"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16: 33
I have thought long and hard about whether I should write this post. I usually refrain from engaging in conversations about politics and religion for the obvious reasons that everyone has their own views about these topics. I grew up going to church every saturday without a fail. I grew up in a Seventh-Day Adventist home, and got baptized at fourteen.
The SDA church is a structured church with lots of rules and regulations. At some point in my life, church started feeling more like a routine.
- Prepare for sabbath on friday evening (cook sabbath lunch and dinner, get my outfit ready for church).
- Open sabbath on friday at sunset.
- Attend church on saturday morning.
- Close out sabbath on saturday at sunset.
It remained a routine until I started living by myself. My parents weren't there to tell me to turn off the TV during sabbath, They couldn't control me going to church or sleeping in. That is when I stopped being religious and started being a Christian. That is when I sought a relationship with Christ for myself. That is when I started questioning and researching the things that I was told at an early age. I am still a Seventh-Day Adventist, I believe in the fundamental doctrines, although I don't always agree with the church manual.
This little background information was important for some of you to understand some of the content and context of my post. I was inspired to write this post because we are approaching Easter, one of my favorite holidays. Every time that I think about The crucifixion and resurrection, I think about my life as a christian, I evaluate my lifestyle, thoughts and actions to see if I am living a life worth that sacrifice. The holy week is a time of reflection, of confession, and repentance. There is something amazing about knowing how loved I am, we all are. Enough that someone could die for us. However, I feel like the church is losing its essence. We are focusing on the wrong things, and our faith is being tested. Studies have shown that less than 20% of Americans regularly attend church. We must be doing something terribly wrong, and something must be done. As we take the time to meditate and reconnect to our source during this time, here are some things that we should keep in mind.
This letter is specifically written to my SDA church members.
Everyone Has Dirty Laundry
I know you're under this false impression that people who go to church live a different lifestyle than those who don't. They can quote verses, Tell you about all the stories in the bible, bring tears to your eyes with a powerful testimony, but here's what it boils down to: Everyone has dirty laundry! ...and by everyone I mean your pastor,minister, elder, choir director, praise team leader.... you name it! (That also includes you). No matter how cliche this may sound, we need to be reminded that no one is perfect. With that said, it is obvious that we all make mistakes, and "we all have sinned and fallen short of God's glory". Knowing this, and keeping this in mind, will stop us from expecting perfection from anyone in the church. The church is made of humans like you and I, who have made the decision to join an assembly based on our beliefs. That's all there is to it. No one is a saint, everyone is a sinner.
Before You Point Fingers, Make Sure Your Hands Are Clean
Truth is, some of us just hide our dirt better than others. When someone else's dirt surfaces, Those that are quick to judge, gossip, and sanction, often aren't doing any better! Let's just keep this short and sweet: The next time you feel entitled to point the finger, take a step back and worry about cleaning out your own mess first.
Don’t Judge A Book By Its Cover
Growing up I was that child that never attended a sleep over,and never went anywhere without her parents or a family member. I recently started thinking about the fact that although both of my parents were active in church, we were not! I remember my siblings and I joining the pathfinders club at church, but that only lasted about a month. We didn't attend camp, socials, AY, none of that! In fact the one time that my older brother was sent to camp was when he came home with failing grades, and he was sent to a church camping trip as a punishment! We were so angry at my parents for shipping him off, the morning that he was leaving, I woke up wailing and screaming like the boy had just joined the army! (This is probably the root of my separation anxiety!). As I got older, and spent more time in church, and started seeing the many faces of our church, I came to realize that my parents were trying to shield us from church folks! You know the ones who pretend that they care about you and your well being but speak ill of your children? yea, those!
Anything that we learned about church, religion, and God, we learned from our parents. It felt like they did the teaching at home, and attending church was just homework. I believe that they were intentional in teaching us not to get too comfortable around church members, that not everyone in church is a good person, that people in church can and will hurt you. They are the reason of our strong religious foundation. So when I hear stories, I remain unbothered, because I was taught not to put my trust in just anyone at church.
We Responsible For Each Other
As a church family, we have the responsibility to look out for each other. We have the responsibility to cover each other in prayers. We have the responsibility to reach out to those in needs, and those going through tough times. Notice that I said reach out, and not reject, or judge. This is particularly important for the youth. There is a lack of support in the church for the youth, which has caused the church to lose so many souls. The difference in generations has turned the youth into scapegoats. Instead of supporting them and teaching them, we push them away with our actions and our words. God is a God of orders, so i understand why the church needs sanctions. However, I strongly believe that if we spent more time teaching, listening, encouraging, and supporting, we would have a much stronger church community.
You are Accountable For Your Actions
This is where a lot of us fail. We love to spend time judging and criticizing, and making up rules, but we refuse to be held accountable for our own actions. If you are part of a church community, and you decide to dedicate your life to becoming a leader in the church, you must live accordingly. Living a godly life comes with sacrifices, and a commitment. Becoming a church leader, regardless of which department (music, youth, outreach...) is making a commitment that you will dedicate your life, including your habits, thoughts, actions, activities, to your ministry in the church. It is not a task that should be taken lightly, nor is it for every church goer. Therefore you have to be able evaluate yourself, and really think about whether or not this is a commitment that you are able to make. Once you do, you are completely accountable for every single decision and action that you make. Not everyone that goes to church is able to be a church leader, and although leaders are still sinners, they have a greater responsibility in the church.
The Devil Isn’t Responsible For Bad Habits
There I said it! And I mean it! Stop blaming your conscious mistakes on the devil. As a christian you know that you are constantly at war. The devil is always seeking opportunities to knock you down! Knowing this, remove yourself from any situation that causes temptation. Yes he knows your weakness, but so do you. Do what you gotta do to work on your weakness. Go to counseling, cut some people out of your life, stop going to some of those places, stop seeing the wrong people, stop feeding your weakness. A habit isn't a mistake, it is something that you do on routine.
Yes you can pray and fast about your bad habits or addiction, but more importantly you have to put some action behind your faith. You have to show God your willingness to change and be better. You aren't miraculously gonna stop smoking if you're praying, yet still hanging out with your friends who smoke. Remove yourself from any situation that might cause you to be tempted. Stop jeopardizing your salvation, seek help and be intentional with your actions and your thoughts. If you feed your bad habits and weaknesses, the devil isn't to blame, you are.
Communicate Even When It’s Uncomfortable
Lack of communication leads to a lack of trust. The church has greatly suffered from a lack of communication. No one wants to speak about the taboo topics that the youth are experiencing on a daily. No ones wants to talk about what hurts and what's not fair. No one wants to question what they're being told, in fact we almost feel bad when we question ourselves and question some of our practices. My question to you is "how do you back up your beliefs if you don't know why you believe what you believe?"
Until we are able to openly communicate about our hurts, frustrations, confusions, it will be nearly impossible to have a church where everyone feels comfortable. We will not be able to work on some of our issues without open communication. Until we do, everyone will continue to put a front in order to "fit in".
Trust Requires Transparency
If everyone in the church is so perfect and sanctified and holier than thou, who do we go to when we go through the ungodly trials of life? You know like porn addiction, drug addiction, homosexuality, gender confusion, cheating, physical abuse? It's really time that we show some transparency, so that people know that they aren't the only ones going through trials. Church members need to know that they can talk to someone trustworthy about their problems without feeling uncomfortable or judged.
There are a lot of people who need help in the church, and that includes our leaders! I think it's time we stop faking, and start being transparent about our issues. We have to become the person that someone can trust with no shame or judgement. It should't take another scandal to realize that people aren't who they pretend to be. And if it comes to that, let's remember that we are responsible for each other.
Focus On What’s Important
Have you ever thought about the many times that you may have overlooked a real issue by focusing on something irrelevant? I was once approached in church by an older lady right in the middle of church service. We were transitioning from the service to communion, when she approached me about my dress. She proceeded to tell me about how I should buy dresses where my armpits don't show, and the length goes below my knees... I zoned out and didn't really hear whatever else she said. I told her nicely that I was here for communion and that I should go before I miss it. I thought about that woman for quite some time, I wondered if she would notice if I stopped coming to church? If she knew my name? How many others had she approached about futile things?
I also thought about my friend who was murdered about 11 years ago, who had stopped coming to church, but no one asked about him or reached out to him. Yet when he was killed, everyone had a hypothesis about him being in a gang, and doing drugs. But even if he was, who reached out to him? Did our ministers try to visit him? Did they try to pray with him? Did they cover him in prayers when he couldn't cover himself? So many unanswered questions, but I promise you they would notice your ankle tattoo in a heart beat!
Eyes On the Prize
Last month, I got on Facebook and read about a young man being sanctioned from a church in Haiti. Although the causes were unknown to me, from what I was reading on several statuses, this young man was not living according the the church's manual. He stopped attending church, and was now writing and playing secular music. He had "abandoned his assembly". I truthfully still don't know the actual details about his sanctions, but this was yet another young adult, being rejected from the church he grew up in, and sanctioned by people who aren't faultless. I took it upon myself to write him a few words of encouragement. I told him that although I do not know him personally, I was pained by how he was being treated. But most importantly, I wanted to remind him, that although he was no longer associated with a church, his relationship with God is still intact. Although he was no longer an SDA, he would always be a child of God. That nothing he does will stop God from loving him. I told him to spend more time with God, to pray and meditate. To experience God's goodness in his life. I told him that I pray that his life will be a testimony to those who are still part of that church, with the hope that one day they will understand that the prize is God. It isn't church or religion, it's your salvation and relationship with God.
Our greatest hope is lies in the fact that Jesus has overcome the world. There isn't a single thing that you can't overcome, because the battle has already been won. God already knew that we would go through hardships and adversity, but we should rest easy because we know how the story ends. No matter how tough it gets, how disappointed and hurt we get in the process, If we take heart, and keep our eyes on the prize, we can make it to the finish line, knowing that we are already winners!
Stay Focused, and encouraged!
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