Look, it’s a fair question. and before the insultfest starts, you should think about the question. If you consider yourself a Christian, it’s a good exercise:
“Am I the reason people around me mock Christianity and reject Christ?”
Now, I’ve already considered the question myself. And just so you know, I’m guilty as charged. I admit it. I’ve taken the time to examine my own way of following Christ out in the real world. It ain’t pretty. But not for the usual reasons. Not for the 21st century watered down version of Christian do’s and don’ts.
I’ve been spending countless hours immersed in the writings of the Early Church Fathers. You know, the guys who knew Paul, Peter or John and the Apostles. Or were discipled by them personally. Or they were discipled by men who had been discipled by the Apostles. These guys were very close to the source of the New Testament. Some of them are even mentioned in the New Testament. I’ve wanted to understand how they understood the faith.
Their understanding of what it means to follow Christ is far different than our modern day version. It’s not even close. If Polycarp or Clement were to walk into any evangelical congregation in the entire western world, they’d likely find an unrecognizable version of Christianity.
But then again, their version largely swept over the earth and transformed the world. Our version? Well, let’s be as charitable as we can….we’ve got great worship bands, sound systems and offerings. But the non-Christian world laughs at us. Worse, they’re rejecting Christ more and more.
But I have a hunch they’re not actually rejecting Christ. They’re rejecting you and me. They look at the Christians they know and they see that we don’t live out these great truths we proclaim. Give them credit, they’re not stupid. If you’re not willing to live out what you believe, why should they consider believing it?
And this brings us back to the question: “Am I the reason people mock Christianity and reject Christ?”
The writer of 2 Clement asked the church of his day to consider the same question. It was written sometime between 100-140 AD, maybe a little later. Here’s why he asked it:
“Let us wipe off from ourselves our former sins and be saved, repenting from the very souls of our being. And let us not seek to please humans, nor let us desire to please only ourselves with our righteousness, but also those who are outsiders, so that the Name many not be blasphemed on our account.
For the Lord says, ‘My name is continually blasphemed among all nations,’ and again, ‘Woe to him on whose account my name is blasphemed.’
Why is it blasphemed? Because you do not do what I desire.
For when the pagans hear from our mouths the oracles of God, they marvel at their beauty and greatness. But when they discover that our actions are not worthy of the words we speak, they turn from wonder to blasphemy, saying that it is a myth and delusion.
For when they hear from us that God says “It is no credit to you if you love those who love you, but it is a credit to you if you love your enemies and those who hate you,” when they hear these things, they marvel at such extraordinary goodness.
But when they see that we not only do not love those who hate us but do not even loves those who love us, they scornfully laugh at us, and the Name is blasphemed.” 2 Clement 13:2-3
They marveled at the teachings but ultimately reject them. And why is that? Because they didn’t walk the walk. They reasoned, if these incredible words are true, we expect the people who believe them to live them out. If they don’t live them out, then they’re not true.
They were amazed by the greatness of the teaching of Christianity. But when they wanted to see these great teachings in action, they found nothing. The result? They considered the message a myth and a delusion. God’s name was dishonored among unbelievers and it was the fault of believers! Let that sink in!
It was the church’s fault in 120AD. Is it our fault today?
Consider the question of this post. Reflect on it. Do some soul searching. Resist the temptation to point fingers at the church at large or other people. That’s too easy. Consider your own life. You can’t change the church, the people around you or society at large. Besides, that’s not your responsibility. You and I can only change ourselves and we should focus on that.
“Maybe it doesn’t matter to Him?”
My friend stared at me in disbelief. How could I say something like that? We’d been discussing the state of the church in its four major divisions: Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican and Protestant. (For the sake of brevity, I’ve lumped all us Protestants into one category. I don’t have time to list us all!)
“Of course THE Church matters to God”, he replied, “He died to give it birth!
I can’t argue with that!
What perplexes me though, is there are so many different types of churches. Catholics believe in purgatory, the other three divisions of the church, don’t. That’s a big difference. We don’t agree on how many books are actually the official “word of God”. That also seems significant. Some churches teach that how one lives has absolutely nothing to do with salvation, while others teach that it has everything to do with it. That’s a HUGE deal, right? Others are somewhere in-between.
We have Catholic decrees calling the Reformers heretics, and we have the Reformers labeling the Pope the anti-Christ. Orthodox and Catholics are at odds over one word in the Creed among other substantial issues. We can’t even seem to agree on the purpose of Christianity.
Then we have us Protestants!
Protestants agree that Jesus Christ died on the cross for “our” sins, but we can’t agree on who is included in “our”. We agree in the “Atonement”, but can’t agree on what it actually entails. We believe people worked miracles, but don’t agree on when or IF that has stopped.
- We don’t agree on how a church should conduct itself in worship.
- We don’t agree on something as simple as how a person actually comes to Christ.
- We don’t agree on what it means to follow Christ.
- We don’t agree on a host of important issues.
The world looks at us and sees “Christian” sects. Groups that argue amongst themselves and can’t agree on the essentials. We are divided, pure and simple. Stating otherwise is wishful thinking.
“Maybe it doesn’t matter to Him?”
Of course, Jesus did pray for “those who would believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one…May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me…” (John 17:20-21, 23.) Unity was important enough to pray for on the eve of the crucifixion. The Father gave a big “Sorry Son, no can do” answer on that one. At least Jesus knows what it’s like to have his prayers go unanswered!
Why did God allow it to happen?
Many Protestants believe that around 300AD the real church was infiltrated and perverted by the Catholic Church. As a result, the true Gospel was lost. And God let the Gospel be lost for 1200 years? That leaves more questions!
If purity of doctrine matters so much…
- Why didn’t God step in at such a critical moment to stop the hijacking of the Gospel?
- Why would God allow His church to proclaim a false gospel? One that would consign its followers to hell?
- Why didn’t he put a quick end to it? I find these questions a bit troubling.
To be fair, Catholics believe the Reformers are the real usurpers. Who can blame them? After all, the church existed virtually unchanged for 1500 years, until Luther come along. It’s understandable that they got together at Trent and called the Reformers heretics.
Here’s the compelling issue for me: In both cases, God did not stop the supposed error from taking root. If God is omniscient then he knew what would happen if he did nothing. God foresaw the doctrinal mess that would result. He knew what would happen if He did nothing, and he did…. nothing. Think about that!
He stepped in before, why not again?
We do know that if God wanted to step in and crush the rebellions, he could have. He did that very thing during the Exodus when Korah and his crew openly challenged Moses leadership of the young Israel. Read about it in Numbers 16. The gist of it is that God caused the ground to open up and swallow the leaders of the rebellion, their families and everything they owned! Rebellion over. Case closed. God’s leadership of his people settled.
But that is not what he did in 300AD. That is not what he did when the West and East Split in 1054. It’s not what he did at the beginning of the Reformation. He still hasn’t done it. In all these cases, God allowed it to stand. He had the opportunity to answer the Son’s prayer for unity, but chose not to.
You may counter and say that God NOT acting isn’t proof He doesn’t care. And I’d agree with you 100%. His non-action doesn’t prove anything on either side of the question. What we know from the Bible is that God has acted in human history. At key moments and in powerful ways, he’s intervened to ensure his plan moves forward as planned. But not on this issue. When you consider how significant the Church is to God’s plan, I think his inaction is worth considering.
It matters to us, but does it matter to God?
This brings me back to my conversation with my friend. Obviously, the doctrinal differences we’ve killed others for matter to us. They are a big deal, to us. But do they matter to God? Personally, I don’t think so. (My thoughts on this are shaped by far more than what I’ve covered here.)
Before you get the kindling and tie me to the stake consider what I’m NOT saying. I’m not saying that God doesn’t care about the Gospel or the church, or the world of lost souls. He does. But our petty little in house arguments?
This isn’t simply a thought exercise. The church in the USA could be heading into a very dark period. The culture is shifting. Their opinion of the church is souring even more. They’re calling some members of the church terrorists. They don’t like that we want to gather together for worship. New political leadership is rising that doesn’t care about religious freedom. What lies ahead? I’m not sure. But it sure seems like dark clouds on the horizon.
If dark days lie ahead, we’ll need to circle the wagon of faith. We’ll need to set aside our petty theological differences. We’ll need to unite around the basic essentials.
Who am I kidding? That will never happen! That would take a miracle and miracles don’t happen anymore. 🙂
That’s my view from the cheap seats. What’s yours? Why do you think God has allowed so much diversity to exist in His Church?
Read another thought provoking post on worship: God Does Not Need Our Worship…We Need It!
As I’ve said many times in this blog, dead people speak to me. Not their ghosts, but their words. One of my favorite things to read are the sermons and letters of the earliest church fathers. I’m talking about the guys who wrote while some of the Apostles were still alive and immediately after their passing. This excerpt comes from a sermon delivered 1900 years ago to the church in Corinth. Somewhere between 100 and 140AD.
The Corinthian church was facing problems again. Their big issue? It’s the same one the church in the United States is dealing with: They talked the talk, but didn’t walk the walk. The people of the day we’re laughing at them and calling them deluded.
We’ve become very vocal about what we believe. The problem isn’t what we believe. It’s that we don’t really believe it. Why else do you think we’d proclaim something so boldly and then choose not to live by it?
Have you read the oldest Christian sermon outside the New Testament? Read it here
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! I said it, and for God’s sake SOMEONE had to tell you! You still don’t get it, do you? Your theology is warped, your view of worship is flawed, you are too worldly, you never share the gospel, you don’t give enough and you certainly don’t serve enough. I could go on and on and on with your failures to live up to the standards of Christ as I see them. What is wrong with Christianity you ask? It is you, you are the problem.
I feel a LOT better now, thanks for letting me get that off my chest!
I want to say that on one hand, I am not being serious. But on the other hand, there is some truth to what I am saying. Let me explain… Read the rest of this entry
Or so the saying goes. Those that refuse to consider the past, when making choices in the present, often arrive at similarly bad conclusions. This phrase strikes a chord with many. Perhaps it’s because we’re always looking forward, seldom pausing to consider the past. Part of our DNA seems to include the belief that the next best thing is just up on the horizon. Who can blame us? Isn’t it true? At least with technology it is. The next generation computer, or Iphone or IPad is going to be better than the previous one. Things improve over time, as we discover new ways of making them faster, smaller, bigger, cheaper, and more reliable.
Many within the evangelical Christian community seem to adopt this same belief when it comes to understanding Christianity and how that applies to our corporate lives. We’re often looking for the next thing, God’s next move, a “new and improved, better than the old” way of Read the rest of this entry
That’s how much your worship of God adds to God. Your “worship” doesn’t enhance Him and our lack of worship doesn’t take anything away from Him. Put another way, God doesn’t need your 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 does not need our worship, why does he require that we worship him and him alone?
Is it because he is the ultimate egomaniac?
Is it 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 is 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!
I submit to you that God doesn’t need our worship; we need the worship we offer him. I think that is why God demands our devotion. There is no other thing or being more worthy of our ultimate devotion than Him. It has been said that we become like that which we worship. God, in his mercy, created us to become like him. If that is going to happen, then we must actively place him at the top of our Top Ten List of Things I Value The Most.
Looking at worship this way means leads us to conclude 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 is one of the reasons I am so passionate and often critical about corporate worship. It has the potential to truly shape us, but we often squander those opportunities because we don’t understand what worship is and why God demands it of us.
This blog was a sort of therapy for me. It allowed me to discuss the absolute frustration I had (and still have) with the utterly misguided modern church and her “worship”. Though she is still misguided and making herself increasingly irrelevant, I have come to accept that I can’t change it. I’m OK with that.
I am hopeful that this new generation of leaders will run their course, and not do too much MORE damage to Evangelical Christianity and that the next leaders will right the ship.
Until then, I will just arrive late to church. Feel free to assign whatever word for this you feel is appropriate. I am extremely comfortable with the compromise arrangement that God and I worked out: I show up AFTER the concert. Honestly, I think God agrees with me, because even He shows up after the band’s last song. Honestly, does anybody think God can handle one more G – D – Em – C progression with silly, incoherent lyrics?
It sounds a lot like surrender, and I guess that is a good way to look at it. It is what it is, and it will stay that way until some later time. I still love Jesus, and his people and love the gathering, but feel no need to lead the charge for change.
I have been busy though. I have been building several businesses, and helping out my wives ministry. She now has 3 books published, the fourth is almost done and the 5th is ready to go as well. She has been traveling and speaking to Hispanic women all over the world. While this blog is more of a negative focus “Let’s talk about the Problems in the Church”, her ministry is more about positively impacting the lives of helping Spanish speaking women who follow Jesus. If you speak Spanish, or know a woman who does, check out her ministry over at El Rinconcito De La Paz.
I am toying with the idea of starting a completely different blog, totally unrelated to this one. I’ll keep you posted.
I cannot imagine what that scene would be like. Watching somebody sacrifice their newborn child would be a totally new category for me. What feelings would be aroused as I stood there and witnessed a human infant being placed ALIVE into the white hot iron hands of Molech and then burned alive? Would I rush to the child’s defense? Would I try to talk his/her parents out of it? Would I accept the fact that they could do anything they wanted with their child and leave them be? Would I turn my eyes away or would I watch it unfold? Would I shrug my shoulders in indifference? What would you do? Read the rest of this entry
“The heretics did not just offer a different worldview. They were using Scriptures to uphold their ideas…”
We don’t often re-blog other posts, but this was such a thought provoking and stimulating article that we just had to! Mike discusses the framework we should use to interpret opposing views of what Scripture says and how we should use the early church Fathers to aid us in that. Be challenged!
We also wanted to introduce you to Mikes blog, so take a few minutes to check it out. You will probably hit the “Follow” button like we did.
Irenaeus, a 2nd century theologian, defended Christianity from the Gnostic philosophies that were popular at the time. His 5 volume work, Against Heresies, dedicates the first two volumes to describing the Gnostic views and then precedes to dismantle them in the remaining volumes.
Underlying Irenaeus’ defense lies the questions: how do we know what the truth is? and how do we decide between different interpretations of Scripture?
The heretics did not just offer a different worldview. They were using Scriptures to uphold their ideas – which centered on two gods – a good one and an evil one. It was the evil god who created the physical world that we must rid ourselves of.
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In a recent post, we discussed a study that concluded Christians and non-Christians are both attending church services much less today. If you missed that compelling post, you can read it here: Barna Study: Even Christians Are Leaving Our Churches.
Today we want to give you a chance to chime in on the topic, and we have two polls that allow you to do that. The first one asks if you are attending church more or less these days. There are several answers. Please don’t answer the way you would like to be able to answer or how you think you should answer. Just the way it really is in your life at this moment.
The second poll asks why you are attending church less. You have several option here as well, even an “other” where you can write in your answer. There is also an answer for “I am attending church MORE” and “I am attending about the same”
Thank you for voting and please feel free to share these polls with your readers or re-blog this post. If you look at the results so far, it seems to coincide with the study. The more answers the better, so share away!
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.