us is what sets Christianity apart.”

    I appreciated your voice in a conversation that is captivating me right now. Linked to you today in my sidebar…

Join the 2nd Wave!

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Epic Grace Reader

The release of my book Epic Grace: Chronicles of a Recovering Idiot was almost six months ago. Thousands of copies of this book are out there in the market! Almost daily, I receive an email thanking me for sharing my story of God’s grace and love. Here are a couple of recent ones:

“Hey Kurt. I just wanted to say thank you so much for your book! It is completely changing my life and outlook on grace.” J.J.

“Dear Kurt, (Epic Grace) is the first book in over ten years I’ve read in one day! I intended to read maybe a chapter a day…but God had other plans! As a Christian who became disenchanted with the Church, Christians, and frankly, my idiot self, I feel a renewed call to serve Him by loving others into His Epic Grace…oh yeah…again and again! Thank you, D.H.

Because I believe in the message of this book, I’d like your help to continue to get the word out. So, for the month of March, we’ll be doing our second social media blitz campaign! (For the record, I’ve never seen something like this done before! I’m excited to try something new and outside of the box.)

We want to add some new folks to the Epic Grace Facebook page and get at least 25 new people to use their social media platform to tell others about this book.

If you’d like to participate, please fill out this very brief survey (click on this link or the logo below): https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/XVHJCHJ

sm_primary logoThe benefits to you if you are selected as part of the second wave team:

  • You will immediately get a FREE version of the book in PDF form and a FREE paperback copy in April if you actively participate throughout March. (We are still asking, but not requiring, the team members to also buy one copy of the book from their favorite retailer to give it away to a friend!)
  • You will get early access to the drafts of my next book: Epic Life. This will give you the opportunity to give me your input regarding direction and content.
  • You will get my full support on your next social media project (maybe you have a book in you!).

Based on the answers to the survey, at least 25 new people will be selected to be a part of this exciting Epic Grace social media project.

I know Jesus wants to use this book to bless many with a radical and freeing view of His love and grace.

By the way, if you’d like to see who has endorsed Epic Grace or download the Forward (by Mark Batterson) and first chapter, go to my website here: www.KurtBubna.com.

Thank you for your help and prayers!

Epic Grace Cover High Res

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2 Responses to Join the 2nd Wave!

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