People are leaving churches in droves! The end is near! Christianity is dying! The exodus of people who no longer attend churches is a serious problem that modern pastors, churches, theologians, and religious institutions are desperately trying to fix. Everything from post-modernism, shallow youth programs, technology, and apocalyptic immorality has been blamed for the decreasing attendance numbers of those who attend church—but can the trend be stopped?
For people benefiting from systematic wealth, power, comfort, favor, and convenience, it can be difficult to relate to the constant and endless forms of racism, stereotyping, and injustice that are experienced by others.
I became a Christian as a child. Children learn by imitating. From the moment we slip out of our mother’s body we are searching for cues on how to live in this world. Babies pick up linguistic sounds and intonations long before they utter their first words. Every step we take in those early years are carefully placed in the larger footprints of trusted adults before us.
Originally posted on Stephen Mattson:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son…” (John 3:16).
The Easter season annually inspires hundreds of sermons, homilies, small group discussions, bible studies, and conversations, but hardly any of them will center around the idea of parenthood. But in many ways the Easter story is about parenting: a father allowing his only son to be ridiculed, abused, hated, and violently crucified on a cross —for the sake of others.
God the Father had the power to save his Son, and Jesus even makes a comment during his arrest and betrayal that “Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matt. 26:53). Instead of a divine act of intervention, God allowed His Son to suffer for the benefit of humanity.
An arrest and execution was terribly unfair to…
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A Lenten Reflection. Reading of John 1-2. Humility.
“That man is truly humble who neither claims any personal merit in the sight of God, nor proudly despises brethren, or aims at being thought superior to them, but reckons it enough that he is one of the members of Christ, and desires nothing more than that the Head alone should be exalted.”
Instead of promoting Christ, Christians often promote …
their spiritual practices
their specific type of baptism
their required form of communion
their style of sermon
their definition of salvation
their philosophy of evangelism
their form of ministry
their brand of worship
their interpretation of Revelation
their interpretation of the Bible
their favorite leadership model
their social customs
their laws, rules, and regulations
their political beliefs
their moral values
Imagine if Christians introduced people to their God instead of their religion.
Unfortunately, we often evangelize our own specific type of Christianity to other Christians rather than sharing the Gospel with unbelievers — preferring to convert, criticize, and attack our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ because we feel their version of Christianity isn’t as good as ours.
In a pluralistic society obsessed with consumerism, marketing, entertainment, and comfort, it’s tempting for Christians to endorse unique attributes of their specific church, community, traditions, and faith instead of actually introducing people to God.
When this happens, the Gospel of Christ gets manipulated from something profound into a superficial sales pitch that’s commoditized to fulfill an array of selfish desires.
A particular brand of Christianity is propagated above all others — being worshipped and valued even more than God. We lose focus on the centrality of Jesus and obsess over the infinite differences within Christendom.
Instead of being unified in Christ, we’re divided by our distinctions — our beliefs become a form of idolatry.
Rifts are created, fractures occur, and theological wars are waged. Opinions are stated, agendas are pushed, accusations spewed, and allegations of heresy declared. Churches are disbanded, communities are broken, and relationships are lost — many abandon their faith altogether.
As a follower of Christ, do you ever feel like you’re still trying to be converted by other Christians? As if your faith isn’t quite good enough — being constantly critiqued, debated, and judged by other believers?
Christian evangelism has become inward focused, obsessed with internal factions where various sects of Christianity jostle for power, recognition, and control.
Instead of focusing on the unreached world with the transformative message of Jesus, churches, theologians, pastors, and parishioners spend their energy and resources trying to convince other Christians — or shame them — in the hope that they’ll reform to their better, more holy, righteous, and perfect “faith.”
Upon learning that a friend, coworker, or acquaintance is a Christian, we tend to immediately ask ourselves: Exactly what kind of Christian are they?
It’s not sufficient that they profess Jesus is Divine and rose from the dead, or that the Bible is inspired, or that they believe in the Trinity. That’s a start, but it’s not good enough. We want to know if they’re exactly the right type of Christian — our preferred type of Christian.
So over time we try to gather the necessary information and intelligence we think will reveal everything we need to know about their faith: What church do they attend? What music do they listen to? What books do they read? What political party do they support? What social causes do they support?
Inevitably, 99 percent of humanity fails to fit into our ideal picture of what a true Christian looks like. But instead of following Jesus’s commands to gracefully love our neighbors — even our enemies — and refrain from judging others, we do the exact opposite.
Is this the type of live-giving, hopeful, joyous, and loving faith we want to share with the world? Is this the message of the Gospel: I’m right and you’re wrong?
Instead of comparing versions of the Bible — tell us what God has been speaking to you.
Instead of complaining about worship styles — tell us about a time you experienced God’s presence.
Instead of criticizing a particular theologian — tell us how God is moving in your life.
Instead of questioning a denomination — tell us what you love about God.
Instead of condemning someone’s beliefs about eternity — tell us how God has changed you.
Instead of arguing over the proper way to facilitate the sacrament of communion — tell us about the ups and downs of your relationship with God.
Instead of preaching about a right or wrong method of baptism — tell us your faith testimony.
Instead of talking about religion, introduce us to God.
Christianity is extremely complex. Thousands of years of varying traditions, practices, events, experiences, and interpretations have shaped, informed, and influenced an infinite number of cultures, communities, and individuals in an incredibly unique way.
This doesn’t mean that Christians should accept everything as being morally admissible. It doesn’t mean that all beliefs and practices have equal merit. It doesn’t mean we live in a world devoid of absolute truth. It doesn’t mean we ignore false teaching and sin. On the contrary, followers of Christ must adhere to truth and orthodoxy.
But we shouldn’t be naïve enough to believe that only our particular church, pastor, and favorite theologian is the sole holder of truth, wisdom, and God’s favor.
The most important truth within all of Christianity is God. God exists. God’s real. God’s alive today. So why do we as Christians seem to talk about almost everything related to God without actually talking about our relationship with God?
Amid a world with unlimited spiritual choices, Jesus is distinctly unique! By introducing Jesus, instead of spewing the ugliness of yet another empty religion, we will reveal the wonderful glory of God.
This piece is being published on Sojo.net here: http://sojo.net/blogs/2015/03/16/when-christians-love-their-religion-more-their-god
A few years back, my very good friends Ian and Ruthie encouraged me to write and blog. At the time, I didn’t know the first thing about writing or blogging (and I still don’t know that much:-), but through their patient guidance, encouragement, and inspiration they empowered me to begin the journey.
Then, feeling called by God, they moved across the country and devoted their lives to starting and facilitating a ministry called ‘Refugee Beads.‘ It’s an amazing thing that has grown and matured over the years and has entered a brand new exciting phase!
If you live anywhere near Atlanta–are excited about ministry within that city–or are passionate about creating sustainability and supporting refugees from Iraq, Palestine, Egypt, Burma, and Nepal you should check them out.
Their website is: refugeebeads.org
You can read about the impact their ministry has had here: atlantaintownpaper.com
A little bit about how you can help can be found here: How You Can Help
With the unimaginable evils being committed by ISIS and other terror groups around the world, many Christians are calling for their violent destruction — some even voluntarily taking up arms.
There’s no such thing as a perfect Christian, and there’s no such thing as perfect Christianity.
They don’t exist. One of the biggest lies Satan can tell you is that perfect spirituality can be achieved — it can’t.