Category Archives: Worship
I keep reading about the crisis in the American church:
- An estimated 1700 pastors leave the ministry every month.
- Less than 50% of Americans identify as Christian.
- Less than 25% ever attend a church.
- People under 45 are leaving churches in droves.
- Protestant, Catholic, and Evangelical churches are all shrinking
- Mega-churches remain popular with boomers & Gen-X, but younger people eschew them
This is causing a great deal of consternation in congregations, denominations, and church-planting groups.
I think it’s a blessing.
The whole thing about building buildings and staffing programs is mostly a waste of resources. Home churches with bivocational leaders can meet people’s needs for worship, prayer, study, and growth and are best situated to reach friends and neighbors. Almost all the money they raise can be used for charity. And, they can always join forces, rent a space once in a while, and have a bigger meeting if need be. The American church is based on the same principles as American business. But even businesses are rethinking their investments in brick and mortar and the necessity of armies of middle managers.
Besides, what makes a pastor or other church leader? We know the right answers – love, compassion, prayer, heart for Jesus, care for people, ability to teach scripture. In reality, however, that’s not who gets moved to the front of the queue. Instead, good looking, dynamic, outgoing, entrepreneurial men who are great speakers and skilled at church politics are the pick of the lot. They are CEOs.
I’ve been a mega-church pastor. I’ve planted churches. I know how to study the demographics and design programs to meet felt needs. Instead, give me a home fellowship with a dozen people who love and care for each other and have hearts for the marginalized, victimized, and disenfranchised – people who love God, all others (no exceptions), creation, and themselves with Christlike cruciform love.
No judgment. Just my opinion.
Ask the average Christian today why Jesus had to die on the cross and he will likely say something to the effect of “to pay for our sins.”
Had you asked the same question to any Christian during the first four centuries of Christianity, they would have replied, “to destroy the works of the devil.”
Both answers are biblical and correct, but the first is too narrow. It doesn’t go far enough. Yes, we are all sinners. True, our sins separate us from God. And, yes, Jesus paid for our sins on the cross so that now we can be completely forgiven and adopted into God’s forever family. Hallelujah! Thank you, Jesus!
But Jesus did more than that on the cross. He destroyed the works of evil. (1 John 3:8 ESV: The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.)
No one knew it at the time, but on Good Friday, everything changed. Jesus absorbed into his sinless being all the evil in the universe. All that is wrong, hurtful, evil, unjust – all of the chaos in the cosmos – imploded. The forces of darkness are utterly defeated. As a result, God has begun God’s reign on the earth now. We as individuals get to participate in that reign as new creations. We are collectively invited to join God as God makes all things new.
We join God as Jesus makes all things new by doing what Jesus said to do. We participate in the Kingdom of God by conforming our lives to the Sermon on the Mount. (Matthew 5-7)
We can’t do it alone. We need each other. We need the strength and guidance of others. Together, we seek to live with Jesus, learning from Jesus, how to be like Jesus. Together, we hold up a mirror to power and defend the poor, weak, displaced, marginalized, disenfranchised, and victimized.
Ask the average Christian today what it means to follow Jesus, and they will likely give you a theological answer about atonement and immortality.
Ask the average non-Christian today what it means to follow Jesus, and almost invariably they will respond, “Love your enemies.”
Why is it that many non-Christians get it and many church-goers do not?