The Church Growth Today list of America’s 100 Largest Churches for 2010 has now been released. An amazing discovery was revealed while comparing it to the 100 Largest Churches list published at the beginning of the decade. While the smallest church in the list then had 4,000 in attendance, the smallest church in the new 2010 list begins at 8,000 attendance. The smallest church has doubled during the 10 years. More surprising is the fact that the attendance for the largest church in the same list since a decade ago increased four-fold from 11,000 to 44,800.
Lakewood Church of Houston tops both lists in 2000 and 2010. The church has never been a multi-site campus church in a nation where the 2010 list reveals that 57 percent of the nation’s largest churches now meet at more than one location each weekend.
I confess I’m the type of person to hold a grudge. It’s not that I want power over people, which is often the motive for holding a grudge, it’s just that I want all-due glory for my suffering. What I mean is, if somebody is causing me some pain, I want them to know I am bearing it for them. For this reason, it’s hard for me to forgive my enemies. If people slam me on the internet, it’s hard to forgive. If people screw me in a business deal, it’s hard to forgive, too. And for so long it seemed there was nothing I could do about it. I knew I’d be better off to forgive, but how? What are the steps to controlling your uncontrollable emotions?
I don’t fully know the answer to that question. Part of the reason it’s so hard to forgive is pride. If I forgive, it feels like I’m also saying they had the right to do me wrong. That doesn’t feel right. But it’s a real feeling. And also, if I’m having to forgive somebody who really has no idea what they did that was wrong, which is even more difficult, because you are doing the hard work of forgiving them and they have no idea they wronged you, or worse, they don’t honestly care. So why forgive?
Before I say why, I should say how. Here’s how:
• Go through the stages of grief. Let the offense shock you, then let it completely hurt you. Don’t avoid the pain. Sit with it and feel it no matter how unbearable it is. Please know it will end in time. It will get 2% easier every day. Just feel it like a toothache and soon enough it will transition into something bearable.
• Then let the offense make you angry. Don’t lash our or you’ll be guilty yourself. Talk about it with trusted friends but confess you’re angry and your emotions aren’t under control. And don’t feel bad for being angry. The last thing you need is anger and shame. Just punch a pillow and make it through. The anger, like the pain, will lessen over time.
• Then after being angry, accept what has been done. Just accept it as a fact and don’t over analyze it. It happened. This will still be shocking at first, but in time, you will accept it as a fact that you can’t change.
• From there, you’re at a place to forgive. It will be hard work, but it’s worth it. Sit and pray for the person you’ve been hating. Sit and imagine them with a good life, them coming to realize that what they did was wrong, maybe not to you, but to somebody, perhaps to God. Then be willing to love them in your heart. Want the best for them. Hope for the best for them. Stop praying for God to destroy them and pray for God to bless them. Pray for God to open up their hearts so they can receive the love that will stop them from hurting others. This is the only way I know how to forgive.
Why should we forgive? Well, there are many reasons, but I’m only going to focus on a few.
• The first is because, believe it or not, forgiveness is a pleasurable experience. No kidding, it feels much better than anger or hate. God has designed forgiveness as a powerful blessing for those who have been hurt. The experience of truly forgiving somebody can make you more happy than if you’d never been hurt in the first place.
• The second reason for you to forgive is that it removes you from being entangled in the rather dark thing that hurt you in the first place. If it was a bad business deal, then you get to be free of it and maintain your integrity. If it was a family member talking behind your back, you get to remove yourself completely from all the complications of gossip. Forgiveness sets you free from being bogged down in knee-deep mud. Forgiveness gives you a taste of what it feels like to be God, and it’s a terrific feeling. God forgave us because it gave Him pleasure to do so. He was happy to do so. Love forgives, and so does God, and so can you.
• The third reason to forgive is that you open yourself up to amazing possibilities for a happy life. When you don’t forgive, you draw the curtains in your soul and your life gets dark. When you forgive you let the light in again, and you go on about your life in peace. And don’t you want some peace? Isn’t it time for some peace?
• The greatest thing about forgiveness is it will allow you to love again. It will allow you to love and be loved. And believe me, it’s worth it. Forgiveness is tough, for sure, but love is infinitely more valuable than the pain of forgiveness costs. No matter what you have to go through to forgive, you’re getting a steal of a deal to be able to love and be loved again. Pay the price and I promise you’ll be happy you did.
Okay, here’s my List of the 10 Essential Books I’d Recommend every Christian to Read [in no particular order]:
- Testament of Hope – Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Orthodoxy – G.K. Chesterton
- Celebration of Discipline – Richard Foster
- Mere Christianity – C. S. Lewis
- Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger – Ron Sider
- Wounded Healer or Return of the Prodigal Son – Henri Nouwen
- Dogmatics – Karl Barth [yes, all 13 volumes]
- The Gospel in a Pluralistic Society – Leslie Newbiggen
- The Cost of Discipleship – Dietrich Bonhoeffer
- The Politics of Jesus – John Howard Yoder
Okay. Because I can’t stop at just 10, here’s my Next 10 that I think are also essential reads for all Christians.
- Knowing God – J.I. Packer
- Theology of Hope – Jurgen Moltmann
- Old Testament Theology – Gerhard von Rad
- The Moral Vision of the New Testament – Richard B. Hays
- A Theology of Liberation – Gustavo Gutierrez
- Irresistable Revolution – Shane Claiborne
- Transforming Missions – David Bosch
- The Jesus I Never Knew or What’s so Amazing About Grace – Phillip Yancey
- Christ and Culture – H. Richard Niebuhr
- Moral Man & Immoral Society – Reinhold Neibuhr
- The Hiding Place [Corrie ten Boom]
- Confession [Augustine]
- Summa Theologica [Aquinas]
- The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind [Mark Noll]
- Let Justice Roll Down [John Perkins]
- The Prophetic Imagination [Walter Brueggemann]
- any one of Francis Shaeffer’s trilogy
- Lord of the Rings Trilogy [Tolkien]
- Surprised by Hope [N.T. Wright]
- Silence [Shusaku Endo]
- Traveling Mercies [Anne Lamott]
- The Brothers Karamazov [Dostoyevsky]
- Life Together [Bonhoeffer]
I can’t stop listing so I better stop.
I have only read orthodoxy, mere Christianity, knowing God, irresistible revolution, What is so amazing about Grace, confession, let justice roll down, prophetic imagination, lord of the rings, silence, traveling mercies and Brothers K. I should get reading
- Everyone Is Going To Hell Except Me – John MacArthur
- There’s No ‘U’ in Ministry: A Woman’s Guide – Mark Driscoll
- Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid – John Hagee
- God’s Most Glorified When We’re Most Calvinified in Him, by John Piper
- Right Behind – a fresh set of Apocalyptic chronicles by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins
- Eugene Cho Haven’t Published Squat so No One Can Even Make Fun of Him – by Eugene Cho
- We Know Jesus Better Than You Do – The Vatican Curia
- I’m Cool With Whatever (Featuring Enhanced Doodle Graphics) – Brian McLaren
- This Book Looks Longer Than It Really Is – Rob Bell
- God Wants You To Pay For My Airplane – Creflo Dollar
- 10 Keys To The 8 Steps To The 3 Paths To The 1 Way to God (TM) – Rick Warren
- I Secretly Wish I Were the Pope: A Memoir – N.T. Wright
- How to Smile – Joel Osteen
- How to Fall in My Presence – Benny Hinn
- Hippie Christianity for Ordinary Rednecks – Shane Claiborne
- You Can Kiss Dating My Daughter Goodbye – Joshua Harris, Sr.
- God is not Greeat by Christopher Hitchens.
- Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church (without ever talking to ANY of them)–D. A. Carson
- Jlefhksfb Ghaube Wihefbfb Erqnai (If You Can Read This, You’re Into Acts 2) – Kenneth Copeland
- Sweatin’ to the Old Testament – TD Jakes
- I’m Not Saying He’s A Heretic… But He Is: A Response to N.T. Wright’s Response to John Piper’s Response to N.T. Wright
- The Beginner’s Guide to Chekovian-Socratic, Marxist-Gadamerean, Prophetic Christianity – Cornel West
- People Won’t Read This But Will Claim To Have – C.S. Lewis