mega church chronicles, post 1

I am in the place right now where I've been a little back and forth about whether or not I should do this post, but here we are, so let's go :) 

I've been attending a multi-site megachurch for approximately three and a half years now, and since I'm being honest, I am going to admit to you, the reader of this post, that I feel as if I have been tricked. Better yet, I feel as if I have just come to the realization that all of this time I have been just another number. Another number to count in weekly reports for attendance and small group leadership. Another number to tell someone rather too proudly where I attend church, my chest swelling just a little too high with pride. You get the idea. 

There have been a few things over the past seven or eight months that have really caused me to pause and I'll just list them out here and then I will circle back around and will dig deeper and create a single post for each one over the course of the next few weeks. I've taken into consideration what mega-church life is like across the board, not just at my church, and I've noticed some similar themes amongst them that I'd like to discuss in the upcoming weeks. 

Problem issues:

*Women to preach to a full congregation in the position of an elder.

*Being highly seeker-driven.

*Being highly purpose-seeking/purpose-driven

*Uses the terms "communicator" and "pastor" interchangeably.

What's scary for me as a believer, and having the wisdom to be God-fearing is this: the strong possibility of an entire generation of students being taught incorrectly (we have a really high number of students attending services regularly).

So, prior to my attending my church, I never really thought twice about the idea of women preaching.  Honestly, I never thought about it because church, Jesus and anything related were not on my radar. This is not to say that I wouldn't classify myself as a Christian at this time, but in my walk now, I can easily look back and see that I was lost. 

I'm actually a huge reader, and being that there are many women writers who have in essence been turned into speakers as they travel and publicize their books, I've seen some of them transform even further and become communicators who come in and speak to churches on Sunday, since the context of their books is biblical. While I think that an author has the okay to travel and do book signings and lectures about their books, in my journey to knowing Jesus better, I have learned that this is completely different than a woman who seeks to teach women about the bible through her books. While it is fine for her to lecture and teach her female audience, she is overstepping her boundaries when she becomes a guest speaker for a mixed congregation or during a Sunday service with the same goal of teaching in mind. I know this is hugely controversial in the Church today, but God's word says women doing this is wrong, in multiple verses. 

1 Timothy 2:8-15, I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness - with good works. Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve, and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing - it they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.

1 Timothy 3:1-2, 4 and 12, The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospital, able to teach

He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive

Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well.

Titus 1:5-6, This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you - if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination.

1 Corinthians 11:5-10, but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven. For if a wife will not cover her head, then she should cut her hair short. But since it is disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head. For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. 

1 Corinthians 14:34, the woman should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says.

It is important to understand that God has an order for our homes and our churches, which is God's family, and his house (1 Timothy 3:15). In God's hierarchy, God the Father is the head of Christ, Christ is the head of the Church, and a husband is the head of his home and is the image and glory of God (1 Corinthians 11:3). In order to follow God's hierarchy of authority, it is important to know that while the family is led by the man, so should be the congregation of a church, hence having male elders who are above reproach. So where do women fit in? 

It took me hosting a small group and really digging into a woman's role to fully understand my place. Do I think I'm inferior to my husband? No. Do I think he is better than me? No. Do I think I should accept abuse in the name of being submissive in either an emotionally, verbally or physical sense? No. Absolutely not, and you shouldn't either. At age thirty-three (oh vey!!!), I can easily say that my generation is one with just a little more entitlement than generations past. This is not to categorize everyone, I'm strickly talking about myself and those that I know, but many of us have grown up since Kindergarten with teachers, parents, friends and basically everyone, telling us that we can grow up to be whatever we want, make as much money as our favorite celebrities on television and make our own path in life. Could this be true? Absolutely! I think with hard work and determination, anyone can grow into being just about anything they desire. But where many of us fall short at some point is by thinking that we can achieve these goals and live these dreams without acknowledging what God's word says. At the end of the day you are either living for yourself or living for God. Which one are you living for?

There are many popular women writers right now who have published books and classify themselves as bible teachers. I think this is awesome! I am on the journey to doing this myself. There are many young women who need mentorship and leadership and there is this dynamic between women where we battle each other, sometimes seemingly thinking that one woman getting ahead will effect the reaching of our own dreams of successes. This is SO NOT TRUE! But this is a whole other blog post (coming soon!).  What concerns me about women bible teachers teaching full (mixed) congregations is this: Can you trust a teacher who teaches from a holy book when they are in direct violation of said book? I don't think so. I've heard some women (and men for that matter) say that they have a calling to be in a pastoral position. While God's word doesn't say that a pastor has to have a special calling to become a pastor, Paul does say in 1 Timothy 3:1,  "Here is a trustworthy saying: if anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task." Paul doesn't say that if you want to be a pastor that you should receive a supernatural call from God. He is outright saying that if anyone wants to be a pastor, he (notice the gender he chose) desires a good thing. Below are a few qualifications of a pastor...

A Pastor Must Be:

1) An example: (1 Peter5:3),

2) Respectable: (1 Timothy 3:7), 

3) Spiritually Mature: (1 Timothy 3:6), 

4) Able to Teach: (1 Timothy 3:2 and Titus 1:9), 

5) Hospitable: (1 Timothy 3:2 and Titus 1:8), 

6) Gentle without a Quick Temper: (Ttus 1:7 and Timothy 3:3)

7) Devoted to his wife: (Titus 1:6 and 1 Timothy 3:2)

So I look at this list, and while a woman may very well be able to teach, be well respected in her community and be hospitable, she cannot be spiritually mature if she is violating God's word and in regard to God's definition of marriage, her being devoted to her wife wouldn't apply. Looking at this list I also see that women in the bible have taught (Priscilla with Apollos, Miriam and Deborah and even women who publicly prophesied in the Book of Acts in the New Testament Church), which leads me to the belief that while our role should not lead us to be a head of a church, we are all called to spread the gospel, doing this in a way where we teach younger women and women in general, and teach under the authority of a male elder and never overstep our role as a woman where we teach in the place of an elder, or in an elder-type role. 

What do you think?

xoxo

marlena 

brokenness

When I think about what brokenness means, I think about how I feel when everything in my life is going great, and the feeling that I have when something, or someone interrupts that feeling of greatness. If I'm being honest, this feeling of greatness is the equivalent to me experiencing a time in my life when hardship is virtually nonexistent. 

It's like standing very still while wearing a pair of beautfiul heels (like the kind I used to wear before I had my son :) ) and someone who doesn't know how hard it is to stand on those bad boys gives you an old atta boy on the shoulder. You smile, and it slowly wavers just a little and ultimately turns into a shriek of anguish as you realize that your balance is gone and you're about to hit the floor. I don't think we'll ever be in a position where brokenness comes to us as anything but this. Why? Because no matter our circumstances, we always expect the best and we never settle for what we don't want to happen because we think we can will, think, dream, hope and pray ourselves into the results we want. If you're on a wall with Jesus, you can go ahead and smile, because we know that what we want does not matter! It's not our will we're here to fulfill, it is His.

I think we feel broken because of how we pray. Or better said, I think we are broken BECAUSE OF HOW WE DON'T PRAY.  When we are feeling defeated and lost we tend to think of ourselves in a way that makes us feel worthless. While in one of these moods myself recently, I made a list of all the ways I felt broken and it made me think of every area in which I felt less than what I thought I should have. Here are a few...

BROKEN relationships...BROKEN feelings...BROKEN attitude...
BROKEN expectations...This isn't how "this" aspect of my life is supposed to be. But why can't I change it?                                                                                                                                          BROKEN dreams...I have support, but not from the people I need (want??) it from the most. Why do I allow this to effect my dreaming???                                                                          BROKEN hope...I will never be able to do...(insert everything I'm excited to accomplish here)    BROKEN body...Why can't I motivate myself to eat better and take care of myself?

Do you see how down in the dumps that list is? Ugh. SO, when I'm praying, how do you think I pray about these things? I pray for these things to get better (according to what I think would make them better), I question God about what I should be doing, changing, fixing, etc., to make a long story short, there is a lot of "me" and "I" involved. 

I didn't really have an endgame for this post when I started, but as I've been writing, I do have an answer. Eureka! :) This is how His Spirit works within me, but that's a whole other post!

Here are a few things I think we all need to do during these times when we're feeling broken in spirit and so many other aspects of our lives.

1) Accept our brokenness, but do not allow ourselves to wallow in it. I'm a wallower (is that a word???) I like to wallow, wallow some more, cry, pout, think about a multitude of "what-ifs" and, again.... you guessed it, wallow some more! Sometimes things do not work out for us because God knows that they are not meant for us. Sometimes we cannot do things because God knows that they are not meant for us to do. Sometimes this is His way of saying, no, this is not for you. There may be something greater, or, if we're being honest, there may not be something greater, but if we trust him, we will know that whatever it is we have, or do, instead is what He wants us to have or do.

2) Continue to pray and seek the things we need to change about ourselves, but, instead talk to God and rather than making ourselves the center of our prayers, make Him the center. God is Elohim, our Creator God. He made all things, created all things and decided to make us for this time that we are in. No mistakes were made because God is perfect. His decisions are perfect and His will is perfect. We always need to pray for our situations, families, and whatever else we feel needs to be brought to God, but, most importantly, we need to understand that when we feel broken or worthless, God doesn't flinch. He created the light with nothing more than His voice and he created woman from man's rib. Brokenness is not an obstacle for God, and if you think so, you aren't serving Elohim, you're serving a "lesser than" God. Psalm 34:18 says, The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." 

3) Think about why you feel "broken," and embrace it and think about what is truly broken. When I think about the things that make me feel defeated and less than, I see a lot of "self." I also see hardship. For whatever you're feeling is broken, is it really broken, or is just harder to accomplish, think about, or do than everything else in your life that proved easier to maintain? Are you truly broken, or have you just lost faith in the things you cannot see but can only think?

Hebrews 11 tells us that, "Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."

So as Christians, our entire hope for salvation in Jesus Christ rests in our faith that he came to Earth, lived a sinless life and took our sins, past, present and future onto himself so that we can be free to live an eternal life. It's evident that this same faith we assert that our Jesus is real, is the same faith that we must assert when we are going through hardship. 

Just like we have faith that Jesus died and rose again to save us from our sin nature, we also need to have faith that his promises will come to fruition if we are faithful. 

xoxo

marlena

31 days of prayer

Typing in the title to today's blog post, I think I had to run through that whole days of the month song in my head, 30 days has September, April, June and November...

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I think I got it right!

My prayer life has struggled a bit lately, and I thought taking the month of August to get back on track would do me some good. In many ways. 

I've noticed an upsurge in traffic to heartfullybuilt.com lately, and for those of you who read regularly I truly thank you!

This month, I'd like to pray for you. I don't have to know you personally, but if you need prayer of any kind, please leave a comment, you can make it anonymous, or just leave a first name, in the comments section, but know that your situation will be prayed over.

God's word says in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 to, "Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus."

In doing what God's word says here, we are taking advice from Paul on how to live in a way that pleases Christ as we prepare for his return. I didn't realize how much I needed these verses today as I've read them and settled some things in my own heart, but I think that's how our God works sometimes :) 

"Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone. See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people," (1 Thessalonians 5:14-16).

I needed a heavy feeling in my heart gone this morning, as I've been focused on wrong being done to me. I'm so thankful for God's word to settle myself when I need it the most!

xoxo

marlena

 

*I'm waiting on your prayer requests :) 

worry turned prayer

I've not not felt the best lately. Honestly, I'm not sure if I'm experiencing a sickness, stress, spiritual warfare, depression or just a long-lasting mood swing. I just know that I've been down and there are stresses that I am experiencing and I don't even know if I am fully aware of what they all are. My heart just feels heavy. Have you felt like this before? This morning I had the urge to pray, and since I didn't get down on my knees this morning when I first woke up around 4:30 am  (likely God's nudging for me to get up and get into His word) but instead went to sleep, I felt it imperative that I just thank God for everything. Right now. 

Sometimes we just have to thank Him. He is so good. No matter what our ailment is, or our worldly concerns are, sometimes we just have to thank Him that gave us breath in our bodies to wake up this morning. 

So if you're feeling down, different, unsure, unstable...or like anything other than yourself, take time outside of your worrying and say a prayer of thanks.

Heavenly Father,

Thank you. 

Thank you for sending your son Jesus to have his body broken and die for my sins, even though I could never deserve it or earn it. 

Thank you for the people you have placed in my life to love me, grow me, and teach me.

Thank you for my health, my home, my family and most importantly of all, my salvation.

Thank you for each provision that I know comes from no one else but you.

You are so good, better than I deserve. Thank you for your goodness!

Father, thank you that your love is abundant and far-reaching.

I pray that I continue to grow in Christ and continue to mature as a woman of faith.

In Your Son's Mighty Name I Pray, Amen.

 

xoxo

marlena

summer camp frenzies

There was a movie I loved when I was younger, it was called Heavy Weights. I didn't really struggle with weight when I was young, and although I knew the camp was about kids at fat camp, I ABSOLUTELY WANTED TO GO. I wanted to stay in a cabin, swim in a (dirty) lake, and stay up all night with my friends. Hiding junk food in crazy places within our cabin would have been quite awesome too :)  

Now I have a son. He's five years old and he went to camp today. FOR THE FIRST TIME! Thankfully, my friend and neighbor allowed her five year old to go too, and I think amidst the chaos of checking in we both had doubts. Are the boys safe? Kids are EVERYWHERE. The counselors looked like babies. One of our boys' counselors has braces!!! OMG. I know I'm 33 now, but goodness, that made me feel 65! 

The boys with their new camp t-shirts on after checking in at my church's "Out of this World" summer camp!

The boys with their new camp t-shirts on after checking in at my church's "Out of this World" summer camp!

Sweet boys posing before the auditorium doors open. Kudos to our friend Nick for dressing up in this costume and setting himself up for likely kid attacks! 

Sweet boys posing before the auditorium doors open. Kudos to our friend Nick for dressing up in this costume and setting himself up for likely kid attacks! 

In the Jeep on the way to camp, my little asked if he was spending the night. No. Thank goodness! I'm not ready for all of that. But, as I watched him enter the big auditorium once the doors opened (after running back a few times for hugs he knew I needed :), bouncing/dancing with a friend, and later as I drove away, I began to wonder if I was ready for it all. Mama growing pains. 

Heavenly Father, 

Thank you for blessing me as a mommy. This morning I pray for safety,  and most of all, open ears, eyes and hearts so these sweet boys can hear and learn your word and know you better. 

Amen!

xoxo

marlena

throwin' out some more seeds

Rod and I took our Little to the Civil Rights Institute in Birmingham, AL, on Saturday and it was fab. Like really, it was quite awesome!

If you've taken the time to read a few of my more recent blog posts, you'll see where I have had some worries about my Little's confidence in who he is, and what he looks like. My aunt's good friend has raised a young, brown boy all by himself for nearly thirteen years, and while I never grew up with the mind to really talk to others about my feelings, the older I become the more I feel obligated to reach out to those wiser than me. So who better to talk to about my parental worries than this friend? Exactly, no one. After calling him up and discussing the conversation I had with my Little, one of the (many) tidbits of advice that he gave me was this: responsibly bombard my son with people who look like him that will start the conversation, and keep the conversation going about his black history and culture. We discussed doing this in the form of television, but mostly importantly, in art work and more mainstream environments. 

A huge fan of reading books, I already have an array of great books for my son to read when he gets just a little bit older, so I thought a museum environment would be a good first attempt at being more proactive in giving him some culture :)

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The statue and literature regarding Rosa Parks was our first Ahah! moment. Not only was this an AMAZING image of Rosa Parks, but it sparked such great conversation with my son about segregation.

My sweet Little looking at the literature regarding the burned Greyhound bus in Anniston, AL. 

My sweet Little looking at the literature regarding the burned Greyhound bus in Anniston, AL. 

The Greyhound bus was probably the most touching exhibit for my son. He's a lover of all things that move, and he was captivated by the fact that people burned the bus down on purpose. He repeatedly asked if everyone made it out okay, and while I could tell that it made him sad, I think it made him feel good knowing that no one was killed in this particular act of hatred.

The Greyhound bus was probably the most touching exhibit for my son. He's a lover of all things that move, and he was captivated by the fact that people burned the bus down on purpose. He repeatedly asked if everyone made it out okay, and while I could tell that it made him sad, I think it made him feel good knowing that no one was killed in this particular act of hatred.

One of the things I enjoyed during this quick trip to Birmingham, AL, was the Institute's gift shop. Furing our weekly trips to the library, I always make sure to grab at minimum a few books with characters that look like my son amongst the many that we read each week. The gift shop was a smorgasboard of these same books, posters for bedrooms (because I truly think, deep down, that all nineties kids can remember loving a good poster on their bedroom wall), coffee mugs (I found a great one with a pretty brown girl with natural hair!) and even bowties with African print fabric. My son was ecstatic to choose a necklace with an excerpt of text from W.E.B. Dubois and has worn it constantly since our trip. When I say he was proud, Littlebit was proud! I think with me being such a lover of writing and literature I was pleased with his choice as well. Even more so, seeing his eyes light up in a place where he was engulfed with even the simplest of things, like coloring books and stickers, that showcased black America, was one of the best moments of our trip.  

As Christians, I think we are all well aware of the phrase "planting seeds," and I felt my husband and I did just that on Saturday. While we hope that our discussions regarding church, God's word and our own actions that our son sees each and every day plant seeds of God's truth on a regular basis, aiding our son in growing up to be a true lover of God and people, I hope we planted some seeds this weekend that will start an ongoing and continuous discussion about who our Little is and why God created him to be exactly who he is.

xoxo

Marlena

and the conversation continues...

So if you didn't read my last post, my new goal in life is to make sure that my five year old learns more about his history, and is proud of who he is and what he looks like.

I started reading Gabrielle Union's book, We're Going To Need More Wine, weeks and weeks ago at Barnes and Noble. Basically, I was intrigued from the beginning. I mean, anyone who has a chapter in their book titled Celebrity Vaginas Itch Too... had me hooked. Judge me if you'd like, I'm a Christian woman, but sometimes the raw, real deal is what we need to hear. The title is blantantly crass, and personally, I would never say it (write it?) but it is what it is. Point blank period. So back to this day, weeks and weeks ago, my reading lasted a grand total of about seven minutes. I had little man with me, and he wasn't having it. Mama reading and not giving him full attention? No, ma'am! So, to make a long story short, I found myself reserving this same book at the library about two weeks ago, and in the midst of little man and I reading our books weekly for the public library's summer reading program, I finally got the email that the book was in!

 One of the things I love the most about this book, aside from its rawness, is the fact that despite her success, Gabrielle truthfully details her own personal struggles and insight into an industry that utilizes her, but at the same time does not always necessarily appreciate her, and certainly does not (and will likely never) appreciate her blackness. Digging into the first few chapters about her childhood, I found so many relatable instances in her growing up in a prodominately white environment, from trying to mask her "blackness" to fit in, to constantly striving to be better, faster, stronger, etc., just to be noticed and considered equal.  God works in ways we do not understand, but I feel like I'm meant to read this book during this season as a mom for insight that is not my own. Reading these pages, I immediately thought about my little boy. Are my husband and I just like Gabrielle's parents in that we've found ourselves in circles where his culture is suppressed to the point of being non-existent, easily escapable and not strong enough foundationally for his five year old self to grasp onto? Or am I just overthinking the fact that my child is growing up and at age five he is just beginning to notice things for the first time, and as serious as they are, his statments and questions are just a part of his learning development and growth? And, as we searched for a new home in months past, were we wrong to look at the neighborhoods that upgraded us into the home we've worked toward, or would it have been best to find a home in a neighborhood strictly for its diversity? At the end of the day, a non-diverse neighborhood likely leads to a non-diverse school.  How this is fair that I have to all of the time consider my child's mental and psychological wellness against his best opportunities for education is beyond me. As a matter of fact, it is a constant worry. It is also a constant worry that race is even a factor in my life. God made us all in His image, what would the world be like if EVERYONE could just accept the fact that we are His, He loves us, and He made each us of the way He wants us to be. Ugh. The answer to these questions are still TBD. Should I miraculously have answers, I'll be sure to share of course, but if you're a mother, I think you know deep down that "results" of our teaching and raising pertaining to the health and wellness of our children show over time. So yes, TBD.

I'm not too sure where this post was supposed to go, usually I have plans before I begin typing and sharing thoughts, but I just had to give props to Gabrielle. She raises black boys like I do and sees the obstacle the same way that I see it. And for all of the similar feelings about myself that I experienced growing up, seeing them in someone so successful kind of made me feel good. We all have struggles, and problems and insecurities so I guess it is just nice to see that I'm not the only one. This book is just another reminder that money can make it possible to move into better and bigger neighborhoods, or aid the affordabilty of private school, but wealth is not the same as the mainstream privilege that we sometimes feel we have to assimilate to.  But why should we have assimilate to "mainstream" culture to fit in and be noticed and relevant for the normal everyday things so many people take for granted? (I can't wait to read more about this very idea in Gabrielle's book!!!) Better yet, who's to say that what is "mainstream" is really even mainstream? Perception of anything and everything is how you yourself see it, right? So doesn't that mean we can change what our "mainstream" looks like? Questions that need answers people. Questions that need answers now.

xoxo

marlena