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Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

At our previous church, one Sunday morning our pastor recognized a member of our congregation who has just recently become a United States Marine. He was asked to stand. The congregation then clapped and, after a few moments, stood to their feet and gave him a standing ovation. Fast forward to the invitation at the end of the worship service: a lady came forward during the invitation saying that she had been previously baptized but she realizes now that she was never saved. She is now professing before the church that God has indeed saved her and she now has a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ. After sharing this with the congregation the pastor said, “If you rejoice with her please show it with a good hand clap.” And, of course, everybody clapped.

What is wrong with this picture? The congregation gave the Marine a standing ovation but the salvation received a mere cursory hand-clap? We just recognized that a person had experienced the greatest miracle of all, a spiritually dead person was brought to life and given eternal life and a relationship with the Creator of the World, and all we can muster is a hand clap? I am not saying that we should have given her a standing ovation. I do not think that we should because the work done in her life was a work done by God, not something done by her own power (Ephesians 2). However, I believe the contrast in excitement shown by our church in these two situations is merely a symptom of a bigger problem in the evangelical church. What is the evangelical church about? Have we gotten so consumed with issues of our culture that we forgotten what should really excite us as the Body of Christ?

The example mentioned above is just one example of ovations given when it was probably not appropriate. When there is special music, whether it is a soloist, ensemble or choir, the congregation almost always expresses affirmation with applause. When it is really good, there is a standing ovation given. When Fred Luter spoke at our church recently, the congregation gave him a standing ovation following his sermon. When my parents first spoke at our church they received a standing ovation. What are we saying with the applause and standing ovations? Worship and proclamation of the Word are not performances. It is not as if we are listening to the President’s State of the Union Address, or listening to music in Carnegie Hall, or applauding a great ice-skater’s performance.

If we have truly been worshipping in spirit with the music, is a standing ovation appropriate? If God has truly pricked our hearts with a sermon, is it appropriate to stand up and clap? It is one thing to stand in honor of our Lord as King George II did in 1742 during Handel’s Messiah. That is analogous to us standing in honor when reading the sermon text. A standing ovation is another thing all together. When will we realize that we are not performing but leading in worship to an audience of One? When will the clapping and ovations in church stop?

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For some reason our culture is now trying to deny or cover up what is sadly part of our history.  We want to pretend that there was no slavery in our country by removing the confederate flag and banishing it from every possible place.  We want to deny the fact that revered leaders of our country had slaves and that this great evil was ubiquitous in our country — in the south and in the north.  We want to deny the history of racism and segregation.  It is almost as if people think that if they cover it up so it is out of sight, we can pretend that it never happened. It happened.  Sadly, it is part of our history.  It is undeniable.  We should learn from the past and not just try to cover it up.

There is another part of our past that we try to deny.  We try to deny the fact that we are born a spiritually dead people in our trespasses and sin.  Yet our society tries to tell itself that people are inherently good.  They say that we are evolving into something better and they can do this without God.  The truth is that we have inherited Adam’s original sin.  We cannot deny it.  Even if we do, it does not make it any less of a fact.  Rather than denying our condition of sin we should face up to it and realize that God has provided a perfect sacrifice to pay the penalty for our sin. May we not live in denial. May we, rather, turn to Christ our sacrificial lamb in repentance and faith.  Let’s not deny that we are sinners but recognize the truth.  We are sinners in need of a savior.   May we turn our eyes upon that savior and cast ourselves on Him.

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There has been much made lately on youth leaving the church. I subscribe to a lot of podcasts where this has been a topic of conversation. This is not a conversation among just Calvinists or just Arminians but is a conversation that is taking place among Evangelicals of all stripes. There is apparently some kind of data, collected by someone like Barna, that supports this position. What the experts are saying is that American Evanglicals who are active in church as a youth have a tendency to leave the church once they graduate from high school, leave home, and go to college.

I am someone who was part of church youth in high school and left home to go to college and remained in the church. I experienced college as someone who was part of a local church and am still part of a local body of believers today. I now have children who are youth-aged. In fact, I am a parent of multiple teenagers. (Feel free to pray for me. I need it.) I sit watching the youth of our day praying that I don’t screw up as a parent and that my kids will have faith in Christ that will be their own and that their faith will continue to grow into adulthood and that they would be committed lifelong disciples of Christ.

What I see from so many youth today is that they are not part of the church as young people. Their parents take them to church and drop them off with the youth group. They hang out with a bunch of youth at church. They have Sunday School with their peers — which is positive since they are all experiencing the challenges of transitioning from childhood to adulthood. While at the youth group, they usually sit around on comfortable sofas because we all know that NOBODY would come if they had to sit in uncomfortable straight back chairs (gasp)! They listen to relevant music and not that boring stuff their parents listen to. And often times, they sit around and complain about how they are not respected because of their youth all the while remaining in their youth cocoon. After Sunday School, or Bible Study, they head off to the worship center for Sunday morning worship. And guess who they sit with during worship? That’s right: they sit with youth. After worship, they find their parents and ask to go eat lunch with the their friends in the youth.

On Sunday night often times the youth have their own get together for more fellowship and study — separate from adults. On Wednesday nights they are with the youth again. They may even have some other get-together on Friday or Saturday because there isn’t enough youth fellowship time already. Yes, I am being a bit sarcastic here.

So, I’ve mentioned four meetings at church: Sunday School, worship, Sunday evening, and Wednesday evening. How many of those times do the youth at your church integrate with the church body and how many times are they with just the youth? Your answer is probably that the youth are with just youth about 75% or 100% of the time, if your church is like most American churches. If this is the case, how can we say that’s youth are leaving the church? I don’t think we can say that. I submit to you that youth are not leaving the church. I say that they were never part of the church–at least not while they were in the youth group. What they were part of during their youth years was a para-church group called “the youth ministry” but were not really part of the local church. If your church is like this, here are some critical things that your young person is missing out on.

1. First and foremost, they are missing out on worshiping with their family — particularly their mom and dad. They need to see that mom and dad are serious about worship and that they are there to worship God; not just to take their kid to the youth group. They need to see that mom and dad take the sermon seriously by taking notes and not texting and checking Facebook during the preaching.

2. They miss out on the inter-generational nature of the body of Christ. By being with youth all the time they are hanging out with those who are facing similar problems. That is true. But why not hang out (sometimes) with people who have already experienced those problems and have come through them? Why not learn lessons from people who can encourage youth as examples of those who have been through those tumultuous years?

3. They miss out on opportunities to serve and to be the body of Christ. To be part of the church they should be plugged in. They have no right to complain about being disrespected by adults due to their age if they aren’t trying to plug in and serve. Let us not encourage our youth to be spiritual navel gazers but people who are committed to building up the body of Christ by serving!

So, why shouldn’t youth drop out of church when they go to college. They don’t know what it is like to be part of the church and how beautiful the bride of Christ really is. Don’t misunderstand me. Teenagers need teenage friends. They need to know how to build friendships and develop relationships and hold each other accountable in the Lord. However, I don’t think that their relationships should be limited to those with peers. I am praying for a change in the church youth culture and that this change would take place before all of the youth that were never in the church leave the church.

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