Yep, just like my earlier post, here is another why-are-they-leaving-the-Church article, which in turn refers to another why-are-they-leaving-the-Church article. Had enough yet? As Jamie says, “The gospel has power. Scripture has power. Everything else is simply window dressing.” Maybe this is oversimplifying but I think we spend way to much time, energy and overall hand-wringing in general on window dressing. We simply need to preach Christ and “…preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles” 1 Corinthians 1:23. A stumbling block and folly to all of us except that we are saved by the Grace of God. We need to earnestly and prayerfully raise our children and show by example, by our behavior, by how we spend our time that we rely on that power of the Gospel and the power of scripture.
“Why Are They Leaving The Church” by Jamie Statema published Aug. 7, 2013 on GoFishGuy.typepad.com
I recently read this article about why kids are leaving the church. I found myself agreeing with a lot of what was said. However, it wasn’t the article itself that prompted me to write this post, it was many of the comments that were posted after it.
Over and over again angry, bitter adults expressed their frustration at the inaccurate teaching they received as children. In a nutshell, they were coddled with a kid-friendly, watered-down version of the gospel. As someone who is passionate about children’s ministry it was heartbreaking to read. However, it also reminded me why we do what we do!
These comments expose a very real problem in children’s ministry and like many of you, we are trying to use our talents and resources to repair it as quickly as possible for the sake of the gospel. Whether you choose to use our resources or not, please keep a few things in mind when you choose what curriculum to teach the children you are responsible for.
- Don’t water down the gospel! It’s easy to leave out tough topics like sin, judgment, and God’s wrath with children. However, when you only teach about God’s love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness you’re giving children half the truth. Jesus made it clear that the world would hate His followers as they hated Him (John 15:18). People who follow Jesus still get cancer, still watch their parents get divorced, and are still subject to ridicule. People, including children, need the bad news in order to appreciate the good news of the gospel. Jesus didn’t sugarcoat the truth and neither should we (Matthew 18). There’s no “easy” way to share the offensiveness of the gospel and if a curriculum company tells you there is…run the other way. Trust the gospel and don’t be ashamed of it. Shoot straight and tell the truth.
- Let Scripture do the work! Why do we replace Scripture with platitudes? Why do we not use Bibles with children? If we do use them, why do we often read a verse or two and spend the rest of the 20 minute lesson doing magic tricks, object lessons, watching cartoons, and playing games? These things are fun…I get it. Children learn by being involved…I get it. I do concerts where we shoot confetti, fire off cryojets, have a live band, dancers, and a big light show…I’m not against entertainment. However, our best attempts to “grab attention” will never change a life like the truth of Scripture. Is it “easy” to teach the Bible to a classroom of wiggly first graders? No. Is it worth the extra work to avoid the comments I read connected to this article? Absolutely. The God who created the universe can surely help children understand His Word by the power of the Holy Spirit. A high view of Scripture leads to a high view of God!
These haven’t always been very popular ideas. However, we have seen what can happen when these changes are implemented. The gospel has power. Scripture has power. Everything else is simply window dressing. The church will stand, and even though I can appreciate articles like the one mentioned for bringing important issues to our attention, I am not fearful for the future of the church. Scripture clearly states that the church will remain strong until the end and hell doesn’t have a prayer of standing against it. This isn’t daycare…this is war. The souls of our children are worth fighting for!
Here is an excellent article from Trevin Wax that struck a chord in my heart. I added some emphasis below where I found are some real gems in his text. I want to quote one gem here: regarding Jesus, Trevin says that he sees “…a King who didn’t hold back anything from His people, and who expects His people to hold back nothing from Him…” See earlier post in my WordPress site, or click here for help in holding nothing back from our Lord and Savior: https://willemdax.wordpress.com/2013/07/19/seven-ways-to-pray-for-your-heart/
by Trevin Wax published Aug 1, 2013 on TheGospelCoalition.org
In a recent column for CNN, Rachel Held Evans offers some thoughts on “why millennials are leaving the church.” Her post struck a chord with readers. She is addressing a perennial topic of conversation among church leaders and church goers: what will happen to the next generation.
Like Rachel, I’m 32 – right on the border of the millennials, and many of the questions and doubts I hear from the millennial generation resonate with me too. But my analysis differs somewhat from Rachel’s.
Rachel thinks millennials are leaving the church due to the perception that evangelicals are
“… too political, too exclusive, old-fashioned, unconcerned with social justice and hostile to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.”
She’s right to decry a vision of Christianity that reduces repentance to a list of do’s and don’ts. I too have noticed that many millennials desire to be involved in mercy ministry and support justice causes. And I couldn’t agree more when she says “we want churches that emphasize an allegiance to the kingdom of God over an allegiance to a single political party or a single nation.”
The Church’s Response
How has the church responded? Rachel sees church leaders trying to update their music or preaching style, and thereby running up against the “highly sensitive BS meters” we millennials have. We’re not fooled by consumerism or performances when churches cater to what they think we want.
“What millennials really want from the church is not a change in style but a change in substance.”
I agree with that sentence for the most part, although I would tweak the last line to say “What millennials really want from the church is substance.” Not a change in substance, necessarily, just substance will do.
Too often, our churches have offered a sanitized, spiritualized version of self-help therapy, and Jesus has been missing. And that’s the problem. Like every generation, she says, “deep down we long for Jesus.”
Here’s where Rachel and I part ways – on what communities following Jesus look like in our culture.
The Biblical Jesus
When I read the Gospels, I’m confronted by a Jesus who explodes our categories of righteousness and sin, repentance and forgiveness, and power and purity.
I meet a Jesus who doesn’t do away with the Law of the Old Testament, but ramps up the demands in order to lead us to Himself – the One who calls us to life-altering repentance and faith.
I see a King who makes utterly exclusive claims, and doesn’t seem to care who is offended.
I see a King who didn’t hold back anything from His people, and who expects His people to hold back nothing from Him.
Is the Church Obsessed with Sex, or is it the Culture?
Following Jesus leaves no part of our life unchanged.
That’s why it strikes me as odd that Rachel sees “obsession with sex” as one of the biggest obstacles for contemporary Christianity to overcome. I visit lots of churches, and I find that sexuality is not a frequently discussed subject from most church platforms or Bible studies. In fact, one could make the case that Christians haven’t talked enough about Jesus’ radical zealousness when it comes to sexuality. The fact that cohabitation, premarital sex and pornography are often overlooked among our congregations betrays the vision of sexuality Jesus put forward – a vision of the sacredness of a man and woman’s covenant for life, one that excludes even lustful thoughts from God’s design.
When it comes to sexual obsession, we ought to take a look at pop culture. One can hardly watch a TV show or a popular movie without being assaulted with sexual innuendos, crude jokes, or overt displays of all kinds of sexuality. Pastors and church leaders go on news talk shows and are badgered about their views of sexuality, as if nothing else matters but that the church join in and celebrate our culture’s embrace of Aphrodite in all her warped splendor.
Challenged to Holiness
Rachel says millennials want to be “challenged to holiness,” but the challenge she appears to be advocating is one on our own terms and according to our own preferences. That’s why I find it ironic that she decries the catering churches that alert our “BS meters,” while simultaneously telling church leaders they should do a better job catering to our generation’s whims and wishes. (She has since clarified this as not a list of demands, but desires and dreams.)
Truth be told, I don’t want a church that serves my preferences. I want a church that gives me Jesus and makes me want to serve His.
Counting the Cost
One sign of Jesus’ Spirit is He convicts the world of sin (John 16:8). The sign of the spirit of this age is that the world is coddled instead of convicted. And those who marry the spirit of this age will always be widowed in the next.
Perhaps that’s why millennials have left the churches that most resemble the type of community described by Rachel at rates far greater than evangelical churches. When the counter-cultural message of Jesus is softened or tweaked, or the raging idols of this age (such as money, sex, and power) are overlooked or ignored, the cost of Christianity disappears. Christianity without a cost is Christianity without the cross. And Christianity without the cross isn’t Christianity at all.
What Kind of Millennial Christian Will We Be?
Some millennials, like many from generations before us, want the church to become a mirror – a reflection of our particular preferences, desires, and dreams. But other millennials want a Christianity that shapes and changes our preferences, desires, and dreams.
We’re eager to pass the gospel on to the next generation, to live in ways that call into question the idolatries of our age, to stand in a long line of believers who have been out of the mainstream, constantly maligned and misrepresented, but who love Jesus, love people, and aren’t afraid to call everyone to repentance.
That’s a Christianity this millennial believes is worth dying for, but also one that’s worth living out in a local church with other believers from all generations.
Over the years, as I’ve prayed for my own heart, I’ve accumulated seven “D’s” that I have found helpful. Maybe you’ll find them helpful as well.
With seven you can use them a number of ways. You might choose one “D” per day. Or you could choose one “D” as a theme for a week and pray through these every seven weeks. You’ll also note that I have a verse for each prayer. But over time as you pray more verses will come to mind and you might find it helpful to collect them so they are right at hand as the Spirit leads.
I begin each prayer with the phrase “whatever it takes, Lord” because the Bible teaches us to be bold and wholehearted in our praying, not reticent. I also use the phrase because it tests my heart. How much do I want God and all he promises to be for me in Jesus? Do I really want true joy enough to ask for my Father’s loving discipline to wean me from joy-stealing sin? And how much do I trust him? Do I really believe that he will only give me what is good when I ask in faith (Luke 11:11–13)? “Whatever it takes” prayers help me press toward and express childlike trust in the Father.
Delight: Whatever it takes, Lord, give me delight in you as the greatest treasure of my heart.
Desires: Whatever it takes, Lord, align the desires of my heart with yours.
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:9–10)
Dependence: Whatever it takes, Lord, increase my awareness of my dependence on you in everything so that I will live continually by faith.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
Discernment: Whatever it takes, Lord, teach me to discern good from evil through the rigorous exercise of constant practice.
“But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” (Hebrews 5:14)
Desperation: Whatever it takes, Lord, keep me desperate for you because I tend to wander when I stop feeling my need for you.
“Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word.” (Psalm 119:67)
Discipline: Whatever it takes, Lord, discipline me for my good that I may share your holiness and bear the peaceful fruit of righteousness.
“He disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:10–11)
Diligence: Whatever it takes, Lord, increase my resolve to do your will with all diligence.
“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15–16)
These are just suggestions. The Lord may lead you to pray in other ways. But however he teaches us, whatever means we find helpful, may God cause us all to grow in faith until we pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17) and never lose heart (Luke 18:1).
by David Mathis | July 16, 2013
C.S. Lewis claimed he was no theologian. At least that wasn’t his day job. But it didn’t stop him from seriously shaping some of today’s most influential theologians.
Lewis was a world-class scholar of English literature, and a Christian layman and apologist, and one of the main formative heroes for both Tim Keller and John Piper.
In this new 10-minute video, Piper interviews Keller about Lewis’s ongoing impact on him and Lewis’s model of cultural engagement which has marked Keller and continues to be relevant in the twenty-first century.
A great article from Dr. Marshall Foster at World History Institute Written on July 4, 2013 [note: I added emphasis in the text below]
There is a tidal wave of Christianity spreading in nation after nation as never before in history. Christianity is the fastest growing religion in the world today. True faith is spreading and modern secularism is failing. These declarations are verified by research of scholars and best-selling authors such as Dinesh D’Souza, of Stanford’s Hoover Institution; Phillip Jenkins, Cambridge trained professor and author of The Next Christendom; and David Aikman, Oxford trained former worldwide reporter for Time magazine and author of Jesus in Beijing, How Christianity is Changing the Global Balance of Power.
Throughout the past century, the developing world has come to recognize what it means to believe in our Lord, the Ruler of the world, who died, rose and now rules the nations from His throne on high. One hundred years ago 80% of Christians resided in Europe or America. The missionary movement, which began in England and America, has changed the world over the past two centuries. Christianity has exploded and now over 60% of the Christian believers live in the rapidly modernizing developing countries.
In Brazil there were not enough evangelicals to notice several decades ago; now there are 50 million new believers. More than 480 million people in South America embrace their true King. In Asia there are now 313 million voluntary members of Christ’s Kingdom. An estimated 100 million Christians in China worship in underground churches. In Africa, there were only 10 million Christians in 1900; now there are 360 million.
China will likely become the largest Christian nation in the world within a few decades, according to David Aikman. Aikman has spent a lifetime covering the Iron and Bamboo Curtain countries and their progressive fall into the arms of Jesus. Aikman observed in his book Jesus in Beijing that Christianity is that unstoppable, loving movement that causes entire nations, like China and the Iron Curtain countries, to eventually rise up and throw off their oppressors, overturning the global balance of power. Aikman said that Czechoslo- vakia, as if the nation were one person, cast off her communist oppressors in a week. [Photo on right from Chariots of Fire, a 1981 British historical drama film]
Today there are 560 million Europeans and 260 million Americans who are at least nominally Christian, and tens of millions of these are still holding forth the true faith. However, the believers in the developing countries are immersed in the world of the Bible often more than the devout Christians in the West. Even though 200 million of these believers face persecution and most are under dictatorships, they are spreading Christ’s kingdom with passion and sacrifice. David Aikman documents that in China the leading intellectuals, scientists and entrepreneurs are becoming Christians. As they meet in their home churches, they are training to be missionaries to the Muslim world and even to the West as they work for the doors of freedom to open in China. African believers hold an orthodox view of the inspired Word of God. Many African Anglican pastors and bishops have emigrated from Africa back to Britain and are preaching to some of the largest and fastest growing churches in the British Isles. South Korea now has 12,000 full-time missionaries in the field, second only to the United States.
Modern secularism is no match for this tidal wave of God’s love and power that is moving across the earth bringing the universal liberating truths of Scripture. The non-believing world and its leaders, to maintain the façade of civilization and order, are forced to use Christian rhetoric. Evolutionary and atheistic worldviews, with their survival of the fittest and “get all you can in this life” philosophies, are incompatible with equal human rights, selfless virtues or just laws. Only if we are accountable to a perfect God to love our neighbor is there any reason to act with kindness toward the weak, elderly or unlovable.
For example, Friedrich Nietzsche, the founder of modern Nihilism, the “God is dead” movement, had to admit that all equal rights theories are Christian in origin. He said “Another Christian concept, no less crazy [to an atheist]: the concept of equality of souls before God. This concept furnishes the prototype of all theories of equal rights.” What he does not say is that without these Christian derived rights, Nietzsche’s own philosophy of death that he himself was free to spew in a Christian society would have certainly led him to the Gulag in a totalitarian atheistic state.
Christianity brings liberty and freedom to the world, not because its followers have money or military power, but because it is True. Revisionist historians have labored to hide the irrefutable truth of Christianity. Most people are not taught that the early Christians brought the mighty Roman Empire to its knees by the time of Constantine in 312 A.D; or that Ireland, ruled by demonic druid priests, peacefully bowed to their rightful Sovereign through the preaching of one man, Patrick, in the 4th Century; or that Germany turned from the worship of evil gods and human sacrifice to become the early center of Christendom as it enlightened Europe in the 8th Century; or that England under Alfred the Great, turned the government of the world upside down with English Common Law based upon the Ten Commandments, laws of Moses, and the Gospels; or that the great scientists of the Middle Ages from Francis Bacon, the founder of the scientific method to Isaac Newton, perhaps the greatest scientist of all time, bowed to the Savior and His eternal laws and created a modern world that reveals his Lordship and order.
The American Colonists, revived through the unleashing of the Word of God, declared that they would “have no king but King Jesus” in response to the tyranny of King George. The Americans drew up a covenant with their new King and each other, calling it the Declaration of Independence, in which they placed their reliance on “divine Providence.” Americans have been the most blessed people in history as a result. On the day the Declaration of Independence was signed Samuel Adams stood and declared, “We have this day restored the Sovereign to Whom all men ought to be obedient. He reigns in heaven and from the rising to the setting of the sun, let His kingdom come.”
The great news is that once we in America understand and recapture our biblical heritage of liberty – united with believers worldwide – we may be on the precipice of the greatest revival in history!
– Marshall Foster
A great article from Jay Younts at Shepherd Press
April 4, 2013
Speculation about the actions of North Korea have become a little more interesting. Of particular note is the announcement that the North Koreans have approved a “merciless nuclear attack” on the United States.
In some form or fashion you children will hear of the growing tension. They will have questions or concerns or in some cases, fears that need to be addressed. I am on safe ground in saying that not once in the national media will you hear a newscaster urge that the Living God of the Bible be called upon for protection. If God is mentioned at all it will be only after something horrific has happened. So what do you tell your children?
First tell them that just because God is not acknowledged by the media does not mean that he is powerless. All of these events with North Korea are unfolding as he has purposed. You can also point out that as a country we have begun to act as if God does not care what is written in his word. Our leaders can attempt to tinker with the institution of marriage as they deem it to be politically correct and fashion it to their liking. Elected officials and judges can continue to endorse the killing of children either in or out of the womb. We continue to appeal to a moment of silence so that gods that are not Gods at all will not be offended.We are a nation that is playing chicken with God. Praise God that in the end the Ruler of the Universe, Jesus Christ, will do what he has purposed to do – bring honor to his name. This is the message your children need to hear.
At this point we don’t know how this crisis will end. We don’t know if we will come to the brink of war and then back away, as was the case of the Cuban missile crisis fifty years ago. Perhaps this time military action will be taken. What we do know is that God will be faithful to his honor and plan.
…Click here to read the rest at Shepherd Press…
I read this news report a few days ago:
Controversial faith leader Rob Bell spoke over the weekend at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, Calif., where the former pastor openly endorsed gay marriage. When asked about the controversial issue by The Very Rev. Dr. Jane Shaw, who was moderating the event, he offered up a clear and concise response – one that will serve as a surprise to many conservative evangelicals.
“Yes, I am for marriage. I am for fidelity. I am for love,” he said, going on to get more specific. “Whether it’s a man and a woman, a woman and a woman, a man and a man — and I think the ship has sailed and I think the church needs to just — this is the world we’re living in and we need to affirm people wherever they are.” (http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2013/03/19/which-famed-christian-pastor-just-issued-this-shocking-gay-marriage-endorsement/ )
More and more pastors are jumping on the “gay” marriage bandwagon. However, those pastors who do support same-sex marriage invariably have a low view of Scripture. Rob Bell is a classic example.
First of all, who is Rob Bell?
He is the founder and former pastor of Michigan-based Mars Hill Bible Church. He is known for the NOOMA videos and his highly controversial book Love Wins, in which he teaches a form of universalism and rejects a literal hell…