RSS

Monthly Archives: April 2011

The discovery of another mythical creature

As a pastor, I have been told and always believed that non-Christians were more sensitive to spiritual things around Christmas and Easter. In fact, it was the two times of the year that they were more apt to attend church. That belief led to one wit coining the term, “CEO–Christmas and Easter Only” attender.The CEO explains why countless churches, including my own, pull out all the stops to attract non-believers during the Christmas and Easter season. Taking it to a new extreme this year, there’s even a church in Toledo, OH, that is giving away a house on Easter to someone who attends their service, BUT you have to be present to win.

But it is all to no avail. This past week, a friend sent me a link to some recent research that shows that the CEO is a myth. They join the ranks of the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, Sandman, Santa Claus, Unicorn, and other mythical creatures. Chasing the CEO is like going on a snipe hunt.

Here’s the explanation from Thom Rainer at Lifeway Christian Resources.

The Reality

But, according to our research in earlier years, that may not be the case. We actually found that most who attend on Easter are fairly regular attendees. They just happened all to come together on the same day. On Easter, those who attend one, two, or three Sundays a month join those who attend nearly every Sunday. In reality then, the CEO Christian is likely more myth than reality.

In fact, if there is a given day where more unchurched non-Christians are likely to attend church, it would be on Christmas eve. Some churches do make special efforts to reach people with the gospel on that day; still most churches have no strategic plans to do so.

Rather than trying to attract and capture a mythical creature, perhaps churches need to get back to doing what we are called to do: Worship and exalt the risen Christ. Help people fall in love with Jesus, and become passionate about their faith. Train and equip them to tell their faith story. Encourage believers to live as salt and light in the world and make a difference where they live, work, and go to school.

It would be more effective, and certainly cheaper than giving away a house.

 
 

Do this in remembrance of me

In preparation for United Evangelical Free Church’s Good Friday service of choir, Scripture reading, and communion.

 

Who can approach God?

Two seemingly unrelated news stories on Good Friday raised a question in my mind. The two news stories are:

  • Men nailed to crosses in Philippines Good Friday ritual” – In a scene witnessed by throngs of believers and thousands of tourists, at least 24 Filipinos were nailed to crosses on Good Friday. Ahead of the cross nailings, throngs of penitents walked several miles through village streets and beat their bare backs with sharp bamboo sticks and pieces of wood, sometimes splashing spectators with blood. The ritual was done to atone for sins, pray for the sick or a better life and give thanks for what they believe were God-given miracles.
  • A boy, an injury, a recovery, a miracle?” – NPR reported a story of a boy from the Seattle area (Ferndale, WA) who was dying from a flesh-eating bacteria. Feeling that the boy could use all the prayer he could get, a Catholic priest encouraged parishioners to pray to a woman who lived 350 years ago.

Both of these stories prompted me to ask the question, Who can approach God? Do you have to practice self-flagellation and crucifixion to atone for your own sins? Do you need someone like a priest or a dead saint to approach God on your behalf?

Hebrews 10:19-22 answers the first question.

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

We can enter God’s presence because of what Jesus did for us. He opened the way to God through his death on the cross. Because of his sacrifice, we can come before God with confidence. We don’t have to be afraid any longer.

Hebrews 4:14-16 answers the second question.

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Because Jesus died for our sins, he is now in God’s presence serving as our great high priest, interceding for us. As a result, we don’t need another priest or saint to pray to God on our behalf. Who could do a better job than Jesus? On top of that, we can come into God’s presence ourselves when we are in trouble or have a need, and have the confidence that God will meet us at our point of need.

Thank God for Good Friday. Thank God for what Jesus did for us on the cross.

 

Overheard

As I was leaving my breakfast meeting at Denny’s this morning, a customer at a table next to ours commented to her friends, “There’s pride, and then there’s stupidity.”

I thought to myself, “I’ve been guilty of both a time or three.”

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on April 22, 2011 in Character, Personal growth

 

The Good News of Easter

A wordle of Luke 24:5b-6a.

Another one of Luke 24:1-12.

Perhaps that is how it appeared to the disciples when the women told of meeting angels at the empty tomb of Jesus. “…these words seemed to them an idle tale” (Luke 24:11). It would still be a short time before the met the risen Jesus and believed the message.

The truth of the resurrection transforms skeptics into passionate witnesses.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on April 21, 2011 in Easter & Good Friday, Scripture

 

Facebook repentance

I have repented about Facebook. “What, pray tell, have you done wrong towards Facebook that requires repentance?” I hear you ask.

According to Webster’s Dictionary, the primary meaning of the verb “repent” is to turn from sin. But the secondary meaning is “to change one’s mind.” It’s that definition that describes my condition.

When I first joined Facebook, it was to keep up with my children. They would post pictures of their latest adventures online. The only way I could see them was to become a Facebook “friend.” I did not want to be “friends” with anyone besides my children. Then a niece or nephew “friended” me, and how can you say “No” to family. Then it was someone from church, and the pastor can’t exactly be unfriendly.

As my Facebook “friends” continued to increase, I finally repented. I came to realize that Facebook is a useful tool for networking and communication. Since I need all the help I can get in both areas, I chose to embrace Facebook as a helpful tool.

That doesn’t mean Facebook is without its faults. It can be an incredible time waster, and I don’t really need any help doing that. Hours pass quickly as you view every photo, watch every video, and click every link posted by your friends. Don’t get me started on all the frivolous games available as well. What makes my friends think I want their sheep, fish, farm, weapons, or Mafia relations? And that doesn’t include the time spent cyber stalking to discover who my friends’ friends are.

Facebook can become a lure to revisit old relationships. It can entice one back into old habits. I read of one church that banned Facebook among its membership because some people used it to rekindle old flames and wound up in adulterous relationships. I’m not ready to go that far, but I heartily acknowledge that some relationships, friendships, temptations, distractions, failures, and sins of my past are best kept right there—in the past, and not reopened in the present.

Facebook can also become a substitute for life. Rather than experience my own adventures, it is easy to settle for living vicariously through someone else’s.

But Facebook is useful for connecting. With my family and friends spread across the country and the world, it helps me to keep in touch with where they are, what they are doing, and how I can pray for them right now. It allows me to communicate quickly with a multitude of people without having to pick up a phone and call or text each one individually.

Facebook can be redeemed and used as a tool for the Kingdom of God. It can be a great resource for communicating prayer requests and answers to prayer, or posting encouraging articles or sermons.

I have seen the light and I repent. I’m not ready to do the whole “dust and ashes” thing, but I have changed my mind.

 
3 Comments

Posted by on April 19, 2011 in Facebook, Personal growth

 

Take risks in your faith

Book Review: Unleashed: Release the untamed faith within, by Erwin Raphael McManus

Over the past two thousand years, Christianity has moved from a tribe of renegades to a religion of conformists. We have preached a gospel that says that Jesus died and rose from the dead so that you can live a life of endless comfort, security, and indulgence. We tell people that if they will believe in Jesus, they will be saved from the torment of eternal hellfire and then go to heaven when they die.

According to author Erwin McManus, that is far short of what true Christianity is all about. Instead of domesticating people, the church needs to call people back to a life of faith that takes risks. Instead of conforming to the people around us, we should pursue the freedom to be ourselves and to love and serve God with great passion. In short, we are to live like barbarians, allowing a raw and untamed faith to be unleashed.

The book is extremely short—only 146 pages. While it can be read in one sitting, you need to take the time to ponder the message. I had to ask myself the question, “Have I settled for a comfortable, complacent, easy Christianity? Am I pursuing the barbarian way of “love, intimacy, passion, and sacrifice? Am I willing to follow God wherever he might lead, even if the road is filled with uncertainty?”

I found the book to be challenging, encouraging, and definitely thought provoking. Definitely worth a read.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com http://BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on April 18, 2011 in Books