Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Shift from Entertainment to Accountability Fellowships

In my earlier blog, I described the noticeable shift from a non-Christian culture to a more aggressive, anti-Christian culture. I would like to discuss a possible trend that could be an outcome of such a seismic change. When considering the enormous abandonment of young people toward evangelical Christianity, those few that do embrace the faith will …

Shift from Consumer-Entertainment to Practical-Accountability Fellowships

With our current climate less than hospitable toward believers, it is not mental gymnastics to conclude that “genuine” young Christians are going to be more diligent in finding an environment that will provide spiritual enrichment, encouragement, and ammunition for the fight they currently are experiencing. No longer will the large, loud, impersonal “youth gatherings” with high sensory stimulation and big-name entertainment be the draw, but rather a deep, meaningful, like-minded fellowship will become the mainstay in order to provide needed accountability and structured encouragement as well as ministry outlets. I can see a move from the mega-church phenomena to a more mid-size or even the small church venue in order to meet the needs of having personal, practical relationships (this is already starting to happen on several fronts).

I also wonder if the current bizarre popularity of social media will start to wane as people that have either grown up with, or that have become enamored with this “cyber-relationship tool” will realize it is a weak substitute for having a commitment-centered, small accountability group in the development of their Christian disciplines. It may stay active as an outlet for expression of faith, but the realization of having a more organic, face to face encounter with fellow believers for true development will replace the frequency of “having to stay connected.” (I have seen several Facebook posts about young people "fasting" from their cell phones for several days each week!)

Two of the unfortunate consequences of the mega-youth models are (1) that so few members are given any opportunity for leadership and (2) so many uncommitted can “hide” in the anonymity of the masses. Problem 2 is simply “too many wolves with the sheep” and this analogy needs no explanation. This first problem however deserves some clarification. Without personal opportunities for leadership, in other words the chance to actually make decisions and be strategically involved, there is no developed loyalty, no “bye-in.” The results of this “lack of an outlet for ministry development” has already been documented in countless books, and most of us can recite the mantra – “by the time active churched youth leave for college, more than 82% will never darken the doors of a church again!” Although we’ve read this, heard this, and lamented its reality we are not currently attacking the problem at its core – connecting our youth with actual leadership opportunities within the church, giving them true ownership! Hence the forced solution of involvement with smaller, more opportunistic fellowships that provides higher accountability.
If larger churches address this issue by offering more opportunities for hands-on ministry it will curb the future departure, but the “song and dance,” performance-based student ministry model will not provide the necessary elements of true disciple-making. The line in the sand is becoming more noticeable and our young people are on the front lines of this battle. Although those of us that are older can see it, they are sweating it out firsthand. For the faithful few that will remain we must provide genuine centers of spiritual development and experience. Babysitting and entertaining them is over.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Shift from Non-Christian to Anti-Christian Culture

Check out this very short description of some superheroes that served under King David! "...the sons of Issachar, who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do (1 Chron. 12:32)"  Man, that's pretty much all it says about them, but they were so necessary. What they had can be summed up in one word - VISION!
I don’t consider myself a “son of Issachar,” nor am I a “prophet, or the son of a prophet,” and my prognostication skills have never been my strong suit, but I would like to look at an important trend facing the future church.
The Shift from “non-Christian” to “Anti-Christian” Culture
Most people living today in America do not remember Bible reading done in their public schools. They may have  heard about it but have no personal experience of a thoroughly Judeo-Christian ethic being the norm of all of society. It dictated how the family lived, how the “village” operated, and it was all directly connected to the church. Our society was a moral haven, not that everyone was a Christian, but the acceptable bar of behavior centered on the precepts of Scripture and especially the Big Ten. That is why the French historian, Alexis de Tocqueville made the famous phrase in 1840, “America is great because Americans are good.” Well, Lexi, times have certainly changed!

For the last half century our common struggle has been the world’s encroachment on our children, the humanistic philosophies stealing the hearts and minds of our future. We have watched a non-Christian world slowly bleed out our sons and daughters spiritually, leaving them morally incompetent and inept. Although you may still see yourself in this fight, the times have changed yet again. No longer are we living in a non-Christian culture, we have changed the address to an “Anti-Christian” culture. Today we are considered wrong, nay I say, evil, for having Judeo-Christian principles that guide our lives. We are boldly and loudly called names like intolerant, homophobes, Neanderthals, flat-earthers, and “hate-criminals” if we hold to the basic ethical doctrines of God’s Word. Any moral challenge we give to an aberrant behavior from a Biblical perspective is met with vicious outrage, even borderline violence, which is considered a just reward. Our Christian students are not only fighting the immoral onslaught of secular hedonism and rampant sensuality, they are fighting for their lives. One reason most are very timid about sharing their faith is not the embarrassment, it’s because of the popular opinion that Christians are the new Nazis. We are no longer at odds, we are at war, and the culture is the one waging it! What used to be a line drawn in the sand has become a rampart with bludgeoning repercussions. It’s no longer the 90’s!  

If a man makes a poorly produced “YouTube” video that portrays Mohammad in a bad light he will spend over 3 months in jail. Would he have been given the same treatment if he had done the exact same thing defaming the person of Jesus Christ? Think about it. On April 7, 2009 in an unclassified Department of Homeland Security report, “right-wing extremist” were considered a major homegrown threat to national security. It goes on to clarify groups such as Christians, returning US Soldiers, supporters of far-right candidates, homeschoolers, and NRA members should be assessed as a high level of threat. The outcry was deafening and because of that they have since pulled this report, but the fact is our government sees us, Judeo-Christian ethic, Bible believers, as a national security threat! Because we stand for something holy we are now guilty of hate-crimes! How long before they issue another such declaration and there is no outcry? The new culture is Anti-Christian!