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Houston We Have a Problem

To allow Pastor Rick time to enjoy the Christmas season, we are re-publishing some of his most popular blog posts of 2013. (Originally published on November 21, 2013)


In Jim Collins' book, Good to Great, he writes, "All good-to-great companies began the process of finding a path to greatness by confronting the brutal facts of their current reality. . . . It is impossible to make good decisions without infusing the entire process with an honest confrontation of the brutal facts." This statement is not only good advice for companies, but it's also good advice for marriages, parenting, and churches.


In marriage, spouses can very easily slip into the "neutral zone" where everything looks neutral: it's not really bad, but it's not good, either. There's no color, no spark, and no joy. Everything is a dull gray as the husband and wife rarely speak to one another, take time for each other, and basically live separate lives under one roof. How do we splash color on our marriages and create a spark once again? Only when we confront the brutal fact that our current reality is not healthy. When we're honest about our condition, we're far more likely to search for the remedy.


In parenting, moms and dads can find themselves being a taxi service and calendar scheduler more than a discipler and nurturer. I've been traveling a lot the past four weeks, and I realized I hadn't had a meaningful conversation with my daughter during that entire time. So, yesterday I picked her up from school and took her out on a date. I wouldn't have done that, though, if I didn't confront the brutal fact that I've been an absentee dad over the past month.  


The same thing applies to the state of the church in America today. Many churchgoers are content with the drabness of their faith and church experience. Much like the frog in the kettle, many churchgoers aren't even aware there's a problem. But there is. Every year more than 4,000 churches close their doors compared to approximately 1,000 new churches that start. There are just over 350,000 churches in the U.S. today. I'm no expert in math, but when we have a net loss of 3,000 churches a year, that means we would be almost "churchless" in roughly 100 years. Churchgoers are also getting older, on average, than the general population. The younger the generation, the higher the percentage that reports they are unaffiliated with a church. Every year 2.7 million church members fall into inactivity. From 1990 to 2000, the combined membership of all Protestant denominations in the U.S. declined by almost 5 million members (9.5%) while the U.S. population increased by 24 million (11%).


Houston, we have a problem.


It's time to confront the brutal facts, not so that we wring our hands in despair, but so that we get on our knees in prayer. In marriage, parenting, and churches, we need to be honest about our current reality in order to wake up to the Spirit's leading for repentance and renewal. To repent means to change your mind and go in a different direction. We change our minds by acknowledging that where we are is not good in order to begin moving to a better place--to a healthier marriage, family, and church. We repent of letting the weeds grow in our hearts and homes, and then we renew our commitment to kill the weeds and grow healthy once again.


Jesus said to the church in Ephesus, "But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lamp stand from its place, unless you repent" (Revelation 2:4-5, ESV). Confront the brutal facts. Have you abandoned the love you once held for your spouse, your children, your Lord? Has your heart grown cold? Are you in the "neutral zone" of your marriage? Is your church just going through the motions? If so, it's time to repent and do the works you did at first. Return to the love you once had. "Keep yourselves in the love of God" (Jude 21), and "the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you" (1Peter 5:10). And praise God that He will. 

The Church Isn't Disney World

To allow Pastor Rick time to enjoy the Christmas season, we are re-publishing some of his most popular blog posts of 2013. (Originally published on November 4, 2013) 


If you're a church goer, how do you view your church?  Is your church like Disney World or a mission outpost?  


Disney World is great, isn't it?  You enter a magical kingdom of a whole new world of fantasy and fun.  You escape the demands and pressures of the real world (unless you go in August with little kids).  Disney World is the mecca of consumerism where you are inundated with food, shows, rides and entertainment.  You don't go to Disney World to contribute.  You go to consume…a lot.  You don't go to Disney World to make a difference, but to be impressed and "wowed."  


This is how many Christians approach church: to consume more than contribute and to be impressed more than challenged.  Some Christians view the church like a Disney cruise ship more than a battle ship.  On a Disney cruise ship, the guests pay money for services, and the hired staff takes care of them.  On a battle ship, those on board are commissioned, assigned specific tasks, equipped and well trained, and when they enter into battle, everyone has a role, and they know what to do.  We've lost the sense of the call to battle.  We were made for wonder and grand adventure, but we have settled for lounge-chair Christianity.


The church isn't Disney World.  Disney is great for a vacation, but that's not where you live life, raise your children, or find your greatest sense of fulfillment.  Chocolate cake is nice as an occasional dessert, but if that's all you eat, you start to feel nauseous and malnourished.  If our Christian experience is just about consuming the productions that come from a stage, we will become spiritually weak and malnourished.  


It's time to awaken our spirits to a revolution of the high demand of discipleship.  The church is a mission outpost where we are training for spiritual battle between ideas and world views, and where eternity hangs in the balance.  Jesus calls us to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him (Mark 8:35).  This is a high calling which requires the power and presence of the Holy Spirit (cf. Ephesians 3:16).  The Apostle Paul wrote, "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" (Ephesians 6:10-17).  


So, the next time you enter a church building, see it as a mission outpost, and notice how that changes your attitude and perspective of why you're there.


 


 

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