It’s a Directional Thing

Posted: June 4, 2010 in Church, Discipleship, faith

It seems most churches in discussing which individuals are in good standing within their “boundaries of fellowship” use the pattern of:

BelieveBehaveBelong (meaning you have to believe certain tenants, behave in certain ways, and then you can belong).

This seems contrary to the ministry and example of Jesus, so at LSC, we follow a pattern that looks more like this:

Belong – Believe – Behave (meaning you are given a rightful place of belonging with Jesus, and from that position, you will find beliefs and behaviors change).

That is why we welcome without reservation MESSED UP people.  And Living Stones Church has a lot of broken, sinful, messed up, “blew it royally” people suffering in everything you can imagine.  But it is a directional thing.

They are headed towards Jesus.  And we’ve got all the patience in the world for someone who is moving towards Jesus and along the is struggling with whatever.

What is entirely different, however, is when someone is moving away from Jesus.  They have belonged to Jesus, they have had their thoughts transformed by Jesus, and their behavior lived in conformity to the Ways of Jesus, and now, they have decided to turn away from him and move in another direction.

In that, we have little patience.  And don’t expect the Pastor to smile and say “everything is going to be OK.”  Because it won’t be.  You are moving AWAY from Jesus.  And the end of that journey is NEVER O.K.  And my call, with as much love and grace as I can muster, will be for you to repent and head back towards Him.

Direction is everything.

  1. Jennifer G. says:

    Great post!

  2. Melissa says:

    I have to admit, Sam, this post bothered me a little. Here are some things it brought to mind for me:

    What if you panned out and what looked like turning away was just really a step back on a two step forward, one step back sort of journey? Maybe a huge step back, but what if the general trend is still toward Jesus and we can’t see that from our limited perspective?

    What if someone is under spiritual attack and all his or her weakness are being exploited exactly because of a move toward Jesus?

    What if a person is going through a crisis of faith and feels so disconnected from God he/she either feels absurd for believing in this unseen, abstract idea that doesn’t seem to be having any impact on his/her life, or feels that it’s his/her fault because he/she wasn’t obedient enough or didn’t pray with enough faith and that’s why God has chosen to remain silent.

    Whether it be any of these things or none, that’s exactly when someone needs a church family. No, looking the other way or tolerating the situation isn’t the answer, but I’m not sure condemnation is either. Maybe the best thing would be to say, “I can see you’re in trouble and I will pray for you.”

  3. Thank you Melissa for your comments. And I would say your illustrations all cite someone who is in the midst of the struggle of faith. Who doesn’t have the one step back two steps forward movement? Even a large step backwards. I do. Who doesn’t have crises of faith that cause us to feel disconnected ? I know I do. Who doesn’t feel under spiritual attack and every weakness we bear comes to the surface? I know I do. But I’m not proposing condemnation or a withdrawal as your last paragraph suggests. What I’m suggesting is that in the midst of these steps backwards, or crises of faith, or spiritual attack is pastoral care. That includes prayer, conversation, encouragement, and even at times rebuke. And sometimes that prayer, conversation, encouragement, and even times rebuke has with it a necessary warning that you are headed the wrong direction and should turn back to Jesus. Not in a withdrawal or condemnation, but precisely because of love.

  4. Melissa says:

    I know sometimes rebuke is necessary. I sometimes wish my sin were more obvious so someone I love and trust could call me on it. Maybe it is and they’re simply not calling me on it. (Step up guys!) I also know first hand the pain of being rejected by a church and I didn’t want someone who was struggling reading that and feeling like they didn’t have a place. In my experience, banishment does not improve direction. Not that you said anything about banishment.

  5. the other ed says:

    This particular post hit home for me. For many years, I was the epitomy of a crisis in faith. Here’s the thing: It takes an ENORMOUS shock to your system to even pull out of it! Anyone who heard our story I Am Second can attest to the enormity of that shock.

    It is my interpretation, and only mine, that what Sam is saying he will do “In that, we have little patience. And don’t expect the Pastor to smile and say “everything is going to be OK.” Because it won’t be. You are moving AWAY from Jesus. And the end of that journey is NEVER O.K. And my call, with as much love and grace as I can muster, will be for you to repent and head back towards Him.”

    *SMACK* You are heading down the WRONG road.

    It is from my perspective that I can tell you that any path without Jesus is a path you do NOT want to take. Imagine driving in a foreign, non english speaking country without directions or a map. You just drive. You might end up in Paris, you might end up in the movie “Hostel”. But, you will never know where you will end up or what condition you will be when you get there!

    I was going down this path. I received a cosmic smack in the head. And, Sam and all the Living Stoners were there for me. For us.

    I guess what I am really trying to say is that, sometimes, doing things the hard way means doing it without Jesus…*smack*

  6. scmiller says:

    Great topic. A couple of buddies and I were discussing this same thing Saturday morning. Churches should be messy places. I’m part of one now and never want to go back to sterile and perfectly pious places. AND as our pastor says – people are where they are, expecting them to be elsewhere is foolish. But what do you do with that friend or acquaintance who is heading the wrong direction? How do you come along side and get them to acknowledge what’s happening? We didn’t come up with any simple answers. Messiness doesn’t lend itself to easy answers. We did figure out that it’s a directional thing so the question becomes – can we walk with them so there is greater opportunity for them to see the right path? So it’s less about pointing out and more about community in the journey.

  7. Doug says:

    Just a thought. All these things with large amounts of grace. On both of the ends of the equation. Great amounts of trepidation and grace must come into play before, during and after something that looks like rebuke. After all, we know how we want receive rebuke too: with the greatest possible love, grace, patience and understanding. Hmm…

  8. Carl says:

    I appreciate Sam’s pastoral care here. How do we know who Jesus is, or what it means that he is Lord, without beliefs? I agree with Doug, the issue is whether we believe grace changes us, or rules change us.

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