How Do We Express The Gospel In A Time When Our Culture Seems So Morally Confused?

In March, I will be attending the Messenger Fellowship Summit, which has leaders from all over the world gathering to provide answers to specific questions about the present-day church.  My previous two blog posts tackled the questions, “Where is the Church Headed?“,  “Why Are So Many Leaving the Church?” and “Why is Doing Church So Hard?” I will continue to give voice to other areas that branch from these important questions.

This is an interesting question that books could be written about because you really have to split it up into three parts in order to come to a semblance of a conclusion.  Defining what the Gospel is; what culture is (and what stream of culture); and what morals are being corrupted, is important.

The Gospel
Candidly, the Gospel is represented as sharing the good word of Jesus and what He did to reconcile God to sinners.  It was proclaimed openly amidst persecution throughout the Middle East, Europe, Africa and even into Asia.  The promise of new life in Christ was more cherished than a mortal life on earth.  Something that we have little grasp of today in our Western world.

However, the question asks how do we express the Gospel?  This is an intriguing question considering only ten years ago college students would have naturally been sharing the four spiritual laws to other peers.  Even today, Campus Crusade for Christ (now Cru) is trying to find new ways to adapt an old way of evangelizing to a new culture, overloaded in the information age.

I don’t really have an answer here so I will move on.

Culture
As I stated before, we are in a historical moment between two very different generational groups: the Boomers and the Millennials.  Two very different groups, with different trends, approaches, semantics, etc.  To not value the differences is to miss the whole point altogether.

My expressed relief and concern that the questions I have been blogging about are being asked by Boomers shows a legitimate concern and naïveté on how to engage a cultural group (Millennials) that are closing their ears to them by the minute.  Because the real base of the question isn’t about how to express the Gospel to a full culture, it is the culture that is represented by MTV, the Grammys and the internet age.  They are losing Millennials and they know it.

Morals
I believe this is the greatest division between Boomers and Millennials.  While Boomers could rightly accuse Millennials of being soft on things like sex before marriage, stances on GLBT rights and abortion; Millennials could rightly accuse Boomers of not having empathy toward social justice issues, GLBT rights and overall hypocrisy.  There is clear validity in both, which confirms that all still fall short of the glory of God.

You see, when one cultural group is defining moral corruption for another cultural group, it leads to a dead end.  It can come off as condescending and simply leaves everyone walking away from the table.

So how do we express the Gospel in a time when our culture seems so morally corrupt?

After I broke that question apart, the one thing that I am missing is the answer!  The reality is, I need to hear more opinions on this before I really can form one.  I want to hear from Millennials and Boomers because for another 30-40 years, we will all be coexisting together, not to mention the generation that will come after us.  However, if we can learn from some of the points I laid out above, we could build a bridge earlier to those coming after us.  That alone should give us some hope.

 

How Do We Express The Gospel In A Time When Our Culture Seems So Morally Confused?

Why Is Doing Church So Hard?

In March, I will be attending the Messenger Fellowship Summit, which has leaders from all over the world gathering to provide answers to specific questions about the present-day church.  My previous two blog posts tackled the questions, “Where is the Church Headed?” and “Why Are So Many Leaving the Church?”  I will continue going through the other questions this summit hopes to give voice to.  

Why is doing church so hard?  It is an ironic question.  Ironic because we never think of Christianity as something to DO but instead as something to BE.  That is truly where the weight of the question falls, is church something you are doing or being?

Throughout the years churches have become more and more organized, less about freedom in Christ and more about submission to dogma, elders, pastors, teaching, etc.  It could amaze that Christianity has survived this long.  Churches in America are structured like businesses.  There is a CEO, the Pastor; a CFO, the Associate Pastor; a Board of Trustees; an Advisory Council; an Administrative Assistant; a Janitor; and a consortium of volunteers that are executing said vision of the CEO.  If said vision isn’t executed…well you are treated as an at-will employee and with the love of the Lord, out the door you go.

The problem is when doing church becomes no different than doing a job, it is not surprising to wonder why people aren’t willing to do it anymore.  We shouldn’t be slaves to an organized unit that is supposed to represent the figurehead that set us free: Jesus.

That’s why doing church is so hard because it does not reflect what the church was in the Bible.

I feel like pastors are presently living under a lot of pressure.  I saw it today in the pastor’s face at the church I visited.  He said that church attendance has been down across the board because people have lost hope in the church.  I wondered if he too had lost hope.  Churches are driven by a variety of measurements: attendance numbers, prophetic words, cash brought in, outreaches, etc and in the end they never truly help in defining the question of “how can we BE the church?”

I felt sad for that pastor today.  Maybe I will have the chance to ask if that spark is still there but I certainly will pray for the Holy Spirit to reignite it in the meantime.

Why Is Doing Church So Hard?

Why Are So Many Leaving the Church?

In March, I will be attending the Messenger Fellowship Summit, which has leaders from all over the world gathering to provide answers to specific questions about the present-day church.  My last blog post tackled the first question, “Where is the Church Headed?” and I will continue going through the other questions this summit hopes to give voice to.  

Why are so many people leaving the [organized] church?  I feel you need to put the placeholder of organized in this question because there are many who still consider themselves to be Christians but have simply refrained from getting up on a Sunday to sit for an hour in an organized church building.  Creating a distinction between the two is important primarily because of the connotation of judgment that exists upon Christians who do not go to a church building on Sunday’s vs those that do.

It would be unfair of me to speak on behalf of the Baby Boomer generation, since they have specific reasons for why they have chosen not to attend.  But from a personal point-of-view, I can express reasons from my own experience and stories I have heard from other Millennials.

It All Starts With Community

Millennials crave community.  I think we are driven by nature to desire a community, a place to fit in.  Prior to the age of the internet, churches remained a stalwart location where people from all types of backgrounds, likes and dislikes, congregated for the sole purpose of religion.  Communities as a whole were known in a five mile radius whereas you can now Skype with someone across the world if you desired.  By expanding the limits of community, we no longer share a dependency to coexist with people simply because of location, that in itself has removed a large reason for why people do not prioritize church attendance anymore.

Secondly, Millennials want to give their time toward an internal goal while cheering on others who strive for the same goals.  A great example of how this is manifesting in Millennials is Crossfit.  Crossfit boxes are opening all over the country.  They have literally become the fraternity/sorority of post-college life for 20-30 somethings.  Expensive memberships with basic workouts equaling great results with a loyal base has created a movement across America.  It is more than working out.  Crossfit creates a community base where accountable friendships form to hold people to the goal of a great body.

Promotable goals  are important for Millennials.  Where a church has structured itself vertically in leadership, typically leading to the all-powerful pastor, Millennials will simply scoff and walk away.  Why give time to a singular position that they will never be promoted to?  Crossfit represents a horizontal leadership where everyone is equal and cheering for one another.  In fact, it represents the Biblical concept of Hebrews 12:1:

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us

Millennials are tired of supporting and worshiping the singular ministry.  They want to partner together to bring change to the world.  Celebrity pastors are great for that one moment, that one speech but beyond selling a few more books, having a little bit more glory, they aren’t adding to the potential Millennials know the church can have in the world.  Millennials have felt fooled for spending so much time in a pew when they could have been doing what they see in the Bible.

This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone in the church.  In fact, it surprises me that we are still asking the question instead of admitting that we are missing the mark and developing solutions.

Why Are So Many Leaving the Church?

Where is the Church Headed?

In March, I will be attending the Messenger Fellowship Summit, which has leaders from all over the world gathering to provide answers to specific questions about the present-day church.  I fear that my candor will preclude me from speaking to the overall group, so I wanted to share thoughts on the questions they hope to tackle during the three day event:

  • Where is the church headed?
  • Why are so many leaving the church?
  • Why is doing church so hard?
  • How do we express the Gospel in a time when our culture seems so morally confused?

Each question deserves time and honor to bring understanding and clarify confusion.  In saying that, I certainly do not write with an assumption of knowing the full answer but instead hope to shed light from one perspective.

To ask “where is the church headed?” you must investigate to whom you are asking?  For the first time in ages, we now have equal population distribution of two major generational groups in America: the Baby Boomers and the Millennials.  Like two mountains in the distance, they are equal in size, structure and status but the chasm between them is wide and deep.  Where the church is headed, solely depends on recognizing who will be leading it in the future.  Which in this case is the Millennials.

No matter how you shake it, stir it or bake it, eventually life’s absolute fact will come and one generation will die and the other will continue on.  At this moment, one wants very little to do with the other and it’s been that way for sometime.

We are in an unfortunate period of the church where the blind truly lead the blind and the hearing refuse to hear.  I cannot say I fear for the church because the indwelling of the Spirit within the Body of Christ will always find one another but the organized 501(C)(3) that currently exists may have some large layoffs in the near future.  Time invested demands a return and right now, organized churches provide poor dividends.

We wouldn’t have to ask the aforementioned questions if the church was in a good state of health.  I often wonder if these questions arise because we are searching for answers to anything but the truth.  It is like trying to tell a smoker that their lung cancer didn’t come from smoking cigarettes, just so they don’t have to change their habitual ways.

I appreciate these questions because I am living and analyzing them daily.  I want clarity and I certainly do not want to throw the baby out with the bathwater.  So, I will write a few more blogs, plodding out my thoughts and you can come to your own conclusions.

Where is the Church Headed?

I found my audience of One and He was ready to hear every thought and pain…my 2013

We are all going to die.

At some point, someone will let my ashes blow away in the wind and I will be but a former participant in this world.  All of the accomplishments, debt, gain, hurt, help, tears and sorrows will fade with time moving on as if it never happened.

That was the conclusion I came to as 2013 ended and I looked forward to 2014.

2013 was a dispiriting year.  I honestly haven’t gone through as much depression, anxiety or disappointment since my sophomore year in high school.  However, when darkness becomes so great, you find utter joy for the small specks of light that burst brightly to help guide you back to the constant of Christ.

Because we are all going to die.  We really are.  Which is why in that darkness when so many people fail you, speak ill of you, reject you and drag you through the world’s pile of shit…the constant never changes.

Within that darkness I shouted, swore and lashed out at God, for I found my audience of One and He was ready to hear every thought and pain.

I can’t make up tingles and good feelings when nothing is going well.  I’m sorry, it is disrespectful to the process and myself.  So I simply am myself.  I wanted Him to see it and He did, all year long.

2013 will always be the reminder that Christianity isn’t a program, a worship song, friendships, the church or any of the other million things that we attempt to represent as Jesus on earth.  Christianity is the gravity of my being and no matter how far I jump, I will always come back down.

He sees me.  He loves me.  He doesn’t reject me.  It frees me to simply be me and I’m fine with that.  You may not be and that’s ok because the reality is, we’re all going to die and it won’t matter anyway.

I am not going to put energy into failing systems anymore.  There are too many people that I can talk to, help and encourage to take a leap into the greatness God has called them to.  So if you need me, I will be out calling for that sheep who fell in a ditch somewhere and just needs a little prodding or a swift kick in its derriere to get out.

I found my audience of One and He was ready to hear every thought and pain…my 2013

Charismatic Chaos

A brokerage firm became famous in the 1970’s and 80’s with the phrase, “When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen.”  So when John Piper shares some thoughts regarding the recent Charismatic chaos shared at John MacArthur’s conference Strange Fire, people definitely listen.

Please take time to read Piper’s full thoughts regarding some of the questions his readers submitted to him.  John’s ability to really approach each side with care and patience is something I am definitely (non-sinfully) envious of.

I was extremely grateful of MacArthur’s conference.  As a believer in Charismatic, MacArthur is a welcome voice to point out many of the weaknesses that exist within the Charismatic world and deserve a closer look.

It is sobering when the same “eye for detail” is not seen on the other extreme from Charismatic leaders.  If ever there was an opportunity for leaders to pause, reflect and write about developing stronger theological approaches for the Charismatic community, now is time.

Admittedly, I have stepped away from the overall Charismatic stream.  The logic that I fully appreciate within Paul’s writings regarding spiritual gifts, movements, etc., is missing from today’s movement.  Instead, people attempt to put lipstick on a pig and convince you it isn’t a pig.  Today’s spiritual gifts are less for the non-believer and more about bolstering self-made power.  People walk around like X-men, utilizing “super-natural” gifts that either improve their rank in the church or set them on a path for a personalized power ministry in the stream.

It can look rather American very quickly when you just look at it.

The problem is, there are few ways to truly benchmark prophetic words, stories of healing, etc.  A person could be telling you how they saved an eight-year old from a Ugandan witch doctor and….you do not even know it’s true because it is simply a story!  In a time when capturing moments is done with ease….everywhere, many of these stories of healing, demonic possessions, supernatural power moments are not on tape…they are simply stories.

That is a big problem.  Hence why critics, like MacArthur, have great ease skipping down the yellow brick road to point out every, single flaw within the movement.

Finally, I think the largest, blaring issue within the Charismatic movement is the lack of connecting the use of gifts from a person’s individualized power-trip to instead the most important thing: seeing people brought into the Kingdom of Heaven.  I can only imagine the question raised when we died, “I gave you these gifts, so what did you do with them?”  Would you respond that you laid on the ground moaning like a birthing cow for an hour?  That you were able to give people a 42% accurate reading of their life via prophecy?  That you went to 268 conferences made to bring revival to your area but because of all of the prayer groups you were apart of you didn’t have time to share Jesus with anyone?

I believe that instruments can be used at the right time to crescendo the need for better theology, approaches and overall logic.  If every church needs to flash a disclaimer, “Do not despise prophecies, but test everything, hold fast to what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:20–21); after every, single prophetic word, it will do nothing but help rescue us from false prophetic words but also refine the people giving them.

There are so many discussions regarding this topic right now and I honestly only wanted to touch on a few of them.  If you have any thoughts or wish to dialogue further, please comment below.

My writings have been quite sparse lately.  I am attempting to figure a lot of things out right now and most of those are not able to be shared through this avenue.  Thanks for reading when I do post.

Charismatic Chaos

Millenials, Boomers and the Changing Church

Millenials and the church.  It seemed to the be the captive topic this week, sparked by Rachel Held Evans article on CNN.  Everyone seemed to take a crack at sharing their opinion:
Speaking Prophetically to the Church or Publicly Criticizing the Church?
The Rise of the Chicken Little Evangelical Blogger
Maybe Millenials Are Just Realizing God is Dead
A Reluctant Millenial on the State of the Church

…let’s not forget how a cat is responding to this whole situation also.

As a student of sociology, I ascribe to the social cycle theory or as we commonly know it, ‘history repeating itself.’  From what I see in history, these cycles tend to have a forty-year cycle.  Forty years ago the Jesus movement was pulling away from the established church of that time.  Social issues of the day were questioned and things like anti-war, peace and love sentiments abounded.  The church, at that time, had taken stances against the cultural movement and young people rebelled en mass.  There is not much difference between then and now.  The issues may have a different flavor but once again young adults are pulling away from the existing establishment that makes up today’s Evangelical church.

Millenials are trending away from the Evangelical church toward two streams: Mainline denominations and Christian anarchy.  One defines sure-fire structure and the other allows for independent belief without accountability.

If that is the case, then denominations like Catholic, Luthern, Methodist and Presbyterians will find new breath and regeneration from a population that seeks consistency more than anything.  If a form of anarchy exists (a desire to non-conformity to the church state), then it will be hard to truly gauge the amount of non-church going Christians will be.  That will provide a false narrative that Christianity is indeed dying in America, when instead it has simply changed.

In some sense, the Jesus movement was a form of Christian anarchy until it finally established itself within the various movements of non-denominationalism, Calvary Chapel and Evangelical streams. The strong connection between both movements is the desire from both for more authentic Christianity.  However, the Jesus movement was focused more on holiness and right-living before God; whereas, millenials are far more focused on social justice and equality for all.

From my brief meanderings on this topic alone, it reveals the relevance for this conversation to exist between both the millenials and the baby boomers.  I would suggest that boomers need to make a much larger effort to engage in this conversation.  In the end, boomers will need millenials far more than reverse and taking the risk to speak into the millenial generation with a guiding love can only help more than hurt.

Millenials, Boomers and the Changing Church