Tag Archives: Christianity

Because Christians Are the Only Ones Who Judge

Recently when I participated in the 48 Hour Launch competition I received a great blessing – to be hated for the sake of my savior, Jesus Christ.

Let me explain.  You see, as a Christian I am typically surrounded by other Christians (at least in settings where we all know the beliefs of those around us…such as at church, a ministry meeting, or a spiritual retreat).  When I go to a restaurant, a movie theater, a shopping mall, or any other public place, nobody knows what the spiritual or religious beliefs of anyone else are.  So even though I might be surrounded by non-believers, I would never be subject to any kind of public repercussions to my faith.

I think it is safe to say that it is public opinion that Christians are judgmental…the way we are portrayed in the media and all the coverage about radical Kuran-burners and gay-funeral-protesters ensures that we all get lumped into one big heap of hateful people who are anti-everything-that-has-anything-to-do-with-equality-and-acceptance.  Everyone outside of Christianity (and not in some crazy cult), is of course, completely rational, accepting of everyone’s belief systems, and sympathetic to everything that is unjust in our society.  Think again.

At 48 Hour Launch I experienced how “accepting” people are of Christians.  I watched all weekend as the 50 or so people who made up the nine other teams interacted with each other, shared conversations, and walked right by my table without a glance.  I watched all weekend as the other people talked with excitement about how each of the other projects would entertain or offer a business service to the Chattanooga community, but then never once came by to find out what ChurchSurfer would offer.  I watched all weekend as people kept their distance.  I also watched as people who probably wanted to come talk to me didn’t because of what others in attendance might think of them.

ChurchSurfer @ Harvest Bible Chapel: A Church Is Born

Church Experience #36 – September 18, 2011

Harvest Bible Chapel – Chattanooga, TN

Despite My Best Efforts

A few months back I spent a day volunteering at J-Fest, which is an all-day Christian music festival put on by the local Christian radio station, J103.  I served at the information booth for Men’s Ministry Network, a local ministry that I am involved with, and during part of the day I thought it would be a good idea to visit the rest of the booths at the festival to get information about other local churches that I might visit this year for the ChurchSurfer blog.  Just a few spaces down from our booth was an energetic group of people representing a yet-to-be-officially-launched church called Harvest Bible Chapel.  I thought it was a little odd that a church that technically did not exist yet (although as Christians we all know that this group of people was already a church) would have a booth at a Christian music festival (which translated means I can’t believe a church would actually be that organized and able to plan ahead, especially one that hasn’t even launched yet…but then again, maybe that’s why they were able to be organized…they weren’t dealing with the craziness of full-on church life yet).  So I gathered some literature from them, which I of course didn’t really look at (limited time), and was invited to an informational “party with the pastors”, which I of course didn’t attend (limited energy), and then I filed a reminder to attend their first real worship service in the back of my mind somewhere (limited capacity) that pretty soon got lost (limited functionality).  I thought it would be a really cool experience to attend the first-ever worship service of a new church, but as you can see, I obviously had all of my excuses in place in case I missed it.  Apparently God had a different plan for me, because despite my best efforts to botch this up, someone (don’t ask who, I’ve already filed that info away) mentioned the launch of Harvest Bible Chapel Chattanooga to me in conversation a whole week in advance of their inaugural worship service of Sunday, September 18, which rattled my forgotten memories of J-Fest back into focus.  I can usually handle remembering something for a week, so I felt confident that I would make it there on Sunday and experience the (public) birth of a church.  Here’s how it went…

ChurchSurfer @ Burks United Methodist Church: The Sermon 10 Years Later

Church Visit #35 – September 11, 2011

Burks United Methodist Church – Hixson, TN

Here I Go Again

So I got to thinking this past week (dangerous, I know) about the fact that I have been to thirty-five different churches in the Chattanooga area this year (well, actually thirty-four in Chattanooga and one in California).  My line of thinking quickly switched from “wow, I’ve visited thirty-five churches this year”, to “wow, I only have fifteen church visits left this year”.  So then I quickly started considering how many churches of each denomination I have been to, what parts of the area I haven’t visited yet, topics that I haven’t covered, experiences that I might have missed…OK stop right there.  As I revisit those thoughts I also realize that I wish I could visit every church in Chattanooga, meet everyone, experience everything, and write about and share it all.  I realize that the process of creating and doing the ChurchSurfer blog this year has opened my heart to an even deeper love for the Lord and for people, and a sincere desire to share His love with everyone I possibly can.  I also realize that simply broadcasting messages about this Love through a blog or from the pulpit or any other means of mass delivery is simply not the way to accomplish that task.  The best way to share God’s love with people is in person.  People will receive your demonstrations of love through serving them much faster than they will receive anything you tell them or write to them.  People change when you walk through it with them, not after you have preached it to them.  In fact, God Himself gave us the best example by showing us that even though it was important to broadcast the Ten Commandments and sacred writings of His Word, ultimately He needed to come in person and show us His love by serving us (John 13:14-15).  He did it in a way that we could replicate and then commanded us to do just that.  As disciples we are called to not only receive His love, but to share it with others and ultimately, prepare others to share it also (2 Timothy 2:2).  I truly believe that I could never accomplish with a blog that is read by thousands of people, anything close to what I could accomplish with only a few people in person.  Jesus discipled twelve men.  There were millions of other people on the earth and yet He chose to pour Himself into twelve men.  It’s because He knew what those twelve men would go on to do.  Here’s a news flash for you…if you are a follower of Jesus then you are called to do the same thing that those twelve men did (Matthew 28:19).  OK, wow…I really didn’t mean to get sidetracked on a sermon, but that may have been a few minutes of Holy Spirit guidance there.  I hope it means something to you.  So now, on to this week’s church visit…

ChurchSurfer @ Redemption Point Church: A Charlie Brown Pentecostal Praise Break

Church Visit #34 – September 4, 2011

Redemption Point Church – Ooltewah, TN

It’s All About the Timing

On multiple occasions this year I have been invited to visit Redemption Point Church in Ooltewah.  I am not sure how or why I have ended up running into so many people who attend there, but it is one of those weird things that keeps popping up over and over.  At one point earlier in the year I visited the Redemption Point website and was intrigued by the “Aspiring to be the most loving church in America” slogan right there on the home page.  At the time I was really focusing on how I was welcomed into the churches that I was visiting and how the people at each church interacted with me.  I thought it would be interesting to see if the people at Redemption Point were doing any better at living out their aspiration to be the most loving church than all the other churches around Chattanooga.  Maybe God knew that would be the wrong reason (or maybe the wrong time) to visit Redemption Point, because it soon slipped my mind and I never felt strongly led to go there…until now.  After having another one of those “chance” encounters…this time with a friend who had been on the same Walk to Emmaus that I attended in the Spring, who I ran into again at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon recently.  He invited me to visit his church, which just happened to be Redemption Point.  So this time I felt like it was definitely time to go, and after visiting I know why I was supposed to wait until now.  I’ll go over the timing aspect of this church visit a little later, but here’s how the experience went…

ChurchSurfer @ North Shore Fellowship: Buzz-worthy and Jam-packed

Church Experience #33 – August 28, 2011

North Shore Fellowship – Chattanooga, TN

The Buzz

Certain churches create a buzz around town and just by living in Chattanooga and being active in the local Christian community you tend to hear about them in various conversations.  You usually can’t remember what or where you heard about them, but just that you heard about them (at least that is how it happens to me).  I have visited a few of these buzz-worthy churches…Calvary Chapel, The Net Church, ChristWay Community Church, etc…and have found some very distinct similarities, which may explain why people take notice and talk about them.  They are all growing (which is probably a result of the buzz), they are all full of young people (teens, twenties, and thirties), and they all seem to be making a commitment to teach their congregations that Sunday morning church service should not be the focus or extent of Christianity in your life (the odd thing is that by pushing that paradigm, attendance at their Sunday morning services is exploding).  This week I decided to visit another one of those buzz-worthy churches that I have heard something about from someone somewhere…North Shore Fellowship.  Anyone in Chattanooga knows that the North Shore is one of the most buzz-worthy locations in town right now, so it only makes sense that a church in that area would be making a surge in attendance (sort of like St. Elmo/Calvary Chapel).  So Laura and I decided to see what the buzz was all about.

In the Wrong Place at the Right Time 

North Shore Fellowship - The wrong building
North Shore Fellowship - The wrong building


ChurchSurfer @ Hephzibah Ministries: In Tune with the Spiritual

Church Experience #32 – August 21, 2011

Hephzibah Ministries – Chattanooga, TN

Starting with a Sermon

In the midst of attending fifty different churches in 2011, I have also gone through daily and weekly personal reflection in an attempt to evaluate my walk in faith to live for my Savior, Jesus Christ.  I have been intentional this year, more so than I ever have before, to focus on the eternal rather than the here and now.  That is not to say that my present circumstances and actions are not important, but my hope is that I can think eternally in order to act immediately (wow, I like that…that may be my new catch phrase, “think eternally in order to act immediately”).  I want to spend as much of my time, energy, and resources as I can investing in things that will enrich the lives of those around me rather than doing things that we, as Americans, often end up consumed by such as entertaining ourselves, trying to gain wealth, buying new toys, and chasing notoriety.  I have faith that I will share in the inheritance of eternal life in the Kingdom of God, so earthly pursuits of luxury and comfort serve only as a distraction to what is to come next.  I have recently read two books that have helped me along in my personal reflections and eternal focus – “The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven“, by Kevin and Alex Malarkey, and “Radical:  Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream“, by David Platt.  These books have helped me to pay more attention to the reality of unseen forces at work in the world around us and how the forces of darkness are intertwined with the urges that drive us toward the pursuits of luxury and comfort.  I have always had a sense of how American churches have fallen so easily into the snare of these fleshly pursuits and have never felt fully comfortable connecting my spiritual life to one of them for fear that I would also begin feeding into the problem.  The truth of the matter is that we are the Church.  An amazing and humbling realization is that as the Church, we are the bride of Christ.  We are united with Christ as one, and with this blessing comes responsibility.  We are called to represent Christ to this world in order to bring glory and honor to Him as Head of the Church and to invite all who will believe in Jesus to come into the same covenant that we have entered into.  So the question is…how well are we representing our Lord?  Can the world see that we are different?  Can they see Christ in us or do we look just like them?  Let me get away from this mini-sermon and move on to the church visit I had this week and you might be able to make some connections.

ChurchSurfer @ Rock Point Community Church: A Very Special Guest

Church Experience #30 – August 7, 2011

Rock Point Community Church – Chattanooga, TN

Faith Changes Things

(Warning, philosophy ahead – please read this first paragraph slowly)  It is a strange thing how faith changes your life.  When you think about it, how could it not change your life?  Hebrews 11:1 gives us a definition of faith when it tells us, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”  When you have evidence of something that you have not seen, it makes it possible to believe it exists.  Without evidence, that thing is just an idea or concept, but with enough evidence it becomes established as real, or as truth, even without physically seeing it.  This initial belief in the existence of something by faith then results in a change of your understanding of the things that are related to that thing.  If this thing is significant enough, then over time, the way you act, feel, and think about everything else will change, as it is now filtered through this newly established truth.  One day the world is believed to be flat, then there is evidence to prove it is round, and everything changes.  For those who are disciples of Christ, the evidence of the claims He made is revealed to us in a real way that cannot be denied.  This evidence (which comes from Jesus Himself and the Holy Spirit) gives us the ability to believe, and as the rest of our lives are then filtered through this new truth…we change.  The more we are willing to act, feel, and think through the filter of our faith in Jesus, the greater our faith becomes (given, of course, because of God’s grace) and the more we as an individual change.  The strange thing (that I alluded to in the very first sentence) is that this changed person of great faith is who you were really created to be…so basically you are becoming your real self.  I told you it was strange (or maybe just my strange way of explaining and phrasing things).  The point of this feeble attempt at a philosophy lesson was to prelude some significant events that happened around this week’s church visit.  Now that I think about it, that message does not actually do a good job of leading into this story at all, but it was on my heart to share for some reason, so there you go…faith.  Now on to the next paragraph.

ChurchSurfer @ Silverdale Baptist Church: A Message Meant to be Heard

Church Experience #29 – July 24, 2011

Silverdale Baptist Church – Chattanooga, TN

Last Minute Directions

For the most part, throughout my 28 church experiences so far in 2011, I have had little trouble picking a new church to visit each week.  I have talked in previous articles about my process for picking churches, which I would basically describe as listening for “clues” or direction from the Spirit, while at the same time being intentional about selecting churches of different denominations, size, and demographics for the sake of providing better content for the ChurchSurfer blog and a better opportunity for me and Laura to grow from a wide range of experiences.  There are roughly one-thousand churches in greater Chattanooga, so the pool of potential options is certainly not limited, but for some reason I was struggling a little bit this week with making a final selection.  There were a couple of churches that I had in mind, but they just did not “feel” right as it came down to time to commit to one.  So around midnight on Saturday night I did what any reasonable husband would do in a time of crisis…ask his wife for help.  Apparently Laura did not get the memo that explained how strategic and complicated selecting a ChurchSurfer church should be, because she thought for only a minute or two and then matter-of-factly stated, “I’d like to go to Silverdale Baptist”.  The nerve!  Of course I second guessed her.  I started throwing other potential candidates out there (yes, the same ones that did not feel right to me in the first place) trying to make her waver and realize she did not go through the correct selection process.  She simply responded that the decision was ultimately up to me, but I was the one who had asked her for help.  OK…ya got me there.  So I somewhat reluctantly agreed that Silverdale Baptist would be the church we visited this week, and I continued to second guess that decision even on Sunday morning as we headed out for church.

ChurchSurfer @ Church of the First Born: Image and Expectations

Church Experience #28 – July 17, 2011

Church of the First Born – Chattanooga, TN

To Gain a Better Perspective

At the beginning of the summer, I visited Union Chapel (also known as “The Little Brown Church“) and was exposed to an inner city pastor named Alfred “No Middle Name” Johnson for the first time.  The article I wrote about that church experience dealt in part with observing the contrast of a black inner city pastor preaching at a white Signal Mountain church.  For the purposes of ChurchSurfer this provided great content because, in my mind, talking about how the love of Christ allows His people to rise above things that do not make sense to the world (all they see is the paradox of an inner city black man teaching wealthy white people), is a great way to glorify our Lord.  I felt like that article, although limited to just one speaker in a church that hosts a different speaker every week, did a good job capturing the essence of what the Little Brown Church is all about.  What the article did not do, however, was capture a clear picture of what Alfred Johnson was all about.  I was greatly impressed and intrigued with his sermon at the Little Brown Church in the way that it basically called to attention the current generation of youth that we, as Christians, are failing to reach in so many ways.  A sharp sermon delivered by a fiery preacher definitely gives insight into the man and his ministry, but it does not give a complete picture of either.  In order to get a more complete picture I knew I would actually have to see him in his ministry.  I needed to visit Church of the First Born, where Alfred Johnson serves as Pastor and see him in action in his own environment.  I always look forward to visiting churches where I am an ethnic minority anyway, because I feel like if I really want to gain a deeper understanding of other cultures and grow in my ability to truly love and connect to all people, I need to be exposed to people who are different than me.  If you really want to discover your own capacity for love, you cannot build walls and limit your contact to what you know…you have to explore the unknown.  So here is how my experience at Church of the First Born went…

ChurchSurfer @ Journey Church: The Church, Not the Band (Journey)

Church Experience #27 – July 10, 2011

Journey Church – Hixson, TN

Many Questions

The non-denominational Christian church movement in recent years is a curious thing to me.  I always wonder how each of these churches came into existence.  Some of these churches meet in people’s homes, in rented or shared commercial space, in re-purposed abandoned buildings, in church buildings of disbanded churches, the list goes on and on.  How they came into being is a whole other story.  They may have split from another church, they may have been a church plant from some organization, they may have started as a Bible study group that grew into a church, and I am sure there are countless other ways in which non-denominational churches continue to pop up.  For some reason I find it very interesting to think about these things…about how churches get formed, grow, and become a part of the community and have an impact on society.  I have done very little research about individual church origins, but I bet there are some great stories out there.  A completely separate rabbit trail of thought is how and why the non-denominational church movement itself began.  Was there too little flexibility within denominations for different styles of worship and self-expression?  Were there doctrinal issues that denominations were unwilling to budge on?  One big question I often ponder is whether it is a good or bad thing that the Christian church continues to fracture and divide into more denominations and also unconnected non-denominational churches, or whether it has any consequence at all.  I may not receive a definitive answer to these questions during my lifetime, but it does not mean I should stop considering them…or the question of what I can do to try to bring unconnected churches together.  The one thing I do feel sure about is that God would rather see his followers united than divided.  We, as the Church (big “C”) need to have a heart for each other, no matter what, and find a way to work together to serve our Lord, Jesus Christ.  These are all things that have been on my mind since my visit to Journey Church, a non-denominational church in Hixson, TN.  Here is how my experience went…