Friday, January 23, 2009

Why Not Just Keep It Simple Church?

News flash! Did you know that when people go to church today they actually expect to hear the Bible taught in a simple, non-boring, easy to understand, culturally relevant and applicable way? Yes, from a joyous Christian who daily lives out his faith and enthusiastically points people to Jesus Christ! Who needs empty religiosity?

The Word of God is living and powerful. —Hebrews 4:12

One truth from the Bible is worth more than all the wisdom of man.

—Anonymous

May the Word of God dwell richly in my heart from hour to hour,

So that all may see I triumph only through His power. —Wilkinson

People don't primarily go to church to be wow-ed by technology, by banners flapping during worship, by drama, by light shows with fog, by fiery bright pyro-stuff shooting up in the air, by SWEET singing (..though worshiping Christ in Spirit and truth is our ultimate calling). With so many churches and "uber-intelligent pastors" emerging on the scene today.. who are quickly abandoning sound Bible teaching just to gain numbers, it's so imperative that we remember that Jesus in His ministry believed all the Scriptures. He kept it simple and to the point regardless of what his religious affiliates thought of Him. We must remember that sharing what the Lord has done in our lives to save and restore us can be passed along to others in an uncluttered winsome manner. We can do this like Jesus did it—considerate, tactful and accurately using Bible verses that hit the target!

Biblical illiteracy abounds in our nation and in the Western world. What are we doing about it? People are tired of hurting and losing jobs while they are desperately looking for viable answers. They've been fed so many wrong answers for too long. Guru Opra with her New Age thoughts hasn't fixed matters. Its sad many churches aren't giving people real answers from the Word (that are indeed practical) any more, but are busy primarily sharing politics, psychology, self-improvement jive, high-brow religious opinions about "being good." Man, my personal opinions are worthless and many of my jokes are worse ..so sub-lame that it hurts. They're so diculous at times they're rediculous! And why force those upon others when they really want to experience God's power firsthand?

Wise church leaders understand how gobs of programs and much "activity" doesn't always equate to people getting saved or to them growing up into spiritual maturity. Mere busyness simply won't convert into real fruitfulness no matter how your sharp committee tries to force it to be that way. Think about Mary and her sister Martha. Biblical disciple-making takes prayer, time-investment, genuine agape love, truth-speaking and authenticity. I can be a witness and even share some of my struggles with unbelievers at times. You can too. I don't have to be perfect to start, in fact those who play as if they are already perfect come off as weird. Those who try to come off as cool also come off as weird. Be yourself abiding in the Lord and don't ever strive in the flesh!

But if you haven't noticed, there is a fast-growing chasm between attitudes regarding Christianity and the church today. Go talk with the irreligious and listen to them. For the most part, I find very few unbelievers out there who have a problem with Jesus Christ, but for one reason or another many do have a big problem with Christ's church ..or with "organized ministries." So why are we so quick to brag on ministries, churches, mega-church pastors, singers ..and call that witnessing? When they venture to darken the doorway of our churches on say Easter or Christmas, why are they hearing everything but the Word of God there? They want Christ, don't know that is Who they are really looking for, but are getting turned off by carnal, worldly, half-committed and religious Christians and all the junk they like to talk about.

So many are still intrigued with the Person, the deeds and the pure character of Jesus! So why are we so afraid to talk about Him publically. Yes, among unchurched non-Christians: 64% still think real Christianity is relevant for today… but 86% of them say that church is not the place where they could actually connect with real Christianity.

Christ and His cross are certainly relevant today, so why don't we just learn to put all the extra stain-glass baggage aside and be that way too?

Last week I was talking with Billy (that's not his real name..) an African American janitor friend of mine who claims to be a Christian. He was very worried and upset about his live-in girlfriend who was out partying the night away at some Dallas clubs ...while he had to be away from her at work. Man, he wanted to be off so bad so he could join in on the fun. He earlier used to date another lost lady who is into voO00odoo that I've known, who had brazenly informed me that she was out to sleep with Billy. But after that witchy-woman, Billy had this new main squeeze and explained to me how he has been trying to help this new girlfriend and their relationship by inviting her to church often. But it somehow just didn't seem to be working for them ..and where was God in all of this, he asked? Why was it so painful? He explained to me how he had gone to his church for years ..even earlier with his first wife and friends (I thought what kind of church is Billy going to)?

I told him how I wished that I could help him, but that my ideas weren't as important as what God had to say to him. Mine were only as good as the next guy's maybe (perhaps only a dime in value). I asked him if he would mind me reading a few verses about this problem he was having and he was only too glad to hear the verses too (sometimes I unfortunately forget to go right to the Bible or to explain them and then I admittedly fail to add any value to anyone ..for it's the Word that is authoritative and can change lives. There is no spiritual growth apart from the Word of God PERIOD).

It was interesting to me that Billy had no idea what the Bible had to say about Christians being hooked up together with wild wicked women. Man, I am far from perfect or from being some "expert evangelist" here but someone had to help Billy. I have a lot to learn, and sure didn't want to talk down to anyone (I'm indeed better off than many people, but not better..). I didn't want to condemn anyone or make them feel bad, but Billy didn't know that the word "fornication" (which means having sexual relations before you're married) was even in the Bible and that God really desired to help him by addressing this serious topic in a very straightforward way. Please join me in praying for Billy! There are so many like him out there that can raise their hands and say praise the Lord on Sundays, but haven't really boarded the spiritual clue bus yet.

But you remember how God used the Apostle Paul, who firmly warned some loose-living Corinthians who were clueless too saying, "Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God" (2 Cor. 6:14-16). We too can be warned from God by those exact words. What a blessing to hear that!

Paul also said, "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God" (1Cr 6:9-10, nkjv). Why did he say that? It's because God doesn't want anything getting in the way of you living together with him forever! He hates to see people He loves get judged or persist in going to Hell. He won't have anyone in Heaven who really doesn't want to be there. He alone can make you righteous and holy ..and holy is happy (blessed)! We each must decide. He deeply.. Strongly... INTENSELY wants you to experience life during life minus divine judgment ..right now! And the ball is in your court.

"But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints" (Eph. 5:3).

"…fornicators and adulterers God will judge" (Heb. 13:4).

I really need to check back on my friend Billy this week to see how he is doing. You know, I personally get so busy these days and I try hard to be available for my friends (I sure don't feel I've been a good friend to many of them..), but let me ask you this. Are you willing to become available for people, to hear them intently, to pray with, or to share Scriptures with your friends in need? Are you willing to cross the line and tell them about Jesus and the Gospel message? No one becomes a real Jesus freak who won't. Are you willing to ask them to turn and trust Christ right there.. where they are? God will accept them if they will only repent and believe. No charge--no good works will get you in the door! Are you willing to be made willing by Him?

Then talk with God about your situation.. about your friends and ask Him to use you in their miserable lives ..or maybe in their blessed prosperous lives ..however they are situated in the their lostness ..when the time is right. My conversation with Billy also soon led me into another conversation with one of his so called Christian coworkers named, Neil, a little later on ..who said he too was "in love with" an unbeliever. He explained how he had fallen madly in love with a beautiful young girl from Mexico. In fact Neil had already given her a diamond ring too, was planning on marrying this person ..and then planned on winning her to Christ later on after the vows were said. "Hey Neil, bad Idea", I said! Missionary dating.. missionary marrying.. both don't work because the Christian has an old nature inside (along with his new nature from their second birth..) and when you couple all that together with the raw and raging hormones of youth, the believer is going to be pulled down spiritually. He laughed and couldn't believe I said that, but I feel I can relate to him. I was his age before. We talked about the will of God some, about a verse here and there, and guess what? Like Billy, Neil trusts me more than ever now 'cause he knows that I care about his future, when I only wanted him to trust the Lord more. He had some good questions and I simply knew where to find the answers to them.

But God does want us all to casually witness to open sinners in a caring non-spooky way. How will we ever want to though if we are lukewarm? Hey, if you can't invite them to Christ right there on the spot as I like to do... I say go ahead and invite them to your Bible teaching church or to your home Bible study! I invited Neil and Billy and they said that they want to go with me. In fact I'd say go pick em up and take them with you if they will go.

We must remember that there is indeed a huge attraction towards biblical depth and spiritual clarity today. If your message totally true, simple and clear? Who do you brag on the most publically? If there is a mist in the pulpit, there will be a fog in the pew! Did you know that about 90% of what a false teacher teaches is true? As we passionately speak with teenagers about Jesus.. as we talk with and listen to college kids in different places too, we are discovering that the younger generation is still attracted to Christ ..and to churches that avoid a major emphasis given to giving-money-sermonettes and "hyper-denominational-speak." Yes, most of them rather, wouldn't at all mind visiting a church with greater biblical depth in what they're exporting from God's Book in a simple way. They wouldn't mind a church that speaks their language and answers questions that are really being asked, rather than ones that are no longer being asked. God blesses zealous churches that exalt and worship Christ, that aim for quality (Bible ministry) over quantity (numbers of tithers), for simplicity over flash. Did you know that 70% of 18 to 22 year olds are dropping out of churches? We must live in such a way to see migration out the door stop! Many of them are crying inside for deeper biblical teaching and preaching (teaching is for the saved, and preaching is wise Bible ministry to the lost). Yup, and this kind of thing will become more and more pervasive in our culture and with "Generation We" (the kids born between 1977 and 1994, who approximately number over 72 million). But if we will spend some time alone with Christ each day with a heart to listen and obey.. and have some planned neglect regarding non-necessary churchy things.. if we will pray the price for love's sake, we can effectively enter their culture in a fruitful way. What about you? Are you in God's Kingdom today or out of it? Is He your Lord in all decision making or are you not yet sure if you will be allowed into His glorious city of light and rejoicing? Have you been granted the gift of readiness?

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