Church – Happens Every Sunday

At the beginning of this week, I asked if it was supposed to be this easy to be a Christian. I wrote about the unknown Christian genocides, presented three surveys concerning Christianity, told you about the trouble at the corner of “Christianity and …”, and looked at the Christ-Follower phenomenon. Before that it was the History of the Early Church and Heresy Week. Let’s face it, alot of the complexity of Christianity is entirely by our own making. Like the Israelites were not content with the Judges, we too have cast aside God’s system in favor of being “like everybody else”. It was done at a time when people had forgotten their roots. These days I can’t connect the dots between the apostles and the early church without eventually veering into the founding of the Catholic church. Like it or not that’s where all churches today are ultimately founded from, but it wasn’t the first church.

Religion in the 1st Century was simple it was pick and choose your idols or follow the rules the best you can. Christianity was remarkably different. It was freedom from do-nothing, hear-nothing, no-good idols and the countless rules that were more of guidelines. Back then, it was all faith. Faith isn’t simple or easy, it isn’t blind, it isn’t alot of things, but it is there when few other things are. Who knows how it stopped being Christian and started being Catholic. One thing I do know is that the orthodox ways was a poweful force to be reckoned with. After awhile, there was a time of Reformation. This first schism represented a dangerous precedent which constantly rewrites what we know of today as the whole of Christianity.

The church has existed in one way, shape, or  form, for the last two thousand and ten years. It was once a world power in its own right, but its influences waxes and wanes over the centuries. One thing is certain, it happens every Sunday. Do I think being a Christian is supposed to be this easy? I think American Christians are not supposed to be this complacent. I think other Christians deserve to take it easy, but they don’t get the choice and we don’t do nearly enough to help them. I think that it’s not supposed to be this easy to be a Christian and that we don’t deserve the blessing of having it so easy – but that’s grace for you.

Christian vs Christ-Follower

Now that I’ve attended a few more services of CC, I’ve carefully listened to what the pastor had to say. He usually uses the term Christ-follower. I remember the first time I had heard that word was the parody of the Mac vs. PC commercials pitting a Christ-follower against a Christian. Now the last thing we need is another division, after all, don’t we already have enough? The parodies do have a point though, the reputation of “Christians” is the same paintbrush we’ve all been painted with. Perhaps by choosing to be “Christ-Followers”, we can behave ourselves long enough to do what Christians should have been doing all along. Early Christians risked their lives to tend to plague victims, were charitable even to their persecutor’s widows, and were willing to support each other even though they were strangers. Modern Christians can’t be accused of any of these actions recently, though it can be said that once disaster strikes the Church does tend to be a place where people can come for shelter, medical aid, and financial help. The thing of it is that it hurts me that we’re not getting along and that we’re not united in our common faith of Jesus Christ. “Christian” was first used in a derogatory sense in Antioch, but that did not disuade the church (Acts 11). I do not think we should be so hasty to throw away that title, but I do think we should post haste about correcting that reputation. Instead of dividing ourselves once again, lets put ourselves back together. Let’s allow for both in our churches. If a house divided cannot stand, and a church divided is no good, what will become of the whole of Christianity?

Where Christ meets Culture

“Another example illustrates both the brotherly love of Christians and their uncompromising commitment to Jesus as Lord. A pagan actor became a Christian, but he realized he had to change his employment because most plays encouraged immorality and were steeped in pagan idolatry. Furthermore, the theater sometimes purposefully turned boys into homosexuals so they could better play the roles of women on stage. Since this newly-converted actor had no other job skills, he considered establishing an acting school to teach drama to non-Christian students. However, he first submitted his idea to the leaders of his church for their counsel.

The leaders told him that if acting was an immoral profession then it would be wrong to train others in it. Nevertheless, since this was a rather novel question, they wrote to Cyprian in nearby Carthage for his thoughts. Cyprian agreed that a profession unfit for a Christian to practice was also unfit for him to teach, even if this was his sole means of support.

How many of us would be so concerned about righteousness that we would submit our employment decisions to our body of elders or board of deacons? How many church leaders today would be so concerned about offending God that they would take such an uncompromising position?

But that isn’t the end of the story. Cyprian also told this neighboring church that they should be willing to support the actor if he had no other means of earning a living—just as they supported orphans, widows, and other needy persons. Going further, he wrote, “If your church is financially unable to support him, he may move over to us and here receive whatever he needs for food and clothing.” Cyprian and his church didn’t even know this actor, yet they were willing to support him because he was a fellow believer. As one Christian told the Romans, “We love one another with a mutual love because we do not know how to hate.” If Christians today made such a statement to the world, would the world believe it?” – From www.earlychurch.com, “A Love Without Condition.”

Sometimes something strange happens to Christianity. It happened in the early years when the church gave up its freedom for orthodoxy. It happened somewhere in the middle when some people gave up orthodoxy for freedom. It happens even now when we’re flip-flopping between traditional and contemporary. In other places it’s not just Christianity, though I’m certain it could easily survive on its own. It’s Christianity and “…”, at least, that’s what C.S. Lewis called it. We have some form of it here, too. It’s “Christianity and Joseph Smith” or “Christianity and Charles Taze Russel”, etc. It looks like wherever Christ meets culture, the culture will win out more often than not. I think I know why.

Matthew 7:13-14, “13”Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

Being a Christian is sort of the popular thing in America. There are churches who will tell you that you are a good person who will go to heaven. They don’t use certain words, after all, if they did then you might not come back. There are churches who will tell you that there is no such place as Hell so you don’t have to worry about it. They’ll tell you whatever you want to hear. The thing is that it just seems so wrong to have the gateway to Hell be one of the hundreds of churches that are so misled. Have you found the small gate and narrow road?

Survey Says

Religious Tolerance claims that:
Most liberal Christian denominations, secularists, and public opinion pollsters define “Christian” very broadly as any person or group who sincerely believes themselves to be Christian. Using this definition, Christians total about 75% of the North American adult population.
Many Fundamentalist and other Evangelical Protestants define “Christian” more narrowly to include only those persons who have been “born again” or have made a personal commitment to follow Jesus irrespective of their denomination. About 35% of the North American adult population identify themselves in this way.
Some Protestant Christian denominations, para-church groups, and individuals have assembled their own lists of cardinal Christian doctrines. Many would regard anyone who denies even one of their cardinal doctrines to be a non-Christian. Unfortunately, there is a wide diversity of opinion as to which historical Christian beliefs are cardinal doctrines.
Other denominations and sects regard their own members to be the only true Christians in the world. Some are quite small, numbering only a few thousand followers.

Baylor University tells us that:
A third of Americans (33.6 percent), roughly 100 million people, are Evangelical Protestants by affiliation.
The majority (62.9 percent) of Americans not affiliated with a religious tradition believe in God or some higher power.
They identified four major concepts of God among Christians, though none of the four dominated belief:
31 Percent believe in an Authoritarian God who is very judgmental and engaged.
25 Percent believe in a Benevolent God who is not judgmental but is engaged.
23 Percent believe in a Distant God who is completely removed.
16 Percent believe in a Critical God who is judgmental but not engaged.

Christianity Today found out that:
19 Percent of American Christians are described by the researchers as Active Christians. They believe salvation comes through Jesus Christ, attend church regularly, are Bible readers, invest in personal faith development through their church, believe they are obligated to share their faith with others, and accept leadership positions in their church.
20 Percent are referred to as Professing Christians. They also are committed to “accepting Christ as Savior and Lord” as the key to being a Christian, but focus more on personal relationships with God and Jesus than on church, Bible reading or evangelizing.
16 Percent fall into a category named Liturgical Christians. They are predominantly Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Episcopalian, or Orthodox. They are regular church goers, have a high level of spiritual activity and recognize the authority of the church.
24 Percent are considered Private Christians. They own a Bible but don’t tend to read it. Only about one-third attend church at all. They believe in God and in doing good things, but not necessarily within a church context. This was the largest and youngest segment. Almost none are church leaders.
21 Percent in the research are called Cultural Christians. These do not view Jesus as essential to salvation. They exhibit little outward religious behavior or attitudes. They favor a universality theology that sees many ways to God. Yet, they clearly consider themselves to be Christians.

Where would you fall?

The Genocide To Come

While American Christians live in a relatively safe corner of the world, countless Christians face much worse conditions in their own homes. Persecution is one thing, but genocide another. Should we believe the good book, we know that there is a worldwide persecution and genocide that is comming. Anybody who chooses not to bear a mark of loyalty to those in power forefeit their ability to buy or sell anything on the market as well as their very lives. Those who know nothing other than persecution won’t see things change all that much for them. American Christians who hold true to their faith, on the other hand, will experience their world turn upside-down and inside-out. Nobody knows when it will come and nobody feels compelled to put a system in place that will help Christians should it happen sooner rather than later. This is the world that we live in. Once we know of the troubles that our brothers and sisters in the faith experience everyday, we are responsible for our reaction to that knowledge. Winston Churchill claimed that increased knowledge does not neccessary inspire action. He’s been right so far, but I think it’s time we prove him wrong. First, we must all acknowledge that any Christian world wide is as much our brother and sister as our actual brothers and sisters. We need to tell everybody who considers themselves to be Christians that somewhere in the world they would have a price on their head. We need to talk about it. We need to do something about it. If you feel so inclined, get your church involved and tell the other churches in town just what is going on. Pray first. Pray last. Pray inbetween. Pray often.

Religious Genocide – Happens Every Day

(To borrow from my southern roots, let me ask all y’all a serious question … Is it supposed to be this easy to be a Christian?)

Genocide is the systematic murder of a group of people by another group of people. It’s done for reasons of race, religion, and no reason at all. It succeeds because people aren’t willing to know or talk about it. In the last one-hundred years, Christians were the target of three genocides, two of which were in the last ten years. It’s not always as organized as the more infamous genocides, but it has taken the lives of thousands of our brothers and sisters in the faith.

Did you know that there was an attempted Armenian Christian Genocide in the mid 1910s? http://members.fortunecity.com/fstav1/genocide/genocide.html

Did you know that as little as ten years ago there was an ongoing genocide against Sudan’s Christians?
http://www.lnsart.com/Sudan%20Slave%20Story.htm

Did you know that as nearly as two years ago a genocide against India’s Christians began?
http://www.christiantoday.com/article/orissa.attacks.are.religious.genocide.says.ministry.leader/21818.htm

Search these events for yourself, the pictures (as likely to be graphic as not) you’ll see are worth a thousand words and represent thousands of lives. We might not always know their stories, we might not always come to their rescue, but we are sure not going to forget. Genocide against a race, a religion, or anybody should never go unnoticed.

http://www.csi-int.org/
http://www.charitynavigator.org/

Modern Church: We Will Believe Almost Anything

There was a time when all the Early Church had to go on was the sound doctrine that they had learned from the Apostles. It included Jesus’ teachings and the letters that had been floating around for decades. For them, to not follow the Word of God was worse than disobedience, it was disbelief.

As for the Modern American Church, no two of them believe exactly the same thing. Between the denominations, disagreement in interpretation, fighting over the proper Bible translation, and whatever else, it’s easy to see why we’ll believe pretty much anything. Perhaps we’ve forgotten to actually be doers of the word, and in the process we’re becoming unbelievers of the word. We didn’t mean to, it just sort of happened over the years. Perhaps it’s because there’s more emphasis in talking about the word than in the teaching of applying it to our lives. Perhaps it’s because we’re afraid we will fail God’s expectations of us. Perhaps it’s because the importance of belief in and obedience to the word got lost over the years.

Instead of reconciliation, it’s “If John wants to believe in the day-age theory, supernatural healing, and that the God of the Old Testament is not the God of the New Testament, he can go to that other church down the road where all the other crazy people like him are.” There’s not alot of love there, is there? Since when is that ok? The whole idea of it takes away from the unity Christians are supposed to have. After all, if we have Jesus Christ in common, is there really anything to argue about? Unfortunately these days, people have come up with some irreconciable beliefs about Jesus. I’m not talking about “Lord, liar, or lunitic”, but “Jesus is Satan’s brother”, “Jesus is actually the archangel Gabriel (or Michael – I’m nost sure which of the two it is.)”, and “By following Jesus’ example you can become the Lord of your very own planet”. What are you to do about Christians who will believe anything but sound doctrine?

It’s not as if the Early Church didn’t face the same problems, heresy week proved that much. They had to contend with their own sudden revelations about the things they believed. Instead of washing their hands, they took the oppurtunity to talk about the why and the where the Bible supported these new ideas. Should we not do the same? Perhaps those that walked away from the Bible will be attracted back to it.