Why I Stayed in the ‘Indian’ Church

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TLDR: In short, I stayed and continue to stay in my Indian church because though it is largely Indian and specifically Malayalee in population, we have a heart for our neighboring community and have consistently seen people come to faith. When I think about my abilities and resources, I feel as though they’re currently best used exactly where I am. 

When I was fifteen I cried to my mom and begged to leave our church. I desperately wanted to leave and start over somewhere new. She had entertained the idea of us actually leaving or at least she told me she had considered it. It’s now 10 years later and I realize that I had issues. I battled with insecurity, negativity and a host of negative emotions. I still have problems but now I have resources.

I won’t delve into that all deeply here, that’s a different blog post. But fifteen year old me would have never imagined that one day I would come to not only still attend my Indian church, but that I would love it.

Within the Malayalee Indian church, the blog post ‘The Indian Church Must Die‘ spread like wild fire as people of Christian Indian backgrounds felt as though many of the concerns they have long held about the Indian church were voiced, finally. It is really hard growing up in the Indian church for reasons that I will touch on later in this post but the purpose of this blog post is to instead speak about the reasons why despite the longings of my fifteen year old self; I choose to stay.

We’re missional

I swear that almost every week I hear of a new person who came to faith from the Hindi service. This service has brought in a huge North Indian population to my church and has even challenged the idea that my church is Malayalee. It’s not just North Indians, over the years I’ve seen people of different ethnic backgrounds come consistently to my congregation, serve and join our family.

The problem I’ve noticed within a lot of churches is that we can become too attached to whatever rules we have. I recently heard of a church that did not allow members who wore jewelry to take holy communion. How do you expect members of your community to come and join your church with a rule like that? The idea of not wearing jewelry has deep roots for a lot of people and I can respect this decision. But requiring people to not wear jewelry limits who can feel comfortable in your congregation.

If the only reason why your church is growing is because other Indians left a different Indian church- that’s a problem. Our churches are not meant to grow through shuffling church members. But it’s truly transformative to see people who never knew the name Jesus, people who are from or come from different religious backgrounds, all coming together and accepting Jesus as their person savior. If there was every a remedy to lukewarm Christianity it would be to see the fire of someone who has just accepted Christ. There is a passion and love that puts me to shame.

There’s room for Me to Grow 

My church allows women to lead worship, teach Sunday School and even give Sunday sermons. I would often hear from other women at more conservative churches that women are not allowed any leadership position, even choir leader. In the midst of an environment like that, my pastor has spent time and invested in my gifts. He has given me a platform when I know others places wouldn’t. And he doesn’t just do that for me. Through my church I have seen incredible singers developed, talented musicians and powerful men and women who deliver God’s word. Maybe if that happened once you could chalk it up to that one person’s talent. But when you see it consistently happening, I know that God is working in a place.

My Impact Feels Larger 

My church, in many ways, is small. Because it is small by the measure of a lot of other churches, I know that the work I do has a big impact. If I have an idea for an event, I can directly see the people who are influenced. When I want to try something new, I can tangibly see how these decisions impacts others. I’ve grown to learn that there is beauty to the mega churches. There are far more resources that can give an individual a lot of room to grow. But because my church is small, I know my influence means a lot.

The Bad Can be Changed

The author of , ‘The Indian Church Must Die‘, Samuel, also acknowledges that some Indian churches can change and those are the ones that will survive, “the ones that start listening to young people, start integrating them into the church vision and projects”. I believe my Indian church is a place just like that. When I first got my ears pierced I feared the larger implications of this decision. But to this day, I don’t think anyone has really had a problem with it. I remember once recounting an older grandpa who also spoke to me in Hindi. I thought he did this because I wore earrings. But when I shared this incident with my church friends they explained to me that he speaks Hindi to literally everyone. Despite all my fear about what people might think, no-one seems to have really cared. Or at least no-one has told me they cared to my face!

Sundays are my Favorite Day of the Week

We had an annual North East region meeting today that I always try to attend because I love connecting and catching up with familiar faces from different churches in the region. But every year during this meeting, despite how happy I am to see new people, I genuinely miss my Sunday routine. You see, I love my Sundays and I love my church. It’s here that I start off Sundays by sleeping in a bit (till 8:30am) and then spend time catching up with friends until it’s Sunday School time at 10:30am. Then from 10:30am-11:30am I lead the most amazing group of girls through the book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. 11:30am-1:00pm when we have our main service that is usually filled with powerful worship and a meaningful word from the bible.

It is here at my church that I imagine and day dream about what ifs and possibilities of ways in which God will move. It is here that I first taught Hindu/Muslim students during VBS. It is in this church that I see my family. Not just those who I am connected to by blood but the aunties and uncles who I grew up with, as well as those who have come in recent years. These people and my friends have become like family. And when I think of God’s vision for my life and I know that for the present time- this is a really great place for me to grow as a speaker, a Sunday School teacher, an informal counsel and as a leader/server.

While I think there are many legitimate reasons for why someone may choose to leave the Indian church or any church for that matter, these are my reasons for staying. This blog post doesn’t mean that I couldn’t ever imagine myself leaving. I always try to remember that man makes plans and God laughs. But what it does mean is that for the time being, I’d really love to stay.

A Culture of Stress

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In a culture of triple shot espressos, rush hour trains, city-speed walking and endless work/class hours- how can I not worry? Living in New York City is not for the faint of heart and I’ve grown accustomed to intimate train rides with strangers at least once a week. I worry about pretty much anything and a strange part of me enjoys the worry. I rarely admit this to myself but feeling worried makes me think that I’m at least working. But in the midst of my “busy” and “stress” I hear God asking me, why do you worry Nina? God points to the lie that stress and worry should be a work day norm or even that I can blame my job for my worry. Matthew 6:25-34 warns us against embracing this culture of worry and anxiety.

 

1.Worry is rooted in a lack of trust.

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

God reminds us that the opposite of worrying is trusting that God will provide as he does for the birds of the air. Ultimately worry stems from a lack of trust that we hold.

2.God will give you more than you can ever find yourself

27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? 28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?

How many times have I tried to find my own solution to problems and acted in haste? I think back to when I needed an internship for my Communications major. I couldn’t afford to work unpaid and all of my attempts at securing a job always seemed to lead me to illegitimate internships. I finally trusted in God and only interviewed for two places. The first place offered me a better position after meeting me. I ultimately accepted the second offer which was at a company I never thought I was “good” enough for. I still remember college friends telling me I was wasting my time with the “Christian club” and yet during my interview, my work with said Christian club got me the internship. It was completely out of my control and I thank God for how he gives.

3.Instead of worrying about things, seek God, the ultimate provider

31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
The secret to this passage is hidden in verse 33, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” I am making a choice to seek God instead of money or prestige or success. Because every time I seek perfection out of my own strength I come to a striking halt. Instead, I choose chai lattes, quiet time in the mornings, long walks in the sun and trust in God. I lie to myself when I say that I am worried because of my job or graduate classes. Worrying is ultimately my choice and I can also make a decision to stop.

No one is actually normal.

A sudden case of insomnia has inspired me to blog!  So let’s get the ball rolling, the post up… it’s late.  Let me start writing.  

Growing up in a Malayalee Penetecostal home I grew up with the distinct feeling that I was not normal at all.  Malayalee is a type of people group from the state of Kerala in South India.  Malayalee Pentecostals are people from this geographic region who practice Christianity- specifically Pentecostalism.  

From what I heard, we would differentiate ourselves in India by what we wouldn’t do.  Most of us are not supposed to wear jewelry, some even go as far as to not wear makeup or nail polish.  We’re advised to dress somewhat modestly and a lot of malayalee pentecostal children live under very strict rules and regulations.  

I grew up frustrated by it all because the idea of “hanging out” with friends bewildered my parents.  It was until college that I was allowed to “hang out” with people who didn’t go to my church.  Very rarely I would go out for snippets of times on special occasions.  Most of the time I was too lazy to fight for more freedom as well.  

In church we didn’t operate the way every other people group seemed to operate.  Stupid things seemed to always get in the way and someone was always dissatisfied with something or another.  

It was so frustrating and for a long time I looked back on my childhood jealous of the “normal” kids.  The kids who had curfews!  Curfews meaning they were allowed outside of their home!!  Children who were encouraged to start dating at the ripe age of 16, not cut off all interactions with guys and suddenly get married at 23!  

Honestly, it just felt unfair.  But as I thought about this more and more I came to a realization: no one is actually normal.  Sure I know some kids who “seem” normal, but everyone has a story!  Everyone has something that surely makes them feel completely different from everyone else around them.  

For us Malayalee Pentecostals it may be a little bit more obvious, but for others it is still there.  Regardless, we are all bound to together by this very fact.  Which is: No one is actually normal.  

Sweet dreams! 

Addictions-16/365

from deviantart.com, originally a header for my blog

Hey Y’all, [okay this is TOO weird], HELLO EVERYONE!  XD

This post is about addictions, big or small addictions can be debilitating and as a Christian I found it hard to believe that I actually do have addictions that I consider “small” BUT affect my life tremendously.

When you think of addictions what exactly comes to mind?  I don’t know about you but I think of alcoholics, drug addicts, KE$HA [LOL im joking, but why does she need a dollar sign in her name anyway?].  You catch my drift right?  Well I never thought SIMS, or silly band collecting or even using my netbook could be considered a REAL addiction, that was until now.

I hadn’t realized it at the time but at one point I was addicted to playing SIMS games and it wasn’t the prettiest of sights.  I was playing SIMS on my computer for hours at a time and would wake up early every day just to play SIMS.  I stopped doing things I loved, because I loved playing SIMS more.  I was addicted, the short thrill of becoming a millionaire in a game was more appealing than reading or writing or even talking to REAL people!  [I’m not a weirdo or anything, I just REALLY liked that game].  I had played the game to completion dozens of times and was almost living through a virtual character, and what made it even worse was I couldn’t stop myself.

The only reason I stopped was because I got bored after a little while and knew how badly it was affecting me.  I rashly deleted it from my cpu and a few hours later BEGGED my brother to re-add it.  He said no, I was angry then, but I’m thankful now.  I was investing so much of my time and effort into this game that did not produce meaningful results and most of all I was taking time from all aspects of my life for a game.

1 Samuel 12:24
24 But be sure to fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you.

I wasn’t serving my GOD ANYMORE!

Today I want you to look inside yourself and see what your addictions are be it big or small, and compleltly re- dedicate yourself to God.  If there’s one addiction that i would approve of, it would be an addiction to GOD!

See you tomorrow,

Nina Thomas

5/365- Barriers

One thing I’ve always found incredibly unusual was the concept of barriers,that is,  barriers in people and myself that never seem to seize.

First and foremost I consider myself an American Indian [not a NATIVE AMERICAN but someone who’s parents were originally from India, but live in America], next I consider myself a *insert state name*-er.  Then I consider myself a “insert town name”-er, then it goes down to my school, then my group of friends and on and on.  To some extent I expected the concept of my “nationality” to not be so easily defined, but my religion?  I was once naive enough to think I was a Christian and nothing more.

I learned early on that I was not only a Christian, I was a protestant, then a pentecostal.  I hoped at that I would be no longer be divided, but there are so many more divisions in TYPES of Pentecostals, so much more that continue to divide and divide endlessly.

Why?

I may be stupid to ask this but why?  The crusades had made NO SENSE to me because people were killing each other because of their religion, although all of their religions taught love.

I can find so many verses about how we are supposed to be together, but yet we remain divided in such frivolous ways.

Ephesians 4:29-32

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Hebrews 3:12-13

See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness

Today I urge my readers to stop the division and unite.

See you Monday, [I’ll be at a retreat, but I’ll still do posts daily & later post them]

Nina

Post 2/365 – Ask and you WILL receive

I want to ask you guys a question, if you had the opportunity to wish for ONE thing, anything at all,  what would you wish for?

Some may wish for money, friends, fame, but what did Solomon ask for?

1 Kings 3:5-9

5 At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.”

6 Solomon answered, “You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day.

7 “Now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. 8 Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. 9 So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”

In my 11th grade AP English class, after the AP exam we just watched movies, one of which was Interstate 60, a movie if you have yet to watch, I recommend you do!  I don’t want to spoil the movie for you but I’ll tell as much as you would find on the back of a book cover [ which REALLY peeves me when there’s actually a ton], a man goes around granting people wishes on their birthday,  some wish for the ability to eat on and on without becoming full, some wish for money, but one young man wished for an answer.  AN ANSWER! How many times would an answer be all we need? [especially for me and picking colleges :/]

So many times I’ve read books and watched shows of people who have the chance to make wishes and I always sit back and think what I would have wished for in their position, would I be the “norm” who wishes for fame and fortune, or would I be unique, the one who asked for an answer, or for wisdom?

Something that I’ve always struggled with was my intelligence .  Many people say it must be amazing to be the younger child, but that’s REALLY not always the case, especially if you have a much more “intelligent” brother.  The kind of brother who teachers remember, who can be defined as the “walking dictionary“, who is tagged in those really annoying tags of Facebook that even I do as “The smartest person you know”. When I say intelligent I mean the very class I hated and could barley pull a 90 in, he got a 100 in without blinking an eye.  It just always seemed unfair.

When I was thinking about what to write about, the concept of knowledge, the idea of ask and you will receive kept coming back to me.  Can we even really understand how GREAT a concept it is?

You don’t need a fairy, a genie, a magic lamp or anything along those lines, you need faith even as small as a mustard seed and you will RECEIVE!

I remember my sophomore year of high school my overall average was a 95 one quarter, when I showed my mother she was happy but responded by saying

“Now only if you’re brother has worked as hard as you in highschool, imagine how well he would have done!”

Well gee thanks mom?

But here’s the thing about out God, it doesn’t matter how smart people think you are, or even how dumb,all that matters is if you trust and love him.  Did I deserve that 95?  Could I have gotten that on my own?  Some may argue maybe, but I would say no.

This post is a voice of encouragement for everyone and anyone reading this post, you REALLY CAN do anything because nothing is impossible for our God.

This summer while studying for SATs I feel a bit overwhelmed, but I know one fact above all, it doesn’t matter how great my knowledge is, but how great my GOD is.  And letme’ tell you, he’s pretty great.

See you tommrow,

Nina

July 26th 2010

8:01 pm

**Comment for tomorrow’s topic!