25 thoughts on “The Church and The Culture

  • May 19, 2009 at 2:35 pm
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    The “church” always grows the fastest and “authentic” christianity flourishes in the soil of hard times and persecution. The first century witnessed the “exposion” of Christianity built upon the blood of the martyered saints when believing in Jesus ran the risk of losing ones possessions and also their life. The ‘church” today is at its best in countries whereever this reality is still true.

    However, most “christians” today in America completely ignore their brothers and sisters in Christ overseas who are suffering and literally being tragically persecuted and martyred daily for their “faith” in Jesus Christ”. There is literally no thought given or “prayer” offered for them in our “modern churches of convenience”. Church leadership is too busy “marketing” Jesus to the “seekers by serving “Lattes and Mocha delites and providing uplifting and “positive” messages. After all, it is thought we are “competing” for “their” attention with sunday sports, the material goodies of this world and other more “relevant” churches arouind the corner. We want them to “feel” comfortable walking in the front door– we act like WE NEED THEM!

    Maybe this helps explain the current predicament the American Church finds itself in. There is simply to little difference between the churched and unchurched in behavior and life choices. Why join the group that looks and acts alot like you? Jesus gives “LIVING WATER” and “REST” and a journey to a RADICAL LIFE WITH HIM! Of course, this is exactly what people are really “seeking”.

    But in America, Church and culture are often interchangeable. And Church in America within in the next generation– perhaps the lyrics form the Old tune American Pie sums it up best “And the three men I admire most, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, they’ve caught the last train for the coast– the day the music died!

    Terry H.

  • May 25, 2009 at 8:09 pm
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    One of the things I am learning is that we need to pay better attention to what a Christian really is in this culture. A true Christian is a follower of Christ – they can be identified by their fruits:

    But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23 NASB)

    Jesus spoke about this issue quite a bit in Matthew 7:

    “So then, you will know them by their fruits. “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.
    (Matthew 7:20-21 NASB)

    I believe that our cultural lax way of defining Christianity is doing us a great deal of harm!

    It’s time to start patrolling for false doctrine and false teachers and calling them on their heresy.

    But we can’t go about this with an axe and chopping people down. We must be gentle, patient, kind, and above all have love.

    Anyway, that’s my 2 cents for now.

  • May 26, 2009 at 8:19 am
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    The aversion by the church to show people the Jesus Way is staggering to me. What is there to fear? Empty seats,and budgets that don’t get met. That answer is much too simplistic. All behavior stems from the heart. The heart is where our choices are made driven by our thoughts and our feelings. So what do our leaders think and feel when given the option to encourage their flocks to seek Jesus through the spiritual practices, offering them these experiences within a worship service and encouraging them to go on retreat frequently that lead them to more than not take a pass. Spiritual Formation happens in community as much as on an individual basis. Our congregations souls and hearts are increasingly crying out to know and love Jesus with all their heart, mind and soul. Consumer Christianity has run its course, it’s time to restore to the church the traditions that made it the influencer of the culture not the influencee.

  • May 26, 2009 at 9:14 am
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    The question I have is this: Can the Church truly develop Spiritual Formation when it is functioning in an attractional model?

    People today “go to church,” whereas the Apostles and early members WERE the Church. That’s a big distinction.

    Today people go for an emotional high while watching a show – little to no interaction required. Even in “sunday school” formats, it is more lecture or question/answer than true life transformation.

    If form is developed based on function, then today’s church is developed for passivity!

    Spiritual growth can not occur by osmosis! It requires testing, utilization, trial, perseverance, and Faith. That just simply can not happen on a grand scale in today’s church model.

    The Church needs to get lean and develop communitas as well as community. Communitas is defined as a community that leaves the safety of walls and journeys together into the wild. Alan Hirsch wrote a great book on the subject.

    We as Christians need to leave the comfort of our buildings and journey together into the mission fields of our own backyards! This can only happen in smaller, more active and dynamic groups – 10-20 people.

    I think it is time to reclaim our Apostolic traditions and emulate the early church! Meet in homes, develop true community, lean on the Holy Spirit for guidance, use ALL of our Spiritual gifts! It can be done! It IS being done.

    KM

  • May 26, 2009 at 9:50 am
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    Kevin: Again you have come to the core of the issue. The church must leave the building and be the church. Spiritual Formation happens best in community. It is being done and will be the norm quicker than anyone could imagine. Small is the new big!

    georgea

  • May 26, 2009 at 10:33 am
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    I’d rather see 5,000 house churches than one church of 50,000!

  • May 26, 2009 at 11:13 am
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    Church and Culture is such a huge topic. It is a war – the princes of this world versus the Prince of Peace. We are at a critical junction – do we chose to keep one foot in this world and one foot in the Kingdom, or do we commit?

    I choose to commit and go to war.

  • May 26, 2009 at 11:38 am
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    “the civilest of wars”

  • June 5, 2009 at 11:05 am
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    There is no doubt but that Christians are “at war”! Unfortunately,the “attractional model” and mega-churches do little to “equip” and prepare the saints with the necessary spiritual weapons to engage the spiritual dark forces of this world triumphantly. In fact, they rarely mention the tremendous struggle or even discuss the ongoing spiritual warfare at many of these mega-services. I’m suggesting that this is “intentional” so as to downplay the rigors of an authentic walk with Christ which traditionally has been the accepted norm throughout the preceding centuries. More bodies in the pews and more bucks in the offering plate! There is only “infants milk” being provided in the churches–not the authentic true “meat” of the body of Christ! When is the last time you even heard a sermon about “sin” or especially false prophets and false doctrine so prominent as topics in the New Testament? They are conspicuously absent–Why?

    Currently, “secular humanism” is the rapidly spreading and accepted “religion” of the day in America. Traditional Christianity is finding itself more and more marginalized in our culture. America is in the midst of a struggle for its very “soul”–a life and death struggle over whether the God of the Christian Bible will even be allowed to voice an opinion or have any input whatsoever in the public square! There are many “cultural Christians” in America who are not willing to even “fight the good fight” and even engage culture on this issue at this time. They are even unaware of whats at stake and may side with the culture in the end. As predicted, in the last days perilous time will come! The perils here for even a place at the table for traditional Christian beliefs in America are obvious. Could it be that the “attractional church model” now so prevalent in American culture largely reflects the church prophesied at the end of the church age–the church at Laodicea?

    Terry

  • July 20, 2009 at 11:03 am
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    The Spirit of the Disciplines p32-34

    Willard has been explaining that a major failure of modern Christianity is relegating it to eternity in Heaven or Hell and because of that we have a shocking lack of transformed lives w/in the ‘Church.’

    But we must cut to the root of the poisonous assumption that normal acts are excluded from our life in God. How can we do this? How can we come to grips with such a pervasive and powerful tendency in Christian thought and practice that actually removes our saving relationship with God from all the little events that make up our lives?

    We must, in fact, do nothing less than engage in a radical rethinking of the Christian conception of salvation. What does it mean to be “saved?” What do people understand when they hear “salvation,” “redemption,” and other New Testament terms used to refer to God’s action in restoring women and men to their intended place in his world? Is it possible that we’ve been robbed of the words’ true and coherent concepts? It is possible that, through historical process and the drift of language use to reflect special theological interests, we’ve lost touch with the root meaning of concepts that would make grace and human personality fit like hand in glove when it comes to the process of Christian discipleship? I believe that is exactly what’s happened.

    We vigorously reject shallow thinking and erroneous conceptualization on the part of a computer analyst or bridge designer or brain surgeon. For some strange reason, though, we find it easy to put our minds away when it comes to religion, when it comes to bringing the same type of care to our faith as we would to other subjects. But, in reality, we need to be even more careful with our religious teachers and theologians. The religion teacher’s subject matter is at least as inaccessible as that of other professionals and, of course, it is much more important.

    One specific errant concept has done inestimable harm to the church and God’s purpose with us — and that is the concept that has restricted the Christian idea of salvation to mere forgiveness of sins. Yet it is so much more. Salvation as conceived today is far removed from what it was in the beginnings of Christianity and only by correcting it can God’s grace in salvation be returned to the concrete, embodied existence of our human personalities walking with Jesus in his easy yoke.

    Once salvation is relegated to mere forgiveness of sin, though, the discussions of salvation’s nature are limited to debates aobut the death of Christ, about which arrangements involving Christ’s death make forgiveness possible and actual. Such debates yield “theories of the atonement.” And yet through these theories the connection between salvation and life — both his life and our — be comes unintelligible. And it remains unintelligible to everyone who attempts to understand salvation through those theories alone. Why? It is because they are of no use in helping us, as th eapostle Paul puts it, to understand how, being reconciled to God by the death of his Son, we are then “saved by his life.” (Rom. 5:10) How an we be saved by his life when we believe salvation comes from his death alone? So if we concentrate on such theories exclusively, the body and therefore the concrete life we find ourselves in are lost to the redemption process. And when that happens, how else could we see the disciplines for the spiritual life but as historical oddities, the quaint but misguided practices of troubled people in far-off and benighted times?

    He continues by pointing out that the cross was NOT a symbol used by the early church, it is not found until AD 430 in Rome, and then stuck away in a corner of a church.

    Fred

  • July 20, 2009 at 3:42 pm
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    Fred:

    I think your hitting the nail on the proverbial head. I have been blessed to attend many different denominations in my life in both Catholic and Protestant “flavors”. In almost all Protestant denominations, there are “alter calls” for the lost and unsaved on a regular basis. Inevitably, the impression given to those who raise a hand or “go forward” is All you need to do to become “saved” is to “believe”. Repentance is either optional or so ill defined that it comes across as a one time act– a “decision for Christ”. Those who walk forward or raise their hands are IMMEDIATELY AND AUTOMATICALLY IDENTIFIED AS OUR INSTANT BROTHERS AND SISTERS IN CHRIST, AND EMBRACED AS SUCH. It appears as though GOD turns on a large green switch in the sky to enable us believers to know and to announce them to the entire world as “saved” and instantly guarantees that their names are written into the “Book of Life”. End of Story–Your ticket to Heaven has been purchased and monogrammed with your personal name on it. Your alter call experience comes with a personal guarantee from none other than God Himself!

    What is left out during this initial message to the lost at the “altar call” is that Salvation is ALSO a “process”. Other steps that we take from the moment of Salvation forward-ARE NOT OPTIONAL. THIS MEANS THAT SALVATION IS BOTH A MOMENT IN TIME AND A PROCESS. However, we don’t want to go there on the Protestant side of the divide because it sounds to Catholic. However, we MUST go there! Not to do so leads leads to thousands of those poor souls who are weekly accepting Christ in our American churches and sanctuaries with– to say the least–a misleading and therefore a false misunderstanding of Salvation. Many Protestants I converse with on this subject think that its even possible for anyone to walk up the isle or raise their hand, say the “Salvation Prayer at the local church, exit out the back door of the church never to be heard of again and still be Saved! After all, all that is necessary is if you were “sincere” the moment in time you walked the isle or raised your hand–that’s all it takes!

    These “new converts” are literally told by most pastors they are saved right at the alter–even though only GOD KNOWS WHO HAS COME FORWARD IN SAVING FAITH, and in AUTHENTIC REPENTANCE AND BELIEF! However, anyone who carefully reads more than a few verses in both the old and new testament understands that OBEDIENCE must be a part of your salvation “process”. This doesn’t not mean that we no longer sin. BUT– we will have both the “desire” not to sin as well as the “Power” not to do so instilled and guided by the Holy Spirit. A spiritual transformed life should be a NORMAL CHRISTIAN EXPERIENCE–not the rarity!

    Protestants need to reattach the “sanctification ” process with the Salvation Process in their salvation messages. Perhaps the SALVATION verses that should be discussed and emphasized in addition to John 3:16 are 2 Cor. 5:17 –“if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation” as well as Philippians 2:12– “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling” with all of their theological implications. There is obviously very little “fear and trembling” going on in our modern Mc Churches of convenience today in Christendom. “How can we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?”

    Terry

  • July 20, 2009 at 6:30 pm
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    Well, to quote someone else again, there is nothing you can do to make yourself more saved than you are at the moment of conversion. HOWEVER, as with the laborers in the field in Matthew 20, we are expected to work after we sign-up. But we can all expect the same eternal life as reward whether we join 10 minutes before death or live 80 years in faithful service.

    Of course if you refuse to work in the field anymore God’s patience with rebellion is finite. On the other hand as long as you are still able to sincerely ask forgiveness for your rebellion you will be welcomed home by the God who stands in the place of the father in the parable of the prodigal son (better named the ever hopeful father in my opinion).

    Of course I’m learning more and more that the labor that is expected of us may be out ‘in the world.’ And also at the same time be in the manner of internal / spiritual transformation.

  • July 20, 2009 at 9:42 pm
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    Well, we have opened up the proverbial “can of worms” on the question of salvation. Should we not include the “once saved always saved” debate as well?

    With the Reformation we ushered in a new era of Christian thought. As the Reformer’s cried sola fide louder and louder the sound of the term Christ follower became weaker and weaker until we have the situation we have today, it is but a fading whisper.

    Following Christ is not at all the current Christian path to salvation(what’s sanctification?) and yet many current main stream Evangelicals would call themselves Christ followers and not Christians (due to the negative perception it affords in our current culture).

    I am told to suffer for Christ, take up my yoke, become a new creation, be born again, bear fruit etc. etc.. These can (although I think wrongly in many cases) said to be logical manifestations of
    “a salvation moment/event” but I will weigh the verses that contradict that view against those that support it in any discussion.

    “Make every effort…to be holy;without holiness no one will see the Lord.” Hebrews 12:14 (Holiness here defined as “conformity to the character of God.”

    “Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in Heaven.” Matt 7:21

    The real question (in my personal walk) is not the question of one’s salvation, but the question of how better to further God’s Kingdom here and now by becoming more like Christ and through that process affecting the furthering of His Kingdom in all those I interact with.

    I have chosen (not going Calvinistic in this post)to follow that path, not because it leads to salvation, but because I love Jesus more than my puny words can describe. I want to please, glorify, and honor Him with my life and I know I can never be worthy enough or do enough or pray enough. It’s His grace, mercy, and love that I put my hope and faith in.

    It was C.S. Lewis who said “If you have faith, it doesn’t matter what you do. Sin away my lad, and have a good time and Christ will see that it makes no difference in the end. The answer to that nonsense is that, if what you call your “faith” in Christ does not involve taking the slightest notice of what He says, then it is not Faith at all—not faith or trust in Him, but only intellectual acceptance of some theory about Him.”

    The whole purpose of our salvation is that we be “holy and blameless in his sight” (Eph 1:4). To continue to live in sin as a Christian is to go contrary to God’s very purpose for our salvation. “What a strange kind of salvation do they desire that care not for holiness….They would be saved by Christ and yet be out of Christ in a fleshly state…They would have their sins forgiven, not that they may walk with God in love, in time to come, but that they may practice their enmity against Him without any fear of punishment.” From the Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges

    I think many times people think; “I recite the Sinner Prayer??? and that’s it, I’ve got the eternity ticket. I don’t claim to know anyone’s heart, often times not even my own, but I don’t think it’s scripturely honest to promote this idea.

    “I cannot conceive it possible for anyone truly to receive Christ as Savior and yet not to receive Him as Lord. A man who is really saved by grace does not need to be told that he is under solemn obligations to serve Christ. The new life within him tells him that. Instead of regarding it as a burden, he gladly surrenders himself–body, soul, and spirit–to the Lord who has redeemed him, reckoning this to be his reasonable service.” Charles H. Spurgeon

  • August 3, 2009 at 5:25 am
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    Very well said.

    I greatly enjoyed reading Foster’s Streams of Living Water. Coming to appreciate that there are very different but valid types Christian Spirituality that differ greatly from the type I was raised with was a major step for me personally. And a very key step towards unity within the body. His concluding comments at the end of each chapter on a type of spirituality as to the strengths and weaknesses of each was especially important for me to read, I think.

    But I freely admit I still have too many rough edges; I hope I didn’t promote any division or choke off the dialog.

  • August 3, 2009 at 1:11 pm
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    We all have rough edges and the Holy Spirit does a wonderful job of smoothing out those jagged edges over the course of a life time–if we allow Him. I too have come to appreciate the deep “authentic” diversity in the Body of Christ and in nuanced differences in “worshiping” Christ that is present in the church–not only today–but through out the ages. This includes both the Protestant side and the Catholic side. One of my fondest memories is being a part in worship of a very talented set of musicians who played music related to every christian century for two thousand years. Surely, this was a small fore taste of the diverse worshiping to come in Heaven.
    God is indeed forming the body of Christ from every nation, ethnicity and tongue and many forms of worship from many diverse denominations for His Glory!
    (Soli Deo Gloria)

    Hopefully, Catholics and Protestants can some day agree that Salvation is BOTH a moment in time AND a process which ends in final salvation at the glorious resurrection.
    terry

  • August 3, 2009 at 8:06 pm
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    Well, in one of the books I’ve read recently there’s a distinction drawn between Salvation and Sanctification, if I remember correctly.

    There is a point where we become saved, but the transformation and continuing sanctification of our lives is a process that continues throughout this life (or should).

  • August 6, 2009 at 2:26 pm
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    I just took a peak at the discussion on “The Church and The Culture”………. wow…….someone needs to tell them to get out of the ether and back down on the ground. If I shared that discussion with a spiritually seeking friend, he would run away in fear. Not a fear of God, but a fear of not having a clue what they were talking about. I know what they were talking about, but the time spent on that discussion was time better spent loving the lost.

    A Christians we seem to go from one extreme to the other. Either we wallow in the shallow water of a polished presentation that is entertaining or we try to perfect our understanding of what a Christian is to the depth that we are of no earthly good.

    Simply put……

    It’s about a love relationship. Because He was/is willing out of love to die for me, I am willing out of love for Him to both love you and die for you.

    It is a love relationship that cannot be lived out only on a Sunday morning whether in a superficial congregation or a deeply correct theological congregation. It is a love relationship that must be lived out in the streets, fields, backyards, homes, and work places of our lives. I agree that salvation is Christ as both Savior and Lord, but am also convinced that He will not care how deeply I understood the nuances of that theology, but rather will hold me accountable for whether I walked this earth following His example or following the ways of the world.

    “Show me this Christ you talk about not with your words, but with your visible actions. Let me see Him in you.”

    Dean

  • August 10, 2009 at 11:47 pm
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    I believe the solution to this whole topic is Discipleship. When have we heard a sermon on THAT?! Let alone seen it modeled!

    Discipleship is about intentionally walking with others TOWARDS Christ – Keeping His Commands and teaching them to others. Discipleship is about living and loving others as Christ first loved me. Discipleship is about have correct head AND heart knowledge of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

    We have forgotten the path of discipleship! Instead we outsource to seminaries and institutes of higher learning – versus connecting with others of higher LIVING. For us (as Christians within this culture) we need to find this moss-covered path and start down it.

    Finding a Spiritual mentor who is connected to the Living God should be our top priority. The next priority is passing on our learning to 2-3 others. If every Christian was doing that – our job of spreading the Word to every corner of the globe would be done in 10-15 years!!! Think about that!

    March towards Christ, take along 2-3 brothers. Those men will bring along 2-3 brothers (and their families) so on and so forth. What a simple concept – but completely in the pattern of our Lord and Savior.

    “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
    (Matthew 28:19-20 ESV)

    Kevin

  • August 12, 2009 at 2:46 pm
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    Kevin, You make excellent points and I am an ardent proponent of discipleship, but let’s put first things first….
    The question of this blog is; “I wonder if we are a generation away from losing the church to the culture?” I assume that we agree that the church is the body of Christ on earth and not a man made organization or structure.
    Losing the church to the culture implies (1) that no new souls are being added to the body of Christ; and/or (2) those falling away from the church exceed the numbers coming into the church. That is a description of a church that is perceived by the culture (as well as many in the church) as having no relevance to their lives.
    So the real answer to the initial question depends on our understanding of (1) what attracts the lost and (2) what keeps the “weak” from falling away from the church. What makes the church relevant to the culture?
    Discipleship, while essential to healthy spiritual growth does not answer the above problem. Discipleship is part of the process of becoming more Christ-like as we grow in our knowledge of Christ as Lord of our lives. In order to be a disciple of Christ you must of necessity first belong to Christ. And to belong to Christ is to have received Christ as Savior. Discipleship may slow the out flow of believers already in the church, but it will do nothing to attract the unbelievers to the church. The “meat” of discipleship is like nonsense to the unbeliever. Discipleship is meant for the believer, not the lost.
    In Mark 12:29-31 Christ tells us that the two most important commandments are (His words, not mine) …
    “”The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘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.” (NIV)
    It is that self sacrificing “love” (agape) lived out in front of them and among them that attracts folks to God and to His church (us) and makes us relevant to the culture. We have been given no permission to wait until we have found a good mentor or until we have developed good discipling skills to share God’s love with a lost world.
    Don’t get me wrong, I am not opposed to discipleship, in fact I support it whole heartedly. Its just that the call to discipleship is not the answer to every question. It isn’t the answer to this blog.

    Dean

  • August 12, 2009 at 3:11 pm
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    Dean:

    Let me clarify what I mean by we are one generation from losing the church to the culture. I mean that in 20 or so years if we do not get serious about making apprentices of Christ you will not be able to tell the difference from what happens in the culture to what happens in the church. It will indistinguishable. This has nothing to do with point #1 and #2 at the beginning of your comments. There will be no difference between an attender of a church with a non attender. Barna’s objective research is already showing this trend. (www.barna.org)

    Lastly I believe the call to apprenticeship is the answer to every question because a true apprentice of Christ reflects His character increasingly.
    John 15:5-8 John 10:10, Col 3:1-17, 2 Peter 1:3-9
    Acts 14:22, Romans 12:1-2,
    Then there are the practices of Jesus:
    Matthew 4:1-4 Fasting Solitude

    Matthew 9:10 Celebration

    Matthew 14:23 Solitude

    Matthew 27:32 Submission & Sacrifice

    Mark 1:35 Solitude & Prayer

    Mark 6:31 Solitude Mark 6:46 Prayer
    6:47 Solitude
    Mark 9:2 Solitude Mark 14:32 Prayer

    Luke 4:14-20 Study

    Luke 4:42 Solitude Luke 5:16 Solitude Prayer

    Luke 6:12 Prayer

    Luke 9:18 Prayer, Solitude
    Luke 9:28-29 Prayer

    John 2:1-10 Celebration

    John 13 Service

    John 17 Prayer

    George

  • August 12, 2009 at 5:49 pm
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    To All:

    When Jesus gave us a command “to love one another” and “to love your neighbor as yourself”, he obviously would have also provided the MEANS to accomplish these. And Jesus in fact modeled ALL of the spiritual disciplines on earth in the flesh, as did his disciples as they grew “IN CHRIST”. When he calls us to “follow Him” this becomes a requirement to “imitate” him. Obedience to Christ and his commands is the normal Christian life. This is apprenticeship pure and simple. Of course this means to feed the poor, take care of the injured and widowed,visit those in prisons and to extend a cup of cold water to the thirsty. All of us are thirsty!

    The “Love” that is referenced in scripture to “love one another” and to love “our neighbor’ (this includes the lost–Parable of the Good Samaritan) is a love that is “developed” in us supernaturally through interaction with the Holy Spirit. Our Love for God and others is then developed supernaturally over time. The Christian life to be effective then is to live moment by moment with Christ and for Christ with the supernatural presence of the Holy Spirit. This leads by its very nature to a God initiated desire to witness to the lost, love your neighbor etc. God initiates EVERY part of the Christian life– we are ALWAYS responding to his invitations to join him along life’s journey. To attempt to accomplish this without God’s divine guidance power is attempting to accomplish God’s objectives simply by our own human effort. This we are warned not to do. We do our part by abiding and becoming disciples.

    As far as discussions about salvation and sanctification, and being a sort of time poorly spent among believers, as is suggested, when we should be on the front lines loving each other and loving the lost, and living like Christ would etc., this simply begs the question. The form of the question and discussion was HOW we (generally speaking of course) ended up with so many leaving the church and so many Christians not being transformed into loving disciples and doing what is suggested. The inference suggests that to blog on deep theological issues for a few minutes on line is not a spiritual act and is not reflecting God’s love in the same manner as say feeding the poor or witnessing. The other inference is that when one engages in this activity, that he or she is NOT engaging in other spiritual activities at other times– something only God knows. Both inferences are of course false.

    Why aren’t we more loving and “walking the talk”? Perhaps some form of doctrinal error has crept into the modern American Church by our strong and weekly sermons and emphasis on “salvation” and weak emphasis on becoming more like Christlike through apprenticeship(sanctification).This is not an option. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a “study” of the word of God. In fact, we are commanded to do so (2 Timothy 2:15). The point that seems the most important to me is that we should not only be “selling tickets to heaven and fire insurance.’ We should be emphasizing that the Trinitarian God HAS ALREADY BROUGHT US INTO A LOVING RELATIONSHIP WITH HIM NOW AND WE SHOULD BE EXPERIENCING THIS NOW. The ticket to heaven is immediate and ongoing eternally. We should be able to sell that “ticket’ to anyone who GOD brings into our path. Of course, the ticket is FREE!

    Terry

  • August 13, 2009 at 10:11 am
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    Maybe the problem with the Church and Culture is that the Church is trying so hard to be “attractional” that the Culture no longer takes it seriously!

    The Gospel is sufficiently attractive on it’s own – anything else (programs, etc) is a DISTRACTION.

    Christ alone is sufficient!

    Read my post about discipleship in action (http://54.243.2.214/?p=105#comments) This is the model Christ gave us!

    It’s not about fancy buildings, kids programs, neighborhood clinics, and Free Hot Dog Fridays! It’s about being the light in dark places. And frankly, our culture is a DARK place. There are people in our own country that have never heard the name Jesus Christ outside of blasphemy. There are people in our own neighborhoods that have never heard the Gospel message of Good News!

    We are in a Spiritual War. The best way to win a war is not, surprisingly, conventional superior firepower (mega churches and TV channels!) but through subversive Guerrilla tactics – striking in the midst of the enemy. Look at Tet ’68 – it was effective because the Viet Cong struck in the midst of the US Forces and created panic and despair.

    Christianity was designed to use the SAME tactic. Small pockets of Christians, intentionally living in relationship with each other and with Jesus Christ, active in giving, going into the darkness to shine the light of the Gospel. It really works!

    Instead, Christianity got lazy and stagnant. We hid behind massive stone walls and expected the enemy to come to us. “Come into our camp – we have child care!” What enemy in their right mind would do that?! There are churches actually PAYING people to attend!

    I shake the dust off my feet and move on…

    Live Intentional, Be Relational, Give Actively, Disciple Abundantly, and Pray Fervently.(TM)

  • August 13, 2009 at 11:25 am
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    Terry,

    Well said brother. I keep reading on the blog about all this Christian love that is going around? but I must say I just don’t see it. Unless I’m being blinded by the evil one our culture, our schools, our courts, our government, our media, and the rest of “the world”, seems to be sinking fast. Driven on by pluralism, post-modernism, Eastern philosophies, naturalism, Darwinism and just about every other kind of “ism” you can think of.

    If we (Christians, the Church, us as individuals, etc.) are truly disciples (the great commission of Matthew)then why is this so? If 85% of Americans claim to be Christian, why does our culture look as it does? Perhaps the act of “claiming” to be a Christian and being an actual disciple are different? If I look at the actual proof around me, I’d have to conclude that this is true.

    At a recent international conference I watched literally thousands of “Christians” walk by the homeless like they were part of the landscape, not stopping to engage, talk, minister, or love any of them. I felt very disheartened. Thousands of “Christians” who I’m sure have been “born again” and yet the spirit of God seemed to not be moving in their hearts. I understand the practicalities of not “saving them all”, but not ONE stopped, not ONE. And yet they filtered into an auditorium and started singing, clapping, and worshiping in the modern western Evangelical tradition.

    I submit that disciples would stop and care for those less fortunate (at least a couple) if NT Christianity is truly what they profess to believe. I submit that Christian “Faith” that leads to no action is not Faith at all. Is it possible to submit to the intellectual premise of Christian salvation but not have actually been “made a new creation in Christ?” I only have to look around me and know that this is true.

    This hypocrisy drove me away from the church for nearly 3 decades and having been back for the last one I’m not sure anything has really changed. We are still under Satan’s grip with over 60,000 (and growing) Christian sects, all claiming they know the right way. As Sun Tzu said 400 years before the birth of Christ, the way to defeat the enemy is to divide them, and that certainly seems to be the current Evangelical landscape. Does “separation of church and state” also come to mind?

    Total Truth by Nancy Pearcy is a great introduction into the compartmentalization of our faith and the world we live in. “A religion that avoids the intellectual task and retreats to the therapeutic realm of personal relationships and feelings will not survive in today’s spiritual battlefield.” Pearcy

    We have let the enemy define the playing field of tolerance, diversity, sexual preference, choice, relativism, dependence, immorality, materialism, and the shifting sands of an unknowable absolute truth. On this playing field the news, television, internet, and the society around me scream that we are indeed losing the “church” (however you choose to define it) to the culture.

    I believe there is a clear Cultural Mandate throughout the bible to participate in God’s work of maintaining and caring for His creation. So….let’s get out of our churches, our holy huddles, our house churches, off the computer, away from the TV, etc. and get out there and make disciples, not converts, but disciples.

    Greg

  • August 13, 2009 at 1:21 pm
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    George,

    Thanks for the clarification on the gist of your original question and for your use of the word “apprenticeship”. Apologies to all for my apparent misdirection – my bad.

    The reasons for not being able to tell the difference between people of the culture versus people of the church, is indeed a good discussion. And you are right that “apprenticeship” (or lack thereof) will always be at the core of that discussion. In today’s world of words, “apprenticeship” more accurately reflects the walk we are to have with Christ before a lost world. It is also a word that has not become a “barrier” to the culture around us.

    Perhaps if we wrestle with the difference in how the church and the culture understand the definition of the two words “apprentice” and “disciple”, the distinction I was trying to make will be more understandable. While I admit that there are some points of overlap in the definitions of the two words, there are definitely some distinctions between them.

    In the church both words have good and meaningful connotations. Indeed, the desire of my heart is to be both a disciple of Christ and His apprentice. Being His disciple, in the main, is about my perception of who the Triune God is. It is learning about Him. It is about identifying myself as belonging to Him. It is a thought process. It is about worship. It is about applying the first great commandment.

    Being His apprentice, in the main, is about my perception of what He is offering to the world and learning how to make the world aware of His offer. It is doing/becoming like Him. It is an action process. It is about visible, tangible, expressions of His love through service to everyone especially the lost. It is about applying the second great commandment.

    Our culture sees the two words somewhat differently. The culture tends to see discipleship as a crutch for the intellectually weak and thus not too relevant to the needs of the day; while the agape actions of an apprentice find little resistance. The culture tunes out to the former, while accepting and hopefully warming up to the later.

    Because I admit, that in the Christian context, there is overlap in the definitions; I do not believe you can be growing spiritually without being both a disciple and an apprentice any more than I believe it is possible to grow spiritually without accepting Christ as both Savior and Lord. However, if we want to reach and impact the culture around us we do need to be aware of how they perceive themselves and how they define “things” Christian.

    In the middle of the last century, the mainline denominations became so wrapped up in ministering to the needs of the culture (the second great commandment) and spent so little time on the first great commandment that they completely lost focus on who Christ is. Yes, in truth there was almost no distinction between those denominations and the general culture of that time.

    The response of the “evangelical, fundamental, born-again” church in many regions was to create new focus on the sovereignty of God and the need for salvation through Christ. In many of those churches the emphasis on the first great commandment became so dominant that the second great commandment sat gathering dust. We “perfected” being holy while we waited for the lost to stumble through our doors. Mostly, they just stay lost.
    Bringing this last scenario back into spiritual balance is where I find my field of ministry today. And to the extent I mistakenly read the above responses as heading in that direction, I apologize.

    Dean

  • August 14, 2009 at 11:54 am
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    Well, not to take too contrarian a position, but I think we need to realize that it really isn’t up to us. God is the source and direction and we need to follow what he wants. At times in the old testament, he allowed the Jewish nation to wander afar with just a remnant kept warning what was coming. Some of our greatest oracles come from such times when the presence of the kingdom of God among the Jewish nation had dwindled to almost nothing.

    Remember what Jesus told the teachers of the law as he entered Jerusalem in the ‘triumphant entry’ — If they do not cry out, the rocks will. And what God told Moses when he was ready to wipe out the Jewish nation shortly after they left Egypt: “Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.” (Exodus 32:10)

    One of the things that has impacted me greatly in one of Willard or Foster’s books was a description of how the Korean mega-church (I think) got started. There was basically no involvement of any human kind. A young orphan dying of a disease cried out seeking for healing, not knowing if God or Allah or Buddha existed or might answer, and God reached out to him and healed him…. And from such a beginning came a great awakening of the Kingdom of God

    Someone told me not too long ago that he’d had a vision some time ago while in France that he took to indicate that the older generation was going to be allowed to leave this earth w/o God because they had rejected God. But that wasn’t the main focus of my friend’s vision, he was shown that the younger generation would turn back to God, and not too long ago he was blessed to meet in a large catholic cathedral packed to the walls with college age people praising God in unity.

    One of the main components of expanding the Kingdom among humanity is to see living examples of a transformed life. So we need to become transformed through discipleship and then share our stories with those who are interested. We definitely should work hard to assist God, but ultimately, it is not up to us nor our efforts.

    Fred

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