WHITE MILLENIALS ARE LEAVING THE CHURCH

Once again an interesting article posted  by Scot McKnight

WM

BY BOB SMIETANA

About a third of young (18-29 year old) Americans — and more than half of younger Christians — are people of color, according to data from the Public Religion Research Institute. White Christians, on the other hand, make up only a quarter of younger Americans. In fact there are more Nones — those with no religion — than white Christians in this age group.

That’s a remarkable demographic change from older Americans, where nearly 7 in 10 are White Christians, according to PRRI. “What you have in American religion today are the nonwhite Christians and the Nones,” says Mark Silk, professor of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut.

But the switch from most Christians being white to the majority being non-white has largely gone unnoticed. Instead, most of the focus has been on the idea that “young people are leaving the church.” That idea is true among white evangelicals, who show a dramatic decline in PRRI’s polling. Among Americans 65 and older, nearly 3 in 10 (29 percent) are evangelicals. That number drops to 1 in 10 for younger Americans….

[Pastor Derwin] Gray explains that since the 1980s, white megachurches in particular grew using a technique known as the “homogeneous unit principle” — the idea that the best way to grow a church is to cater to one specific racial or social group. That’s left them cut off from other ethnic groups and unable to see the bigger picture of what’s happening in the demographics of American Christianity, says Gray.

“One of the dangers of being the majority culture is that you become complacent and you don’t listen,” says Gray. “You think your problems are everyone else’s problem.”

The future, says Gray, will belong to churches that are multiethnic, because that’s what God wants. He points to a section of the book of Revelation to make his point: “After this I looked,” says Revelation 7:9, “and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.”

I AM OFFENDED AND TROUBLED

BY STEVE DUNN

Duck Dynasty is everywhere. The largely unscripted reality show has captured the cable-waves and rocketed A&E Network to the top of the charts. It has already generated a fortune for Walmart and other retailers–secular and religious–by pasting the face of the Robertson clan on every imaginable household item.

Anyone who has watched the show will know that Phil Robertson and his clan are conservative Christians, staunchly patriotic, sometimes outrageous in their opinions, and firm in what they value–which leans heavily towards traditional American values.

I’ve enjoyed a few episodes with friends, but my reality TV tends to lean towards The Voice, The Sing-Off, and Major League Baseball.

It was only a matter of time before these high profile and often delightfully humorous self-proclaimed Christian rednecks would fall afoul of the media and liberal political establishment with their narrow definition of “free speech.” Phil set off a firestorm.

Now A&E has suspended him, his family has threatened to stop making the show without him. (I don’t believe for a minute that a profit-driven network is going to jettison its most profitable possession nor that the Richardson family will abandon their income and platform.)

I am both offended and troubled.

I am offended when the self-appointed guardians of the Constitution continue to extend the defense of free speech to pornagraphers, the worst of America’s haters here and abroad, people whose sexual orientation offends so many of their neighbors, and people whose politics are left of center; but have singled out conservative and evangelical Christians as people whose views threaten to destroy the fabric of society. The bias has now become so obvious that even some of my most liberal friends have pointed it out (although I see few pushing back against it).

Phil Robertson is an American citizen–living in the land of the free and the home of the brave–a land governed by its Constitution. He is entitled to the same rights and at the very least, the same tolerance that we extend even to most unsavory citizens of this land.

But I am also troubled by my conservative Christian friends, many of whom profess to share the same belief in the truth of the Bible as God’s Word and the commitment to live by its commandments and teachings–who roar back like cornered lions every time they are not treated with respect, or where their rights are undermined. People who now often define their worth and identity by the rights they have in the Constitution, rather than in living by God’s truth.

And this is my reason–three statements by Jesus.

“God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers.” – Matthew 5:11 New Living Translation

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” – John 16.33 New Living Translation

“If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you.” – John 15.18-19 New Living Translation

I simply am concerned that we as Christians take the world’s views PERSONALLY, as attacks on us when they are really attacks on Christ. Too many Christians want to stand up for Jesus without paying the price of rejection and opposition that Jesus said to expect if we were being faithful to him in a world that WOULD BACK AWAY.

We have a persecution complex, or better yet–a rejection complex.

And in our vehemence and in the manner of our communication we often show the world that we do not really trust in God to make things right-and that the acceptance of men is more important than faithfulness to God.

Or that being left alone to believe what we want to believe (even if it is the truth) than paying the price of truly being salt and light where we will stand out from the crowd who often cares little about God.

Something to think about and to pray about.

(C) 2013 by Stephen L Dunn

THE MUPPETS AND HOLY NONSENSE

From Spencer Burke’s blog THE OOZE

THE MUPPETS AND HOLY NONSENSE

BY JOSH LARSEN

How I love the Muppets. So free of moralizing and sterile family values, they’re nevertheless imbued with a joy that is, at its very core, good. I consider what they do – with all their felt and comic fury – a sort of holy nonsense.

Created by the late Jim Henson and beloved by a generation raised on their 1976-1981 television variety show and subsequent movies, the Muppets return to the big screen courtesy of cowriter-producer-star Jason Segel (a member of that generation). Lovingly crafted, amusingly self-referential and deliriously silly, “The Muppets” isn’t just true to its tradition. It’s true to a contemporary world deserving of quality family films but too often populated with the likes of “Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked.” It’s a corrective, not a bout of nostalgia.

Segel stars as Gary, a cheerful, small-town guy who lives with his brother Walter. Walter looks, well, like a Muppet. No one remarks on this much – though a photo from the brothers’ high-school prom catches Walter’s date in a hilarious double take – until the pair, along with Gary’s girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams), visit the now-closed Muppet studio in Hollywood. When they learn of a nefarious developer’s plan to take over the property, Walter convinces Kermit the Frog to come out of retirement and put on a studio-saving telethon.

Walter finds his true place in the process, but that’s about the extent of the lesson-learning in “The Muppets.” Ever since the episode featuring the tale of the grasshopper and the ant, in which the grasshopper moves to Florida and the ant gets stepped on, it’s been clear that this group is hardly interested in the moral of the story. That anti-tradition is carried on in “The Muppets.” Although Kermit is given to inspirational speeches, it’s notable that during one of them he’s flattened against the wall by an opening door.

Instead of lessons, we mostly get nonsense. Animal in anger management. Chris Cooper, as the evil developer, breaking into a gangster rap. Chickens doing a dance routine to a Cee Lo Green song (we can only assume it’s called “Cluck You”). Yes, occasionally, incidentally, a lesson is learned. As Walter tells Gonzo at one point, “When I was a kid and saw you recite ‘Hamlet’ while jumping your motorbike through a flaming hoop, it, well, it made me feel like I could do anything.”

The holiness of this nonsense – the spiritual joy it brings – can be difficult to quantify. As Frederick Buechner wrote in “The Hungering Dark,” “Joy is a mystery because it can happen anywhere, anytime, even under the most unpromising circumstances, even in the midst of suffering, with tears in its eyes.” I happened to see “The Muppets” a few hours after attending a wake, one marking a particularly unexpected and senseless death. If we have such nonsensical grief in our lives, doesn’t it stand that God provides nonsensical joy as a counter? A time to weep, and a time to laugh? Holy nonsense blows on the fading embers of our soul, bringing it back to glowing life.

That’s not to say this nonsense is only palliative. It also points to the world of which we live in hope, a restored creation where brokenness, strife and grief are nowhere to be found. In their place, filling that welcome vacuum, there surely will be room for the silly alongside praise for the sublime.

We’re far afield from the Muppets now, but maybe not so far as it might seem. “As long as there are singing frogs and joking bears,” Walter says at one point, “the world can’t be such a bad place after all.” There’s more to it, of course – much more – but the holy nonsense of the Muppets is a very good start.
_________________

Josh Larsen is editor of www.ThinkChristian.net, where this review originally appeared. He also writes about movies at www.LarsenOnFilm.com and at Facebook.com/larsenonfilm.

WHAT GOSPEL DO YOU BELIEVE?

by Steve Dunn

“If you believe what you like in the gospel, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself”. – Augustine

I am the Director of  the School of Evangelism, a ministry of the Eastern Regional Conference of the Churches of God, General Conference.  I also teach several courses, one of which is a theology class called “What is the Gospel?”  Originally it was called “The Theology of Evangelism” and what the Bible teaches about evangelism–its purpose, its practice, its place in the ministry of the church. But last year, we revised the curriculum to address a severe problem within the American church.

Many recent studies have shown that the beliefs of teenagers and younger adults raised in the church  do not reflect the ‘faith that was once delivered unto the saints.”  And what they do believe directly contradicts in a number of cases what the Bible teaches us about the faith proclaimed by the prophets, Jesus, and the Apostles.

In search of explanations, researchers found two disturbing realities. (1) What these young people believe reflects very closely what their parents believe. (2) What their parents believe is a reflection of what is being taught in American pulpits.

Ed Stetzer has often been quoted as saying that the gospel is “a bloody cross and an empty tomb.”  Some may consider it hyperbole, but is still true. But is that the Gospel that is affirmed by American Christians today?  Is that the Gospel being preached for American pulpits?

When Christian Smith and his fellow researchers with the National Study of Youth and Religion at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill took a close look at the religious beliefs held by American teenagers, they found that the faith held and described by most adolescents came down to something the researchers identified as “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.”

As described by Smith and his team, Moralistic Therapeutic Deism consists of beliefs like these: 1. “A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.” 2. “God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.” 3. “The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.” 4. “God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.” 5. “Good people go to heaven when they die.”

Doesn’t this sound like what you have been hearing in the pulpit lately?

This is not the Gospel that leads to the sacrificial servanthood presented by Jesus Christ nor does it affirm the uniqueness of Jesus’ declaration, “I am the way, the truth, and the life–no one comes to the Father except through me.”  And it totally negates the necessity of the Cross as the expression of God’s love.

Kendra Creasy Dean has written:

“Moralistic Therapeutic Deism has little to do with God or a sense of divine mission in the world. It offers comfort, bolsters self-esteem, helps solve problems, and lubricates interpersonal relationships by encouraging people to do good, feel good, and keep God at arm’s length.”

It is a gospel of comfort and convenience, performance and payoff.  It requires no true obedience. It is devoid of grace. This gospel is what the preachers of health and wealth present. This gospel is what the therapists of the pulpit proclaim. This gospel makes a convenient civil religion for a pluralistic America. This gospel is self-centered. It is all about Me and little about Him.

But ultimately, this gospel is not the Good News of the Kingdom.

(C) 2012 by Stephen L Dunn

President Obama, Same-Sex Marriage, and the Future of Evangelical Response

The rejection of same sex marriage in North Carolina last week and President Obama’s subsequent declaration of his support of same sex marriage have ramped up a powerful debate.  Ed Stetzer posted this late last week on his blog.

After both Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan pushed for acceptance of same-sex marriage over the weekend, North Carolina became the 30th state to amend its constitution to define marriage as an act between one man and one woman.

Now President Barack Obama has affirmed his support of same-sex marriage. In an interview with ABC News, President Obama stated:

I have to tell you that over the course of several years as I have talked to friends and family and neighbors when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together, when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, at a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married…

I, you know, we are both practicing Christians and obviously this position may be considered to put us at odds with the views of others but, you know, when we think about our faith, the thing at root that we think about is, not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it’s also the Golden Rule, you know, treat others the way you would want to be treated.

176px-Official_portrait_of_Barack_Obama.jpgPresident Obama’s statements should come as no surprise. His refusal to defend the Defense of Marriage Act and his comments about “evolving” on the issue both pointed to this moment. I tweeted last weekend that I expected such a move from the President. To me, the surprise is the timing of his announcement. I, like many others, expected this announcement after he had won a second term in November– though it appears he had planned to do so before the Democratic National Convention. This announcement merely accelerated the timeline of an inevitable conversation.

So how do we as evangelical Christians respond?

Last year I wrote a brief post on the future of the evangelical response regarding homosexuality after Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz withdrew from speaking at the Willow Creek Leadership Summit. In that post, I listed five principles to consider about the issue of homosexuality and evangelical churches. I’ve fleshed those principles out a bit here.

The issue is not going away and you cannot ignore it or seek to downplay your views.

Since the Stonewall riots, the gay rights movement has continued to gain influence, and homosexuality is increasingly a public issue to which you must have an answer. Evangelicals have responded poorly at times and earned a reputation for intolerance. Now, in seeking a more biblical and grace-filled response, we cannot erase our past mistakes, however, we can control our attitudes and responses in the future by being both clear and gracious at the same time.

The culture sees this as a “justice” issue– Christians discriminating on the basis of immutable characteristics.
Christians have always believed and taught that God’s standard and intent is a man, a woman, a marriage, and a lifetime. To us, that just makes sense, and it seems clear in the scriptures. But to an increasing number in our culture, this is simply discrimination. President Obama clearly justifies his reason for supporting gay marriage because of the Golden Rule– the idea that we should treat others justly, as we would want to be treated. So, we should not be shocked at their response. Many people believe that we are discriminating against other people by restricting marriage from gay couples– much like keeping black people out of a certain section of a restaurant. They see that as unjust and see us as bigots.

Though it is easy to make the case in the church that homosexual practice (and marriage) is incompatible with scripture, it will be an exceedingly difficult case to make in today’s culture.
I mention in my new book Subversive Kingdom an example of running for school board. A half a century ago you would not have been considered for public office in most communities without a strong record of service in and loyalty to a local church. Today that same qualification, if the church teaches biblical truths about homosexuality, is a detriment to one’s candidacy in many areas of our country. This will become more of an issue in days to come. Believing what the Bible says about homosexuality will hurt your reputation and will be hard to defend as a “good and right” view in society.

Building bridges and showing grace and love is needed, lacking, and essential when dealing with people with different views and values.
Some Christians seem driven by the need to take every opportunity to condemn homosexuality. Instead, I do not think you or I need to begin every conversation with a statement of our opposition of homosexuality. We can, indeed, show grace and friendship to those who struggle, while believing and teaching what the scriptures clearly say. Without hiding our beliefs, we need to look for opportunities to have conversations, build relationships, and show grace.

At the end of the day, all evangelicals will still have to deal with an issue on which the evangelical view is perceived as narrow and bigoted.
Evangelicals will continue to be pressured to accept a worldview rooted in cultural acceptance rather than biblical revelation. While President Obama’s thoughts on certain issues have evolved, biblical truth has not. We can listen to Dan Savage and decide to “ignore” the Bible’s teachings on homosexuality, or we can live with the fact of what the Bible teaches and recognize that, because of such, our reputations will suffer.

Homosexuality is not an easy issue. Christians have said a lot of unhelpful things about the subject over the years– but that does not mean we cannot say helpful things now. The most helpful truth is the biblical truth. In the midst of a complicated issue, we need to admit to poor engagement in the past, speak of the complexities of the issues involved, but always point to biblical truth and change that can be found in Christ.

 

THE MUPPETS AND HOLY NONSENSE

Josh Larson shared this insightful look at life in the world on the blog OOZE-Evolving Spirituality that is published by Spencer Burke.

The Muppets and Holy Nonsense

by Josh Larsen

How I love the Muppets. So free of moralizing and sterile family values, they’re nevertheless imbued with a joy that is, at its very core, good. I consider what they do – with all their felt and comic fury – a sort of holy nonsense.

Created by the late Jim Henson and beloved by a generation raised on their 1976-1981 television variety show and subsequent movies, the Muppets return to the big screen courtesy of cowriter-producer-star Jason Segel (a member of that generation). Lovingly crafted, amusingly self-referential and deliriously silly, “The Muppets” isn’t just true to its tradition. It’s true to a contemporary world deserving of quality family films but too often populated with the likes of “Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chip-Wrecked.” It’s a corrective, not a bout of nostalgia.

Segel stars as Gary, a cheerful, small-town guy who lives with his brother Walter. Walter looks, well, like a Muppet. No one remarks on this much – though a photo from the brothers’ high-school prom catches Walter’s date in a hilarious double take – until the pair, along with Gary’s girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams), visit the now-closed Muppet studio in Hollywood. When they learn of a nefarious developer’s plan to take over the property, Walter convinces Kermit the Frog to come out of retirement and put on a studio-saving telethon.

Walter finds his true place in the process, but that’s about the extent of the lesson-learning in “The Muppets.” Ever since the episode featuring the tale of the grasshopper and the ant, in which the grasshopper moves to Florida and the ant gets stepped on, it’s been clear that this group is hardly interested in the moral of the story. That anti-tradition is carried on in “The Muppets.” Although Kermit is given to inspirational speeches, it’s notable that during one of them he’s flattened against the wall by an opening door.

Instead of lessons, we mostly get nonsense. Animal in anger management. Chris Cooper, as the evil developer, breaking into a gangster rap. Chickens doing a dance routine to a Cee Lo Green song (we can only assume it’s called “Cluck You”). Yes, occasionally, incidentally, a lesson is learned. As Walter tells Gonzo at one point, “When I was a kid and saw you recite ‘Hamlet’ while jumping your motorbike through a flaming hoop, it, well, it made me feel like I could do anything.”

The holiness of this nonsense – the spiritual joy it brings – can be difficult to quantify. As Frederick Buechner wrote in “The Hungering Dark,” “Joy is a mystery because it can happen anywhere, anytime, even under the most unpromising circumstances, even in the midst of suffering, with tears in its eyes.” I happened to see “The Muppets” a few hours after attending a wake, one marking a particularly unexpected and senseless death. If we have such nonsensical grief in our lives, doesn’t it stand that God provides nonsensical joy as a counter? A time to weep, and a time to laugh? Holy nonsense blows on the fading embers of our soul, bringing it back to glowing life.

That’s not to say this nonsense is only palliative. It also points to the world of which we live in hope, a restored creation where brokenness, strife and grief are nowhere to be found. In their place, filling that welcome vacuum, there surely will be room for the silly alongside praise for the sublime.

We’re far afield from the Muppets now, but maybe not so far as it might seem. “As long as there are singing frogs and joking bears,” Walter says at one point, “the world can’t be such a bad place after all.” There’s more to it, of course – much more – but the holy nonsense of the Muppets is a very good start.
_________________

Josh Larsen is editor of http://www.ThinkChristian.net, where this review originally appeared. He also writes about movies at http://www.LarsenOnFilm.com and at Facebook.com/larsenonfilm.

WHAT IS OUR GENERATIONS GREATEST STUMBLING BLOCK?

From the always insightful and thought-provoking blog She Worships comes a compelling question. We re-post it today for your response.  Steve will had his own reflection in a couple of days.

What is Our Generation’s Stumbling Block?

This week I was researching a topic for work when I discovered an interesting tidbit of church history. Apparently, birthdays used to be a big deal for Christians, and not in a good way. Early in the church’s history, birthday celebrations–particularly those of emperors or kings–were associated with pagan culture and were consequently condemned.

For instance, early church theologian Origen (ca. 185-254 ca.) wrote rather scathingly,

Indeed one of our predecessors has observed that the birthday of Pharaoh is recorded in Genesis and recounts that it is the wicked man who, being in love with the affairs of birth and becoming, celebrates his birthday. But we, taking our cure from that interpreter, discover that nowhere in the scriptures is a birthday celebrated by a righteous person.

At that time, Roman society was big on birthdays. You might even remember that John the Baptist was beheaded in celebration of Herod’s birthday (Matt. 14). The early Christians therefore rejected this practice as a sign of distinction from the surrounding pagan culture. As a result, Christians did not formally observe Christmas for the first 300 years of the church’s existence.

Today, the rejection of birthday celebrations sounds rather silly. Few of us have a lot of theological stock invested in this practice. However, this type of historical eccentricity is not uncommon. Throughout the history of the church, each generation has grappled with issues that were pressing at the time, but became less central or even marginal by subsequent generations.

For another example, consider Christian music today. There are more Christian recording artists than I can count, and worship pastors frequently lead with songs they have written themselves. The present-day church is producing new music every day.

But it has not always been so. Isaac Watts, who famously wrote “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” and “Joy to the World” created quite the scandal with his hymn writing. Born in 1674, Watts lived at a time when the only acceptable hymns came directly from Biblical poetry. Watts bucked this tradition by writing “original music,” a decision that invited tremendous criticism and character attacks. His music was described as “flights of fancy” and “Watts’ whims.” He was accused of arrogance, and his introduction of this new hymn tradition resulted in church debate and division. Today, we take this practice for granted.

For a final example, consider re-baptism. I have heard countless evangelical pastors encourage church members to get baptized on the grounds that the first one wasn’t “meaningful” or “you didn’t really know what you believed at the time” or “you did it for the wrong reasons.” Plenty of modern day Christians would be shocked by this language (in fact, I myself profoundly disagree with the theology behind those statements) but our disagreement is nothing compared to the horror such words would have elicited in the Protestant Reformers.

In his work “Concerning Rebaptism,” Martin Luther decried the above reasons for re-baptism as “godless and hypocritical” because they place greater emphasis on personal faith than on the free grace of God. On the grounds that re-baptism was the equivalent of re-crucifying Christ, many Anabaptists (which means “baptize again”) were executed for their beliefs.

Although baptism, as a central component of the Christian faith, is of far greater importance than birthdays or hymns, I think we can all agree that the Reformers’ response to re-baptism was, in the most extreme cases, wrong. No matter how much I may disagree with another Christian about their views on baptism, I am not prepared to kill them over it.

As you can see, it is easy for a generation to lose perspective. Whether the issue is small or large, our circumstances can magnify a problem in such a way that we cannot grasp its true perspective. Learning this lesson from church history, we do well to remember that spiritual stumbling blocks come in all shapes and sizes. They are not limited to sinful temptations. A theological truth can just as easily become a stumbling block as money or sex.

The church’s track record should humble us. It should also press us to wonder about our own generation’s theological stumbling blocks. What current debate will cause later Christians to snicker or grieve? What are our greatest theological or missional blind spots?

While I have my own suspicions, I also wonder how I can ever be sure. Either way, I think the very asking of these questions is bound to shape us in edifying ways.

RENDER UNTO CAESAR

This is a great post from THE RESURGENCE, the blog of Mars Hill Church (Mark Driscoll).  Matt Wilson gives us some important food for thought. – Steve

Render Unto Caesar: In All Things Charity

Matt Johnson » Church Worldviews Ethics Culture

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. (Colossians 1:15–16)

We are to lift up the name of Jesus, proclaim his kingdom and call all people to repentance and life under his gracious rule.

Mrs. Manners and dinner party conversation

Mrs. Manners 101: politics and religion are not polite topics of conversation in mixed company. At the church I attend (Mars Hill Church in Seattle), politics are curiously absent from conversation. But it’s not as if our community is shy about controversial topics. No, the lack of political talk doesn’t have anything to do with fear of killing the dinner party vibe but everything to do with identity and calling. The church exists to lift up the name of King Jesus and to call all people to live under his gracious rule. All other causes—including Chevy versus Ford, Coke versus Pepsi, and political party endorsement—will always be secondary to the cause of the gospel.

In all things charity

Augustine’s oft-quoted maxim, “in essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity,” is a wise stance to take as Christians in political discourse and practice. My church favors expository preaching, or studying entire books of the Bible in a series. When a loaded political subject arises—such as the sanctity of life or the biblical definition of marriage—you can be sure these issues are addressed biblically and unapologetically. However, there are things that Christians can disagree on. These issues go in the open hand where debate between brothers and sisters is encouraged. Then there are other issues, such as the abovementioned, that the Bible is very clear regarding. These are non-negotiable, closed-handed issues.

An IRS worker and an anarchist

Only Jesus could draw to himself a ragtag bunch of disciples that included a political zealot bent on seeing the overthrow of Roman rule (Simon) and a tax collector (Matthew) and bring them together for the singular cause of the Kingdom. Think about it. This pairing is the modern equivalent of a buttoned-down IRS worker and a black hooded sweatshirt-wearing anarchist sporting a bandana over the face. There isn’t a single cause or organization I can think of that could rally people of such disparate walks of life except the church. We all have tribes we run in. And each tribe has distinct rallying points. For the music fanatic, it’s their favorite band. For the activist, it’s The Cause. For the academic, it’s a favorite thinker or social experiment. But for the Christian, it’s Jesus.

Jesus rules over all.

Not choosing teams: the prophetic edge

My hope is that party-line endorsement and pet causes are secondary issues in your church community. Jesus rules over all, and no one earthly political party or “ism” has all the answers. From this vantage point the preacher has a prophetic word for everyone no matter what the affiliation. Republican, Democrat, Radical, Moderate, Independent or Undecided—none are off the hook from receiving the righteous judgment of the prophetic Word. Your party affiliation does not equal your justification. 

Civic, not political

Fostering a politically uncommitted church isn’t really the point. Civic engagement should always be encouraged. This most definitely has a political component, but in a secondary way. Because we love our cities, we seek the welfare of the city, and in turn we serve civic causes (Jeremiah 29:7). As an example, there are many in Mars Hill leadership that encourage, and participate in, civic engagement through neighborhood cleanups, partnering in business associations and neighborhood chambers of commerce. And we have encouraged community groups to apply for micro mission grants so that they can bless their neighborhoods. These are just a few examples of how the various ministries around Mars Hill are encouraged to give time and energy to civic causes for the good of the city.

Vote and serve with conviction

It is a blessing to live in a democratic society like America. We have freedoms and opportunities many do not—namely, the opportunity to participate in democracy, to influence public policy and to help direct social change as we engage the culture and back politicians we agree with. In addition, some Christians are called into the public square to run for various offices, and we thank God for their service and pray they remain faithful to both their work and faith. But we must remember to never confuse our role as the church. We are to lift up the name of Jesus, proclaim his kingdom and call all people to repentance and life under his gracious rule. Amen.

GIVING UP YOUR PERSONAL RIGHTS FOR THE GOSPEL

What is more important to you: your personal, spiritual, and ministry rights, or the integrity and advancement of the gospel of Jesus Christ?
Don’t be too quick to say it’s the gospel.

Over several decades in ministry, I’ve discovered there are not as many Christians and church leaders as you might think who walk the walk when it comes to laying aside their legitimate human and spiritual rights for the sake of the gospel. Yes, many pastors preach it on Sundays, but how they live is often quite different. It’s the fruit of the “professionalism” of Christian leadership.
A question dating back to Paul

This was the primary question facing Paul—would he fight for his personal and spiritual rights, or would he choose to lay them down for the integrity and advancement of the gospel? Paul’s answer, found in 1 Corinthians 9, is “yes,” and he lived it out in his ministry.

The primary issue facing Paul in 1 Corinthians 9 was that certain church leaders in the city of Corinth were questioning, accusing, and opposing Paul (1 Corinthians 9:3). How could these latecomers to church leadership question Paul? They apparently wanted to build themselves up in Corinth by undercutting Paul. Paul said he would rather die than get robbed of his ability and grounds to boast in Christ.

Paul spends a good part of this chapter emphasizing that he’s free in Christ (9:1), that the risen Christ had commissioned him as an apostle on the Damascus road (9:1), he was the founding apostle of the Corinthian church (9:2), and he also provides a rather long list of personal and spiritual leadership rights that were his. In other words, he had authoritative rights! Paul had the “right” to confront, attack, and start a huge fight with these would-be leaders, and he would have likely won with no problems. How dare anyone question Paul’s apostolic calling and credentials! After all, he has rights! He could have decided to take a strong stubborn stand in defense of his personal rights, blow up the church in Corinth, and leave it in ashes. But this is not how Paul responded.
Paul’s primary concern

His primary concern was not his personal reputation or rights, but the reputation, integrity, and advancement of the gospel of Christ.

From The Resurgence read more

CONSUMERS OR DISCIPLES

One of the great challenges to authentic disciple-making today is the consumer mentality of our culture.  It is a mentality that has shaped much church strategy and leadership thinking. It often reduces evangelism to simply church marketing.  Alan Hirsch has some important things to say about this troubling dynamic.