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Archive for the ‘The Church’ Category

Here’s an insightful and disturbing article.

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Wonder if there is a correlation between this and this. Duh? Folks, if your values and ethics and worldview is the same as the world’s, then you are obsolete to the world. If there is no difference, the world simply will ask, “Why bother?” Now, we aren’t pragmatists. We don’t hold a certain worldview or ethical standard as different from the world just to get their attention or attendance. We do it because it is Scriptural and right. But, geesh, you’d think at some point liberal mainline denominations would see the trend. Yeah, I get that conservative denominations are decreasing as well, at least somewhat. (Though that is debatable according to some measuring sticks.) But, not like the lefties.

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Well, not exactly in the way you think. You may not be familiar with this girl. She’s become very popular for her insights into religion and critiques of the church. Just google her and you’ll see. And while some of her critiques are good and valid, most of them are just recycled criticisms we’ve heard for decades or more. The truth is, I find them tiring and wearisome.

So, here is an article I want you to click on and read. Now, what this blog article does is point you to various critiques of her article. So, read hers (a link is provided on that article) and then read the critiques. The reason to do this is to give you, not only some valid critiques of her critique, but also an example in reading with discernment. I mean, when I read her argument in the original article, my immediate response was, “Dude, it sounds like what she is calling for is the branch of Christianity you typically find in liberal Protestant Christianity … and those denominations are losing people in droves, the very thing she’s suggesting we fix by becoming more like liberal Protestant Christians.” There are flaws all through it. The question is can you find them and find the good as well. Anyway, click, read, and learn. It may not be the most interesting topic for you, but I think you’ll find some use for it.

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From my latest sermon on church discipline:

The title of this sermon is: “Church Discipline? Is that Loving?” Well, if it is anything like God’s discipline and if the church is an instrument that God uses to discipline his people, then yes. Isn’t that exactly what Tracy just read? Listen again to this phrase:

 “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,

nor be weary when reproved by him.

6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,

and chastises every son whom he receives.”

Those are the words of a father who loves his children. All true discipline is rooted in love. So, here’s the thing, whatever we say about biblical church discipline, it is to be understood as love. Think about that. It’s to be understood as love. Now, that’s not how people think about this. They see this standing in direct contrast to love. It’s the opposite of love. It’s not loving at all to do something like this.

But why would we think that? We know that discipline is good for our children. We know it is loving to discipline our kids. We know that because the Bible tells us. And we know it because it’s common sense. If our child wants to do something that is harmful to them or others, we are going to teach them not to, and if we have to use pain (“painful” in v11) we will. Our thinking is, “Whatever it takes to get my one-year-old not to touch that electrical outlet, or my two-year-old not to walk out into the street, or my ten-year-old not to lie or steal, I will do it. Any of those things could hurt my child and I love him too much to watch him destroy himself.” Right? That’s common sense.

But suddenly, suddenly, when it comes to church, when it comes to this same thing in the church, when it comes to this same thing in Christianity, when it comes to correcting sin in another person’s life, we fall apart. We think, “Well, I’ll just pray for that person.” (Why didn’t you just pray for your child?) We think, “That’s between them and God.” (Why didn’t you think touching an electrical socket is between them and God?) We think, “Who am I to judge?” (Why didn’t you say, ‘Who am I to judge my little one’s walking habits?’) Why would telling someone with force (and I don’t mean harshness – but I do mean with some teeth, like removing them from the membership of the church, like the collective body of Christ saying to them in an official way, your life calls into question your salvation; you should be afraid) that their lifestyle calls into question the reality of their salvation, that their behavior is damaging their soul.

So why do we think of this as unloving when we don’t think it unloving to discipline our kids? Here’s why. Let’s just be honest. [This is not the only reason … ] Because when it is all said and done, I know without a shadow of a doubt that if my child walks in front of a car he’ll die or get really hurt; but the truth, is deep down in our souls we don’t think God will judge someone. Let’s just throw our cards on the table … tip your hand. Why don’t we just say it? We don’t think God will really judge people. Why did churches 100 years or more ago have no trouble disciplining an unrepentant church member? Because the people of those churches believed God’s judgment was real. They really believed in hell. And they really believed that people besides serial killers and terrorists went there. And they really believed that if you did not repent of your sins and trust in Jesus, no matter who you were, you would go to hell. They really believed it. But because we don’t, (maybe on paper we do, but not emotionally / not functionally) there is no compulsion to do anything about a wayward brother or sister.

Beloved, I have yet to go to a funeral where the deceased is not already in heaven, despite the fact that the person had no fruit and that Jesus said “broad is the road …” Look, we are batting a 1000 here in the Bible belt at funerals. Now, I don’t expect the preacher or others to announce, “This man is in hell,” but do you understand my point? We simply don’t believe God will judge people any more. We really don’t think sin is dangerous or that it really jeopardizes our soul. On paper, maybe; functionally, not really. Broadly speaking; there are exceptions.

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Says this man. I agree whole-heartedly.

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Our culture tends to disdain and forget about older generations. That’s too bad says Thabiti. Read the article below:

I wonder if others observe a phenomenon I think I see in many churches: people clustering with others in their generation? The 20-somethings spend their time with other 20-somethings talking about 20-something concerns. The young families hang out with other young families, hosting play dates and trading parenting tips. It seems to me that 60-somethings tend to flock together with other 60-somethings. There are notable exceptions, of course. There are those older men and women who become pillars in the church by investing in younger men and women. And there are the younger persons who seek to serve young families or older members. But by and large, people seem to spend the bulk of their spiritual energy and time with other people in the same stage of life.

There’s much that can be said about this–its scope, causes, benefits, and so on. But one thing that strikes me today is that segregating into enclaves based on age and life-stage tends to weaken the future of the church. What do I mean?

Well, it’s clear that God intends the faith to be taught and passed down from the older generation to the younger. Paul’s words to Titus are perhaps the most well-known words to this effect:

You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine. Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance. Teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God. Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us. (Titus 2:1-8)

But what happens when this vision of body life doesn’t materialize in a widespread way because we cluster into our demographic groups?

Well, 20-somethings tend to learn mostly from other 20-somethings. They’re cut off from the perspective and wisdom gained by being a generation or two older. They develop 20-something solutions to what will likely either be 40-something foundations or problems. They make courtship and dating decisions that look really cool at 20 but turn out to be short-sighted at 40. They make purchasing decisions that seem life-giving at 20 that turn into major burdens at 40. I think I see lots of 20-somethings (guys in particular) running the race without self-control, self-control that older members could and should help them gain.

Meanwhile, the 40-somethings work through marriage, parenting, and career issues without the longer view of 60-somethings. As quiet as it’s kept, knowing how to be a husband, wife or parent doesn’t come to us by osmosis. We have to be taught how to love a wife, how to respect a husband, and how to raise our children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. And sometimes those callings get as nuts-and-bolts as learning how to cook, how to discipline, how to argue and how to make up. During this period, our 30- and 40-somethings develop or continue habits that either help or hurt. Sadly, many will do so without the wisdom that comes from more seasoned experience. Consequently, they take the same lumps others could have helped them avoid. Or they “make it” through that middle-age season via a series of trial and error experiments.

This, of course, affects the temperature and vitality of the church. We have congregations of people “trying to figure life out” largely alone. Great amounts of time get invested in helping young people negotiate the choppy waters of early adulthood, middle-aged people work their way through challenges of marriage, family, and career, and older persons figure out meaning late in life sometimes without much-loved spouses, declining  health, and shrinking numbers of living peers. Pastors and elders mistakenly think they must become masters of each stage of life, counsel people through every opportunity and difficulty, and be there in every circumstance. But, actually, the Bible instructs the pastor to teach the congregation to be there for one another and does so by tying the generations together so that the built-in expertise of old age gets leveraged for every younger generation. It’s a beautiful thing.

In this way older members of the local church become the front line of discipleship and care. They brighten the future of the church by teaching younger members how to live out the faith, how to avoid mistakes, seize opportunities, practically apply the word of God to their lived realities. As that store of wisdom, maturity, and experience gets passed on and received with humility, the spiritual, emotional, and volitional maturity of the congregation rises considerably. The more mature the young persons in the body the brighter the future of the church. We sometimes act as if older members have no role vital to the future of the church. But actually they are absolutely essential, indispensable.

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Here’s an interesting article about conservative and liberal churches. I’d love to hear feedback on why you think this is. I have my suspicions or thoughts. What’s yours?

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