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Posts Tagged ‘body of Christ’

Already Gone by Ken Ham and Britt Beemer with Todd Hillard

Britt Beemer’s America’s Research Group was commissioned by Ken Ham to survey 1,000 former attendees of conservative Christian churches, who are now in their twenties, to discover why they left.  Already Gone is a summary of the survey results, and a challenge to the church to heed the warning and make the radical changes required to remain relevant – not only to the younger generations, but to everyone. 

Do you believe in the authority of Scripture?  Does your life demonstrate it?  Ken Ham poses these questions to young adult Christians both in and out of mainstream churches, to pastors, Christian teachers, to parents, churches, and educational institutions.  The subject of Already Gone is the generation of Christians my age (20’s), many of whom have left the church.  Of those who have left, there are two main groups: one whose worldview is mostly secular and skeptical of the Bible, and one that believes the Bible is true and applicable but has found the church irrelevant.  How is the church failing to deliver a biblical worldview to the children and youth who faithfully attend Sunday school, church, and youth group?  Of the twenty-something’s who remain in the church, are they submitted to the authority of Scripture, or is their search for a worship experience prevailing over God’s teachings about the Body of Christ? 

What about the parents, pastors, youth pastors, and Sunday school teachers who make up the older generation, the church establishment?  Have they sold out God’s teachings on the church for their beloved traditions?  How much of what we think of when we hear “church” is actually biblical?  Why is the most common accusation against the church that it is hypocritical?  The church in America is losing members so drastically that we need to radically reevaluate our practices and teachings.  Compromise cannot be tolerated. 

As founder of Answers in Genesis, Ken Ham must touch on his favorite subject: the foundational importance of Genesis, and how compromise on the historical and scientific truth of Genesis undermines all of Scripture, faith in God, and even the gospel.  He calls the church back to teaching “earthly things,” the correspondence between the Bible and reality.  Christians need to be equipped for apologetics from an early age, to guard against doubts and to answer inquiries from a godless culture.  This, more than music or games or attractive activities, is the only way to be relevant to people living in the real world and desperate for answers.

Already Gone is a fair, factual, and interesting treatment of the systemic problems in the church today.  Lest we become like post-Christian Europe, where church is a marginal pastime for a few elderly people clinging to vestiges of tradition in empty cathedrals, we must take action now.  Several reactions to the problem are presented, with their disadvantages and perks, but ever a challenge to study for yourself what God says about church and training up children. 

As a member of the generation under the microscope, on the edge of the traditional church and ready to flee, I was impressed by the willingness to take us seriously.  Some of us are leaving because we see the problems and want a church that does what a church should, and loyalty isn’t strong enough to keep us from looking outside our experience.  Ken Ham acknowledges, with some surprise, people in my situation.  I appreciated this book.  Even though I’m pushing for the more extreme reactions mentioned (abandoning Sunday school and traditional trappings: buildings, sermons, and orders of worship), I have a lot of respect for the way Already Gone ties the whole malady to the failure of Christians to teach and obey the authority of the Word of God.  If a person is faithful to study and submit to that, he will be led to the mode of meeting and discipleship God intends, strongly equipped for the Christian call to evangelize our world. 

Already Gone

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Apparently one of my favorite pet hobbies is worse than unpopular.  It’s irrelevant to the world around me.  I love to study words.  Their roots and history, and how they got from start to present, are fascinating to me.  When I find the etymology of a word, I feel like that word is full of color and life and intense meaning that before was cloudy and uncertain.  When I write I want the best word not only to say exactly what I mean, but with the tone and connotations I intend.  Etymology helps me do that (I hope). 

In any case, being a linguist helped JRR Tolkien.  Jane Austen and Charles Dickens also employed word selection to aid their plots and descriptions.  The more I improve my vocabulary, the more I appreciate classic authors and their works.  I marvel at the subconscious effect their word choice had on me before I understood.  Their literature comes alive when I really know what their language indicates. 

But today, in an increasingly post-modern, non-absolutist, highly individual world, adhering to one definition for a word is less feasible than adhering to one faith in one truth about one reality.  And this makes debate completely useless.  This makes computerized discernment and classification impossible.  In other words, we can no longer test someone’s words to see what they believe.  Either they sound heretical, but were really just trying to use hip lingo and got sloppy, or they sound orthodox and mean something mystical.  In both cases knowledge of what the words inherently mean, and are supposed to still mean, is no help at all.  In fact, it’s confusing. 

So what we need instead of the computerized classification or test such as evangelicals gave to presidential candidates last century (asking them whether they were born-again; how long do you think it took for the candidates to catch on and learn to say the right thing?  They’re politicians!), is real discernment.  People who have studied truth need to test all things, but not with clichés.  They need to pray for God to guide them with His eyes.  They need to be Samuel, who so leaned on God’s insight, who yielded to God’s vision of man’s heart instead of human sight of the outward appearance. 

There is a spiritual gift, like teaching, like giving, like service, and like compassion.  Through the supernatural empowering of the Holy Spirit, those who have called on the name of the Lord and are therefore indwelt by the Holy Spirit and led by Him into all truth need to examine the words of men and discern spirits.  After studying the gift of discernment, I think there are several reasons Paul calls it “discerning of spirits.”  This analysis provides another reason: in a postmodern culture that defies definitions, discerning words is basically useless.  We need to discern (discover, classify, penetrate, understand, identify as true or false) where a speaker is coming from, and what they really mean. 

The other reasons I have considered are: 1.  Discernment is spiritual.  It has to do with the spirit-world, and can often involve identifying demonic activity or influence.  2.  Discernment of a spirit can be of a message, due to the Greek word (pneuma)’s double meaning of breath and spirit.  3.  Discernment might have to do with insight into the spiritual needs of an individual.  Beyond whether an individual is right or wrong, where are they weak and where are they strong?  What is the spiritual reality going on in their life, behind the service and the teaching or the sin and the doubt? 

I believe God gifts members of His body as needed to see all these things, and I believe there is an incredible need in the Church today for those who can identify the spiritual truth of a situation, message, or person.  These people, using their gifts, are an incredible contribution to the community and cooperation of believers.  They are indispensable in edification.  And in a world where there are many books, many teachers, and much mesmerizing media, the Church needs to seek God’s direction and discretion as they choose their courses of ministry and belief. 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Do you know how much more I blog when I know I have an audience?  Before I blogged, my friends received long, winding emails quite frequently.  I’d threaten them that if they didn’t respond, I’d keep writing, desperate to have some contact with them.  Then I’d warn them that if they did reply, it would inspire me to write back.  Evidence imposes reality on my realization: I write more when I know you’re reading.  I talk when I know you’re listening.  The substance is better in conversation than in desperate attempts at starting a friendship, or drawing attention: advertising. 

I’ve been looking at my life, and praying about what I see.  Some days I can’t do that; my prayers are focused on survival.  God gives us phases, I think.  Like the moon.  I love the moon: always there, always the same, almost always visible, almost always seen in a new light.  And the light is beautiful. 

Why do I have better conversations, ones that “hit the spot” via blogging, or with an eclectic group of admittedly eccentric protesters outside abortion clinics?  I don’t agree with all the theology, but we can pray together.  When they ask how I am, I can answer that God is teaching me about grace, and share a little.  They share.  I want to know.  Not just their stories, but the stories of my friends, and the people at church and Bible study.  But in the hallways all I hear is “How are you?” and all I can answer is “fine,” unless we were going to cancel nursery service, worship, and lunch.  Then I could talk.  That’s the beauty of blogging and abortion protests.  There’s no schedule, no interruptions that matter.  So I can’t be online at work…  The conversation picks right back up, no awkwardness, more forethought. 

In my prayers I keep telling God I don’t want to play.  I don’t want to play at life.  Gas prices shouldn’t drive me crazy; I don’t want to play.  Hard decisions aren’t on my shoulders; I don’t want to play.  It’s pretending to say I have the wisdom or strength to decide.  And at church, I am so tired of playing.  What I do there is superficial.  I believe in being there, and in making the most of what is there for the sake of bringing the body towards perfection (Ephesians 4).  There is something so wrong about the way we do church.  Why do we bother singing and praying and listening to lessons when we don’t even know each other? 

People move away or change churches, and we never talk to them again.  Why?  When they were at church activities, we admired them.  We enjoyed doing ministry together.  Their comments in Sunday school were challenging, and their smile uplifting.  They’re gone, and we miss them.  But there was never anything more.  We never met for lunch.  I didn’t know what they were thinking, the little things that they might say as commentary on life, but would never think worthy of a special phone call. 

I have a friend at my church, and we’re going to start praying together.  I’m really excited.  She selected an anonymous envelope to “adopt” a teen from our youth group, and I wanted to ask her who she got.  I wanted to enter into even this little facet of her life, and so many more things like that. 

Tonight I babysat for a church plant.  I sat with three little boys while they ate dinner, and the parents and friends talked around the kitchen island.  I care about the adults, but the kids know me, and I love them because I watch them eat.  When one does some weird thing with his spoon, I get to know him.  The middle kid imitates the oldest, and you see how relationships are developing.  I intentionally sit with them when they eat, to build the relationship.  But do I do that with adults?  When is the last time I sat by someone not to start a conversation, but just to be there in case there was commentary? 

Speaking of the church plant, I could hear from my position in the basement of the pastor’s house uproarious laughter, evidence that the group is bonding.  They feel free to be loud, to be humiliated, to laugh, and thus are invested in the details of each others’ lives.  Eventually I think the plan is to have a “normal” church where there is preaching and singing, but I believe they want to keep groups like this one as core to their church.  Once they are loving, unified friends, they can march in sync in their ministry.  In fact, the pastor told me a couple weeks ago that he believes the church’s primary purpose is evangelism, and I’ve been thinking about my disagreement, looking for what the Bible says instead of just what I’ve been taught.  I see the great commission.  And I see Jesus’ prayer in John 17 for what He planned his followers to be.  I read Ephesians, and see that the church is about unity, edification, maturing into the image of Christ.  But that unity of the Spirit is what produces the striving together for the faith of the gospel, the reaching out to the world with the gospel. 

So another thought.  I get challenged like that from this friend, who is a pastor.  His church asks him questions like that more than some, but I think they’re in awe of him, and respectful of him as their leader.  (His wife was originally on my side, properly heeding his perspective and coming early to the conclusion that we’re basically saying the same thing different ways/different emphasis.)  My pastor doesn’t talk to me like that.  I get answers from people who run blogs.  They dare to address my real questions.  But a lot of times their own friends and churches aren’t asking.  What a mess.  Why can’t we be real with the people in our churches? 

I want everyone to read my blog.  But I’m fair about it.  I would want to read everyone else’s blogs or journals, too.  I don’t want to play at friendship, to pretend to be the Body of Christ, anymore.  I, me, personally, want to be real.  And I want to be a real friend.  May God take me, sold out, take my every hour, to be invested in Him and in building people. 

As a crowning point to how this whole topic is being driven home to me today, in one day-long thought, I was telling all these things to my brother after watching some of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.  I have no idea how much we missed, but I wouldn’t dare go back to find out; there’s a reason you can skip tracks on DVDs.  (I’m definitely NOT endorsing the movie, but I’m not all that sorry I watched what I did.  Just read a review, and make an educated, prayerful decision if you ever think about watching it.)  Anyway, the premise is that this guy is getting his memories of his girlfriend erased, so he’s going backwards through the memories.  And timelines are just a bit confusing, but if you watch it twice I suspect everything would make sense.  Watch the hair colors.  It’s a key.  We discussed how our brains have to extend to the furthest reaches to follow the movie, and the implications of the story.  It’s too far out, to complex to put our arms around, to hold.  But you can follow it, if you try.  That’s relevant, but this is commentary, windows into my world that produces these thoughts. 

After I said most of the things above, and actually some are his additions, I was talking about being tired of friendships being fake; I want to hear what is going on with people.  I want to read blogs, and my blog to be read.  In an amazing double-irony, he asked, “Did you read my blog?” 

“No.”  We both laughed and I was crying, too, from the irony.  I knew of course that I was contradicting myself because I hadn’t read it in the past couple days, and that he must have written about basically the same thing, or he wouldn’t have brought it up.  And maybe we’re both thinking about the same thing because we read the same things, and talk, and (sometimes) read each other’s blogs.  So here is his perspective on real listening and real friendship.  You have to promise, if you are reading this post, to read his too, and to read it like he meant… every… word. 

Oh, and less crowning but still continuing, we’ve had an ongoing conversation with some friends of ours about “heads bowed, eyes closed” altar calls, whether it be for salvation or other things God’s doing in your life.  We’re tired of playing, and want to be the Church to those around us, at least.  If we can’t see each other, and we’re silent, not praying together at all, how are we going to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep?  What are we saying about the shameless gospel of our God’s great grace? 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

PS: My brother reminds me, and I thought it important enough to make clear: being serious does not exclude joy or smiling or fun.  When I say “I don’t want to play,” I don’t mean I’m opposed to silliness and recreation.  Actually, we should even take our fun seriously; be intense, and sincere when you play. 

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