People’s View of Church Today

People view church differently today than ever before … and most churches, church leaders and active members are clueless as to how those not involved or involved on the fringe view their organization and activities. It is time, maybe, to take a look as I continue this on-and-off series under the heading of “Church and Culture Today” in this section of my blogs…

Regretfully many people today view the Church in a particular way – but their perception is a distortion of what the true Church is. And, sadly, many churches are a distortion of what God wants them to be.

People’s perceptions (by survey):

1> Church is boring
The teachings do not relate to “real life” and are tolerated as part of the program. They really come for the music, fellowship, food, coffee….

2> Church is non-stop activity
There are too many events and activities and too many of them apparently are set up to entertain and to be a “poor” Christian alternative to what the world offers. People fel like we are always “going, going, going” and are asking “Yes, but going where?”

3> Church is not the biggest influence in their lives or even in their spiritual development
Attitudes and actions are molded – not by the Church – but by parents and the music that people listen to today. The parents have influenced a person in the basic formative stages of their lives and their music and entertainment are now forming their values, attitudes and actions as their parent’s influence fades. Church is 7th on the list of places that influence values and attitudes.

4. Church seems like a series of events that we attend and watch
Church is not seen as interactive and a place where people can interact and participate with what is going on. There is little or no room for relational discovery of the truth. Churches are not engaging people in relational interaction. It is a spectator event in their mind.

5> Church may help save my soul but it won’t help me grapple with the real issues of my life.
Church is not seen as a place to go if you are having life problems. It is not a place for those who are wounded by life and currently unable to cope with circumstances and situations. The messags simply don’t relate to life as I live it today.

We need to do some real PR for the local Church with the current society we are trying to reach here in North America. The message of Jesus is not being rejected – it is not even being heard. God is not being rejected – people are searching for spiritual truth and for God but have decided that the Church is the wrong place to look for either.

Time to communicate what we are really all about.

If It Works, It’s Right (Part Two)

Today people have a distored view of reality – of the way this cause-and-effect world really operates -and it will lead them down a path of destruction if their view is not corrected. they hold to an “immediate workability” world viewpoint. This is the way they see life and function in life. And, it is the task of believers to help change that distorted view of reality. It is your job and mine to see that people begin to see things from God’s perspective – the only true and accurate way to view reality.

If “immediate workability” is their criterion in making choices, they will be readily induced into instant gratification, temporary fixes, and expedient answers that promise not the provision and protection of God’s ways but deceit and destruction. They will take the easy way out every time. They will not look for what is right and noble but rather for what is easy and workable right now – and accomplished with the least amount of effort.

When “immediate workability” is our way of operating, then taking steriods to enhance athletic performance seems worth doing. If “immediate workability” is the criterion, premarital sex will seem like a viable option. If “immediate workability” is the criterion, cheating may promise easier and more desirable results than studying.

If “immediate workability” is our crtierion, who among us will choose sacrifice over selfishness? Who will choose the cross instead of the culture? Who will choose righteousness rather than self-gratification? If our culture is not helped to see reality from God’s perspective, how will they respond to the call of God, to His will, or to His desires for them?

The Church desperately needs to move people from the distorted and faulty premise upon which they now make choices and help them see God for who He is and how He relates to them. They we will be able to distinguish right from wrong, truth from error, and good from bad. We must help people today to understand that Scripture is a revelation of the living God who wants them to know Him for who He is and respond by entrusting their futures to His soverign will.

People need – I know I sound like a broken record – a spiritual experience or encounter that will transform their pragmatic mindset into such a passionate relationship with God that they readily respond to Jesus’ admonition to “love the Lord your God with your whole heart, soul, mind and strength…” and will thus come to see the world and others the way God sees them and then be able to “love your neighbor as you love yourself” … thus defeating “immediate workability” turning it in for a true view of what is really right and wrong, good and bad, godly and ungodly.

We have a lot of work to do to turn the culture around so that people can see things in a correct light and begin to see God for who He truly is. The Church needs to learn to represent this one true God to the people they are to reach … because only a personal relationship with Him will take away the “immediate” and allow us to consider the “eternal” and remove the “pragmatic” and “workable” for the holy and the just.

If It Works, It’s Right (Part One)

In the 1960’s Hugh Hefner’s motto “If it feels good, do it” became the slogan that characterized a generation, my generation. It was not right or biblical but it did become part of the foundational beliefs that a whole generation built their lives upon. This, of course, undermined the authority of the Scriptures which really declare the absolutes that determine what is really right and what is wrong.

Today we live in a different time and space marching to the beat of a totally different drum. Today people do not ask “Is it true?” but rather they ask “Does it work?” They have redefined truth as “whatever rings true to your experience, whatever feels real to you.” (Rick Richardson – Evangelism Outside the Box)

So, they have defined and test whether an action is right or wrong – not based on some objective standard like the Ten Commandments – but simply upon the desirability of the outcome. In fact, seventy-two percent (72%) of them believe that “you can tell if something is morally / ethically right for you by whether or not it works in your life.”

This, of course, is not biblical.

When Joseph, the son of Jacob, was a slave in Egypt and was propositioned by his master’s wife, he did not pause to ask himself, “Would this work for me?” Instead, the Bible records his response: “How could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:9)

When David, who had sinned with Bathsheba and then engineered the death of her husband, was confronted by Nathan the prophet, David did not say, “Nathan, it works just fine for me, so don’t try to impose your morality on my behavior.” On the contrary, once his action was exposed, David responded in no uncertain terms, “I have sinned against the Lord.” (2 Samuel 12:13)

When Jesus, who was overburdened with the imminence of his execution, cried out to His Father in the Garden of Gethsemane, he did not protest, “This isn’t working for Me!” No, instead he said, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup of suffering away from me. However, Your will must be done, not mine.” (Luke 22:42).

Today – a generation makes their decision by the credo, “If it works, it’s right.” But God’s perspective of reality says, “If it’s right, it will work,” for if you “Obey [God’s] directions, laws, commands, rules and written instruction … then you’ll succeed in everything you do wherever you may go.” (1 Kings 2:3) Ours is a cause-and-effect world in which God communicated to us His ways, ways that are based on universal – not pragmatic – standards. His ways protect us from harm. His ways provide safety and blessing for us. But today people don’t see it that way. And their distorted perception of reality is not only flawed; it also leads to hearache and suffering.

More in this tomorrow…

The Problem Today With Believers

We have made Jesus Savior and not Lord. We have “purchased” a ticket to Heaven by saying a sinner’s prayer or have had an emotional experience at an altar call in some service or event that was being held. We believe we have had our past forgiven and that everything is now alright between us and God. That we are righteous and that nothing more is required of us because someone told us this was the case.

But are we really just fooling ourselves about what it means to be a Christian? Was there any true repentance? Did we experience godly sorrow? Was there any quality decision to follow Jesus regardless of where this may take us? Are we willing to “die to self”? Have we honestly “counted the cost”? Taken up our cross? Or are we simply safe and saved and sitting – content and comfortable?

We make Jesus our personal Savior and think we are safe and eternally secure knowing our final destination after we die. But we don’t see any outward change brought about by an internal transformation. We are like those Paul mentions to Timothy who “hold to the outward form of their religion but deny the power thereof…” to bring personal life change and inner transformation. Instead we are happy to declare Jesus is our Savior and that we are born again believers.

Being a born again Christian is more than declaring Jesus as our personal Savior. In fact, the Bible states that we must know Him as Lord and even declare Him as Lord of our lives. Then, live as if he really is Lord of everything. Afterall, by the definition of Lordship He is either Lord of all or not Lord at all.

Lordship is key to a solid foundation in the Christian faith – and to true conversion to this radical faith that is to transform us into new creatures in Christ and ambassadors for His Kingdom in the domain of darkness.

This is not, in my mind, optional. This is not just for those who are called into ministry. This is not just for those who become fanatical or radical or over the edge in their faith. The Bible talks about Lordship – making Jesus Lord of your life as basic to the Christian faith and our walk with Jesus who is Lord.

Romans 10:9-10 states: that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.

NOTE: “confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord…” and not just as Savior.

Therein is the problem with believers today – and thus with the Church. They are still running their own lives and making decisions based on their own will because Jesus is their Savior but not their Lord. Well, that may not be exactly the case. A person needs to ask themself if it is possible to have Jesus as Savior if He is not also their Lord. Can we separate Lord and Savior? Can He be one and not the other in a person’s life? I personally do not believe so. I believe that biblically He must be both or He is neither. That could mean a great many who call themselves born again believers might not be and might still be living in their sins and not destined for Heaven when they die.

Lordship means that when we are saved and that we declare by the power of the Holy Spirit that Jesus is Lord. By doing so we are recognizing that we have come under new ownsership and not just new management. He (Jesus) now owns us totally. Everything we are belongs to Him. Everything we have is His. Our hopes and dreams, our future and our possibilities are in His hands. He owns all of us – past, present and future.

I believe that to fulfill one’s prophetic word one must have made Jesus both Lord and Savior and not just one’s Savior. That is why many who receive fantastic prophetic insights into their futures – the possibilities, the opportunities, the potential that they have in the Lord – never see any of it come to pass. I believe that Lordship is one of the basics that must be established and lived out in a person’t life before God’s plans and purpose for a life can come about and actually happen in the person’s life.

The born again Church is in trouble. Individual believers are in trouble. And thus the world is in trouble because we are the change agents that the Lord works through to transform the world and bring others into His Kingdom and yet we do not know Him as Lord, do not hear His voice, are not obeying all that He has commanded us to do, and are not walking in our own destiny and the plans and purposes that He has planned for us …. We have some changes to make before “His will be done on earth as it is in Heaven” becomes a reality and “His Kingdom come” becomes an actuality.

I believe that we are NOW entering a season when changes in the born again Church will begin to happen rapidly and many will come to the place where they can truly say that they have declared Him as Lord. We are entering exciting and challenging times in our walk with the Lord Jesus!

Right and Wrong – Personal Choice and Standard

I like Sean McDowell’s experiement that he did once with some young people in a Christian high school to help the students look at the fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The resurrection being an objective fact and one that should be looked at objectively – examining the evidence.

“I placed a jar of marbles in front of them and asked, “How many marbles are in the jar?” They responded with different guesses, 221, 168, 149, and so on. Then after giving them the correct number of 188, I asked, “Which of you is closest to being right?” They all agreed that 168 was the closest guess. And they all agreed that the number of marbles was a matter of fact, not personal preference.

Then I passed out Starburst candies to each one of my students and asked, “Which flavor is right?” As you might expect, they all felt this was an unfair question because each person had a preference that was right for him or her. “That is correct,” I concluded, “the right flavor has to do with a person’s preferences. It is a matter of subjective opinion, not objective fact.”

Then I asked, “Is the resurrection of Jesus like the number of marbles in a jar, or is it a matter of personal opinion, like candy preference?” Most of my students concluded that the question of the resurrection belonged in the category of candy preference. I concluded the experiment by talking about the nature of Jesus’ physial resurrection – that if we were present at the cross we could have felt the warm blood of Jesus trickling down the wooden planks or even watched him take his last breath. And if we were at the tomb on that morning, we would have seen the stone rolled away and the loincloth of Jesus sitting inside. I reminded them that while many people may reject the historical resurrection of Jesus, it is not the type of claim that can be “true for you, but not true for me.” The tomb was either empty on the third day, or it was occupied – there is no middle ground.”

Here is the problem. People today are applying to all questions a mode of thinking that is legitimate only for certain types of questions. While tastes in candy are certainly a matter of personal preference, that does not mean that questions about truth can be determined the same way. Truth is either objectively true and conforms to reality, or it is simply not truth. Personal preference does not affect the question at all. The attempt to determine spiritual and moral truth by personal preference will lead to certain disaster as it did in ancient Israel in the time when “everyone did whatever he considered right (Judges 17:6 GWT). The resulting anarchy led to unprecedented depravity and the near annihilation of one tribe.

Treating universal truth as personal preference is disasterous because God never intended us to see scriptural truth as optional or to position ourselves as the sole arbiters of what is right or wrong. But that is precisely what people today are doing, and consequently, they are making wrong choices … while thinking they are right.

It is called lawlessness and it is certainly not new. But it is what we are facing in our churches and in the world today. Recognizing this as a current reality and fact will help us to adjust our approach and methods so that we can effectively communicate our message which never changes. Be wise – stay alert to how your culture and society is changing and adjust your methods accordingly.

All Moral Truth Is Up For Grabs – Postmodern

All moral truth is only truth when you choose to believe it. That is what people believe today – young and old. In the absence of foundational training, people have been influenced by a philosophy that permeates much of our society – government, schools, movies, television, and music – and guides much of our behaviors without us even being aware of it. This extremely complex, often contradictory, and constantly changing school of thought can be summarized as the prostmodern belief that: moral and religious truth does not exist in any objective sense.

Instead of “discovering ” truth in a story (such as the Bible) that presents a unifed way of looking at life – postmodernism rejects any overarching explanation of what constitutes truth and reality.

Truth – whether in science, education, or religion – is created by a specific culture or community and is “true” only in and for that culture.

Individual persons are the product of their cultures. That is, we are not essentially unique individuals created in the image of God; our identities are defined by our culture (Eastern, Western, European, urban, rural…).

All thinking is a “social construct.” In other words, what you and I regard as truths are simply arbitrary “beliefs we have been conditioned to accept by our society, just as others have been conditioned to accept a completely different set of beliefs.

Any system or statement that claims to be objectively true or unfavorably judges the values, beliefs, lifestyle, and truth claims of another culture is a power play, an effort by one culture to dominate other cultures.

People have not so much consciously adopted these concepts of truth as they have absorbed them over time. This cultural mindset has permeated every level of today’s society – everywhere.

So here is the problem … people have adopted a view that “all truth is relative to the individual and his/her circumstances.” So while a person may be willing to state that certain things are right or wrong; they believe that it applies only to them personally. People no longer believe in an absolute moral standard or moral truth. They do not believe there is a truth outside themselves that determines right from wrong. They do not believe there is a universal truth that is right for all people, in all places, at all times. Each person has been given the right to do and to say what that person thinks is best for him or her.

Gee, that sounds like the book of Judges where “each man did what was right in his own eyes” and I do believe we could call that lawlessness– at least that is what God calls it.

Here is the major issue for born again believers:

We believe in absolute truth and that God (a Source outsdie ourselves) has set that standard for us. Thus we are not free to decide for ourselves what is right and what is wrong. This is not a personal or cultural or societal choice. It is not a private matter but a matter of fact and stated record.

So, unlike today’s society in which we live that believes that no one should be allowed to impose his or her own ideas of what is right and wrong on another. We believe, as born again Christians, that we have the objective truth and therefore the only truth and that without this truth one will not be living a life pleasing to God and will not be going to Heaven to be with God after this life ends. And, we believe therfore, that we must tell others about this objective truth and He who is Truth and literally convert them to our way of thinking. We are out to change the world – one person at a time.

As a result of this postmodern mindset – Christians are therefore now considered to be narrowminded and bigots who are judgmental and divisive. Our book, the Bible, is being declared hate literature and we are finding ourselves persecuted for what we believe or, at the least, simply written off and ignored as one fringe element of society that is no longer being tolerated or accepted.

This is the challenge that we face as born again believers today in many nations around the world. And, we must rise to this challenge and continue to declare the absolute truth as set out by a Source outside of ourselves and our immediate culture – God Himself. Truth that declares loudly that Jesus Christ is God and is the only way to salvation and eternal life – a personal relationship with God now and forever.

We must declare the answer to humankind’s basic needs and not be intimidated by a culture that is against all that we believe. We must not “go quietly”. In fact, we must go into all the world and declare the real and absolute truth. It is imperative that we do so and seriously urgent that we do so now. It is seriously time to stand up for the truth as seen in the pages of God’s Word, our Bible.