Strengthen the Family, Church, and Association

I had the opportunity a couple of weeks ago (April 10-13) of attending a conference and while much of the information didn’t come as much of a surprise to me, it did stick with me and solidified a few ideological convictions that I have. One ideological conviction that was renewed is this, spiritually healthy individuals and families make a spiritually healthy church, spiritually healthy churches make a spiritually healthy association or network of churches. It is the idea of what is the basic building block and for the church the basic building block is the individual and/or the individual family. So here is the question I want you to pray about and think on, how can the church encourage, support, and resource individuals and/or families to be spiritually healthy? Here is the working assumed answer that must be fleshed out:

1) Healthy and Vibrant Sunday School or Small Group Teachers and Sunday School Classes or Small Groups, that not only teaches the foundations and principles of the faith but also shares life together. Within this is also a system of care for both the individual and the family.

2) With healthy and vibrant Sunday School or Small Group Teachers and Sunday School Classes or Small Groups, is a process to recruit, train, and mentor new Sunday School leaders/teachers.

3) A growing foundation of one-on-one or small group discipleship groups (D-Groups). It is foundational for a more mature believer to pour their life into one that is newer in the faith. Let’s be honest the Christian faith is a generational faith, in that it is passed from one generation to the next. This can be seen in an older generation passing the faith to a younger generation, and this can also be seen in a more mature believer pouring their life into the life of one that is not as mature. My emphasis for now is on new believers (believer for 5 years or less). This process of D-Groups is to be one where those who go through the process are also challenged to pour their life into another.

4) A process to train, encourage, support, and resource parents to be the primary spiritual leaders and teachers in their family. The range of parents will be for children from preschool to high school.

What do you think of the general premise? Are there things that you would add or subtract?

Is it the End of the World?

As we all know the Mayan long calendar has created a lot of brouhaha with people thinking it is the end of the world. Is it the end of the world? Will tomorrow bring the apocalypse? Should I pay my house mortgage this month? Should my local school be closed two days earlier for Christmas break, like 33 Michigan schools?

My short answer to this question, don’t hold your breath because I’m confident that mankind will see the sunset on December 21, 2012 (and yes you do need to pay that mortgage bill). I am confident because of verses like: Matthew 24:36-44-“’But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son,but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.'”

1 Thess. 5:1-3- “‘Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety,’ destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.'”

This Mayan calendar apocalypse is definitely not creating the same level of fear as the infamous and greatly exaggerated Y2K, it still elicits many question from a number of people.  What is interesting to me is where people are seeking or not seeking the answers from.  They are seeking answers from NASA. NASA has received so many emails and phone calls, that it has established a f.a.q. totally devoted to this topic. At the risk of ruining your hopes that you don’t have to pay you mortgage this month, NASA totally debunks the whole idea that the world will end tomorrow. My question is why is the church not receiving many of these calls and emails?

1) The church is not receiving these calls and emails because the church is not speaking up.

Many believe the church has been forced into a corner by society. This may be partially correct but I believe the issue is more the church has put it self in a corner. In today’s world you and I hear little to noting from the faith community in relation to such issues and the little that we do hear is oftentimes secondary and soft. Take for instance the “War on Christmas” discussion, if I am completely honest I hear more about it from Bill O’Reilly on this issue that Christian leaders. Let’s be honest the church has fallen silent and no longer speaks out.

2) The church is not receiving these calls and emails because it is not seen as essential and credible in society.

In recent history the church is losing influence as it is not seen as essential and a credible source of information within society. This can’t be stated any clearer than the fact that people go to NASA about questions on the end of the world far more than they do the church in this situation. Why is this? The church isn’t seen as either an essential or credible provider of answers to the questions such as the Mayan scare. You don’t see me going to The National Enquirer for news on current events, because I don’t see them as an essential, viable, or credible source of information. In the same way the world doesn’t see the church as an essential, viable, or credible source of information.

3) The church is not receiving these calls and emails because of the increase in secularist thought and tendency.

While it is reported that 92% of Americans believe in a God, it is also evident that there is a continual regression in faith compared to secularism. With this rise in secularism, there is little doubt why questions like the Mayan question are not brought to the church. Further, why would someone who is influenced very little by the church come to the church to ask a question. That individual is going to go to the source they most identify with.

4) The church is not receiving these calls and emails because it is seen as not open to these questions.

Let’s be honest here, I am a Christian pastor and most of you the readers are coming from more of a faith background than the general population, but the church really isn’t open for people to ask these questions. We say that we are but when the questions are asked we respond with scathing self-righteousness and judgement. From where I come from this is seen as not being open to a question.

5) The church is not receiving these calls and emails because the church is no longer actively engaged in the communities in which they reside.

Generally the church is becoming more and more about ‘us four and no more’ mentality and very internal focused. Because of this mentality and focus we as a church are not engaged with the communities that surround the church and the world at large. In fact  in Transformational Church Stetzer and Rainer state, “We have churches filled with knowledgeable religious people not living on mission, wasting their time criticizing those who are.” We as a church must engage and be the sent church who is on mission for God.

If we as a church are not engaged with the community, why would they engage with us?

6) The church is not receiving these calls and emails because of the perceived loss in the faith verses science debate.

I don’t think it has to be argued that there is a debate of faith verses science or science verse faith. My argument is why does it have to be a verses? Do they have to be mutually exclusive?

The underlying question is which is trusted more, science or faith. From events such as this it is evident that science is winning.

How will you proceed with tomorrow? Will it be different from any other day? While I don’t believe that the Mayan calendar scare will amount to anything, I do see a visible illustrative issue for the church. The question is how should the church respond?

What do you think? How should the church respond in the wake of an event that gives undeniable evidence that the influence of the church is greatly diminished?

 

 

 

Welcome????

Who should be welcome at church? Does one have to have the ‘right’ clothes? Does one have to have the ‘right’ look and that includes tattoos or piercings? Does one have to have the ‘right’ Bible? Does one have to have the ‘right’ beliefs? Does one have to live the ‘right’ life? I wonder who should be welcome at church?

I’ve been thinking about such questions as I have been contemplating the traditional church. Yes there are some traditional churches that are making some great strides in being relevant both in method and culture in today’s world. I applaud these churches for seeing people as individuals who are desperately need the love and salvation of Christ. I applaud these churches for seeing that the world is changing in relation to customs, dress level, and cultural taboos and being sensitive to these culture changes. Now, I am in no way advocating for being footloose and fancy free with the gospel message, yet what I am advocating for is being sensitive to the culture in relation to the methods we as the church uses in order to be the salt and light to the community and world in which it ministers.

So who should be welcome at church? The Bible answers this questions in this way, “Later when Jesus was eating supper at Matthew’s house with his close followers, a lot of disreputable characters came and joined them. When the Pharisees saw him keeping this kind of company, they had a fit, and lit into Jesus’ followers. ‘What kind of example is this from your Teacher, acting cozy with crooks and riffraff?’ Jesus, overhearing, shot back, ‘Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? Go figure out what this Scripture means: ‘I’m after mercy, not religion.’ I’m here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders (Matthew 9:10-13 The Message).’” In other words everyone should be welcome, whether this be the three piece suit guys with the hair that is just perfect, the person in the blue jeans, the person with body piercings, or the person with the million tattoos. Further this also includes those who are black, yellow, white, or even polka-dotted. All are welcome!

Think about this verse whenever someone different shows up at your church, “My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, ‘Here’s a good seat for you,’ but say to the poor man, ‘You stand there’ or ‘Sit on the floor by my feet,’ have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts (James 2:1-4 NIV)?”

So here is my question for you. Who is welcome at your church? While no one may voice it but who isn’t welcome at your church? Why? Is this Biblical?