When you think of the LDS Church, what are the pictures that come to your mind?
Gleaming white temples that stand starkly on the high ridges . . . church steeples throughout the neighborhoods . . . Sunday dress . . . Nice families . . . Conservative morality . . . KJV Bibles . . . Sabbath hymns . . . a nonpaid, temporary bishop . . . and a central pulpit.
When you think of Berean Baptist Church in Ammon, Idaho, what pictures come to your mind?
A gleaming white steeple . . . Sunday dress . . . Nice families . . . Conservative morality . . . Some carrying KJV Bibles . . . Sabbath hymns . . . a paid, permanent bishop . . . and a central pulpit.
In my mail, yesterday, I received the Ohio Bible Fellowship newsletter, entitled the “Visitor”. My friend, Chris Anderson, wrote a short article in the newsletter, “The Church’s Self-Identity”. He asks some provocative questions:
How do you, your church leaders, and your fellow members view your local church? Is it the good church in town? The conservative music church? The uncompromising church? The serious church? The dressy church? The friendly church? The everything-runs-like-clockwork church? The our-children-are perfect church?
Chiefly, what is it that your Church ought to be known for?
Here it is. Chris slams the coffin lid shut on self-righteous moralism!
We’re a congregation of sinners in need of God’s grace. We’re the we’re-a-mess-and-we-need-Jesus church.
This is the message, my friends, that will turn churches in the I-15 Corridor upside down. In his article, Chris goes on to give eight explosive reasons why.
And let me join Chris and share this. I am just a struggling sinner growing in grace. A gleaming white steeple with a cross on top reminds me of my deplorable sin nature, my gracious redemption, and how it is about me humbly exalting God and not God exalting me. The Sunday dress reminds me every week of my previous filthy rags and the new spotless dress given to me unmerited. No way did I deserve it. My marriage to my wife reminds me of God’s love for me. When I am so unlovable – stubbornly selfish or lustfully idolatrous or broken down in prideful despair – the unconditional loving God loves me through my wife. My KJV Bible reminds me every day of mankind’s desperate wickedness (we are all together in the mess) and God being the only Hero and Savior. My Sabbath hymns remind me of my helplessness and sovereign gospel grace and the omnipotent, omniscient, all-loving God. As a bishop who leads the family of God in worship every week, I am reminded of the fact that I stand before them all as the chief of sinners. And the central pulpit reminds me that my opinions and testimonies derived from my own heart carry no authority, no power, and no eternal impact for true life and godliness.
I could go on and on.
So here in the prosperous, conservative, moral I-15 Corridor, what is your Church known for?
Good, religious/spiritual, hard-working people?
I pray to God-Almighty that this would not be the chief, consuming smell of B.B.C. Please God help us. Turn our church worldviews upside down with Your sweeping truth and gracious work of deliverance.
We grow only in Your grace alone, Loving and Majestic Heavenly God. Save us today. For we are a mess in Ammon, Idaho.
Todd, I like most of what you’ve said, with one wrinkle different. I’m on board with “we’re a mess, and we know it, won’t hide it….” Obviously on board with Jesus paying the price for my messiness…. but I’d tweek the ending with: GOD sees me as lovable, likable, worthy through the blood of HIS friendship: HIS approach to me is not GERMIT-the-Mess…though who could fault HIM if HE did ?? I couldn’t. Make sense ?? My condition may be….no, make that IS “messiness”, but my identity to the Father is something else. Wthout that , my hope quotient is in the negative.
Blessings on you and yours,
Keep preaching good news that is just that…
I pulled you out of moderation, Germit, and erased my check in the box for every comment having to be moderated (thanks to BJM for showing me the right box to check for ending threads).
Yes. I was broken down and unworthy. Other people could declare I was broken and unworthy if they knew absolutely all about me. The world could have discarded me, torn and unattractive and pitiful as I was. I had (have) no self-righteous charade to hide behind. And the self-improvement programs weren’t (aren’t) helping. I did (do) not have some deep, eternal reservoir of spirit within me to tap.
The Father, Son, and Spirit stepped into the picture. The Father loved me despite my foul smell and sent His Son. The Son loved me by taking my filth on Him and washing me in His blood. The Spirit loved me by renewing me. And the love is not just past tense. For the love is even the knowing of everything that I might do sinfully wrong in the future.
And so with this kind of boundless love flowing from the Triune God, why need I worry about self-esteem and self-image in the midst of my mess? Rather than worry, I should be compelled day by day to drop to my knees in worship and to constantly pick the jaw of my wide-open gaping mouth off the floor.
And besides, throughout all eternity, the redeemed won’t even be oohing and ahing one another or be hungrily tempted toward self focus, self-moralism, or self-congratulations. It will all be one united single eye towards the grace and just, merciful and true King.
Verily, there will be thunderous cries about worthiness . . .
“Worthy is the Lamb”
(Save us, O Lamb and Lion, from the power and presence of sin in our lives this day. Your grace to us is our hope and boast.)
Your article and reply to my post are great pictures of a GOD who gives at a ridiculous level. What a scandalous love. Your story has a “Brennan Manning” feel to it.
May we be found in celebration during another day of salvation.
thanks to BJM for showing me the right box to check for ending threads
Not a problem, Todd, though I think next time I’m going to wait longer and see how much other stuff on your site you lock down and mess up while you’re trying to figure things out… 😉
Germit, I read Brennan’s latest book. But I tend to agree with some of his critics that he sidesteps wrath and judgment.
Here are some words of celebration:
“I am His by purchase and I am His by conquest; I am His by donation and I am His by election; I am His by covenant and I am His by marriage; I am wholly His; I am peculiarly His; I am universally His; I am eternally His.
Once I was a slave but now I am a son; once I was dead but now I am alive; once I was darkness but now I am light in the Lord; once I was a child of wrath, an heir of hell, but now I am an heir of heaven; once I was Satan’s bond-servant but now I am God’s freeman; once I was under the spirit of bondage but now I am under the Spirit of adoption that seals up to me the remission of my sins, the justification of my person and the salvation of my soul.”
– Thomas Brooks, Heaven on Earth
What a beautiful post. It moved me deeply.
Just yesterday I was speaking to an Amish woman — a lovely women who is broken and seeking Jesus….. a woman who is just now realizing after almost 50 yrs that it’s not about church, rituals, a way of life…. but it’s about how sin filled we are and how Jesus left the throne, became flesh and dwelt among us and has paid the price for our sin. He is the final sin offering. Wow. As I held this broken woman and prayed with her as I was struck… we are really all the same… whether we are a Baptist in Idaho, or an Amish woman in the Midwest, or a Mormon in Utah.. we are all miserably sin filled and in need of Jesus.
Your post struck me deeply…. what should or churches be known for? Hopefully we will be known like the churches of smyrna and philadelphia…….. members of the body of Christ completely sold out for Jesus.
Tomorrow, our little church is having a church meeting to discuss this very concept.. .. I am praying for an outpouring of the Spirit upon my pastor and all in attendance.
Great post, Todd.
Keep it coming,