Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you, thanks for keeping up with me, us, and our church planting journey. Before I get too much into this blog post, my brotha’ Chris Marquez has been working on some new stuff for us, including this new logo…can you see what’s new about it? Probably only Lynwood folks will get it. Let me know when you see it!
Back to the blog… not more than a week ago, as I was reviewing my sermon, a thought come to me, in my sermon I hoped to challenge or afflict the comfortable in our church as well as comfort the afflicted. I’d been reflecting and going over in my mind all of the lessons we’d learned in our church planting journey thus far! And with a major announcement coming in the new year, the reel in my mind kept replaying all the things we’d experienced. So many good things, many “not so good” things, moments we celebrated victoriously, as well as moments in which we mourned losses together. And as I was going over everything in my mind, I posted the following on Saturday December 22nd, 2018 at approximately 11am.
Many people responded to this post, some in agreement, some discontent, and still others questioning it and requesting biblical support.
“Where does it say we need to be in church Rudy?” Uhmmm… Hebrews 10:25!
Why do we need to be a part of a church?
For fellowship (Acts 2:42), accountability (Gal. 6:1-5), for encouragement (1 Thess. 5:11), for discipleship (Matt. 28:18-20), to serve (1 Cor. 12:28), to give (2 Cor. 9:7), and even to be disciplined (Matt. 18:15-20) when need be…yes, discipline! I think it’s something that is not used much anymore. I’m not talking scarlet letter type discipline, but sometimes people need to be sat down, help them deal with sin, and be restored in love. What I’m saying is this, in order for these things to be happening, you have to be a part of a church. You can’t be church hopping, going to church every now and then, serving if you have spare time, and giving from what you have left. It just doesn’t work that way… If you’re at an established church, historic church, mega church, etc… you probably have no clue why this would even be so important to a church planter… but please, keep reading.
There were a few people that showed up to church on Sunday and said the post reminded them of their need to be there, and after the sermon on Sunday many people approached me saying that they needed to get more involved with the church to serve, and some even asked about becoming members of RCLA. This did NOT happen because of some fancy or eloquent speech I gave, but simply because God works through the preaching of His Word… not story telling, not endless testimonies, not hip schemes, great coffee or a cool lighting system and fog machine! Now, please don’t misunderstand me either, I’m not saying that churches with these things aren’t godly, or that God doesn’t work through them… I know that God will honor a needle of truth in a haystack of error, so why not work in churches that have cool names, fog machines, and tell stories instead of preaching. Those types of things might fill seats, but they don’t make disciples! Only solid preaching, true discipleship, fellowship, and accountability on a long term and consistent basis help grow mature believers.
One of my good friends and seminary professors, Dr. Chuck DeGroat, reached out to me via this post and said:
I totally agree with Chuck, not just because I’m gonna tag him on this, or because he’s my professor, but because he’s a really smart guy and Professor of Pastoral Care at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan. My response to him was that I agreed and would flush this out in my next blog, and VOILA!!! Here we are.
My original post, was not soft, nor do I think it was too harsh either…but it definitely shook some things and people up! There are people in my church (as well as outside) that needed to read that, as there were people that needed to hear the sermon on Sunday. It shook up some folks that were comfortable, as well as comforted some folks knowing they are giving and serving generously, sacrifically, and joyfully… Although I agree with my friend, and as he said perhaps my post needed some nuance of pastoral care, I think that there is alot of pastoral care already going on, alot… and sometimes pastors are not as stern as they need to be, could be, or should be! I’m saying this because as I mentioned in my last blog, I see too many churches drifting away from orthodox Christianity and playing into culture, luring people in with everything and anything other than the Gospel. This places us at RCLA, at odds with just about everybody! Seriosuly! To liberals we are conservatives and to conservatives we are liberals… it’s like we can’t keep everyone happy, and that’s okay…that’s not what I (we) are trying to do. We have an audience of One, we want to honor Christ, we want to raise people up to serve Him faithfully, to truly trust His Word, His commands, and not compromise biblical truths for cultural relevance. And sometimes, we need to go hard in the paint…in love! I think of how many toes Jesus stepped on, I also think of how many people His words were a salve to their hurting and pain.
Dr. DeGroat referenced church hurt, and he’s so right! So right in fact that we ourselves, the homie Celah and I, recorded an episode of “Grace And Two Fingers” on the subject of church hurt. The homies at “Brothers of Ash” also recorded a 2 part series on church hurt, it’s a real thing. So the issue definitely is being addressed! But…
There are also hard truths and people like Jackie Hill Perry have commented on it, and I can’t help but agree with her wholeheartedly too. Look at her post earlier this year:
If it sounds like I’m agreeing with everyone and landing no where, it’s because I feel there needs to be a time to be pastoral, as my homie Dr. DeGroat mentioned, as well as a time to speak strong and in love, it must be done in love. We don’t need to be hurtful, although what we say can hurt, right? Who likes to be told they’re wrong? Who likes to be rebuked? Who likes to be told they’re doing wrong? But that’s what the Word of God does… doesn’t it? It’s profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16). I’ve been approached on more than one occasion about things I’ve said, how I’ve acted towards someone, or handled a situation. Sometimes it was to say thanks for having done something right, and other times it wasn’t. I have to be honest and say I don’t like being told I’m wrong, but if I’m a true believer and slave to Christ, I MUST take it on the chin, and readjust as needed, and it’s usually my attitude that is being realigned. I believe it was Spurgeon who said that, “Many are troubled because the Gospel interferes with their sin”. Amen to that! Who likes to be told we’re in sin?
I’m grateful for people like Chuck, people like Celah @ Grace And Two Fingers, the homie Jack Barry at Brothers of Ash, as well as the many other people that speak to this, and acknowledge the need for the church to step up their game, and us who know this is a problem stepping in to help do something about it. The church is full of hypocrites, full of sinners, and full of people who hurt others because they (we) are also hurting. Hurt people, hurt people!
I’ve got many stories of how I too was hurt, I mean many times… by people that I thought cared about me, people that were supposed to love me and protect me… people that should’ve been concerned with my emotional, mental, and spiritual health, but instead chose to be selfish with certain decisions and guise it as concern and love. I could’ve walked away from the church too, with GREAT reason… but as sista’ Jackie Hill Perry said, the same thing that hurt me, God used to heal me. Not the same church, though… but universally speaking, we are all one church, right?
I’d be willing to speak to anyone who is currently struggling with having been church hurt, I promise to be a safe place to hear you, pray for you, and encourage you. And to keep it even more real, if I’ve been someone who has hurt you, please contact me privately, and tell me so that I may make ammends. So what does this all have to do with church planting? Everything… because real people, with real feelings, with real problems, with real pain, and real needs are in every one of our churches, or staying away from our churches because of situations that caused them pain. At least that’s what we’ve experienced at Reformed Church of Los Angeles. And at RCLA we’ve gone through ALOT in our short time of existence, and because we don’t know it all, we’re constantly trying to learn to do better and give Christ our best, because He deserves nothing less. We want to shepherd His people, train them up, and challenge them to step up and step out for Him… to do ministry, not just occupy a pew seat on Sundays. Church planting is hard, hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I’ll say it again, I can’t see myself doing anything else… I love teaching people about Jesus, sharing a Gospel presentation EVERY SINGLE Sunday, I love inviting people to do life with us and seeing their very lives change before our eyes as they draw nearer and nearer to Christ. And sometimes, we need to be reminded of who we are in Christ and that we are expected to behave certain ways, and do certain things…not to get saved but because we are saved. Work out your salvation brethren, with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12-13).
But as I come to and end for this blog post, I’ll end it with my original post from last week…and say this with love, now nuanced with some pastoral care because it can be a tight spot between a rock and a hard place to say these things… but nonetheless, I say again:
If you’re not a part of a church, you’re in sin!
If you’re comfortable in church, stop it!
If you’re not serving, you better get busy!
If you’re serving w/ an ungrateful heart, stop it!
If you’re not giving faithfully, sacrificially, and generously, check your heart not your bank account.
Are you listening and paying attention to your pastor’s sermons, allowing God to speak to you through His preached Word?
Get right w/ yourself by getting right w/ God…His mercies are new EVERY morning, great is His faithfulness…
That is all, carry on…
I think I might just be recording an episode on the HOOD GRACE PODCAST about “Church Hurt” to be able to talk about and help folks who are working through this and help them if they’ve stayed away from church because of it, while at the same time encouraging us all to not let that get in the way of fellowshipping with the saints, being members of a solid biblically based church, serving, giving, and supporting kingdom work.
If this blog spoke to you and think someone else can benefit from it, please feel free to share it!
Also, please check out Dr. Chuck DeGroat’s books that he’s written, I’ve read them all, and I must say, they are GOOD! He’s got a great way of getting through to Pastors to care for others, as well as ourselves… but that’s another blog in the making.
“Leaving Egypt: Finding God in the Wilderness”
“Toughest People to Love: How to Understand, Lead, and Love the Difficult People in Your Life — Including Yourself”
“Wholeheartedness: Busyness, Exhaustion, and Healing the Divided Self”