OK, I know it’s not nice to use the phrase “shut up” but in this case I think it is appropriate. In conversation with people through this week I have been reminded several times that people say bad things about our church, Out of the Box, in downtown Hillsville.

We started the church 5 years ago and since that time we have had lots of ugly things said about us. Things like the following.

They don’t preach from the Bible.

They don’t really preach there, its all about feel good messages.

They aren’t reverent because the band members don’t even wear shoes.

They are a “hippie” church.

They are in the sheep stealing business.

They don’t really have a sanctuary to worship in.

They let people lead who have done bad things.

They play loud, secular, music.

They allow coffee, snacks, and sodas, in the worship area.

They don’t even have an altar call.

Honest, all of these things have been said. Let me see if I can address these things in a brief way.

As the pastor, I do not carry a print, leather bound Bible. I prefer to use my iPad and to be honest my eyes are not as good as they once were. It helps tremendously that the screen is back-lit. And just for the record, in Nazi concentration camps I have read they would write scripture on rolls of toilet paper. It doesn’t matter where scripture is read from, it’s still scripture and inspired by God.

When you come to Out of the Box, it is our goal that you will leave inspired and ready to defeat Satan in your life. It is not our aim to beat you down and make you feel bad. We certainly believe that God’s Holy Spirit will often convict you while you are there but we will leave that up to Him. I hope when you leave you’re ready to charge Hell with the truth.

It is true that the band members and others often remove their shoes. God said to Moses “take off your shoes you’re standing on Holy ground.” At Out of the Box many people have met Christ. They have learned for the first time ever that God isn’t mad at them, in fact He is madly in love with them. So many people have been set free form bondage and fear. That makes it Holy ground, so feel free to come and slip off your shoes and sit at Jesus feet and fall in love.

One day I was sitting in the lobby working when a couple walked by the front window. What people don’t realize is that I can hear every word spoken on the street, it seems the glass front amplify’s the voices. Plus, with the glare from the glass you can’t tell anyone is even sitting there. The female in the couple read our window sign, “Out of the Box,” and says, “What is that.” To which I assume the man was her husband says very gruff, “aah that’s one of them hippie churches.” We liked it so it has sort of stuck with us.

In the church world sheep stealing is a phrase used to say that another church is in the business of taking other churches members away. Let me just say a couple of things about that. We made it clear from the beginning of OOTBWC that we were planting a new place for new people to learn about Christ. It was never our intention to try nor have we ever tried to get people to leave their church and come to ours. But, if there are people in churches where they are not being fed, where they have become inactive, or where they just can’t continue, by all means they are welcome at Out of the Box. As the pastor I tell our congregation often, if they are not growing in their relationship with Jesus, if they don’t trust us for some reason, or if they just don’t feel they are in the right place, I will personally help them find the right place for them. Each church has unique things to offer people and what we have at OOTBWC will certainly not be right for everyone.

We don’t have a “traditional” sanctuary to worship in. We have chairs instead of pews. We have a live band with instruments, including drums. We allow coffee, water, soda, and snacks to be brought into this area. You can use your smart phone to read the Bible, take notes, tell your friends what is happening in church or you can play Angry Birds, I’m not your mother and I’m not opposed to having those things. Our desire is to make the experience so good that you will want to pay attention and that you will want to share what is happening with the world.

We understand something at Out of the Box. We understand that every person is broken. We realize that all of us are bad, the Bible says so. We realize that a person should cease living in sin that God has revealed to us. We realize that all of us have a past. And we realize the beauty of all this. The beauty is that God uses broken things, broken people. We have no desire to create a facade that we are perfect or that we don’t have problems, because we have lots of brokenness and plenty of problems. But with God and working together we find Freedom. Satan gains control in the dark but Jesus brings freedom in the light.

We do play our music kinda loud but only lyrics are secular or sacred. Music is neither.

Altar Call – Altar calls are not found in the Bible. Altar calls were introduced by a preacher by the name of Charles Finney in the early 1800’s. Altar calls were used to call people publicly to come and then the church could counsel with them about their needs, the state of their soul, or simply so someone could pray with the person. I’m not against altar calls, I sometimes tell the congregation after a message the altar is available if anyone desires to come and that we will be glad to pray with them if they desire that. However, in my experience as a Christian, the altar call has too often been used in a negative way and in a way that has caused many to believe that they couldn’t be saved if they didn’t leave their seat and walk down in front of the church and that is just not true. You can be forgiven and saved right where you now sit reading this blog post. you can accept the teachings of Christ and turn your life over to Him while riding down the road or hanging on a cross like the thief who was crucified with Jesus. Altar calls are great if used in a good way and can cause great harm if used inappropriately. We do not typically have an altar call at Out of the box but I am happy to tell you that people come to know Christ at a greater rate here than in any church that I have served before and people are falling in love with and serving Jesus in great numbers, so don’t just accept that what has always been done is the only way or the correct way to do things. And remember, that our altar is always open and you are welcome to come there and we would love to pray with you or for you.

I say all that to say this. Most of the stuff that you have heard about Out of the Box that is negative has come from people who have never been there and a lot of it has been said by people who are upset that we are growing and making a difference.

When you run into the naysayers, just tell them pastor Ronnie says to shut up, just think of the things they will then have to say. I dare you to come and check God out for yourself and what He is up to in Downtown Hillsville. You’ll be glad you did. And if you don’t like it, let me know. I really will help you find the best place for you. Our only desire is that our community would know Jesus and that they would live the full and exciting life that Jesus has to offer everyone who comes to Him.

Pastor Ronnie