Church, Living for Jesus, Uncategorized

Where Are All the Kids Going?

I recently read a great article at the Christian Post relating the findings of a survey studying how many young people we’re losing from our churches, and the possible reasons behind it.  I have to say, I agree mostly with what is being said, but I think they only skim across some of the most important issues.  Things that a survey may not be able to find.  As one of the rare 20-somethings in church (although I’m only 20-something for one more year 🙁 ) I think I have a pretty decent understanding of where my generation has fallen away, because I’ve seen my friends among the fallen.

The fact is, we are bleeding.  Most mainstream denominations have shown a decrease in membership over the last decade, or so.  It’s a problem across evangelical Christianity.  With the exception of Non-Denominational Pentecostal / Charismatic churches, who seem to show slight growth, the body of Christ is growing older and older.  A few problems we can see evident from the survey:

According to ARG’s survey, 95 percent of 20- to 29-year-old evangelicals attended church regularly during their elementary and middle school years. Only 55 percent went to church during high school. And by college, only 11 percent were still attending church.

We’ll discount the 5% of children not attending church regularly, for now, because we must also assume that their parents don’t attend church regularly, and since 10 year olds can’t drive . . . well, enough said.  Only 55% of teens attend church regularly during high school?  Problem #1 is evident: the parents have failed, and failed miserably, in raising their children to serve God.  In my upbringing, I wasn’t allowed to not attend church.  When I started looking for a part-time job at 16, I wasn’t allowed to get a job that interfered with church.  My parents, following a Biblical principle, trained me to put God and church first, and that God would bless and honor that sacrifice, and when I was older, I did not depart from that.  If the Bible is always true, and we must assume that it is, we have that promise from God.  Simply “giving up” on your kids’ souls and allowing them to stay at home and not attend church as teens (still children) is tantamount to burning the scriptures in front of them.  We reinforce a wordly and sinful mindset: “If salvation was as necessary, God as good, Heaven as sweet, and Hell as real as the Bible says it is, then why would Mom and Dad just let me stay at home?  It must be just some good moral teachings, and not real.”  Who wouldn’t think that if raised up that way?  We make them take baths, brush their teeth, study, get good grades, don’t eat too much junk food, etc etc. . . all great lessons that are necessary for life and health and wellbeing, but we shy away from making them attend church?  We’ve started the problem there.

The article rightly goes into poor teaching in Sunday School, and the concept of teaching Bible “Stories” . . . a term I’ve always had a problem with.  Sunday School is a great place to teach the foundations of faith, apologetics, why we believe what we believe.  But instead it focuses on the seeker sensitive trends of relationships, emotional issues, morality, and “stories from the Bible.”

All of these are great pieces of the puzzle, the the parental lack of concern for their children’s souls is the largest piece, but I think the article misses the largest over-arching problem – our kids have never had an EXPERIENCE with God.  It’s my experiences with God that I turn to when I go through seasons of doubt, trial, and even disbelief.  There are tons of theories questioning everything about the Bible – if I’m going through a bad situation in life, and feel discouraged, there are plenty of people telling me that I can turn from God, because he may not even be there anyway.  But it’s the experiences I had, and many of the most important ones were as a teenager, that keep me in the body of Christ.  I was blessed enough to attend a church that moved its youth group from a fun / game -centered experience to a place for teens to encounter God, and have Him work in their lives.  But the trend is the opposite.  I see youth “ministries” with X-Boxes, Playstations, sports, games, and FUN FUN FUN, but very little Jesus.  They don’t want to “turn kids off,” and want to give them a “positive” place to come and have fun and fellowship.  Fun and fellowship is great, but should be a secondary concern.  Will youth groups shrink if the focus shifts from super fun awesome times to Jesus?  Sure.  But if 50 kids leave, and 1 child comes to Jesus as a result, I think it’s worth it.

I feel that Youth Pastors’ success is judged on the size of their youth groups, many times, instead of things like how many kids get saved, or how many kids are involved in ministry.  That’s such a tragic mistake.  And I’ve met tons of youth pastors who have the spiritual depth and Biblical knowledge of a Lebanese child who has only heard the name of Jesus as a by-word in conversation.  They’re focused on nurting emotions, at best, and on just playing games, and being a kid for the next 10 years, at worst.  They are far from spiritual role models who exude holiness and righteousness as a lifestyle to look up.  Quick question:  Have any of you met a youth pastor (or pastor for that matter) who can come close to being able to say, as Paul did, “Follow me as I follow Christ?”  Me either.

While the responsibility for raising Godly children rests on parents, ultimately, I believe a major shift can happen to reverse this trend if churches would change their youth ministries to focus on giving teens an experience with God, instead of just a fun time.  Those experiences will guide them back to the faith, if they leave.  God called it the incorruptible seed, which gets planted in them.  The games, rock concert services, and worldly mentalities are just turning kids off to Jesus, if not the youth group.  Jesus said if he is exalted, he will draw all men unto him.

Problem solved.

Church, Uncategorized

Osteen and the Seeker Sensitive Heresy

Shane at Caffeinated thoughts has been discussing Joel Osteen, and what he is calling the “Prosperity Gospel.”  Now, you know how sensitive we are about using that term to describe flakey “Name it and Claim it” teachings, and seeker sensitive drivel, but it’s certainly worth a look, if for no other reason than to take a look at the odd, and frankly scary, interview with Osteen.  He stutters and stumbles over his words when asked why his ministry isn’t like a church.

My favorite was his argument over whether he used a podium or a “pulpit.”  Ridiculous.  One of his commenters said, “Truly…I cannot believe that there was not a massive backlash from the church as a whole after his pathetic interview with Larry King where his favorite expression during the whole thing was ‘I don’t know, Larry.’ Scary.”  Scary indeed.  Why hasn’t there been a backlash?  Has the church been lulled into complacency by the spirits of witchcraft coming out of the seeker sensitive movement, or is there no one left to really care?

Check it out…and I’ll be responding soon to Shane’s question: “What do you say to the faithful in the global south who are being persecuted. That God isn’t blessing you? That you don’t have enough faith? That you aren’t living your best life now?”  Biblical teachings on God’s plans to prosper his people are so far removed from this brand of flakiness, that you shouldn’t even call them the same thigns.  Stay tuned.

christianity, Church

The Era of Mega-Preachers is Over.

I’ve been noticing the trend lately, amongst the charismatic/pentecostal circles to focus on something our movement has ignored for quite some time: service.  Full Gospel denominations and movements have had their voices overshadowed, intentionally or not, by the mega-preachers.  The Benny Hinns, Creflo Dollars, Joyce Meyers, and (God help us) the Joel Osteens of the world.  I’m calling it today, and we’ll reconvene in a few years to see how right I am (Hint: very).  While we’ll probably see Benny’s giant hair, Joyce Meyers man-pants, and Joel Osteen’s impossibly large teeth for on TV for quite some time, I believe their influence on modern churches is waining.

Recently, I was encouraged to hear Dutch Sheets really ripping into modern churches today, and he said something I found incredibly interesting, “It’s my goal to keep as many people out of the pulpit as possible . . . from what I do . . . it’s my goal to ordain lawyers, and doctors . . . to go out into the world and share Jesus.”  According to Matthew 11:10-13, we are a kingdom at war.  We’ve always been at war, and we will continue to be, until Jesus returns, sets things right, and hands the Kingdom over to his father (1 Corinthians 15:24-26).  We can’t win a war with the troops sitting around marveling at the equivalent of super-solders showing off their strength by ripping phone books.  We win a war by training and equipping soldiers to fight, and then sending them out to defeat the enemy.

I believe this celebrity-focused Christianity we’ve experienced thanks to TBN and the like over the last few decades has created a dangerous set of circumstances in the church.  We have people praying for hours, to get deep revelations, just for sake of praying for hours and getting revelations.  To impress friends and church members.  To share with other Christians, who are also sharing their “deep revelations” to the same group.  Never leaving the church… never venturing outside to a world in need of salvation.  We have more and more dramatic church services, with people being slain in the spirit, getting one deliverance after another.  It’s bred an inwardly-focused body of Christ.  This is clearly not conducive to gaining new converts, winning the lost, or impacting this world for Jesus.

But, during this time, I’ve also noticed a movement among young people and college students towards what I’m calling here, “new-radicalism.”  They have an understanding that the ministry is not about being in a pulpit.  That revelations are practical knowledge from God for one purpose: to aid in preaching the gospel to the utter-most parts of the earth.  These young people are embracing something I did several years ago: you don’t have to have a ministerial license, or a theological degree, to be in the ministry.  We’re in the ministry because we’ve accepted Jesus Christ, and have committed our lives to serving him, and spreading his Gospel everywhere we can.  I work in the business world . . . a place many traditional preachers can’t reach.  I meet people regularly with very comfortable lives, who are seldom confronted with the Gospel.  How do you show someone a need in their lives, when they believe they have every need met, and plenty more laid up in store?  A preacher can’t . . . but one of their own can.  Doctor’s are notorious know-it-all’s.  But who can reach a doctor?  A better doctor.

So, while I’m boldly proclaiming that the era of Mega-Preachers is over… I do expect to see them on the Television for several years to come.  But always catering to the same crowd…an aging crowd…a self-indulgent crowd.  And as they die out, and retire to their mega-mansions and yachts, I believe we’re going to see a movement dramatically rise to fore-front of Christianity that is starting right now – a movement of regular people, in regular jobs, who are sold out to God.  A movement of regular people who boldly preach the Gospel on streets, brokerage floors, board rooms, hospital rooms, court houses . . . the list can go on forever.  I believe this is a group that won’t compromise with the seeker-sensitive movement, and will call sin sin.  I believe this group will be empowerd by God to do greater works than the televangelists ever thought about.  I expect healings, miracles, signs, and wonders to happen…in ordinary lives, in ordinary circumstances . . . through extraordinary and yet totally average people.

The next time you see Joel Osteen’s grin…the next seeker-senstive service you attend…the next time Joyce Meyers tries to make you believe it’s okay for women to look like men…just smile and realize that they’re on the way out.  A revival of a church similar to the Book of Acts is happening.  And I’m joining in.  Are you?

Church

The Moral Recession of America

Damon Thompson, who is, most notably, a regular preacher at The Ramp, recently spoke at a men’s conference.  An opening point that he made was that our current financial crisis is just a symptom of the moral recession in America.  He went on to say that if we quit killing babies, and promoting the gay agenda, and glorifying all manner of sinful activities, that our financial trouble would turn around.

My immediate thought was, “No…the financial crisis is the result of overspending, pandering, bad debt, greed, and general mismanagement of funds…not just in the Government, but in corporate America as well.”  And then the absolute brilliance of Damon’s words struck me…that all is the result of moral problems.  Greed, shady money dealings, promising all kinds of freebies to people to get a vote, lying, cheating, stealing . . . even irresponsible accumulation of debt:  These are all MORAL problems.

If I decide to buy more than I can pay for, and live a lifestyle of debt and overspending (which I’ve done in the past)…the problem is more than just being financially stupid.  The problem is an intrinsic misunderstanding of what is important.  It’s greedy and lustful, but I want more than I can have.  It’s untrustworthy, and deceitful….and many other bad things because I’m just creating large problems for the future, perhaps insurmountable ones, in order to appear or feel like I’m comfortable now.  It’s gambling, because I’m just lying to myself in saying that I’ll have more money one day to pay for things…which never happens…because I spend it too.  That type of financial lifestyle is a moral problem.

And so to is our country’s financial problem.  Lehman Brothers, AIG, now $700 billion in bailout loans.  And all this money from a government that isn’t even able to pay its own bills…that is going more and more into debt every day without the help of a mega-bailout of the banking system.  This sort of bankrupt (ironic wording, huh?) morality, which exalts our lusts instead of being responsible, that panders to greedy people looking for handouts instead of creating a financial sound free market economy that enables them to create their own wealth, is what is destroying our country.  The same mentality would tell a pregnant woman, “Meh…it’s not a baby yet, because you can’t see it!  It’s just a fetus…you can just have an abortion and go on with your life.”  Or, in the case of Obama, “Oh…well, the baby’s out and alive, but it was supposed to be aborted…let’s just kill it anyway.”

Could it be that our country’s problems can only be solved one way?  Through Revival?  I believe so…because we can see the anemic church is actually becoming more like the world, instead of fighting for change.  If our churches get on fire for God, get passionate about having a relationship with Him, and in seeking the lost and giving them an experience with a God who loves them, and wants to set them free from their past and their sin…then I believe we’ll begin to see a shift in this country back towards prosperity.

***Update:  Listen to Damon Thompson’s message at the Men’s Ramp 08

christianity, Church, witnessing

Unprofitable Blogging

Last week I posed the challenge to witness to one person for every blog post.  I happen to know that at least 10 Christian bloggers visited my site, and chose not to respond to that challenge, choosing instead to mindlessly prattle on with their unprofitable theologies and divisive doctrinal debates.

Perhaps some non-evangelicals would dismiss it as the church leader told William Carey: “Young man, when God wants to save the heathen, He will do it without your help or mine.”

Listen… you may not like that Jesus commissioned us to go out and preach to all the world, God knows there are lots of things in the Bible I wish I could just rip right off the page and pretend like it didn’t exist (love your enemies?!), but you can’t ignore it.  Sitting at home, feeling so spiritual because the other unprofitable “servants” of God think you’re very intelligent is self-delusional.   I present you with a video, and a testimony.  God help me be as profitable in life as this man:

Church

On College and Careers

So, tonight began the new Young Adults class at our church.  Of course, this would more commonly be referred to as a College and Career’s class…but only one of us is in college, and you can’t just call it "Careers". . . because that wouldn’t make much sense, would it?  I think it went relatively well.  We had 5 people.
I’ve noticed a disturbing trend in our church, that I believe is indicative of the body of Christ as a whole…we 20-somethings are the forgotten generation.  I’ve also noticed what I believe is probably a nation-wide macrotrend of 20-somethings being the largest group of church visitors.  I think it’s probably really hard to come out of the world and to give up all your friends and go from partying every night to being a virtual recluse who pokes their head out on Sundays and Wednesdays.  It’s quite rare, in my view, to find a ministry focusing on this age group.  I’m so excited for the honor of starting this one at our church.  It’s obvious that my generation is seeking something…or we wouldn’t be such prolific church visitors…maybe we can start showing them what they’re looking for.  Discuss: