Friday, April 30, 2010

Reinventing the Church --- Please!

If you read the USA Today this week, you may have seen the headline, Survey: 72% of Millennials more spiritual than religious. The USA Today was quick to report the bad news for churches and referenced the extensive research recently completed by LifeWay here in Nashville. The LifeWay study will be included in a new book entitled, “The Millennials: Connecting to America’s Largest Generation" by LifeWay president, Dr. Thom Rainer and his son Jess.

Millennials are those born between 1980 and 1991 and include our two children, now adults.

I’ve recently spoken with the fine people at LifeWay regarding this research and there is promise as well as a warning in these results. For one thing, this Millennial is actually more spiritual than expected. The survey found for example that while the Millennials hold diverse beliefs, about 60% say that their religious faith is very important in their lives today. Further even a greater percentage agreed that Christian churches are still relevant in America today.

65% however reported that they never or rarely ever attend church, despite the fact that the same percentage, 65% identified themselves as Christians.

The challenge here for those of us that are leading churches is to understand that we need to continually re-invent the church. "The most dangerous trends in the church are the trends we don’t see." (Quote from D.A. Carson to the Acts29 Network, September 2008). Many churches are reinventing themselves and finding ways to reach out to all generations and particularly to the lost. They are introducing dynamic worship and culturally relevant teachings, all the while continuing or re-committing to Biblical authenticity.

Most other churches however are in complete denial. Their typically shrinking congregations are wondering why fewer and fewer people are attracted to their services. Their attendance has been in decline for year or at best is failing to keep up with the population growth of the community. Visitors in many of these churches are becoming rarer than family night in today’s busy society.

This Millennial generation is now coming of age. They are having children and becoming like previous generations responsible and serious adults. They have a spiritual leaning that is God given (2 Cor 5:14) We constantly need to reinvent the church to attract those that are longing for truth in a world that is becoming more and more indifferent.

Monday, April 26, 2010

A Bimmer (BMW) or a Bummer

First off, here are some definitions: (source MotorTrend)
  • "Bimmer" - proper and accepted slang for BMW cars. Most people don't know this.
  • "Beamer/Beemer" - incorrect term for BMW cars; reserved and accepted slang for BMW motorcycles. You will hear this term used incorrectly by many people.
  • "Bummer" - when you have to push your BMW
This morning, I saw one of my neighbors pushing his 2002 BMW into a parking space. It’s a nice vehicle, a 540i that looks like it’s really in good shape and has held up well for its age. It was obviously recently waxed and the windows and chrome wheels were sparkling.

But he was pushing it into the parking space because it stalled as he was coming around the corner and it wouldn’t start.

Bummer!

My mind immediately starting thinking about the contrast between how nice the vehicle looked vs. how poorly the vehicle was performing. This is not a commentary on BMW’s or their reliability; rather it’s a great opportunity to apply the same contrast on our own lives.

Often, we look pretty good on the outside. We may have the ability to appear to be in good shape, recently cleaned up and even our eyes may be sparkling. On the inside however, we are stalled.

The Bible has a lot to say about what is on the inside vs. what is on the outside. In Psalms 51 the Psalmist declares,
“Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me”.
Just like an old BMW, it’s relatively easy for us to try to project something outwardly but without the right thing going on inside, our outward life is ultimately just a bummer.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Are You Useful or Useless?

I have a few items in my bottom drawer that are utterly useless to me. Things like a perfectly good power cord specifically designed for a particular power supply that no longer functions, a number of software CD's for operating versions that I don't use, a heating element for a coffee cup that has been lost.

In time, these items will be discarded and thrown into the trash. I'm not a sentimental person so it will be relatively easy for me to dispose of useless items.

I'm reminded however that my life is also be useful. I don't ever want to be something that no longer has purpose or worth. The Apostle Paul, writing to Timothy, asked that Mark would be sent to him in Rome as Mark was "useful" to him (2 Tim 4:11). This word "useful" is a Greek word that is also translated "profitable". Paul uses a play on the same word when he writes about another person that is useful to him.

Onesimus was a run-away slave. The Greek word "Onesis" means "profitable" and "serviceable" (ref Strongs G3682) and Paul let's all of us know that while Onesimus was once utterly useless and even rebellious, Paul found that he could be useful in ministry.

If you want to be useful, you may need to find your Paul. If you have lost your usefulness, find a way to minister to others and become profitable once again in the Kingdom. The question we need to ask is, "Are we useful or useless?"

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Looking for Mr./Ms. Right?


So do you think that maybe there is a soul mate out there for you?

You know, the one person that will make you complete. If you find him or her, you’ll be able to play “Bless the Broken Road” at your wedding and know that there was one person that every sign post pointed to and that everything was all part of grand plan to bring the two of you together.

That may be a very romantic and sentimental thought but I was asked recently if it is Biblical. In other words, does the Bible say that there is a perfect person out there for you, what some would say is a “soul mate”?

Great question and here is my direct and somewhat thoughtful answer.

“God is more interested in you being the right person than you finding the right person.”

If that went by you so fast you didn’t catch it, let me repeat: “God is much more interested and intent on you becoming the right person, including the right person in a relationship and ultimately a marriage, than you finding that person that will ring every bell, or make you happy in every way."

The instructions in the Bible regarding relationships and marriage are pretty simple. Among these instructions are the principles of honor and respect. These principles start when a couple starts dating. The bible never tells us that we are to get all of our happiness from another person or in sexual gratification, before or after marriage.

The Bible says that happiness actually comes from contentment. God’s love for us is never-ending and unfailing. God is the one that provides for us, give us purpose and ultimately gives you your spouse, your mate and the person that completes you (note, that is to be one person, don't read it as three).

Here’s another way to answer the question, "Is there one special person out there to be your soul mate?"

Long before we were born, God knew us. He loved us so much that He sent Christ to die for us so that we may have eternal life with Him. In His love He has provided all things for us (Phil 4:19). These things included ultimately the family we are born into and the person that we marry.

If we are willing to allow God to lead, we then follow in the footsteps as He directs. Trusting in God, keeping yourself pure and dedicated to what God wants for your life will lead you to that soul mate. Here is what the Psalmist declares:

“How can those who are young keep their way pure?
By living according to your word.” Psalm 119: 9-10 (TNIV)

Friday, April 09, 2010

Peace Through Strength

Recently there has been some talk about a change in the nuclear posture of the United States and many are questioning if we are departing from our "Peace through Strength" military doctrine.

Many attribute this doctrine to President Ronald Reagan who definitely considered it to be central in both his military as well as foreign policy. Others attribute the doctrine all the way back to the Romans who had a phrase, “Si vis Pacem, para bellum (if you want peace, prepare for war).

While the Romans likely understood the concept, God has a slightly different prospective.

The prophet Isaiah, writing during the time of King Hezekiah and during a time of great military and political strength in Israel, wrote the following warning, "Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and who depend on horses! They trust in the number of chariots and in the great strength of charioteers. They do not look to the Holy One of Israel and they do not seek the Lord’s help. (Isaiah 31:1)

The Apostle Paul told that when we are weak, we are strong because the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles of this world make us dependent on God which is the source of true strength. Rather than becoming weaker, we become stronger.

So while for countries and with regard to military strength there may be “Peace through Strength”, for us personally we actually can have “Peace through Weakness”. Paul tells the Corinthians about a particular weakness that he had. Paul said that three times he appealed to the Lord. “But He (the Lord) said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Therefore, I will most gladly boast all the more about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may reside in me. (2 Corinthians 12:10)

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