Note: I wrote this last spring before I began this blog. Stumbled across it today and thought it’d be a good one to throw out here. Nothing like the slaughter of a sacred cow to start a meaningful dialogue …
In 1959, the greatest Christian salvation machine ever conceived by man invaded Australia, as a Billy Graham Crusade swept over the continent, from shore to shore. Leading an ecumenical effort that included a vast and varied union of denominations and congregations, blasting through all forms of mass media, and speaking in the largest venues in the land, Billy faithfully shared a clear, direct and inviting presentation of the Gospel of Salvation to more than 3,300,000 people in person, and countless millions more through radio, television, newspapers and closed-circuit broadcasts.
This was in the early days of Billy’s remarkable, life-long outreach efforts, and his organization’s scope and scale continued to grow for decades. He returned to Australia with similar Crusades in 1969, 1979 and 1989. Several associate evangelists of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) visited throughout this period as well. In 1996, Billy’s son Franklin, now the president of the BGEA, led a full-fledged crusade that touched the largest cities on the continent.
It is beyond argument that the majority of the population of Australia, for at least two generations, have heard the straight-up Gospel of Salvation, clearly communicated by the most sincere, faithful, capable, organized, and well-funded mass-market evangelists of modern times.
Yesterday I saw a news item from the BBC (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-12811197). The lead paragraph says, “A study using census data from nine countries shows that religion there is set for extinction, say researchers.” Using a proven statistical model applied to a vast amount of census data, the researchers found “that religion will all but die out altogether in those countries.” Top of their list? Australia.
What’s gone wrong? The Bible says the truth will set us free, but this truth is a hard one to swallow.
Is the Christian faith fated to dwindle into oblivion?
Is the Bible outdated and meaningless for today? Is it even, really, the true word of God?
Are the hearts of the people in Australia simply hardened, and they are doomed as a nation to spend eternity in Hell?
Is the rise of the Antichrist inevitable, and so he’s conquering that continent against the best efforts of the Body of Christ?
If you, like me, reject these notions, then what is it?
Did these leaders lack faith, integrity or competence? Of course not! That’d be the easy way out – to claim these Crusades, and all others like them, have failed because the men weren’t righteous. It’s easier to abandon men than methods. But that’s wrong! I believe these men, and others like them, are incredible, faithful, sincere and highly-capable men of God. They are not the problem. Instead, I believe the facts prove that mass market, salvation-based evangelism is not the way to win the world for Christ.
Jesus and Paul modeled for us a different method: Personal discipleship.
They also taught a different message: The Gospel of the Kingdom. This, according to Christ, is the seed we’re supposed to plant. He said the message of salvation is just the first step; that you must be born again just to see the Kingdom. The Kingdom message tells us we are His sons and daughters, with a victorious identity and destiny, and a mandate to establish dominion over all creation. With the “born again” message alone, we view the cross as a means of salvation, a way out of here. (And how’s that message working for us?) With Christ’s message of the Kingdom, we view the cross as God sees it, as a means of invasion. Through Christ, we now have full access to the power, provision and direction of God Himself, to seek first and establish His Kingdom!
It pains me to say it, but the facts are the facts: The methods, models and messages that the Body of Christ have dogmatically revered, embraced and funded for generations have been measured, and they are a massive failure.
But our faith is NOT fated for failure. Victory is our destiny!
The Bible IS the word of God, and it is more relevant and needed today than ever before!
Hearts around the world are parched and hungry for the reality of the Living God, ready to embrace Him when they meet Him!
“The Antichrist” is the one whose days are numbered; the Kingdom WILL come on earth as it is in Heaven, just as Jesus prayed! We are more than conquerors!
We just need to plant the right seed and use the right cultivation methods, returning to the ways of Christ and the early apostles. This truth WILL set us free – free to bring the victory and seize God’s eternal inheritance that is stored up only for those who conquer the world for Him.
It is time for an UPRISING. It’s time for Christians to stop waiting and start winning!
– You are the salt of the world. Stay salty, my friends!
NOTE: I am writing this from a hotel lobby in Abuja, Nigeria. I’m here for a quick BAM (business as ministry) trip…
Most churches and ministries these days play fast and loose with the word “conversion.” They speak of making “converts” and liberally quote the quantity of “conversions” from a given activity. Problem is, there generally is no understanding of what “conversion” really means, so in reality these efforts and statistics – and indeed, many of these “ministries” – are pretty much worthless.
I realize those are very strong words, so please allow me to make myself perfectly clear. God is absolutely all about conversion, and He desires for us to work to convert all mankind. But if we don’t know what authentic conversion is as God intends it, and instead pursue a misguided, watered-down, man-made conception of “conversion,” then we simply are not going about our Father’s business. We can do all sorts of things “in His name,” and in the end He will tell us, “away from me, I never knew you.”
To avoid this terrible outcome, we simply must know what God means when He says the word “conversion.”
Ray Croc, founder of McDonald’s, once famously said, “When you’re green, you’re growing, and when you’re ripe, you rot.” Truer words are rarely spoken. A disclaimer: What I’m writing here may be new information for you, and it may be unsettling. I pray you are green.
Another disclaimer. Someday, I’ll get a hat or button made with this on it, and wear it when I preach:
“Correct me if I’m wrong.”
While what I write here may be new and unsettling to some, it’s fully substantiated by Scripture. And if you allow Him to do so, I believe the Spirit of God will confirm it to you. But if you think I’m off base, please, please tell me. I seek nothing more than truth.
Now here’s the heart of it: For way too long, we have confused “faith” with “belief,” as if intellectual acceptance of the truth of Jesus as the risen Son of God is all it takes to be saved. And so, when someone finally has come to accept this truth, we have counted them as a “convert.” Problem is, this is simply NOT the case. Satan himself believes that Jesus is God’s son, that He was crucified, died, and rose again on the third day to save us from our sins. And last I checked, Satan isn’t a convert, is he?
The Bible clearly tells us that true conversion is something different entirely. It’s a two-step process, with belief being the first step. Yes, belief comes before conversion. But belief itself is NOT conversion. If you’ve convinced someone of the truthfulness of the Bible, and led them to an intellectual acceptance of Christ as our risen Savior, then you’ve done a good thing, no doubt. But you have NOT made a convert!
The second step, the most important step, the step the devil won’t take, the point of TRUE conversion, comes when a person yields their will fully to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Before this, a person is not saved. After this, they are. This, and only this, is the point of conversion in God’s eyes.
The Bible repeatedly makes a pronounced distinction between these two things: Belief and Surrender.
(Were this a book and not a blog post, I would proceed with many dozens of substantiating Scriptures. For the sake of space, allow me to give just a few.)
In Chapter One of his gospel writing, the Apostle John says, “As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:14) So receiving Christ — believing in Him – is a big deal. It gives us the right to become children of God. It opens the door. But it is a right only; it does not make it a done deal! Later in the same book, John records that Jesus said the same thing, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.” (John 3:3) Being “born again” gives us the right to become children of God; it allows us to see the Kingdom.
Actually becoming children of God, and entering the Kingdom, is another step entirely. It requires more than simple belief! The Apostle Paul put it this way, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the children of God.” (Romans 8:14) In the same vein, Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God.” (John 3:5) Being led by, being born again by, the Holy Spirit, is the point of conversion, and not a moment sooner. THIS is when we become God’s children and enter His Kingdom. And this is distinct and separate from intellectual belief in the truth of Scripture.
The question is, in my life, who’s the boss? If I lean on my own understanding, if I am conformed to the patterns of this world, if I follow the impulses of my flesh, then I am not converted, and I am not a child of God. If, instead, I am a sheep who knows my Master’s voice, if I have the mind of Christ, if I live by faith and not by sight, then I am indeed converted, and adopted as a full child and heir of the King of Kings.
Over and over, the Bible makes this point clear. And yet in our quest to build bigger budgets and buildings, we’ve simply left the truth by the wayside.
We don’t talk much about the rich young ruler, who asked Jesus what was required for salvation, because it’s too hard: “Go, sell all you have and give to the poor, and then come follow me.”
We don’t sing pop-praise songs based on the words of James: “Faith without works is dead.” Folks don’t want to sway back and forth all bleary-eyed to that refrain.
We don’t hear too many sermons about James’ instruction to “be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” Hard to fill pews and plates with that one.
I read a blurb in an in-flight magazine the other day about a woman who met a famous violinist after a concert. “I’d give my life to play like you do,” she said.
“I did,” was his reply.
Jesus is calling us to the exact same understanding. We want the eternal life that He died for? We must die, too. We must offer ourselves as living sacrifices, according to the words of Paul, who said, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”
No, belief alone does not save us. It gives us the potential, the right, the power to become children of God. Changing our minds is not conversion. Changing our hearts is. When we die to self, when we crucify our flesh, when we yield fully to the step-by-step guidance of His Spirit … this is the true point of conversion, and not a moment before.
Conversion doesn’t come when folks raise their hands after a rip-roaring sermon, or when they say the magic words of the “sinners prayer,” or when they check the “I received Christ today” box on the response card. These are great things, and thank God for them! But they are not conversion. If you’ve achieved this, you’ve done a good job – you’ve made a good START. But that’s all it is – a START. Your work is not yet done!
Remember, our job is to make disciples, not just to make believers. If all you’re doing is making believers, I’m sorry, but your ministry results are all make believe.
– You are the salt of the world. Stay salty, my friend!
False teachings in support of modern Zionism are a huge source of confusion for too many Christians these days.
These teachings say it’s our Christian duty to support the modern, political state of Israel, and that this is somehow tied to our fate in the “end times.”
Now, from a purely practical, patriotic standpoint, I am all in favor of keeping a strong alliance with Israel. They are America’s best friend in the Middle East and a valuable strategic ally.
But to say it is our Christian duty to do so is, to me, not only ridiculously contrary to scripture, but dangerous and in its extreme downright blasphemous. It is political manipulation at its finest, nothing more, and too many Christians today are too eager to play along.
Those who advocate this position claim that today’s political nation of Israel and its citizens are still considered by God to be His Chosen People, and that God will bless us if we go out of our way to support them. Many go so far as to imply (some even outright claim) that these people do not even need to accept Jesus Christ to be saved. Nothing could be further from the truth!
Yes, the descendants of Abraham, due to their patriarch’s faithfulness, were selected by God, for His purposes, to be the foreshadow of His Kingdom on earth and the set-apart people group through which the Messiah would come. As such, according to the terms of His covenant with them (the Old Covenant), they were favored on earth, and outsiders who blessed them would be blessed.
It is vital for us today to understand, however, that this was the Old Covenant, not the Old Entitlement. Entitlements are one-sided, covenants are not. Were it the Old Entitlement – and God was simply giving favor to a select people group because of their genetics – then the case could possibly be made that their modern descendants were still covered by this.
(Interestingly, according to many studies, a large number of people who claim Jewish heritage today do not even have Hebrew genetics. Some report that upwards of 80% of today’s Israelis are not Hebrew by blood.)
But talk of genetics is irrelevant, because it was NOT a hereditary entitlement, it was the Old Covenant – a two-sided deal. As in, “I’ll do this, if you do this.” The obligation of one party to follow a covenant is negated if the other party breaks covenant. From the very beginning of God’s covenant with Abraham, this point was clear. In Genesis 17:1-2, God says, “I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless. And I will make My covenant between Me and you…” Abraham’s obligation under the covenant was to blamelessly walk before God. In Exodus 19:5-6, God re-iterates this in greater detail to Moses: “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”
Under the Old Covenant, the way to fellowship with God was through full obedience to the terms of the covenant. Over time, these terms were spelled out clearly in a strict code of laws.
Sadly, repeatedly, throughout the Old Testament, the Israelites broke covenant, and when they did God removed His favor from them. Numerous plagues and curses afflicted the Israelites in the wilderness, and were it not for Moses’ repentant pleading, God said He would have completely wiped them out. Ultimately, the population was decimated, the nation occupied, and the Israelites scattered into exile. Clearly God Himself did not consider the Old Covenant to be the Old Entitlement! When they broke covenant with Him, He viewed the covenant as null and void, and they had to live with the consequences.
It would be nice to be able to selectively edit a contract after the fact, but we can’t do that. Heck, I wish I could erase my obligation to make payments out of my mortgage contract! No doubt, Zionist Christian leaders can pontificate about the incredible things involved in God’s side of His covenant with Israel. Presented that way, it all sounds great, and makes a persuasive argument to those who take such things at face value. It’s just that they never mention the other side of the bargain, and the fact that through repeated and ongoing disobedience, the Israelites broke covenant and rendered it null and void.
Interestingly, most people I’ve seen who claim the Jewish faith today do not appear to make even a half-hearted effort at fulfilling the full obligation of the Old Covenant. And even if they did live with wholehearted devotion to keeping every letter of the law, they would find it to be impossible. The Bible says so! Today’s nation of Israel and its citizens do not even remotely live up to their end of the bargain, in any way, shape or form. So again I ask, on what basis does a Christian leader claim that they are still God’s Chosen People? There is no genetic claim, and no covenantal claim, either.
Today we know the Old Covenant was enacted by God to point the way to Christ. Christ is the only human being who ever kept the law perfectly, and in doing so He fulfilled the terms of the Old Covenant once and for all. Then, He took upon Himself the punishment everyone else deserves for breaking covenant, so that through Him, we may have fellowship with God now and eternally. This is the New Covenant: Instead of perfect obedience in the law, we must put our faith in Jesus Christ. It is through faith in Christ alone that we may live as God’s Chosen People. Outside of Christ, it is impossible. To claim otherwise is to diminish the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.
The way I see it, all this modern Zionism stuff is really just a deception from the enemy designed to keep Christians from realizing their true identity and destiny in Christ.
In Hebrew, the word ISRAEL means, “He will rule as God.” And so the question is, who will rule as God? People who have repeatedly, throughout history, abandoned their covenant with God? People who may have been born under a certain genetic lineage? People who futilely put their hope in perfect obedience to an impossible set of laws?
Or … is it those who put their faith in Jesus Christ?
On this point, the Bible is perfectly clear. In Revelation 3:20-21, Jesus said, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who conquers I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.”
So who will rule as God? Who will sit on His throne? Those who open the door to Jesus Christ, have fellowship with Him, and then work with Him to conquer the world for His Kingdom. That’s who will rule as God!
In Christ, our destiny is victory over the world, and in eternity, we will rule as God. It’s time we stand up and act like it!
All the covenant promises God made back then apply to us today. It has nothing to do with geography or genetics, or any attempt to keep the Old Covenant.
The Old Covenant has been closed out, and under the New Covenant, followers of Jesus Christ are the true, covenant-keeping Israel. There is no other.
Please know I’m not anti-Israel or anti-Semitic in any way. As I said, I’m all in favor of a political alliance with the nation of Israel – they’re our best friends in a very hostile Middle East. Let’s just do it honestly, as a strategic political alliance, not under manipulation.
There is great value for Christians in studying and applying the spiritual principles and practices of our faith’s Jewish roots. So far as we share the majority of our Holy Book, and a rich history and heritage, I have great respect my Jewish friends. (One of my all-time favorite Bible studies was a journey through the Old Testament with a group of Jewish students back in college.) Yet without Christ, this heritage is no better than any other. Like all my other lost friends, I pray for my Jewish friends to come to a full realization of Jesus Christ and accept Him as the promised Messiah.
Also, please understand I am not going to engage in propagating any conspiracy theories about the how and why so many well-meaning Christians are sucked into the modern Zionist movement. I am not naïve enough to think it’s by accident, but to me, conspiracy theories are mainly a waste of time. Our battle is not against flesh and blood, and the truth alone is enough to send the darkness to flight. And the truth is, Jesus is the only way, and in God’s eyes His followers are the true Chosen People.
– You are the salt of the world. Stay salty, my friends!
Seems like “The Kingdom” is becoming a new buzzword in churchianity. That’s great, in some ways, but sorta makes me uneasy in others.
Yes, the Gospel of the Kingdom is the heart of the message that God desires to communicate to mankind. It is the core of the Bible, from Page One all the way through. So it’s great that Christians today are, maybe, finally starting to see this and get it.
But the fact is, peoples’ wrong understanding of God’s Kingdom has led to all kind of bad stuff over the centuries. Heck, the Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day crucified Him because they misunderstood the Kingdom. They though it was political, and when Jesus didn’t bring a political uprising against the Romans, they executed Him as a heretic.
A wrong understanding of the Kingdom of God inspired Paul, when he was Saul, to kill Christians. It launched the crusades, fueled the fires of the Inquisition, and has led modern churchianity to build billions of dollars of steeple-topped monuments to men’s marketing abilities.
Just slapping the word “Kingdom” on a message, organization or endeavor doesn’t make it so.
The pre-eminence of the Kingdom message in Scripture is undeniable, even though many seem to ignore it. I kicks me in the gut when I realize that this was “news” to me, even after spending decades under a steeple. When it finally hits them, this realization takes lots of Christians by surprise. They, rightfully, feel shortchanged. I know pastors, missionaries and other seminary graduates who have said the same thing!
Here are the facts:
- The words “born again” are used ONE TIME in the Gospels, when Jesus — in private, after dark, on a rooftop, talking to one man – told Nicodemus that you must be ”born again” just to SEE the Kingdom. (Sadly, getting folks “born again” is the sole driver of the vast majority of Christian endeavors, and yet without the Kingdom, that’s a pointless pursuit.)
- The word Kingdom is used 120 times in the Gospels, 154 in the entire New Testament. When you look for it, you’ll see it is the basis for virtually ALL of Jesus’ teachings and parables, and those of Paul, too.
- The first paragraph of Acts says Jesus spent His last 40 days on earth teaching His apostles about the Kingdom. The last paragraph of Acts says Paul spent 2 years in Rome teaching all his visitors about the Kingdom.
- Jesus said the Kingdom is what we’re to seek first, every single day. And when we do, He promises that God will provide all our needs!
- Why did Jesus come to earth? What was the purpose He claimed for His living as a man among men? Salvation, you say? NO! He said, crystal clear, that His purpose was to proclaim the Kingdom of God. (See Luke 4:43)
- When He explained the meaning of the parable of the sower (which is the basis of most outreach ministries) Jesus said the truth of God’s Kingdom is the seed we’re supposed to plant in the hearts of men, not the message of “salvation” alone. Sorry, Billy, but we sure have missed this one!
- Jesus said the end won’t come till the Gospel of the Kingdom (no, not the Gospel of salvation alone) is preached to every tribe and nation.
I could keep going on and on, but I think these should establish the point for any thinking Christian who is hungry for the truth: The central message of Scripture — the message Jesus came to share — is the message of the Kingdom of God.
It seems we’re good about teaching folks about Jesus — but we’ve missed the boat entirely when it comes to teaching them what Jesus taught! A disciple, by definition, teaches the teachings of his teacher. This may be a hard word for some, but it’s the truth: If someone is teaching some gospel other than the Gospel of the Kingdom, that person is not a disciple of Jesus Christ, because they’re not teaching what He taught.
Like I said, a lot of folks are throwing the word “Kingdom” around these days, slapping it onto all kinds of hokum. For the record, the Gospel of the Kingdom:
- Is NOT some ecumenical, kumbaya message that all the man-made “churches” should lay aside their doctrinal differences for the sake of superficial, organizational “unity.”
- Is NOT some code for a Christian Mafia-type “familia,” calling Christian businessmen to link together for the sake of making tons of money, for whatever good intentions.
- Does NOT support the building of huge “churches.” In fact, it has nothing to do with the “religion” of Chritianity — not one bit!
- Does NOT call for or apply to a Christian political party, or any form of top-down, forced theocracy or law-based “righteousness.”
- Does NOT call for violence, military conquest, or American global hegemony.
- It has NOTHING to do with the modern, man-made, geo-political nation of Israel.
- Does NOT call for blind allegiance to or compulsory financial support of any self-proclaimed “apostle.”
- And, it does NOT mix in any way whatsoever with the modern, man-made fable of the “end times” that says “the antichrist” will rise to global prominence, and that Christians will have to be rescued in some upcoming “rapture.” (That is about as anti-Kingdom as a teaching can get!)
When we pursue any one of these things for its own sake and call it “Kingdom,” we’re heading down the path of the Sanhedrin, the Inquisitors, the Crusadors, and everyone else who’s jimmied their own agenda and understanding into God’s perfect Word.
The Gospel of the Kingdom is at its core unsettling to the status quo. Yes, it DOES call for Christian unity, for direct action, for functioning as a Body, for advancing righteousness in every sphere (including business and politics), and for the global pre-eminence of the Body of Christ — before He returns. But it’s a whole lot deeper, a whole lot simpler, and a whole lot more revolutionary (personally and corporately) than we’re practicing today.
So, what IS the Gospel of the Kingdom? Stay tuned for Part Two! …
– You are the salt of the world. Stay salty, my friends!
In Part One, we saw a fellow shoot down a traditional “churchy” evangelist-type who knocked at his door. Now here’s the same guy, the next day, in a different setting.
Hey Joe, do you have a moment?
You know, we’ve been working alongside each other for several years now, and I’ve gotta ask you something. I’ve got something in my head and I just can’t shake it. I know this sounds funny coming from me, but I don’t even know quite how to express it.
Lately it’s like I’ve hit a wall, Joe, and I just can’t seem to get over it. I don’t even know why I’m asking you, and it doesn’t really make sense to me. But it’s just that … well … you seem have something that I really want, and I just can’t find IT anywhere else – and I’ve tried everything!
You know, folks say, “life sucks, then you die,” and I’ve always thought that was just a joke. But damn it, Joe, that’s what’s happening to me, and I don’t want that! I don’t want life to suck, and then I die. When I look at you, your life doesn’t seem to suck at all, and I gotta tell you, that’s sorta frustrating as hell to me.
You see, that’s what doesn’t make sense. I mean, you know that over these years, I’ve played the system, virtually lived here at work, and made a lot more money than you. (No offense there, right? … ok…) And my wife works, too – and I know yours stays at home with your kids. So here we make, what, two or three times what your family makes? We’re able to buy everything we’ve ever wanted, and then some … the best of everything. But you know what? It’s all just so empty! There always seems to be something more, just out of reach, that if we get it, then we’ll have IT. So we work harder and get it, and then there’s something else, and we never really find what we’re really looking for. I’m beginning to think the whole “American Dream” thing is more of a nightmare!
Ok, so when I realized that wasn’t working, I thought, maybe there’s more to IT than that. But I just can’t find what it may be! I’ve slept around, drunk my share – and even tried cocaine. And it’s all just like the other stuff – like I’m almost there, just one more woman, one more drink, one more snort and I’ll finally find IT … and then, well, then there’s always just one more, and one more, and IT always stays just out of reach!
So then I thought maybe that “religion” was the answer. We even went to church for a few years – yeah, me, in church, can you believe it? And Joe, I wasn’t playing around, I really gave it a shot. I raised my hand, went to the front, said “the prayer.” We joined the committees, went to the classes, sang the songs, sent our kids to youth group, and even put money in the plate. Heck, I even started listening to “Christian” music and my wife put a fish on her car! I even quit partying and chasing skirt, for the most part – I really tried to walk the walk and talk the talk. You now, I really liked the services – great music, a heck of a show! – and that pastor really seemed like a heck of guy who really had IT. He can sure get you motivated!
Joe, I wanted it to work. I really did. I grew up going to church, you know, and a lot of my good childhood memories are from there. But you know what? In the end, it was just like everything else! What I really wanted, what my family really needed, was still just one step away! Sing a little louder, memorize a bit more Bible trivia, serve on another committee, sit a little closer to the front … and of course, give a little more money! … and so we did. And did. And did. And we never found what we were looking for!
I really didn’t want to give up, I figured this MUST be the right ladder to climb. But then I stepped back and looked at all the other folks, the ones who seemed to really have IT together, and you know what? While they acted like they had IT, they really didn’t! What’s sad is I recognized those same folks from before — we went to the same titty bars, shopped at the same liquor stores, and even bought coke from the same dealer – yet then on Sunday they’d deny they ever knew me. It was all such an act!
What’s sad is, not even the pastor really had IT! I really do think he meant well, but he was the biggest actor of all! I know I shouldn’t have, but I overheard him one time talking to his wife at the hardware store. I was on the next aisle and they didn’t know anyone was around. And you know what? They actually wanted to get a divorce, but were afraid of how it would look to the “congregation.” You shoulda heard the stuff that came out of their mouths! I was shocked! This was the guy who was trying to tell me how to get IT, and he didn’t even have IT!
And I still didn’t give up. Instead, I went to one of the elders — they’re bound to have IT, right? And you know what? That was even worse! He started talking church politics, about keeping up appearances, and even said that he was afraid that if we had a scandal it would hurt “giving,” and we couldn’t do that, especially in the middle of a building project!
I gotta tell you, Joe. After that I ran like hell, and I’ve never looked back. That was three years ago, and brother, I’ve pretty much quit. My marriage is on the rocks, my kids don’t respect me, and well, I figured I should just quit looking for IT. Life sucks, then you die, right? Might as well make the most of it. Maybe if I stop acting like I believe IT exists, then I can get through my days ok. But that’s not working!
And then I started watching you. I know it sounds crazy – I mean, you don’t make much money, you don’t drive a fancy car, you don’t party. You don’t have anything that the world says will give you IT. But of everyone I know, Joe .. . of anyone I’ve ever seen or met .. if there’s really an IT in this world, you have IT! Joe, you gotta tell me, is IT for real?
I mean, all I’m looking for is just … well, I just want some peace! And hope! Maybe even true love, if it’s not just some myth. Darn it, I want to be content, Joe! That’s all. Is that possible? Please, brother, you gotta tell me. Tell me if IT’s real, and if IT is, tell me where I can find IT! I’ll do anything ….
What’s next? Go to Part Three
–You are the salt of the world. Stay salty, my friends!
Why are you a Christian? What do you “sell” when you attempt to share your religion with others (if you ever do)?
Think of it from the other guy’s perspective. This, I would venture to say, is what many people are thinking when subjected to most “evangelism” methods offered by most “Christians” today:
If all you’re offering me is heaven when I die, then I don’t want it. Why would I want to give my life to a faith that makes me wait till I’m dead to find out whether I’m right or wrong? I can get that “promise” of a better afterlife from just about any other religion on earth. Heck, those Muslims will blow themselves up for it, they believe it so much. Why is your promise of heaven better than theirs?
Oh, so you’re throwing in a holy book, stories of long-ago leaders, and a professional holy man to help me live a “better” life? No, I think I’ll pass. Again, I can get those things anywhere. In fact, quite a few other religions have more credible holy men than you. Don’t your “clergy” get caught with their pants down, or their hand in the cookie jar, all the time? Forget about it. At least those other faiths have some discipline in their ranks!
It’s more than that? So you’re upping the offer with a “house of worship,” a community of like-minded (whatever that means!) people, songs to sing, and a weekly ritual gathering? Well, I can see that you all put on quite a show — fancy mood lights, good quality music, and that speaker guy can sure be motivational. But I think I’ll keep my Sunday mornings for football. Anyway, what religion doesn’t have holy buildings, communities, ceremonies and such? And somebody’s gotta pay for the fancy facilities and the razzle-dazzle show you put on … and I know what’s next: You’ll be trying to tell me your god wants me to help pay for it all, so we can keep the show going. No thanks.
Ok, NOW you’re getting “spiritual” on me. So I can “pray” and spill my guts to some helpline in the sky. And then there’s your “suggested” code of ethics. “Suggested,” I say, because the other “Christians” I know sure as heck don’t follow it! I see quite a few of the folks from your “church” at the liquor store, strip clubs, R-rated movies, divorce courts, etc. The only difference I see is that your religion makes them feel guilty about it all. And that “prayer” thing — you folks have nothing on the Muslims you bash so much. Those folks have the prayer thing down!
No, if you’re just offering me heaven when I die, a holy book with curious historical figures and wise saying, a place of worship, a holy man to lead the way, a weekly ceremony or “show,” a community of folks who share the same whatever you call it, an avenue for prayer, and guilt-inspiring rules for living, I don’t want it! EVERY OTHER “religion” on earth offers the same stuff — and they all point fingers at each other and say they’re wrong. Heck, even you “Christians” can’t agree. There are, what, hundreds of “churches” in my town, and NONE of them seem to do it the same way, or agree on even the most fundamental things. And you want me to pick YOURS? Gimme a break.
To heck with that! Now please, don’t knock on my door again. In fact, you know what my friend? I’ll “pray” for YOU — that you open your eyes and see that if that’s all there is to your religion, you’re WASTING YOUR TIME and THROWING AWAY YOUR LIFE.
You can get real friends from the Rotary Club or Masons, and they do a lot more good works in the community than you guys! Their gatherings are just as meaningful as a yours, and they’re not all always criticizing each other, making each other feel guilty, gossipping, putting on a false front, or asking for money! You can get that spine-tingly feeling from good music at any old concert, and heck, once you pay for your ticket there, they don’t keep trying to guilt you into giving more! You can hear MUCH better motivational speakers at a sales conference, or just buy a DVD set off an infomercial! Any professional association or community group will have a good code of ethics, and why limit yourself to one holy book, when you can have them all? I find meditation is just the same as what you call “prayer” … and that heaven thing? You know, if there is a god, I think he’ll see that I’ve lived a pretty good life, and that’s good enough for me. I sure live cleaner and more generously than most of your fellow “Christians” that I know!
So take your tracts, your oh-so-predictable “evangelism” methods, and your fake smiles – AND STOP trying to GUILT me into thinking I’m a scumbag that your god hates unless I subscribe to your religion – and leave me the heck alone!!
So if the promise of heaven, membership in “church,” and all the trappings of the Christian “religion” don’t cut the mustard, then what IS there?
(link to Part Two: http://wp.me/p1XBI6-5P)
– You are the salt of the world. Stay salty, my friends!
No, I haven’t gone all kooky on you. Don’t go sell all your stuff and start carrying signs saying “the end is near!”
I most certainly do NOT believe in some secret alarm clock in Heaven that will someday go “BING” and then the world will end. There is not a mysterious, unknowable timeline for the apocalypse. God’s not playing cosmic musical chairs with us, to see who He can catch off guard at “the end of the world.” There will be no sudden “rapture,” either, and no far-out numerology or astrology will figure it out. Studying headlines or watching Middle East politics will just drive you batty and distract you from the work at hand. The prerequisite events that will trigger end of time are not in the hands of the enemy or “antichrist.” Instead, they are in the hands of God’s sons and daughters, intentionally put there by our loving Father. “No one knows the day or the hour” because it’s in our hands, and we have free will!
Jesus said the end will come “just as it was in the days of Noah.” Noah had a building project, and so do we! The very first thing God said to man in Genesis 1, after He made us, was “go and conquer!” In Revelation 21, He says that “he who conquers will inherit all things.” In between, the entire arc of Scripture paints the picture of God raising up victorious sons and daughters who gain the character necessary to inherit His eternal throne by conquering the enemy here on earth.
The Bible says seven times that Jesus is currently seated in Heaven, waiting for this to happen. And Paul said God will continue to give gifts to men until it does. God has given us an enemy to vanquish and a Kingdom to establish, and the end won’t come till we are done. The Bible plainly spells this out for those with eyes to see.
Noah could have refused to build the ark, and God would have raised up another man. The flood came one week after the ark was done. Yet, had Noah taken a two week vacation sometime during that 120-year construction project, he wouldn’t have drowned in the flood. Instead, God would have delayed the flood by two weeks! And Jesus said the end will come ”just as it was in the days of Noah…”
The first generation of Israelites could have chosen to trust God, count the cost, and cross the Jordan, and they would have been victorious! Or, the second generation could have turned around like their parents, and God would have raised up another generation, and another, till He got His people where He wanted them. Yes, in the mystery of eternity, He saw the end from the beginning — because it’s always NOW in eternity — but that fact did not negate their free will.
Some generation, someday, will finally grasp the Gospel of the Kingdom — the universal, uderlying message of the Bible, and the message that Jesus said was His very purpose for being sent to earth — choose to trust God, count the cost, and will gain victory over the kingdom of darkness once and for all.
When they do this, it will trigger the end of time, and usher in the new heaven and the new earth. Only then (as it says in Revelation), “the angels (will) rejoice because the Bride has made herself ready,” and (as it says in Ephesians), Jesus the Head will join the Body that has finally grown to the “measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” on earth. Like Noah, we have a building project. And also like Noah, we have a choice.
I’ve worked with youth full-time for 10 years now, and have been blessed to lead hundreds to Christ. I’m not talking about getting them to raise their hands and say a prayer, or sign up to be members of a church group, or sit in a pew, or listen to “Christian” music, or even accept the factual truth of the Bible. I mean, God has used me to introduce Himself to them, personally and deeply. It has been a tough, costly and often lonely road, moreso than I ever imagined, but well worth it. I’ve also talked with hundreds of youth ministers over this past decade, and seen countless youth minstries in action (or inaction, as the case often is!). What I’m saying it, God has shown me a thing or two about what works and what doesn’t, and why.
We have to be REAL with young people — stop trying to fake them out, and start getting them out of the fake. They don’t buy the same old churchianity that’s worked for generations.
They’re the most sophisticated generation ever. Their entire world is made up of advertising messages of one form or another, and they’re highly jaded, skeptical, and disillusioned. They are HUNGRY for REAL and know it when they see it — because they’ve tried everything else. It’s just that most have just never seen it before!
When we meet them at their level — which is HIGHER than what we’re used to intellectually — leave out the religious traditions and jargon, stop trying to be “cool” and just be REAL, they respond, in a big way. Meet them where they are, personally introduce them to the Living God, and BAM — watch out!
I have genuine hope that THIS is the generation that will deliver victory. But how will they believe if they don’t hear, how will they hear if we don’t tell them, and how can tell them if we keep assuming they’re shallow and irresponsible?
I wish every youth ministry in America would trash the freaking X-boxes, skateboard ramps, pop music, pre-packaged programs and cutesy names. I wish youth ministers would stop diminishing themselves trying to “fit in” and be “cool” — trying fruitlessly to connect on a shallow, fake level, when the kids really want something REAL and DEEP.
Instead of trying to entertain them and slip in a little Jesus here and there, just sit down and BE REAL with young people! Stop playing “church” and start playing to win! Personally introduce them to the Living God, and let Him (and them!) take it from there. I can testify to you from first-hand experience that it works. They will go deeper, harder and faster then you ever imagined. Try it — you’ll be surprised! The Kingdom of God belongs to such as these!
We can choose to be the last generation!
– You are the salt of the world. Stay salty, my friends!