The Bridge Chicago is a way to offer the resources of Mission:USA to help people do good ministry.
I know that Christians should only date fellow Christians, but does that mean they should only date their same denomination? Can a baptist Christian date a Catholic? Things like deciding what church to go to and how to raise your kids would be a bit difficult being from two different denominations. Does it say anywhere in the bible that you should only date/marry someone that is not only christian but same denomination as well?
There is actually nothing about denominations in the Bible at all. There is a tendency with Christian culture to assume that it was all handed down from on high, but that isn’t the case. For the first 15 centuries of Christianity, there was no such thing as a denomination. In 1517, when Martin Luther nailed up his 95 theses and unknowingly kicked off the Reformation, that idea was born. Before that, the only difference in churches was geographic, what we know as the Catholic Church in the west and the Orthodox church in the east. There was one church in the parish and if you went to church, you went there.
While there are some theological differences between mainstream Christian denominations, they tend to be very minor. If churches can agree on the basics (sin, salvation, scripture) then there is room for some disagreement on things like predestination and transubstantiation. The differences between Protestant denominations tend to be more geographical and historical than they are theological. For example Lutheranism has roots in Germany, Episcopalianism in England and Presbyterianism in Scotland. People typically stay in a denomination because they are used to the way things are done and like the culture, not because of any grand divide in ideas.
All that background to say, there is absolutely nothing wrong with dating or marrying someone of a different denomination. Your point about picking a church and raising your kids is a good one, but it is not a huge obstacle. Picking a church should hopefully be about finding a place where you feel accepted and loved and fed spiritually. That comes from the people in the church, the pastoral staff, and the leadership much more so than from denominational affiliation. You might have been Baptist all your life and move to a town where there isn’t a Baptist church that connects with you, but there is a Presbyterian church where the pastor is awesome and the people are warm and welcoming and you love it. You should go there because that is the stuff that matters. The denominational fine print pales in comparison. The switch between Protestant and Catholic would probably be more intense at first, but the same thing applies.
Your walk with the Lord is your own, and no loyalty to a governing body is more important than finding a church, or spouse that is right for you. Remember, if any one denomination had perfected church, then everyone would just be what they are. Every group has their good and bad points, the important thing is to find what works for you.
-Matt from The Bridge
I don’t go to church as much as I should. However I read the bible on a daily basis and converse with God constantly. Does this mean I’m not as much a Christian as a fellow constant church goer? I think not. Just because one goes to church doesn’t mean they are more of a christian than I am. For all anyone knows they could be drunks, drug addicts, abusers, womanizers, anything. I wanted to see your input. Thanks.
You are correct that regular church attendance does not make someone more Christian than you. However, neither does being a drunk, drug addict, or womanizer makes someone less Christian than you. Being a Christian is about a relationship with God and the work He is doing in you, not checking behaviors of a list so that other people think you are acting straight. That reality seems to elude a lot of Christians and you seem to have gotten a handle on it, which is very good.
What may be happening here is that you have rejected a bad idea (going to church makes one a Christian) but have gone too far the other way with it (Church attendance has nothing to do with a relationship with God), which is dangerous too.
If you are put off by the idea of church being “we dress nicer than we normally would, act more put together than we are, clap politely during the worship, listen quietly to a sermon that has nothing to do with our actual lives, and then go home and be proud of how Christian we acted” that is a good thing. But it doesn’t mean you can disregard the whole idea of community with other believers, it means you shouldn’t go to a crappy church.
Community is absolutely critical to Christianity. As soon as Jesus began His ministry, He gathered disciples. The early church was born of those disciples keeping that kind community central to the faith. Acts 2:42 says “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” That is the model, and fellowship is an undeniable part of it.
Community is essential to the Christian life for two reasons: 1) you can’t do this alone and 2) neither can anyone else. Jesus said the greatest command is to love God and love people. In order to love people, you have to interact with them. The church serves this by being a home base for service (ie. being a place for a support group to meet, raising some money for missions, a bible study group going to a shelter) and also by being full of people who need love and help themselves.
You are absolutely on target that church is not a place full of people who are firing on all spiritual cylinders, but that is not the purpose of church. Church is a place to come and celebrating barely making it through the week and getting some love and encouragement to make it through the next one. It is a place for profoundly imperfect people to serve and love in ways they never could without the Spirit of God inside them. It is a place to belong and grow despite your imperfections.
-Matt from The Bridge
I’m a girl and I struggle with lust and masturbation. I feel like a freak because my church only ever talks about guys having this problem. I feel like a hormonely charged thirteen-year old boy. I don’t even know how to go about fixing this, I feel like all I think about is sex and I don’t know how to tame these thoughts. I even tried bringing it up with a friend and she made a comment about how it’s a guy thing. :( please help.
I read the other day that the woman who wrote “50 Shades of Grey” is making $1.4 million per week from sales. I would think that statistic alone (or combined with the box office gross of “Magic Mike”) would disprove the idea that only guys are interested in sex. You are not a freak. You are just someone who is figuring out how to deal with their sexual desires in a healthy way and you are having a little trouble. The truth is that happens to everyone.
It is a great failing of the Christian community that there isn’t a more honest dealing with sexual struggles in general, but for women especially. The by product of people deciding that they just don’t want to talk about the fact that women, and young ladies especially, are aware that orgasms exist, is that people like you end up feeling shamed in a situation where they should be getting commiseration and love and help.
Lust and masturbation aren’t good and are something you need to work on in your walk. But they are not the most dangerous thing going on here. You actually have a great sense of how to go about starting to get over this. Realizing it’s not something you want to be doing and starting to talk about it are very big steps, I would say they are over half the battle. You are on the right road.
The most insidious thing going on here is that there are people and forces trying to make you feel alone and dirty because of this. Starting to let those thoughts gain traction is much worse for your relationship with Jesus than any problems with wanting to look at naked people. Because those feelings are contrary to how Jesus feels about you. You are accepted, you are loved, you are washed clean. Jesus is going to walk through this thing with you, he is not going to tell you its a guy thing or that just get uncomfortable and refuse to talk to you about it.
This struggle does not make you a special brand of sinner, it doesn’t make you a bad person and it doesn’t make you a freak. You need to hold on to that reality. You are doing a good job at that. You had an inkling that it is bogus that your church only talks about one side of this issue, and you knew deep down that your friend was way off base. You are doing a great job at listening to the right voices. Don’t let the wrong ones get in your head and stop you from going on.
Seems to me that satan is putting some pretty heavy resources into screwing with your head about this. I think that is because he knows that once you get over this thing, you will be an absolute force for making sure that women don’t get made to feel the way you did about this problem. You are going to be in such a good position to help others once you get over this thing that Hell is shaking in its goat-hoofed boots.
-Matt from The Bridge
What is ‘spiritual authority’, and what does it look like in its different contexts (God, church, relationships, etc.)?
Fantastic question. The simplest definition of authority I can think of is: the right to tell you what to do. So God should have supreme authority. Meaning that whatever He tells you to do, you do it. If God says to sell all your possessions and move to the rainforest to tell tribes about Jesus, someone who has been redeemed by the blood of Christ should do it.
Obviously nobody has authority in the way that God does, but what makes someone a spiritual authority in your life is when they have influence over your decisions. The big thing to remember about spiritual authority is that it needs to be earned. God has authority merely by His being, people have to earn influence. Just being a pastor, or being a book in the Christian bookstore, or being a boyfriend, etc gives someone authority just by existing. Someone has to show that they are prayerful, humble, and wants what is best for you in order for you to take their opinion into account. You should engage your BS filter with what people are telling you, and if it doesn’t pass muster then you are in no way required to acknowledge their authority just because of their job title.
Once someone has shown themselves to be that kind of person, you can start to let yourself trust them. Especially in things you haven’t encountered before. My boss (Unka Glen) has been doing ministry in inner city Chicago for 20 years. I have been doing it for 6 months. I do what he tells me, every time without fail. He has earned this through the kind of man of God he is, his experience in ministry, and because he is my boss. I have opinions and ideas, but if Glen tells me something different- his way goes. I have been walking with the Lord for 10 years, and about 6 or 7 people have earned that kind of authority in my life, it is not something to just give out.
As for relationships, that is another arena where people give that authority way to quickly. If you are dating someone, hopefully you respect their walk with the Lord, but that doesn’t mean that they have authority until they have earned it. Once you are in marriage, your spouse has a massive right to speak to your life because you have become one flesh. Dating relationships are different, and you should get opinions certainly, but not necessarily authority.
Spiritual authority is a wonderful thing that can be a great help to your walk with the Lord if you give it to the right people. It can save you time and headaches if you listen to wise, Godly people and trust them. It is such a powerful tool that it shouldn’t just be given out lightly.
-Matt from The Bridge