Brad Ruggles

The Art Of Living

What Church ISN’T


There’s an ancient principle that says you can learn more about something by first defining what it’s NOT before you try to define what it IS. Let’s take a look at a few things that Church ISN’T.

Church Isn’t About Protecting Christians From The World

Some of the church environments I experienced maintained that the church was a haven of peace and hope in a horrible, broken world. We were the sheep. They were the wolves. We had to protect our sheep by keeping the wolves out. We were “in the world but not of it,” remember? While there are many churches who consciously or sub-consciously adhere to the idea of being a place to hide from the evils of the world, I remind you the type of company Jesus kept when he walked this earth. He could have adopted the Pharisee’s method of separating himself entirely from everything “unclean.” Instead, he was known as a “friend of sinners.” Can our church say that?

Church Isn’t A Club

One of our strengths as the church is the friendships and community that come out of our local expressions of worship. People who have been hurt and rejected for years find healing in healthy relationships. However, if we’re not careful, friendships can turn into cliques and new people walking through the door will find themselves on the outside looking in. Our circle of friends is important but let’s not be so self-absorbed that we miss those Christ is calling us to serve.

Church Isn’t An Event

In Western culture especially, we have equated church with an event that happens once a week. We get ready for church, we drive to the church, we do church, we come home and then we don’t think about it again until next week. God never intended church to be an event that we only participate in for a couple hours each week. We are the church. That means that we carry it with us 24/7. It follows us wherever we go, whatever we do. Church is as much a part of the conversation we have with a co-worker on Monday as it is about the worship songs we sang the day before.

Church Isn’t A Location or Building

While most of us know this intuitively, we still need to be reminded that the church isn’t a specific building or location. Our buildings and programs create environments for church to happen but they are no more or less sacred than our living room or even the neighborhood pub.

Church Isn’t A Denomination

We each like to think that our own beliefs and doctrines are the “right way.” Which is understandable. We wouldn’t practice them if we didn’t believe them to be true. The danger comes when we begin to see our way as the only way. There are some hills to die on but then there are other battles that don’t need to be fought. Some sprinkle, some dip. Some take communion with wafers and wine, others with bread and grape juice. One day soon we’re all going to be sitting up in Heaven wondering what all the fuss was really about.

Church Isn’t About You

This one is the most important distinction in my opinion. Church isn’t about YOU. It’s about THEM. I have no patience for people who visit a church and come home complaining that the music was too loud, the message too long or the air conditioning too cold. Some people view church as a “pick-me-up,” a little boost of joy and happiness to get them through the week. Show up, sing a couple songs, shake a few hands, go home and pull out the potroast. The church was never meant to be a place to cater to Christian’s comforts. It is and always has been about “seeking and saving those who are lost.” (Luke 19:10)…

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In Defense of Adultery

So there’s apparently this whole pro-cheating movement proliferating on the internet. Huge surprise, right?

According to Utne, there’s a raft of pro-adultery literature cropping up on the web. They cite a piece on Briar patch that dismisses marriage as a tyranny in which “your intimacy is governed by scarcity, threats, and programmed prohibitions, and protected ideologically by assurances that there are no viable alternatives”; and an irreverent post on Jewcy about the (apparent) Jewish infidelity movement.

Couples married more than a year or two will tell you: Marriage is work. It requires open, authentic communication between both partners. Keeping two people in a fulfilling relationship is difficult, while adultery comes naturally. It’s often easier to find someone new to share your dreams and difficulties with. Easier that is, until that new car smell has worn off and the cycle repeats itself all over again.

Our good friends Justin & Trisha will tell you that there are plenty of things that, if left unresolved, will destroy your marriage. Let’s face it, the odds are stacked against long-lasting, healthy relationships and the opportunities for disaster abound.

Justin & Trisha shared that praying for each other and your marriage is crucial for long-term health in your relationship.

Take a minute and share your prayer for your marriage.

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The Prison Of Thanklessness


In the book, The Holy Wild, Mark Buchanan shares a story from when he was in Uganda. In a little dirt-floored church one Sunday evening the village pastor asked if anyone had anything they wanted to share. A tall, skinny African woman from the back danced to the front,

skitched“Oh, brothers and sisters, I love Jesus so much,” she said.

“Tell us, sister! Tell us!” the Ugandans shouted back.

“Oh, I love Him so much, I don’t know where to begin. He is so good to me. Where do I begin to tell you how good He is to me?”

“Begin there, sister! Begin right there!”

“Oh,” she said, “He is so good. I praise Him all the time for how good He is. For three months, I prayed to Him for shoes, And look!” And with that the woman cocked up her leg so that we could see one foot. One very ordinary shoe covered it, “He gave me shoes.”

The Ugandans went wild. They clapped, they cheered, they whistled, they yelled.

But not me. I was devastated. I sat there broken and grieving. In an instant, God snapped me out of my self-pity and plunged me into repentance. In all my life, I had not once prayed for shoes. It never even crossed my mind. And in all my life, I had not even once thanked God for the many, many shoes I had.

Like Mark, that story just wrecks me. I’ve prayed about a lot of things but I’ve never prayed for shoes. It’s the little things that we take for granted. Things like a roof over our heads, the clothes on our back or the shoes on our feet.

I’m reminded of our little boy Sabato from Tanzania that we sponsor through Compassion International. We exchange letters with him regularly and have been following along with his progress in school. This last letter included this photograph of him.


Did you notice his shoes? He’s wearing girl’s tennis shoes that are at least a size or two small with huge holes in both toes. They’re the kind of shoes we wouldn’t be caught dead with here in the United States. And yet he’s thankful for something to protect his feet (incidentally, we did send money for him to get a new pair of shoes).

How many little things do we overlook every day and miss out on the joy of recognizing God’s provision? This is how Mark Buchanan wrapped up the above story in his book:

Thanklessness becomes its own prison. Persisted in, it becomes its own hell, where there is outer darkness and gnashing of teeth. Thanklessness is the place God doesn’t dwell, the place that, if we inhabit it too often, He turns us over to. “See to it that no one misses the grace of God,” Hebrews says, “and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” Thanklessness troubles and defiles many, because first it troubles and defiles the one in whom bitterness takes root.

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