How to Fight the Evil One and Win! A look at Ephesians 6:10-20

The Sky is Falling!

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. 

Cultivating Healthy Relationships – 4 Keys from Ephesians 5

The Grand, Sweeping Narrative of Scripture

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?

a universe filled with JESUS! a look at Ephesians 4

how deep is God’s love? a look at Ephesians 3

the cure for disunity is grace — a look at Ephesians, chapter 2

Flames, Floods, Fatalities, Fears

Flames, Floods, Fatalities, Fears

  • Flames. As of this morning (September 1, 2021) 300 square miles torched near Lake Tahoe on the California-Nevada border. Family members choking on smoke, imprisoned in their house. Loved ones of a dear friend in harm’s way.
  • Floods. Ida, a category 4 hurricane with winds of 165 mph, and its remnants, flooding areas from New Orleans to New England. 
  • Fatalities. Climbing daily, now 219 million sickened, and 4.5 million human beings dead, from COVID-19. Delta variant racing across the southern United States. C.1.1 variant mutating with lightening speed. Hospitals at capacity; ICUs full.
  • Fears. Fear of persecution, fear of government, fear of immigrants, fear of Moslems and Jews, fear of young Black men, fear of change – fear, driving heretical toxic theology. 

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  • Flames. The rampant wildfires around the world are all exacerbated by global warming, which is causing extreme droughts in some areas and excess precipitation in others. 
  • Floods. Ida jumped rapidly from a Cat-2 to a Cat-4 because the Gulf waters are hotter than ever.
  • Fatalities. We have amazingly safe and effective vaccines that protect us from the worst symptoms of COVID-19, but a huge portion of the population refuses to get them, and an even larger portion won’t wear masks or practice social distancing. 
  • Fears. A theology of fear is behind the Capitol insurrection, soaring gun sales, a resurgence of white nationalism, xenophobic reaction to refuges, and militant opposition to civil rights for minorities.

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Flames, Floods, Fatalities, Fears – all exacerbated by human choices. Flames and floods dramatically intensified by man-made, greed-driven global warming. COVID fatalities in North America almost entirely preventable by vaccinations, masks, and social distancing. Fears based on false theology that threatens democracy at its core.

Flames and Floods. The first ministry God gave to humans was to care for creation, to be stewards, not exploiters. There was a time when we didn’t know any better, but we do now. The use of fossil fuels is burning up the planet. Followers of Jesus should be at the forefront of environmentalism. 

Fatalities. Vaccines are a gift from God. Wearing a mask and practicing social distancing is loving our neighbors. Loving our neighbors is loving God. Wearing a mask is not a violation of personal rights, nor is it persecution, nor is it child abuse. 

Fears. The opposite of fear is love. Perfect love casts out fear. Christians and Christianity are not under attack; Christians are not being persecuted in America. White “Christian” Nationalism 1.0 affiliated itself unabashedly with the Republican Party. White “Christian” Nationalism 2.0 says it loves America, hates the government, is convinced it is bipartisan (in spite of referring to Democrats as “demon-crats”), embraces conspiracies, rejects science, believes bizarre neo-Pentecostal “prophesies,” sees no incongruity with simultaneously flying American, Confederate, and Christian flags, and claims to have faith while stockpiling weapons. There is nothing Christian about White “Christian” Nationalism. It is unbiblical, heretical, toxic, extremely dangerous, and growing rapidly.

Come out of her, my people, and follow Jesus, the Prince of Peace. Live by the Sermon on the Mount.

What Should Church Look Like?

Most North American churches are built on the attractional model. They do things that they hope will attract people to their buildings. They build beautiful buildings, develop pleasing campuses, present professional high-quality music, pour money into state-of-the-art audio-visual systems, acquire expert programing for kids from infancy through High School, and hire dynamic preaching teams to focus on felt needs. And, it works. If you build it, they will come. 

Or, at least it did work, pre-pandemic for people over 45.

After a year and a half of on-line worship services, only about 25% of parishioners are returning to church buildings. Perhaps that will increase if COVID-19 ever stops mutating because the vast majority of people get fully vaccinated. It will likely never go back to previous levels, however.

In my view, that’s a good thing. The attractional model was never biblical to begin with. We, the community of faith, are the church, not a building. We’re supposed to go, not try to get others to come. The community of faith did quite well without any church buildings (basilicas) for three centuries. Simple home fellowships with bivocational leaders are much closer to the ideal. I cannot even imagine how much money churches spend on buildings, programs, and staff – money that could be spent on alleviating poverty and injustice, healing the sick, and strengthening the weak, which is what the gospel is supposed to be all about. 

But, if all we’re doing is enjoying greater convenience, we’re missing the boat. Church isn’t about attracting people, entertaining people, or “getting people saved.” It’s about loving and serving others. To gather, virtually or in a home, in a small group to worship and learn should then empower us to heal, help, and herald God’s Kingdom.

A Poem about & a Prayer for our True Identity — A look at Ephesians 1

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