The Danger of Seeking Your Dream Church

Our church, like every other church, gets phone calls throughout the week from people wanting to know about our assembly. They ask questions, but typically they are not the kinds of questions I would ask if I were looking for a church. “What kind of music do you have? Do you have programs for the kids? Does your church home school? Do you have recovery groups? What Bible translation do you use? Do you serve Krispy Kreme or Dunkin Donuts?” Okay, we’ve never had anyone ask that last one, but at times the questions haven’t been much more substantial.

Then, of course, people come and go. People get upset and leave. Unfortunately, people often leave for reasons that likewise lack substance. They are willing to isolate themselves and fragment the church because their theological or ideological boxes have not all been checked.

For some people, these insubstantial issues manifest themselves in obvious and external behavior. But for many, these issues are quieter and less noticeable. They fester in the heart where no one can see.

Assessing Our Assessments

Have you ever been upset with your church? Have you ever been disappointed with people in the church? Have you ever been offended by someone in the church? Have you given up on the church altogether?

If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, then ask yourself, Why? Is it because the Word of God is being violated? Is it because God is being dishonored? Or is it because your view on right and important is not being satisfied?

As a pastor who planted a church in 1993 and has been serving that church ever since, I have seen many get disgruntled with us for not holding tightly enough to the things they thought were important, whether politics, education, or family planning. And the list could go on.

Danger of Our Wish-Dreams

Over the years I have gone back again and again to a little book by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together. The wisdom and comfort in this little book is inestimably valuable. One of the most important truths I have gleaned from Bonhoeffer’s work relates directly to the disgruntled, the disappointed, and the angry. Bonhoeffer says:

Every human wish-dream that is injected into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive. He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial. God hates visionary dreaming; it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. The man who fashions a visionary ideal of community demands that it be realized by God, by others and by himself. He enters the community of Christians with his demands, sets up his own law, and judges the brethren and God himself accordingly.

Brothers and sisters, how we must guard against our own wish-dreams of what the church ought to be. The church isn’t about my preferences, my agenda, my likes or dislikes, my political views or personal convictions. When these wish-dreams govern the way we evaluate a church, we become critics of the church as we stand in judgment over it.

The church is about God’s truth, God’s people, the gospel of Jesus Christ, and fellowshiping with sinners who have been saved by grace. The treasure of the church isn’t in the sterling people who compose the membership and wave the right flags. The treasure of the church is Jesus Christ himself, as he comes to us in the gospel (2 Cor. 4:3-7). The people in the church are clay pots, earthen vessels, weak, frail, fragile sinners. That’s all of us. Wish-dreamers are always focused on trying to improve the clay by reshaping the clay into their wish-dreams.

Why We Have Wish-Dreams

Obviously Bonhoeffer didn't mean biblical standards are wish-dreams. He was talking about our non-biblical expectations of others and thus of the church. When we expect the church to be “the fellowship of the pious” we have a wish-dream. When we expect the church to trumpet our personal causes, then we have a wish-dream. If we are put off because there are sinful people in our church whose clay is showing, then we have a wish-dream.

Wish-dreamers forget that the church is built on the gospel of the cross and that gospel is for people who really know themselves to be sinners. Wish-dreamers see themselves as having their act together because they . . . [fill in the blank] . . . and expect the church to follow suit. Wish-dreamers see themselves as sinners only in their creed, but not in reality. When we see ourselves as desperate sinners in need of the grace of Christ, it changes the way we look at others, what we expect of others, and what we want the church to be. Wish-dreamers are concerned about certain sins, but not others. They are great labelers of people. They are always looking for a church with better clay.

But the wish-dreamer forgets that we live in community with one another for a reason. As Bonhoeffer reminds us later, “He who is alone with his sin is utterly alone.” To be alone, to withdraw from the body because our wish-dreams have been challenged or smashed, is to end up alone in our sin. When we are together, we are together in him, in his gospel. We can minister to each other and love each other as fellow sinners.

The gospel is glorious when clay remembers it is clay and treasures the true Treasure.

Brian Borgman (DMin, Westminster Seminary) is founding and senior pastor of Grace Community Church in Minden, Nevada. He is the author of My Heart for Thy Cause: Albert N. Martin’s Theology of Preaching (Mentor, 2001), Feelings and Faith: Cultivating Godly Emotions in the Christian Life (Crossway, 2009), and Spiritual Warfare: A Biblical and Balanced Perspective (Reformation Heritage, 2014).  The article was originally posted on The Gospel Coalition.

Maximize Your Wellness

Working in the health industry, I see some many people that are sick, diseased and ones that honestly have no idea what to do about it and my heart goes out to them.  Satan is on this earth to kill, steal and destroy, so if he can kill you at an early age, steal years of health from you and destroy what plans God has for you on this earth, don’t you think he might do that? Through the years, I have known so many family members and God's people that were so pre-occupied with their sickness that they failed in fulfilling their maximum potential in Christ.

Our focus as Christians should always be Jesus Christ and saving souls, however the “Second Hand of the Gospel” includes God caring for his children with food, water and mental and physical health. In the book of Matthew 83% of Jesus’ mission was about keeping us alive and well. Jesus said in Matthew 11:4-5:

“Go and show John those things which you hear and see: The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.”

Five of the six listed in this verse deal with your health and wellbeing.  Our Father cares greatly for us and knows that we will have a tough time on this earth serving Him if we are sick or dead! A big part of our mission today should be about the wellbeing of our people.

God has blessed me to be a part of a wonderful organization helping people called Maximized Living. Originally started by Dr. Ben Lerner, the author of great books like Body by God and Winning My Race, Maximized Living has partnered with the Dream Center in Los Angeles and Memphis as well as having health centers across the country. In the coming weeks, I will share with you how Maximized Living has blessed my life and so many that I work with on a daily basis.  Be well.

Dr. Matt Wilson graduated from Palmer College of Chiropractic in 2008.  Prior to Chiropractic College, Dr. Wilson earned his Bachelor’s degree from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University where he worked in the field of avionics and aircraft electronics.  After spending a few years covering and working in different types of Chiropractic offices around the state of Florida where he gained a variety of valuable experience, Dr. Wilson found Maximized Living.  Maximized Living and the Five Essentials fit perfectly into what Dr. Wilson saw as the right type of wellness practice for his patients.  Dr. Wilson now lives in Apollo Beach with his wife and daughter.  He has a corrective care office located in the heart of Brandon.

How Prayer Taps Your Brain and Promotes Better Health

If you think prayer is only about something spiritual, think again. Through brain research, scientists are finding out that prayer has tangible effects on many of the brain’s systems - effects that can actually sculpt the brain and make you a better, calmer, more compassionate, and overall healthier you.

The effects of prayer are numerous, and studies have shown that people who engage in prayer and meditation can see great health benefits - both mentally and physically. In the end, a relaxed body produces a relaxed brain, and the mind-body connection helps to promote overall well being. In fact, researchers have pinpointed that certain areas in the brain are stimulated during prayer and this is how we feel calmer, more emotionally connected, and generally more well during and after prayer.

WebMD offers a cool overview of how the brain reacts to prayer. They use the research of Harvard scientist Herbert Benson, MD:

As an individual goes deeper and deeper into concentration, intense activity begins taking place in the brain's parietal lobe circuits -- those that control a person's orientation in space and establish distinctions between self and the world. Benson has documented a "quietude" that then envelops the entire brain.

At the same time, frontal and temporal lobe circuits -- which track time and create self-awareness -- become disengaged. The mind-body connection dissolves, Benson says.And the limbic system, which is responsible for putting "emotional tags" on that which we consider special, also becomes activated. The limbic system also regulates relaxation, ultimately controlling the autonomic nervous system, heart rate, blood pressure, metabolism, etc., says Benson

All of this works together to calm and relax the body, and to make it become more emotionally engaged. It’s easy to see how one’s mental state can be greatly impacted by prayer.

But it’s not just about the mind. The body is clearly affected by these brain changes. Lower blood pressure can help the cardiovascular system. Stress can kill. It can lead to heart attacks, strokes, and other medical complications. Regulating stress with prayer can have a profound influence on one’s overall health.

When it comes to the healing power of prayer, doctors and scientists aren’t arguing that prayer can cure cancer. What some are saying is that prayer can play a crucial role in the brain’s ability to help the body heal.

"We see not only changes in the activity levels, but in different neurotransmitters, the chemicals in our brain … there's evidence to show that by doing these practices, you can cause a lot of different changes all the way throughout the body, which could have a healing effect.” Dr Andrew Newberg told NBC News.

Prayer is no doubt powerful for those who believe in its power. Now, science is studying how it actually affects brain chemistry, which in turn can improve mental health. This makes for a powerful alternative to substances people often use to cope, which can become addictive. The physical health benefits should cannot be overstated either.

Some scientists believe that we can shape our brain, much like we can shape our bodies - and that prayer and meditation can help. Through “neuroplasticity,” prayer might helps us mold our brains to be more mindful, compassionate, and connected to the world as a whole. With prayer, one might be able to sculpt their brain and teach themselves to be a better, more healthy human.

Jason Lewis has a BA in Human Performance and Exercise Health Science.  He is a personal trainer and caregiver to his elderly mom. He enjoys sharing his fitness knowledge on his website. He is passionate about helping seniors stay healthy and injury-free. He created StrongWell to share his tips on senior fitness.