Wednesday, October 06, 2021

All Things To All People

 For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them.  To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. [1Co 9:19-23 ESV] 


Is a life preserver that is not made available to a person that is struggling to stay afloat still a life preserver? If the Gospel is not delivered to people that need to hear it in time for them to make a decision in this life, is it still Good News to them?  

Paul's statement concerning being a learner can be confusing to some that can't separate personal preferences from biblical convictions, traditions from truth or feelings from facts. We must be learners continually. “Learners are prepared for the future, the learned are prepared for a world that doesn’t exist any longer,” says Hans Finzel. In 1980, 66% of teenagers indicated that church would play a large part of their lives. In 2010, 33% of teenagers indicate that church will play any part in their lives.  In spite of all the so-called “mega-churches” in America, there is not one county in all of the United States that has a greater churched population than it did 10 years ago. In 1991, the number of evangelicals in Asia surpassed the number of evangelicals in the whole of the western world and the gap is increasing exponentially. In 1920, there were 27 churches for every 10,000 Americans. Today there are fewer than 10 churches per 10,000 Americans. The institutional Christian church is dying.  It has become disconnected and irrelevant to a generation of 35 yr. olds and younger.  This generation has grown up, informed and educated, in a technologically-defined world. It is possible to watch an event around the world, as it is happening, talk or text immediately to anyone around the world and overthrow governments through social media.  The arts are important to this generation. They are enamored with creativity and diversity.  As a matter of fact, literature abounds, theatre is strong and their music is diverse, complex and seriously misunderstood by some of us old folks.  Jesus stepped out of heaven into our situation. He made the incredible effort to get to us where we are, identify with our struggles, pains and confusion. He appealed to us at a very real and understanding level.  Making Himself of no reputation, coming in the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. (Phil. 2:7) Though He was willing and obedient, His “body” (the church) is not so willing to lay aside self-interest, preferences and traditions while the last two generations are becoming so disconnected from Church they do not know Noah or Daniel. They cannot find Genesis in a borrowed Bible and seriously misunderstand a misrepresented Jesus and His love for them.  I have little patience for undue criticism that blasts their music, dress, body piercings, tattoos or lack of interest in politics and the things of God or education, especially from anyone that makes no effort to understand. This generation is defined by broken homes and a morally destitute culture delivered to them by our generation. They have been taught that truth is relative, abortion is ok, marriage is optional and God is out there somewhere if he even exists.  Evolution is science, science is inerrant and any other position is non-sense, making the Bible irrelevant, if not a joke. Societal and religious leaders have proven to be people with no integrity who are not willing to work hard for a cause bigger than self. This generation has few examples of those who are willing to press through all the “stuff” to help with the problem.  All too often, our efforts to worship and reach the disaffected are answering questions that no one is asking and fixing problems that few are experiencing. We cannot throw the Gospel into the world. We should lovingly carry it to them. Kinda like Jesus did. Our labor of love to flesh out the Gospel will help to dispel cynicism and confusion. The average age of many churches around us is creeping up year upon year.  It is becoming increasingly difficult to retain a younger generation. They recognize their needs are not being addressed or even acknowledged. Our church leaders and an older generation must become informed, concerned and creative in reaching an inquisitive generation.  Our attitudes and practices concerning race, ethnicity, economics, gender roles, and past failures must be guided by biblical truth rather than our opinion.  Christ has promised they will be reached. My desire and my prayer is that He would do it through His disciples and the ministry of the local church. Let’s be learners (disciples), sacrificially and lovingly learning the nuances of the lies so many have believed so that our voice has credibility and represents our Redeemer well as ambassadors for His cause......  in order that we become all things to all people so that some might be saved.  He>us>me

Tuesday, October 05, 2021

Church Still Matters

 

Updated from Nov. 2015

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. That's it. They enjoyed it that much. 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 either. Worship assembly, conferences, events, retreats, prayer 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 them 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 parental 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, sovereign authority, spiritual discipline, morality, authentic faith or Gospel-mission. There is a reason that 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 animals, the environment, gender-rights, sports, video games, 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 through the years with people that apparently think the early church must have been ridiculous for meeting everyday, house-to-house, eating and sitting under biblical teaching. 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-oriented 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 knew they needed it and they remembered the joy from the days 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. 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, misson-driven 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.