Category Archives: Contemporary Church Culture
Whenever I say this, those who hear me have one of two responses. The first one is absolute total agreement, usually told to me via a whisper in the ear or a hand written note that self destructs after I have read it. There can be NO evidence of this solidarity.
The second response is a casual search for matches, wood and rope so I can be burned alive at the stake as a heretic. OK, so I am exaggerating a little bit about the first response, people don’t actually pass me a note that self destructs, but you get the idea!
If you have spend any amount of time on Not For Itching Ears, then you are aware of our thoughts on corporate worship and the need to reform it. We thought it would be a good idea to create some polls about various aspects of corporate church life, and see what readers thought. So, we created several of them. The results are still coming in, but so far Read the rest of this entry
“Do we really need another one?” I asked with an annoying tone. I must have been bothered by it, because I asked my passenger Dakota her thoughts on the subject. Dakota is my Golden Retriever, and from what I could tell she was all for it, as long as they gave away tennis balls to all visitors.
In my town, it would seem there is a new church starting every couple of weeks. I understand the idea behind planting a new church. It is suppose to be the most effective form of evangelism known to mankind. At least that is what I was told in seminary, and it would seem our young leaders are being indoctrinated with the same idea. But is it true?
I think the greatest form of evangelism is one on one. More people are still introduced to God and Jesus Christ via interaction with people outside the congregational walls. Period.
Church planting certainly has its place. Is it possible to over plant the church? Can there be too many churches in a city? If you are considering planting a church where the church already exists in abundance, it would be wise of you to thoughtfully and unselfishly pondered that question. I think the answer is a resounding YES! Take a look at Colorado Springs, CO. Do you think it needs one more evangelical congregation? The red dots are churches.
Over church planting in a city can cause a stumbling block for evangelism. So many different churches can lead non-christians to believe that even Christians can’t figure this stuff about ultimate issues out. I can imagine the questions that arise in the mind of the non-Christians: “Why are there so many churches if the claims of Christianity are true? Isn’t the fact that there are so many different churches PROOF that Christianity is false? Why are they starting another one? Why do they all believe different things? If they can’t agree on what the truth is, maybe they are all just a bunch of misguided, well-meaning people who I should not take seriously.”
We won’t even talk about how one more church plant will dilute the scarce resources of leaders, servants, and dinero.
I applaud you for wanting to step out in faith and make a real difference in people’s lives. Still, I want to issue a challenge to if you are thinking about planting a church. If God is calling you to a particular area that is church saturated, perhaps it is NOT to plant your own church. Perhaps you are being called to come alongside someone else. Here’s an idea: If God has called you to come to a city where there are hundreds of churches, why not find a job like Paul did and the rest of us do. Why not volunteer to help another local church like the rest of us? Why start something new?
Be honest with yourself, isn’t what you are thinking about starting exactly the same thing as the last 35 guys who came here to start something? Does God really need 36 congregations that are essentially the same thing? Perhaps it would honor God more and make a bigger impact on the community if you went and helpedp the last guy God sent here. They don’t have enough money to pay you, but they need your help. Just a thought.
Want to be challenged more or get more upset? Read our post “Would The Apostle Paul Plant a Seeker-Sensitive Purpose Driven Church?
Check out the result of 4 different polls and the challenging conclusions arrived at in our post It’s Official: People Don’t Want To Sing So Much On Sundays.
In your opinion, is God most concerned with character or accomplishments in our lives? In other words, does He care more about the great things we accomplish (or don’t) in his name and for his kingdom OR who we ARE or BECOMING as his followers. In this poll, you can’t say “both” because the question is which one does he car MOST about?
You’ve seen it, and maybe even done it:
Doesn’t anyone believe in marriage anymore?
I can’t get over how many people today smoke weed.
Can you believe they just sleep in instead of coming to church?
Did you hear they moved in together? That’s so bad!
What’s wrong with our government? Why don’t they uphold biblical values?
Whenever I hear that, I feel like saying “Do you seriously expect non-Christians to behave like Christians?”
This article was not written by us over here at NotForItchingEars.com. I found it over at www.Careynieuwhof.com. You can read the article on Carey’s site here: http://careynieuwhof.com/2013/02/why-christians-should-let-non-christians-off-the-moral-hook/ I think he makes some great points in this article, and I thought it was worth reposting. So here it is:
Think it through.
Most people in the West no longer consider themselves Christian.
Or even if they use the term “Christian” to describe themselves, few believe in the authority of scripture or profess a personal faith in Jesus Christ.
So why would we expect them to behave like Christians? Why would we expect people who don’t profess to be Christians to:
Wait until marriage to have sex?
Clean up their language?
Be celibate when they’re attracted to people of the same sex?
Pass laws like the entire nation was Christian?
They’re not pretending to be Christians. Why would they adopt Christian values or morals?
Please don’t get me wrong.
I’m a pastor. I completely believe that the Jesus is not only the Way, but that God’s way is the best way.
When you follow biblical teachings about how to live life, your life simply goes better. It just does. I 100% agree.
I do everything I personally can to align my life with the teachings of scripture, and I’m passionate about helping every follower of Christ do the same.
But what’s the logic behind judging people who don’t follow Jesus for behaving like people who don’t follow Jesus?
Why would you hold the world to the same standard you hold the church?
Before you judge a non-Christian for behaving like a non-Christian, think about this:
1. They act more consistently with their value system than you do. It’s difficult for a non-Christian to be a hypocrite, because they tend to live out what they believe. Chances are they are better at living out their values than you or I are. Jesus never blamed pagans for acting like pagans. But he did speak out against religious people for acting hypocritically.
2. Your disapproval is destroying the relationship (if you have even have a relationship in the first place). Some of the most judgmental Christians have zero non-Christians friends. Is that a surprise, really? I mean, on a human level, how many people have you made time for this week that you know disapprove of who you are and the way you live? Exactly.
3. Judgment is a terrible evangelism strategy. People don’t line up to be judged. If you want to keep being ineffective at reaching unchurched people, keep judging them.
4. Judging outsiders is unChristian. Paul told us to stop judging people outside the church. Jesus said God will judge us by the same standard with which we judge others. Paul also reminds us to drop the uppity-attitude; that none of us were saved by the good we did but by grace.
So what can you do?
1. Stop judging non-Christians. Start loving them. Very few people have been judged into life-change. Many have been loved into it.
2. Empathize with non-Christians. Ask yourself, “If I wasn’t a Christian, what would I be doing?” Chances are you might be doing exactly what the non Christians in your neighbourhood are doing. Understanding that and empathizing with that completely changes how you see people. And they can tell how you see them.
3. Hang out with non-Christians. Jesus did. And caught plenty of disapproval for it. I have a friend who continually drops f-bombs in my presence. As much as it bothers me, I never correct him (he’s not a kid, he’s my peer). But I do pray for him every day and we talk about my faith. I pray I see the day when he’s baptized.
4. Pray for unchurched people. It is impossible to remain enemies with someone you genuinely pray for daily.
5. Live out your faith authentically. Your actions carry weight. Humility is far more attractive than pride. When a non-Christian sees integrity, it’s compelling.
I just have a feeling if we in the church loved the world the way Jesus did, the world might come running to Christ.
And, then, the change we long to see might actually begin to happen.
Visit Carey’s site for more of his take on Church life and Christianity: http://careynieuwhof.com/
In honor of Good Friday, we are re-posting the very first article published at Not For Itching Ears…
The sign said, “Now serving Starbucks coffee!”
It was the late 90’s and the premium coffee craze was taking the country by storm. Everyone who liked coffee LOVED Starbucks or soon would. So it wasn’t surprising that some business would be utilizing the brand name to promote what they were doing. It made pretty good sense. It would not have fazed me a single bit if any other company was doing it. However, this massive sign was hung in front of a local evangelical Christian church. The message was crystal clear: “Come to our service on Sunday, we have free Starbucks coffee!”
With the arrival of the church growth movement and the seeker-sensitive ministry focus it birthed.. Read the rest of this entry
I have a hunch, a hypothesis, a gut feeling. That is, that singing in church is not as important to most of us who attend regularly. We don’t dislike singing, and are not theologically opposed to it. However, most of us, I propose, don’t give it as much weight as our worship leaders or senior leadership do.
That has been what I have observed in congregation after congregation that I have visited in the past 4 years. These polls are an unscientific way of trying to get a more objective view. The answers to some of these polls has been rather eye-opening, and seem to confirm my gut feelings. I will be spending time writing about what I have learned as a result in the not too distant future.
I need more answers to these questions, and so I am putting a link to our polls in this post. Please feel free to use them in your own blog posts. The results are available for all to see, and you can use the gathered information for any observations you would like to make. The more votes we get, the better understanding we will have.
So here are the links:
What Are the Two LEAST Important Elements of Corporate Worship for YOU Personally? http://poll.fm/45vog
Do You Think We Spend Too Much Time Singing In Church? http://poll.fm/45rag
What Would You Do If Your Church Eliminated Singing from the Service? http://poll.fm/31app
What is the Most Important Element of Corporate Worship for You Personally? http://poll.fm/2hazg
What one thing would you like to see changed in the American Church? http://poll.fm/2ga0u
It has been a while since my last real post. Many of you have wondered out loud if I am A) dead, B) seriously ill, C) in exile or D) just not writing. The answer is … Read the rest of this entry
A third century Church Father once said that the devil majored in three things: noise, hurry, and crowds. The older I get, the more I think the Desert Father was right. The enemy seeks to fill our lives with meaningless things (noise) so we don’t hear the truth of the Gospel. He works to keep us busy and entertained (hurry) if we happen to embrace the truth of the Gospel so it makes little difference in our lives. He strives to surround us with others who are doing the same thing (our friends, families, co-workers and the like) so that we don’t consistently live out the truth of the Gospel, never seriously impacting our lives or the lives of those around us.
If ever there was a time in the history of the world where it’s easy to give oneself to meaningless things, it is now. There are so many options, aren’t there? Between Cityville, Castleville, Farmville, perusing Facebook, or tweeting about the mundane things of life, as if anyone cares (I still haven’t found anyone who actually cares that “I’m writing a new article for the blog!”), or spending endless hours on the internet and the like.
What about TV and movies? Do you know how much time we waste sitting in front of a TV? It is startling. Back in the pre-historic 1990’s a study came out which said that the average American, living a normal life span, would spend Read the rest of this entry
During the 1996 Superbowl, Nissan launched its now famous “Life is A Journey, Enjoy the Ride” advertising campaign. In the two-minute spot, a young boy finds himself in an underground garage, where a mysterious man shows him some old cars. As the boy begins to leave, the old man offers him a parting word of sage advice: (You have to say this with a thick Japanese accent for the full effect) “Remember….Life is a journey. Enjoy…..the ride.”
Of course the commercial was designed to sell Nissan’s, so people could “enjoy the ride” in a nice car! It had a different impact on one young pastor who was watching.
I paused to reflect on my life and the journey I was on Read the rest of this entry
So begins my favorite non-canonical writing from the early church, The Didache, (pronounced Dee-Dah-Kay). If you have never read it, find some time to. It is well worth it. You can find The Didache here.
This opening phrase has been occupying my mind of late. Like an Ipod stuck on repeat, playing the same song over and over again. I wake up in the middle of the night to find it still echoing in my mind. The part that grabs me is the ending phrase, “…and there is a great difference between these two ways.”
Is there really?
One could argue that the entire history of God’s people in both the OT and the NT illustrate the truth that there are two basic categories of how to navigate life: a life with God and a life without Him. Jesus described this life in Read the rest of this entry
I have listened to a lot of sermons in the past 25 years. I have also read many old sermons from the great preachers of the past. I have amassed a huge library of books from great authors, both past and present. Many of these works have impacted my life in big and small ways. But none more than the writings and messages of the early christian church leaders.
In my quest to figure this thing called Christianity out, I have found it helpful to go back and read how the earliest Christ followers understood Christianity. For some reason unknown to me, many of my contemporaries Read the rest of this entry
Bankrupt. Destitute. Impoverished. Insolvent. Whichever word you choose, they all carry the same basic idea: They describe the inability to meet one’s obligations. These words are used to describe people that have been reduced to a state of financial ruin. We also use the term to depict an individual or organization that is completely lacking in a particularly desirous quality or attribute. One might be morally bankrupt or spiritually impoverished. You get the idea.
While sitting in a church service the other day, I came to a conclusion about the church at large, which has serious ramifications for my life. It was a long time in coming. I am not sure why it happened that day, but I can’t ignore that it did. This conclusion was fueled, in large part, by my own journey through the church world: I have been a senior pastor, a worship pastor, an associate pastor, a volunteer, and a normal guy in the pew who isn’t doing anything. Over the last three years I have “worshipped” in close to 30 different congregations with varying denominational or non-denominational affiliations. I haven’t seen it all, but I think I have seen enough! Read the rest of this entry
Adjustment. Refinement. Correction. Modification. Reversal. Say it anyway you like and it means the same thing: Change. We’re told it is good for us. But few truly enjoy it. Most people are willing to change, not because they see the light, but because the feel the heat! I’m no different. This year, I’ve been going through a lot of adjustments and refinements. I quit my band, picked up my Colorado roots and moved the whole family to the retiree state. I closed a thriving business and started it up again in Florida. (Thriving is not the word I would use to describe the new business.) We also learned Read the rest of this entry
We had a lot of interesting discussions over at Not For Itching Ears in 2011. We have listed our Top 11 most discussed posts below. They cover a wide range of topics from the Seeker-Sensitive Church movement, Calvinism, Solo-Scriptura, Worship, The Best Salsa Recipe in the Blogosphere, American Idolatry and more. It’s never too late to join the discussion. Jump into any you may have missed. Happy New Year Everyone. Thank you to all who follow us! Read the rest of this entry
Over here at Not For Itching Ears we like to discuss issues that challenge our view of Christianity and the Church. It is healthy to consider what one believes about the Christian faith and how we express that faith in our corporate church life. If all we ever do is listen to ourselves, we can inadvertently become the kind of people Paul warned Timothy about: People who surround themselves with “teachers who say what their itching ears want to hear.” Today’s post is an attempt to counter that tendency among us as we discuss the Doctrine of Total Depravity. To do this, we turn to a passage from “Reconsidering Tulip” by Alexander J. Renault. It is written from an Orthodox perspective.
Like many of you, I have always assumed that Total Depravity was a doctrine universally accepted by the church of all ages. But I was wrong. It is a rather new concept. In fact the early church fathers, categorically rejected the idea. That troubles me a lot. If Paul understood humanity to be totally depraved or to have a total inability, why did his disciples and the disciples after him flat-out deny it? Calvinism doesn’t work without this idea, so I can see why we would hesitate to even discuss it. It wasn’t until Calvin that this idea became the unquestionable doctrine it has become.
I don’t think this article settles the question, but the author does bring out some interesting things that most of probably have not considered.
So, let the Discussion begin…
Over here at Not For Itching Ears we like to discuss issues that challenge our view of Christianity and the Church. It is healthy to consider what one believes about the Christian faith and how we express that faith in our corporate church life. If all we ever do is listen to ourselves, we can inadvertently become the kind of people Paul warned Timothy about: People who surround themselves with “teachers who say what their itching ears want to hear.” Today’s post is an attempt to counter that tendency among us as we discuss Free-Will and Determinism. To do this, we turn to an extremely interesting email exchange between Father John Whiteford (an Eastern Orthodox priest) and some proponents of Calvinism.
This isn’t your typical argument! Father Whiteford brings another line of argumentation to his view that is almost entirely absent from the typical back and forth between Calvinists and Arminians: What did the early church fathers teach about this?
I recognize that there are three groups of people who will read a post like this: 1) Strong Calvinists who will want to defend their view. 2)Strong Arminians who will want to find ammo for their view and 3) those who don’t have their minds made up but may lean to one understanding of things. My hope, is that all three groups of people will be challenged and encouraged. It’s a long discussion so I will be breaking it up into three posts. Read Part 1 Here, and part two here. The third and final post …… Read the rest of this entry