The Agony and Ecstasy of Church – A ‘Must-Read’
As you can imagine, I receive many, many emails from listeners. Every now and then, one leaps out.
This one from Therese in Scotland will make you want to cry and to rejoice. I’ve resisted the temptation to comment further. Just read the email exchange and be blessed. 🙂
(Shared with Therese’s permission)
Email from Therese – 8th January 2013
Hi. First of all I am not a Christian. I am interested in Christianity but have been somewhat put off.
I am a 48 yr old single disabled woman and after discovering your programme on UCB I decided to go to a local church. I went along four Sunday evenings in a row recently, but did not feel at all welcome.
I mentioned this to the pastor on the 4th week to which he replied “Well you see you can’t really be accepted here as we are a middle class church”.
I live in a nice council flat but am apparently not the right class of person they are looking for in church. I was soooo hurt as I didn’t know you there were different churches for different classes. I presumed a church would welcome anybody but obviously I was wrong so although I listen to UCB from time to time I have really been put off Christianity if that is how Christian’s behave.
I have a better chance of being accepted in pubs than in a church, which is a bit ironic don’t you think?
By the way, I did not go back to church!
My Reply a Few Days Later
I’ve read your email and am totally blown away – although sadly, not surprised!!!
I totally appreciate that you are not a Christian at this point in your life – but can I tell you, I wouldn’t want to be standing next to that guy on that day that he stands before Jesus in judgement. Unbelievable!!!! In fact, I am totally outraged.
Can I tell you the most amazing thing about Jesus? Here He was – the Son of God – and did He hang around with the hoy-faloy, the toffs, the chaps the chaps trust, the religious establishment, the wealthy, the “beautiful set”??
No! Totally to the contrary. He hung around with the poor, the marginalised, the “sinners” the prostitutes, the flotsam and jetsam of society, the people on the fringes. Bog ordinary folk like you and me. That a church should be “unfriendly” is bad enough. But that a pastor should say that to you – I’m speechless!
Too right you shouldn’t go back there! I feel obliged to apologise on their behalf to you, but not to make any excuses.
Of course, churches aren’t full of perfect specimens like a zoo. They’re more of a rehabilitation ward 🙂 – full of imperfect people like you and me. But there’s no excuse for that.
Can I encourage you not to judge Jesus by the failings of these people. The love of God through Jesus is remarkable, unconditional, and faithful. All the things obviously that you didn’t find at this church.
If you let me know what town/suburb you live in, depending on where you are, I might be able to check with some contacts who could point you to quite a different sort of a church.
Thank you for sharing that with me – it makes my heart ache for you. I look forward to hearing back from you (you now have my direct email address :-)).
In the meantime, you are very much in my prayers,
There were a few more emails exchanged. Therese had some questions and Paula, one of the team at the UCB Radio Network in Stoke-on-Trent was investigating some local churches that Therese could attend in her Scottish Village. Then this ….
Email from Therese – 2 February 2013
Hi again Berni.
I emailed you this morning about my question over Lot’s wife. Paula one of your colleagues emailed me saying that we will never have all the answers. She is right.
I just wanted you to know that 15 minutes ago I got on my knees (which wasn’t easy with my sore leg!) and I repented of my sins then asked Jesus to take over my life from now on. I am not sure whether that makes me a Christian or not tho??
Thanks for your wonderful programme on UCB it really helped give me a shove in the right direction,
Following this I shared with her that by grace, God had accepted her, and she attended a church not far from her place that Paula had investigated.
Email from Therese – 11 February 2013
Yeah by all means share my story.
Well, what can I say? I went to the new church last night and was completely blown away! The place was positively rocking and you couldn’t speak over the music it was soooo loud, lights flashing, dancing, clapping with a whole worship group, it was amazing. Though I must say I had to take two headache pills on arriving home cos loud music gave me a pounding headache LOL.
I used to do a fair bit of voluntary work with young people with learning difficulties – during those years I worked full time in banking but preferred the voluntary work so I was delighted to see and meet so many young people at church along with 8 people I helped care for when I did the voluntary work.
God has brought them back into my life and tho I only spoke to 4 of them last night they all remembered my name so hopefully I can get involved in that again. I really have given everything to The Lord now and really hopes He uses me in a mighty way.
And yes I want to throw myself in to this church. Going to a bible study on Wednesday and a house group on Friday.
this is what i need to hear every now then thanks for sharing this we us !!!!!
I thank you for boldly displaying this message and praise God for the glory of his love he has for us. I just could not sleep after you posting this and this is just icing on a cake compared to what I have experienced in the church. Just last weekend I said to God if I don’t see you in this church I am going to come and find you in heaven to ask you Lord as to what is going on with the reflection of Christ’s image. I have been out of church for over a year praying and seeking Jesus for answers. My first step into the church as I was introduced to the Pastor who was in the process of leaving said “Hi yes God knows you. The problem with this church is it is attracting single women who are coming only to find a husband” My past then was revealed from fellow Christians and rubbed into my heart. I went up the front to request a prayer and was told not to go around and tell people that I was going to heaven. I prayed earnestly to Jesus for forgiveness and he gently spoke to me and gave me Isaiah 6:7. With great joy I was overwhelmed by his love. I confessed my sins to brothers and sisters and repented and got baptised to declare myself to the Lord Jesus. We had an interview after stepping back onto the beach and I said I pray for the spirit of Lord to come into my life. The pastors reply ” I don’t think so”. I was crying after a time in the church and was told to “Go and sin no more” like Christ told people after repentance. I went to a local church and he done a sermon on woman are the cause of sin as to the way they dress and it is normal for a guy to look and that woman should be wearing flowing dresses. My next church was just as good. A child died in the church while I was there and the pastors wife said” the child was taken to test her faith” She also had brought me to tears and said” well how does that feel”. I am not saying that I have been perfect along the way and when the Lord has shown me I then immediately go and correct it. I thought I will try another church and the pastors wife came up and ask why I was coming to church which I didn’t answer as was taken back as to why she was asking. She then tapped me on the leg and said” too close to home is it” So Bernie my question is why am I hated so much by Christians? I don’t believe this is Our Lord’s doing as it does not match up to his word. Could you please pray for God to reveal why I am hated. I can understand at being hated by the world once we give ourselves to Christ. Is my love for the Lord being tested? from New Christian
Sorry to take a while to get back but I am travelling and it’s just taken some time. 🙂
I hear you! There was a time when my wife and I spent two years in the church wilderness. We tried to become part of different fellowships with all our hearts and it seemed that all we had was bad experiences. (Not quite as bad a some of yours but bad enough!)
To be perfectly honest, we still don’t feel really settled where we are. Sometimes we thought to ourselves, “Is there something wrong with us? Are we the problem? Are we expecting too much?” All we were after was a church where we made two or three meaningful connections, where people truly worshipped Jesus and where the Bible was taught with faithfulness, passion and relevance.
Easier said than found.
The question is, what is God trying to do in you on this wilderness journey? This is a time for you to draw ever closer to Him, to seek Him with all your heart, to immerse yourself in His Word and His Spirit and follow where He leads you.
The answers will come. And no doubt He will lead you to a very imperfect church, and ask you to shine His light into the lives of those around you.
Hi again Berni, our paths must have crossed while i posted above, i just wanted you to know! That I do know they are not a reflection of your views! I realised immediatly they were Johns views, otherwise he wouldn’t have posted webpage,thats the reason i answered,
I honestly don’t know why i did that, i just felt compelled to! Anne
Sorry! the reply above concerning Hillsong on ACA was for John Lu, God Bless.
I watched the program on the website you entered.
You amaze me!!! you can say all that above! and still you curse the Hillsong Church with that program (in fact! practically all Churches) I will not bother to watch ACA ever again, because now I do know for sure! that you people edit out all the honest to goodness things they do for the community, (it all costs money) with the intent of leaving a question mark in the minds of the public, and pulling down God’s work among men.
In fact! you actually did a program that would put people off going to any Church, you scare them away! they see it on TV, and they believe it! and don’t bother going to Church. I agree there are some who use the Word to make a profit, Their fruit reveals their honesty, you need to look behind the scenes to see the good they do before judging God’s people, anyway! “who are you to judge? God is the Judge” (not mere man). “you will be judged as you judge”, doesn’t that worry you?
My theory is, you were working for the wrong God.
You need to look at all the young adults that now have a wonderful life and a purpose to live. through Brian and Bobby, they come from all walks of life, abused, drug addicts, prostitutes, crime, street kids, you name it they are there smiling and happy for first time in their lives. you just didn’t bother to look at the good.
And. all because there are people out there like Brian and Bobby, who cared enough to bring them home,that speaks for itself! you don’t really know anything or? you are not bothering to enlighten the public with all the truth on what they do do! that puts you in the same corner as you believe of Hillsong, dishonest! I guess that is the only reason you did that program? is to pull Church down,and as someone else said, Hillsong is not the only Church in this world,nor in Australia, like you thought? it was the biggest in Australia, so lets pull it down.
Sorry if i have offended you, but your program sure doesn’t get top marks, it is a D for dumb.
Oh by the way! i don’t go to Hillsong, but I have been there on occasions, and have gleened from whoever was teaching at the time. Wake up!
Not sure who you’re directing your comments at. Whilst someone in a comment posted the link to the ACA Hillsong segment, please understand that it certainly doesn’t reflect my views.
Sometimes I bar people’s comments on this site, but very rarely. I let that particular one through I’m the interests of free speech and allowing people to express views that are contrary to mine.
Hi Kim, question; Why would the Pastor need to know you by name? and, or, all your needs/situation you are in?
God knows you by name and calls you by your name, He sees you striving, He also, knows all of your needs, and “supplies them all in His riches and glory in Christ Jesus.” An Amazing truth! God has called me by name on occasion, as in; “Anne…….. at times when i have been really down and felt rejected,or not good enough. Those feelings are! from the enemy,who is the accuser of the brethen, God know’s your heart, and will supply you with a perfect place to be with his beloved children, just ask Him? You are very welcome to go boldly to His Throne at any time. We now live in the days of technology where every person can hear the word of God, no excuse. If you read the Psalms you will know that God loves all the instruments and music, clapping of hands dancing the lot! it is all to do with our heart for Him when using these available systems in our generation, God is the creator of all things.
a good suggestion for you, watch “Joseph Prince” Pastor from singapore on Utube or read his books,a very annointed God ordained preacher indeed, he teaches from Pauls gospel, his gleenings are beautifully revealed to the listener. My theory is, God Blesses his own. For sure one has to decern the wolf in sheeps clothing? their teaching will reveal the fruits of truth.
Praise the Lord!! what a wonderful outcome from a sad beginning. God is oh so good!
Thanks Berni for your faithfulness in presenting God’s heart through the Christianityworks programs .
I am so encouraged and challenged when I listen to them.
Brenda, Western Australia
Yep, we have one of these churches right here in Sydney too…
But, you don’t need to apologize on other people’s behalf…
For Jesus already said…
btw, Woe means “Curse”…
Seven Woes on the Teachers of the Law and the Pharisees
13 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.  [b]
15 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.
16 “Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gold of the temple is bound by that oath.’ 17 You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? 18 You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gift on the altar is bound by that oath.’ 19 You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 Therefore, anyone who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21 And anyone who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. 22 And anyone who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it.
23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.
25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.
27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.
29 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. 30 And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Go ahead, then, and complete what your ancestors started!
33 “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? 34 Therefore I am sending you prophets and sages and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. 35 And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 Truly I tell you, all this will come on this generation.
37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. 38 Look, your house is left to you desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’[c]”
Jesus already Cursed these people 7 times…, and totally agree with you Berni!!!
I wouldn’t want to be then on judgement day.
Have been there done that, stayed away from all church’s for years, I felt free to be myself by not being involved with any religion, I was brought up with church life, religion it was!
But like Terese I went back to a Christian church when we moved to Australia through watching TV on Sunday mornings, I said, to myself, I want that, I was invited to a Christian Church meeting a few months later and went, the Word of God called me that evening and I never hesitated to go forward, so now as a born again believe, It didn’t last more than a couple years, I would come away from most services feeling condemned,
I finally decided one night to give it all up. I am not joking when I say that that decision felt like a heavy load had been lifted off me, I felt such tremendous freedom, just to be able to be my own self again. Without all the trying, to do, to say, to act, to be kind to everyone, I was becoming a people pleaser, one who was afraid to say no, because God expected us to be good Christians,
I was burdened from inside out. Burdened with guilt!
So that decision gave me this wonderful feeling of freedom, freedom to just be myself, who I was, without any striving to be the person I assumed God wanted me to TRY and be.
The good news is, that wonderful freedom I felt only lasted one day! I heard God speaking to me that very night while trying to go to sleep, I tried to ignore it, (didnt realise it was God then, or what was going on) because I wasn’t having anymore to do with Churches forever, so I thought!
But! I awoke next morning with the same words still running through my mind, I couldn’t believe they were still in my head after sleeping all night, they weren’t exactly scripture, they were words of love “you don’t even know that I Am here and that I love you, that I adore you” and other words similar, rather like a song playing over and over again, I was ignoring them mainly because I thought it was words to a song, but didn’t understand how I would know them? Or why they were keeping on keeping on.
In the shower that morning I decided to listen and sing to the words and try figure out why they were in my head, after a short time, hit me suddenly! I realised! And said out loud, is that you God? Then I felt His presence, it was like liquid LOVE tingling all through me. I don’t have to strive to be perfect, The Lord told me that, He chose me, I didn’t choose Him, all I have to be, is myself the person He made me to be.
Great to see that you discovered that the covenant of grace isn’t about religion. It’s about relationship!
Once that happens, church – albeit imperfect – starts to make sense.
Hello Anne, Just saw your comment. I rejoice with you about your experience of God’s love. What has been really redeeming to me is the message of Col 1,27: Christ in me, the hope of Glory! If you want to explore more about this transforming message, I would encourage you to check om http://www.abidinglife.com or find New Life Worldwide Ministries, which is the same message, but located in Australia. With sisterly greetings, Ingrid Lang, Denmark
Hi I was just wondering about your thoughts on the way “church” is today and the eay Jesus taught us through Paul?
I’ve moved alot both around Australia and around the UK so I’ve been to quite a few church’s in my life (all pentecostal).
Paul Jesus told the chrch to take care of it’s own first and then everyone else. I#m tired of walking into a church and seeing the giant tv screen’s, the elaborate speaker systems, the Pastors wearing the expensive suits and driving the new cars. This goes on everywhere while some in their congregations don’t have the money to pay thier bills, for rent or sometimes food. Paul specifically said that we’re to look after the widows and the fatherless. I’ve literally never seen this. But I do see them taking up collections for their missions in “other” countries.
I just can’t deal with the concept of these “mega” church’s being that big that the pastor won’t even know the names of their congregation let alone know their living situations.
It all just doesn’t ring true for me.
I don’t accept the excuses people have given me. Ones like “But it was different back then” “They didn’t drive cars or have PA systems”
I’m really disheartened about the whole thing and yet God tells ne not to forsake fellowship.
Anyway I’ll just try to find a home meeting.
I live in Scotland and can’t believe what Theresa has had to go through.
I personally am sick of hearing that “You’ll never find a perfect church”,,,I know “poeple” are not perfect but the way we were taught to fellowship and worship is perfect.
You are right, Berni. I was disturbed and saddened by Theresa’s experience at the first church – but sadly not surprised. How sad. May the Lord bring conviction to the leadership of that church. But the story sure got better! I rejoice at God’s grace in drawing Theresa to Himself – and for providing a church where she can grow in grace and in her knowledge of the Lord Jesus. God bless you, my friend, for your impactful ministry.
Yep the story sure got better. God has His ways of achieving His purposes. Just as well it doesn’t all depend on thee and me, eh?!
To God be all the glory.
Bless ya, from sunny downtown Lincoln Nebraska,
Praise God! What an amazing story & what an amazing God we serve!
Amazing testimony! So glad to hear this story! Let nothing get in the way of Gods power and love! He has a redemptive plan and exciting purpose for Teresas life and isnt going to let anything or anyone get in the way of it! Praise God!