Archives For church

Way to "engage" with the culture.

Way to “engage” with the culture.

Over the last few weeks, my social media feeds have been filled with plenty of Christians trying to discern how the church will “respond” to the Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage.

Most of the responses are based on fear.

Most of the responses belie an “attack and defend” concept of the church.

There are plenty of Christians who think the American church is on the ropes, that we are very close to becoming a persecuted minority. Soon, pastors will be forced to perform weddings they do not agree with, churches will lose their tax exemptions, and perhaps even worse consequences will occur. Cultural influencers publicly cry that there are thousands of pastors willing to “die” for this cause.

And you know what I can now conclusively say?

All of these responses, based on fear, defensively postured, conceptualized as “attack and defend” are kind of pathetic.

And if your church is responding this way, it’s kind of pathetic too.

Here’s why.

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Yesterday was Easter, which is of course one of the biggest church attendance days of the year.

Many churches make a big push, perhaps second only to Christmas, to lure people through the doors. There are massive Easter egg hunts, parties, and everything else you can imagine, I suppose to disguise the fact that church is actually supposed to be worship. Kind of like putting a nasty tasting dog pill inside a treat so he’ll eat it.

Sunday got all the attention, but today is Monday, and I wonder what people will do. Will we sleep in because we have the day off? Will we groggily go to work and talk about what a great weekend we had?

The thing is, there is a disconnect between Sunday and Monday.

Sunday, many churches spent a lot of time and effort and money, trying to show everyone how great they are, how exciting their programs are, how “relevant” their worship is.

But what happens on Monday?

Monday is where the rubber meets the road, so to speak. Monday is where relevance really happens. Sunday is a day off. Nothing bad happens on Sunday (kind of.) Monday is generally decried as awful. And Monday is when people remember that there is a disconnect between what we say we are, and what we really are.

We have a lot of Christians in this country, trying to tell everyone how great we all are, and a bunch of non-Christians who say that, actually, we are awful.

We can go to church and feel great about ourselves on Sunday. And a few people may show up and agree. But on Monday, all bets are off.

D.L. Moody had this thought that we were told to let our light shine in the world, and if we are doing that, we won’t have to tell people it’s shining.

I think we’ve got much of that backward. We have very little light shining, and a whole lot of people talking about the light.

light

Sunday puts everyone in a good light. We were all wearing our best pastel colored clothes. We were all in a good mood.

But today is Monday. Time to get to work and let that light shine.

We bloggers can a funny bunch of people sometimes.VH_iStock_700x330px_0000117

Especially those of us who blog a lot about topics related to the American church.

Always in search of fodder for writing, there is no shortage of blogs that have been written about what is wrong with the church. Every so often, there is a public departure by a prominent Christian from some wing of Christianity. Or a leader will explain why he isn’t going to church these days. And a whole bunch of us will talk about what this means for the church. My own keyboard has not been exempt from these activities.

But I’ll tell you something.

I think I finally figured it out.

I figured out exactly what is wrong with the church.

That’s right, I have found the source of its problems. I have discovered what is making it be the monster that we have made it out to be.

Maybe we can put this discussion to rest.

Because I have figured out, once and for all, what is wrong with the church.

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Have you been to the “self help” section of the bookstore lately?

Of all the kinds of things that people can publish, self help is booming. There is a dizzying array of books, DVDs and other resources to help people with every conceivable problem.

If you go to the self help section of the store, I think one thing becomes clear:

People are not happy.

Take any random person, and there is probably some aspect of themselves that they are not happy with. They don’t like the way they look, or they don’t know how to manage money or they aren’t good at relationships. Something in their life bugs them. So virtually every person is the market for self help gurus.

This is another place where our Christian culture is behind instead of ahead of the curve.

I can get basically the same self help advice from a lot of pastors that I can from anyone else, just with a shiny coat of Jesus polish on it. A lot of churches are interested in how to help people live better, look better, relate better, believe better. That’s all well and good.

But faith doesn’t start with self help. Faith begins where self help ends, where all of our self-helping stops being effective.

This is one of my favorite little sayings, attributed to N.T. Wright. It pretty well sums up what we are supposed to start with.

advice

 

If we are starting with advice and not news, then we are not being churches.

If we start with advice rather than news, we aren’t really Christians.

If we start with advice rather than news, then no one needs to listen to us because they can get all the advice they need without the guilt.

What is your personal currency?

In the "influence economy" of the modern church, "1%" leaders lecture the 99% on how to be more influential.

In the “influence economy” of the modern church, “1%” leaders lecture the 99% on how to be more influential.

You know, the thing that you strive to collect, to store up, to hoard. That stuff that drives you to do one more thing before you go to bed. The thing that gets you up an hour earlier in the morning. The thing that keeps you up at night, worrying that you don’t have enough.

The American church has done a pretty good job of convincing us that money is not our personal currency. (I suppose it’s easy to tell ourselves that money is not that important to us when we have quite a lot of it, relatively speaking.)

No it’s not money that we are grasping for. Go to churches, go to conferences, go to seminars, read the books. What is the core of what church leaders are peddling?

Influence.

The church has figured out how to make the pursuit of influence sound noble, righteous, even necessary. Now, all of the books are written and all of the conferences are led by guys who obviously have a lot of it. A lot of people listen to the guys at the top. And so they tell us how we too can have it all.

When we talk about our church’s “relevance,” try switching in the word “influence.” There will be almost no difference.

When a conference speaker is discussing “impact,” just sketch the word “influence” in your notes.

When a pastor is talking about “evangelism,” just imagine the word “influence.”

It is influence that, well, influences most of our pursuits. And I have to admit that for most of my adult life, I have been no different. I have hungered and thirsted after it. I have wanted people to give me attention, to do what I say, to respect my opinions.

What I’ve found is that there are a lot of problems with influence being our personal currency.

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Many people would claim that America is a “Christian” nation…

The most post-Christian place in America...

The most post-Christian place in America…

Or at least, it was a Christian nation.

My news feed is kind of a continual flux when it comes to just how Christian our culture is today. If I want, I can find no shortage of doom and gloom, prophets and pundits who are always showing just how bad things are for Christianity in America. On the other side of things, there are a few lone voices who speak up every now and then to say, “Wait! It’s not as bad as it seems.”

This week, I saw another survey from the Barna Group which shows just how “post-Christian” American cities are. My hometown, Kansas City, comes in at number 38, with a total post-Christian population at 33%. Albany, NY is the most post-Christian city, along with most of the Northeast, while Knoxville, TN ranks near the bottom (or top, depending on how you look at it.)

I tend to take these surveys with a grain of salt, but something particularly struck me this time about how we typically measure “Christian-ness.” I started reading their various “metrics” (a term that sounds more at home in a tax accountant’s office) that were used to calculate our cities’ rankings, when something occurred to me.

I don’t know if we have a problem of lack of faith in our culture. But we certainly have a problem when it comes to how we measure faith.

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