It has been a couple days and I’m still in disbelief. Why, Ravi, why?
He knew better. He knew teachers would be judged more harshly. He knew that invoking God’s name in these abuses was a direct violation of the 4th commandment. He knew that the things done in the dark would be brought to the light. He knew the consequences of sexual sin. So… why?
Tears are welling up for a man I never knew, but loved dearly. Throughout my life as a Christian, especially when I was new to the faith, I would listen to him as a child listens to his grandfather when he speaks. I found his voice and the things he said comforting and encouraging. I never had the opportunity to have a relationship with either of my grandfathers and listening to him filled something of a void. Those peaceful encouragements lulled me to sleep so many nights.
Apologists and doubters, you need to face this. We need to face this. It’s easy for us to take pot shots at skeptics that are guilty of all kinds of heinous sins. It’s easy for the Protestant to take shots at the abuses of the young in the Catholic church. It’s easy to make fun of Osteen, Dollar, Furtick and those cut from that cloth. We must face it when our heroes fall. We must.
This is enough of a black eye as it is on the bride of Christ. Don’t further shame the name of God by not holding him accountable. You may say “Brian, it’s too late for that. He’s dead.” Yeah… I know. He’s gone. But those women are still alive and so is a watching world. We can’t pretend this didn’t happen and we cannot defend him, as I’ve sadly seen happen in many threads.
What is the answer? What do we do? We can’t call out his sin that he may be brought to repentance now. We can’t prosecute him that justice may be meted out. But, if we ignore it, what does that say about what we believe? Do we believe these image bearers deserve justice? Do we believe these image bearers deserve to be heard? Do we really believe all have fallen short of the glory of God? Will we allow ourselves to be lumped in with so many that ignore heinous sins that happen on their watch?
Brothers and sisters, we can’t do that. We have to hold ourselves to a higher standard. We must hold one another accountable. We must repent of our sins, especially sexual sin. It’s a beast that will devour you if it goes unchecked. I myself know what it’s like to feel consumed by it and trapped. I know what it’s like to feel like it can’t be given up.
Friends, God had mercy on me. He set me free. I’m not a perfect man and I won’t pretend that all of a sudden I am cloaked in holiness and I never stumble. But, it does not rule me. Surround yourself in community that you can confess your sin to. Bring it to the light. Be set free. Be encouraged and admonished in the lord, lest you end up like him.
There is talk about possible deathbed repentance, but this is all speculation. Who knows how often this really takes place? We have no way to know. If you’re reading or listening to this, you still have the chance to turn away.
Flee, church! Flee!
(NOTE: Car pictures is NOT my car)
So, I have the day off. I was getting in my car to go visit my wife at work and get a coffee, when my car got stuck in the mud of our driveway.
As I was attempting to use some wood to get traction (which wasn’t working the way I had it) a gentleman in a big truck stopped and offered to pull me out.
I was successfully unstuck thanks to this man and kind and simple gesture.
So a huge thanks to this man and a bigger thanks to God who ordained this moment that this gentleman would drive by right at the very moment I needed help and have everything I needed to get unstuck.
As I’ve had a moment to sit and meditate on that experience, I’ve come to this realization, when Jesus said, “Do to others as you would have done to you” he wasn’t just talking about how you ought to treat others, but also telling us that our acts of kindness toward others can actually multiply kindness toward ourselves.
This isn’t a selfish thing. I want others to treat others kindly. I want others to treat me kindly. I cannot expect that others will be kind to me if I treat others poorly and abrasively.
In other words, kindness is a two way street. A two way street that begins with yourself.
You see, I’ve noticed an increase in people being kind toward me ever since the Holy Spirit convicted me of my treatment of others in the name of “truth”. I have fought hard to be more kind. I still fail. But my failures, I believe, are more fewer than my victories.
But this is the lesson I’ve learned in the last couple years and was reminded of again today:
If you want to see kindness multiplied around you, you must first sow kindness toward others from you.
We are one month into 2021 and it already feels familiar. Almost like 2020 is on repeat. With all that is going on around us, how do we get unstuck?! Let’s talk about that!
“Angry Dance” by Simon Panrucker https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/
“Clear Progress” by Scott Holmes https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/
It’s Black History Month…and I am reminded of the “I have a dream” speech that Dr. King gave as he fought for the rights of the community he represented…the black community. His words were simple and powerful…and, like a sword, they pierced to the very soul and core of those who heard his words.
Even to those who rejected them.
And much like Dr. King had a dream for the black community and their future…I have a dream for the Church community that I represent and their future as well…
I have a dream that one day the Church will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…and…Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:36-40)
I have a dream that one day in every home and in every local church body, believers of every race, denomination and political affiliation will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood, and once again find their unity under the banner of Christ rather than the color of their skin, denominational nuances or their political party platforms and favorite politicians. (1 Corinthians 1:10)
I have a dream that one day even the most legalistic believer and hard hearted unbeliever will be transformed into an oasis of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23)
I have a dream that my four children will one day be an integrated and valued part of the church where they will be seen as valued and gifted members who are uniquely gifted and in need of equipment to reach their community, rather than being looked at as another dollar sign to fulfill a budget, or another able bodied person needing to be coerced in to “serving” in a fruitless program. (Ephesians 4 and 1 Corinthians 12)
I have a dream that one day people will be able to look upon the church and say “We know you are disciples of Jesus because we see how you supernaturally love one another.” (John 13:35)
I have a dream that one day at the very mention of the name of Jesus every knee will humbly bow, and every tongue will joyfully confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:10-11)
Two things are for sure in this life: death and taxes!
These are the two things even the most resolute skeptics get religious about. What’s your money being spent on? What’s the government giving or taking away from you and why? What are the benefits from all this meddling? What is just and what is not just. Would you just take a look at that debt ticker? We all have a deeply religious opinion on these things and it would take quite a bit of persuasion to change anyone’s mind.
The same thing can be said about death. When someone dies, especially a celebrity, take a look at how people grieve. “Rest in peace” , “they’re in a better place”, “they’re reunited with so & so in heaven” and it goes on and on. A vast majority of skeptics would like to believe when someone they love or admire dies, they’re going to “a better place”, yet they mock the person that lives consistently with this belief day in and day out.
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”
“Will you have an answer when your clock stops? Tick tock. Tick Tock. Who knows when the seconds hand stops?”
This is a question I pondered aloud on my Facebook wall. Every time a celebrity dies, I ask some variation of this question. We’re all going to die. We all have to punch that ticket. We all have to once and for all pay the piper. I’m not talking to Christians right now, though I do appreciate it if I have your ear. You skeptics, I’m talking to you.
You say you don’t believe Jesus.Why do you say the things you do? Why do you mourn your dead? Why do you herald any good deed or condemn any bad deed if this is all that there is? Why do you suddenly agree with Christians when it’s someone that you love that’s being laid to rest? You may not know the answer, but it was written millenia ago.
“For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly percieved, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”
Your heart longs for relief and you speak of a post death relief because deep down, you know that some will have it. You long for justice when someone’s life is taken away from them because deep down, you know there is a judge, jury and executioner that will execute perfect justice. You long for “a better place” because deep down, you know there has to be something better than this sin filled decaying existence that we know.
You know this is a reality that you have to face. You know that you and everyone you love is going to die someday. I ask you again, this time audibly, “Will you have an answer when your clock stops?” What will you say to the God that requires perfect obedience to His law? What will you say when everything about your life from the actions you took to the actions you didn’t take to your very thoughts are put up against perfect righteousness? You’re not gonna win. No one possibly could. Any of us would be completely crushed by weight of God’s holiness, without exception.
There’s a way out. There’s a way you can be declared innocent in this inevitable court of true justice and true law. There is a way where you can enter this “Nirvana” that you can’t escape the idea of. It’s not a secret and it’s not complex. It’s not some fancy prayer and it’s not an alter call. It’s not “inviting Jesus into your heart”. The way is this: repent and believe.
No matter what you’ve done, this invitation stands. No matter how you feel about yourself and what you do or don’t deserve, this invitation stands. No matter what happens after the fact, this invitation stands. The way of salvation of our souls is a rocky road. Daily, we repent of our sins and believe the gospel.
What is the gospel? The gospel is the good news of salvation. God wrapped Himself up in flesh and lived among us as one of us. He died as the perfect and holy sacrifice needed to atone for our sins. Because of that sacrifice, we are spiritually wiped clean and are seen as innocents when we inevitably face judgement day.
That is the only path to the peace we dream of.
The following is a peak behind the curtain at a discussion between the Angry Christian Podcast hosts via Facebook messenger as it relates to the effectiveness of the new Arizona Bill HB 2650 aimed at charging those who get an abortion and those who carry out the abortion procedure with homicide, as well as the effectiveness of other tactics aimed at ending abortion in the United States.
In addition to that, I think you’ll find an interesting dialogue as Brad and Brian don’t actually agree on the issue, and you will see how Christians can discuss a hot topic, disagree, and yet be respectful of one another and still land on opposite sides of a debate.
BRAD: So, I read that in Arizona a bill has been proposed that would charge the mother and the doctor who carries out the abortion with murder. As vehemently opposed to abortion as I am – I don’t see how this resolves the issue.
BRIAN: It would be upholding God’s law concerning the matter and acknowledging the image of God in those children. One of the reasons this happens on the scale it does is the lack of respect to both. They won’t stop until justice is enforced. It’s not gonna pass though.
JONATHAN: If we legally acknowledge a baby in the womb as a human life would there really be an option to not consider their killer a murderer? And if we don’t, are we allowing a legal precedent for some lives being worth more than others?
BRIAN: I’d argue the latter is what’s happening. Who are these people to choose who’s “viable”?
BRAD: Agree that this is what we’ve already been doing and agreed that it won’t pass. But I don’t see how this resolves anything if it did pass. Girls will just go to other states where it’s still legal to get it done and doctors will just go to other states where they can carry them out without issue.
BRIAN: It’ll honor God and His image. It’ll save a whole lot of lives. And it’ll inspire others that don’t yet have the backbone to defy tyranny. It has to start somewhere.
BRAD: Perhaps. I dunno. It might. I doubt it though. I think abortion, while murder, has a bunch of nuance to it that general murder (not of the abortion kind) just doesn’t have. I don’t mean that to diminish the act for what it is. It does have to start somewhere. I’m just not convinced legislation is that. We’ve supposedly been trying that for over 40 years. Gotten us nowhere. This is a heart issue and a society that doesn’t value humanity. Not truly. I think it begins with the church. Not in a political way. But in a real discipleship (not what we call it today), and truly loving people where they are at and teaching them to obey what God commanded.
BRIAN: Bad legislation is what started this. If we don’t act like this is murder, who will? If Christian politicians aren’t willing to stand on God’s word, who will? Ezekiel explicitly tells us if we don’t stand on the word and preach what God commands, we have blood on our hands. We know. It starts in the church, but it doesn’t end there. Especially when it’s about something that God has wiped nations out for in the past. Would we not apply the concepts of keeping it in the church when upholding the law to stealing, rape, kidnapping, and a slew of other grave sins. This should be no different.
BRAD: Bad legislation didn’t start abortion. Abortion existed long before Roe Vs Wade. And, though quietly done, was still done quite a lot. And yes, it is a grave sin indeed. But the reality is, here in America, addressing it isn’t as cut and dry as calling it murder and everyone just accepts it. I also think we forget – we aren’t in a Christian nation anymore. This is a post-Christian nation. It is equal to being in Babylon. This is just my take. Others may not agree, and that’s OK.
BRIAN: More like the Jews were banished to Babylon for failing to declare “thus says the Lord” much like present day America. They were all going their own way and doing what was right in their own eyes without much of a rebuke, much like present day America. What’s a God of righteousness to do? Met out justice, especially on those charged with heralding the truth.
The church is much too soft on sexual sin, which is one of the reasons it keeps advancing. She actively participates in it by being passive about it and not treating it for what it is. And thus, the Jews, much like the comfort of the church in the USA, went into exile. Who was counted righteous in these times? Guys like Daniel that PUBLICLY defied what the Jews made peace with.
Just like today…while a significant amount of the church has made peace with abortion and looks the other way, there are those out there being the Daniel of the age. Abortion is judgement against the church and this nation for the disobedience of both. If children are a blessing, what’s the opposite of that?
BRAD: I think we have to be careful with how we characterize what people like Daniel and the other 3 guys really did. I used to be of the mindset that Daniel and the other 3 were out to change Babylon and defy the government. But were they?
Did Daniel go out of his way to try and change the laws of Babylon? Or did he simply respond when the law forced him to choose between being obedient to men over obedience to God? Likewise with the 3 other guys and their fiery furnace incident. Daniel is definitely a good book to study in light of the coming days we will find ourselves in.
Now, these 4 guys actually found themselves in Babylonian governmental circles. Daniel being almost more like a governor of a region. What set them apart wasn’t even their unwillingness to compromise, but how God responded miraculously in their different situations. Saving the 3 from being consumed by a fire and saving Daniel from being consumed by lions. Certainly their willingness to stand up had some impact, but it was God’s movement that blew the kings mind and caused him to really take notice.
In other words, the difference with them wasn’t that they tried to do anything in their own power, but trusted God would show up in their obedience. And in the case of the 3 and the furnace, they trusted God even if He didn’t show up in their obedience. Not sure that’s the same thing I’m seeing from believers in America.
What I’m seeing is believers trying to hold on to a culture that no longer exists and one that we have been a long time separated from. What I see is Christians trying to make the American government a Christian government.
That said – is it that the church is too soft on sin? Or that it has been far too harsh with people for far too long that no one cares what the church has to say about sin?
For example, do you know what a number of church denominations in America’s response was to girls getting pregnant out of wedlock not even 50 years ago? It was to send them to a boarding house to hid their shame away from the public, let them carry the baby to term, then give it up for adoption and let the girl come home and act like nothing happened. That was a thing that MANY churches engaged in right here in America pre-Roe Vs Wade. Is it any wonder people respond the way they do when the church then tries to confront abortion?
That was a lot I know. But that said – I am not standing in anyone’s way that wants to attempt to address abortion from a legislative perspective or to go out and stand at abortion clinics. I have my opinions for why I don’t think those tactics are as effective. But I won’t deny that there has been some fruit from it. All I ask is that if I choose to address abortion from a very different angle than these things that I not be given the guilt trip as though I’m doing nothing or that I’m doing less because I’m not engaged ni what someone else sees as a tactic. As the old adage goes, “There are many ways to skin a cat”.
BRIAN: I really don’t think the church is actually trying. It may seem that way with the way Apologia and the affiliated churches and their efforts, but I’ve got someone in my circle that does case studies on this. Where we protest, there are at least 15 churches that we know of within 10 miles of the clinic. A big fat 0% of their congregations speak up for life. They don’t ACT like people are dying by the hundreds every day.
At the same time, I do believe this ragtag group of people (whether us directly or people influenced by our efforts) will do it. I’m thinking of God shrinking Israel’s army before sending them to war so they would understand without a doubt that God fought for them.
Indiana has two legislators willing to publicly call abortion what it is and fight for the lives of the pre-born. TWO. In a conservative state! It’s the so-called Christians that are blocking even the discussions that would save the lives of countless Indiana lives. I’m also thinking of guys like Rusty Thomas who has actually been to jail for defending the pre-born.
This is not guilting anybody. This is about the reality of what’s going on. Most Christians have their hands in their pockets and look at anyone that’s actually willing to call this what it is like they’re crazy. We’re too abrasive and yada yada. So many excuses and little to no action. That doesn’t characterize you. I know you’ve been out there.
BRAD: There’s certainly extremes to every position. No doubt. I think this is an important passage. It was written to the church in Ephesus, but I think it captures what I believe has and is happening with the church in America. The difference being that He has already removed our lamp stand I think.
Revelation 2:2-5 ESV: “I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.”
The church in Ephesus wasn’t necessarily engaging in bad things. But they had lost sight of what they were truly called to do because they had spent so much time doing “good” things that they aren’t doing the “great commission” things.
BRIAN: Are you saying this work isn’t a great commission thing? I don’t understand where you’re going with that. I can see for sure how in many ways it’s to take a shot in the dark at American Evangelism and hit some huge target where the church is failing, but I don’t get that part.
BRAD: I’m saying what Jesus was saying to the church of Ephesus, that we can get so consumed in fighting evil that we lose sight of our first love…our first calling. Is the fight against abortion a great commission thing? I think that’s a complex question.
If the fight is simply to end abortion, then no, it is not.
If the fight is to love the unborn and love the mothers and yes even the abortion doctors and abortion loving democrats and to share with them the gospel and hope in Jesus and lead them to salvation not only of the body but also of the soul, then yes.
Whether or not it is a great commission work will vary greatly from person to person and their individual motivations and goals for engaging in the abortion fight.
BRIAN: I can say with absolute confidence that those involved in this legislation in Arizona, Oklahoma, and here in Indiana are fighting out of love for foremost God, the mothers, the fathers, the pre-born, and even the pro-aborts that hate everything about what we believe. I know this because I’ve done hand in hand ministry with some of them. Others, their works are public. They have publicly gone out and loved on people that vehemently opposed what we do and have won them over. John Jacob, Derin Stidd, Curt Nisely and others are guys I would give an account for in a heartbeat.
BRAD: That is good. And I’ve no doubt you can and will. It can’t be said for everyone though. Even other believers. I’m not judging their motivation. That is for God to do. I’m simply speaking a warning from God’s word for those I do not know that have lost sight. That is all.
I’m still not personally convinced that this law in Arizona will be effective or that it’s the right approach. But that is me and my opinion. And I’m OK with people not agreeing with it. Even you guys. I’ll love you anyway.
BRIAN: The great commission includes “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” and this kind of actions does that.
We need a William Wilberforce, Frederick Douglass that will engage the political realm as much as we need the nameless Joe and Janes that work in emergency pregnancy centers and do youth ministry and big brother programs. The abolitionists of that age were told the same things we are talking about now, and they did not give up. Slavery still exists, but it’s where it belongs. Hidden, looked upon with scorn, and tucked away in the shadows running from the light.
I don’t think this law will be effective (this time). Wilberforce was shut down I can’t remember how many times before slavery was finally abolished. We’re getting started no on something that should’ve happened 40 years ago (which is how long it took the abolitionists of that age to succeed).
Needless to say, I owe my life as I live to the grace of God and their efforts. I almost went to one of those clinics and it would’ve been perfectly legal, which would’ve made it for naught. But God had mercy on me. This is personal to me, especially since they’re targeting mostly minorities. Therefore, I go…I put on the armor of God and I plan on being a pain in the ass until either one of us dies or they repent. If I’m out there at 80 barely able to hold up a cane, so be it.
BRAD: We see a lot the same. And some things differently. I can accept that. As I said before, I am not saying not to engage or to stop engaging. Just voicing my concerns and view points. Indeed, some are called to fight a certain way and they should. They were made for those moments. Far be it from me to persuade someone otherwise.
I’ll leave it at that. Good discussion.
BRIAN: I think that’s really important. People disagree on stuff and shut people out of their lives spouting nonsense about “haters” because someone is not perfectly in sync with their thoughts and feelings. I think we know one another’s motivations well enough to engage this like brothers and end the episode united under the banner of Christ.
JONATHAN: Just got home from practice…there is soooo much to try and catch up on in this chat.
Donald Trump has lost his campaign to regain his seat as President, and as of tomorrow, Joe Biden will be sworn in as the new president. Now what?
Sure, Biden was Vice President of the US for 8 years, but he’s never been THE President. Roles and responsibilities are vastly different between VP and President, and by all accounts, this is a new thing for him. This is new territory for him.
As a Christian, there are certainly things to be concerned about. His parties platform has a lot of things that leave a lot to be desired for Christians. Things like abortion, gay marriage, the normalization of things we would consider sin, and a lot more. So of course, as a believer, there is some trepidation as we approach this new season of American life.
Aside from Biden there are concerns about Kamala Harris, who will be serving as his Vice President, as well as the various individuals that Biden will put forward to serve in his administration.
All of these are legitimate concerns.
But now what? What do we Christians do?
Trump was supposedly the hero of the Church in America according to many professing believers and even pastors and prophets, and now he’s not going to be president. To top things off, Trump got impeached a second time last week, and many many Trump supporters (including those waving around Jesus Saves banners and Christian Flags) made a fatal and dare I say stupid move to break into the Capitol building while the electoral college votes were being counted.
2021 started off in a massive whirlwind of insanity in DC along with COVID19 ramping up as various new strains of the virus are beginning to take off. Countries around the world are shuttering their doors again. Shoot, I started off the New Year myself with COVID and know countless others that are close to me who were going through it as well.
So it doesn’t appear that 2021 is going to be any better of than 2020. It might even be argued that it could be worse.
But now what? What do we Christians do?
Our lives are seriously in upheaval. Politics is in upheaval. Our nation is more divided than it has been in many many decades. Families, friends, and church members are pitted one against the other over viruses, politics, and more. It feels like the world is turning upside down.
It’s as if we can’t catch our breath before the next wave of chaos breaks out.
An article recently posted by Dr. Michael Brown titled, Why a Biden Presidency Could Be Good for the Church, Dr. Brown made the assertion that the “election of Joe Biden might be in the best interest of the Church of America.” His reasoning behind such a statement? Dr. Brown says, “it is because too many of us Christian conservatives put too much trust in a man.”
I actually agree with him. 100% agree with him.
I have watched over the last 4 years (and slightly before during the 2016 presidential campaign) as Christians and Church leaders alike fawned over Trump and touted him, and I quote as “The Trump of the Lord”. Many very literally looked to him a some sort of messianic figure. In their eyes, Trump could do absolutely no wrong. They would argue that everyone just misunderstood Trump. Or that Trump was just being attacked because he was doing the work of the Lord.
Did Trump do some good over his 4 years? Sure. Did he do some bad? Absolutely.
What I witnessed was idol worship, for the lack of a better word. A man was being worshipped alongside of Jesus. It was heart breaking, and to be perfectly frank, sickening to watch.
But now his time over, and we are faced with Biden as our President.
Like Dr. Brown, I see this as a fresh start for the Church. For many in the Church, the idol of Donald Trump has been removed, just like for many of us the idol of church buildings, and specific worship times were removed because of COVID.
Sadly, the church by-and-large missed their opportunity during the early stages of COVID to embrace the test God was giving us, and rethink the Churches focus. Instead they spent the majority of the time pushing back against governments and decrying “persecution”. And yes, I put persecution in quotes, because let’s face it…the Church in America is anything but persecuted.
We are now facing a new test. Trump is gone. Biden is here. Where do we go from here?
I think there are two major things we can do to start moving forward and in the right direction.
Let’s start with the most obvious – stop living in fear and seek God’s face.
Seriously, as believers, our hope is not in a man. It is not in a government. It is not in a political party. It is in Jesus and Jesus alone. And guess what? Jesus had this to say to us in John 16:33 ESV, “I have said these things to you, that in ME you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world!”
Did you catch that? Jesus said our peace is found in HIM. Not only that, but he promised we’d experience troubles in this world, no getting around that, but that we should be courageous because…why? HE has already overcome the world.
In other words, Jesus has already overcome Biden. He has already overcome Trump. He has already overcome communist China. He has already overcome persecution. He has already overcome any trial that lays ahead of us. After all, he is the beginning the middle and the end. He’s eternal. He’s already been there.
In addition to that He promises us that we can have peace even in the midst of those trials.
But Church, we need to understand that so long as we keep looking to Trump, or Republicans, or Democrats, or Biden, our pastor, or anyone else on this earth for our source of peace…WE ARE NEVER going to find it.
Peace is only found in the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ.
This doesn’t mean our troubles suddenly vanish. It just means that we can face our troubles knowing that the God of the Universe is right there beside us, and that He is in full control of the situation.
So that’s number one, STOP LIVING IN FEAR and SEEK GOD’S FACE.
Number two is this, refocus our attention on the things that we were commanded to do.
Before Jesus left this world, and before he sent us the Holy Spirit to empower us, we were given a job to do. That job was this according to Matthew 28:19–20 ESV, which says, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Our attention has, for too long now, been focused on trying to correct our nations woes through politics. When in reality, what we should be doing is going about the Father’s business of making disciples. Politics is important as it relates to the policies that govern our lives.
But you know what? If our nation is filled with unbelievers, then the people making our policies are inevitably going to be unbelievers, which means our policies and laws will inevitably reflect a non-Christian worldview.
But if we spend our time actually focusing on leading people to Jesus and then engaging in real discipleship, the hearts of the people around us are going to be changed and molded in the likeness of Jesus. This will ultimately impact our society, and then our policy makers, and ultimately the laws and policies that govern our lives.
The sad truth is, discipleship isn’t one of our strong suits as the Western Church. In fact, I would even argue that this isn’t something we’ve successfully done in our nation…perhaps ever. Which I firmly believe is part of the reason our nation is so backward right now.
Can we honestly be surprised at the direction our nation has gone when our churches have effectively stopped making disciples in America? No. No we cannot.
In addition to discipleship, we were commanded to “Love God” and “Love others”.
We love God through our daily worship. This is more than music and preaching at a 1 hour Sunday gathering. Worship is very literally the act of bringing honor to God in all that we say or do. So we must refocus our worship. We have to stop limiting our worship to our Sunday gatherings, and start seeing it for what it is – an all encompassing act carried out in all that we say and do every single day of our lives.
But the Bible also says that we cannot truly love God if we do not truly love others. 1 John 4:20 specifically says, “If anyone says, ‘I love God’, and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.”
From what I have seen over the last several years, the Church isn’t doing a great job of loving those who make up the church, much less those who are outside the church. I believe this is because we have focused for so long on the wrong things, and neglected the things that the Church ought to be engaged in, and therefore we find ourselves more divided, and more angry with one another than I personally can remember in my lifetime.
If we cannot love those in the church, or those outside the church, how can we possibly love God?
According to John…we can’t.
So number two is to REFOCUS OUR ATTENTION on the things we were COMMANDED TO DO.
That’s really all there is to it, my friends.
If we will simply stop living in fear and seek God’s face, and refocus our attention on the things that we have been commanded to do, we will find a way forward in this new world.
I say simple, but simple doesn’t mean easy. It won’t be easy at all. But if we work at it, and pray for the empowerment of the Holy Spirit to give us the strength to do this where we lack it, God will be faithful to supply that for us.
Because frankly, I see no other way forward if it doesn’t involve God.
This morning there was a fun discussion happening on a friends Facebook thread. Basically, it revolved around a call to the church to focus more on character than charisma when it comes to church leadership.
Below are some of the thoughts that came to my mind in response, but expanded.
First, I 100% agree!
I always find it interesting when I look at job descriptions from churches versus the qualifications laid out in the New Testament.
Church job descriptions almost always revolve around 3 things:
This is based on my reviewing a lot of church job descriptions. Especially back when I was looking to have a full time church job.
Basically…Churches want to see what sort of things a pastor or church leader they are hiring have personally accomplished. What sets them apart? How big did they grow a church? How many staff did they lead? How many programs did they start? Did they successfully lead building programs? And so on.
Churches want a seminary trained professional. Many will say “Bachelors degree acceptable but Masters Degree preferred”. Just serving in a church rarely qualifies someone.
Churches want a pastor or church leader who have a charismatic personality. They should be able to speak and keep the attention of listeners. They should be able to emotionally connect with people from a stage. They should look and sound like someone you want to follow. And so on.
What the New Testament puts out there, however, revolves around the following:
The NT values how people loved God and loved others. They valued the character of a person from how they dealt with unbelievers to how they handled their spouses and children. Education wasn’t bad, but formal education wasn’t remotely a requirement as education takes on many forms.
Now, let me be clear, I’m not diminishing education. Education is very important. Shoot…I have a BA in Youth Ministry from an accredited Christian University.
The reality, however, is that education takes on many forms, and some of the most impactful and meaningful education that I’ve received in my life didn’t happen in a formal institution, but by doing life with someone.
This is why in Acts 4:13, Peter and John were seen as “uneducated”…because they were in the most academic sense, uneducated…but they had been educated in a far more impactful and life changing way…they had been with Jesus. They had walked with Jesus. They had spent every waking and sleeping moment with Jesus for 3 years.
And it was this that the most “educated” men of their day recognized about them. They knew they hadn’t been formally educated (apparently it was painfully obvious), but when they spoke and when they acted…the fact that they had been with Jesus overshadowed their lack of formal education.
In other words, we should care more about if someone spent time learning at the feet of Jesus than if they were schooled by the universities and educational institutions of the day.
So to summarize, we (the church) need to look more at people who have clearly been with Jesus, and it shows in their words and life…and who have been truly discipled and who are discipling others, and less at a piece of paper hanging on someones office wall, or the list of accomplishments that they can give you, or how cool and charismatic they are.
When you look at what churches expect and what God expects, it’s a pretty stark difference! So the question I have is this…How do we change that? How do churches move to a place where they place more value on what God values versus what the world defines as valuable?
Because if we are honest with ourselves, that is the difference.
We have finally come to the end of the year that will forever live in infamy…the year otherwise known as 2020.
This year has been one of the most difficult seasons in the human experience in recent history as we watched a pandemic quite literally sweep across the globe and shut down life as we knew it.
Generally across the nation and the world we watched as people began to die from this virus that no one knew anything about. We watched on as some of our favorite businesses began to close up shop never to open again. We watched on as individuals began losing their jobs in devastating rates. We watched as people began to become disconnected with one another as we holed up in our homes trying to slow the spread per our governments recommendations and mandates. We had a tumultuous election (here in America) that saw our current president, Donald Trump, unseated. We had to try and navigate holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas with many states returning to lockdown status, and other states remaining open. This clearly made it hard for families to enjoy their time together. And to round the year off, there was a bombing in Nashville on Christmas Day that knocked out communications across Tennessee for several days.
In the midst of all of this we saw cities erupting in riots, destruction, and mayhem as people responded in anger to various situations involving the police and several different men and women who were killed by them. I personally watched the protests and marches in Greenville, SC from a balcony directly on Main Street with my family. To say we were nervous would be an understatement.
Strange things began to happen over the year too…strange things like toilet paper disappearing off the shelves. Not food. Not water. Not milk. Not bread. No sir. It was the toilet paper! Which, if I’m going to be perfectly honest, has to be one of the strangest phenomenon to have happened this year, or perhaps my entire life.
Difficult things began to take place for churches too. Many of them closed their doors never to open again. Some of them closed their doors temporarily, reopened, and then closed them again. Many churches refused to adhere to any recommendations and remained open completely, and saw their pastors and church leaders get arrested as they defied various local mandates. There were church staff lay offs, budget cuts, and a whole lot more.
Many churches began to get creative on how they could still gather without violating mandates and without putting the elderly in their congregations at risk resulting in virtual church, or drive-in church, or house church, and a whole slew of other creative ways.
Many churches began to wake up to the reality that they had placed all of their eggs in their “Sunday Services” basket and began to rethink why they existed and challenged their church body to think outside the box and find creative ways to reach their neighborhoods and communities.
I could probably go on and on about the many facets that made up 2020. But, suffice it to say, it was tumultuous, unpredictable, and down right awful in many ways.
As a podcast, the Angry Christian Podcast had its own adventures. We explored various topics through out season 2 ranging from racism to politics, divorce, COVID19, and more. Most of which was inspired by events taking place at the time of recording.
Season 3 was a bit different, however, as we explored a singular topic, “Who is Jesus?” Each episode was centered around various ways people have defined Jesus. It was a fun season that took a detour from our normal route and spent an entire season answering that one question.
The Angry Christian Podcast has grown in many ways, not the least of which is in our listener base. As of the recording of this episode, the podcast has had over 15,000 downloads over the course of 3 seasons. This is truly amazing! Each episode is averaging between 400 and 1000 downloads! That’s crazy!
So while 2020 has certainly brought us its many challenges, there are also as many, if not more, things to celebrate.
It’s easy to get bogged down with the depressing things that 2020 brought. Especially that whole toilet paper fiasco. What were people thinking?? But seriously, we cannot remain focused on the negative aspects. We will always be depressed if we do.
Instead, we need to try and recall the many ways that God has blessed us, and kept us, and protected us…even if we didn’t see it right away.
For example, here’s some examples from each of the hosts of the Angry Christian Podcast:
Brian says, “My son was born.”
Michael says, “No one in my immediate family got COVID.”
Jonathan says, “Spent a lot more time with my family since we’ve all been at home since March. My Band released our first album back in July.” (link to Jonathans band on Spotify)
Brad (that’s me) says, “I felt like, early on in the pandemic anyway, that we really began to see the true church shine through all the consumer driven mess that we have allowed to…well…consume us. I also got to spend a lot of extra time with my wife and kids as I was able to work from home, and find creative ways to spend our days.”
But you know what? The positivity doesn’t stop with us. I reached out to you, our listeners, and asked for the same thing. Here are some positives that others found in 2020:
Anna says, “I was able to maintain a healthy pregnancy despite 2020 being one of the most stressful years of teaching I’ve ever had. And then he arrived and he’s been an amazing baby.”
Deborah says, “We got pregnant the second time around much faster and easier after so much struggle with the first. And our first is growing into such a smart little guy.”
Dale says, “God gave His people an opportunity to be still and refocus on what’s truly important. He gave us an opportunity to make preparations to minister in a world that will be very different in 2021.”
Cherie says, “I planted a garden and learned so much about growing and healing. It may have been a rough year but I think I needed it.”
Mindy says, “I learned that birds are actually very interesting, and we have more species in my yard than I expected.”
Bud says, “Something I already knew before the Pandemic hit. Journey Church in Ladson SC is more than a building. We continued to “fight for joy” throughout 2020 with Jesus by our side. Looking forward to a blessed and joyful 2021 in the Lord.”
Jamie says, “My business made it even though we had to shut down for a while.”
Daniel says, “I believe this year has allowed us to spend some quality time with our spouse and children that will pay off in great ways for Christ in 2021. I am excited about what God has done with our family in 2020, and more excited with 2021. All to bring glory to our Savior and Lord, Jesus’ name.”
See there? 2020 wasn’t all that bad, was it?
2021 is here, and new adventures and new challenges await us.
The Angry Christian Podcast will be kicking off SEASON 4 in February (4 seasons? No way!!) and, there are some interesting things that will be getting announced about the various adventures that the hosts of this podcast will be taking (or have already started). Don’t worry, these adventures won’t take us away from you. Instead, I think you’ll find that they will bring us all a bit closer.
With all of that said, let us thank the Lord for what 2020 brought us, and prepare ourselves for what 2021 will bring us. God uses all of our circumstances for our benefit. We may just not always see it right away.
And as we head in to this new year, let me just say one more time for old times sake…
Don’t be angry.
Yesterday I posted an article where I began to raise some questions about the immense amount of focus that gets placed on the role of the pastor. If you haven’t read it, check it out HERE.
I talked with my wife a little bit about this article and the questions I’m wrestling with, and she raised an excellent point about how the families of pastors have suffered over the years due to the undue and unnecessary amount of focus placed on pastors, and the unrealistic expectations placed upon them because of it.
And she’s right. I can testify to that on a couple levels.
Level 1: my father was a pastor and our family absolutely suffered both then and now. In fact, I’ll even go so far as to say that a lot of the pressures that he faced ultimately led to the breaking apart of our family and my parents divorce when I was an adult.
Level 2: I was a pastor (albeit staff pastor, associate pastor, whatever you want to call it) for many many years (and still serve on staff at a church) and my family absolutely suffered then and is still working through the impact of those things now. So much so that we had to get counseling to get it addressed.
Because pastors have been elevated to a very unrealistic status and the level of expectations placed upon them, they often find themselves overworked, exhausted, burned out, stressed, suicidal, and a lot more. In fact, here are some startling statistics about pastors specifically that should be quite the eye opener for just how bad it has gotten.
The following statistics come from Soul Shepherding, but were pulled from various surveys and research done over the years which are cited at the bottom of the article linked to above:
Emotional Health, Family, and Morality:
Lack of Care and Training:
I read through the lists above and frankly it rips my heart out. The family and the marriage has become a serious casualty of “ministry” and being a pastor in the modern western church. What bothers me most, though, is that these aren’t numbers because of the “suffering for the Lord”. These are numbers because pastors are suffering at the hands of unrealistic and unmet expectations as well as a church functioning in a way it was never intended to function. Yet, many (even pastors themselves) would simply write this off as the cost of ministry.
I cry foul!
The statistics above are no small numbers and this should cause a great deal of alarm in each of us that reads them. Bells should be sounding off in our heads as we consider the ramifications of what we have done to pastors, their spouses, and their families.
All in the name of “ministry”.
The effect on families, according to the research done for the statistics above, is horrendous! 80% of pastors feel their ministry has negatively impacted their families, with 33% saying it was an absolute hazard. 38% of pastors are divorced or divorcing (my father is among this number), 77% feel they have a bad marriage, and 41% display anger in their marriages. 70% of pastors are fighting depression, 75% are extremely stressed, 90% are exhausted every single week, and 91% are burned out.
Folks, this isn’t good. Pastors and their families are suffering. And if the vast majority of pastors feel their ministry has a negative impact on their family and that they have a bad marriage…what in the world is going on?? Why is this even remotely acceptable? Why are we continuing down this road? Why do we keep glossing over this? Why aren’t we looking at the underlying causes of this?
I’ll tell you why…tradition.
We ignore these things because this is how it’s always been done. We’ve made these things into sacred cows that no one dare touch. But the reality is, this isn’t how it’s always been done. The early church didn’t do it this way. And while they were not perfect, and experienced much of the same issues we experience today in the church, there was a healthier aspect to their existence than there is to ours. We need to look at that and ask, why???
These statistics are symptoms of a massive underlying issue. If all we ever do is treat the symptoms, the true problem will never be rooted out and addressed.
We don’t go in for a doctor checkup and give a list of symptoms, then have the doctor scan us and find that we have brain cancer, and then have the doctor turn around and only prescribe us stuff for the symptoms. No! They want to go after the cancer.
My personal experience has been quite reflective of these statistics.
I could go on and on…but the point is like it or not, believe it or not, we have a cancer in the Western Church, but all we ever want to do is treat the symptoms instead of the cancer.
We think that if we just change the music style it will get better.
We think that if we just offer different programs it will get better.
We think that if we just have better preaching it will get better.
We think that if we just had the right facility it will get better.
All the while, the church is suffering under the surface from a dark mass of cancer that is sucking the life from the American Church, those who serve on staff at these churches, and the families of these pastors and staff.
If we don’t want our families to be casualties in this thing we call “The Church” or “ministry”, then we better start looking closely at the underlying issues and stop spending so much time and resource on the symptoms.
I’m trying to begin to lay out my prognosis of what I believe the cancer is in the American Church based on the various symptoms that are all around us, and based on the opinions of many others who have peer-reviewed this problem and are looking at this mass of cancer and coming to the same conclusions.
But this much I am absolutely sure of, it’s amazing what happens to the symptoms in a person when you remove the cancer.
The symptoms just…go away.
Over the years of my life I have noticed something that few like to talk about or question and that is this: why there is so much emphasis placed on pastors in the church? Especially when one takes a look through scripture and you see that the pastor is but a single small part of the grand picture that is the Church.
For that matter…why is so much focus and emphasis placed on music in the church as though this is the only form of worship the church engages in? OK…I won’t go down that bunny trail this time. I’ll have to revisit that in another article.
Seriously though…as the modern church, why is so much emphasis and focus placed on the role of the shepherd (pastor) while the other roles listed in Ephesians 4 tend to get very little focus if they even get talked about or examined or practiced at all when that isn’t the picture we get in the Bible?
I mean we have pastors conferences, books for pastors, pastors retreats, pastor breakfasts, pastor resources galore, pastors websites, pastors this, and pastors that. The list could go on. Lots and lots of great resources.
If I go to Google and search for “pastor resources” I will be overloaded with what I listed above and more.
Not really a surprise there.
If I go to Google and search for “prophet resources” the majority of results are centered around Islam and Mohammad.
If I go and Google “apostle resources” nearly every single result has to do with the apostles from the Bible and practically nothing has to do with modern day apostles.
Interestingly, if I go to Google and search “evangelist resources” I’m almost as overwhelmed there with resources as I was for pastor. Although, I’m not entirely surprised about that as one who grew up as a Southern Baptist, the 2 roles out of all the roles listed in Ephesians 4 that got the most attention were evangelists and pastors.
Seriously, stop right now and go try it for yourself.
If you took a moment to test out the search for these things above, welcome back! Interesting isn’t it?
Please hear me…there is NOTHING wrong with these roles. But these roles aren’t islands unto their own. They were never intended to shoulder it all.
To be fair, the role of the evangelist has seen a serious decline in focus over the years in general, while the role of the pastor continues to soar.
That aside, we have done a great disservice to the Church and to those who God has gifted outside of these roles by making it so much about the pastor (and in the past the evangelist) while practically ignoring and neglecting the other roles.
Everything in today’s Western Church Culture seems to put the entire weight of the church on the shoulders of the pastor as though they are the only role God ever gave to help equip and lead the church.
I realize there is some debate on if it’s 4 or 5 roles listed in Ephesians 4, but no matter your count, it cannot be understated that we have somehow elevated the role of the shepherd (pastor) above all the others and given them our undivided attention, focus, and resources.
Which raises another question of mine – where in the Bible is the pastor elevated to the “authoritative” role over the church that we have adopted as the norm today? I have tried researching this, and I just don’t see it.
I could go on. My point is simply that I think we have ascribed the role of “pastor” or “shepherd” to roles that weren’t necessarily in their wheel house. All too frequently I see the role of pastor being used interchangeably with elder, or shepherd, or overseer. But is this correct?
I’m still digging on that one, and that is another discussion for another time.
This much I know, whether or not the pastor is biblically elevated to an authoritative role, or whether or not it is acceptable to use “pastor” in place of “elder” or “overseer”, no single role was ever designed by God to function on its own. The very existence of a Triune Godhead shows us otherwise.
Another interesting thing to me is that we have made the roles listed in Ephesians 4 into titles and job titles where I just don’t see that being the case in the New Testament. In other words, we institutionalized the “gifts of God”.
I look at all of this, and the questions it raises in my mind, and I can’t help but think that’s why our churches struggle so much, why pastors have some of the highest depression rates, suicide concerns, and burn out rates of practically every “profession” out there. It was never meant to be a profession and was never meant to be all about the pastor.
Me saying this doesn’t mean I don’t care about pastors.
On the contrary, I care enough about them to say you are unnecessarily burning yourself out by heaping untold amounts of pressure on yourself that was never intended for you to carry alone. You may even be functioning in a role that isn’t yours to function in.
Do we really want a healthy and properly functioning church? If so, then we need to begin to have the hard discussions, examine everything, hold it up to the light of scripture, and make some seriously course corrections.
There are many applications of the definition of foundation. It is the underlying base of support that a building is built upon (see def. 4 and 5 above). It is an institution that donations can be made to (see def. 3 above). It is an act of establishing something (see def. 1 above). And it can be the basis upon which a belief system, principle, or worldview is built upon (see def. 2 above).
I was talking on the phone yesterday with a great friend of mine who used to be a youth pastor on staff with me at the church I used to be part of that closed a couple years back (wow…hard to believe it’s almost been 2 years!).
I became the youth pastor at that church after he left, and have been a youth pastor in other churches over the years, so naturally we were talking about ministry in general, but also youth ministry more specifically.
The main thing we were discussing was how many of the youth we had in our youth ministries are still pursuing God in their life and what we thought helped keep the ones who are still pursuing God on the right track.
This is the conclusion we came to…
The youth that we still see actively pursuing God in their lives today are those that we personally invested our lives in directly, and continue to connect with to this day.
In other words, we had them in our homes individually (not just with the other youth), we spent LOTS of time with them outside of the larger Church and youth gatherings, we knew them personally in ways we didn’t know the other youth in the group, and we maintained a relationship with them long after they grew up out of the youth group.
Basically, the ones who stayed the course (by-and-large) were ones that were intimately discipled and not just interacted with (surface level) at youth meetings and larger church gatherings on Sundays where they’re primarily treated to games, food, and fun events (not a lot of actual discipleship happens there, if we’re honest).
We didn’t do it perfectly. We probably demonstrated how not to do things a lot along the way. But something about that relationship seems to be directly connected to their longevity in the faith.
That relationship, that act of discipleship, was the foundation that was laid for someone in the faith to stay the course and to find their purpose in God’s will.
After further reading of scripture, and seeing what Jesus commanded us to do, and what the early church did, I find this to be true:
Discipleship is INDISPENSABLE as it directly relates to the longevity of faith in a person. Discipleship is a foundation that, when properly laid, is something that can be built upon that will last.
Jesus is the foundation of the gospel upon which our entire faith is built.
Discipleship is the foundation of the great commission upon which the faith of others is built.
Discipleship is foundational to our ministry, and when we lose sight of discipleship, we lose sight of what God commanded us to do in Matthew 28.
I’ve got lots of youth pastor friends that I believe need to know this: you can have the largest youth group in the world, but unless someone is intimately pouring their lives in to a student in your youth ministry in a very direct way, and unless they have someone outside of that ministry doing this already (like a parent or another member of the church), their chances of staying the course in the faith are greatly diminished.
The other thing you need to know is this: it’s absolutely impossible for you as a youth pastor to accomplish this on your own for all of those in that ministry.
Remember, Jesus had 12 close disciples (there were far more than that overall), and had three that were in his inner circle that were poured into in even greater measure. And even in the group of 12 he had two betray him (with in the same 24 hour period to be exact – one which was in the inner circle). Thankfully, one of those two (Peter) returned to him and pursued him further. The other (Judas) did not.
The point is, you should not try to shoulder the weight of discipling every student in your youth ministry alone. In fact, it’s quite unbiblical. Especially when you see how God provided to the Church a plethora of people gifted to help equip and disciple the church. The same goes for your youth ministry.
Don’t be upset by or even jealous of the relationship a student may have with another adult in your ministry. You can’t do it all on your own even if you wanted to anyway, and if you have adults who are willing to pour into those students lives, you should be grateful…not put off.
One more thing…
This doesn’t just apply to youth ministry.
This applies to senior pastors, children’s pastors, evangelists, teachers, prophets, apostles, missionaries, and so on.
I’ll go even so far as to say to you senior pastors most specifically (because they have taken on the primary role of care of local churches), and please hear my heart on this: STOP trying to carry the burden of the entire church on your shoulders. God didn’t design you to do that. He didn’t design anyone to do that.
He brings together many people gifted in many ways to disciple and equip the many to go out and do the work of the church. Stop making the church out to be your sole responsibility as a pastor. Stop shouldering so much. According to Ephesians 4, God has brought others along side of you to help disciple and equip the church. This is not yours alone to bear.
Instead, look at each person in your local church body as someone who has been uniquely gifted to do something for God and your responsibility is not to plug them in to YOUR ministry, but to help encourage them in their own gifting, point them in the right direction, disciple them or bring others in to disciple them if you are already pouring into others…then release them into the work God has called them to.
Always keep in mind that you are not the CEO of a business, or an event planner, or an orator, or complaint box, or anything else you find yourself functioning as.
By shouldering everything you may actually be standing in the way of others being used as God intended rather than helping them…and, potentially standing in the way of how God intended to use you as well.
You are a pastor, a shepherd (as the Bible words it), of a group of people who are chomping at the bit to learn and put into practice the gifts God has given them. God calls us to “Go and make disciples” not “Go and build buildings” or “Go and build programs” or “Go and plant churches”.
Discipleship is the keyword. It is the program.
Disciple people, and the rest will fall into place.
I will leave you with the words of Paul who lays out the profit and consequence of good and bad discipleship:
1 Corinthians 3:9-15 NKJV
9 For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. 10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. 11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. 14 If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
Worship is a very misunderstood thing. It is an often argued about thing as well, mostly because I think of the misunderstandings that the (sadly) vast majority of believers have about what worship is exactly.
I think this became painfully obvious as we entered into the lockdown phase of 2020 after the whole COVID19 thing hit. It was in this moment that I began to see the following two concerns or questions being raised by believers in large numbers:
To answer question one, in short, since the church is a body of people, the only way a church can be shut down is if the church is being run like a business and not an actual church.
I’ve said that before, but I think it bears repeating.
Think about it…if your church is being run like a business, and your only source of revenue is the donations of your people…and those donations are only accessible (by-and-large) through in-person events you hold once a week (or more) for one hour at a time, then yes…your “church” (read: business) could be shut down.
But since the church ISN’T a business, you can’t shut it down. The only way to shut it down would be to end the lives of the very people that make up that body. Even then, the church will go on. And since the lives of the church body haven’t actually been taken (at least here in America), then the Church was not shut down.
It’s one hour large church gathering got shut down, but the church itself was not shut down. I would even go so far as to say that it was at the height of this whole lockdown thing that we saw the church looking more like the church than it has looked in quite a long time.
Which brings me to the second question – can a government restrict our worship?
The short answer? No.
The longer answer? The government can’t restrict our worship because our worship is more than what we do in our weekly one hour gatherings. And to understand this…we have to truly understand what worship is.
So today, I want to explore the question, “What is Worship?“
I will first go through the various ideas people have about worship, and then I’ll let the Bible tell us what worship is. After all, it’s all well and good for everyone to have an opinion about what worship is, but if we don’t let God define that for us, our opinions will remain opinions and we will miss the mark entirely.
Without further ado, here we go!
Worship ABSOLUTELY includes the gathering of the church body. Unfortunately, there is a huge dispute amongst the body as to what constitutes as a proper worship gathering. Especially under COVID19 restrictions and lockdowns that we’ve seen.
Some say a worship gathering must have music, a sermon, a time for prayer, a time for offerings, etc. They will say that without these things present, a proper church gathering did not take place. Some say a worship gathering is simply the body of believers coming together and encouraging, exhorting, and building up one another. They will say that you don’t need a pastor or a sermon or any of the trappings of “church” that we currently see to count as a gathering.
I will say that the Bible indicates that God is in our midst at all times and even more so when two or more are gathered (Matthew 18:20) – so the church gathering needs to at least include, at a minimum, 2 people.
Should we gather? Yes!
Is there many ways we can gather? Yes!
Can this even be done virtually (Zoom, FaceTime, Google Hangouts, etc.)? Yes!
However the gathering may look, while certainly part of worship…it’s not the only part.
We too often treat prayer as a one sided “conversation” where we go to dump everything out on the lap of Jesus, which usually results in us walking away never having heard him speak back to us. Then we get frustrated because we say “God doesn’t answer my prayers”.
Then again, we aren’t actually listening for the answer, are we?
We’re just spewing out all our problems and then saying “Alright God, fix it!” All the while thinking that this is all there is to prayer.
Want a visual?
This is kind of how prayer looks (if we’re honest with ourselves):
If you watched that video, you’re probably laughing. But sadly, this is exactly what it looks like WAY too often.
The reality is, prayer is conversing with God. Conversation is a two way street…it is a time of both speaking AND listening.
So, while prayer, conversing with God, is a HUGE part of worship…this too is not the only part.
This one is probably the hottest topic on the list.
For decades, it seems, the Church has been arguing with one another over church music. Traditional or contemporary? Choir robes or skinny jeans? Organs and pianos or electric guitars and drums? Unplugged or loud sound system? Hymns or CCM? Hymn books or projector screens?
NOTE: I wrote two long articles, HERE and HERE, on this one in response to another article telling us how hymn books are basically superior to screens in helping us worship. Try not to roll your eyes too much.
Personally? I think these are all stupid arguments.
Every. Last. One.
I say that as a worship leader in a church who leads the music for our contemporary service.
Why do I think these arguments are stupid?
Because A) worship is more than music (I’ll get to that in a minute) and B) It’s pathetic and sad just how much we have allowed musical preferences (yes these are ALL preferences) become a point of anger, frustration, and division in the church.
These arguments over musical preferences (yep, I said it again) demonstrate a great deal of immaturity in the Church when it comes to worship.
As a musician, I understand and appreciate the beauty of all genres and styles. I understand how music can leave a literal imprint in our memories. I understand how we can latch on to certain songs because they speak to a part of us in ways other things can’t.
But these things are not good enough reasons to make music in to the idol it has become.
That said, one thing I can appreciate about music and I think is one of the greatest benefits of music, is that it is one of the greatest teaching tools out there. We struggle to memorize bible verses, our phone numbers, or street addresses…but give me a song (“867-5309” anybody?) and suddenly we can’t forget it. Tie those lyrics to a catchy tune, and even a memory, and it will be forever engrained in our psyche.
There’s a spiritual aspect to music too. In the Bible, music helped soothe Saul’s troubled soul (1 Samuel 16:23). It helped David process the good and bad in his life and even remind his own soul that God was in charge (see the entire book of Psalms). It was a way the early church communicated and encouraged one another (Ephesians 5:19). And more.
So, while music is certainly an avenue of worship, it’s not the only avenue.
This section is probably going to be very disappointing in length compared to the sections above, mostly because worship is possibly one of the most simple spiritual concepts to grasp.
Are you ready?
Worship is many things…in fact, it is all things.
Worship is simply this “Giving God the glory in all that we do.”
OR, as Paul puts it in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God”, or in Romans 12:1, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”
All that you do, and all that you are…THAT is worship.
Whether you are singing, praying, gathering, sleeping, eating, drinking, feeding the poor, caring for the homeless, adopting, helping a widow, serving fellow members of the church body, driving to work, working, parenting, going to school, reading, shopping, obeying your parents, caring for pets, and much MUCH more.
Now go…present your bodies…your lives…as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is YOUR spiritual worship.
In a time when racial tensions are high, people often want to bring Jesus into it. Not just from a “what would Jesus do” aspect, but also from “What race was Jesus?”. So, in this episode, we explore that a little. Was Jesus white? Was Jesus black? Tune in to find out where we land on this question.
I think some people assume that I’m anti-large church gatherings, or anti-a lot of things apparently, because of the stuff I often write about micro-church expressions. So, my hope is to offer some clarification in 4 areas:
So….here we go!
I’m not against big things. I’m not against churches gathering together in large groups. However, I think it is in the smaller groups that we see the most effective environment for discipleship and equipment to go and do the mission of the church.
I think this is modeled by Jesus himself. Indeed, he preached to thousands at times. But, he was closer, more intimate, and spent the bulk of his time with 12 guys. He spent lots of time with others who comprised the core of the early church, but the bulk of his focus was these 12 guys.
In the micro-church expression there would be LOTS of small church gatherings taking place all over a region (in groups of like 20 or less). Each one dedicated to their own mission and community to reach in their own unique ways. Those smaller gatherings would meet weekly, if not multiple times a week (who is to say?).
Those gatherings would then gather less frequently (but still intentionally gathering) with the other groups in a larger expression where they can come together, be encouraged by whats happening with the various groups, worship together through music, pray together, and sit under some preaching or teaching geared towards encouragement and exhortation to go back to their corners of the community and be on mission.
The leaders of these micro-churches would come together frequently to pray with one another, encourage one another, and equip one another.
In other words, even the larger gathering wouldn’t look exactly like what we’re used to. It’s not the size of the gathering in this case, but the purpose for the gathering that is important.
Buildings are great and serve lots of purposes. I live in a building myself…it’s called a home. I depend on it to protect myself and my family from the elements and provide a safe space for us to sleep and eat and whatever else one does in a home. However, there is a lot of overhead with the ownership of a home. Likewise, there is a lot of overhead for a church that owns a facility.
Church facilities are great and well intentioned, but can wreak major havoc on church budgets. Outside of salaries, facilities are the next greatest expenditure for most churches. And if we’re honest with ourselves, they don’t provide a whole lot of return on our investment. In other words, these massive facilities sit vacant most days of the week, and do very little to actually help us fulfill our mission in reaching our community. In my estimation, this is a great waste of money, when money could be better put to use on the actual mission.
Don’t get me wrong….the early church had access to facilities as well…but I’m not entirely sure they spent untold amounts of money building grand buildings they could visit once a week in order to shake some hands, sip some coffee, hear some great music, and listen to some guy give a pep talk about having your best life now.
As mentioned above, there may be times when all of the micro-church expressions with in a network of micro-churches will want to gather together for a larger gathering. They will need a space for that. They may choose to partner together to build something that will serve multiple purposes and be used every day of the week for their mission, or they may choose to simply rent a space when the time comes to need one. Either way, it’s not that they won’t need facilities, it’s just that a facility won’t be the main base of operations for them…individuals homes and communities would be.
In the micro-church expression, there isn’t anything barring someone from being a minister who receives compensation. To be sure, Paul and other leaders from the New Testament had things to say about paying ministers. Paul encouraged paying ministers, however, he himself didn’t take payment frequently (he did at times though).
The point isn’t so much “Should a church pay a minister?”, but rather “Should paying a minister be one of the primary ways a church uses its finances?”
That said, I believe in the smaller expressions, money would be more wisely used and better spent on the mission of reaching their community rather than providing the salary for a single individual (and potentially their family), or potentially a whole slew of individuals and their families with in their church body.
The money would also be used in times of crisis when a member of that local body experiences financial hardships (job loss, medical bills mounting, adoption, etc.). Because a micro-church won’t already be trying to support paid staff and keep up a building, they will have more freedom with their finances to support those in their midst who are in need.
The money could also be used to support missionaries who are sent from this local expression of the Church into other nations where financial assistance is absolutely needed, at least at the start.
If compensation were to take place, I believe in the micro-church expression that compensation would be very minimal and the person being compensated would still likely hold a full-time marketplace job outside of the church that provides the bulk of their financial support.
The benefit of this is several-fold:
It is true…I’m not a fan of seminaries. Mostly because I feel seminaries have become largely giant centers for continuing denominational view points (right or wrong), and something for professional ministers to add to their resumes so they can get hired on at a good paying church job.
But this isn’t the same as not being a fan of education.
Quite the opposite…I’m a HUGE proponent of education. Education is absolutely important. We ought to always be students and finding ways to educate ourselves on all sorts of things. I believe furthering our education should also include learning how to read and understand the Bible. It should include learning about our spiritual gifts and how to put them to use. It should include so much more that I could list.
The bible encourages us to love knowledge. Knowledge is great! Knowledge can lead to wisdom. But if education becomes an idol, and we rely more on what our seminaries can teach us than what the Holy Spirit will do in and through us…we are in serious danger.
The issue is, much like facilities, money, and the size of our church – the piece of paper a pastor hangs on his wall has become a major idol for a lot of churches, and has even become a detriment to churches because they seriously do think that the only qualified people to lead or serve in a church are those with specific degrees from specific seminaries or universities.
Again, education is important, but if we make it into an idol, then it becomes a stumbling block just like anything else.
A lot more could be said, but I hope this helps provide at least some clarification and maybe a better understanding of my thoughts on what the church COULD and perhaps SHOULD look like.
COVID has been a pain in our butts for the vast majority of 2020…this much is true. People have died (over 200k in the US). This is no small thing. However, perhaps one of the worst outcomes of the entire thing is how we have come to treat one another…our friends, family, and neighbors.
We were already at one another’s throats over stupid politics and religion…but then we throw in a virus that no one knows anything about coupled with government agencies and health organizations talking like experts on the matter when they knew very little as well…and suddenly everyone is a health expert and everyone is a threat.
As a result, I have watched people begin to treat others (their friends, neighbors, and family) like they are social pariahs…or like they are carrying the Black Death in their pocket. I have literally had people run away from me because I was asked to usher them to their seat at a wedding. I’ve gotten dirty looks because I stood too close or something to someone one time in line at the store (even though I had a mask on). I’ve seen people calling the cops on other people to report that they are not wearing a mask in a store (this actually happened in my town), and the cops actually showed up!
NEWS FLASH…your friends, family, and neighbors aren’t zombies!
They aren’t your enemies.
If anything, WE are the zombies acting out in mindless fear toward the people we know, love, and see every day.
Now it’s the elections turn to drive a deeper wedge between us. Heaven forbid you say anything remotely political online as you might receive private messages telling you that you’re not really a Christian. Or have someone lose their mind on you on a social media post. Or come and tear up your political parties signs in your front yard. Or worse…
All this for what? Because we are afraid. And in our fear we have turned one another into threats and enemies.
As we move into the 2020 holiday season I REALLY hope we’ll snap out of our zombie like state and come back to our senses a little bit with our friends, family, and neighbors. You know, treat them like human beings again instead of like walking diseases that must be avoided at all costs.
P.S. I’m giving out free hugs. Next time you see me, I’ll be happy to give you one!
Was Jesus a legalist, an anarchist, neither, or both? Tune into this episode as we explore another facet of the character of Jesus and 2 more ways that Jesus is often portrayed by people who say they know him, or at least say they know about him.
On episode 2 of season 3, we continue our discussion and exploration of who Jesus is by asking the question, “Was Jesus a Warrior, a Pacifist, neither, or both?”
Please, understand the heart of what I’m about to share, and not take it as a slight against a movement that exposed serious problems in our nation…but I’m going to start a new #MeToo movement. It is a movement where we recognize and call out our own faults and humbly address the planks in our own eyes rather than seek to point out the speck in everyone else’s eyes and try to fix them, which, as we all know, can’t happen. We can’t fix others. But, we can address the issues in ourselves and hopefully help others see the issues in themselves by allowing them to see how we confront them in ourselves.
I’ll go first…I used to like controversy. Understatement, actually, I used to LOVE controversy. In fact, there are still times where I have to fight the urge to jump headlong into it. It has taken a few years of introspection, and several months (almost a full year) of clinical counseling, to address a lot of this in my life. There is still a lot of work I need to do…but I’m glad I began this process earlier in my life rather than later, as I feel that the longer you reside in this place, the harder it becomes to get out of it.
I stumbled across an article from The Gospel Coalition today written by Russel Moore (president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention) titled, Why Unhealthy People Crave Controversy. As I began to read it I found it to be so reflective of the person I had become and the life I had settled in to. It was scary. It was like looking in a mirror and seeing someone else describe me to me.
One paragraph from the article below that sums up the danger that I found myself in is this:
“Again, quarrels sometimes come, and sometimes those controversies are what it takes to be faithful to the Spirit. But just as one engaged in sexual immorality can always convince himself that this is a special case of “love,” “soulmates,” or “destiny,” the one with an unhealthy craving for controversy can always convince himself that he’s a warrior for Christ—instead of a captive to his passions.”
Ouch! I did this very thing. I would engage in controversy, and even stir it up (especially on social media) and then convince myself that I was just being a warrior for Christ and experiencing persecution from others who hated the truth (and others even patted me on the back and said as much). When in reality, it was I who hated the truth.
But what a comparison…comparing my love of controversy and my justification of it to one engaged in sexual immorality and justifying it. By doing this I became no better than an adulterer convincing myself that my affair was the exception to the adultery rule.
In another paragraph, the author of this article points out an important fact about Jesus’s life:
“In the rare moments we see anger from Jesus, it is never about protecting his own sense of worth, never about performative outrage in order to be accepted by a tribe, and certainly never about gaining power. His anger was never quarrelsome, never animalistic, never from the works of the flesh.”
You see…I had taken the stories like Jesus calling the pharisees names, and flipping tables at the temple, and used them to convince myself that I was just being like Jesus…if you can’t handle being called a name or having your tables flipped…then clearly I was doing my job at being more like Jesus and you were clearly just acting more like your father the devil.
I was wrong of course. And ignorant of my own peril.
After I had begun to recognize these things in myself, I began to try and correct course. This, unfortunately, involved removing several people out of my social media life. And for some people, it actually involved removing them out of my real life. It was hard…and I tried to confront their desire to continue to stir up strife and controversy kindly and let them know that I had no desire to continue in that way…but they persisted…and so I had to let them go.
The author of this article puts what I had to do this way:
The apostle Paul called for a kind of controversy to deal with those stirring up “foolish” controversies: “As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him” (Titus 3:10). This is a very different kind of controversy—it starts with gentleness and reasonableness, and ends in removing oneself rather than engaging in the quarrelsomeness from the other side.
Removing people from my life was (and still is) a hard task. Especially when they are people I have grown to love, care about, or even look up to as mentors. But there are times where the only way to move forward is to remove them from my life.
As I began to remove these people from my life, and address the planks in my eye, I began to find that the fruits of the Spirit that were horribly lacking in my life were beginning to come to the surface.
I had spent so many years drowning them out, and pushing them down, that I had completely lost sight of these fruits.
Now, I’m no expert at these things. I’m still growing, and learning, and being challenged every single day. But, I am finding it easier and easier to find peace, kindness, and grace for others when I’m not spending my time trying to prove them wrong all the time.
We come to the end of this article, but not the end of the journey. After reading this far, do you find anything from the above that looks like you?
Don’t feel alone…#MeToo.
Everyone has their own ideas about who Jesus is…but it is important that we actually know who Jesus is, and not just who we would like Him to be. Season 3 is dedicated to exploring the many ways people portray Jesus and comparing that to what the Bible tells us about Jesus. It’s sure to be an awesome season filled with great discussions and thought provoking nonsense (wouldn’t be an ACP episode without a little humor, now would it?) See you there!
Opening Music: “Angry Dance” by Simon Panrucker
Outro Music: “Clear Progress” by Scott Holmes
I’m seeing pastors, church leaders, and churches struggle with some very real things right now. Things like staff lay offs, bank debts for facilities, paying the utility bills, finding volunteers to man the programs they have…asking questions like…do they have in person gatherings or not, do they go to summer camp or not, do they have their normal annual conference or not, do they allow singing if they gather, and much more.
These things can’t be taken lightly. They are very real concerns…under this current structure of church.
Yesterday I talked a little about the story of the three little pigs and how this story reminded me of the parable of the wise builder that Jesus talked about who built his house upon the rock instead of sand making his foundation a firm foundation that could stand up against the storms of life.
And as I think about the three little pigs, and the parable of Jesus, and then take a look at the current condition of the American Church…I have to wonder…what sort of foundation did we build our house (our churches) upon if it trembles so easily under the weight of a virus and social pressure?
My honest take?
I think our foundation is one of sand, not rock.
Sadly, more often than not, our “houses” aren’t just build on a foundation of sand, but are completely constructed out of sand and look more like sand castles that we’ve spent years meticulously crafting and building higher and higher, then standing back and admiring our work and inviting people to come see what we did…only to have the tide come in and a small wave come along and wash it all away.
I think this is why we are seeing unprecedented “church closures”, keeping in mind that churches can only close when they are run like a business and not a church.
This reminds me of another scripture in the bible…this time from Paul, which is in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 ESV and it says:
10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.
What Paul is saying is that while the foundation is important, and in the case of the church and salvation our foundation in Jesus is critically important, the structure that we build upon that foundation is also important.
Paul tells us that a test will come that will test the workmanship of those who built upon that foundation…he refers to this test as a fire…and what each person has built will either survive the test, or be burned up.
He assures the readers that while their work may be burned up, they themselves will still be saved…but their work will be utterly lost.
As I read the words of Paul, and I think about the three little pigs and the wise builder who built his house upon the rock, and I again think about the American Church…I’ll be honest…I’m nervous for her. VERY nervous.
The test (the fire) for our time has come in the form of a virus, and we are seeing the workmanship of so many church planters being burned up and left in a pile of ash. Our foundations might have been right…built on Jesus…but our structures….oh God our structures…were massively flawed.
What makes me nervous isn’t so much that our structures are being revealed as seriously faulty, but rather that pastors, church leaders, and churches are doubling down on these structures and holding fast to their structures as they, like the sand carried away by the wave, slips through their fingers.
Why are we holding tight to sand structures? Why would we not let the wave just carry them away and resolve ourselves to build a better structure…one of gold, and silver, and precious stones that will stand the test of fire and stand the test of time?
I’ll tell you why…pride.
We’re so proud of our sand structures.
After all, we’ve spent countless years building our little castles in the sand (we went to seminary and did studies about our target audience, etc.), adorning them with seashells and other ocean matter (we gathered our church planting team, hired our staff, built our buildings, etc.), inviting people to come see what we have done (inviting people to our Sunday entertainment gatherings where people come and sit and listen to music and speaking for an hour a week) instead of inviting people into a relationship with a mighty God and see what HE is doing (inviting them to come and engage one another and engage God).
We’ve been enjoying ourselves immensely as the masses are entertained and filling our coffers so we can build bigger and better and more comfortable buildings with even more entertaining programs for people to watch.
But Church…our test is here…2020 has come in and a virus has come along and all that we have worked for is being washed away.
Will we keep grasping at the sand?
It’s 8PM on a Monday night, I’m sitting in the living room with my 4-year-old watching the Looney Toons version of “The Three (3) Little Pigs” and, of course, this gets me thinking about the message that is being communicated through this short little story.
If you’re not familiar with the story (which, I REALLY hope you are, but just in case), it’s about three little pigs who go to build their houses. One builds their house of straw, one of sticks, and the last pig out of bricks.
Along comes a big bad wolf who tries to blow down their houses so he can eat them. He successfully does this with the pigs in the straw and stick homes, but when he comes to the little pig in the brick house he can’t knock it over. It remains standing against the wolfs attempts.
The moral of the story is making sure that you are building on a solid foundation so that your life doesn’t come crashing down all around you in an instant when the woes of life come blowing against it.
The bible has a similar story…except the Bible tells of two houses.
One built on sand and one built on the rock.
In Matthew 7:24-27 NLT, we read the words of Jesus:
24 “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. 25 Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. 26 But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. 27 When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”
Similar to the story of the three little pigs…Jesus is warning against building on a shaky foundation.
The foundation that Jesus is referring to is the truth in His Words. The revelation of who He is, and why He came. The truth in who is, and what this means for us. When we build our earthly and eternal foundation on Jesus, trials will still come (he never said they wouldn’t, in fact he even says “Though the rain comes…” with certainty), but we in spite of the storms we will not be easily shaken.
This, unfortunately, cannot be said of those who have built their house upon the sand (a shaky foundation outside of Jesus).
So…what foundation have you built your life upon?
The Rock (Jesus)? OR The Sand (anything else)?
There is such a thing as an optimal environment for everything in life.
Optimal environments for raising children.
Optimal environments for pets.
Optimal work environments.
Optimal health environments.
And so on.
There is one thing I’ve been learning with my wife as we explore growing our own food that stands out pretty clearly in my mind, and that is this: there is an optimal environment for growing various plants.
Some plants grow better in some environments over others. It’s not saying it’s impossible to make those plants grow in sub-optimal environments, it just means it will be met with great frustration and difficulty to accomplish, and may not produce the results you were expecting to get (if it produces any results at all).
For some plants you may have to give up on the idea of growing it in your region. Or it may be that you will need to find a way to harness an optimum environment with what you have (better soil, green house, growing indoors, etc). Either way – you don’t want to spend your life as a gardener trying to force plants to grow in a sub-optimal environment. It will drive you absolutely crazy and could potentially be a huge waste of time.
As I was picking up a riding lawn mower this evening from a friend, a thought occurred to me as we talked. The thought was this:
There is such a thing as an optimal environment for the church.
The issue is…no one wants to admit that maybe, just maybe, the environment they are trying to force the church to thrive in may in fact be a sub-optimal environment.
Church leaders – let me encourage you by saying this – admitting you have been attempting to sow seeds of church growth in a sub-optimal environment doesn’t mean that you are a failure. It just means you recognize that what you are doing may not be producing the best fruit (or any fruit) because it is not the optimal environment for the flourishing of the church.
For example: I am not anti-mega church. I do, however, believe it is a sub-optimal environment to effectively foster and equip the church to do the work of the ministry for many many reasons that I’m not going to go into here.
Can it be done in a mega-church environment? Sure!
But there is a strong likelihood that you will be met with an immense amount of frustration and difficulty and perhaps even find that the vast majority of the ones in attendance to your local gathering is not functioning as a healthy member of the church body.
And not to let small churches off the hook on this one, here’s another example:
I am a firm believer that the very structure of church government and church model that practically every church follows in the west is sub-optimal.
Again, can it be done? Surely.
But like with mega-churches, because it is sub-optimal you will be met with a great deal of frustration, difficulty and find that the vast majority of those in attendance to your local gathering is not functioning as a healthy member of the church body.
So, what then, is the answer?
First of all – humility. Being humble enough to admit that maybe we are off the mark is a great first step. It’s also the hardest first step. It is also the one step that many in your local church gathering may not be able to get on board with because they too are stuck in an assumed mindset that they are doing it right and that the problem is just the culture. But, if the leaders of the church are willing to humble themselves and take ownership of the course the church has taken, then we can really begin to make headway in correcting its course.
Second of all – creativity. Begin to explore the early church and what is required of the church. Begin to foster a creative and optimal environment based on what God requires of us, and what your specific community needs. Start looking at the countless ways that the church can express itself in its community.
The hard part about this step is that this may require trashing everything you currently do and put a flame to it. However, it may only require minor tweaks. Or, it may require something in between. This will all be entirely dependent on where you and your local church gathering currently are and where you need to be in order to achieve an optimal healthy environment.
Now the question and call for action…where do YOU need to begin, and what will YOU do to get the ball rolling in the right direction?
Perhaps I’m dating myself here a little, but I remember when shopping malls were all the rage and acted as the primary place where people of all ages would come and spend their weekends. Friday nights, especially, were spent roaming the halls of the malls.
These malls were packed with multiple shoe stores, clothing stores, restaurants, snack stands, perfume shops, jewelry shops, music stores (when people still bought tapes and CD’s), book stores, and so on. Many malls even had arcades, and some even had movie theaters built in.
I used to work in the mall. Specifically at the Chick-fil-a in the Food Court of the mall where I lived which happened to be situated right underneath the movie theatre and right at the main entrance to the mall.
Most of the foot traffic of the mall came through this to begin or end their mall adventure.
When I wasn’t working, I would absolutely be hanging out here with my friends, catching movies, playing games in the arcade, grabbing snacks at the pretzel place, going to talk to my friends who were still working at the various shops in the mall, or going out and cruising around the mall in my car trying to see if I spotted anyone I knew.
If you’re not sure what a mall looked like back in those days, check out the last season of “Stranger Things” and you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about. Or…well…really, you could watch any 80’s or 90’s movie to see it as well.
Fast forward to the mid to late 2,000’s and technology introduces us to things like eBay, Amazon, and all the shopping someone can muster, all at their finger tips through their computer without leaving their house or putting on clothes.
Fast forward a little further to the mid to late 2010’s and we find shopping malls seriously on the struggle bus. And why were malls struggling? Because online shopping was growing in convenience and popularity.
No longer were people coming to the mall to buy stuff, which meant people were less inclined to come and enjoy the other amenities of the mall.
Couple that with the advent of online streaming services for both movies, TV, and video gaming, and suddenly the other cool amenities like the arcade and movie theaters are taking a huge hit as well.
Sadly, as a result, we’ve seen a great mall exodus from America. Even in my own area I’ve watched one of the largest malls (and nicest in my opinion) go from hugely popular to struggling to even get older people there to walk in the mornings. They have literally turned the mall into a church (on one end) and in the middle they have turned it in to a branch of MUSC (a hospital system in my area).
There are still some malls hanging in there, but by-and-large, malls have lost their luster and the people have lost their affinity for them. Companies who had stores in malls that adapted to online shopping and started providing online shopping services to their customers have managed to pull through and survive the coming mall-apocolypse.
Unfortunately, other shops that didn’t adapt have had to close their doors altogether.
Fast forward again to 2020 and with the COVID19 pandemic, many stores who didn’t already have an online presence have had to close their doors, try and quickly get an online presence or find other creative ways to get their product to customers. Either way, they’ve struggled.
Meanwhile, stores that have had an online presence and have been providing shipping for years quickly and easily adapted and even became popular sources for shopping for those who hadn’t previously done online shopping, simply because people were too scared to leave their homes to shop.
Now, imagine with me if you will, still in the 80’s and early 90’s, replacing those individual shops with various local churches and then, let’s call this place the “Western Church Mall”.
As you walk through the halls of Western Church Mall you see the various church shops with their people standing out by the doors begging you to come inside and see what they have to offer as they shoot glares and smirks across the hall to the church across the way while they tell you all about how different and better they are than the Church shop down the hall.
You notice that some of the shops appear to be ethnically targeted, while others seem to be targeting certain age groups of people.
Some of the church shops appear to be hocking formal wear, offering only the finest in suits, ties, and dresses. While other church shops appear to be hocking casual wear offering the latest trends emerging from the casual markets.
All of the church shops appear to be in competition with one another to get customers. Some of the church shops even belong to larger corporations who put out advertisements on TV and radio comparing their offering to the other church shop offerings like some Pepsi vs Coke commercial of the 80’s.
As you walk by each church shop you hear their various radio stations playing over their loud speakers. Some, like the formal church wear shops, are quietly playing classical music over the speakers, while others like the casual wear shops are blasting loud rock, hip-hop, or even rap music over their speakers.
As you continue walking you see all the other people around you walking the halls, some of them slipping into one shop, and then moments later slipping into the next shop, and so on. You see several who walk the halls, peruse the shops, and leave the mall without buying anything because, in their words, “The stores just didn’t have what they were looking for” so they are going to go try the mall across town and see if those Church shops have what they want.
In the mid 2010’s we saw the increase in popularity of a little thing called “Live Streaming”. Live streaming suddenly made it possible for “churchgoers” to attend their churches Sunday gatherings from the comfort of their home. They could pull up their churches services right there on their computer without leaving their home or putting on their clothes. They could even watch multiple church gatherings if they wanted at the exact same time from churches all across the country and world.
Fast forward to 2020 and we suddenly have a pandemic on our hands called COVID19 and churches are being forced to consider closing their physical church locations to help prevent the spread of COVID19 to their parishioners.
Churches that have been live streaming for years have faced as much of a struggle with this as they simply continued to produce online services that they were already doing. Some faced a slight dip in giving, but generally, they were able to maintain their Sunday worship services for their people with minimal additional effort and even saw a massive uptick in “attendance” via their online services.
However, unlike the online stores, even these churches have begun to see a serious hit to their bottom line, attendance (both in person and online), and more. These churches have had to halt building projects, let go of or reduce the pay of staff, and have had to put all sorts of programs and events on hold that would’ve otherwise been a smash hit during the summer.
Churches that haven’t been live streaming for years, may not even know what live streaming is, or struggle to even have a single computer in their facility have been a horse of a different color. They have struggled to quickly catch up, learn the technology, implement new parts to their website (or get a website to begin with), find people in their churches who know how to use this technology, and find ways to get these digitally produced services to their members who by-and-large aren’t all that big on technology either.
The Barna Group released a study on July 8, 2020 titled One in Three Practicing Christians Has Stopped Attending Church During COVID-19, and I’ve already seen the rounds going by Christians and pastors alike decrying peoples non-commitment to the local church. In this article Barna reveals that all churches (traditional and contemporary) are struggling hard in this pandemic.
Technologically advanced and technologically disadvantaged churches have had to learn a hard truth in light of COVID-19:
…they have (for better or worse) built their entire existence around a one hour gathering on Sunday’s as though this was their entire reason for being, and all it took was a single pandemic to practically topple it.
And because of that, if they do not manage to find a way to maintain it or replace it with a creative alternative in light of the current era we find ourselves in that is plagued with a literal plague, they will find themselves closing their doors no matter how young, hip, cool, technologically advanced, or whatever else they may be.
In short, these churches put all of their eggs in one basket because they assumed this was the only basket the Church had to carry.
Unlike shopping malls and stores, the Church is, or at least should be, a very different entity from a business. Mostly because they are not a business.
However, up until now, the Church has made the massive mistake of becoming a consumer driven organization that looking more and more like the shopping malls of the 80’s and 90’s than a living, breathing, world shaking entity that is empowered and equipped by a mighty God who created all things to go out into the world and be His ambassadors of light to this dark world.
The mindset has become, “If we build it they will come.” (NOTE: This is a famous line from the movie “Field of Dreams” starring Kevin Costner…classic late 80’s/early 90’s movie)
As a result, COVID19 stripped nearly every church in America of their identity because we put all of our efforts and focus into a single hour of the week assuming this was the purpose for which we existed, instead of in the person of Christ and in the relationship with him and with one another.
We were dead wrong, and many churches are facing the music because of it. I don’t celebrate this. It’s sad news.
Unfortunately, I have been saying this for years now, but especially in the last few months, but it doesn’t have to be this way. The Church in the West doesn’t have to go down like this.
Yes, we’ve had our facilities, gatherings, budgets, staff, and all the niceties of the modern church stripped from us, but these things really weren’t the church, were they?
No. These things were the trappings of a church that had adopted a toxic consumer mindset and have spent the better part of the last 30+ years trying to find ways to function like a business but still call itself a Church.
This isn’t a jab at contemporary churches only. It’s not just a contemporary church problem. This is a Western Church problem, and has been for a very long time. [See some of my other articles on this issue like Obese Church vs Keto Church, Tiny House Movement: A Big Lesson for the American Church, 20 Signs of a Consumer Driven Church Culture, or Re-Branding the American Church).
But we can change course. We don’t have to go back to what we’ve always done. We can use this moment as a moment for positive and effective change.
Back in March, when all of this COVID19 stuff started making its rounds in America, I wrote the following article: COVID19 Aftermath: The Church Cannot Go Back to Egypt.
I highly recommend going and checking this one out because this was my first step at trying to outline where we need to go from here.
But now, I’m trying to think of some ways to address the glaring issue I think is out there because it’s not enough to sit around and point the finger and say, “See! There’s a problem!” and then do nothing to try and fix it.
So, here is a feeble attempt to provide four starting points:
At this point, I think the next steps will be determined by what you discover and learn through the above steps.
Truth is, I’d be sad to see the American Church go. And we have the power and the means to make sure that doesn’t happen. We just need to be willing and courageous enough, and even creative enough, to take the steps necessary to ensure it.
Ministry is not only a pastor thing.
In fact, it’s not only an evangelist thing. Or a teacher thing. Or a prophet thing. Or an apostle thing. It’s an everybody thing.
The roles listed above exist for a two-fold important purpose according to Paul in Ephesians 4:
“12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ…“
I firmly believe, as Paul and the 12 disciples believed, that every member of the Body of Christ (that is, Christians – the members of the church) has a purpose and a calling on their lives. Each one is equipped, by God no-less, in a way that no other person within the body is equipped. And yet, those gifts compliment the gifting of every other member of the body in perfect unity and harmony when working properly.
Many have bought into the idea that you aren’t truly doing ministry if you don’t hold the title of pastor, teacher, prophet, evangelist, or apostle. This is often perpetuated when people are feeling a calling on their lives and they seek out counsel and they are asked to define that calling within he confines of (usually) the role of a pastor (music pastor? youth pastor? senior pastor? etc.)
How do I know? It happened to me.
Back in college (in 2001), I felt a calling on my life, but I didn’t understand it. When I sought out counsel I was very literally asked, “What do you think it is? Youth work? Children’s work? Music? Senior pastor? Missionary?” It was as if there was a finite list of options that I had to choose from. Didn’t matter if none of them really resonated with my spirit. This was the list, now choose.
So, I chose to become a youth pastor. And later on, a music pastor as well.
Somehow, along the way, all of the gifts of the Spirit have been narrowed down to a singular gift which leaves a gaping hole in the Body of Christ. This leaves the Church looking lopsided, anemic, and causes the Church to become focused on accomplishing the work of a single ministry rather than equipping everyone to serve in their very specific place of ministry.
I believe there are many people within the Church who are simply looking for permission to do what God has already called them to do and are simply looking for guidance, equipment, counsel, accountability, and more.
They are looking for the exact thing Paul describes in Ephesians 4.
Unfortunately, they are often met with responses from church leaders that look something like this, “Well, that’s awesome! Unfortunately, it doesn’t fit with the overall vision of our church. But, we wish you well in your endeavors.”
I have heard this countless times with my own ears. Not directed at me, but with me sitting in the room and it being directed at someone else who had approached church leadership about a calling on their lives.
This should not be.
Pastor, church leader, whoever you are saying this…I don’t mean this to be rude when I say it…but, stop it. Please. We (yes we) can do better! Go back and read Ephesians 4, and then listen to these people again. Use wisdom and discernment. Listen to the Holy Spirit speak to your spirit and provide wise and helpful counsel and guidance to the Body of Christ looking for purpose and meaning.
Don’t just shove them away because it doesn’t line up with your vision of what you think your church should be doing. The Kingdom of God exists for more than just you or your local church gathering.
Despite popular belief, the church body doesn’t exist to simply fund or provide volunteers for a singular ministry of a local church organization or pastor. That isn’t to say that paying church staff/pastors or having ministries for a local church manned by members of the church are bad in-and-of themselves. It just means this isn’t the only thing God is up to.
If we really want healthy, effective, world shaking churches, we need to start examining what the church and its leadership actually exists for, and find ways to encourage and equip believers for the specific calling of their lives.
So many are chomping at the bit to activate and be sent and are waiting for permission to do the very thing God is calling them to do.
Don’t be the one person standing in the way of that.
Now, can you think of someone who needs permission to go?
George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and more represent recent unjust deaths in America that have led to protests and riots across the entire United States. The phrase “I Can’t Breathe” was part of the last words George Floyd spoke as he died under the weight of a police officer who had his knee in his neck while 3 other officers watched on and did nothing.
“I Can’t Breathe” has now become the new cry of the black community that has been struggling for as long as American History itself to breathe and find their place in society and be heard, seen, and treated equally.
On this episode Brad and Brian are joined by Michael and continue our talk about these events, the protests, the riots, and what it’s like to be a black person growing up in America. It’s a hard conversation, but a needed one that we hope you’ll take the time to listen to. #BlackLivesMatter
Opening Music: “Angry Dance” by Simon Panrucker
Outro Music: “Clear Progress” by Scott Holmes
George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and more represent recent unjust deaths in America that have led to protests and riots across the entire United States. The phrase “I Can’t Breathe” was part of the last words George Floyd spoke as he died under the weight of a police officer who had his knee in his neck while 3 other officers watched on and did nothing.
“I Can’t Breathe” has now become the new cry of the black community that has been struggling for as long as American History itself to breathe and find their place in society and be heard, seen, and treated equally.
On this episode Brad and Brian talk about these events, the protests, the riots, and what it’s like to be a black person growing up in America. It’s a hard conversation, but a needed one that we hope you’ll take the time to listen to. #BlackLivesMatter
Opening Music: “Angry Dance” by Simon Panrucker
Outro Music: “Clear Progress” by Scott Holmes
Season 2 has come to a close. What does the future hold? Tune in to find out!
Opening Music: “Angry Dance” by Simon Panrucker
Outro Music: “Clear Progress” by Scott Holmes
Yesterday (05/06/2020), a new social media storm began to brew as social media everywhere (from Twitter to Facebook) erupted in outrage over the fact that the killers of Ahmaud Arbery still have not been arrested or charged since they killed him back in February of this year. The details resurfaced as new video evidence was leaked out into cyberspace and people were able to see with their own eyes what transpired.
I personally watched it, and I have to say, it was disturbing.
In fact, it was downright disgusting.
People are rightfully outraged.
Some are declaring that it was race driven violence. Others are suggesting there was no racial motivation, simply poor choices made by a well-seasoned former cop.
No matter how one looks at it, it has revealed, yet again, that racism is not dead in this country and that, while we have come a long way, we still have a long way yet to go.
And one of those areas we have a long way to go is the words we choose to use.
I have talked about this before, but I think it bears repeating, as I continue to see this comment come up from time to time from my fellow white brethren.
Let me be clear, I believe that those who say this statement are well-meaning people who are not attempting to be malicious with this statement. But, I don’t think they realize the gravity of what they are really saying.
Here is the statement: “God doesn’t see color.”
This is a patently false statement. God absolutely sees color. He invented color. He painted the world in brilliant colors from the sky, to the earth, to everything in between – including those of us called “humans”.
He created us with many shades of white, pink, brown, black, tan, yellow, and many many more colors to boot.
To say that “God doesn’t see color” is to suggest that He is colorblind to his own creation. It also suggests that people are not created uniquely and diminishes the beauty that is in the very makeup of our DNA that God himself put there.
This is confusing I know….because I realize that when statements like this are being made, the attempt by the speaker (or writer) is to suggest that God is not one to show favoritism to this group or another based on their skin color. Which is true, He doesn’t, but this isn’t the best way to communicate that sentiment.
And here is why: it needs to be understood that when people who are not white hear phrases like this, it communicates several unintended negative things:
I would dare say it communicates much more than this, but these three things alone should be enough to dissuade us from making this statement (or similar statements).
Again, I realize that this is usually said in a well-meaning way, but the phrase is actually quite hurtful to those who are not white. If you’re one who has been guilty of saying this (like I have been), you don’t even realize just how hurtful.
Thankfully, I had a caring brother kindly come to me and explain to me what this phrase communicates to him as a black male. I had never heard this before, or even considered that what I was saying could communicate such things. Yet, there I was, guilty of doing it. But in his grace and mercy with me as a friend, he came to me and helped me understand, and that’s what I’m hoping to do today as well.
So, just as I’ve said before, please be careful with your words…well-meaning or not…they can still hurt.
Imagine with me, for a moment, a Church where…
This and so much more…just…meditate on this for a little while, and let the image of this church fill your mind and thoughts.
Then…listen to this song by Jimmy Needham, “Clear the Stage“…
And/Or this song, “Heart of Worship“, by Matt Redman…
This, is much like what the NT church looked like. Much of this is lost on the Western Church of today. But it can be recaptured. In fact, I would even argue we are in the midst of a time where this is far more possible than times past.
Now…let me be clear, I’m not romanticizing the NT church as though they were the ideal state of being at all times. They had their problems. And this church will have it’s own as well.
But, there was a simplicity in who they were and how they conducted themselves that captured an entire world like no other organic entity ever had before or since, and it was powerful to see and be part of as it swept from city to city and nation to nation.
The music has faded…
The idols have been exposed…
And all has been stripped away…
Do we simply come, or do we go back to the way things were because that was familiar and comfortable?
It’s Saturday night. I’m laying in bed, everyone is asleep, and two incidents from the week keep replaying in my mind involving each of my sons oddly (well perhaps not too oddly) leading me to some thoughts about discipleship:
Incident 1 – Declan (4 years old) came into my room last week with his glasses clipped to his shirt collar and said “Dad, this is how you do it right?” I said “Sure buddy. Why?” He said, “This is how you do it when you get ready to leave the house.”
Incident 2 – I’ve been taking my kids for regular (near daily) bike rides since this whole quarantine thing started. Several times I’ve goofed around and started riding with my hands off the handle bars. This totally impressed my kids (obviously – even I was impressed with myself). With no more than merely showing them I could do it, my oldest son Braeden (10 years old) got the courage to try it and mastered riding his bike without hands on the very first try.
Both incidents remind me that my boys are learning from me in both big and small ways. They are learning by watching and then doing.
For Declan, I did not sit him down in a classroom and give him the history of sunglasses, the importance of UV protection, and the convenient places to clip on sunglasses when not wearing them. He simply watched, he learned, and he imitated.
Likewise, for Braeden, I didn’t sit him down in a classroom and discuss gravity, balance, motion, the invention of the bicycle, and on and on. He simply watched, he learned, and he imitated.
I can’t help but wonder; how much more are they watching and learning from me that will ultimately lead to imitating me? How many good things are they picking up? How many bad things? Good habits? Bad habits? Spiritual disciplines? Relationship matters? Character traits? And so on…all from watching, learning, and imitating.
And then I wonder – is this not what discipleship looks like? Is this not what Jesus did with the disciples?
Did he sit them down in classrooms with black boards and text books and go through a 12 week course on church growth models, history of the Bible, preaching styles, evangelism tricks of the trade, and whatever else?
Or did He model for them, they learned in the watching of Him doing, and then He sent them out to do what He did, and they learned from the doing?
It’s pretty fascinating when you look at what Jesus and even Paul and the other disciples did in the way of discipleship in comparison to what we pass off as discipleship today.
In fact, the disciples were often mocked as being “unlearned men” and people were astonished at the things they could do and the way they could speak… and they knew instantly they had BEEN with Jesus.
Acts 4:13, “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had BEEN WITH Jesus.”
Notice, Jesus’ idea of discipleship was not so much to disciple through class work, but through being with them, modeling for them, and then them imitating him.
Much like my sons with me.
We have much to learn about discipleship through the simplicity of the model Jesus gave us.
Photo by Kaboompics.com from Pexels
“Jeff Bardel has been through a lot in his life. A lot that would drive most men to become angry and bitter Christians. Jeff, is not most men. Listen to his testimony and find out why!”
Opening Music: “Angry Dance” by Simon Panrucker
Outro Music: “Clear Progress” by Scott Holmes
We are starting a new weekly segment called “Happy Hump Day, Tell Me Something Good Y’all” as we remind ourselves of the good things going on in the face of uncertainty and crisis. Join us!
Opening Music: “Angry Dance” by Simon Panrucker
Outro Music: “Clear Progress” by Scott Holmes
For years I’ve been writing on the consumer mindset that has befallen the Western Church world over the last several decades (Check out articles like this one and this one to read more about the current state of the Church), and the serious impact it has had on the effectiveness and fruitfulness of the Church.
It is no secret that the American Church, especially, has grown so enamored with the idea of being cool and big that, as a whole, we’ve lost sight of what the Church really should look like.
A large portion of churches have designed their gatherings around the lost (calling it “Seeker Sensitive” (see the “Methods” section of THIS wiki article), a movement started in the 70’s and 80’s) rather than designing what they do around discipling and equipping their church body to do the work of the ministry. As a result we have a great deal of Churches that have become more like entertainment venues, and many smaller churches who seem to think these bigger churches are the epitome of success and must be doing something right because they’re drawing in the crowds and thus trying to imitate them.
In light of all of this, however, there have been a number of solid churches (both large and small) who haven’t lost sight and have been doing their best to be a beacon in the darkness to the other churches who have lost their way.
Now, as of today, March 27, 2020 – most (if not all) churches in America have been forced to board up their doors and get creative on ways to connect with one another in light of the COVID19 outbreak. They have resorted to live-stream services, pre-recorded services, online bible studies, Zoom Conferences, Social Media group pages, email, text, phone calls, and more.
Most churches are still putting a great deal of effort into making the 1 hour Sunday gathering viable over the internet for most of their church body. Some are making efforts to find discipleship opportunities outside of Sunday morning. And unfortunately, a great deal of people are still screaming that they want things to go back to the way they were.
Seeing all of these reactions, I can’t help but ask, should we go back?
In Numbers 14, we see the story of the Hebrew people (the people who would one day become Israel) getting a report (in chapter 13) from the spies who entered the promised land that there were giants and many people who would do them harm, and now they are complaining that it was better for them if they had stayed in Egypt.
Let’s see their complaint here in the first 4 verses:
1 Then the whole community began weeping aloud, and they cried all night. 2 Their voices rose in a great chorus of protest against Moses and Aaron. “If only we had died in Egypt, or even here in the wilderness!” they complained. 3 “Why is the Lord taking us to this country only to have us die in battle? Our wives and our little ones will be carried off as plunder! Wouldn’t it be better for us to return to Egypt?” 4 Then they plotted among themselves, “Let’s choose a new leader and go back to Egypt!”
The Hebrews were very literally standing at the edge of the promised land, a land God said He was going to lead them to and lead them into victory to claim, but there was a problem. They were scared of the promised land and where God was leading them, and to be perfectly frank…they didn’t trust God.
The Promised Land was unknown to them, but Egypt, Egypt they knew and were comfortable with. In Egypt, the Hebrews were slaves, sure, but they had roofs over their heads and food. They knew where it was all coming from.
They longed for Egypt.
Moses and Aaron fall on their face before God after learning of this and this is what God had to say to them (v11-12):
11 And the Lord said to Moses, “How long will these people treat me with contempt? Will they never believe me, even after all the miraculous signs I have done among them? 12 I will disown them and destroy them with a plague. Then I will make you into a nation greater and mightier than they are!”
So instead of moving into what God knew was better for them, and that He had promised to give to them, they chose to go back to Egypt and become slaves again. God, however, had other plans and caused them to wander the desert for 40 years until they were truly ready to enter the promised land.
We have been enslaved to the god of money. We have been enslaved to the god of popularity. We have been enslaved to the god of consumerism. We have been enslaved to the god of worldly success. We have been enslaved to false doctrines. We have been enslaved to society. We have been enslaved to governments. We have been enslaved to countless things.
Sure, at least in these conditions we know what we’re getting. We know where the money is coming from. But then COVID19 came along and radically shook things up. We were pulled out of Egypt and thrust into a retreat.
And now, we stand at the edge of the Promised Land, and have been given an opportunity to seize what is better for the Church. But the people of God are scared of the giants in the land. They are scared of the giant called “Pandemic”, the giant called “Disease”, the giant called “Economic Collapse”, and the giant called “Uncertainty”. Sadly, many Christians have treated God with contempt.
And we are left with a choice…
How we respond will be the difference between wandering aimlessly or finding victory.
Church, I hope we understand that we cannot go back. We simply cannot look back at Egypt and say “those were better days” when they clearly were not. They were days of certainty. We knew exactly who we were enslaved to, but they were not “better days”.
This whole COVID19 outbreak has really opened the eyes of a lot of churches in a way that few global events have in my lifetime, but we are in real danger of being tempted to go back to the way things were before all of this.
We cannot go back to the way things were for the Church. No matter how tempted we might be to try and “make up for lost time”.
We all need to be on our knees before God and pray the prayer of Moses in Numbers 14:17-19 NLT:
When we recorded this the number of cases was around 182,000 worldwide and the US was in the #6 spot for number of cases. As of writing this post, we are over 380,000 cases today and the US is now in the #3 spot for total number of cases. Third only to Italy (#2) and China (#1).
Whether we like it or not, and whether we are willing to admit it or not…we are in the midst of a global crisis. Governments are responding. Schools are responding. Businesses are responding.
And yes…the Church is responding.
But, what does this all look like?
How is the Church responding?
How should the Church be responding?
Are we lacking faith by closing our doors temporarily?
Are we putting people in danger or acting foolishly if we remain open?
Opening Music: “Angry Dance” by Simon Panrucker
Outro Music: “Clear Progress” by Scott Holmes