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Posted on Jun 30, 2015 in Blog, Culture, Featured, Grace, repost, Values

Whatever You Think The Issue Is, It Probably Isn’t

Whatever You Think The Issue Is, It Probably Isn’t

The SCOTUS just ruled to allow same-sex marriage. And then people started going berserk. That pretty much sums up the last 4 days. And, while there are ramifications that should be discussed on the topic of the ruling, there is something more important we need to consider.

It’s easy, when big events like this happen to get drawn into them. It’s easy to dig in your heals on whatever side of the issue you are on and start hurling debates and arguments on people.

I understand the urge, because I find myself wanting to do the same thing. But, one thing I know for sure, is that no matter what the issue is, that issue isn’t the most important thing.

What’s the issue? People need Jesus. First and foremost. That’s the most important thing. But, when we focus on the issue first, we aren’t communicating that to people. What we are telling them is that they way they are living is wrong and they need to change.

We can’t expect people living apart from Jesus to live up to the moral standards Jesus set forth.

Why? Because we can’t even do it.

I don’t think we understand grace anymore. Grace is getting what we don’t deserve. We can’t do anything to deserve God’s free gift of grace. If we could, it wouldn’t be called grace. We need to know grace. Grace is what is given to us freely, it’s what gets us into the Kingdom. And it’s also what keeps us there. It’s not just grace at one point in time, but grace as we fail every day to live up to God’s standards.

And yet, here we are, not living perfect lives, while simultaneously condemning those who aren’t living up to our standards.

We have the power of Christ in us to empower us to live according to his principles and standards. And yet we fail all the time. We are constantly being refined. We are in constant need of grace.

Do I agree with the direction our culture is going? No. In fact, I am concerned just as many of you are. And I would argue that if people lived according to God’s design, we would find a lot more peace and joy – whether they believe in him or now.

But, I can almost guarantee one thing, if we react harshly against people who don’t have the power of God in their lives for not living up to God’s standards for life, while we fail every day to live up to that same standard, we will lose whatever influence we have left.

We can’t hold an unbelieving world accountable to something they don’t believe in. That’s not our job. We can’t condemn an unbelieving world for not living up to standards we can’t live up to.

Our job is to live out the gospel, as best we can, in front of people so that they may see our good deeds and glorify our father in heaven. We live out the gospel, and we share it when we have the opportunity. Not in a condemning way, but in a gracious way.

Yes, we have to admit our sin and walk away from it when we follow Christ, but I don’t think that’s the first step of the gospel.

What’s the first step? Knowing how much God loves you. Do you know how much God loves you? Do you know that you have the opportunity to be a child of the Most-High God? That you can share in the inheritance of the King of the Universe?

I don’t think the primary motivation for putting your faith in Christ is the lifestyle we might have to give up. And as long as we start there, I think we’re going to continue to fail. As long as we start with the issue and focus on the issue and argue about the issue, we will continue to side-step the most important and primary motivation for faith in Christ.

The primary motivation for putting your faith in Christ is what you’re being invited into. And when you know what you’re being invited into, anything you have to give up pales in comparison.

So, before you get into that next argument, before you post that next article on Facebook or Twitter that says what you think needs to be said, stop and ask yourself – how are they going to respond to me? How are they going to respond to Jesus if we are pounding people over the head with a morality we fail to live up to? And most importantly, what kind of Jesus are they going to see from me as I do these things?

I wonder if we all started sharing with people about the goodness of God’s grace and what they have the opportunity to step into how differently the world might respond to Christ in us, the hope of glory?

The good thing is, it’s not too late. We can all start right now. We have hurdles to overcome. We have tremendous obstacles in our way. But, if we all start living this way, Christ will be irresistible in us. And people will be drawn to Him.

And that’s the real issue.

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Posted on Jun 17, 2015 in Apologetics, Blog, Culture, Featured, Grace, Intentional Living, repost, Truth

Forcible Diversions: A 6 Step Response To The Issues Of Our Day

Forcible Diversions: A 6 Step Response To The Issues Of Our Day

Recently, I found myself in a conversation with someone about one of the hottest topics of today. I don’t want to get into what it was or the details of the debate. I have no desire to belittle someone who is struggling with any of these issues we hear of. I felt as though I was being forced into a debate I didn’t want to have. Especially in this case. Fortunately it was lunch time, so I had an escape hatch. But, as I was in the conversation and for days afterward, I found myself wondering how can I share the gospel with the person whey they so clearly believe I am wrong for believing the Bible on issues of morality. Here is my response on how we ought to respond. It’s long, but hopefully worthwhile.

Let be begin with some background.

We are passionate about the gospel at our church. We believe in it’s work and that it is the one thing we would love for everyone we come in contact with to experience. All of our efforts as a church are designed to lead people to it. We spend a great deal of time training our people to live it out and share with the people in their sphere of influence. This is the main thing for us. The gospel, the good news is that Jesus’ atoning sacrifice on the cross and resurrection from the dead sets us free from the punishment of our sins and gives us an inheritance as a child of God in the Kingdom of God.

Problem #1

I have talked in the past of the struggle we face in our culture today due to the justification of sin. So many issues that we would classify as sin have become justifiable rights. The challenge is, if we no longer sin, why do we need grace? So our first problem is, the moral boundaries are being pushed further and further out. The road is getting wider and wider – so to speak.

Problem #2

I have also heard it said that you can’t legislate morality. Which I don’t necessarily agree with. But, let’s say that’s true – that you can’t legislate morality. What appears to be happening now is that we are trying to legislate a guilt-free society. A society where we can do whatever we want and we don’t have to feel guilty about it. So, we make more laws (or do away with existing ones) that make it legal to do or be whatever we want in the hope of not having to feel guilty about whatever it is.

If the cross is supposed to put us in a right standing with God (atonement), there has to be something that put us in a wrong standing with God. Right?

Problem #3

We have also talked, at length, about truth. There is such a thing as absolute truth. Truth is not relative. The fact that you may or may not believe in something does not make it true/untrue. It’s true whether you believe in it or not. 2 + 2 = 4. Always. You may choose to believe that 2 + 2 = cat, but that does not make you right.

So, we have justified sin, legislated out guilt and rid ourselves of the idea of truth.

That makes it a challenge to share the gospel with people. It’s hard to tell people they need grace when it would appear we have done everything we can to erase the need for any kind of externally received grace. We, in essence, have become our own savior.

Forcible Diversions

So then, how are Christ-followers supposed to respond when issues of morality are forced upon the church?

Let me explain. For me, grace is the most important issue. All the other sin-issues are secondary. We all sin. We all have sin issues. That’s the problem. The solution to that problem is grace. So, the primary issue is grace. To be honest, I don’t care what your sin issue is. We all have sin in our lives that requires grace. The more important thing is grace.

So, how are we to respond when sin issues triumph and are touted as a primary right?

One more clarification. You might be surprised to hear me say this, but you do have the right to do whatever you choose. You can be as nasty of a person as you want to be. God gave you a free will, and you are free to exercise that free will however you choose. But, as you have probably read, “You are free to choose, but you are not free from the consequence of your choice.” You may choose to be as evil as you wish, but you are not free from the consequence of that choice.

Our culture is working really hard to remove the consequences of our bad decisions.

So, you are free to live however you wish. And yes, you can even say you have the right to be whoever you want to be and do whatever you want to do.

But, what you may not do is require truth to change to alleviate the guilt you feel or the consequences you encounter as a result of your choosing.

This is where some veins of the church are getting into trouble. They are allowing the pressure of an unbelieving world to affect the truth that we have believed and been guided by for Millenia. People can live however they please. But, the church is not under any kind of obligation to acquiesce to the demands of society to alleviate the consequences of that choice.

How do we respond? 

The temptation is strong to want to get into a verbal exchange about how we are right and they are wrong. While I believe we need to know what we believe and be able to give a defense of our beliefs – the majority of people aren’t brought to grace in this way. Honestly, I wish they were. Because the logic of scripture is infallible, it would be much easier to just argue the truth of our faith with those who don’t believe. But, that’s just not the case most of the time. In fact, when you find yourself in a conversation that has been forced on you, you will realize that truth has no place in the argument. Trust me. I have been in these conversations. Logic doesn’t matter.

So, how should we respond?

Let me first say, I don’t think it does us a lot of good to get into debate that is devoid of relationship. Instead, I think we should get to know someone and build trust with them. Does that make the dialog harder? I guess it can. But, remember the ultimate truth is that they are ultimately lost if we don’t. We want to set ourselves up for the best chance to have the most important conversation. We don’t want to put more up more road blocks.

So, this is how I think we should respond.

1. We love people unconditionally. 

No matter how repulsive their behavior is, we still love unconditionally. Of course, we don’t want to put ourselves into unnecessary danger. But, we have to be in the mess if we are going to be used by God to redeem people out of it. Your hands will get dirty. You may suffer some scars and bruises. But, everyone is made in God’s image. Regardless of their beliefs or actions, they still deserve to be treated with dignity and respect because of whose image they resemble.

2. We follow the truth unswervingly. 

As difficult as it is becoming, we still cannot neglect the truth. When we are pushed to condone a behavior, we simply cannot. It sounds intolerant. You will be called intolerant. You will be called a bigot. Get used to it. How can we condone a behavior when someone doesn’t believe and then condemn it once they do? Do they have the right to do whatever they want? Yes. Does that make what they are doing right? No. We believe that following God’s design for humanity is what brings about human flourishing. If we live by it, we find a better way of life. When we live against it, we struggle. If we compromise on that truth, we are not living by God’s design.

3. We live out the gospel universally.

We cannot have any area of our lives where we aren’t living out the gospel. No, we don’t have to be little holiness machines, running around trying to scrub the earth of any form of ungodliness. But, we have to be consistent in all facets. You never know when someone will encounter you in a different arena than they normally do. You need to be the light, even if you don’t think anyone is watching. Every chance you get, be the light. Do good deeds so that people will see God through you. Live out Micah 6:8 in all areas of your life.

4. We share personally. 

While it may be difficult to tell another person they are sinning, it’s not difficult at all to point to the sin in your life and how you have been forgiven. Don’t focus on trying to make the other person feel guilty for what they are doing. Instead, speak of your own life. Speak of how the price you had to pay for your wrongdoing was paid by Jesus. And how amazed you are by grace.

5. We pray incessantly.

Pray for those you encounter without ceasing. Pray for them in your head while you’re speaking with them. Pray for them as you’re walking away. Pray as often as you can. Pray that God will send His Spirit to open the eyes of their mind and heart to His truth. Pray and expect that God will not only do it, but that He will give you opportunities to share with them.

 

6. We  invite them to receive freely. 

Invite them into the Kingdom of God. The door is open for all who choose to walk through it. It’s not our job to decide who can come in and who can’t. It’s our job to invite freely. Instead of condemning their lifestyle, invite them into something they can’t experience on their own. Don’t try to get them to your side of the argument. Instead, show them what they’re missing out on. Then, maybe they might be drawn into the Kingdom and be willing to lay everything outside the gates.

Perhaps we’ve been focused for too long on trying to convince people that they are evil instead of trying to show people the joy and goodness that awaits us all in the Kingdom of our Creator. The next time you find yourself in a conversation where someone is trying to force you to condone a behavior the bible says is wrong, remember that you too once stood on that side of the argument. It is only by grace that you stand on the other side now. It will only be by grace that they come stand with you. Focus on inviting people into something instead of on what’s keeping them out.

Life the life. Don’t compromise. Invite people in.

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Posted on Apr 28, 2015 in Blog, Culture, Featured, Grace, Lost Virtues, repost, Truth, Values

Has The Good News Become Bad News?

Has The Good News Become Bad News?

We are living in a different day and age than the one I grew up in. We have gone through an enormous amount of change in the last 20 years. I know things are always changing. I have said before, every morning we wake up to a world that has changed over night. But, things have changed a great deal. And they are changing faster all the time.

In contrast, the gospel never changes. Just as truth is always true, the truth of the gospel never changes. The hope for all of humanity is found in Jesus.

So, what is the challenge?

The challenge is our vast desire to eradicate guilt from our society. For this to be done, we must also do away with a lot of sin issues.

We have a hard time talking about sin anymore. I have a hard time with it. It’s hard to tell someone that what they are doing is sinning. It’s hard to look at my own life, see the areas I fall short in and call them sin. It would be much easier if sin didn’t exist and I didn’t have to feel as though I come up short.

And I’m not the only one who feels that way. In fact, I think this is what is behind the legalization of a lot of issues that used to be considered sin. I’m not going to single anything out. That’s not the point of this post.

But, if something makes us feel guilty because it’s against the law, and we change the law, then we don’t have to feel guilty about it anymore. Right?

Now, imagine building a relationship with someone and wanting to share with this person about the most important relationship in their life. I’m not talking street evangelism, I’m talking someone you care about.

What is the premise of the gospel? Is it not that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God?” Is it not that we live in “glad rebellion” against God, as Matt Chandler puts it? That we are born into a fallen world as fallen individuals, and if we are left to our own we will choose what makes us happy instead of what’s right.

God had a design and ideal in mind when he created the world, and we chose to do something different. We had to do things our way instead of God’s way. As a consequence, we also lost relationship with God. We no longer walked and talked with God in the garden.

But God provided a way for us to be reunited with him. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. While we were still rebelling against God, He sent His son to die for us. Thank God for grace! Thanks be to God that there is a cure for my rebellion. And the price that needed to be paid for me to be in relationship with God was paid by Christ on the cross.

It’s an amazing story. It’s an amazing offer.

But, what happens when you take sin out of the equation. If there is no sin, then what is the need for the gospel? What is the need for grace?

Our attempt and desire to rid ourselves of the guilt that results from sinning, is resulting in ridding ourselves from the gospel.

“We haven’t done away with all sin!” you might be saying to yourself. Sure, there are areas that we have yet to venture into when it comes to justifying our desire for sinning. But, we sure have done away with a lot of them. And we hear more and more justifications for bad decisions all the time.

Of course, this all has to do with truth. If there is no absolute truth, then there ultimately is no sin. More on that later…

If there is no sin, there really isn’t anything to be saved from, therefore, there is no need for a Savior and no need for the gospel.

It would even seem that the good news has become bad news. Once we have legalized things that used to be classified as sin so that we can rid ourselves of guilt, if something comes along and makes us feel guilty (besides our own conscience) then that’s a bad thing. We have made our peace and no loner feel guilty and thanks to our progressive culture, we don’t have to worry about getting in trouble for it anymore either. But then someone comes along and shares the good news of Jesus.

But, it’s not so good anymore, because instead of being good news that Jesus saves us from the penalty we deserve for our sin, it’s pointing out that we should feel guilty about this thing. And we don’t like that, so the good news is actually bad news.

So, how do we share the gospel in a world that is doing away with sin more and more every day?

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Posted on Apr 21, 2015 in Blog, Culture, Featured, repost, Truth

Louder does not equal true

Louder does not equal true

I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to talk to someone who speaks a different language. But, as has often been mocked, there is this thing that happens. When you don’t know the language, you talk louder thinking that will help the person that speaks a different language, understand.

I’m old school. I am only 35, but I’m old. Why do I say that? Because I believe in truth.

I’ve noticed a problem. There are things that are simply untrue that are being shouted.

Just because a lot of people say something doesn’t make that the truth. Even if the majority of people agree, that doesn’t make that true either. In fact, it doesn’t matter how many people agree with you, if you’re wrong – you’re still wrong.

I hate this idea that is emerging that someone who clings to a belief in the Bible is wrong. Why? Well, just look at how many people don’t believe it.

Let’s take evolution for example. I don’t believe in the whole amoeba becoming human thing. But, especially in the western world, that is the accepted belief. There are a lot of people who believe it. But, just because a lot of people believe that’s what happened, doesn’t mean that’s what actually happened.

I can shout “This is a shoe!” as loud as I want, but if I’m holding a rubber chicken, It’s not the truth. Even if I can convince hundred, even millions of people that the rubber chicken is a shoe, that doesn’t mean the rubber chicken is a shoe. Only shoes can be shoes. Only rubber chickens can be chickens.

It doesn’t matter how many people believe in an idea. Volume doesn’t make an idea truth. And idea is truth when it is true.

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Posted on Feb 13, 2015 in Blog, Culture, Featured, Lost Virtues, repost, Truth

The Apple Is An Axe: The Problem With A Morally, Self-Serving Culture.

The Apple Is An Axe: The Problem With A Morally, Self-Serving Culture.

Our culture has changed.

I don’t know if you knew that. But, life in the western world is drastically different from what it was 30+ years ago. Some of the changes have been good. We have made progress in a lot of ways. But some of the things that have been classified as progress are not.

Particularly our approach to morality.

We have made a drastic shift, the long range implications of which are extraordinarily dangerous.

What is the shift? It lies in where the authority of morality originates. In Bible-based, Christian worldview, the authority of morality is God and God alone. The only authority human beings have is based in our ability to understand and apply God’s written word to us in the Bible.

Where, in our current construct of ethics and morals, is the authority of morality? It is within human beings. No longer do we look to God as the moral authority. Instead, we have decided we know better. That, if there is a God, He exists only to blame bad things on and to beg for help in a crisis. But, who is God to tell me how to live my life?

What is the major problem with this shift? Well, there are a few.

First, human beings are always changing. At least in our ideas, as well as other ways. Can you imagine building an ideology around something that is constantly changing? If I were to base my morality on my own life, we would be sunk as a culture. Not only have I made mistakes, but as my understanding of truth has grown, so has my understanding of how live according to that truth. If I built an ideology around what I believed 20 years ago, it would have been entirely different than what I would build today, which would be different from 20 years from now. If I don’t have enough perspective to construct an ideology that is big enough to last for my whole life, how can I build an ideology that is big enough for the lives of the rest of society?

Second, it’s easy for charismatic leaders to manipulate followers. If morality is based on popular opinion, then morality will be decided by whoever controls popular opinion. Who controls popular opinion? Those with enough charisma to be in the front of the room. Somes this is not the case. But most of the time it is. We don’t listen to people without it. And we give too much credit to those who possess it. Charisma does not equal wise or insightful. It simply means they have the ability to get and keep your attention. How many disasters have, at their foundation, a charismatic leader who had a flawed ideology?

Third, there is no objective way to decide between two conflicting points of view. What happens when what I think is right collides with what you think is right? What happens when what I think is wrong collides with what you think is wrong? What happens when what I think is wrong collides with what you think is right? If there is no authority outside the situation, who gets to decided who is right?

Fourth, there is no accountability. When morality is based on what is right for me, there is no way to impose consequences for actions that you have decided are wrong. Just because it’s wrong for you, doesn’t mean it’s wrong for me. Even if it affects you negatively, I have no obligation to be concerned with how my morality affects your life. You cannot hold me to your standard, neither can I hold you to mine. Therefore, if my right affects your right negatively, my only obligation is to my own rightness.

Fifth, the complete devaluing of human life. Ironically, in our pursuit of serving our own humanity, in the end we destroy it. How? There is no inherent dignity in human life anymore. The value of human life is based on what it does for me. If human life gets the way of my way of life, it must be removed or belittled. My life is important, but the importance of your life is based solely on whether your life helps or hinders my life. If your life hinders my own, the value of my own life surpasses the value of yours. Therefore, your life must become subservient to mine.

Myth: We can build a better society by deciding, as a society, what is right and wrong. Why is this a myth? Let me ask this: have you ever been around someone who has a really dominating personality, but had some really bad ideology? I have. And I know that it can be quite a challenge to reign in their dominating personality at times. And, because of their personality, they have tremendous opportunity to take people with them into bad ideology.

Who do you think will have the most influence in morality decided by society? Will it be the humble and wise person who doesn’t speak up or will it be the loud and unwise person who has a charismatic personality? Every form of government I can think of, even those in science fiction TV shows hundred if not thousands of years in the future, can all be manipulated by a strong personality.

What is the alternative?

The alternative is an authority outside our current situation. Just like a judge and a jury are supposed to be unbiased in court, there needs to be an authority that is outside the current situation, so as to offer and unbiased solution.

Before we go on, I want to speak to what you’re probably thinking. Can’t judges and juries be a moral authority because they are removed from situations? The truthful and honest answer to that question is, no. Judges and juries are human beings. They too are affected by the ideology of others. If they weren’t, their rulings would never change. There would be no bias, and they would always make the right decision.

This is why authority must come from the outside. This is why we don’t get to decide what is right and wrong. We don’t have the perspective to be able to see far enough down the road how what we are deciding today will affect those who have to live by it tomorrow. And we don’t have the unbiased ability to decide what the true right thing is, because we will always be biased towards what benefits us the best, personally, first.

This is why we need to go to the one who built the operating system. Imagine the operating system of the world is Apple’s iOS. And imagine each of us are apps on an iphone. Now imagine that an app decided that the iOS is wrong, so it decided that it wasn’t going to abide by the rules of the operating system. Not only that, but it was going to start telling the other apps that iOS is wrong and that each app gets to decide what is right. Then, they all decide to tell iOS how iOS is wrong and what iOS needs to do to adapt to each apps belief of what is right.

This is absurd right? Why? Because it defies logic. An app on a phone is subservient to the operating system of the phone. A program on a computer is subservient to the operating system of the computer. A falling apple is subservient to the law of gravity. A thrown football is subservient to the laws of physics. Everything in a system is subservient to the creator of the system. Even the iOS is subservient to the creator of the iOS.

God made the system we live in. He built the operating system. We play a part in the way things operate, but we didn’t create the system. Nor can we decide to change it. Only one being gets to make that decision, and that is God. I can decide that I don’t like gravity, and that I don’t want it to exist anymore. “Gravity is no longer true!” I shout to the world around me. I may even be able to get some people to believe me. But my belief in gravity does not change the veracity of its existence. My belief in God does not change the veracity of His existence. My belief in the system He created does not change the veracity of the system. Just because I don’t think truth is absolute, does not mean it isn’t. I may choose to break the rules, but that does not release me from the consequences of breaking them.

I can say an apple is an axe. But, that doesn’t mean I’ll be chopping down the apple tree with my “axe”. Calling a computer an apple does not mean I can make a pie out of it. An apple is an apple. A computer is a computer. An axe is an axe. A tree is a tree. God is God. God’s truth is truth. It does not require my belief in it to be truth, it still is, whether I believe it or not.

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Posted on Jan 30, 2015 in Blog, Church, Culture, Dear Leader, Featured, Leadership, Lost Virtues, repost, Truth

How Do We Save The Church?

How Do We Save The Church?

There’s a great blog/podcast for church leaders that I love to follow, Carey Nieuwhof. One of the posts he wrote just before Christmas (http://careynieuwhof.com/2014/12/impending-death-rebirth-cool-church/) really resonated with me. As I’ve been involved with the discussion, I have also realized that I have a lot to say about this particular subject.

So, I thought I’d share it with you.

But, before I begin, let me be clear. I believe in the church. And I don’t like it when Christians tear down other Christians…when churches tear down other churches. This is not going to be that kind of a post. There’s plenty of content like that out there. It won’t take you long to find it.

With that said, I also think we need to be honest about the current state of the church. I don’t think we are doing ourselves any favors by trying to hide what is going on. The church is in decline.

Fighting for our former position in society will do us no good. It will not help if our interest is in “being seen as a Christian nation again.” I understand the desire. I do. But it is sideways energy.

And it is not the way for us to gain influence in our society. But, we’ll get to that in a bit.

Fighting for the former means. 

I have always thought it should be the job of the older and wiser members of a church community who have the depth of understanding to be able to set preference aside. Never setting aside mission. But, set aside their personal preference because they understand the means are the vehicle for connecting with the next generation. I have no problem with a fight to keep the church on mission.

But too often the fight has nothing to do with mission.

too-often-the-fightToo often the fight is centered around personal preference, and it is mission that gets sacrificed. And when mission is the thing that gets put on the back burner, there is a whole pressure cooker of preference that it just waiting to blow beans all over the ceiling. (I may or may not have experienced first hand what happens when the pressure regulator comes off while pressure cooking beans…just as I may or may not have seen someone mop the ceiling.)

When preference takes over, we forget that the point of the church is the fulfillment of the great commission. This is our function. This is what we are designed for. When the means with which we accomplish that mission become more important than the mission itself, there will inevitably be fights, bickering, backlash, power grabbing and eventually division, strive, discord and ultimately the loss of influence in society.

Yes, there are other functions and activities that the church is supposed to do besides the great commission. But, if you’ll read Paul’s words carefully, you’ll also notice that the point of those functions is for the building up of the body. Those are the things we do to prepare us to do what we have been built to do.

This is where my concern for the church is exacerbated. This isn’t just a bump in the road for us. There is potential massive decline ahead of us. The baby boomer generation has begun to retire. Generation X is a smaller generation, by number, and have, in large part already left the church. And if we thought the church was struggling now, just imagine how it will be in 10-20 years when many of the boomers are gone. Now is the time to sound the alarm.

This means that our hope (as it has always been) lies solely is in reaching the next generations.

Too many churches have caused too much pain and sent a lot of people away from the church. For those who left because their preferences weren’t being met, I’m not that concerned. But for those who left because they didn’t want to be around those fighting for preference, I am greatly concerned. And as long as we’re focused on fighting to preserve what was relevant for us, we make the gospel and the church all about the preferences of those who are already in. And I don’t see that anywhere in scripture.

May I be frank for a moment and speak to my fellow Christians who are clinging to a means instead of mission? For the sake of the next generation, please let go. Please find it in yourself to become the support for the leaders of today’s church who are trying to reach the church of tomorrow. Don’t make their life miserable by clinging to your means. Make their life joyous by fighting for mission.

And if you’re a leader who is clinging to the means of of the past, for the sake of the mission that you once believed in – the mission that was at one time the passion that drove you to pursue ministry – please either get back on mission or get out of the way. (That may sound a little harsh, but I’m a pastor so I feel a little more freedom to speak sternly to my co-laborers.)

But, the pendulum has swung too far.

Just as the church has been greatly sidetracked by an outdated means of ministry, there is a completely separate faction that has swung to the opposite extreme. The extreme of cool.

Relevance is important. But cool does not equal relevant. Sometimes those are the methods that are relevant. But if the end goal is to be cool and hip, then we’ve lost track of mission too.

All the lights and video in the world will not necessarily make you relevant. If you don’t focus on mission, it doesn’t matter how cool your church is because you won’t be changing lives. You’ll just be attracting a crowd.

And there have been just as many casualties of cool as there were of outdated means. The church has sacrificed a great many souls on the altar of cool. If you are pursuing the coolest thing because that’s what’s cool, you’re not doing much better. And we will drive off just as many people.

What is the answer? How do we regain our influence?

It’s really quite simple. If we want to be heard, if we want to have influence, if we want to see a move of God, all we have to do is what we’ve been told to do. The mission.

We’ve lost our influence because we have exchanged mission for preference. We’ve lost our influence because we’ve sacrificed mission for our own selfish pursuits and pleasures. We are no longer credible because we’ve elevated ourselves over the work that Jesus did. I don’t know about you, but I’m so far from perfect and have made far too many mistakes to be the one who decides what the mission should be. We cannot allow ourselves in our imperfections to overthrow the mission. And if we can’t get back to that, we will never be heard.

Is relevance important? Yes. Is it more important than mission? I don’t think that’s the right question.

The question is, does the great commission require relevance?

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 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, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

At first, my answer to that question was, “no.” But upon further study I have found that I was wrong. It’s not explicit in the text, but it is implicit. In a few ways.

1. All authority in heaven and on earth. 

If Jesus has been given all authority in heaven and on earth, aside from the apparent, could it not also imply that Jesus’ authority coupled with Jesus presence empowers us to accomplish the mission in whatever method is necessary?

I’m not talking sinful methods. I’m not talking manipulative methods. But, within what is useful for building the kingdom, doesn’t Jesus’ authority cover all manner of preference?

2. Make Disciples

What is necessary if you’re going to make disciples? You have to have people to disciple. If the people who are available for us to disciple can only be reached through a method that is different than our own preference, doesn’t that mean we need to change our method to even have the opportunity to disciple them?

Our most important task as followers of Jesus Christ is to make disciples. It is not to make ourselves comfortable. If making disciples requires us to be a little uncomfortable, then our job is set comfort aside so that we may receive the title of “good and faithful servant.”

3. Teach them to obey. 

A part of making disciples is teaching. We have to teach people to obey Jesus’ commands. Does this require relevance? Well, have you ever tried to get children to listen to a long lecture? Have you ever tried to teach adults using sock puppets? I have. And because of that, I know that relevance is a requirement of teaching. Even more so if we are teaching for the purpose of obedience. It’s one thing to teach to dispense information. It’s something else entirely to teach for obedience.

I think the gospel is the most relevant message of all time. Its relevance transcends time. Christ died to save sinners. It doesn’t matter where you live, it doesn’t matter what language you speak. It doesn’t matter how old you are. If you’re a sinner, Christ died to save you.

If the gospel is the most relevant message of all time, why have we worked so hard to disguise it beneath to many layers of personal preference?

How do we save the church?

I hope that’s an alarming statement. It should be alarming because the church technically shouldn’t need to be saved. And yet it does. It needs to be saved from its continued pursuit of tarnishing the gospel of grace with things that have nothing to do with it.

But, the church needs some help.

I could be wrong. Definitely been wrong before. But it just seems that the trend is intensifying and with people not feeling societal pressure to be religious, they wont’ put up with irrelevance for much longer. They’ll just be done.

With the decline we have seen in the church’s influence, we don’t have the luxury of being irrelevant. We coasted for a long time because we had influence. But, those days are gone.

If we are going to change the world we live in, we have to live as those who are different. We have to have been changed by grace. We have to believe in the mission and give our lives for it. Our lukewarmness is what has made us unpalatable to the unbelieving world around us.

I guess the question is, do we believe enough to put mission first? If not, we have some repentance ahead of us.

And if we’re not willing to repent of our preferential ways, we should neither be surprised when our churches shut down.

We don’t get to forsake the mission. The mission is the most important thing. And we must do everything we can to fulfill it. Even if that means giving up things that are precious to us. Even if that means putting our preferences aside. Because, is it really worth holding on to your preference if it keeps someone from hearing the most relevant message of all time?

If we saw the mission of being the church as the most important thing, I don’t think we would care what the means are that we use to share that message. But by either fighting to retain what was relevant to us when we found Christ, but is no longer relevant to current and future generations or by dismissing the need for relevance as worldly we silence our own voice.

The saving grace for the church is to speak up. But not with protests and preferences. The way we speak up is to live out the mission. The way we speak up is to make the great commission the most important thing for us and our churches. Setting preference aside, let us press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of us.

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