God’s Answer to a Culture Starving for Community and Connectedness

There is something in the human race that needs and seeks connectivity with a community.  That desire originated in creation.  God said, “Let US make man in OUR IMAGE and OUR LIKENESS” (Genesis 1:26-28).  The US and OUR were the Godhead, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit who had been living in perfect family/community forever.  Man was designed with THEIR image and likeness, part of which is family/community.  The only thing in the Garden of Eden that God said “it is not good” was “for man to be alone” (Gen 2:18).

Facebook To The Rescue

Isn’t it interesting that in the 80’s the seeker-friendly movement helped churches run more like corporations in order to attract people.  Now corporations like Facebook are seeking to operate like churches. 

On June 22, 2017, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, spoke at the inaugural Communities Summit in Chicago.  He spoke of Facebook’s goal to bring greater connectivity to people that they once found in groups like churches and little league teams.  He identified the decline of community, connectivity, and support in groups like churches.  His goal is to use Facebook to fill in the gaps.   He made some very good points that should challenge God’s people in both their identity and mission.

Can he help provide what the church used to provide?

Some of his points were as follows, “It’s so striking that for decades, membership in all kinds of groups has declined as much as one-quarter. That’s a lot of people who now need to find a sense of purpose and support somewhere else.  People who go to church are more likely to volunteer and give to charity — not just because they’re religious, but because they’re part of a community.”

Zuckerberg suggests that Facebook can help fill those gaps using it’s networking power to organize, “We started a project to see if we could get better at suggesting groups that will be meaningful to you. We started building artificial intelligence to do this. And it works. In the first 6 months, we helped 50% more people join meaningful communities.”  Some took his message as an attempt to replace churches or other organizations, but for sure he is seeing the gap in churches and is ready with Facebook to continue to improve in filling it.

Enigma in social media and connectedness

A lot of researchers are troubled by an enigma that is accompanying the rise of social media (which tends to challenge Zuckerberg’s ideas).  It seems that while we are more socially connected online with sites like Facebok, Twitter, Google Plus, YouTube, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Vine, Snapchat, and  Reddit at the same time we are more socially isolated.  As a matter of fact, online connectedness without physical connectedness can tend to increase feelings of aloneness.  Research over the past 5+ years seems to confirm this.

Google the phrase Facebook isolation and 83,100,000 results will appear.  Google Facebook depression and you will get 91,900,000 hits.  These feelings of aloneness and isolation have corresponding effects on depression and suicide.   Aaron Kheriaty director of the Medical Ethics Program at Cal-Irvine writes in First Things (https://www.firstthings.com/article/2017/08/dying-of-despair), “the suicide crisis in America has reached epidemic proportions. Rates are growing coast to coast, in rural and urban areas, among the poor and the rich, the young and the old. What in the world is going on, and what do we do about it?”

While many factors are listed as causes of depression and suicide such as social fragmentation and an overall decrease in religious involvement, Kheriatly boils the problem down to despair.  Kheriaty also notes from research that, “prayer, religious faith, participation in a religious community, and practices like cultivating gratitude, forgiveness, and other virtues can reduce the risk of depression [and], lower the risk of suicide… One study of 89,000 people showed that those ‘who attend any religious service once a week or more were five times less likely to commit suicide’ than those who don’t.”  It highlights the component of real, not just online connectedness with faith communities.

Important revelation and reaffirmation of the call on the church 

God can heal depression and mental illness and it may need medical or psychological assistance.  The aloneness and isolation that often contributes to it can be helped by God’s people living in His design for real community

These trends and revelations show us something important for the church.  God can heal depression and mental illness and it may need medical or psychological assistance.  The aloneness and isolation that often contributes to it can be helped by God’s people living in His design for real community.  As we do we show the world a light that is found in Christ and among His people.  Matthew 5:13-16  “You are the salt of the earth… (14)  “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden;  (15)  nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.  (16)  “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

Aloneness is curable in Jesus and His house!   Ps 68:6 “God makes a home for the lonely in His house.”  

Aloneness is curable!  God confirmed the need to cure aloneness, and He showed us how to do it at creation.  The only thing in His creation order that He said was “not good” was “it is not good for man to be alone” (Gen 2:18).  God then moved to begin the process to cure it, the creation of His family.

Jesus echoed this by revealing His design and cure for aloneness in His church.  Mark 10:29-30  Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake,  (30)  but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life.

Jesus obviously knew what the Psalmist said about God’s house centuries earlier.  Psalms 68:5-6  A father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows, Is God in His holy habitation.  (6)  God makes a home for the lonely.

God’s people need to stand up (on their everyday mission trips), wave their arms, and say “over here, come here, join us, Jesus has a family you can be part of!”  The cure for aloneness is in Jesus and among His people!  Like Andrew we need to bring people to Jesus (Jn 1:41-43), who will lift their despair, “come to Me all you who are weary and heavy laden and you will find rest in your soul” (Mt 11:28), and to His family were aloneness is healed (Ps 68:6).

The church’s call

We can’t fulfill this call by simply going to church.   Instead, we must be the church every day and everywhere we are.  When Jesus says, “Come follow me,” He isn’t calling us to start a class or offer a program but to follow Him and open our hearts to others.

Aloneness is curable in Jesus and His house! Click To Tweet

Practical ways to help call people out of loneliness through Jesus.

  1. Welcome everyone you meet. Jesus welcomed strangers and marginalized people (Luke 19:1-10). In the same way that Zacchaeus was a “son of Abraham” and worthy of Jesus’ time, the marginalized and lonely people that you interact with are loved by God and worthy of your time too. Extend a kind word to everyone you meet, but also seek ways to share your time, energy and life with them.
  2. Engage people.We are not just inviting people to programs or services (Rom 12:13-20). It is a personal connection we offer.
  3. Consider ways to share meals/hospitality. In the whole gospel of Luke, Jesus is either at a meal, going to a meal, or just finishing a meal.  In Biblical culture, meals were the main means of interacting and showing hospitality.
  4. Pay attention. Jesus told the disciples as they were busy serving Him, “lift up your eyes and look on the fields they are white with harvest” (Jn 4:35). An uplifting word or kind action may begin a process of God to change a life.  We have to look at people in order to see them.

Online connections can help but they cannot replace the real thing.

 

 

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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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Burger King or King Jesus

“God is not a product to be pushed, but a King to be obeyed” Gregory Lewis.      

I had the great privilege recently of hearing Dave Richards preach a message about Christ’s Lordship in our lives and it’s challenge to consumer Christianity.  As I listened I couldn’t help but remember a friend telling me a sad story about people he had once looked up to as a young disciple.  They had drifted into a consumer mentality regarding their faith.

Like Paul’s companion Demas, they had once been “co-workers” who served on the front line of Kingdom expansion (Col 4:4, Philemon 1:24).  Sadly they had abandoned the front lines for an easier way (2 Tim 4:10).  They had begun to casually attended a church whose motto was “Christians should have choices” referring to their 3 short convenient services.  My friend walked up to greet them and overheard their conversation about the church, “you can sleep as late as you want and not have to worry about it.  You can show up to any service that is convenient to you.”  My friend was shocked because in earlier days he had looked up to them as examples.  The tears in his voice revealed his deep disappointment, “this isn’t what following Jesus is about! It isn’t about our convenience!”

It reminded me of a church leader who began to take a more convenient approach to services with a newspaper advertisement, “Express Worship, 45 Minutes, Guaranteed!” The ad went on with the description, “Three upbeat hymns…quick announcements…23-25 minute sermons.”  The logic was to try to attract Christians who were looking for a better deal and unbelievers looking for convenience.

There is no calling to be a consumer of Christian goods and services. There is only the call to follow Jesus. It is always disastrous to turn Christianity into a product.

I can’t help but think of these types of approaches in light of the 25 calls of Jesus in the Gospels to “Follow Me.”  In 20 of those calls He included some aspect of denying ourselves and giving up things in order to follow (Lk 9:23-24, 14:26-27, Mt 10:38-39, 16:22-25, 16:22-25,  Mk 8:34-38, Jn 12:25-26).

While there is nothing “holy” about long services, approaching God’s Kingdom with the first priority of our convenience can be a problem.   After all Ezra stood read the Bible for over 6 hours on a podium in a corporate gathering (Neh 8:3-4), and Paul drug out a message for several hours until midnight causing a young man to fall asleep and fall out of a window.  Acts 20:7-10  On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to leave the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight… (9)  And there was a young man named Eutychus sitting on the window sill, sinking into a deep sleep; and as Paul kept on talking, he was overcome by sleep and fell down from the third floor and was picked up dead. 

Burger King or Christ the King

I remember an advertising campaign for Burger King when I was young that captures the heart of this form of consumer Christianity.   Burger King was trying to cut into the market share of McDonald’s. They thought they would appeal to the idea of consumer choice which is a prized virtue. They came up with the great advertising jingle, “Have it your way.”  Some of you may remember the song, “hold the pickles hold the lettuce, special order’s don’t upset us, all we ask it that you let us have it your way.”

While churches should be seeking numerical growth, should we pragmatically seek it at all costs?  We want to be people who are faithful to the Great Commission, not the best deal.  The Matthew 28:18-19 Great Commission is to “make followers of Jesus, baptizing them, and teaching them to obey everything Jesus commanded.”  Growth should come with corresponding obedience to God’s word, not a have it your way mentality.

It works a little like raising a child. We must show great patience born out of love, which is “patient, kind, and full of gentleness” as we help people learn how to find, and walk with Jesus (1 Cor 13:1-7). Along the way, they have the great security of unconditional love while learning the maturity of “considering the interest of others ahead of their own” (Phil 2:3-8).

While there is an incredible great life that can only be found through Jesus we need to remind ourselves what Jesus consistently said about finding that life, “If you want to find My life, you have to first lose your life for My sake” (Lk 9:23-24, 14:26-27, Mt 10:38-39, 16:22-25, 16:22-25, Mk 8:34-38, Jn 12:25-26).  This is how we mature. If not we will perpetuate an “entitlement mentality” that is more like Burger King, not Christ the King.

Things that facilitate entitlement mentalities in the church

  • Numerical growth at all cost.
  • Membership without following Jesus.  God designed His church to be people who are following Jesus. The actual spiritual condition of members is important.  The spiritual component of Biblical church membership is real salvation (1Cor 12:13).
  • Ignorance of Biblical expectations of membership.  Membership without His expectations becomes membership with entitlements.
  • Having entitled people in influential positions. If you put entitled people into places of influence they will exercise their influence to “have it your way.”  The church isn’t about our way, but the King’s way.
  • Avoiding the challenges of difficult issues or difficult people.  While we don’t want to pick fights we also do not want to allow bullying, manipulation, or a culture of entitlement to grow through entitled people.  Additionally if we avoid problems they usually don’t go away. They only get bigger and more people end up getting hurt by them.

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Upside down or Right side up

jesus-therapyLk 9:23-37 MSG…“Anyone who intends to come with 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 good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you?… (Lk 14:26-27,33; Mt 10:24-40; Mt 16:24-25;  Mk 8:34-35).

Christians often attempt to twist the wondrous God of salvation history into the role of a divine therapist who aids the individual Christian in his or her personal quest for spiritual fulfillment and self-discovery.

Christians often attempt to twist the wondrous God of salvation history into the role of a divine therapist who aids the individual Christian in his or her personal quest for spiritual fulfillment and self-discovery. In doing so we have reduced the sweeping biblical narrative of “God redeeming for himself a people” (God’s family Tit 2:14-15) through whom He demonstrates His glory as they walk together (Eph 1:22-23, 3:10-11), to little more than “receiving Jesus into my heart as a personal savior.” Little wonder that we so casually take our personal savior from relationship to relationship, marriage to marriage, and church to church, desperately hoping that we can somehow improve our quality of life by escaping the immediate pain which often clouds the very redemptive relationships that God has placed us in.

We often want a just my size God, fluffy and approachable who doesn’t care about His own commandments.  Surely these were mere suggestions that served some other purpose for some other day.  After all, He understands our weaknesses and only wants us to be happy. Those commandments and our obligation to them are surely eclipsed by His unconditional love for us and His desire for our self fulfillment.  Sounds logical and therapeutic but that doesn’t mean these ideas are right.  We must keep in mind that while God “made us into His image” (Gen 1:26-28) we should not attempt to make Him into ours.

I grew up in the 60s and finished High School and College in the 80s.  Near the end of it I gave my life to Christ but before that I lived with the current philosophies of the day. Because I had a lot of training in Psychology I was very familiar with the thoughts behind many of them.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Hierarchy of needsOne of the philosophies that had taken hold of culture (and continues to do so) was put forth by Abraham Maslow called “Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.”  He began to develop it in the late 50’s and by the time of his death in 1970 it had become a cornerstone of the anti establishment 60s and self-help culture of the 70-80s. It continues to fuel the narcissistic culture of today. Unfortunately, like many cultural philosophies, it was and is often embraced by Christians.

His theory was attractive.  Instead of the determinism (do your duty based on what life brings your way) of the previous centuries that fought 2 world wars and suffered a worldwide depression, it offered a new sense of freedom.  The previous generation’s life was in many ways “determined” by intense sacrifices and fulfilling duty and responsibility.

Maslow’s theories offered freedom from that bondage of duty and responsibility.  You could grow past those motivations to what he called “Self-actualization.”  Self-actualization is achieved when you are able step into fulfilling the highest expression of you (expressing your individual talents, gifts, and desires that give you a sense of harmony with the universe).  In other words you fulfill you “self-destiny.”  I think it is ironic that it is very similar to what many eastern religions call “nirvana” which is an “ultimate experience of some pleasurable emotion of harmony and joy in your life.

I remember working in a University book store in the early 80s and the growing self-help section of books were filled with different angles of Maslow’s basic premises.  They offered all kinds of advice, help, and techniques to help achieve personal fulfillment.  Now 38 years later we see fruit of many of those ideas that have lead to the breakdown of important areas of life and culture.

Famous feminist Gloria Steinem released a book about her life journey called “Mygloria-steinem-book-dedication life on the road.” While I probably won’t read it I did read the opening dedication to Dr. John Sharp of London who helped her end the life of her child through abortion.

 “Dr. John Sharp of London, who in 1957, a decade before positions in England could legally perform an abortion for any reason other than the health of the woman, took the considerable risk of referring for an abortion a 22-year-old American on her way to India. Knowing only that she had broken and engagement at home to seek and unknown fate, he said, “you must promise me two things. First, you will not tell anyone my name. Second, you will do what you want to do with your life.” Dear Dr. Sharp, I believe you, who knew the law was unjust, would not mind if I say this so long after your death: I’ve done the best I could with my life. This book is for you.

 “You will do what you want to do with your life.”  Sounds pretty Maslowish.  As I read it I wondered how many children were prevented  from coming in the earth due to this idea?  How many children grew up with absent or nonexistent parents due to this idea?  How many men and women have undergone the pain and abandonment by a spouse or “partner” due to this idea?  How many children have grown up in foster care, like a dear friend who lives with us now, because one or both parents pursued this idea?

I am not just thinking about unbelievers here.  How many Christians have embraced this idea to the detriment of their own families or the family of God?  I remember a relative of a young disciple years ago who gave her advice at her at her graduation, “you just have to do what’s right for you.”  Unfortunately in following this advice she has struggled through a series of bad relationships that has cost her and now her child is paying the price.  A narcissistic pursuit of self fulfillment will always end up working to destroy the most valuable/eternal things in life, relationship with God and people He places in our life.   

Jesus’ Design turns Maslow’s upside down and right side up

Christian MaslowIf we are followers of Christ we need to heed His call.  His destiny isn’t rooted in some sort of Maslowian crapshoot leading to personal fulfillment.  It is about following Him and letting Him lead.  It is about valuing what He values and giving our lives to that end.  Contrary to avoiding sacrifice and responsibility that would seem to limit freedom, it is through those things He guides our lives and works His will in us.  As we follow His design we end up finding the fulfillment and freedom we all wanted in the first place.  After all, He is the Creator and like any creator He knows how what He created works the best.  

 

 

 

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Trendy or Transcendent?

Christianity liteWe are called to advance God’s Kingdom.  We must identify the spirits of the age lest we become immersed in the culture and end up advance its agenda in the name of Christianity.   We are called to impact the culture not be impacted by it.  If we don’t see this distinction we will offer a form of “Christianity lite” in which we promote culture with a watered down version of Jesus.  If we are simply reflecting culture what is the point of our mission?

We are not called to offer a Christian version of culture to entertain people and get them to consume a cultural Christ.

We have already been discipled by culture as we grow up.  How about discipling the culture by the Kingdom and power of God? 

Salt and Light is Transcendent 

Mat 5:13-16 MKJV You are the salt of the earth,…(14) You are the light of the world.  A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden… (16) Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in Heaven.

God’s call upon His people revealed throughout the Bible can be summed up with the phrase, “God’s family of Spirit filled disciples together on God’s mission.”  A central feature of this call is being salt and light.  The idea of salt and light has to do with our contact and influence on the world. In Biblical times salt made an impact by being directly applied on something, like meat, in order to slow down the deterioration process. Salt had a way of impacting and preserving.

The idea of light, as a city set on a hill, spoke of the distinct culture that gave testimony of a different way of living (God’s way). In our case it is the culture of heaven (as revealed through God’s word) demonstrated through the church. In that day cities were places of distinct culture and life. In our day as individuals walk among God’s community there is encouragement and reinforcement of His ways.  This helps all of us stay on track with God and provides a collective witness of Heaven’s culture lived out on earth.

Trendiness without Transcendence

In an effort to be both salt (able to be rubbed on unbelieving humanity) and light the ideacool Jesus of trendiness comes up. A while back I read of a church in England that unveiled a bronze statue dubbed “Jesus in jeans” depicting Christ as a man of the 21st century. One of the local leaders was quoted as saying, “You are always looking for new ways to enrich people in the experience of Christianity and it is good people can be open-minded to appreciate it.” The good side of this argument is portraying Jesus and Christianity as relevant to the 21st century. Obviously if Jesus walked the earth in physical form today He would probably wear blue jeans at some point. This is part of the idea of incarnation which is God coming in the form of common man.

One thing we must be careful of however,  is that we chase the idea of being trendy while neglecting the real impact of Jesus and the power of God which leads to transcendence. Many churches and Christians seem to always look for the newest, coolest, most trendy approach that comes out. This is great and important as long as we do not lose sight of the real foundation of Christ and Christianity that affects culture summed up with the idea of transcendence.

The salt and light are in the alternative life that is only in Jesus.  The transcendence is the powerful changes Jesus makes in the lives of people that have no earthy explanation.

It is the alternative way of living that originates and is sustained by the power of God. It is the change Jesus makes in every area of our lives. This has both the quality of salt and light in it.

Example of Transcendence in the Early Church

We can be trendy but not transcendent. All through the history of the church the thing that made impact was the transcendent lives that real Christians lived. Unbelievers noticed the changes, not by their cool clothes or trendy style, but by their changed lives.   There was an early letter written sometime around the year 100-150 AD called the letter to Diognetus who was a well respected pagan. It extolled the virtues of Christianity over paganism. In it you see that the thing that caused Christians to make great impact was their transcendent lives. Here is the letter.

If there is no transcendence among God’s people that demonstrates an alternative way of living by the power of God then we are just offering dead religion in contemporary clothes.

 “Christians are indistinguishable (cannot be distinguished) from other men either by nationality, language or customs. They do not inhabit separate cities of their own, or speak a strange dialect, or follow some outlandish way of life. Their teaching is not based upon reveries (invented by the ingenuity or speculation of men) inspired by the curiosity of men.

Unlike some other people, they champion no purely human doctrine (nor do they advocate mere book learning). With regard to dress, food and manner of life in general, they follow the customs of whatever city they happen to be living in, whether it is  Greek or foreign. And yet there is something extraordinary about their lives. They live in their own countries as though they were only passing through. They play their full role as citizens, but labor under all the disabilities of aliens. Any country can be their homeland, but for them their homeland, wherever it may be, is a foreign country. Like others, they marry and have children, but they do not expose them (practice infanticide). They share their meals, but not their wives. They live in the flesh, but they are not governed by the desires of the flesh. They pass their days upon earth, but they are citizens of heaven. Obedient to the laws, they yet live on a level that transcends the law. Christians love all men, but all men persecute them. Condemned because they are not understood, they are put to death, but raised to life again. They live in poverty, but enrich many; they are totally destitute, but possess an abundance of everything. They suffer dishonor, but that is their glory. They are defamed, but vindicated.

 A blessing is their answer to abuse, deference their response to insult. For the good they do they receive the punishment of malefactors, but even then they, rejoice, as though receiving the gift of life. They are attacked by the Jews as aliens, they are persecuted by the Greeks, yet no one can explain the reason for this hatred.

To speak in general terms, we may say that the Christian is to the world what the soul is to the body. As the soul is present in every part of the body, while remaining distinct from it, so Christians are found in all the cities of the world, but cannot be identified with the world. As  the visible body contains the invisible soul, so Christians are seen living in the world, but their religious life remains unseen. The body hates the soul and wars against it, not because of any injury the soul has done it, but because of the restriction the soul places on its pleasures.

Similarly, the world hates the Christians, not because they have done it any wrong, but because they are opposed to its enjoyments. Christians love those who hate them just as the soul loves the body and all its members despite the body’s hatred. It is by the soul, enclosed within the body, that the body is held together, and similarly, it is by the

Christians, detained in the world as in a prison, that the world is held together. The soul, though immortal, has a mortal dwelling place; and Christians also live for a time amidst perishable things, while awaiting the freedom from change and decay that will be theirs in heaven. As the soul benefits from the deprivation of food and drink, so Christians flourish under persecution. Such is the Christian’s lofty and divinely appointed function, from which he is not permitted to excuse himself.”

You can see that the world wasn’t impressed by Christian’s trendiness or contemporary “coolness.” It was the alternative way of live they lived out before an unbelieving world. Obviously this is why they were so persecuted in the first three centuries and also why they made such an impact as salt and light.

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Hungering for Relevance or Authenticity

Have you ever seen advertisements for churches with things like relevant and practical messages, contemporary “urban” music, and great coffee.  I like all of these things but the idea it can imply that if a church offers those things people who wouldn’t normally come will come.  It is a form of outreach to those outside of Christ.  If you simply encourage contemporary casual dress, their favorite coffee, have great rock music, offer them relevant messages that appeal to their felt needs the church will automatically grow. 

If you want people coming from a younger demographic then the leader needs to look cool, put on some skinny jeans, scarves, beanie caps, throw in a tattoo and they become a hipster, millennial magnet. 

While we want timeless things to be presented in a timely cultural fashion we have to ask ourselves a question, is that what people outside of Christ are the most hungry for?  People already have these things, they don’t need to go to a church meeting to find them.  If they want Starbucks they can go to Starbucks because they will probably do a better job with coffee than your average church.  They can find contemporary music on iTunes. 

They may appreciate those things when they attend  but that isn’t the most important thing.  I don’t know if people are looking for a better mouse trap.  For a church to market themselves with an “ours is as good as, or better than theirs” approach may not be the most important issue.    

There is a hunger in creation for God’s love and power authentically manifested through His family. Over the course of the centuries it has proven true that the best way to reach people is to build a caring relationship with them, share both in word and deed how Christ has impacted your life, and invite them around His people who walk in community to see the difference Jesus and the gospel makes.

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