The Importance of “Church Environment”

An Alternate Environment From The World Can Make All The Difference.

I have been enjoying Charlie Rose’s “Series On The Brain” produced by the Public Broadcasting System. On it have been scientists, researchers, neurologists, philosophers, and artists, all looking at how the brain functions and its processes.  It has been fascinating seeing how the brain needs motor skills to interpret its thoughts, decoding skills to understanding sight, chemical reactions to send messages and the effect of when there is over stimulation or decreased stimulation, mood, emotion, creativity, logic, and reasoning.  In light of the theme of this blog page I ask, “If we are to have the “Mind of Jesus Christ”, how does that translate into the movements, sight, understanding, mood, emotions, creativity, logic and reasoning of the Body of Christ?

One scientist today spoke on the topic of Drug Addiction.  She looked at it from the prospective of the dopamine being released by the brain cells that cause connectivity between brain nerve cells.  She illustrated how cocaine causes excessive release of dopamine producing pleasure.  She then claimed that you can take away the drug, but the environment producing that pleasure comes into play, so if a person sees the person who use to provide the drug of pleasure, that will alone cause the brain to react to wanting the stimulus to bring pleasure again, thus the addiction.  So if you put a person back into the environment that produced the drug addiction, they will probably have a relapse.

I am very familiar with New Life For Girls and Teen Challenge Ministries that have reached out to women and men with addictions.  They have taken them off the streets of the asphalt jungle called inner-city where they acquired their addictions and moved them to a secluded retreat in the woods away from any city life. By giving them an alternative stimuli, an alternative lifestyle, they would eventually learn a different lifestyle and stimulus that would reduce their urge for their dependency and replace it with good stimuli.  Thus teaching them the word of God, the Bible, memorizing scripture, learning how to live by faith not feeling, and surrounding them with good wholesome godly fellowship around people of God to be role models, mentors, and someone to built healthy relationships with, their addiction could be broken, and they could live the rest of their lives productively.  The programs were not one month rehab centers to be released back into the society that engulfed them in their addiction, but one year programs of intense Bible study, Christian character development, and immersion into the body of Christ for fellowship.  Few returned to their old environment but moved on to healthier environments, further education, and additional growth.

The program reinforced to me the importance of relationships that produce positive environments. Church is all about relationships.  Without relationships, the church can only offer programs.  The government is always offering programs, but the church has more to offer: guidance through Bible study and memorization and practical daily application of the Word, the Bible, making it a Rhema or “living word”, direction as they teach one how to listen to the Holy Spirit and be obedient to Him, and people, fellowship through Christ centered relationships.  You can tell what a person is like and what they “are into” by who they hang around with.  The only way they are going to live godly principles is if they hang around people who follow those principles and practice them in their daily lives.  That is the power of “body ministry” in the Church.

Relationships are monumental in establishing a person’s life.  If a church can only offer moral guidelines through the Bible, it becomes literally “the Law”, and most people who fight addiction reject the laws that were written to govern their addition.  Not only does the person need professional counseling, but they need more which only a body of believers can offer: fellowship, relationships.  If a church can offer relationships, then there is a support system that not only brings proper guidance, but also is a role model in following those laws through grace, mercy and unconditional love, the actual living out the laws.  That is called holiness and righteousness in Christian circles, but not does not include religious practices. 

I love the book and film “The Cross And The Switchblade” about David Wilkerson and Nicky Cruise.  David went out of his easy comfort Christian life bounds by moving to New York City where he met gang leader Nicky Cruise who rejected everything day David did and said to him.  One of the key lines in the film was when Nicky wanted to stab and kill David, and David tells him that if he does that “every piece of me will still love you.” Nicky runs. Nicky finally accepts David’s “unconditional love”, and David Wilkerson begins Teen Challenge which still is a successful ministry today.

So my point: Scientists agree that environment is as import as genetics in the make up of a person.  Negative environment produces negative results.  The Church is an alternate to the world, thus it has to set up a positive environment that will impact the world positively.  I believe setting up positive relationships is the key to the success of the twenty-first century church.