christianity

A Relevant Gospel for a Web 2.0 World

I’ve been working on some new features for the main site, and haven’t really had much time to sit down and collect my thoughts recently.  If you’ve followed me for long, you know how fervently I strive to be a “witness,” whatever that may entail.  And as a self-professed geek, I feel that these internets can and should be used as a tool for evangelization.  The question is: “How?”

I teach the Teens’ Sunday School class at my church, and have a mission for it that I believe is somewhat unique to a class of that age-range: to teach them how to read and understand the Bible for themselves.  Somewhere along in my life, I got a pretty decent understanding of the Bible, how to study it, etc. . . and that was before my brief and disappointing stay at a Bible college.  So, we go through a book of the Bible, taking our time, reading, and learning how to take the story, and apply it to our lives, how to read it in context so we don’t get wacky with things, how to study a topic throughout the Bible as a applicable one arises through our reading.  Most of the kids didn’t even realize there was a concordance in the back of their Bible before it started, and they’ve really learned how to dig in and find answers to tough questions in the Bible.

We recently began studying the book of Acts, and while we’ve only talked about 2 verses in it in depth, so far, it’s really started changing the way I view my witnessing activities.  In Acts 1:8, we see a mandate that represents an almost insurmountable slew of cultural barriers.  Not only should the disciples witness to their own kind, but to the Samaritans (gasp!) and eventually even the Gentiles!  We’re studying the book in this light: as a manual for reaching across barriers and winning the lost.

In my class, I used  the example of me and a redneck.  I am, at my heart, a city boy.  I don’t hunt.  I don’t fish.  I don’t really even like to be outside, except for perfect, cool days, with no bugs.  I like the hustle and bustle of a city.  I don’t particularly care for country-style fried foods (they do fry everything…ever had a fried twinkie?  I have).  I don’t like football.  Basically, it’s nearly impossible for me to connect with the traditional southerners of small-town Arkansas.  However, I have the mandate to do just that, to spread the Gospel.  And to be effective, I feel, I must do it in a way that is relevant to the person receiving it.  I think, here, is where we lose a lot of effectiveness has Christians today.

Paul famously (infamously?) said when he was in Rome, he did as the Romans.  That he becomes all things to all people, in order the spread the Gospel.  I think I can surmise, that this means if I’m going to witness to rednecks (and I don’t use that term derogatorily) then I have to “become one” . . . so to speak.  I have to be willing to show them I care about them, and that usually means showing that I care about the things they care about.  That I “get” them.  I mean . . . seriously . . . what country fellow, who hunts and fishes, and loves the outdoors and all the stuff in it, is going to take a look at a pale, pasty, computer nerd, who is never parted with his iPhone and think, “This guy really gets where I’m coming from . . . and I should listen to what he has to say.”  I’m not saying be fake . . . I’d be ridiculed pretty fast if I went around with boots talking about shooting animals in the woods.  But I can engage Mr. Redneck in areas where we can connect.  I can show I care by saying, “Hey . . . you been fishing lately?  Catch anything?”  I think the working premise here, is that I care enough about him to engage him in his culture, if I can’t engage him as part of his culture.  Maybe even go fishing with him.  Believe me, he’d only invite me once. 😉

We’ve become so accustomed to “church-centered” evangelization, that we miss out on the true secret of church growth in Acts: personal evangelism.  They were at each other’s houses, breaking bread, and believers were added to the church daily.  That means that on a daily basis, regular believing Jews would have to go out of their way to befriend Gentiles and Samaritans.  To love them.  Care for them.  Looking at churches today, we’ve evolved into our own brand of Judaism.  We don’t reach to the world, we look down on them.  We don’t go to the lost, and pull them up to where we are, we look down on them and expect them to come to us.  I believe that the relevance of evangelistic crusades for this generation just isn’t there.  Basically, we’ve gotten a little too self-righteous.

So, for today’s generation, the internet is obviously a relevant way to engage them, but I haven’t seen it used effectively (yet) to reach anyone.  I have an idea, but I’m interested in hearing your opinions.  Leave some ideas in the comments, or share a new way to engage anyone in a way that is relevant to who they are.  One way I think the internet can excel, for us, is to provide a place for us to encourage each other to go out and win the lost.  To share ideas, stories, and testimonies of how to be an effective witness.  That’s why I started TheLimitless.com, and that’s especially why I opened it up to a community of bloggers to host their own blogging site on, or share their current blog with a new audience.  Hopefully, we can all help each other become real and true witnesses.

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?

christianity

Where have all the posts gone?

It’s been quite an ordeal, lately. I say “it,” as if I’m referring to a single issue, but that’s quite the over-simplification. My posts from the last few months have disappeared, due in large part to my failure to back things up, and in small part to a rough and bumpy ride taken by my web server. This has also encouraged yet another look on this page…which is not yet complete, and a reinvention of TheLimitless.com . . . again. I’ve learned an awful lot about web servers, and php, and the dreaded CSS, and how not to cook microwavable pizzas lately, so it wasn’t an incredibly taxing endeavour, except that the front page of TheLimitless.com lots all its modifications, such as they were, and is now a relatively blank slate, waiting for my clammy and cludgy fingers to manipulate it into a somewhat presentable affair.

Now, I know that the few people who still visit my blog (very few, after over 2 weeks with no site up at all) don’t come here to hear me prattle on about web servers, and CSS, and all that crap. Oh no, you come here to watch me get all red faced and rant about politicians, or to see me be a bit too honest, and make a fool out of myself, in the attempt to share a little truth about life and Godliness.

So, I must be honest, I don’t really keep up with political news anymore. Tabitha, or Pinky, as I call her behind her back, and the slightly unwelcome tweets of the #TCOTers are about all the news I force myself to consider, and I typically read the headline and never click through on the link. So guess what that leaves us with? 😀

I recently lost a mentor. Not only a role model, but possibly the single most influential person in my spiritual life. And I was okay with it, as she was a woman of God, and a person who lived the fullness of the Gospel in every area of her life. She has a great reward in Heaven that I’m sure she’s enjoying right now. However, a few days after the funeral, I found myself perusing job sites, and I thought to myself, “Uh-oh…I don’t have anyone to ask if this is right or not…I better pray and know the will of God before I go off on a job hunt.”

A sound idea, at any time. But I realized what an unGodly burden I placed on this person, to be my conduit to God, my oracle. And how spiritually lazy I had been to think like that. Wow.

But don’t wag your finger, my friend, because I’m not the first person to think like that. The only difference is that I’m portraying as an unrighteous behavior. This type of spiritually damaging dependency is not only tolerated, but encouraged in many churches. Either because the pastor is controlling and self-aggrandizing, and wants to be able to take credit for every victory in his member’s lives, or because the pastor is a poor and lazy shepherd, and allows his people to use him up, abuse him, and leave him out to dry, instead of teaching them how to be profitable Christians.

In saying that, I obviously can’t blame pastors only, or even mostly. We Christians are a lazy, self-absorbed lot. Instead of reaching out to help others, with an honest eye turned toward ourselves enough to realize we’re no better than anyone else, we choose to spend our time self-analyzing, and fault-finding, and asking for help and prayer over the little things we go through. I’m not suggesting that what you’re going through isn’t important, but there’s one important difference between you and sinner in the same situation. You have hope. Act like it.

It’s been a dangerous and selfish practice of Charismatic/Pentecostal circles over the last century to experience “More of Your Glory, More of Your Power, More of Your Spirit in me,” simply for the sake of experiencing it, and impressing other Christians with how spiritual we are, and sharing our deep revelations with other Christians so they can marvel at our wisdom, while the world goes to hell. There are great deep things of God, and they need to be searched out, but there is always a purpose to it: souls.

And yet, we’re still babies needing to be weaned off the pastoral nipple. Something is dreadfully and horribly wrong. In being forced to “grow up” through my loss, I’ve had my eyes open to what a pitiful little infant I was. And I’m concerned that as much as I thought I was spiritually mature, there many more out there who believe the same, in the same situation, who may never see the truth, because they believe it’s the right way to be.

I think that God is shaking things up in the church worldwide, to allow us to see this, and take on our mantle of servanthood and ministry. And I’ll talk more about that soon. Welcome back readers. I hope to see you all a lot more soon.

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, www.wearyourfaith.com 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.

christianity, Online Living

Blogging for Jesus Me

My wife nonchalantly posed a serious question to me recently, as she looked at some notes for future blog posts, “You have so many good things to say…why do you sit in front of a computer and blog them, instead of going out and sharing them with people who need Jesus?”

I’m always up for some harsh self-examination, so I really pondered how I could answer this, and justify my relatively reclusive lifestyle.  I’m not reclusive because I blog, let me get that straight.  I don’t sit at home wishing I was elsewhere, but I just have to get this post written.  I blog because I find it enjoyable, and I like the web development aspect of it (I’m a geek, what can I say?).  And I just happen to be rather introverted.  But this got me thinking on how blogging fits in with God’s great commission to go out and win the world.

I believe if harnessed properly, the internet could be a tremendous tool in reaching the world with the Gospel.  I have yet to see anyone actually accomplish this, however.  Surely our blogs, much of which debate the finer points of religious doctrine, are not effective conduits for the Gospel of Salvation to reach a lost person.  On the contrary, I would submit that should a spiritually-curious non-Christian stumble into our blogosphere, they may find so many contradicting statements, arguments, and debates, that they would be turned off to the Gospel.  I’m not criticizing any one person here, as I’ve engaged in a few debates myself on the internet, for better or worse.  But do these benefit the Kingdom of God?  I don’t believe so.  At best, it seems like the proverbial “peeing contest,” and at worse is actually a divisive force in the church.

Those criticisms out of the way, I will also admit that there have been several times that I have read a blog and felt personally challenged to better my walk with God.  I have been convicted, encouraged, and enlightened on many different kinds of topics in regards to my faith, and living it out in this world.  More than once, I can probably even say that my prayer and bible study times have profited from some things I’ve read.  And many of us just write to share our thoughts, and experiences, in our Christian walk.  If we find something interesting while studying the Bible, we share it with other Christians through our blog . . . and I would even say that is very Biblical.  It’s the 21st century version of Acts 2:46.

For some people, I imagine, this online community is the only place they feel like that have that fellowship.  But is this a healthy situation for the Christian and the Kingdom of God?  I think not.  Our highest calling is to fulfill our Great Commission, to go out and win the world.  While theoretically possible, I find it highly doubtful that blogging will do that.  A Christian, full of love, caring and helping someone in need, and sharing the Gospel with them, will do that, though.  I’m not saying don’t blog, but I encourage you to keep it in its place.  Instead of debating, let’s all encourage each other to go out and win souls for Jesus!  Let’s keep sharing our experiences, encouraging each other, and growing together, but let the fruit of that be evident in our profitability for the Kingdom of God.

I’m very interested to hear your thoughts on this, as I don’t believe myself to be the authority on the effectiveness of blogging as a witnessing tool.  But I also want to issue a challenge to every blogger reading this post, which I intend to participiate in with you:  Witness to, or share the gospel with 1 person for each blog post you write this week.

I, personally, get very excited when I think about the great things that we can all accomplish together for the Kingdom of God.  Let’s make the Christian blogging movement responsible for souls being brought into the Kingdom of God, and not just a lot of interesting articles for other Christians.

If you’re taking the challenge, leave a comment, or trackback here with a story of how it went!