The local church

When Change Can Be Good For You

Change has been around for thousands of years, including the Garden of Eden. As long as Adam and Eve obeyed God things went well. Then something  happened: Adam and Eve disobeyed God, sin entered into a perfect world, and Adam and Eve encountered change in their lives. Man and woman were evicted, if you will, from having it all to living off of the land, by the sweat of Adam's brow. Not a good change. Becoming a Christian is certainly a change. Going from spiritual death to eternal life, from darkness to light, is change, the best change of all. A change associated with becoming a Christian-being born again-is renewing ones mind to think in line with God's Word. This produces change in the way one thinks, which eventually affects ones words and actions. Renewing ones mind is definitely a good change. A very good change.

Recognizing change around you and being willing to use what's changing (i.e. technology) to impart the unchanging Word of God to the world around you, including your next-door neighbors, is part of good change. Those under the age of 25 are better at this kind of change than those of us over 50.

Why are people against change, especially when it comes to technology? Why do so many who are 60 and over dig in their heels to resist change when they were those who saw (some demanded) so much change in the '60s and '70s? To use a restaurant analogy, spiritual appetites were changing in the '60s but menus (churches) weren't.

Fast forward to today. As Christians we have the greatest message of all time, the message of the Gospel. Let's not change that; let's keep the pureness and simplicity of the Bible. After all, how much simpler can John 3:16 get? At the same time, each generation learns differently than those before it. Take potatoes, for instance. You can boil, fry, bake, boil, stew, and mash potatoes.  I've had potatoes each of these ways over the years. It's called variety.

A lot of churches-thus Christians-are like potatoes. They "preach" potatoes but serve them up only boiled, for instance. As much as I like potatoes, I'd get tired of them being just boiled. After a while. I'd be looking for change. The same is true in reaching younger generations: they're hungry for the potato (message), but want it some other way than boiled. Those refusing to change may lose a whole generation of "eaters." Is that worth not changing?

Using technology to present the timeless truths of Jesus Christ is one great example of when change can be good for you. Let's not lose another moment in being willing to change methods in how the message is "served." It's change the Church cannot afford to not make.

What are some changes you would like to see happen in the church you attend? What are you doing to try to bring about good change where you live?

The Challenge of Convenience

I well remember rotary telephones. Along with finger dialing and operator-assisted long-distance calls, there were party lines. These party lines had nothing to do with waiting your turn at a social function; it meant sharing your line with another person or family.  At one time having a party line was a real privilege, technology of yesteryear. A convenience of that time. Technology lasted longer then. What was good for Dad and Mom seemed good enough for the next generation. The most creative changes were found within the pages of comic books,  like Dick Tracy and his wrist T.V. Those were the days my friend.

Fast forward to the present. Who needs a rotary phone when most have something that can call anywhere in the world? Plus, it takes pictures/videos, and you can watch a television screen the size of your wrist, thereby proving that Dick Tracy was years ahead of his time. Don't leave home without your phone.

Where does it end? At what point will there be enough conveniences? Will the new conveniences outlast even a single generation? The inconvenient truth is that knowledge is increasing in these last days. What once lasted 50 years now lasts for 5, or less. Herein lies the challenge of convenience: getting used to something long after its replacement has come-and gone.

The same mentality is true in the Church world. What worked for generations isn't always working today. This is especially true with methods-particularly with the technologically-advanced generation,  better known as our future. These are those young adults, both single and married, between the ages of 18-25. Perhaps even beyond. These fascinating young adults are desperately wanting the truth, but without the rotary-phone approach that worked so well for decades. Affected by sight and sound, this sight-and-sound generation won't respond to hymnbook-based worship or marathon messages. As someone astutely pointed out: your spirit can't receive more than your seat can endure. Sometimes less IS better.

The challenge of convenience is enjoying something temporal, while being open to new ways of serving the timeless. Whether a modern oven for that family recipe or screens and lights for worship, let's be open to the next convenience, all while enjoying what's before us now.

What challenges are you experiencing with what presently conveniences you?

 

"Catch and Release" Christianity

Fishing regulations vary from state to state-even from one lake or river to another. Some fishing spots allow a limit of how many fish can be taken, while others enforce a regulation known as "catch and release." This means that whatever fish one catches must be released back into the water; none can be taken and eaten. I'm concerned that this practice of catch and release has carried over into the church world. New converts-new followers of Christ-are too often tossed back into the world, without much, if any, followup. Little or no followup leaves churches and other well-intended ministries with, often, many converts but few disciples.

Jesus never commanded us believers to make converts; He commissioned us to make disciples. There's a difference.

Why isn't more emphasis placed upon biblical, grace-based, discipleship? Perhaps because it's time consuming. Along with having a plan, it requires people and patience.

Over the last 45 years millions have been converted to Christ. I was one of them. Some were celebrities-at least in public. Actors, singers, well-known public figures-at least to some; these were reported to have made professions of Christ. Thank God for all who come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Unfortunately, those in the public eye who come to Christ are all-to-often released back into the environment from which they sought refuge. Rather than given a foundation of God's Word, many celebrity converts were paraded as trophies for Christ, as part of a particular church or other ministry.

Classic "catch and release" Christianity.

Sadly, many of those caught and released converts have grown cold towards God and Christianity. On the other hand those who received a biblical foundation are, for the most part, serving Christ today. Chuck Colson, aide to former President Nixon and well-known Watergate figure, is one example of converts becoming disciples.

We can do more to turn converts into disciples for our Lord Jesus Christ. One way this ministry is addressing this need is by offering brief presentations of foundational truth, called LifeChange. These free episodes are available on our website, at hubertgardner.org. I invite you to check them out for yourself, then share them with someone else needing the basics.

What are some things you are doing to strengthen new believers, turning them from converts to disciples?

Are We Using or Losing Them? Part 2

Continuing our previous post, Are We Using or Losing Them? Part 1: Even in the secular workplace a new addition usually has immediate access to secured databases, protocols, and information tools necessary to doing his/her job. Why not the Church? Why must young people be required to wait to serve in the local church? What are we afraid of? Is it that the "newcomers" will show us up? Will that "new kid on the block" intimidate us older ones with a skill knowledge we can only dream of? Are we serving with a clean heart or to establish "job security?" When will the Church learn that if you can't be replaced, you can't be promoted?

Perhaps your church has it all together. The Church as a whole, however, is in desperate need of change. Many of the people coming to your church-especially your youth/young adults-want to be used now, not months or years down the road. If not used now they may not be around months or years from now. Serving on a regular basis is a biblical reason to keep coming.

People make mistakes; it would be a mistake to have someone who's tone deaf run your sound system . After 30+ years of ministry, however, the greater mistake I see is not using the people you have who are waiting to serve right now, especially our youth/young adults. Can the Church really afford to let more young people observe the waters of opportunity, without letting them drink (serve) responsibly? Can the Church really afford to not change? If we don't how many of our talented children will be lost to the devil (and they will) because we were too arrogant, too proud, to afraid, or too stuck to change?

Some say that today's youth are tomorrow's leaders,  the church of tomorrow. Using that line of thinking, what is the minimum age of today's church? At what age will tomorrow's church be eligible for admission into today's? With the church of tomorrow is there, of necessity, the church of yesterday? Who decides who's too young-or too old?

At what point does the next generation become the current generation?

Do the words above describe your church, or merely a perception of the Church at large? What do you see as the answer? Let us know what you have experienced along these lines.

Are We Using or Losing Them? Part 1

Most Christians-specifically youth/young adults-want to serve in their local church. Along with zeal, knowledge, and passion, they want to use their time, gifts, and talents to advance the cause of Christ, if only given the chance. Far too often, however,  churches have a waiting period before allowing "newcomers" to serve in any capacity. The explanation by these churches is it allows leaders to evaluate character, observe faithfulness, and judge whether that (particularly if young) person's skills are both authentic, and relevant to the position that person desires to serve in.

Valid points, for sure.

At the same time, what does one do when the "new kid on the block" knows more than the leadership? As a lifeguard, how many people will drown before you let a qualified (but non-certified) swimmer rescue those you just couldn't get to? Would Michelangelo be forced to go through a paint-by-numbers class before he paints your ceiling?

Does this sound like your church, or one you know of? Check out our next post, Are We Using or Losing Them? Part 2, as we continue to address this issue within the church world.

Ten Ways to Destroy a Church

Going through some boxes, I found the following article, with excerpts by George W. Knight. It's about ways to destroy a church. Perhaps you've observed these at one time or another in a church you visited or, perhaps, your own. Over the past 40+ years of being and serving in numerous churches, my wife and I have seen more than a few of these ways being present. My purpose for listing them is to show what the devil uses to destroy churches, and, being aware, use this as a self-checklist to better serve God through our own church.

I don't know when the original article was published, however the points are timeless, regardless of age. The article is entitled, Ten Ways to Destroy a Church:

1. Don't come

2. If you do come, always arrive late.

3. After every service let it be known, loud and clear, that you "didn't get anything out of the service."

4. Never accept a job or leadership position in the church. It's much better to stand on the sidelines and criticize.

5. Let it be known that you visit other churches about half the time, just to show your pastor and fellow church members that you don't need them.

6. Make all the leaders do all the work and blame them if it isn't done right.

7. Sit in the back of the church, talk with others, and never sing or participate.

8. Never give money.

9. Never encourage the pastor or leaders.

10. Be sure to point out any faults of your church to guests. They might never notice these faults without your help

If you see one or more of these where you attend, what can you do to change what is to what can be?

Do You Speak in Christianese?

Speaking in tongues is an experience, subsequent to salvation, where Christians receive the ability to pray in an unknown (to them)  language, as enabled by the Holy Spirit. The one doing the speaking has no idea what he/she is saying, although someone listening might recognize the words as being in the hearer's native language.

Over the years I've seen-and experienced-a phenomenon that is just the opposite: the language being spoken is seemingly understood by the one doing the speaking.  Too often, however, the words being spoken are either not being understood at all or (worse) are being misunderstood by the hearer. It's called "Christianese".

What is "Christianese"? Christianese is a compilation of words, phrases, and expressions used by Christians to describe experiences and/or events relating to one's walk with God. These experiences/events often refer to something happening in a church service-on the platform or at the front of the auditorium, for examples. Right or wrong, good or bad, well intended of not, Christianese can be confusing to those new to the faith-especially those with little or no church background. Why is this?

Such phrases as "slain in the Spirit", words like "anointed" and "sanctified"-these are everyday expressions for those who've walked with God for a while. For those, however, who are fresh out the womb, spiritually speaking, this may be as unknown as speaking in tongues was to those in the Upper Room on the day of Pentecost.

I touch on this, briefly, in my book Born To Win: A Study Guide for the New Believer, available on kindle and ibooks, or through our office. In the book I offer definitions for some phrases most Christians will hear at some point, including "slain in the Spirit." Since the Holy Spirit isn't going around killing people, it would be more accurate to say "fallen in the Spirit" to describe someone having fallen under the power of the Holy Spirit. Even accuracy, however, can be misunderstood by those new to the faith.

There's a real need among those in leadership to simplify their words, phrases, and expressions when teaching, in and out of the pulpit. Don't expect everyone to understand all those Christianese words you're tossing around. Don't assume that someone over 40 knows what you mean. Some folks come to the Lord with absolutely no church background, whatsoever. For some, coming to Christ in a service was that person's first venture through church doors.

Without compromising let's work to keep our words simple and clear. Let's keep them void of unexplained phraseology that confuses, rather than clarifies our message.

It worked for Jesus. It will work for us.

Do you speak in "Christianese?" I know I have, and I'm working to do better. What are some ways you can simplify your words, without compromising your message?

Why Tithe? (The missing story)

First, my apology for not including this with the previous post, Why Tithe? (part 2). That being said the following story actually took place years ago It involves two business partners whose business was in the red. While neither man was saved, each man's wife was and attended church faithfully. Somehow the two men heard about tithing-perhaps from their wives-and decided to try it. The decision was made for the business to tithe, the reasoning being they had nothing to lose. The tithe was divided between the two partners; half to the church where one man's wife attended, half to the church where the other man's wife went. Again, neither man was a believer; they were seeing whether this tithing "thing" would work. Perhaps they figured they had nothing to lose.

God meets people where they're at. These businessmen were at a point of desperation regarding their business finances, willing to put what little they had heard to the test. Within 90 days of faithfully tithing, these two men's business was out of the red and into the black. I know for a fact that one of the men ( I'll call him Sam) did become a Christian.

How do I know this? I had the privilege of meeting Sam years after this happened, enjoying a friendship with him and his wife that lasted for over 20 years. I had heard the story I just related, then found out that it involved Sam and his business partner. Sam wound up getting saved and serving God until he went to Heaven, over 50 years after this event I just related took place.

Why am I sharing this true story? To illustrate that laws work, regardless of whether you believe them or not. The natural law of gravity will work for anyone. The same is true for the spiritual law of tithing. If tithing will work for a sinner how much more should it work for believers, those who have put their trust in God, through His Son, Jesus Christ?

What did you get out of reading this true account of tithing working in someone's life and business?

Can you see how it pays-financially and otherwise-to honor God with your finances?

Share how this post has been a blessing to you, then share it with others.