[#write31days] Day 27 Boundaries at Church

Welcome to Day 27 of #write31days! 
For more information check out the series’ page

Leading worship, running Sunday school, a morning and an evening service, small group, weekly meetings to prepare for a major church outreach, having coffee with your accountability/prayer partner…it’s very easy to get caught up in that huge organism called the church.
Yes, all of these things are good. But sometimes we are so busy with church work that we forget what it’s all about: we DO church, but we no longer ARE the church. 

If you’ve been part of this organism for a while (or maybe even your entire life) you carry your scars with you. Church is a smaller or larger group of people, just people. Human beings with flaws and problems. Ordinary you and me’s that can hurt you, insult you, overlook your talents, abuse your talents, teach you questionable things. Being scarred by people who call themselves Christians – the ones with the message of love – can be really hurtful. So we withdraw.
Yes, sometimes we need to leave hurtful environments behind. But let’s not leave for the wrong reasons and miss out on the beauty a messy group of desperate people can turn into. 

God is Okay with No Work
Church normally is a smaller or larger bunch of people meeting once or several times per week to worship, read Scripture and pray. This does involve work, but sometimes it gets a little out of hand.
Of course, we all want our church to be open for everyone. Of course, we want to spread the news to our neighbors and homeless people and refugees. Of course we want to support the elderly, the single moms, and others in need. Of course we want the music on stage to sound professional.
When these ‘of courses’ turn into constant meetings and duties; when Sundays are no longer a day of rest but hard Christian work – then you need to set boundaries.

Church is a place where people meet to seek God, to lift each other up and challenge them in their faith life. Before church and other believers faith is a personal thing, the relationship between God and you.
A relationship that needs to be maintained and taken care of. It can get rooky, there will be ups and downs. Just like every other relationship it takes work and time. But how can you maintain this relationship if you’re so busy in church? No ministry and full church plan will help you fix your faith life. 
Saying NO is perfectly okay. The bible talks about boundaries and saying NO does not mean being selfish.
Faith is not about performing – even in a Christian, churchy context – but about being. It’s about discovering the amazing talents you’ve been given and using them WISELY to worship the Lord and bless others with them. Overusing or neglecting them will only destroy them and harm you in the end.


Let the Good In, but also Take It Out
In the last year I really struggled to go to church. I was so busy with my own life, I was dealing with so many things that I didn’t feel like mingling with others. My heart was too empty to sing joyful worship songs. My hands were too exhausted to lift them in praise. My words sounded too shallow to even pray. Meeting other believers and talking about faith seemed like the last thing I wanted in my life.
So I often stayed home, trying to worship, read the bible, or pray.
It was hard.
Pushing through tough times alone can be incredibly exhausting. Finding the Lord in times of darkness and questions and doubt can be a real struggle.

We are not supposed to struggle alone.
Life is hard and full of questions and doubts and darkness – but we have been given each other to stumble through it together. Sometimes with feeble voices, sometimes with uneasy feet, sometimes with doubtful hearts.  
So reach out to each other, ask for help. Don’t withdraw from the strength and encouragement that comes from community.
A faith community.

853ab-community_collaboration_3Church is so much more than the building we go to every week. It is so much larger than the few people we gather with on Sundays. It is so much more unexpected than the four-chord-worship-songs or bible verse interpretations.
The Church is wherever people gather in Jesus’ name – in a café, in a living room. In their pyjamas, in their best suits, in their work clothes. In good and in bad times. With honest hearts, lifting up empty hands to the well that will never run out. 
Open your boundaries and let the Good come in.

How does your relationship to the church look like? Do you maybe have to do less to take care of your faith life? Do you maybe have to be courageous and reach out to an unexpected faith community? 

[#write31days] Day 8 Everything for the Kingdom

Welcome to Day 8 of #write31days! 
For more information check out the series’ page

“We’re in need of a piano player for Sunday worship. Can you please help out?”
“You’re really good with devotions/children’s ministry/insert whatever ministry in here. We would love to have you fulltime for this.”

Are you familiar with these last-minute emails?
Just a small task. Just a little more giving. Because hey, it’s all for the kingdom of God and you certainly can’t hold back now.

I have been to quite a few churches and I always got more involved. For me, church is more than just going there on Sundays and enjoying a two-hour worship and sermon performance. It’s about the people serving together, sharing life together. The church is the living body of Christ, so we are so supposed to live and work together. 
But “serving and living together” can easily become a burden if we are not aware of its limitations and set appropriate boundaries.

We all have been given certain gifts that we should use to serve God and others. A musical person who never plays an instrument is missing out on the blessings coming from music. An encourager who never opens his mouth will not see how his words uplift others. A teacher who never shares the word with others will never see that lightbulb going on in someone else’s head. The one who stays away will never experience the gift of community. 8a
Getting involved in various church ministries is a good way to connect with people. Giving will result in being given, I have experienced that. But sometimes we give too much. We invest in several places at the same time. Working with people especially can be tough because they don’t function like machines. They have their own thoughts, miss appointments, let you down.
Serving will drain energy. And if you give without ever receiving, you’ll burn out. Your talents are no longer used to bless others, they rather feel like being thrown away without anything in return.

Leave Your Brain Outside
In a normal church, after some worship and announcements comes the core element of the service: the sermon.
It is very easy to leave church feeling all good or moved or encouraged. Simply soaking up all the stories that remind you of better times.
It is very convenient to shut off your brain and just relax because the preacher won’t get to you anyway. Just take his words for granted, I mean he went to bible school, so he must know, right?
I am a digger (some also call me a nerd), I love to dive into things, explore different facets of words and concepts. So I always appreciate a preacher who doesn’t just touch my feelings, but gives me food for thought. I admire what others can grind out of a passage, how they inspire me even though I have read a text so many times before. But most of all, I enjoy preachers who make me want to go home and read my bible for myself. Who don’t spoonfeed me like a small child, but push me to question, to doubt, to learn. I benefit from other people’s wisdom and insight, but I am allowed, yes even challenged, to use my own brain and develop a personal relationship with God outside the church.

8b‘Church Work’
Not all of us are pastors, youth ministers, or worship leaders. Most of us have ‘normal’ jobs during the week and go to church on Sunday. Because we have these two different things going on we sometimes tend to separate our lives into two spheres: the worldly and the holy. These two can’t go together, so we have worldly and church friends, wordly and church personalities, wordly and church work.
For the last three years I’ve been part of a European Youth Movement inspiring and equipping young people to live a missional lifestyle. One major tool to do that is a bi-annual congress with more than 3000 people from all over Europe coming together to celebrate New Year’s, learning from God and each other, being inspired to serve. It is an immense blessing seeing and working with so many different people! But of course, organizing such a big event is a lot of work, a lot of ‘church work’. Tons of emails and requests, endless spreadsheets and logistics, many unexpected problems. All next to graduating from university and having a life. So what did I do? I wrote these emails and dealt with these problems on Sundays because it was ‘church work’. The day of rest was filled with work. Everything for the kingdom.
Well, to make it short, it worked for a while. But very soon I felt empty, burned out. I even got sick. My hands were in pain, I couldn’t type anymore, my back was sore. I gave everything, but could not go on.

Jesus wants us to have abundance, to thrive, but His life will not break through if we bury it in work, no matter how holy and churchy it may be.

How do you spend your Sundays?
What kind of jobs do you have in your church? How do you feel about them?