Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Me or Thee? The P-Generation

I’m in the business of spiritual growth. I’ve realized recently that I have given up any chance of the American dream for the sake of walking with individuals as they seek to know Jesus. My house is sold, my car is sold, my cable is gone, there’s no pipeline from our folks, and vacations consist of Golden Spoon or maybe camping. Not that I’m great or noble but I am totally committed to building Christian community and my wife and I are content with being poor for the sake of the gospel. The hard thing about this pursuit is the realization that most ‘Christians’ might not really be into developing Christian community.

Let’s face it, we are a consumer driven culture both secular and Christian. Things happen at such a fast pace these days that if the attention isn’t grabbed in a few minutes then people move on.

How does the Church survive? I guess the road is long and narrow and few will go down it…some hippy looking guy must have said that!

Our culture places a high value on self and the nuclear family.

I recently read an article that was labeling the ‘Next Generation’…so cheesy, as the P-Generation. P stands for producer and the article referred to how younger people, anyone for that matter, can simply produce their own life however they want. No longer does one need to buy a full CD, they can simple grab 1 or 2 songs from an artist off I-tunes and move on. Social networking has also created an interesting ‘me’ culture. Do we really care about Sally dropping her kids off at school or Rick trying to figure out what to do for dinner?

I like the I-tunes analogy because I believe it’s this very concept that is threatening the foundation of community, especially within the church.

Now, don’t freak out and think I’m being legalistic….I-tunes are cool, I’ve neve used it bu it’s cool….don’t worry.

The church has been going this direction long before Steve Jobs or Facebook. The church has succumbed to the fact that as congregations we simply can’t all sit under the same roof and worship God. Let’s be honest, this is why we have traditional, contemporary, emerging, blah-blah- blah services within the same church.

Keep em’ happy.

In our post-modern culture it’s both funny and depressing to watch how the church responds. I’ve seen everything from worship teams that will cover Guns N’ Roses but switch the lyrics to be Christian, to ‘Come to Church and win a car!’


It’s actually really easy to build a large church these days, just don’t place a high value on relationship and just target one audience (18-35, hymn crowd, etc).

We, the Church, need to realize that the best thing to give away to this post-modern, confused, everything’s cool culture are answers. Let me get really cliché; Jesus is the answer. Commitment to Jesus, the Church, and our community is the answer….yes, all 3.

How serious do we take our faith? Do we know how, or do we, pursue God outside of gathering times? When Jesus came He showed how the law was a spiritual issue, not a legal issue. You know the story, Murder – Hate, Adultery – Lust, etc. Well, Romans 12:1-2 describes worship as a heart issue, a being issue not an instrument issue.

If we are learning to spiritually worship God shouldn’t that make us accommodating with others? Shouldn’t we always yield our desires to see our brothers and sisters blessed? Meekness allows us to worship in different genres, befriend difficult people. It’s not my will but Thy will.

We HAVE to figure out how to do this together. Everyone suffers because of this immaturity and lack of personal devotion. Pastors have become slaves to appeasement, churches have become homogenous, and the world continues to see the church as powerless.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Too Much Cream in the Coffee

So I'm on the verge of no longer being a 'Christian' but being a follower of Jesus. I live in America so naturally I am a part of the Christian movement here in the United States, but I am really starting to feel like a foreigner in my land.

When I look at Jesus and I look at American Evangelical Christianity I barely see the same thing. Jesus taught that the pursuit of happiness was to rid our self of all exterior affirmation and solely find our identity in Him. He called us to sacrifice everything, our time, pursuit of happiness, our will...everything to follow Him.

To the Christian this is absolute death to self and it SUCKS.

To use a Mark Driscoll analogy; the Christian is the only one who has the right to complain about following Jesus. We all choose hell. We all want nothing to do with God. BUT, God intervenes in our life and saves us from our self. Literally, He took our free will of not wanting to follow Him and overwhelmed us with His grace to follow Him.

Somehow, A.E. Christianity has done away with surrender and allowed us to continue to have both. We can now be 'Christians' AND pursue our own desires.

The foundation of our country was a little about religious freedom and A LOT about pursuing happiness.

Sure we had to have a little genocide and get rid of those red people, sure we needed those dark people to build our empire....BUT we can practice our religion free from the Queen AND pursue our life, our liberty, and our happiness.

So now-a-days the church isn't as racist as it used to be but, boy, we sure like to pursue our 'self'. Sure, we're a generous people that donate money to causes but we'll leave it up to 'those people' called to serve the poor. Sure, we like new 'sexy' words like community and discipleship but we don't actually have to do it outside of Sunday's.

I've realized something about myself. I've always wanted to live more radically but have always been scared. I've tried to attach myself to communities that can pursue surrender together but I realize others are scared as well.

I just want to be able to pray with people, worship God, LEARN who Jesus is, and go freaking do the stuff! And I don't just want to do this once a week. The really hard thing about this is that I have to sacrifice myself and my impulse. My 'old creation' is always beneath the surface. My old creation just wants to surf, drink beer, and watch porn. I'm just being honest. My old self doesn't want to gather with people and pray, worship, learn about Jesus, and serve others. My my old self, surely, doesn't want to do that daily.

This is probably why Jesus calls the road "narrow and difficult" and "FEW will go down it."

Maybe this is why I'm so skeptical of Christian's, because FEW people actually will follow Christ. Jesus might me our 'homeboy' but are we willing to give up all of us to live in community with Him and others?

This is why I say I'm on the verge of no longer being a Christian but being a follower of Jesus: It's just too EASY to be a Christian in our society.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

City on a Hill

So last Sunday a night some friends gathered and we were discussing culture and church. We started by identifying the make-up of the culture we live in. Money, materialism, status, and freedom were shouted out. We agreed to sum all of this up as individualism.

This was important for us to do because we are talking about building a community. The trap, I have seen, is that we (churches) simply read Acts 2 as the standard of church and try to live that out as a community. What we tend to forget is the culture that the early church was a part of.

The Roman Empire was heavy on a class system (rich/poor, slave/free, Jew/Greek). It was also central to the worship of Caesar. Common slogans were, "Caesar is Lord" and "There's no other name by which man can be saved except that of Caesar." Roman citizens would gather and worship the Caesar and if they were shown to be in true worship then they were called and 'ekklesia'...or church.



The church was a dangerous place. To join it meant you were risking your life. They took the propaganda from the Roman government and made it their own.

"Jesus is Lord"
"There's no other name by which man can be save expect that of Jesus"
"There's no Jew, nor Greek, nor free, nor slave, nor man, nor woman"

They shattered the class system by sharing their possessions and caring for the poor; they worshiped and devoted themselves to the Apostle's teachings; they had all things in common.

This is probably the most punk rock movement in history.

I'm reminded of Rage Against the Machine when Zack says, "Why stand on a silent platform, fight the war, f*ck the norm."

In love, the church stood up, declared Jesus (not Caesar) is Lord, and they lived as ONE; having all things in common.

So then, we agreed Sunday night that our American culture is summed up as being individualistic. We then asked if our church reflects the American culture; the answer was yes. We can't just sit and wag our fingers so we asked if we reflect this American-Evangelical culture; the answer was yes.

Here's a sidebar story: My friend and I recently had lunch and he asked me what I do for my church. As I was sharing my thoughts on building a community that is counter-cultural he asked if people were willing to do it. I said that the majority, now, won't. His response was, "Man I'd hate to be in your position."

It struck me as we were talking: Having a community that reflects the Acts 2 community is highly spiritual. The Holy Spirit was extremely present in that community, and it was only by the power of the Holy Spirit that people were able to live counter-culturally.

I think we lack the Holy Spirit, but I think it's accessible.

An insight into the early church: Before Pentecost came the Apostle's were waiting for the Holy Spirit to come, because Jesus promised it would. They didn't start gathering AFTER the Spirit descended but BEFORE. They were all together in one place praying. They wanted it...big time.

They must have remembered Jesus' words in John 16:7, "It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, The Helper (Holy Spirit) will not come to you. But if I go, I will send Him to you."

It was better for Jesus, in the flesh, to leave.

A young man said to me last night, "I just wish Jesus would come back and run the church."

"It was to your advantage that I go away."

If the Apostle's sat around feeling sorry for themselves, or pointing fingers at what is wrong, who knows what would've happened. However, they had something I, and most of us lack; Faith. They expected the Holy Spirit to come and help them build a community.

Do I? Do you?

When my friend asked me if he offended me, by saying he would hate to have my job, I replied no. The burden is not on me to convince people to believe. I can't make anyone want to be a part of following Jesus or building a community, that's the Holy Spirit's job. However, I felt convicted to continue to pray and seek the Lord with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Jesus loves the Church. He might be sad with its current state, but He still loves it; us. I know He wants to have a healthy bride that is a radiant city on a hill.

I want to be a part of that.

It starts with my own personal devotion.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


I had lunch with some friends today and we were discussing corporate worship. For all my underground Christian friends I am fully aware that worhsip entails our whole life so please don't be distracted...but this post is specifically about 'singing' worship. As we were discussing the subject it was obvious that we were all desiring to cultivate a community that would, with passion, worship God together.

Because we are not a homogeneous group it is a little difficult for people to be stretched, open, or quick to embrace what could be seen as a slightly different worship style. The classic finger pointing could be from an older generation down (too loud, too fast, etc) but I was fully aware of the criticalness of a younger generation (boring, outdated, etc). So the question that was running through my mind was, "How do you solve this?" It's an honest question that many churches ask but I was reminded of the answer, you can't!

Worship is an expression the body does to proclaim the glory of God. This proclamation is a spiritual issue. If our affections are for the Lord then we desire to give Him praise. During these times worship is powerful because we are either aware of our brokenness and we cry out to God or we are aware of God's riches and grace given to us causing us to cry out to God. Being that you can't make someone be affectionate towards God then how do you lead a community in worship?

I have been a part of all types of services, from traditional to post-modern, where the performance of the worship team has been phenomenal but, frankly, the worship time was completely dead. Sure, the crowd clapped after a song or followed the directions of the leader; "Stand up, Sit down, Let's pray" but there was no joy. So, here's my question: Will an electric guitar with a slight overdrive make younger people want to worship God? Will a well played organ make older people want to worship God? It may make them more tolerable of worship but, surely, it doesn't make them a good worshiper.

The key to being a good worshiper is to actually WANT to worship God. Isn't it fun to worship the Lord when we actually are walking with Him? Isn't it great to cry out to the Lord in our moments of clarity that we are broken and in desperate need of Him? Isn't it amazing to praise our God when we've seen Him move mountains in our life?

Repent, Believe, Repent and Believe

My buddy Brad gave a good analogy on having faith in Jesus. It goes: I can believe that a chiropractor is a legitimate doctor that is licensed, works on people, and is available; however, I don't believe that going to a chiropractic works, so, I use modern medicine and go to the hospital instead.

What I have began to witness, a lot, lately is that people believe in Jesus to the extent that He existed, died, and rose from the grave but when it comes to Him solving their problem they turn to 'modern medicine' instead.

Faith is believing that the teachings of Jesus offer healing and wholeness. Our faith rests in the promises of the Christ. Jesus dying on the the cross and raising from the grave is backwards thinking. Repentance is our admittance for the need of the cross but BELIEF is faith in the promises of the cross.

To say we have faith in Jesus but not turn to His teachings for healing illuminates our lack of faith in Him.

Here's something pretty hardcore: When we deny Christ, and sin, we confess that we do not have faith in His promises. We actually don't believe in Jesus, not salvationally, but that He offers a better solution.

Faith says, "Yes!" to Jesus' teachings. "I believe that the teachings of Jesus IS the solution to my problem."

Simply repenting and acknowledging Christ death and resurrection isn't all that hard to do. Putting FAITH in Jesus' teachings as a better way of life is.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I'm not that good at math but...

I know that I have 7 friends who are divorced or separated and waiting for a divorce. I also have countless friends who are on the verge of trading in their faith for good. I was never any good at math but I'm pretty sure these are not positive numbers.

With each case the church has played a major part in these peoples lives. My 7 friends who are divorced were ALL staff members in their church. One of them was also a Marriage Family Therapist.

All divorced.

Each one of these people have had deep encounters with the Lord but still gave up.

Some of the offspring hate the church and mom and dad because of this.

Sometimes you work through a situation and you identify who you're mad at, what they did, how this affected your relationship, pray a blessing and forgive them, and then identify what character flaw was revealed in you. This last step is how we learn what the root of our problem is. There are instances, however, when you realized that actually there is no character flaw in you. An example of this would be physical, emotional, or sexual abuse. When this is present you simple say, "Mom and/or Dad are sick." This means that their sickness is so disturbing that it abuses the innocent which is totally out of your control.

For so many that have been chewed up and spit out by this beast we call church we simple have to say that mom and dad are sick. This act is on of spiritual abuse. Many families go to church looking for a new life or to further their growth in Christ but the church has been ill-equipped to solve their problem.

The church can teach us the do's and dont's but not how to deal with the root symptom. For example, men often struggle with pornography. The solution often taught is confess when you've fallen, put spy ware on your computer, look down when an attractive woman walks by, etc.

NONE of this is the root problem.

You haven't dealt with the source.

This is why spiritual step work is vital to Christian living. When we understand what drives us to act out (lust, anger, gossip) we are able to find victory. The source could be a variety of things; I am lonely, I am controlling, I am arrogant, I am scared.

These are all character defects and they are the source to our brokenness. Most churches do not teach you to embrace your brokenness but to suppress it and 'try harder'. Soon enough this leads people to self destruction because ultimately they can find no victory.

The goal is not 'Victory over my character defects', the goal is 'Victory in the midst of my character defects'.

Being a new creation doesn't mean the old isn't still present. It means that we are walking in a new way under new principles. Our old creation pops up all the time. Suppressing that or being condemned by that is a bad understanding of grace.

The principle of Poor in Spirit.

Total surrender.

This is not weakness but strength.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The world didn't end?

I'm just taking a chance here, being that it's Tuesday night at 7:18 and the results aren't final yet, but the world didn't end! A liberal African-American is the president of the United States!!! For many this is amazing and for many there is fear.

The election of Barack Obama says a lot. It's demonstrates that an African-American from a broken home can have hope, that in and of itself is beautiful. It demonstrates that an inexperienced Senator with a liberal voting record can become the leader of the free world by being inspirational and eloquent in his speech. It demonstrates that Americans are willing to take risk and not just be conservative or centrist. It also demonstrates that a majority is counting on government to help solve their problem.

So what does this mean? For the Christian it should mean nothing. After all, hasn't the church been on the foreground of racial reconciliation, spreading our wealth, fighting for social justice, making peace with our enemies abroad, etc.? Don't forget I tend to be sarcastic.

Let's go down the fear road for a minute. What if the worst judgments about President Obama are true? What if he's a closet socialist, maybe even a Muslim? What if the the rich are taxed more than 40% of their income. What if jobs continue to dry up and go over oversees like they have been? What if we get attacked again by terrorists? What if our freedoms are threatened?

Will this effect how you live as a Christian?

Let's go down a more positive road. What if President Obama brings us out of our economic disaster? What if the middle class is restored? What if disenfranchised African-American community see President Obama's election as the last hurdle for equality and begin to thrive. What if America rebuilds it's reputation with other countries continuing to lessen the threat of terrorism at home?

Will this effect how you live as a Christian?

Remember, YOU ARE THE SALT OF THE EARTH. It was never, "Behold, Obama who will restore the middle class" nor "Behold, McCain who will protect us and allow us to pursue prosperity", rather, it was, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world." Jesus didn't come here to put the church in power politically but to empower her spiritually to help solve the spiritual problem the world, our nation, is in need of.

So please remember, the day after, that our security is not in the policies of elected officials, our wealth is not measured by hard work in our vocation, our freedom is not in democracy but, instead, you already live in the Kingdom of Heaven when you are poor in spirit. Also, our influence as the church is NEVER dependant on what government we are under but we are influential when we are willing to care for the sick, fight for the oppressed, seek justice, and live a life of love that is foreign to the very culture we are a part of.

MxPx once said, "Politics-Shmolitics, it's too confusing" and I would agree with this below average punk band.