We see changes in our culture and it is freaking us out
It has been written and said that we are living in a post-Christian culture. A post-Christian culture can be defined as “a culture where the Christian faith and worldview no longer has a dominant influence in society.” Many of us were brought up in a world where there was common ground when it comes to absolute truth and morality. That is definitely not the case any more. The problem is the way in which Christians are responding to the changing culture. Out of fear and insecurity about the loss we are experiencing we have become angry and have begun to fight a culture war.
We need to understand what is going on beneath the surface in the hearts and minds of the people all around us
What we need to do is stop and realize that the arguments we are having are, for the most part, symptoms of something much deeper. Let’s take sexuality for example. Many Christians are shocked regarding how our culture’s view of sexuality has changed. So, what do we do? We will argue with people (very rarely in person) about the issue of sexuality. What we normally find is that our arguments have very little power to change anyone’s mind. Why do you think that is true?
The reason that it is true is due to the fact that their world views have completely changed. Our culture’s view of truth, gender, and morality have changed massively over the years. Think of it this way, we are arguing with people about the software when the real problem is the hardware. It might just be possible that our “conversations” are having little impact because they are not going deep enough.
We need to go beyond throwing truth grenades and look to build relationships
So what do we do? One main idea that I keep expressing time and time again is that we need to build actual relationships. We have to give up the idea that the hard hitting meme we post or the political rant is going to make any difference. All that it is going to do is push people away and make it less likely that they will ever come to know the Truth personally.
Imagine this for a moment. Christians, working hard to build old-fashioned relationships with people who are very different from them. Listening. Showing genuine empathy. Asking lots of questions. Being open to the idea that we can learn from others who come from very different backgrounds. It is in the context of a relationship that we can go beyond the surface and talk about the basis, or the foundation, for what we say we believe. The online post or rant is easy, and if we are honest, it feels good to throw out an occasional truth grenade and pretend that we actually accomplished something positive. To go deeper in relationship will come about only when we love people more than we love winning an argument. But the question we are faced with is this, will we take the time, get out of our comfort zone, and actually build relationships with people very different from us?
At New Life Church we highlight the fact that our main mission as followers of Jesus Christ is the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20). Our mission is to make disciples who make disciples. What would it look like in everyday life if we were seeking to make disciples of Jesus Christ? How would it impact the way we live if we took the Great Commission seriously? Here are 5 ways a disciple making attitude changes everyday life.
- When you attend Sunday morning worship (or other church events) you have your spiritual eyes open for how you can connect with other people relationally and help them grow in their faith. For example, as you gather with your church to worship you are not there just for your own spiritual good. You make it a habit to reach out to others and show them the love that Jesus Christ has shown to you. You begin going to retreats, socials, events so that you can be a blessing to others. It is more about others than it is about you. “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” -Philippians 2:3
- You no longer see the workplace as a secular environment, or something that is outside of your Christian calling. Jesus is Lord over everything and that includes where you work and go to school. It does not mean that you are walking around thumping people on the head with your Bible. Instead it means you are open to the idea that God wants to bring people into your life at work so that you can build a relationship with them and point them to Christ.
- You understand that God has called you to your neighborhood to be a disciple maker. The one thing your neighbor needs more than anything else is to know the grace and forgiveness of Jesus Christ. Do we think it is a mere coincidence that we live where we live? We are there (our home address) first and foremost as ambassadors of Jesus Christ.
- You are less bored with everyday life in general because you realize that God is calling you to follow him in the middle of it. When everyday life becomes your mission field you realize that God is always at work and he is calling you to join him in the work that he is doing.
- You will have an friends who are not Christians. On another blog post I wrote this line, “I think the greatest weakness in the American church today is that we are not good at being a friend to sinners.” You can find that post HERE. It is so easy for us (I am including myself in this) to become isolated from those who are lost and need to know Christ. One way to measure how much we are motivated by the Great Commission is to think about how many friendships we have we people who do not yet know Christ.
If we took the Great Commission seriously it would have a powerful impact on the way we live everyday life. If you can think of other ways a disciple-making attitude would change a person’s life I would love to hear from you.
One of the primary arguments that I want to make in this brief article is that Christians in America have relied too much on politics to change the world when in fact our focus should be on the good news of Jesus Christ. How did we get to this point?
Brief history of the Moral Majority
The Moral Majority was started in 1979 by Jerry Falwell, a Southern Baptist pastor, who worked to unite other conservative evangelicals to address what they saw as the problems in American society.
There were lots of things going on in American culture in the 70s and 80s that led to the formation of the Moral Majority. Abortion, gay rights, sexual immorality, humanism in the public schools, liberal Supreme Court rulings, etc.
But could there be more behind what really got the Moral Majority started in the first place? You can go HERE to read some other theories as to what inspired the Moral Majority to move into action in the first place.
Getting involved in politics is a good thing
On a personal note, I want to say that I strongly believe that it is good for Christians to be very involved in the political world. One of my heroes is William Wilberforce. Wilberforce was a British politician who worked zealously to end the slave trade that was prominent in his day. In order for Christians to live as salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16) they must engage the world they live in rather than retreat or withdraw.
So what was the problem with the Moral Majority?
Paul Michael Weyrich, co-founder of the Moral Majority with Jerry Falwell, wrote these words, “When political power is achieved, the moral majority will have the opportunity to re-create this great nation.” Re-create the nation? Really? Does anyone today really think that our nation has been “re-created”? Ed Dobson who co-authored the book, “Blinded By Might: Can The Religious Right Save America?” wrote these words as he pondered the impact his time working for the Moral Majority had in American culture:
Did the Moral Majority really make a difference? During the height of the Moral Majority, we were taking in millions of dollars a year. We published a magazine, organized state chapters, lobbied Congress, aired a radio program, and more. Did it work? Is the moral condition of America better because of our efforts? Even a casual observation of the current moral climate suggests that despite all the time, money and energy-despite the political power-we failed. Things have not gotten better; they have gotten worse.
What are the unintended consequences of making an idol of politics?
One of the unintended consequences for being so involved in the world of politics, and losing sight of the power of the gospel, is that Christians have become known more for their political ideology than they are for mercy, compassion and love. Thomas Kidd puts it like this, “In short, evangelicals have gone from being known as born again Christians, to being known as religious Republicans.”
But there are other consequences as well. By engaging in a culture war we have alienated the very people that need to hear the gospel story. Our angry rhetoric pushes people away from us because we have been treating them like our enemy and not the lost sheep that Jesus came to die for (Luke 15:1-7).
Is there a better way?
As Christians we should long to see the world changed and actively work towards that end. Of course what we should strive to do is evaluate the way we are living and contrast it with what we read in Scripture. What do we learn from observing the life of Jesus and the apostle Paul?
Jesus emphasized serving
But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” -Matthew 20:25-28
Jesus’ disciples completely misunderstood that it meant to be a part of the kingdom of God. In Matthew 20 we see James and John come to Jesus seeking power and glory and Jesus has to redirect them and tell them that they way that the kingdom of God flourishes is when Christians seek to put others first and serve them.
Question: How are you, and your church, serving others in your neighborhood and city?
Jesus emphasized making disciples
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” -Matthew 28:18-20
Jesus spent the bulk of his ministry years making disciples who would go on and make disciples. This was Jesus’ plan for changing the world, spending time with people, helping them to become more like him, and then releasing them so that they could go and do likewise. What is our plan for changing the world? Does it look like the method that Jesus employed?
Question: Who are you discipling?
Jesus and Paul emphasized love
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. -1 Corinthians 13:1-3
The apostle Paul makes it abundantly clear in 1 Corinthians 13 that if there is anything that Christians should be known for it is love.
What does this love look like? Love is not winning an argument. Love is not an insulting meme that belittles our political rivals. Love has a heart filled with compassion that longs to see the lost sons and daughters of God come to know the grace of Jesus Christ.
Question: Are you known on social media, and in everyday life, for being a person of compassion and love?
The spirit of the moral majority lives on today
There is no doubt that some of the negative aspects of the Moral Majority, and the Religious Right, are alive and well today. The problem is that it is such a part of the air that we breath that we have a hard time seeing the error of our ways. The key will be for Christians today to refocus on the words, and the life, of Jesus Christ and how he worked to transform this fallen world.
If you are a believer in Jesus Christ you have a desire to make a difference in this world. The thing that is causing me great concern lately is that it would seem that far too many Christians are actually doing more harm than good when it comes to making the world a better place.
The best place to look when it comes to an example to follow is, of course, Jesus Christ. Jesus came to this earth out of a desire to bring abundant life to a world that desperately needed it (John 10:10). So what we need to do is examine the way that Jesus spent his time. We need to carefully contemplate his methods for ushering in his kingdom and bringing lasting change.
So, how did Jesus do it? Yes, of course he lived a perfect life, died on a cross, and three days later he rose from the grave victoriously. Praise God, this is the heart of the gospel story! But Jesus has given you and I a specific mission, something that he personally modeled during his three years with his disciples.
Here it is, Jesus discipled 12 men. Yep, that was his grand plan. Jesus was super relational. He got to know people who were far from the Father and built deep, meaningful relationships with them. He prayed with them. He ate with them. He taught them the Scriptures. He loved them. He partnered with them in ministry. He taught them to go and do likewise.
Some where along the way the Great Commission has been hijacked by a culture war. Dictionary.com defines a culture war like this, “a conflict between groups with different ideals, beliefs, philosophies, etc.” Issues that we Americans are willing to fight about include abortion, climate change, claims about absolute truth, conservative vs. progressive, LGBT rights, immigration, racism, global warming, standing or kneeling, the right to die, etc. Wikipedia points out that the phrase “culture wars” became a part of our everyday vocabulary when James Davison Hunter wrote his book in 1991 called, “Culture Wars: The Struggle to Define America.”
Is it possible that you are caught up in the culture war and are not even aware of it? Maybe you are not sure. What does it look like to be fighting a culture war?
- You focus too much on winning arguments.
- You have an unhealthy anger towards people on the other side of the political aisle and it is eating you alive.
- You are known more for what you are against than what you are for.
- You emphasize the passing of laws over the need for salvation.
- You believe a post on social media is more effective than having a neighbor over for a meal.
- You don’t pray as much as you use to.
- You are anxious and worried instead of hopeful and optimistic.
- You have never discipled anyone and have no plans to do so.
- You have forgotten Ephesians 6:12, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
Maybe you are thinking that just a little cultural warfare can’t really be all that bad.
So this begs a question. How in the world have we taken the command to make disciples and twisted it into fighting an angry culture war? I believe there are three primary reasons why so many Christians have gotten involved in a culture war.
First of all, let me say that I do not believe Christians have consciously decided that they want to minimize the Great Commission and engage in a culture war. I think it happens because it is the air that we breathe. The culture war is raging all the time on social media and in the news. Before we know it, we Christians are fighting the same way that the world fights. We are using their weapons and we are only fanning the flames of anger and outrage all around us. Tragically, we are making things worse, not better.
Second, we have lost sight of what the true solution is to our cultural problem(s). Jesus said “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.” (John 15:19) All of the bad behavior that we see in society today comes from the sin nature that is a part of each and everyone of us. The only thing powerful enough to change the human heart is the good news of Jesus Christ. So, when we are consumed with the culture war we are often times failing to address the main problem, the sinful heart of men and women.
Third, fighting a culture war is easy and our sin nature loves it. It is much easier to fire off an angry post on Facebook or Twitter than it is to get involved in a meaningful, personal relationship. Let’s be honest, you simply can’t follow Jesus and refuse to invest in the lives of other people. Jesus told us many times that to follow him would be costly and, quite honestly, many of us don’t want to pay the price (Luke 14:25-34).
I am not advocating for the unbiblical idea that Christians should retreat from the world and live in a holy huddle. It’s great for Christians to be involved in politics and to speak up about the issues of our day and time. Personally, I would love to see Roe v. Wade overturned. But we need to always remember that our hope is in God alone, not in the POTUS or the Supreme Court.
Let me wrap this up by asking you what are some practical steps you can begin taking to build relationships with people in your neighborhood, workplace, school and city? It is in the context of relationships that the gospel is able to work it’s way into the deepest parts of our lives. Jesus’ plan for changing the world has not changed, disciples making disciples.
Let’s recommit to actually living the way that Jesus lived so that we can make this world a better place (instead of fanning the flames). Let’s be known for being the most relational, loving people in the world.
- We voted as a denomination to amend article 9 of our Statement of Faith. You can see below that we removed the word ‘premillennial’ from our Statement of faith and replaced it with the word ‘glorious’. The primary reason for removing the word is so that we, as a denomination, stay focused on the essentials of our Christian faith. We don’t want to exclude people from our denomination, and our churches, because they do not hold to a premillennial perspective regarding the end times.
We believe in the personal, bodily and
premillennialglorious return of our Lord
Jesus Christ. The coming of Christ, at a time known only to God, demands constant
expectancy and, as our blessed hope, motivates the believer to godly living,
sacrificial service and energetic mission.
- I am excited about the future of the EFCA because there is a laser focus on the gospel, community and making disciples.
- Paul’s relationship with Timothy is a powerful example of how important it is that every Christian is making disciples (1 Timothy 2:1-12).
- Being a preacher is not enough. We must be making disciples who make disciples.
- “Death? That’s so B.C.” Quote from Pastor Eric Rivera
- “If the disciples we are making aren’t making disciples are we making disciples of Jesus?” Quote from Disciplemaking Lab
- “People can be sitting in our churches for 10 years and still not be making disciples. Why?” Quote from Disciplemaking Lab
- “If our programs are creating consumers and not disciple-makers, what do we do?” Quote from Disciplemaking Lab
- “When it comes to discipleship there will come a time for our people where they will have to decide if they really want to embrace the ways of Jesus or go back to attending church, listening to sermons and enjoying worship music.” Quote from Discipleship Lab
- This made me think of the Matrix when Morpheus asked Neo if he really wanted to see reality or just go back to living in a false reality. As Christians we are faced with a red pill, blue pill choice. What will we choose? Consumerism or discipleship?
- “79% of people in our culture want to talk about spiritual things. Only 35% of the people in our churches are engaging in these kinds of conversations.” Quote from Lab on Missional Impact.
- Do the people on the other side of the political side know that you love them and care about them? Or is your angry rhetoric causing a barrier to the gospel? This was a thought I took from the Lab on Missional Impact.
- Ed Stetzer shared the inspirational story of Jane the Uber Driver. It shows how we can make disciples in everyday life! It is not as complicated as we make it out to be!
- Also made a good connection with an EFCA pastor in Salem, ND that I believe will lead to us doing a better job of developing leaders in our church here in Watertown, SD.
One of the most destructive things to both Christians, and to churches, is the belief that the church exists to help Christians grow spiritually. I imagine that you are going to want to go back and read that first sentence a couple more times to make sure you got it right. Then, you are going to want to respond with a strong rebuttal to what seems like really poor logic. Or maybe you simply respond with a question like, “Isn’t it obviously a good thing to expect a church to help us grow in our faith?”
Let me explain. Yes, it is good for Christians to come to church and hope that their church helps them grow spiritually. Here is the problem. Far too often that is where things stop for many people. Too many Christians fail to understand that to be a disciple of Jesus Christ means that we are actively helping others to grow in their faith too.
DISCIPLES OF JESUS MAKE DISCIPLES OF JESUS
Jesus said this in Matthew 4:19, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Jesus, in very plain language, is telling his disciples (which includes you and me) that it has always been his design that his disciples are not only thinking about their own spiritual growth. Jesus was helping his disciples to grow spiritually with THE EXPRESS PURPOSE that they would help others to grow spiritually. One of the primary objectives of a disciple of Jesus Christ is to make other disciples of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:16-20).
So here is a really critical question that we all need to ask and answer, “What are some ways that we can actively work to help others inside the church, and outside the church, grow in their faith?” HERE is a link that does a great job helping us answer that question. I would love to hear your thoughts, ideas and questions!
We have this tendency to evaluate God’s goodness based on the circumstances of life. If life is going fairly well then we conclude that God is good. If we are going through a difficult time then we might begin doubting the goodness of God. I want to strongly encourage you to watch this 5 minute video clip from Sam Allberry as he preaches from Romans 5:8, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
In this sermon, Sam is telling us an incredibly important truth. The very best thing that God can do for us is to help us become more like his Son Jesus Christ. God’s goodness is not demonstrated primarily through success, health, happiness, etc. God’s goodness is revealed by the fact that he is using the good and bad stuff of life to transform us into the image of Christ.
- Do you believe that God is being good to you during the difficult times of life? If not, you need to know that it will be nearly impossible for you to experience joy and contentment. And if you have a hard time seeing God in the hard times you might be believing in a soft version of the prosperity gospel and are not even aware of it.
- What do you desire most in life? Is it for your circumstances to get better or is it for God to transform you into the image of his Son, Jesus Christ? We know the right answer. But what does your heart want the most?
Would love to hear your thoughts and ideas! Feel free to leave a comment.
One of the things I deeply desire is to see people build meaningful relationships within the church where I pastor. Hopefully by now we all realize that church is much more than a Sunday morning event. Church consists of people who are deeply committed to Christ and to one another. So what are some practical steps you can take to build deep relationships in the church?
You Must Recognize Your Need For Relationships
In 1 Thessalonians 2:8 we read this from the apostle Paul, “So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.”
Paul knew that being a part of the church involved sharing his life with others. It does not matter if you are an introvert or an extrovert. The bottom-line is that we all need brothers and sisters in the church to love, challenge, and encourage us.
You Will Need To Re-prioritize Your Busy Life
“Busyness is like sin: kill it, or it will be killing you.” -Kevin DeYoung, Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem
Busyness is one of the main barriers when it comes to building deep relationships in the church. What we can’t do is keep the status quo, running at full speed with no margin, and then expect to add in meaningful relationships. Most likely you are going to have to stop doing something you are currently doing so that you have time to build relationships.
Why not stop right now and ask the question, what do I need to stop doing so that I can get to know people in my church on a deeper level?
You Should Join A Life Group
Maybe your church calls it something else (Small Groups, Missional Communities, Gospel Communities, Cell Groups, Home Groups, etc.). Life Groups are geared to help people develop relationships with the express purpose of making disciples of Jesus Christ. You might argue by saying that you can build relationships without joining a Life Group. My question for you is this, how is that working for you? I believe it is helpful to make the commitment to being a part of a group on a regular basis.
You Must Be Willing To Deal With The Discomfort Of Getting To Know People That Are Different Than You
Maybe you’ve had a bad experience(s) when it comes to building relationships in the church. Perhaps you joined a Life Group before and it did not go the way you hoped. When you think about Jesus’ Life Group (his disciples) you are quickly reminded of how incredibly dysfunctional they were. Think about how many times Peter said something that offended Thomas (or one of the other disciples). Think about the Sons of Zebedee asking to be the greatest and granted the privilege of sitting at the right hand of Jesus in heaven. Talk about hurting the feelings of others. It was their love for God and for each other that kept them together even in the middle of disagreements and relational challenges.
You Should Invite People Over For Meals
Here is something I have noticed over my many years of leading Life Groups. It’s possible for the Life Group to begin to feel like just another weekly meeting. You get together to study, pray and eat some food and then live life on your own for the rest of the week. To keep your Life Group from feeling like a meeting I would suggest you begin having people over for meals, or meet them for breakfast or lunch. These little steps will go along way when it comes to helping us develop meaningful relationships in the church.
Longing to See the Holy Spirit Work in a New Way
I meet on a weekly basis with my Life Transformation Group. It consists of three other men who are committed to making disciples who make disciples. Just this morning we were talking about the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives. One of the questions I asked was, “do you think there is more of the Christian life that you could be experiencing?”
I think this is a good question for all of us to ask. Do we genuinely desire for the Holy Spirit to change us, grow us, and empower us? Or, have we grown rather comfortable spiritually and would have to admit that it has been far too long since we really pleaded with God to reveal more of himself to us?
The Baptism of the Holy Spirit
During our Life Transformation Group discussion we talked about the difference between the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the filling of the Holy Spirit.
John said this in Matthew 3:11, “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
Being baptized in the Holy Spirit is what happens when a person first places their faith in Jesus Christ and repents of their sin. The baptism of the Holy Spirit is immediate upon being saved and it is permanent. It is also not something that can be repeated.
The Filling of the Holy Spirit
In Ephesians 5:18 the apostle Paul writes this, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.”
Being filled with the Holy Spirit is different than being baptized with the Holy Spirit. Paul commands us to continually seek after the power and filling of the Holy Spirit in our every day lives.
Making Room for the Holy Spirit
So, what can we do to be filled with the Holy Spirit? I believe there are a number of biblical answers to that question. But one of the more important things we can do to be filled with the Holy Spirit is to ask God to reveal to us what there is in our life that we need to surrender or repent of. In 1 Thessalonians 5:19 Paul writes, “Do not quench the Spirit.” So we know, as frightening as it sounds, that it is possible to diminish or stifle the work the Spirit longs to do in our lives.
This morning, our Life Transformation Group, took time just to quietly pray and ask God to reveal to us anything in our life that we need to change in order for the Holy Spirit to fill us with his power. We only took a few minutes of quiet prayer and each one of us came up with something that we sensed the Spirit telling us that we need to do or surrender.
What about you? Would you be willing, right now, to take some time and ask the Spirit to reveal to you anything in your life that is keeping the Holy Spirit from filling and empowering you?