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RG2G 056 21 Ways We Are Saving the American Church

I believe in the church.  Yes, I know. It’s messed up, abusive, and sometimes outrageous the way “church people” behave. But I’m not talking about the institution, the organization, or the denominational artifact.  I’m talking about the dynamic, vital, spiritual community that Jesus had in mind when He said that His church would prevail.

When I entered into the ministry many years ago, it was an ominous time.  The church was declining, people were leaving church en mass, and there wasn’t much on the horizon to give us hope that things would change.  But I have to say that I am more encouraged than I’ve ever been.  I see really good signs that things are being done to not only save the American church and her influence on society, but to turn things around and begin to grow and make a larger impact.

On today’s show, we talk about the 21 movements we see going on in the American church, why they’re important, how you can recognize them, and more importantly how you can find a church to be a part of that embodies these qualities.

If you agree, and you know examples of these kinds of churches, send me an email or leave a comment here on my blog.

RG2G 055 Ten Good Reasons You Need a Great Church

Something I hear constantly when I’m around people are war stories about how they’ve been burnt by the church.  If you are not careful, you’ll end up thinking that just because a lot of churches are messed up, all churches are messed up.

I know good people who have opted out of attending church or being a part of a church for a period of time just to be able to get their sense of self back together.  And I respect that.  But I, for one, am committed to the church as taught in the Scriptures; that it is a dynamic movement of God’s redeeming grace.  It is a collection of messy people who have found not only their joy, but their peace and their wholeness in a loving relationship with Jesus Christ.

So today I talk about the 10 good reasons why you need a great church.  Remember that just because there are a lot of broken churches doesn’t mean the idea of church is a bad one.  We don’t stop eating just because there are some bad restaurants.  We don’t stop attending ballgames just because the teams don’t play well.  I urge you to listen.  Talk these ten ideas over with your family, co-workers, and small groups.

Out there somewhere is a dynamic, growing, vital, vibrant gathering of people seeking to know God, love God, and live the life for which they were created.  You can be a  part of that.  You can be a  part of something big, something that makes a difference.  Or you can just be mad, sad, cynical, and stay home.  Your choice.

RG2G 054 Why Nobody Wants to Join Your Church

There seems to be a lot of controversy these days about church membership.  In fact, there is a lot of debate going on about whether or not we even need churches with all of the online resources available.  So in response to a pastor who asks the question, “Why does no one seem to want to join the church?”  aren’t people committed anymore, or is everyone looking just to be a church shopper or hopper?”

The idea of church membership as it relates to joining an institution is no longer attractive, if it ever was.  The idea of membership was that you joined the institution called church and you were owned by that church for the rest of your life.  I am not sure that was ever the idea, but it’s the idea that gets communicated.

Membership classes, membership covenants all seem to give the impression that joining a church is all about obligations with few benefits.

I think the paradigm shift is better understood as join the movement rather than join the institution, the organization, or the denomination.

Christianity is a movement.  Understand that.  If you think it’s an institution or a religious force, you’ve gotten it backward. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t religious institutions that are very powerful and very forceful.  Denominations have served their place in the past.  But unlike my parent’s generation, people are no longer loyal to the institution.  They want to be a part of things that matter, that help, that move forward, that benefit not only them, but those who need help.

So as you listen to today’s podcast, think about the four aspects of belonging to a movementany movement. I’ve applied this to The Gathering Nashville because it’s a spiritual community that I am a part of.  But ask yourself, “If all four of these qualities aren’t present, are you really a part of anything that really matters?”  What are the four things that are required to have a sense of belonging? Attending, serving, giving, and supporting.  These are the four dynamics that allow movements to be vital, healthy, and resourced in order to do the mission that they’ve been given by God.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RG2G 053 Why 42 Million Christians Have Left the American Church

In a recent research study, the Barna Group has reported that over 42 million Christians in America are no longer actively attending and supporting a church.

In today’s show we talk about some of the reasons why, and what can be done.   If you’re one of the 42 million, there is hope.  Good things are happening and you can find a church that will not only challenge you, but allow you to fulfill your desire to make a difference for God.

RG2G 052 How Do You See Yourself?

One of the haunting questions I’ve had to deal with over and over is, “Why do people who call themselves Christians behave so badly?”  Is it because they are bad people, or is something else bigger going on?

Here’s what I’ve learned. Identity determines behavior.  How you truly see yourself is how you live. Too many Christians have been told and taught that they are just sinners saved by grace and nothing more.  Others have been taught that their relationship with God is initiated by grace but depends on their faithfulness over a lifetime.  All of this leaves people confused.

Here is the truth.  We tend to live either down or up to the expectations and the influences in our life. So the question is, is Christianity a big God-stick that people use to beat you up and keep you in line? Or is your faith something more?  Has it just changed your behavior and your lifestyle, or is it a brand new life?  We deal with all these things today on episode # 52.

And we end by the three declarations.  I don’t know if you’ve heard them.  But listen, learn them, memorize them, say them over and over and over to yourself.  Because the truth of the matter is, a lot of us sabotage our success simply because we see ourselves, at the core, as someone unworthy of God’s blessing.

As I’ve said over and over, the number one problem in American Christianity is self-loathing.  We have not accepted our acceptance.  On today’s show I give you some core reasons why.

RG2G 051 Breaking Your Brain Out of Jesus’ Jail

You can’t be a Christan and be an intellectual, right? We all know that all Christians think alike.  To be a Christian is to conform, not only in lifestyle, but in thought pattern as well.  All of these lies have been shoved down our throat, and overlaid on us by others.  But none of them are true. 

We tackle one of the biggest assumptions that’s overlaid on Christ and that is that, because we are followers of Jesus, because we have a unity of faith, our minds are somehow in bondage so that we’re not allowed to use them.  But the truth is, Jesus not only redeemed my soul, He’s also in the process of redeeming my mind.  If I’m free in Christ, doesn’t that make me a free thinker as long as I am thinking thoughts of Christ?  As a follower of Jesus, I can embrace truth wherever I find it? 

I need not be afraid of any truth, whether the person who is espousing that truth is a friend or not.  Science is a friend of God as long as we are in the pursuit of truth.  The arts are a friend of God, the way God creates beauty in the world through broken lives as we think, connect, and express ourselves.  As a matter of fact, on the show today I made this statement: “I am a creative thinker, armed with God’s truth and wisdom, free to dream and drive; able to try and trust.”

If you know anyone who thinks that to be a Christian is to put your brain in Jesus’ jail, to lose your brain, to not be an intellectual, not think for yourself, to not have big ideas, they need to listen to today’s podcast because we’ll break those stereotypes and tell the truth.  To anyone who loves God, God gives them not only the gift of salvation, but the gifts of wisdom, knowledge, and the happiness those two things can bring when applied.

 

RG2G 050 Going to Hell From Church

Wouldn’t it be sad to spend your life as a religious person and miss God in eternity?  It scares me sometimes when, here in America, we have so much exposure to spiritual things that we fail to understand that just knowing about God, Jesus, and the content of Scripture is not enough.

On today’s show, I played a recent Christmas Eve talk that I gave called “The 4 R’s.”  I gave the talk because I’m scared that people could actually go to church all their lives and spend eternity separated from God. This talk is simple, brief, and to the point.  It’s in the context of our Christmas Eve service during which the room was packed with people standing up around the sides and sitting on the floor. It was truly a sacred moment.

Follow the 4 R’s.  Have you experienced each one of these?  If not, make sure that you have.  It can change your life forever.

Remember, Jesus isn’t looking for fans.  He only accepts followers.  Make sure you know the difference.

RG2G 049 How Do Spiritual Gifts Work, And Do I Have Any?

One of the questions I hear over and over again is, “What am I supposed to do with my life now that I’m a Christian?  Now that I follow Christ, what is there for me to do that makes a difference in the world, and what has God placed in me that lets me know that He has a plan for my life here on this earth?”

So today we talk about three important concepts that every follower of Jesus needs to understand, embrace, and master: the idea of calling, the idea of the measure of faith, and gift mix.

Each one of these ideas will help you understand where you fit, your place in God’s plan, and why it’s significant that you excel, and grow, and mature and become healthy; a maker of better culture, a contributor to help God make of this world what He has in mind as He’s redeeming, reconciling, and restoring to Himself through Jesus Christ.

No Christian can rightfully say that they are a mistake, and that they don’t matter.  Each one of us has a calling, we have supernatural spiritual gifts, and a measure of faith that allows us to accomplish the life God intended.

As you listen today, let me know what you think.  Do you have three spiritual gifts or more?  And if you do, what are they?  Do you agree that when you operate out of anything but your top gift that you can only be good, not great; and only be drained, not super-charged?

RG2G 048 Why Are There So Many Mean Christians?

Everywhere I go I meet people who have been wounded by other Christians. The landscape all across America is littered with broken hearts and shattered dreams of those who have been turned away and turned off by churches.

I believe there is a big difference between Christianity and what it means to be a Christian.  The ianity part added onto Christ is about religious rules: moralism, legalism, fundamentalism, and all those other kinds of isms that obscure the fact that Jesus loves people, not rules, not denominations, and not empty buildings with big steeples on top.

I think over these years I’ve discovered some reasons why so many people who call themselves Christians are really mean.  I don’t think it’s because they’re crude and cruel.  I happen to think it’s because they are wounded and afraid.  So in this week’s episode of Renegade, I talk about the one reason why I think so many Christians find it hard to be gracious, loving, humble, and filled with joy.  See what you think.  Let me know if you think I’m onto something.

The “Perp Walk” at Walmart

I was in our local Walmart the other day shopping for stuff I needed to decorate for Christmas.  Now think about it.  This is the Christmas season, the season of joy, right?  The season of it’s better to give than receive.

We had just come off of Black Friday. The news was good.  Spending was up 16% over this time last year.  Those who keep such statistics told us that we spent 52.4 billion dollars during Black Friday.  That’s good for the economy.  It tells us that people are not doing as badly as we thought.  Things are getting better.  The economy is reviving.  Where I live at least, the price of gas is even coming down.  So we should be filled with joy, right?  Well, we’re not.  When I watch people going up and down the aisles at Walmart they look like they’re doing a “perp walk” at the local prison.

Why is it that we look so serious, so bent over, so weighed down?  Why is it that we have it so well and at the same time feel that something is missing?  The truth of the matter is that it is.  It’s God.  I know.  That sounds religious and you would expect me to say that.  But it’s true. Everything that God has made is good.  The benefits, the blessings, the luxuries, the lifestyle that we enjoy has certainly come at the hands of God. But remember this:  things will never take the place of God.  Loving things ends in emptiness and disappointment.  Loving God may be frustrating because He doesn’t do what you want Him to do.  He often gives you not what you want but what you need.  But in spite of the mystery, the bigness, the scary nature of God, He does love you right where you are today. 

All the things that we see are mere reflections of His true essence, personality, and greatness.  I dare you to love Him – to fall in love with Jesus; not polyester Jesus, not wrinkle-free Jesus, not live-at-the-church Jesus, but the kind of Jesus who came down to be with us, was rejected, crucified, and came victoriously out of the grave.  This Jesus who put a smile on your face, a song in your heart, and a thrill in your soul.

RG2G 047 Taking Christianity Back From the Fans

I love being a Christian.  By that I mean I love following Jesus.  By that I mean I love trying to follow Jesus, attempting to follow Jesus, aspiring to live the life for which I was created.

When I was converted, I just assumed that everyone who named the name of Christian took their faith seriously, that it was a core issue; not just a cosmetic confession. I learned all too early that there is a big difference between Christ-followers and the fans of Christ. 

You’ve seen fans, right?  Those are the people who wear the shirt, identify with the team, make bold proclamations as long as everything is going well, when it costs them little to nothing to be a fan.  Then there are other fans who buy the tickets, attend the games, and yet there’s a big difference between fans and players.

One of my driving passions for my whole life has been to take Christianity back from the fans – those people who somehow feel like they own Jesus, own His church, and can manipulate it for their own benefit; those who take their confessions lightly and oftentimes send mixed messages to those who are trying to find their way to God.

This week on Renegade we’ll be talking about how to distinguish between fans and followers, between posers and players.  This is a huge distinction and you need to know how to make it.

RG2G 046 Why Christian Men Are Abandoning the Church

I like to consider myself a man, a real man; maybe not a he-man, but at least a man who understands (I think) what it means to be a male and masculine.  And as such, I am offended by what I consider to be our society’s onslaught on manhood.

Just watch the evening TV shows; more importantly the commercials.  And men come across as stupid, slow, fat, self-indulgent, pizza-stuffing, beer-guzzling sex fiends. And I’m being kind, believe me.

Then there’s a whole set of guys out there who call themselves Christian guys, followers of Jesus, followers of the way, followers of the bravest man who ever lived.  And yet we seem to have lost our way.  And as a result, our churches are being emptied of real men; man-up men, godly men, men who have strong backs and tender hearts; men who believe that bringing their brain to church is not only a good thing, but a mandated thing.

On Renegade this week we talk about some of the reasons why men are abandoning the American church, what the misconceptions are, and how we can and must do something about it.  After you listen to today’s show, I’d love to get your feedback.

RG2G 045 Saving Jesus From His Followers

Jesus Christ is the greatest thing that ever happened to this world if, in fact, you believe what the Scriptures teach: that He is our Savior, that He is God come down to be 100% God, 100% man to die as a satisfaction that would give us redemption.

On the other hand, there are literally millions of people on the planet today who claim to be followers of Jesus who have really hijacked the gospel, Jesus, and the Bible, for their own agenda.  What are the characteristics of those who are simply out to pedal their version of religion, their desires to control, and manipulate, as opposed to those who are followers of Jesus, who truly want to live in the way of Jesus and share the hope of the gospel to the world? 

All of us know people who have been bruised, wounded and downright devastated by the self-righteousness of those who call themselves Christians. On the show today, we’ll talk about how to identify these people and how to stand up against their onslaught.  And maybe more importantly, how to protect others from their devices.

Jesus said that He’d come that we might have abundant life; that He’s the Savior of the world, the hope for what’s gone wrong with mankind.  If Jesus is right and the teaching of the Scriptures can be trusted (and I think they can), then the stakes are high and worth the diligence of those who want to see people set free, not in bondage.

RG2G 044 Why Do Some Churches Die While Others Thrive?

The state of the American church is in flux.  Depending on who you talk to, it’s either doing really, really well or it’s on its last legs.

I, for one, am an optimist. This isn’t just a casual observation.  It’s after decades of investment in planting churches and leading churches.  And in that time I’ve watched churches thrive, while I’ve watched other churches that at one time were growing churches, shrivel up and die.

So today we talked about why churches die, how to know if your church is dying, how to know when it’s dead, and what do you do when you have to walk away and be the last one to turn out the lights.

Here is a brief bit of wisdom.  The church as an institution is in big trouble.  The church as a movement has a great future. Do you know the difference?

RG2G 043 Rescuing the Church From the Clutches of Cool

One of the things I keep hearing from people over and over again is how legalistic and institutional most churches seem to be – even the churches that claim to be cool. And by the way, cool is a new trend in the American church: cool video, cool look, cool name, hip clothing.  It’s a cosmetic make-over.  You may like it, you may not like it.  I kind of like it. But the danger is that cool goes too far.  When you take the gospel and try to make it cool by extracting from it some of the features that make you uncomfortable, you’ve gone from cool to heresy.

So today we talk about the cultural cool and ask the questions, “Has it gone too far?  Are those who lead the cool movement trying to redefine the gospel to make it so palatable and acceptable that it ends up having no hope and no help?” All of this today on Rengade’s Guide to God.


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