Of Break-ups and Redemption – I

Recently my wife and I discussed a relationship I had entered into as a new believer. I had “fallen in love” with a girl at church I really wanted to be with. I initiated the relationship against the Biblical command to consider only partners who share faith in Jesus. She was not a Christian at heart, and I knew it. A couple of months of superficial joy, merciful interventions & inner turmoil later I broke up with that girl, leaving her clueless & lonely with little excuse or attempts at reconciliation.

Why did I commit these gross sins?

How could I toy with the heart of a young girl made in God’s image?

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My wife’s questions on how unfair this was, made me also realize that-

I didn’t want to be satisfied in Christ. I treated the gospel as something only for a non-Christian. I didn’t see that Christ satisfies both the married and the single Christian soul. Even if I saw it, I –

Looked in the wrong places. I followed the System around me, or what the Bible calls “the world”. I coveted a relationship after I noticed other Christian friends in relationships. I figured I wanted what they had. Nothing bad about having a girl-friend when you are committing to marriage, but I took it to –

Idolatry. I tried to live to make ME HAPPY, Not Jesus.
First, I wanted this beautiful girl, hoping she would become a believer. Later when a mentor confronted me about her being no Christian, I escaped pain by not even meeting her to explain why I was breaking up. I protected myself from consequence & shame at the cost of someone else.

I don’t deserve forgiveness from this person or from God.

But God – He is merciful to offenders like me. Jesus’ death for people like me, baffles my mind and melts my prayers into tears. Even now – to find her & beg for forgiveness, would take that unfair break-up towards redemption.

– Aravind

Have you sinned in a relationship or marriage that God redeemed?

“When God says to keep waiting, He isn’t trying to rob you of an experience but rather lead you into a greater one.” – Matt Chandler

“I am an excelling leader” and Other Fictional Works

You discuss church-planting strategies early in the morning.

You are called to speak at pastors’ conferences.

You disciple & nurture multiple church members late into the night.

You try to bring around reluctant, eccentric and thankless church members to the congregation.

You juggle managing church service & your wife & children.

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That makes two of us. Jesus Christ said your addition and my addition to God’s kingdom-building is a sum total of ZERO.

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So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.'”- Luke 17:10

When you tell yourself you are an excellent church leader, you are indulging in fiction.

Note that Jesus says you are unworthy even after you do EVERYTHING that God has commanded you (Have you done? Will you ever do?). It is stunning that Christ sees us as His precious bride but remember – you and I are as useful as empty vessels. God our Father is like a wealthy house-wife, who will use her vessels as she pleases. Dirty vessels won’t be used for serving others. (see 2 Tim 2:20,21). The leaders at the three new Marg churches in Pune face larger responsibilities and so will other leaders emerging in the coming years.

What can make your church leadership useless to God’s mighty work?

Here are some pointers Marg leaders could benefit from:

Beware of the subtle, wicked attitude of breeding competition between churches in the name of missions and holiness.

Beware of creeping distrust between church leaders and lack of unity in prayer.

A lack in the desire for others’ works to be more blessed than your own.

The sin of laziness and the sin of organized lack of dependence on God the Holy Spirit.

Piling up complaints in your mind against Jesus’ church, His chosen bride.

May this post be helpful to you in pointing your church to the Lord Jesus as the excellent leader more and less to yourself. Feel free to contribute by sharing things that can help church leaders better. May you happily serve Christ as a junior shepherd .

Urban India & a U.S poll on theology

Recently I stumbled upon a Gospel Coalition blog post that discussed an interesting poll. This poll aimed to ““take the temperature of America’s theological health”, or to know “how churched and unchurched people understood theology.” The findings themselves would undermine how we in India think of regular American folks and especially, American Evangelical Christians.

There is a general assumption in India that the U.S is largely “Christian”. Another prevalent assumption here is that all people from the West know more about Jesus and the Bible than Indian church-goers do. Considering these, some of the results might be surprising for us-

Only 18% of Americans say small sins lead to hell.

Around 71% Americans say people must contribute some effort toward their own salvation or rescue from sin.

Almost 60% of self-identifying evangelicals claim the Holy Spirit is a force, not a person.

50% of Americans think worshipping God just by yourself is as good as going to church.

82% don’t consider their local church as an authority with a say on their Christian identity.

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Oh, the humanity.

Here are some valuable observations from TGC on what these results mean.

1) “Terminology like “Get right with God” and “make a decision for Christ” is likely to be heard by lost people as “get your act together” and “ask Jesus for help in being good. We must always stress our inherent sinfulness and Christ’s gracious rescue...”

2) “The pastor should handle Scripture, not as a manual for life betterment and moral instruction, but as a grand…formative story that shapes our attitudes and actions.

3) “…Americans are more likely to look to Scripture as “helpful” rather than see it as objectively true.

4) “Churchgoing…is an optional exercise judged primarily by its usefulness in one’s spiritual journey, not an essential part of faith and commitment.”

These painful observations may not be true just in the U.S though.

Two aspects urban India will identify with, in my very limited knowledge, are #1 and #4. Many churches here have members who misunderstand their role in salvation and even more think of God’s church community as a non-essential to their “individual” relationship with Jesus.

Here is an opportunity for Indian church leaders and others who know the Indian church scenario better.
Do you know where churches in India lack in their understanding of the Christian faith? Is it time we do a similar survey? We could also share how to lead & build up ourselves and others in Biblical ways.
The comments section is open for your thoughts.

Simply, Unusually, Truly church

What if someone tells you that beautiful, pure-white cathedrals across the world are not actually churches?

What would you think of a group of regular-looking people, cracking jokes and discussing a Facebook photo album, but who declare themselves “a church”?

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What if at your church, instead of bread & wine, you receive a piece of Indian chappati and strawberry juice?

Change is unexpected and unusual for anyone who is used to inherited traditions. But how does it matter which way a church looks like or functions? Here is a thank-you note from this blogger, a church member at Marg, Pune who is experiencing church in truly Biblical yet radically different ways.

“3 years ago, I had a mind-set that knew church as an important event on Sunday morning. You would not believe the importance people like me used to attach to a Sunday church service, a Wednesday Bible discussion and a monthly prayer meeting. And unconsciously, that would let me live life disconnected from the church during the week, except for events.
I believe a turning point came with God using at that time, the Antioch School course content and our elder Vivek’s sermons from the “Neglected Way of The Cross” which helped Marg as a church verify if Jesus and the first church followed a Sunday based model of conducting church.
Guess what?

Church is not about one person preaching a sermon on one day of the week, but various people with different gifts using them to build one another, for God’s mission throughout the week.

Church was meant to be in the neighbourhoods where the local church (the people) lived and not just in one corner of a city.

The Bible has practical teaching on how to build the church- but it happen in the weekdays, not just on Sundays.

These are just some of the observations that shook me like a salt-shaker. Slowly, along with others in my missional family, I began to re-orient my life to these truths. This was not easy and took many months for others and me to get used to. Today, I see Marg-Wanowrie trying to be intentional in the identity as one family of missionaries who slave for one another and for those who do not know Jesus Christ.
And it is blessed to know we the church received counter-traditional, yet Biblical teaching that helps us be who Christ intends us to be.”

Wan_Truly_2No, we haven’t had Donuts for Holy Communion. Not yet!

What if you were asked to experience church permanently in these new ways?

Is such a move, wrong?Not helpful?

How would you respond if these changes happened to your church?