Monday, August 23, 2010

'Traditional' Church? Pt. 4: Gospel-centeredness vs. whatever the hell is being taught

For clarity let me define what I mean by “Gospel.” The Gospel is: Jesus Christ living the life you cannot (nor could not) live, and dying the death you should be, daily, dying. Romans 3:23-28 and 1 Corinthians 15: 3-8 provided a beautiful descriptions.
This post is the main post. All the others lead up to this one. All the problems proposed in the other posts stem from this one misconception. All the silos, all the faux joy, all the porcelain faces, all the prideful nostalgia, all the fearful leaders, all the tradition come from one factor, lack of Gospel teaching.
The Gospel is central in the teaching of the Church… No, it IS the teaching of the Church. It’s not a sermon saved for Easter or Christmas. It is every sermon. It ought to be present in every group, every meeting, and every prayer.
Because of the Gospel we see deep-seated community; the realization of one’s depravity outside of Christ and one’s righteousness in Christ alone; an overwhelming joy that is quite inexpressible; a desire to lead others farther up and farther in to their understanding and application of the Gospel, even if they’re not the pastor; and the necessity to hold all things (save the Gospel) loosely.
But when the Gospel is not taught, when it is not heralded well, we see complacency, a fractured community, silos, pride, and stupid traditions. Congregants are more passionate about getting things their way than they ever have been about seeing the lost redeemed.
I hope by now you are catching my drift that you are beginning to see for yourself the paramount necessity we have, and the massive problem that must be overcome. Tradition is, quite literally, killing. I’ve said it in every post. Let me tell you why.
Belief in the Gospel is necessary for salvation. Whether you think God chooses you or you choose God doesn’t matter a bit. We who were once dead are brought to life by the work of the Spirit breathing life into our dead lungs through the proclamation of the finished work of Christ on the cross. Thus if the Church, the very place where this good news ought to be spoken and seen most clearly, turns from what it must proclaim to something, anything, else it is killing, through it’s resignation to see sinners damned.
As the Church we must, for necessity is laid upon us, preach about, sing about, commune over, steep in, meditate through, and savor the taste of the Gospel. But the verse we love to quote about sinners is our description; “They have exchanged the truth about God for a lie…”
However some will never learn. Some will always be more offended by the title of this post than the lack of Gospel in the pulpit. Some will continue on wanting to be pleased, have their ears tickled, if you will, rather than be broken of sin, and rejoice over the lost redeemed. They would rather throw names like ‘abandoner’ or ‘thief’ at those called to minister elsewhere.
But though our cynicism runs deep and though some of us have been burned so badly by the people of God all the aloe in the world would not calm the pain, we must remember one thing the Church is a whore. She, better yet, we will strive to be satisfied by every other thing rather than God.
So when she stabs us in the back and twists the blade, we forgive as we have been forgiven in the Gospel. When she cheats us and gives us what we ‘don’t deserve’ we must remember that in the Gospel we were saved from what we deserve, namely hell and death. When she tells us we’re not good enough, or don’t make enough, or aren’t pretty enough to be in her halls we must realize that the Gospel makes us good enough, wealthy enough and pretty enough to allow us to stand before God as righteous because of Jesus; as able to come with what we don’t have and buy what’s underserved because of Jesus; and as glorious as Jesus because of Jesus… It is always, only, ever about Jesus, not tradition.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Christ will be King

We fiddle about with food and drink, sex and friends while saying, ‘Christ is King.’ Yet more often than not the food, the drink, the sex, the friends are king and queen. We say our thoughts are consumed by the cross, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but they’re not. We wonder more about the girl in the coffee shop than the weightiness of our sin and the removal of just wrath.
While confessing sin we do so with dry eyes. There is not sorrow for our affronting a holy God. No weeping for the bird we are flipping his way. No brokenness for causing wrath in the one we ‘love.’
Our sin runs deeper than we know. It inhabits the darkest folds of our hearts. We think it’s been uprooted and thrown away, but we do not realize uprooting our sin means finding its root. Like finding the roots of Mt. Everest we have an impossible job, yet we think we’re fine, we think we’ve figured it all out.
Hearing about a bloody, gory, puss infused, feces coated cross we sigh and feel warm inside. When Jesus is described as an unrecognizable hunk of meat writhing on the tree we wonder what’s for lunch. When the tomb is painted as empty we think, ‘Good, cause I’m worth it.’ More often than not Scripture leaves us feeling tired rather than distraught, humbled, and broken.
We are a disgusting people, a base people, and a sinful people. The longing to be so infatuated with Jesus everything else pales in comparison may be real, but we are weak and easily pleased. We’ve lost our objectivity indeed we never had it. Rather than aiming high we shoot for the mire.
But he will be glorified. He will be honored. He will be seen as the just and the justifier. He will break through our gates letting in his glory. Whether we want him to or not is irrelevant. We can’t stop him. He will do it.

“Create in me a clean heart,
For I have turned my face from You

Teach us of Your ways oh God

For we have turned away from You

Lord have mercy”

“We will run to you
Turning from our sin we return to You

Father heal your world
Make all things new”

“Your love and mercy build and shape us

Break us and recreate us now

Lord have mercy.”

Lord have mercy.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Friendly Anecdotal Antidote

A good friend of mine sent this to me a while back. It's beautiful. My mind often returns to it. I thank God for his godliness, friendship, and ability to bend the English language to glorify God. I pray it helps you as it has helped me.

"An anecdotal antidote for our pride (this helped me the other day so I'd thought I'd share with someone who'd appreciate it):"
"How can we hold our talents and proficiencies above others as if we are superior for wielding them? Every talent we have is a gift from God, and our proficiency with it comes only by God's instruction. So our swordsmanship goes not to our own glory, but to our master who gave us the mighty weapon and taught us our cunning prowess. Let us then not boast, but have mercy, esteeming the gifts others have, for all our gifts come from the same Giver."
"Christ be with you, sir."

Fight the Good fight of faith.

'Traditional' Church? Pt. 3: Reality doesn't look like 'tradition'

We are creatures of habit for sure. Driving down well-worn streets, walking favorite routes, eating familiar food, and spending time with people we love. Often times these habits become our tradition. We open one present on Christmas Eve and save the rest for the Christmas morning. We go shopping on Black Friday and bond while dodging death for a cute shirt or some DVD’s at the butt crack of dawn.
The point is we create habits and traditions. So it is understandable that the Church will have habits, tendencies, and traditions. But we unrealistically expect the Church to always do the same traditions the same ways. We want a Children’s Ministry, Youth Ministry, and Adult Ministry and when it’s questioned we argue, “We’ve always done it this way and its worked, why should we change it now?” Has it worked? I argue no.
80%-90%, that’s the statistic of youth that leave the church during high school or after graduation. I suck at math but I know that leaves a 20%-10% success rate… Also known as failure. If a kid comes home with a 15% on a math test, he may be in a little trouble. Tradition is working, eh?
Reality does not look like tradition. Your traditions change, your habits change. Whether from a move, a child, or death your traditions will not remain the same. But we think the Church’s traditions can’t change. Traditional Church must remain the same so as to please those who grew up in the tradition. Because it’s the way it was done.
That’s the problem. Did you catch it? People want to be pleased and cuddled by a nostalgic memory of the way things were. Rather than being prodded to growth we would remain children of what use to be, than be men and women of what is. Its pride is what it is. Pride.
Change is inevitable. But we would presume to stop the hands of time to keep the church the way it was when we were kids. We would have the audacity to sacrifice our children to the god of tradition so things remain congruent.
Similarly, leaders won’t press for change, because they were trained in the tradition. They logically, and rightly, think that if the format changes their position may not be necessary. They are a stagnant bunch, where rot and decay run rampant and unchecked. A leader is an under-shepherd. Keeping watch over the souls God has given him. But if the leader is more concerned with keeping his job than pushing souls into the Gospel, he is a liar and cheat and the congregation he ‘shepherds’ should get their money back.
Tradition is sucking the life from the church.
May, God in his grace break us who audaciously presume to fight change choosing rather to be cuddled by nostalgia than broken by Gospel heralding.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Men should be men

Men should be men. Not boys with an X box and joystick.
Men should be men. Men ought to be understanding and gentile, and tough as nails. Men ought to love, cry and cuddle, and turn to protect his love with all he is. Men ought be able to get on the floor and play with the kids, and be a pastor-dad of his children, shepherding them in the Gospel.
Men should be men. But more often than not, the young women I talk to are meeting, spending time with, and dating (with the possibility of marriage and indeed marriage itself) boys who are farther from being men than a rock is from being a blue whale. She has settled for a loser. Because society tells her that’s all she’s going to get. Every sit-com shows her, her hopeless future.
Men should be men. A girl dreams of her ‘knight in shinning armor’ she dreams of a man that will sweep her off her feet, protect her from danger, fight for her, indeed die for her. Her dream is of Jesus her perfect man. But boys now a days aren’t striving to be like him, they would rather be a rapper or rock star. They would rather have twelve girls flocking to them, than one, single, life-long, passionate joy to know, woo, and love one woman.
Men should be men. Men should woo. I love that word. Woo: to try and gain the love of a woman. He ought to study her until he gets his high school diploma in his knowledge of her; then he should study her until he gets his bachelors, then his masters, then his doctorate, then second, third, fourth doctorate until the Lord calls him home. This does not mean she becomes his god rather it means she becomes his wife. He knows her, better than she knows herself in some circumstances.
Men should be men. I know, I know, I’m not married. I haven’t dealt with the trials of marriage, nor have I effectively (by God’s grace) wooed a woman. But I’m, sick and I’m tired of watching the boys of my generation be cowardly chauvinistic tools who use and abuse girls/women. Even the ‘good Christian boys’ are sucking it up. They are the worst! At least the nonbeliever has an excuse. ‘Good Christian boys’ are complacent desiring rather to be seen as ‘good believers’ than truly wanting to be on a trajectory of godliness. They start ten different Bible studies, but can’t get their butt out of bed to be committed to a Church.
Women, go for godliness. Don’t settler for a dork. Set your standards high and don’t be afraid to kick the boys down, they can handle it.
Boys, be godly men. Turn off the X-box and stop skewing around. Stop drinking/smoking your brain cells away. Learn commitment. Strive to be like Jesus. Cause your not impressive, you’re a tool and a joke.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

'Traditional' Church? Pt. 2: Community? (pt.2)

We ought to be desirous of true community within the church. Starbucks and bars offer a different kind of community, a community that doesn’t require the attendee to be real. People are known for their work rather than their struggles; they are known for what they drink not who they are.
Tradition has made this ‘community’ within the church. People are known for where they work not who they are. Indeed, most cannot answer the simple question, ‘Who are you?’ without much pressing, they answer with what they do, not who they are.
Is it possible to change this, to trade the bastard child of community for community itself?
The mold must be broken, not in two, but shattered. The tradition must be forgot and we must press on to have community. Now we have ‘neat country clubs’ by God’s grace, in the future we will have godly community.
Though it is dirty to toss the Sunday school (country club) model out and push all ages together, indeed it will be difficult, but when is life not? Yet through this strife our young will see godliness lived out in the generations before them.
To be sure, our grey-haired congregants hold a beautiful place. They have seen life, come through its trials, and have, by God’s grace, continued their belief in the Gospel. Occupying a unique arena in discipleing the young in both life and faith. Yet the old do not, not learn. They learn how the young culture thinks, works, feels and thus can adapt their skills to the new generations.
All stations of life will benefit from the lumping together of ages.
Church was not meant to be multiple silos.
The silo model is a wonderful strategy to kill churches. It is divide and conquer used by the devil to smash and grab the young, create a pride complex in the old, and a sophisticated air in the parents who now think it is the church’s job to disciple their kids. Within genuine community sin is fought, accountability given, the Gospel heralded, thoughts redirected by Scripture, and discipleship done with all ages seeing struggle, sin, reproof and Gospel-victory.
But we ‘Christians’ are lazy. Apathy is our cup of coffee. We sit and sip this brew and anticipate the ‘next generation being the difference.’ While our young die, while our kids are taught to look up to David, Moses, and Abraham rather than Jesus. Our thick skulls must be broken, and biblical community must be had.
Indeed we need graceful, forceful redirection.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

'Traditional' Church? Pt. 2: Community? (pt.1)

(This will be a two-part post)

On an average Sunday thousands of churches will perform the routine of ‘Sunday School’. Children will attend ‘Children’s church’ with its coloring pages, crafts, and ‘children’s Bible stories’. Youth will go to their building or room, eat donuts and drink soda while sitting on couches. Then have ‘stimulating message’ with cliché phrases and pyrotechnics given. Adults will go to their room and sit in chairs either around a table or in rows and listen to a man who has studied all week to teach them.
But something is missing, something important, a main tenant to Christianity.
Silos. Silos are what tradition has adult, youth, and children’s ministries, which ‘cater to each level’s individual needs and comprehension’. But this tradition is killing community and our youth.
Boys grow up watching other boys get old, graduate and go drink their brain cells dead. While girls grow up seeing other girls get old and sleep with the drunken boys. Because there is no community within tradition! Boys cannot watch godly men be godly men in college, because they are in a different part of the church. Girls cannot watch godly women be godly women in relationships because they meet off campus. Boys cannot watch godly men be godly men in marriage because the married folks meet at the other end of the church. Girls cannot watch godly women be godly women with their kids because they meet on Thursday mornings by themselves… Are you catching my drift? Do you understand that this ‘silo system’ we have developed, this Sunday school system, this tradition is killing our youth?
Additionally, within tradition we don’t talk about sin. We don’t confess to each other. We don’t repent to each other. We don’t cry because our sin is massive. Rather we walk around hiding our sin as best we can, avoiding being seen as vulnerable. Our facade of faux joy is like the face of a well-polished porcelain doll, never changing, always smiling, ever eerily fake.
So the proposition is this: break the porcelain face to reveal our own, marred, scared, impaired, and hideously ghastly features so as to be in community with other appallingly similar shattered people.
The answer is simple, but it requires work, it isn’t pretty, and it is not clean. Traditional churches seem to want to come off as though they have no problems, as though everything is all right. Bull. Churches are hospitals. People are dying in them, defecating, having limbs amputated, sicknesses cured, gory wounds mended. If a church longs to be seen as clean and shiny as opposed to needing sterilization from such grotesque diseases, then it would be better for that church to die than carry on. For what good is a hospital with doctors who are scared of getting the floor dirty with the blood of patients?

Monday, August 9, 2010

'Traditional' Church? Pt. 1: Cynical

Most of us grew up in it. Walking in on a Sunday morning seeing people just like you with years of deep-seated problems repressed behind a composure of faux joy and the illusion everything is all right. Casual conversation flows carefully, not wanting to get tied up in the mire of someone’s ‘sins’. Glancing cleanly off the surface people greet each other and find their sets, the children are in their place, the teens in theirs, and now you, the adult, sit in yours.
As you sit through the service the preacher gives some helpful hints on the meaning of a word, six points on whatever he’s talking about, and you sing a myriad of new, old, odd songs. Whether the music feels soft and mellow, or you walk out thinking it was a concert doesn’t matter they do it all the same.
It’s an old theory, divide and conquer, working well on playgrounds, in police interrogation rooms, at dinner, and war. Splitting the enemy into manageable portions and reigning victorious over each. So the church has taken the family and catered to each level’s individual needs. The Children get something that stimulates them to learn about the Bible in Sunday school, VBS and other activities. The youth receive pizza and a man whose been trained specifically to help them learn about God, through weekly studies, camps, and retreats. The adults sit with coffee in hand listening to a man talk, to learn more about life while attending Adult Fellowships, prayer meetings, and other weekly events. All of this is designed to create good converts, people who know the Bible, God, and life well so as to live God-centered, Bible-based lives. Right?
Wrong. This system of church that we call ‘traditional’ is killing the Christian faith. The church has become, over time, more harmful to one’s faith than helpful. Whether you go to the flashy-concert-mega-church with some sort of teaching, or the small fledgling church with solid teaching, it doesn’t matter. The system, the way they do ‘church’, if it is traditional, is dangerous and ought to be killed. In those cases church has become a pitiful country club.
By now the majority of readers will say, ‘O were you burned by the church?’ trying to explain away my cynicism through psychology. No, the church, to answer the question, did not burn me; I’ve simply grown weary of the same statistics being true and the ‘church’ not acting like the Church in any manner whatsoever. So in these posts entitled “’Traditional’ Church?” I will chronicle the reasons for my cynicism and, by God’s grace, offer what seems to be the logical solution.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

What's coming

I've began working on a series of posts entitled "'Traditional' Church?" These post will vividly portray my thoughts and feelings towards the church the majority of us grew up in and continue to go to. It would be wise to read them all before making your decision on my lunacy. By God's grace, I pray that we are encouraged to love the Gospel and cling ever more tightly to it rather than our traditions. Be looking for these posts.