Posted by: Aaron McCarter | November 28, 2007

“I was willing to trust Christ, but not the Body of Christ.” -Nate Larkin

A couple of weeks ago we took a handful of guys from the church and went to a statewide vineyard men’s retreat. The speaker for the event was Nate Larkin. His messages were outstanding! His delivery was incredibly polished and efficient, while at the same time being humorous and relevant. Below is a small part of his story:

“Most Christians I meet harbor secret feelings of failure,” he says candidly. “Most of them are waging a daily war against some sort of chronic self-defeating behavior, and many of them are alone in that fight. It’s a lousy way to live. I know. I was a solitary fighter for years.”

Nate’s isolation was driven by a humiliating moral struggle. For years, he employed all the typical weapons against his besetting sin – personal devotions, Bible study and memorization, inspirational books, retreats, rededications, prayers for deliverance – but nothing worked for long.

“What I wanted was a private solution to my private problems,” he explains,. “I was willing to trust Christ, but not the Body of Christ. I didn’t really believe that God’s Spirit inhabits all believers, and I didn’t think He could use broken people to help me. I considered the Church a loose association of individual God-followers, not a single organism whose members are so interdependent that they can only move together.” (from Nate’s website)

“I was willing to trust Christ, but not the Body of Christ.” That was the quote of the weekend. Read the above paragraph again…it’s worth reading over and over. It’s worth copying and pasting some place else where you’ll see it over and over again.

Can you relate? I can. I’m uber-church guy, too. I’m a pastor for crying out loud! But I still struggle to trust the church to do what she’s made to do. That’s why so many people give the illusion of openness to their brothers and sisters in Christ, but go through all the really messy stuff alone. I think that’s why there’s no statistical difference between church attenders and non-church attenders in things like divorce rates and pornography addiction; it’s all kept secret until it’s too late! it’s not that Christ’s Church lacks the power…it lacks the opportunity. We choose pride over freedom. Once again, Nate says it best:

“Christians are well-meaning,” he says, “But unless we work hard to prevent it, the church can become the most difficult place on earth to be honest. We can actually force each other into falsehood. That’s tragic, because false selves are doomed to empty lives of duty, outer conformity and inner numbness. Only our authentic selves, fragile but forgiven, can truly experience a spiritual life marked by love, joy, peace and self-control. And Christ intends us to enjoy that life together.”

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Responses

  1. Okay, so if I’m responding to your blog does that mean I take myself too seriously or that I take you too seriously?

    I really like what (you and) Nate said. I guess the hard question is what do we do about it? How do we start opening up as a church about things like bad marriages and pornography addictions?

  2. I second Mr Rodgers; I’m to that point of inner numbness; well not all the way there but I know it’s on the way. I was talking to my wife about it the other day and it’s like I’m a water cooler thats been emptied and I’m not getting any refills.

    Do women have these problems? Are they open and honest with each other? Is ‘mommy’ group their secret? ha ha

    Maybe we should have a Dad’s night out?

  3. As a female, I can tell you that we do share things more than the average male, but there are still many women afraid of sharing “too much”. When I first started at the Vineyard, I was thinking “gee, these people really have their stuff together!” It’s taken me a year to see that everyone has a messy, complicated life. What’s hilarious is that the others in my life group were thinking “Gee, that girl needs Jesus”.

    Most people are brought up in an environment of “we don’t talk about that outside the family”. Pretty much everyone at church knows my ugly story – or at least parts of it – divorce, drug addiction, children out of wedlock, suicide attempts, money problems. Are these things you’d be comfortable talking about? Probably not. The only way to get these things out there is to talk about them. Openly, honestly. And someone has to take the first step, just like Matt Farrand did this Sunday, with adoption.

    I challenge anyone reading this to get up there in front of the church and spill a painful memory or secret you’ve kept only in your family until now. I’ll even put my money where my mouth is and speak on any topic you choose from the above – addiction, divorce, single parenting, pornography (husband was BIG TIME into it, and how that affected our marraige), child abuse, and back it with Scripture to show God’s healing powers. Oh man, I should just hit *delete* RIGHT NOW.

    How about it, guys?

  4. I really like Jesse’s Nike approach. (Just do it.) I think a story about what God has already done for you is great for the general church. I guess what I meant was more the ongoing stuff. I’m struggling with money RIGHT NOW. The I”‘m hurting right now” is a lot harder to admit to than the “God’s already done this for me.” Maybe those things are better for a home group (mini-church, life group, whatever we’re calling it) where there are people who know you and can help. I don’t know. I just know it doesn’t happen often enough and we can’t all have it that together. I don’t have it together.

  5. HAHAHA you’re *killing* me!! You totally seem to have it together! No WAY do you have money problems!! That’s just my ego speaking, of course. We all have money problems. But again, is that perception that you seem to have it together…. I can feel ya on that. Matter of fact, I couldn’t pay my lot rent, lights, car payment or groceries this month. Daycare is *killing* me. Close to $700 a month!!!! I dropped women’s group because I’m so tired and don’t have money to make the trip each week. Somehow, God provided for all of my bills (except my two months of house payments I’m still behind – but I’m sure he’ll come up with that too). I can totally relate about the money problems but when you talk about them, don’t you feel like a beggar? Or like a total heel b/c of people like the children in Joska that have *nothing*??? I know I do…. Or like “who really wants to hear the gritty details of my life?” Or “well, I certainly got myself into this, and I knew it wouldn’t be easy, so I should just stay silent.” Often, I just need to cry it out and I feel better – I don’t want the group to necessarily give me money, or fix my problem just let me whine a little. There is no easy out. Just keep praying and make sure to shout out when God does provide for you and your family. Life is like the the Wizard of Oz – Great and Terrible at the same time.
    Oh and I’ll extend the invitation to you, as well – ANY time you and Emily would like to go out for dinner, whatever, you just let me know and I’ll take the kids. Ya’ll are awesome.

  6. Thanks for the comments…all good thoughts! The thoughts began with Matt asking how we go about facilitating the openness we’re talking about. I’ll be real honest, this is a sore spot for me. At the church it seems like you can create a thousand environments to help encourage people to take those steps and initiate those friendships, but in the end, it all boils down to whether or not people will just come out with it. Just like Jessica was saying. I feel like we teach it all the time and in every environment…and work very hard to make it easy on people to do that…but in the end (I’m really venting now, sorry)…in the end I can’t make people just spit it out. “You can lead a horse to water…”! But the very same people that we’ve taken so many steps to get connected, often complain that we don’t facilitate it for them. It’s very frustrating to me. That’s not in reference to anyone in this conversation…you’re all very connected!
    but what’s amazing is just how powerful and contagious it is when someone just opens up and shares. Even in this comment thread, starting with The Friar spilling his guts a little bit, now we’ve all followed suit and dumped out some junk…and this is on a public website (with tens of faithful readers)!
    On the way back from the trip to Dickson that I wrote about in the post, it played out just that way. One person opened up, and before we made it home everyone had shared a bunch of junk that they needed to unload.
    We’ve got more gatherings planned to help bring this about more in our church (although, Life Groups are the main vehicle for this), but in the end, they’ll all fail unless some people are willing to be courageous and, as Nate Larkin put it, “Just step up and drop their pants.” crude imagery, I know, but it gets the idea across!

  7. Jesse D:
    I just want to encourage you! You have breathed so much life and joy into the people around you…into that women’s life group…and into our entire church. You’ve been a tremendous blessing to our church! there are so many people who love you…and I want to assure you, that there are so many people who want to walk with you and who want to help you carry your burdens. I am right there with you with what you said about the kids in Joska. I’ve always hesitated to share my junk b/c I’ve thought like this: “I’ve been blessed so much, don’t waste your time worrying about me, or even praying for me…pray for ‘those’ people, the kids in Joska, or for David Stockton…but don’t worry about me!” I think the devil wants us to think that sharing what’s going on with us, is a burden to them, and that asking for help makes us selfish… that’s because the devil knows that if we don’t share, we can get really messed up. As you know, most people are just relieved that they’re not in the muck alone! And it may very well be a burden that they help you carry, or even carry for you…but that’s the way the Body of Christ is supposed to work!
    And by the way…don’t ever ever ever ever hesitate to use The Box. It doesn’t matter how you ended up where you are…the church loves you, and your kids, and we want to help. It’s not charity…it’s the church being the church! We love ya! Call!


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