Friday, November 13, 2015

A Diminishing View of the Church and an Untethered Generation

And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.
                                                                                                                Hebrews 10:25
And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord's Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity—
                                                                                                                   Acts 2:44-46

2 Questions:

Is it wrong, oppressive or inconvenient to expect believers to be at church worship, events and/or programming?  What is the real cost of low expectations of faith community members?

3 Points to Consider

    1-The early church naturally began to meet together, daily. Why? They wanted to, Surprise!! It was a source of encouragement and a socio-spiritual community that gave the participants a flesh and blood advocate in a sin-sick and troubled world. All believers are part of the church universal—but the Church universal isn’t going to walk with you through your chemo-treatments, divorce, job loss, surgery or emotional melt down when you feel the weight of parenting. The local church is God’s instrument for Gospel advancement and equipping for ministry. Our adults, students and children should see the church as the core of their socio-spiritual life…families fade, break up and hide sick secrets--- the Church universal and the church particular are God’s family and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Worship, conferences, events, retreats, breakfasts, small groups and programming all work together to connect a believer to the local church body in sustaining and vibrant ways so that when doubts, discouragement and rebellion press against us we have a real and relational advocate to lean upon who is accountable for our souls. Youth are missing out when they are not plugged-in faithfully with a student ministry that integrates them into the body-life of the local church. Parents would do well to make some effort to nudge, push or entice themselves to be a part of something bigger. It is not legalism to expect your child to be at church or to make them come. It’s parental laziness, unconcern or misconception that must be overcome and a correct view of biblical authority and stewardship must be embraced. 
    2- The real cost of low expectations concerning church body life is a low-view of the church in the current generation and even lower in the generation to come. Students will be more connected to their secular peer groups, classmates, sports team or Instagram friends than to the body of Christ (local, organized, baptized group of believers that meet for the purposes of worship, fellowship, discipleship, and mission) Make no mistake--- Jesus died for the Church and He will present her without blemish at the throne of the Father one day--- this is not true for your family, not for America, not for the Moose Lodge, not for the KC Royals or any other organization. As much as I a love my family, sports, my “free-time” or school--- these are not the primary purveyors of God-ordained truth concerning redemption, authority, spiritual discipline, morality, authentic faith or Gospel-mission. There is a reason that even the misguided, man-centered philosophy of public education demands the full attention of the early years of the child’s life. God has postured a child’s heart and mind to accept and assimilate the data (taught and caught) from these early years in life. This data will ultimately shape their values, morals, disciplines, beliefs and purpose apart from the Gospel if there has been no ever-abiding place of central Gospel purpose where they are reconciling the shortsighted, self-centered notions of the world against the glory of God. Thus we have students (who have made professions of faith) that emerge as adults who have greater concern for the environment, gender-rights, sports, self, careers, happiness or whatever than the souls of men and women because they never learned to reconcile the self-serving and short-sighted data with the life-giving message of the Gospel and God’s purpose for their life. Ultimately, they embrace a very low view of the church and thus arrive at a place where they have no redemption-oriented, flesh and blood advocate in this world, untethered and left adrift. 
    3- I have had too many conversations lately with people that apparently think the early church must have been ridiculous. They believe that these early believers were trying to curry the favor of God by attending church or were compelled to assemble daily for fellowship and worship in order to stay saved or get someone saved. But alas, the biblical text makes it clear that they met, with joy, for discipleship and growth purposes. It was the by-product of the gospel-changed heart and a desire for those they love to embrace this same truth as well. We would be na├»ve to think that they didn’t have an internal struggle occasionally about going to another meeting. They had to overcome the same internal and external obstacles that we do but overwhelming joy caused them to push through it…because they needed it and they remembered the joy from the day before. Why didn’t they just stay at home and teach their children? It would have been easier than arguing with them about it. And besides they could have gotten some much-needed rest (Sabbath) instead of going to another meeting. But The New Testament has more to say about the assembly and discipleship practices of the church than the family. The church existed for the family not the family for the church. I’ve been a part of and witnessed enough misguided families that claim Gospel-centeredness but avoid the blessing and authority of the church that I could scream. Let me say without any equivocation--- In our Gospel-rich, church-saturated culture, with access to so many good resources (people, materials, mediums and space); it is a sin to not lead your family to be faithfully integrated into a local body of believers and expect the same of them. In North Carolina, God has richly blessed us with churches… marred, messed-up and disheartening as it is at times, it is still the bride of Christ, purveyor of God-ordained truth and the appointed socio-spiritual center of a believer’s community. “To whom much is given, much is required. “ Luke 12:48 

    Avail yourself of a highly active, gospel-advancing local church that helps you and your spouse make sense of the lies they are told hundreds of times a day or lose your greatest flesh and blood advocate in the battle for your marriage. Parents, avail yourself of a highly active, gospel-advancing local church that helps your children make sense of the lies they are told hundreds of times a day or lose the influence of your greatest flesh and blood advocate in the battle for your child’s soul.