Monday, December 01, 2014

The Church and a Crisis of Relational Righteousness

Recently, in a blog post at Internet Monk that dealt with church growth and church decline, I added a comment that told part of my story. What I noted was a widespread lack of loving one's neighbor as one's self, in the context of the church. Here's my comment in its entirety:

Relationships are very important to my family, as they are to many. But one factor that has big impact is how one is treated. We left the last three churches we attended basically due to 1) neglect, 2) abuse, and 3) indifference. We haven’t been to a church in a while. In each of these cases, there was a significant lack of caring from the body while we were in our greatest crises in life. This included people we knew personally (and knew very well, at least we thought so) for over ten years.

I believe there is a crisis in the church of what I might call “relational righteousness.” If you make a promise to somebody, keep it. If somebody is in need, help. If you can’t help, pray with them. Invite people over for a meal. If somebody else invites you over, go. If you place somebody in charge of a ministry, let them be in charge of the ministry, and don’t meddle. Associate with the lowly. Show the most honor to the least in your midst. Actually practice the one-anothers. Stuff your choir/worship band for a while and let the addict you saved out of the gutter play “Amazing Grace” on his harmonica. It won’t hurt. Suffer not little children to be part of the church family. Really. And here is a big one…if somebody offers you help, let them help, even if you don’t need it. It may make their day. Practice and teach these things.

For my family, it is going to take a church that practices this relational righteousness for us to attend.

In light of my last post on The Dones, it is easy to see why so many people are deciding to leave a church they have attended, even for years.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Dones

Church attendance in the US has been in steady decline for decades. We all know about that. Researchers have noted that many people have given up on church altogether. We hear about their loss of faith, no longer having anything to do with religion.

But some researchers are digging deeper and finding out that many are leaving the "church," but these many are NOT leaving the Christian faith. They are simply exiting the doors of the visible church building. They still believe in God, the bible, and the one-anothers of the Christian life.

These people are not the group known as the "nones" (i.e. those who no longer profess allegiance to any denomination or even religion), but can be identified as the "dones." These are the people who are done with church. They have become fed up with the status quo. They have been ignored, neglected, used, abused, or have had any number of other things happen to them while attending their church. Now they are done.

Here is an interesting blog site called The Dones (hat tip to Eric Carpenter) that takes a look at Christians who have left the institutional church, but not Christianity.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Ezekiel 34 Series - Coming Soon

I have been reading and pondering Ezekiel 34 lately (the last year or so) and have decided to make a series of blog posts on the chapter. (Click here for Ezekiel 34, NASB)

I have long understood God's judgment against shepherds for neglecting their duties toward their sheep in this prophesy, but there are other actions of God as well. God judges between sheep; the fat and lean sheep. I will strive to touch upon the duties of shepherds in this passage and how this relates to today in America. I will also look at the distinction between fat and lean sheep. I see a parallel between ancient Israel and today's evangelical/Reformed church.

Stay tuned for the Ezekiel 34 series.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Book Almost Out: Simple Church: Unity Within Diversity

The forthcoming book I wrote about a few blog posts ago will be out in just a few weeks! With that, I will be a published author.

The final title of the book is, "Simple Church: Unity Within Diversity." Twenty-four contributors each write a chapter, with the goal of telling what we're for rather than what we're against. I have not read the book in advance, but am eagerly looking forward to all the other authors' contributions. I understand that the book will be available on December 2.

If you are interested, the book is available for pre-order either at (here ) or from the publisher, Redeeming Press (here ).

Monday, August 04, 2014

The Lack of Respect for Authority

We live in a time where there is a great lack of respect for authority. Or so the somewhat tired cliché goes. I was reminded of this recently while reading a letter from a former major league baseball player to prospective players and parents in a youth sports league he is affiliated with. Kids have a lack of respect for coaches. Parents have a lack of respect for umpires. He has experienced this for years. Well, on his sports teams, he will not tolerate such things, and will teach the players - and expect from parents - respect for authority. He also identified his Christian faith as a basis for his views on youth sports.

I have no problem with his desire to teach these things to the kids on his team. A baseball manager should teach these things. And, yes, there is a lack of respect for authority in many other areas of life as well: politics, religion, law enforcement, family. But as I thought this over, I realized that the lack of respect for authority we so often see around us could actually be due to a lack of respectable authority to give respect to.

The greatest lack of respect for authority comes from those in authority who abuse that authority. They do not respect the limits of their authority. They do not respect what is right, and will therefore use their authority to dominate others.

With the growing effect of the internet and social media in our culture, it may be becoming more difficult to be an abuser of authority. People are learning that they can tell their stories to many people that they never could before, and they are taking advantage of the technology to set things right. This should be viewed as a positive thing.

I'm wondering if the result of all this will be a cleaning of house of sorts, with bad holders of authority eventually being replaced by people who are actually trustworthy with authority. Only time will tell.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Jesus: A Disembodied Head?

"But we shouldn't worship the church. We worship Jesus."

I have heard this sentiment a few times and once as a direct quote when discussing shortcomings of the church and what the church should be doing, in the context of what type of church I'd like to attend. While it is no doubt true that many people place far too much emphasis on the church - or their own church - this response I believe reveals how some people think about the church.

If I wish for the day when I can attend a church where there is fellowship like in the bible, and the church practices the one-anothers like in the bible, and when I'm down in life people in the church will help me (and vice versa) like in the bible, and where we have real meals together like in the bible, why would somebody think this is me worshipping the church? There is such an emphasis on not having others connected to you at the same time as there is such an emphasis on relying totally on Jesus, I have to ask a question. Is the Jesus that I am being shown by the churches I have attended a Jesus that is a disembodied head?

The bible shows us that we are all connected together, by joints and ligaments and that we are all members of one another. We are the body of Christ, so we are actually part of Jesus. Saul persecuted Jesus himself by persecuting the church, and Jesus will judge based on what we do to the least of these, since we're actually doing those things to Jesus himself. When I am taught to rely solely upon Jesus for everything, I am being presented with a disembodied head, the only thing to which I am connected, rather than an entire body of which I am a part.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Forthcoming Book: "What We're For"

It's time to talk about a new book in the works. Eric Carpenter, blogger at A Pilgrim's Progress, and Jeremy Myers are putting together a new book, tentatively titled "What We're For." Yours truly will be contributing a chapter to that book. You can read a bit further about this project at Eric's blog here.

Eric and Jeremy have lined up about 25 people who will write a chapter each. This book will be about the positives of the "simple church" concept, hence "what we're for," rather than the negatives often written about institutional church.

My chapter will be about one of the things we're for, roughly, "a church that clings to Scriptural truth in all aspects of life." A broad topic to be sure, but limiting that topic to about 2000 words was an exercise in just about everything! My chapter was completed and submitted several weeks ago, and we've been through the editing. The book is scheduled to be out this fall. I've never been a published author before (in the traditional understanding, of course, as there's that "publish" button on my blog editor), so this is an exciting project to tackle. I will write more as the publish date approaches.