How to Make Church a Little Easier for Those who Need it Most-

 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it– Hebrews 13:1-2 NASB 1995

Let’s just be real. 

Church can be really hard. 

Even if you’ve attended church forever and totally “get” church. Church can be hard.  Finding a new church is even harder. Meeting new people is hard. Stepping into an environment where you don’t understand all the rules is hard. Putting yourself out there is hard. Knowing out how to fit in is hard. Making new friends is hard.  

 Church is also important. 

It really is a nonnegotiable for a serious follower of Jesus.  Jesus established church (Matthew 16:18, John 3:3). He told us what it should look like (Matthew 5-6, Matthew 18:15-17). He prayed for it (John 17:1-25). He invested in it (Matthew 11:1, Mark 4:33).  He died for it (Matthew 26-27, Mark 15, Luke 23, John 19, Matthew 14:22-33). He rose from the dead to redeem and empower it (Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, John 20. Then He sent His people out to build it (Matthew 28:16-20).  

All that makes church a big stinking deal.  

It also makes the subsequent story super sad. I have a friend who is looking for a church. I won’t share the ghastly details but suffice it to say her reasons for leaving her church were one-hundred-percent valid. She attended four churches in nine weeks. She realized immediately the first two were a poor doctrinal fit. The third was tiny (not necessarily a problem). However, the pastor was also seriously unprepared (a problem). Number four was promising. The size was right, not too big, not too small. It was a healthy mix of age groups (young families, older adults, teens and young adults). The music was beautifully done and doctrinally on point. The sermon was solid and the doctrinal statement was sound. 

One problem. 

No one talked to her. There were greeters and they all smiled politely and made eye contact but did not say anything more significant than “hello” to her. Not once. There was a welcome time prior to the sermon and no one welcomed her. She did all the stuff you’re supposed to do. She showed up early and stayed late. She bathed. She dressed and behaved appropriately. Even with all that, no one, not even a staff member interacted with her.  

Nonetheless.

She soldiered on. A serve day was announced from the pulpit. She knew getting out and serving her community would be a good thing to do. She also knew it would give her a chance to interact with some of the people she was going to church with. 

At the serve day, she was assigned to a team and she tried to engage the other people on the team. She asked good questions, complimented the pastor on the sermon the week before and just generally did her best to be an agreeable, involved and helpful member of the team. To no avail. No one attempted to engage her when she arrived on site. No one asked her questions about herself. No one noticed when she left and went home. 

Two things. 

First.

Not every church is unfriendly. There are churches that do an outstanding job greeting new people and finding creative ways to integrate them into their church family. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. If this were the first story I heard about an otherwise solid church where the congregants appeared to lack basic social skills I would cheerfully write it off as an anomaly. It’s not. This stuff is real. Lots of people have lots of stories just like my friends’ story. 

Second. 

My friend is a committed and mature Christian. She gets church. She has social skills. She understands reality. She knows relationships are a two-way street. She did not show up at church and expect everyone to do the work for her. She was more than willing to smile, ask good questions, be friendly and get involved in the activities the church was offering. 

However.

My friend is not the only type of person who shows up at churches. Some people who show up at church don’t know Jesus. Some are clueless about how church works. They don’t understand how to get involved or make friends. Some of have poor social skills or a chip on their shoulder. Some are looking for an excuse to reject Jesus. We give them the excuse they’re looking when we don’t make every effort to engage new people in a meaningful way. 

 Sometimes we become so fearful of rejection we refuse to step outside of our own tiny relational circles.  Or we become so locked into a tight little friend group that we have no room for anyone new. The problem  with letting fear or self-centeredness run the show we give the devil a foothold in someone else’s life and run the risk of running them out of church (Ephesians 4:26-27, 1st Peter 5:8). 

Here’s the thing:

Just because you feel welcome and loved at your church it doesn’t mean everyone who walks through the door feels the same.  Next week when you go to church, say a prayer, look around, let the Holy Spirit to lead you to the person who’s all alone or looks lost. Say hello, ask some questions, maybe invite them to lunch. Love on them. It’s the little things that make the biggest difference for the kingdom. 

Christians Screwed-up Understanding of Authority is Literally Wrecking Christianity-

If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit- Matthew 15:14 NIV

Christianity has a leadership problem.

Accounts of bullying, embezzlement, adultery, duplicity, abuse, control and even pedophilia involving high profile pastors, churches and entire denominations have become routine. The Catholic Church, Jim Baker, Mars Hill, Ted Haggard, Bob Coy, Willow Creek, Sovereign Grace Ministries, Mike Warnke, Hillsong, Josh Duggar and The Southern Baptist Convention are just a few of the leaders, churches and organizations whose names have become synonymous with corrupt Christian leadership.  Leadership problems aren’t restricted to high profile pastors, mega churches or big-name Christian ministries. Many churchgoers have experienced hurt at the hands of insensitive pastors or pastors who acted much more righteous in public than in private. 

Sigh. 

Experts blame the rise of bad leadership on an increase of narcissism in churches and Christian organizations.  A narcissist has a strong sense of entitlement, is extremely self-focused, has an unusually high need for attention, is overconfident and a has profound lack of empathy. Christians can be narcissists. Narcissists have enormous blind spots where their behavior is concerned. Narcissistic Christians can justify almost any action, including actions they know are sinful. Narcissistic Christian leaders truly believe God will overlook their sin because they “do so much for the kingdom”.  Narcissists do not understand how their behavior affects other people. Therefore, they can do a great deal of harm to people without even knowing it. Most experts believe narcissism is a growing problem among Christian leaders. This is concerning considering the contrast between a narcissistic leader and the model Christian leader described in Titus 1:7-9, Timothy 3:1-3 and 1st Peter 5:1-5. 

This begs some hard questions: 

Why is there so much bad behavior in Christianity? 

What does the church do to produce and attract narcissistic leaders? 

How do average Christians enable narcissistic leadership?  

Christianity is plagued with narcissistic leadership because Christians have a flawed understanding of what New Testament authority should look like.

Here’s what I mean:

Most Christians form their views on spiritual authority from Old Testament stories, principally from the system of Kings found in the Old Testament. Old Testament Kings had absolute God-given authority. This is most famously played out in the story of Saul and David. Saul was an awful king. Saul was evil, volatile, selfish, and guided almost entirely by pride and sinful passions (1st Samuel 16:14, 1st Samuel 18:14, 1st Samuel 19:4, 1st Samuel 15:22-24).  

However.

 Because Saul was anointed King, David faithfully submitted himself to Saul’s authority. David did not disparage Saul, physically harm him or challenge his authority.  Christian teachers (including myself) universally applaud David’s submission to Saul’s authority. It’s an example of Old Testament obedience God clearly blessed (1stSamuel 26:9-11, Acts 13:22). 

Many Christians apply the same concept of anointing to present-day pastors. Many deacons, board members and elders flat refuse to question or correct a pastor even when they know the pastor is wrong because they view the pastor as God’s “anointed” and therefore unchallengeable, regardless of their behavior. Many Pastors, especially narcissistic pastors tend to see themselves as having the same unchallengeable authority as Old Testament Kings. The rotten fruit of this understanding of authority is at least partly to blame for the large numbers of people who have left the church in recent years. It’s also literally obliterating the churches ability to do our one job: reach the lost (Matthew 28:18-20). Non-Christians understandably see leadership situations like the ones at the Southern Baptist Convention, Mars Hill and Hillsong as unacceptable, indefensibly gross and entirely inconsistent with the whole notion of a good God. 

Here’s the thing. 

There are to be no human kings in the Church. 

Jesus is the only King among His people. Period. End of story. Jesus is the only leader who can demand or who deserves absolute obedience. Pastors are simply not anointed to lead churches the same way kings were anointed to lead Israel in the Old Testament. The word anointed or anoint in reference to people and/or Jesus is used a total of eleven times in the New Testament. Eight explicitly refer to Jesus (Mark 14:8, Luke 4:18, Luke 7:46, John 11:2, John 12:3, Acts 4:27, Acts 10:38, Hebrews 1:9). The remaining three teach all Christians are anointed for ministry, not just a few specific leaders (2nd Corinthians 1:21, 1st John 2:20, 1st John 2:27). 

All Christians are given gifts to benefit the church (Ephesians 4:11-12, 1st Corinthians 12:7-11, Romans 12:3-9). Some spiritual gifts have a leadership component to them (apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, overseers). The New Testament commands Christians to treat these leaders with respect, to make their task joyful rather than difficult (Hebrews 13:17). Christians will be judged for how they treat their spiritual leaders. Therefore, any challenge to a leader’s teaching or behavior must be prayerfully contemplated before action is taken. 

 However.

Pastors simply do not have the same authority as Old Testament Kings. Instead, the Bible promises leaders and teachers will be judged at a higher standard than other Christians (James 3:1). ALL Christians will be accountable to God for how they use or misuse their authority in the home, workplace or church. Christians are called to humble servanthood, and specifically commanded not to lord their authority over others (Matthew 20:25-26). 

Truth-be-told narcissism has taken root in churches because too many pastors have been given unchallenged authority and too many Christians have foolishly chosen to follow human leaders more closely than they follow King Jesus.  

Four Mistakes Christians Must Stop Making-


Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name
– Psalm 86:11 NIVUK

Sadly, there has been a lot of failure in Church world over the course of the last forty years or so:

 The vast majority of Christians who identify as “committed believers” attend services a pathetic and measly 1.3 times a month. Fewer than forty percent of all Christians have actually read the Bible all the way through. Between sixty and eighty percent of the children who grew up in church over the course of the last three decades have left the church. Precious few of have returned in any sort of a meaningful way. Infidelity, spiritual abuse, embezzlement and tales of narcissistic behavior have become so commonplace among clergy that even Christians are no longer appropriately shocked by shocking reports of misconduct and sin.  

All serious signs of dismal failure. 

It’s simply a fact that churches have made some tragic mistakes in recent years. As a result, the Church is shrinking and the culture is floundering. Conversions are down and “deconstructing” one’s faith is trending. Thankfully, our God is not reliant on on the perfection of His people to get His will accomplished. That being said, it is always beneficial to His overall plan when His people choose to do life and ministry His way. There are at least four mistakes the Church has made that we cannot afford to keep making if we want to see health in our churches, transformation in our lives and revival in our world. 

Those mistakes are:

We have failed to equip the saints-

Biblical illiteracy is a serious issue in Church world. Few Christians can name all the books of the Bible. There are church-goers who actually believe the Bible promises God will never give us more than we can handle and that cleanliness is next to godliness.  However, lack of biblical understanding is not the only problem we have. Many Christians do not know how to define personal holiness, or how Christian maturity is achieved (2nd Peter 1:3-11, Romans 12) Nor, are most believers able to articulate what a healthy Christian life should “look like”.  These are all basic concepts every Christian should understand. 

Churches have encouraged congregants to depend on external sources for food-

For decades now, sermons have been tasty and easy to digest, but seriously lacking in any real nutritional value. Essentially, the spiritual equivalent of chocolate pudding. The goal of these Sunday morning offerings has been attracting unbelievers and keeping them in the church by not offending them in any way. At the same time many discipleship programs have been eliminated and small groups aimed at satisfying one’s personal preferences and helping people “do life together” were put in their place. All of this was well-intended but it produced a situation where many Christians began depending on outside sources like prerecorded Bible studies and podcasts for their spiritual growth. The unintended consequences has been a serious drop in church attendance. Many have quit church altogether, or they simply pop into an occasional service when the mood strikes them. Covid accelerated this trend as more and more churches began offering online viewing options on Sunday mornings. Human beings were made for community. We learn and grow by being with and interacting with others (Proverbs 27:17). Anytime Christians remove themselves from community they short-circuit their growth.  

Bible teachers have failed to teach a theology of hardship-

The Bible is clear: trials and hardship are formative to the Christian experience (John 16:33, 1st Thessalonian 3:3, 1st Peter 1:6). Jesus experienced hardship and suffering in this life and one aspect of becoming like Jesus is doing the things He did and experiencing the things He experienced (Hebrews 5:7-9, Hebrews 13:11-13). Unfortunately, in an effort to attract unbelievers many Pastors and Bible teachers have taught a theology of easy believism and guaranteed material blessings. This has caused many to become disillusioned and leave the church when it became obvious (as it always does) that the Christian life is a blessed life but not necessarily an easy one.  

We have forgotten that spiritual knowledge is not the same as spiritual maturity-

Knowing what the Bible says or even being able to quote an excess of verses does not make one spiritually mature. In order to be a mature Christian we have to know what the Bible says and be able to manage our own emotions, treat people the way we want to be treated and forgive others from the heart (Psalm 119:11, Titus 2:12, Galatians 5:22-24, Colossians 3:13, Ephesians 4:31, Hebrews 12:15). If we can’t do those things we aren’t spiritually mature no matter how many verses we can quote. 

The solution to all of these problems are simple. Churches must leave behind old models and pivot to a culture of discipleship and community. Leaders must let go of the desire to make churches big at the expense of making them strong, healthy and deep. Individual Christians must prioritize biblical learning, personal growth and relationships in the church over all else. 

Rethinking Church Post-Covid-

Be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord– Colossians 3:15b-16 NKJV

By any measurable standard the Covid-19 crisis was bumpy for everyone. The world was collectively awestruck at how quickly a weird little virus could lead to compulsory lockdowns, financial uncertainty, social unrest, church closures and the shutdown of most schools. The gloom brought on by those unwelcome changes took a heavy toll on everyone, including most Christians (James 1:2-3). 

These realities swiftly exposed a host of systemic and potentially lethal problems lurking in Western churches. Most believers lacked the spiritual tools and community support necessary to keep their faith vibrant over a year of forced isolation. Even fewer Christians were prepared to answer the questions that surfaced out of the COVID crisis. Questions like: where is God when we suffer? What role should government play in faith communities? What does honoring authority look like in a global pandemic (Romans 13:4-6)? Is online church a suitable substitute for the real deal (Hebrews 10:25)? Furthermore, local churches struggled with an unprecedented loss of attendance and financial support. Many pastors suffered a crisis of identity when they learned exactly how expendable most political and public health authorities felt their contribution to society was.

Sigh.

Thankfully, the worst seems to be passing. I am personally overjoyed, no one hated COVID world more than this girl. That said, we should all have some very real reservations about churches returning to the “normal” we foolishly embraced pre-COVID. Our Western Church version of normal has been proven to be a lot less than healthy and live-giving. The last thing the church needs is more of what created the problems that became evident during COVID.  Instead the church needs a twenty-first century reformation that begins with:

An end to the Christian celebrity culture- 

Little good has come from idolizing Christian pastors, musicians, and influencers. Most of the men and women put on pedestals by the Christian community have become prideful and arrogant and proven themselves to be completely unteachable. Too many “celebrity Christians” have embraced a life of sin and destroying the reputation of Jesus and other Christians in the process.  Some have become so addicted to media attention that they eventually denounced Christianity altogether to keep the spotlight on them. It’s time for Christian to say “no more” to the celebrity culture.  Instead we must be intentional about looking within our own local churches for faithful men and women to hold up as examples of the faith (1st Corinthians 11:1, Philippians 3:17). 

No more shallow teaching-

A shocking lack of doctrinal depth has become standard in many churches.  Like most of our mistakes this one was made with good intentions. Dumping discipleship programs (Adult Sunday school) and replacing them with small groups was intended to build community and make unbelievers more comfortable in the church. It did neither. All it did was shrink the Church and produce a generation of genuinely ignorant and spiritually immature Christians. If we want to save the Western Church we need to find ways to make Sunday school cool again. 

Theology that empowers the church to deal with secular authority in a biblical manner- 

It’s simply a fact that Christians are called to obey secular authorities.  However, early Christians continued to meet together (sometimes daily) despite the fact it was forbidden by “authorities” on and off for more than three centuries.  If they hadn’t the church probably would have disappeared altogether early in the first century. Leaders and individual Christians need to do some soul searching and decide what sort of edict is worthy of violating the command to “gather together” before the next round of shutdowns. 

An openness to a movement of the Spirit of God- 

Sadly, there are two equally stupid views of the Holy Spirit that have prevailed in most denominations over the last century. On one end of the spectrum there is a history of gross excess. This group has taken 1st Thessalonians 5:19“Do not quench the Spirit” to mean that almost anything done in the name of the Holy Spirit goes with or without any biblical precedent. Period. This has been a huge turnoff for those on the other end of the spectrum who have declared anything they see as out of the ordinary (speaking in tongues, raising hands in worship, prophetic utterances) as evil and “of the devil” even if that thing has biblical precedent. Both attitudes are wrong, Truth lies in the middle. It is not our job to manufacture the work of the Spirit in the name of “having an experience”. Neither is it our job to dictate to God how He can or cannot work. Our job is to seek the Spirit with an open heart asking Him to reveal more of Himself and His truth to us. However, we also need to understand that any genuine work of the Holy Spirit will be accompanied with a greater desire to obey God. The God of the universe doesn’t do anything without the purpose of bringing about transformation. 

A return to community based church- 

We are made in the image of a relational God (Genesis 1:26). We need each other. Period. Churches have to figure out how to create authentic faith communities in the midst of twenty-first century busyness. If we don’t the church will continue to lose people. 

It is the churches responsibility to be ready to offer hope, help and healing when the worst happens. Most churches weren’t ready for any of that with COVID. Welcoming a movement of God, building community in the church and being prepared to answer  tough theological questions is how we get ready for whatever comes next. 

Some Hard Counsel for Christian Women-

Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate– Psalm 127:4-5 ESV

Okay, so.

 Generally speaking my ambition is to live a quiet life and tend to my own affairs (1st Thessalonians 4:11).  As a rule, I have zero desire to be a busybody or to butt into other people’s business (2nd Thessalonians 3:11).  On the infrequent occasions I have made it my thing I usually end up feeling sorry.  

Today, I’m willing to run that risk. Here goes:

In recent years, I have noted an attitude making its way into the church. It has become quite common for Christian women to minimize and disparage the roles of wife and mother.  As an older woman I clearly see this thinking is a tool the enemy is using to weaken Christian families. The attitudes developing in the church are potentially detrimental to the future of the church and the family because the Christian family has historically been God’s most powerful and fruitful means of evangelism and discipleship.  

Please understand—I do not believe that wife and mother are the only truly significant roles a Christian woman can or should play in this life. In my experience, when a Christian woman is walking in step with the Holy Spirit she will fulfill many functions and play a variety of different roles throughout her life. Some of those roles will be in the home, some in the church and others will be in the workplace. That being said, the role women play as wives and mothers is critical and should never be demeaned. So, my dear sisters in Christ, today I’m going to share some direct counsel that I believe is desperately needed in this cultural moment. 

First: 

Stop being weak. It’s gross- 

As a mother of four, I get that being a Mom is a demanding job. This is particularly true in the early years of motherhood when money is often tight and children have lots of needs and no real ability to manage themselves. That being said. It’s not that hard and I’m very disturbed by the “Mommy needs a drink” mentality that has drifted into the church. No one needs to become a drunk in order to manage the pressures of motherhood. Seriously. Women have been caring for children since the dawn of time without modern conveniences such as disposable diapers, baby swings and iPads. This generation is no less capable than our predecessors. Though, I suspect we are less resilient and tough-minded. It is critical we understand that a Christian woman is a soldier of Jesus Christ (2nd Timothy 2-4, Ephesians 6: 10-13).  If a Christian woman has children her primary mission in life is to teach and train her children to fear the Lord and walk in His ways.  The early years of parenting are critical. Kids need a Mom to create a stable, loving environment for them to learn about God, themselves and life. No one can provide any of that wasting precious energy whining about how hard and miserable it is to be a Mom. 

Children are the only lasting legacy we leave- 

It’s a clichéd saying that became a cliché because it’s so dang true: “No one has ever laid on their deathbed and wished they had worked harder on their career”. However, lots of people die wishing fervently they had put more energy into the only legacy that really lasts: their kids.  I have done a lot of things with my life, some of them significant by worldly standards. I am not sorry I put my energy into any of them. They were worthy endeavors.  That said, none of the things I have done will have a greater impact on this world than the children I have raised.  

Stop making marriage a contest, it’s not- 

A Christian marriage is intended to be a partnership where each partner sacrifices for the good of the other and the family they create together (Ephesians 5:21-33). A Christian marriage should not be about which spouse has the most impressive career or the most degrees. Those are temporal things that should be viewed as tools to build a legacy for the kingdom of God not as the desired end in its self. 

If you attempt to do it all at once you will do it poorly-  

Seriously. A woman can have a solid marriage, be a faithful Christian, raise amazing kids and have a rewarding career. However, attempting to do all those things all at once practically guarantees something critical will get lost in the shuffle and done poorly. Sadly, it’s the kids, marriage or relationship with Jesus most likely to hit the skids. Wise women recognize there really is a season for everything. It’s not wrong to have a job when kids are young as long both parents are committed to being really attentive to the kids during non-working hours. 

It is critical Christians guard their hearts and minds from adopting the attitudes and mindsets of the culture. Nowhere is this truer than in the area of how we view children and family. (Psalm 127:3-5). When we allow the world to dictate how we view these issues it’s the enemy who wins. 

Four Changes the Church can Make that Will Help Save Both the Church and the Culture-

Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; correct, rebuke, and exhort, with great patience and instruction– 2nd Timothy 4:2 NASB

The culture is clearly in trouble.  

Seriously. All you have to do is turn on any news channel anytime day or night and it quickly becomes apparent we are a culture on the threshold of moral and civil ruin. We are more divided than we have ever been. Few non-Christians are able to reason through even the most basic and obvious of moral or even common-sense truths. The majority is bound and determined to scorn anything even remotely healthy or wholesome especially if it is thought to be traditionally “Christian”. 

The church is also in trouble. 

 Many Christians have foolishly absorbed the values and messages of the culture. Rather than being brokenhearted by the moral absurdity, many Christians have adopted the same values as those in the culture. Some actively encourage the church to conform on a myriad of issues that were once considered settled from a biblical standpoint. 

The outcome of these two intersecting realities has been disastrous for the church and the culture the church is called to influence and reform. There is little chance for improvement without a speedy course correction. 

That being said.

God is still on His throne and He still good. God is still in the business of redemption and He still does His best work through His people.  God is calling us be the reforming and healing presence this world needs right now. In order to do that we must take a hard look at what is being taught in the church as well as the values the church has absorbed from the culture.  Some corrections are needed. The following four changes would be a good place to start. 

Teach church people that truth cannot become a slave to feelings- 

For a long time, our society accepted the idea that there was no such thing as absolute truth (post-modernism). There were some clear problems with this perspective. The existence of literally billions of easily demonstrable facts being one of the most obvious issues. In recent years many people who argued against the notion of absolute truth have come around and now believe there is such a thing. However, those same folks say truth doesn’t matter, because an individual’s feelings concerning an issue are more important than truth. In other words, truth has become a slave to feelings.  This has been a disaster. It is the number one reason our culture is in intellectual and spiritual chaos. The church cannot control what the culture does or dictate how people think. However, churches can and should teach their own people that feelings, as powerful as they might can will never matter more than what is true. 

Teach the depravity of man- 

Christian leaders made a conscious decision years ago to ditch or at least deemphasize the doctrine of absolute depravity. Absolute depravity is the belief that human beings are completely corrupt and sinful and incapable of saving themselves through good works (Mark 10:18, Job 25:6, Romans 3:12). However, most churches kept teaching that Jesus is the only way to salvation. This led to a great deal of confusion in both the culture and the church. Many think they are awesome “just the way they are” and conclude they don’t need really need Jesus to save them. Others commit themselves to Jesus, not because they are convinced they need Him, but, because they hope Jesus will make them a little bit better than they already are. Without a clear understanding of our need for Jesus (complete depravity) salvation becomes optional sin becomes much easier to both justify and celebrate. Until we return to teaching this critical truth there will be confusion in both the church and the culture concerning the role Jesus plays in our lives.   

Make church a place where questions are welcome but some answers are fixed and unchanging- 

Asking questions is how people learn. Therefore, questions, even tough questions should always be welcome in Christianity. That said, there are some answers that can never change. Christians must stick to their guns on the trustworthiness of the Bible, the way of salvation, the absoluteness of moral truth and what God says about gender and sexuality. If we don’t, all will be lost.  

Embrace the complexity and struggle that comes with loving people like Jesus loved people- 

Jesus routinely spent quality time with sinners’ others were quick to spurn. However, that does not mean He was willing to endorse sinful choices or celebrate depravity. Jesus was quick to remind those He loved they were on a path that would eventually lead to their destruction (John 8:11, Matthew 4:17, Luke 3:7-9, Luke 13:1-5). A willingness to love people while telling them the truth about where their choices will lead them captures the essence of authentic Christian love.  This kind of love is complex and difficult to walk out. Nonetheless, we must find ways to live out our faith in such a way we communicate both love for people and disapproval of their sinful actions.  

As long as we are drawing breath there is always hope and I have hope for both the church and the culture. That said, hope is not a strategy. Christians must work to bring truth back into both the church and the culture. If we don’t we will lose both.    

Why we all Need to get our Butts Back in the Church Building-

Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts.  – Acts 2:42 NIV 

According to Pew Research Center as of March 2021 almost half (forty-three percent) of church members have yet to return to in-person church services. A forty-three percent loss of almost anything is at best unsustainable. At worst such a loss could prove fatal. 

Think about it. 

If a family were to suddenly lose forty-three percent of their savings, the loss would create untold chaos in their financial future. If a nation were to lose forty-three percent of their population the nation would inevitably become weak, ineffectual and find themselves at the mercy of their enemies. The church is no different. A forty-three percent loss of regular attenders is no small deal. 

I totally get that there are some individuals who cannot or should not go back to in-service church attendance at this time.

For the record; 

Elderly folks unable or unwilling to get the COVID vaccine, get a pass on returning to in-person services. The immune compromised, or parents with an immune compromised child are also exempt from returning to in-person services at this time. Those with serious comorbidities who cannot or do not wish to take the vaccine, get a pass on resuming in-person church attendance at least for now. 

Everyone else needs to get their butts back in the church building. 

Pronto. 

Here’s why:

It’s not necessarily going to be smooth sailing from here- 

I do not fancy myself a prophet. That said, the culture has taken a turn for the worse and every fiber of my being tells me that the shaking God has given our world over the course of the last fifteen months is not even close to being over (Hebrews 12:25-27). God will continue to shake our world until people respond to Him in repentance (Revelation 9:20). What the shaking will look like and where it will end are questions far above my meager paygrade.  Nonetheless, it’s not over. More trouble and hardship is coming and the body of Christ will likely not be exempt from the trouble (1st Peter 4:17). If I’m right Christians will need the encouragement and connection they can only get from the body of Christ in order to continue their growth as believers (Hebrews 3:13, Hebrews 10:24-26) When Christians fail to grow spiritually they run the risk their faith will die a slow and painful death that could end in apostasy (Hebrews 6:1-9, Matthew 24:9-11).  Church community is critical because it prevents apostasy.  

The church needs all hands-on deck to accomplish the mission of the Church- 

The mission of the church is clear (Matthew 28:18-19). The church is to proclaim the gospel and make disciples. To accomplish this end church leaders are commanded to teach and train all believers to live out the truth of the gospel so they can reach their unsaved friends and family with the gospel (Ephesians 4:10-12). This task is massive. It demands the whole-body work together to accomplish the mission (Romans 12:4-6, 1st Corinthians 12:17). If one person stays home or refuses to do their part a ball gets dropped that ensures the whole body is less effective than they could have been. 

Christians need the church to stay anchored and spiritually healthy-

Without a solid church to anchor a person to the faith individual believers either drift away from Christianity altogether or they begin to adopt strange theories and attitudes regarding God and Scripture. Strange beliefs make it very difficult to reach others with the gospel. These things happen without the person even realizing they are happening. Regular community involvement in a local church is the only way to prevent drift from taking place and eccentric beliefs from taking root. 

There are some things you cannot experience while watching a screen- 

Online attendance has its limits. It is possible to get the essence of a sermon from an online format. That said, it is impossible to experience unity and connection with other believers alone in your living room. It is also impossible to experience the knitting together of the body that takes place when the whole church worships their God in one accord (Acts 2:42-47, Revelation 7:9-10). It is also impossible to effectively use one’s individual gifts to grow the body of Christ while isolated from the body of Christ. We need each other for all these things.  

This pandemic is winding down- 

An estimated thirty percent of the population has recovered from COVID-19 and has natural immunity, another fifty percent of the population has had at least one COVID vaccination. This is a clear indicator it is time for God’s people to ditch their fear and get back to the business of living hard for Jesus.  

The bottom-line in all this is that we go to church because God tells us to and it is the pattern we see throughout the entire Bible. We cannot say we love God and refuse to do what He says (John 14:15, 1st John 5:2, Hebrews 10:25) at least not without experiencing dire consequences. In this case consequences could include a slow separation from God that gives the devil a foothold in our lives and place for sin and even apostasy to take root. Nobody who really knows Jesus wants that. In order to prevent it we all need to get our butts back into the church building. 

Now.  

Just say “NO” to Woke Silliness Regarding Words-

Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen– 2nd Timothy 2:14b NIV 

Lately, I have not felt like myself and I am not a fan of not feeling like myself.

After one especially gloomy day it occurred to me that getting mad about something might pull me out of my funk. I don’t enjoy getting worked-up over stupid stuff for no good reason.  However, I have found that genuine moral outrage has a way of taking my mind off of my feelings and helping me get some perspective about what really matters. 

Anyway.  

Sometimes God takes His sweet time responding to my requests. Other times I get what I want when I want it.  This was one of those times. The very next day, on Facebook I came across a story about a memorial at Wheaten College.  

The memorial honors the death of Wheaton graduate Jim Elliot and four of his missionary colleagues. The men were murdered while attempting to evangelize the Huaorani people of Ecuador in 1956.   The wording on the memorial has been deemed troublesome and will be changed because it uses the word “savage” to describe the Auca tribesmen who brutally murdered Jim Elliot and his colleagues. 

So, (here comes the genuine moral outrage part)

What the heck? Seriously.

Changing the wording of the memorial feels like a brazen attempt to reframe and rewrite someone else’s story. 

 Who are we to think this is okay? 

Is it really our place to reword someone else’s experience, especially when they are no longer around to weigh in on the situation? What makes this generation of Christians righteous enough, insightful or wise enough to get to decide how past generations tell the stories of THEIR life experiences?  Are we really that arrogant and condescending? 

Furthermore. 

The wording of the plaque was written with the consent of Jim Elliot’s wife and the families of the other martyred missionaries. They had zero problem with the words chosen. It should also be noted that the tribesmen and women who later converted to Christianity after murdering the other missionaries described their own behavior as unacceptable and yes, savage. It was guilt over their sin that eventually led many in the tribe to repent and embrace Jesus as Lord. 

It’s true that this is a vastly different time than when the memorial was created. It’s also true words like savage carry a lot of baggage and can be dehumanizing when used thoughtlessly.  No one with any sensitivity would use the word savage to describe a people group in the year 2021.

However.

It’s also true many modern Christians feel the church has gotten missions work wrong for the last two thousand years. Those folks feel it is our responsibility to right the wrongs past Christians committed. Is it really though? Are we really clever enough or righteous enough to correctly judge the intentions and actions of past generations of Christians? Wouldn’t it be wiser for us to worry about ourselves for a change? Perhaps it would be spiritually safer to leave the job of judging past generations up to God and let Him decide who got it right and who got it wrong? 

 I’m just spit-balling here. 

ALL people are made in the image of God. Dehumanizing other people is ALWAYS wrong. Nonetheless, some actions are wrong, evil and yes, even savage. It’s okay to call out evil and savagery when we see it.  There is simply no room for woke idiocy in the Church when God Himself describes the human heart as “wicked” and so “corrupt” that no one but Him can even come close to understanding it. Telling the truth is not the same as dehumanizing someone. Being real about who we are and what we’ve done is the only way to bring about repentance, salvation, personal healing and restoration of relationships.  Furthermore, telling the hard truth about the past is the only way to prevent ugly events from being repeated. 

 The bigger issue at play here is where woke ideas concerning words will eventually lead us. Rewriting a memorial some might judge offensive might not feel like a big deal. However, it sets a precedence. Non-Christians have been rewriting history and censoring what they don’t like for some time now.  Christians would do well to remember that writing and art from the past chronicles history and helps us understand the feelings and experiences of those who lived before us. Literature and art also helps us to understand and even define what it means to be human. If we lose or revise those works we will remove some opportunity for offense. However, we also lose a chunk of our history and even some vital pieces of our humanity in the process.  Most concerning to me is what will happen to the Bible if Christians decide to start taking their cues on this issue from the world. It could very well be next in line for some serious “rephrasing”.  

The Bible was intended to offend (John 6:60-62, Matthew 11:6) 

Making Culture Christian Again-

No man repented of his wickedness, Saying, ‘What have I done?’ Everyone turned to his own course, As the horse rushes into the battle- Jeremiah 8:6 NKJV

A couple of things: 

First of all, Dear Reader,

 I really do appreciate you. The fact that anyone would read what I write is an honor and privilege that never ceases to blow my mind. Second, many Christians are, for obvious reasons, leaving social media sites. If you are considering making an exit from the social media site where you found A Wise Life, please considering subscribing. All you have to do is scroll down to the bottom of the page and type in your email address. A Wise Life will be delivered to your in-box every week for as long as the Lord allows me to continue this ministry or until you unsubscribe. I promise to never sell or give your email address to any other business, blog or ministry.

Lisa

Now, this week’s post:

Over the course of the last couple years I have had innumerable conversations with all sorts of people that have all gone in exactly the same direction and ended in exactly the same way.  

The convo typically begins with me and the other person complaining about the brokenness of our political system and culture. We whine about what a flaming-hot mess everything is and marvel at how quickly it got this way. We grouse about big government, big business, and the creepy relationship that’s evolving between the two. We debate where we think all this is going and it never lands anywhere positive or encouraging.  We moan about the collapse of our republic and bellyache about how our leaders have taken to using the Constitution as toilet paper (metaphorically speaking of course). We discuss marriage, family, children, gender, education and the general lack of interest most people have in God, repentance or the church. We discuss the idiotic lies our culture believes about just about everything. Then just as we come to the point of exhausting these issues one or the other of us will inevitably say:

“I sure wish someone would standup and fight all this craziness”. 

It hit me out of nowhere (as truth usually does) that people are fighting. There is chorus of good, godly, positive voices fighting the foolishness and evil that has stubbornly taken root in our culture. Good people have been fighting this crap for decades. For as long as I can remember there has been a plethora of organizations and ministries one-hundred-percent dedicated to fighting the myriad of social and political evils of our time. Furthermore, most conservatives I know routinely contact their legislative representatives about bills related to political and social issues. Those same people also regularly vote, sign petitions and donate money to political and social organizations that fight for conservative values and biblical truth. 

Then it hit me out of nowhere (as truth usually does) that all our do-gooding, generosity and battling for righteousness has had zero, zilch, nada impact on our politics and culture. The people who need to listen aren’t listening and those who need to change aren’t changing (Matthew 3:8). The people who need to know truth just don’t care.

This is not due to lack of effort or money spent. 

Then I was struck with an even harder truth: This is happening because the people who do know truth aren’t repenting of their sins or seeking to make changes God has told them to make. Our culture is rotting from within because those in the church have wanted everyone else to change while choosing to stay exactly the same.

At this point my mind was flooded with questions. Like: 

Maybe, things are the way they are because we moaned about all the filth and depravity in the world while we watched all the same movies and television shows other people do? Maybe children are embracing the lies our culture is feeding them because we didn’t take the time to teach our own children truth? Perhaps, taking our kids to church once or twice a month, as is the habit of most “serious” Christians, is not enough to protect them from all the deception in the world; let alone make them the missionaries the world needs right now?  Maybe, our political leaders are sellouts and moral weaklings because we are? Maybe, our culture has embraced the folly of identity politics because the church has not done a enough to walk out racial unity, reconciliation and fairness?  Maybe, God isn’t answering our prayers because we aren’t praying? Or maybe we have just been praying for all the wrong things?  

Then it occurred to me that maybe, things would be different if churches had more prayer meetings and fewer planning meetings? 

I don’t know for sure. I’m just spit-balling here. 

 One thing I do know for absolute certain is that many Christians (including myself) have longed for a political leader or group of political leaders who would step in and change laws so we wouldn’t have to do the hard work of changing people’s hearts so they believe and do the right things.  I know that many Christians have depended on the courts and the constitution to do things only God Himself can do and will do only with our obedience, like keep our country Christian.  I also know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it’s time for Christians to repent of the sin of looking for anyone or anything except Jesus to be our savior. Instead we need to take a hard look at our own lives and our own choices. Then we need to start begging God to change us and our churches so we can be the difference makers we were called to be in this world.  

Why we Shouldn’t Always Strive for Unity in the Church-

 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field.  But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared”- Matthew 13:24-26 NIV

 There are things I believe with all my heart, mind soul and being. I believe God is, always has been, and will always be (Jeremiah 10:10, Revelation 21:6). I believe God is one God with three distinctive expressions of Himself. He is the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit all at once (Genesis 1:26, Deuteronomy 6:4, Matthew 28:19, 1st Timothy 2:5). Jesus came to earth as a baby, grew into a man, lived a sinless life and sacrificed Himself to liberate the human race from the bondage of sin and death. In doing so, Jesus created a new people out of those who place their faith and trust in Him (Galatians 3:28, Colossians 3:11, 1st Peter 2:4-6). These people are the Church and they serve as God’s ambassadors on earth (2nd Corinthians 5:20). The primary responsibility of the Church is to show the unbelieving world through their holiness, words and demonstrations of grace that God is who He says He is.  In my view the Church is at its most influential when Christians work in unity towards the common goal of making Christ known to all the world.

  I do not believe Christians should divide over trifling doctrinal issues or stupid stuff willy-nilly. (John 11:52). Back in the day, I worked as the director of a Pregnancy Resource Center. The position afforded me many opportunities to work closely with believers from many different expressions of Christianity. I very rarely felt the differences in beliefs were so great I could not work with leaders from other churches.

 That being said. 

This week I was forced to do some thinking about some of my beliefs. It all began with an article about a podcast. That article inspired me to listen to an interview between Jen Hatmaker and Max Lucado.  Jen Hatmaker is a touchy-feely, fairly well-known author, blogger and Christian influencer who hosts a popular podcast. She markets herself as an Evangelical but promotes liberal views on theology, gender issues, and gay marriage. She believes homosexual relationships can be “holy”.

 Max Lucado is a much-loved and well-known Evangelical author and pastor with a reputation for being conservative in his views. He implied several times during the interview he doesn’t agree with her on every issue but he was incredibly generous with his praise and he essentially endorsed her ministry.

 Throughout their discussion Max Lucado made it clear he believes unity in the Body of Christ should be a very high priority for believers. As long as Christians agree on the “fundamentals of Christianity” little else matters. The fundamentals include belief in the life, sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Max Lucado is not the only Christian who feels those issues are the only issues Christians should divide over. Those have been the standard for Christian fellowship for decades.

 So, a couple of things.

 I would never encourage professing Christians to be unkind to other professing Christians or anyone else. The Bible is clear that Christians should be known by their love for one another. Therefore, meanness and hate is never acceptable (John 13:35).

 However, I do think it is time for Christians to think long and hard about where we draw the line on endorsing ministries, influencers and Bible teachers. What a person teaches regarding sexuality in general and homosexuality in particular really does matter. It should be taken into consideration before we follow, align ourselves with or endorse anyone.  

 Here’s why.  

  Not every issue Christians disagree about is black and white. There are shades of grey and room for differences of opinion concerning some issues (eschatology, politics, Calvinism, Arminianism, expressions of worship, etc.). However, issues pertaining to sexuality, homosexuality and the number of genders that exist are settled issues. The Bible clearly teaches homosexuality is a sin. Moreover, God made humans in His image, male and female, only, period. (Genesis 1:27, Leviticus 20:13,1st Timothy 1:9-11, 1st Corinthians 6:9)

 It is true that homosexual sin is no more or less sinful than heterosexual sin (1st Corinthians 6:18). That said, homosexuality and gender are not up for debate from a biblical perspective (for more on this issue I highly recommend: What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality, by Kevin Deyoung). To teach otherwise is more than just an affirmation of “love”. It is an all-out-full-frontal assault on the inerrancy of Scripture. It is impossible to say we believe the Bible in its entirety and then teach that it is completely wrong on issues of sexuality.

 The Bible calls for unity in the Church. However, unity should never come at the expense of truth and sound doctrine. The books of Jude, 2nd Timothy and 2nd Peter all predict there will come a time when teachers will slip into the church and teach false doctrines and half-truths that will appeal to the fleshly (sinful) nature of humanity and lead people away from the true gospel (2nd Timothy 4:3, 2nd Peter 2:1 Jude 4). Christians are advised to avoid those kinds of teachers.

 The Bible says what it says about sexuality. We do not get to rewrite the opinions of our Creator. When we try we end up in a place where everyone in the church does what is right in their own eyes. When that happens, standards of right and wrong are lost and the Church loses its spiritual power and ability to change the culture.