Saturday, March 8, 2014

What will keep my generation in church?

When speaking about the topic of what needs to be done to get kids to come out to youth group, I once heard someone say, "Lets get a band!"  This has been the answer that many churches have given...but statistics have shown that this has done nothing to change the exodus of the youth from churches.

Before you stop reading because you think this is going to be a post condemning CCM (Contemporary Christian Music), please allow me to elaborate.  I have actually been greatly blessed by the rich theology in CCM artists such as Keith and Kristyn Getty, Sovereign Grace Music, Chris Tomlin, etc.  My argument is going to be that this is not what will truly keep my generation in church.

So, what do I think will keep my generation in church?  Before I say what these are, this is certainly not an exhaustive list.  These are just two things that I know that have blessed me greatly in churches that I have attended.

The first one is a faithfulness to God's Word.  This means sermons that are expository (going verse-by-verse, chapter-by-chapter, book-by-book) or Theologically driven (I include this one because I think teaching on major doctrines of the faith is really important (Systematic Theology)).  We've heard too many topical sermons or motivational speeches, and we just want God's Word!  This means not throwing in man's traditions, or going on rants about "what's wrong with people these days."  Just teach us the Word.  And while you do this, we want to see genuineness.  We want to see that you are being real with us...that you have wrestled with these truths before getting up to preach them.  We can tell when you're being fake, so please, really do this!

The second one is, love us.  Love us truly.  Show you love us, don't just say it.  We'll forgive easily when you wrong us if you are loving us.  This means giving us the opportunity to serve when we can.

Now...I want to speak to my generation:  Be respectful.  The things I have stated might be things you identify with, but the previous generations of your church have a lot of wisdom, and you would do well to listen to them.  God has commanded us to honor and respect them, we should do this.  The older people in my church are some of the greatest people to talk to...we can learn so much from them...

Now...to those who know me personally...I want to clarify.  The problems in churches that motivated me to write this have not been true of every church I've gone to.  The church I work at right now is one of the most loving churches I've been a part of, and the pastor is always speaking of the need to be faithful to the Word.  This is more an indictment of issues I've seen in general over my 26 years of going to various "baptist-like" churches.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

A Balanced View of Self

So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them. 
(Genesis 1:27, ESV)

For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them. 
(Psalm 139:13-16, ESV)

And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him.
(Colossians 1:21-22, ESV)

For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. 
(Romans 5:10-11, ESV)

Do you ever feel yourself slipping into self-pity, and even going so far as hating yourself.  You think thoughts like, "How could anyone ever love me?!  I'm so weird, and annoying!"  Anyone?  I have...I often struggles with thoughts like this...

It's actually become quite "hip" among Christians to put ourselves down because it makes us appear humble...but really this is either what we do to mask our self-righteousness, or our self-pity.  Both of these are bad...

So...what does God have to say about this?  How can we have a balanced view of ourselves?  I think we need to look to scripture.  I think the Bible shows us both sides...

The Bible speaks of the facts that apart from salvation in Christ we are enemies of God...deserving of an eternity in Hell.  If we just focus on this all the time, this is not good...because it can cause us to slip into this self-pity...because the truth is, as Psalm 139 tells us...we are "fearfully and wonderfully made."  We were made in the image of God!  And Jesus came to earth to suffer and die for us...we may be the scum of the earth...but God has blessed us with so much that even after an eternity of singing His praise...we could never praise His adequately...this is our God.

I think to keep both of these truths...the truths of the fact that we were enemies but we are also fearfully and wonderfully made and loved by our wonderful glorious God...keeping these in balance helps us to have the right view of ourselves...

So...friends...don't become puffed up with pride...because you need God...without Him you would be hopelessly bound for hell...and friends...don't become so filled with self-hate that you withdraw from everyone in fear of judgement...for you are "fearfully and wonderfully made, and Jesus loved you enough to die for you!  These are glorious truths that must be kept in balance!