Thursday, November 09, 2006

From a Roman Prison

I’m sitting at my desk this morning trying to imagine Paul as he sits in prison getting ready to pen a letter to Timothy. Paul probably hadn’t bathed, eaten decent food, or seen sunlight for quite some time. He also probably had wounds that hadn’t healed, as well as psychological discouragement and loneliness regarding his situation.

As a citizen of Rome, Paul could have easily rectified his situation by just promising the Roman authorities he would quit preaching the coming kingdom of heaven. Instead of worrying about himself and trying to make his situation better, Paul decided it was more important for him to write Timothy a letter of encouragement and instructions.

Paul didn’t need an environment of honesty or comfort in order to live with Christian integrity. Paul freely acknowledged his own wretchedness, even as he set the standard for honesty and integrity, even as he suffered for Christ.

If Paul were alive today and still sitting in a Roman prison, it is inconceivable to me that he would pen a letter to New Life Church or the National Association of Evangelicals with anything other than severe reprimands and condemnation. There is no excuse for a Christian Church of 14,000 or a Christian Association of Churches to allow a man like Haggard to be their leader; none! Yet, throughout the Christian opinion sphere, not all, but most of the commentary is making excuses and calling for grace and understanding.

Integrity was not an option in the life of Paul and it can’t be an option in the life of any Christian leader. Former President Reagan once stated that he didn’t leave the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party left him. I feel the same way about the Christian Church; I didn’t leave the Christian Church, the Christian Church has left me.


Buz said...

After what my wife and I have been through, and the meager support we received from the church, we joked about starting the "1st Church of the Disaffected". As I was joking, I already had three people ready to join.

In chapters 2 & 3 of Rev., it talks about one of the churches having left their first love (God). One of the comments which I have heard repeatedly in the past 10 years is "if all the Christians were raptured and God removed His spirit from the world, how many churches would even skip a beat?" C.S. Lewis writes about theologians having bible studies in Hell ("The Great Divorce").

The concern that the church has traded its charge to "go and make disciples of all men" for one of "don't worry, be happy" is something which has been around for at least 50 years ... probably since Martin Luther. And, they are probably not misplaced.

The distraction from BEING Godly to DOING stuff is a large pool of quicksand that many churches slip into and are swallowed whole. Sadly, those on the inside never know the difference.


Buz said...

(Sorry, that should have read "disenfranchised", not "disaffected").

So, David, have you quit going to church, or are you just really, really unhappy with the one you are going to, or are you looking for a new one.

Are you bemoaning the fact that the church in general is headed down the tubes, or that your own church has taken a nose dive.

You seemed to be pretty well sold on Red Christianity a few weeks ago. Do these happenings drive you back to the bunker or wind you up for the next charge?


David M. Smith said...

Hi Buz,

Thanks for asking. I pray every day for Christ to do to me all that is necessary for me to become the man HE wants me to be. My faith is strong. I truly believe Christ is the Church and the Church is the communion of believers. I could no more walk away from the communion of believers than I could walk away from Christ.

However, I am very bewildered by church organizations, especially in California, and the men and women who Pastor these organizations. My wife and daughters attend a very typical Southern California church that emphasizes happiness, fellowship, and service to the church where not volunteering to be a parking lot attendant is considered sin. My daughters like going to the youth activities that do a decent job a teaching Christian principles, so I think it is the best we can do for our family now.

However, I can’t sit through a service without seething over the silliness and shallowness of what passes for Christianity because I know throughout the rest of the world there is real suffering, real sacrifices, and real consequences to serving the God of Abraham and our Savior who suffered greatly. I had been attending a different Church where the youth activities are not very good, but the teaching is only marginally better, so my attendance has really dropped off.

I feel like a fish out of water when I attend almost any Church service in California where having to wait four years instead of three years to lease a new Mercedes is considered sacrifice. The last time I attended a Church outside of California, I felt a deep sense of being with Christ and the saints. Maybe it’s me, but I truly believe there is something rotten with Church leadership, at least in this part of the country, and some other places like Colorado Springs.

I do believe Christianity and freedom are as intertwined as love and truth; not the freedom to be self indulgent, but the freedom to be self sacrificial. My family and I could use your prayers. We need to fit in somewhere without compromising what I consider to be essential Christian values. I am discouraged, but I won’t give up. I’m sure God is working in others as he is working in me and at some point my disenfranchisement from the Church will make sense.

Buz said...


I can tell you, from personal experience, that the problem you are experiencing is not uncommon in the Midwest. Some churches are a mile wide and an inch deep. I wish I could say, "go to church X, I have found that all of them are filled with strong Christians and they put the desires of God above the whims of society." If I could write that here, I have a feeling that within a month, all the church Xs in the country would be packed.

Sadly, most of the people want churches that make them feel accepted and comfortable ... maybe a little uneasy, because we all have room for improvement, but not so much so that we would actually have to face ourselves in the mirror and fall prostrate before God and beg His forgivenss just for the few hidden thoughts we harbored last week.

(Sorry, I'm an old Baptist from the "Hell is too good for you, but it was the only thing God could think of at the time" school.)

You may already be doing this, but if not, may I suggest that you get a group of about 5 men together, once a week, and start praying for the fire of the Holy Spirit to descend on your church. (Make sure you tell the pastor.) I am not talking about the speaking-in-tongues type stuff, but the conviction of God. (Oh, and before you do that, have the group pray for a holy cleansing on themselves, so that you are not hindering what God might choose to do through you. Remember Ai.)

Don't expect immediate results. God isn't slow, but He isn't a microwave oven, either. It might take a year of constant faithful prayer before you see Him start to move. (That doesn't mean He wasn't moving before that ... just in ways you couldn't see. Don't forget that He works through people and it might take that long for someone to get past their personal problems and respond to what God is telling them to do.)

I will put you on my prayer list ... that God would do great things in you and through you for those around you. (That could almost be taken as a threat!)


David M. Smith said...

Hi Buz,

Thanks! I have been searching for a Pastor who is sacrificial in his leadership and coming up empty. I think you are on to something. Sadly, I don’t have a group of men that I pray with regularly. The group of men I used to pray with have been dispersed throughout the world. I will now start making an effort to find a group of men who together can pray for leadership.

Anyone in Long Beach or close to Long Beach reading this, let me know if you are interested.

Dee said...

This is now 3 1/2 years after your post which I found while researching Paul in prison. I am very curious to know if you found men to pray with and what happened to your church as a result? I attend a very large church which is full of programs (good programs) but short, I think, sometimes on presence of the truly holy.

David M. Smith said...

Hi Dee,

Thank you for asking.

God is very good. For the last couple of years my family and I have been attending a Church we love and since the beginning of this year I have been meeting with a group of very mature Christian men for a Saturday morning Bible study. My time in the desert was worth the wait.

Our Church is fairly large, but the small group Bible study keeps me challenged.

Thanks for stopping by.