A few months ago marked my 44 years of having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
However, in many ways, I still feel like a young Christian that is stumbling over nothing, falling down and having to pick myself to try again. I never thought that the journey to become like Christ was as long as it has been for me. I thought I would be there by now, but it seems I’ve only just begun.
As I write those words, I wonder if I’ve been too open about my walk and struggle in my Christian walk. I have had people comment to me in the past about how shocked they were to hear how I had struggled in my life. They could not believe that I failed in my first marriage and in my ministry. The only words I could come up with in response was that I was sorry I let God and them down.
It is something that I live with everyday. I am torn between what could have been in my ministry and where I am at today. The lessons learned from my failure has made me so much more compassionate towards those that have failed or struggle in this life. Something that I did not even consider in the years that I was in the ministry.
My failure broke me. The price of failure has been one that I am still paying for even after 20 years.
Truth is, I am not a person that finds joy in sharing my failures. But one thing is true… I have had more than my fair share of them. I have to be honest and try to not deceive anyone into thinking that I have everything in my Christian walk all together. I surely cannot deceive myself, I have to live with it everyday.
So how do I be an open book and not be honest about my past failures? It would be easy to just write generic, short little gleeb articles that give advice with no experience. I see them all the time. I cannot do that. I try not to give advice. I write to remind myself of the lessons learned by my failures and successes. I try to influence by being an example of what can happen in your life when you take your eyes off of Jesus Christ. I try to give the reader something to ponder. The truth is my life has been one to be used as an example of caution. If it can happen to me… it can happen to you.
My relationship with God cannot be summed up in a FACEBOOK post. I read catchy little Christian phrases on FACEBOOK that annoy me to no end. Often they are posted by people I know personally and I want to pull my hair out. I get so frustrated because when people post them, it seems to me that it dumbs down the real relationship a person should have with Jesus Christ. That somehow by posting if you love God… re-post this message and He will do you a favor.
I do not want to speak for God but I do not think God is not in the business of doing favors for me or you just because we re-post this.
Here’s my up-front disclaimer: I’m not fond of Christian jokes and one-liners. I might be a terrible stick-in-the-mud, but when I pass a church marquee sign posting a “Christian” message, I wince. Although I fight the urge, I read it. And sometimes I need to seek God’s forgiveness for the thoughts that enter my mind after my car has passed by.
I drive about 30 miles to work everyday. On my drive I pass a church where they post phrases on their church marquee. They change it often. Before Election Day, it read: “To find God, turn right and go straight.” I am sure every left-leaning friend I had would be outraged by what it said.
Another time the sign read, “If God gave you the same priority you give Him, would you be saved?” My instinctive response was a low growl. I wasn’t being convicted by the Holy Spirit; I simply have an adverse reaction to being smacked in the head with weak theology. God gave me all the priority He intended by giving His Son to die on the cross for me. Salvation comes from the acceptance of His Son and His death that paid the price for my sin. My salvation is not dependent on my priority on any random day.
Why do we insist on using catch phrases to attract our community to Christ?
I understand people are well-meaning. I am trying extremely hard to not judge but this week I have read FACEBOOK posts such as:
“God answers knee-mail,”
“God loves everyone, but probably prefers fruits of the spirit over religious nuts.”
“Sitting in church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than sitting in a garage makes you a car.”
“Why do some people change churches? What difference does it make which one you stay home from?”
“Don’t make me come down there–signed God.”
Or consider the church sign I passed while driving to work this week.
It read, “WARNING! Exposure to the Son may prevent burning.”
My response is always the same: “Huh?”
Do we really want to guilt people into worshipping with us? When people read these messages and the out-loud response is, “See? THAT’S why I don’t go to church!” we’ve failed our community–and our faith.
Sure, I get it. But why does it make me crazy? Statements like these are patronizing, condescending, and place the reader on the defensive side of living. It cheapens the journey that most of us are on.
I am not innocent of doing it either, here’s one that I am guilty of posting – “Turn your stumbling blocks into stepping stones.”
As if! You’re still on the ground with a bloody nose and scrapped knees and I’m trying to tell you how to take those stumbling places and grow? Come on! Catchy little slogans do nothing to help you or me grow in Christ. I need Christ and I need Him constantly!
And, to be honest, it doesn’t take a stone to make me stumble. I’m pretty good at stumbling over sand, over a crack in the sidewalk. It’s never something big thing or I would avoid it. It’s always the little things that cause my fall, my failing…..and then I grieve, beat myself up and tell God I’m sorry, I won’t do it again (but I will)….and that I should be past all of this by now, but I’m not.
And, then, like a child, embarrassed by my failings, but suffering in my pains, I run back to God and am welcomed by His grace, his love and forgiveness. I’m always embarrassed to face Him, to come to Him and tell Him “I did it again! I’m so sorry!!” And He forgives, He bandages my wounds and He offers to walk with me even as I stumble along.
Are we really trying to reach out to those who are far from God? If the answer is “Yes,” we need to speak and write the words that others understand and will respond to positively.
The FACEBOOK audience is composed of moms and dads, children and grandparents, friends and neighbors that do not know Christ. They are overworked, tired and stretched to the limits emotionally, mentally and financially to consider the importance of having a relationship with Him. They are searching for something more meaningful than Christian one-liners. All too often they are searching in the wrong places.
We have an incredible opportunity to reach people for Christ. But it will not happen with a catch-phrase posted on FACEBOOK and truth be told it will not come from any of my writings and postings to this blog site. It will only happen when we meet and love people where they are at in life. It will happen when we develop relationships that are deeper than FACEBOOK postings.
My desire is to have my writings be an encouragement to those that want to reach others for Christ. I want to show people that my journey has been one to note because of the lessons that can be learned from it. I have no belief that my words will reach the masses but maybe they will reach one that will be encouraged to live for Christ in a deeper way and reach others for Him.
As far as reaching people on FACEBOOK. Let me just say that if you insist on posting those Christian one-liners, please make sure your other postings and life live up to those postings.
As for church marquee signs, perhaps we simply need to say, Sunday Services: 8:30, 10:00 and 11:30 a.m. All Are Welcome!
With God’s spirit, those words might be more than enough.