All Things in Common

“…and all who believed were together and had all things in common.” – Acts 2:44

What does your relationship with the Body of Christ look like?  I didn’t ask about your relationship with your church or any ministries; I asked about your relationship with the Body.  Did you know that one of the greatest benefits of being a child of God is that you are a part of an international, intergenerational, inter-era body?  We are connected with members of the Body past, present, and future.  

Did you know that this relationship with the Body is intended to reflect our relationship with our Heavenly Father?  Our relationship with our Heavenly Father offers forgiveness, acceptance, fellowship, accountability, emotional support, direction, purpose and identity.  Likewise, our relationship with the Body of Christ is intended to provide the same benefits.  

What is the Body of Christ?  It is the earthly embodiment of the presence of God in human forms – those humans who have recognized and accepted their fallen estate and their adversarial relationship with God our Creator, and have accepted His terms of salvation and peace with Him, and were immediately embodied by the Holy Spirit of God and transformed from being an enemy of God to  being a child of God (cf., John 1:12; Romans 5:10; Titus 3:5-7; 1 Corinthians 12; Colossians 3:15).  

My wife and I are a part of amateur radio, an international hobby that requires knowledge, testing, and licensure.  It is amazing when we meet up with another licensed operator in passing or for an event:  we have met new family members!  We are accepted, supported, and instantly attached.  We help each other, train each other, work with each other, and fellowship with each other.  But imagine meeting up with someone and having more than just a hobby in common.  What if you realized that your life purpose, your passions, your likes and dislikes, your devotions, your values – and more! – were in common?  What is your relationship with the Body of Christ?  Are you in it?  Do you have that connection?  Do you live that?  Do you foster that?  If not, you are missing out on some of the greatest benefits of being a child of God!  If that is the case for you, what are you going to do about it?  

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Thinking Out Loud

Have you ever sat at a table with a group of people and NOT felt like you were a part of the group? Have you ever sat there and felt like you had so much to offer but no one seemed interested? For many years, I have served in churches and worked in jobs where it felt just like that. Occasionally, a small church might recognize some benefits of keeping me around, but they asked me to serve out of the goodness of my heart with little or nothing to provide monetarily. My first church paid me $25 per sermon which equated to three sermons and $75 each week. The second church I served at offered me the church apartment on the church property as long as I also performed maintenance and janitorial work. Neither of those tenures ended especially well. At any rate, I have continued to serve in churches where I agreed doctrinally and I was allowed to serve in some fashion. I began preaching more than 35 years ago. I have served as a church planter, senior pastor, associate pastor, youth pastor, traveling youth evangelist, founder of a four-year discipleship program, and sundry other positions within the local church. I have a BA in Religion and Ministry and a MA in Biblical Counseling. Despite all of my experience and education, my offers to help churches – even as a lay person – have gone without response in most cases.

At first, this sounds like there must be something terribly wrong with me as a person or with my theology. I bought into this for quite a while until the Lord corrected me. You see, I’m not the only one who has felt this way or had this experience. You can serve faithfully in one church and then be deemed doctrinally deviant when you pray for God’s leading and vote against a leader’s family member to be approved for particular position. Or you are suddenly unfit for ministry when another leader wants your position or is jealous of you. Or you could go to the leaders of the church to share what God has laid upon your heart after multiple people have seen the same need, and you can be met with silence, a polite “thank you” and a “Don’t call us, we’ll call you,” or “We just don’t have the resources for that” even after you’ve told them the Lord had already provided the resources. At the end of the day, one is tempted to feel rejected, invalidated, and disconnected.

Having both served in the pulpit and sat in the pew for so many years, my perspective may seem a little different than some. When I thought I was doing well in leadership, I may not have actually been doing well as a true pastor: a true shepherd. One of the greatest unmet needs I have seen in churches today is the provision of what is known as “secure attachment.” The renowned researcher John Bowby defined the concept of attachment as “lasting psychological connectedness between human beings.” If people feel rejected, invalidated, or disconnected, chances are they do not have a secure attachment with that local church body. Part of the evidence for this point is the high rate of loss we have in our college and career age groups. This seems to be the smallest age group in our churches. Some pastors have justified this by claiming that there aren’t any colleges in the vicinity of the church, and their college kids and singles simply attend a church closer to their college. That might be true, but I’m not convinced that that many of their kids are away at college. If these young people have a secure attachment, I believe they will have a greater likelihood of maintaining their values and remaining in their church – or any church of like faith.

Another evidence for this lack of secure attachment I believe is the lack of personal investment in the local church. I’ve heard and even said, “My people are totally devoted! They are simply not able to give or serve any more than they already do.” I have been part of two churches in my life where secure attachments were provided, and those churches “gave until it hurt” and served with all their hearts. These were not wealthy congregations by any stretch of the imagination either. To encourage this, some pastors have created three to five points that accurately represent the purpose of their local body and encouraged virtually any member in good standing to serve in any manner as the Lord led them as long as it met with all of their purpose points and did not counter their doctrinal statement. In those churches, members served and seemed to feel very secure in their church. They were faithful!

I’m wondering if our commercialization of the local church and our attempt to not offend people’s personal emotional space has also led us into the era of disconnected churches. As long as you are on the board, one of the leaders’ close friends, or a family member, your church provides secure attachment, and your pastor feels like they are doing a great job. If you are a pastor, may I recommend that you step out of your pulpit and find out why people have left your church? May I recommend that you explore changing the relationship climate of the local flock to match that of the secure attachments of the early church? Finally, may I recommend that you have others (not necessarily your family or cronies) help you evaluate your personal life and your attachment styles to see if you might not be leading the church in secure attachments because you do not have them yourself?

If you are a church member or regular attender where you feel rejected, invalidated, or disconnected, may I recommend that you try something unusual before you move on to the next church body? Try finding anyone in that church to try connecting with. Try this with multiple people over the span of a few months. Try seeking them out each week specifically to greet them, ask about their health and activities, find common interests, ask how you can pray for them, and then find ways to meet outside of church – possibly to eat since people tend to relax and bond over food most easily. In a church where you don’t feel like secure attachments are common, this may take a few weeks. Don’t give up too quickly. If, however, after several months of serious attempts you have not been able to develop healthy attachments (healthy vs. unhealthy is an entirely different conversation), then feel confident in moving on and asking the Lord where He would like you to go. In the next church, don’t wait for others to approach you. Instead, immediately try the aforementioned suggestions and see if things don’t work out differently. Who knows! Maybe there is a church that needs you to teach the members and the leaders what true, healthy secure attachments look like in the church body.

For another post… How do secure attachments affect our theology?

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Filed under Local Church, Reflection, Relationships

2016 to 2020 Update

The last four years have been a blur! I have successfully completed my MA in Biblical counseling, earned my certification as a Trauma Professional (CTP) and a Family Trauma Professional (CFTP), been certified as a Prepare / Enrich facilitator, been hired as a clinical manager for a counseling clinic in Phoenix, and built up a comfortable client load with room to grow. Moving forward, 2020 is the year that I am working with a handful of counselors to establish a nonprofit, Christian faith-based, trauma-informed counseling clinic which will offer the services of Christian state licensed counselors (LAC and LPC) for little or no cost to those in need of counseling in our community. The Governor’s Office of Youth, Faith, and Family is aware of us and encouraging us in our efforts. Our goal is to eventually work much closer with them.

All of this is just on the professional side of my life and doesn’t include my personal life which has been even fuller of challenges and achievements. It is my desire to renew my efforts of writing on this site and offer greater insights – not only from a spiritual angle but also regarding emotional health. The articles that I post moving forward are strongly influenced by both my theological knowledge and evidence based counseling models I have been trained in and using for the past few years. Please note that the content of this site is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Its intent is, however, to address spiritual issues and any emotional or relationship issues potentially related to spiritual issues and one’s values. Please remember to keep all comments respectful to the author as well as to other commenters.

I look forward to slowly returning to post new articles as I have the opportunity in the coming months. Have a blessed day!

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Relatively Speaking…

Once reality becomes subject to relativism, absolutes cease to exist; and reality, facts, and God become constructs of one’s own will which exists, according to Maslow’s theories, to secure meaning for one’s life.  Therefore, relatively speaking, relativism and your existence are not facts unless you say they are, thus contradicting the foundation of relativism which states as a fact that there are no absolutes.  Romans 1:22 – “claiming to be wise, they became fools…”

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Respond Appropriately

Romans 12:1–2 (ESV)

A Living Sacrifice

12 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

As recipients of God’s mercy and grace, it is our reasonable, logical response to submit our mind to God’s worldview and surrender our will to His will.

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Run to Jesus

Seek to live a life that is pleasing to God.  Seek to know Jesus Christ more intimately as the dominating factor in your life.  Unless you are surrounded by others of like faith and vision, expect to be hated, misunderstood, reviled, condemned, slandered, and more.  You won’t be perfect, and you may often feel like a failure.  Don’t judge your life by others’ praise or acceptance.  Instead, compare your imperfect life and the direction of your heart with God’s Word.  Then run, run, run to Jesus.

– D. E. Gudeman

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Living with Eternal Values

Living with Eternal Values

Situational ethics, social pressures, and religious dogmas often cloud our decisions. When seeking an answer to “what should I do,” search the Bible first to see if there are any direct commands given regarding your decision: salvation, marriage, lying, stealing, adultery, divorce, child rearing, finances, and more. In eternity, God’s Children will stand before Jesus Christ at the Bema seat for evaluation of their obedience and the dispersion of rewards (1 Corinthians 3:11-15; 2 Corinthians 5:9-10). The enemy’s children will stand before the Great White Throne for judgement and condemnation for their sin (Revelation 20:11-15) .

Beware of building your hopes for eternity on your feelings, your own logic, or what someone else says. Read the Bible. Study it. Ask God to reveal His Word to you. Remember: only two facts will matter in eternity: what God’s Word says and what YOU did in response.

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December 13, 2013 · 8:07 pm