My wife and I recently attended a dinner where Ed Stetzer talked about "Is The American Church Dying?" It was a wonderful night seeing some old friends, eating a great meal and hearing about many myths we have heard. Two myths he addresses are not true, based on Lifeway research and other research that Ed Stetzer and others have done. First is that young people who attended church up to high school graduation are leaving the church and not coming back. Second is that Christians have a 50% divorce rate. According to the research, both of these are totally untrue. Christian high schoolers might take a break from church during college years (they might join a campus ministry; FCA, InterVarsity, Navigators, etc) but the majority come back by the time they are 30. The divorce rate for Committed Christians is more like 10-15%. The media, and even the church, has not been reporting this fact accurately.
The main point that Ed Stetzer was making that night was about understanding who we are as Americans. Once we understand how it is broken up, it helps us to see how some interpret Christianity differently. He explained it like this.
25% Secular - Do not want God or do not want to be identified with Christianity.
25% Cultural Christians - They think America is Christian, therefore they are.
25% Congregational Christians - Casually connected to a church a few times per year like Christmas and Easter.
25% Committed Christians - Christ centered people who connect with Jesus and seek to make a difference in this world.
So, how do we, the church, show and share the love of Jesus with 75% of America, who are not committed Christians?
Let's not give up. Let's never give up. Let's pray. Let's spend time with those 75% even if we have to change our daily and weekly schedules. Let's show them the love of Jesus practically. Let's risk and ask them about their spiritual story and history. Let's risk and follow the Holy Spirit's lead as we share the GREAT NEWS of Jesus Christ with them in ways that are conversational.
I am evaluating my days and weeks to see how and when am I rubbing shoulders with the 75%, how about you?
The transformation process of a caterpillar being changed into a butterfly is amazing. An earth crawler, inching along transformed into a soaring, darting beautiful marvel shows the power and brilliance of God our Creator.
"Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." Romans 12:1-2
God uses the word transformed in this passage. That word is the word that means the metamorphosis process of a caterpillar being transformed into a butterfly.
The main theme of the passage is God's will. So, what is God revealing to us that needs to be so radically transformed in us? What areas of our lives need to be transformed like a caterpillar to a butterfly? Is it our bodies? Is it our minds? Is it the purpose of our lives?
Ultimately it is the purpose of our lives; God's will for us.
Are we living for our own purposes or are we living for God's purpose? Are we building our own kingdom or are we building God's Kingdom? Are we seeking to accomplish our agenda, goals and dreams or God's agenda, goals and dreams?
The purpose of our lives is at the core of our lives. It is an inside job. God uses the word transformation, the image of God's powerful work of changing a caterpillar into a butterfly to describe His work on the inside of us.
How are we doing at letting God do His spiritual surgery on our hearts, minds and souls? This is an inside job. This is God's work in us. Are we resistant or are we daily letting God do His inside work?
His results are a mind that is not conformed to this world. A mind that has been changed from focusing on building our careers, jobs, relationships, goals and dreams to building God's agenda in our careers, jobs and relationships. A mind that has been changed from "what is in it for me" to "how am I revealing the invisible Jesus today." This inside change might seem subtle, but God describes it like changing from a caterpillar into a butterfly.
So, are you inching along in life as an un-transformed caterpillar or are you soaring with God as a transformed butterfly?
Seeking to let God daily transform our minds, behavior and will in order for Jesus to do amazing things in our lives, marriages, families, church and community.
What do you do on Sundays?
Sleep in. Read the paper and drink your favorite latte. Stay in bed until noon. Get ready for a day of NFL. Fantasy Football. Shopping. Movie. Yard work. To-Do List that you have been putting off. Church?
Given the secular focus of our culture with football dominating Sundays and Black Friday overshadowing Thanksgiving, it is easy to conclude that very few people still attend church.
Have you ever wondered the comparison of attendance at NFL football games compared to attendance at church in America?
So, why do Americans go to church? Why do you go to church? Why would you encourage or invite anyone to go to church?
Here are a few ideas. Please add to the list.
I go to church because Jesus tells us that His church is the hope of the world. Yes, all churches are flawed, because all people are flawed. Where there are people, there are problems. Jesus promises us that He has, is and will build His church. Matthew reminds us of Jesus' promise, "I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it." He does it through us, imperfect people. Most churches seek to serve the poor, the weak, the lonely, the single parents, the orphans, the elderly, overworked, anyone with a need. Churches seek to push us to get our focus off of ourselves and to focus on others who have needs. Jesus' church calls us to a higher vision and a better world.
I go to church to be encouraged and to encourage others. Jesus always provided a safe place to talk about real, challenging and practical life issues that the rest of the world seems to ignore. When a church is functioning right, people seek to listen, care, encourage, share resources and pray for each other. "Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called 'Today,' so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness." Heb 3:13
I go to church because I want my children to not only meet Jesus but be best friends with Jesus. All of us know, life is like a curvy, rapid-filled river where we face challenges, problems and temptations every day. I have learned that the best guide to real life is Jesus, Himself. "Now that we know what we have Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God let s not let it slip through our fingers. We don t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all all but the sin. So let s walk right up to Jesus and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help." Hebrews 4:14-16 (Msg)
I go to church to be like Jesus. Luke reminds us that Jesus would go to the Temple every Sabbath, which was His custom or habit. (Luke 4:16) If Jesus needed to be with God's people on a regular basis, how much more do I need to be with God's people?
If you haven t been attending church, I hope you will do so this week. If you are attending church, I hope you invite others to join you.
"Do not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another--and all the more as you see the Day (of Jesus' return) approaching." Heb 10:25
Being encouraged by being active in one of Jesus' local churches,
Odyssey, Expedition, Quest, Journey, Excursion, Voyager, Scout, Explorer, Safari, Cruz.
Attention getting words. Exciting words. Motivating words. All words that have become names of cars. The automobile industry has clearly tapped into our inner desire to go on an adventure. Are you on an expedition? Or have you given up on quests? What is your excursion? Do you have a "lifelong dream"? Anything "dominating your life" enough to hold your attention for hours, days, weeks, months, years and decades?
Without an odyssey, life is quickly reduced to bleak and wimpy black and white, a diet too bland to get anybody out of bed in the morning. An safari fuels our fire. It refuses to let us drift downstream, gathering debris. It keeps our mind in gear, makes us press on.
Do you know who else is on an expedition? God. God is on a mission. In fact, He reveals His adventurous journey throughout the New Testament.
Rom 8:29 reports to us that God is seeking to conform us more and more into the image of His Son.
1 John 2:6 tells us that if we belong to Christ, we should walk like Christ.
Eph 5:1 informs, be imitators of God.
Eph 2:10 exposes that we are God's workmanship created to go on great adventures with God.
2 Peter 1:5-7 publishes a list of beautiful, strong characteristics God is producing in us; faith, moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love.
Phil 1:6 confesses that God will carry on this good work in us and He is not about to stop.
Character qualities in His children—that's His quest. And He won't quit until He completes His masterpieces.
When will that be? When we rest in peace . . . and not one day sooner. If you think you've arrived, then you probably haven't even started.
Thanking God for His awesome expedition. Seeking to cooperate with God on His mission.
Who changes culture?
Who enhances the world?
Who stops evil and selfishness?
Who helps others: marriages, families, work places, neighborhoods?
Ordinary average Christians!
Jesus explained, "Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son." John 14:12-13
Do you remember Jesus putting a family back together by healing a man from leprosy? The man was able to go back to his wife and children.
Do you remember Jesus pushing evil out of the man in the cemetery? He was able to go back to the town he was from and introduce that town to the Messiah, which impaced the entire town.
Do you remember Jesus stopping to play and bless the children? He cast vision for parents to invest in loving, discipling, and raising them to enhance the world.
Jesus trains us to be disciple makers. Do you remember when He called Peter and said, "I will make you fishers of men?" He said, I will make you a disciple maker.
Paul instructs the church in Eph 4 that the leadership task is to train the church members to be disciple makers.
With every person Jesus encountered, He helped them identify where they are on their spiritual journey and then challenged them to take their next step. He discipled everyone.
As an average Christian, how are you doing at discipling others? How are you doing withdiscipling your spouse, children, brothers and sisters in Christ, your co-workers, your neighbors, everyone you encounter each day?
Do you have eyes, the heart and wisdom to see them like Jesus sees them? Or are you too busy accomplishing your agenda for the day?
Are you in a mindset, as you do your responsibilities, tasks and relationships, to help everyone you encounter each day to take their next step with Jesus?
Some say, "that is not my ministry." Others say, "I do not want to be too pushy." Others, "that is the pastor's job."
How does a world, nation, state, city, town, neighborhood, work place, family change? One person at a time. One man at at time. One woman at a time. One husband and father at a time. One wife and mother at a time. One teenager, son, daughter at a time.
Maybe you can set up a weekly lunch meeting with someone to encourage them in their walk with Christ. Maybe you can set up a lunch meeting with a person far from God to talk about real life issues. The average Christians usually do both. When average Christians are weekly meeting with a Christian friend and a friend far from God to love, serve and encourage, the world begins to change. Marriages and families are enhanced. Work places and neighborhoods become safer and more enjoyable.
Paul trained Timothy in 1 Tim 2:1-7 to pray evangelistic prayers for everyone. If God answered those prayers, the community would live in peace more and more.
Let's ask God to help us to continue to become disciple makers so that Jesus can enhance marriages, families, workplaces and the world through us; average, ordinary Christians.
Praying that all of us are used by God to change the world.
Pastor Chris Reinertson enjoys all sports, especially those involving a ball. He loves to hang out with people and challenge them to be Jesus REVolutionizers.