Pursuing God’s Culture of Discipleship (Pt 2 The Gospel)

 “Let us always remember that Christ calls men and women not only to trust Him as Savior, but also to follow Him as Lord. That call to discipleship must be part of our message if we are to be faithful to Him.” Billy Graham

If we want to personally embrace, and help guide people towards Jesus’ call of discipleship, it must touch our identity.  We have to first see ourselves and our calling to both become and help make disciples.  If this identity isn’t in our foundation, any attempts at discipleship will become another dead religious work.  It will be going through motions without an inward Spiritual drive motivating them.  A dead work can be defined as doing religious things without real ongoing connection with, and direction from Christ.

Foundations are so important. The way people come into Christ and the church usually determines how they will walk once they are there. What are they committed to by being there? Are their lives actually being transformed by Jesus? A. W. Tozer said it well, “We can know the right words yet never be changed. This is the difference between information and transformation.”

” We can know the right words yet never be changed. This is the difference between information and transformation.”

Biblical traits that will be found among people who are following Him as disciples.

  • Following Jesus and being led by the Spirit (Romans 8).
  • Bearing the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5).
  • Pursuing and exhibiting the mind of Christ (Philippians 2).
  • Living out the characteristics of Love according to God’s definition (Jn 3:16, 1 Jn 3:16, 1 Cor. 13 and 1 John 4).
  • Pursuing the Biblical practice “putting off the old person and putting on the new, Jesus” (Colossians 3, Romans 13:8-14).
  • Engaging in His mission every day, everywhere, all the time as we are sent out by Jesus  (Jn 17:18, 20:21).
  • Continual pursuit of a Spirit filled life through which we make progress and move in His power (John 7:37:38, Acts 1:8, Ephesians 5:18).

Proper Foundations Begin With The Gospel

Shallow or incomplete presentations of the gospel will produce shallow Christians. A wrong perspective of what Christianity is all about will affect discipleship. Progress is often blocked because it is tied by the background assumption of what people believe the gospel is about and their understanding of what it is to be a Christian.

Often Christianity and salvation are reduced to confessing your belief that Jesus died on your behalf. That is all there is to it. Salvation is free and nothing else needs to happen but accept it. Is that really all the gospel is? We tend to treat the experience of conversion as something entirely separate from the process of following Him as a disciple (Mt 28:18-29).

 What are some of the incomplete versions of the gospel?

  • The prosperity and affluence gospel.  In this gospel, the right to prosperity and happiness IS the cause. The things of God exist for me to have the best life now in terms of personal dream fulfillment and an affluent lifestyle.  The great quest for our lives is to develop our faith in order to claim our rights to prosperity and affluence.  It produces an entitlement mentality and a subtle motivation of managing the things of God towards personal ends.
  • The forgiveness for heaven gospel.  This tends to foster a type of person that is much like the old vampire movies I watched as a young unbeliever.  People aren’t that concerned about a real relationship. Like the vampires, they just relate enough to get the effect of the blood in their lives.   Once they get the effect of His blood in them they want little more to do with Jesus until they get to heaven.  This tends to create Christians who are not disciples.  The message is “be forgiven.”  Following Christ is optional.
  • Liberal gospel of moral therapeutic deism.  Conversion is about improving the quality of your life by feeling better about yourself, doing good works, becoming a better person, working for justice, and helping needy people.  Absolute truth and clear standards are optional.  The goal is to have a better feeling about our life and its meaning.  In this gospel, instead of following Jesus and exhibiting the culture of heaven, there is more of an accommodation of the earth’s culture to stay relevant and appealing.
  • The consumer gospel.  God exists to fulfill our lives in a variety of areas and give us a sense of personal self-worth and fulfillment.  The church and religious programs are simple means to get what we need to make our dreams come true.  God is happy if we are happy. It promises to provide everything a person on the go needs: convenience, speed, sound-bite theology, and instant results.  Since impatience is the besetting sin in the west, the consumer gospel replaces the slow and difficult path of authentic spiritual maturity with methods and programs that give fast and easy results.  Our sins are taken off the table and the deeper life of discipleship is optional, something we can pursue if we have time.  This gospel creates people who become finicky consumers who shop for churches and programs that quickly and efficiently meet their needs. If they can find an easier or better one they go to that one.
  • The religious rightness gospel.  This gospel tends to prioritize correct doctrine, adherence to a narrow behavioral and moral code, and an exclusiveness of truth. The goal is that we become more right than everyone else so we feel better about our faith.  It forms a mentality that we are better than others, like the Pharisees.  Why, because we have THE truth.
  • The gospel of the Kingdom.  This is the Biblical gospel (Mt 4:23, 9:35, 24:14, Lk 16:16).  It is the proclamation of the loving rule and reign of Christ over all of life.  Through Jesus’ incarnation, perfect life, death (bearing our sin and suffering God’s wrath for us in order to justify), and His resurrection triumph, we have the opportunity to live in Him.  We are accepted by God, set free from sin and wrath, and brought under the loving Lordship of Jesus.  This was the first message that the early church proclaimed, “God has made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:38-42).

As we confess Him as Lord and come under His loving rule we are delivered from the bondage and power of sin. As we believe, follow, and begin to obey (put into practice) His word, we are progressively set free from the damaging effects of sin and enjoy life in Him.  The entrance has always been the same. Jesus is the door (entrance) to the Kingdom (Jn 10:7-9).

As we continue to follow and obey, we continue to be set free  John 8:31-36 So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine;  (32)  and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free…(36) who the Son sets free is free indeed.

Unfortunately, we can cheapen the gospel to the point people buy in without selling out to Jesus. 

Sin at its core is selfishness.  It is enthroning you, your desires, your needs, and your plans, then worshipping them.  Unfortunately, we can cheapen the gospel to the point people buy in without selling out to Jesus.  It becomes believing without following.  It is comfortable, convenient, and me-centric.  It becomes more about Him following us to fulfill our desires rather than us following Him in order to fulfill His desires.  This is not the gospel.  This type of gospel will not have the effect of people following Him, being truly set free, and living for His sake.

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When Did We Separate Being a Christian From Being a Disciple?

Acts 11:26…the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.  

When did God’s people get the permission to separate the idea of being a Christian and being a disciple?  If we consider the Great Commission Jesus gave His people in Matthew 28 the idea of discipleship is at its core.  Jesus’ call was to “make disciples who are learning to put into practice everything He said.”

Matthew 28:19-20  “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,  (20)  teaching them to observe (put into practice) all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always.

Unfortunately, the church has substituted the idea of making disciples with making decisions.  The church has separated believing in Jesus from following Him as a disciple.  We tend to measure the success of any evangelistic effort, crusade, or event with the question, “how many decisions were made” or “how many people believed or attended?”  What about discipleship?

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What is a disciple?  Bible dictionaries define the word disciple with ideas like “a follower, learner, or an adherent.”  If you look at discipleship in light of the Great Commission it is following Jesus and learning how to put into practice everything He has said.   It is a way of life following and learning to obey Him. This is way different than simply deciding to believe in Jesus. Consider some of the Biblical statistics concerning discipleship.

  • Jesus called people to “follow Him” 25 times in the Gospels while calling them to “believe in Him” only 4 times.  The emphasis is clearly on being a disciple.  Even James despairingly says that “you believe God is one, that’s fine, but even the demons believe that and tremble” (James 2:18).  God’s people should have a little more faith than demons.
  • The New Testament refers to God’s people as “disciples” 269 times while it uses the designation “Christian” only 3 times.  One of the 3 says, “the disciples were first called Christians at Antioch” Acts 11:26.  The Biblical emphasis is clearly on discipleship.

All through the Bible God asked people questions to get at the root of false ideas they had embraced.  Here are some crucial questions we need to ask ourselves to get at the heart of God’s design for discipleship.

“Christianity without discipleship is always Christianity without Christ.”  Bonehoeffer

  1. When did we separate the Matthew 28 Commission into two completely separate parts, being baptized and being made a disciple who follows Him? 
  2. How did we arrive at a salvation that makes room for believing but not following and obeying? 
  3. How do we think that we can be servants of Jesus without following Him? Jn 12:26 “If any of you wants to serve me, then follow me. Then you’ll be where I am, ready to serve at a moment’s notice. 
  4. When did we allow for a state in which we believe in Jesus but do not continually follow and seek to put His word into practice?  Jesus seems to indicate that this produces false disciples instead of true ones.  John 8:30-32  As He spoke these things, many came to believe in Him.  (31)  So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine;  (32)  and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”

Christianity that doesn’t follow Jesus

Over the past 200 years, American Christians have fostered a brand of Christianity centered around offering programs in order to attract people to a meeting.  The Sunday service is the main point of attraction.  This approach fosters a mentality that church is an audience of spectators and consumers rather than a group of people who are following Jesus and seeking to put His word into practice.

Attractional Christianity fosters a consumer mentality that is always looking for the best deal for personal interest.   Commitment is rare in this model.  The focus becomes the consumer’s needs, wants, and desires rather than Jesus’ desires.

…Christ did not appoint professors, but followers. Soren Kierkegaard

In the consumer model, people attend in order to have a better week, better life, better family, better finances, and more feelings of satisfaction and happiness.  They rarely live or serve in the sacrificial way that Jesus consistently called His people to.  He wasn’t looking for members who casually join an organization or attend meetings, but people who would “lay their life down to follow Him together with others.”

Mt 16:24-26 MSG Then Jesus went to work on his disciples. “Anyone who intends to follow Me has to let Me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?( Mk 8:34-37 Lk 9:23-27)

We need a revolution of discipleship

One of the greatest Ameican theologians of the past 150 years, H Richard Niebuhr said something very important that we need to seek God for today.

“The great Christian revolutions came not by the discovery of something that was not there before. They happen when someone takes radically something that has always been there.”  H Richard Niebuhr

As I have studied church history for almost 40 years I have seen this played out over and over among God’s people.  One generation discovers something in a fresh way that had previously been neglected and God brings about great advancement through it.   I believe we are in need of a fresh revolution of discipleship.  Without  God’s design for discipleship being in the fabric of the church then Great Commission will become the great omission that leaves discipleship out. The 21st-century church desperately needs a restoration of God’s calling for everyone to be disciples.

What would the church look like if all of its members were following Jesus and seeking to put into practice everything He said?  This may sound like a pipe dream but it really is God’s design!  What would the church look like?  Just like what Jesus said it would, the salt of the earth, the light of the world, a city set on a hill that radiates the glory of God.

 

 

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Online Comparisons

“I I was shocked to hear they had separated!  All the way up until the time I found out her Facebook page indicated that they had a wonderful life, marriage, and family.  How could she publically put out that appearance when it wasn’t what was really going on?”  With bewilderment, she was referring to a college friend who lived in another city that she was close to and a godparent of one of her children.

Hungarian Proverb “If you keep wanting to be someone else who will be you?”

 

In our day and age, an online presence can become more influential than our real presence.  It is our current cultural platform through which we communicate.   It has spawned worldwide communication and opened great possibilities to share your life worldwide.  Like any other thing, it can be good or bad.  For God’s people, the good thing is to stay in touch with friends and highlight the good things God is doing in your life.

Unfortunately, It can also be a means of portraying a false online life that isn’t rooted in reality.  I have heard it referred to as people becoming curators of the display of self.  It can also provoke people to comparisons that can lead to something very harmful to all of us, jealousy and envy.

  • “Look at where they got to go on vacation…we have never gone to a place like that.  How do they do it?”
  • “Look at how nice their new house is…How did they manage that?”
  •  “Their kids seem to have no problems.  They are so cute, happy, and obedient.  What’s wrong with mine?”

It can even carry over into our life in Christ.

  • “We had 15 people baptized in the past 2 weeks.”
  • “I had 3 international trips in the past 3 months and am reaching the ends of the earth”
  • “I am preaching to the Alive Conference tonight with 6000 people; please pray for this humble servant of God (of course posted with pictures of the amazing meeting).
  • “Our new building is advancing rapidly and the money is pouring in.”
  • “I was asked to speak at the …(famous, big, and slick)… conference. Hope to see you there!”

Google the phrase “Facebook envy” and you will get 24,000,000 hits.  Google the phrase “Facebook depression” and you will get 91,900,000 hits.  These are growing trends.

Paul speaks of the danger of comparisons.

2 Corinthians 10:12-13  For we will not make comparison of ourselves with some of those who say good things about themselves: but these, measuring themselves by themselves, and making a comparison of themselves with themselves, are not wise.  (13)  We will not give glory to ourselves in over-great measure, but after the measure of the rule which God has given us, a measure which comes even to you.

When we start the comparison game we automatically fall into the trap of pursuing the wrong kind of glory.  We pursue a glory (even God’s glory) to give validation to ourselves.  The great problem for followers of Jesus is that it is validation from sources other than God.   Paul speaks of this as well.

Galatians 1:10-11 GNB  Does this sound as if I am trying to win human approval? No indeed! What I want is God’s approval! Am I trying to be popular with people? If I were still trying to do so, I would not be a servant of Christ.  (11)  Let me tell you, my friends, that the gospel I preach is not of human origin.

1 Thessalonians 2:4 GNB  Instead, we always speak as God wants us to, because he has judged us worthy to be entrusted with the Good News. We do not try to please people, but to please God, who tests our motives.

Ephesians 6:6-7  Do this not only when they are watching you, because you want to gain their approval; but with all your heart do what God wants, as slaves of Christ.  (7)  Do your work as slaves cheerfully, as though you served the Lord, and not merely human beings.

Glory Hounds

C.S.Lewis Mere Christianity “Pride is essentially competitive…Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more if it than the next man.  We say people are proud of being rich, or clever, or good looking, but they are not.  They are proud of being richer, or cleverer, or better-looking than others.”   

Constant comparison is fueled by one thing, pride.  It can be toxic spiritually because it has cousins called jealousy and envy that will always move in to stay.  When we constantly compare ourselves it becomes about our glory rather than His.  Even when Peter admonishes us to use our unique gifts that aim was “His glory” not ours.

1 Pet 4:10-11 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 

Three important things from Peter that helps avoid comparisons.

  • We all have gifts and value. Everyone is special and needful in God’s economy.
  • The purpose of these gifts is to serve His body so she reveals His glory (Eph 1:22-23 3:10-11). Gifts are not about boosting our ego.  We are to use our unique giftings and wiring so the church can flourish and God gets the glory.   
  • The ultimate goal of everything is so God is glorified through Jesus…forever and ever.

Chasing our own glory through comparisons leads to futility.  Jesus frees us from that futility as we “lay our lives down for His sake.”   Remember the more self-focused you are the more you will care about comparisons and the less self-focused you are the less you will care about these comparisons.

Remember the more self-focused you are the more you will care about comparisons and the less self-focused you… Click To Tweet

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“How did you get that from reading this Book?”

Authentic Christianity is not just being real, but being Biblically real

I was really stirred while listening to a leader that I greatly admire.  He was a very popular author and megachurch leader who became disillusioned with consumer Christianity, left it all, and is laboring to see authentic communities of faith who attempt to walk in Biblical church life together as they engage in God’s mission.  This is at the heart of the motto many of us use to describe God’s purpose for us, “God’s family of Spirit filled disciples together on God’s mission.”

He told a story about a trip he made to China visiting areas where Christians had been persecuted for their faith.  Most of the churches were part of the underground church movement that flourished under an atheistic communist regime.  He was amazed by the sincerity of faith he was witnessing and was asking them lots of questions about their experiences and how they did these things. One of the group asked him, “why are you asking so many questions and why are you so interested in our experiences?”  He replied, “because this isn’t the way it is in the Western church.”

Authentic Biblical church life is the best apologetic for the 21st-century culture.  Church is to be a compelling community.

He started telling them what church life is like in America.  “We have buildings we call churches we go to for an hour a week; if there is a better speaker at a different one we will go to that one; if there is better music at one we will go to that one; if we get in a fight with someone or are challenged about anything in our life we will switch to another church; and if the childcare or children’s programs are better somewhere else we switch to that one. The overall approach in trying to attract new people is come on in and sit down, we will take care of everything for you.”

It is common to see things like when you want to move to another geographic area you disconnect from that church and start shopping for another one in that area.  You stay connected  through Churchbook (Facebook), Churcstagram (Instagram), and Churchchat (Snapchat), yet the reality is that they are no longer part of laboring translocally together in Kingdom activity like you see in Jesus and the early church as they moved geographically (Mt 9-11, Lk 9-10, Rom 16:1-16, 1 Cor 16:10-24, Col 4:7-18, 2 Tim 4:11-22, Phil 4:1-23).

Then one of them raised their voice and their Bible in the midst of the laughter and asked, “How did you get that from reading this Book?” 

They began to laugh, not just snicker, but the whole group began to laugh deeply.  He wasn’t trying to be funny but they found what he was saying was so comical they continued to laugh and it became a little awkward.  Then one of them raised their voice and their Bible in the midst of the laughter and asked, “How did you get that from reading this Book?”

“How did you get that from reading this book?”  What a profound question.  I identify with that when I reflect on my background.  I was raised unchurched and secular.  When I began to follow Jesus as Lord I knew I was going to learn a whole new culture.  The Bible was God’s instruction manual.  If He said it that settled it.  What kind of church life do we live?  Our only option is what the Bible prescribes and describes.  It caused us to help start and raise up churches that attempt to allow Jesus to build along the lines of His word.  If what we were doing didn’t line up, we changed instead of changing His word.

In the western church we cater to the customers…what kind of church would you like; we will make it for you; you want meetings to only be an hour or less; we will cut the time down; you want a church that emphasizes this; we will emphasize it or we will create it for you; you want to come with no strings attached, we will keep it that way; you don’t want to believe something we will not bring it up; you want a support group with certain types of people, we will create them for you; we will keep making it easier and easier so we will get more and more Christian customers in the door.

An Experiment Revealing the Authentic

Try this experiment.  If you could describe church only using the Bible, not your experience or tradition, how would it look?  Here are some elements that will probably be there.

  • They are sincerely connected with Jesus in a real observable way.  He is in them and among them and their whole life is centered around Him (Col 1:18, 2:10-14, Acts 2:38-42).
  • The Kingdom of God (active rule of the Lord Jesus Christ) is expressed in and through God’s people as they live to submit every area of life to the His Lordship (Acts 2:36-42, Rom 10:9-10, Col 1:17-19, Rev 1-3).
  • The church is God’s family living out His relational way of life among the people He joins together.  It is not a building, meeting, or an organization where familiar strangers occasionally gather for meetings (Acts 2:38-42, 4:35-42, the 59 “one another commands in the Epistles).
  • God’s people hungering for and seeking more of a Spirit Filled life.  They desire to be continually led by, filled with, and moving in all the power and gifts of Holy Spirit both in meetings as well as everyday life (John 7:37-39, Acts 1:8, 2:1-4, 4:8, 31, 6:3, 8:12-24, 9:1-17, 10:43-48, 19:1-6, 1 Cor 12-14, Eph 5:18). It is an “earnest desire” (1 Cor 14:1) that sees this not as optional but essential.
  • The church is central, not peripheral to the plans and purposes of God and so it is central to theirs (Mt 16:18, Eph 1:23, 3:3-11, 5:25-32, Rev 19:7, 21:2-9, 22:17).
  • Church members are disciples who follow Jesus and seek to put into practice everything He says (Mt 28:18-20, Acts 11:23).  They are not just deciders who use Jesus to have a better life.
  • Church involvement is not just an audience of people attending and watching meetings but disciples who participte in seeing God’s life expressed in and through His church. 
  • All the Ephesians 4 ministries are involved and seen as essential, not optional, in equipping God’s people to the building up of local churches (Eph 4:11-16, Eph 2:17-22, Acts 13-28, Romans 16:1-16, 1 Cor 16:10-24, Col 4:7-18). Their input helps provide good foundations (Eph 2:20, 1 Cor 3:10-12), as well as fatherly and motherly care into local church families (1 Thes 2:7-11).
  • The local church is governed by a team of leaders, not just a one man “pastor” (elders with deacons alongside) chosen by God, recognized by people, with Ephesians 4 ministries involved in their training and appointment (Acts 14:23, 15:4-23, 16:4, 20:17-28, Phil 1:1, 1 Thes 5:12, 1 Tim 5:1-21, Tit 1:5-11, Jas 5:14, 1 Pet 5:1, John 17:11, 21-23).
  • The call of mission to the world is upon everyone, everywhere, all the time (Gen 1:26-28, Mt 28:18-20, Acts 1:8, Eph 1:22-22 etc.). Missions is not a program or a special call upon a few people who live in faraway places.  It is the daily call upon all the church whether it be across the street or across the ocean.
  • Praise and worship isn’t watching people sing songs on a platform. It is all of all of God’s people engaging in heartfelt, Spirit filled, Biblically described expressions of praise and worship.   This includes, but is not limited to the Biblical expressions such as shouting (found 265 times in the Bible), playing musical instruments (58 times), singing (29 times), lifting our hands (14 times), clapping (12 times), bowing or kneeling (12 times), dancing (9 times), and standing (7 times).
  • A multigenerational perspective that sees a priority of helping those younger while at the same time reaching forward to all that God has (Ps 78, Titus 2 etc).
  • Ministry isn’t relegated to a few people on a platform in corporate meetings. Ministry is about every person being equipped and using their God given abilities everyday to build up the family of God and reach the world with the gospel (1 Cor 12-14, Eph 4:10-32, Rom 12:1-17, 1 Pet 4:10-11, 1 Tim 4:4, 2 Tim 1:6).

This kind of life is what you get from reading that book!  Like Caleb said, “We must, by all means, go in and possess it” (Num 13:30).  

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God Apologizes For His Word

God’s truth is eternal.  While His revelation came into the earth in various cultural contexts, His truth is transcultural, and transgenerational (involving more than one culture and generation).  His truth affects every culture across the generations.  We understand that much of the New Testament was written in the context of a first century Palestine and Roman culture. God’s goal is not to try to replicate that culture, but to see His eternal truth transform our culture.

Some of the cultural advancement from our perspective may be cultural decline from God’s perspective

We know civilization advances.  While we are not trying to see a return to first-century customs and civilization, we must beware of cultural arrogance. We never want to try to make God’s truth submit to any culture or civilization, including ours.  God doesn’t follow current culture.  Jesus and His truth stand outside of culture in order to affect it.

When we seek to apply God’s truth in any cultural context or generation it is good to keep in mind the fact that God chose when to send Jesus into the earth.  He chose what culture Jesus came into.  It is what the Bible calls the “fullness of times.”

  • Gal 4:4 NASB  But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law,

God doesn’t yield to any culture, He works to influence all cultures.

God could have chosen any culture or time to bring Jesus and the revelation of the New Testament into the earth, but He chose that one.  There can be a current cultural arrogance in which we try to superimpose our culture on the Bible (believing our culture is superior to the one in which the Bible was written).  We must be careful with this!  No culture is “the truth.”  He is the truth!  Some of what we consider cultural advancement may be cultural deterioration!  God doesn’t yield to any culture, including ours.

Here is a witty article with a hint of sarcasm that shows the absurdity of trying to make God yield His truth to our current culture.

God Apologizes For Gendered Language In Bible

November 15, 2016

HEAVEN—Remorseful for using terms that fly in the face of contemporary progressive sensibilities, God Almighty issued an apology Tuesday for the gendered language found throughout His Word, the Holy Bible.

“The fact that gendered language has been non-offensive for millennia is no excuse, since through my omniscience I knew that by the time the 21st Century rolled around it would no longer be considered acceptable,” the statement, miraculously delivered through a heavenly messenger, read in part.

“Please accept my deepest and most sincere apologies for using such offensive terminology when describing humankind and myself throughout the pages of Scripture, and feel free to edit the eternal Word of God so that it aligns more closely with your current, advanced understanding of the nature of things,” he continued, adding that it was never His intention to advance the agenda of the patriarchy.

“My choices were unfortunate and regrettable, and I have no intention of trying to mansplain them away. I will do better.”

Bible publishers worldwide reportedly began work Tuesday on new translations of the Holy Scriptures, removing any pronouns or phrases which specify a gender either directly or by implication.

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A Surprising Response from a Retiring Pastor

I had somewhat of a shocking conversation with a friend who had led a successful church for over 3 decades. I had not communicated with him for a long time and it was good to see him.  He is a wonderful, well-respected pastor both by his church and the community. His ministry and church situation is everything many younger leaders would aspire to.  It is a great church with good programs, a nice building, influential people and a wonderful staff.  I hadn’t seen him in quite a while and when I greeted him he said something very unexpected, “You may not have heard it yet but I am officially and really retiring now.”  The next words that came out of his mouth shocked me, “I’m tired of feeding fat lazy Christians.   I want to get on and do something significant in the next phase of my life.”

“I am really retiring now.  I am tired of feeding fat lazy Christians. I want to get on and do something significant in the next phase of my life.” Retiring Pastor 

It was unexpected because this man was one of the kindest well-respected leaders I know.  He is known for his gentle approach to pastoring.  My response to him was a little surprising to me and somewhat prophetic,  “I hear ya!  If we see our role as building a church to please and attract consumer Christians then we will become spiritual chaplains of people’s narcissism.”  He agreed wholeheartedly.

This interaction made me think of a satirical Christian website’s post about the absurdity of how consumer Christians approach leaving a church titled, “Babylon Bee Signs You Should Find A New Church Home.” 

Consumer Christianity is the polar opposite of the implications Jesus described in following Him, “Lay your life down…lose your life for My sake…serve others…take up your cross…forsake all and follow Me.”  May this realization of consumer Christianity stir something of the zeal of God in us to fulfill the reason Jesus laid down His life. He didn’t lay His life down to have a people zealous for their own interest (consumer Christianity) but His.  Titus 2:13-14  looking for the blessed hope, and the appearance of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,  (14)  who gave Himself for us that He might redeem us from all iniquity and purify to Himself a special people, zealous of good works.

Babylon Bee Signs You Should Find A New Church

December 21, 2016

“How do I know if I should leave my church?”

It’s a question everyone wonders from time to time—and not one to take lightly. Transitioning between churches can be a messy time in the life of the Christian and his or her family and church body.

So how do you know if it’s time to say “adiós”? The Babylon Bee is here to help, with five meticulously researched and peer-reviewed signs that you should leave your church behind.

  • The full-service cafe discontinues your favorite seasonal drink. If winter rolls around and the coffee shop in the foyer decides not to run its usual peppermint mocha promotional, it’s time to start Googling “good churches in my area.” It’s a sure sign that the church has abandoned the faith once delivered to the saints. (This should go without saying, but if your church doesn’t have a full-service coffee shop, its lampstand has been removed long ago).
  • The church fails to immediately respond to your weekly helpful comment card feedback. When you say “jump,” your church should say “how high?” You pay their salaries after all—meaning they work for you. Pastors that don’t immediately make major changes to the worship experience, their preaching style, the decor of the building, or the genres of music on offer based on the fifteen helpful comment cards you turn in each week are not expressing love for the brethren, which may indicate they’re not saved at all.
  • Someone expresses concern that you missed the last eighteen services. A church that shows interest in regular church membership is like a creepy ex-girlfriend that can’t let go. Can you say “red flag?” Run, don’t walk, away from this aberrant and apostate congregation.
  • The men’s retreat features fewer than twenty fully automatic rifles. There’s nothing more disappointing than gearing up for your church’s annual men’s retreat only to discover it’s nothing more than a couple days of Bible teaching, prayer, and fellowship. In fact, Jesus Himself rebuked the church at Laodicea for being lukewarm, which scholars believe indicates their men’s ministry never once went on a week-long hunting expedition in the Yukon. (Women, substitute “fully automatic rifles” with “crafting tables.”)
  • The pastor faithfully preaches the Bible on a weekly basis. Pastors who keep sticking to the same faithful presentation of the Word of God each week lack imagination, honestly. How can your church be a fun, exciting place with engaging programs and appealing special events if the pastor guy keeps rambling on about sin, repentance, and new life in Christ, while systematically preaching and teaching the Scriptures? Think about it.

Remember, this isn’t an exhaustive list—there are hundreds of thousands of legitimate reasons for leaving a church, especially if the pastor isn’t making a concerted effort to appease your every whim and earn your business. But if your church lines up with any of the above points, there’s a really good chance it is time for you to move on.

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