I have been trying to help and encourage people more lately, especially in the work place. You don't have to bring people to church to get them help. You can encourage them and help them right where they're at. A lot of people won't even step foot into a church. For good reason a lot of the time too. The church is us, the Christ Followers, not a building or a service.
I am also a lot more relaxed without having to stress out about being "at church" for something. In the work place there were some good friends who were struggling with their marriages. I don't even know exactly how the topic came up. I just noticed something in these individuals and could tell they were struggling with something because of their moods. They opened up. I offered some encouragement, some stories of how Patty and I got through our struggles, and told them I would pray for them. I think that one marriage is still struggling a bit, but the other one has taken a turn for the better.
I was also able to help a much younger staff member through a difficult time they were having with another person in the office. I am the union steward, so I definitely am in a position where people come to me when there are problems in the office. It allows me an opportunity to share with folks and encourage them. I was told by one person that I was a true friend and was a "true christian in every sense of the word." Their words, not mine. I don't really like the word Christian though because of the negative connotation it has to those who don't follow Christ. I prefer to be called a Follower of Christ.
I was talking with a youth pastor recently who said that he enjoyed just hanging out with the kids more than he enjoyed teaching them on a Sunday morning or at a midweek youth service. This is where real ministry happens.
What it boils down to for me is to "do the stuff". Love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself. Everything else is minor. You don't have to live in the bondage that is legalism and a list of rules of do's and dont's. Let God do the work in people and love them right where they're at. It has nothing to do with religion, doctrine, going to church, yada yada yada.
I will be heading to Kansas City for a work related class next week. I fly out Monday and return Friday evening. There is an old Air Force buddy of mine that will be in the same class. The last time I saw him was about 8 or 9 years ago at a class in Kansas City. Prior to that, I had not seen him since 1986. Let's just say that the last time I saw him, I was still drinking. As a matter of fact, the night before our last day of class 8 or 9 years ago, we went out drinking. I don't really remember much of the night because I drank very heavily that night. The next day in class was miserable. I remember that day because of how hungover I was. Anyhow...we have a friend in common that we both knew in the Air Force back in 1986. He was even a heavier drinker than myself. Not too long ago he was told to quit drinking or he was going to die. The friend I am going to see next week knew that I had quit drinking and called me for some advice. I gave him some and the last I heard was that our friend is doing better now. I'm sure I will get caught up on his situation next week. It will be great for my friend to see the "sober me." He's a much better guy than the drunk one I used to be.
My brother Carl and his family live in the Kansas City area. I hope to go out to dinner with them one night while I am there.
BTW...I finished the book "Oh Shit! It's Jesus!-the relevance of Jesus without all the religious crap" by Steve Hughes. It was a very short book that I read in two sittings. Here is an excerpt from chapter 1 "I know other Christians, but you're different"
How the "church" responds to people in need determines in some measure how American society perceives Jesus and how individuals respond to Jesus. Unfortunately, many people only experience hypocrisy and hatred coming from the church.
Some, maybe you, think of Christians as people who are part of the "right-wing conservative hate group" or an archaic organized religion imposing their unrealistic morality upon society. We could discuss those issues and I would actually love to, but now I want you to know that many Christians and churches are not like that. They are responding to situations of pain and tragedy by loving and serving people like Jesus did. They care about the community of humanity, the personal struggles of individuals, and provide substantive assistance to their neighbors.
Individual followers of Christ can be like Jesus and love those who are not loved by others in a society. There are numerous examples of this in Christian history - Saint Patrick in Ireland, father Damien on a Hawaiian leper island, and Mother Teresa in Calcutta to name a few. When you see people love and care for one another, you are actually catching a glimpse of Jesus.
If you don't accept or understand the whole Jesus thing right now, I hope that you can become friends with a follower of Christ who is striving to be like Jesus. In doing so you can catch a glimpse of and even touch the invisible and tangible God that Jesus followers trust their lives to. Being like Jesus is what makes followers of Christ different from the Christians you know.
If you're not a Christian, you may have had some negative experiences with Christians. They may have tried to convert you and slammed you with Bible verses about how "evil and sinful" you are. You may have seen media accounts of so-called "Christians" protesting and shouting ugly slurs against homosexuals or other groups.
You may be dechurched. You attended church at one time, but then someone said or did something hurtful. We avoid pain, so you left the church. It saddens me if that has been your only exposure to the church or Christians.
I would recommend this book to anyone that is turned off by Christianity. You can get it at Amazon.com.
I will take a break from blogging for a week since I will be in Kansas City. I'll blog next weekend about my week. Until then, encourage someone if you can. Be kind to someone.