Monday, October 27, 2008

Discipleship Challenged

Today, if we look around, we see churches that have great buildings, cool kid programs, are technically savvy, and culturally relevant. However, if the truth be told, many are also "Discipleship Challenged".

All too often, we just aren't doing discipleship AT ALL. That's a tragedy but likely also the reason that many of our Evangelical churches are failing. We fail not so much by declining attendance but by becoming more and more like the rest of the world.

As Evangelicals, we should be defined by two commands, typically known as the Great Commandment and the Great Commission.

The great commandment is actually two where ( in Mark 28) Jesus said, "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'There is no commandment greater than these."

However it is the Great Commission that is largely ignored by the church. After Jesus rose from the dead he spent another fifty days teaching and preparing His disciples. Just before he ascended into heaven, Jesus gave them and us a command: "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

Becoming a disciple is not the same as becoming a member of a church like it was some kind of club. The word disciple means "to follow" and "to learn". It also has the connotation of adhering to a person and imitating a person. That person is none other than Jesus.

The early church grew because believers invested in other people and made disciples. Many churches today invest in buildings and hope that some educational program will make disciples. Discipleship however has always been relational and involved reaching and mentoring and teaching. Just like Jesus!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

More Faith, More Compassion

A recent Gallup survey conducted worldwide found that there was a direct correlation between a faith and giving. People that identified themselves as being “highly religious” (I personally don’t like that term) are much more likely to have an active faith in each of three behaviors that Gallup surveyed: giving, volunteering and personal involvement.

For example, in the Americas, people who report that religion is important to their daily lives and who also report having attended a religious service in the past week are 39% more likely to recently have donated money to a charity, 61% more likely to have volunteered their time to an organization in the past month and 14% more likely to have helped a stranger or someone that they didn’t know in the past month.


It’s refreshing to know that “faith”, however defined, is active and not passive. For those that are Christians, the message of the cross is one of unconditional love and compassion. While Christ serves as our ultimate example of unconditional love and compassion, we are clearly told “go and do likewise” The example of the sheep and the goats that Jesus told (Matthew 25) of the end times and eternal judgment is clear about how our faith needs to be active: For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'


Faith, compassion, generosity, self-less love are all the visible reminders of a faith-filled life.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Reconstruction Coming

Too many of our politicians and news personalities will mention the present economic crisis and then in the same sentence make a reference to the Great Depression from 1929-1941. I really don't think we are headed to another great depression but hopefully, there is a reconstruction coming. We'll be fortunate if the depth of the economic downturn is not as severe nor the time period as extended.

The Great Depression comparison is not that surprising as much of the political and economic sentiment in 1929 and 1930 is similar to what we hear from our not-so-great statesmen of today.

Take for example the Stock Market crash of 1929. The years preceding the crash were a time of great prosperity. The stock market was going through the roof and while there was a charge that the "rich were getting richer", most historians agree that all economic classes were prospering.

However, too much debt, too much leverage and the banks ultimately failed. A situation not unlike today in many ways. For example, the percentage of households buying cars on instalment more than tripled between 1919 and 1929, rising from 4.9% to 15.2%. Home mortgages were also on the rise as easy-credit seemed to improve the standard of living for most Americans.

The Republicans were blamed and the Dems won. While Franklin Roosevelt was an impressive political figure and was head-of-state during World War II, few of the campaign promises of the Roosevelt platform of 1932 were honored. The massive national debt of the previous administration under Herbert Hoover reached a high of 40% of GDP, but Roosevelt's debt ratio went well over 100% of GDP by the time the war had started in 1941 and of course higher afterwards. Expansive new government programs of the New Deal expanded the federal government. Unemployment, the cruel output of a depression, which today stands at about 6.1 %, was never lower than 17% during the Roosevelt administration and was at 25% when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.

Hopefully, a reconstruction is coming. A reconstruction of our economy based on principles rather than simply opportunity; and a spiritual reconstruction of our lives based on Biblical principles rather than popular and contemporary fads and myths. We can all pray that the times and season of the transition will be relatively short and not as severe as the Great Depression.

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