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6.07.2011

THE GOSPEL MARKETING MESSAGE

I have some observations logged from living life, being a believer in Christ, having spent 25 years in a former life married to a pastor and being actively involved in ministry for those years. Church and the things of God have been a part of my life since my earliest memories. Sometimes I am amazed I love God and want to daily live in a relationship with Him based on some of my struggles with the church most of my life. My observations started early on, as a small kid. Born with a no nonsense way of viewing most things - wanting relevance (unable to know that word at a young age though) and purpose even as a child, church didn't always make logical sense to me. For instance, I was a tomboy made and created that way by God himself. Yet, the standard uniform for church growing up in our house involved the wearing of a dress! If it wasn't bad enough one time a week, we basically donned a dress every time the church doors were open. Which, in our church, was Sunday morning Sunday School followed by Sunday morning worship, a big lunch, a nap of sorts or non-working activities that observed that "the Sabbath is holy" thing and then back to church for Sunday evening service. We fumbled through Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday before heading back to church for Wednesday evening service. That wasn't counting the several week revival meetings held yearly. During those weeks I just endured, pretending I was in an Olympic sport requiring quiet strength and immense endurance. I never hated God because of all the dresses, services and strange non-relevant things that went on in church. Somehow I could separate man's hand in tarnishing, to some degree, the things of God as we only know how - as humans. I never understood Sunday evening church. It was a poorly attended, lower quality and b rated-talent version of the Sunday morning worship service - a sermon, songs, an offering, prayer and special music. Did we not get it right in the morning? There were many times as a kid when I wanted to say (trust me I never did but did many times in my adult life!), "Dad, why do we have to go back to church Sunday evening? It seems that the people who most need to be here for more church are exactly the ones that don't come!" I hated Sunday evening church with a deep and abiding passion. How much devotion and obligation was pleasing to God I wondered as a kid? Was obligation pleasing at all to God? It seemed to me that God knew our hearts so if anything was done out of obligation I think it was a wash to God. God seemed to be a purist to me - only wanting truth and love - period. I also never saw the relevance of an order of service either. Don't get me wrong if I hated the service it was a both a blessing (to know how many more things were to come before the final amen) and a curse (to know how many more things were to come before the final amen). I mean, yes God is the same forever, yet He is God - able to, unlike mankind, change anything and everything. How did we think we could make God color in the lines for church according to our order of service printed in the 8 1/2 x 11" folded in half bulletin with a seasonal landscape picture emblazoned with an inspirational Bible verse on it? Too trite, too confined, to set. God to me was both solid like a rock, and free like the wind. When church tried to box in this big windy God, I struggled. People and personalities and business get in the way - dirty the relevance of church a lot. I saw some as a kid, but lived it as a pastor's wife. Often I wondered how we could get so far from just the simple, healing, restorative, empowering presence of Christ and spend time discussing who will mow the lawn and then backtracking so as not to hurt someone's feelings. It wore me out - the constant struggle to keep the group focused on the mission at hand - CHRIST - and not sidetracked by egos, social events, thinking church is a business, personalities that strove to dominate above the mission at hand - CHRIST! I sought to have relevance and purpose in the ministries that I was responsible for so much so that there were times conflict occurred as lay people had to be redirected to what the mission at hand was about - CHRIST! Church signs are another "thing" that I have never gotten. To this day when I drive by a church that has a sign and on it is posted a saying of sorts I laugh out loud. Tell me who that sign is for. Is it for the unsaved, living a life without a relationship with Christ? Is signage that reads, "Dusty Bibles Lead To Dirty Lives" or "A lot of kneeling will keep you in good standing" designed as conversation starters for the parishioners in the church as they drive by during the week? Does it, with any ounce of effectiveness, cause anyone to find Christ? How is that effective, relevant and realistic? How can we reduce a part of a huge limitless God down to a cute little concise or corny statement? Church has, most of my life, given the message of doing things - somewhat regimented, orchestrated, and orderly things as a way to please God, to connect to Him. If I have to do that then my humanity becomes the thing that saves me, grows me, changes me. That is not spiritual relevance or purpose at all, but a bit of humanism guised in a works based relationship with God. I don't know much but that I don't know all there is to know about God. I don't want to pretend to know how He operates or box Him in. Relevance and purpose is what I want and seek in all things church and God related.  God is way bigger than our human attempts to pedal Him, thankfully!

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