No Super-Christians Please!

There is a change needed in the Church today. We need to place a big sign over the door that states, “No Perfect People Allowed.” Why? Because so many of the people attending your church would like you to believe that they are alright and have it all together when really they are dying inside and not doing well spiritually, financially, or relationally.

And a vast majority of the people who don’t attend your church stay away because they think they need to clean up their act and get it all together before they would be welcomed in your fellowship. Somehow we leave that impression with people as we interact with them on a daily basis. So, we need a sign that states that people who are not perfect are more than welcome and, in fact, encouraged to be a part of what God is doing – assuming, of course, that God is doing something in your church.

When I read the two letters that Paul wrote to the Corinthians it becomes very evident very quickly that this church did not have it all together. They had some serious things that needed to be adjusted and changed – and changed quickly. However, God was with them and their services had the gifts of the Holy Spirit flowing, and non-believers were attending and being convictd of their sins by the power of the Holy Spirit. They knew they were not perfect and that there was a great deal wrong with them still and apparently were not afraid of others finding that out about them. This became a sign to others that everyone was welcome but that no perfect people were allowed.

People today are looking for spiritual answers because they are recognizing that their problems in daily life are spiritual and not physical or social. They are looking for a place to ask their questions, express their doubts, and journey with others who are also searching but have found some of the answers already. They are looking for a local church that has the following characteristics:

1> They are willing to dialogue and discuss the Bible, the basic doctrines of the Christian faith, and how it all works in life today. The want to know that those who attend are on a journey – the same journey they are on – and that they are welcome to join us on the road even if they are not quite at the spot where we are on the road…and that they are free to question and discuss even the basics of the Christian faith and no one will be offended or become defensive.

2> They are authentic. People today are looking for a church where the members are real and not ‘plastic.’ A place where people are loved. A place where they can be themselves and not be judged or condemned by the words and actions of the members. A place where sinners are welcome and people can be honest and open about what they are going through or living with.

3> They are accepting. People want to belong to a church where they will know that they are accepted for who they are, how they live, dress, talk, and think. Where dress codes and outward appearance are not important because people are looking at the heart and not outward appearances.

4> They are growing spiritually. People today want a church that will accept them where they are on their journey towards faith in Christ but will also encourage them on their journey and help them to grow and walk in the fullness God intends for them.

5> They speak the truth but in love and with humility. People are really looking for truth today and have yet to realize that truth is found only in Jesus. So, the church today needs to speak the truth in love but it also needs to live the truth. Jesus came and lived among us to reveal the Father. We call this the Incarnation. People today are looking for churches where the truth is incarnational – lived out in every day life.

6> They have hope. People today are short on hope. They live in the present with little to no hope for the future. And, without hope in the future there is no power in the present. So, the church needs to be a place of optimism and hope. People need to know they can change and that things will get better as they walk with believers and come to know the Lord better.

7> They are connected to each other and live life as a big family. People want to be connected and to have a sense or feeling of belonging to something greater than themselves.
People are looking for a place to belong and interact with people on a level that they are comfortable with. This is why social networks like Facebook have become so popular so fast. The church needs to a place where people can connect and belong, feel safe to ask their questions, be free to be themselves, and find more than tolerance – find acceptance.

8> They believe in equipping and training people. Today a church needs to be a place where people can come and be equipped and trained for life and ministry. Not a place where professional do their thing up front and the people watch – but a place where everyone can become involved and learn how to minister and walk supernaturally so as to fulfill the calling that is on every believer’s life.

Much change is needed – we need a culture in the church that welcomes change. Change needs to be constant as we enter a new decade (2011 to 2020) of service for the Lord and reach the people who are without Christ but who are searching for the truth that is found only in Him.

Give It Some Thought, Please!

The governor of Mississippi once challenged each of the state’s 5,500 churches and synagogues to help one poor family to get back on its feet. That’s all – just take on one family. Only 267 took up the challenge. Within a few years, when they checked back, a mere 15 churches were still doing it and were matched with families who they were helping to get established again.

Surveys and statistics show that evangelical Christians are “significantly less likely” than are non-Christians to give money for AIDS education and prevention programs worldwide. And, of course, how often are Christians noted for their courageous defence of unpopular causes? Really very seldom.

Jesus said that we are to help those who are less fortunate than we are. We are to clothe the naked, feed the hungry, visit those in prison. (Matthew 25:31-46) He states that even a drink of cold water in His Name He will remember and reward. (Mark 9:41). The Good News is to be preached to the poor (Matthew 11:5) and must be done in a combination of words and deeds to fully preach the Gospel (Romans 15:18-19). This task does not end because Jesus said that “the poor you will always have with you.” (Mark 14:7) and so the work and the ministry to the poor will be a continual focus.

As I travel overseas I have come to redefine the term “poor.” In some places where I minister even those who are well off are not doing as well as the poor here in our nation. They are simply living one day at a time and eating one meager meal a day. They do not have a social welfare net to catch them nor a governmental system to aid them when they become unemployed or destitute. Drug addicts and alcoholics often cannot find state-sponsored programs to aid them in their recovery and so continue to live in their destructive lifestyle. It is every person for themselves in a less than pleasant reality.

This is where the church steps in and helps those who are the “poor” in their society. Drug addicts and alcoholics find local churches running rehabilitation centers; churches run food banks and used clothing depots; many have places for people to live right in their church buildings (they were built with this need in mind); and always on any given Sunday you find people from different walks of life and different income levels worshipping and fellowshipping together. They are there offering their neighbor a glass of cold water in Jesus’ Name. They are fulfilling the biblical mandate to care for the poor. And yet, by our standards, they are poor themselves. So, it is like one beggar sharing with another beggar what limited resources they might have. This is what Jesus would do – should we do any less?

The Book of James states (2:14-17): What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

And, so, back to you and me. Are we reaching out to help the less fortunate? Are we talking to that person down on their luck who asked for loose change? And, the guy who walked through the coffee show looking for someone to buy him a cup of hot coffee and something to eat – did we help him? Did we buy him what he needed without judging why he was in such a situation? And then did we sit and listen to him as he ate the meager meal? Or do we protect ourselves from those who appear so different from ourselves because we are afraid that we will find out that there really is little to no difference between us – except we have some money in our pockets and they don’t? We have so much and, in general, give so little! The believers overseas have much to teach us in this regard.

Jesus would have stopped for the one. He would have fed the one. He would have listened with His heart to their heart. Jesus would have stopped to hug the one. Jesus would have let them know that they were precious to the Father and that He cared. Jesus would have accepted them just as they are. He would feed them and even clothe them if needed. And, we are called to do no less as we are His hands and feet in the world today.

It may be time to reconsider how we live and begin to adopt a lifestyle more in line with the biblical standard and the heart of God than the one we currently embrace and protect. Just maybe!

The Imam and Jesus – The Muslims and You!

In Mererani, Tanzania, Imam Sheik Omari lectures students at the new mosque Taqwa that “Islam teaches us that your body is a weapon.” Christianity teaches that your body is a temple. Imam Sheik Omari is wrong. Jesus is right.

I have been reading up on the Muslim faith – book 5 or 6 at this point in time.

I like what Leonard Sweet had to say… “We are all global citizens. We must become global Christians. How many people in our churches are studying other cultures and learning other languages? How many are taking mission trips abroad? How many…Christians hold a passport? How many can locate South Africa on a map? How about the Persian Gulf? Try the Pacific Ocean?” I was recently texting a young college student and let them know I was going to be Kazakhstan for several weeks and thus out of touch while there. They did not know where that nation was. Case in point – we are not global believers by any stretch of the imagination.

Yet, Jesus said we were to go into all the world. So, we should be students of our planet and the many cultures that thrive on the planet. We should be especially well informed on any group that is threatening our faith and is out there preaching their radical beliefs that are not in line with the Truth, Jesus Christ. Such a group is the Muslim faith.

I originally did not know much about this world-wide faith. I admit that I was somewhat ignorant. However, in the past few years I have been slowly reading and studying up on this extreme faith that calls for the conversion or death of all infidels (anyone who is not Muslim). It is not a passive, peace-loving religion. It is not wanting to co-exist with the Christians. Thy are not looking for a worldwide discussion on working together to help the human race. No! Not at all.

There are some great books on the market to help you to become informed and aware of the Muslim threat and the cultural changes that the Muslim faith brings to any area that embraces their radical beliefs and way of life…

1> Inside the Revolution (book and DVD) by Joel Rosenberg
2> Epicenter by Joel Rosenberg
3> The Last Jihad by Joel Rosenberg (novel)
4> The Twelfth Imam by Joel Rosenberg (novel)
5> A God Who Hates – Wafa Sultan
6> Radical Islam on the March – A Biblical Response to Modern Day Jihad – a Coral Ridge Ministries DVD

These will get you started in understanding the very serious threat that the Muslim faith is to the world and to the Christian faith. Take it seriously. Ignorance is not bliss. We cannot and will not co-exist side-by-side. Learn all that you can so you can win as many as you can to the Lord Jesus, the one true God.

Surviving the Deep Winter of the Church

Originally published by Charisma Magazine – Monday, 04 October 2010. Written by: David Housholder

The current economic recession is much more severe than we first thought, and the discouraging thing about it is that it’s hard to see a light at the end of the tunnel. Along with this financial downturn, we, as a church, seem to be approaching a spiritual “deep winter.”

The church of Jesus Christ has gone through more ups and downs than any other institution in history. Saying, “We have seen it all before,” is never an overstatement with us. We’ll get through this coming season as we have (100 percent) in the past. We outlast every other endeavor on earth, over time—always have, always will.

Please hear me: I am a militant optimist about the eventual outcome: God will get His way with all creation. But I am also good at reading the signs of the seasons. (Remember Jesus talking about the fig tree in Matt. 24:32?).Many of us came to faith in the heady days of the Jesus movement, the explosion of praise music, the charismatic renewal and the church-growth movement. We had spring, summer and even—as these movements matured nicely—autumn.

You may disagree with me, but I sense the chill of a long winter setting in. It could last a half generation, or longer.

Many Christians are just tired. One visitation pastor said to me last week over Thai food, “I am just so over church.” She echoed the feelings of many young adults raised in our congregations who are staying away in droves.

Evangelism (actually leading nonbelievers through Christian conversion) seems like pushing water uphill. Most of our evangelistic tools from the ’60s are totally ineffective with many of today’s folks. (If you haven’t had to rewrite your “napkin drawing of a bridge” illustration about salvation, you haven’t been paying attention.)

I can’t tell you the last time we had a wave of “church shoppers.” It seems like we have to create the demand for churchgoing itself. Many of our churches would not fill up next Sunday even if we offered $100 bills to new visitors.

Everybody wants to be “spiritual” but not necessarily committed to church.

Can you remember the times when thousands of young people, after attending concerts at Calvary Chapel church, were baptized in the Pacific; or the first time you heard “Shout to the Lord”; or the first time you saw signs and wonders blowing through your congregation full-steam; or when starting contemporary worship and small groups actually led to church growth?

We’re simply in a different season now.

We also find ourselves, as a church, in the razor-sharp meat grinder of the culture wars between the political right and left, which is shredding what little stability we have as wintertime approaches. Some of our congregations have literally been torn asunder by this “perfect November storm.”

This winter “season” could last many years; there’s no way of knowing how long it will last. So what good news is there in all of this?

Actually, there’s a lot for which we can be thankful:

1) Winter is a time for study. Picture Abraham Lincoln reading his Bible in the log cabin, to candlelight, in the primeval winters of a younger America. I like to imagine my Scandinavian ancestors huddled around the stove reading the classics, with everything pitch-black outside. We’re too busy planting and harvesting during the sunny days to take study and growth seriously.

2) Winter is a time for relationships. In the kingdom, we are brothers and sisters for eternity. As some church programs dry up for lack of interest, we can refocus on eating and praying with those people in our fellowships who mean the world to us. When the task-orientation of high summer sets in, it’s easy to see relationships as disposable. In the winter, we have to huddle together for warmth.

3) Winter is a time for prayer. In the frenetic days of summer, it’s easy to be too busy to pray. The darkest days of Advent are the time to light candles. Cultivation of a prayer life is hard when church life is at full throttle. Busy pastors never have time to pray. The best time for that is winter.

4) Winter is a time to turn your heart toward home. It is not a time of travel. That comes later. Our church buildings were packed during the Jesus movement. Now, during an emptier season, we can focus on a Josiah-like repair of our houses of worship. You church building has deferred maintenance that needs attention.

5) Winter is a time to safeguard our treasures. The “weather” can be hazardous outside. In past winters, Christians in monasteries had to safeguard the treasures of the faith while pagan hordes ravaged the countryside. We also need to keep the fire burning in the fireplace. The flame of the Holy Spirit must not be allowed to go out, or we will freeze to death. We need to defend the bride of Christ and keep her warm at all costs.

6) Winter is a time for dreaming about the coming spring. Planting season is around the corner. The trees will bud. The robins will return. God will do all kinds of new things among us. Many will come to faith. Our churches will fill again. But God will do that in his time. We don’t know the day or the hour; we can’t even predict a simple childbirth, let alone a spring thaw.

7) Winter is a time for faith. The church is sturdier than you think it is. It is not going under or out of business. Jesus guarantees us that the gates of hell will not prevail against the church.

God must love physical seasons—He invented them. And plainly, by history, He also loves spiritual seasons. As Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “For everything there is a season.”

Not every season is a season of revival. Don’t beat yourself up as a leader because things are not as they were in the spiritual summer. You are not the master of the weather. Another summer will come.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe a lengthy winter season is not coming to the church. But I think it is. Winter is not a bad season. It’s just different. Is it time for you or your church to embrace the good parts of winter?

And it never hurts to look forward to spring—which always comes: “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, and day and night shall not cease” (Gen. 8:22).

About the author: David Housholder is the lead preacher and teacher at Robinwood Church in Huntington Beach, Calif.

Read more:

Change From the Inside Out

Often at this time of the year we look at what has been – the year that is ending – and make plans for the year that is about to dawn upon us fresh and clean as the calendar pages turn and we face January and the start of a new year. Taking time to do this – taking a personal inventory – can be the start of something new if we don’t fall into a very common error.

At this time of the year many people make personal new year resolutions. These are decisions, based on a look back, that they hope will change things for them in the year to come. You know, such as, “Next year I am going to exercise every day.” As someone who goes to the gym almost daily I find this time of year rather humorous. For the week after Christmas and the first two weeks into the new year we end up with a 400%+ increase in people exercising. Many of them have taken out new memberships in the gym as part of their new year resolutions. However, by the 15th of January our numbers are back to the regular levels with few of the new people continuing on with their resolution into week three of the new year.

Here is the problem – new year resolutions are based on what people wish would happen not what they want to happen. It is based on the outside and not the inside. So, on a whim, they make a change or two but are not committed to really seeing it through with all that this might mean. So, as soon as it becomes an effort, crosses the line from fun to discipline, or does not give them their expected outcome or results – they call it quits. Estimates are that over 90% of new year resolutions end this way.

For real change to happen on the outside – actions, behavior, attitude, life-style – there must first be a definite change on the inside. All permanent change starts on the inside and works outwards into one’s daily priorities and life-style. So, unless there is a definite “change of heart” new year resolutions are simply wishful thinking resulting in nothing but disappointment and even frustration.

Now, think about this on a spiritual level – not just on the physical level where so many of us really focus and live. You make a new year’s resolution to read your Bible every day, pray more, witness to those who don’t know Jesus – whatever your spiritual “need” is at the moment. If you are simply adding a new discipline, a new event, a new demand upon your time, a slot filled on your daily calendar – then it is destined to fail. However, if your spirtual reolutions are based on an inner hunger, a thirst for more it is most likely, with a little effort and daily planning, to be successful long-term.

All permanent change starts on the inside – not the outside. It begins with a need being felt and recognized, a quality decision being made, timetables adjusted and organized, and a focus on the end results of the change so that you will not give up when the going gets rough or the novelty wears off.

What is it that you ar “feeling” needs to change in your life? What are you sensing in your heart or spirit? What is the Lord asking of you in 2011 that is going to require some changes, adjustments, and disciplines? As we take a deep breath after the Christmas rush and before we get into the new year celebrations – take a good look deep in your heart and soul and listen for the Lord. There are some felt needs on the spiritual realm that need dealing with. Handled properly they will also have a major impact upon your physical and outer world.

Failure to take the time or make the time will result in another year of “same old, same old” and you experiencing the same frustration 12 months from now that you feel as 2010 comes to an end. Only you can change this. Then you can truly have a “happy” new year.

New Year’s Party and Handover

The New Year is fast approaching. And, many will celebrate the turning of the calendar from 2010 to 2011. They will go out and party. Many will get drunk. Some of them will say emphatically that they are Christians. They seem unaware that drunkenness is spoken of as a sin in the Bible – or, they believe that in spite of deliberately going out to get drunk – that God, because of His love and mercy, will certainly forgive them. That’s an interesting hope or belief that might not stand up under too much scrutiny. However, in spite of that theological argument, I still don’t understand why anyone would want to usher in the first day of the new year with a handover. Maybe I am just getting older. Maybe I am just getting wiser. Maybe both. Most likely, my view is tinted by the fact that I am a recovered alcoholic.

Each day of your life is a God-given gift. Today could be your last day and you don’t even know it. There may be no tomorrow for you and for many others like you. No one is guaranteed another day let alone another year. We are, as believers, to live for today – not the new year. We are to live today – not yesterday, wallowing in our regrets and guilt. The only time we have is “now” and we should live “today” to the fullest. Yes, review the last year and see what was accomplished and maybe what you could have done better – making some adjustments to your attitude and approach, actions and activities. Take a look at next year and plan it out a little so that you are not simply flying blind. But live today!

As difficult as it is to root ourselves in the present, it is the only place we have to live and the only place where relationships are built. In the words of missionary martyr Jim Elliot, “Wherever you are, be all there.”

In the book “Tuesdays with Morrie” Morrie states, “I believe in being fully present.” Life and relationships had grown clearer to the dying professor, and he explained to his younger friend gently, “That means you should be with the person you’re with. When I am talking to you now, Mitch, I try to keep focused only on what is going on between us. I am not thinking of what’s coming up on Friday … I am talking to you. I am thinking about you.” He had learned, as he was dying, how to live for the present – in the now.

As believers we know that the Bible states our days are numbered and limited. The Bible states that only God knows the specific number of days we will live. Jesus tells us to live one day at a time when He states “sufficient are the evils of today for today” So, our focus needs to be – today – here and now. Yes, we know we will go to Heaven when we eventually leave this earth, whenever that may be. But, meanwhile let’s not spend time focusing on and celebrating the new year or regreting the past year and the mess we have managed to make of it. Instead, celebrate today! It may be your last one so live it to the fullest and without regret – touching lives for Jesus as you do.

Inculturate – McDonald’s Does

Large corporations change to fit the culture in which they want to do business. In October I had a meal in a McDonald’s restaurant in Moscow on my way to the city of Ivanono. There were things on the menu that you would not find on a McDonald’s menu here in my own country. They have adapted to the culture in which they are located without losing their distinctiveness – they still sell Big Macs and other staples of the McDonald’s empire. Definitely McDonald’s and recognized as such – but different. This is the process of inculturation.

Now stay with me …. The Roman Catholic bishops of Indonesia have defined inculturation as: “…the process of integrating Christian life experience within the local culture, so that this experience not only is experienced through local cultural elements, but also becomes an animating force giving that culture a new orientation and recreating it. Thus within that culture a new “communion” emerges, which in turn enriches the Church universal.”

Read it once or twice more. This is what McDonald’s, KFC, and other multinational corporations do and do well. The Church generally does not.

Right now when someone receives the Lord as their personal Lord and Savior and are born again they often undergo a “cultural circumcision.” This process removes them from their friends and their native culture and places them (while training them) into a “Christian” culture which is alien and strange. They are taught to talk differently, walk differently, see things in a different light. They are to conform to the standards of the Christian sub-culture they find themselves in – dress code, entertainment standards, acceptable dating practices…. the list can be endless and sometimes is. In some groups it is even called a “holiness code.”

Of course, this makes the new convert so different from the people they once related to that this person can no longer influence their friends because the friends now see them as strange and different and unable to relate to their “real life.” An evangelistic failure.

Leonard Sweet states…”Incarnational Christianity is an absorbent culture, which enables other peoples to belong to it without damaging their own tribal and nationalistic identity.” In other words, to remain distinctively a McDonald’s restaurant while still being able to relate to the culture in which they function.

Sweet goes on … “Here is a portrait of Christians of the second century, as described in the Letter to Diognetus. What strikes the author (of the letter) the most about Christianity is it cultural adaptability: ‘Christians cannot be distinguished from the rest of the human race by country or language or customs. They do not live in cities of their own; they do not use a peculiar form of speech; they do not follow an eccentric manner of life.'”

It is sad to say but mulitinational corporations are proving to be more “incarnational” than churches. They are holding to their distinctiveness yet are relating well to their culture and bringing major changes to that culture as a result. The Church could benefit from studying this business model and making some serious changes in the way they assimilate new believers into the Christian faith. We are not called to be part of a sub-culture that does not adequately relate to the predominant culture – we are called to be salt and light within the culture itself bringing permanent change for good to that culture.

Playing By the Rules

I am not much of a history buff but I do read my share of it when trying to get to know a nation I am about to minister in. In high school I remember it was somewhat boring but the older I get the more I realize that we need to know our history to understand who we are and where we are heading.

I found it interesting recently when reading up on some history to discover that the American Revolution was won by the Colonists partly because the British were categorical imperialists. The British knew the rules of war and refused to compromise those rules even when attacked by soldiers who could not have cared less about their combat categories and canons.

For example:
It was unethical to attack at night
It was unethical to attack from many fronts at once
It was unethical to hide and fight rather than wear red and stand up like a man

So, the American Colonists did all three. They were able to break all the rules and actually defeat a very well-trained fighting machine. The British lost because they did not understand the culture of the people they were fighting and their willingness to disobey the “rules of engagement” and do what seemed to be wise at the moment considering the situation.

The Church today needs to take a lesson from this small piece of history. If she continues to hold on to tried and tested methods of explaining the Gospel and expanding the Kingdom then we will lose the war we are waging for the souls of mankind. These methods are no longer working. The message never changes but the methods must. Ask the Mormons, the Jehovah Witnesses and the Muslims – they know.

When the world changes, and it has, new cultural categories emerge. If the Church insists on clinging to the old categories regardless, as the British did to their regret, then it will lose the war while religion and philosophy will continue to change and inculturate and win the hearts of the people. The rules of engagement must change for us to begin again winning the hearts of the people to whom we minister.

Take note of the Kentucky Fried Chicken brand as created originally by Colonel Sanders in his retirement many decades ago. To relate to a changing culture in North America it is now known as KFC and their menu selection has increased and changed considerably. Overseas – they work with the culture in which they are located. In Japan they offer tempura crispy strips. In Thailand with fresh rice with soy or sweet chili sauce. In Holland with potato-and-onion croquettes. In France with pastries. In northern England with gravy and potatoes. In China with chicken that gets spicier the further inland you travel. They are responding to the changing cultures in which they find themselves…. And so must the Church of Jesus Christ.

It is time to seriously study the people group we are trying to reach and then inculturate.
More on the need to inculturate tomorrow in the blog…

Anything But Normal

When you read the book of Acts and watch the early church and its corporate life as well as what individual members attempted – you reach the conclusion that it was anything but normal. The disciples of the Lord Jesus made strange and unsettling claims that were mind-bending and life-transforming.

Today’s church has become much more normal with its truths creedalized, the church bureaucratized, and the life of the church institutionalized. The very life of this ‘new life’ that Jesus offers has been sucked right out of it. The abundant life has become abundant repetition and serious boredom for most.

As I read and reread the book of Acts I am more convinced that to impact the 21st century we need to understand the first century. To be the church of Jesus Christ today we need to understand the church of Jesus Christ then – at its very beginning – its roots. Winston Churchill stated, “The further backward you look, the further forward you can see.” I believe that to be true.

The Christian faith is more than a set of doctrines or even a code of conduct for life. The Christian faith is Christ Himself and life-in-Christ. Christ is the heart of God’s revelation and salvation. Jesus is not merely a good way, a better way, or one way. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. There is no salvation outside of Jesus the Christ. So, a Christian is someone who personally knows Jesus Christ (and thus Father God) as well as involving a person in an adventure of living Christ’s life with Him. This will, of course, set you apart from the nominal or normal Christian. And, definitely make you really different than your non-believing neighbors. You will march to a totally different beat of the drums not heard by either.

In the 18th century, those who were excited about their faith and live the Christ-life – people like the early Methodists – were portrayed as insane. Some, like Alexander Cruden, the compiler of biblical concordences, were actually put away in madhouses. They were not “normal” and bothered those who were. They were not your average Christian and so the average won out by persecuting and even imprisoning what should have been “normal” for all Christ followers.

In our new post 9-11 world we need to wake up and realize that we are no longer a dominating presence that is influencing the direction of society. But, we are becoming a persecuted and impoverished minority whose ways of living, loving and thinking can expect to be mistaken for madness. We are seen as narrow-minded and intolerant; dangerous and damning. And, our behaviour is beginning to be pushed to the fringe of our society and is even coming under fire by those who do not share our beliefs.

Here in the new 21st-century context Christians who live the Christ-life can expect to be kidnapped, arrested, harassed, ridiculed … even the old Roman imperial turned-down thumb – killed.

A Chinese court has charged Hong Kong trader Li Guangquiang with using “an evil cult to damage a law-based society.” His sentence is two years in prison. His crime – Bringing Bibles into mainland China. The complicity between the US military and the Peruvian Air Force in shooting down a US missionary seaplane near the Colombian border (20 April 2001) – which killed 35-year-old Baptist missionary Veronica Bowers and her seven-month-old daughter, Charity – is a foretaste of our future.

Too many Christians are living like the society they are suppose to be transforming one person at a time. They are not living like Christ and so are having little to no impact on their world. They are also living as if Nine-Eleven never happened. We are living in a different world, believer. It is time to become aware of the new world in which we live and learn how to express the life of Christ in this new world order. That’s our calling as believers and our work for the Lord in this rapid changing society where we are truly seen as outsiders and social misfits.

I like what Novelist Benjamin Cheever said, “To be a Christian in polite society is to be a foreigner, an outsider…It’s as if you had told them about your colostomy bag.”

Written on the anniversary of 9-11 (September 11, 2010)

Lead, Follow, or GET OUT OF THE WAY

The young people today want opportunities to lead but understand that they need to be mentored in leadership as well as life skills first. So, they are looking for mentors or “fathers” who can walk with them, share their life openly with them, and teach them as they share experiences together. Often they have not had a good role model in their earthly father and so on a scale of 1 to 10 the leader is often starting from a minus 6 with their young disciple. However, with a lot of love, acceptance and forgiveness the hearts of young people are very winnable and open to being molded by someone who has demonstarated that they care.

They are not near as interested in simply reading a book and then discussing what they are reading. This is the old form of discipling and mentoring. They want to be led but they want to be hands-on and learning skills that will allow them to be a leader in the future. They want experience and not just more education. Information will need to be imparted as experiences are shared.

The people they will follow willingly are those who are self-regulated. This means that the leader must know and understand themselves – who they are and what they are called to do as well as how they are to do it. They must be very secure in who they are and open to sharing every aspect of their life with those they are leading and mentoring. They must be real and accessible. They must be totally accepting of those they are leading and mentoring – never judgmental. They must focus on the essential heart issues of the follower or disciple of the Lord they are mentoring – and not on external “seeables” such as dress code, tattoos and piercings. Always keeping the main thing the main thing and that is demonstrating and sharing the very life and nature of God with these young people.

Today’s youth have tremendous untapped potential and are willing to give themselves 100% to a cause they consider worthly of their commitment. The cause of Christ is just the type of total commitment challenge that they are looking for. It allows them to be moving forward with purpose as they add value to other human beings (an important value most share).

If you are open and willing to be this type of leader – then find some young people and lead them. If you are the old-style leader … step aside and let the younger generation lead and watch with amazement what they can accomplish.