Tag Archives: missions

Stress and Anxiety: A Cause and Cure

Dec 01, 22
JMorgan
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“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)   Thanksgiving last week reminded us that thankful is the opposite of stressful.  To represent Jesus well, Christians should be joyful and peaceful at all times.  Thankfulness is an attitude of gratitude for the Father’s faithfulness in blessing and rescuing us, the undeserving.  Worry demonstrates a lack of faith in God’s love and His plan, disappointing a watching world wondering if Christianity could transcend the distress of a hopeless existence.  Because most Christians appear just as concerned about life’s challenges and dangers as everyone else, those who don’t know Jesus look elsewhere for an escape hatch from reality – drug and alcohol abuse, avatars, affairs, or even suicide.

In other words, just as our division contributed to the fracturing of American culture, our consumerism exacerbated America’s overindulgence, and our stinginess made America less generous, our lack of faith has raised our nation’s collective stress level about…

Survival

America rejects our faith as the source of hope, taking extreme measures to blind themselves to the inevitability of death, when Christians act as if eternal life in heaven is not a certainty.

“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?” (Luke 12:25)  When Christ-followers strive and stress about growing careers, families, and churches, our fears devalue God’s provision and promises.  Living for self, success or survival conveys the sufficiency of mankind and insufficiency of God, freeing secular observers to dismiss the Gospel and face the trials of life without peace – and eternity without Jesus.  When churches and Christians exhibit countercultural reactions to adversity, the world will find the hope it’s desperately seeking.

Health

America rejects the idea that the Holy Spirit lives in believers, writing off the supernatural as “fairy tales”, when Christians and churches don’t conduct themselves as if they were His temples.

  • Damaging our bodies through anxiety and stress we shouldn’t be experiencing as acutely as those not indwelled by the Holy Spirit
  • Becoming addicts to ease pain Christ-followers should endure more courageously knowing this world is not our home as citizens of an everlasting Kingdom
  • Suffering as a result of unhealthy lifestyles, not understanding we, like Jesus, will be resurrected in physical form
  • Humanizing church, making it seem like any other organization, by focusing excessively on how it appears on the outside versus who we are on the inside

“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’” (Matthew 6:31)  The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the dearth of discipleship in America’s churches.  Most Christians appeared more concerned with self-preservation than self-sacrifice, not personifying “church” when the buildings’ doors were closed.  If we rested on the Sabbath, accumulated less “stuff” (since each asset we acquire adds stress), and trusted God to take care of us, imagine how much healthier Christians, churches, and our nation would be.

Value

America rejects our churches as being necessary and relevant, turning to government and academic institutions for answers, when we don’t pursue biblical opportunities to remain integral in a post-agrarian society.

  • Abdicating the front-line role in alleviating the pressure of poverty, leaving it to those who can only provide (transactional) handouts, not a (relational) hand up
  • Imitating churches in worrying about having enough to pay the bills, only giving leftovers, not first fruits, to help struggling families
  • Developing church strategies and programs to feel needed, wondering whether the community would notice if we shut our doors
  • Wanting to return to a position as the “center of town”, as churches were for centuries in America, yet realizing post-agrarian culture now has other social, charitable, and educational outlets

“Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34)  Jesus was more concerned about growing disciples than growing churches.  We’re the only light in a dark, anxious world – but our light dims if we’re not active in compassion and evangelism.  Today, it’s not just secular media questioning the importance of churches.  According to Lifeway, 1 in 4 pre-COVID regular churchgoers have not returned.  Regaining reach and relevance requires following Jesus’ example – going out to care and share, not just inviting the “lost” to come in.

Reputation

America rejects the (traditionally) positive public perception of churches and Christians, showing greater respect for resolute post-modernists who hold their ground, when fearful believers compromise to adapt and conform to culture.

  • Protecting social and employment status by pretending to be who we aren’t, not taking risks like speaking out about Jesus or professing to hold Christian values
  • Inviting accusations of hypocrisy when churchgoers live inconsistent with their beliefs
  • People-pleasing, losing sleep over how others perceive us instead of how God sees us
  • Attracting congregants by catering to their needs rather than challenging them, soft-pedaling the costs of discipleship and commands to keep the Church holy

“And why do you worry about clothes?  See how the flowers of the field grow.  They do not labor or spin.” (Matthew 8:28)  Jesus wasn’t concerned with being liked, nor should we.  Our efforts to impress anyone but God has the opposite of its intended effect, causing anxiety for us and for secular observers by taking the spotlight off Jesus and shining it on our insecurities, making it less likely they’ll see Him clearly.  If Christians and churches would focus on loving God and others, not being liked but respected, our faith would lower our nation’s collective stress level.

Influence

America rejects conservative values, gravitating toward those who don’t have their best interests at heart, when Christians and churches fret over gaining influence in society rather than electing to pursue Jesus’ path to prominence (caring for the “least of these”).

  • Stressing about politics and elections when we’ve already read the end of the story (The Book of Revelation), knowing Jesus and His Church win
  • Bemoaning the state of our world in this Age of Decadence as if the sky is falling when fulfillment of prophecy should increase our faith, not jeopardize it
  • Seeking earthly power, scaling the tops of the 7 mountains rather than relying on God’s power, realizing Jesus walked away from every attempt to enthrone Him
  • Centralizing into “skyscrapers” that don’t occupy much ground instead of equipping and sending disciples to engage those who would never darken the door of a church

“When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say.” (Luke 12:11)  Quietly serving in obscurity or decentralizing church to occupy a larger footprint doesn’t create notoriety but expands the Kingdom exponentially.  The Lord’s math is the multiplication of disciples making disciples, not the addition of Invite/Involve/Invest church growth strategies.  There’s tension in the precarious task of trying to build a large platform, and it’s hard to compete for attention with secular, for-profit organizations.  If Christians and churches were less concerned about size and influence, we would gain more of both, and Americans would be less stressed in trying to outdo one another.

It’s Your Turn…

Where have you seen a Christian’s or church’s faith in dire circumstances move the needle on a family’s or community’s sense of peace and hope in the midst of trials?

Poverty in America: A Cause and Cure

Nov 17, 22
JMorgan
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Throughout most of America’s history, churches were the food bank and homeless shelter, the first place the destitute went for help.  In fact, across much of the world for over 1900 years, churches followed Jesus’ model of demonstrating the Father’s love before telling people who He is (i.e. the Gospel).  During recent decades, however, churches in America developed growth strategies that precluded continuation of its indispensability in helping the materially poor.  If all Christians still took Jesus’ example and commands to serve the poor seriously, our nation as a whole would be more accepting of Christians and less tolerant of poverty on our shores and abroad.

In other words, just as our division contributed to the fracturing of American culture and our consumerism exacerbated America’s overindulgence, the Church’s decision decades ago to abdicate its lead role on the front lines of poverty relief has diminished our influence and convinced many not to follow our…

Leadership

America rejects Christianity as the model for how to live, believing government and secular charities are kinder and more compassionate, because the average church’s investment of time, energy and dollars into serving the poor has dropped 95% over the past hundred years.

  • Changing the definition of “church” to emphasize gathering of Christians in a place on a weekend rather than scattering of disciples into ministry the rest of the week
  • Consequently, catering to those Jesus challenged (to live out the Great Commandment and Great Commission) while underserving those Jesus catered to (the poor, ill, and hopeless)
  • Finding intensive discipleship too demanding for church “consumers”, therefore not understanding how Jesus truly lived and what it means to follow in His footsteps
  • Not dying to self as the Bible commands, more concerned about our wants than the needs of others

Every human being is looking for a light in this dark word.  Christians are to radiate the love of Jesus to illuminate the path to the Father.  In America and around the globe, history reveals a direct correlation between compassion of Christ-followers and the growth of Christianity.  Similarly, there’s an indisputable connection between times our faith becomes associated with legalism, judgmentalism, and political parties and its decline.  As churches in the U.S. became more consumer-driven and less compassion-driven, that influence spilled over into secular culture, turning it more consumeristic and less generous.  Where else will people learn about love and mercy except from Jesus?  Yet society no longer looks to churches as viable examples of those qualities, nor will they until we again become a shining beacon of light to the poor and marginalized.

Savior

America rejects our Lord as the answer to meaning in this life and hope for the next, looking to secular flourishing and social justice causes for fulfilment, as Christians and churches increasingly deviate from Jesus’ model of Prayer, Care, and then Share.

  • Wondering how Jesus can save people eternally if churches in their communities aren’t active in rescuing those suffering on this side of heaven
  • Hearing stories about Jesus’ miracles of healing and feeding during their youth, but not observing anything transformative that borders on the “miraculous” today
  • Instead seeing Christians occupied in the unremarkable, indistinguishable work and worries of managing careers, raising families, and operating (religious) institutions
  • Losing respect for Jesus when Christ-followers attempt to “outpreach” Him (who despite speaking perfect words still felt it necessary to open ears through loving acts of service)

Whenever Christians fail to reflect Jesus’ deep concern for the (materially) poor or don’t imitate His approach for reaching them with the Gospel, we misrepresent and discredit our Savior.  America’s accelerating departure from its Christian heritage is not an indictment of Jesus, but of those who depart from His model and mission (“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free”.)  Despite our nation’s entree into the Age of Decadence, a last gasp for revival by the power of the Holy Spirit could be sparked by a repentant reassumption by Christians of the leadership mantle for poverty alleviation, a responsibility Jesus (and His disciples) told us never to abdicate.

Philosophy

America rejects our approach to dealing (compassionately) with those we don’t agree with, even if they’re Christians, turning to godless yet more welcoming friends and groups for answers about how to treat others, because most Christians and churches no longer clearly convey what Scripture commands about love, relationships, forgiveness, and humility.

  • Coming across as morally superior, a stance Jesus reviled and repudiated
  • Being known more for what we’re for than what we’re against
  • Taking a back seat on discrimination and injustice when Jesus condemned silence
  • Essentially ignoring our own persecuted brothers and sisters overseas

Poverty is not just in material wealth and possessions.  Nearly everyone endures some from of poverty – whether emotional, spiritual, relational, or financial.  The materially poor lack hope for the future because they’ve lost and haven’t been able to reestablish symbiotic connections to God, self, others, and the rest of creation.  Their isolation leaves them without the opportunities most of us have for relational (rather than transactional) support when times get tough.  Our society knows enough about Jesus to understand He commissioned churches to be the only earthly institution that’s perfectly designed and equipped to provide compassionate assistance for all 4 types of poverty to rebuild all 4 types of relationships.  Non-believers will become interested in and curious about Christianity again when churches stop walking by the poor, going about our “business” rather than fulfilling our calling and emulating Jesus.

Religion

America rejects our religion as truth, opting to invent their own realities and identities, because if what we claim is actually true, then more churchgoers would be radically transformed by the power of Jesus’ resurrection and eager to pay forward the grace of Jesus’ sacrifice.

  • Talking the talk (“I’ll pray for you”), not walking the walk (“I’ll feed and clothe you”), when the gift of eternal life should compel action on behalf of the lost and hurting
  • Complaining church members only give leftovers when they’re imitating churches who have little or nothing left over for local missions after other bills are paid
  • Missing opportune moments to preach our message of hope to the hopeless, making non-believers question whether Christians really think there’s a Hell

Our culture increasingly elects the visible over the invisible, doubting God’s existence or goodness as they witness abject poverty and the complacence of wealthy American Christians.  We may signal concern (virtue) on social media about injustice and oppression to gain clout, yet most of us said or did little before it was in vogue.  If all Christians practiced what Jesus preached, we’d have ample resources to ensure no one goes without and far greater influence over the generosity, compassion, and spiritual health of our nation.

Institutions

America rejects Christianity when churches devise solutions for alleviating (material) poverty that appear more like self-serving, thinly veiled advertising – seasonal events that may make churchgoers feel good but actually perpetuate poverty.

  • Replicating in local missions the “fast-food”, event mentality practiced by most churches on weekends to appease a busy, time-constrained congregation
  • For convenience, writing checks at arms-length without getting hands dirty in the hard relational work of true, needle-moving charity
  • Preferring geographic distance, afraid Jesus’ proximate model would attract those He did
  • Redefining “outreach” in the church lexicon to mean initiatives to grow membership

When churches were the center of town, a safe haven and shelter for America’s poor, we did more than provide short-term relief.  We offered the chance to become part of a family of Christ-followers, a support structure to help navigate the path to a brighter future.  When government usurped the lead role in compassion, it could only offer a “safety net” of handouts that extend the relief phase indefinitely and foster unhealthy dependence.  Surveys indicate that the American public still expects churches to be a first responder in compassion but the approach most have adopted looks more like government assistance programs, not the Church’s traditional, dignifying, biblical model.

It’s Your Turn…

Where have you seen outpouring of compassionate service to the poor soften hearts toward Christianity and open doors to evangelism among those who had appeared unreceptive?

American Consumerism: A Cause and Cure

Nov 03, 22
JMorgan
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As the upcoming election vividly illustrates, America has become more divided and divisive than at any other time in recent memory.  However, regardless of political or religious affiliation, the vast majority of us are united in one unfortunate arena – consumerism.  Americans have by far the largest amount of total household debt (over $16 trillion) of any nation in the world.  The average American carries $100,000 in consumer debt and a debt-to-income ratio of nearly 150%.  Just as division among churches and Christians has contributed to the fracturing of our culture, consumerism within Christianity has exacerbated America’s overindulgent spending habits…

Church

America rejects our institutions and places more “faith” in its own (e.g. government and businesses) as Christian engagement with churches becomes more consumeristic and as lines blur between religious organizations and secular companies in terms of:

  • Shifting the weight of expectations and accountability from members to pastors, reducing demands for discipleship while upping the ante on programs, performance, and facilities
  • Shopping (and frequent “church hopping”) based on the comparative quality of “services” provided rather than the adherence of leadership and membership to the truth of Scripture
  • Defining church as a place and not as its people, positioning churchgoers as “customers” to attract and retain instead of Kingdom “employees” to train and deploy to pursue the real customer (those who don’t know Jesus)
  • Designing church growth strategies that breed loyalty and prioritize numerical growth over personal growth in Christ (e.g. replacing intensive discipleship with “sticky” small groups)
  • Implying that joining, serving, and giving (within the comfortable confines of a church) is an adequate substitute for boldly risking prayer, care and share lifestyles in public view

Businesses advertise products they promise will transform consumers’ lives but fail to deliver.  Churches promise life transformation, but surveys show most Christians don’t look much different than non-believers to the naked eye.  America will continue drifting farther from God as long as church operating principles and consumer-driven practices converge with those of everyone else.  No matter how content and confident non-Christians may appear, they earnestly seek the hope and forgiveness only Jesus can provide.  However, pointing them back to the cross will require abandoning any vestige of commerce and consumerism from the functions of churches and lives of churchgoers.

Materialism

America rejects our social criticism and commentary, heeding instead the counsel of secular media and academic leaders, when Christians lose their voice by appearing nearly as materialistic and apprehensive as those who do not profess faith and hope in Christ:

Even those unfamiliar with Scripture understand Christianity is incompatible with the American Dream.  Jesus was blatantly countercultural when it came to consumption, foregoing possessions and property.  To the extent churches and believers amass wealth for personal gain and security, not exhibiting the faith Jesus modeled – relinquishing our rights and sense of ownership of assets as long as poverty and oppression persist – America will continue distancing from Christianity.  However, when we take our faith so seriously that we value the relationship with our loving Father above all else, our light will illuminate the futility and shallowness of meaningless accumulation of belongings.

Attention

America rejects our example and leadership, elevating and listening instead to secular authority figures, when renowned pastors and Christian leaders seek the spotlight, garnering notoriety for themselves yet tarnishing the name of Jesus whenever they:

  • Misunderstand the humble, servant leadership style of Christ, who at the height of His popularity, either went off alone to pray or preached His toughest message to weed out insincere followers
  • Believe the path to reversing the course of our culture is to scale the tops of the 7 Mountains (e.g. education, government, media), an approach Jesus repudiated
  • Establish hierarchies, increase influence, and build skyscrapers (gathering many but occupying a small footprint), bringing celebrity worship to churchdom
  • Forget that the “bigger they are the harder they fall”, generating unwanted publicity from secular media waiting to pounce when prominent Christians violate God’s laws or society’s code of ethics

Any diversion of attention from our perfect Lord onto flawed human beings is a serious mistake.  We misrepresent Jesus when we pretend we’re anything more than sinners in dire need of a merciful Savior.  It can be difficult to see Christ through us if our egos block the view.  Transparency through confession makes non-believers aware of their need for forgiveness.  The path to church reform and cultural reform is one and the same – making disciples who live consistent with the faith they espouse, children of a loving Father mobilized to infiltrate and transform the body of Christ and their communities.

Gospel

America rejects the Gospel and assumes it isn’t better than the “good news” offered by advertisers and educators when Christians “consume” the salvation message (for their own benefit) and hesitate to share it with those we claim are destined for Hell without it:

  • Receiving a “free” ticket to Heaven, cheap grace without obligation for obedience simply by repeating a few phrases (the Sinner’s Prayer), implies that it’s not worth much if it costs us so little (though it cost Jesus so much)
  • Wondering whether our cure for secularism’s terminal illness (sin leading to death) is credible if the average Christian tells so few people (even those they love) about it
  • “Selling” Christianity to appeal to consumers through self-centered marketing pitches like ”Jesus died for you” and “Jesus came to give you abundant life”
  • Questioning whether the Gospel transforms lives if it didn’t convince us to abandon consumerism and to love others enough to risk our social standing for their sake

A non-believer who knows anything about Jesus understands that His death and resurrection was not intended to be consumed or concealed but boldly proclaimed from the rooftops, not just by paid professionals but by all Christ-followers.  Gen Z would be more inclined to believe Jesus’ story has real value if they knew we truly “bought what we were selling”.  However, when the role of most churchgoers in evangelism stops short of the Great Commission, typically only going so far as to invite a friend to next weekend’s church service, we make the Gospel seem less important and interesting than their other options for how to spend a Sunday morning.

Love

America rejects us and God (as the embodiment of love) and adopts its own definitions of “love” when Christians consume His love for them but don’t seem to pay that love forward in how we treat our neighbors, our brothers and sisters in Christ, or those who persecute us:

  • Watching to see if Christians reflect the love of Jesus, possibly open to a deeper form of (unconditional) love than the emotions, affection, and romance that often disappoint and never fully satisfy
  • Not “earning” the right to speak to culture and mitigating the inevitable backlash against Christ-followers by leading with compassionate demonstrations of God’s love, particularly for the (materially) poor and oppressed
  • Running “transactional”, seasonal outreaches that actually perpetuate poverty, create dependence, and double as church “advertising”
  • Not caring for our own and loving one another due to theological differences or physical distance (i.e. the persecuted overseas), sowing division within our ranks

Many churches emphasize God’s love without giving equal airtime to aspects of our Father’s character (that flow out of His love) like high expectations for His children to dispense that love rather simply soak it in.  Pointing fingers, politicizing our faith, and positioning God’s love as a one-way street may attract lukewarm attenders to our churches but invite ridicule from a society expecting Christians to live more like Jesus.  The more self-centered, angry, judgmental, and divided the body of Christ appears, the more the world will follow suit.  However, churches that return to their first love by valuing loyalty to the Father over loyalty to the institution will produce disciples who love others and one another in ways that draw all people to Him.

It’s Your Turn…

Did the chicken or the egg come first?  Did churches treat parishioners like consumers (to sustain the organization), driving their consumeristic behaviors?  Or were Christians infected by America’s consumer-driven culture, forcing pastors to accommodate more demanding congregations?  Regardless of how it started, how has consumerism within Christianity undermined our influence and abetted our nation’s pursuit of the American Dream over God’s Kingdom?

America Divided: A Cause and Cure

Oct 20, 22
JMorgan
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Jesus says unity of His followers will convince the world He is their Savior.  Christians are quick to point out how divided America has become, yet what do we see when we look in the mirror?  Has division within the body of Christ contributed to (or even caused) our culture’s polarization?  Warring factions within our faith have battled for centuries over theology, morality, politics, and mission, fracturing into denominations, movements, parties, and parachurch ministries.  More recently, but still preceding (or concurrent with) the divisiveness of America today, churches and their members have taken opposing positions on presidents, pandemics, progressivism, and preferences that invite splits and competition.

Not seeing our unity, which would have brought the nation together by recognizing Jesus in and through us, America has followed our lead and divided into firmly-entrenched stances for and against Christianity, with the latter crafting alternatives to biblical…

Love

Americans rejected our definition of love and made up their own (e.g. feelings, romance) because Christians are divided over what it means to love one another and our neighbor, not united in:

  • Caring for distant members of our family, persecuted brothers and sisters overseas
  • Building up one another, committed to personal discipleship
  • Sharing the only cure for sin and separation from God with the terminally ill, training believers for evangelism
  • Fighting the culture war via a ground attack of love and compassion at close proximity instead of an air attack dropping verbal bombs from a lofty height
  • Showing genuine concern for the poor, whereas most churches organize occasional “outreach” events that don’t alleviate poverty and double as “advertising”

God is love and Christ gave us a script for paying His love forward.  When we deviate (from that script), we divide.  When we ignore the persecuted, it opens the door to persecution.  When we judge, it exposes Christians to judgment.  When we make church about loyalty to an institution, it breeds disloyalty to our Father.  When churches become more self-centered (as a result of internally-focused, Invite/Involve/Invest growth models), Americans turn to Selfism.  Rather than further compromising to adapt to an increasingly divided, self-absorbed nation (that Christians helped create), revival may come when persecution unites us around Scripture’s definition of (selfless, unconditional Agape) love.

Identity

Americans rejected our identity (as children of a loving Father) and made up their own (e.g. sexuality, gender) because Christians divided by reducing identity to a label (by birth) or allegiance to a particular church (or denomination), not united in:

  • Introducing ourselves first and foremost as followers of Christ
  • Practicing and not just professing faith through Bible study, prayer and other spiritual disciplines, reflecting a personal and growing relationship with Jesus
  • Defining “church” inclusively, not as a place or pastors, but as each of us (and all of us) who have surrendered to the Lord
  • Not answering questions about our “religion” by citing a denomination or church
  • Humbling ourselves like children, not drawing attention away from Jesus

We should bond as sons and daughters of the same Father, not segment the body of Christ into cliques or foster an “us vs. them” mentality with non-believers.  As we’ve formed Christian subgroups (implying superiority) and reserved God-given gifts for creating content (e.g. movies, music) only for Christian audiences, Americans have followed suit and became starkly divided for or against us.  Rather than regressing further into division in response to today’s Post-Christian culture (that we inadvertently encouraged), all Christians should unite as the Father’s children in the shared mission of reaching the lost.

Mission

Americans rejected our mission and made up their own (e.g. tolerance, justice) because Christians are divided over the importance of reaching out to them through discipleship and evangelism, not united in:

  • Realizing that churchgoers are not consumers but Kingdom employees who should be challenged to live prayer, care, and share lifestyles within their circles of influence
  • Rejecting costly, attractional church models that distract and divert resources from biblical priorities of equipping and deploying disciples
  • Subordinating institutional growth and member retention goals (addition) to personal growth and member footprint metrics (multiplication)
  • Putting aside our “squabbles” as hostility mounts toward all Christians, developing a common sense of urgency, collaborating to seek community transformation
  • Moving the needle collectively on social issues that are near and dear not only to the Lord’s heart (e.g. material poverty) but to Gen Z (e.g. social justice)

When churches differentiate from one another to stand out, we divide.  When churches placate consumers who don’t reflect Christ between Sundays, they may come back next weekend but guarantee others will never darken our doors.  When “Christians” don’t live on mission or conform to culture, their hypocrisy creates division within and outside the “4 walls”.  Rather than accentuating distinctions between Christians or minimizing differences from the world to “fit in”, now is the time in this increasingly secular economic and political environment (which Christians fostered) to present a united front around the purpose and plan set out for all Christ-followers.

Morality

Americans rejected our moral code and made up their own (e.g. the pursuit of happiness) because Christians are divided over how to deal with sin inside and outside the church, not united in:

  • Seeking righteousness over being “right” (self-righteousness)
  • Confessing, not concealing, our sins and need for a Savior (so others can see theirs)
  • Being known for Who we’re for instead of what we’re against
  • Living one way on Sundays and much less like Jesus the rest of the week
  • Adopting Jesus’ perspective on sin, not judging those who can’t be expected to follow the laws of the King when they’re not citizens of His Kingdom

Christians point fingers at society for virtue signaling, yet the practice originated with churchgoers claiming ownership of the moral high ground while unsuccessfully trying to hide sins.  As we’ve disobeyed Matthew 18’s clear instructions to keep the church holy, our standards and accountability have diminished, undermining Christianity’s credibility.  We shouldn’t be surprised or accusatory when witnessing the advent of America’s Age of Decadence.  Rather than widening the divide with non-believers (which we unfortunately exacerbated) or splitting legalistic hairs with other Christians, we should unite in repentance and reconciliation, dying to self to demonstrate our humility and God’s forgiveness.

Worldview

Americans rejected our perspectives on life and creation and made up their own (e.g. secular humanism) because Christians are divided in their degree of focus on worldly concerns, not united in:

  • Aligning with politicians espousing Christians values and advocacy of public policy benefitting churches and ministries
  • Understanding of human nature, whether it’s truly as evil as the Bible describes
  • Believing that God has predetermined all things, but concluding that our potential impact is limited
  • Engaging in popular causes like protecting the environment, working to eradicate poverty, and protesting injustice

Our varying opinions about the extent to which we should get involved in human affairs not only divides the body of Christ but makes non-believers question whether Christians care.  As a result, society drifts from God and (since this world is all it has) becomes even more consumed with the issues churches and Christ-followers are accused of ignoring.  Rather than being “so heavenly minded that we’re of no earthly good” (as the saying goes), we could close the gap with other believers and mitigate the cynicism of secular humanists (which Christians have stoked) by uniting around what is important to Jesus (e.g. people, not politics).

It’s Your Turn…

How much blame rests with the Church for America’s departure from its Christian roots?  How would greater unity of our Father’s children around biblical love, identity, mission, morality, and worldview decrease division within our nation?  Or will the response of Christ-followers to a more combative culture be further division within our ranks?

The Battle for Post-Christian America

Oct 06, 22
JMorgan
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one comments

The question is not whether America will travel the well-trodden path of protection (from evangelism) to prevention (of evangelism) to persecution (for evangelism).  Unless the Lord and His Church intervene, the process of removing Christianity from America’s heritage and culture will continue unabated.  The temptation to believe human nature is inherently good, obviating the need for forgiveness by denying the existence of sin, has proven irresistible to countless nations and gained a secure foothold among America’s next generation (Z).  However, faith in mankind never ends with “innocent” naivete but aggressive suppression.

What’s not yet clear is what will win the tug of war for power once Christianity is out of the mainstream.  Humanistic and progressive ideals have America heading either down one of two roads, both of which result in persecution of Christians – toward China or Saudi Arabia, Russia or Afghanistan, North Korea or Nigeria – autocracy or theocracy.  Since Christianity is correct that humanity is evil by nature, elimination of the only effective behavioral constraint and motive for goodness – the love of Jesus – inevitably leads to the pursuit of unimpeded control.  The question is whether the leaders who conceal their ambitions under the guise of ending “oppression” or those who claim authority in the name of “god” will emerge victorious.  In either case, Christianity becomes enemy #1 because it offers a Savior who demands loyalty, competing with lesser dictatorial or religious “saviors”.

For those writing off this argument as hyperbole in Americas’ case, consider the “democracies” teetering on that same precipice – at risk of falling into political or religious totalitarianism – as evangelical Christianity declines.  The scenario is not unlike Rome in the New Testament where autocrats were in power but theocrats were angling for supremacy when Jesus came to establish His Kingdom.  The Bible states plainly that all Christians will be persecuted in every nation before Jesus returns – and America is no exception.  In fact, the process of protection, prevention, and persecution (that culminates in criminalizing evangelism) has already begun here.  Selfism, the fastest growing religion in America, now “protects” non-believers from judgmental Christians who dare to accuse (of sin) or impose (beliefs) – and “prevention” is underway as well.

Selfism appears to lack the authority to “persecute” until we examine its implications more closely (in the next section).  However, the greater threat to Christians is what comes after Selfism runs its natural course.  Cracks are already appearing in its foundation with unprecedented levels of depression and addiction from the futility of making “self” the ultimate authority.  Persecution in America will look more like what we see among the 360 million marginalized Christians worldwide when a more autocratic or theocratic regime steps in to rescue us from the divisive, crime-ridden, and medicated society we have become by relegating Christianity to the sidelines.

Persecution of Christians…in America?

Media conditions us to think of persecution in its worst forms occurring in far-away lands.  Yes, Christianity is the most persecuted faith and thousands of believers are murdered, beaten, imprisoned, and kidnapped every year in nations where extremist groups target anyone who follows Christ.  Radicals do burn hundreds of churches to the ground and disown family members in countries Americans consider far less “civilized”.  However, it’s also true that some governments officially sanction violent, vengeful acts against Christians or condone law enforcement turning a blind eye.

Persecution also takes place in more subtle (but no less systemic, discriminatory, or intimidating) forms not only in those countries but in others not appearing on any global “watch lists”:

  • Mocking and denouncing Christians on social media, TV and radio to stir up hatred (in direct opposition to the progressive narrative decrying public “shaming”)
  • Disinformation, “cancellation” campaigns labeling any reference to biblical perspectives hate-speak (if they run counter to cultural, “acceptable” norms)
  • Encouraging consumers not to shop at stores of small business owners who subscribe to Christian views on marriage, gender, or preborn viability
  • Forcing companies to provide benefits or services that defy their Christian values
  • Smearing, vilifying Christians for the crime of voting for a particular candidate
  • Refusing to hire (or firing) those who do not disavow politically incorrect positions on hot-button issues (since they’re not commercially expedient)
  • Stigmatizing high school or college students bold enough to profess belief in Jesus
  • Removing Christian objects, symbols, and tributes from public venues
  • Ostracizing or treating Christians as second‐class citizens in communities where they live and socialize

Are any of those (or all of them) happening in America today?  Economic persecution is one of the most demeaning and harmful means of discriminating against Christians across the globe – and it’s widespread and even applauded in the U.S. today.  The inability to get a job, keep one, or stay in business if you espouse biblical values has the same effect as subjecting Christians to indentured servitude or not educating Christian children – both common in “watch list” countries.  And though it may not rise to the level of persecution, its precursor – “prevention” (of evangelism) – has been alive and well on our shores for years.  The name of Jesus is somehow exempt from our “free speech” lexicon in government and public school settings, coaches are fired for praying after football games, parents are dubbed terrorists if they speak out about curriculum critical of Christianity, and pastors are censured for simply repeating countercultural passages from Scripture.

How Should Churches and Christians Respond?

The first step to stop the progression from protection to prevention to persecution is prayer.  We need the Lord’s guidance to understand the motives behind the crusade to eliminate Christianity from our culture.  To what extent are Christians to blame and need to repent for not living much like Jesus, hesitating to share the “cure for cancer” with the terminally ill,  watering down the truth of God’s Word, abdicating our role in discipleship, or politicizing our faith to gain advantage?  And where are we not at fault for professing a Gospel that Jesus said would offend, holding contrarian views of human nature, pledging loyalty to a competing Kingdom, and standing up for truth in a Postmodern world.

Is this Age of Decadence too late to reverse America’s course toward greater levels and severity of persecution?  Is our fate sealed by the indoctrination of Gen Z, dependence on (big) government, rise of the Nones and Dones (with church), and higher birth rates among followers of religions not warm toward Christianity?  Rather than sitting idly by, reminiscing about how things used to be, awaiting the inevitable, Christ-followers can take action now for the sake of their children and grandchildren otherwise destined to suffer for their faith:

Ironically, times of persecution like Christians are starting to endure here in America can be opportunities for purification and multiplication.  It could awaken a Church long declining in growth, impact, influence, and perception.  Persecution makes it nearly impossible to continue several hallmarks of contemporary, ineffective church growth models – like conspicuous, underutilized buildings and top-down leadership hierarchies.  Lukewarm Christians quickly disappear, leaving only committed disciples, like the few who followed Jesus faithfully and changed the course of history.  As seen in China, an unintended consequence of persecution, which compels Christians to scatter and resume personal responsibility for the Great Commission within their circles of influence, is explosive growth in the body of Christ.  Suffering persecution also makes Christians more attune to the plight of those they’d previously ignored, creating unity when we appear divided.

It’s Your Turn…

Are the self-inflicted wounds of compromise and division within the Church making Christians more susceptible to mounting pressures (and persecution) to renounce their faith or beliefs?

Is America Moving Forward or Backward?

Sep 22, 22
JMorgan
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3 comments

Whether the “advancements” society celebrates are actually moving us forward depends on how we measure progress.  Some are unquestionably positive, others are debatable, and many are harmful.  Medical advances have contributed to a nearly 30 year increase in average lifespans since 1900.  Commercial and fiscal innovations have reduced poverty in the U.S. by 50% since the 1950s, but the wealth gap has increased (the top 1% now owns more than the bottom 90%).  The social impacts of some modern technology breakthroughs, like cell phones and Artificial Intelligence, are being called into question.  Likewise, America may one day discover that our culture’s recent advancement in self-awareness, self-determination, and self-actualization represents progressivism but not progress.

Even seemingly unassailable objectives of equality, freedom, and justice can undermine rather than improve the social order if their definitions are based on a flawed or biased understanding of those terms.  Achieving them for one group often entails removing them from another.  Those benefitting from social reforms measure their success by a different standard than those adversely affected.  For example, the efficacy of criminal justice reform depends on whether you ask the perpetrators or the victims, each of whom can find statistics to back up their position.

The net effect of progressive thought and policies on the overall advancement of our nation hinges on the standard of measure.  The general premise is alluring – faith in mankind to improve the human condition, to strike a delicate balance between environmental and economic interests, and to make decisions that are best for ourselves and others (without competing agendas).  However, how trustworthy are human intellect and intentions when top doctors, scientists, Wall Street analysts, university professors, government officials, and corporate executives are so often (proven to be) wrong or unscrupulous?

Underlying faith in mankind to do the right thing is the assumption that people are inherently good.  Ironically, postmodernism rejects any standard for “right” (except for attempts to establish one).  In contrast, Christianity claims only God is good and human nature is evil, resistant to what the Bible (clearly) defines as right.  So the determinants of social progress depend on the reality of mankind’s situation – are we heading toward or away from the truth about human nature?  Progressive is regressive if trust in humanity’s goodness is misplaced.  If there is a God and we are sinners in dire need of a Savior, then (for example) less law enforcement and more government dependency are not progress.

The following 7 sets of options represent opposing views of what constitutes social progress due to fundamentally conflicting assessments of human nature:

1. Ego or Humility

Continuing the transition from Christianity to Selfism as America’s predominant religion is a step forward in the eyes of atheists and agnostics.  Secular humanism sounds people-positive and empowering, attracting idealistic youth, but is it true?  Companies and politicians artificially inflate our self-perceptions for profit and power.  Is accumulation of wealth, worship of celebrities, and pursuit of happiness actually progress or just progressive?

If, on the other hand, Jesus is Lord then our culture is heading in the wrong direction.  Confession, repentance, and revival would be progress – bowing before our heavenly Father and asking forgiveness for overestimating our goodness and asserting our independence from Him.  In that scenario, only a society characterized by unconditional love and selfless generosity would be viewed as genuinely flourishing.

To reverse the tide, churches and Christians should lead the way in humility, not incorporating elements of Selfism into our faith (e.g. “cheap grace” of salvation without surrender).

2. Knowledge or Wisdom

If secular humanists are correct about the origins of matter, earth and human life then untethering knowledge acquisition from the shackles of religion will make our society wiser.  In their view, our wealthy and educated nation should no longer subscribe or subject itself to the arcane principles and practices of the previously “unenlightened”.

However, is America gaining in intelligence if it’s no longer building on a foundation of truth?  If there is a Creator and man is not the supreme arbiter of fact or fiction, then America’s public colleges and high schools are leading students astray.  If science is the study of what God made, yet scientists don’t understand it in that context, then the basis for their discoveries is disputable.  If business and technology innovations do not align with biblical principles of love, worship, and fellowship then they risk discriminating, distracting, or disconnecting.

Churches and Christians are rarely cited as sources of wisdom today.  As believers, we need to be equipped with biblical answers to questions the world can’t answer through intensive discipleship and evangelism training.

3. Equality or Dignity

The progressive goal of ascribing equal value to every human being, treating people of any gender, creed, and race with the same degree of dignity and respect, aligns with Scripture and undoubtedly represents social progress.  The humanistic definition of equality departs from Christian values and takes America off track when it signals that our virtue exceeds God’s and fails to recognize the intentional distinctions wonderfully designed by our Creator.

Churches and Christians shouldn’t conform to culture by minimizing the differences in God’s design.  Instead, we should highlight God’s goodness by reflecting His unconditional love to those who revile and “cancel” us for not agreeing with their definition of equality.

4. Justice or Unity

Social justice brings true progress, and not political progressivism, only when it recognizes that all people are sinful.  No one cares more about justice and the rights of the oppressed than Jesus – it fact it was His mission statement.  Yet since only He was sinless, His definition of justice isn’t skewed to claim superiority for Himself or a special interest group.  Jesus knew division would be a result of His fight for justice but didn’t pit sides against each other to sow division for personal gain.  Instead, His solution was the ultimate injustice, paying the penalty for our sins and asking the Father to forgive His murderers.

The rights of churches and Christians are also being sacrificed unjustly today, but we should respond like Jesus, displaying His goodness and seeking unity (amongst ourselves and across humanity) in the pursuit of justice for all.

5. Government or Accountability

If politicians are trustworthy and government is a good steward of resources, then our nation is progressing forward when we entrust them with more power.  Most Americans would reject those propositions, yet federal spending as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product rose from 3% in 1929 to 30% in 2021.  If “absolute power corrupts absolutely” and only God is good then substituting government for Jesus (as our savior) isn’t progress.

Churches and Christians should resume their role on the front lines of compassion to reduce dependence on government handouts that perpetuate poverty.  We must model and emphasize personal responsibility, diligence, and reliance on the Lord for provision.

6. Relativism or Reality

If there is no God and mankind is naturally kind and considerate, then doing whatever we feel is right and lifting the veil of religious dogma that’s clouded our vision for centuries make perfect sense.  In that case, Postmodernism is right to reject truth claims (except those in the eyes of the beholder).  As long as one person’s “truth” doesn’t invade or suppress another’s, then relativism is social progress.  However, our beliefs don’t alter facts – atheism does not cause God to cease to exist.  The Creator, our loving Father, was kind and considerate enough to give us life and reveal countless truths about Himself and our nature in His autobiography, the Bible.

Churches and Christians can lead America in the right direction by refusing to compromise or soft-pedal principles in God’s Word to appease a relativistic, egocentric culture.

7. Freedom or Guardrails

If human nature is good, a society advances when people are trusted to do whatever they want with their bodies and the world they live in.  Activists envisioning a utopia of legalization without law enforcement aren’t moving America forward.  However, Jesus understands human nature so He didn’t come to abolish laws.  The earth and even our own bodies belong to Him – so we are subject to the rules the Owner established for their care and maintenance.  Culture regresses when it operates outside of the Lord’s parameters.

Churches and Christians must set the example of loving obedience as children of the Father, deal with sin biblically among believers, and not judge those outside the church.

It’s Your Turn

Is America progressing or simply progressive today?  How has an errant view of human nature led to the moral, economic, mental health, and spiritual decline of our country?

Front Lines of the Battle for America’s Future

Sep 08, 22
JMorgan
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one comments

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

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

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

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

The Battle Plan

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

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

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

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

1. “Parents Are Out of Touch”

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

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

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

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

2. “Trust Your Own Judgment”

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

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

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

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

3. “Leaders Care About the Issues”

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

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

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

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

4. “Christianity is Oppressive”

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

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

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

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

5. “Purpose is Found in a Cause”

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

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

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

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

6. “Happiness is the Goal”

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

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

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

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

7. “Faith is Foolish”

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

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

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

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

It’s Your Turn…

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

America’s 7 Step Plan to Ban Evangelism

Aug 25, 22
JMorgan
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9 comments

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

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

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

1. No Offense

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

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

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

2. No Sin

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

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

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

3. No Conscience

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

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

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

4. No Consequences

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

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

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

5. No Identity

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

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

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

6. No Religion

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

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

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

7. No Truth

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

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

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

It’s Your Turn…

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

How to Undermine Evangelism

Aug 11, 22
JMorgan
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3 comments

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

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

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

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

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

1. Grace is cheap

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

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

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

2. Church is an event

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

3. Winning is everything

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

4. Comfort is king

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

5. Politics is power

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

6. Unity is expendable

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

7. Ignorance is bliss

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

8. Responsibility is optional

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

9. Faith is safe

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

10. Poverty is ok

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

It’s Your Turn

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

The Lost Art of Evangelism

Jul 28, 22
JMorgan
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5 comments

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

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

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

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

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

Speak Clearly

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

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

Speak Audibly

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

Parables

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

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

Hope

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

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

Shock and Awe

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

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

Truth with Humility

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

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

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

It’s Your Turn

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