Sunday, November 30, 2008

Servants or Friends?

I have had more time for books lately and have reviewed some newer ones purchased by our church librarian. I have read The Shack, So You Don’t Want to go to Church Anymore, Who Stole my Church, Pagan Christianity, and more. If you look up any of these books on Amazon, a list of many other books on a similar theme appears. One that caught my eye was Dear Church: Letters from a Disillusioned Generation. The church has lost much of its appeal with the generation now in their late teens, 20s and 30s.

Common themes run through these books. People are tired of religion and its rules, polished “worship”, and churches that run like businesses, clubs, shows or political organizations. Pastors are burned out by bickering congregations, by people who resist change and spread discontentment everywhere they go. Some church members (I hate to call them Christians) just want to be pampered, and move from assembly to assembly following their friends as they look for perfect leaders and programs.

I was born on a Sunday, attended my first service the following week and have been active in a church ever since. My immediate and extended family include several pastors and others in full time and volunteer ministry. I was taught to serve God and to be involved in Christian service in the church. This week I was reading from Luke 15:15-17 where Jesus says to his disciples before his death,

I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit–fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other.

In our busy, technology saturated world, people are still looking for relationships, friendship, intimacy and true love. Jesus moved outside of organized religious circles and reached out personally to the poor, sick and marginalized members of society. He did this, not because he was compelled to serve, but because of his genuine love for all people, not just those of his social and religious background. The love feasts of the New Testament evolved into church services as the church later centred around buildings and clergy.

I also read a book by Sheila Walsh called Extraordinary Faith. She was sidelined unexpectedly from her planned schedule of service and God spoke to her heart saying,

“I have many servants and few friends; many who will do things for me, few who just want to love me. I don't want your work; I want your heart.”

Isn’t that true? We don’t expect our friends to be constantly working and doing things for us because they feel it is their duty. We serve happily when we love first.

The organized church is at a crossroads and I do not know what the future will look like for our religious institutions. Modern culture has changed dramatically in the past 50 years, faster than any time in history. But God’s true church remains strong and may emerge in the most unexpected new way. It is not time to throw away our faith.

"Love from the center of who you are; don't fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle. Don't burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don't quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Share with God's people who need help; be inventive in hospitality. Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they're happy; share tears when they're down. Get along with each other; don't be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don't be the great somebody. Don't hit back; discover beauty in everyone."

Romans 12:9-17


  1. A very thought provoking blob. Last week one of the visitors from your area stated how wonderful and sincere were the worshipers in the Mexican services. Sunday is the highlight of their week and they sing and worship with love from their hearts.
    Is it because their great poverty and few possessions lead to a greater appreciation of joy and peace in Jesus?
    I don't have all the answers, but I love their worship as well.

  2. I agree, a very thought provoking post. I believe in God and consider myself a Christian. With that said, I have not stepped into a chruch in years. It is pure laziness on my part and I realize that. I try and serve Jesus by being kind to humans and animals. I honestly believe this is what he wants from his followers.

  3. What a wonderful post Ruth, and so very true. The church has ceased to be relevant to so many, and it is sad. I don't know what it will look like in the years to come, but I am sure it will be fully redefined.

  4. Mom- I agree that our attachment to possessions can affect our faith. I also see changes in the church in Mexico in the next generation, especially in the cities as modern technology and ideas become more common. The church has always changed with society through history and will continue to do so.

    Kim- I wonder if it is really "pure laziness" that keeps you from church. Something else is missing for most people. Thanks for commenting.

    Jayne- I know you are a church goer and have experienced the turmoil that can happen in congregations. The future will be interesting.

  5. Hi Ruth......Interesting post......I consider myself to be a christian.......I attended sunday school from a very early age.....I confess I do not go to church meetings now but I visit my church when it is empty.....I sit and have my own thoughts and my own time with my maker. I pray every night, have done for as long as I can remember......

    I try to be a good and kind person.....for me that is one of the most important things.......and I walk with God everyday.......

    I hope that many read this post and think about its content. You have a wonderful way with words and the ability to put things clearly.....

  6. This post is certainly needed in our time.My thought is tha tperhaps people stay away from church because those of us who go don't "live" our christianity.It is my desire that others see Jesus in me.I may be the only Bible they read.

  7. Your post rings so true. I've come to recognize that unless I establish my own church, none of them will suit me exactly. So I attend and take what I want and leave the rest. Guess I'm the true "cafeteria" Catholic so maligned by the church.

  8. Interesting that you should post this. We haven't been attending church for about 5 years. Sometimes I shudder at the thought of "the politics" as well as other things but recently I've felt that despite the church's weaknesses it behooves us to attend. After all, we Christians ARE the church. More people have become islands onto themselves and this isn't good. People NEED community (whether they realize it or not), we need to give and receive from others in an atmosphere of safety. The first church I went to was very simplistic in many ways but we were family, old and young alike and we looked out for one another. But the church grew and changed with the modern times and we left! Though I went to a number of churches after that, I haven't found that same "community". And I think that is what I have been looking for. Anyway, I felt like the Lord has been prompting me the last little while to get back to church ... so I said just this morning to D ... we should try to get to church this morning. He is still more reluctant.

  9. Thank you for your thoughtful comments. However we chose to serve God, it must come from the heart, not from of the expectations and rules people place on us.

  10. You're making me want to go back to church.-I'm trying to look into night church because I love being out in nature too much on Sunday mornings to give it up.-.

  11. Larry- A number of churches around here have Saturday night services. That's another thing that will have to change in the church as more people work on weekends and do shift work.

  12. Anonymous9:03 am GMT-5

    Lynn W
    I am recognizing more and more that God has to be the one to produce love in us. When his love is in us, love flows between the body, between the connections of people. "Service" occurs and is lasting when God produces it in us. It is "Not" me working for God but God working through me. Jesus said “ I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me”. Jesus said he didn’t even seek his own will....hmmmm why do we think it is in our will to do without the Father? We seem to think we can do all kinds of service but unless God produces it in us our works are in vain.
    The church is not the building, but where 2 or 3 are gathered in His name...He is in the midst. It is very important to have fellowship and not to forsake the assembly of the believers. This does not always mean a church building. Many in other countries and this country are gathering or are assembling in homes and sharing Jesus. Too many churches have a social gospel that is not working and is not life. The emphasis must not be on the building, or “our” service, but on the relationship with the Father reaching out to those around us. The fruits of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, and faith should be evident in ones life as they are hearing. Reaching out to others, community or wherever God takes you. Jesus said "I am come that you might have life", “I am the way, the truth, and the life”.

  13. Thanks Lynn for your comments...a lot to think about.


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