“Sit Back, Relax and Enjoy the Service” May Be Killing Your Church

Karl  Vaters has some highly provocative and probing thoughts on our approach to “church” and getting people to attend our weekend worship gatherings. – STEVE

Sit back, relax and enjoy the service” may be one of the most dangerous sentences ever uttered in church.

It sits on the Bad Idea shelf next to “Let’s erect a building and tell people they have to come here if they want to worship Jesus.”

I expect promises of great customer service in a restaurant, on an airplane, or in a movie theater. But the idea that church is a place where we pay others to do ministry as we sit passively, consuming and passing judgment on the product being offered, may be the greatest single reason for the anemia of the modern, western church.

The church is not a customer service business. We’re a community for life transformation. We do not exist to serve passive consumers, but to equip and activate disciples.

But, like the monkey stubbornly clinging to the apple inside the cage, we’ll never free ourselves to be biblically active communities for life-transformation until church leaders let go of our  please-the-consumer mindset.

Let’s Stop the Bait-and-Switch

It’s bait-and-switch to tell church-goers that we’re here to serve them, only to teach them a few months later, when they attend the membership class that – surprise! – you’re not supposed to be a consumer after all. You’re here to do the work of ministry.

And then we wonder why they don’t step up and help out more often. It would be like going to Starbucks until you achieved Gold Card status, only to get handed, not just a Gold Card, but a green apron, too. On a volunteer basis, no less.

Bait-and-switch doesn’t create passionate, worshipful, loving disciples. It creates angry, confused and resentful religion-shoppers.

Change “Sit and Watch” To “Come and Participate”

Years ago, I realized that this was a problem for our church, so we stopped offering sit-and-watch events as our church’s main front door experience.

Simply put, we don’t waste our time and money on religious stage shows to entice non-believers to come to church any more. Instead, we invite them to spend time with us as we live life together. 

For instance, twice a year we have an event we call Share Day, in which the entire church body divides into work groups after church on Sunday to serve together on various community service projects. On most Share Days, we have participants that have never attended the church before, because we’ve invited them to help out.

When we fill up Christmas bags to bring to needy children in Mexico, we offer empty bags to our unchurched friends, neighbors and preschool families to fill up. And they do!

Even on Christmas Eve, we have a pre-service time when families can get together to make ornaments, decorate cookies and take a Christmas photo together while snacking on goodies and warming up with hot apple cider. Why? This may be the only time a lot of people – especially visiting family members – will visit a church this year, so we give them a chance to interact, not just sit and be talked to.

When community service and/or interactive fellowship is someone’s first experience with a church body, it sets an important precedent. They know right up front that this is what church is all about. It’s where we live life together in service to God and as a blessing to others.

People Want to Worship, Connect and Give

The church was never meant to be a religious stage show..

And, let’s face it, even if it was, Small Churches don’t have the resources to put on as good a show as our big church counterparts. Oh, who are we kidding? Even megachurches can’t compete with the quality of entertainment people can access 24/7 from the phone in their pocket.

But we can be great at worship, community and generosity.

When someone decides to get out of bed on Sunday morning to go to church for the first time – or for the first time in a long time – they’re not doing it because they don’t have other entertainment options. They’re doing it to meet a need they may not even fully realize yet.

They want to connect. With God and with us.

A great, interactive Small Church may be the best place on earth to do that.

FOR MORE KARL VATERS

DOES THE CHURCH HAVE A FALSE VIEW OF SELF?

Charles Blake is THE CHURCH WHISPERER.  This recent blog post provides some important commentary worthy of reflection. – STEVE

 

BY CHARLES BLAKE


The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.  1 Timothy 1:15-16

Does it matter whether or not Paul was in fact the “foremost sinner” before coming to Christ? Or, is the more important point that he perceived himself as such? Yeh, I think so too. It is the self-perception on this issue which matters most.

I think  two of the biggest problems for most Christ-followers today is (1) having a false sense of who God is, and (2) having a false sense of who we are without him. The gospel is difficult in the American culture because there are so many in this culture who, frankly, do not feel the need for a savior.  What’s worse, the church has become less effective as those of us in the church have tended to forget for ourselves just how desperately we need a savior. Still.

Churches, you see, can have a false sense of self just as well as individuals…we can actually stop remembering who we are without God. We can get so wrapped up in “doing church” that we lose sight of what matters most. Specifically, here are five ways I have seen us have a false sense of self…here are some lies we sometimes believe about our church:

1. We’re better because our music/preaching/buildings/programming/resources are better. Truth is, we are probably not better at all. But IF we are better, it is only because of the work of the Spirit among us. All the stuff we do…is just stuff. With Jesus, the church has all it needs. Without Jesus, we can do nothing.

2. Our numbers prove that we’re successful and making a difference. Our numbers prove we are reaching people, and that’s a good thing. But our numbers do not tell us anything at all about spiritual transformation or changed lives. Without those, we are accomplishing very little.

3. We are a missional church and should be focused outside the church, not on relationships within the church. According to Jesus in John 17, missions outside the church DEPEND UPON relationships within the church.

4. We’re efficient, doing more and more ministry with fewer and fewer people. What do you think is more valuable to the kingdom…having a broader ministry reach or involving more of our people in real ministry? Think about it.

5. The current absence of any unhealthy conflict in our church proves that we have unity. Wrong. It proves we are currently between issues. And that’s it. Unity has to do with the quality and transparency of our relationships with each other, with conflict or without it.

When Paul refers to himself as the foremost among sinners, he is simply recognizing who he really is without Christ. In desperate need of a savior. It is a healthy self-awareness. Let’s help our church have that same level of reality when we look in the mirror. It will do us good.

© Blake Coffee
Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. For web posting, a link to this document on this website is preferred. Any exceptions to the above must be approved by Blake Coffee.  Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: © Blake Coffee. Website: churchwhisperer.com

IF JESUS PASTORED YOUR CHURCH, YOU’D NEVER GO

Came across this interesting in Crosswalk by Dr. Julie Barrier. Think about it.

 

A scruffy homeless dude pops through the door of the church house with his motley entourage. The trendy thirty-somethings sitting near the aisle gagged at the stench of their sandals reeking of foot odor.

Honestly, is this the new pastoral candidate? And who is his crew? They weren’t invited! The parking lot attendants were already upset. The fig trees shading the front door were a little scraggly, but one word from the new guy and they curled up and withered. Instantly. This man was a wizard.

He strode confidently to the front, set the pulpit aside, and sat down. Nina Smothers spent hard-earned cash for that wooden lectern in honor of her dead, departed hubby Harold. She dashed out of the sanctuary in a huff. With great authority, this Jesus asked all of the wealthy elders to stand. These guys were the cream of the crop. They never missed a Sunday, lived exemplary lives and were model husbands and fathers. He commended them for their efforts.

Here’s the kicker! Jesus asked them to withdraw all of their savings, cash in their 401K’s, stocks and bonds. Porsches and BMW’s must be returned to the dealership and their pricey suburban homes listed immediately. Everything must go. (Sounds like a “going out of business” sale…) Finally, He challenged them to turn over their net worth to the World Vision fund to help dying widows and orphans in Bangladesh. This tight-knit group of top-shelf leaders shook their heads, grabbed their stylish children and sadly left the room.

The crowd was definitely thinning.

Finally Jesus delivered His “sugar-stick” sermon from Luke 8:5-15. The remaining congregation perked up their little ears. Francis Chan described Jesus’ words in this way: Jesus started His sermon by saying, “Gee, it’s great you all came…be sure and bring a friend next week!” Not. He told an enigmatic tale about sowers, seed, paths, rocks, thorns and good soil. “He who has ears, let Him hear.” Then He retired to the front row. Even His band of brothers scratched their heads. Peter piped up, “What a weird story! What was that all about?” Jesus’ cryptic answer still confounded His boys. “To you it’s been given to know. I speak in parables-seeing they may not see, hearing they may not understand.” The natives were getting restless. Pew-huggers in the back slinked out when Christ was not looking. Jesus whispered, “I’m not going to spend my ministry watering rocks or fertilizing thorns!”

Now here’s the conundrum. Luke 14:25 tells us great crowds accompanied Him. This place was a mega-church. Big video screens, screamin’ band, cushy seats and a coffee bar out front. Why would Christ blow this amazing opportunity?

Christ stood to offer the invitation. “If anyone comes to me and doesn’t love me more than Father, Mother, even his own life, he can’t follow me.” (Matthew 10:37-39) Jesus continued,  “Are you really sure you should be here? Hate your father, wife…leave them all for me. Count the cost. I’m telling you about the cost of following me up front. Pick up a cross and come and die.” The silence in the church was palpable. Instead of an emotional invitation with crowds streaming to the front, there was a massive exodus through the back door. One kid filmed the fuming mob’s departure on his smart phone and uploaded it to YouTube. Two million hits.

The smelly twelve were left. Jesus mumbled, with great sadness in His voice, “You’re not going to stick around either, are you?” (John 6:67)

Peter piped up, “Where else shall we go? You’ve got the truth, the living words.”

The offering was non-existent. No money was raised for the offsite campus with the video feed. In fact, if we were true to Scripture, Jesus would have whipped the ushers, turned over the offering plates and screamed that this was “God’s house of prayer.” However, the ushers and the rest of the comfortable Christians split a long time ago. The scraggly teacher never made it past His first Sunday. He was fired on the spot. An Abercrombie model with killer people skills took His place.

Francis Chan ended his sermon on this subject with this compelling statement. “Are we obeying the most obvious truths of Scripture? I want to be real salt, good soil…the real deal. Be intimate with Jesus. Love Him enough to take up your cross no matter what!”

If Jesus were the pastor of your church, would you go?

This article was inspired by Francis Chan’s compelling sermon “If Jesus Were the Pastor of Your Church, You Probably Wouldn’t Go.”  

 

THE CHURCH–WHAT IS AND WHAT COULD BE

The church gets a bad rap these days, and it is important to explore this issue.  Scot McKnight has some excellent insights based on his study of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. – STEVE

Do you love the church for what it could be or what it is? If the former, I suggest you read Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s magisterial little book, Life Together. It is, so I think, his best book. No need, however, to debate what is neither provable nor non-falsifiable — what one thinks is his best book another will not.

What is worth discussing is his incredible set of statements about the expectations we bring to the church and that we expect of the church and how our expectations, when they encounter the realities, are dashed to the ground.

What is worth discussing is that until we realize that the eucharist table is at the front of the church under the cross — because those who come into the fellowship and “cracked Eikons” and in need of grace and healing – we will not comprehend what the church is.

Leaving the church because it does not meet our expectations is failing to understand what a church is; we have a church because we have failed to meet God’s expectations. Failed expectations, then, are the foundation of the church and the reason for its existence.

Leaving the church because it does not meet our expectations is to create a church for ourselves. It is, if I may be so bold, idolatry.

Many enter into ministry with the ambition to make a church what they think it could be instead of what it is.

Until we understand what the church is — a fellowship of sinners at different locations in a journey — we will not understand what the church could be and can be. No two Christians are perfectly compatible — in theology or praxis — and therefore there will be tension in the church, which is precisely where we need to begin to see what the church is. Not a fellowship of those who agree or who are alike but a fellowship of those who don’t agree and who are not alike. When we demand the church be like us, or like our vision for what it is, or we leave, we create our own church — and eventually (if we have the guts) we start a church that begins the same old process of a fellowship of those agree who eventually become those who disagree and who split. Bonhoeffer still speaks.

In my classes at Northern Seminary I routinely allude to Life Together. Here are my favorite lines, lines that follow on from his important claim that Christian fellowship is “through” and “in” Jesus Christ:

This dismisses at the outset every unhappy desire for something more. Those who want more than what Christ has established between us do not want Christian community. They are looking for some extraordinary experiences of community… Such people are bringing confused and tainted desires into the Christian community. Precisely at this point Christian community is most often threatened from the very outset by the greatest danger … the danger of confusing Christian community with some wishful image of pious community, the danger of blending the devout heart’s natural desire for community with the spiritual reality of Christian community.

Now hear this:

Only that community which enters into the experience of this great disillusionment with all its unpleasant and evil appearances begins to be what it is should be in God’s sight, begins to grasp in faith the promise that is given to it.

And this:

Those who love their dream of a Christian community more than the Christian community itself become destroyers of that Christian community even though their personal intentions may be ever so honest, earnest, and sacrificial.

Those who dream of this idealized community demand that it be fulfilled by God, by others, and by themselves.t

MAYBE CHURCH IS ABOUT MORE THAN WE SEE

Reposting an article that needs to be part of the dialogue about the nature and fruitfulness of the church today-Steve

BY NATE PYLE

I’ve tried hard not to write about this. Really hard. I don’t want to be the guy that has to weigh in on every controversy that erupts in evangelical culture. And yet, when Donald Miller wrote about not attending church and “graduating” from traditional church, it generated a lot of angst in me. My frustrations come, not because I don’t understand his point, but because I relate a lot to his feelings about traditional church. I am somewhat of a reluctant pastor who passionately loves serving the church. What I mean by that is, it was never my intention to be a pastor, and when I got fired from my first church job, I wanted to walk away from the church.

But I couldn’t. As much as I wanted to, I couldn’t.

I love the church, and I believe a lot of what we see on the surface of church isn’t necessary to the Christian faith. But that doesn’t mean we should throw it out. Church, as with most spiritual things, has the surface thing we see, and then there is the thing behind the thing. If all we see is the music and the lectures and the frustrated parents who spent the morning wrangling kids into clothes to get them to church on time, then we have to wonder if it is worth it.

If all I’m doing is giving a lecture I don’t want to do it. For one, I’m not that good of a lecturer. Two, there are a lot of others who are better than me. Thousands of podcasts and sermons are available online, most of which are probably better than me. If you want a lecture, listen to Tim Keller. He’s better at it than me.

If all I’m doing is giving a lecture then I am wasting my time. A good portion of my week is spent studying the Bible, reading commentaries and theological books, praying, and writing all in preparation of giving a good lecture on Sunday mornings. But if I’m just giving a lecture, then all that is pointless. Seriously. Because 90% or more of what I say on a Sunday is already known by those sitting in the congregation. And an even higher percentage is forgotten by Tuesday.

If all we are doing is singing songs, then we should stop immediately. Immediately. Because it is weird. No where else in American society do adults gather in a large room to sing songs together. You could argue it happens at a concert, but people don’t gather to sing songs, they gather to hear a band or singer. The closest you could find is a karaoke bar. Which is weird for other reasons. If church is just a Sunday morning karaoke bar, then we should stop. Now.

If all we are doing is putting on a concert, then lets admit there are a lot of better concerts out there. And while we are at it, let’s also admit that no one likes a concert at 9 a.m. on a Sunday morning.

If all we are doing is gathering once a week for community, then we don’t understand community. Being in the same room with the same group of people for an hour a week and then spending fifteen minutes chatting over cheap coffee doesn’t constitute community. The old guys who meet at the same diner for breakfast on Fridays have better community than we do.

If all we are doing is lifting a cup of grape juice and dipping some tiny squares of cheap, crustless white bread while standing over a heavy oak table, then we serve the worst appetizers ever.

If all we are doing is singing songs and listening to lectures, then to hell with it. Because that’s not enough.

But maybe that’s not all we are doing. Maybe I am not just studying the Bible and commentaries and theological works to prepare a lecture. Maybe I am entering into the presence of God, on behalf of the people of God, to deliver the word of God.

Maybe it isn’t just a lecture, but a submissive act of subverting the narrative imposed upon the people of God six days a week by orienting and reorienting ourselves around a narrative of grace.

Maybe we aren’t just singing songs, but maybe people who are vastly different than one another – mothers and father, young and old, men and women, black and white, widows and widowers, rich and poor – are joining their many voices into one voice and declaring something together.

Maybe we aren’t just lifting a cup with cheap grape juice into the air while we recite some words. Maybe we are acting as hosts to the Table of God, where the presence of God rests uniquely as it invites people to a space of grace and equality.

Maybe we aren’t just coming together to find community. Maybe we are involved in an embodied, liturgical rhythm that informs our lives about what we value. Maybe the act of getting up, dressed, moving, coming together, isn’t about community, but is about liturgy. It shapes us. It involves us. It reminds us. Even the most contemporary non-liturgical churches requires the liturgy of coming together.

Maybe we aren’t gathering in tribes, but we are gathering in a local place to remember that as we gather, all tribes gather and will one days sing together with one voice to the one Lord.

Because if it is about that, then I want to be a part of it. Even if it is boring and difficult and maddening and uncomfortable. Because the thing we see on the surface is connected to what’s behind it. And what’s behind it is beautiful and rich and wonderful and mysterious and inspiring.

If church is about all that, then I’m all in.
– See more at: http://natepyle.com/maybe-church-is-about-more-than-what-we-see/#sthash.vXRlW5RA.dpuf

GOD, APPLEBEES, TIPS … AND MISGUIDED CHRISTIANS

This comes from the blog PROVOCATIVE CHRISTIAN LIVING by Don Lachich.  All I can say is “Amen.” – Steve

 Once again under the category of Stupid Things Christians Do, we have the story of a pastor complained about a tip for an Applebee’s waitress. And of course the story went viral which is what prompted this post. When the bill arrived it included an automatic tip for 18% due to the size of the party. The pastor wrote a note on the receipt saying, “I give God 10% why should you get 18″, then wrote zero in the additional tip line. Originally I thought she scratched out the 18% and gave nothing. Thanks to a reader who pointed out the error I was corrected. But that still left me thinking that the pastors response was just not the kind of story and behavior we want to connect with followers of Jesus.

Sadly, when you have a few billion people on the planet who call themselves Christians, there are going to be regular examples of people who embarrass the rest of us and give fuel to anyone who wants to attack, God, religion, or religious people. I am guilty of this myself on occasion. When I first heard this story I thought, no, can’t be. No pastor would be that short-sighted. Surely this is an atheist posing as a pastor in order to create a story, please let it be so. No such luck. It turns out an actual pastor of an actual church is the guilty party. We know this because she complained to the restaurant manager that the waitress violated her privacy by posting a picture of the offending note on the web. Now the pastor and her church are getting their fifteen minutes of infamy.

It was bad enough that the pastor in question complained to the waitress in writing and pulled God into the fiasco. Then she compounds it by protesting that the waitress is the one behaving badly. Because of her complaint the waitress was fired! She lost her job because a pastor who acted badly in the first place complained that she was caught. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? (sorry, I had to scream at that point before my head exploded)

Here’s the deal. I understand that you may find the automatic tip of 18% to be a bit cheeky. But that is no reason to bring God into it. He is happy with the 10% He asks for and seems to have no problem with people being blessed with a bigger percentage. When the standard tip in the USA was 15% I never heard God complain about that. In fact as I read Scripture I am fairly certain you can make the case that God would love it if we gave all we have to people who are poor, or in need.

Second, we are told to love others as we want to be loved. Seems obvious to me that no one wants to be loved by receiving a note like that about how much someone loves God instead of you. Jesus gives us the Great Commandment to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and then adds that loving our neighbor as ourselves is just as important. He makes the two go hand in hand. It’s like what Sinatra said about love and marriage going together like a horse and carriage, “you can’t have one without the other”. So waitress stiffing pastor who claims such a love for God that you tithe, God is not impressed. You didn’t love your neighbor and tried to justify it by your love for God. That just doesn’t fly with The Almighty.

Jesus dealt with some religious leaders who claimed they couldn’t help their needy parents because they dedicated the money to God. He rebuked them soundly. I think He wanted to smite them as well but thought better of it. The point being, people have been using God as an excuse for sometime in order to not give to the needs of fellow human beings. God wasn’t buying it then and He isn’t now.

If anything, Christians, especially pastors, should be known as big tippers, givers to all in need, people who hold their resources in open hands for others to share. After all, those resources come from God for the purpose of meeting our needs AND blessing others. At Northland Church, one of the seven responses we think we need to make to God, based on who He is and what He has done for us, is to Live Generously. That means to give freely of our time, talent, and treasure to anyone in need, for the glory of God. After all, God so loved us that He generously gave His only son to die on a cross, be risen again, and ascended into Heaven, so we might have eternal life. Surely we can give a little bigger tip to someone who has served us in this life. Love your neighbor as yourself. It is that simple and clear.

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.

THE REAL EVANGELICAL DISASTER

I am an evangelical Christian. Unfortunately because so many Christians have abandoned authentic discipleship and think of the Great Commission as a marketing tool, I feel compelled to use the adjective. I am also a life-long Republican who found both candidates being offered by the major parties to be persons with whose values I was at odds. I found Rachel Evans blog about THE REAL EVANGELICAL DISASTER to be right on (and no, I do not agree with every theological or social position that she holds) and believe her thoughts grow from a deep concern for the most important thing that matters – “faith expressing itself in love.” (By the way, this is not a quote from Rob Bell–it is from Paul, formerly Saul of Tarsus – Galatians 5.6) – STEVE DUNN

The Real ‘Evangelical Disaster’

When Republican Governor Mitt Romney lost the presidential election earlier this month to incumbent Barack Obama, Al Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary classified the election as “an evangelical disaster.”

Concerned also by state measures legalizing gay marriage, Mohler said that, aside from the 79 percent of white evangelicals who voted as they should, the “[evangelical] message was rejected by millions of Americans who went to the polls and voted according to a contrary worldview.”

“If we do not become the movement of younger Americans and Hispanic Americans and any number of other Americans, then we will just become a retirement community,” he told NPR. “And that cannot, that cannot, serve the cause of Christ.”

As a young evangelical myself, I confess I have grown tired…no, weary…of responding to comments like these with some honest suggestions for how my fellow evangelicals might avoid said retirement, only to be discounted and disparaged for believing the earth is more than 6,000 years old, for voting for Democrats from time to time, and for daring to serve communion to gays and lesbians. The fact that I can affirm the Nicene and Apostle’s creeds, that I am an imperfect but devoted follower of Jesus Christ, that I am passionate about spreading the gospel, and I believe the Bible is the inspired and authoritative Word of God, and still my evangelical credentials are constantly being questioned and debated reveals just how narrow evangelicalism has become.

The word evangelical means, in the Greek, “gospel” or “good news” (evangelion). And so an evangelical, in the most basic sense of the word, is simply someone who is committed to spreading the good news that Christ has died, Christ has risen and Christ will come again. There are plenty of Hispanics, plenty of young people, plenty of African Americans, plenty of Republicans, plenty of Democrats, and plenty of people around the world who believe this to be true, and yet Mohler will not be satisfied until American evangelicals become a monolithic and reliable voting bloc that keeps his preferred politicians in power.

This, I believe, is the real evangelical disaster—not that Barack Obama is president and Mitt Romney is not, but that evangelicalism has gotten so enmeshed with politics, its success or failure can be gauged by an election.

It’s this idea the “cause of Christ” is to vote against gay marriage and for tax cuts, and that the hope of evangelicals lies in election day returns. It’s this idea that a Christian worldview is something we can vote for because it fits on a ballot.

When I tell a reporter or a new acquaintance that I am an evangelical, inevitably the person will respond, “Oh, so you are a Republican?” Sadly, evangelicalism has ceased to represent the Kingdom of God, which transcends all political parties and national allegiances, and has come to represent kingdoms of this world. And so the strengths and weakness of evangelicalism are conflated with the strengths and weaknesses of the Republican Party.
The great evangelical disaster is that evangelicalism has become synonymous with Republicanism rather than the gospel of Jesus Christ.

This happened long before the 2012 presidential election.

It happened when we turned the Bible into a conservative position paper and Jesus into a flag pin.

It happened when Liberty University invited Donald Trump to speak in chapel because devotion to the GOP matters more devotion to the teachings of Jesus .

It happened when we traded the good news that Jesus Christ is Lord to the bad news that our influence in this world is limited to how much power we can grasp.

It happened when we restricted “Christian values” to one or two social issues while leaving others out.

So I will try one last time.

Want to win young people back to evangelicalism?

Then start preaching the Gospel again.

Start preaching the gospel that Jesus Christ is Lord and Caesar is not.

Start preaching the gospel that drew both tax collectors and zealots—political enemies— to Jesus’ side.

Start preaching the gospel that God so loved the world that God became flesh and lived among us, taught among us, loved among us, died among us, and rose again among us.

Start preaching the gospel that through Jesus, we find reconciliation with God and with one another.

Start preaching the gospel that they will know we are Christians by our love—not by our votes, not by our protest signs, not by our power, not by our campaign contributions—but by our love.

But fair warning: If you start preaching this gospel—this gospel of reconciliation and peace—you will attract more than just Republicans. You will attract people of all backgrounds and races, political persuasions and theological preferences. You will attract rich and poor, slave and free, male and female. You will attract people like me who are concerned about defending not only the unborn, but also the poor, the sick, the immigrant, and the war-torn. You will attract people like me who love Jesus but know that no single vote, no single political party, can represent my values in their totality or bring the kingdom of God to pass.

If we start preaching the gospel again, we will have to get used to ethnic, theological, and political diversity because we will share our lives with people whose ultimate allegiance lies with something greater than a political party, greater than a ballot measure, greater even than the highest office in the world.

We will share our lives with citizens of the Kingdom of God.

We will be evangelists, bearers of good news.

And no matter what happens in the halls of power, we will never be part of a disaster. Instead, we will be part of a stubborn and relentless movement of hope—the kind of hope that can heal the world.

We will be true evangelicals.

IT’S JUST THE GRAND CANYON

Love this post from PC Walker – Steve

It’s just the Grand Canyon

What do we do when God seems distant and hard to see? There are those times when God seems so difficult to know. I find encouragement in Romans 1 verse 20.

“His eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made.”

We are able to see God in the things he has made. If we would take more time to notice these things we would come to see him and know him more clearly.

We would stand at the lip of the Grand Canyon unaffected.  A huge problem is that we have lost all wonder.  Nothing amazes us anymore.  We grow more and more numb to the amazing!  We forget how powerful God really is because none of these things amaze us anymore.

Remember being scared to death of a thunderstorm?  Remember when the Grand Canyon WAS amazing before seeing it in a million pictures?  We lose all the wonder when trees, natural running streams and crashing waves, enormous mountains are no big deal to us.  We see them every day, in pictures or as we walk outside.  But we forget the amazing things we learned in elementary school; about how trees grow, the details about how waves are created.  We forget all those things because we learn it and are no longer amazed.

We do our ability to praise a disservice!  We do God a disservice when we are no longer amazed by these things.  Praise is our amazement expressed!  The problem is that we simply are not amazed.

 

I’M A CHRISTIAN BUT I DON’T GO TO CHURCH

Phil D is a blogger who publishes THE UNKNOWN.  From his archives from August 2010 comes this thoughtful post.

 

I’m a Christian but I don’t go to church…

This is a frequent statement from Christians who don’t want to be part of that ‘crowd’ that they see in the media. You know, the ones who picket funerals and scream out God’s condemnation on everyone. There are so many testimonies of people who have left Christianity because of the church and there are many people who call themselves Christians but don’t go to church. Though I agree, Christians can be annoying, there is quite a lot to be said for the church biblically and spiritually, as well as emotionally and socially. If you agree with the title, please read on and feel free to comment if you disagree with this post. I would love to have a discussion about it.

What is church?
Before we go into any sort of discussion, I want to define church as I see it biblically. Church is a community of Christians coming together in the presence of God (Matthew 18:20, Acts 2:42-47), focused on Christ (1 Corinthians 4, Colossians 1:15-23), worshipping (1 Corinthians 14:26), teaching (2 Timothy 4:1-2), discussing and learning, challenging (1 Corinthians 5) and allowing the Holy Spirit to work which can open the church up to spiritual gifts such as prophecy, healing and speaking in tongues (1 Corinthians 12). The community of Christians (Church) should also be a place where needs are met, where the widows and orphans are cared for (1 Timothy 5:3-8), where the poor are helped with their needs and people share their belongings without question or expectation of return (Acts 2:42-47, Acts 4:32-37). Divisions within the church should also be dealt with quickly and gracefully (Matthew 18:16-18, 1 Corinthians 1:10-17). Notice there isn’t much in the bible about the building in the bible but more about the people. This gives us a lot of flexibility about how church is done, hence why there are so many different churches around. As long as you have a community of Christians meeting together and seeking, worshipping and learning about Christ then you have a church.

Often this isn’t the case with church and I have many friends who are like me and look at the bible and see a completely different type of church from the ones we often attend. I am fortunate to be part of a family of churches that seek to be biblical in their teaching and in their structure. They don’t always get it right but that is part of being human. Before all else, we need to remember that the church is managed by humans who are seeking Christ, this means there tends to be mistakes. There is no such thing as a perfect church, BUT, the church leadership should be led by Christ (by the Holy Spirit, by prayer and by the bible) and by this, as long as mistakes are learnt from, we can encourage our leaders rather than pull them down. Many churches struggle with an imbalance, many focus too heavily on the miraculous or the blessings (see my post on the prosperity gospel), many focus too much on the social action and others focus just on themselves rather than looking outward. The parts of church you struggle with are probably parts that you are called to help out in, just turn that frustration into a passion to see something change for good.

Why should we be part of a church?

Biblically: As you can see in the previous section there is a lot in the bible about the church. I want to challenge you to read around the links above and find how important the church is to Christ.

Pastorally: Children who grow up on their own without love or care from others tend to grow up angry, distrustful and with other various issues that take years to resolve if they get resolved at all. So it is with young Christians. If a young Christian’s faith does not grow up in a community of varying ages and experiences then it is bound to take on various ideas and issues unchallenged. A lone Christian not only finds it hard to stand up against persecution but also finds it easy to justify anything they want to do because they are their own leader. If you align yourself with a church (remember the definition of church) you are more likely to learn more about who Christ is and more likely to stand firm in your faith without taking on strange ideas unquestioned.

Spiritually: Spending time with other Christians is one of the best ways for your faith to grow. If you are struggling with something in the bible, you have people to ask and find answers. If you are struggling with something personally, you have people to go and seek advice from. If you need prayer, there are people there to lift you up. If you are slacking off on spending time with God, you have people to challenge you. Self-motivation is all well and good, but it is better to be able to share your burdens and your blessings with others.

Socially: In a church you will meet people you never would have met anywhere else, let alone talk to. Immediately you have something in common with people in church and it should be the most welcoming place on earth. Churches are all about the people.


Have you been hurt by the church?
Unfortunately many Christians and non-Christians can look back and find a time where the church has not treated them fairly. Church splits happen and again it is an unfortunate part of having humans involved. It is important, no matter what the church has done, to remember that Christ died for all and because of that forgiveness must be given even if it is not asked for. I am not saying go back to the community that hurt you, but don’t give up on a) all churches and b) Christ.

I don’t like what the church stands for?
Many Christians like to back away from the Christians they see in the media. They like to stay quiet and not align themselves with a church in case they are seen as weird and in case they are insulted by friends. As a Christian you have made a choice that the world sees as foolish (1 Corinthians 3:18-23). You are called as a Christian to live differently from the world and so you must make a stand and it is easier to do so with a good church community around you. Obviously if the church you attend is not handling sensitive subjects with the grace of God then you need to ask questions and seek change in the church, don’t just give up on it.


In conclusion:
Church is an awesome community to be part of. It is an amazing place of friendship and love, a place to seek and learn more about Jesus. Sometimes it goes wrong, but hopefully forgiveness and patience rule out from those mistakes. We don’t need to be legalistic about going to church, but if you truly seek Christ as your saviour and you want to become more of an adult in your faith, church is the place to go. Learn from the Christians that have already been through what you are going through. Meet with other Christians regularly, it doesn’t have to be every Sunday, but make sure you are sharing in worshipping, learning and seeking Christ and seeing how an awesome God can affect the community around you