I have a secret: a deep, dark unspoken truth that I rarely share. You see I thought for a long time if I told people this I would somehow badly influence them. Yet, as the years march on I realize I just can’t keep pretending. Today people, I tell you what’s been on my heart for over a year:
I’m kind of over church.
Well, now that it’s out there… who’s hungry for some lunch?
Since coming back to an official church about five years ago, I realized I am exhausted from dealing with the “people of God.” I don’t know, I guess I just expected Christians to be… great. As it turns out, they’re just like everyone else (sometimes worse).
I’ve learned the hard way that:
Church people can be exclusive.
Church people can be insanely selfish.
Church people can be crazy judgemental and hateful.
Church people can be destructive.
Church people can have an attitude that they are better than everyone else.
Over the past few years, I could tell you more than a handful of deeply painful stories that have shattered the rose-colored glasses in which I used to view church.
Last year, at the start of my major church funk I took up a crazy idea that I called the How Can I Help Project. I dedicated an entire month to serving someone every single day and it was incredible. It slowly and incredibly reinvigorated my love for Jesus, for unfiltered kindness, for changing lives. In my darkest moments of church struggle, I constantly turn to this verse from James 1:27
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. -James 1:27 (NIV)
So I’ve been on a church detox.
Yet, through it all, I’m clinging to the true word of God and the actions of Jesus. In preparation for my music ministry to Zimbabwe three years ago, God led me to this passage and it has been burned in my mind ever since. Check it:
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ -Matthew 25:34-40.
Seems Jesus and Paul were on the same page. What if it’s not a building or an attendance record that is at the core of God’s heart? What if it’s how we love?
Wherever you are in your faith journey, the bible is clear – we are to help the sick, the poor, the homeless, the prisoners, the widows.
In hopes of inspiring you, here are 50 ideas for serving the least of these:
1.) Donate food to a food pantry.
2.) Volunteer at Feed My Starving Children (or find an organization like it near you).
3.) Create Homeless Care Packages and hand them out.
4.) Do some Random Acts of Kindness wherever you go. [Read about my 26 Random Acts of Kindness for my 26th Birthday!]
5.) Serve in the Kids Ministry or Youth Group at church.
6.) Volunteer at a Nursing Home.
7.) Adopt or Become a Foster Parent.
9.) Keep $5 McDonald’s gift cards in your car for the homeless.
10.) Sign up for a Mission Trip (locally or overseas).
11.) Offer to babysit for free (triple bonus points if it’s a single mom).
12.) Post on Facebook “How can I help you?” and then follow through with what people post [Check out my “How Can I Help You” Project for inspiration.]
13.) Serve in a prison ministry.
14.) Donate blood.
15.) Mow an elderly neighbors lawn (or shovel their driveway for those of us in the tundra).
16.) Befriend someone with special needs.
17.) Volunteer or donate with Save the Storks.
18.) Tutor a kid in need (for free).
19.) Offer to drive someone to church (call and ask in the office if they know of anyone who could use a ride).
20.) Host a garage sale or bake sale and give the proceeds to a someone less fortunate.
21.) Join the Bone Marrow Registry.
22.) Serve at Meals on Wheels and get to know the shut ins.
23.) Play music at a nursing home.
24.) Take someone out for coffee and truly listen to their story.
25.) Leave a thank you note and/or present for the people we often take for granted (policemen, fireman, paramedics, nurses, the mailman, teachers, pastors).
26.) Ask at a nursing home if there’s anyone who needs visitors.
27.) Drop off toys and activities at your local children’s hospital (many have a list of needs on their website).
28.) Go through your closet and giveaway old clothes and shoes to someone in need.
29.) Host a bingo night at a long-term care facility or nursing home.
30.) Sell a luxury item and donate the money to someone in need.
31.) Sponsor a child through Compassion International
32.) Volunteer to read to kids at a local school.
33.) Search Craigslist for someone in need and help them out (don’t go alone.)
34.) Let someone stay in a spare room for cheap or free.
35.) Sign up to mentor an ex-prisoner.
36.) Downgrade your cell phone or cable plan and donate the monthly savings. [Learn about Why I Said Goodbye to My Smart Phone here]
37.) Sign up to coach a youth sport and tell the kids they are smart, kind, and important.
38.) Sign up to sort medical supplies going overseas to a place like MATTER.
39.) Encourage a young person you know to audition for CTI Music Ministries or host a concert of one of their ministry teams at your church.
40.) Put a cooler of water and Gatorade in your car on a hot day and hand them out to homeless people you see.
41.) Donate to a program like Meals for Minds or the Sheridan project that provides food for
42.) Give out a microloan through a program like Kiva.
43.) Sign up to drive cancer patients to their appointments.
44.) Volunteer to teach a class to inmates.
45.) Sign up to serve a meal at a homeless shelter.
46.) Sponsor a Special Needs child in Haiti through Beyond Our Door.
47.) Start a group dedicated to home repairs and house work at your church for people in need (ours is called Kingdom Warriors).
48.) Invite someone with nowhere to go over for a Holiday.
49.) Host a “get to know you” even at your house to help people in your community get connected and make new friends.
50.) Check out a website like Volunteer Match to find even more opportunities not listed here.
You see, a few weeks ago I realized I am done getting burned. I am done holding on to the pain and the struggle. If church is not on the top of God’s priority list, why is it on mine?
So today I am turning my focus from church, from the place that hurts my heart, and focusing on being the Church to the One who heals. Today, I am choosing to listen to Jesus and choose a religion that is pure and faultless in his eyes. Today, I re-calibrate my life from a building back to God. Today, I forgive and start again.
For a moment at least I am thankful for my church tension because it is what keeps leading me back to the true heart of God. It is what keeps me from turning into one of them.
Have you ever been mad at the church? Do you have any ideas for serving that didn’t make my list? Let me know in the comments below!
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