5 Things I Miss From “Old School” Church

Our society is obsessed with “new”.  We are always looking for the latest gadget or item that we assume must be better because it’s the newest version.  When the original iPad came out in 2009, you couldn’t find one in the stores for months.  As soon as a shipment arrived in the store, there were people waiting to snatch them up.  They would sell out in minutes.

I purchased one within about a month after they came out.  And I loved it.  But around 9 months later, Apple did what Apple always does – they came out with iPad 2.  And millions of people cast aside their outdated, piece of junk iPads, and upgraded to the much more advanced iPad 2.

At first I was disappointed.  I had spent more money than I really should have on something that society was telling me I should get rid of in order to have something better.  But I didn’t.  It’s three years – and three versions of iPads later – and I’m still using my “Model T version” iPad.  And it still works great.  I still love it.  It doesn’t have a camera.  I can’t “Facetime” chat with others who have iPhone 4 or a newer iPad.  But everything I wanted my iPad to do when I purchased it, it still does.

We fall into this trap in church as well.  When I was in Israel four years ago, I stood with about 80 other Christians at Gordon’s Tomb – a site that many believe to be the place of Jesus’ crucifixion and burial.  As we took communion, we could look to one side and see the place where Jesus may have died, and to the other side we could see where He arose.  My wife and I were moved deeply, and felt compelled to lead those with us in singing:

We are standing on holy ground

And I know that there are angels all around

Let us praise Jesus now

We are standing in His presence

On holy ground

We asked the pastor for permission to lead the song, and he agreed.  As we began to sing, we were surprised that very few – maybe a half a dozen or so – had ever heard the song before.  This was one of the most popular worship songs of the 1980’s and 1990’s, and now these Believers who had been singing all of the latest songs for two weeks, had no idea what we were singing.

This kind of thing happens all the time in church.  We get obsessed with the new to such an extent that we lose the power of the old.  As I’ve thought about this lately, I’ve come up with my own personal list of things that I miss about “old school” church.

 1.       Sunday Evening Service – I’ve recently taken a position as part-time worship leader at a very conservative Southern Baptist church.  At first, I was a little put off by the fact that they still had a traditional Sunday evening worship service.  Don’t they realize that this hasn’t been the “cool” thing to do for over a decade?  People are busy.  They don’t have the time to repeat the same thing on Sunday night that they did on Sunday morning.  But I was wrong.

What I have come to remember was that Sunday evening was when the family gets together.  We get to service early and share with each other.  We laugh.  We pray.  We worship together and hear from the Lord.  And no one wants it to end.  We stay after in the auditorium and the lobby talking for sometimes thirty to forty-five minutes.  We go to dinner together afterward and keep it going as long as we can.  Those that skip Sunday evening, miss out on good quality “family time.”

2.       Choir – In an era of praise bands and worship teams, I miss the traditional choir.  I miss giving as many people as possible the opportunity to be a part of the music in the service.  I miss the prayer time we have during rehearsal.  I miss the big choir numbers with the difficult hours of preparation.  I miss the Christmas and Resurrection Sunday cantatas.  Some of my fondest church memories took place in choir rehearsals.  There’s something special about a large group of Brothers and Sisters in Christ coming together regularly to prepare to lead in worship.

3.       Sunday School – Many churches still have Sunday School, they’ve just changed the name to be more contemporary.  They call it home group, fellowship group, cell group, life group, etc.  And a lot of the time, these churches try to pull these groups out of the church building into homes in an attempt to foster more of a relational dynamic.  This isn’t bad.

But I miss the traditional Bible study, entry into church life aspect of Sunday School.  My pastor recently reminded me that for a century, the Sunday School was the primary evangelistic tool of the church.  This was where children and teenagers and adults who were not familiar with the Scriptures came together to learn them.  I miss that.

4.       Hymns – I love the new contemporary worship choruses.  I find myself singing songs like “10,000 Reasons” and “Our God” often as I’m going about my day.  But I also miss singing songs like “There is Power in the Blood” and “There is a Fountain.”  There are such deep theological truths buried in these old hymns that we often can’t fit into the more modern worship styles.  But when I’m struggling and hurting and wondering where God is, I don’t think of songs like “I love you, Lord.  And I lift my voice.”  I remember lines like “Great is Thy Faithfulness, O God, my Father.  There is no shadow of turning with Thee.”  I’m afraid that in our attempt at staying relevant and modern, we’ve lost some of this.

5.       Dressing Up – I get why pastors and churches have gone to more casual attire in church.  I know that this is done in an effort to help visitors who may not have the “fancy church clothes” to feel comfortable when coming to church.  I don’t believe that those who wear a suit or a dress are more accepted by God on Sunday than those who are wearing jeans and flip-flops.  But I remember Sunday being a day of distinctions.  When I was a kid, my family got up early and had cinnamon rolls.  We got dressed in our “Sunday Best” and went to church.  We had a big family dinner afterwards.  Sunday was a different day than the rest of the week.  And what we wore to church was a part of that.  I wonder if our casual attire has contributed to us losing that distinction.

 

That’s my list so far.  I’m sure there are many other things you and I can add to it.  What is the biggest thing you miss from “Old School” church?

3 “Rather Thans” We Can Learn from Chick-fil-A Day

1. This is a Spiritual, Rather Than a Political, Issue

As I stood in line for an hour at Chick-fil-A in Colorado Springs (as most of you did all across the nation), I heard many people talking about “free speech” and “liberty”.  These are important secondary issues at stake in the controversy surrounding the comments by Chick-fil-A CEO, Dan Cathy.  But if the hundreds of thousands (and perhaps millions when we hear the final tally) of people who stood for hours in line to buy a chicken sandwich and waffle fries walk away from this moment only to feel like they exercised their personal right to speak their mind and support Cathy doing the same, we will miss the greater lesson.

Dan Cathy took a stand for a Biblical principle.  He wasn’t making a political statement, but a Spiritual one.  This company has done this since the day it was founded, by choosing to close its doors on Sunday.  Since Chick-fil-A got its start in mall food courts, this was a difficult and controversial position.  Malls wanted to require Chick-fil-A to follow the same standards that every other tenant was required to follow, and to be open during all mall hours.  But for Chick-fil-A, being closed on Sunday wasn’t just a “good idea” or something they “wanted” to do; this was a matter of Biblical faith and practice, and they refused to budge.  It’s been documented for decades that Chick-fil-A restaurants in mall food courts out produce every other fast food restaurant in these malls, even though they are open one day less per week.  This is God’s way of honoring the company’s choice to honor Him.  So while I’m sure that Cathy had no desire for the attention or controversy generated by his expression of his personal belief regarding Biblical marriage, I’m confident that this wasn’t a difficult decision for him to make.

This outpouring of support simply isn’t normal.  For countless thousands of people to stand for hours in line, some in plus-100 degree temperatures, in order to eat fast food is simply a supernatural moment.  There have been no stories of angry crowds or mean-spirited protests; just everyday Americans laughing and smiling and excited to be doing something that they believed could make a difference.  People were guided – I believe by the Spirit of God – to honor Chick-fil-A and its CEO, because that company and individual were willing to suffer whatever backlash they must in order to stand upon the Word of God.  To reduce this down to free speech misses the bigger truth here.

2. Our Impact is Exponentially Greater When We Stand FOR, Rather Than AGAINST, Something

For decades, Christian conservatives have been opposing abortion, homosexual marriage, and a slew of other social and political issues, and for the most part have made very little tangible impact.  They’ve looked like a bunch of angry fundamentalists who are stuck in the dark ages, refusing to evolve with society.  They’ve been unable to generate any kind of significant movement that could truly garner the attention of the rest of America.

But yesterday these same Christians made an impact.  People all over the country were forced to take notice of what happened at Chick-fil-A.  The news media couldn’t dispute it.  The radical left couldn’t dismiss it.  The apathetic couldn’t ignore it.  This one event made more of an impact culturally than all of the protests Christians have held in my lifetime.

Psychologists have been saying for years now that the human mind finds it very difficult to process the negative.  If I tell my son NOT to touch something, the human mind translates that into an image of doing the opposite; of touching the forbidden item.  The mind can’t visualize NOT doing something.

The world doesn’t want to hear what we’re against; they want to know what we are for.  Rather than shouting out to the world that as Christians we oppose homosexual marriage, we must give them the Biblical alternative.  We must tell them that we believe in the Biblical view of marriage; a lifetime commitment between one man and one woman.

This principle must carry over into all of these issues.  We can’t just oppose abortion; we must support life and adoption and all the alternatives.  We can’t just oppose sex and violence in media; we must support wholesome entertainment that presents a positive alternative

3. There is the Potential for Revival, Rather Than Judgment, in America’s Future

Too often we feel like Elijah after calling down fire from Heaven on Mt. Carmel: all alone.  But yesterday’s outpouring of support for Dan Cathy and Chick-fil-A revealed that there are so many more people who stand for Biblical principles than the media and opposition would have us believe.  No one could have predicted the numbers that turned out yesterday.  And this can provide a ray of hope for the future of America.

If these people who stood in line yesterday continued to band together, not for a chicken sandwich but for prayer and repentance, how could that impact the future of America?

Return to Eden: Part 9 – A New Heaven & and New Earth

A New Heaven and A New Earth

The idea is so foreign to us that we can’t really even envision it.

Eden restored.

Life as it was intended before we chose our own path and corrupted it. No pain. No death. No crying. No conflict. And if that were all, it would be amazing beyond comprehension, but that’s not even the best part.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.” Revelation 21:4 ESV

And this is why we can call it Eden again. It is then that we will experience our existence as God originally created us; in perfect, intimate, unrestricted relationship with the One True God.

We spend so much of our time and energy focusing on the lives we have now; our Genesis 3 to Revelation 20 existence. Now there is pain. Now there is death. Now there is crying. Now there is conflict. And now our relationship with God is limited.

Now we live in the wilderness. We’re Israel after the Red Sea and before the Jordan River. We live as nomadic wanderers, never fully feeling like we fit. As soon as we get comfortable in one spot, it seems as if God says it’s time to pick up and move again. We wait daily for the provision of God. We wonder if this was all a mistake. Every moment of every days whispers to our soul that we’re not home yet. As the old gospel song says, “This world is not my home; I’m just’a passing through.”

Please remember this. We aren’t home yet. We struggle and hurt and fall and cry. But a day is coming when that will all be changed.

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. Revelation 21:5 ESV

And so, whether we realize it or not, our hearts are longing for the day when we hear our Messiah say these words:

It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment. The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. Revelation 21: 6-7 ESV

But for now, while we live in this broken world, we are called to live differently. We are called to be the light that guides others to follow the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I’m reminded of the lyrics to this song:

I Then Shall Live

I then shall live as one who’s been forgiven.

I’ll walk with joy to know my debts are paid.

I know my name is clear before my Father;

I am His child and I am not afraid.

So, greatly pardoned, I’ll forgive my brother;

The law of love I gladly will obey.

I then shall live as one who’s learned compassion.

I’ve been so loved, that I’ll risk loving too.

I know how fear builds walls instead of bridges;

I’ll dare to see another’s point of view.

And when relationships demand commitment,

Then I’ll be there to care and follow through.

Your Kingdom come around and through and in me;

Your power and glory, let them shine through me.

Your Hallowed Name, O may I bear with honor,

And may Your living Kingdom come in me.

The Bread of Life, O may I share with honor,

And may You feed a hungry world through me.

And let us also remember what awaits us:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband…

And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God…

And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day–and there will be no night there.

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

Revelation 21 & 22 ESV

It sounds a whole lot like Eden to me. And so I join with John the Revelator in saying, “Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus!”

5 Ways My Faith Changed After Returning From Israel: God Believes in Me

My Faith Changed After Returning from Israrel

I absolutely hate the word “potential”.

Here is the definition: “Latent qualities or abilities that may be developed and lead to future success or usefulness.”

It’s that “may be developed” part that bothers me.  It means that there is the possibility of accomplishing something of significance, but that has yet to occur.

Has anyone ever said this about you: “He/She has a lot of potential.”?

It sort of feels like a back-handed compliment, doesn’t it?  It’s a nice way of saying, “He could do so much, but he’s not doing it yet.”

Unfortunately, I’m afraid that Jesus has looked down on me for most of my Christian life and said, “He has a lot of potential.” 

Jesus chose to minister on this earth as a rabbi.  A rabbi always personally chose his disciples, based upon the belief that those disciples could be just like him.  So when Jesus chose His disciples, it meant that He expected them to become just like Him.  He believed in them.

And one day He was walking by the Sea of Galilee, and a crowd gathered along the shore asking Him to teach them (Matthew 4).  There were some fishermen there finishing up their work after spending all night catching absolutely nothing.  And Jesus asks one of them to let Him stand in their boat so that He can get a little distance from the crowd as He teaches.

It’s important to remember that this isn’t the first time these fishermen had met Jesus.  They had seen Him do powerful miracles, and had heard Him teach with authority.  They knew that Jesus was not only an amazing rabbi, but that there was something very unique about Him.  They had already begun to suspect that He was the promised Messiah.  So, of course they let Him use their boat.

And afterward, Jesus makes a peculiar request.  He tells them to take the boats back out into the sea, and cast out their nets again.  The oldest, Peter, speaks up and says what all of the others were thinking: “Rabbi, we’ve been fishing all night and we’ve caught nothing.  But if you say so…”

You know the rest of the story.  They catch hundreds of fish.   And as they finish unloading them from the boats, Jesus looks into Peter’s eyes and says, “Follow me.  I’ll make you a fisher of men.”

That phrase, “follow me”, is the phrase that a rabbi would use when he called a disciple.  He’s telling Peter, “You’ve got a ton of potential.  I think you can be like Me.”

I would have dropped my fishing nets too.

So Peter walks right behind Jesus every step of the way.  He sees how Jesus teaches.  He watches how Jesus heals.  He understands the way Jesus interprets the Scriptures.

And Peter strives to meet his potential; he tries to be just like Jesus.

That’s what he was thinking that stormy night a few months later on the Sea of Galilee (Matthew 14).  After a long day of teaching and miracles, Jesus had gone into the hills to pray, and told His disciples to row across the sea to the other side.  And as the winds blew and the waves crashed against the boat, something terrifying appeared through the fog.  At first, Peter and the others thought they were seeing a ghost, but after a few moments, they realized that Jesus was walking to them on the water.

What was going through Peter’s head right then?

There’s his rabbi, walking on water.  And Peter’s a passionate disciple, which means that if his rabbi is doing something, he’s supposed to be doing it too.  So Peter does the only thing he could do: he gets out of the boat.

I know I’m supposed to now criticize Peter’s faith.  He doubted and this resulted in his sinking and needing Jesus to rescue him.  But I can’t.  Peter got out of the boat.   I would have been like the other eleven who sat back and watched.

Jesus never scolds Peter for thinking he can walk on the water.  He only questions why Peter doubted his own ability to do it.  This isn’t a popular idea (Just ask Rob Bell).  We’re supposed to think of ourselves as lowly worms that can never be like Jesus.  But that’s not correct – either Biblically or historically.

The only way Peter could have interpreted what his personal reaction was to be after having seen Jesus walk on the water was for him to try to do it himself.  And Jesus had already made it clear that His disciples were to emulate Him (Matthew 10).

That’s what makes Peter’s denial of Jesus so much more stunning.  Peter had been a model disciple.  He had been commended for his understanding and boldly proclaiming that Jesus was the Messiah.  Jesus had even promised that the Church itself would be built on the foundation of the life of Peter (Matthew 16).  But at the very moment that Jesus needed Peter to stand with him, he denied him.

To deny your rabbi was the ultimate shame in the religious system of Jesus day.  There is no way a rabbi-denied would accept that disciple back.  The shame of the moment when the rooster crowed was multiplied exponentially because not only was Jesus Peter’s rabbi, but He was the Messiah.  Peter’s future was over.

So even after Jesus appears to Peter and the others in the upper room, Peter still doesn’t seem to think he’s going to be a part of the future as Jesus’ disciple.  The disciples are told to go back to the Galilee and to wait for Jesus to appear.  But Peter does more than wait.  He gets in the boat and starts fishing again.  He returns to his old life.  It was good while it lasted, but it’s over now; at least for him (John 21).

And so he goes all night without a single fish caught; all the toil and labor and work, but not one.  (I imagine Peter sitting in the boat, exhausted, shaking his head and thinking, “Really?  Kick me while I’m down, why don’t you?”)

And then he hears some wise-guy from the shore asking, “Did you catch anything?”  Peter probably thought, “When is this going to stop?”

“No!”

And then the next words he hears wash over his soul like a cool spring rain: “Try the other side of your boat?”

He’d heard these words before; back at the beginning.  It couldn’t be Jesus, could it?

Then the fish start jumping in the net, faster than they can react.  And Peter jumps out of the boat and swims as fast as he can to the shore.  This is Jesus!

And one of the most important scenes in the Gospels takes place, but most of us glaze over it because we don’t understand what Jesus is doing; we don’t understand that He’s a rabbi.

Jesus said over and over and over again that He’s the shepherd, and those who follow Him are His sheep.  So the question he asks Peter three times has major significance:

Jesus: “Peter, do you love me?”

Peter: “Yes, Lord.  You know that I love you.”

Jesus: “Feed my sheep.”

We understand the reason that Jesus asks this of Peter three times; it’s a way of restoring Peter after he denied Jesus three times.  But why does Jesus tell Peter to feed His sheep?

Jesus is telling Peter that he has another chance to be like his rabbi!  He’s saying, “Follow me, Peter.  Be my disciple.  I’m the Shepherd, and I’m asking you to be like me.”  He’s telling Peter that he can still do it.  He believes in Peter!

I’ve spent most of my Christian life stuck between seeing Jesus in the upper room, and fishing on the Sea of Galilee.  He’s called me to be His disciple, but I’ve failed over and over and over again.  But after returning from Israel, I’ve learned that no matter how many times I’ve failed my Rabbi, He’s still standing on the shore, waiting to give me another chance.  He’s called me to be His disciple.  He thinks I can be like Him.

No more potential.  No more, “maybe he can do some great things.”  Jesus is calling me, just like He did Peter, to be like Him.  I can no longer settle for being less than that.  I’ve got an important work to do.

He believes in me.

Where is the Light? A Response to the Critics

All I was doing was putting my own, personal thoughts down in writing.  I never expected anybody to read them, let alone care what I said.

On Friday morning, after hearing of the theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado, the range of emotion I was feeling needed an outlet.  I’m a writer.  If I was a composer the feelings would have come out in song.  If I were an artist, I would have painted or sculpted.  But I’m a writer.  So naturally, I wrote.

I contacted Third Option Men, a Christian men’s website that I regularly contribute to, and they desired to publish what I wrote.  I put my thoughts down, posted them to Third Option Men, and went about my day.

To read my article: “The Dark NIGHT Rises: Where is the Light?” CLICK HERE

And then things got a little wild.  My article garnered more attention than I expected, both positive and negative.  In my experience of writing online, I’ve noticed a pretty common pattern: when someone agrees with what I write, they share it through social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.  When they disagree with it, they comment.  This posting almost immediately starting seeing both of these responses on a greater level than ever expected.

But nothing prepared me for the phone call I received about two hours after the post went live.  A journalist for ChristianPost.com, Alex Murashko, called requesting to interview me regarding what I wrote.  He specifically wanted to know what I meant when I said that “The shooting in Denver yesterday is the fault of the Church.”

To read the interview: “Colorado Shooting: 13 Years  After Columbine, is the Church to Blame?” CLICK HERE

Again, I wasn’t trying to make a statement.  This was as much about me getting my thoughts out of my head as anything.  And frankly, I wasn’t prepared for the negative reaction that so many have had to that statement.

But I stand behind every word I wrote. 

Still I understand that for many, there needs to be a greater development of this claim.  To state that the Church could possibly have any culpability in a tragedy such as this shooting is not something that is easy to accept.  But just because something is difficult, doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

Let’s clear up something right away: I never claimed that the shooter, James Holmes, is NOT responsible.  As a single incident, James Holmes is solely responsible for this heinous act.  He should be punished for what he’s done.  He will have to answer both to an earthly, and a Heavenly, court for his crime.

But as far as this crime reflects the society we live in, the Church IS responsible for this tragedy.  Let me explain.

James Holmes was acting out – in reality  – the fictional world of the movie playing at the time: The Dark Knight Rises.  He was moving the story from fiction to fact.  He became a real-world manifestation of the villains present in the story.

This isn’t much different than what happened thirteen years earlier at Columbine High School.  Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold mimicked scenes from The Basketball Diaries and The Matrix.  They took fantasy, and made it reality.

These shootings were life imitating art.

But as I said in the original article, the problem isn’t Hollywood, or video games; it isn’t the fact that the world is acting as should be expected.  The problem is the Church being less than it is called to be.

In His seminal message to His disciples, Jesus charges us with the following:

You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored?  It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

You are the light of the word.  A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.  Matthew 5:13-16 ESV

Salt and Light.

That’s our calling as followers of Jesus.  There’s nothing new to this statement.  We all know that we are called to this.  But knowing something and doing something are very different.

And this isn’t just a suggestion; it’s a command.  We must understand that along with the call to be salt and light, comes a warning to those who are not.  Salt that fails to be useful is worthless and cast out.  Light can be hidden, and if it is, it fails to give light to those who need it.

After charging His disciples with this important mission, Jesus then continues to give examples of what the life of salt and light looks like.

Don’t hate; it’s the same thing as murder. (Matthew 5:21-26)

Don’t lust; it’s the same thing as adultery. (Matthew 5:27-30)

Don’t use oaths to manipulate situations.  Just stand by your word. (Matthew 5:33-37)

Don’t retaliate; instead, give more than what’s being demanded of you. (Matthew 5:38-42)

Love your enemies. (Matthew 5:43-48)

Give to those in need, not because you have to or because it makes you look good, but because you love those in need and it glorifies your Father in Heaven.

I could go on and on, but I won’t.  You get the point.

Jesus closes this sermon with a series of disturbing warnings:

Don’t look at the tree, but at the fruit.  If the tree isn’t bearing fruit, it’s diseased and should be thrown into the fire.  (Matthew 7:15-20)

Don’t think that everyone who says the right things, or even claims to have done amazing things in my Name, really knows me.  Many who make that claim won’t enter the Kingdom. (Matthew 7:21-23)

Build your “house” on the right foundation, if you don’t, it will be washed away with the storm. (Matthew 7:24-27)

So if Jesus gave us these benchmarks and warnings, is it wrong if we use them to measure the health of the Church today?

What is the fruit of the Church in America?  We’ve got a lot of amazing programs and buildings and ministries.  Dozens of books and videos are released daily that teach us how to become better people.  But what real, lasting, tangible impact are we having on American society?

At the turn of the 21st Century, Dr. Michael L. Brown produced a document entitled, The Jesus Manifesto: A Call to Revolution.  In it he shared these startling statistics:

The United States boasts the highest percentage of professing evangelicals in the industrialized world, with more than 36% of Americans – meaning more than 90 million people – classified as born-again. Yet America has:

  • The highest percentage of single-parent families in the industrialized world
  • The highest abortion rate in the industrialized world
  • The highest rate of sexually transmitted diseases in the industrialized world (the rates of syphilis and gonorrhea transmission are almost 500% higher than the highest rates in the other industrialized nations)
  • The highest teenage birth rate in the industrialized world (by far!)
  • The highest rate of teenage drug use in the industrialized world

Honestly, can you tell me that this is the fruit of a Church that is living out its calling to be salt and light?

Brown goes on to say:

Our society is deteriorating all around us and even non-believers sense that something is wrong. Why? It is because we, the people of God, the army of the Lord Jesus, the messengers of liberation, the ambassadors of reconciliation, have been sidetracked by the love of this world and distracted by the cares of this age. As a result, we have not changed this generation. This generation has changed us!

Rather than seasoning the world like salt and brightening the world like light, we now smell and taste like the world, and its darkness is snuffing out our lamps. Rather than setting captives free by the power of Jesus’ blood, many of us are being ensnared and enslaved, making a mockery of that sacred blood. Rather than making disciples of sinners and teaching them the ways of God, many of us are being discipled by them, learning their ways, imitating their lifestyles, and conforming to their values.

To read The Jesus Manifesto: A Call to Revolution, CLICK HERE

Here are a couple of examples of this taking place.  A few weeks ago social media was buzzing due to the premiere of the movie, Magic Mike.  This movie is about a male stripper and his lifestyle.  This is a movie that glorifies lust and sex.  And many Christian women not only attended this movie, but bragged about it on Facebook and Twitter as they attended with other ladies from their individual churches!

Another is the overwhelming popularity among Christian women of the book 50 Shades of Grey.  This book is commonly referred to as “mommy porn”.  It is disgusting filth that NO Christian should ever put before their eyes.  Yet there are “Christian women” who read this and celebrate it on social media sites!

Now, I hesitate even mentioning these two as examples, in fear that some will infer that I believe this problem is one that is isolated to women.  That is not the case.  If men were leading in the Church – being the men that God called them to be – we wouldn’t be seeing this spiritual degradation among Christian women.  The reality is, if this corruption has reached this level, it is because men have ceased to be men, and we are truly in serious trouble.

And one look at pastors in America today shows us how deep the rabbit hole goes.

Roger Charman of Focus on the Family’s Pastoral Ministries reports that approximately 20 percent of the calls received on their Pastoral Care Line are for help with issues such as pornography and compulsive sexual behavior. (To see the stat, CLICK HERE)

And the examples could go on and on.  Our nation is becoming darker and darker, and we in the Church are doing very little to change that.  Earlier in The Jesus Manifesto: A Call to Revolution, Dr. Brown describes Satan’s scheme for the Church in America:

Satan’s strategy is to institutionalize the Church, to turn the Body of Christ into a powerless religious system. If that tactic fails, he tries to desensitize us and lull us to sleep until we lose our convictions and our sense of outrage is gone. And he is always seeking to seduce us into sin until we become just like the world, enslaved by its passions and lusts. And when he thinks he has succeeded, when he no longer feels threatened by the people of God, then he gets aggressive and brazenly puts forth his agenda. He’s doing it today. We need a revolution!

I believe that Satan no longer fears the Church in America, but rather laughs at it.

Some have made the comment that the Church is doing fine, and that to suggest that the Church is at all responsible for the deterioration of American society, which has manifested itself in horrific acts such as Columbine and the “Batman Shooting” is not only incorrect, but heretical.  Some have suggested that such criticism of the Church is tantamount to being the mouthpiece of Satan – the Accuser of the Brethren.  To that charge I respond with these two passages:

A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master.  It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master.  If they have called the master of the house “Beelzebul”, how much more will they malign those of his household.  Matthew 10:24-25 ESV

Making the accusation that someone who is pointing out sin within the Church, and calling it to repentance, revival, and awakening, is doing the work of Satan is not a reasonable justification for that person to cease what they are saying;  especially when we see that Jesus, Himself, has called His Church to repentance and revival.  Consider Jesus’ own words to the Church of Laodicea:

I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot.  Would that you were either cold or hot!  So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.  For you say, “I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing,” not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.  I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see.  Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.  Behold, I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.  The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.  He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.  Revelation 3: 15-22 ESV

This passage by Jesus has been referred to so often over the past 50 years, that it has lost much of its power.  Stop and think about it.  It is a description of a church that thinks it has it all together, while Jesus isn’t even invited in!  This is the Church in America, TODAY!

And we wonder why we see evil prevailing in society.  We wonder why young men can so easily plan to murder people in cold blood.  We wonder why homosexuality is celebrated, while Biblical marriage and those that support it are labeled “bigots”.  We wonder why life isn’t valued on any level, while ten times more children have been murdered in this nation since 1972, than were Jews killed by the Nazis during the Holocaust!

I blame myself.  I have been passive and silent too long.  I have allowed this culture of darkness to grow and take over.  I have not lived as Jesus instructed in Matthew 5 through 7.  So if the world around me has become darker, IT IS MY FAULT.

And I’m not alone.  We are all responsible.  I’m not blaming Jesus and His power.  I’m blaming those of us – which constitutes the vast majority of Christians in the United States – who have sat back and pretended that things are not so bad, or that things are getting worse because “that’s just where society is heading and there’s nothing we can do about it”.   I’m blaming His Church for not being what we are called to be.  I can do this, because I’ve seen the fruit.

The Church of Acts was one that “turned the world upside down” (Acts 17).  The Church of America is one that has allowed the world to turn IT upside down.  This has to change.  Now.

And if you’re sitting here reading this saying, “Not me!” than maybe you should go back, ask for the Holy Spirit to reveal His Truth to you, and read this again.

The “Batman Shooting” is our fault.

Please return over the next several days, as I will begin to unpack SOLUTIONS to this spiritual crisis.

Colorado Shooting: 13 Years After Columbine, Is the Church to Blame?

Colorado Shooting: 13 Years After Columbine, Is the Church to Blame?.

This is an interview I did with ChristianPost.com regarding my comment on the ThirdOptionMen.org article, “The Dark NIGHT Rises: Where is the Light?

The journalist, Alex Murashko, made some additional comments on his personal blog on Sunday.

http://blogs.christianpost.com/alex-wire/sunday-sermon-where-is-the-light-in-the-dark-night-10951/

The Dark NIGHT Rises: Where is the LIGHT?

So it’s thirteen years later, and the emotions are the same.

I woke up this morning to a text from my mother informing me that 12 people have been killed, and 38 injured, in a shooting at a Denver area movie theatre during the midnight premiere of The Dark Knight Rises, the finale of the latest Batman movie trilogy.

I’m still trying to process everything, but as a Colorado native, I can tell you that the raw, gut-feeling that I have is exactly as it was in 1999, when I learned of the shooting at Columbine High School, also in the Denver area.

The parallels between the shootings are eerie.  Both involve shooters with multiple guns in trench coats walking through the crowd, picking off victims at random without emotion.  Both have movie-related connections.  And I fear that the reaction from Christians will be the same as well.

In the wake of the horrific shooting at Columbine that resulted in 14 deaths and dozens of injuries, Christians all across the country jumped on the opportunity to blame society and Hollywood for the demise of culture.  They pointed out the similarities of scenes in movies like The Basketball Diaries and The Matrix, and the constant barrage of first-person shooter games like Doom, and proudly declared that the problem was that our culture had become so corrupt and obsessed with evil, that something like Columbine was inevitable.

We took some solace in stories of victims like Cassie Bernal and Rachel Scott, who stood strong in the face of the shooters who sought them out simply because of their faith in God.  We celebrated these martyrs for their boldness, as we should have.  But we missed the bigger point.

The problem was not society and culture.  The problem was us.

And so now I sit in a hotel lobby in Flagstaff, Arizona, preparing myself for what I’m sure will be a countless parade on TV, radio, and print, of Christian pundits all wagging their fingers at a world that is dark and hopeless and obsessed with death and destruction, and completely missing the point.

The terrifying shooting in Denver last night is not the fault of Hollywood; it’s not the fault of society; it’s not the fault of a world walking further and further away from the Truth.

The shooting in Denver yesterday is the fault of the Church.

Yes, the world is getting darker.  The movies out of Hollywood are getting more and more violent.  Society is becoming more and more obsessed with evil.  But these facts are not the problem; they are only the symptoms.  When we see the world getting darker and darker, we have to wonder where the light has gone.

Better to light a candle, than curse the darkness. – Chinese Proverb

Jesus told His followers how they were to impact the world:

You are the light of the world.  A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. – Matthew 5:14-15

The world is darker, because the light is not shining.  Those of us who claim to be disciples of Jesus, must understand that the light is absent because our influence is absent.  At best, we are hiding our light.  We have thrown up our hands and said, “There’s nothing we can do about.”  And let’s be honest enough to call this attitude what it is: sin.

Let me be clear: being light does not mean complaining about the darkness.  It means showing Jesus to a world that desperately needs Him.  We must be different.  We must demonstrate to the world that there is another way.  We must show the world that there is light.  The world is searching for it.

Instead of looking at the world and shaking our heads, what if we had the guts to admit that we are largely responsible?  What if we fell on our faces before our Savior who has left us in the world to shine His light, and asked forgiveness for our failure to make the world a better place?

When the world gets darker, the reasonable person understands that darkness is not the problem, but rather the absence of light.  You don’t sit in a room yelling and cursing because it keeps getting darker; you walk over and turn on the light.

So again, out of death and destruction, the Church has an opportunity to “turn on the light.”  We can repent of our failures and shortcomings, and seek to live lives that show a different path; a path of life; of hope; of a future.  Or we can do what we did thirteen years ago, shirk our responsibility, and wag our fingers at a world consumed by darkness.

Out of darkness, the Light of Jesus can shine forth.

But it’s up to us.

 

Photo credit: http://www.mirror.co.uk/