Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Sad Day for Denominations...

internetmonk.com has just posted an assessment of the Southern Baptist Convention's current situation regarding youth, evangelism, missions etc. Based on what he writes here It seems that this is a very sad day for denominations. If the Southern Baptist are sliding into Oblivion what does this mean for other denominations that pattern themselves after and gain much from the SBC?

Many people from my denomination (Free Will Baptist) would say that we do not pattern ourselves the SBC, but the fact is there is a lot of copy cat going on (not that it is all bad by any means, I think it is great that we learn from one another). In fact one could say that we are the red headed step brother of the SBC that is always a day late and a dollar short. I am sure the same could be said of many other small Baptist denominations within America. The question is now, where do we go for leadership, where do we go for ideas? (In the article refrenced earlier, Michael Spencer points to the large non denominational churches as the ones who will give this leadership.)
The real question to be answered is if the SBC starts a decline (this actually may have already started) are Free Will Baptist and other denominations strong and independent enough to do it on our own. Will Free Will Baptist step up to the plate keeping a strong community, that is committed to the Kingdom, or will Free Will Baptist follow the SBC in decline. I pray that God is not done with Free Will Baptist!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

You Alone Can Satisfy

You Alone Can Satisfy
Ross King
Verse 1
I have bowed at the altar
Of the world and its lies
Now I long to return to You
You alone can satisfy
I have wasted affections
On the things You despise
Now I long to return to You
You alone can satisfy
Chorus 1
My bread of life
You're my provider
You fill my soul with living water
Beneath Your wing
There is a shelter where I hide
You alone can satisfy
Verse 2
There's no fortune or pleasure
That this world can provide
They have failed and they always will
You alone can satisfy
You're the Treasure that I've found
You're the meaning of life
You're my deepest desires fulfilled
You alone can satisfy

This song just played on my computer as I was listening to worship music on shuffle mode. As this song played I was thinking: Why do we struggle so much with sin? As I listen it makes perfect sense:
I have wasted affections
On the things You despise
Now I long to return to You
You alone can satisfy
But the fact that it makes sense, has not made it true in my life. I know that God is the only one that can satisfy. But I don't know how to stop seeking satisfaction else where. I know this is an age old question, but I really wonder why do we look other places for satisfaction. How can we know everything theologically, but it not play out the right way in reality.

As I listen to the chorus I see a piece of what is missing in my life. It seems like I live such a comfortable life that I do not need God. Of course I need him for spiritual things, and even for long term direction. But I don't feel like I need him for: bread, provision, water, shelter.... But the fact is I do. If I fully realized how much I needed God I would not be tempted to sin as much. I would realize that he is what I need, not sin.

Lord help me to realize that I need you supremely for every part of my life so that I may find my satisfaction only in YOU!!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The End of Evangelicals

I just received an email with a link to an essay by Michael Spencer about the death of the Evangelical church in America. He expects the Evangelical church to follow the Mainline denominations that have all but disappeared in any contributing form in the past few years. He is expecting the Evangelical church to all but disappear in 10 years. Yes 10 years!!! I do not know what to think about his article (which you can read here in essay format or here on his blog), but some of what he said stirred my soul and made me feel very uneasy. Here are some of the highlights/lowlights

  • "We fell for the trap of believing in a cause more than a faith." speaking of the fact that more Christians can articulate their Biblical stance against abortion and gay marriage, than they can articulate the Gospel to a non believer.

  • "This collapse will herald the arrival of an anti-Christian chapter of the post-Christian West. Intolerance of Christianity will rise to levels many of us have not believed possible in our lifetimes, and public policy will become hostile toward evangelical Christianity, seeing it as the opponent of the common good."

  • "We Evangelicals have failed to pass on to our young people an orthodox form of faith that can take root and survive the secular onslaught. Ironically, the billions of dollars we've spent on youth ministers, Christian music, publishing, and media has produced a culture of young Christians who know next to nothing about their own faith except how they feel about it." Not much to say about this, it just makes me step back and say hmm.?!

  • "Evangelicalism doesn't need a bailout. Much of it needs a funeral." when answering the question if this is a good or bad thing. His stance is not that it is good, but then again he sees some things that will only change when the churches fail.

  • "We need new evangelicalism that learns from the past and listens more carefully to what God says about being His people in the midst of a powerful, idolatrous culture."

Once again, I have not fully processed what I have just read, but I know this should shake us a little. Even if Spencer is not accurate in what he is saying he is accurate in some of the problems he is seeing. As long as Evangelicals are joined at the hip with political conservatism in a world turning away from political conservatism Evangelicalism will not flourish. We need a movement that is not focused on politics, but rather on winning souls. A movement that is more focused about the kingdom we will live in than the one we do live in.

I am afraid that Spencer that the best way to reach the world in the future may be through another medium than the Evangelical church.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Two key things...

I always try to have a few thoughts that guide my life. Whenever I am having a tough time figuring out a situation I break the problem down as much as possible so I can answer questions as easily as possible. For instance, when I was getting close to finishing college with my major in missions everyone thought (as did I for a while) that I would go right to the mission field. The problem was I couldn't get peace about it. So I spent about a year considering what God had gifted me with and what He wanted me to do with that gifting (interestingly enough that year was when I lived in Russia). I came up with several key areas that I knew God had gifted me in, areas I knew had to be involved in whatever I decided to do with my life. The four things were: leadership, teaching, missions, and preaching. The list may not seem like much to you but to me it helped me make good decisions, and helped me end up where I am now. I would love to go into what these four areas mean to me (and I may do so some time soon), but I was writing all this just to illustrate how I like to break things down in order to solve problems easier.

For the six months or so I have been thinking about the church, and its job in the world. My purpose in thinking about the church is to be able to explain the church better to those around me, help them understand their place in the church so we can do more for the cause of Christ together. At Central Church we have broken down the job of the Church (and believers) to a three fold vision:
  1. Worshiping God
  2. Loving You
  3. Reaching the World

We are attempting to make this more and more a part of our church thought process, and infrastructure. We want to be able to say to our people: "There are three things we want you to do as a believer: worship God (attend corporate worship on Sunday mornings), love each other (be a part of a small group to love and be loved), and do your part to reach the world (be involved in service and evangelism inside the church and out). This three fold emphasis makes life easier, makes vision easy to explain, streamlines efforts, and hopefully adds glory and souls to the kingdom. I love this, and am a big supporter of it...but my question is this: "Is our job even more simple than this?"

In my thinking I have taken this three fold approach down to a two sided approach. As believers we should be:

  1. Worshiping God
  2. Pushing others toward God

Whenever I share this I feel like there is so much left to explain, but then I remember that there will always be much more to explain. I like this approach for a couple of reasons: 1) This approach mirrors the Great Commandment of Mark 12:28-31. In the Great Commandment there are two sides: God and others, this lets me know that our ministry philosophies should fit into that same vein. We should not have a ministry philosophy that emphasises the human side more than the God side, we should follow the Biblical model and have a two fold model. 2) Encouraging our people to "Push others toward God" is much more general but much more descriptive than other models. As Christians we should push everyone we meet towards God; if we have a conversation with a fellow believer they should be closer to God because of it, if we meet up with a non-believer they should be a step closer to calling on the name of Christ as Savior. We can push others toward God in everything we do, whether it be at church or at work, this can be life! 3) The language used does not intimidate. Most people feel like they can worship God, and most people feel like they can push others a little closer to God, on the other hand they get a little overwhelmed with the thought of reaching the world or even loving everyone. This gives the average Christian something they can hold on to and strive for as they push on toward maturity. If Christians will do these two things on a daily basis the Kingdom will grow exponentially. 4) It is much easier for me to remember 2 points rather than three, though we could just go with the Westminster Catechism which has one point for this....

There are also two things I don't necessarily like about this phraseology: 1) it doesn't necessarily flow off the tongue (not that important I know) and 2) it doesn't mention the name of Christ. I don't ever want to be accused of getting away from a Christ centered Gospel (that is an oxymoron), so I want to use the name of Christ in this, but to this point I haven't.

Here is the point. As Christians we have a job to do. Whether we break it down to three points or two, or even fifty: we have to be obeying the Great Commandment, and the Great Commission. This is the job of the church. As leaders we must streamline our churches so that our people can concentrate on these main things, as Christians we must streamline our lives, getting rid of what is in the way so that we can concentrate on what Christ told us is most important: 1)worship God, and 2) push others toward Christ.