Tag Archives: christianity

Front Lines of the Battle for America’s Future

Sep 08, 22
, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
one comments

Boomers, Gen X and even most Millennials have largely made up their minds.  They were born and raised at a time in America when the vast majority of parents and friends were Christians.  They’ve grown up around church, known many believers, and years ago came to a decision about Jesus – yea or nay.  By virtue of their age and long-held stance, it’s hard to win older Americans over to Christ or atheism.

However, the impressionable youth of our country, Gen Z, are still forming opinions or can be more easily swayed, caught between the influence of predominantly Christian parents and post-Christian friends.  The struggle for the hearts and minds of our children is the true battleground, a fact not lost on professors, politicians, businesses, and activists bent on reshaping the future of our nation.

Every year that passes, populations representing prior generations decrease, taking with them the Christian values and morals they espoused.  To ensure each deceased believer is replaced with an “enlightened” youth, universities and media are working overtime to instill the 7 pillars of social “progress” (i.e. no offense, no sin, no conscience, no consequences, no identity, no religion, no truth).  With those pillars in place, evangelism becomes ineffective (at best) or outlawed (at worst).

Christ-followers know Jesus eventually prevails because we’ve read the end of the story (i.e. the Bible), but deluded “atheists” hope that secularizing the next generation will insulate our culture from a return to faith.  They envision a utopia of progressive humanism and unrestrained decadence.  This isn’t the first attempt in world history to snuff out Christianity – and like most, it may have the opposite effect.

The Battle Plan

Jesus spoke of a childlike faith that trusts in our loving Father for provision and instruction.  A child’s healthy growth and development requires dependence on others for support and guidance.  Children in their formative years can’t assert independence from external influence, establish identity without association, or develop intellect without conditioning.

  • Independence: Youth must rely on someone…the question is who
  • Identity: Youth will belong to something…the question is what
  • Intellect: Youth need to learn everything…the question is from whom

In other words, will Gen Z in America be influenced and conditioned more by God or by those who don’t have their best interests at heart?  Secularism’s (false) promise is freedom from the shackles of religion, but its reality is captivity in chains of sin and hopelessness.  The fact is Satan is a far more stringent taskmaster than our loving Father.  To deflect attention from that deception, social “influencers” accuse Christianity of the same crime secularism is busy committing – a coordinated campaign to gain control over our children’s lives, in this case wrestling it away from God and (Christian) parents.

The following are 7 messages being drilled into the heads of Gen Z today to position Christianity as a threat to their independence, identity, and intellect.  However, each is a bill of goods, based on empty promises intended to curtail freedom, define identity, and steer thinking:

1. “Parents Are Out of Touch”

Presupposition: Christian parents corrupt their children by teaching them arcane views of morality (e.g. gender and chastity).

Misconception: A sense of permanent belonging (as a child of an earthly dad and heavenly Father) can be supplanted by transient professors and friends – and trusted to reset outdated moral standards.

Deception: The real intent isn’t about an awakening sheltered youth but breaking the ties with family and God that hinder the conformance needed to govern a populace (power) and consumerism needed to fuel an economy (profit).

Proposition: A child’s first love is a dad and mom.  We were also created to be children of God.  When we’re born, parents are our protectors and providers, which is exactly what God is when we are reborn.  However, churches have mistakenly emphasized joining a church family more than becoming a child of our Father – making it easier for youth to decide to join other communities (of non-believers) more accepting of immorality.

2. “Trust Your Own Judgment”

Presupposition: At a young age we know what’s best for ourselves and shouldn’t be told what to do or think by parents or pastors.

Misconception: Children can form completely independent thoughts and world views, not malleable or manipulated by the whims and vagaries of culture.

Deception: Once liberated from the influence of families and God, young minds can be reprogrammed to dictate what they must think or face ostracization from “decent” society.

Proposition: What do we know that wasn’t taught to us?  What matters is the reliability of those sources of information.  The Bible, scrutinized for thousands of years and yet to be discredited, is more trustworthy than the learned secular voices in science, medicine, finance, academia, and media who are so often proven wrong.  Churches and Christians shouldn’t soft-pedal or dilute the truths of God’s Word, trying to make it more palatable.

3. “Leaders Care About the Issues”

Presupposition: Politicians and pundits are deeply concerned about and fully convinced of the ability of young children to determine their own gender, make life-altering decisions, and conceive personal versions of truth regardless of their maturity or parents’ wishes.

Misconceptions: Equality, tolerance, and justice are secularism’s actual objectives.  Youth have the capacity to do what’s best for themselves without parental and spiritual guidance.

Deception: Ironically, secular leaders are advocating establishment of a new religion – Selfism.  With Christianity out of the picture (by labeling us bigots, intolerant, and unjust), secular leaders secure enough votes (as older generations die off) to scale the peaks of the 7 mountains and institute systems threatening the freedoms they’d promised to defend.

Proposition: No one cares more about equality, tolerance, and justice than Jesus.  But many Christians aren’t reflecting His love well.  To appeal the Gen Z, churches and Christ-followers must show what authentic compassion and unconditional love look like.

4. “Christianity is Oppressive”

Presupposition: Rather than sincere worship of our Creator, Christianity is a man-made convention designed to repress natural inclinations, empower demagogues, and enrich pastors.

Misconception: Unsuspecting, naïve youth must be forewarned of Christianity’s nefarious objectives or risk suffering their parents’ fate – reason and judgment clouded by religion.

Deception: Oppressive governments originate by defining “oppressors” and “oppressed”, particularly through propaganda directed at idealistic youth, pledging to end all oppression.  Categorizing Christians as oppressors justifies regulating not only them, but inevitably tying the hands of the “oppressed” as well through “handouts” that breed dependency.

Proposition: No one is more concerned about the oppressed than Jesus.  In His own words, He came to set them free – but His mission statement was genuine, not a cover to one day assert dominance over both oppressor and oppressed.  Christians do not always follow Jesus’ example, so we should confess our flaws while pointing to His perfection.

5. “Purpose is Found in a Cause”

Presupposition: Youth snowed into believing in God, hoping to discover meaning in what doesn’t exist, are missing out on the fulfillment offered by popularity and prosperity.

Misconception: Absent identity in Christ, a sense of purpose is available in fighting “oppression” (as defined by those who consider Christians the primary culprits).

Deception: Directing the ire of justice-minded students toward Christianity is about agendas, not justice, and costs them eternal impact in this life and hope for the next.

Proposition:  Understanding the cause of Christ reigns supreme, churches and Christians must take the lead and invest substantially in addressing critical issues important to Gen Z.

6. “Happiness is the Goal”

Presupposition: Whatever and whoever stands in the way of the inalienable right of each young person to pursue happiness should be summarily condemned and rejected.

Misconception: Happiness can be acquired through promotions, products, and possessions (i.e. the American Dream), a myth promulgated by TV, social media, and advertisers.

Deception: Trying to convince youth that the world can give what it never had (lasting peace and happiness) while concurrently teaching them they’re cosmic accidents combine to create the outcome you’d expect (rampant substance abuse and suicides).

Proposition: Flourishing (“life as God intends”) and joy (“happiness that never fades”) are not fleeting, altered by the next positive or negative life event, because Christ and our inheritance in Him are unchanging.  Churches should be training Christians to share that good news when young people inevitably reach the dead end on the road to “happiness”.

7. “Faith is Foolish”

Presupposition: Belief in a God is a crutch for the insecure, a hammer to wield power over the oppressed, or a fantasy only believed by the ignorant.

Misconception: Universities and Hollywood mock Christianity because they don’t believe in God and see no need for His forgiveness for their sins.

Deception: The assault on all things Christian today is about ensuring Gen Z serves no other god than humanism, consumption and government, replacing Jesus as “savior”, to reshape the future of our nation around the world’s priorities.

Proposition: Christians should help youth understand how much faith it takes to believe something came from nothing and how credible the evidence is for Jesus in historical records, God’s creation, mankind’s sinfulness, and the compassion of His followers.

It’s Your Turn…

What other lies is secularism telling Gen Z and how else could Christ-followers fight for truth given that the future of America is at stake?

America’s 7 Step Plan to Ban Evangelism

Aug 25, 22
, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Even those trained, experienced, active, humble, and consistent in sharing their faith are finding it increasingly difficult.  The message that Jesus paid a debt He didn’t owe because we owed a debt we couldn’t pay has never changed, but America’s receptivity to that message certainly has.  Activists, politicians, educators, and media are erecting a fortress to prevent Christians from imposing their beliefs on “innocent victims”.  That fortress rests on 7 rebar-reinforced pillars designed collectively to ensure evangelism falls on deaf ears.

Extricating America from hundreds of years of Christian influence can’t be done overnight, but the path from protection to prevention to persecution is well documented.  Precedents set in countries where evangelism has been criminalized begin by casting Christianity as a threat to national interests and the social order.  Christians are pushed from the mainstream to the fringe by calling into question their values and motives.  Since it’s impossible to implicate Jesus, His followers become the targets, portrayed as oppressors seeking dominion over oppressed non-believers.  In that environment, sharing one’s faith becomes viewed as an attempt to manipulate and control rather than to love and rescue.

Without evangelism training, a rarity in America’s churches, few Christians know how to respond to those accusations.  Studies reveal only around 50% have witnessed to someone in the past year, not surprising when just under 50% (of Christian Millennials) question whether it’s right to do so.  Those brave enough to stick out their necks and obey the Great Commission risk making enemies in today’s post-Christian culture.  The intimidation factor and roadblocks will only increase as the 7 pillars are driven deeper into the bedrock of our society…

1. No Offense

The formula for turning the tables on Christianity is simple.  First, use our own words against us.  The Gospel is inherently offensive, so vilify and repudiate anyone who offends:

  • Redefine the word love to mean not causing anyone discomfort, by definition precluding any mention of Christ around “atheists” or those practicing other faiths
  • Redefine intolerance to mean belief in moral absolutes, by definition labeling Christians as bigots, silencing their voices in the public square

On that basis, anyone holding a biblical worldview – in other words, those deemed hateful and intolerant – may be “cancelled”.  The answer for Christians isn’t to cower or to offend – but to debunk those revised definitions by imitating Jesus, who loved unconditionally, particularly those who felt judged, while never compromising His moral standards.

2. No Sin

Next, eliminate any perceived need for Jesus by removing “sin” from society’s lexicon:

  • Diminish the value of forgiveness, which is only required if there’s a (sin) debt to pay – so without any bad news there can’t be any “good news” (i.e. the Gospel)
  • Consider any reference to “sin” attempted exploitation by Christians – and since the Gospel can’t be shared without invoking that concept, render evangelism powerless

Our culture frowns on offending non-believers but encourages offending our Father (i.e. through sin) and His children.  Rather than responding with anger, Christians should be wise as serpents (e.g. recognize virtue signaling is feigning offense to avoid being offended) and gentle as doves (e.g. understand deep down everyone knows they’re not perfect and seeks absolution).  As Jesus, Peter and Paul modeled, we can’t witness without addressing the need for repentance and reconciliation.

3. No Conscience

Eradicating offense and “sin” still leaves a God-given conscience that, unless squelched, risks vulnerability to future evangelistic encounters with Christians:

  • Deprogram conscience by violating it repeatedly while dismissing guilt as an arcane conception of Christians designed to suppress and oppress
  • Claim that human nature is innately good and the ultimate evil is making anyone feel sinful or guilty
  • Blame rampant escapism (addiction, depression and suicide) on the intolerance of Christians, not guilt over sinful lifestyles

To tear down this roadblock to evangelism, repentance must begin within the church.  Wrestling with our own sin publicly rather than concealing it would make non-believers more open to confessing their own.  Activating dormant consciences requires Christians act less like the older brother in the prodigal son story and more like the father.  By reflecting the Lord’s merciful nature, we illuminate mankind’s depraved nature.

4. No Consequences

With those first 3 pillars in place, an additional complexity for those bent on neutralizing evangelism is the persistent fear of death and uncertainty about what follows.  Therefore:

  • Mock belief in God as irrational, uneducated, and outdated to squash any latent concern about meeting Him one day and facing judgment
  • Emphasize the (apparent) inconsistency of a loving God meting out wrath on “innocent” people in the Old Testament and in Hell for eternity

The premise missed by those allegations is that God is a Father, so discipline is consistent with His character.  Evangelism must address God’s wrath (for those who scoff at His Son’s sacrifice for our sins) in order to accentuate HIs goodness, offering us a way of escape.  Do we truly believe there’s a Hell if we never share about Jesus with those we love?

5. No Identity

A society that rids itself of offense, sin, conscience, and consequences quickly develops an identity crisis.  Without a Father, spiritual orphans devoid of purpose and meaning must:

  • Replace the God-shaped hole with alternative identifiers like gender or sexuality
  • Seek acceptance among those welcoming anyone who abides by the first 4 pillars
  • Associate all Christians with the worst among us to ensure the fatherless don’t look for identity as a child of our Father when Selfism inevitably runs its hopeless course

To keep the door open for evangelism, Christians must strike Jesus’ delicate balance between acceptance and accepting – welcoming “sinners” (like us) into the family but not overlooking “sin”.  Children of a loving Father should want (and be expected) to obey Him.

6. No Religion

If all else fails, layer on top of the 5 previous pillars the cultural norm that bringing up religion is not socially acceptable.  Evangelism becomes taboo and receptivity plummets:

  • Ensure a declining base of knowledge about the fundamentals of Christianity
  • Conflate politics and religion, playing the separation of church and state card
  • Keep Christians at arms-length to maintain fragile illusions, fake IDs, and the unfettered right to live guilt-free

As long as secular humanists consider Christianity just another (man-made) religion and not a real relationship with the Creator of the universe, it becomes easy to dismiss.  Evangelism should demonstrate how our faith is unique in that all others hinge on what humans must do to fix what we broke, a task far beyond our capabilities – but not Jesus’.

7. No Truth

Finally, to guarantee no evangelism slips through the cracks, declare that truth either doesn’t exist or is whatever the government or each person decides that it is:

  • Teach that only what can be seen can be believed, demanding proof God exists
  • Cobble together a worldview that doesn’t infringe on any of the other pillars
  • Deny the irrefutable evidence that Jesus lived, died, and was resurrected

Entrusting truth claims to brains that evolved randomly from inanimate matter is illogical.  Christianity explains how we developed the intellectual capacity to evaluate anything’s validity and veracity.  In sharing our faith with those who reject the concept (of faith), Christians should point out the irony that it takes more faith to believe something came from nothing.  Without being confrontational, it’s also worth noting the presumption required to assert with absolute certainty that the imperceptible is inconceivable as if anything ceases to exist when our finite minds decide it doesn’t.

It’s Your Turn…

What additional steps should churches and Christians take before our culture finishes constructing an impenetrable fortress through which no evangelism can pass?

How to Undermine Evangelism

Aug 11, 22
, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

On top of fearing, abdicating, reversing, and botching evangelism, many Christians undermine the evangelistic efforts of others by not living much like Jesus.  As Gandhi (reportedly) said, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians.” and “If all Christians acted like Christ, the whole world would be Christian.”  The most prevalent objections of avowed atheists on this blog’s social media pages aren’t the principles of Christianity but the practices of Christians.

Granted, that’s likely an excuse to justify disbelief, but we validate those accusations when we don’t reflect God’s love and grace.  Those opposed to a moral code of any kind would find another reason to reject Christianity, but why give them such an easy out?  Rather than providing ammunition, Christians could disarm non-believers by forcing them to admit that at least we “practice what we preach”.

Changing media’s portrayal of Christians hinges on our consistency, transparency, and humility.  With reporters eager to pounce there’s little leeway, but any slip ups are opportunities for proactive confession and admission of our need for Jesus.  Disclosing our shortcomings points people to Jesus rather than pushing them away from Him.  If any vestige of their God-given conscience remains, our honesty may awaken critics to the secrets they’ve been hiding – surfacing a suppressed need and desire for forgiveness.

Any hypocrisy, dishonesty, or self-righteousness looks nothing like Jesus and impedes evangelism.  All three are largely a product of contemporary church growth models that emphasize attracting and retaining churchgoers.  Those models shift the weight of expectations and burden of responsibility from paying members to paid professionals.  Although all Christians should be Kingdom “employees”, many became “consumers” conducting spiritual business, expecting a fair exchange of value from churches (e.g. sermons, music, programs, facilities) and God (e.g. favor, blessings, problem resolution).  To placate consumers, church leaders hesitate to ask for much beyond infrequent “transactions” (i.e. invite, involve, and invest), but Jesus’ church growth model demands continual engagement (i.e. evangelism, discipleship, and compassion) in Kingdom advancement.

Cultural Christians conditioned by consumerism are ripe for hypocrisy, mistakenly thinking…

1. Grace is cheap

Grace was expensive for Jesus.  Churches cheapen it and cast Christianity in a negative light when they…

  • Hesitate to speak about sin from the pulpit
  • Fail to confront sin among membership
  • Rarely utter the terms accountability, repentance, and surrender
  • Don’t actively promote sharing the good news of God’s grace with others
  • Focus more on operational costs than the costs of discipleship

Consistency, transparency, and humility begin – and hypocrisy ends – when we view sin the way Jesus does.

2. Church is an event

Jesus sees the Church as His bride, a living organism through which He will fulfill His plans for humanity.  Redefining “church” as a place with pastors where we meet with friends for an hour or two on the weekends sucks the life out of it.  By compartmentalizing faith, we separate the sacred from secular, making it convenient to live a double life on the weekdays.  Consistency, transparency, and humility require an understanding that each of us is the personification of “church”, the hands and feet of Jesus, all week long.  Evangelism is a not a box for us to check – our invitations to church services look too much like business transactions where consumers make referrals and pastors close the deal.

3. Winning is everything

Jesus played the long game, always looking forward to what lay ahead.  He was silent before His accusers and submitted to the Father’s will at all cost.  It’s when Christians refuse to lose that their consistency (with Jesus), transparency, and humility all disappear, handing a smoking gun to our accusers.  “Employees” would realize it’s more important to be real than right, whereas Kingdom consumers expect to come out on top not only in the next life, but this one as well.  Hypocrisy ceases when we obey Jesus without reservation, not pursuing victory or the accolades craved by those who worship self.  The greatest commandment is to love unconditionally, which is radically countercultural, and the highest act of love is to share our faith with those lost and hopeless without Jesus.  We win when others don’t lose.

4. Comfort is king

Jesus was homeless and persecuted while making sure everyone else was fed and healthy.  He rocked the boat and asked His followers to do the same.  Yet churches and Christians go to tremendous lengths to ensure no one is made uncomfortable, adopting the world’s definition of love – keeping their facilities spotless and their faith private.  If pastors saw churchgoers as Kingdom employees and not consumers, they’d be bolder in measuring discipleship (rather than numerical) growth.  Congregations that consider the implications of decisions on member satisfaction are breeding grounds for hypocrisy.  Jesus’ ministry was not based on business metrics but on (inverted) Kingdom economics that place higher value on discomfort than comfort.

5. Politics is power

Jesus preached about His (otherworldly) Kingdom, walked away from politics, and encouraged giving Caesar back what belongs to Caesar.  Every passing year, Christians in America become more enmeshed in Caesar’s kingdom and less engaged in God’s.  Each word we speak in anger over our steady loss of “power” in this post-Christian era further erodes whatever “power” remains.  Cries of hypocrisy would be silenced if we hitched our wagons to Jesus and not political candidates, relying more on Him and less on them to be our “savior”.  Only a ground war of compassion by the power of the Holy Spirit, not an air war dropping verbal bombs, will win America’s cultural war.

6. Unity is expendable

John 17 records Jesus’ fervent prayer for unity, yet non-believers can’t help but notice how fragmented the body of Christ is today.  Racial, political and socioeconomic division is evident throughout our society, and Christianity is no exception.  Our love for one another is supposed to be our main attraction but what the world sees are churches across denominations advertising for attenders and ministries competing for donors.   We don’t even take care of our own, paying almost no attention to the 350 million persecuted brothers and sisters suffering overseas while we bask in religious freedom on our shores.

7. Ignorance is bliss

Jesus made disciples who walked in His footsteps, but Kingdom consumers don’t feel obligated to read its owner’s manual (the Bible) or sell its services (the Gospel).  Consequently, many Christians know surprisingly little about who they worship and therefore don’t imitate Him well.  That inconsistency, apparent in a lack of transparency and humility, convinces non-believers that Christ might not be worth following.  The problem is that standards have diminished to the point where those who atheists mock are “Christians” in name only, more a function of social/political affiliation and family background than committed believers who live in line with their faith.

8. Responsibility is optional

Jesus preached and sent disciples out to do so, but most churches no longer teach members how to evangelize and answer tough questions.  The risk and time required to become effective in sharing Christ among coworkers and neighbors exceeds the threshold of what most consumers are willing to endure.  Ironically, the dichotomy between our faith on the weekends and compromise on weekdays has the opposite of its intended effect – rather than earning us relational “points”, our inconsistency costs us respect.

9. Faith is safe

To be credible, faith and the actions it inspires can’t be entirely logical.  Jesus spoke words never heard and backed them up with miracles never seen.  No one has ever impacted humanity like Jesus did because no one has ever so dramatically defied human nature and natural laws.  When Christians claim to have faith but appear just as concerned about self-preservation as the faithless, we open the door to ridicule.  When we choose paths that make absolutely no sense, abandoning reason and security, we (counterintuitively) invite admiration and curiosity.

10. Poverty is ok

Jesus spoke about caring for the poor as if our (eternal) lives depended on it.  Even the unchurched understand His emphasis on serving those in material poverty, left to wonder why churches aren’t more engaged year-round in alleviating it.  Historically, churches replicated Jesus’ model of healing and feeding before telling people who He is (i.e. the Gospel) but eventually abdicated their role on the front lines of compassion to government agencies and parachurch ministries.  Budgets and energies reoriented toward church growth strategies, with little money or time left over to serve struggling families.  To cover the bases, most churches run seasonal outreaches that instead perpetuate poverty by fostering dependency.  None of those facts are lost on secular observers and media outlets.

It’s Your Turn

If no one who knew Jesus would dislike Him, why wouldn’t we choose to live more like Jesus?  How would our evangelism be more effective if all Christians operated according to His principles and practices?

The Lost Art of Evangelism

Jul 28, 22
, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Even if some are swayed by this series on the why, who, and how of evangelism, most American churchgoers remain unprepared to share their faith in the current cultural context.  That gap – knowing what to say – formed as churches increasingly replaced discipleship and apologetics training with less demanding evangelistic alternatives.

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed that few Christians were ready to be the hands and feet of Jesus when churches’ doors were closed.  Despite the Church’s history of self-sacrifice, churchgoers accustomed to inviting friends to next weekend’s service chose self-preservation instead – missing the incredible opportunity to be “pastors” of their neighborhoods.  There’s no better time to offer hope than when disasters and diseases reveal the hopelessness of a godless existence.

If we seriously – I mean, seriously – believe there’s a hell and certain escape through Jesus for those we love, we wouldn’t be silent.  If we truly understood our Father’s amazing grace and unconditional love, we wouldn’t sit idle as spiritual orphans remain fatherless.  We are not responsible for the outcome of our efforts (because God produces the results) but we are accountable for trying to lead people toward Christ.  The most common excuses for saying nothing are:

  • “My faith is a private matter” – typically those with a lot (e.g. of assets) to lose, who talk about everything else they love (e.g. sports, kids) except for Jesus
  • “I don’t want to offend anyone” – a euphemism concealing fear of rejection
  • “I’m not qualified to speak about faith when I live in a glass house” – either self-deprecating, feigned humility or genuine disobedience
  • “I don’t know how to explain the Gospel effectively” – anyone betting their (eternal) life on Jesus is qualified to give the reasons for their decision
  • “I’m not sure how to answer their objections and tough questions” – a cop-out remedied by preparing even a fraction as hard as we study for work or school

Today we’re addressing the last two excuses – how to convey and defend the truth of the Gospel in our Post-Christian society.  Recent studies indicate non-believers are more open to faith discussions with Christians than Christians are with them.  We would find those conversations less intimidating, and people would listen more intently, if we knew how to speak clearly, audibly, and intelligently about our faith.

Speak Clearly

When Christians muster the courage to talk about God, they often do so in what sounds like a foreign language – Christianese.  Without adequate training on how to share the Gospel, churchgoers repeat what they’ve heard from the pulpit or in small groups, which was intended for Christian audiences.  Contemporary Christian music is also guilty of using vernacular unintelligible to unchurched ears, as if it has no evangelistic intent.  Churches and Christian media should be vehicles for equipping believers for GC3 (the Great Commission, Great Commandment, and Great Calling), not just appealing to consumers of Christian content.   

We become socially awkward, hard to understand in secular circles, when we don’t practice speaking about Jesus outside the comfortable confines of a church.  The message may always be the same, but our vocabulary shouldn’t be “churchy” in non-Christian social settings.  However, being relatable and relevant doesn’t entail conformance or compromise.  What it requires is recognition that our culture, unlike prior generations, no longer has a firm grasp on the fundamentals of Christianity.  It’s no coincidence that non-believers’ understanding of the Gospel has diminished as Christians became less adept at sharing it.  Less well versed now in Scripture, many churchgoers contradict Jesus, electing legalism and judgment over love and grace.  Consequently, society returns the favor and evaluates Christianity’s merits based on what Christians do, not what Jesus did.

Speak Audibly

How can we communicate what Jesus did in ways and words that will resonate with non-believers?  How can we adjust the delivery to fit the nuances of our culture?  How would knowing what to say give us confidence to stand out while also being understood?


When religion becomes politicized, it polarizes.  Jesus spoke of the Kingdom through allegories because people politicized and misconstrued divine concepts without earthly reference points.  Similarly, several relatable analogies help illustrate the importance and relevance of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for people today:

  • A merciful judge who presides in a courtroom must do his job, but after sentencing he steps down from the bench and accepts the penalty on our behalf
  • A wealthy man with a vast collection of paintings passes away and auctions them off, not disclosing that the person who bids on a painting of his son by an amateur gets all the paintings by the masters
  • A boy carrying a cage with small birds tells a passerby that he plans to abuse them and feed them to his cat, so the person buys the birds and sets them free.  Jesus bought us at the price of His life to set us free from evil and death in this world.
  • A teacher brought donuts to class and asked Steve, the only student with perfect grades and attendance, to do 10 pushups for each person who was offered a donut.  After hundreds of pushups some classmates declined, feeling sorry for Steve, but he had to do pushups even if they rejected the gift.


As Peter said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68).  Convince non-believers to conduct an honest examination of the alternatives available to the hope found in Christ and they’ll find all are devoid of what humans crave most (hope).

  • When universities mock and pressure students into abandoning the hope and faith of their parents, they can only offer hopelessness in exchange
  • All world religions except for Christianity go down the same path, telling mankind how to fix what we broke.  Christianity alone contends that our “good” works or “enlightenment” can never do what only God can (bring reconciliation through Jesus).
  • When “my truth” and “my authentic self” play themselves out, the inevitable conclusion of any identity apart from a child of our Father is the rampant depression, addiction and suicides we are witnessing today

Shock and Awe

Avoid Christianese but sound and act different, with more depth and compassion than anyone else they know, driven by a perspective extending beyond the here and now.

  • Demonstrate absolute trust and security in God’s goodness, not our own
  • Resist natural inclinations toward “shiny lures” vying for people’s attention, warning that they’re attractive but hide a hook few get off once they take the bait
  • Blow minds by quoting eye-opening truths like, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience.  We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” (Pierre Teilhard de Chardin) and “You’ve never met a mere mortal.” (CS Lewis)
  • Shift paradigms by speaking of life not as the end unto itself, but as preparation to head home or to pack and save up for a long, highly-anticipated vacation
  • To ensure we don’t come across as too ethereal or “so heavenly minded that we’re of no earthly good” back up those eternal perspectives by being the first to step up to help, the last to leave their side, and the most persistent in following up

Truth with Humility

Be distinctly countercultural in our honesty and modesty, not traits Christians are currently known for according to surveys, in a society that is divided, opinionated, and self-absorbed.

  • Confess our faults so others will be more aware of theirs, and possibly see their need for Jesus (in ours)
  • Don’t cover up or minimize the flaws in our churches and leaders, but ensure God isn’t blamed for man’s mistakes
  • With all due respect, when sharing about Christ remember that there is no such thing as an Atheist.  Deep down everyone understands something didn’t come from nothing, knows the evil in their hearts, and has an innate desire to reconnect with their Creator.  Unbelief always emerges from disappointed belief and requires hard work to maintain with so much evidence to the contrary – evidence we should know and be able to present when atheists play their “trump card” (demanding “proof”).
  • Refuse to respond to the anger directed toward Christians with anger, which itself is a sin and usually a result of not having rational, level-headed answers at our disposal to their objections when we should have studied and prepared better

There are, of course, countless more words and ways to convey the Gospel effectively.  Prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit do far more than any advice or articles, even one like this grounded in Scripture.  However, blog posts about evangelism are only necessary because few churches prioritize equipping and sending disciples (who then make more disciples) into local mission fields.

It’s Your Turn

If most churchgoers are out of practice, uncomfortable speaking about Jesus around non-Christians, how could discipleship and on-the-job training overcome those reservations?

Do We Have Evangelism Backward?

Jul 14, 22
, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Christians may understand the urgency of evangelism and their role in leading people to Jesus, yet not know what the Bible says about how to share their faith.  In other words, many get the “why” and “who”, but not the “how”.  Few churches are preparing members well to present the Gospel and respond to typical questions.  Instead, most offer churchgoers a get out of evangelism (and discipleship) free card, simply instructing them to tell their story and invite people to next Sunday’s service.  Entrusting pastors with our responsibility to make the case for Christ is not biblical.  However, it accomplishes several goals of contemporary church growth models taught by many seminaries, consultants, and authors:

  • Foster dependence – leadership is the subject of countless pastoral articles and books
  • Breed loyalty – centralize around a place, leaders, and “sticky” relationships
  • Avoid inconvenience – of those with limited bandwidth for more commitments
  • Ensure comfort – realize most have little appetite for risking careers or friendships
  • Justify giving – pay for the right to pass difficult tasks on to “professionals”

The lack of evangelism training makes it even more intimidating to speak up in what is already a challenging environment to “come out” as a Christian.  Ironically, it’s the unwillingness to boldly confess Jesus as Lord and live out His model of evangelism (Prayer/Care/Share) that led to the prevailing perception of Christians as intolerant.  Yet we make matters worse, causing people to wonder whether our faith is credible, as we become increasingly reluctant to talk about it.  Only assuming personal responsibility for the Great Commission, Jesus’ final marching orders before His ascension, can end the vicious cycle of churches not equipping for evangelism as the climate becomes more hostile to evangelism.

Current Process

Scripture lays out a process flow for evangelism in the ministries of Jesus and His disciples.  Rather than adopt that model, which would severely alter the lives of American Christians, churches condone and promote a set of less disruptive alternatives:

  • Act nice – hope people notice and ask why you’re different
  • Be holy – defer to God’s authority, getting out of His way since He knows best
  • Tell your story – no one can argue with what you believe you’ve experienced
  • Extend Invitations – hand out cards or give directions to meet at your church

Asking members to invite friends and family has become the “go-to”, default growth strategy – in lieu of evangelism.  In fact, national advertising campaigns have been built around referring non-believers to churches – and charging referral fees for those “leads”!  Even the phrase “each one, reach one” often boils down to distribution of church flyers.  If the invitee rejects repeated offers, then the dutiful believer is off the hook – reassured they’ve done all they could to win that person to Christ.

However, inviting someone to a church service isn’t the right first step – or the entirety of God’s expectations – for evangelism.  Regardless of whether there may have been a period in American history that approach “worked”, that time has passed.  It was never an appropriate “entry point” and is certainly less effective now in our current cultural context:

  • Promotes addition – rather than the Lord’s math of disciple multiplication
  • Perpetuates myths – defines church as a place and members as “customers”
  • Ignores mistrust – loss of faith in institutions means fewer will accept invitations
  • Undermines worship – seeker focus decreases depth and authenticity of services
  • Underutilizes capacity – members could access many people that pastors can’t

Mobilizing the entire congregation into the mission field of families, neighborhoods, and workplaces would spur far greater Kingdom impact.  Church planters begin externally focused to build networks, but many shift inward to manage the resulting growth.  Likewise, entrepreneurs start with an all-hands-on-deck mentality until expansion creates internal bottlenecks.  The difference is that entrepreneurs have sales and marketing staff, whereas when pastors shift focus inward, they tend to divert the “power in the pews” that direction as well – leveraging giftings for “church chores” and relegating evangelism to invitations.

Biblical Process

Instead of reflexively inviting those who don’t worship Jesus to a worship service, churches and Christians should follow the evangelistic model practiced by Jesus and the New Testament church:

  • Prayer – because evangelism is our task but the outcome is God’s responsibility
  • Care – because Jesus had the perfect words but almost always opened doors to evangelism through compassion
  • Share – because Jesus demonstrated His love but then told people who He was/is

We can’t outpreach Jesus or produce any results without Him, so we should walk in His footsteps.  Churches did so for 1900+ years, serving as the food bank and homeless shelter, but have largely outsourced local missions to parachurch ministries.  In addition, few provide church-wide, intensive discipleship and evangelism training; therefore, not enough churchgoers understand Jesus’ Prayer/Care/Share model or live out His commands.

Some churches have not only made invitations the basis of their evangelistic “ask” of members, but also built invitation-based evangelism into their DNA – in the form of advertising.  In our Post-Christian culture, church advertising isn’t the right first step and is far more effective in “stealing sheep” (from other churches) than attracting non-believers.  The effort and cost of ads, facilities, programs, and other amenities that grow one church at the expense of less “attractive” ones, leave little room for Care and increase hesitancy to push “consumers” too hard to Share.  Invite/Involve/Invest was never a good growth plan for churches or the Kingdom – yet it remains the prevailing strategy today.

Prayer/Care/Share is not only the biblical process for evangelism for churches, but also for individual believers.  An invitation to a worship service is the last step, not the first, in the following (proposed) sequence:

  1. Seek the Lord – to understand who to reach and prepare their hearts to receive
  2. Build friendships – people don’t care what you know until they know you care
  3. Speak openly – if they don’t see your need for Jesus, they won’t see theirs
  4. Serve generously – get your hands dirty showing kindness as opportunities arise
  5. Engage intentionally – involve in local missions projects to see God’s love in action
  6. Share boldlylearn how to convey the Gospel in ways that resonate with them
  7. Refer wisely – point them to verses and books that will educate and encourage
  8. Inquire lovingly – see if they are ready to accept Christ as their Lord and Savior
  9. Disciple personally – take time each week to meet, discuss, and answer questions
  10. Introduce socially – have them over to get to know other Christian friends
  11. Invite, finally – ask new believers to attend a small group or worship service

Imagine the impact on our nation’s spiritual and moral foundation if every Christian implemented Steps 1-10 rather than abdicating personal evangelism by skipping directly to Step 11.

Transition Process

Churches that frequently ask members to invite friends but don’t provide evangelism training do so for a reason.  Churches that market through advertising but commit few resources to poverty alleviation do so for that same reason.  They have strategically positioned the institution, not people, as the definition of “church” – and members, not the “lost” in the community, as the definition of its “customer”.  It’s no coincidence the words “outreach” and “ministry” have also been redefined in today’s vernacular – “outreach” now means church advertising, not personal evangelism, and “ministry” now refers to church volunteering, not serving the poor in Jesus’ name.

Convincing churches to revert to the biblical definitions of all those terms will not be easy, nor will selling “cultural Christians” on the idea of reclaiming ownership of the Great Commission.  On top of that, it’s hard to envision overcoming the resistance that has built up against churches, Christians, and evangelism in our society as a result of failing to live out Prayer/Care/Share ever since the Invite/Invest/Involve revolution decades ago.  The only answer lies in recommitment to discipleship that fuels unreserved obedience to the words of Scripture by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Only the Lord can spark such dramatic repentance and revival.  Picture a body of Christ distinctly countercultural but not counter-culture – loving and caring yet not conforming or compromising.  No amount of inviting or advertising could be as attractional to non-believers as churches and Christians who look nothing like the divisive, judgmental, and intolerant world in which we live.

It’s Your Turn

Do you have suggestions for how to decentralize “church”, equipping and mobilizing more believers to carry out their biblical mission within their circles of influence?

Our Task but God’s Responsibility

Jun 30, 22
, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

While it is clearly not wrong to share our faith, it is wrong to think we had anything to do with someone coming to faith.  Like a physician who knows and administers the cure for a disease, there’s no guarantee it will work in every patient’s case.  Even with all their education and training, factors exist outside a doctor’s control.  How much less are Christians in charge of whether someone suffering in sin will tolerate the cure?  Physicians become arrogant, playing “god”, when they begin to believe they have the power of life and death.  Many Christians and churches seem arrogant to non-believers, conducting themselves in ways that make it appear they believe the power of life and death rests in their hands.

God’s Responsibilities

Our Father wrote the play and His Son is the main character – it is not about you and me.  Each Christ-follower has the privilege of playing minor roles on His grand stage – and should be humbled by the fact the Lord chose to give us a small part in His plan for restoration and reconciliation.  Yes, as we read the script (Scripture) we may get nervous seeing how important the lines are we need to memorize and perform (GC3), but that pressure is alleviated by understanding we’re not responsible for the outcomes…

  • Great Commandment – God loved us before we loved Him (1 John 4:19)
  • Great Commission – God causes discipleship growth (1 Corinthians 3:6-8)
  • Great Calling – God’s blessing is the source of our productivity and authority (Genesis 1:28)

In a society that values and flaunts achievement, it’s wildly countercultural to deflect credit for success to where it is truly due.  Even when it comes to evangelism and discipleship, it’s tempting to track numbers and reflect on “accomplishments”.  Giving God all the glory for any results from our efforts seems like a poor performance incentive plan – we’re accustomed to being recognized and compensated for our work.  However, the Lord’s economy defies logic and human nature – what we do doesn’t accrue to our account, at least not in this life.  Yet it stands to reason we shouldn’t take credit for anything over which we ultimately have no control – like someone’s salvation and relationship with Jesus.

That fact that the Lord is fully responsible for the harvest doesn’t excuse us from planting and cultivating.  Christ-followers who diligently undertake Gospel-sharing and disciple-making must do so without a shred of pride or praise for whatever Jesus does through them.  A consolation for taking none of the credit for “success” is removing all the guilt when our faithful obedience doesn’t end the way we would have liked.  What God demands and smiles on is our love and perseverance even if non-believers we’ve poured into for years don’t accept Christ or if a fellow believer deconstructs, leaving the faith.  It hurts badly when people we care about decide not to follow Jesus, but we cannot take it personally.  That’s not easy when close family or friends relapse and suddenly stop calling and responding to emails, avoiding exposure of their darkness to the light.

Our job starts and ends at living Prayer, Care, Share lifestyles within our circles of influence.  Yet no matter how well we prepare, how much love we show, or how eloquently we communicate, there are those who simply will not respond – and we have no power to overcome their resistance.  We’ve all walked away from what we thought was a brilliant Gospel presentation or an incredibly kind-hearted gesture, only to learn soon thereafter it had no discernable impact.  We can lead people toward Christ, but not into a personal relationship with Him.  So God gets all the glory and we’re freed of the (perceived) burden of responsibility for saving anyone.

Usurping God’s Responsibilities

The ramifications of thinking or acting like we play a larger role than we actually do are being felt today in America.  The cultural tides have shifted dramatically because churches and Christians have overstepped their bounds – pursuing impact, influence, notoriety, and growth…and consequently achieved none of them.  Leaving the impression that we think it’s all up to us when it’s really all up to God has only bred resentment.  The intended scope of our tasks is GC3 – and then watching God have the impact, exert the influence, gain the notoriety, and cause the growth.

The Pharisees tried to convince the Israelites that interpreting Scripture and defining salvation criteria were their tasks AND their responsibilities, predicated on following their rules.  Jesus was a direct threat to that construct, undermining the power and prestige they desperately wanted to preserve.  All religions except Christianity elevate humans into God’s position of determining (eternal or earthly) outcomes by their “works” or “spirituality”.  Raising man up or bringing God down invites His wrath, essentially saying they didn’t need Jesus to suffer and die on their behalf.  Rather than accepting God’s “free” gift (i.e. His goodness), followers of other religions are told how to earn a “fair” wage (i.e. their “goodness”).

No Christian or church should borrow conventions from religions that overstate man’s capabilities and responsibilities.  Yet that’s what pastors and churchgoers do when they…

  • Centralize around a place and pastors, usurping evangelism and discipleship rather than delegating (and equipping for) those tasks
  • Treat megachurch leaders like celebrities, as if they have a more direct line to God
  • Measure and tout church success in terms of “butts”, “bucks”, and buildings
  • View members as “customers”, not as employees (i.e. the embodiment of church) trained to pursue the real “customer” (those who don’t know Jesus)
  • Give credit and kudos for GC3 tasks we should be performing without accolades
  • Evaluate “maturity” by the degree of engagement in church activities and “chores”, not discipleship depth and multiplication
  • Emphasize how God will make our lives better and get us through trials, the theme of most songs on Christian radio
  • Fight for victory rather than confidently loving from a position of victory
  • Act like provision is dependent on our efforts rather than trusting in God’s provision
  • Believe political affiliations and candidates will restore or advance the Kingdom
  • Teach generosity is an obligation and not a response to our Father’s generosity
  • Imply or promise God will grant (earthly) rewards for serving or giving to a church
  • Outsource the Great Commission to church leaders, who long ago outsourced compassion to parachurch ministries
  • Practice transactional poverty alleviation, not ongoing relational compassion

Churches rebuild the veil of the temple Jesus tore when they insert leaders between mankind and God by presuming to have responsibilities far beyond their pay grades.

Our Tasks

Relegating believers to the practice of GC3 – love, discipleship, and diligence – and relinquishing control over outcomes is the proper perspective.  Frankly, we never had control in the first place.  All we can do is trust the Lord will do what’s best and keep our noses to the grindstone, relying on the power of the Holy Spirit to…

Even in making those recommendations, we must keep in mind that implementing them is our task but God’s responsibility.  Pastors courageous enough to revert to biblical definitions of “church” and its intended “customer” – no longer catering to “consumers” but challenging “workers” to live out GC3 – face tremendous headwinds.  Unless the Lord builds the house, our labor will be in vain.  At this point, returning spiritual disciplines and discipleship to those who entrusted those tasks to “professionals” is only possible with God.

It’s Your Turn

Are you more relieved knowing we’re not responsible for our evangelistic ”failures” or disappointed knowing we don’t deserve credit for any “successes”?

A Precarious Father’s Day for America

Jun 02, 22
, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
one comments

I attended several churches and a Christian high school growing up but somehow never learned that church wasn’t a place, discipleship wasn’t a sermon, and charity wasn’t a handout.  No one ever shared how pivotal health (physical, mental, and spiritual) is in the Gospel, the ministry of Jesus, and the history of the Church.  And throughout 20 years in ministry, I don’t recall anyone describing how all God’s characteristics are encompassed in His consummate role – that of a loving Father.

It took studying Scripture personally and listening to the Holy Spirit to realize Jesus continually referred to God as His Father.  As always, Jesus modeled how we should live and love – in His prayer, His compassion, His evangelism – and in His relationship with the Father.  Unfortunately, most pastors don’t teach about God in the context of a Father.  If they did, they would have answers to questions about His actions in the Old Testament, explaining that when it comes to His children, the Father is fiercely protective while necessarily strict.  Instead, many churches selectively skip over passages that don’t align with society’s standards for “tolerance”.

God is not just a caring friend, demanding judge, merciful benefactor, or omniscient engineer.  He is all of those and everything else a Father should be – but can never achieve.  Humans are not just hapless sojourners, wayward sinners, preprogrammed robots, or autonomous beings.  We are the Lord’s children, guided by His fatherly counsel and discipline – and made in His image.

It is now apparent to me how fundamental fatherhood is to the construct of the Kingdom – as central here on earth as it is in heaven.  Atheists and activists seem to understand its importance better than many Christians.  They know that eradicating America’s deeply rooted Christian heritage from modern society requires undermining perceptions of God as our heavenly Father and the authority of our earthly dads.

Undermining God as Father

Scientists, doctors, professors, and politicians can’t be saviors if Americans already have One.  Wrestling the “savior” mantle away from the Father is the first step toward certifying state-sponsored education and government as ultimate authorities.  The battle for allegiance must be shifted from God to mankind to control behaviors and create dependence – maximizing power and profit.  The front line of that battle is questioning whether the Father can be trusted…

  • Is God good?  How could He let bad things happen to good people in your Bible and in our world today?  But as a Father with an omniscient perspective, only He understands fully what needs to be done for the good of His children.
  • Is God fair?  Why doesn’t God answer all your prayers?  But as a Father in charge of His creation, He defines what is fair and as children it’s not our place to disown Him for not giving us what we want or allowing us to suffer the consequences of our mistakes.
  • Is God wise?  If there is a Creator why didn’t He design everyone perfectly?  But as a Father who made all humans in His image, the differences and “deficiencies” we perceive are rooted in our sin and prejudice. not the inadequacy of God’s workmanship or capabilities.
  • Is God loving?  If so many Christians aren’t loving, then how could God be?  But as a Father whose children are often rebellious, God is not to blame for their exercise of free will.  In fact, His unconditional love is what drove Him to atone for their sins on the cross.
  • Is God attentive?  Does He even exist or just not paying attention to all the evil in the world?  But as a Father so often rejected by those He created, He is saddened by yet not responsible for the implications of choices we’ve made since the Garden of Eden.
  • Is God in charge?  If He exists and runs the show, how can you believe in a God who avenges and condemns?  But any great Father is intolerant of wickedness that infiltrates the household, particularly when it calls into question his judgment, values, and authority.
  • Is God intimidating?  Why worship a God where fear is the basis for the relationship?  But understanding He is a Father clarifies the true meaning of “fear of the Lord” – respect and reverence like we had when we worried our dads might (justifiably) discipline us.
  • Is God reliable?  Why would you allow anyone to tell you what to do?  But as a flawless Father who only has our best interests at heart, we can trust God with everything we own, which in actuality is nothing since even our bodies are only on loan to us, for a short time.
  • Is God controlling?  Why would you surrender your will and sacrifice your lives?  But when we see God as a loving Father and our identity as His child, we’re not giving anything up but gaining purpose and meaning for now and eternity.

When viewed through the prism of fatherhood, we acquiesce to the truth of Scripture – that God’s patience, goodness, and mercy as well as His justice, anger and discipline are entirely wrapped up in His role as a loving Father.  That paradigm poses the greatest threat to the powerful forces seeking the demolition of Christian values and institution of secular humanism as the prevailing world view.

Undermining Dads as Fathers

When Scripture and the Holy Spirit eventually revealed that God was my Father, I quickly realized why those who rejected God also sought to break down the “traditional” family.  As long as the foundational biblical underpinning for society remained in place, so would the values behind that structure.  No matter the social cost, destruction of God’s design for the family was a prerequisite for redirecting trust and dependency away from Him.  Redefining marriage, genders, roles, sex, and preborn viability all work in the same direction – away from the Lord’s intent for dads, moms and children.  Choreographed campaigns pressure youth to declare their independence from the outdated principles of their parents using the same set of questions…

  • Is your dad good?  Has he let you down?
  • Is your dad fair?  Did his mislead you?
  • Is your dad wise?  Was he uninformed, misguided by religion?
  • Is your dad loving?  Is he intolerant?
  • Is your dad attentive?  Was he there for you?
  • Is your dad in charge?  How could you follow in his (unenlightened) footsteps?
  • Is your dad intimidating?  Aren’t you glad to be out from under his influence?
  • Is your dad reliable?  Can he be trusted since he holds antiquated values? 
  • Is your dad controlling?  Do you still answer to him?

The result is (and will likely continue to be) “fatherless” generations, orphaned by detachment from relationships they once held dear.  Inserted to try to fill that “Father-shaped hole” are empty promises of freedom, the pursuit of happiness, and faith in those certain to let them down – all dead-end roads leading only to separation from a loving Father and (Christian) dads.

How Can Your Church Advance Fatherhood?

When I realized God is my Father and how important fatherhood is in His design, it became clear that the Lord expects His Church to promote and protect the biblical family.  Churches are culture’s last line of defense against efforts to discredit God as Father and dads as authority figures.  Without the Father and dads to guide children, society will keep slipping into a moral morass.  Poverty and prison statistics point out the risks of removing fatherly guardrails.

Any attacks on fatherhood are attacks on the family which are attacks on the Church (a family comprised of families).  The authority of churches will be supplanted as the loss of social structures at the lowest level (households) give way to control at the highest (secular) level.  Government intervention will be deemed necessary to quell the chaos ensuing from what John Adams forewarned – the inadequacy of the Constitution to govern a society that encourages evolving social norms with no obligation to family or God.  Before it’s too late, churches must…

  • Teach about God in the context that Jesus exemplified – as a loving Father
  • Train men to be godly dads and husbands
  • Never substitute spiritual “fathers” for the role of dads discipling families in the home
  • Advocate for biblical family units in a spirit of love and compassion, not judgment
  • Confess that “traditional” was not always biblical, but fatherhood certainly is
  • Warn about the pitfalls of putting our faith in mankind given our sinful natures
  • Make sure the Father, not churches or pastors, remains the “first love” of His children
  • Restore personalized, intensive discipleship, showing congregants how to provide directions to the Father and not just to a church service next Sunday

Only when churches recognize the strategy in place to expunge any vestige of Christianity from America (by removing the influence of the Father and dads) will pastors take appropriate actions in response.  Meanwhile, youth will continue to be indoctrinated in principles that undermine faith and families, precipitating the inevitable demise of a fatherless society.

It’s Your Turn

Are battles over marriage, gender, and preborns less about defending rights than breaking down paternal social structures to foster the dependence needed to steer a populace and the materialism needed to fuel an economy?

What I Know Now That I Didn’t Know Then…

May 05, 22
, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

In 1999, on a drive home to Atlanta from Jacksonville, the consultant in me wondered whether the burgeoning Internet could provide answers to a question I had asked our church a few weeks earlier.  “How could my skills and experiences be used to bless others in our city?”  It was their hesitation and eventual referral to a local charity that got me thinking…

  • “Is this the only church that doesn’t know the needs in its community or assets in its pews?”
  • “Wasn’t Jesus’ model to feed and heal to demonstrate His love before telling them who He is?”
  • “When did the body of Christ become so fragmented, disconnecting ‘church’ from ‘parachurch’?”

As a strategic planner for aspiring dot-com executives, I was developing business plans leveraging the Web to sell products and connect channel partners.  On that long drive home, the Lord put a thought in my head – “If you can shop online for something to buy, why can’t you ‘shop’ for someone who needs the skills and resources you have to offer?”  That light bulb moment nearly made me swerve off the road, but I managed to get to the next exit and began writing the business plan for Meet The Need.

Back then, there were no technologies that showed needs to those who could help.  It didn’t take long to recognize the incredible opportunity to (re)unite and mobilize churches and ministries around critical causes like hunger, homelessness, and child neglect.  So 20 years ago, at a time when the Internet was better known for the harm it was doing than the good it could do, we launched Meet The Need and built the first collaborative Volunteer Management, Case Management, Event Management, and Drive Scheduling tools – rallying the body of Christ around families desperately in need of help and hope.

While the passion I felt in the car that day remains two decades later, there were discoveries and realizations along the way I never anticipated.  Yet our heavenly Father is never caught by surprise and can use all things for good.  As Meet The Need celebrates its 20th anniversary, it’s worth taking inventory of lessons learned from our work with thousands of churches across the country.  Thinking back on my transition from for-profit business to non-profit ministry reminds me of all the preconceived, flawed notions I had about church, discipleship, and poverty.  However, the disillusionment that normally accompanies unmet, unrealistic expectations didn’t squelch my enthusiasm because it soon became clear the Lord had prepared us “for such a time as this”.

Church Reform

Meet The Need’s mission has always been, “To mobilize and equip the Church to lead millions more to Christ by following Jesus’ example of meeting those in need exactly where they are.”  Since we wrote that mission statement our ministry’s objectives have never changed, but our understanding of what a church is certainly has.

  1. I didn’t realize church is not a place – Like most Americans, I naively saw “church” primarily as a weekend activity where choirs sang and pastors preached.  I misspoke often, saying I’m “going to church” or “look at that church” when no one was in the building.  The Bible never referred to “church” in terms of events, experiences, staff, or structures, but Christians gathered anywhere for worship, teaching, fellowship, and discipleship.
  2. I didn’t realize churchgoers were “employees” – Businesses can’t require customers learn corporate manuals, make referrals, and conduct trainings.  However, church members are vastly underutilized because most pastors treat them as customers, not Kingdom workers, afraid to push them too hard to study, obey, witness, serve, and disciple.
  3. I didn’t realize pastors had assumed most responsibilities of members – Pastors are burning out in record numbers because “consumers” have largely outsourced the Great Commission to church staff.  To reach those who wouldn’t darken the door of a church, we should decentralize, empower and deploy members to serve as “pastors” of their neighborhoods and workplaces.
  4. I didn’t realize worship services were intended for believers – Church is a holy gathering of the faithful, not designed for (or around) those who don’t worship Jesus.  Members should be (re)assigned accountability for leading people to Christ and defer invitations to church until after they’ve become Christ-followers.
  5. I didn’t realize giving shouldn’t be spent just on the givers – Watchdogs rate charities based on the proportion of donations that reach those they serve.  Churches historically plowed 40%+ back into their communities, following Jesus’ example of demonstrating His love and seeing the “lost” as “customers”.  It’s no wonder per capita giving has declined to match the average church’s investment in serving those who don’t know the Lord (< 2%).

It wasn’t until recently that I understood Jesus concluded Scripture with revelations calling for church reform and repentance.  Once again, it’s time for reform to stem the decline of the Church in growth, impact, influence, and perception.  The issue is essentially a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) problem – churches have defined the wrong “customer”.  My years spent as a CRM consultant were not wasted, but all part of the Lord’s providential plan.

Discipleship Reform

Without church reform, outsourcing discipleship (to pastors) and compassion (to parachurch ministries) are likely to continue.  It took years of work with churches of all sizes across the nation to understand discipleship was the key to church growth – that multiplication is the Lord’s math.

  1. I didn’t realize what the Great Commission really meant and who it was commissioning – Making disciples who make disciples is the Church’s mission, and each of us is the personification of “church”, expected to carry out that objective all week long, not leaving it to “professionals” on Sundays.
  2. I didn’t realize most churches were doing addition – When churches are asked how they disciple, most reference small groups, which involve far less personal responsibility, commitment, and accountability than 1-on-1 or triads but don’t foster multiplication.
  3. I didn’t realize discipleship largely boils down to obedience – Walking in Jesus’ footsteps requires studying, internalizing and following His ways by the power of the Holy Spirit, but in many churches “tolerance” trumps obedience to appear welcoming and “accepting”.
  4. I didn’t realize how critical church discipline is to God – Discipleship connotes discipline, which is explicitly expected in Scripture but not practiced often in America’s churches.
  5. I didn’t realize most churches had stopped evangelism training – Few churchgoers are taught effective ways to share the Gospel and answers to typical questions.  That was evident during Covid when fields were ripe for harvest but church buildings were closed.

Not surprisingly, the root cause behind those dramatic shifts is also a CRM issue.  The commitment needed to become a disciple and to make disciples are both too time consuming to demand of believers conditioned to feel like “customers” and too presumptuous to propose to non-believers that pastors have asked members to invite to church.

Compassion Reform

When I asked my church in 1999 what I could do to serve the poor, I didn’t understand what poverty was or how to address it.  Nor did I have any idea of the inextricable connection between compassion and discipleship – it’s impossible to do one (well) without doing the other.

  1. I didn’t realize churches had played such a key role in compassion – It didn’t take much studying to discover that churches were where people traditionally looked first for help, whereas they now turn to government, parachurch ministries, and secular charities.
  2. I didn’t realize most poverty alleviation efforts perpetuate it – Transactional handouts and occasional events may make volunteers feel good but create dependence and shame.  Walking alongside families as they work through challenges involves more time and effort, but is far more dignifying and effective.
  3. I didn’t realize we are all in some form of povertyA lack of material goods does not define anyone.  Our goal should never be to make the “poor” like us when in God’s economy the (materially) poor are often (spiritually) wealthier than those who are rich.
  4. I didn’t realize how significant the challenges faced by the poor can beBroken relationships and destructive formative practices make it difficult to overcome generational cycles of poverty and complicate efforts to help (progress is rarely linear).
  5. I didn’t realize why the Church’s role in helping the poor was so critical – Government cannot provide what struggling families need most, a supportive community where Jesus and not politicians are positioned as Savior.

After leaving my final business consulting client to go full-time with Meet The Need, I was caught off guard in my first few meetings with churches.  It was hard to reconcile the limited resources most churches dedicated to poverty alleviation with the high priority Jesus placed on it, until I discovered that my consulting background in CRM largely explained that disconnect.

It’s Your Turn

Have you had other realizations or revelations from your experience with churches that could provide options and opportunities for reform at this critical time in the history of the Church?

How to Reclaim the Great Commission

Apr 21, 22
, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Indulge a hypothetical.  What would churches look like today, what would Christians be doing differently, if most hadn’t outsourced the Great Commission?  How much better would the perception of churches be and how much more impact would churches be having?

A recent Barna study found that 39% of Christians are not engaged at all in discipleship, with 37% of those reporting they didn’t feel equipped and another 46% expressing a lack of interest.  Even among those involved, the majority are in discipleship communities, but most small groups don’t provide enough intensity or accountability for effective disciple making.  Biblical discipleship, “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you”, is too large an ask of church consumers and cultural Christians.  So churches accommodate, replacing personal discipleship with lighter forms that foster fellowship and breed loyalty.

Pastors now bear the bulk of the load, simply asking members to invite friends and family to a weekend service.  If churchgoers reclaimed their rightful Great Commission responsibilities, it would free up church leadership to spearhead disciple multiplication (the Lord’s math) rather than pouring so much energy and resources into Sunday mornings (i.e. addition).  The chicken or egg dilemma is who will take the initiative first to reverse expectations based on the biblical definition of “church”, positioning members as Kingdom employees (expected to perform) rather than as “customers” (expecting pastors to perform).

The dearth of discipleship from lowering expectations of churchgoers opened the door to outsourcing compassion to governments and parachurch ministries.  Discipleship and compassion are inextricably linked by the Great Commandment – if you love God you will obey Him and love your neighbor.  Jesus’ parables about the sheep and goats and the rich man and poor beggar make it clear that it’s nearly impossible to be a Christ-follower and ignore the materially poor.  Jesus, the Lord incarnate, spoke the perfect words yet knew words were not enough.  He almost always healed and fed, demonstrating His love, before telling people who He is (i.e. the Gospel).  We can’t outpreach Jesus so we should follow His example.  It’s no surprise that when churches scale back discipleship they nearly always pull away from local missions, shifting focus from equipping and sending to attracting and retaining.

What if the opposite happened?  Imagine Christians and churches reclaiming ownership of the Great Commission and, out of an abundance of obedience, resuming their intended place on the front lines of compassion…

Reclaiming Discipleship

What did the early church do?

Cultural Christians and church consumers don’t exist where following Jesus could cost you your life.  Persecution creates rebel bands of revolutionaries who have to support and encourage one another through discipleship.  In times of peace and prosperity, it’s easy to be complacent and let “Christian” become a label more than a way of life.  Churches in America are free to publicly advertise and promote without fear of retribution from hostile governments or religious zealots.

What do most churches do at first?

When there was nothing to lose, few attenders and no buildings, there was little risk and plenty of incentive for church planters to practice biblical discipleship.  Pastors had to connect with the community, didn’t fear losing members, incurred minimal expenses, and singlehandedly needed to raise up other leaders to work toward a shared vision.

Why did that change? 

When the hard yards of disciple-making finally pay dividends for church planters, growth occurred and suddenly there was more at stake – bills, relationships, members, and reputations.  Demands on pastors became more significant while demands on lay leaders and members often diminished.  To keep the machine running, churches can lose their first love, tempted to cheapen grace by settling for belief and engagement without material life change.  It’s not unlike entrepreneurs whose early success stems from laser external focus, until growth causes mission to get clouded by management and money.  Like companies, churches should never lose sight of who they work for (Jesus) and who the customer is (those who don’t know Him).

How can a church return to its biblical roots?

The hypothetical, utopian picture of a church that has reclaimed ownership of the Great Commission is a repentant return to when it first planted:

  • Nowhere else to deflect or defer one’s discipleship responsibilities
  • All hands on deck mentality around evangelism and disciple-making
  • Supporting and serving one another without hierarchies or consumerism
  • Not able or trying to “compete” with other churches’ programs, music or facilities
  • Measuring health based on personal growth in Christ rather than numerical increase
  • Vision and investment in community transformation and Kingdom restoration
  • Unity and partnering with other churches and ministries in light of resource limitations
  • Little concern about “preaching the congregation down” by sharing inconvenient truths
  • All those who stick around are committed disciples with nowhere to hide in a crowd

Imagine the Kingdom impact of a church whose pews are filled with folks like that!  Being an established, larger church doesn’t excuse members offloading the Great Commission onto pastors, churches outsourcing biblical discipleship to external ministries, or congregations creating committees to abdicate responsibility for work everyone should be doing.  No church should grow or evolve out of personal ownership by all staff and members of the guiding principles (to make disciples that transform communities) adopted at its inception.

What are the barriers to reclaiming responsibility for the Great Commission?

A bleeding edge church courageous enough to flip expectations and treat attenders more like employees than customers will lose most “consumers”.  However, there’s value in finding out who’s who – those willing to endure the costs of discipleship and those going through the motions.  Churches, like people, become healthier when they lose excess weight.

Reclaiming Compassion

What did the early church do?

Despite risks of persecution and plagues, Christians served even their oppressors relentlessly and fearlessly, precipitating an explosion in church growth. The Roman emperor Julian wrote, “the impious Galileans, in addition to their own, support ours, and it is shameful that our poor should be wanting our aid.”  Walking in Jesus’ footsteps, the Church occupied the front lines of compassion for 1900 years, serving as the food bank and homeless shelter, founding hospitals and schools.  American churches traditionally plowed a significant portion of their budgets back into their communities, acting as the original social safety net where people turned to for help.

What do most churches do at first?

Church planters need to form connections, create visibility, and demonstrate an interest in seeking the welfare of the city.  Like Jesus, their approach is typically highly relational and often involves serving the materially poor, working with local leaders to make a tangible and lasting difference.  Pastors treat non-members as “customers”, not outsourcing compassion by referring families to government agencies or public charities.  Because poverty is a result of broken relationships, churches are best positioned to provide those who feel isolated with enduring connections to a loving Father and a caring support network.

Why did that change? 

As churches mature, hire staff, and undertake building projects the demands and expenses don’t leave enough time or funds to continue addressing local causes on an ongoing basis.  The average church reinvests less than 2% of giving back into the city where it planted.  The number of volunteers required to sustain an attraction and retention model also diverts requests from external to internal needs.  Church “chores” are limited and frequently vastly underutilize the skills and passions of members, particularly in this day and age when our culture is eager to make a difference in the world.  Poverty alleviation is left to other organizations, with churches “checking the box” through transactional service events that generally do more harm than good.

How can a church return to its biblical roots?

Again here, the hypothetical, utopian picture of a church that follows Jesus’ Prayer-Care-Share model is a repentant return to when it first planted:

  • Realize and teach that Jesus sees helping the poor as a non-negotiable for all believers
  • Train and equip members for evangelism opportunities that arise as they serve the poor
  • Research societal issues, assess member capabilities, and determine avenues for impact
  • Deploy congregants into existing ministries and support worthy initiatives they devise
  • Utilize the church building seven days a week for outreach rather than letting it sit idle
  • Understand why “outsiders” feel disenfranchised, seen as “prospects”, not “customers”
  • Never acquiesce or appeal to consumerism, promoting compassion as the alternative
  • Learn how to help without hurting, not turning away those who come asking for help
  • Become as generous as you expect members to be, giving the first 10%+ to local missions

If you think implementing these principles is impossible, consider that a church is also the 3rd largest charity in the U.S..  If your objection is that the early church separated caring for widows from preaching, consider that responsibility was still housed within the church.

What are the barriers to reclaiming responsibility for the Great Commission?

Churchgoers have grown accustomed to “church as we know it”, unlikely to adapt readily to surrendering the balance of power, relinquishing their status as the center of attention – suddenly morphing into “employees” expected to pursue the real “customer” (those who don’t know Jesus).  It’s not certain many would want to sit next to the materially poor they serve or to lose their parking spot as people flock to a church that practices what it preaches.  Not to mention nearly half of millennials believe sharing their faith is wrong, likely to turn compassion into the “social gospel” where words aren’t deemed necessary.  Most church leaders would also have a hard time reorienting budgets toward a biblical definition of the “customer”, although members would probably become more generous if churches would lead the way.

It’s Your Turn

Have you seen a church repent of outsourcing the Great Commission and return to its original mission and metrics – to make disciples and transform a city by the power of the Holy Spirit?

How Christians Outsourced the Great Commission

Apr 07, 22
, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Outsourcing is a term not typically associated with churches.  Businesses outsource functions deemed non-essential or that can be performed at a lower cost by other companies.  Back-office services like accounting and IT are often contracted out, whereas most corporations hesitate to outsource customer-facing activities like sales and marketing.  Scripture lists several core functions every church should carry out, including preaching, teaching, prayer, discipleship, missions, and compassion.  However, American church growth models have rationalized and justified outsourcing certain “customer-facing” activities by changing the definition of “church” and its intended “customer”.

Increasingly “church” is viewed as a place and pastors, not people in the pews.  Churchgoers expect excellent sermons and service, including programs that meet the spiritual and social needs of their families.  Pastors feel pressure to live up to those expectations, and not to ask too much of members when other churches just down the road provide so much and demand so little.  Those dynamics position Christ-followers as “customers”, not their rightful role as the embodiment of church.  The ekklesia (“assembly of called out ones”) are actually Kingdom employees, charged with pursuing the real “customer” – those in each member’s circle of influence who don’t know Jesus.  Since “insiders” have replaced “outsiders” as “customers”, church leaders feel more at liberty to outsource externally-focused functions (like disciple-making and compassion) that the Bible considers “customer-facing”.

The Danger of Outsourcing

As retail consumers, we can tell when companies we do business with have outsourced customer service.  It’s more difficult to communicate and get the answers we need from less informed and lower paid representatives who don’t work for the company.  Likewise, the unchurched across America have noticed that most churches have largely outsourced “customer-facing” activities like discipleship and local missions over the past few decades.  Non-believers also realize that churchgoers, who replaced them as the Church’s target “customer”, have essentially outsourced their responsibilities (to be the hands and feet of Jesus all week long) to pastors (on the weekends).  Even non-Christians appreciate what Jesus taught and did, but most don’t think Christians sound or act much like Him.  Jesus promised that His authentic followers will have enemies, but believers and churches are making far more enemies today than they should have because society is receiving such poor “customer service” now that discipleship and compassion have been outsourced.

If the “lost” in the community were still seen as the church’s primary “customer”, church leaders would not have cut back on those critical functions.  However, when contemporary church growth frameworks positioned members as “customers” and not “workers”, tithes became compensation to pastors for assuming ownership of the Great Commission.  Churchgoers’ roles were reduced to inviting those who don’t worship Jesus to a worship service, an oxymoron.  No longer would congregants have to endure the discomfort and awkwardness of sharing the Gospel, responding to tough questions, and making disciples.

Centralizing those functions placed an overwhelming burden on a few paid “professionals” to pull off spectacular weekend events.  Pastors continue to burn out today, some even leaving the ministry, from taking over members’ jobs while tending to their normal duties.  As a result, many succumbed to the temptation to outsource other biblical functions like poverty alleviation that they no longer saw as “customer-facing” (given the transition from an externally focused definition of the “customer”).  In other words, churches offloaded work they should be doing to cater to the demands of church consumers, which they shouldn’t be doing.

Biblical discipleship was outsourced to ministries who specialize in developing discipleship curriculum that they, ironically, then try to convince churches to adopt.  Front-line, perpetual engagement in compassion and causes, a central function of churches for roughly 1900 years, was outsourced to government, charities, and parachurch ministries.  However, none of those can offer what people need most – the teaching, worship and fellowship provided by churches.

The Delusion of Outsourcing

Besides lightening the workloads of church leaders, outsourcing compassion and discipleship to non-church entities ensured congregants didn’t have to bear that burden either.  Asking “customers” to perform the time-consuming, messy task of getting deeply involved in the lives of the (materially) poor and new believers would send many running to the exits.  Yet replacing discipleship and compassion with retention strategies like enhancing facilities and planning the perfect Sunday service (for those who shouldn’t be considered “customers”) didn’t stem the decline of churches in America in growth, impact, influence, and perception (by those who should have been considered “customers”).

Discipleship within most churches is now relegated to small group meetings rather than intensive and personalized formats that promote life change and accountability.  Outreach is generally transactional and self-serving, not alleviating poverty but perpetuating it through occasional events that “market” the church but produce dependence and shame, not ongoing solutions to real-world problems.

An interesting finding from our work with thousands of churches is that those who cut back on compassion activities (to reduce staff and member workload) also tend to ratchet back discipleship efforts (to reduce staff and member workload).  The two go hand-in-hand since fewer local missions activities means fewer opportunities for evangelism and discipleship – and consequently less need for training on how to share our faith and lead people closer to Jesus.

However, Jesus said serving the poor and the Great Commission are not expendable.  He repeatedly insinuated the irreconcilability of being His follower and ignoring poverty.  And Jesus’ parting words before His ascension was a call to discipleship.  No church’s assessment that (year-round) local missions and (intensive) disciple-making don’t align with its growth goals or customer definitions can diminish their importance to God.  No church should fail to perform or outsource the Lord’s non-negotiable mandates under any circumstances.  Not coincidentally, it’s the dearth of discipleship in America’s churches that led to the outsourcing of discipleship and poverty alleviation – because few believers understand how emphatically Jesus stressed every Christian’s obligation to participate in both.

The Disintegration of Outsourcing

Jesus modeled prayer, care and share – an integrated approach to seeking the Father’s will and demonstrating His love to open ears to hear the good news.  Outsourcing evangelism to pastors (and missionaries), discipleship to ministries, and compassion to non-church organizations creates a detrimental dichotomy between care and share.  The body of Christ was designed for seamless integration.  Scripture lays out a number of key roles that should be distributed among pastors and members based on skills and giftings, but those instructions do not advise or condone divesting entire areas of responsibility, entrusting them to those outside the Church.

Further, there are certain customer-facing activities like prayer, evangelism, discipleship, and serving the poor that all members are called to perform.  Unlike corporations where sales, marketing and customer service are conducted by different employees and departments, no Kingdom employee (i.e. Christian) is exempt from engagement in reaching out to the Church’s true “customer” – those desperately in need of help and the hope found only in Christ.

Within the local church, all hands should be on deck to perform those functions, yet we divide up the Great Commission, abdicating discipleship to “professionals” and leaving poverty alleviation to charitably-inclined Christians.  Christian business people (“kings”) departmentalize the sacred and secular, working all week in commerce to fund church operations (“priests”).  Churches plan weekend service projects (which often do more harm than good), recruiting retirees who have time to volunteer while not expecting young families to do much more than bring a shoebox to church for Operation Christmas Child.  If pastors championed discipleship, all members would understand that workplaces are mission fields and that families must do more than just take care of their own.  We should all be surrogate chaplains wherever we work and pastors of our neighborhoods.  No one has an inside track to the Father – we’re all children of God.  Even forming church committees or appointing groups is another form of outsourcing when the function being partitioned should be required of all church members.  Instead, church leaders should seek to instill a pervasive culture of evangelism, discipleship, and compassion.

Similarly, we fragment the body of Christ across those functions, bifurcating Church into local churches and parachurch ministries.  Segmenting care and share is a relatively new and ill-advised phenomenon, failing to convey the deep concern churches should have for the materially poor based on Jesus’ clear commands to care for them.  Society senses the detachment that fuels transactional, convenient compassion at most churches.  It costs so much to keep the machine running, investing in the amenities and programs demanded by consumers, that churches have no choice but to leave relational, needle-moving social work to others.  Some denominations even operate centralized, shared-services organizations that churches pay to perform “customer-facing” functions that each local church should own as part of its normal operations.

Recapping the Logic…

The outsourcing decisions of churchgoers and church leaders are closely related…

  • Members ARE the Church – Kingdom workers, not “customers”
  • All Christians are commanded to reach the Church’s biblical “customer”, those who don’t know Jesus
  • Churches unwittingly treat churchgoers like “customers” when expectations of members are lowered and expectations of staff are raised in hopes everyone will come back next Sunday
  • That power shift encourages and enables church shoppers (consumers) to outsource their “customer-facing” functions (like personal evangelism and discipleship) to church leaders
  • Pastors became extremely busy doing members’ jobs for them and trying to placate the wrong “customer” (through performance, program, and event-driven expressions of church)
  • Churches have little time left over for (and less interest in) “customer-facing” functions like discipleship and compassion that would have engaged the right “customers” in the right ways
  • Therefore, most churches have essentially outsourced those activities to other organizations

As a result, the intended “customers” feel ignored, fueling widespread cynicism about churches.

It’s Your Turn…

How can churchgoers reclaim their position as the personification of “church”, providing pastors with the bandwidth to reclaim the Church’s responsibility to lead the way in discipleship and compassion?