Tag Archives: joy

Does Sin Exist?

May 27, 21
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Part 2 (of 3)…continued from prior blog post

Andrew’s anti-theistic resolve hadn’t wavered during lunch with Bill and his pastor.  He had no reservations about making good on his promise to meet again, viewing the pastor as a worthy challenger in a battle of wits.  He was armed and ready, with his only uncertainty being why the pastor had chosen, from the entire Bible, the story of the “prodigal son” as his homework assignment.  Bill was more apprehensive, realizing during the first conversation how few answers he had to Andrew’s questions.  Fortunately, given how adeptly his pastor had handled each objection, Bill saw his role as referee in today’s sparring match between two heavyweights.

“Great to see you, Andrew.  Glad I didn’t annoy you too badly when we met last month – at least that’s my assumption since you agreed to get together again today!”  Self-deprecating humor was the pastor’s go-to disarmament tactic.

“I’m a man of my word.  Plus I rarely turn down a free lunch!  Mind if I start with a question?  Why the ‘prodigal son’?  Hope the insinuation isn’t that I ran off and squandered my family’s estate?  Yes, I’ve partied, gambled and had my share of fun but I don’t see any need to apologize to anyone for anything.”

“No, the prodigal son is my story.  It’s Bill’s story.  We’ve made more mistakes and bad decisions in our lives than you could imagine.  We’re in no position to judge because we’re living in glass houses.  The only difference is that we headed home with our tails between our legs, not expecting but receiving forgiveness for all our sins.”  The pastor considered using a different last word in that sentence but knew progress in this conversation hinged on coming to agreement that sin exists.  He had tried earlier in his ministry to reshape the Gospel message to be more palatable to secular ears, but eventually realized there is never “good news” without bad news.

“Call it what you want, but the only ‘sin’ I’m aware of is calling someone else a ‘sinner’.  Atheists like me are more open-minded and less condemning than most Christians I know.  No offense, Bill.  If it were my son in the story, he wouldn’t need my forgiveness for pursuing whatever makes him happy.  I love him so I respect his right to live however he wants.”

“God is our Father and loves us unconditionally as well.  But are there no standards of behavior for your children?  Do they ever break the rules?  Love doesn’t mean that sin doesn’t exist.  Love is not forced acceptance of all beliefs, opinions of actions of another person.  These days, the world says everyone has the power to define right, wrong and ‘love’ as they see fit and anyone who disagrees with them is a ‘hater’.  You accused Christians of hypocrisy and self-righteousness yet defining morality however each person wants gives carte blanche to say, ‘I’m good and anyone who sees the world differently is bad’.  You say Christians are judgmental yet secular culture ‘cancels’ non-conformists, deeming them unfit for decent society.  Dissent suppression is what happens when ‘love’ and ‘evil’ becomes relativistic.  Therefore, I believe we both agree on the existence of sin.  We just differ on what it is and who enforces the punishment.”

Andrew was biting his tongue, fighting the urge to lash out for being labeled “self-righteous” by those he considered most self-righteous – Christians.  He went another route instead.  “But wait a minute, sin is an offense against some higher power, so if there’s no God there’s no sin.  Yes, we have rules in my house for our kids but there are no consequences for breaking laws of a god that doesn’t exist.”

“Actually, it’s the reverse.  Our awareness of sin leads us to seek God.  Jesus is a healer, but if we don’t know we’re sick, we won’t look for a doctor.  Only when we realize we’re incapable of true, undefiled goodness will we awaken to our need for forgiveness.  It’s when we’re finally humble enough to cry out for mercy that we hear His voice when He calls.  Professed atheists demand proof of God yet close their eyes and ears to His presence by ignoring their God-given consciences.  You’re not an atheist because you don’t believe in the Lord – you’re an anti-theist because you choose not to believe in sin.”

Andrew didn’t like being told what he is or isn’t, particularly by a guy who believed in fairy tales.  “Well, I don’t have any guilt or need any salvation.  My job is just to love and make the most of every day.”

“Even when it comes to what we call ‘love’, our motives are impure.  Most interactions with family, colleagues, customers, neighbors and friends are infused with facades and agendas.  Our feelings about them are conditional, based on their behaviors.  Greed messes up partnerships, infidelity breaks up marriages, and pride ruins friendships.  Repentance and forgiveness are the only ways to reconcile those relationships.  Like the prodigal son, our connection with God is broken due to sin but Jesus, the only sinless source of pure love, died to offer the path to reconciliation with our Father.  Andrew, is your life really sinless and your love totally pure?”

As referee for the main event, Bill felt obligated to step in before this conversation actually turned into a prize fight over Andrew’s objections to being accused of “sin”.  “Andrew is a nice guy and a great neighbor.  Are you really saying Pastor that there’s no good in anyone apart from God?”

The pastor was disappointed that a long-time church member like Bill didn’t understand one of the core tenets of his own faith.  He blamed himself for not building discipleship into the fabric of the church’s mission.  “Yes, but it’s the Bible that confirms what each of us already knows deep down – we’re never free from the shackles of ‘sin’ no matter how unselfish we try to be.”

That word “freedom” pushed Andrew’s button, hitting on the aspect of his “religion” he cherished most.  “I’m not a slave to anyone or anything!  I’m free to do whatever I want whenever I want.  I don’t need Jesus to liberate me.  Christians are the ones in chains.”

”So if human nature is free not to sin, why do we have so many courts, police, jails, legislators, lawyers, judges and regulators?  Why are discrimination and favoritism so rampant?  Why does crime skyrocket during natural disasters when law enforcement is nowhere in sight?  We look out for ourselves, take advantage of people, and rarely help those who can’t return the favor.  Societies without restraints don’t head toward utopia but entropy.  Power becomes control, not freedom.  Socialism becomes dependence, not liberty.”

Andrew had a far more optimistic picture of mankind.  “How can you be so negative?  I know what you’re against, but what are you for?  Look at all the world’s advancements, innovations and discoveries.  We’re making tremendous progress but are being held back by arcane religious thinking, trusting in invisible deities rather than tangible, proven scientific facts.”

Bill needed to get back to work soon and had an idea to bring the discussion around toward a conclusion.  “So does this sacred versus secular debate essentially boil down to trusting in humans or in God – either our adequacy or His provision?”

“Well said, Bill.  I became a pastor because I’ve seen the evil men are capable of and I’ve seen the goodness of God.  I don’t claim to have all the answers, nor do I think science ever will, but I’ve found far more hope in the Bible and my relationship with Jesus than the world can offer.”

“I have all I need without using faith as a crutch to avoid understanding truth in the real world.”  Andrew was still playing the same cards he’d held close to the vest in prior conversations with Christians.  “A job, family, education, health and wealth are enough for me.”

“What if you lose your health?  Do you trust medical science to heal you?  Steve Jobs’ wealth couldn’t save him.”  The pastor knew several anti-theists who never questioned their faith in atheism until they faced imminent death.

“Is God going to heal me?  Christians die too.  Am I supposed to turn to churches for answers?  Most churches I’ve seen are run like businesses, accusing the world of sin and asking for money in exchange for forgiveness.”

That accusation hit home with the pastor, who felt led to conclude the conversation with a confession.  “Yes, churches are to blame for leaving you with that impression.  We were the food bank and homeless shelter, but separated evangelism from compassion.  We started the hospitals and schools, but now complain about culture without engaging in it.  We used to transform more lives, but now treat churchgoers more like customers to be retained than disciples to be trained.  We historically confronted sin in the church, but now point fingers at those who can’t be expected to obey laws of a God they don’t acknowledge.  But the sins of church leaders are not God’s fault…”

It’s Your Turn

Is it possible to share the Gospel without talking about sin?  Jesus, Peter, Paul and John the Baptist all came out of the gates preaching repentance, but today the word “sin” is taboo in secular social circles – and even in many churches.  Has our hesitation to hold ourselves accountable for sin inside the church cost us our voice to speak about sin outside the church?

“A Pastor, a Christian and an ‘Atheist’ Walk into a Bar…”

May 13, 21
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“I invited my neighbor to church yesterday but got the Heisman, again”, Bill said extending his hand like a running back giving a stiff-arm to a would-be tackler.  “Andrew claims to be an atheist but seems interested in spiritual topics.  He brings up those same questions we’ve all heard before – you know, how can a good God send anyone to hell and how can someone who never heard about Jesus be condemned for eternity?  Not sure I’m the best person to give the answers he needs.  You’re certainly more qualified than me, Pastor.  So hope you don’t mind but I volunteered you to grab lunch with us.  To my surprise, Andrew was willing if you are.  But be warned, I think he’s approaching this like that running back and you’re the next defender between him and the endzone.”

Next Sunday, Bill and his pastor met Andrew at a restaurant after church.

“Nice to meet you, Andrew.  I admire you for being willing to get together – many folks these days aren’t open to discussing matters of faith.  I’m curious to hear what you have to say.  Hopefully something I share will be helpful.”  Bill’s cautions prompted the pastor’s preemptive pleasantries, a bit anxious at the prospect of getting into a heated debate in a public setting.

“I may not have a tremendous amount to add to the conversation so at least let me pick up the tab!  I’m just glad to introduce the two of you.”  Bill was excited to watch the tennis match – wondering whether Andrew would hold his ground as the verbal volleys crossed the net.

“With all due respect, pastor, I’m not all that interested in religion per se except for how it has harmed people throughout history – and in our world today.  Not just the wars over different views of God, which really aren’t that different, but the psychological impact of holding sin and superiority over the heads of good people.”  Andrew wasn’t one to mince words.

“Hey, I don’t like religion either – but I do love God.  Religion is man-made but Jesus wasn’t just a man.  You can dig up the bones of the founders of every religion except for Christianity.  Not all faiths are the same.  Only Christians believe God had to come down to us because we couldn’t possibly reach up to Him.  We see His goodness and power in His creation, realize our relative limitations, and know we’ll never be good enough and spiritual enough to force our way into heaven.  I know it’s not a great sales pitch to say we’re sinners in need of a Savior, but there’s a huge gap between God and mankind – which Jesus came to earth to bridge.”  As a pastor, he rarely missed a chance to inject a Gospel presentation when the opportunity arose.

“Seems a little arrogant to say your religion is the only way – and to call people sinners.  You’re making my earlier point – telling me I’m not a good person.  Frankly, it all comes across as an attempt to control and oppress to keep pews and coffers filled.  I work hard to provide for my family, don’t commit crimes, give to charity, and mind my own business – how am I not good?”  Bill couldn’t wait to see how his pastor would handle that grenade.

“Actually, what I think is more arrogant is telling God we didn’t need Jesus to suffer and die for us – that we had it covered, rejecting the most expensive gift ever given.  The fact is, if we all care to admit it, is that we can’t even trust our own motives.  People hardly ever act out of genuine concern for the welfare of others.  Besides, who hasn’t lied, cheated or stolen something?  Where is the line drawn on ‘good’?”

“What’s wrong with looking out for myself, even if that involves cutting a corner every once in a while?  If it doesn’t hurt anyone, why should I worry about a cosmic scoreboard kept by an imaginary god?  That’s the thing about Christians, always heaping guilt on unsuspecting, otherwise happy people.”  Andrew was digging in his heels, confident in his long-held positions.

“I assure you Jesus isn’t about keeping score but giving people a chance to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat in a game they could never win.  Hoping your good outweighs the bad is the opposite of Christianity.  Picture a courtroom where the judge has to do his job, but in this case it’s his son who’s facing the death penalty.  So the judge steps down, takes off his robe, asks to be handcuffed, and accepts the penalty you and I should have paid.  That’s Christianity.”

“Well, I don’t buy any of it.  I’m fine the way I am and know when this life is over, it’s over.  But in the meantime, I’m enjoying every day to the fullest.  Of course, that’s not always easy when this God you say is good allows natural disasters, mass murders, and children to be born with birth defects.”

“If you’re asking, ‘how can a good God let bad things happen to good people?’, first of all like I said no one is truly good.  Second, most problems are caused by mankind, not God, but despite that the Lord can use bad for good.  Imagine if no one had any issues – would there be any need for compassion or charity?”

“Well, if you watch the news and read social media it seems Christians are the ones causing many of the problems these days.  How do you reconcile the hypocrisy of all the church scandals with judging homosexuals for getting married and women for doing what they want with their own bodies?”  Andrew clearly had an axe to grind, possibly explaining why he agreed to meet.

“What are your thoughts, Bill?”  As a pastor whose vision was to make disciples, he was disappointed that a long-time member like Bill apparently was not prepared to respond to these meat-and-potatoes objections to Christianity.

“Thanks a lot, passing that one to me!”  Bill was stalling, buying time to think.  “I’ve always heard, ‘love the sinner and hate the sin’.”

“True, but I doubt our friend here sees gay marriage or abortion as sinful.  You mentioned pastors who fall from grace – it happens too often but don’t blame God for man’s mistakes.  When imperfect people are held to perfect ideals, any failure says more about the person than it does about Jesus – who’s still worth pursuing.  As for what we do with our bodies, your assumption is that you own yours.  However, if God created us, then we’re His property.  Bill is right that no one is passing judgment.  But the Lord intentionally designed the anatomies of men and women to be complimentary and orchestrated the miraculous conception and development of infants in the womb (who also belong to Him) for a reason.”

Andrew sat up and leaned forward, having just heard what he needed to launch his primary weapon.  “What’s miraculous about a baby being born?  Science and evolution accounts for everything that Christians default to belief in a God to try to explain.  If they understood the complex processes that give and sustain life, then proven facts would supplant blind faith.”

Ironically, the pastor saw atheism as a religion, defaulting to belief in science to account for what only God could have done.  “So are you saying something came from nothing and order from disorder?  Even the world’s leading scientists can’t create matter without matter.  In the beginning, something outside space and time – an uncaused first cause – had to introduce substance into what was entirely void.  And entropy should have resulted in chaos, but God’s design brought order to solar systems and ecosystems.”

“Why do Christians always fall back on that crutch as an excuse to stick their heads in the sand rather than learning and trusting in science?”

Bill started losing hope, anticipating an impasse.

“We value science but see discoveries as uncovering God’s design.  There are still so many mysteries and failed experiments because our brains are finite.  Yet despite those limitations, some people think whatever they can’t see or wrap their minds around cannot exist.  We can’t dismiss God and miracles just because they don’t fit into our mental file cabinets.  With so much scientists still don’t know, how can you bet your life on science?  Christians bet on God’s omniscience because we can’t know everything, and therefore are ok believing some things exist that aren’t visible.”  The pastor appeared to be transitioning from defense to offense.

“’See it to believe it’ seems more rational.  In my mind, the burden of proof lies with Christians.  We have the facts on our side.  The evidence speaks for evolution, not for any God or gods.”

As a pastor, he tried to avoid the hint of sarcasm inherent in his reply.  “Applying reason, facts and evidence to prove anything is presumptuous if there is no God.  Authentic atheism, carried to its logical extreme, contends that there is no logic.  If our brains were formed by accident without planning, then our thoughts are random and our conclusions untrustworthy.  But more to your point, I’m not sure we need more proof of who Jesus was than His 12 disciples who went from cowering in fear at his death to shouting His praise in the streets (at the risk of being killed) after his resurrection.”

Unfamiliar with the reference, Andrew shifted to another patented argument.  “I don’t know much about stories like that, but the Bible is a fairy tale with tons of errors written by a bunch of men over hundreds of years.  So it’s not reliable – and yet Christians do whatever it says.”

The pastor wondered to himself how few Americans have any scriptural foundation in this post-Christian society.  “It doesn’t sound like you’ve studied the Bible, and yet you accuse Christians of not doing their homework on your positions.  The Bible is the most scrutinized book in history with skeptics trying to punch holes in it for thousands of years, but none have succeeded.”

Bill needed to get back to work and had an idea.  “Pastor, would you be willing to read a book Andrew recommends about the science behind earth’s origins?  I’ll agree to read it too.  And Andrew, would you mind reading a few chapters in the Bible that he recommends?  Maybe we could meet again to discuss what we’ve all learned.”

It’s Your Turn

Why haven’t churches trained members to respond to the same objections “atheists” always raise?  As the ground in America becomes less fertile soil for the Gospel – with fewer biblically literate and more “anti-theists” (i.e. professed atheists) – can pastors remain the only ones with solid answers?

There’s No Such Thing as an Atheist

Apr 29, 21
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Professed atheists don’t believe in Christianity – or that God even exists.  Well, I don’t believe in Atheism – or that an atheist even exists.  It requires more cognitive dissonance than I think anyone can authentically muster.  It takes far more faith to believe in nothing than something since something cannot come from nothing.  When a scientist manages to create even a speck of dust or maybe a bush out of thin air, it will be credible that a genuine atheist walks the earth.  When a 15 megapixel camera constructs itself, whereas the human eye is 576 megapixels, then maybe someone can reasonably deny a Creator.  When we discover that a classic novel wrote itself and the letters formed themselves into beautiful prose, like the miles of DNA strands that miraculously form each individual’s unique physiological signature, then Atheism has a leg to stand on.

Constructing the illusion that there is no God takes a tremendous amount of hard work.  It’s not easy to convince yourself that you hold a belief that, in the core of your being, you actually don’t.  The empirical and experiential evidence for God is too overwhelming – in the complexity and synchronicity of creation, the birth of a baby, the heat from the sun, feelings of love, multi-layered immune systems…and our very existence.  More importantly, just as almost everyone knows who their parents are, deep down we all know who our heavenly Father is.  Our Father instilled in us a spiritual and moral compass that points directly back to Himself.  The innate, undeniable connection we have with a parent persists even more strongly with the Lord.

The only question is the level of denial, distraction, pursuits and reeducation required to disavow our Father and designate as a spiritual orphan.  It took a two-decade coordinated campaign by politicians, media and Hollywood to sell the delusion fueling America’s demise – the untenable belief that humans are inherently good, ironically defying all we see in politics, TV and movies.  Not coincidentally, buying the lie that human nature is good in combination with pretending there is no God means we can be entrusted with unbridled autonomy to determine “truth”.  The term “atheist” is therefore also a misnomer for “Nones” (claiming no religion) and the now “enlightened” (claiming ownership of truth) because they do worship a supreme being – Self.

Why People Reject Jesus

Human nature’s desire to sin without conscience or consequence is what causes avowed atheists to cling to the impossible and to dismiss the undeniable.  When logic, observation and subconscious fail to prevail, we inevitably realize that only the spiritual can break through the spiritual.  The battle against sinful human nature is a supernatural one, won only by the power and intervention of the Holy Spirit.

Nothing in this world will sway someone resolutely determined to live without any externally imposed constraints.  Only Jesus can inject the eternal to interrupt the ultimate objective of those firmly entrenched in the temporal – the pursuit of happiness.  The great awakening for the spiritually dead is often a realization that the world can never offer what it never had – joy, peace and contentment.  We can only pray that after living their “truth”, consuming their fill or enduring enough hardship they discover before it’s too late that meaning and fulfillment are not found on this planet without Christ.  Unfortunately, instead of resignation and reform many so-called atheists turn to medication and materialism to blunt the trauma of traveling a road to nowhere.

Secular leaders stand to gain by keeping citizens, constituents and customers from Christianity.  There is a choreographed agenda driving the concurrent movements to foster the delusion of mankind’s goodness and the illusion that there is no God.  Governments have difficulty controlling those who abide by a different set of laws.  Companies find it challenging to sell products when buyers are not self-centered and greedy.  Universities cannot indoctrinate minds in their worldly philosophies if students subscribe to a faith that contradicts their “facts”.  Media has trouble generating ad revenue when potential viewers resist human nature and refuse to watch news and shows filled with sex and violence.  As we have already seen in most other nations, those influencers are conspiring today in America to discredit Christianity and applaud “atheists” for the purpose of maximizing power and profits through the following progression…

  1. Pursuing Happiness – The process begins innocently enough, at least so it seems, by championing equality, justice and unity for all
  2. Redirecting Faith – Rescue the oppressed, print dollars and heal diseases, positioning leaders as savior to make people forget they once cried out to God for help
  3. Garnering Trust – Portray all who came before as evil, revising history to label Christians as oppressors and secular society as now free from the shackles of religion
  4. Establishing Control – Human nature always betrays (undeserved) trust in human nature, but by the time an unsuspecting nation knows it has been deceived, it’s too late and the liberties promised in a post-Christian society are quickly reversed

So the powerful and prosperous do what they can to eradicate Christian faith and values, despite all the experiences and observations (of God’s handiwork) to the contrary.  Yet because God does exist, the arguments against Christianity and excuses for not believing are trite and fragile.  Those uneducated in science bet their lives on it.  Those pointing to hypocrisy in the church fully grasp their own.  Those who say they’ve tried church and it wasn’t for them blame God for man’s faults.  Those refusing to acknowledge the need for a Savior do their best to shut off their God-given consciences to hide their guilt and shame.  Those unable to wrap their finite minds around the invisible cannot prove God does not exist but require Christians to prove that He does.  Those who cannot conceive of a God who would let bad things happen to good people mistakenly see themselves as good.  Those viewing religion as a matter of personal preference forget that man cannot turn God into something He is not.

God is who God is.  Conforming Him to our image does not actually alter Him.  Nor does any degree of disbelief make God cease to be.  Denying Him does not disintegrate Him.  Ignoring Him won’t make Him ignore us.  Christianity is unique in that we have seen God.  We know exactly who the Lord is.  Jesus came to dispel any misconceptions and expose the fatal flaw in every other religion – the aspiration to ascend up to God through good works or “inner divinity” when God had to descend down to save helpless and fallen humanity.

Despite efforts to discredit Christianity, there is a desire to know God lurking below the surface of all “atheists”.  For example, many regularly attend “church” on this blog’s Facebook page, commenting passionately on topics they profess to care nothing about.  The anger apparent in their tone conveys a past, profound disappointment with something God either did or did not do for them.  Now they feel compelled to restate their patented arguments to confirm their tenuous, unfounded convictions – uncertain of their veracity yet likely certain of the severe consequences of being wrong.

How Should Christians Respond?

Armed with the knowledge that there are no atheists, what should churches and Christians do differently to reach “Nones”?  Understanding the real “lay of the land” should close the gap in our minds between “us” and “them” – and prompt us to action!  All nonbelievers stand on the verge of belief – their misplaced confidence in strawman excuses and concerted efforts to silence God’s promptings leave their resolve hanging by a thread.  They are far more receptive on the inside than they appear to be on the outside.  Many will abandon the vagaries of relativism in favor of absolute truth if Christians abandon ineffective evangelism in favor of Jesus’ methods…

  1. Be Different, Not Distant – Reopen lines of communication through humble confession and accountability, preemptively dismantling the superiority complexes maintained by many Christians and supposed “atheists”
  2. Be Caring, Not Critical – Through extraordinary acts of kindness and fighting on the front lines for justice, debunk secular characterizations of Christians as “oppressors”
  3. Be Bold, Not Bashful – “Atheists” are more willing to listen and engage in discussion with Christians than some may think, more aware of their sin than they care to admit
  4. Be Opportunistic, Not Oblivious – Don’t miss chances to fan the flames of doubt that creep in when “atheists” observe creation, wrestle with their conscience, and face mortality
  5. Be Exponential, Not Expedient – Replace attractional church services with disciple-making, conceding that efforts to appeal to “atheists” alienated them, providing fodder to mock Christians rather than equipping believers to go out to those who would never step into a sanctuary
  6. Be Patient, Not Panicked – Persist in prayer, care and share because the hopelessness of being a cosmic accident with no purpose may eventually open the door to the Gospel
  7. Be Faithful, Not Flustered – Relax and know the outcome of dropping seeds on hard ground do not depend on us; only God can cause them to grow if that’s His will

With America in its penultimate stage, if the rise and fall of historical superpowers is any guide, then society will continue to turn away from God and toward decadence, dependence and division.  The good news is there is hope because no matter what anyone says, there’s no such thing as an atheist.

It’s Your Turn

Do you agree that in the inner recesses of our beings and in observing the outer world around us, it is impossible for an individual made in the image of God to truly believe He does not exist?

How Not to Win Friends and Influence People

Apr 15, 21
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one comments

Christians may not be better, but must be different.  Everyone at birth is made in the image of God, but only Christians are reborn as a child of God.  Everyone shares the same human nature, but only Christians understand that it is inherently evil.  Everyone is sinful, but only Christians take on a new nature that cannot sin.  What do we do with those advantages?  Many hide them by trying to fit in or flaunt them by pointing fingers.  Either way, looking like the world or living in opposition to it results in having little impact on it.  Either society won’t recognize who Christians are or, when they do, won’t like what they see.

Is there some middle ground?  Can we maintain our differences but not our distances?  Is it possible to be authentic and attractive at the same time?  Can we help people identify with us without compromising our identity in Christ?  Otherwise, non-believers will find their identity where they have today – in themselves.  Can we separate from sin but not necessarily from “sinners” since we are all in that same boat?  Otherwise, the relational gap will widen as society and Christians compare and judge one another from afar – both claiming moral superiority.

Someone has to take the first step toward reconciliation – and fast.  Time is running out as our culture sprints away from the Lord and toward government dependency, religious persecution, educational indoctrination, and moral depravity.  Don’t expect secularism and Selfism to extend the olive branch.  Christians and churches will have to take the initiative to build that bridge.  Scripture provides a blueprint for bridge-building leveraging the greatest advantage we enjoy as believers – the Holy Spirit.  The fruits of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control – are that “middle ground”, being in the world but not of the world.  Each of those fruits stand in stark contrast to the fruits of America’s decadence, yet they engage society with humility, not condemnation…

  • Love admits we’re not “better” while pretense requires seeing everyone as perfect just as they are
  • Joy persists in crisis while panic rocks a nation with no foundation
  • Peace looks for common ground but doesn’t acquiesce to moral or scriptural relativism
  • Patience endures persecution by those programmed to respond to the slightest offense with victimhood or cancellation
  • Kindness in the face of animosity exposes the futility of a self-centered existence
  • Goodness lets God’s light shine through us to bring glory to Him, not ourselves
  • Faithfulness clings to a higher truth when today’s fragile identity bubbles begin to pop
  • Gentleness is authentic, admitting faults but not mistaking meekness for weakness
  • Self-Control shows restraint, daring to say “no” when everyone else is screaming “yes”

Practicing these principles is the key to regaining our voice in a nation rejecting Christianity over its purported claim to moral superiority.  A newly enlightened generation is being taught revisionist history where Christians are by definition oppressors and truth can only come from the oppressed, obviating the Gospel message.  How can atheists and agnostics be convinced they need a Savior when they are conditioned to believe any reference to sin is just another attempt to manipulate and control?  Social media is selectively silencing Christians because we’re the only ones talking about sin, yet while not living out the fruits of the Spirit, choosing instead to perch on one of the opposite extremes of the association/disassociation spectrum.

Different, Not Distant

Jesus empowered His Church to gather, equip and deploy Christ-followers into their neighborhoods, communities, workplaces and foreign mission fields.  Pastors have been appointed by God to lead their flocks to the sweet spot between those two extremes – the optimal point where Christians attract despite their differences rather than conforming to minimize those differences or alienating by keeping their distances.

Jesus struck that balance perfectly, providing a model for today’s churches and Christians to follow to bear fruit even when the soil seems so infertile.  But reverting to Jesus’ model for penetrating a highly resistant culture would be a radical departure from the prevailing methods in America for planting, growing and running churches.  In fact, it was those methods that drove churchgoers to the outer edges of the continuum in the first place – either too casual (seeker-friendly) to add any truth to their grace or too cocky (legalistic) to add any grace to their truth.  The lessons of the past year, when pastors realized they hadn’t prepared members well to personify “church” when the fields were ripe but the building’s doors were closed, should convince them to seek a new normal post-pandemic that “connects” without compromise…

  1. End Scriptural Relativism
    • No longer bypassing verses considered too controversial or demanding for worldly “consumers” (e.g. accountability, sanctification, and the costs of discipleship)
    • Addressing passages that may not support the church’s particular (and polarizing) political or social stance
    • Not skipping stories that don’t fit their compartmentalized view of who God is because His character comprises more than just mercy or justice
  2. Embrace Vulnerability
    • Stop keeping up appearances, which stems from Scriptural Relativism, focusing on God’s promises and blessings but ignoring His demands for authenticity and humility
    • Confessing our weaknesses, which defies every fiber of our sinful human nature but is the only way to be transparent about God’s grace and everyone’s need for Jesus
    • Distributing evangelism and discipleship responsibilities to lower unreasonable expectations and standards levied on pastors, who suffer from performance anxiety and burn-out (from doing our “jobs”)
  3. Enforce Accountability
    • Applying a higher moral standard to churchgoers, leveraging the Matthew 18 process, than to those who understandably disobey God’s laws because they don’t recognize the authority of the Lawgiver
    • Showing society that churches are serious about confronting and not concealing wrongdoing so that hypocrisy won’t be a leading excuse for dismissing our faith
    • Looking inward will make Christians more reluctant to point outward, appearing less self-righteous so people can see God’s goodness
  4. Empower Disciples
    • Cultivating our new nature in Christ means reflecting the characteristics of Jesus like humility, servanthood, compassion, and associating with “sinners”
    • Rethinking Church as We Know It (CAWKI) because choreographed services, weekly sermons, and occasional small groups don’t provide sufficient understanding or conviction to imitate Jesus at all cost
    • Striking a balance between being countercultural yet impacting culture, which entails dying to self so we don’t think or act like the world, yet don’t affront by putting up a veil of perfection
  5. Engage Lovingly
    • Demonstrating true, unconditional love to a society that has redefined “love” to mean worship of self, tolerance for sin, and acting on sexual impulses
    • Rejecting church growth models and recasting the role of churches in society around Jesus’ priorities – discipleship, compassion and evangelism – in that order
    • Earning the right to speak frankly through relational acts of humble service all year long, not occasional outreach events that perpetuate poverty and breed cynicism about a church’s intentions (#ReimagineCompassion)

If church reform and revival do not occur we will watch the Age of Decadence transition into the final stage of America’s history.  Continuing to conform to society or waging war against it will hasten America’s sunset.  Being different but not distant is critical if we are going to present an alternative to the hopeless road of secular humanism.  We’ll knock down walls, disarm a public ready to pounce, and make Jesus seem more accessible if we proactively admit we aren’t “better”, just forgiven.  But at the same time we must aggressively pursue sanctification to bear the fruits of the Spirit, otherwise we’ll be indistinguishable and conceal the road less traveled.

It’s Your Turn

Do you know a church or Christian who straddles the fine lines between love with accountability, truth with grace, evangelism with authenticity, conviction without self-righteousness, humility without weakness, and generosity without dependency?

Are Christians Better?

Apr 01, 21
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Christians and churches have inadvertently precipitated our nation’s plummet into the Age of Decadence.  The delusion fueling America’s demise, society’s belief that human nature is inherently good, is not exclusive to non-believers.  Many Christians are buying into the world’s trust in man’s capabilities and potential, redirecting faith away from God’s goodness to our own.  It is also becoming increasingly common to distinguish and distance ourselves from a culture run amuck, taking some measure of pride in our relative virtue and piety.

Even “faithful” churchgoers can lose their sense of desperation and appreciation for God’s grace as they hang around “good” people, stop cussing, resist temptations, serve as a greeter, and volunteer at a homeless shelter.  We can start to believe our own press, hearing how we have changed for the better, and join the chorus pointing out the immorality of those still living as we once did.  None of that alters the fact that we need grace just as much as those who subscribe to the prevailing “truth” in America today – the inalienable right to pursue the unmitigated, relentless satisfaction of every self-indulgent urge.

No references in our prior posts were intended to imply any distinction between “us” and “them”.  Characterizing Christ-followers as good and others as bad is a false dichotomy.  Only God is good.  Yes, believers do have enormous advantages – eternal life with their Father, Scripture, and the Holy Spirit – but those don’t make us “better” than anyone else.  Christians take on a new nature at justification, but sanctification is a continual process.  Righteousness in the Lord’s eyes is our inheritance through Jesus, but sinlessness is a state we will never attain this side of heaven.  Dying to our original nature is a daily struggle as long as we are on planet earth.  “Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.” (Romans 7:21-23)

Our society may be on the opposing front lines of that war, fighting for rather than against sin, but all humans share an inability to do the right thing whether we like it or not.  When we do anything pure and holy, the Lord deserves all the credit.  The blame for whatever we do wrong lies with us.  Ironically, the better you think you are, the worse you actually are.  When you think you’re the best you’re at your worst.  Practicing and preaching morality is noble, as is keeping yourself from sin, but not if it becomes or conveys self-righteousness, separating yourself from “sinners”.  Jesus levied His harshest criticism at those who claimed to know God but their sanctimonious air proved they didn’t.  The fact that the Lord softened our hearts and led us to accept His forgiveness should make us feel thankful and humble, not superior.

The Price of Our “Superiority Complex”

Regardless of whether Christians and churches feign or articulate superiority, it is a belief many hold or convey to a culture not enamored with the insinuation.  It seems counterintuitive that adherents of a religion hinging on acknowledgement of sin would try so hard to conceal it.  To maintain appearances as a “good” Christian, many lack the humility and vulnerability to admit their faults openly either within their church or to friends and neighbors.  Yet they are often quick to point out the shortcomings of society and the “lost”, in direct contrast with Scripture – “God will judge those outside. ‘Expel the wicked person from among you.’” (1 Corinthians 5:13)

Jesus won over the crowds, earned their trust, and disarmed their objections through serving the helpless, condemning self-righteousness, demanding authenticity, defending the poor, demonstrating God’s power, and revealing humanity’s limitations.  So pretending to be good (as opposed to exposing our need for Jesus, so others can see theirs), not only contradicts all He taught us but elicits visceral responses from those we were supposed to reach with the Gospel…

  1. Rejection – Considers longstanding Christian values too outdated for the now enlightened, pointing to the hypocrisy of past leaders to justify their own hedonism, idolatry, and perversion while claiming moral supremacy
  2. Resentment – Not only dismisses attempts by Christians to impose our religious standard (one they don’t believe we abide by), but considers any questioning of their personal preferences to be “hatred”
  3. Retribution – The only people group that media, Hollywood and politicians are free to mock without hesitation are Christians, who refuse to conform to evolving social norms

Our post-Christian culture accelerates toward its downfall in part because many churchgoers unwittingly drew a line, alienating the “bad” by mistakenly believing we are “good”.  Christ-followers are redeemed from sin, better able to resist sin, and not controlled by sin, but because we are not sinless our battle is against sin and not other “sinners”.  Rather than building a wall to segment sacred from secular, our job is to disclose that forgiveness and reconciliation are available to everyone.  That wall only serves to keep non-believers from seeing Jesus through us.  Instead, they just see another human being, one they think is looking down on them.  Therefore, an offended society that claims to value diversity above all else demands conformity around only one thing – cancelling anyone who advocates or does not condemn Christian values.

Who Told Us We Were Better?

Jesus was eminently clear in parables and instructions about the sinfulness of mankind and the importance of authenticity among His followers.  Nearly every story in the Bible relates in some way to the passage “those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted”.  So how have Christians in America projected an image so diametrically opposed to central tenets of Scripture?  Our perceived arrogance stems from powerful forces in our culture steering our love away from God and our neighbors (the Great Commandment) and toward three alternative objects of our affection…

  1. Love Your Church – Church growth models encourage differentiation rather than unity in the body of Christ.  Books and consultants teach pastors how to overcome the challenge of maintaining a church building and staff by investing in and promoting competitive advantages.  Engaging children’s ministries, higher quality music, more sound teaching, and a wider variety of programs attract “shoppers” through the revolving door.  If one church is better than another, perhaps those members are better than other Christians – and they certainly have a leg up on the “nones” and “dones” who don’t go to church at all.  Internally-focused strategies for growth or survival may build loyalty, volunteering and giving to churches but also encourage social distancing rather than evangelism and compassion for the good of the community and Kingdom.
  2. Love Your Life – Scriptural Relativism (selective amnesia regarding Bible verses deemed too controversial or demanding for “consumers”) is more prevalent than ever today as churches recover from the pandemic, praying to get back to “normal”.  Our Scriptural Relativism fuels society’s Moral Relativism.  Sermons, songs and books accentuate the positives, citing verses like Jeremiah 29:11, Romans 8:28 and Philippians 4:13, but ignoring inconvenient passages about sin, accountability, sanctification and the costs of discipleship.  In fact, a recent Barna study found that 51% of Christians have never even heard of the Great Commission.  Without a biblical view of our ongoing struggle against sins of omission and commission, we don’t see the log still in our own eye when we look in the mirror.  Not understanding God’s commands to love above all else, we have not represented Him well.  Our cries for justice now come across as judgment, what we intend as compassion is seen as condemnation, our selflessness is considered self-righteousness, and even our humility is labeled hypocrisy.  It’s no wonder why we’ve lost our voice and can’t seem to do much “right” in modern American culture.
  3. Love Yourself – To revive a Church that was already declining in attendance, membership, impact, influence and perception before COVID-19, Christian leaders cave to social pressure and repeat culture’s rallying cries to be all you can be and make the most of your abilities.  We leverage ideals the world is selling and put a Christian twist on it, modifying “you’re perfect just as you are” to say “we (and God) love you just as you are”.  In other words, “there’s no need to change” – so most don’t.  And God’s role isn’t to transform you but to get you through (or out of) difficult situations, the primary theme of contemporary Christian music.  “Sin” is no longer part of society’s vernacular, so we don’t address it in church either.  That inconsistency between our (external) words and (internal) actions is evident to media vultures eager to pounce on the next fallen pastor.  Our efforts to accommodate culture’s obsession with its own “goodness” have backfired, putting us under their microscope since we claim to live by a moral standard (whereas society feels it shouldn’t be judged since it has no such standard).

Christians do have a new nature – one exemplified and marked by the characteristics of Jesus like humility, servanthood, compassion, and associating with “sinners”.  So how do we look to the world so little like Jesus?  The answer, at least in part, is that our churches look different than Jesus envisioned.  Exciting worship, applicable sermons, and fun fellowship may produce cultural Christians who love their church, love life and love themselves, but not necessarily Spirit-filled disciples who truly love God and their neighbors.

It’s Your Turn…

In the next blog post, we will discuss how Christians and churches can convey that we’re not better so our nation can see that Jesus is best.  Please share any thoughts, prayers and ideas about how to communicate how desperately we all need a Savior.  That may be the only hope to keep America from plunging into the next and final phase of its history.

Dispelling the Delusion Fueling America’s Demise

Mar 17, 21
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All facets of our society today verbally espouse and claim “goodness”, yet in their actions reveal and appeal to man’s sinful human nature.  Our nature is not good – the Bible says it, the evidence confirms it, and even the “enlightened” do not actually believe it deep down.  Our misplaced faith in mankind will be America’s downfall.  Only debunking the myth that man is inherently good can reverse our nation’s current collision course before the Age of Decadence cascades into an Age of Decline.

How the Delusion Fuels our Demise

What harm is there in believing people are naturally good?  It seems counterintuitive that assuming the best can be bad.  Yet once a nation’s trust transitions from almighty God to fallible men and women, dynamics kick into gear that erode culture and threaten its survival…

  1. Faith – Living for the temporal rather than the eternal, the creature rather than the Creator, roots people’s purpose in pride, happiness and self-preservation
  2. Hope – Teaching children they are cosmic accidents leads to exactly what we’re seeing today…depression, drugs, suicide and virtual reality games
  3. Love – Inventing cheap imitations of (active) Agape replaces God’s love with (passive) political correctness, tolerance, appearances, and cancellation of “haters”
  4. Compassion – Encouraging transactional assistance brings acclaim and donations to charitable organizations, but perpetuates poverty and decreases dignity
  5. Leadership – Depending on government as “savior” eventually leads to control and bankruptcy, whereas godly leaders humbly and responsibly serve and empower
  6. Civility – Defining “family”, “truth”, “right” and “wrong” however we see fit results in social unrest, escapism, selfishness and lawlessness
  7. Morality – Having all the freedoms, possessions, conveniences and education we ever dreamed of has compromised our values, elevated our anger, cramped our schedules, and restricted our speech

Our post-Christian culture, left to own devices, will take us down the same road followed by all other superpowers in world history.  The time periods and nationalities may change, but human nature remains the same.

How Christians Can Dispel the Delusion

America inches closer to the Age of Decline & Collapse every time another citizen buys the lie that man is inherently good.  The clock is ticking.  Convincing society that man is actually evil is the only way to save America from impending doom.  But that’s not going to be easy.  It flies in the face of everything Hollywood, universities, social media, music and politicians are telling us in this Age of Decadence.  The self-aggrandizing walls they have conspired to construct leave no room for repentance or revival.  Who needs Jesus when I’m “living my truth” in an identity bubble impervious to imposition of anyone else’s definition of “good“ and “bad”.  With no standard for morality – enlightened, deserving, empowered and perfect just as they are – they must wonder why Jesus paid such high price for sins they never committed.

Yet there is hope.  The onslaught of people-positive messaging has been necessary to sustain the delusion because a realistic self-perception lies just below the surface.  Every minute that a person diligently pursues elusive self-actualization, he or she precariously teeters on the edge of self-awareness.  In other words, while chasing the new American dream of freedom from moral restraint or remorse, guilt and shame are always nipping at their heels.  Exposing someone’s true nature then should be as simple as convincing them to look just under the covers.  The house of cards falls when they take off the blinders for a second and question the bill of goods they are being sold.

That’s why most non-believers push Christians and Christianity as far away as possible – to maintain the fragile illusion, retain the right to live as they please, and ignore their conscience.  That’s why friends who don’t know the Lord often lose touch – typically you inevitably find out they went down a bad path.  Being in the mere presence of a Christ-follower would have turned on a light they would rather remain extinguished.

And that’s why there is no need to confront society head-on with an “air war”, dropping verbal bombs, to destroy the delusion.  The better plan of attack is a “ground war”, lovingly shining the light on man’s sinful human nature by comparison to God’s holiness.  Jesus modeled and mandated several imperatives for making people aware of their sin and their need for Him:

  1. He demonstrated His power and Peter “fell at Jesus’ knees and said, ‘Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!’” (Luke 5:8)
  2. He showed His compassion and the leper “fell with his face to the ground and begged him, ‘Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.’”  (Luke 5:12)
  3. He offered His forgiveness and “everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, ‘We have seen remarkable things today.’” (Luke 5:26)

Witnessing God’s power, compassion and forgiveness they came face to face with God’s nature and undeniably understood their unworthiness.  Instantly, they realized being in proximity to Jesus was standing on holy ground.  The Church is the Bride of Christ tasked with being His hands and feet, to carry on His work by the power of the Holy Spirit.  But does stepping into most churches today feel like walking on holy ground?  If not, why not?  We represent a God so awesome in radiant brilliance that no one among fallen humanity should be able to come into His presence without confessing and transforming in the blink of an eye.

Our job is to reflect the Lord’s nature to the world to illuminate man’s sinful nature.  To help us, as Christ-followers we are born again into a new human nature “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:24)  We are reborn and commanded to “let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)  But do we have enough counter-cultural courage to convey that transformed nature, one so loving and humble that those around us question their own “goodness”?

Good isn’t good without bad.  Bad isn’t bad without good.  Lacking examples of what is truly good (God alone), society in this Age of Decadence has deemed itself to be the epitome of “good”.  Anyone denying man’s infallibility by criticizing someone else’s behavior is their definition of “bad”.  “Tolerance is the last virtue of a depraved society” (D. James Kennedy)  Before it’s too late, Christians and churches must expose sin and dispel the delusion as Jesus did – revealing His holiness by doing the opposite of what human nature typically does.  However, our response to the “culture war” has looked too much like the behaviors of non-believers – and they expect more of the same.  It’s time to invoke a Christ-like “shock and awe” strategy, loving those who hate us as Jesus instructed…

  • Expecting judgement, surprise them with kindness
  • Expecting confrontation, respond with service
  • Expecting self-righteousness, give them confession
  • Expecting hypocrisy, be transparent (otherwise people can’t see Jesus through us)
  • Expecting retreat into our comfortable confines, take the Gospel out
  • Expecting us to take care of our own, pour out generosity
  • Expecting retribution on social media, offer forgiveness
  • Expecting division amongst ourselves, show unity and love for one another
  • Expecting self-centeredness, die to self

Frankly, it’s not hard to “compete” with human nature.  People do what people do.  They may say the right things and care for a little while, but soon get too busy or disinterested to keep encouraging or helping.  They will make promises, but in the time of greatest need, usually don’t come through.   It’s actually incredibly simple to stand out in stark contrast from the secular crowd.  Just be the one person who stays by the non-Christian’s side when everyone else in their self-centered world disappears.  For example, here are some equilibrium-rocking acts of kindness we’ve put into practice that you could try…

  • Frequently visit an acquaintance you don’t know very well who’s in the hospital
  • Reach out to the unfaithful husband all your other friends are condemning in a divorce
  • Commit to coaching and supporting a single mom or dad who is near bankruptcy
  • Every month, text and call someone you barely knew who lost a parent or spouse
  • Offer to foster abused children
  • Disciple someone you just met weekly over coffee or Zoom in response to God’s prompting
  • Organize church workdays at an elderly, lonely person’s house and stop by on other days to talk to them
  • At Christian holidays, have meals delivered to all your neighbors
  • Write or show up at jail often for an ostracized friend who committed a crime
  • Tired after a week of business travel, talk to the person on the plane sitting next to you and email them occasionally afterward
  • When a neighbor’s A/C or heating system goes out, reach out to your contacts in the business, call in a favor, and get them fast service and discounts
  • When someone’s son or daughter has surgery, keep asking how they’re doing for weeks afterward
  • Organize a fundraiser for a family that cannot afford to cover a large, unexpected cost

Society envisions utopia but instead gets entropy because the only counter-cultural force in the universe is the sanctification of believers through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Human nature doesn’t ever get better unless it is transformed by God’s nature.  Humans take care of themselves and serve (transactionally) until life gets in the way.  While the world is saying the right thing, do the right thing for a long time and, believe me, you’ll stick out like a sore thumb!  People will feel like they are standing on holy ground when you act nothing like anyone else!  They’ll wonder, “Who would do such a strange, odd, weird thing that no one else would do when I needed it most – well, apparently a Christian would”!

Be the only one still there when all others have ”left the building” and you’ll see your friend start to question their own “goodness”.  Be the “pastor” of your neighborhood – who shows up, prays, consoles and actually does something about problems neighbors are having – and watch as they begin to dig below the surface of the world’s superficiality!  They will only see its darkness if you reflect the bright light of Jesus.  You can only reactivate someone’s dormant conscience if you give them a glimpse of Christ’s righteousness.

It’s Your Turn…

Provide examples of how you or your church have shattered perceptions of Christians as judgmental, God as non-existent, Jesus as unnecessary, and mankind as the hero of its own story.

The Delusion Fueling America’s Demise

Mar 03, 21
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The uncanny correlation of America’s history with the rise and fall of the world’s superpowers indicates that our end may be closer than we think.  Our evolution through ages of pioneering, commerce, affluence, intellect and decadence mirrors the stages experienced by past civilizations before their collapse.  The time required to complete that cycle has averaged roughly 250 years, a birthday America will celebrate in the not-too-distant future.

Empires run their natural course according to a consistent progression and timeline because humans are uniform in their thoughts and tendencies across centuries and nationalities.  The faith initially required to achieve the freedoms enjoyed in a democracy dissipates when sinful human nature encounters the pitfalls of progress and prosperity.  In other words, reliance on God during times of uncertainty evolves into self-sufficiency in times of abundance.

It is that transition from reliance on God’s provision to belief in our adequacy that precipitates the inevitable.  Ironically, our sinful human nature both leads to the Age of Decadence and then prompts the ultimate deception that hastens the Age of Decline & Collapse – the fallacy that our human nature is not sinful, but inherently good.

A wealthy and educated society no longer sees a need to subscribe or subject itself to the arcane principles and practices of the previously “unenlightened”.  It establishes new, less rigid standards of behavior and celebrates new, more superficial heroes.  It defines new virtues like self-determination, welfare distribution and dissent suppression.  It then surveys all it has created – selfishness, dependence and coercion – and declares, “Behold, it was very good”.  Yet denying or reframing sin does not eradicate it.  As the Lord warned Cain right before he killed Abel, sin still lies crouching at your door.  Faith, family and freedom quickly deteriorate in nations that call evil good and good evil, while division, debt and defenselessness against threats mount.

What the Bible Says…

Scripture commands us to dwell on whatever is pure…whatever is admirable, leading even some Christians to believe they should assume the best about human nature.  However, Paul is speaking of diverting thoughts from worldly anxieties, renewing our minds through preoccupation with God’s good, pleasing and perfect will.  Only God is good and only what He creates is “very good”.  Every good and perfect gift is from above.  It was man who corrupted what God intended for good in the Garden of Eden.  Now men are dragged away by their own evil desires, causing the downfall of even the most powerful nations.

Likewise, what modern American society calls good, including human nature, is neither pure nor admirableWhatever belongs to our earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed defines the State of the Union as we wallow in the Age of Decadence.  We have exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator.  Our only hope is Jesus, who came to pay a debt He didn’t owe because we owed a debt we couldn’t pay.  Yet our Post-Christian culture does not acknowledge that debt or accept His payment.  Regardless, one day at the name of Jesus every knee will bowand every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

God’s Word goes further, saying there is no one righteous, not even one.  Even our righteous acts are like filthy rags.  Human nature enables only selfish motives for apparent benevolence.  After years in ministry Paul confessed, “For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.  For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.  For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing.  Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.”  We may attempt to clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside we are full of greed and self-indulgence without Jesus.  Our sinful nature is a slave to the law of sin unless we are reborn by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Through Jesus we can become a new creation and slaves to righteousness instead of sin, resulting in sanctification.  My nature is transformed because it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.

What the World Says…

Nearly every facet of today’s culture conveys a message diametrically opposed to that biblical assessment of human nature.  The absence of sin requires no repentance.  The only people seen as bad are those who refuse to believe that everyone else is good.  The only sin is telling someone they are sinning.  The only accepted standard of behavior is the requirement that no one attempt to impose one.  In effect, those social norms are perfectly designed to block the Gospel message: 1) “I don’t need good news if there’s no bad news”, and 2) “Any attempt to present the good news is actually bad news” (i.e. socially unacceptable).  In lieu of the Gospel, society has replaced the Lord’s good news with the “better” news that Americans can be liberated from the shackles of amazing grace and free to worship at the altars of self, science, sex and success.

  • Social Media – Facebook and Twitter are closely monitored for posts, tweets or likes reflecting non-conformance to established norms of common decency.  Personal beliefs and inclinations are set aside to portray to the public an exemplary nature they do not possess.  Most conceal the reality that not long ago they either did not care about or disagreed with positions they now feel compelled not only to approve, but to celebrate.
  • Corporations – Executives are quick to publish letters decrying any “intolerable” stances or behaviors as if they were genuinely appalled.  If they were so concerned, why had they never spoken out before it became politically expedient to preserve profitability?  And failure by an employee to adopt the company’s profit-driven public opinion has become a CLM (Career-Limiting Move), resulting in firing or demotion.
  • Politicians – The same individuals running vicious campaigns and apologizing profusely for “ignorant” statements made years before they “awoke” pretend their flawed human nature is now reformed.  Feigning offense at someone else’s “insensitivity” to win votes, they speak far more harsh words behind closed doors in accordance with their true selves.
  • Media – Hollywood touts the goodness of the human spirit, but then strategizes to produce movies and shows that would appeal only to an evil nature.  In fact, a series may begin fairly benign but quickly escalates to satisfy growing appetites for sex and violence fed by earlier episodes.  Those themes even dominate news outlets, knowing audiences are more interested in death, disasters and corruption than stories of kindness.
  • Celebrities – Many actors, musicians and athletes publicize their generosity and speak out opportunistically about issues grabbing the headlines, but how often do most work diligently and quietly behind the scenes to mentor, support and serve those they claim to care about so much?
  • Poor – Government is increasingly competing with Jesus in America for the right to be regarded as “savior”.  We cannot serve both God and money any more than we can be dependent on both God and government.  Reliance opens the door to abuse of power when funds may be withheld without compliance.  Communism isn’t far behind when government defines right and wrong, using welfare to control whoever it deems the oppressed and using regulations to control whoever it labels the oppressor.
  • Charities – Even private-sector compassion efforts are often tainted by “checking the box” through transactional hand-outs that make donors feel good but actually do more harm than good, perpetuating poverty.  We need to #ReimagineCompassion through a more dignified approach to helping families plot their own course to a better future.
  • Churches – Many churches are debating how involved to get in today’s hot-button issues, fearing the consequences of speaking out.  Some leaders would rather remain quiet or conform to culture rather than risk potentially futile attempts to transform it.  In the interest of not sounding “judgmental”, Christians understandably see themselves in a “glass house” but must still recognize the difference in their natures after being “born again”.
  • Other Religions – Christianity is the only religion on earth that holds a realistic depiction of human nature, teaching mankind cannot alter our eternal fate through our own goodness (external actions) or inner divinity (internal discovery).  Only Christianity says God came down because we were too sinful to aspire to rise up – even one inch.

Without Jesus, nations always believe the lie that man’s goodness will bring utopia, but entropy is the outcome of the truth that humans are actually sinful.  Power doesn’t become justice, but control.  Uniformity doesn’t become unity, but division.  Sex doesn’t become love, but deviance.  Atheism doesn’t become freedom, but depression.  Dependence doesn’t become equality, but poverty.  Wealth doesn’t become generosity, but greed.  Promises don’t become trustworthiness, but betrayal.  Education doesn’t become wisdom, but delusion.  Advancement doesn’t become progress, but pride.  Those are the reasons why letting our guards down by subscribing to a faulty fundamental premise will soon lead America from the Age of Decadence to the Age of Decline.

What Do You Say?…

In the next blog post, we will talk more about how Christians and churches can dispel the myth that man is inherently good, and potentially reverse our nation’s current collision course.  Please share your thoughts, prayers and ideas on those topics…

Can America’s Demise be Averted?

Feb 18, 21
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Churchill wrote, “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”  Sir John Glubb provided a prophetic history lesson to America in 1976, tracing the common pattern all empires follow from rise to fall.  Writing at our bicentennial, Glubb gave America ample time to avoid repetition of the final stages – the Age of Affluence, the Age of Intellect and the Age of Decadence – before the typical 250 year “expiration date” of the world’s superpowers.

Yet despite the benefits of hindsight and Christian heritage, our nation has reenacted the latter phases precisely.  Commerce led to wealth that it maintained and expanded through education.  “Enlightenment” called into question America’s foundational Christian values, eroding moral standards and respect for authority and institutions.  Imposition of new “higher” standards under the guise of a genuine concern for defending the rights of the “oppressed” by regulating “oppressors” creates a welfare state that chips away at the very freedoms acquired and celebrated during the prior stages.  Years of decadence, division and dependence then eventually breed decay, undermining families, economies and defenses against external forces.

“A democracy…can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury.  From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship.” (Alexander Fraser Tytler)

Is there any hope?  Has the die been cast?  Are the pieces already in place and dynamics that led to the demise of other great nations too powerful for America to overcome?  Or does 2 Chronicles 7:13-14 give us one last chance to “humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways”.  If so, perhaps the Lord “will hear from heaven,…forgive their sin and…heal their land.”

What Christians Shouldn’t Do…

Jesus established His Church for “such a time as this”.  Church is not a place, a building, a pastor or a weekly event.  You and I are the personification of “church” – the hands and feet of Christ.  Churches are charged with making disciples, those best equipped to avert the certain disaster awaiting a society that once collectively bowed before the Father but now mocks His Son.

John Adams famously said, “Our Constitution was designed only for a moral and religious people.  It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”  Yet in recent decades the institution and individuals commissioned by God to combat the worldly influences of the Ages of Affluence, Intellect and Decadence have seemingly changed culture less than they have been changed by it.  America will undoubtedly move into the final phase of our history, the Age of Decline & Collapse, if Christians continue to capitulate to culture by…

1.  Giving In…

  • to the World – People invest their hearts, trust and energy in whoever they can count on for support in difficult times.  When the pandemic first struck, millions turned to Jesus in a panic but soon rejoined those celebrating the triumph of the human spirit as science delivered vaccines and the Fed printed stimulus dollars.
  • to Pressure – Seeds scattered on the rocky ground have no roots and wither when persecution comes.  Being a Christian in the U.S. today puts careers and reputations at risk for not wholeheartedly applauding unbiblical lifestyles and activities.
  • to Division – Christians divide over public policy and politics, yet Scripture provides a reference point and clarion call for unity that will draw us together if we seek righteousness over being “right”.

2.  Giving Up…

  • on the Church – We know the end of the story, which may not include America but certainly includes the Church.  The pandemic exposed the flaws of a building-centric model rooted in attracting and retaining churchgoers rather than equipping and deploying disciples.  Nevertheless, the Church prevails in the end so while we call for reform, we should not forsake meeting together.
  • on Non-Believers – Even if the story does not end well for our nation, there are too many lives at stake to submit our resignations and await the inevitable.  Rather than succumb to PC to avoid retribution, we must engage the culture war through a “ground war” of compassion to earn the right to conduct an “air war” of evangelism.
  • on our Youth – Studies characterize Gen Z as post-Christian, self-absorbed, screen-fixated and disillusioned.  Yet they are America’s hope and future, and despite appearances crave community, mentors and purpose more than you would expect.

3.  Turning Inward…

  • to Protect Our Turf – Rather than boldly and lovingly reaching out to non-believers and the next generation, Christians are known for defending their staunch positions from the comfortable confines of social media or a church building.
  • to Check the Box – Often when Christians do extend a helping hand, society doubts their sincerity because it is done “at a distance” through occasional, transactional outreach events that do not change lives or alleviate poverty.  Relational, ongoing compassion holds their hands, equipping families to plot a course to a better future.
  • to Affirm Ourselves – Despite helping in ways that actually hurt over the holiday season, churches celebrate their kindness while the poor remain hungry and hurting in January and February.  Yet most pastors have already moved on to other culture-appropriate, congregation-affirming topics that do not challenge Christ-followers to year-round compassion, evangelism and discipleship.

4.  Turning Back…

  • to “Normal” – We miss our church friends and activities, wishing we could get back to the “old normal” of an inward-focused Church that was rapidly declining in growth, impact, influence and perception in America before the pandemic.  A “new normal” is needed to respond to the failure of a building-centric model to prepare members to lead neighbors to Jesus when they couldn’t simply invite them to a Sunday service.
  • to “Better” Days – Injustice and hypocrisy existed even within the Christian community throughout America’s Age of Conquests, Commerce, Affluence and Intellect.  It’s time for a new reality where segregation and legalism are not part of our story (because they were never part of His-story).
  • to “Old” Methods – That “new normal” and “new reality” should take into account that what “worked” to engage non-believers and youth 30 years ago may not be as effective in today’s culture.  The mission and message never changes but a post-Christian, media-driven society demands “new methods” to share eternal truths.

“If you can’t beat them, join them” and “to each his own” are not found anywhere in Scripture.  It’s not God-honoring or productive to sit quietly by, retreat into our shells, or bemoan how evil our culture has become.  Darkness does what darkness always does.  Darkness is the absence of light, so Christians are commanded to shine the light of Christ until He pierces the darkness.

What Christians Should Do…

There is hope.  America may be in the Age of Decadence but does not have to descend into the Age of Decline & Collapse.  The Bible lays out a roadmap for Christ-followers to lead nations to a different destination – God’s forgiveness and healing – through humility, prayer, worship and repentance.  Our culture is already showing signs that its self-centered, fragile psyche is starting to crumble.  Now is the time for you and me to point society to its Savior by…

1.  Loving Well

  • God – doing a better job of showing we trust God and not government for salvation
  • Each Other – modeling unity and generosity to a world divided and dependent
  • Others – presenting an alternative to anger by loving those who revile Christians

2.  Living Well

  • at Home – becoming the “pastor” of your family and neighborhood
  • at Work – carrying Sunday into Monday even when your company and colleagues don’t deem your faith PC
  • In Your City – leading Prayer/Care/Share ministry both inside and outside your church

3.  Giving Well…

  • Generously – renouncing greed, the primary driver behind each of Glubb’s 7 stages
  • Compassionately – investing wisely and joyfully in the poor, not under compulsion
  • Efficiently – dispelling the myth that only those who support welfare programs care about the poor, demonstrating how private sector ministries are far more effective

4.  Teaching Well…

  • Boldly – not taking the easy way out by letting your “godly” living do all your talking for you
  • Truthfully – painting a holistic picture of God, not trying to make Him more palatable for today’s culture
  • Effectively – realizing there is no way to avoid the topics of sin, forgiveness and repentance in leading someone to Jesus

Rerouting from the Age of Decadence to an Age of Revival hinges on Christians, by the power of the Holy Spirit, getting more of the Church into the world and less of the world into the Church.

It’s Your Turn…

Why has a nation with Christian roots essentially followed the same destructive pattern as pagan empires throughout history?  Please share your thoughts on what believers and churches could have done to divert society from the pitfalls of conquest, commerce, affluence, intellect and decadence – and what they should do now to avoid decline and collapse.

Nearing the Last Stage of American History

Feb 03, 21
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Civilizations throughout history go through phases of growth, stability, maturity, decline and collapse.  The British, Spanish, Roman, Persian and Babylonian empires all followed an eerily similar pattern, averaging a lifespan of roughly 250 years.  Sir John Glubb researched and outlined those stages in his book, “The Fate of Empires and the Search for Survival”, published in 1976, America’s bicentennial.  Our nation’s age (245 years) and evolution appear to place us toward the end of that typical process…

  1. The Age of Pioneers – Explorers settle new lands and displace existing people groups
  2. The Age of Conquests – Military forms to establish dominance and expand territories
  3. The Age of Commerce – With security established, people are free to pursue livelihood
  4. The Age of Affluence – Offense converts to defense to protect increasing wealth and privilege
  5. The Age of Intellect – Advancement hinges on education, producing academics who question the founders’ values and religious beliefs
  6. The Age of Decadence – Wealth and “wisdom” erode morality, citizens look to celebrities for role models, and immigration helps fuel a welfare state
  7. The Age of Decline & Collapse – Years of decadence, division and dependence breed decay, undermining families, economies and defenses against external forces

The faith initially required to achieve the freedoms enjoyed in a democracy dissipates when sinful human nature encounters the pitfalls of progress and prosperity.  In other words, reliance on God during times of uncertainty evolves into self-sufficiency in times of abundance.  In 1798, John Adams warned, “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion.  Avarice, ambition, revenge or gallantry would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net.  Our Constitution was designed only for a moral and religious people.  It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

Is America in the Penultimate Stage?

Mercy, obedience, conscience and compassion are hallmarks of Christianity and guideposts for effective democracy.  It is not coincidence that America’s well-documented arrival into “post-Christian” status occurred back when we appeared to be entering the Age of Decadence.  Does that confluence portend the end?

How long will the U.S.A. endure when it is clearly no longer “one nation under God” or “indivisible”?  Or to quote Mark Twain, are rumors of America’s death greatly exaggerated?  We won’t know if its demise is imminent, at the precipice of the Age of Decline & Collapse, unless we confirm we have entered the Age of Decadence.  Consider the evidence based on the Lord’s dire warnings of destruction in Isaiah 5…

  1. Our Perspectives – “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil.” (v. 20)  Our society labels abortion “health care”, celebrates perversion, and considers self-centeredness a virtue.  Human nature is seen as inherently good, so individuals are free to determine what is right and wrong for themselves with limited standards (religion) or restraints (police).
  2. Our Priorities – “Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes.” (v. 21)  Education is seen as the ticket to progress and prosperity, so it is pursued (even by Christian parents) with full knowledge that universities will teach their children atheism as fact.  Yet they are in such demand that college tuition is the only investment in America that has never experienced a “bubble” – and celebrities risk prison to acquire admission for their kids.
  3. Our Purpose – “Woe to those who drag their sins behind them.” (v. 18)  The scales have tipped where votes cast for money and immorality – financial gain and godless depravity – long ago outnumbered those for selfless ideals or biblical principles.  Freedom of Christian speech and practice has been subjugated to freedom to violate God’s law without regulation or remorse.
  4. Our Position – “Woe to you who add house to house.” (v. 8)  To defend a standard of living that would require four earths to sustain (if everyone on the planet consumed as much as the average U.S. citizen), we have risked our nation’s financial viability and standing in the global economy.  The world already questions our values, leadership, ethics and unity – and now through media outlets gets a front row seat to watch America grow more indebted and divided.
  5. Our Population – “Woe those who say, ‘Let God hurry; let him hasten his work so we may see it.’” (v. 19)  The number of Americans identifying as Christian is declining, while the percent professing no faith or another religion continues to rise.  Our houses may be getting bigger but our families are getting smaller.  The extraordinary difference in birth rates between Muslim and Christian families, immigration policies and the influence of universities and media will continue to make it more unusual (and challenging) to ascribe to Christian values.
  6. Our Persecution – “Woe to those who…deny justice to the innocent.” (v. 23)  Mocking Jesus and Christians on TV and movies is evolving into censure and career “cancellation” for not condoning what contradicts God’s Word.  Ministries that until now focused on mobilizing U.S. resources to aid persecuted Christians in other countries are turning their attention to persecution on our own shores.
  7. Our Pollution – “Therefore the Lord’s anger burns against his people.” (v. 25)  Many debate whether America was founded as a “Christian” nation.  Our roots were certainly heavily influenced by Christianity, but the past few decades have seen culture change churches more than churches have changed culture.  Secular pressures and ideas have infiltrated the “4 walls”, diluting adherence of believers to core biblical truths.

Evidence appears to point to a connection between America’s departure from Christian ideals and our step across the threshold of the Age of Decadence.  No doubt we entered the Age of Commerce, Affluence and Intellect many years ago; however, the analysis above shows signs we (at some point) moved beyond those into the penultimate stage.  If history is a guide, Glubb predicts the Age of Decadence will precipitate our next and final phase – the Age of Decline & Collapse.  It is not hard to envision a day in the not-too-distant future when our financial systems implode from greed and debt, an oppressive government suppresses religious expression, and modern conveniences and distractions wear down Christian defenses against socially acceptable mores.

If So, What Should the Church Do?

Evangelist Charles Finney, credited for much of America’s “Second Great Awakening”, said in 1873, “If there is a decay of conscience, the pulpit is responsible for it.  If the public press lacks moral discernment, the pulpit is responsible for it.  If the church is degenerate and worldly, the pulpit is responsible for it.  If the world loses its interest in Christianity, the pulpit is responsible for it.  If Satan rules in our halls of legislation, the pulpit is responsible for it.  If our politics become so corrupt that the very foundations of our government are ready to fall away, the pulpit is responsible for it.”

The four-year “reprieve” Christians celebrated under a church-friendly President did little to stem cultural momentum away from the Lord.  Regardless of who bears responsibility for where we are now, only the Church has the (Spirit-powered) ability to help America avert impending disaster.  If we are rapidly approaching America’s sunset, the question is “what does Jesus want His Church to do about it?”

  1. Our ReformationReturn to a definition of “church” as people and not a place, where members are Kingdom “employees” equipped to pursue the real “customer”, those who do not yet know the Lord.
  2. Our RepentanceSeek God first by turning from therapeutic religion catering to the worries and cares of attenders to outright surrender and accountability through intensive discipleship.
  3. Our Resolve – When being a Christian is a crime, will you be thrown in jail?  If we truly believed there is a hell, we would risk comfort today, and one day persecution, to share the hard truths about sin and repentance with family and friends.
  4. Our Revival – Personal transformation through prayer, worship, repentance and an eternal perspective is the path to church revival.  People will not cry out unless they are radically altered within, which churches are intended to facilitate.
  5. Our Recourse – Jesus confronted unjust leadership but was not political, rending “what is Caesar’s unto Caesar”.  He fought evil with good by healing and feeding, waging a ground war of love and service rather than an arms-length air war of dropping verbal bombs.
  6. Our Relationships – Genuine compassion is high-touch (#ReimagineCompassion), yet most churches practice transactional handouts through occasional events that “check the box”, don’t actually alleviate poverty, and position the “rich” as superior to the “poor”.
  7. Our Restoration – Our redemption will not be institution of a theocracy where Christian leaders occupy the tops of the 7 Mountains, but reestablishment of Jesus as Lord of our land – collectively raising Christ up by falling down in worship, love and evangelism.

If America is actually in the Age of Decadence, perhaps the Lord will choose to spare us if we repent and return to Him.  Can we expect the downward trajectory of our nation’s faith and morality over the past few decades suddenly to reverse course toward Jesus if churches go back to business as usual after the pandemic?  The Age of Decline & Collapse awaits unless we internalize the lessons learned from COVID-19 – how being unable to meet in a building exposed the perils of not entrusting individuals with responsibility for the Great Commission and making “church” too much about a pastor and a place.

It’s Your Turn…

Where do you think America is today in terms of Glubb’s 7 stages?  Based on your answer, what should the Church’s response be to steer our country away from the next phase?

Is Your Church Seeking God First?

Jan 21, 21
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Not every house of God seeks God first.  What a person or church seeks first is a matter of priority and sequence – above all else and before all else.  Church growth or survival are noble goals but only if they’re achieved through pure motives and methods.  God’s foremost command to make disciples should not be sacrificed for the sake of butts, bucks or buildings.  The Lord’s call for selfless unity, sacrificial love and sanctifying obedience should not be deemphasized to make visitors feel more comfortable.  Jesus’ frequent insinuations that those who don’t serve the poor aren’t saved should not be ignored to reallocate budgets to facilities and amenities.  Like other Christians, church leaders face temptations, which are stronger now than ever with giving and attendance projected to be 20-30% lower than their (already declining) pre-pandemic levels.

Prior to COVID-19, church growth and leadership were the primary topics at pastor conferences and denominational meetings – and the subject of most books and articles written for pastors.  Despite all that advice and coaching, it quickly became apparent that few churches had prepared members to take advantage of the incredible evangelistic and compassion opportunity presented by the pandemic.  Most churchgoers weren’t ready to assume their rightful responsibility as the personification of “church” in their neighborhoods when the sanctuary doors were slammed shut.  Yet churches still pray fervently to return to normal so they can resume the same pastor-centric, building-oriented model that failed to equip members in 2020 to share the Gospel, answer tough questions, and shun self-preservation.

Whether a church seeks God first, above all else and before all else, may be measured by the same standard applied to Christians – faith over fear.  Uncertainty about the post-COVID future may keep many church leaders from addressing the discipleship gap revealed by the pandemic.  Disciple-making is long, slow, arduous, time-consuming and often painful.  How can we ask members to do more when we already expect lower attendance, engagement and giving going forward?  Discipleship is costly, including the risk of precipitating an already precipitous decline in the metrics churches use to measure “success”.  However, the past year called those metrics into question and begs a transition to indicators more closely correlated with seeking God first…

  • What kind of growth?  Our new reality should change the question “how large is your church?” to “how big is your footprint?”.  Whether the auditorium is full is less important than counting all those attending in any form (e.g. micro-gatherings) and all those impacted by the church (e.g. being reached with the Gospel by members).
  • How is growth occurring?  Is “success” a result of addition (transfers from other churches or invitations to hear from a “professional”) or multiplication (equipping members to invite people to Jesus rather than just to a church service)?  How a church grows dictates what it does when new people show up, either challenging them to fully surrender to Christ or to be a dutiful church citizen.
  • Why does the church want to grow?  A growing church that is not made up of growing Christians is seeking self-sustainability, not God, first.  The size of a gathering does not determine the percentage who are disciples – in fact, those are typically inversely related.  If disciple-making and deployment is the objective, then expectations will flip from enjoying benign sermons to holding churchgoers accountable for reproducing Christ-followers.

Churches that seek God first see numerical growth as a result of obedience, regardless of the risks, and not as the goal.  Even if they do not experience growth, they refuse to compromise their priorities (seeking God above all else) or their sequence (seeking God before all else).

Above All Else…

Like entrepreneurs, church planters have little to lose at first and are highly focused on the mission.  Their emphasis on building deeply into a few folks and connecting with the community spurs growth, which soon needs to be managed.  The pressures and bureaucracy of running an organization can distract from the original vision God gave leadership, and other priorities may begin to take precedence…

  1. Attendance – The stakes get higher as more people show up on Sunday mornings, and weekend services become the main emphasis of pastors and staff.  In the early church “the Lord added to their number daily” but most churches today hope to “add to their number weekly”.
  2. Engagement – Attendance spikes drive the need for volunteers to perform “church chores” geared to produce more growth.  Yet despite friendly greeters and child care workers, statistics show alarmingly few people are coming to Christ annually in most U.S. churches.
  3. Expansion – If you plant churches you may not get disciples, but if you make disciples then you will plant more churches.  Business consultants joke that the way to increase profits of products with no margin is through more volume.  Likewise, Kingdom “profits” don’t increase by planting more churches that don’t make disciples.
  4. Viability – The high costs of a model that entrusts pastors with sole responsibility for leading people to Jesus also puts undo pressure on them to raise funds.  We pay landscaping companies when we don’t feel like doing your own yard, and compensate churches when we don’t want to endure the discomfort of talking about Jesus.
  5. Influence – New churches launch with flat hierarchies and expectations that everyone will carry their share of the Great Commission load.  Ironically, that role centralizes rather than disperses with growth.  Layers of authority and structure are established and deference to the “preacher” escalates (as the audience to whom he is speaking increases in size).

Churches are seeking growth (and not God) first if that growth isn’t intended to or effective in making sold-out, fully-surrendered disciples who multiply more disciples.

Before All Else…

God-honoring church growth is the byproduct of following the biblical sequence of seeking God first and then watching Him produce fruit from our labor

  1. Prayer & Worship – A church’s first order of business is humility, thankfulness and trust.  Apart from Jesus we can do nothing.  Equipping and empowering churchgoers begins here – not listening and watching while pastors and bands pray and worship, but engaging personally in both.
  2. Outreach – Evangelism doesn’t typically precede compassion, at least not for Jesus.  Following His model means “healing” and feeding first, then telling them who He is.  Churches whose goal is growth for the sake of growth “check the box” through transactional, not transformational, assistance at the holidays that actually perpetuates poverty (#ReimagineCompassion).
  3. Evangelism – This final step of Prayer-Care-Share calls churches to seek God first by educating and urging members not to withhold their knowledge of the cure for cancer from the terminally ill, a distributed model for evangelism and discipleship.
  4. Disciple-making – A church committed to making disciples and not converts must define new volunteer roles to delegate responsibilities for establishing mentoring relationships, running accountability groups, and leading micro-gatherings.
  5. Growth – Lastly comes growth, but not only the kind measured by counting heads on Sunday morning.  The first four steps in this sequence expand the church’s reach well beyond the pastor’s imagination or control.  Personal growth fueled by repentance for “doing” church rather than being the church, by the power of the Holy Spirit, can spark revival throughout a community or city.

Implementing this biblical process within a church brings additional benefits not experienced by “Church as We Know It” in America today.  Churches that seek God first need far fewer dollars to operate, distribute the workload, alleviate pastor/staff burnout, improve stewardship of underutilized physical facilities throughout the week, and breed a culture of generosity.

It’s Your Turn…

When someone tells you they go to a great church, ask them what happens there from Monday through Saturday.  Are members actively sharing the Good News, serving the poor and experiencing personal transformation that radically alters the lives of those around them?