The Times They are a Changin’

Guest Blogger – Bill Lewis, apostle, teacher

Here we are sitting at home, just watched our Sunday service on Facebook Live, singing to an empty building, preaching to hundreds of empty chairs. It is Palm Sunday and the streets are empty of Hosannas, palm branches, and children dressed in festive clothes. St. Peter’s Square is vacant as the Pope preaches. Around the world, the epidemic has changed everything.

Churches are trying to keep people together through media. There are live streams, websites, TV broadcasts, and personal notes.  Some pastors and churches are scrambling to learn new techniques as they are forced to do something to care for the flock. Computers, smartphones, and tablets are the connections to the flock in this moment. Education is forced into new territory as well. Students are now attending class via Zoom or some app similar. Google classroom has become, not the aid, but the mainstream for education. Teachers and parents are forced into a new paradigm. The church is forced into a new paradigm. The change is one from ancillary to primary. It is not just the “cool” thing anymore, it is the necessity.

Even this genre is fragile. If the grid were to go down, our system of communication would last as long as your battery, or maybe less. I have for a long time considered our modern and excellent forms of communication to be only as good as the infrastructure of the nation and world. One apocalypse of some sort would end or severely limit our communications worldwide.

I have pondered what affect does this have on our faith? Much of what we hold as the Christian faith is connected to relationships and interaction. Church is a lot more than the worship and preaching hour. It has a lot to do with the conversations before and after church. It has to do with the small group interactions that take place as service is being accomplished. It, too, has to do with the friendships that are developed and the non church get togethers that happen. With all or most of these interactions being canceled, where are we?

We have been reduced to core values. Your faith has to stand pretty much on your own initiative. You can sit in your pajamas and not interact electronically. You can veg out on the couch, sit silent, or run around screaming. No one knows or cares. (make sure your kids don’t see you) Essentially, our faith is being tested to see how real, deep, alive it is. We have no props to hold our faith up or, at least, they are very limited. We are challenged individually to maintain the faith and particularly the vitality of our faith.

To maintain in these times of isolation, we must develop regimes of spiritual discipline. They do not have to be over the top, but they have to be there. Reading the Bible regularly is a must. It can be as small as a paragraph, a chapter, or a book regularly, as in daily. Devotional books are great, but nothing replaces the exercise of reading the Bible in context. Prayer is necessary in whatever form suits you. It can be extended, isolated times of prayer, or conversational prayer that runs through the day. It can be table blessings to include the whole family or even family times of prayer depending on your approach. Add to these, reading good books, or listening to good books if you are not an avid reader, but the idea is to continue to challenge and inspire yourself spiritually. The books do not have to be tomes by theologians. They can be even secular in nature, but inspire the soul. There are great spiritual lessons in many of the good authors of novels, biographies, and history.

In some ways, we have been forced back into simplicity. I have seen more families out walking than in a long, long time. There are families engaging their children and rather than only having the 37 minutes a day with their kids as the national average indicates, many are spending hours each day with their children. The kids are probably going to miss that when they go back to school.

Our faith has been forced into simplicity as well. Once again, a walk gives time for worship of the creator. Time with family underlines the importance of those memories made with parents and children. The kids are going to always remember these weeks. For them, it will be their Pearl Harbor, their Kennedy Assassination, their 911. It will be like the blizzard of ’78, it will be the pandemic of 2020. Likewise, my hope is the church will simplify as well. It will be reinvigorated by these days. The church will rise to the challenge and not only survive, but see an amazing harvest.

The times, they are a changin’ -Bob Dylan


Guest blogger – Bill Lewis (apostolic leader, Ohio)

Racism, Nazism, nationalism, globalism, etc., etc. We are awash in “isms.” You walk down the aisle of life and you can choose from hundreds of “isms.” They are those flavors that distinguish you from all the rest of the people. You can become a part of a particular herd and find an identity. Now, your identity chosen will put you in conflict with other “isms.” You get to call them names and extremists and they will return the favor. Lines of protest and war can be formed from the “isms” of choice. You can also join more than one “ism” as long as they are not at strong odds.

We are divided by our “isms.” Conservatism and liberalism are blatantly at war right now. Supposedly each is trying to save our country while they are actively tearing it apart. There seems to be no sanity available for either side. Vilification of each other is far more important than finding commonality. The ancient art of finding middle ground is lost to the all or nothing approach of the hour.

“Isms” infect the church world as well. We have fundamentalism, pentecostalism, Calvinism, Arminianism, liberalism, legalism, to name a few. We gather in our “ism” of choice and hunker down to survive. Often we rail about the other “isms” and extol how great our “ism” is. We all have done it.

But note this, there is no “gospelism.” There is no “Jesusism.” There is no “Christianism.” Sorry for the forced misspelling to make a point. Somehow Jesus was able to present his message, draw the world to him, and not form an “ism.” His life and message is so pure and challenging that you cannot form a schism “ism.” The simple message of Jesus gets lost when we form camps of thought that exclude each other who profess Christ, but more importantly, we build walls that exclude the lost from finding the path to Jesus. “Isms” make the message of Christ narrow and defined by our prejudices. The simple message of grace is lost in the prerequisites of our “ism.”

The world sells a ton of various “isms.” However, the church should do as much as possible to avoid and tear down “isms.” The ground at the foot of the cross is level. Coming to Christ is the great liberation and is offered through faith. It is not a gauntlet of conditions. It is not a ten step program or a flurry of initiations like a fraternity pledge.

The hymn is “Just as I am, without one plea.” It is not “Just as we want you.” There is an acceptance that is going to look strangely varied as people come to Christ. They will be dragging baggage of a broken life, baggage of a former culture, and the baggage of a current situation that is difficult.

The challenge of the faithful is to avoid the “isms” that are so easy to create. Will the lost, the seeker, the broken, the addict, the fringe kids, find a place of acceptance and refuge or the narrow “ism” that you are comfortable with. If it is your “ism:” you will never see them again.

The days of telling people they are of devil for having a tattoo are gone. Telling a young woman to cover her arm in order to serve in church is ridiculous. Being offended by piercings is offensive. Do you love their soul? Do you see a soul in need of love? Or are you too busy defending your “ism?”

There is no Jesusism; just people who try to live like him.

Idealism, Just for Youth?

Guest Blogger – Bill Lewis (apostolic leader, Ohio)

I try not to be a pest with blogging. I feel that if you are too frequent in your writing, people might just ignore you. So, I attempt to be judicious in sending these out. However, an apostle friend of mine exhorted me to publish more. He was holding an article, telling me that it was good and needed to be shared. So, with a certain reluctance, I agreed to publish more frequently. Here is the article I just wrote…

 Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will be Done, on earth as in Heaven…

I have lived my life with a certain idealism that has never been realized. I have striven for this illusive goal, and have missed the mark. I remember sharing my desire of what Christianity should be when I was about 25 with another man just a little older than me. I remember where I was. I was teaching at the Magnolia School and was in the cafeteria talking to this man. He told me that it could never happen. I walked out of that cafeteria thinking to myself, “it will happen!” I moved with determination holding forward that ideal found in the New Testament. I grew up with the people who called themselves the Restoration Movement. They were committed to restoring New Testament principles and life to the church. Yet, as the years went by, it appeared to be a thinly veiled mantra with no power or plan behind it. So many things of the NT were missing.

     Along came the Charismatic Renewal which somehow had been given that name after a few years of dynamic impact in main line denominational churches. This was birthed in Episcopal and Lutheran venues. Catholics were coming by the thousands. Conferences were held in Catholic halls of education. People came from all around the country seeking the power of the Holy Spirit. This was not the Pentecostal movement of the early 1900’s which touched people considered to be the poor and indigent. This was not the Holy Roller crowd which had gained a reputation of sorts. These were the society crowd full of pride and substance.

     In this movement, I received the missing link of my pursuit. He was the Holy Spirit. This baptism completed the ground work for a truly NT experience. The Book of Acts was a possibility. As the Charismatic Renewal was winding down and mainline churches were putting an end to acceptance, people who were being rejected or told to make the Holy Spirit only a personal, devotional part of their lives, began to form small groups and small churches to give expression to the freedom they had found. In this time, it seemed possible to form a NT church.

     However, as is so often the truth, they brought their baggage from Egypt (their past) with them. Church forms were carried over and the new freedoms were ritualized in the context of the old. New teaching emphases created what were called streams of doctrine. Faith stream, laughing stream, submission stream, plain people stream and many others were formed. Some really were not streams, but extremes.

     I am still looking for the ideal of the NT church. Looking for the Book of Acts people. I have had glimpses, short experiences with it, but so far, nothing sustainable. BUT, I am still looking and trying. I still believe.

It’s Not the Church’s Fault

Guest blogger – Bill Lewis (apostolic leader, Ohio)

The challenges of this period in history are many. Each generation has their challenges. If you were in the 1920’s, it was the Great Depression. The 1930’s had its Dust Bowl and homelessness. The 1940’s were plagued by WW2, the great loss of American lives. The 1950’s had the Korean War which bleeds into this day. The 1960’s found us ensconced in the Vietnam War which was the first war we fought not to win. To this day, we find ourselves immersed in wars across the globe. They have changed to wars of Terrorism. They are illusive, unpredictable, unmarked, suicidal. They are religious, paramilitary, and have no regard for the civilian, in fact, the civilian is the target.

With social media, our world has become more vicious, outspoken, threatening. Any person sitting behind a computer can be bold with their words, taunting, critical, vile, spouting hate, judgment, shaming. They can hide behind the screen. They can be little minded people who in anonymity appear to be big, strong, influencers. Bullying can take place with little or no consequence. And in all the world of “friends on FB,” they are alone. Creepy people are phishing for victims and outrageous fake personas are working to scam and destroy. We have wars in our homes, the attacks are relentless. The smartphone has become attacked by incessant robo calls that plague our peace. Daily we are assaulted.

The question is often asked, “Where is the church?” A far better question is “Where is the Christian?” Church is an easy target. It never seems to satisfy the atheistic, agnostic, I don’t care non-Christian. Rumors abound to the failures of leaders, true or false. Slander flows like water. Accusations that they are after your money, they want to control you, it is nothing more than a club, it is judgmental, the preacher is no good etc., etc. The church is easy to vilify and dismiss. We have to stop inviting people to church for the sake of just church.

The Christian has to be real. This is a one on one message and life. The Christian can no longer put it all on the pastor and other leaders. This is not a spectator sport. If you ask someone to come to church it should be because you are invested in that person and you want them to meet your family of faith. It is not to sit through a service. The attack against the church would rapidly diminish if we were to make it personal.

For instance, some people are rabid football fans. They eat, drink, live the sport. They watch hours of the sport, can tell the names of players, they know the stats, the predict college elite and super bowl candidates. They tailgate, they drive hundreds of miles to be there. They are fans. On the other hand, there is a large section of the population that could care. They get bored watching a game. They know nothing of the nuances of the sport. They would rather do something else. They are NOT sports fans.

We may think everyone should be a Christian. We may think everyone should go to church. The reality is there are millions who are NOT interested. They do not think of church or Christianity. They do not think about spiritual issues. They are NOT Christian fans. Sundays come and it is not different than Saturday or Friday for them. So while Christians pile into church buildings, the non’s are piling into kids sports, bike trails, camping, sleeping in, and they have no guilt, no need, it does not cross their minds.

Meanwhile, we, like avid football fans just do not understand why people do not get it.

The way you make a football fan is to show interest in your wife or girl friend or child or good friend and invite them to watch one with you. You explain the game, some of the rules and slowly point things out to them. You have lots of food, laughter, and answer questions that seem dumb to you because you know so much, but you treat the question as of paramount importance and you do not diss them for their lack of knowledge. You keep it simple. It will grow on them because they like you and want to be with you. Fanship will come much, much later.

Christians have to engage a friend. Church is probably not the first step in the relationship. You live. You share when asked. You answer simply. You are teaching the rudimentary parts of your life with Christ. Eventually, with much patience they will become fans of Jesus. Church should be a place where you take them to meet your faith family and begin to make them apart of the family. Keep them away from crazy uncle Joe, or busybody Aunt Millie. Family has some strange people in it, but with instruction and love, we love uncle and aunt.

Through the years people need people. One has put it “No man is an island.” True Christianity provides a rock of stability in the storm, it provides relationships that uphold us and expresses love. True Christianity is not about the dogma, but about the relationship with the God of the universe, his son, and his Spirit and it is best expressed in community. The church then is a gathering of people for a purpose.

When we lose purpose, we are no longer a church. We are just an organization, drifting. The church does not have to step up, the Christian has to step up!