Archive for June, 2012

Do you build or burn bridges?

My friend Tanner is in a Christian rock band, Tanner and his band mates are not just talented musicians gifted by God, they are bridge builders to a generation of young people, that the “Church” has essentially closed the “drawbridge” on.

A giant moat separates this generation of young people who so deserately need to hear the Gospel message and prevents them from stepping their “dirty” feet on our pristine Holy carpet.

It reminds me of a bumper sticker that read; “Jesus loves you so I don’t have to”.

This may have been meant as a joke but I failed to find the humor in it, because the message is all too real. Sadly this has become a slogan that seems to be embraced by the “Church in America” today.

My statement is harsh but they say the truth hurts. If you disagree with me, please take a moment to examine your heart; What thoughts come to mind when you see a group of “rowdy” young people gathered in front of a 7-11? They are all dressed in black, sporting wierd hairstyles and colors. They have piercings and tattoos, they are smoking and cursing.

Does your heart break for them? Do you want to reach out to them in love? Build a relationship with them? Listen to them and find out about their alcoholic, abusive father. Their mother drowns her misery in valium and vodka to escape. That they act out like this as a cry for attention and help? Do you feel compelled to pour into their lives and invite them to your church? If this is you, please contact me.

Or do you tell yourself you cannot believe how bad this generation has gotten? You make sure you lock your car and don’t make eye contact as you rush past them.

They may be laughing now, but wait until they stand before God, then we’ll see whose laughing. Then they’ll get what they deserve. They better never try coming around our church, we’ll tell them how it is.

It is with a heavy heart that I tell you in truth, I have met more door lockers than heart openers.

We the “Church” have taken on the role of Prosecutor, Judge, and Jury. We decide who comes to Jesus. We decide the acceptable dress code and conduct.

Our churches have become like gated communities with little guard shacks. We keep the bar down across the entrance to our parking lot and we sit in our imaginary guard house. If someone approaches that we don’t approve of, we deny them access.

You might be saying to yourself, “I’ve never told someone they couldn’t come in.” But I promise you, actions speak louder than words and our eyes do a lot of screaming.

Jesus called us to be “fishers of men” not cleaners of fish. Our only job is to be a GPS, directing people to Jesus. The Holy Spirit will clean them up. Not you. Not your pastor or youth pastor. Not even your ushers or parking lot attendants.

I started off by telling you that Tanner is a bridge builder but he is also a professional fisherman. Though he would disagree this is how I have come to this conclusion;

Professional fishermen use the right bait for the fish they are trying to catch. They would never use worms to go shark fishing, never.

If you wanted to reach senior citizens with the Gospel message you’d be crazy to call Tanner and his band Armory Infirmary to come play for them. You’d be just as crazy to attempt a teen outreach with hyms from the church pumping through loud speakers.

Professional fishermen not only use the right kind of bait for the job, but if, for whatever reason the fish are not biting, they change the bait. Not always true of the church.

Too often we are using outdated, stale bait on rusty hooks from 20, 30, or 40 years ago and wondering why the fish are not biting.

WE decide this generation just doesn’t care about the things of God, they don’t care about Jesus. Shame on us.The biggest hindrance to successful outreach today is past successes.

There have been major advancements in the tools available to us to reach teens. Tools to connect and lead them into a relationship with Christ, but we have chosen instead to build havens for ourselves to keep them from contaminating our “Holy” way of life.

When Jesus was setting the example for outreach, He told the religious leaders that He came for the sick, not the healthy. Are we as followers of Christ not suppose to reach the very same ones Jesus came and ultimately died for?

When I speak at churches I always ask them if they believe Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. I have never had anyone say no. On the contrary they agree wholeheartedly that He is. I ask them if it is true that people of all ages, young and old, followed Jesus for days at a time, forsaking food, and shelter.

They stood in the blazing sun or sat on rocky terrain. They followed Jesus everywhere and hung on His every word. Is this also true? Again they agree. I then ask them if Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever and people indeed followed Him everywhere to hang on His every word, how come 2000 years later we can’t get a teenager to come to church for one hour?

It’s not Jesus. It’s the way we, the “Church” presents Him.

Jesus loved people and had compassion on them. We, the “Church” judge people and condemn them.

People came to Jesus to find healing and refuge.

I want to paint a word picture for you as Jesus did so often when He spoke in parables;

Imagine you are in a beautiful tropical island and you decide to charter a diving boat and you head out to sea. You sit back and enjoy the 2 hour ride out to the reef you’ve heard so much about. You get all your gear on and drop in. The underwater paradise is breath taking the colors ,the exotic fish, before only seen in the movies. You are down for a while and decide it’s time to surface.  As you break the waters surface you find…nothing. The boat is gone, not even a dot on the horizon. You panic but you tell yourself they’ll be back. They wouldn’t just leave you here.

Hours pass and no sign of a boat. The clouds darken and the sea becomes rough. You heard that storms come out of no where at sea. The waves crash over you, choking you. You struggle to stay afloat. You grow so tired, so thirsty. You don’t know how much longer you can tread water. Was that something brushing against your leg? You fear there are sharks lurking just below the surface.

Every muscle in your body is numb from constant movement. It’s almost dark you can’t hold on any…WAIT! is that a boat? You squint hard. Yes it’s a life boat, praise the Lord you are saved. As it comes near, you use every bit of energy you can muster to push yourself toward the life boat. You finally reach the lifeboat and grab the side. You can barely pull yourself up. Finally you manage one last burst of adrenalin and hoist your aching body up. As you are about to thrust yourself into the safety of the boat you realize the lifeboat is filled with scorpians, vipers, rattlesnakes, and other poisonous snakes.

Would you fall into the boat or push yourself back into the water and take your chances in the raging sea? Treading water until you just gave up and slipped under.

Sadly the “Church in America” has become a lifeboat filled with venomous backbiters and judgmental hypocrites. People would rather take their chances in the world. They find love and acceptance at the corner bar. People laugh with them and cry with them. The bar tender listens to their problems with a sympathetic ear.

Why is it that the corner bar is more inviting than the local church? Why does the corner bar seem more like a family than the Family of God?

I hope you were able to pray about part one and honestly assess where we are as a church. I want to assure you this blog is not about beating up the Church in America, but about diagnosing it’s current condition and offering some suggestions for a cure.

I believe and with good reason that the Church in it’s current condition is in a state of emergency. I’ve come to the belief that if the”Church in America” is the hands and feet of Jesus, than He is paralyzed from the neck down.

Having come to this conclusion, it has become my goal, my mission, my very purpose to help facilitate a change in the way the church reaches people that don’t know Christ.

I want to take a moment to share with you some of the statistics I uncovered in my research for my book “Jesus Is A Quadriplegic” so that you can understand the severity of the situation.

* Barna Research Group asked 1000 high school kids if they believed in God. 950 said they did. That’s 95%, not bad. But…

*Campus Life Magazine surveyed teenagers and found that 88% did not attend church regularly. Of the 12% that did, 88% planned to quit when they graduate high school.

* Why should this bother us? Because 95% of all decisions to follow Christ are made before 21 years of age.

* In 1999 10,000 baptist churches surveyed, did not have any conversions among their youth.

* According to World Christian Encyclopedia, 53,000 people a week leave church, never to return. That’s 2,756,000 people a year.

* Josh McDowell calls this the last Christian generation. 4% claim Christ as Savior. 40 years ago that number was 65%.

Do you understand why I say we are in a state of emergency? This should bother us, cause us to lose sleep but more importantly cause us to act!

I don’t even want to think of the consequences if we fail to act.

I want to share some insights with you. Things that God has placed on my heart. Things that are already being done that are making an impact on the lives of young people, but most importantly I want to provoke you to action.

I want to share with you some of the ways I feel, as a church, the Body of Christ, we are missing the mark in reaching people who do not have a relationship with Christ. I want to inspire you to see how the Church can come together to change the world, to turn it upside down, like 12 men did 2000 years ago. Join me on this journey

I want to start with a story you may all be familiar with but I want to share my take on it as God revealed it to me recently. It’s the story of the”Good Samaritan found in the Gospel of Luke.

I have read this story many times and have heard countless sermons based on this passage, but it hit me differently the last time I read it. I felt God was revealing something to me.

The man that was beaten, robbed and left for dead is the person without Christ. The robber that beat the man, robbed him and left him for dead is satan.

The priest that saw the beaten man in his condition and passed by on the other side of the road, is the Church in America today.

The man who stopped and had compassion and mercy on the beaten man is the person Christ called us to be.

I want you to examine your heart and thoughts today. I want you to think about which role you play in this very real senario being played out every day in our own neighborhoods.

Are you the beaten man on the side of the road? Robbed of hope, dead in your sins? You see the church glaring at you with contempt and disgust as they go out of their way to avoid you.

Are you the judgmental priest that does not want to get dirty so you pass by on the other side of the street? You look with contempt at the lost people of this world. The broken dirty drunks, drug and porn addicts, atheists, the teens that dress all in black that smoke and curse. You pray they get what they deserve, forgetting the fact that we all deserve the same.

You pass by at a distance, even though you have the answer to their problems you fail to share the cure with them. You refuse to introduce them to the Great Physician. You don’t invite them to your beautiful church because that would mess up a great thing by bringing these problem people into your perfect sterilized environment. 

So you pass by on the other side of the street and pretend they are not there. That it’s not your problem, they did this to themselves. Besides Jesus didn’t really want you to touch a filthy sinner. We need to stay away from them, seperate ourselves from unbelievers. Hide in the church with other people who are like us.

The problem with avoiding unbelievers is this;

Romans 10:14 says “How can they call on the one thay have not bellieved in? And how can they believe in the one whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them” How?

I want to read a response from a woman my wife was conversing with on Facebook;

“The reason I stopped going to church was the people. They ignored me. They didn’t care. They were so caught up in their “being Christian” that they forgot to be Christian. They did their thing on Sunday morning and hid their everyday sins, pretending they were perfect. Whenever anyone discovered they weren’t perfect, they made a show of handling it “perfectly”. They asked for forgiveness, said they prayed about it and were “convicted” and “repented”. It’s a game. They were playing me. All the time I was trying to keep up, but I wasn’t learning how to be a Christian. I was learning how to look like one.”

Right or wrong, this was her perception.

Here is another: “For many years now I’ve taken to going to church less and less because I find so little of what I hunger for. It is a sense of the presence of God that I hunger for.”

Reggie McNeil makes an alarming observation, “A growing number of people are leaving the institutional church for a new reason, they are not leaving becasue they have lost faith, they are leaving to preserve their faith. Could it be that the “Cultured Church” is spiritually toxic? Houston we have a problem.

If churched people feel this way about the church in America, how do you think unbelievers are going to perceive us?

Let me give you an example you can relate to; If you and I knew each other and you knew me to be a great guy. I showed you love, met your needs and cared for you, (sounds like a great guy right?) Now if I invited you over to my home for a meal would you come? Sure you would.

What would you do if upon arriving you were met at the door by my judgmental, self-righteous wife. All through dinner she pointed out all your faults, made you feel worthless and looked down on you. What if she whispered under her breath about you to my kids?

If I invited you back next Sunday for dinner, would you come? Absolutely not. Even if you were dying of starvation. You’d prbably rather die than subject yourself to that terrible treatment. No matter how nice I was to you, you would never come back because of my wife.

Brace yourself, this is what the Church, the bride of Christ has become. People like Jesus but they can’t stand His bride. They are interested in Jesus, they just don’t want to spend time with his wife. Can you blame them?

I will stop here for now so you can digest some of this and search your heart. I want to leave you with this, I love the Church I just don’t always like the way she behaves. This series will end on a positive note and you will be encouraged to put into practice the methods of evangelism Jesus exemlified for us in the Bible. Til next time, God Bless

I’ve labeled this part one but to be honest I don’t know how many parts there will be I only know, I have a lot of thoughts on the subject. I want each part to be a bite sized nugget of truth to be prayed about and to provoke an honest assessment of your heart. Too often we as a church talk about making disciples and yet we are not even true disciples ourselves. We spend hardly any time in the word because we are too busy…too busy updating our Facebook status or tweeting. We have to watch all our favorite shows and tivo the ones we can’t. We are not developing in our own walk with the Lord but we want to, or at the very least, talk about outreaches in our community. Let’s look at how Jesus created disciples and how He trained them in turn to create disciples.

In Mark 3:14 “Then He appointed 12, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach.”

It’s a 2 step process. Before they could be sent out to preach, they had to be pulled in. It was absolutely critical that they be with Jesus before they be sent out.

In Luke 6 Jesus identifies and appoints them and brings them under His direct tutelage (“that they might be with Him”) It’s not until Luke 9, several months later that He gives them power to work miracles and cast out demons. Not until then did He send them out to preach.

Today, being with Jesus looks like this; We get in His Word daily and devour it. We pray continuously through constant communication with God. We wait on the Lord. We listen for His still small voice, we recognize His voice. We totally submit to His Will and forsake everything else for Him. We repent of any and all sins daily. Then when He directs us, we move without question. Then and only then are we prepared for the challenge before us. We will be effective and produce fruit in the form of committed disciples, harvesting a crop 30, 60, 100 fold. 

We do not achieve these results  if we are floundering in lukewarm Christianity, devoid of the Spirit and His Power. We will not know when God is speaking to us if we don’t know His voice. We won’t know His will if we are not communicating with Him.

Too often we ourselves are not living the abundant Christ-filled life, (not talking about prosperity), but we want to go into the world and duplicate ourselves. The enemy is doing a great job of destroying this world, he does not need your help although he welcomes it.

Apathy produces apathy. If your walk with the Lord is stagnant, what type of disciple will you reproduce? God warns us Where there is no vision the people will perish. We need to seek wisdom and vision from the Lord. A life on Fire destroys apathy.

Just as apathy produces apathy, passion produces passion. Think, for a moment, about the kind of people you are attracted to. What about them draws you to them? Is it because they are always depressed and complaining? Does the fact they hate their job, regret their choice of spouse , want to disown their kids, and hate their own exsistence, mesmerize you? You can’t get enough of them? You want to hang out with them and wallow in their misery? Yeah right.

Unfortunately you may know a lot of people like this, you might be thinking of a few right now. You know the ones you avoid. You keep their number in your cell phone so their name pops up and you don’t accidently answer it. Thank God for caller ID. Can I get an Amen?

Now think about the people you enjoy being with. The ones who add value to your life. You look forward to getting together with them and start making plans for the next get together before the visit is even over. What about them causes you to want to be around them? Think about these qualities that draw you to them. Do you possess these character traits? Do others long to be around you?

Be the kind of person that you like to be around. Better yet think about the ones you can’t stand to be around for 5 minutes, and don’t be that person.

I like to think of a tall refreshing glass of ice water on a humid, muggy summer day. How good it feels and tastes, and how it re-energizes me. There is life in the water, literally, because water is life sustaining. If you don’t think so, try living without it. This is the very reason Jesus said we are to have streams of living water flowing up out of us. So that a lost and dying world can find life and a refuge in our presense.

Sadly too often the church is just a mirage. Lost and hurting people see the cross on top of our beautiful structures and they run to us in an attempt to escape the enemy of death. They crawl, beaten and broken to us seeking refuge and living water. They are so very thirsty and long to drink the cold living water of life in Christ, only to be met at the door with judgment and condemnation.

Sadly they turn away, the enemy was right after all. They’ve done too much for God to ever love them. They walk away, shoulders slumped in defeat, hopeless. They glance back just one last time as the mirage fades, leaving only a picture of despair.

How did we lose our way? How could we have gotten so far off course? Jesus did such a stellar job laying the foundation on which He built His church. He even appointed teachers and leaders in the form of disciples, to build His church on that solid foundation. He cast His vision, explained the mission and issued us detailed marching orders and things were going so well…at first, but somehow, somewhere we made a wrong turn. Maybe we thought His plan needed refinement. Maybe Jesus didn’t really want us to talk to filthy sinners. There’s no way He would really want them to come into His house and mess everything up.

The Church in America today, when aligned with the church in the Book of Acts, is unrecognizable.

We have forgotten our first love. We have become complacent, stagnant lukewarm churchgoers. Our buildings are breeding grounds of contempt among the lost. We are known more for what we stand against then who we stand for.

I recently read a sign in front of a church: I kissed a girl and I liked it…then I went to hell.

Obviously this was referring to the popular Katy Perry song of the same title. But do you think that turned anyone to Jesus? How many homosexuals read this sign and felt compelled to visit this church to learn more about Jesus? I guarantee you, it had a negative impact on them. That is why Paul clarifies things for us:

1 Corinthians 5:9-13 “When I wrote you before, I told you not to associate with people who indulge in sexual sin. But I wasn’t talking about unbelievers who indulge in sexual sin, or who are greedy or are swindlers or idol worshipers. You would have to leave this world to avoid people like that. What I meant was that you are not to associate with anyone who claims to be a Christian yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or a drunkard, or swindler. Don’t even eat with such people.

it isn’t my responsibility to judge unbelievers, (emphasis mine), but it is your job to judge those inside the church who are sinning in these ways.

God will judge those outside the church; (once again emphasis mine), as the Scriptures say, “You must remove the evil person from among you.”

Where are the church signs that read; Attention all Christians, stop viewing porn! or To all you “Christian” men, stop having sex with your girlfriend! These are the signs that we need to be displaying if we want to be Biblically correct… til next time