But very early on Sunday morning the women went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. They found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. … Continue reading The Hope of Easter (and how we celebrated)…
This has been brewing inside for quite a while now, but certain conversations yesterday made me decide to finally write about it.
I’ve often heard people saying something to the effect of “that’s great that you care about those orphans in Africa/slavery in India/any injustice around the world, but I feel called to minister here in the U.S.” But most of those people NEVER actually do anything to fix the problems here. Or, people will say that we need to “take care of our own country first”. While that’s a great patriotic sentiment, I do not believe that it is biblical.
James 1:27 says this: “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.”
Isaiah 58:6 says: “No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people.”
Isaiah 58:9-10: “Remove the heavy yoke of oppression. Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors! Feed the hungry,
and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.”
These verses (and many, many others) do not say to focus on your country and ignore injustices around the world. Yes, we do need to care for our neighbors, but we ALSO need to be doing what we can to assist those around the world who need our help! No, I am not talking about government intervention…I’m talking about Christians stepping up to the fight.
We live in the United States of America. While there are things to be fixed within our borders, we have it so good compared to almost every other country in the world. We don’t face genocide, child abductions by an army, horrendous (yet preventable) disease, or extreme poverty. Even the poorest in our country have far more than most of the world. We don’t have to worry about the government barging into our church services and arresting us. We don’t have to worry about being sold as a slave. We are one of the richest countries in the history of the world, and we have abundant resources that can set people free. Yet, we are mostly lazy and selfish and we squander these resources…
“With great knowledge comes great responsibility” is a quote that comes to mind. Thanks to the technology available to us today, we are very aware of the atrocities happening around the world on a daily basis. We see the pictures, we hear the stories, and we know the numbers. We cannot just ignore what is going on around the world as Christians.
I believe that, while you may feel “called” to minister here, you also have a global responsibility as a Christian to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth and to care for God’s children all around the world.
In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus commands us to “go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (emphasis added) The command doesn’t say “those of you who feel called”, it simply says “GO”…
I don’t believe that God cares about borders. What He cares about are the humans who live on this earth. We know from the Bible that He hears their cries and sees their suffering. He empowers us to make a difference and to rid the world of injustice. I feel that when we say things like “let’s focus on our own country” and then don’t actually do anything IN our own country, we are being incredibly selfish. It’s just an excuse to not have to be uncomfortable. We are being Pharisees, saying all the right things but having no intention of actually doing anything. We are being lazy. We are saying that other people don’t deserve our time, resources, energy, compassion. And I believe that is wrong.
This situation in Uganda/Central Africa may seem hopeless, but if we don’t try to stop Joseph Kony from abducting children and forcing them to be soldiers, who will? If Uganda had the resources to stop him, they would have stopped him 26 years ago. If Rwanda would have had assistance early on, 700,000 people may not have died. The examples go on and on…and more innocent people suffer injustices every day because we choose not to act or we aren’t aware of the situations.
If organizations like Invisible Children and International Justice Mission didn’t exist, who would fight for these innocent people? These organizations have made the invisible problems of the world visible, and that’s how change happens. When people become aware of these things, they begin to care, and they begin to fight. And they can no longer just sit comfortably with the knowledge that these terrible and evil things are happening.
This is an opportunity for the world to work together to make global change in how we handle injustices. This is a way to use the technology at our fingertips to forever change the world in a tangible way. Why not try? If we can win here, we can work on other similar situations and end more injustices around the world! It’s a truly exciting idea, and I think it can be very effective!
“Knowledge is power” and “with great knowledge comes great responsibility”…what are you going to choose to do with the knowledge that you have about atrocities happening around the world? I’m going to choose to fight.
I am a student of history. One of my top strengths is “context” (StrengthsFinder by Gallup–WELL WORTH your time). The most important lesson I gained in college from all of my history courses was this: Context is key–you need to know the hows/whys/whats of how we got to where we are so that you can ask “what now” and act wisely.
I am also a church leader. I have been in various leadership roles for the past ten+ years. I have seen churches grow and I’ve seen churches decline. There are many good books that I’ve read on the subject of how church should be done, but I have to say that David Murrow’s book “Why Men Hate Going to Church” has made the top ten list.
Mr. Murrow begins by giving a history of church dynamics and specifically looks at the role that men have played over the past few hundred years. It’s hard to argue with his facts: the church has become highly feminized, and it’s a cycle that will keep going until we make church a more “man friendly” environment. His fascinating historical overview truly helps us see why we have such a mess today when it comes to the decline of a male presence in the church. He doesn’t discriminate between denominations–he acknowledges that they’ve all seen a decline and discusses why. But he does far more than just offer a commentary on the problem: he offers solutions based on research.
One example: he points out several phrases and terms that are NEVER found in the Bible, but we use them all the time to describe what it means to be a Christian. We’ve made it this almost romantic-sounding relationship (i.e. using words like intimate, personal relationship, etc.), when in reality the Gospel is a mission. We are God’s ambassadors, His agents in this world, and we are called to action. We are here for a purpose. Those are the types of things that get men fired up–not mushy worship/talk. Yet, because the churches are typically filled with more women than men, the messages have conformed to the gender-gap, and this isolates men even further.
For church-planters and pastors especially, chapter 13 alone is worth buying the whole book. As I read this chapter (as with many others), I was struck by the truth of his words in terms of how our Kingdom focus has changed so much with the feminine influence in the church. We’ve become far more focused on making church a “family” than a mission-control for the Kingdom work to which we are called. As such, pastors spend so much time dealing with internal conflicts rather than reaching out to our communities who are in need of the Word.
I know that many of my friends who are feminists will likely disagree with much of what this book says…but I have to agree. Changes need to be made, and we need to follow the biblical example that Jesus gave us during His earthly ministry. He reached out to 12 MEN primarily, because He knew that those men would become leaders that both men and women would follow. We need strong male leadership once again in our churches, and this book offers many suggestions that will change the course of your church forever.
This book is worth your time–and keep an open mind…it just might surprise you. 🙂
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Each generation has had their “tool” for evangelism that worked. In the late eighteenth and early twentieth century, the circuit rider preachers were effective, and revivals were common. In the ’60s and ’70s, during the “Jesus Freak” movement, street evangelism worked. People responded. That was something that really reached people.
However, what is going to be the effective tool for our generation?
(Of course, these are generalizations, because not everyone is like this…just my observations)
* People don’t like to be bothered…they don’t like things to take up their time.
* People don’t talk to other people while walking down the street, and if someone talks to them, it is generally not well-received.
* People don’t mind if you are religious, as long as you don’t talk to them about it.
* There are so many misconceptions of religion, so many stereotypes…hard to defeat them all.
* Society is so individualized; yet, everyone longs to “belong” to something of their choosing.
It goes without saying that society today is a much different place than it was in the ’60s and ’70s…it’s even different than it was in the ’90s. Things are constantly changing in our world, and people are no exception.
Some of my own observations from my two summers as a missionary:
* Backyard Bible Clubs are no longer an effective way to reach children. With technology these days, going back to arts and crafts, Bible stories, and outdoor games are just not things that children are interested in. It was a great day if we had 5 kids at our BYBCs. Also, parents are less apt to allow their children to be somewhere with people they don’t know, because of the crimes that have happened in recent years with children.
* Many people don’t like to be bothered at home. My church always liked to do “visitation”, where one night a week they would go and visit the people who had attended the service the previous Sunday. I had to do “follow-up” visits after Vacation Bible School and BYBCs both summers, and it was–with one exception–unsuccessful.
* People don’t like to be “preached at”…they are less likely to accept the message you are bringing if you have no current relationship with them.
I have found that relationships are key. I’m not saying that I think you should go build relationships JUST so that you can tell them about Jesus…if that is your only motivation, to “win another soul”, then I don’t think I agree with that. But, people are more likely to go to church with a friend, someone they trust, than they are to go with someone who was doing door-to-door evangelism and handed them a tract.
So, what can we do to “reach” out to the world around us? We have to invent new ways…ways that we can reach them where they are. Perhaps we need to look at Christ’s example (heaven forbid, LOL) at how He touched lives…at how He ministered…
What is a “post-modern” church going to look like?
This is post #1 of a series regarding my own musings on the Church, evangelism, and Christian culture. To begin, I’d like to simply post a passage from Paul Marshall’s book “Thine is the Kingdom”, because it is among the many I have read today that sparked an interest in my mind.
I’ll be discussing ideas from theologians such as Lesslie Newbigin, Stanley Hauerwas, and other respected minds as I try to express my own personal frustrations. In all that I will write, please understand that I am by NO means exempt from these things. I am just as much at fault for being too wrapped up in “Christian culture” and secluding myself from the realities of the world (I attend a Christian university, which tends to be a “bubble” of sorts). These are just my musings, ponderings, my journey to discover how to be a Christian in a post-modern world.
As always, I’d love for this to become a “conversation”, and it is open for comments. I’d love to dialogue about these issues, as they are becoming increasingly important. It seems to me that the church (using the term “Church” as a general statement–I realize that there are exceptions, of course) is becoming more separated from the world as time goes by. In brief, I believe that when the Bible mentions being in the world but not of the world, it doesn’t mean to create our own “religious club.” Rather, I think that we should be following Christ’s example in reaching out to the world, meeting them where they are, meeting their needs…but most importantly, just loving them. Not trying to change them, not trying to push our beliefs on them…just loving them, and allowing Christ to transform their lives as He desires.
So here is the passage from Paul Marshall…
“Our task as Christians is, in principle, to do everything in a Christian way that can be done by a human being—from what we eat when we get up in the morning (if we have anything to eat) to what clothes we put on, to how we get to work (if we have any work), to what we work at, making what, for how much, in what sort of conditions, to how we vote, how we engage in research, how we understand the news, how we relax, what we do with and for the poor, and so on throughout the livelong day. In all these activities we are called to be new creatures taking our place as the stewards of God’s world, being servants of our neighbor and proclaimers of the good news of Jesus Christ. In all of them we are to learn what God calls us to do or, in other words, to see how redemption in Jesus Christ can bring healing and redirection. We are to proclaim and to show in our lives that Christ is Lord over every part of life. Just as every part of life is affected by human sin, so all parts of life can be renewed and redeemed by Jesus Christ. That is our only solid hope for families, factories or politics.
True Christian social action is always evangelistic work, for no area of life is ‘neutral’, supposedly immune from the effects of sin and the reach of redemption. We do not act merely on the basis of Christian ‘principles’ or ‘morality’, we are to act as witness to Jesus Christ. All areas of life must be linked to new life in Jesus Christ. In turn, true Christian evangelism is always social action because it lives and proclaims what is good news in each area of life.
Through the gospel God calls a new nation, a new people, a new humankind into being. As men and women turn to Jesus Christ in real, concrete, repentance from sin and, by grace through faith, are restored in God’s favor, they begin to live out the healing and restoration of Christ’s redemption and take up their Christian responsibility for the direction of human life and culture. Evangelism is, in a way, the recruiting process for this life whereby people come ‘on board’ for service to God’s kingdom. Evangelism calls people to repentance and to a restored and renewed love for God and, through that love, to a new life of service to our neighbors. This is the Christian life.”
Paul Marshall, Thine is the Kingdom, p. 37-38.
I decided to finally begin reading “The Jesus I Never Knew” by Phillip Yancey, as it has been on my shelf for about 3 years. On page 16, he makes an interesting point:
“Today, people even use Jesus’ name to curse by. How strange it would sound if, when a businessman missed a golf putt, he yelled. ‘Thomas Jefferson!’ or if a plumber screamed ‘Mahatma Gandhi!’ when his pipe wrench mashed a finger. We cannot get away from this man Jesus.”
Why is it that people use the name of Jesus in such a way? Why don’t they use other names? This has picqued my curiosity, for some reason, and I’d love to hear your opinions on the matter.
Leo Tolstoy once said:
“Love is life. All, everything that I understand, I understand only because I love.”
My relationship with God is the most important aspect of my life. This relationship has led me to spend two summers in full-time ministry in Williamsport, Pennsylvania (where I will most likely be moving next year)…it has led to countless hours in youth work, worship ministry, etc. But most importantly, this relationship has shaped who I am and all that I strive to be.
Lately, due to many extenuating circumstances, my time with God has taken a backseat to everything else going on in my life. Last night, as I sat alone in my apartment, I decided to spend time with my Maker…and I did. I spent 2 hours praying, singing, reading, etc., which made me realize how much I have missed this time with Him. This post is a reflection of what I learned last night, because this is going to change many aspects of my life over the next few months.
“The joy of the Lord is your strength.” –Nehemiah 8:10
My strength, my joy, my serenity comes from the Lord. I have never been content with the ways of this world. Yet, lately, I haven’t been seeking my refuge in the arms of the Lord as I used to…and this needs to change. For, as MercyMe so eloquently put it,
“I have not been called to the wisdom of this world but to a God who’s calling out to me. And even though the world may think I’m losing touch with reality, it would be crazy to choose this world over eternity.”
What really matters in life? What is worth living for?
“Healer heal me
Savior save me
Maker change me
Lover love me
‘Cause I’m so tired of living for
The kind of love
That only lasts for a while
The pain, the shame
Tear me up inside
So I fall on my knees
To get back on my feet again
And I cry out for You
Would You please speak to me…”–Ten Shekel Shirt
Love is the most important thing. Not the kind of love that is fleeting, but the love that is eternal. Jesus told us that the greatest commandment is to love God with all we are and have, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Is there anything more important in life?
1 John tells us that because God first loved us, we can more fully love. If I am relying on the love of my Lord for my strength and for my fulfillment, then I am able to love freely, without worrying about what I will get in return. I will be able to care for my neighbors, for those in need. And, when I love this way, God gives us life abundantly.
“But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard–things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshall and direct our energies wisely.”
–Galatians 5:22-23 (The Message)
Love is life…love is everything. And I want to love more…more freely…more abundantly…I want to fully embrace the “greatest commandment”, for that is all that really matters in life. I want to live unapologetically, and how better to do that than to serve God with all that I am?
I don’t know how this is going to play out in my life practically, but I know that I have decided to once more live as my Lord has called me to live, which is to love.
“He’s everything to me, more than a story…”