Was the love of Jesus inclusive or exclusive? What do we do with stories that contradict where one says all are welcome and another uncovers exclusion of outsiders?
Call it comfort or call it casual Christianity. But whatever you call it, it's killing us. Literally, destroying us.
The problem is we continually expect life to be easy, to be comfortable. This desire is misplaced. We've decided that comfort means structure and rules within the church -- that it means certain subjects weren't approachable, and that it means we can only worship beside and with those who look exactly like us.
That is not comfort. That is death.
You and I weren't called to comfort; we were called to be the hands and feet of Christ. That means doing work and getting dirty.
Comfort a #firstworldproblem
Gay Marriage. Abortion. Women in leadership. Politics. Racism. Poverty. Classism. Kaepernick. Immigration.
Is your skin crawling yet? Did your anxiety just rise? Good. We're getting outside of your comfort zone, and that's where you should be. If not we could go on. Our culture is full of hot topics. As a church, we were raised to stay silent.
If we don’t talk about it, won’t it just go away?
Can't we make up some rule that excludes those from our communities who think and look different than us? Isn't that what Jesus would want us to do? Is it church... is it really?
Instead, we'd rather focus on our #FirstWorldProblems. You know the ones: is there enough parking, is the lighting right, is the music too loud, if we keep growing will there be space for me, or is the pastor plain boring. It's time to move away from the rule "no politics or religion around the dinner table" and start addressing real needs. People are hurting, and we've sat on our hands for far too long.
It’s time for the American Church to start adulting.
And that starts with us.
A reality check
If our desire for comfort isn't directed to walking alongside those who are hurting and offering them comfort, then we are missing the point.
In John 16:33 (NIV) Jesus made it clear that "In this world, you will have trouble." Our world is at war, and the church is standing idly by sipping tea watching it all go down.
Let’s start by getting comfortable discussing the issues as they arise. Let’s talk about violence in America. Let’s address the sorrow and lament with the black community when racism and hate takes a life. And then let’s get to work to bring comfort to those who are suffering.
When we stay in our comfort zone, we turn a blind eye to the hurting. We become unfeeling and calloused, saying its not my problem. And church, we will die.
Good podcasts will stick with you. They get you thinking and open up the possibilities of how you engage with the world.
Much like our human desire to binge watch Netflix, a great podcast will capture us. Are you driving to work? Podcast. Saturday chores? Podcast. Working out? Podcast. Annoying the kids? Podcast. Breathing? Podcast. It’s the talk radio shows our parents listened to while driving us around - but relevant and interesting. Oh, and convenient.
If you feel like you need an extra little push out of your comfort zone, give one of these three a try:
Unfiltered Radio is a movement on a mission, in our city and our world. The show seeks to amplify the name of Jesus and to lead people to experience the love and grace he offers.
We’ve gotten Jesus wrong. He’s been misunderstood, misinterpreted and his message hijacked by followers and skeptics alike. The bias of church history, politics, religious movements and personal agendas lay claim to his life and mission.
This podcast will have you taking a new look at Jesus. We all have filters we approach Christ with. What does he look like when we strip those away?
Relevant Podcast is a production of Relevant Magazine. It explores the intersection of faith and pop culture. Every Friday introduces listeners to artists, authors, pastors and other influential creatives.
This podcast delivers poignant, sometimes random and always life-changing perspectives on culture and faith. Warning. Once you start listening you’ll want to catch up on all the ones you’ve missed.
You Have Permission
Dan Koch is the host of the new podcast called You Have Permission. He describes his faith journey as complicated. He seeks to engage anyone with questions about God, science, faith, politics, culture and more.
This podcast gives permission to take both Christianity and the modern world seriously. The show introduces listeners to a plethora of experiences and vantage points.
A resource for Christians on the right and left, skeptics and those who are non-religious. You Have Permission is for anyone who wants to explore the questions faith presents. It’s addictive. It’s relevant. You may just get hooked on the episode To Think Theologically About Aliens.
Try all three podcasts and come back to tell us what you thought. Tag @CenterpointFL on Twitter and let us know if there are any podcasts you’d add to this list.
Reject apathy by opening your eyes, stepping out of your comfort zone, and into your calling to serve others.
Meaning of apathy
According to Webster apathy means a lack of feeling or emotion, a lack of interest or concern. Basically, to be apathetic means you don't care.
Apathy is an easy state to fall into, but it is deadly to our faith. We convince ourselves that turning off the news and looking the other way solves our problems. But this is just not true. The ability to turn our eyes away from pain is a privilege, and it is a privilege, as Christians, we have to forgo.
Step out of your comfort zone
We naturally gravitate away from what is uncomfortable. It takes an effort to engage in new ways. But Jesus did not take the easy way out and neither should we.
Jesus spoke up for the weak, the marginalized, the outcast and for us. We must do the same.
I want to challenge you to go through your day and take a close look at your routine and conversations. Listen for the moments that make you uncomfortable. Search them out.
Start embracing the feels
Don't run from your emotions. If something or someone pulls on your heartstrings, listen to that pull. The world is full of problems, but we don't have to become overwhelmed. As we grow aware, we become wiser and learn how to better care for the world and the people who live here.
Focus on hope
You alone can not save the world. That is not your calling. Yet, we can each do small things throughout every day that heals our world rather than destroys.
Listen to those who are hurting. Really hear their story and ask what they need. Perhaps all they need is your ear. Maybe they need your help. Never assume. Be clear and ask.
Apathy kills faith, numbing us to the needs of others. It shuts us off from hearing that gentle nudging from God telling us when to act. By practicing your listening skills, you'll be more open to that nudge and more likely to be in the right place at the right time.
Make your circle bigger
Jesus did not come to earth to hole up in the synagogue and speak with those who already knew him. Instead, he went out into the world and met people where they were.
Don't make your circle exclusive. Be intentional about meeting people who look different, believe different and live differently. The goal isn't to shape them into a mini version of you. You might be surprised how much Jesus chooses to minister to you through them. You aren't the only one he is working through. You, my friend, as do I, still have a long way to go ourselves. God isn't done with us yet.
Together let’s work on rejecting apathy and embracing Jesus’ call to serve others.
Centerpoint is a non-denominational church in the Brandon Valrico area that is doing things differently.
Yeah right. I hear you. “Non-denominational churches are just Baptist churches in disguise.” If you’ve been part of the evangelical church for any amount of time, chances are you’ve heard this joke. Or how about the one “non-denominational churches are Baptist who like to drink.”
So where does that leave Centerpoint, a non-denominational church claiming to be an alternative to church as usual? Are we Baptist in disguise? Tattooed hipsters who like our music and comfortable millennial safe spaces? Or are we something more.
Centerpoint Church is tearing down every unnecessary barrier. Nothing should stand in the way of hearing about Jesus. We see denominations as one of those barriers. Over time denominations can put up hoops to jump through on how to become a part of the community. Rules develop that are less scripture based and hold more of a “how to get into the country club” vibe.
Everyone at Centerpoint is welcome. There is no age requirement. Tattooed hipsters are as welcome as grandma. Sexual orientation, belief in God, marital status, or musical talent are not pre-requisites.
You are safe with us, exactly as you are.
What does non-denominational mean
Non-denominational is an adjective. It means open or acceptable to people of any Christian denomination. Stick the word in front of church, and it becomes a place of worship, a community accessible to anyone.
When we strip away denomination, we are taking away years of built up historical bias. The church as a whole has molded Jesus to fit a set of rules. Jesus broke through cultural barriers and religious rules of his own time, and he is doing the same today.
Who we are
Centerpoint is a diverse gathering of real people who believe in Jesus. We want to see our city changed by his love. Come join us and see for yourself. You don't have to buy into everything we say, that's the beauty of our non-denominational church. Whether you are a Jesus follower, atheist, agnostic or skeptic, we've designed a place for you to ask hard questions of the Christian faith safely.
Join us this Sunday for one of our three services in Brandon or Live Stream from the comfort of your own home. Before you come, feel free to take a look at previous messages. See for yourself if we hold true to who we claim to be.
I'm a comfort junky, and if I had to guess, so are most of you.
We live in a world of instant gratification. Hot coffee at a push of a button, fast food on every corner, our favorite shows stream, and we can connect with friends the moment we think of them through social media. Waiting is so rare that when we are inconvenienced, we spend more time complaining about the inconvenience than the time it actually took from us.
Life is great, as long as the systems work, and we are comfortable. But what happens when it gets uncomfortable?
Guess what. God doesn't care about your comfort nearly as much as you do, and you shouldn't either. God's waiting for us to step out of our comfort zone and start living into our purpose. He's given us a mission, and it's past time to start doing it.
Take the next step
What happens when we feel the Holy Spirit prodding us to go somewhere we’ve never been? Do something we’ve never done?
Here's the thing. When we learn to sit in discomfort, we start to change. We start to see God working. God can do some extraordinary things if we would just step out of our comfort zones.
Throughout Scripture, men and women are called to step out of their comfort zones because there was a mission for them to fulfill. We never hear God saying, "Oh, if this works for you, that is."
Even Jesus wasn't overly comfortable with the mission that lay before him. In Mark 14:35-36, he prays that if there is another way, he'd like to take it, but ultimately says God's will is the way he will go. I don't know about you, but the cross and all that came with it doesn't sound like God was interested in comfort. God was mission-focused, and Jesus followed through.
God is our comfort
In uncomfortable seasons God can do extraordinary things in our lives. When we refuse to step out of our comfort zone to take that first step into the unfamiliar areas God has called us, we are robbing ourselves of being a part of what we as a church have been called to be.
God doesn’t care about your comfort. He is your comfort. No matter where He calls and leads God goes along with you for the ride. His comfort isn’t the cushy life we’ve grown accustomed to. Instead, the comfort we are offered is knowing God will never abandon us no matter how difficult life gets, no matter how far we are asked to go, no matter what it costs.
God has broken through the barriers built up by tradition and culture. We are being called to keep pushing forward, to keep living into our calling and to get uncomfortable! The next step is ours.
Every time you step outside of your comfort zone you are relying on God. That's a faith grower. You are stepping into the unknown, and there is only one place you can put your trust, and that's in Jesus.
We each come to hard points in our lives that we can’t make sense of. It could be a cancer diagnosis, a lost job, the death of a loved one, the end of a relationship… so many things can toss us into a state of confusion, fear and uncertainty.
It is in those moments that we can either choose to run from God or choose to trust God.
Don’t toss scripture at them
As Christians comfort should be about making the hurting comfortable, not ourselves. Often when we are placed in situations that make us uncomfortable, we can be known to throw scripture or sayings we think are scripture, but aren't, at others.
Here are a few examples:
God never gives you more than you can handle.
God helps those who help themselves.
Nope. Not in Scripture, but we sure do love tossing those around into the silence of pain when it becomes unbearable.
Job's friends did. When he was in full on grief, they started mouthing off their theology trying to make sense of his pain because they were uncomfortable. You know what happened, they heard from God. Not in the way they probably would have liked, but they heard.
God showed up and said to Job’s friends, “I am angry with you...you have not spoken the truth about me.” (Job 42:7)
We need to be careful when we sit with others in their pain to not attempt to be the mouthpiece of God. Trust the Holy Spirit to work. Be present and ready when God nudges, but don’t force your way through the discomfort of silence.
Do what Jesus does
Don’t be like Job’s friends. Instead, try imitating Jesus. Show up and be present. Throughout Scripture Jesus shows up where people are hurting. It’s not comfortable. It’s culturally wrong. It’s inconvenient.
You and I weren't called to a life of comfort or convenience. We were created for a purpose. Some days that purpose is just to show up and be present in someone else's darkest moment. Some days that means to trust even when it feels impossible.
Be honest with God
If you are walking through fear and loss hold on tight to Jesus. He won’t leave you. Take what you are feeling to God. Be honest. Your situation, your pain is already known and seen.
Are you willing to be honest and authentic? Are you willing to sit quietly and listen for God’s presence?
Having an atheist friend is one of the best ways to not get trapped into a Christian bubble.
We have a tendency, as humans, to choose people who affirm our every thought and make us feel good about our life decisions. When we limit our crowd to people who believe the same, do church the same, vote the same, listen to the same music… you get the idea… we begin to atrophy.
Engage with culture
Our brains die from neglect. We aren’t challenged and begin to slip into “Christianese” language. We forget how to speak to those outside our circles. There is a chance we may even forget how to think for ourselves.
The cure? Engage with the culture around you. Seek out friends who think differently. Find an atheist friend and have real conversations.
Ask hard questions
Questions produce stronger faith. If we never question why we believe something – if we never challenge it – then how can we know we truly believe?
Having a friend who believes that God does not exist is someone worth listening too and hearing out. Your atheist friend will have well thought out arguments that will challenge you. Sit with that challenge and explore why and what you believe.
Yes. You may spend nights tossing around their arguments in your head instead of sleeping. But isn’t a stronger faith that has been challenged and came out whole worth it?
Get outside of the echo chamber
As Christians, we build echo chambers. We do it through social media and with face to face relationships. Over time we gravitate to the people who reflect what we like about ourselves. These people make us comfortable in our -own skin. Friend, that is a dangerous place to live.
We are not called to be comfortable. We are to be world changers. If we are going to be a light for others to see Jesus, then we have to engage with those who see the world differently.
Our best friends are the ones who challenge and stretch us. They don't let us stay the same boring person we are today. They love us as we are but also see our potential.
Solidify your belief in God, share Jesus
When you challenge your faith, I mean dig deep and get to the core of why you believe what you do, it comes out stronger. Before you can share who Jesus is with others, you have to address your own doubts. Don't run from them. Explore them. You'll be better for it.
Don’t believe me? Give it a try.
Invite your atheist friend to dinner. Instead of trying to win them over to your way of thinking sit back and hear them out. Explore their beliefs and listen to the why behind them.
In order to love others, we must be fully loved by Jesus. In order to be fully loved, we must be fully known. Often this is difficult because we place expectations on Jesus and believe he has expectations of us.
These expectations are often not truly there. Jesus asks us to follow him. He doesn't tell us to get our crap together first. He wants us to simply follow; the rest will fall in line as we begin to engage God honestly.
The people Jesus interacts within the New Testament are transparent, and their lives are transformed for it. Their transparency allows for Jesus' light to shine fully through them and transform others.
Your need can shift the narrative of your life. But you have to recognize that need and be honest and transparent. The Samaritan woman (John 4) needed to be seen and fully known before she could see that Jesus, the Messiah, was standing in front of her offering her fulfillment.
You, my friend, are fully loved. It is that simple. There is nothing you have to do to earn this. But to understand that love you have to lay all of you out in the open for Jesus.
Have you ever kept a secret from a loved one and then felt the distance between you both grow? Jesus isn’t holding anything back from you. But are you holding back from him?
Believing that you are not loved fully by Jesus is you projecting your fears and keeping secrets. Let go of them and accept that you are fully known. Jesus can see all your flaws anyway. You have to be willing to accept his love. He came for you before you ever repented. He looked at you and felt compassion and love. He saw you and loved you long before you ever knew of him.
Let him in.
If you want to live a transparent life you have to remember your life is not about you. Your story isn't for your own benefit; it's to shine God's light for others to see. That same love Jesus has for you, He has for everyone your life touches.
Think for a moment of the blind man found in John 9. The disciples ask Jesus why the man is blind, and in verse 3, Jesus answers, "This happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him."
When you share your story with others, can they see the love of God in you?
Have you been honest enough with Jesus that those broken places are being filled by His light and love? Are you reflecting Jesus' love or are you to busy hiding secrets Jesus already knows?
We prefer to cluster ourselves in safe, Christian environments. This attitude permeates Christian culture. We only listen to Christian music, read Christian books, watch Christian movies, so, of course, we only have Christian friends. But, this isn’t how the church grows. This isn’t how we can love the outsider.