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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

"Where is your Church?"

"And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating
with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples,
why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?"
             (Mark 2:16)

I have a question that's burning in my soul. "Where is your church?"
This is a common question that most Christians ask each other. Where is your church? Where do you worship at? Where do you meet at on Sunday?
In our culture today, most churches are built to look like shopping malls to attract the "sensitive seeker" and make him feel right at home. Most churches of course have comfortable padded pews with state of the art video and audio technology and even come complete with cafeterias.
If we're honest, most of our churches are insulated from the real world in a comfortable zone where members can be sheltered from all of the chaos and confusion. The Sunday sermon sometimes amounts to little more than a pep talk that's guaranteed to get you out in time for lunch or before the start of a major sporting event.
For the past two weeks my life has been challenged and transformed. I've been reading, "Captive in Iran," by my two dear Facebook friends, Maryam and Marziyeh.
I have also been emotionally consumed by the ongoing crisis of my brother Saeed Abedini in Evin Prison, who is being tortured for his faith on a daily basis.
At the same time, my Christian friend Ebi, who lives in Tehran, shared with me that he had just being released from jail after being lashed 76 times for his Faith.
Jesus preached in the synagogues, but he didn't stay there. He went out among the hurting and broken and by doing that risked his reputation among the religious elite of his day. The religious establishment didn't like that he associated with the tax collectors and the sinners. By the way, the elite religious crowd are still with us today. They haven't went away.
So my questions still remains. "Where is your church?"
Maryam and Marziyeh's church for 259 days was the "First church of worship,"in Evin Prison in Tehran, where God powerfully used my dear sisters, as they reached out to prostitutes, political prisoners and outcasts with the gospel.
Pastor Saeed's church has been an ongoing crucible of suffering in Evin Prison, where he is learning about the power of forgiveness and endurance.
Ebi's church was the painful, stinging leather straps whipped against his bare back.
"Where is your church?"
Is it safely inside four walls and padded pews or is your church, "outside of the box," among the broken and hopeless, where it is dangerous risky and inconvenient?
I have been challenged to step out of my boat, out of my comfort zone to go where the real needs are. Yes, I write books to Muslims and chat with them on the internet, but I do it in a safe environment with no real risk to my life. All of us need our faith challenged and strengthened.
The days of "playing church" are over! A hurting and dying culture needs our love and compassion.
Will you join me?

suggested reading..

"Follow me" by David Platt
"Captive in Iran"  by Maryam Rostampour & Marziyeh Amirizadeh