Beyond The Pale

Thoughts on Kingdom, Grace, Culture, and Church

Beyond The Pale - Thoughts on Kingdom, Grace, Culture, and Church

Tom Read: I’m A Patron And You Can Be Too

tom Read

Artists have always had a difficult time maintaining the balancing act of giving the world their art…while still trying to pay the bills at home.  Historically an artist would develop patrons; wealthy people who loved the work produced by a particular artist and would financially sponsor said artist so they would be free to create.

Now there is a new internet site connecting artists with people who appreciate their work and are willing to help give a little to see it created.  I want to direct you there and more specifically, hope you’ll check out one artist in particular.

My friend Tom Read is a singer / songwriter who moved with his family from Hong Kong to England last year to focus on his music.  He is wonderfully talented musician who writes songs from his heart and faith.  Tom is looking for a community of folk who will help him write songs in 2015.

I encourage you to check out the Patreon site and Tom out here

I’m a patron of Tom’s and I hope you’d consider being one as well.

4 Qualities of David That Made God “Smile” or How to “Get” God!

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David, the shepherd boy who became king is talked a lot about in the Bible. Fact is many people don’t realize he’s actually mentioned more than Jesus.   I mean hey, there were lots of followers of God in the Bible and he loved them all… but King David?  Well, he just seem to make God smile!

I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’

Acts 13:22

It’s not just that God wanted something done and David did it.  No, it was the special feeling a father gets when he sees his son acting with the same heart he has.  It’s like God is saying, “David understands me.  He ‘gets’ it”!

And David must have really “got it” because God gave David all kinds of honors. Think of it, the seat from which Jesus will reign from is not referred to as The Throne of Jesus but David’s throne!  (Luke 1:32).  Then years after David had passed away, his descendant King Hezekiah asked God to heal him when he was dying.  God said he would give Hezekiah 15 more years of life both for his sake as well as because of David

David so blessed God’s heart, he so made God smile,  that when God couldn’t bless David any further on Earth, he blesses his descendants just because of him!

—Of course David was not perfect, in fact he could do some pretty nasty things. But he had a song on his lips, a spring in his step, and an outlook on life that made the Creator of the Universe smile!

I guess anyone who has that kind of affect on God, well, I’d like to get to know that guy a bit more more.  Here are 4 areas I think helped make David a man after God’s heart…a man who made God smile!

1) David was humble

David lived in a time where Kings didn’t have to be humble.  There were no Constitutional Monarchies.  Everything and everyone around him would be kissing up to David and telling him how wonderful he was all the time.  His word was law!

He wouldn’t need God!

humility

Yet David as King never lost the humble heart of that shepherd boy spending many hours singing to his Lord as he watched over his flock.

Later as King when David danced before the presence of God as the Ark of the Covenant made its way into Jerusalem, his wife Michal ridiculed his “undignified” manner.  David responded:

“It was before the Lord, …I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes…

2 Samuel 6

David knew he was a King …but a “king” who served a King.  That kept him humble and life in a proper perspective!

2) David wasn’t Religious

—David never put religious observance before intimate relationship with his father.  At one point the religious folk are upset with Jesus for ignoring religious law and ceremony.  Jesus answers about people being of more value than those religious observances and then uses David’s example as a defense:

—But Jesus said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he became hungry, he and his companions, how he entered the house of God, and they ate the consecrated bread, which was not lawful for him to eat nor for those with him, but for the priests alone?

Matthew 12:4

Servants don’t generally take liberties with rules.  They feel their place in God’s household is dependent on keeping the rules of the house so they tend to enforce them strictly.  Children don’t view rules quite the same way.  They understand their place in the household comes from the love of their parents, not by the rules they keep.  The priest was telling David he was not allowed to eat the consecrated bread.

He was a good servant.

David knew his papa would want eaten bread… not starving men!

He was a good son…and God smiled on him!

 

3) David “owned” his faults

David did some horrid things.  In some cases he arguably committed worse sins than his predecessor Saul who God removed from being king.  People may question why that is but I feel it came down to David “owning” his offenses. When Saul was confronted about his sins, he was quick to make excuses, begin listing the things he had done right, and try to deflect by pointing to others.

In fact he would have fit in well with a 21st century work place culture in that respect.

blame_game

David was the opposite.  When confronted by the prophet Nathen regarding the murder of his loyal servant Uriah so that he could have his wife David broke down:

—Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says:

…  You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites….

Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”

2 Samuel 12

When David screwed up he didn’t try to pass the buck, it stopped with him; which ultimately created a heart that could be healed by God.

4) David “Got” God

David may have been king but he had a successful second career as a singer – songwriter.  Singer – songwriters tend to feel things deeply and then write those insights into songs that can shape us.  David’s songs reveal a deep intimacy with God so much so that bands like U2 still sing his songs 3000 years later!

Look at what David was writing songs about:

 

Sacrifice and offering you did not desire—

but my ears you have opened—

burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require.

Then I said, “Here I am, I have come—

it is written about me in the scroll.

I desire to do your will, my God;

your law is within my heart.”

Psalm 40

Writing songs suggesting that offering and sacrifice was NOT what God has as a priority!

Huh?

The religious person of that day (and of today for that matter) could justly argue from scripture that offering and sacrifice is what God is ALL about.  And to suggest that God ultimately wanted to write his law on our hearts?

Wow!

That’s 1500 years before Jesus really brought that idea front and center…much to the chagrin of the Pharisees.

freedom

But David “got” it.  Thousands of years before humanity was ready, David was beginning to signal to his listeners that God was more interested in the condition of their hearts than their performance of the law.

And when he wrote these words, he made God smile.

I know God loves me as his child without condition.  Because of that I want to be the kind of son who can make God smile.  I think these 4 qualities of David can help me…and you!

Peace,

Steve

Christianity Without Hooks: Gay Pastors & Angry Bloggers

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Last week’s post on whether the Apostle Paul would have lunch with a gay pastor stirred up a hornet’s nest of comments.  The contributors were a pretty passionate group but after 40 or 50 comments or so you could see a pattern of two distinct view points.

The first group were the religious legal experts who wanted my friend (who shared the post to Facebook) to “take a stand”. They were vocal that Paul would NOT have lunch with a person who claimed to be a Christian and refused to acknowledge homosexuality as a sin.  This group was rabid in their intent to get my friend to acknowledge their interpretation of certain scriptures were correct and proceed to condemn Christians who are gay.

The second group of commenters attempt (at least in their own minds) to be kinder and gentler but I think it’s this “Christian” who actually damages the Good News of Jesus much, much more. This group, when asked if the Apostle Paul would go to lunch with a gay pastor, says “yes”  but like this:

“He would go to lunch with him, and tell him to repent…”

“Have lunch with whoever you want to, murderer, rapist, thief, prostitute, liar, pedophile, if possible to save them.”

“Probably…but in order to draw him in to Jesus with the gospel and Christ’s” love.

Ugh…

The first group, to their small credit, is at least honest about the contempt they have for gay people.  The second group sees people as a target to be won over.  A lunch with a person who is gay is not about the fun of sharing a meal and life with another person.

No…

It instead comes with the secret agenda of trying to change them.  It’s a well meaning intervention.  It’s bridge building into a life not because the person has value in and of themselves, but rather so when the moment is ripe they can share how Jesus would want them to stop doing this or that.

And I guarantee if the person is not responding within a certain time frame that “friendship” will reveal itself to having never been a friendship at all.

Seeking and Saving the Lost

“But Steve, didn’t Jesus come to ‘Seek and save the lost”?  (Luke 19:10)

Yes, he did but he didn’t do it like he was trying to sell a product.  People responded to him because at his table they found love, mercy, and forgiveness.

They were valued just for who they were.  As sons and daughters who were given the message that their Father in heaven missed them and wanted his children with him again.

Sneetches

Treating a gay Christian as “lost” is showing contempt for the body of Christ. God doesn’t just come up with some rules off the top of his head; sin is sin because God sees it as destructive to his children.  He hates the things that causes hurt, pain, and sorrow to his sons and daughters.

I can’t imagine what it must be like to be attracted to a man the way I am to a woman but if I was told by people in my faith that my marriage to Tammy was evil, that God condemned it, and that by his love I could be delivered from it, I would probably be psychotic right now.  I can see why many people of a same sex orientation, particularly Christians, are driven to suicidal thoughts.

Somehow I can’t see the Father saying to Jesus, “You know what I’m going to do just for fun.  I’m going to make Steve sexually attracted to women and then tell him how much I hate and condemn it…won’t that just be a hoot!?”

God forbid!

Sin has to be destructive…or it isn’t sin.  Yes, there are homosexual and heterosexual relationships that lead to destruction; both for themselves as well as to the lives around them that are affected.  Thats why God warns against these things.  Not to condemn the person (John 3:17) but to reveal the way that leads to life.

Taking a Stand

Many commenters on this issue note the need for Christians to “take a stand”.

“Taking a Stand” can sometimes be a good thing.  People who know me also know I have strong convictions in a number of areas and I’m not timid in expressing them.  But when Christians want me to take a stand because “the Bible clearly says ‘X’…” I know something weird is getting ready to happen.  (See my thoughts on Taking a Stand here)

But it’s interesting how we are supposed to Take a Stand on this issue but are never to really called to make a stand against the many things Jesus seemed to really care about.

As a thought experiment lets say we waved our hand and homosexuality was supernaturally eliminated from the life of the church at every level.  From church leadership down to the occasional visitor. What affect would that have on the church and it’s call to be the representation of Christ on Earth?

Probably little to no change whatsoever.  Statistically a non-issue!

Now, suppose all gossip was eliminated from the lives of the church at every level from church leader to visitor;

Dear Lord there would be such a tectonic shift  to the way the church operated that it would be darn near unrecognizable.  The life and restoration flowing out from Christ’s Bride to the world would be the fulfillment of prophecy!

And that was just gossip

Christians, lets keep our eyes on whats important.

Love God…

Love people…

It’s pretty simple

Peace,

Steve

Would The Apostle Paul Have Lunch With A “Gay” Pastor?

 

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I had a very interesting question e-mailed to me this week:

“Steve, in light of 1 Corinthians 5: 8-12 do you think Paul the Apostle would break bread (have a meal and fellowship) with a gay pastor?”

Now for those needing a refresher course, that particular scripture deals with Paul instructing the Corinthian church not to fellowship with people acting immoral while calling themselves Christian:

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.

What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.”

1 Cor 5:9-13

A hard word to be sure…but before we apply it to having lunch with a gay pastor, lets first put the verse in context.

When Paul is writing this portion of scripture he is obviously pretty irritated. He loves the Corinthian church but they keep doing stupid stuff.  And he is particularly furious about a incident that he has heard about that he needs to address:

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife. And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this?

1 Corinthians 5: 1-2

Some guy who is claiming to be a disciple of Christ is sleeping with his mother! (or step mother) And if that isn’t enough, the church not only seems to condone it…they are proud!  You can almost picture Paul pulling his hair out of his head as he writes this he is so mad.

1corinthians

And here is the kicker:  Paul is basically saying that your actions are making even the pagans squirm.  Now understand, Corinth was a major commerce city in Greece and the Corinthians were known for their …um…well…let’s just say they were into a lot of weird stuff.  The kind of stuff that should make any follower of Jesus Christ a little uncomfortable.

Paul turns the table on the Corinthian church and tells them they are making the Corinthian unbelievers uncomfortable.  ”You disciples of Jesus are doing stuff that even makes the pagans squirm.”  One can almost imagine a Corinthian saying to his buddy down at the pub, “Hey, I may visit the temple prostitutes 3 times a week but man, even I draw the line somewhere.  Sleeping with your mother? Those Christian folk are crazy!”

So in light of this Paul tells the church not to associate with a person who calls himself a Christian but is proudly acting in a way that causes pain to others and the Good News of Jesus Christ to be ridiculed by “the world”.

This is what wise Christians are supposed to separate themselves from.

Lunch with a Gay Pastor

So back to the original question of whether Paul the Apostle would have lunch with a gay pastor?

In 1 Cor 5:9-11 among sexually immoral people who claim to be believers it also mentions greedy, idolater, swindler etc.  Interestingly enough I never get asked if I would break bread with a pastor who is a swindler.  Somehow the gay pastor gets singled out these days, but how many greedy pastors should I have not had lunch with?

Most gay friends and acquaintances I have, whether Christian or not, are NOT engaged in a relationship with the idea of sinning against God or man.  They want to love and be loved.  They are not causing pain to people nor are they embarrassing the Good News of Jesus with those around.

I don’t believe monogamous, loving relationships was what Paul was addressing in 1 Cor 5 so to answer the question I’d say yes, Paul the Apostle would break bread with a gay pastor.

But even more confidently I can say what I would do when asked if I would break bread with a gay pastor?

“I have, I will, and I will continue to do so.  They are my brothers and sisters in Christ!”

Peace,

Steve

 

 

Why Do American Christians Have A Hard Time Understanding The Kingdom of Heaven?

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Crosses have become quite popular in fashion these days.  Not exclusive to people of the Christian faith anymore, pop stars, rap singers, and Manhattan socialites alike proudly display diverse representations of the ancient symbol. (Because nothing screams modern fashion symbol more than a 1st Century Roman torture and execution tool.  French Guillotine anyone?)

Yes, people wear a cross not as a sign of their chosen faith but as an ornament.  A trinket…a bauble!

That really doesn’t bother me that much though beyond being an indicator of a much more serious problem…

…wearing Jesus as an ornament!

Jesus as an “add-on”

I am constantly baffled by how Christians can transform the culture of the Kingdom that Jesus proclaimed into a clone of their own culture.  As an American I am probably most familiar with how we do it.  Americans tend to be:

* individualistic

* advocates of capitalism

* advocates of democracy

* advocates of gun ownership

* advocates of a strong military

So not surprisingly our Jesus and our faith tends to be individualistic (personal Lord & Savior), favorable disposed towards capitalism, democracy, guns, and military actions.   Now we even have Christian leaders defending America’s use of torture.  In fact, Christians in America support the use of torture by a higher percentage than people who are “non-religious”.  Which begs the question of just which group “believes” in Jesus and his Kingdom?

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The result being that the Kingdom of God is no longer representing a culture at odds with the systems of this world but one instead that fully embraces it.  That’s why Americans have a hard time really understanding the Kingdom of Heaven.  They tend to see it largely as America on steroids,  or to put it even better…a more perfect Union!

The Gospel Immunization Shot

In a recent post Pastor Greg Boyd explains beautifully why Christianity in America (and I would argue in most places) has become anemic:

Why does being “Christian” in America make so little difference in so many people’s lives, when the kingdom movement revealed in the New Testament revolutionized people’s lives? This drastic difference is hardly surprising when you consider that the gospel that people are often given today is little more than a contract of acquittal that is signed by praying the sinner’s prayer or some such thing. Nor is it surprising that this powerless version of the gospel absorbs rather than confronts the culture of the people who sign this contract. Within this gospel, people give their mental assent to certain beliefs and are thereby ushered into a “kingdom” that looks almost identical to the earthly kingdom they were supposed to be called out of. They can keep all their cultural assumptions, and, apart from avoiding certain behaviors that are singled out as the deal-breaker sins, their lives can continue on just as before.

Greg Boyd- Adapted from Benefit of the Doubt, pages 141-142.

American Christians have so compartmentalized their faith that they may talk about a “personal” desire to seek the Kingdom of God but that is very separate from what the nation as a corporate entity is subject to…and not coincidentally, the one they swear allegiance to.  In the end, rather than being a prophetic voice leading people away from a culture of power, violence, and intimidation Christians tragically become it’s most enthusiastic defenders and cheerleaders.

I’ve said before the disciples of Christ were not executed by Rome for sharing a modern evangelical message of accepting Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, but rather for proclaiming  Jesus as King now, that his Kingdom was advancing peacefully, and that the nations of this world would ultimately be subject to it.

Rome understood the implications…I’m not always sure we Americans do.

A New Year’s Resolution in 2015 You Should Have

 

2011-year-resolution-400x400The great thing about new days, new months, or especially new years is that chance we have to start again.  If you’ve fallen down, you have a chance to get up again.  If you’ve had a victory, you get a chance to go even higher!  (And not rest on “the win” long enough to lose humility ;) )

Former baseball All-Star Todd Helton was asked once how it felt having to play 162 games of baseball every year.  He responded that it helped when you screwed up because he knew he would have another game the next day and a chance to redeem himself.

I think that’s a big reason why God made 24 hour days.  There is always a new sunrise to help dry away tears from the day before.

And new “years” are great points in time to really take stock of our lives; to hold up a mirror to ourselves and ask certain hard questions about:

* faith

* career

* health & fitness

* habits

* family 

Having turned 48 in 2014 I feel like I’m at the point of the roller coaster where you’ve just reached the top of the hill and have begun the acceleration on the other side. (and I know this because I swear 2014 just sped right by)  So I’ve been looking at each of those categories a LOT more closely.

But honestly I have very few “resolutions”. Sure, I’m in a couple “work out” programs to help with health and yes, I’m committed to try and grow this blog in 2015 and write more books that help others in their faith and walk with God…

…but they are really not resolutions.

smile

If I have a resolution for 2015 it is this:

To be even more proactive in surrounding myself with people that make me smile!

I have come to learn that certain people just make me smile.  Not always the “laugh out loud” funny smile but the kind of joy that makes my spirit smile!

I used to live in a world where I divided people up into “Christian” and “non-Christian”.  You were supposed to hang out with Christians and interact with non-Christians with the mission to make them “Christian”.

The problem with that (among many) is that I have found that “Christian / non-Christian” dichotomy had nothing to do with whether a person made me smile or not.  When someone makes your spirit smile, you are always just a little sad when they have left the room.  Unfortunately I’ve known too many Christians that made my spirit happy when they, …um… departed.

There were lots of followers of God in the Bible and he loved them all… but King David made God smile! (Acts 13:22)  David was not perfect, in fact he could do some pretty nasty things.  But he had a song on his lips, a spring in his step, and an outlook on life that made the Creator of the Universe smile!

I want to live a life that makes my Father in Heaven...smile!  I’ve learned that being around people that make me smile help me to be the person that can make other people…and God…smile!

So my resolution in 2015 is to spend more time with people who make me smile…

…and it should be yours as well!

Peace in 2015,

Steve

 

 

 

 

Top 5 Posts of 2014

top_5

Well another year of blogging is winding down and I can hardly believe I’ve managed to keep Beyond the Pale going for more than six years now.

Over 525 posts!

People often say to me “Where do you find the time to blog?” (Answer: 4:00 AM)

Anyhow here are the Top 5 Beyond the Pale posts for 2014.  (Just click on the link to read the posts in their entirety.)

 

1) 9 Warning Signs Your Pastor May Be Building His Own Kingdom

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By far the most popular post here at Beyond the Pale in 2014 by a long shot it seemed to resonate with a lot of readers.  There are apparently still far to many of the church eager to build another person’s kingdom.  For every abusive church leader there still seems to be a flock willing to be abused.

 

2) Mark Driscoll’s House of Cards and How My Atheist Brother Was Right All Along

driscoll-house-of-cards

I was a supporter of Mark Driscoll six years ago while my brother saw the Mars Hill pastor as a bully who had a “fall” coming.  Guess which one of us was right?

 

 

 

3) 3 Things To Consider Before Inviting Your Friend To See Left Behind

Since writing this post the new Left Behind film starring Nicholas Cage currently LeftBehind_poster_webhas a 2% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  Now there are 4 things to consider before inviting your friend to see Left Behind.   It’s a lousy movie!

 

4) 3 Reasons Why Jesus Is NOT My “Personal Lord & Savior”

Another popular post in 2014.  And despite the controversial title, I still love Jesus! :)

 

5) Hype-Grace?: A Response to Michael Brown

Surprisingly I had a post written in 2013 that was still in the Top 5 for 2014. BrownChalk it up to the very vocal feud between Dr. Michael Brown and the preachers of “Hyper-Grace”.  For the record, I side with Grace. :)

Well, those were the five most read posts here at Beyond the Pale in 2014.

Bring on 2015!

Peace,

Steve

My New Film: Merry Christmas Mr. Reynolds

Merry Christmas

Over the last month or so my blog postings here have been a little sporadic…and my new book, Son: Understanding what it means to be a Child of God, sits unfinished on my computer 

But there is a very good reason for it though…

…I was making a movie.

During the last 3 years I have had the opportunity to write and direct movies for the high school that I work for.  As my friends and I have gotten better and more experienced I find there are two things I really enjoy:

* telling a story that impacts people in a way that causes them to reflect on God and his love

* working with really fun and creative people

Merry Christmas 2

For the last three months I got to do this once again culminating with an all night marathon at my office as we worked to finish the movie before premiering it to 900 staff and students for our term end Christmas assembly this morning.

I won’t lie when I say it feels really good to see people laugh and cry to the story you helped create.  :)

merry Christmas 3

I also got to work with a great group of young people both in front of the camera as well as behind, who worked hard and sacrificed a lot of weekends to make this film a reality.  A big thank you to all of you!

So here is our movie Merry Christmas Mr. Reynolds.  Inspired by John Hughes’ “The Breakfast Club” the film focuses on the interaction between 5 students and 1 teacher during a Christmas Eve school detention. Issues of prejudice and stereotypes are examined and, in the end, everyone discovers a little more about themselves. New friendships are forged when the students learn “people will often be nice, if we only give them a chance.”

Enjoy!

Merry Christmas Mr Reynolds from CMED on Vimeo.

 

Do Christians Really Want Jesus To Be “Prince of Peace”?

 

ChristmasMangerThis Christmas I’ve been thinking a lot about something that Jesus accomplished when he born in a humble stable and executed as a political scapegoat 2000 years ago.

He established a whole new government…

Historically countries are pretty much founded in warfare and blood.  In past centuries, the side that had more swords and chariots got to establish the government.  These days its the side with more planes and tanks.

But one thing doesn’t change.  Governments are established in violence and the increase in their territory and influence are rooted in power, intimidation, and manipulation.

But Jesus, as always, flips the conventional wisdom of man on its head.

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace,

Isaiah 9:6-8

Jesus will not establish his country the way we establish ours.  His Kingdom will come about in a whole different way.

Peace

And his Kingdom’s influence will continue to grow and it will be done so through

Peace

But do we Christians actually believe this?

How is God’s Kingdom really going to be established?

Here’s the thing.  The little secret most Christians don’t like to admit or talk about.

We don’t really believe that “peace” is the way God’s Kingdom will ultimately come about.

Recently my friend Brandan Robertson wrote a blog post on the Christian response to the CIA report detailing the American government’s use of torture.  I commented:

 It should bring us hope that the “government will rest on His (Christ’s) shoulders and of it’s increase and of peace there shall be no end” Good post Brandan!

However there was a reply to my comment from another reader:

When he (Jesus) returns, of course. Until then, we live in a world full of nonsense and fallen people with loads of power.

The underlying message in the comment is what many Christians believe and it goes something like this:

The Kingdom of God has no real place on this earth at the present time other than perhaps a personal moral compass.  Jesus is just biding his time to allow people to get “saved”.  Then eventually he will come and sort everything out by establishing his Kingdom in the same manner as every other power that has come before him.  In power and violence. Jesus will have more power than his enemies and will force his government on the world…

…whether they want it or not.

Let’s just be honest; deep down we don’t really want a “Prince of Peace”.  We want a Jesus that is going to kick a little butt and take names!

But it’s wrong to assume that Christ will suddenly start employing the “power plays” he rebuked and rejected all throughout his time on earth.

Jesus_AR15

Jesus is King…now!

The disciples of Jesus were executed not because they were sharing about a Jesus who could help you avoid hell in the afterlife.

No,

They were executed because they were proclaiming Jesus as King now.  That his government had been established, that it had been endorsed by God through the resurrection, and that it was in the process of increasing peacefully throughout the whole earth.

However present governments rather frown on new governments being established within their borders…especially ones committed to peace.  (The peaceful and sacrificial way of Christ exposes and embarrasses the power structures of this world)

So we took God’s Kingdom and transported it to the spiritual “sweet by and by”. Not only did that make faith in Christ “safer”, it also made it much easier to give our love and allegiance to earthly countries.

But here’s the thing to remember this Christmas season:

That little baby born in a manger 2000 years ago is both King and Lord ”and the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace,”

Merry Christmas,

Steve

The Church Is Changing: The Rise of The “Dones”

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A lot of focus and attention has been given to that rising demographic of millennials known as the nones.  Young people who have no religious affiliation whatsoever.

But there is another demographic that is growing in the Christian community that I believe will ultimately create a seismic shift in the way that the church expresses itself.

It’s the Dones!

Long time faithful church attendees who are simply done with attending church.

In a recent article on the subject author Thom Schultz describes an all to common, and growing, example of a “done”:

John is every pastor’s dream member. He’s a life-long believer, well-studied in the Bible, gives generously and leads others passionately.

But last year he dropped out of church. He didn’t switch to the other church down the road. He dropped out completely. His departure wasn’t the result of an ugly encounter with a staff person or another member. It wasn’t triggered by any single event.

John had come to a long-considered, thoughtful decision. He said, “I’m just done. I’m done with church.”

Thom Schultz: The Rise of the Dones

 

Previously,  people who stopped going to church often did so as the result of a bad experience;

* sexual misconduct

* leadership abuse

* church split

* financial mismanagement 

But it’s a different story with the dones. 

They’re just tired.

I quit

After 20 or 30 years of:

* Sunday meetings

* Prayer meetings

* Men’s / Woman’s meetings

* Home Group meetings

* Leadership meetings

…they are just…done!

The Dones are fatigued with the Sunday routine of plop, pray and pay. They want to play. They want to participate. But they feel spurned at every turn.

Thom Schultz: The Rise of the Dones

Many church leaders respond to these challenges by trying to spruce things up in their churches with new activities and a fresh direction.  But this is really just rearranging the deck chairs on a ship taking on water.  Most Dones have been involved with so many new church activities, visions, and directions that they are all but immune to yet another incarnation.

“So Steve, as someone who loves the church what do you see happening?”

At this point I don’t have a great answer to what the future holds.  What I do know is that the church will survive, and grow...

…but it’s going to look a little different.  Let me suggest one direction I see us going…

“Network”  Church Becomes “Cable” Church

Before there was cable TV we all watched the same television shows.  There were 3 network channels (ABC, NBC, CBS) and despite any personal preferences, if you wanted to watch TV, you pretty much were forced to watch it in the same way as every other person.  A certain show came on one time a week, and if you missed it, well, you tried to catch up next week.

Not unlike church today.

TV_Logos

Everyone wishing to participate in church today is made to do so in pretty much the same expression as everyone else.

* Sunday morning

* Praise / worship

* Announcements

* Teaching / Sermon

The church in many ways is a lot like network TV.   You might pick up something a little different by changing the channel (or church) but by and large,  you are all watching the same show.  ( “watching” being the operative word)

But now there is cable TV, on demand TV, Netflix etc.  There are TV shows, heck, there are whole channels that are geared to reaching a certain interest, demographic, hobby.  People can still watch Two and a Half Men or the latest incarnation of CSI on network TV if they like but if they are into history, there is the History Channel.  If they enjoy cooking, there are cooking channels.  If they enjoy travel, there is The Travel Channel or Discovery Channel filled with the adventures of people exploring the world, its food, and its cultures.

There are game show channels, movie channels, news channels, exercise channels; you get the picture!

…and if you miss your favorite program?  Well, you can stream or download it at your leisure.

And here’s the thing.  Network TV hasn’t gone away.  In fact, these new cable channels have made those traditional network channels better than ever as they have seen there are new and better ways of telling stories.

Conclusion

I am part of a small group that meets twice a month called Bread & Wine. We gather together as friends over food and wine to discuss our faith, struggles, questions, and doubts.  In many ways its a lot like a cable station.  Some people will find it interesting, others will “channel surf” right past it.   Just this week I had someone who visited it admit to me it “just wasn’t their kind of thing” while another person told me how much they needed the gathering as part of their Christian faith.

And that is where the expressions of church are heading.  From a traditional Sunday morning based gathering to a much more diverse and custom fitted expression that incorporates ingredients that will help grow our faith in ways much more specifically.

It’s not that “Sunday morning” is going away any time soon.  Much like “network TV” has survived in the community at large, the “regular” church will continue to be a mainstay of the Christian community.  And the growth of alternative Christian expressions will likely help the Sunday morning service become more impactful and meaningful in the future.

But the church IS changing …

Peace,

Steve