Journeyman Project Dispatches from the Life of Patrick Fowler: Christianity Explored


Churches that Hurt…should not run you off

I have seen my fair share of people hurt by churches in the past few years and I definitely empathize with their pain and anger toward untrustworthy individuals.

However I find a lot of these people discontent over imperfect churches, hoping to find the perfect one out there somewhere, and I think that is a myth that needs to be broken. I hope you realize that this issue is not connected with the American church's been the issue since the first days of the church. Paul--the first and greatest church planter laments to Timothy that everyone has abandoned and betrayed him in 2 Timothy. The church has been highly imperfect from those first days, and it remains that way today. Even the great Reformer Martin Luther died a bitter drunkard isolated from the church he had help restart.

Do your best to come to me soon. For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry. Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments. Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message. At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion's mouth.  (2Tim 4:9-17, ESV)


Wikipedia summarized Martin Luther's final days like this:

His poor physical health made him short-tempered and even harsher in his writings and comments. His wife Katharina was overheard saying, "Dear husband, you are too rude," and he responded, "They are teaching me to be rude." In 1545 and 1546 Luther preached three times in the Market Church in Halle, staying with his friend Justus Jonas during Christmas.

His last sermon was delivered at Eisleben, his place of birth, on 15 February 1546, three days before his death. It was "entirely devoted to the obdurate Jews, whom it was a matter of great urgency to expel from all German territory," according to Léon Poliakov. James Mackinnon writes that it concluded with a "fiery summons to drive the Jews bag and baggage from their midst, unless they desisted from their calumny and their usury and became Christians." Luther said, "we want to practice Christian love toward them and pray that they convert," but also that they are "our public enemies ... and if they could kill us all, they would gladly do so. And so often they do."


All in all, Don't go looking for a church that will never hurt you. It doesn't exist. Go looking for a church that will admit its faults and ask your forgiveness when confronted. Don't withdrawal from relationships because they hurt--confront those relationships like we are instructed to in Matthew 18 and watch as God makes you both better friends and better church members. It is only through working through hurt that we find and deepen trust. We see that in movies and on TV shows all the time...but somehow we miss it in real life. That's the lesson God has taught me in recent years. And I hope you will try and find that it is true for you too.

So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.  (Matt 5:23-24, ESV)

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church.   (Matt 18:15-17, ESV)

I am reminded finally of Mark--a companion on Paul and Barnabas first missionary journey, who abandoned them part of the way through their trip. When they prepared to make a second journey, Paul and Barnabas disagreed so much over whether to take Mark along again that they ended up traveling separately. Paul was not ready to forgive. However even though they separated, Paul came to forgive and deeply appreciate Mark.In what was probably his final letter, he wrote: "Bring Mark with you when you come, for he will be helpful to me in my ministry." We must learn to be hurt, and yet still be the ones to seek reconciliation.

Praying for those hurt by the church today. I really hope they find healing and the key to relationships through confrontation and forgiveness.


Why Should I go to Church?

Church is about so much more than the sermon, and yet so often God uses the power of a speaker and a compelling message to nourish us spiritually. While there is much that can be said about the relationships, the opportunities to serve, the power of worship, and that fact that church is not just a building or what we do on Sunday, this article reminds us that we seek a spiritual "daily bread" not a memorable sermon:

Why go to Church?

A Church-goer wrote a letter to the editor of a  newspaper and complained that it made no sense  to go to church every Sunday.  "I've gone for 30 years now," he wrote, "and in that time I have heard something like 3,000 sermons.  But for the life of me, I can't remember a single one of them at all.  So, I think I'm wasting my time by listening and the pastors are wasting theirs by giving these sermons."

This started a real controversy in the "Letters to  the Editor" column, much to the delight of the  editor.  It went on for weeks until someone wrote this clincher:  "I've  been married for 30 years now.  In that time my wife has cooked some 32,000 meals.   But, for the life of me, I cannot recall the entire menu for a single one of those meals.  But I do know this. They all nourished me and gave me the strength I needed  to do my work.  If my wife had not given me these meals, I would be physically dead today.  Likewise, if I had not gone to church for nourishment, I would be spiritually dead today!"

Thank God for our physical AND our spiritual nourishment!


Small Group Leadership – Class Materials

"We should not think of our fellowship with other Christians as a spiritual luxury, and optional addition to the exercises of private devotions. Fellowship is one of the great words of the New Testament: it denotes something that is vital to a Christian’s spiritual health, and central to the Church’s true life…The church will flourish and Christians will be strong only when there is fellowship." ~ J.I. Packer

"It is both foolish and wicked to suppose that we will make much progress in sanctification if we isolate ourselves from the visible church. Indeed, it is commonplace to hear people declare that they don’t need to unite with a church to be a Christian. They claim that their devotion is personal and private, not institutional or corporate. This is not the testimony of the great saints of history, it is the confession of fools." ~ R.C. Sproul

I have a passion to equip and encourage small group leadership in the church.

It seems that every church I hear about has adopted a small group strategy--so there are a lot of people doing small groups--but I fear that most of them are not doing small groups WELL. Small groups can be a bad strategy if they are not done well. Think about it for a moment, and I'm sure you will agree. Most people don't leave the church because of the sermons, the worship, or the children's program...they leave the church because someone hurt them, violated their trust, or even "stabbed them in the back." And where does that hurt come from? Not from Sunday morning, but from small group environments.

In response to the need of churches everywhere, I took last summer to refine a lot of my thoughts on group leadership, to read some more books on the subject, and to package a class into notes and a PowerPoint presentation. This past Saturday, I taught the class through DTS's Lay Institute for the second time. Now that these notes have been tested and received a good response, I want to pass them along to you as well. PLEASE--use these! I don't want credit or fame, I just want to build up the body of Christ...and I hope you find these notes to be a key resource in your own life and ministry, to that end.

Let me leave you with one other quote that I believe sums up my thoughts on Small Groups.

There is no passage in the Bible that says, ‘You must have a small group for people to grow in their faith.’ Instead, what is in the Bible is an understanding, from beginning to end, that people need an authentic, intimate community in which to grow.

Click here for the Word Document of the notes

Click here for the PDF version of the notes

Click here for the Power Point Presentation


Struggling to Worship

If your mind works anything like mine, you've probably spent a lot of Sundays distracted during the worship time. Busy with your own thoughts, angry at the person who came in late and disrupted you to get to his seat, or distracted by some abstract person or motion between you and the stage. Though worship consists of far more than what happens during the Sunday service, we tend to allow it to swallow the focus of our lives, until Sunday is the only day in which we act in a holy manner.

The following video has been very popular lately, and for good ironically reflects the truth that we need to get serious about worshiping, both on Sunday and throughout the week, with our singing, our witnessing, and our fellowship with God.


The First Service of Prestonwood Dallas: Glory to God!

This past Sunday was the first ever service for the Prestonwood Dallas church campus. Despite spending the week assembling furniture, cleaning rooms, and setting up the sanctuary--activities that culminated in the carpet install finishing at 5am Sunday morning--we were ready for 2,000 guests at 10am on Sunday. And the best part: God was ready to welcome those 2,000 guests.

God has been at work setting up this new church for months now, pointing us to the facility, reaching people in the area with the desire to encounter Him through the church, and equipping people to serve as ushers, greeters, media coordinators, worshippers, pastors, and children's ministers. Everything from the carpet to the sermon ultimately got its start in His initiative. Stacy and I were simply thrilled to be a part of it, and to feel the Holy Spirit at work in that place. Stacy and I have been growing alongside everyone else during this process--I spent the morning of the first service overwhelmed by my own personal encounters with Him--God had something for all of us that day.

Many months of new beginnings lie ahead for us in this new facility, and if you are looking for a church home in the North Dallas area, please join us! We would love to host you, and God would love to encounter you here...