Church Post-COVID

I have been reading, contemplating, and praying about what is known as “House Church” since around the time I went to China in 2013. As I learned, I attempted to implement some of what I was learning in the established church I pastored at the time. Though I was able to do so some, it was very minimal. There were a lot of great folks there (many of them eager to grow in Christ and reach out with the Gospel), but change comes hard in most established churches. House church really didn’t fit who the church was at the time, so I really didn’t keep trying to make a square peg fit in a round whole.

Fast forward a little less than a decade and lots of life changes later…

For several months now (beginning in 2021), my family and I have been taking part in church at home. The time that me, my wife, and the kids have spent with these saints and Christian friends has been one of the most rewarding church experiences of our lives. We gather together for a meal, genuine friendships, prayer, testimony, encouragement, leaning on one another in tough times, and teaching of God’s Word. The joy that I have experienced in this different way of “being the church” has been mirrored by my wife, teenage children, and friends. I really do start looking forward to the next time we gather together as soon as we wrap up every other week.
Over the last few months, I have had several conversations with others who are either already doing house church or interested in doing so. It seems to me that what God has been doing for so long in guys like Neil Cole, Ralph Moore, and Francis Chan and in much of the world outside the US is beginning to get some traction in the broader Church.

A number of things have brought folks to this place. Many have been longing for a greater sense of Christian community, but instead have found more programming and time wasters in the local church. Some of have sought out sound Biblical teaching in the local church only to find people in the pulpit who value political correctness, numbers, and nickels above a straighforward teaching of God’s Word. Still others have found that the local church in our culture looks more like the world than the Bride of Christ, and they are fed up with trying to appease culture and the Lord simultaneously (which is impossible, by the way). I know there are other reasons some Christians have started to consider a different way of doing church (if not house church specifically), too numerous to list here.

I also know that many church goers have stopped being just that in the last 2 years since COVID craziness first swept the US and world. Some stopped and haven’t returned because their local churches closed their doors, choosing cowardice and abandoning the flock at the time when they most needed to gather. Some stopped and haven’t returned because they themselves were simply church goers and not Christians, and going to the local church-house is no longer convenient, appealing, or scratches their itch to be entertained or be in charge or whatever reason they were there in the first place. Frankly, I am glad this group has split from the local church in large numbers. As the old saying goes, ”Don’t let the door hit ya where the good Lord split ya.” I wish they had left sooner. I also hope they repent of their sins and turn to the Lord Jesus Christ who alone can give them hope and save them from their sins (just like He does for the rest of those who are apart from Him… Like I once was!). And still, some have stopped gathering with the local church because it was a good time to exit an organization that really was not doing what it was created to do in the firstplace. And the last group I’ll mention (because I think there are always more I don’t think of) is the group of blessed saints who really are afraid of COVID. They have not returned to the local church because they have guzzled the kool-aid of fear the world is selling. And I would say that many of these folks used to attend churches that have been making and selling as much COVID-fear-kool-aid as those apart from Christ. This fear-kool-aid has different flavors in the church, to be sure. One pastor stands up front and preaches about vaccines as the hope of the world. Another preaches about a secret rapture being ushered in by the vaccine. Opposite ends of the spectrum – Same kind of fear-mongering. Frankly, I think some bought into it and are scared. Others are just sick of it, so they stay home.

I know that one of the two of you who are reading this could be in one of the boats mentioned above. Frankly, we all have probably been in all of them over the last 2 years at some point. Whatever the case may be, I want to encourage you to not give up. The writer of Hebrews encourages the readers (then and now) to not give up on gathering together as the church. And he says, “even more so as we see The Day approaching.” Now, I don’t know when Jesus is coming again. I sure hope it is soon. But one thing I do know – It is approaching, and it is closer than it was 2000 years ago when He ascended to the right hand of the Father. If there was ever a time that Christians needed to encourage one another in this world, it seems to me that now would be at least near the top of the list of times.

If your local church is preaching the Scripture, avoiding the fear-mongering, and providing an opportunity for you to connect with, be encouraged by, and encourage other believers, then stick with them if you want. If you are interested in this house church thing, then reach out to me and let’s talk. I don’t believe you have to go to church to be a Christian. I actually don’t think any of us “go to church.” We are the Church as a plurality of Christians. BUT, if you are not gathering together with other believers, you are missing out. Not on programming. God help us – local church programming is usually so lame that none of us are missing out by not going to that. Not on meetings and organizational bureaucracy, as we all know those are the things most of us hope to miss out on in established churches (If you don’t hope to miss out on those in the local church, most of us hope to miss out on you). If you are not gathering together, you are missing out on a chance to be encouraged by fellow believers, the Word of God, His Sacraments of Communion and Baptism, to see the great works of God as He changes others’ lives (and your own), and empowerment to go back out into the world to reach those who don’t know Jesus. Ultimately, isn’t He who this is all about anyway?

You remember, the Jesus Christ, God’s Son, who lowered Himself to live a perfect life because you and I cannot; to die a death for sin so that you and I would not have to do so; to raise from the grave and defeat sin and death, so that you and I might have eternal life. Do you remember that Jesus? Do you know Him? I hope so. If not reach out to me, and let’s chat. If you do know Him, and you are interested in serving him in a local house church, reach out to me about that, and let’s talk!

Some Thoughts on 9/11

September 11, 2001…

I was in a hotel in Corydon, Indiana, having left my then home near Erie, Pennsylvania on vacation to visit family and preach in Kentucky. I remember seeing the second plane hit and feeling the confusion. I remember the gas-price-gougers taking financial advantage of a national tragedy and hiking gas up to $6+ a gallon in some parts of Indiana and Ohio, prompting me to lengthen my stay in Indiana before returning home to PA. I remember the Congress singing “God bless America” and all of the rhetoric about how we “will not forget” in the days, weeks, and months after 9/11. What do you remember?

I now have 3 children who were all born post-9/11. I’m not sure what, if much of anything, they have learned in their public and Christian schools about those Muslim terrorist attacks on US soil. I have 2 older step-sons who were born prior to 9/11, and I know they learned because I know who home-schooled them. We live in a nation that has forgotten, overall. Our own government has a socialist bent that is more dangerous than terrorism from the outside. “God bless America” is not the chant because very few in high (or not-so-high) places are willing to acknowledge the God of the Bible as GOD amidst a pluralistic pantheon of lesser (false) gods, nevertheless THE ONLY ONE who can bless America or anyone else for that matter.

The Church overall has forgotten, as we have sat on our lazy, comfort-loving, culture-embracing asses in the name of Christian kindness and supposedly reaching the masses. And what have we reached the masses with? The last year-and-a-half has shown much of that. How? Many pastors are so cowardly that they refuse to preach the Bible. Instead of studying to preach the text of Holy Writ, they spend their days podcasting about “wokism” or proclaiming “the good news” of the government’s “shot of hope” (ie, a false gospel) that will take away the dreaded disease of the day, a disease that seemingly has the primary symptom of fear and one can only be “saved” from by placing one’s wholehearted trust in the all-knowing and all-powerful government as their lord and savior. And so, folks have stayed home from the local church for the last year+ for various reasons – fear, convenience, even a legitimate irritation with the cowardice of their particular local church as many so-called pastors and church leaders have failed and refused to preach God’s Word, refused to meet together (even more so as we “see the Day approaching”), refused to administer the Sacraments, bought and sold a pathetic narrative of fear, and shown that they love this world more than the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, people, and Kingdom of God.

And so we find ourselves in a time and a place in which most of us in the US have never been. We don’t really recognize our nation, our friends, even our families for some. For those of us who have called ourselves Christians, we must understand that this is not because the Church has been doing a hot job of calling the lost, the nation, and culture to repentance, and like we in evangelical circles have liked to say, “It’s so bad, they just won’t listen.” No, fellow believers, I fear much of the reason we find ourselves in the polarization and predicament we do is because for too long many pastors have failed to preach the Word, churches have lost their first love (which is Jesus; and this has even been the case in many ice cold, doctrinally sound “academic” local churches), and we as Christians have loved the world more than we love the Lord.

And so, repent. Pastors – if you are a coward and have not preached the Word of God (which is your primary calling as a pastor), repent or please shut-up and quit leading people into damnation. Other church leaders (elders, councils, boards, deacons, whatever you are called in your tradition), repent, turn away from your sin of guiding the local church by business principles, your preferences, the “way things have always been here,” how you think it should be done, how the government says church should be, how your particular tradition or denomination says things should be done, ridiculous marketing schemes under the guise of “church growth principles,” or whatever else you have done to keep the church from functioning in a more Biblical and healthy way. Make sure you have pastors in place to preach the Word, let them do so, lead according to God’s Word, and get out of the way. If you can’t do that, please resign your leadership role and shut-up. Christians, turn away from your love of the world and back to your first love, Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross on our behalf! Churches – if the above things happen, our local churches as a whole will be revived…. And we will be revived in a way that causes us to make a real difference in this nation and world, whether the political nonsense continues or not. But, if the above those things don’t happen, please close the doors of your local church or at least stop pretending to be a church and hurting the witness of those who are the Church. Call yourselves a community organization or a club or anything but a church if you are not going to be about the business of the God of the Bible. And if you find yourself in a congregation of people who won’t preach the Bible or function as a healthy church according to God’s Word, please find a different one or (probably better yet) start one in your home.

9/11 is a good day to remember. So many folks died needlessly that day. It was terrible. May the Lord have mercy on their families and friends today. And may we, as the people of the Triune God, use this opportunity of remembrance of tragedy and great pain to call ourselves and our brothers and sisters in Christ to repentance today. The tragedy of poor leadership, confusion, chaos and the like (also a tragedy and pain) that we find ourselves in as a nation today is not going to change unless God’s people turn away from the comfortable financial and cultural idols we have so long worshiped and turn squarely back to Him. And then, even if the broader culture does not change, at least we will have joy and peace in Christ that passes all understanding. Here and for all eternity. I have a hunch that things would change in the US for the better if the Church would get our act together. Judgment always begins at God’s house. Always.

Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand!

Introducing Jeff

Jeff has a burning passion and gift for communicating God’s Word in a straightforward and practical way.  When he pastored, he generally preached through books of the Bible, beginning-to-end, seeking to unpack God’s Truth as revealed in His Holy Word.  Jeff says, “God speaks through His Word.  Period.  If a minister has anything worthwhile to say, it is from the Scriptures.  Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.”  Though Jeff spent his last 8 years in vocational ministry as a lead pastor, he no longer senses a call to a long-term pastoral role.  He is seeking opportunities to teach the Bible and make an impact with the Gospel in other ways, whether through speaking opportunities, writing, consulting, or even guest preaching.

Mr. McCarty hails from rural Indiana and often says that he is a hillbilly at heart.  For that reason, Jeff works hard to relate difficult concepts in common terms for the good of all.  Jeff says, “I want to reach those with the Gospel that no one else wants in their churches.”  AND, he means it.  He has an unquenchable fire in his bones to preach God’s Word – always pointing to Christ the Living Word, is passionate about serving those who are struggling or near the end-of-life, loves being a dad, and enjoys spending time with his wife and their five children.