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The Church is not Disney World

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.

Rebuilding Neural Pathways to the Mind of Christ

I was in Chicago yesterday for a meeting, and one of the participants was Dr. Rob Maupin, a missiologist from Lincoln Christian University (www.lincolnchristian.edu). Rob shared some of his recent research concerning 18-24 year-olds. He said that in this age group the brain prunes 70% of all synapses and neural pathways and then begins to rebuild them. Young adults begin to rethink everything including worldview, values, and beliefs. 70% of what they developed from childhood is pruned and redeveloped.


Now, imagine that a child raised in the Christian faith goes off to college where he or she is taught that the Bible is all myth, God doesn't exist, and we evolved from blobs of goo. If that young adult did not receive a solid foundation of biblical teaching (what we believe) and apologetics (why we believe it), there will be greater likelihood that the redeveloped worldview, values and beliefs will be incongruent with what the young adult believed as a child.


So what do we do about this? Two things. First, we need to make sure we are providing a solid foundation of biblical teaching, apologetics, and Christian spiritual formation for our children. Second, we need to walk alongside our young adults and pour into them as they are reshaping what they believe and why they believe it. Here's a scary statistic that tells us how serious this issue really is: 1 out of 10 people 65 and older are "nones" (non-religious people; i.e., completely secular). 1 out of 3 people under the age of 30 are "nones." 1 out of 3! We have our work cut out for us.


Back in the year 2000 I was in the Philippines for a convention, and I was asked to teach at a youth camp. I expected youth camp to be similar to my youth camp experiences--you play a lot of games, go swimming, have a little bit of teaching and a great worship service at night. When I was told that every student in the camp was selected by the elders as part of an equipping and leadership development process, I knew I was in for a surprise. I received the camp schedule on the first day and saw that the students were taking courses on apologetics, hermeneutics, christology, and spiritual formation, and I was shocked! This was summer camp! Yes, they had fun and played games, but by the time these students returned home, they were ready to teach others what they had learned. The elders of their churches said, "We don't have time to waste if we want to see our churches multiply to impact our nation for Christ." They are raising up an entire generation who will be ready to evangelize, disciple, lead and teach others, and all done from a character that is forged in the likeness of Jesus Christ (servanthood, humility, graciousness, integrity, holiness).


I think we have a lot to learn from these Filipino elders. Let's join together in a prayerful commitment to pour into our children and mentor our young adults. Let's set the bar high in order to make disciples who make disciples. Whether you are 35 or 95, you have a significant role to play in how you live your life for Christ as a person of humility and character, how you pray daily for children and young adults, and how you identify those in the next generation with whom you can spend time as a mentor and friend. And perhaps the 70% of synapses and neural pathways that are rebuilt for 18-24 year olds will be rebuilt for the character and mission of Jesus Christ.

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