Monday, April 2, 2012

Vote Here!

POST EXPLAINATION: Below you’ll find my thoughts (they’re lengthy so get a beverage and settle down for a few minutes) regarding a Facebook poll I posted a few days back on our church page. If you are interested go to Facebook and "Like" our church page and take the poll.

My Poll Response

I wanted to post a note (or a novel) on the poll taken below. Granted there were only 23 people who clicked on the options, but I have some thoughts on the responses.
It’s not a surprise that most of the respondents clicked “Mostly Positive”, because most church folk are relatively content with and have positive feelings about their experiences in church.

The 3 “Mostly Negative” and 3 “Neutral” and my 1 “Confusing and Irrelevant” responses were not surprising either. What I find surprising is our ability to gloss over the positives and the negatives within our church experiences, in the name of what? Maybe grace? Maybe forbearance? Or maybe just apathy?

I’m not sure which is the case? But I do know that looking back on all my church experiences, for the most part, I would say they were positive at the moment, but in the long run, they were actually “Confusing and Irrelevant”.

Let me explain. I was the only one that clicked on that button. Not because I was trying to be oppositional or counter-church-cultured, but because in hindsight I have realized few if any persons within my church life, took the time or effort to actually confirm if the Seed got planted properly.

You see, despite the presence of Seed or not, or even a question of the soil quality; systems, steps, programs and our involvement therein, were the typical barometers of one’s church experience. And usually that gauge was read from the vantage point of the churches attendance and participation rolls and not the participant themselves.

Not once do I remember anyone asking me if I had genuine peace in my heart. Granted, there were times following my responses to altar calls for repentance, that I came away feeling more peace between myself and God, and rightly so. But you know what? I never remember anyone clearly explaining the doctrine of repentance. All I remember about repentance was telling God what I did wrong and saying please forgive me, then going home and trying my best not to do it again. But never do I remember anyone clearly teaching the biblical meaning of changing ones thinking, beyond simple will power.

But for anyone to show that kind of concern or interest in the heart of a young man, looking back seems like they just didn’t care or know themselves, how that process was to occur. To do so would have been an anomaly or rather unusual, because once we left the church property there was little contact from the churches side of the relationship. I understand that, but the process of grace filled, truth filled relational discipleship only really occurred in the later years of my adulthood, and that was because the church up until then had failed to meet my real need.

Now here’s where the dominant voice of unrestored church folk would fit well. They would place the blame or onus upon me, the hearer or the one in need. Yet never would they consider they might be part of the problem, and not much help with the solution. I mean beyond the simple salvation message. Anyone can find that message on a 3 point graphically illustrated Jack T. Chick salvation tract.

I’m not complaining, but I can tell you based upon hindsight; I really was at times very confused as to what my life was supposed to be like, beyond the “dos and don’ts”. And as far my experience being relevant, it really wasn’t. It was like they were selling something I didn’t need.

Please don’t mistake what I’m saying, I needed salvation, I needed a regular reminder to stay “right” with God, but I really needed so much more. I needed things much deeper than I was receiving, but I didn’t know it, and apparently neither did they.

My heart’s prayer, and my life’s passion is to provide access to exactly what each person needs, for each particular situation, yet I am NOT able to give it, because that can only come from Him. That can only come through the Holy Spirit’s leading and Jesus speaking to the need and the pain in their life. My duty and my privilege are simply to facilitate moments and times where a connection is made between them and God. And if I am willing, courageous and obedient enough that will happen. Oh yes, and if I am equipped for the task; s many of my church relationships were not.

Confusing? Yes it was. Irrelevant? Most of the time. But if I were to have ever openly acknowledged those thoughts or feelings, it’s likely I would have been shamed or condemned, back into my nutshell of Christian seclusion, for safely sake if nothing more. Who wants to be shamed or condemned into better thinking or better being? It usually doesn’t work very well.

Granted; I understand some of the office works of the Holy Spirit here on earth. Convict the world of sin, righteousness and judgment. But my read on that text, is it’s referencing the “world” in regards to sin. And sometime way back in 1967 I left the “world” and entered the Kingdom of God.

So the work that was being done in me, even while in misbehavior, was a work of grace, not a work of sin conviction, for in Him I was not guilty. What I needed was brothers and sisters who were actually “spiritual” enough to take loving action to “restore” me (Galatians 6:1). Few tried, and for who did I’m grateful for their ministry, but the bulk of the rest did not. And those that did left little impression that the process was doable on a daily basis or could be lived out moment by moment.

For the things I had deep inside me; questions, doubts, fears, and painful feelings; no one was able to go there (or willing for that matter). Ergo my multi-decade struggle, not with sin, but with feelings that affected my behavior and relationships.

I’ll stop you before you say I needed counseling or something like that. I’ll also stop you before you say I needed to read the Word more, because I did read it and take it very seriously, but what I did not have was someone who was enough at peace with God, to take on the hard questions without throwing cliché or duty back in my face.

I’ll close my thoughts with a few questions. Are we prepared to “restore” those who find themselves in chronic trespass? And not just by tossing more rules at them. Are we prepared to “restore” those who come, after all other methods and means have failed? I know I am ready. And I’m getting more and more ready day by day, with a deep passion to prepare others in like manner.

The time has come for His Church to be the REMEDY.

Now go back in your mind and heart and ask yourself if most of your church experiences were positive, and by positive I mean transformational? And not in some lengthy protracted way, but was the light regularly coming on? Were things regularly improving within your feelings and outlook on life? Or were you like many, just pushing those bad feelings down further, with one more praise and worship chorus and one more holy-to-do-list?

Thanks for your thoughts!
Russell A. Kinney
Restoration Pastor –

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