The Kingdom Of God Versus Mark Driscoll . . . And Us

The Christian cyberworld and blogosphere are all “atwitter” with the latest news concerning the trials and tribulations of Mark Driscoll, Senior Pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle. This has not been a particularly good year for Mark, and he both needs and deserves our encouragement and our prayers. Whether you love or hate him (or know nothing about him), he is our brother in Christ. But Driscoll’s recent vexations offer a “morality tale” of sorts with lessons which we could all benefit from if we were to take the time to reflect on them.

A Quick Summary

Mark Driscoll’s “annus horribilis” began in late 2013 with accusations of serial plagiarism in several of his published books, including his recent “A Call To Resurgence” (footnotes, Mark, footnotes). Next came the revelation that Driscoll and Mars Hill had hired a promotional firm to manipulate sales of Driscoll’s book, “Real Marriage,” in order to get the book on the New York Times bestseller list. After all, nothing says “success” like a New York Times Best Seller. Driscoll and Mars Hill initially defended the practice, but Driscoll later admitted that it was both deceptive and wrong. On Monday, June 30, The Daily Beast reported (erroneously, as it turned out) that Tyndale House Publishers was severing its relationship with Driscoll, Mars Hill and Resurgence, forcing Tyndale executives to issue a hasty press release re-affirming their relationship with all the parties concerned. And about the same time Mark Anderson, who served under and traveled with Mark Driscoll for some 10 years, including as Director of the Resurgence Project, posted an eye-opening summary of why he left Mars Hill.

Like I said, “annus horribilis.” This hasn’t been Mark Driscoll’s or Mars Hill’s best few months.

A Kingdom Perspective

I want to be clear and begin with a personal disclaimer. I am neither a fan nor a critic of either Mark Driscoll or Mars Hill. At least, no more so than any other megachurch, a church paradigm of which I am not a particular fan for a wide number of reasons. I have no “skin” in their game. I do not know Mark personally (although I interviewed him once, years ago, for a radio program I was doing), and am in no position to speak into his life or ministry. I can only pray, as all of us should, that there are mature spiritual people around him who have both the access and the freedom to lovingly admonish and encourage him.

For my part, I want to take the opportunity of this “tempest-in-the-church-teapot” to make some observations from the perspective of the Kingdom of God. Over the past couple of years, while working on my book on discipleship, I have come to the conclusion that we need to begin seeing life in the Church through the prism of the Kingdom of God, and NOT the other way around. When the values of the Kingdom of God become the lens (yep, I changed metaphors midstream) through which we see and understand our life in the Church, many things change. What follows are just a few which struck me as I reflected on this entire episode.

1. The Kingdom of God Re-defines Success.  Author and pastor A. W. Tozer once observed, “Religious pragmatism is running wild among the orthodox. Truth is whatever works. If it gets results it is good. There is but one test for the religious leader: success. Everything is forgiven him except failure.” (A.W. Tozer, “The Root of the Righteous”). It seems that, in the evangelical church, the metric for success has become the size of the campus (or the number of campuses, if you’re “multi-campus”), the size of the congregation and the size of the budget. A REALLY successful church has a pastor with a book deal with a major Christian publisher and his own radio program. And to have a pastor with a New York Times Best Seller is, well, the penultimate success. In such an atmosphere, manipulating book-sales is forgivable, as long as it is successful.

In his article about his personal journey through and out of Mars Hill, Mark Anderson quotes the following revealing admission by Mark Driscoll:

“I’m a guy who is highly competitive. Every year, I want the church to grow. I want my knowledge to grow. I want my influence to grow. I want our staff to grow. I want our church plants to grow. I want everything because I want to win. I don’t want to just be where I’m at. I don’t want anything to be where it’s at. And so for me it is success and drivenness and it is productivity and it is victory that drives me constantly. I – that’s my own little idol and it works well in a church because no one would ever yell at you for being a Christian who produces results. So I found the perfect place to hide. And I was thinking about it this week. What if the church stopped growing? What if we shrunk? What if everything fell apart? What if half the staff left? Would I still worship Jesus or would I be a total despairing mess? I don’t know. By God’s grace, I won’t have to find out, but you never know.”

Here’s the question: Is this our Evangelical definition of success? Is there a spiritual gift of “ambition” or “competitiveness” and are such character qualities things to be aspired to? I hate to be the one to say it, but the above represents an expression of personal ambition that is foreign to Jesus and the values of the Kingdom of God. To defend them is to attempt to put “lipstick on a pig.”

In the Kingdom of God, success is defined somewhat differently. In the Kingdom of God, success is defined as obedience, faithfulness, fruitfulness and service. In the Kingdom of God obedience to God’s call, faithfulness in obeying that call, fruitfulness in making disciples and service toward the least of these are the quintessential marks of success. We could abbreviate and summarize by saying, when seen through the lens of the Kingdom, faithful obedience IS success, regardless of any outward appearance. The Apostle Paul ended his career penniless in a Roman prison and was executed at the hands of the Roman government on a charge of sedition. Not exactly how you want your “Curriculum Vitae” to conclude. Despite not having a congregation, a campus, a budget or a “book deal” (or even a spare cloak, for that matter), he was unquestionably the most spiritually successful man in Church history. Why? Because he was obedient, faithful, fruitful and a servant to others. Can we say the same? How many of Mark Driscoll’s issues – not to mention our own – might have been avoided if the Church held its leaders to a different metric of “success” and looked at all such behaviors through the lens of the Kingdom and its values?

And this leads to my next observation.

2. In the Kingdom of God, Fame is Often The Enemy of Faithfulness.  Our broken and faulty definition of success and the incipient pressures to “succeed” have produced far-reaching ripple effects for the Church. The pursuit of book deals, speaking engagements and media interviews have fostered an age of “celebrity pastors” for whom the pinnacle of their success is a guest appearance on the “Today” show or Fox News (usually to promote the book). We need to ask the question, “How did Jesus handle the pressures of ‘fame’?” In Luke 4 the Gospel writer records an incident that is very instructive concerning Jesus’ ministry and how He handled His growing “fame” with the masses:

“And when it was day, he departed and went into a desolate place. And the people sought him and came to him, and would have kept him from leaving them, but he said to them, ‘I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.’” (Luke 4:42-43)

After a time of amazingly effective ministry, Jesus found himself deluged by large crowds which attempted to physically prevent Jesus from leaving. It is at such moments that “fame” becomes a serious challenge to our self-awareness concerning our call and our mission. But Jesus never allowed His own self-awareness concerning His mission and purpose to be clouded, distracted or determined by the demands of “the multitudes.” Jesus lived His life to please an audience of One, to train an audience of twelve, to proclaim the Kingdom of God to an audience of whoever would listen, and to give His life for the sin of the world. His self-awareness was challenged on a regular basis by the ever-growing crowds which followed Him, “and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities.” (Luke 5:15) But He never allowed Himself to be distracted by either His fame or the constant demands of the multitudes. Jesus was more concerned with faithfulness than fame. Are we? Are you? Am I?

3. In The Kingdom of God, Character Trumps Gifting. A wrong definition of success, combined with a pursuit of fame over faithfulness eventually produces disastrous consequences in the life of the Church and its leadership. Whenever the Church has emphasized spiritual gifting over spiritual character, it has paid a terrible price for doing so. It is an inescapable truth for each of us that the pressures of life and ministry eventually reveal both the strengths and the weaknesses of our character. The higher each of us moves up the ladder of success, the greater the pressures which are brought to bear on our character. At some undefined point those pressures find our weak spot, something inside of us breaks and we begin destroying with our character what we build with our gift. We can blame our failures on others or on outside influences, or we can face the reality of our character flaws and failures and deal with them before the throne of grace. In the Kingdom of God, God is more concerned with our character (i.e., our Christlikeness) than He is with either our comfort or our gift. For this reason He frequently sends gifted individuals out into the wilderness of obscurity and service in order to disturb their comfort while refining their character. Only then are they prepared to weather the pressures of ministry which gifting and success often bring.

4. In The Kingdom of God, Making Disciples Trumps All Other Activities. In the Kingdom of God, if you aren’t making disciples who can make disciples, it doesn’t matter what else you are doing, or how many people are attending your Sunday services. In His brief three-and-one-half-year ministry, Jesus ministered to tens of thousands, and fed more people with fish and loaves than attend all of Mark Driscoll’s satellite churches on a busy Sunday. But he only made twelve disciples, and trained only 72 workers. The Kingdom was His message, discipleship was His method, faithful men of spiritual character were His goal and the organic Church was His creation. Beyond those simple things, nothing else mattered. What would Mark Driscoll’s ministry, your ministry, my ministry, and the ministry of the Evangelical Church in America look like if those four things were all that mattered to us?

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Shore Leave

STShoreLeave

One of my favorite Star Trek episodes ran in the first season of the original Star Trek series, first airing on December 29, 1966 (Season 1, Episode #15). On stardate 3025.3, the Federation starship USS Enterprise, under the command of Captain James T. Kirk, arrives at a planet in the Omicron Delta system. When scans reveal that the planet has a congenial earth-like environment, Captain Kirk announces shore leave for all off-duty personnel. But it isn’t long before there is wierdness in paradise. It begins when Dr. McCoy reports seeing a large white rabbit, followed quickly by Alice from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. More strange things happen quickly and general mayhem ensues, but far be it from me to spoil it for those of you who have not seen it (find it on Netflix).

At the “penultimate” moment in the plot an elderly man appears and identifies himself as the “Caretaker”. He informs Captain Kirk that this planet is a sophisticated “amusement park” created by an advance race of people who needed a place to “play”. When Sulu openly wonders why an advanced race should need a “playground,” Captain Kirk explains, “The greater the complexity of the intelligence, the greater the need for the simplicity of ‘play’.” Yep, what he said. The Caretaker apologizes for any misunderstandings, assures Captain Kirk that no one has been permanently harmed, and offers the services of the planet to the Enterprise’s weary crew, with the caution that the visitors must choose their amusements with care (how true, for all of us).

In case you were wondering, we’ve been on shore leave lately, after a challenging three years.

A Three Year Unexpected Journey

“There is a joy in the journey,
There’s a light we can love on the way;
There is a wonder and wildness to life,
And freedom for those who obey”
- Michael Card, “The Journey”

Some time ago I wrote that we don’t choose our journey, our journey chooses us. At the time I only vaguely understood how prophetic those words would be. Interesting who, in the Kingdom of God, we are frequently called upon to live out what we teach. As this unexpected journey began to embrace us the Lord told us to let go of everything we were doing. We knew something was coming. We simply didn’t understand what that “something” might be. Shortly thereafter, Gale and I began what would become an unexpected three year journey of caring for her parents as they moved into the final stages of their own journeys. Their journey became our journey. Two-and-a-half years ago we moved in with them. Shortly thereafter Gale’s mom passed away, and we continued on to help her dad through that transition. Then, this past December, two days after Christmas, Gale’s dad completed his journey and stepped into eternity.

We spent the first few months of this year packing up their home of 40 years, getting the house ready to put on the market to sell, and settling his estate (death is a complicated business!). In mid-March we finished our work, put our worldly possessions into storage and decided to take an extended trip back east to decompress, to visit family, to reflect on our journey and to ask the inevitable question: “What do you want us to do next, Lord?” In other words, we went on “Shore Leave.” We returned to Spokane in late May, found a comfortable apartment in the Spokane Valley on the Centennial Trail (30+ miles of walking trail extending from North Spokane all the way to Coeur d’Aene, Idaho), and have spent the past month getting “settled” (if pilgrims, sojourners and “tent dwellers” can ever get “settled”).

Gale and I want to express our thanks to all of you who have encouraged along the way this journey. Your prayers, your support and your encouragements have meant a great deal to us, and we are thankful.

Moving Forward

The past three years have given us an opportunity to reflect on many things. Some of those things have shown up in my VERY sporadic newsletters. Others will appear in my forthcoming books on discipleship (see below). Others are still brewing and will show up in upcoming newsletters. The following is a brief sampling of some of the things I’ve been reflecting on.

This time of reflection has brought me to a renewal of some basic convictions concerning not just organic (house) church, but concerning our calling and priorities in the Kingdom of God. In future newsletters I plan to touch on some of these issues, including (but not limited to) the following:

  1. The preeminence of the Kingdom of God in God’s plan and purpose for our day.
  2. The nature of Church and it’s relationship to the Kingdom in an increasingly hostile Postmodern context.
  3. The nature of the Gospel as the authoritative proclamation of the Kingdom and it’s arrival.
  4. The importance of making disciples of the Kingdom who embody a Jesus-shaped spirituality and are able to reproduce it in the lives of others.
  5. The importance of holiness & the fear of God, repentance and spiritual intimacy in the life of every disciple of the Kingdom.
  6. The importance of sexual purity in the life of the believer in our Postmodern culture (yes, including the “hot button” topic of homosexuality).
  7. The existential threat of Universalism (the erroneous idea that everyone goes to heaven) to the message of the Kingdom and the mission of the Church.
  8. The importance of ministry to the marginalized as embodied in our call to serve “the least of these.”
  9. The existential threat of “Postmodern Millennialism” as the secular substitute for Biblical Eschatology.
  10. Spiritual awakening as God’s end-time plan to supernaturally advance His Kingdom and build His Church when things appear the darkest and most discouraging for the people of God.
  11. The coming underground church and its role in the end-times.

I am convinced that the future of organic church (or “house church” or whatever other moniker we choose to use) rests upon our ability to successfully address these issues, which is why I intend to address them aggressively in the weeks ahead.

We’re Back

On September 1, 1939, open warfare broke out in Europe when Germany invaded Poland. On September 3rd, the day Britain declared war on Germany, Winston Churchill was appointed First Lord of the Admiralty and a member the War Cabinet, just as he had been during the early days of World War 1. When the Board of the Admiralty was informed of the appointment, they sent a simple three-word signal to the Fleet: “Winston is back.”

It’s moments like this when I genuinely enjoy history and the personal anecdotes which inevitably arise as events unfold. Sorry, but I just can’t resist. We’re back. Batten down the hatches. This is going to be fun.

And They Dreamt Of A Kingdom: Biblical Reflections On Discipleship And The Kingdom of God – Volume 1

Discipleship_Cover

Before leaving on our “Shore Leave” Gale and I met with an attorney and retained his services to file Rising River Media as a non-profit Christian media and publishing company. Our goal is to be a resource for the organic church community and to encourage others in their pursuit of organic church. We are in the process of revamping our website and will be doing frequent updating.

During our journey of the past three years, one of my primary writing projects has been a two volume set on discipleship. The first volume, “And The Dreamt Of A Kingdom: Biblical Reflections On Discipleship And The Kingdom Of God – Volume 1,” is now completed and available on Amazon both in print and in Kindle

There is a considerable amount of talk today about discipleship, much of it centered around the need for the Church to get back to the basics of disciple-making. Many are asking the question, “Why don’t we make more disciples?” While I plan to address this question more extensively in a future newsletter, let me offer a few observations. First, western Christianity is a minimalist faith built upon nominal professions of faith and participation in organized church activities. From a New Testament perspective, nominal professions of faith and genuine discipleship are, well, incompatible. Jesus continually raised the bar of faith and obedience with His disciples, whereas we are continually lowering it. Second, Americans are famous for wanting to “reinvent” things. I am seeing frequent posts now on how we can “reinvent” discipleship. In my opinion, for what it’s worth, we don’t need to “reinvent” anything. We need to “return” to discipleship the way Jesus practiced, modeled and taught it. That’s what this book (and it’s successor volume) seeks to do. Third, we don’t make disciples in any biblically meaningful way because, well . . . we just don’t know how. And there’s the rub. I wrote this book to address a simple, basic and profound question: “How did Jesus disciple the twelve?” The answer to that question produced a journey into the Gospels and the Kingdom of God along side Jesus as He took 12 unlikely Jewish religionists and turned them into disciples of the Kingdom. What lessons did Jesus teach the twelve . . . and why? How can we learn what they learned and be transformed as they were transformed into disciples of the Kingdom. If organic church is to succeed long term, we must re-discover what it means to BE disciples of the Kingdom and how to REPRODUCE that discipleship in others. This book (and its forth-coming companion volume) is my contribution and my challenge to this discussion. Finally, there is growing talk today about the Kingdom of God and what exactly is “the gospel of the Kingdom” and how does it relate to the Church and to discipleship. My book seeks to integrate the biblical teachings concerning the Kingdom of God, the Church and what it means to be a “disciple of the Kingdom”. You get to be the judge of whether or not I have succeeded. I look forward to your feedback.

Here is my FREE offer. I will send a FREE copy of the book to anyone who is willing to 1) Read the book, 2) write a CONCISE review (a paragraph is fine), and 3) post the review on their social media page(s) INCLUDING a link to the book on Amazon (posting your review on Amazon would also be appreciated). If you are willing to do that, let me know via REPLY (including your mailing address) and I will send you a FREE copy. Otherwise, feel free to order it on Amazon.

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Maurice’s Musings For Monday, October 28, 2013

Post Cards From The Edge Of A Post Christian Culture. I should probably file this story under “reflections on politics” and “Who elected these clowns”. Speaking of politics, does anyone in the current Administration have a clue as to what they’re doing in the Middle East? This article certainly makes you wonder. This article about a preemptive strike by Israel on Iran is a reminder (at least to me) that one morning we could wake up and and our world will have changed overnight and without warning. There’s a reason Scripture reminds us of the importance of continued “watchfulness”. The day is eventually going to arrive when each of us will be called to write a check for our share of this profligate behavior. This article from the UK “Spectator” newspaper is eyeopening concerning the persecution of Christians around the world. Here’s the money quote: “According to the International Society for Human Rights, a secular observatory based in Frankfurt, Germany, 80 per cent of all acts of religious discrimination in the world today are directed at Christians. Statistically speaking, that makes Christians by far the most persecuted religious body on the planet.” Speaking of persecution, closer to home, And this is the kind of article that makes me wonder what else may be going on that we haven’t heard about. It amazes me that thirty years after the late Dr. Francis A. Schaeffer wrote about the rise of our post-Christian (i.e., postmodern) culture, we are still talking about it as if it is “new news.” Dr. Geisler is right to observe that American has lost it’s Judeo-Christian basis, but his is 30 years late, and recovering it is questionable at best. As this article from Christianity Today points out, the past several years have been a hard lesson for many believers. Much of American Christianity consists of misplaced faith: faith in the American dream, faith in our economic system, faith in our political system. Difficult times force all of us to re-examine the true nature and focus of our faith. How our hearts complete this thought reveals something of where we are at: I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from (fill in the blank). If the genuine response of our heart is anything other than “the Lord, Who made the heavens and the earth” then we have a misplaced faith. As A. W. Tozer once observed, what a man (or woman) thinks about when he or she is free to think about anything or nothing, reveals the true condition of our hearts. Just my thoughts. Let’s face it. Sexuality and marriage are topics which are dominating the Church’s conversation with our Postmodern culture. In that spirit, here are two excellent articles on Christian sexuality, one from The Christian Pundit and the other from Gentle Reformation. Both quite good. In addition, Southern Seminary President Al Mohler shares some good thoughts on the economic benefits of traditional marriage. Announcing the “happy atheists”! Once you’ve accepted the premise of contemporary moralistic, therapeutic deism that the goal of religion is “happiness” or “your best life now,” then this makes sense. Many things can make you happy without resorting to God. Finally, prepare to GROAN!! O.J. Simson a televangelist? Only on “reality” TV. Maybe it will turn out to be a comedy rather than a tragedy. Holding my breath.
Encouragement. Pastor Ronnie Floyd blogs about three ministry lessons we ALL need to learn and apply. This article (“I’m A Christian, And My House Just Burned Down”) is well done, and it’s message has application to many of life’s unexpected turns. Even the non-runners among us can appreciate the encouragement of this experience. Running to find God and for clean water. I love this kind of self awareness: “The race was great. I felt more physical pain than I had ever felt in my life. I got passed by a guy with one leg.” As yourself, “What would you do?” A Female Good Samaritan in a strange land. Which are you? A streaking meteor and a faithful star. The stories of Jim and Bert Elliot. What would you do if your wedding was cancelled after all the preparations had been made? Turning a disaster into a blessing. Prayers not answered yet? Don’t give up. Finally, it’s that time of the year when people wonder, “Why do Autumn leaves change color?”
Miscellaneous Church News. A good reminder for those of us with strong opinions, which we tend to share on Facebook! Remember, an opinion’s like a nose. Everybody has one. Is the church in America dying? Not according to Ed Stetzer. For those of you (us) addicted to links, here’s one “mother lode” and (if that wasn’t enough) another “mother lode”! According to the latest census figures available (2011), the land of John Knox is no longer the land of John Knox. A good article on Billy Graham and America’s fading memory.
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John MacArthur, Strange Fire And A More Excellent Way

I was a young Seminary student at Denver Seminary working a summer job with a friend, Nate, whose brother owned a furniture warehouse. Our job was to move furniture and clean the warehouse. To help pass the time Nate suggested we listen to a set of tapes he had recently acquired featuring a California pastor teaching on the Charismatic gifts. More accurately, it was a pastor railing against the excesses of the Charismatic movement. Since you’ve probably already guessed the Pastor’s name, I suppose it is anti-climatic to say that it was (as you guessed) John MacArthur.
 
That John MacArthur is a declared “cessationist” (the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit  have ceased and are not active today) and a foe of anything and everything Charismatic/Pentecostal is NOT news. My experience with his Cessationism goes back some 30 years. The real news is that Dr. MacArthur has chosen to make a crusade against the Charismatic/Pentecostal movement, and those who don’t share his Cessationism, the “high water mark” of his  career by means of the widely publicized “Strange Fire” conference. THAT’s the news. The kind of news that is worth weeping over.
 
My Observations (for what they’re worth)
 
Let me begin with some “full disclosure.” I am NOT a Charismatic nor a Pentecostal. I came to faith during the Jesus Movement and was surrounded by Charismatics, Full Gospel folk and others, but I never received the gift of tongues and do not pray in tongues today. I DO believe that all of the New Testament gifts of the Spirit continue on today (making me a “Continuationist”) and are available to all born again believers through the indwelling and empowerment of the Holy Spirit. I have been “Reformed” in my theology since college days. My seminary degree and training is in theology and apologetics. That doesn’t make me an expert, just an amateur with some 30 years of practice. I should also say that I have not been able to watch all of the livestreaming sessions of the Conference, but have closely followed the live blogging provided by Tim Challies. So much for personal background and disclosure. Now for my observations:
 
Observation # 1: There’s Nothing New -  Anyone conversant with the issues surrounding cessationsim and the debate over the supernatural gifts of the Spirit will quickly see that MacArthur’s “Strange Fire” Conference is – for the most part – a rehash of the same cessationist arguments which have been around since the days of B.B. Warfield. This quickly becomes clear in Tom Pennington’s presentation, “A Case For Cessationism”. Pennington attempts to offer 7 “biblical” arguments for Cessationism. In his first argument, “The unique role of  miracles,” he declares that there were only 3 primary periods in which God worked miracles through unique men. The problem here is that this isn’t a “biblical” argument. Rather, it is an argument borrowed straight out of B.B. Warfield’s 1918 treatise, “Counterfeit Miracles”. Warfield is the source for many Cessationist arguments. Indeed all 7 of Penningtons arguments, which are more quasi-historical/philosophical as opposed to biblical,  are standard cessationist arguments which have been presented a refuted numerous times (for a complete treatment of all seven arguments, see Jack Deere, “Surprised By The Power Of The Spirit”, specifically “Appendix B: Did Miraculous Gifts Cease With The Apostles,” where he addresses MacArthur’s – and Pennington’s – arguments directly). In other words, in terms of biblical, theological arguments for Cessationism and against Continuationism, NOTHING new was offered.
 
Observation # 2:  Walking Backwards From Sensationalism To Cessationism -  Every student of debate knows that the quickest and most effective means of getting an audience on your side is to troll out egregious, even gut-wrenching examples of bad behavior on the part of those whose position you are attacking. The argument is simple, effective and not very subtle: “People who believe this nonsense act badly, ERGO, what they believe caused this bad behavior and is, therefore, wrong. Continuationism produces bad results, therefore, it is wrong.  Cessationism produces good results, therefore, it is true.” There is a certain degree of emotional power behind such an argument, especially after you listen to the talk by Conrad Mwebe concerning what is taking place in Africa. Let’s face it. Who among us DOESN’T have a favorite Pentecostal/Charismatic faith healer or televangelist we would like to see boiled in a vat of his own “imported-from-Israel” anointing oil, preferably live on TBN (you know, to set an example and deter any newcomers).  I’ve got my short list, and you probably do to. 
This is what I call “walking backwards from Sensationalism to Cessationism.” Begin your argument with examples of sensationally bad behavior. Proceed by declaring those bad examples to be representative of everyone who holds to a Continuationist theology. Set the stage that any theology which produces such bad fruit is wrong. Conclude that Continuationism is false theology and Cessationism is true theology because Continuationism produces bad fruit and Cessationism produces good fruit. Done. Everyone go home.
 
The problems with this emotionally popular approach are legion, but I only have time to mention a couple. First, whether Continuationism or Cessation are true is NOT a matter of public opinion concerning bad behavior (on BOTH sides). It is a matter of careful, biblical study and exegesis. In a related theme, which theological formulation is true CANNOT be determined by an appeal to “the Reformers” such as John Calvin, but to the Scriptures. Our doctrine of Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone) does NOT include the writings of either John Calvin or John MacArthur. Second, biblically speaking, fruit has to do with people, not theological formulations. Bearing good fruit is a defining characteristic of a genuine disciple. Bearing bad fruit (or no fruit) is a defining characteristic of someone in whom the seed of God’s Word has not sprouted and come to fruition. Fruitfulness is about relationship (see John 15), not theology. Fruit in the New Testament is about people, not theological formulations. I have seen much good fruit and much bad fruit among BOTH Cessationists and the Continuationists. We do one another no favors by making broad misrepresentations based on examples of bad fruit. 
 
Observation # 3: An Open Declaration of War - For John MacArthur, this conference represents a “parting shot”. By age alone he is approaching the end of his ministry. It is sad that this is how he has chosen to spend his latter years. But the truly unfortunate reality is that by holding and promoting this conference (and his new soon-to-be-released book on the subject), MacArthur may well be opening a new declaration of war for a battle that will far out-live him. Here are a couple of the “battle lines” of “MacArthur’s War” as I see them:
 
1. If you are a “Continuationist,” you are a theological heretic and a fraud. The gifts ceased in the 1st Century, ERGO: everything you claim to believe and experience concerning the gifts is false. Granted, Dr. MacArthur is a little more diplomatic than that in public, but not much. In his opening address of the Conference he stated that the Charismatic movement dishonors God and engages in false worship on the same level as Nadab and Abihu (see Leviticus 10. I treat this episode in Chapter 6 of my book on holiness, “The Inextinguishable Blaze”). He further declared  that “nothing good has come out of the charismatic movement that is attributable to charismatic theology.” There’s more, but I think you get the point. This is a declaration of war. It’s “us” against “them.” We’re good. They’re bad. Take no prisoners.
 
2. You cannot be “Reformed” without being a “Cessationist” because Calvin was a Cessationist. On the opening night of the Conference Steve Lawson spoke on the relationship of “Cessationism versus Continuationism” to “Reformed” theology. More specifically, he argued that those claiming to be Reformed in their faith (i.e., holding to the doctrines of the Protestant Reformation) need to go back to the writings of John Calvin and his struggles with the “charismatics” of his day, namely, small off-shoots of the Anabaptists who also believed in the continuation of the gifts. Lawson’s argument was simple: if we are truly “Reformed” in our faith, we should respond to Charismatic and Pentecostal Continuationists today the same way Calvin responded to them in his day, by rejecting them and their doctrine.
Again, the problems with this approach are legion, but I’m short on time and space. First, whatever happened to “Sola Scriptura,” as opposed to “Sola Calvinus”? I have been “Reformed” in my faith and doctrine since college (some 40 years), NOT because of John Calvin, John MacArthur or anyone else. I am “Reformed” in my faith because I believe that Reformed Theology represents the best formulation of what the Scriptures teach on a wide variety of critical biblical subjects. BTW, that’s the same reason why I am Continuationist rather than a Cessationist. I also reserve the right to criticize various Reformed formulations of doctrine where I believe Scripture teaches something different. Calvin and the Reformers were right on many issues and we are in their debt. But they were also wrong or unclear on others, including (in my opinion) Cessationism. As a “Reformed” Christian, “Sola Scriptura” means that my ultimate appeal-to-authority for my “Reformed” faith is Scripture, not John Calvin or the Westminster Confession or John MacArthur or anyone else.  Second, by publicly declaring that Reformed faith and Cessationism are inseparable, Dr. MacArthur has now turned this discussion into an “intra-mural knife fight” within the Reformed and Evangelical communities. This will get both interesting and messy. For example, an evangelcial and pentecostal scholar like Gordon Fee (whose commentary on 1 Corinthians is arguably the best in print)  now appears to have more in common with a Reformed theologian like Wayne Grudem (who argues for the continuation of the gifts)  than either of them have with John MacArthur on this subject. It’s starting to feel vaguely reminiscent of the Great Papal Schism of the Middle Ages (1378-1410) which saw as many as three rival Popes (and their followers) claiming legitimacy and anathematizing each other. Hopefully we will handle things better than they did. But in a knife fight, anything can happen. Thanks, John. Your parting gift to the Church has been to initiate “The Night of the Long Knives,” an intra-mural knife fight which will outlive you . . . and potentially define your legacy in ways that would surprise you.
 
A More Excellent Way
 
“Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles?  Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.” (1 Corinthians 12:29-31)
 
The issue of the supernatural gifts of the Spirit – their nature, their use and their misuse – is as old as the New Testament. Students of the New Testament are well aware that the Church in the Greek city of Corinth was perhaps the most spiritually gifted of any Church in the New Testament, and perhaps the most troubled. By the time the Apostle Paul wrote 1st Corinthians, the exercise of those supernatural gifts had become, well, “messy.” In his letter to the Corinthian believers, Paul labored to clean up the “mess” and we find his instructions in Chapters 12-14. In Chapter 12 Paul explains the nature of spiritual gifts by offering the metaphor of a human body and its various parts to explain how all of the different gifts in Christ’s spiritual body need to work  together – just as the various parts of the body must work together – in order to be healthy. Later, in Chapter 14, Paul explains how the various gifts are to be utilized when the Church gathers together for corporate worship. 
 
But between these two Chapters on the proper functioning of the supernatural gifts in the Church, Paul inserts 1st Corinthians 13, what most Christians know as “The Love Chapter”. Let’s pause for a moment and ask a simple but obvious question: Why? In the midst of an extended explanation of the nature and role of the supernatural gifts in the life of the Church, why would Paul pen what is arguably the most eloquent description of divine love (agape) in all of Scripture? Answer that question (which I will, shortly), and you will begin to understand Paul’s “more excellent way”. Allow me to offer an answer by way of analogy. If the Church is God’s engine for accomplishing His Kingdom purposes in this world, then God’s love – manifested by and through God’s people in their corporate worship together – is the oil which keeps that engine from destroying itself. And I would further argue that the manifestation of that divine love toward one another in biblical community is as much a supernatural occurrence (unless you know how to produce divine love some other way?) as speaking in tongues or giving a word of prophesy or healing the sick.
The life of the body together, including the manifestation of the various gifts, is messy and produces “friction”. Gifts intended to build up the body can have the opposite effect when exercised without and apart from God’s love toward one another. Love means we exercise patience and kindness toward those who are immature in the exercise of their gift. Love means we do not become irritable at their mistakes, or resentful at their success. Love means we do not envy those whose gifting appears greater than our own, or boastful and arrogant when the opposite is true. Love in community amidst the operation of the supernatural gifts means we bear the burdens of those around us, believe the best about them, hope the best for them while being willing to endure all things on their behalf. That’s what Jesus did for us, and it is what He expects us to do for one another as a community of believers. Yes, even in the midst of the “imperfect” functioning of the gifts He has given us. One of the Cessationists’ favorite passages to use in an attempt to prove that the gifts have ceased is found in three verses in 1st Corinthians, Chapter 13:
Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.” (1 Corinthians 13:8-10)
 
To attempt to use this passage to prove the cessation of the supernatural gifts is to completely miss Paul’s message, spread over three chapters. Will the gift of prophecy pass away? Yes. Will the gift of tongues cease? Yes. Will knowledge pass away? Yes. When will these things happen? The answer which is most consistent with New Testament Eschatology is: “When Jesus returns at the end of this present age.” Anything else is speculation in service to an agenda. When Jesus returns and inaugurates “the age to come” and the Kingdom of God, all the supernatural gifts will cease. They will no longer be needed. But unlike the gifts, God’s love will continue on, even in eternity. Until then, in the ongoing life of the Church during this present age, the supernatural gifts continue to function and God’s love manifested in the believing community continues to be the “oil” which enables the gifts and the community to function without destroying itself. And that won’t cease until Jesus returns. 
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Maurice’s Musings For Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Church News.  The big news recently has been the release of the annual lists of the 100 largest and fastest growing churches in America, a joint project of Outreach Magazine and Lifeway Research. You can download the list as a PDF here. Ed Stetzer of LifeWay shares some of his thoughts on the list and what it shows. One of the things it shows is the continued explosive growth of the megachurch model. A recent article by Outreach Magazine suggested 10 trends which are shaping the megachurch of the future. Another trend (unrelated to the annual list) among megachurches appears to be a movement away from “mega” facilities toward “multiple” facilities. In other words, from megachurch to multi-site church (one church in several locations). Does the success or failure of contemporary Christianity rest upon our use of social media? These guys seem to think so.  Books Worth Reading  Need some good reading material? A couple of ideas. First, I had the privilege of studying under Carl F.H. Henry for a summer school course in Seminary. He was a profound thinker who packed more into a lecture than many professors put into an entire course. I was recently reminded of his seminal work which, in many ways, gave birth to contemporary Evangelical Christianity.  Carl F.H. Henry, The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism. Second, in The Gospel Call and True Conversion, Paul Washer challenges easy believism as he examines the real meaning of things like faith, repentance, and receiving Christ.

Postcards From The Edge Of A Post Christian Culture.

Mars Hill Senior Pastor Mark Driscoll is warning of darker days ahead for the church. If he is right (and I think he is), then I believe we are going to see a growing conflict which will challenge both our structures (how we do church) and our values (what we believe and why). On a related theme, I have argued that we are witnessing the death of private conscience if the expression of that conscience conflicts with the “politically correct conscience” of our culture. For example, broadcaster Craig James was recently fired by Fox Sports for views he expressed concerning gay marriage during a prior run for political office. Gay activists are training 50 people to work on convincing Evangelical Churches to re-interpret the Scriptures and change their views concerning homosexuality. The Catholic Church recently gave instructions to its military chaplains, barring them from participating in services and ceremonies for gay couples. And a young woman at Smith College is being vilified for suggesting the possibility of a “straight” sorority. On a positive note, Trevin Wax of The Gospel Coalition shares some excellent thoughts on people, church and our desire to remain unchanged by Jesus. And author Jessica Hong shares some reflections on the 50th anniversary of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique. Few things in life are harder to refute than a politically correct scientific conclusion:  The Earth Hasn’t Warmed In 15 Years. Oopps.  Miscellaneous.  Having written a brief book on the seven churches of Revelation (“When Jesus Visits His Church” – available on Kindle), I was impressed by this summary of the seven churches by Kevin DeYoung. Well done! Finally, some things are just too good to pass up. Apparently, being a gorilla is no excuse for acting like an animal.

Quote Worth Remembering:  Words are cheap. It is by costly, self-denying Christian practice that we show the reality of our faith. —Jonathan Edwards
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Maurice’s Musings For Monday, September 23, 2013

Church News
This article by The Gospel Coalition examines a recent survey by Focus on the Family and offers a more encouraging analysis of who is leaving the Church and why. Blogger David Murrow offers some interesting reflections on “Why Men Have Stopped Singing” in Church. I get it. Hey, let’s spend some quality time speculating on “What Church Will Be Like In 50 Years.” Good luck on that one. Check out “12 Characteristics of All-In Leaders” Really? Who writes this stuff, Zig Ziglar? File this one under “Move over, Jesus. It’s time for us to build your church.” This is why many ministries and churches get built, and why Jesus eventually leaves the building (if He ever bothered to enter in the first place). Are you involved in a multi-site or multi-campus church. This article reflects on whether “McChurch” is the future or a fad. I recently came across this excellent post by Kevin DeYoung on the essentials of Christian faith. This post by The Gospel Coalition reviews the book “The Great Evangelical Recession”. I enjoyed this observation from the review: “As cultural values have shifted, it is hardly surprising that cultural incentive to church participation has evaporated. Folks brought in by attractions other than the gospel and fed a diet hostile to the gospel (e.g., “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism”) can hardly be expected to stick around once church affiliation requires taking up any sort of cross.” Gotta love church humor, posted by Ed Stetzer of LifeWay. Some quick thoughts by John Stott on the missional nature of the Church Gotta love church humor, posted by Ed Stetzer of LifeWay. Finally, I couldn’t resist this article on small groups and “Jiffy Pop”.
Books Worth Reading
I recently came across several books to help you better understand how the Old Testament relates to the New Testament and the person of Christ. First, in  Jesus On Every Page: 10 Simple Ways to Seek and Find Christ in the Old Testament, Dr. David Murray takes the reader on a “Road to Emmaus” journey to discover how to find Jesus in the Old Testament. Second, in “The Unfolding Mystery” Dr. Edmund Clowney takes a fascinating walk through the Old Testament, beginning with Adam and Eve and closing with the last of the prophets, revealing Christ in places where he is usually overlooked. Finally, a third book along this same line is Christ Crucified: The Once For All Sacrifice by 17th Century Puritan Stephen Charnock, republished with an introduction by J.I. Packer.
Encouragement
Is there a “best” way to share your faith? Well, there’s a “worst” way, and that’s to not do it. One of the “genius” moments of organizations like Cru (hate that name, formerly Campus Crusade for Christ) was to teach their staff and their participants to write out and memorize their testimony in a two-minute format that could be shared anywhere at any time. Most professing Christians have at least one of three problems: 1) they have no testimony to give, 2) they have a testimony but don’t know how to articulate it, 3) they are untrained in how to respond to questions and objections. This article deals with only the third issue. My encouragement? Give your testimony to those who will listen, and then see where the conversation goes from there. Your greatest “apologetic” will be the long-term authenticity of your life and witness.
Organic Church
Todd Engstrom shares his thoughts on why small groups don’t work. I’m not a regular follower of Frank Viola’s ministry, but when this showed up in my newsfeed (via another site), I had to admit he has some good points: “Advice To New Christians”. For those of us Westerners who thought we were doing ministry “outside the box,” this story of ministry in Thailand puts us in our place and challenges us to do more. Disciple making is the discussion topic de jour at church conferences and on Christian blogs today. Unfortunately, much of that discussion represents little more than re-packaged church programs with “Discipleship” now printed on the label. But I found this article somewhat refreshing and encouraging as it suggests that there are some fundamental shifts taking place when it comes to making disciples.
Postcards From The Edge Of A Post Christian Culture
What’s the balance between biblical love and biblical outrage in our digital world. “Outrage begins to eat us alive when it is not channeled into creative love. It does not produce the righteousness we rightly seek (James 1:20). And there is only so much love you can demonstrate in 140 characters on a glowing screen.” Here’s a good question: Is mass evangelism still relevant. This article suggests ten reasons why it may be (although I don’t find them overly convincing, myself). Our Postmodern culture doesn’t understand that our message is why we do what we do. So, what happens when we must choose between our message and our outreach? In the 1960s Francis Schaeffer, in books like “Death In the City,” was warning the Church that Western Culture had entered a Post-Christian era. Recently, Dr. Russell Moore has begun recovering that theme and speaking on the end of “cultural Christianity.” The Church has always been called to be a “peculiar” people. The rise of our Post Christian, Postmodern culture simply guarantees that our “peculiar-ness” will be more pronounced. In a related article Dr. Moore argues that, “The ongoing collapse of the Bible Belt will help the church recover its oddness and thereby further its mission.”  On a related cultural note, Wallace Henley at The Christian Post as done and excellent 3-Part series of articles (“Millennium Fading, Tribulation Rising”: Part 1Part 2Part 3) on the changing situation of the Church in Western Culture. And this article on Freedom of expression versus religious intolerance emphasizes this point. The man, the Ten Commandments and the American Culture. Before you watch “The Ten Commandments” again you should read this background article on Cecil B. DeMille. Now you know the rest of the story! There have been growing indications for years that the U.S. Military is turning openly hostile toward Christianity. And this article by Dr. Al Mohler of Southern Seminary gives an excellent summary of the crisis now fomenting in the U.S. military over the future of Evangelical Chaplains.
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Biblical Community and The Greatest StarTrek Episode Ever Made

"The Guardian of Forever"

“The Guardian of Forever”

 “Let Me Help”
It is known as the “penultimate” Star Trek episode; simply the best episode ever made. To StarTrek afficianados it is known as Season One, Episode 28, airdate April 6, 1967. To collectors of the boxed DVD set it is known as “The City On The Edge Of Forever.” While the Enterprise is investigating temporal disturbances from a nearby planet, Mr. Sulu is injured by a shock wave and explosion. Dr. McCoy gives Sulu a shot of cordrazine which saves his life. But when another shock wave rocks the Enterprise, Dr. McCoy accidentally injects himself with an overdose, rendering him  delusional. He flees from the Bridge to the Transporter Room and beams himself down to the planet. Kirk and a landing party beam down to the planet surface where they find both Dr. McCoy and  the source of the time distortions. An ancient glowing ring  located among ageless ruins speaks and introduces itself and the “Guardian of Forever,” a gateway to other times and places. Escaping the clutches of the distracted landing party, McCoy jumps through the portal. Suddenly the landing party loses contact with the Enterprise. The Guardian explains that the past has been altered and the Enterprise no longer exists. In order to repair the timeline, Kirk and Spock must use the Guardian to go in search of  McCoy. Passing through the Guardian, Kirk and Spock arrive in New York City during the 1930s Great Depression. After stealing some clothes to blend in, and running from the Police,  they take refuge in the 21st Street Rescue Mission run by a woman named Edith Keeler (played by Joan Collins). They go to work for Ms. Keeler, who knows theses two are different, but doesn’t know why or how. Spock devotes his time and energy to building a computer (“out of stone knives and bear skins”) in order to read information stored on his tricorder which might explain what McCoy has done to alter history. Kirk begins to fall in love with Edith, whom he finds remarkable. On an evening stroll together, Edith expresses her desire to help Kirk with whatever trouble he may be in. “Let me help,” she implores. Kirk responds by pointing Edith to a star on Orion’s belt and telling her that a 100 years from then an author from a planet circling that star will write a best selling book based upon those three words, “Let Me Help,” even recommending them over “I love you.” There’s more to the episode, but I’ll leave it to you to find a copy and watch for yourself.
The “Let Me Help” of Biblical Community
By now you should be asking yourself, “How in the name of Star Fleet is he going to tie this together?”   Thanks. I was hoping you would ask. The New Testament actually has a lot to say on the topic of “Let Me Help.” It simply expresses it in different language.
First, the New Testament approach to “Let Me Help” begins with those individuals whom God has gifted as leaders in the Church, specifically the itinerant 5-Fold leadership gifts:  Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers (described in Ephesians 4:11-16). With every gift comes a responsibility. The 5-fold calling and responsibility is to “help” by “equipping” believers for the work of service (Eph. 4:12). The Greek word translated “equip” is katartidzo, meaning “to render (something) fit”. It is used in Matthew 4:21-22 & Mark 1:19-20 to describe the disciples “mending” their nets. I like to describe the role of the 5-Fold leadership gifts as teaching the church “the fine art of mending one another’s nets”.  Let’s face reality for a moment, shall we. The stress of life and ministry in this present evil age shreds our nets, sometimes beyond our ability to mend them without help, producing the messiness of life both inside and outside of the ekklesia. The calling of the 5-fold gifts is to come alongside the Church – both individually and corporately – and to say, “Let me help. I see your nets are torn in this area. Let me help you mend them.”
Second, the New Testament approach to “Let Me Help” is expressed in what I call the “One Anothers” of biblical community. The role of 5-fold leaders is to be the “tuning fork” of the Church; to set the tone of “Let Me Help,” a tone which then resonates throughout the community of believers. But the real work of building biblical community is expressed in the “One Anothers” of the New Testament. Throughout the New Testament we find commands  expressly given to the Church regarding how believers are to behave toward “one another.” I have found roughly 38 of them. The most famous and most repeated “one another” is the admonition to “love one another,” which occurs some 20 times. Here is a sample of a dozen  “One Anothers” (remember, there are 25 more where these came from!):
1. Love One Another
2. Be Devoted To One Another
3. Live In Harmony With One Another
4. Welcome One Another
5. Give Preference To One Another
6. Be of The Same Mind Toward One Another
7. Owe Nothing To One Another
8. Do Not Judge One Another
9. Build Up One Another
10. Accept One Another
11. Admonish One Another
12. Serve One Another
Quite frankly, these sound very “churchy,” even down right “platitudinal.” A platitude is “a remark or statement, especially one with a moral content, that has been used too often to be interesting or thoughtful.” Another definition says a platitude is “a flat, dull, or trite remark, especially one uttered as if it were fresh or profound.” Sound familiar? It should. That’s exactly how most believers treat the “one anothers” of Scripture.  We’ve heard them so often that they no longer interest or challenge us. They have become trite and dull. And that goes a long way toward explaining why we have so little genuine biblical community in “church.” But what if we were to take a cue from StarTrek? What if we were to think of the “one anothers” of Scripture in the personalized terms of “Let Me Help.” Then the “one anothers” of Scripture might look and sound a bit more interesting, not to mention more personally challenging:
1. Let Me Love You
2. Let Me Be Devoted To You
3. Let Me Live In Harmony With You
4. Let Me Welcome You Into My Home And My Life
5. Let Me Prefer You Over Others
6. Let Me Be of One Mind With You
7. Let Me Owe You Nothing, And Absolve You Of Any Debt To Me But Love
8. Let Me Not Judge You
9. Let Me Build You Up
10. Let Me Accept You For Who You Are
11. Let Me Admonish You
12. Let Me Serve You
Sound better? The “one anothers” of biblical community (or perhaps we should call them the “Let Me Helps” of biblical community) are, first and foremost, personal admonitions, guiding individual believers in how we are to act toward other fellow believers. Expressed this way, the “Let Me Helps” of biblical community are almost embarrassingly personal. For this reason alone it is difficult to see how genuine biblical community can exist and thrive among believers in groups larger than 15-to-20 people, or about the maximum size of an organic house church. Think about it. Just how many people can you meaningfully love, or be devoted to, or live in harmony with, or welcome into your home and life, or be of one mind with, or build up, or admonish, or serve, etc.? Yes, we can preach these values and behaviors to a mega church of 25,000 people, or to an average size American church of 360 people, but the personal and practical nature of their real-life application requires a relatively small group of 15-to-20 believers. If we need “proof” of this reality, we shouldn’t need to look further than the example of Jesus. All of these “one anothers” can be seen at work in His ministry to His twelve disciples. And I should add at this point that these “Let Me Helps” are given specifically to believers to guide their relationships with other believers. These are the values of life in the Kingdom given to guide disciples of the Kingdom in their life with one another. Their application toward unbelievers is secondary, if not tangential. If we can’t “get it right” within the Church, what hope do we have of manifesting it to unbelievers in any meaningful way?
Welcome to the “Let Me Helps” of biblical community. I’ll bet you never imagined that being a “Trekkie” could be so biblical.
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Good Coffee And The Ache Of Mortality

O.K., fair warning. This article is best read over a cup of good coffee, or, if that’s unavailable, a steaming pot of Twinings English Breakfast Tea, preferably with cream and sugar, and made with rolled leaves, not that ground up stuff the American tea critics quite properly tossed into Boston harbor in 1773, rendering it undrinkable, even for Americans. Your choice. Ready? Then let’s get started.

If you and I were ancient Romans living in the 1st Century, and assuming we had survived until our 5th birthday (appallingly high infant morality rate and all), chances were good that we would live an additional 50 years. That would be a total life expectancy of around 55 years. Now, that didn’t mean people didn’t live longer. Even the Psalmist knew that there were people who lived longer when he observed, “The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away.” (Psalm 90:10) But those were the upper boundaries, not the averages. From the time of Jesus until the early 20th Century, and the advent of modern medicine, the average life expectancy remained essentially unchanged. What modern medicine has been able to achieve is basically two-fold. First, it has dramatically reduced the rate of infant mortality, and that alone has been profound. When 50-to-75% of those born no longer die in the first five years of life, it skews the averages upwards in a significant way! But, second, modern medicine has been able to treat those chronic “issues” which historically begin to catch up with all of us somewhere in our 50s (things like cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, common cancers), and to mitigate their impact on our mortality. The net effect of all this is that more people than ever in human history are making it to that biblical “mile marker” of “fourscore” (i.e., 80, and, yes, there are even more centenarians – people living to 100). All of this “longevity,” however, has come at a cost. The mast majority of health care dollars are spent on the elderly and others with chronic conditions. It cost money to beat the averages. Even biblical boundaries come at a price.

So, what’s with all this existential navel gazing (say that three times real fast) over morbidity and mortality. No, I’m not dying, at least not immediately. Sorry to disappoint. But the reality is that somewhere in our 50s – assuming we’re paying attention to both the calendar and our condition – we begin to experience what a recent writer called “The Ache Of Mortality.” It is an “ache” which has been brought home to me and Gale as we have spent the past 2+ years caring for her parents. We have been in and out of hospitals, nursing homes and retirement homes more times than either of us can count or remember. And our experience has been “mild” compared with that of others we know (knowing other’s situations are worse is no comfort at all, trust me). We have seen first-hand the ability of modern medicine to manage people’s issues and symptoms in order to extend their lives so they can spend another day or week in a nursing home watching “The Price Is Right” and “Jeopardy”. And we have had doctors tell us honestly, “This is how people used to die. Now we manage their issues and keep them alive.” Welcome to “the ache of mortality.” For the Christian, the “ache of mortality” is particularly acute. Having been “born from above” and granted the gift of eternal life in the Kingdom of God, it reminds us that we are eternal souls in earth-bound bodies. But God has placed the “ache for eternity” so deep in the human soul that even a philosopher like Friedrich Nietszhe – the godfather of nihilism and the “death of God” movement – could write as follows,

O man! Attend!
What does deep midnight’s voice contend?
‘I slept my sleep,
‘And now awake at dreaming’s end:
‘The world is deep,
‘And deeper than day can comprehend.
‘Deep is its woe,
‘Joy—deeper than heart’s agony:
‘Woe says: Fade! Go!
‘But all joy wants eternity,
‘Wants deep, deep, deep eternity!’

(R. J. Hollingdale’s translation of “Zarathustra’s Roundelay” from Thus Spoke Zarathustra, by Friedrich Nietzsche.)

The ache of mortality and the longing for eternity is the silent tug inside every human heart, even inside those which ultimately deny it. The Apostle Paul understood “the ache of mortality” and the tension it creates within the believing heart. Paul was in his mid 50s when he wrote from Ephesus in Asia Minor to the Christians living in the Greek city of Corinth. This second letter to the Corinthian believers is one of the most intimate and personally revealing of Paul’s letters. And one of the things he reveals is his own “ache of mortality.” Here is what he says:

“Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven; inasmuch as we, having put it on, shall not be found naked. For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed, but to be clothed, in order that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.” (2 Corinthians 4:16 – 5:4)

Paul’s vocabulary is revealing, reminding the Corinthians (and us) that – regardless of its length – this life is “temporary” (proskairos), literally, “for a season” (2 Corinth. 4:18). Next Paul describes our present bodies as a “tent dwelling” (Greek: oikia skēnos). He contrasts this temporary “tent dwelling” with the “built dwelling” (Greek: oikodome oikia) which awaits us in the Kingdom. Rather than being “for a season,” it will be “eternal” (Greek: aionios). In the interim, as we await the ending of this temporary season, we “groan” and are “burdened” (literally, “weighed down”) by the the ache of our own mortality. We look forward to the day when we are absent from the body and are present with the Lord, when we are “unclothed” from this temporary tent and are clothed with our permanent dwelling. Until that day arrives, our calling is to please Him and to prepare to acquit ourselves on that day when we must appear “before the judgment seat of Christ” in order to “receive what is due for what (we have) done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Corinthians 5:9-10).

Here Are My “Take Aways

Allow me to suggest five potential “take aways” or “responses” from all of this.

1. Reflect - Take some time to reflect on the brevity of our sojourn here. Regardless of however long it lasts, whatever the number of our days may be, life is “temporary”. Our sojourn here is “for a season”. Use it wisely, with an eye to what follows . . . and what lasts. Spend time reflecting on the words of Jim Elliott who, though he died “early,” made an impact which lasted far beyond him: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

2. Be Expectant - As Disciples of the Kingdom the ache of our mortality reminds us of that coming day when “No more shall there be . . . an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not fill out his days, for the young man shall die a hundred years old, and the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed” (Isaiah 65:20). We long for that day, and in our longing we are reminded of the brevity of this life and the unending glory of the life to come. I am not hoping for “pie in the sky by and by,” but I am looking forward to a Messianic Banquet in the Kingdom with Him Whom my soul loves (Isaiah 25).

3. Live well. The goal of life is not to live long, but to live well. In the Kingdom of God, life is measured by faith and impact, not by fear and length. Many young men died before their 30th birthday in 18th Century America, but few are remembered like David Brainerd. Why? Because his life was measured by his faith and its impact, not by its length.

4. Stay focused. Life is short, and much of it is outside of your control. Neither you nor I have unlimited time to do what God has called us to do. The Psalmist who understood the boundaries of our mortality also understood the importance of staying focused when he said, “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12) Let others live distracted lives. Not you.

5. Make disciples - Our Kingdom goal in this life should be obedience to what Jesus commanded us to do, and to leave a legacy that will out live us in time and meet us in eternity. Only disciples will do that. Not buildings. Not ministries. Not degrees. Not possessions. None of those things will follow you into eternity. Only disciples. So make MORE of them.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts. – Maurice

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Maurice’s Musings For Friday, September 6, 2013

I thought I would experiment with a return to something I did years ago on our first ministry website. Hyperlinks were a new thing then and I did a running commentary with embedded hyperlinks to each of the news stories I mentioned. It was novel then. Now everyone does it. I’m considering doing this again once a week here just to highlight stories and issues of interest I’ve come across in my newsfeed. Consider this my “Back to the Future” first trial run. Randy Alcorn. Wowzers! After reading this article, my respect for Randy Alcorn just went through the roof! Keep up the great work! Gay marriage and the death of conscience. I have warned for years that the day would come when to act on the basis of one’s conscience, as informed by one’s biblical convictions, would be illegal if one’s conscience violated politically correct public policy. That day has arrived. Al Mohler of Southern Baptist Seminary comments on the recent New Mexico Supreme Court decision involving a Christian photographer who was sued for refusing to photograph a gay wedding ceremony. This is just breath-taking and has the potential to impact affect every church and Christian business in America. A similar case has developed in Oregon involving a Christian owned bakery which refused to bake the cake for a gay wedding.  It reminds me of a quote from the movie, “A Man For All Seasons,” about the life of Sir Thomas More. “When statesmen forsake their own private conscience for the sake of their own public duties they lead their country by a short route to chaos.” Should I Or Shouldn’t I?  Some theological issues are simply timeless. The question is, should I grow my beard again. Decisions, decisions. Our Children Understand More Than We Thing They Do! This was one of those stories that was just too good to pass upRejoicing In Our Own Demise? Generally speaking, we should be very careful about rejoicing in our own demise. Columnist Wallace Henley has written a very good two part series on the profound cultural changes confronting the Evangelical Church. Part 1 is about the the decline of Christian influence in our Culture, while Part 2 examines the rise of anti-Christian antagonism. Before you rejoice in your own demise, you might want to give them a read. “All Thy Breakers.”  Feeling challenged and “sifted” by God’s dealings in your life? Then you might want to read the stories of this Church, their struggles and their faith. The Duck Men Strike Again. There is perhaps no greater “Oxymoron” than “Reality Television.” This article is a MUST read, even if you aren’t a fan of “Duck Dynasty”. The Drums of War (Again). The National Association of Evangelical (representing 40 of Evangelical Churches in America) recently polled pastors concerning whether or not they support air strikes against Syria. 62% said “No”. How dare those warmongering Christians nix a perfectly good opportunity to bomb a bunch of people! After ten years of war, and the prospect of more to come, I can’t help but remember Simon & Garfunkel (I was in High School when this came out). After everyone has forgotten Miley Cyrus, and Lady Gaga has joined her “meat dress” in the dumpster, people will still be reflecting on this. To Bomb Or Not To Bomb, What Is The Lesson?  Joel Rosenberg muses on lessons Israeli leaders are learning from  President’s Obama’s vacillations on Syria. No Intelligent Design? Really? An excellent article on the symmetry of the universe. My “take away” was that the secularist places his (or her) “faith” in the mysteries of the Universe, rather than God; while the Christian places his (or her) “faith” in the mysteries of God, rather than the Universe. Protecting the digital identity of your children. And excellent article about how one couple is protecting their new daughter’s digital identity and privacy.

 

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A “Boomer” Responds To Rachel Held Evans On “Millennials”

Maurice’s Musings For Tuesday, August 6, 2013

I’m somewhat of a late comer to this discussion. Just over a week ago (July 27, to be exact) blogger/author Rachel Held Evans wrote a guest piece for CNN’s Belief Blog entitled Why Millennials Are Leaving the Church. I’ve followed Ms. Evan’s blogging for some time, and this article didn’t really break any new ground, either for her, or for the Church. But the appearance of the article on a “larger platform” such as CNN gave it wider-than-normal exposure, which generated more-than-normal attention. Not to mention more responses. One of the benefits of not being a “millennial” is, well, the ability to offer a little perspective. At least I hope so. But before I can do that, I need to offer a disclosure and a definition.

“Millennials” Versus “Boomers”

Let me begin with a shameless personal disclosure: I am a “Boomer”. This means I am part of that Post-World War 2 generation born between about 1946 and 1960. I was born in 1954. Mine is the generation of the VietNam War, the draft (yes, I had a draft card), the Beatles, the Cold War, Flower Power, free love, Haight-Asbury, Berkley Free Speech, The Black Panthers, “Love Story,” and The Jesus Movement. I was raised as a United Methodist (yep, the “liberal” guys), made a profession of faith the summer between my Junior and Senior years of High School at a small Southern Baptist Church outside of Fayetteville, North Carolina and did street ministry for a year among GIs returning from Southeast Asia. I went on to the University of North Carolina where, along with a group of committed believers, I helped lead a campus-wide outreach and spiritual awakening in the Spring of 1975. My reason for sharing this (beside the fact that I said it would be a “shameless personal disclosure”) is to make a point: Millennials, such as Ms. Evans, are not the first generation of believers to confront the task of reaching their unique generation for the Kingdom of God. Indeed, it is the task of every generation to do so. So, consider what follows to be the reflections of an aging spiritual “Boomer,” taking what little he has learned and passing it on from one generation to the next.

OK, about Millennials. They represent the largest single generation since the Post-World War 2  “Boomers”. Born between roughly 1981 and 1995 they number something on the order of 76 million. They represent a highly diverse generation that welcomes, accepts and celebrates both diversity and equality. Millennials are highly empowered by technology. In a very real sense, theirs is the first true “digital generation”. Every aspect of their lives is entwined with technology, hence the descriptive phrase, “Digital Natives.”  Ms. Evans sums it up well, “I wrote my first essay with a pen and paper, but by the time I graduated from college, I owned a cell phone and used Google as a verb. I still remember the home phone numbers of my old high school friends, but don’t ask me to recite my husband’s without checking my contacts first. I own mix tapes that include selections from Nirvana and Pearl Jam, but I’ve never planned a trip without Travelocity.”  Interesting. I prefer Expedia and Kayak over  Travelocity, but I remember rotary dial phones and the three letter phone prefix for the phone in the home where I grew up (HUD was the prefix, referring to the “Hudson” exchange). I went through Seminary with a SmithCorona Super 12 electric typewriter, but I’m writing this newsletter on Gmail with a laptop. Yep, things have changed.

As a result of their digital addictions, Millennials frequently develop and manage their identities on line. Theirs is “the Facebook Generation” in which friends, interests, aspirations, spirituality and more are all on display on social networks for everyone to see. This has also fostered a change in relationships. Millennials have replaced dating with “hooking up,” relationships which are much more casual and involve no commitment, summarized by the phrase “Friends with benefits” (i.e., friends who have sex, in case you’re wondering). Millennials tend to be a highly passionate and positive generation which believes they can make a difference in the world. So much for
“Millennial” generalities. Let’s look at specifics, as Ms. Evans explains them to us.

The Church And Millennials

OK, it’s time to dig into “the meat of the matter.” Let’s begin with the topic itself, “Why Millennials Are Leaving The Church”. The topic of “church leavers” certainly isn’t new. Over ten years ago a New Zealand doctoral student in Sociology named Alan Jaimieson was writing about “The Ten Myths Of Church Leavers.” (Alan’s book, A Churchless Faith: Faith Journey’s Beyond The Churches,” based on his doctoral work, is available on Amazon). Some 13 years ago, about the time Ms Evans was looking forward to graduation from college, my wife and I left the traditional institutional church and began a journey into “organic church” and service among “the least of these.” Simply put, Millennials are not the first generation of believers to go in search of the Kingdom of God outside the walls of the institutional church. Many of us have been on that journey longer than most Millennials.

Survey Says . . . Ms. Evans Millennial critique of evangelicalism includes a reference to “survey” results. Surveys can be helpful tools. The Barna organization has been doing them and writing books about them for 20 years. If you want a church run by survey results and marketing, join the Willow Creek Association. They’re experts at it. But be warned: there are problems. Surveys give you a snapshot in time concerning people’s wants and desires. Studies, on the other hand, show the results of implementing those surveys. And the studies done throughout the Willow Creek network reveal that while the model is effective at attracting Millennials (and others), it fails at the most basic task assigned to the Church, namely, the making of committed disciples (for more, click here). There is a significant danger in attempting to build your “Ecclesiology” on surveys. Better to disciple a handful of Millennials who “get it,” than to fill a megachurch building with hundreds of Millennials who don’t. Get it?

What Millennials Think. Ms. Evans proceeds with an overview of how Millennials view Evangelical Christianity: too political, too exclusive, old-fashioned, unconcerned with social justice and hostile to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. She goes on to observe that, according to research (read “surveys”), “young evangelicals often feel they have to choose between their intellectual integrity and their faith, between science and Christianity, between compassion and holiness.” She concludes by observing how “the evangelical obsession with sex can make Christian living seem like little more than sticking to a list of rules.”

It is difficult to respond accurately to such wide-ranging observations, which include both truth and misrepresentation. Evangelical Churches are too political, but so are liberal non-Evangelical Churches. The condemnation of one for being “too political” must apply equally to the other. Before accusing Evangelicals of being unconcerned with “social Justice” it might be helpful to define the term (more about this below). For the past 200 years – in response to the vitriolic attacks of philosophical “modernism” – Evangelical Christians have been forced to defend both their intellectual integrity and their faith. Many of us were engaged in defending both our intellectual integrity and our faith (that’s called “apologetics”) in hostile Post-Christian environments on secular University campuses before Ms. Evans parents even considered having kids. It’s what Tertullian did in response to inquisitive Romans of the Third Century, and it’s what we do in response to inquisitive postmodern Millennials of the 21st Century. It is a timeless – and apparently thankless – task. Get used to it, because it isn’t going away any time soon. And as for sex, “obsession with sex” didn’t start with Evangelicals, not unless Hugh Heffner was an Evangelical. The “sexual boundaries” of biblical faith were well established for 3,000 years (no sex before marriage, no sex outside of marriage, no sex with family members, no sex inside your gender, no sex outside your species). The “sexual revolution” of the 60s (and beyond), led by such people as Hugh Heffner and Helen Gurley Brown, challenged those boundaries. The Evangelical Church found itself challenged and forced to defend its beliefs by an increasingly sex-obsessed culture determined to eliminate all sexual boundaries. Sexual purity Biblically defined (by the 5 boundaries I listed above) has been a characteristic of biblical faith for 3,000 years. If anyone is “obsessed” with sex, it appears to be those seeking to overturn 3,000 years of biblical teaching.

What Millennials Want. Now, this is where things get, well, interesting Ms. Evans offers a list of things Millennials want, spiritually speaking, introduced with a call to “substance” over “style” (Amen to that!). I want to comment on Ms. Evans list of Millennial wants,” and I will try to be brief:

1) We want an end to the culture wars. As noted above, Millennials want greater involvement in “social justice” but an end to “culture wars.” If only it were that simple. The problem is that one person’s “social justice” is someone else’s “culture war.” For example, when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., preached from the pulpit of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta against racial discrimination, was that a call to “social justice” or a call to war against a white-dominated culture of discrimination?  Yes, it was. And there’s the rub. You aren’t ending the culture wars. You’re simply changing labels and adopting different issues. One person’s “social justice” is someone else’s “culture war.” The difference is often one of perspective.

2) We want a truce between science and faith. Sorry. It simply isn’t going to happen, not as long as the Hitchins and Dawkins (et. al.) of the world continue to publicly attack Christianity as being “anti-intellectual” or “anti-science” or whatever pejorative they choose to use. Those of us who have been engaged in philosophical apologetics over the past 40 years have known that “modern science” (or more properly, “postmodern science”) has been predicated on certain “axioms,” including the following: 1) there is no God; 2) the universe is a closed system of materialistic cause and effect; 3) miracles are not possible.  Given these three “axioms,” Christianity and biblical faith are – by definition – myths, or dangerous delusions. In his book, “Why I Am Not A Christian,” British mathematician and atheist Bertrand Russell asked rhetorically, “Do I have to believe in talking donkeys in order to be a Christian?” The answer, of course is “No.” But you DO have to believe in a God who is able to make a donkey talk if He chooses to do so. The same is true in the realm of faith and science. Do Millennials (or anyone else) have to believe in a literal 7-day creation in order to be a Christian? No, they don’t. But they MUST believe in a God who is able to create the universe in seven days if He chose to do so. And there’s the rub. Our problem isn’t necessarily with science, but with our view of God. And that  is where Millennials (like the rest of us) must begin in order to resolve this tension.

3) We want to be known for what we stand for, not what we are against. Amen! And in a perfect world, that would be the case. In a perfect world we would be known only for the salt and light of our good deeds performed in the name of Jesus. But in this imperfect world we will be known for both. There are numerous reasons, including the reality that to stand for one thing is to oppose its opposite. To stand for biblical righteousness is to stand against those things which offend that righteousness. To stand for the Kingdom of God and its values is to also stand against the kingdoms of men who have no interest in the values of the Kingdom or in Jesus being their King. To be “pro-life” and to stand for the rights of the unborn is to stand against those who would insist that the unborn have no rights. And the list goes on, as it always has.

4) We want to ask questions that don’t have predetermined answers. This is a nuanced statement which requires a nuanced response. Actually, it requires a story. In his book, “The Case For Faith,” author Lee Strobel tells the story of two men – two preaching colleagues. In 1949 Billy Graham and Charles Templeton were preaching colleagues with Youth For Christ. Their ministries were booming, but both me were wrestling with “questions” they could not answer. Doubts they could not resolve. Finally, at a Bible conference with Henrietta Mears in the late Summer of 1949, Billy Graham took a long walk with God and made a personal commitment to accept the Bible as God’s authoritative word by faith, in spite of his unresolved questions. The following month Graham undertook his Greater Los Angeles Crusade which catapulted him to national prominence as an evangelist. Charles Templeton, on the other hand, was unable to make such a commitment of faith. Overwhelmed by his own questions and doubts, Templeton eventually left the ministry. In 1957 he declared himself an agnostic. Christians – including Millennials – should never be afraid to ask questions. But neither should they be afraid of “predetermined answers.” The existence of a “predetermined answer” simply means that you are NOT the first person to ask or wrestle with that question. Other pilgrims have trod this road, and have left markers (“predetermined answers”) to guide those of us who follow behind them. Sometimes their “predetermined answers” are correct. But embracing them requires a degree of humility, and a faith on our part that precedes understanding. Like Anselm, we must believe in order that we might understand. Humility and caution would remind us that life, ministry and eternity are not determined by the questions we ask, but by the answers we choose to embrace, to believe and to build our lives upon. And that makes “predetermined answers” to critical questions of more than passing significance.

5) We want churches that emphasize an allegiance to the kingdom of God over an allegiance to a single political party or a single nation. Again, Amen! But beware the Kingdom. The Kingdom of God as proclaimed by Jesus places high demands upon all who would be disciples of that Kingdom. The Kingdom demands that we repent of our sin and rebellion, submit the totality of our lives to the King, and take up His cross daily in order to follow Him. Like all of us who have responded to Jesus’ call to “follow me,” Millennials must give up their “wants” in exchange for the Kingdom’s “demands.” Jesus does not give us what we “want,” but in the call of the Kingdom He offers us what we “need”: pardon for our rebellion, forgiveness for our sin, reconciliation with God, redemption from the marketplace of slavery to unrighteousness, along with a yoke which is comparatively easy and burden which is comparatively light. He offers us a Jesus-shaped spirituality, but that’s a discussion for another day.

6) We want our LGBT friends to feel truly welcome in our faith communities. I agree . . . to a point. Jesus loved and embraced the marginalized, irrespective of their condition. Indeed, because He embraced the marginalized, He was frequently accused of spending too much time with “tax collectors and sinners.” But neither Jesus nor the Kingdom ever left people in the same condition in which He found them. For this reason, the Kingdom is a “discomforting” place. It is constantly confronting our sin and rebellion, while challenging us to greater faith and obedience. Jesus embraced the marginalized Samaritan woman at the well of Sychar (John 4), but He did not leave her as He found her. He confronted her lifestyle and challenged her to greater faith and obedience. As a result of her faith and obedience, her entire village came to a knowledge of Jesus as the Messiah. Can the same be said concerning your faith community and your LGBT friends? Are they (and you) experiencing the challenge of the Kingdom to greater faith and obedience? Are you, at some point, being as forthright in your response to their questions regarding their faith and sexuality as Ravi Zacharias is to this questioning student?

7) We want to be challenged to live lives of holiness, not only when it comes to sex, but also when it comes to living simply, caring for the poor and oppressed, pursuing reconciliation, engaging in creation care and becoming peacemakers. Again, AMEN! Here’s the problem. Holiness is unrelated to any of the things mentioned here (that’ll ruffle some traditional feathers). There are non-believers who do everything on this list (and more) but who are not “holy” in any Biblically meaningful way. Holiness isn’t about what you do our don’t do. Holiness is about Who you are, Who you know, Who knows you, and into whose image you and I are being transformed. We aren’t holy because we serve “the least of these.” We are holy because our lives are in submission to the God Who is “Holy, Holy, Holy.” But genuine holiness in the life of the believer will eventually express itself in the obedience of seeking, embracing and serving the marginalized (along with other good deeds of “salt” and “light”). If Millennials want to be more holy, then they – like the reset of us – must start by submitting their lives to the Messiah-King. Obedience to His commands will do the rest.

She Nails The Truth Of The Matter

Finally, Ms. Evans summarizes her observations concerning Millennials and the Church with a statement that deserves our undivided attention:“We’re not leaving the church because we don’t find the cool factor there; we’re leaving the church because we don’t find Jesus there. Like every generation before ours and every generation after, deep down, we long for Jesus.”  And that, friends, is “the money quote” and the whole heart of the matter. For all of her existential meanderings in her post, Ms. Evans has nailed it here. Virtually every study done of church-leavers over the past decade or so has come to the same conclusion. Author Reggie McNeal, Director of leadership development for the South Carolina Baptist Convention stated it this way some 10 years ago: 

“A growing number of people are leaving the institutional church for a new reason. They are not leaving because they have lost faith. They are leaving the church to preserve their faith. They contend that the church no longer contributes to their spiritual development. In fact, they say, quite the opposite. The number of “post-generational” Christians is growing. David Barrett, author of the World Christian Encyclopedia, estimates that there are about 112 million “churchless Christians” world wide, and about 5 percent of all adherents, but he projects that number will double in the next twenty five years!

Again, people (including Millennials, but not exclusively) are leaving the church as we and they have known it, not because they have lost their faith but in order to preserve their faith, or to find it outside the walls of organized religion. In the words of the late Michael Spencer, they are in search of a Jesus-shaped spirituality as opposed to the religion-shaped spirituality they were offered. They left in search of Jesus. Our task for this generation – as in every generation – is to help them find Him.

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