Saturday, June 11, 2011

How To Be The Church (You Tell Me!)

Vieux Montréal 1889. Église presbytérienne St.Gabriel's Church of Scotland, rue © 2009 Philippe Du Berger | more info (via: Wylio)
A few months ago Brett McCracken wrote an article for Relevant Magazine asking why so many young evangelicals are leaving the Church. Throughout the article (which he wrote in between his numerous blog posts drooling over Terrence Malick movies), McCracken basically suggests it's all because of our generation's rampant individualism. While there might be some truth to that, here's the reason why I think so many young people are leaving the Church:

We do a really crappy job of being the Church.

Let me give you an example. McCracken's right when he says there are a lot of young evangelicals who have a "me first" mentality, but that's only half of it. In my own experience I've seen whole families that treat the Church like it's only something you do for an hour every Sunday and that's it. They get into their nice little polo shirts and khaki pants (or if you're a girl, a blouse with open-toe shoes), sit in the pew, sing the songs, listen to the sermon, take communion, and then when it's over they go straight home where they eat their Sunday meal and then watch football (because nothing says "keeping the sabbath holy" like watching men grope and pulverize each other). Then it's the same thing next week, and the week after that, and the week after that, etc.

The problem is Church is more than just a Sunday ritual. In fact, if I'm reading my Bible right, it's not something you do . . . it's something you are.

It's the Body of Christ (Romans 12:5).

It's being Jesus' ambassadors to a dying world (2 Corinthians 5:20).

It's about living in community and having all thing in common (Acts 2:44).

And yes, I do a crappy job of being the Church just as much as the next Christian.

So I want to ask you, my dear readers, how you and your local faith community try to be the Church. I want to know how you try to live like an actual family rather than a bunch of individuals who only see each other once a week. I can't wait to hear your answers.

Friday, June 3, 2011

How NOT To Witness

Jesus Preachingphoto © 2011 ideacreamanuela2 | more info (via: Wylio)A few summers ago I had a job selling shoes at an under-staffed (and overpriced) department store. The only good thing about the job was it was right across the street from Subway. One evening I was walking to Subway to get some dinner when a man with sunglasses and a cheesy smile came up to me. He looked like he was trying way too hard to be Tom Cruise in Risky Business.

“Hey there buddy,” he said as he enthusiastically stuck his hand out, “I’m Steve. What’s your name?”

“Uh, Travis?” I responded.

“Awesome! So, what’s up, man?”

"Well, I’m just on my break from work.”

“That’s rad! Where do you work at, bro?” I pointed to the department store. “Do you like it there?” Steve asked.

“It’s alright,” I replied. “I mean it, like, pays the bills and stuff.”

“Well, buddy, I was like you once. I was at a dead-end job where I wasn’t getting paid anything. But then a friend told me about Network Market, and now I’m making more money than I ever dreamed of. We’re having a job fair at Holiday Inn next Saturday, and I’d love to see you there.”

“What kind of job is it?”

“It’s a network of markets. There’s the future, bro! Here, take my card.”

“Um, okay. I’ll think about it.”

“Hey, man, don’t think about it—do it! This is your opportunity. See you there!”

Needless to say, I didn’t go. It sounded too fishy.

I mention this because I think this is the way a lot Christians approach witnessing: a formula. They talk about Jesus as if He’s some amazing new product or program that will cure all the problems of the world. Don’t get me wrong; I definitely believe that Jesus gets us through tough times. But I think it is way too easy to make Him sound like a product instead of the King of kings.

Either that, or they make God sound like a sniper with his rifle aimed at you.

I once saw a video on YouTube of Todd Friel witnessing to some teenagers. He started by asking the classic evangelical opening question, “Do you think you’re a good person?”

“Yeah, I guess,” the teens reply.

“Well, the Bible says we’re not. We’ve broken God’s commandments. Have you ever told a lie?”


“Then you’re guilty before God and deserve eternal punishment. But Jesus died for your sins.”

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe in sugar coating sin. But from my own observations, guilt-tripping people into following Jesus.

In fact, I don't think the Bible has any "how to witness" formulas. As many times as I've read the Bible, I've never seen Jesus walk up to a random person and ask, "Do you think you're a good person?" Neither is there anywhere in the Bible when, after some one asks, "What must I do to be saved?", Jesus says, "Repeat after me. 'Dear God, I know that I'm a sinner . . . '"

Charles Spurgeon once said soul-winning "should be the main pursuit of every true believer." While I definitely believe it should be at least one of our main pursuits (the others being feeding the poor, caring for the planet, speaking up for justice, etc.), sometimes I think we need better ways to win souls. And I'm not talking about making Jesus "relevant" by putting Him on a skateboard, or something hokey like that. I mean I think we should preach Christ in a way that He becomes something real, something beautiful, something that will make the soul leap for joy.

How do you do that? I don't know, yet. I'm still figuring that out.

How do you share your faith with others?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Why Bother With Harold Camping?

Harold-Camping-Failphoto © 2011 youngmoigle | more info (via: Wylio)Well, looks like Harold Camping was wrong. The May 21st Rapture that Camping spent all of his energy on never happened. He's reportedly shocked, but everyone else isn't.

And if you follow me on Twitter, you'll know that I had a field day making fun of Camping all day Saturday!

I think at one point I even compared him to Marshall Applewhite, the leader of the Heaven's Gate cult.

My friend and Something Beautiful co-host Jonathan at one point said, "You're not gonna give that guy a break are you?" To be honest, I wasn't.

And that's because I've suffered a lot of anxiety attacks in the past believing that the world was going the end at any minute.

First there was Mrs. Nash (not her real name) in 11th grade who mixed Y2K paranoia with the Book of Revelation, and regularly told us in class that the devil was unleashed from his pit after his thousand-year imprisonment. And this was in a public school, too! Of course January 1, 2000 came and went, and nothing happened.

And then that summer while working at the Surratts-Clinton library, I came across some books about Nostradamus, The Bible Code, and the Left Behind series. I spent that entire summer in paralyzing fear, worrying that something bad was going to happen in the next year or two. It got so bad that I was sent to a therapist after I scratched my arms up with a sewing needle. Fortunately things got better than fall when I started following Jesus. His Word comforted me and told me that no matter what would happen, God would always be there.

Flash forward to the summer of 2006 when I skim through the book The Bible Code and suddenly start preparing for the big nuclear holocaust it predicted for that August. I couldn't eat, and whatever I did eat I couldn't keep down. Nothing made me happy. All I could do was look at the horizon and imagine a big nuclear blast coming my way. It got so bad that I had to go on Effexor (which I still take). Of course 2006 came and went, and I realized how much time I wasted.

So when I read about a mother killing her children and then herself to avoid the Tribulation, or all the people who gave up their entire lives to preach Camping's message, I immediately remember all the time I wasted throughout my life being scared to death. This isn't the Gospel! Jesus came to give us peace, not fear. Eschatology is supposed to inspire us to participate in God's restoration of the world. But why do that when you can scare people out of their money and lives?

Take it from me, folks, when Jesus says no one but God knows when the world will end, you better believe it!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Farewell Letter

I set this to go live at 6:30pm local time, May 21. Since the world didn't end, I removed it, but am pasting it here today:

Greetings Sinner(s),

If you are reading this, you are obviously confused by all the clothes in the street. The first thing you need to know is what you are experiencing right now is deep sadness--never again will you see a Kirk Cameron movie. Let that sink in.

Don't be to sad about things. There is still much to look forward to…including, but not limited to:

*I hear that guy from Creed is cutting a new album about being reborn after realizing he missed the end--it's going to be great!
*Smurfs 3D.
*You get to find out whose replacing Michael on the Office.
*CNN's live coverage of world in complete chaos is going to be amazing!
*You get to make fun of all the people who claimed to be Christians, but got left behind.

Don't worry about the homeless not getting their allotted charity--Christians weren't helping them anyway. They'll be fine.

For those who need money, my pin # is 1234. I don't need it now anyway. But I doubt US currency will be good anymore--now that China is the leader of the free world.

Let me finish by saying this: when you are looting my house, please feed my cats. They are hungry and thirsty. I've been so busy getting ready to leave, I forgot to leave them a little extra.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Rev. James Manning - Still Crazy After All These Years

As you may of already know, Wednesday President Barack Obama released his long form birth certificate to get the idiots to shut up prove that he is a U.S. citizen. Of course there are still some racist buffoons people who are still not convinced. One of them is our dear old friend Rev. James D(umbass) Manning:

Apparently Mr. Manning is not satisfied unless Obama releases his college transcript, his Social Security card, his shoe size, etc. He's also says that the term "birther" hurts his widdle feewings (you have to read those last two words in a little kid's voice). He also thinks that him and his friends Orly Taitz (who definitely isn't from America!) and Donald Trump represent 45% of the Republican party.

I think it's safe to say that Rev. Manning's tin foil hat is a little too tight.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Why The Cross Matters

The Crucifixion With Scenes of Martyrdom of the Apostlesphoto © 2010 David Brewster | more info (via: Wylio)
(Originally posted on my blog.)

A few weeks ago I read John Piper's book The Passion of Jesus Christ. He wrote it around the time Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ came out (can't blame a guy for wanting the cash in!). In the book, Piper gives 50 reasons why Jesus had to die. I'm pretty sure he wrote it for people unfamiliar with Christianity, because it's basically Penal Substitutionary Atonement 101. It's not a bad book, mind you; I just think Piper could have gone a little bit deeper.

I like to think that the atonement is like a puzzle: you have to put all the pieces together to get the full picture. If you focus only on one specific atonement theory--Penal Substitutionary, Christus Victor, Ransom, etc.--then you're only looking one little corner of the picture. From what I read of the Bible, the cross is way too big to be crammed inside our neat and tidy little theological explanations.

So why did Jesus have to die? Why does the cross matter so much? I'm only an amateur theologian at best, but here are some reasons why I think the cross still matters:

-Because on the cross Jesus paid the debt of our sin. Paul writes in the book of Romans that "the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus, our Lord" (Romans 6:23). Because of early mankind's disobedience, we all suffer death. Thankfully "just as one trespass [Adam's sin] resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act [the cross] resulted in justification and life for all people" (5:18). God Himself became a (hu)man to experience the pains of death so that we may have life.

-Because the cross defeats worldly and demonic powers. Jesus began His ministry by reading from Isaiah: "The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners" (61:1, emphasis mine). Okay, so what are we prisoners of? According to Jesus, "everyone who sins is a slave to sin" (John 8:34). He had to become captive to the worldly and demonic powers so that we, like Barabbas the violent radical, could go free.

-Because the cross puts to death our old selves. Paul says that "our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with,[a] that we should no longer be slaves to sin" (Romans 6:6). In other words, the part of you that wanted to the do the opposite of what God wanted, the part of you full of malice, greed, hatred, apathy, etc? That part is now dead. No, not weakened . . . DEAD!

The cross changes everything. And yet, it's still not the end of the story.

What does the cross mean for you?

Friday, April 15, 2011

John Galt - He's Not the Messiah!

Who is John Galtphoto © 2009 Matthew Oliphant | more info (via: Wylio)
To the delight of Tea Party activists everywhere, a movie version of Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged is finally seeing the light of day. It'll be a trilogy that will try to be as faithful to the original book as possible. Part One comes out today . . . Tax Day.

With it's strong emphasis on capitalism and individual freedom, Atlas Shrugged could be seen as holy scripture for the Tea Party movement (next to the Bible and the U.S. Constitution). If you go to any Tea Party protest, no doubt you'll see many references to John Galt, referring to the hero of the book who leads the people to revolution. While I have not read Atlas Shrugged, I've read little bits here and here about Rand's philosophy. To be quite honest, I don't understand why a lot the Tea Party activists would embrace the teachings of both Jesus and Rand, because they seem like two completely different gospels.

First, Rand was an atheist who believed that religion was a threat to personal freedom. Faith, according to Rand, was "the exact antithesis and enemy of thought." In Atlas Shrugged when John Galt is giving his 70-page speech (which, one might say, is Galt's version of the Sermon on the Mount), he says:

"For centuries, the battle of morality was fought between those who claimed that your life belongs to God and those who claimed that it belongs to your neighbors - between those who preached that the good is self-sacrifice for the sake of ghosts in heaven and those who preached that the good is self-sacrifice for the sake of incompetents on earth. And no one came to say that your life belongs to you and the good is to live it."

Which brings us to my second point: the key concept of Rand's philosophy. Jesus sums up the entire Law of Moses with just two commandments: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' . . . And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’" (Matthew 22:37, 39) Galt, on the other hand, sums up his philosophy with this: "I swear by my life and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine." One says the self must decrease and the other must increase; the other says the exact opposite.

Third, let's take a look at the symbols used to represent both worldviews. Christianity is symbolized by the cross: an ancient Roman device used for capital punishment. For John Galt, Rand uses the dollar sign: a symbol of wealth and prosperity. So basically Christianity is about losing the self, and Rand's philosophy is about gaining treasures for the self.

So just who is John Galt? To quote Monty Python, "He's not the messiah, he's a very naughty boy!"