“Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.” - Jonathan Edwards -

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Christian Life - Part VI - The Cult of Nonchalance

There is a pervasive issue within the church today, and it has been propogated by the leaders of the church; it is the cult of nonchalance. We have become so laissez faire in our approach to the worship of the Creator of the Universe that we have robbed our young of the joy of worshipping a Transcendent God.

You see this everywhere -- it closely ties into the Cult of Revelevance (see post), and is directly tied to the pastor's attitude towards worship. We see this more and more, with men who try to be relevant by being nonchalant in their approach to God, appearing, for all intents and purposes to be disdainful of God. They think that this will make people feel comfortable at their church (as if that was the main purpose of the church!).

The problem extends from their dress to their words, to their overall attitude. I know that many an argument has been started and hard-fought regarding dress and words, but before we start that here, listen to what I am saying:

1. I fully realize that what one wears to church is not an indicator of their salvation -- but I also realize that clothes say much about attitudes. Before anyone gets up in a huff about this, let me say that our church is full of bikers, and they come in leathers and jeans, and I have no problem with that -- however, I am fairly concerned about women who show up braless with tight blouses, and low cut jeans showing off their mid-section. I am concerned about men who show up with a 'F--- Corporate Rock' T-shirt; the deacons (one of which is a biker who is usually dressed in jeans and leather), have been known to say something to people who come in dressed in such a manner. Now, when a person first comes to our church, we do not say anything, but through our teaching and guiding we expect people to pick up the idea of what is proper and what is not proper.

2. When people are standing around in the church and talking like they are out on the forecastle of a ship with their Navy buddies, we have been known to say things about it. Why? Because we are trying to get people to realize that there is a proper way to approach God; much to the surprise (I am sure) of many a pastor, Jesus is NOT our homeboy, nor is He our buddy we swap dirty jokes with! Again, words do not indicate salvation, but they most CERTAINLY indicate attitude. Now, I have many people who use colorful language to express themselves, especially when they first come to the church -- I mean, many of our folks come in right off the street -- but again, through example, and guidance, we try to show people that there is a proper way for a Christian to act, and talk.

With these two volatile statements being made, I am sure many would not only disagree with me, but would actually think I am hindering evangelism. Funny that one would think that -- I have baptized most of the people at our church, and many of them have come from backgrounds which are generally not evangelized (two of our members were homeless when I met them). This has not hindered evangelism without our community, as a matter of fact, it has caused people to come to the church! Why? Because if they want to be secular, they will find better venues to do so, but many of the people are tired of the world's ways and actually want to join a group of believers who actually are DIFFERENT than the world!

And here is where I have the biggest rub -- a pastor who makes a seven figure salary thinks he is relevant by dressing in torn jeans, and a T-shirt to preach -- when in reality people, ESPECIALLY those who do not know who God is, need to see that He is Holy and Transcendent -- and they do not get that impression when the pastor sounds and looks just like a B-Grade comedian (and most are not even B-grade).

The Cult of Nonchalance is definitely expressed when one walks into a church and thinks that they have stumbled into The Comedy Corner, or a Rock Concert -- somehow we have forgot how we are to approach God. many will say that the unbeliever will feel uncomfortable in a church that actually treats God with the Awe and Respect due Him. Well, I would say GOOD, the unbeliever SHOULD feel uncomfortable during the worship of a Holy God, as should the believer! Ask Isaiah:

Isaiah 6:1-5 -- In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!" And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: "Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!"

Do you see Isaiah's response? Not much like a pastor who turns the pulpit into his own humor pedestal!

Now, you may be saying -- "Well, Ray that is Old Testament -- we live in the New Testament." You are right -- so lets see what happens there:

Luke 5:1-8 -- On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon's, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch." And Simon answered, "Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets." And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord."

Do you see any nonchalance in the attitudes of these men? Now, you may be saying -- What has this to do with our outward actions and appearances?" Well, I think it is a tragedy that Christians in this country have so little respect or awe for God that they show up for corporate worship dressed DOWN -- in clothing they would not wear to work! That reflects an attitude, not of respect, but of disdain. I have worked with and visited many from countries that are dirt poor, and they will WALK for miles on Sunday, dressed in their best attire, to hear the Word of God preached, and we, in the richest country in the history of the world INTENTIONALLY dress as sloppy and casual as we can. Then we talk just like the world talks, and we think somehow we are being relevant -- we are not! We are irrelevent at that point -- people come to church looking for God, and we show them a cheap imitation of the world -- no wonder many do not stay once the novelty wears off!

My friends do not mistake this post as a call for suit and tie Christianity -- it is a call to change our attitudes; this will be reflected in our walk, talk, and appearance. It is not suit and tie Christianity, but it is the concept of offering our bodies as living sacrifices. Whether you wear jeans or a three-piece suit, the bottom line is that we should approach the Lord with respect, and not use our outward appearance as a tool to be relevant; rather we should come to church expecting to meet with a Holy, Transcendent God!

Malachi 1:6-8 -- A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, 'How have we despised your name?' By offering polluted food upon my altar. But you say, 'How have we polluted you?' By saying that the LORD's table may be despised. When you offer blind animals in sacrifice, is that not evil? And when you offer those that are lame or sick, is that not evil? Present that to your governor; will he accept you or show you favor? says the LORD of hosts.

Do you offer the governor, (or your employer), the best while giving God less than that?

Friday, January 26, 2007

Update

You will notice that I have updated my blog 'look and feel' whilst I was upgrading to the NEW BLOGGER.

I am hoping that this is a bit easier to read, hence my purpose in changing the look.

Now, back to the series on Christian Life -- BTW, I will be updating links to other blogs soon...

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Christian Life - Part V - The Cult of Rights

As I stated previously, some of these posts are related -- here you will find that the Cult of Individualism feeds this practice. I know that both the title and the subject matter presented here may be contentious, but I see this going on not only in my church but in several I am associated with.

Here in the US we are obssessed with OUR rights! Now, that may seem wonderful on the face of it, but when I say this, I mean OUR rights to the exclusion of others rights -- in other words, individual 'rights' trump the rights of the many. Our country will continue to wrestle with this, but where it impacts the Body of Christ it needs to be addressed.

This issue stems from the fact that the Christian community has adopted and adapted the world view of the society around it, rather than impacting society with their worldview. So we see that, ofttimes, Christians are some of the more self-centered, and self-absorbed groups around -- now, when I say this I also realize that there are many groups who do not fall into this category, but overall, the Western Church, especially as found in the US struggles mightily with this.

How does it manifest itself? First, and foremost -- in rebellion against God and His Word. I have often heard this -- "I know what it says in the Bible, but I have the right to live my life as I see fit" or "I know that the Bible says I am living in sin, but you just don't understand". More and more Christians look like the world -- in their divorce rate, in their racial discrimination, in their outlook, etc.

The Cult of Rights has been propagated by those who have built large churches around the teaching of self-esteem, and self-love; now some may say that those are hard words, but I have read the books of these pastors, and have heard them speak. They are all about feel-good messages that have no substance, nor impact in the believers life. The Cult of Rights is perpetuated because it is the way to get a large congregation -- but it is in direct conflict with the Word of God.

How do we know that we are affected by the Cult of Rights? Here are a few indicators:

You may be struggling with this if you are living in direct rebellion to God's Word, and rationalize it with the fact that it is 'your right' to do so. (an example would be this -- getting a divorce because you are unhappy, rather than working through it in a Biblical manner -- it is your 'right' in our society to do so, but it is against God's Word. Another example -- obtaining an abortion, because it is a woman's right 'to chose', rather than working through it in a Biblical fashion.)

You may be struggling with this if you, or your church, spends all of its money and time on things that are not advancing the Kingdom of God -- such as the millions spent on increasing the comfort of the edifice that some call the church, while the neighborhood around it crumbles. It is 'your right' to spend the money the way you see fit, however it is not Biblical -- James says that pure and undefiled religion is visiting widows and orphans in their affliction and staying unstained from worldly ways! I live within spitting distance of several of the largest churches around, yet some of them are in neighborhoods where many struggle at subsistence level.

You may be struggling through this if you put yourself before the Body of Christ -- this is a major one -- church has become all about us (see Cult of Individualism), and this has a by-product, the Cult of Rights. In Acts we see the church selling the things they owned to take care of the Body -- in the Modern Church it is uncommon, if not downright extinct, to find people willing to give above their 'ten percent' to help out someone else in the Body. Why? Because, they 'earned' their money, and by golly it is their 'right' to spend it in a way that they see fit!

You may be struggling with this if you are about as ecologically minded as Exxon. This is a contentious one, and that is fine, but we are not called to be squanderers of God's world, but stewards. I am always amazed at how few Christians recycle, or buy recycled, by how many people in the Church think that anyone who eats and lives generally green, are pagans and tree-worshippers. It is as if anyone who actually is trying to live a life that allows for a future (should the Lord tarry), for their children has adopted a pagan outlook, when it reality it is the Christian community which should set the bar for stewarding God's creation! So many Christians that I have talked with, when they find out that I generally shop for green type products, have rolled their eyes and said "And you are a pastor?!" as if somehow doing so put me outside the pale of orthodoxy!

You may be struggling with this if you are all about tax-reform, and welfare-reform. Now, before you go crazy on me, and rant and rave about government waste etc., understand what I am saying -- I am not against either one of those things, but (IMHO) this is what we should be pushing for:

Tax-Reform: Absolutely, but rather than constantly trying to get more money back, what if Christians rallied around the fact that we would gladly pay our taxes if they were used properly, for the care and education of the people. Yes, the government is corrupt, it is a man-centered environment, but we should do our level best to influence it for good. We look like Ebenezer Scrooge when the 'Christian Coalition' goes on TV and never once mentions Christ and His redeeming work, but focuses on how much money the government wastes, and how we want it back. We should absolutely focus on government waste, but then present ways to use it more wisely, and for the benefit of the people who need it. Tragically, the 'Christian Coalition' is less Christian, and more coalition -- basically it has become a hack for the Republican party.

Welfare-Reform: This goes hand-in-hand with the tax reform issue. We want people off the welfare rolls, and I am right there with those who say that; but let me ask you, what is your church doing to actively assist? This area used to be the bailiwick of the Church, but when she stopped performing this task, the government took over, and like all governmental things, they did a mediocre job. Stop blaming the government, and adopt a family -- help them by not only providing for them physically, but spiritually -- we have done that in a few cases and the results have been remarkable! Again, the church rallies behind a political party and rants about 'their money' and how it is being wasted on Godless things/people, but can we honestly say that we are spending our money more Godly than the government?

What if the government took the position of saying that the church can keep its tax-exempt status only if it contributes to the good of the society by taking in a family, or families (you could base this on the size of the church), and helping them to get off the welfare system? Or if they had a sliding scale that enabled the church to be tax-exempt to a certain percentage, based upon their work with the local 'widows and orphans', or to the degree to which they maintained a sustainable system of recycle etc.? I know that these are simply rough ideas thrown out for consideration, so please don't comment on how impractical they are -- they should be considered starting points, not finished thoughts.

We need to get over ourselves, and our newfound political power/rights, and do something that doesn't involve us strengthening our position as the guardians of the world system -- it is corrupt, and we, who are in the Kingdom of God, need to pursuing God's agenda rather than furthering our own, and our favorite political party's ends!

Let me add this caveat as I inevitably get a comment when this is discussed: I am not saying that we divorce ourselves from the political process, rather I am saying that we work within the system to do God's work, and stop building ourselves up.

So how can we start? Well how about this:

Romans 12:1-3;13-21

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned....
Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be conceited. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." To the contrary, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.


Brothers and sisters -- this passage and many others like it tell us to do the exact opposite of the Cult of Rights propogated by the modern churches and para-church organizations. We are to be self-sacrificing, humble, and peaceable; not rights-minded, rude, wasteful and arrogant!

Every time the church has gotten obssessed with its 'rights' throughout history, corruption was not far behind! Let us begin to work for the advancement of God's Kingdom, and spend less time fortifying our position, and screaming about 'our rights'.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

The Chrisian Life -- Part IV -- The Cult of Technology

Some may balk at the title of this one -- "WHAT cult of Technology; should we not use modern methods in our church?" No, this is not what I am saying -- this post addresses the fascination with, and adoration of, technology within the church. You see this quite often -- "Now we have bluetooth and wireless for your enjoyment during the sermon." Oh, you mean instead of actually listening to God's Word being taught, and interacting with others in the Body?

Some would argue that having these conveniences makes it easier for people to 'share' in the teaching and preaching of God's Word by being able to download the sermon notes RIGHT TO THEIR LAPTOP! I would say that the danger of technology is (at least) two-fold:

First -- technology does not bring people together in a true sense of the word (I don't say this in isolation, I work in the technology field); most often it is a cheap imitation of being in fellowship -- I know, I know, here I sit posting on a blog, and I have developed some wonderful friendships via this medium -- I do not deny that -- but I believe that TRUE and LASTING accountability and friendships should be EXPERIENCED in the real world, and not the ether-world. I look forward to meeting up with, and spending time with my blog-friends sometime in the future; I feel that only then will we know each other in the truest sense of the word.

Also, those who are busily pounding away on their keyboard, or following the ppt presentation are NOT interacting with others around them -- it is like many individuals and strangers sitting in the same room. Instead of coming together to worship corporately, we now have 'internet cafe's' disguised as churches. And don't fool yourself, many of the younger folks are IMing, or gaming!

Secondly -- I have been to churches that have elevated technology to an idol; the means have become more important than the end. In other words -- a preacher will use technology to get a specific reaction, or to surprise and shock the gathered Body, rather than using the Word of God to transform the souls of the people. I have literally been to places where the primary topic of discussion by the pastor was the latest and greatest technology that they were employing to 'reach the lost'. (I will write more on this in a future post).

I believe that some churches would have to shut their doors if they lost power for an extended period during a service! And yet, the persecuted church in China sings in whispered hushes whilst hidden in a dank, dark basement cave, and they worship just fine without even a single powerpoint slide! What of the church in Africa? They often gather in a hut without power, or for that matter, even walls! And the singing, oh my word, what singing! And my friends in India gather in open areas worshipping (for HOURS) without the aid of a single wireless connection!

I am NOT saying that the use of technology is wrong, or unbiblical, but I am saying that it is profoundly unbiblical to elevate it to a 'golden calf'.

This is where my friends in the 'simple church' movement have so opened my eyes and been wonderful sounding boards -- they believe that we have become far too infatuated with the 'trappings' of the modern church, and far too disinterested in the transforming message of the Gospel and the healthy life of the Body!

I agree -- and while we may disagree on some of the finer points, I truly believe that the simple church groups have tapped into what the early church was about -- worshipping God in simplicity, not disguising or obliterating the message with the use of glitz and glitter; raising the 'entertainment bar' so that every week a church has to outdo its whiz-bang from the previous week.

So, before you comment about how technology is being used in a wonderful way at your church, please reread this post -- I will reiterate -- Technology, in and of itself, is not a problem, it is the adoration and idolizing of technology which crosses the line! I cannot speak for simple church folks, but I bet some of them use technology in their gatherings; however, from what I understand, they do not allow it to become the focus of the gathering, nor should we!

We should be about the business of proclaiming the Gospel, and we should actively be involved in meaningful fellowship with other believers -- let's turn off our computers for a few hours every Sunday so that we can focus on Christ and His finished work on the Cross!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Christian Life - Part III - The Cult of Relevance

Well, as we progress through these posts, we find that they build on one another. We started with the Cult of Personality that raises some pastors to the status of celebrities, with all of the perks, and arrogance of a worldly celebrity. Then we looked at the Cult of Individualism, which causes the body to look like some kind of Frankenstein monster, rather than a beautiful bride being prepared for her wedding.

These two creat another cult -- the Cult of Relevance...

When you have pastors who begin to believe their own press clippings, thinking that they are somehow MORE than simply clay jars that are presenting the awesome message of the Gospel, you then begin to see their desire to be relevant in and of themselves, sometimes to the denigration of the Gospel!

Likewise, when you have people who are taught that church is all about them and their comfort, then these people begin to EXPECT that the message they come to hear will be about them.

Now, these two statements may cause you to wonder -- "Are you saying that our message should be irrelevant?" No, not at all, I am saying that the Cult of Relevance is not interested in the relevance of the Gospel in the lives of Christians, rather, it is interested in MAKING pastors and churches hip, cool and relevant from a worldly perspective, not a Godly perspective.

When you have pastors who think that it is appropriate to 'pitch' their latest book as opposed to preaching from God's Word, then you see the outworking of a worldly relevance. I have so often seen on TV a pastor lifting his book up and making this claim: "If you want to know how you can live a life full of __________ (fill in the blank) then you need my latest tome on XXXX"

When you sing 'worship' songs that use the words; me, us, I, and we, and never use Christ or God, you may be singing a song of relevance. It is about how I am feeling, and what I am going to do, and where I am at right now, as opposed to glorifying God and praising Him.

When you have youth leaders, and pastors who think it is 'cute' or 'relevant' to use common gutter language behind the pulpit, then you may be suffering from the Cult of Relevance as well. I know that many posts and blogwars have been focused around this one aspect of 'relevance', but the truth is that we are to be a people noted for NOT looking and sounding like the world. When we coopt the worlds ways and language, we are making the statement that their ways are somehow more 'relevant' or 'important' than the ways that Christ expounded in the Word. As a matter of fact, the Messiah made it clear that it was what came out of one's mouth that defiled them, not what went into it!

When we have sermons built around the 'Beverly Hillbillies', or 'Everyone Loves Raymond', or 'Mayberry RFD', then you may be relevant, but the message is that the Word of God finds it's relevance in sitcoms, rather than being relevant in and of itself. I have picked up some of these so-called sermons and studies and listened to them -- they are incredibly insipid, and almost devoid of anything that could be called Biblical learning!

When you have movie studios sending out contests that require pastors to do a sermo-mercial in order to win a trip to FLA., then you may be suffering from the Cult of Relevance. I do not fault the movie studios, they are of the world, but I DO fault the pastors who responded to this. And, by the way, there are more and more 'contests' that require sermo-mercials; why? Because they are effective and pastors comply!

So, what can we do about this? Well, here is a good place to start:

Matthew 16:24 - 26 -- Then Jesus told his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life?

Romans 16:17, 18 -- I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.

2nd Timothy 3:1 - 6 -- But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions...

You see, if we die to selves, we will be a lot less worried about OUR relevance, and much more concerned about Christ's relevance. We must deacrease, and He must increase. As cool as James Brown was (one of my favorites), when he was lying in the casket, he was completely unconcerned about being relevant. Why? Because he was dead! So, if, as Christians we are supposed to be dead to self, why are we so consumed with being relevant in and of ourselves?

Notice that in the Romans quote above that we are to watch out for those who use smooth talk and flattery to teach contrary doctrines -- in other words, no matter how 'cool' someone sounds, their words and teaching must pass the litmus test of Biblical truth.

Amd finally, in the 2nd Timothy quote we find that people will become more and more self-centered -- well, what is this Cult of Relevance if not a self-seeking, self-centered attitude of arrogance? "I need to be cool" is the overarching concern of the modern pastor as opposed to "I need to be Godly".

Let us be more concerned with the things of God, and less concerned with the things of this world as we approach God!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Christian Life - Part II - The Cult of Individualism

This subject has been, or will be broached by many others, I have even previously posted briefly on this, so I am not the definitive word on this, but it certainly is troubling.

Coming from a cultural background where it is so much about community (Jewish), I have been amazed at the impact that the cult of individualism has had on the church. We have churches now that divide the Body into a million little pieces every Sunday. There is a singles worship service, and a young people worship service, and an older persons worship service, and left-handed plumbers service... You get the picture.

Not only do churches have individual worship services, but they also have 'small groups' which are, likewise divided into 'types'. Most larger churches make the statement that the small group is where people really get discipled. Well, that may well be true, but when you divide the body into special groups so that they only interact with like-minded people, how growth-stimulating and discipling can that be?

As an example, we desperately need the wisdom and stability of older Christians (chronologically and spiritually), and the energy and excitement of younger people in the same environment! Many so-called worship services are nothing more than rock concerts, or at the other end, funeral dirges recalling past glories; sometimes in the same church building!! And never the twain shall meet -- because it is about YOU YOU YOU, and we would hate for you to have to sit amongst older Christians and actually have to sing a hymn -- likewise, we would hate for our older folks to have to endure being around youngsters... After all, if we had to function as a body, we might shrink below acceptable levels.

The same could be said for race or gender -- some people only attend the men's or women's functions, some people only attend the specific function that appeals directly to them. And this is the Body of Christ spoken of in 1st Corinthians 12?

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body--Jews or Greeks, slaves or free--and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you," nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

Could you imagine the Messiah having a seperate time of teaching ONLY for fishermen, and then a later time of teaching for the tax collectors, and then a final one for zealots and traitors? No, Messiah taught that the way we loved and cared for one another in the Body was a sign to unbelievers that we were His disciples -- how can that happen when our only interaction at church or in the functions of the church are centered around a group of people that we 'fit in' with? Truly I do find intolerance in the church, and that intolerance is with anyone in the body who does not fit my mold as a Christian.

We no longer come together to worship and love one another and share things and help one another -- we now come to get our weekly dose of ME religion -- replete with MY type of music, MY type of prayers, and of course, MY type of people surrounding me.

And here is the saddest piece of all -- at the forefront, and loudly promoting this is a group of people that we once called pastors. All for the sake of size and comfort we have allowed these leaders to perform amuptation on the body and reduce it to political, racial, gender, or age-based groups of interest -- not the functioning Body of Christ that Paul references in his letters.

Here is something you should do -- go read the book of Acts, see how the early church functioned -- They spent time together as a family, sharing their things, and caring for one another -- they were not perfect as Acts points out, but they were much more like a functioning Body than the modern US church!

Monday, January 08, 2007

The Christian Life - Part I - Cult of Personality

As I stated in my last post, I want to take a look at the Evangelical community within the West, and comment on some of the trends that I find to be disturbing.

The first one I want to address is the 'Cult of Personality' that surrounds many of the better known pastors. One cannot make an observation about a well-known pastor without a counter-site popping up 'protect' the pastor in question.

We should be berean in our approach to anything that is said regarding our faith, regardless of who said it. When there are pastors out there that cannot make a simple gospel presentation, it SHOULD be duly noted, and corrected. Especially when these men are high-profile, and supposedly the 'voices of modern evangelicalism'.

Their own supporters should be the first to ask these men to clarify their public statements. No one is immune from making a gaffe, and we should therefore temper our comments in the light that all can make a mistake; however it is incumbent for us, as Christians, to ensure that those who supposedly represent Christ, actually DO represent Him!

Let me give you an illustration of this Cult of Personality, Pastor-Elevating culture we live in:

Here is a standard bio for a pastor (it is no one in particular, but is culled from a number of bios) -- "Pastor John Doe is a cutting-edge, straight forward communicator whose creative teaching methods are making a huge impact in today's society. He is the founding and Senior Pastor of ACME Church. The church has fifteen campus' nationwide. Pastor John is a visionary, whose entrepreneurial efforts have changed the face of the modern church. Pastor John was also named Time's Man of the Year two years running, and he is the author of more than forty bestselling books."

Do you see anything in this bio (again, a composite) that points to Christ, or to this man's qualifications to be an undershepherd of God's flock? I mean, this could be Anothony Robbins bio, as opposed to a man of God (not saying anything about Robbins, but even he does not promote himself as a pastor!). We have become fascinated with bios, and books, and 'cutting-edge' communications, and have left important things such as Biblical Knowledge, or Prayer Life, or a Pastor's Heart in the dumpster. A man is now successful if his church is bigger than XX, regardless of whether or not his life reflects Christ's at all!

Now I want to say that I am all for reaching the lost, and reaching out, but when we have men who strut about with their 'fan-club', promoting their latest book and teaching methods, what we DON'T have are people who are role models for Christians. How a pastor lives is as much a part of his teaching as what he says; and many of the modern popular preachers do not reflect the life of one who has died to self, and now lives for Christ. What the lost need more than another self-help method is the transforming power of the Spirit in their life, and they need to see people modeling that same Spirit in their lives.

Let me compare the above bio with this bio -- And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. 1st Corinthians 2:1-5

When we are all about self-promoting, we are (at best) not promoting Christ as Lord and Savior, and (at worse) promoting self-dependence w/o Christ.

Before anyone comments about this, let me say that pastors and leaders in the church are due honor, yes, but honor that they get from PROPERLY teaching and preaching the Word -- not just because they carry a title. I know people without any title at all that I give respect to because of their teaching and the fact that their lives reflect God's transforming power; likewise, I know men who call themselves pastors who do not deserve any honor at all.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Series - The Life of a Christian

I am working on a new series that will examine the Evangelical community within the West (primarily in the North American context). I want to look at how we live, how we SHOULD be living, and address some of the things that concern me.

There are many in the blogsphere who have covered this; probably more ably than I will, but I feel compelled to address some of these concerns. One of the reasons is the recent spate of nonsense from many pastors who have encouraged their congregations to not only act like the world but to seek acceptance for their actions from the world! I am not linking to any examples: this tends to polarize the discussion around personalities instead of issues.

There are more and more hi-profile (and, I am sure, low-profile) pastors who seem to think that it is our mandate to become more hip, cool and worldly than our pagan neighbors; all in the name of being 'relevant'. While I agree that being Luddites, and sticking our metaphorical heads in the sand, is incorrect, I also believe that there are many in the so-called evangelical community who have extended the 'relevancy' mindset to condone any type of behavior that gets them press!

The second reason for covering this is the recent, and growing, backlash against Christianity from within the U.S. This is a backlash created, in many ways, by the worldly living of Evangelical leaders who are seeking political, and societal, power, prestige and position. This has caused some within the secular community to overreact. You may read a snippet of this mindset here. While I believe that it is the right and responsibility of Christians to be involved in the democratic process in the U.S., I feel that many have gone well beyond being involved and now are attempting to exhert their nascent 'political muscle', all the while living in a manner which they condemn in their pagan neighbors.

So, with these two items in mind, I now embark on this series. I pray that I will be Godly, Biblical, and even-handed in my posts.