Struggling with tolerance

My time in the pulpit on Sunday went well.

The video on Brasil and Ubaúna seemed to have hit a cord with many who were in attendance. My passion and urgency were hopefully not “over the top” in scaring people away. So far, I’ve had good feedback AND promises of financial support for the work.

During the interval between services, an older gentleman made a point to come up to me. His comment caught me off guard: “You didn’t give an invitation!” It was an accusation, not an observation nor statement.

I readily agreed. I did not. He was not happy.

“There may have been people here who needed to respond to the gospel,” he stated. To which I politely replied, “There were more here who needed it than you think; but they were not here to respond.” His parting words, thrown over his shoulder as he spun angrily away from me: “You didn’t give an invitation! Remember that!”

Folks, this is a point that I’ve struggled to make. It’s not about form or function. It’s about relationship. You can talk to me all day long about being “right,” “correct,” or “biblical” and it simply doesn’t mean a thing. Everything Sunday was done “right,” but a simple deviation from the “correct” way to doing church was instantly the focal point, not the message.

“Church” is people, not structure, not tradition, not liturgy, not form. It is simply people, people who have been redeemed, purchased out of a world that belongs to Satan. People who are not church cannot and should not be expected to act like church; but, we have to give them a reason to want to be church. It really is that simple.

Offering an invitation isn’t wrong, incorrect or stupid; but it is not always appropriate. Being consumed with the form over the message does not produce church. That is what breaks my heart.

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6 responses to “Struggling with tolerance

  1. My perspective of what “church” means changed dramatically in the two weeks I was in Brazil serving my Lord. I saw people who were hungry for just one thing: Jesus Christ. They weren’t hungry for great singers singing great contemporary Christian songs, a professional sounding orchestra, a large santuary filled with beautiful banners claiming “Jesus is Lord” or state of the art video and audio equipment with a pastor well dressed that has Ph.D after his name. They didn’t care about predetermined programs or chicken dinners or trips to Universal Studios or the upcoming Senior Adult trip to Amish country. All they cared about was finding Jesus and when they did they worshipped passionately and fervently. They didn’t need a pastor praying the “Sinner’s Prayer” or any invitations to “come forward”.

    I love my church here in Savannah and I love my pastor but we, along with most American churches have gotten away from the true purpose of church: it’s a place for Christ’s follower’s to come together and seek His Face, His Glory and His Favor so that we can grow spiritually and become more Christ-like so that we can witness and reach out to all the lost souls and fulfill The Great Commission.

    The Brazilians set a great example for us. We had 61 people saved and 53 people healed in spite of a bunch of Americans butchering Christian songs in Portuguese in a elementary school/community center building that was hot, stuffy, dirty, dusty and crawling with tarantulas (at least one very big one anyway).

    The next time you see this gentleman, invite him to come with us to Brazil. It just might change his perspective. I know that it did mine and I’m so grateful to God for that.

  2. Oooh, Patrick!

    I’m afraid you’ve been infected, and that is so cool! Now you’re where God can begin to use you to change the church here.

    I told Audrey last night on the phone that he had helped create a monster — Patrick! He got quite a chuckle out of that.

  3. Thank you Joe! Being infected with “anything” has never really appealed to me but I’m actually excited and thankful for this infestation! What’s even more exciting is that I’m an “infected monster” for Jesus. I’m in the process of carving my “Jesus” stick as we speak! I haven’t gotten a response from God yet on exactly how hard I can hit people with it. I’ll let you know!

    I know God has great plans for Christy and I, especially concerning Brazil but now the tough part begins. How do we make sure we are truly listening to Him and doing what it is that He wants us to do? Every since I got back into church three years ago I’ve felt like it was too “structured” and didn’t leave room for God to show up and work but I’m really irritated now at how we “play” church. I guess The God Chasers (imagine a line under that title) by Tommy Tinney is really speaking to me huh? I don’t know what’s going to happen and how but I’m anxious to find out.

  4. Patrick- I know that God has some great plans for you an Christy as well! I had a great time with you guys on the trip and I miss y’all! Your first post was awesome and I am so pumped that you are “infected” as well! Hope you guys are doing great!!

  5. patrickandchristy

    Thank you Jessica for the kind and encouraging comment. We miss you and the group very much. I think the group realized that a special bond was being formed between us all but it becomes more evident when you get back and it hits you how much you miss everybody. We could go years without speaking but everyone would still hold a special place in our hearts.

    I believe that God has great plans for all of us that went to Ubauna if we allow Him to work through us to accomplish them, and I believe that we all have been affected AND infected in a great way. Continue to use your gift of teaching and your love of children to benefit His kingdom.

    I will be sending everyone a disc of our photos soon. Check out our new blog: http://www.patrickandchristy.wordpress.com. The blog is Leave A Legacy and it has a link to our Flickr account with some photos and comments. Let us know what you think.

    Take care and we’ll talk with you soon. Tell everyone we said “hello and we miss them”.

  6. Ya know Joe to be perfectly honest with you, the lack of an invitation was something that I had to struggle with too, when I first started attending Lifepoint. And yet, without an invitation the number of people who have received the saving grace of our Lord has been phenominal, and especially so over the last several weeks. Of course, I came out of a very traditional church setting, so my reacclimation was to be expected. Jesus had the same struggles with the traditionalist/legalists of His day. A Pharisee will always be a Pharisee…of course except for Paul. Love ya my friend!

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