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.

Living for Jesus, Ramblings, Uncategorized

Practical Marriage Counselling

If you’re a church-going person (and even if you’re not), chances are you got some form of marriage counselling from your pastor before he/she agreed to join you in matrimony.  And if you’re much like me, you look back and find that marriage counselling session to be woefuilly inadequate for the great challenges you began facing . . . oh . . . about a day after you got back from your honeymoon.  I feel like my session was much better than most people get, and really did equip us for some of the struggles we faced, with very practical, if simple, tools.  My favorite among them, is the deceptively simple, “The way you don’t end up getting a divorce is simple: don’t get a divorce.”

I’m not sure what most churches do, but most that I’ve seen around here have one conselling session with a pastor, who typically discusses the importance of following God together, and living a biblical life.  Then it’s down the aisle you go.  These brief sessions don’t scratch the surface of the many issues you will face together.  To remedy this situation, I am proposing a series of Marriage Counselling Sessions, that I hope many of you will adopt in your churches.

  1. Session 1 will be held individually with each person, and will be entitled “Men/Women are actually much crazier than you previously thought.”  Topics in this session will include what to do with an angry and hormonal wife.  How wives should approach a husband who wants to play video games/ watch sports all the time, and not spend time with them.  Bonus topics will include defensive postures for protecting yourself against flying remote controls and cordless phones.
  2. Session 2 brings the couple together to discuss finances, the single greatest cause of marital problems, in a lesson entitled “Women Are Expensive.”  Men are very unprepared on their wedding day for the expense of frequent gynecological exams and mall shopping trips.  This lesson aims to familiarize men with what they will face as provider for the family, and help women understand that men rarely have any of these expenses.  Topics include the ridiculous regularity with which women:
    1. Go to the doctor
    2. Buy shoes
    3. Buy Makeup
    4. Buy more clothes to match their new shoes
    5. Buy more shoes to match the new clothes
    6. Get medical tests run
  3. Session 3 delves deeper into financial issues surrounding marriage with a lesson entitled, “No Really . . . Women are Really Very Expensive.”  The shady ways in which hospitals and clinics bill multiple times for the same things will be discussed, as long as financial planning help for men to begin early to prepare their budgets for their new-found debt bliss.
  4. Session 4 entitled “And just wait until you have . . .” is a relatively short lesson, due to budget constraints of the counsellor.  He didn’t have the money to finish this topic on having children.  But the point should be easy to articulate by this time in the limited amount of time you have before your interview for a second job.
  5. Session 5 has been cancelled, in order for the counsellor to take on a second job to better pay for his own children and wife.

At this point, the betrothed couple should be marginally better prepared for the circumstances they will soon be facing.  “Oh!” you may say, “but this will discourage young people from getting married!”  Why yes, good friend, I believe you have the point exactly.  If someone gets married after these effective lessons, they are either A) Wealthy enough to circumnavigate most marital problems, or B) Very committed to becoming a Godly couple, and working hard together through touch times.  Either way, you should have no problems marrying them.

This valuable addition to any Pastor’s counselling plans is available for the affordable price of 2 pairs of shoes, 1 Doctor’s Visit, and 2 Outfits for young children.

christianity, Online Living

Christian Carnival CCXLV

Welcome to the Christian Carnival, CCXLV, which a handy Roman numeral converter tells me means 245!  Wow, I should learn Roman some day.

Before I get right to the posts, I want to thank you all for the honor of hosting the Christian Carnival here at my little site.  I’ve participated, off and on (mostly off), in the Carnival since 2004, but this is my first time hosting.  So, today I’m very pleased to present the following submissions, in no particular order:

And that wraps it up for this week!  Some great reads.  Unfortunately, a crazy week at work prevented me from submitting my own post this week, and also weighed in on the time it would take to properly categorize the postings.  Thanks for stopping by, and enjoy your Christian Carnival!


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, Christians Gone Wild!

You can be a Christian for only $12.99!

Ever since W.W.J.D. bracelets, it seems that enterprising people have sought to capitalize on naivete of Christendom.  What would Jesus do?  Probably he wouldn’t wear a bracelet that cost $5 and tauntingly remind people to consider what Jesus would do in any situation.

I recently stumbled across this lovely site on the internets that portrays just how far that rabbit hole goes.  Seriously?  Is there no limit to what people will make?  I suppose though, they wouldn’t make it, if crazy Christians wouldn’t wear it!  Since I was…oh…16 or so, I have eschewed all forms of Christian apparel.  It’s typically tacky, and mostly self-righteous and condescending.  When it’s not those, and strives to just be humorous, it mixes in a good bit of heresy as well.  In the case of the image to the right, it also infringes on a trademark.

A few more examples of some of the worst Christian paraphernalia the net has to offer:

Again…copyright infringement seems to be a meaningless phrase to Christians.  I wonder how many Christian musicians are pirated on the net.  Once I heard a waiter say you can always tell the Christians groups at the restaurant, because they only want to know what they can get for free.  Shameful.

A spoof on (RED) the charity that fights against AIDS?!  Seriously?  Who would wear that?  Do they have no shame?  I don’t even know what else to say about this disgusting and flagrant self-righteous piece.

I’ve noticed for years and years a disturbing trend in churches to copy and imitate the world in order to feel “relevant.”  Did God not give us imaginations?  Even if you’re not original enough to come up with something on your own, why must you copy the worldliest things out there?  It happens in Christian music all the time, and along the same lines…in Christian retail, it seems they also make tackier and stupid imitations of other worldly things.  Worse, here is another example of just stupid theology.  “Satan got Punk’d”  What does that even mean?  He’s still controlling and influencing the world…so it would seem that if anyone got Punk’d, we did.

One of the weirdest and scariest examples of this is the new world of Christian emo.  Seriously?  How can a Christian be depressed, hate the world, and dress like a tranny?  W.W.J.D.?  He would not wear black fingernail polish.

In a strange example of Christian greed, wouldn’t allow me to use some of their images claiming “Copyright.”  Not only do they not own the art on the shirts (they’re available in many other places) some of their art itself is copyrighted.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, and is only indicative of the larger problem of Christianity attempting to become more “worldly” in order to feel like people can relate, when the truth is…”why become a Christian if my life is no different afterward?”  Christian skater tv shows (Thank you Alec Baldwin), Christian punk rock, and pastors riding motorcycles around their sanctuary.  There is no holiness and sanctification in the body of Christ today.  That will draw people.  Lifting up Jesus instead of skating or other worldly influences will draw people to God.  We have that in writing:  “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” John 12:32.


We Love Jesus . . . but not You

As a followup to yesterday’s ranting and raving on churches, I’ve stumbled across a great article on Beliefnet called, “Why Christians Suck.” Basically, we’re all a bunch of arrogant, self-absorbed, uncaring dweebs.  Great stuff…and it follows right along with what I’ve been going on about. Christians suck…the non sucky Christians (apparently less than 5% of Church-goers, who I personally differentiate from “Christians”) need to help the sucky Christians be less-sucky. If this fails…we should run them from our churches with pitchforks and torches…just like an old-fashioned lynching.
Or we could pray for them…either way.


Churches: Havens for Weary Souls or Spiritual Dr. Kevorkians?

I have a good friend, who, if you have read his blog, doesn’t exactly hold modern churches in high regard. I’ve criticized him, perhaps wrongly, because he chooses to have a service with his family, instead of going to a real church. I’ve defended churches of all types, under the premise that it’s better to go and be a part of a community of believers, to help others, and to occasionally be supported when you go through your own hard times. I, myself, belong to an amazing non-denominational church. While no church is perfect, I feel that mine gets it right on all the major points, and if they’re wrong in an area, they try their hardest to be right. I’ve always made the assumption that most churches were similar…that in their own way, they all just wanted to be right. They may go about it in wrong, or different ways, but that mostly they were trying to help people. Boy, was I wrong.
Recently, a good friend of mine, a youth pastor, discovered his wife was in adultery. They had recently had their first child, and as you can imagine, he was devastated. They separated, and my friend was intent on working things out (a good deal more than I would’ve done, personally). When he told his senior pastor, he was FIRED! Can you imagine? He has a baby, has just lost his wife, now his job, and his church! Apparently his church was concerned that it would make them look bad.
First of all, my friend did nothing wrong… at least to my knowledge. This would’ve been a time for the church, and the ministers of the church, to surround him with support and prayer. Take some time off…sure. This could’ve even been an example to the members of how a Godly person works through horrible situations with help from God. But instead, in his time of greatest need, the people that he had worked for, given his life to, and prayed over brushed him to the side when he was no longer immediately useful for praying for headaches, warts, or meaningless relationship problems. When it came to to repay all that he had given, they threw him out and brought in someone new to use and abuse until there was nothing left in him also.
Is this biblical? I think not. But it happens everyday throughout the country…when self-righteous, arrogant, Pharisaical, self-glorifying, religious dingbats run churches like medieval extremist witch hunters, on the prowl for the weakest Christians to crucify in their times of need. I see it constantly in my wife’s family (her grandmother pastors our church). The church has used up every bit of life in her until her health has failed…and is trying to do the same to her daughter while she fills in for her in the pulpit. I am sick and tired of willfully and woefully idiotic church-goers expecting their pastors to be nothing more than religious slaves, waiting on their beckon call, for whatever ridiculous thing they need that day… “Pastor…my son is running with a bad crowd…can you come witness to him?” How about living saved in front of your son, and not allowing him to participate in things you don’t agree with…cracktard?
We are all called to be ministers. Making our churches the healing centers that God means them to be is a responsibility we share in equal parts with our pastors. It’s our responsibility to go out and bring in sinners…it’s our responsibility to see about other Christians who need help, or who are sick, as much, if not more, than our pastors. STOP USING PASTORS TO BE SPIRITUALLY LAZY! STOP KILLING OFF THE LIFE IN OUR BROTHERS AND SISTERS IN NEED! TAKE CARE OF YOUR PASTORS, INSTEAD OF USING THEM!!!!
How long were my friends in need of someone to turn to, to talk about their problems in their relationship? But no…as youth pastors, they weren’t able to say they needed help…they had to be Superman to their church’s Metropolis. Pastors and Ministers are people too…they go through things, feel the same hurt and heartache we all do. Their families are just like our families…they miss their husbands and fathers when they come out to see about your broken arm at 2am, because you just had to have your pastor there. After he spends all day praying over and tending to the needs of his flock, he is seldom able to devote that same care and concern to his family, because members call all night long. Of course in a true emergency, a pastor would want to come. But I’m not talking about rare occasions, I’m talking about a habitual systemic abuse of clergy, that is not the exception, but the norm, through our country.
Christians…I encourage you to grow up. Take on your biblical responsibility of caring for your brothers and sisters, and set your pastors free to seek God and pray for you and your family, as well as your church and town. Organize hospitality groups in your church for members to visit the sick, elderly, and back-slidden. Build your pastor up with prayer and encouraging words…because he prays and encourages you. Even if you don’t like or agree with your pastor…it is who God has given you today…and that makes them worthy of your respect, prayer, and help, in every way you can give it. Make your church a safe haven for weary souls…not a executioner’s table for the down-trodden.
*Update 8/1/2008:  Messy Christian has some very interesting  posts on a similar topic (Pastor Worship, which equates to Pastor Abuse, in many cases…besides those self-adulating types who like it) that you may also want to check out.