We were warned back in 2005 that this was coming, but few paid attention to it then. Many scoffed and pretended it could never happen. But it is happening. That is what a recent poll by the Barna Group has uncovered, and the implications of it are alarming.
In this article, I want to share some of Barna’s findings with you. I warn you: Brace yourself!
I invite you to join the discussion in the comment section, as well as answer the polling questions (there are two polls at the bottom of the post) so we can get a better idea of what is going on from your perspective. In the next post we will offer our analysis about why it is happening.
“What, if anything, helps Americans grow in their faith?”
When the Barna Group asked this question, people offered a variety of answers:
- Family or friends
- Reading the Bible,
- Even having children
But CHURCH did not even crack the top 10 list.
That is staggering in its implication. Christians of all Read the rest of this entry
I think you are going to want to read this upcoming post, based on a recent study. It is now up! Brace yourselves though, because this stuff is going to be hard for you to handle. After you read through it, make sure you answer the poll questions at the end.
Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, inebriate me.
Water from the side of Christ, wash me.
Passion of Christ, strengthen me.
O Good Jesus, hear me.
Within your wounds hide me.
Permit me not to be separated from you.
From the wicked foe, defend me.
At the hour of my death, call me and bid me come to you
That with your saints I may praise you For ever and ever.
Early Christian Writings is the most complete collection of Christian texts before the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD. The site provides translations and commentary for these sources, including the New Testament, Apocrypha, Gnostics, Church Fathers, and some non-Christian references.
If you want to read ANY work from the first 325 years of church history, you will find it at this site. Free.
It is both rewarding and frustrating.
You will see it as a good investment of your time and a gigantic waste of your time all in the same week.
You may want to give it up and you will think you can’t live without it.
Welcome to the world of blogging. Can we sign you up?
I started this blog back in 2010 with my very first post, Whatever Happened to the Message of The Cross? Since then, we have posted hundreds of articles and had thousands of comments and conversations. I have experienced every single one of the things mentioned in the first paragraph of this post! Yet I am still here, typing out my thoughts. Even after all this time, I still love blogging!
If you are reading this, you are either new to blogging or you have been doing it a for a while. Either way, I want to help you become a better blogger. I am not talking about writing better blog posts. Rather, I want to share my thoughts on how YOU can become a better blogging person! I am going to assume you already know what your topics are, and where to go to get help to become a better writer. I want to help you become a better blogger so that your experience blogging is as enriching and rewarding as it can be. So here is my advice: Read the rest of this entry
That’s right, my friends. The following post contains our own version of the Top 10 list: The top 10 posts written at Not For Itching Ears this year. We want to thank all of you for taking time to visit our site, read the articles, like them and comment on them. It means a lot to us and it makes blogging fun!
We work hard on all our posts and are glad when they get attention. Starting it off, we have. We wrote it in December and it is this year’s winner in two categories. The most read and the most commented on. In fact, it received more comments than any post ever. All time! Surprisingly, the debate was friendly.
We didn’t expect the page to get a lot of activity and boy were we wrong! Who knew? It is the 10th entry this year. There are some thought provoking articles in between those two. You may or may not agree with our conclusions, and that is perfectly fine. We want Not For Itching Ears to be a place to discuss the issues without the name calling that is sadly typical in the blogosphere. We might not agree on anything, but it is enriching to discuss the issues, get clarity on other peoples positions and agree to disagree if need be.
So without further commentary, here are our Top 10 Posts of 2014!
Our Top 10 Post of 2014
Quite good as a matter of fact.
Recently I read through perhaps the earliest Catechism of the church, St Cyril of Jerusalem’s Catechism c. 350ad. The only possible earlier one still in existence today is the Didache, though some people dispute that being a Catechism.
Reading through that was simply amazing. I will be sharing a lot on this in upcoming posts. Today, I wanted to give you a taste. Enjoy Cyril’s instruction on what the Lord’s Prayer means. You might be a little surprised! Read the rest of this entry
What is that event? Most Americans can’t answer that question so we share the answer here:
The World Cup!
That time is upon us, it starts on Thursday.
Not many people know this, but over here at Not For Itching Ears, we are hard core futbol, or soccer fans. We watch every single game. No matter what time the game is on, we watch it. What’s not to like about it? 204 teams compete over a three year period to win an invitation to the World Cup, which happens every 4 years. The host country team gets in free. So there is some great competition.
To make room in our schedule, Not For Itching Ears will be on vacation until the World Cup ends. We have priorities, so we will also be foregoing all yard work. All items on the “Honey Do” List have been temporarily removed. We were supposed to be in Brasil for the games, but alas, we are not!
Soccer is God’s greatest gift for world evangelism. It is an instant conversation starter. Just ask ANY non-American, male or female, who they are rooting for or what they think or their countries chances and you’ll have a 5 – 10 minute conversation about soccer. After that, the rest is up to you.
Our staff is rooting for in this order:
1. The USA and Ecuador (it’s a tie actually) Neither will win, but Ecuador has the best chance of advancing out of their group. Sadly, the USA is in the “Group of Death”
2. Any South American Country
The teams we most want to lose: Ghana, (sorry friends, you have beaten us one to many times) and Mexico. You can’t throw beer bottles at the USA team on their home field in the USA and expect us NOT to despise your team (we love you though!)
Take my advice: Stop blogging for a month and enjoy the World Cup. See you Mid-July! If you don’t know much about it check out this article on the Ten things Non-Soccer Fans Need To Know About the World Cup.
We love to discuss those things we are passionate about, don’t we? Be it our favorite football team (THE Washington Redskins), politics, sports, movies, cultural issues. Heck we even argue about beer! Remember the Miller Lite commercials? For years, Miller Lite drinkers, including the likes of Rodney Dangerfield and John Madden, bickered back and forth on our TV sets. The argument? What made Miller Lite such a great beer. Some said the drink tasted great. Others said it was less filling. Though they were very entertaining commercials, it makes one wonder: Don’t we have anything better to discuss than beer?
Of course we do! Over here at Not For Itching Ears, we’ve been spending a lot of time talking about a topic that is higher up the food chain: Worshipping God. If you read these posts (millions of people do each hour) Read the rest of this entry
That’s how much our worship of God adds to God. Our “worship” doesn’t enhance Him and our lack of worship doesn’t take anything away from Him. Put another way, God doesn’t need our worship. In fact God doesn’t need anything from us: our money, our time, our dedication, our service.
Theologians refer to this as God’s Independence:
“God does not need us or the rest of creation for anything, yet we and the rest of creation can glorify him and bring him joy.” Grudem, Systematic Theology.
The New Testament states it this way:
24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. Acts 17:24-25
Is God An Egomaniac?
Think about this: If God doesn’t need our worship, why does he require it?
Is it because he’s the ultimate egomaniac?
Because he loves to hear the sound of his own name on the lips of his adoring fans?
No. When we look at God’s acts in history that’s NOT the picture we see. It must be something else.
We All Worship Something
Humans are pretty predictable. We are the ultimate evaluators. We evaluate everything in life and prioritize them according to what we think is best. For example, I highly value guitars. But I value my wife and children more. There is really no comparison; I rank family higher in importance. What do I value more than family? Whatever the answer to that questions is, I may value something even more than that. I can keep going up the ladder of importance until I finally reach that one thing I esteem more than anything or anyone else.
Whatever that thing or person is, that is what we worship. We all worship someone or something, even if it is ourselves!
God Doesn’t Need Our Worship…We Need It!
God doesn’t need our worship; we need the worship we offer him. That’s why God demands our devotion. There’s no other thing or being more worthy of our ultimate devotion than Him. We become like the one we worship. God, in his mercy, created us to become like him. If that’s going to happen, then we must actively place him at the top of our “Top Ten List of Things I Value The Most” list.
Looking at worship this way means leads to the understanding that worship, though directed at God, is truly meant to serve humanity.
We are to worship God, not ourselves.
But God demands our worship, NOT for himself but for the good of his people.
At least, that’s the way I see it.
On a side note, that’s one of the reasons I am so passionate and often critical about corporate worship. It has the potential to profoundly shape us. Yet, we squander those opportunities because we don’t understand what worship is and why God demands it of us.
Your challenge is that most people are going to believe EVERYTHING you teach. When you stand in the pulpit and teach God’s word, you better make sure you know what you are talking about!”
I have never forgotten how my Greek professor started that Intro to Greek class. He laid out a challenge to the entire class that has shaped me all these years. When I was preaching every week, it guided my preparation time. It is why I spent 30-40 hours every week as a pastor studying the texts I was teaching on. I took it THAT seriously.
A lot of us out here in the blogosphere know how to study the scriptures for ourselves. We read books and articles all the time that help shape our faith and practice. Still, vast majorities of people rely on the church corporately and pastors specifically to teach them the faith. How are we doing?
According to a report by George Barna, the church is failing miserably in this area. “Believers” know less and less about God and understand the Bible less and less. Yet it is the Church’s job to make disciples and to “Teach them to Obey everything I (Jesus) commanded you.”
Why is this happening? If you read this blog, you know that I don’t lack an opinion on this!
Could one of those reasons be the failure of our younger pastors to grasp the significance of their preaching task? I have been to over 30 40 different churches in the last 8 years. One of the things I have noticed is the casual manner that a majority of pastors have towards their preaching. I can tell when someone has prepared. It is obvious to a wordsmith when a fellow wordsmith has put in the study and preparation time. It is just as obvious when they are winging it.
From what I have seen, many pastors are winging it!
The reasons for this can be summed up into to broad categories: Time Management and Skill/training
Pastoring has never been an easy job. Preaching week after week is not for the faint of heart. The demands of today’s ministry on a pastor’s time only make it harder to be faithful in your study. I am no longer pastoring, and I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to get quiet alone time to study in today’s world.
For many pastors, there just isn’t enough time to adequately study AND keep up with the ever increasing demands of today’s ministry. The only solution I know for this is to let other things go. Pastor, if you find that you don’t have time week after week to study the word and show yourself approved, you need cut other less valuable things out of your schedule. You know what those things are.
The other issue that may be causing this “Wing It!” mentality is a lack of skill in studying the Bible. Judging by what I’ve seen, our seminaries may no longer teach Hermeneutics. I doubt they are teaching Homiletics. If you don’t know how to study a text or passage, and you are a preacher, you need to stop reading this and go learn how to do it!
When you stand in that pulpit to teach God’s word, we are listening! We are ready to believe what you teach. Many of us will believe what you teach even when you are off base and wrong, due to a lack of serious thought on the text. For our sake, and for His sake, take some extra time and prepare the way you should.
If your pastor is already doing this, rejoice! Send him a note and thank him! Encourage him to keep doing it! Find out when he studies and never call or email or text him during those times, unless it is a real emergency. Teach others in the congregation to do the same. Help guard your pastors study time, and you, he and the entire congregation will be the better for it!
Enjoy this satirical look at modern worship lyrics. Song writers were challenged to write a worship song using the name of Soap Opera’s as their dominant lyrics. Hilarious, and surprisingly similar to the typical worship song being written and sung in churches across the USA.
There are 5 answers to choose from. Only one is correct, based on the “Teaching of the Lord to the Gentles by the Twelve Apostles” or what is more commonly called the “Didache” and other early church writings. The Didache is a well received document from the early church. The date of its writing is hard to determine, but most scholars put it somewhere between 50 AD and 150 AD, very close to the time of the Apostles. It is not part of the Bible, but it is a very good document to read if you want to learn how the early church understood the teaching of Christ and the Apostles.
Can you identify the correct answer? There is only one correct answer in our poll, but that does not mean there were not other indicators. There is only one correct answer in this poll.
So, how did the church identify a false prophet in the 2nd century?
Take the poll and then go here for the answer
That is the take many younger pastors have on Paul’s “I have become all things to all men…” mission strategy. Now, we take it to the next level.
It is always a challenge to get men to attend church. They just don’t want to come. They see it as a complete waste of their precious time. Yet, somehow we must reach them. I absolutely believe THAT! But how to do it? Perhaps a little creativity is in order. So, if you don’t mind thinking waaaaay outside the box, or care about church history or any parameters the Scriptures might lay out, try these pragmatic suggestions. Several studies suggest that this new approach will pack the house. Read the rest of this entry
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/
Today’s poll is at once both easy and difficult. There are only three real answers. That’s the easy part. The hard part? Choosing the right answer. In our opinion, that takes a little thinking. Here’s what we are asking you: Which church tradition, in your opinion, (Catholic, Orthodox or Protestant) is most faithful to the historic Christian faith of the early church (the first 300 years)?
Easy now my fellow Protestants! Don’t jump to what may appear to be an obvious answer. Why, you ask? because we have lumped all protestant groups into one answer. This group included Baptists, Reformed, Charismatics, Pentecostals, Lutherans, non-denominational, Methodists, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, The Faith movements, Nazarene, COGIC etc. Even though the Anglicans are not really part of the official Protestant movement, we have included them here as well. So, it is not simply whatever protestant group you are a part of, which of course is the MOST faithful, that’s why you are a part of it. It’s the whole thing.
Further, we are not asking which tradition is most faithful to Luther or Calvin or the other Protestant trailblazers. The criterion is which group is more faithful to the version of Christianity that the early church embraced and took all over the world in the first 300 years of church history? Another way of looking at is to ask Which church tradition would the Apostles and the early church Fathers recognize as being most representative of the church they gave their lives to lead and strengthen?
So who has remained most faithful to the Early Church: The Protestants as a group, The Catholic Church or the Orthodox Church?
Take our other polls: What Do You Like MOST about the Church Service and What Do You Like LEAST about The Church Service? and too really make your opinion count for an upcoming post tell us Do You Think We spend Too Much Time Singing in Church?
For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. I Cor. 5:7b-8
9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. 11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Romans 6:9-11
20 Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. I Cor. 15:20-22