Honor God, honor people…, make a difference,
NEXT— ungrateful at Thanksgiving
Honor God, honor people…, make a difference,
NEXT— ungrateful at Thanksgiving
One of the oddities of our day, or maybe every era, is that genuine Christians never seem to rise to the occasion. We wait to see what happens before we respond or step in. To my way of thinking we need to step up our game. We need to be leaders within our culture and community, not waiting to see how things go and then reacting.
One of the causes of this is that we are too wrapped up in church work. Nothing wrong with that, mind you, but if it keeps us from our primary mission of drawing people to Christ then something is seriously wrong. We create a comfortable confined faith imprisoning ourselves from the world out there. I never saw Jesus draw that us/them dichotomy.
In the world, but not of it. Remember?
So…, how do we step up our game? Some thoughts—
Start by cutting back. You are probably excessively frantic & over-committed. [Aren’t we all?] You will never be able to have an effect on your surrounding community unless you make time for them— and that means cutting.
Listen to people around you; friends, neighbors, work associates, waitresses. Learn from them. It may take a while before they open their lives to you, but there will come a time when you become a safe person for them. Wait for it. Wait for it.
Up your silence before the Lord. Listen more before him than you ask for things. ‘Nough said.
Find someone with a common mind and heart to yours; someone who shares your passion for this world and the people in it. Meet often. Talk about your discouragements too.
Never forget that our Adversary prowls about like a roaring lion who wants to eat you up. [1 Peter 5:8]
Finally, stick to it; stay committed. It is too easy to become distracted and exhausted when our Lord calls you to make a difference.
There will always be challenges-to-complacency in life. Don’t give in to the illusion of safety.
Honor God, honor people…, make a difference,
These past two weeks in America we have seen what could be our new reality. Our government seems to have fallen to its lowest common denominator in extreme language, on both sides, to devastate anyone not on their side. Four mass murders have been carried out from Texas to Ohio and two in California. Seriously.
WHAT IS GOING ON?!? Civil values in our country have taken a nose dive into deepest hell. And no one seems able to stop it. Not uncivil conservatives: nor socialistic liberals. Lots of promises, little action. After your initial reaction of surprise and shock, a search for meaning and solutions should be rolling around in your head. Seriously?!?
I don’t know about you but I am heart-sick by all the killings, the rhetoric, and the mutual-hate practices in our country. What can we do?
Nothing— That appears to be the wait-and-see answer. I’ve never been a wait-and-see kind of person. I want to make a difference in this world. Think globally: act globally! Think locally: act locally. Our Christian enclave no longer has the luxury of sitting back and waiting…, waiting…, waiting.
What used to be seen as acceptable civil values has shifted from the center to the edge. Any Judeo-Christian impact hasn’t been dominant in North America, or elsewhere, in quite some time. Yet many of us pretend it still holds some sway over the powers-that-be, the culture at large, world politics, and local manifestations. It may appear to be so, but Christianity’s influence on our world has become shallow, just-a-show-on-the-surface. Our deep values no longer even go that deep for the majority of American Christians, let alone others.
One perspective I read summed up our new world cultural paradigm as “Anyone, Anything, Anytime, Anywhere.” [Big Blue Gumball]
It’s time for genuine Christians to take a stand for the principles our Lord taught us when he was on earth. They still hold true; they still make sense. Yes, we are in a new paradigm of anti-religion, anti-Christian ideology. But our faith is neither Liberal nor Conservative. Jesus Christ owns our allegiance.
Now let us, individually and corporately, get up and get moving. Talk’s cheap: action’s everything. I’m all in!
NEXT— Paradigm Positioning 3: stepping up our game.
Another side of my Cube simply reads FORGIVE. It is important for us to remember how difficult it is to do that. We may say we forgive; but then we harbor a grudge, or a slander, or cast a shadow, for decades. We “share” a concern about the one who wronged us with others considering him/her for promotion or something; not fully trustworthy, possibly. Remember Truthiness?
Our reality is that we haven’t actually forgiven that group or individual. So we disparage them to others. Subtle, isn’t it. Maybe not so much.
Which is more challenging— to offer forgiveness, or to seek it? Two sides of the same coin? Over my life-span I’ve noticed that the people who are more willing to admit wrong, and seek forgiveness, are also those who forgive others more readily.
But there will always be those who find it virtually impossible to admit wrong, or seek forgiveness whatsoever. Why? I think it has to do with their self-worth. If they admit to being wrong that somehow diminishes their personhood; it becomes a matter of personal pride.
Some people simply cannot see themselves as wrong…, ever. That would make them less of a person; it would throw spurious doubt on their perfection. (Which they know, deep down, they are not anyway.) FYI— I was perfect once! For about 5 minutes in April of 1987. (You’d better be laughing.)
To err is human (Duh!) To screw up is even more human. To forgive is not. It takes a special strength to confess you are wrong about something. You are going to need God on this one. Prayer matters.
My wife and I have a principle we’ve tried to abide by our entire marriage. Always be the first to say you’re sorry; especially when you know you’re right.”
We admit we’re wrong much more readily now.
“Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”
NEXT— paradigm positioning— where are we?
2. To the best of your recollection, what is the Christian Gospel?
a. Now find someone who is NOT a Christian and ask them what it is.
b. Tell them your understanding of the Gospel. Ask for their feedback.
3. Interview people, Christian and otherwise, about the statement- The only absolute truth is that there are no absolute truths. What did you learn?
4. Ask people if they have overriding principles that govern their actions. Learn.
5. How are your overriding principles apparent in your actions?
6. Given that throughout history the Christian faith has adapted to fit into every people group, culture and era around the world, what do you think of the idea of a postChristian Gospel? Is it opening Pandora’s Box?
7. To what extent is our message a mind-to-mind transfer of information leading to a decision to follow Christ? To what extent is it a heart-to-heart thing leading to an encounter with Christ that can be explained later?
8. In what circumstances is a problem-solving model of the gospel more appropriate? In what circumstances is a fulfillment model more appropriate?
9. How do you discover the presuppositions and assumptions a person holds about life and the Christian interpretation of life?
10. How simple is the Gospel? How expansive could it be?
11. How are you doing at being in the world, but not of it?
12. Where do you have a tough time bein’ green?
You know how it goes. You finish something, then you finish it again— similar to the “here’s my first final draft” submission scenario of so many doctoral theses. This first last entry will set forth practical ideas so you won’t simply put it aside and do nothing. First, to deal with the realities of this major cultural shift to a postmodern/postChristian society, I’ll suggest some personal characteristics which you will need to integrate, with some degree of wholeness, into your life and livelihood. Then I’ll lay out more general observations to keep in the back of your head as you move about, surrounded by a postChristian/post-moral population. Please, as you read this blog, know that these recommendations are only applicable if you are serious about relating to the emerging set of people we presently refer to as postmoderns. I prefer to describe them aspostChristian, or even as post-morals.
First, you will need a little patience. It takes time to understand paradigm shifts and how they affect everything. It takes time to gain an eagle’s eye perspective on your own culture, community, and personal heritage. You almost need to have an out of body experience, to be able to fly over your world like an eagle to truly see yourself, in this place & time. When you step back a bit and observe, even your own self seems different; and in many ways, people today are different. Flash observations just do not work.
We have to learn to live alongside people who are increasingly different from ourselves. Don’t jump to conclusions after one encounter with people outside your own social group; people have arrived where they are in life over long, hard roads; some roads, quite far from your own path. Take time to win the right to allow people to trust you with their road’s story, on their terms, on their turf. Some time ago, I met with an ALPHA group. We had met together before, but never quite like this— one Australian, two Iranian Muslims, and four Chinese students from Beijing (all in their late 20s–early 30s). Our small group fell into a discussion of the differences between being raised in a Christianized society (America), a Muslim society (Iran), and an atheistic society (China). The Muslims were convinced that Islam was the one true religion because it was the most recent, which meant that it was the most complete, incorporating all previous religions into it. The Chinese, not-quite-atheists were brand new to the idea of a God even existing. How could God be Jesus if Jesus came to earth? It was an exciting evening of interchange, disagreement, and friendship as each person was able to speak without fear of recrimination or evangelistic attack. No one had to win. As the only Christian in the group, I was honored to watch our Lord begin to work His miracles in these people. I just needed to be there, modeling honest, transparent Christian faith, speaking the Truth in love. It was not a time to whip out a Gospel outline and proceed to read through it; it was not a time to maneuver the conversation around to Christian things. It was rather a time for me to be still and to listen for the voice of God’s Holy Spirit coming out of these curious individuals. I was amazed at the genuinely Biblical images and ideology they espoused without even knowing it. Then I just had to wait. As said earlier, God is in control; we don’t have to be. New expressions of faith evolve naturally with time and generational transitions[i]; so learn patience.
On the other hand, as Christians in a rapidly evolving society, we do not have a lot of time to adapt to our changing world. It used to be that paradigm shifts occurred about every 200-500 years. When the printing press enabled merchants to carry information (as well as their wares) across Eurasia those shifts accelerated paradigm change to about every 40-50 years. With the dissemination of communication technology that figure is accelerating even more today. What communicates our faith today will have to change or update not every 20 – 30 years, but every 5 years. George Barna, in BOILING POINT: Monitoring Cultural Shifts in the 21st Century,[ii] says that, at best, we have no more than 3-5 years to catch up before things shift again. Then, we need to surpass the culture in breaking ground for the next shift to follow.[iii] “If you can see the future coming,” says Barna, “it’s too late.”
NEXT time, in the first-last-entry, I’ll leave you with some observations about how to immerse yourself in our new postChristian world, and how to fall in love with her people. Seriously.
Writing one final EMPulse in this series…, maybe,
[i] “Generational Dominance” refers to the overall influence any particular generation, or subculture within that generation, exerts over a regional or national culture in general.
[ii] George Barna. BOILING POINT: Monitoring Cultural Shifts in the 21st Century. (Regal Books, Ventura, CA) 2001.
[iii] George Barna. BOILING POINT: Monitoring Cultural Shifts in the 21st Century. (Regal Books, Ventura, CA) 2001. p.20.
“God created man in his own image. And man, being a gentleman, returned the favor.”
~Jean Jacques Rousseau (June 1712 – July 1778)
6 February 2019
The Question— So then, what should the Christian message (heart & mind) in a postChristian society look like?
First, it must be exhibited in the lives of those who call themselves Christians. Genuine Christians will act differently within a postChristian society. For one, we will not withdraw from the society and seal ourselves within our Christian peer groups, small groups, or large churches. We will be immersed in the matrix of our culture, from politics to pubs, from businesses to the broken hearted, from philosophical forums to the Supreme Court. In short, true postChristian-Christians will be active members in our communities. And we will be involved, openly & matter-of-factly as Christians, with little apology for our faith. For our faith will in no way resemble the narrow-minded, withdrawn hibernation of the last era of western Christendom; that era is dead and gone; and needs to be gone.
Instead, a postChristian faith will speak of the greatness of our God and how important it is to live by the principles He has set down for His creation. It will exhibit a kind of Christianity that encourages people to flourish and grow. Christians in this new era will be a positive contributing force for Christ, working alongside those of other faiths, even postmodern atheists, for the glory of God and the enrichment of the peoples of this earth.[i] True evangelism takes place when it becomes the unconscious expression of a new life in Christ. It makes a difference in peoples’ lives through the kind of life lived out, publicly, by Jesus’ followers. The gospel will be communicated heart to heart through service, commitment, caring, and a cohesive Christ-honoring presence in peoples’ lives.
Second, the WORDS of the gospel will become complimentary to the LIFE of the gospel exhibited in the lives of Christ’s followers. Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words was how Saint Francis put it. Remember, the WORDS of the gospel merely explain what the God of glory has done to bring the human race back into a relationship with Him through Christ’s work on the cross…, and subsequently, through His Holy Spirit living within us. As necessary as they are, the WORDS of our message are empty without a practical demonstration of their Truth through the way we live. [Do not misconstrue this to mean simply— live morally. It is more than that. It is a summons to live Godly, based on the precepts set down in the New Testament by Jesus Christ.] The WORDS of the gospel will take the postChristian perspective back to the raison d’etre for the Christian message— namely, that this human race, and each of us individually, should live in harmony with the God who created us. This is the nature of our Salvation, to be rooted in the fulfillment of Christ’s work at Creation through His sacrifice on the Cross. Repentance and forgiveness have no context outside the restoration and fulfillment in Jesus’ work at Calvary.
Thirdly, the core of the Christian message must abound with LOVE. Simple enough!? Not really. This is a problem. Why? Because we often say we love people (normal people), but in reality we hardly know them at all. We have little social contact with people who never go to church but rarely are we involved in their lives enough. We simply do not know them. Love grows in relationships when people become open and honest with one another about their inner lives; when agreements are adhered to; when trust is constant and never betrayed. It might be helpful if we morph the idea of loving another into the romantic mode— falling in love with them. The language of romance holds far more concrete images than does the idea of loving another person in a platonic, spiritual, evangelistic kind of way. It engages our emotions as well as our verbal communication and spiritual concern. It ignites our passion and deep desire to be with the other person. It encourages our heart desire to give everything to the other person for the sake of Jesus Christ. You know what being in love does to you. It makes you alive again!
Maybe our problem is that we don’t allow Jesus to love us passionately; therefore, we cannot love another passionately. It is questionable whether a genuine follower of Jesus Christ who will not allow God to love him/her fully would ever be able to love anyone else, Christian or otherwise. This is an issue which our postChristian church in the West must yet grapple. We still speak of love more than we exercise it. Talk’s cheap— action’s everything. Let’s get it on!
NEXT TIME~ Framing a postChristian Gospel: talk’s cheap—action’s everything— part 6.
[i] In my own interactions with “normal” people I have been constantly surprised by their preconditioned response to the word “Christian” and their surprise when they discover that a genuine Christian has been in their midst all along, talking from his own Biblical presuppositional base.