Shallow Church

Of late, I’ve been dealing in my own mind with the sillyness that is the American church.  We are ridiculously petty and self-absorbed.  Like in the days of the early Church, today in many parts of the world, persecution exists and is running rampant.  Just last week, I heard of four children in Baghdad, under the age of fifteen, who were beheaded because they refused to denounce Jesus to ISIS terrorists.  Seriously?  Kids who died for their faith?  Would I do that?  Would my children?  Are we too tied up with important stuff like getting our feelings hurt because of the way someone spoke to us or because someone simply did something we didn’t like?  Are we too concerned with getting a good parking space, flipping off the driver who cut us off or other earth-shaking “First-world problems” to worry about serious spiritual growth that would result in a boldness that would allow us to die for Jesus if called upon?

God help us in this crazy world.  God help this crazy institution we call the American church.  May it not come to the point of requiring persecution to wake us up to the realities of the spiritual realm.  May we not have to be threatened with death in order to get serious about our walk with and commitment to Christ.  I don’t hope for or wish for persecution.  On the other hand, if it did (or does) come, the Church would undoubtedly be strengthened almost immediately.  Would you be a part of it?  For more of my thoughts on the subject, watch my message from Sunday:

John – Portrait of a Savior, Part 39 from The Gathering on Vimeo.

A California couple is being fined for conducting a Bible study in their homes.  Admittedly, it is a rather large Bible study on Sundays with up to 50 people.  The city has determined it should considered a church and, thus, should apply for permits and provide ample parking and handicap access. In short, it comes down to what they consider zoning issues.  What do you think?  Is this right or are they being denied their rights to peaceful assembly in their own home?  Do you think the same issues would come up if others decided to have weekly meetings in their homes with large numbers of people if there were no complaints from neighbors?  It’s an interesting development given the increasing intolerance towards Christians in America.

Full story here.

The United States: A New Frontier

Preface: Please read the entire post before deciding you know what I’m saying by the first three paragraphs.  Thanks.

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If a street thug gunned down a Muslim for talking to them about the Koran, what do you think would happen?  How would the news media handle it?  How about if a Buddhist or Jew were killed because of their faith?  I think we all know it would be plastered all over the news, right?  What if the person was a Christian? I don’t think the answer is quite so easy.

Consider this: In January, two Christian, 20-something street evangelists were gunned down in Florida shortly after sharing their faith with an 18 year-old.  Reportedly, after about fifteen minutes of talking with the men, the gunman received a phone call and then, after hanging up, began firing.  He shot one of the young men in the head at point-blank range and then a second in the back as he tried to take cover.  The shooter then calmly walked up to the wounded man and finished the job, shooting him in the head.  He turned himself in sometime later.

Did you hear about that?  Yeah, me neither, at least not until this morning via an email update from a Christian publication.  It just didn’t seem to make it much beyond local or “Christian” news.

After reading this, I’ve been sitting here sipping my white mocha trying to figure out which part of this is really bugging me. Is it that I think the media is irresponsible in not mounting as much outrage as they would have had it been just about any other group of people?  Well, news flash: the media is biased.  There’s a headline for ya.  No, I expect that, though I think it is important for people to speak up and do what we can to point out the inconsistencies, but that’s the nature of a free media (which is still better than anything state-run).  Is it that the men were shot?  Well, of course that is deeply troubling.  Even in that, though, Jesus Himself warned that this was going to be the case with those who follow Him.  Martyrdom is nothing new.

What IS new is martyrdom here.  I think maybe that’s it.

I should clarify that statement by pointing out that it’s not as though people have not been killed in the U.S. before because of their faith, but I think it is because we are in a new era.  I think we now live in a time in which people may suffer more frequently for their faith in Christ in the United States and increasingly fewer people will care.

It is certainly becoming vogue to rigorously defend “religious tolerance” unless you are a Christian.  OK, that’s a fact, but before that is misinterpreted as just another religious nut crying foul or whining because “it’s just not fair,” that’s not at all what I’m doing.  I’m not calling for pickets or boycotts or any other nonsense demanding we get better treatment.  What I am doing is warning those who, like me, share a Christian worldview as a disciple of Christ, that things are about to get tougher and we better come to terms with it.

Can those inconsistencies be legislated away as some Christians seem to think?  Maybe to some degree, but probably not effectively.  I think efforts are better served boldly taking the Gospel into all the world rather than trying to “fight for our rights.”  Frankly, the Gospel has always more effectively been spread through the shed blood of the witness rather than legislative action or special interest groups…if we’re honest.  Rather, the best thing we can do is prepare for it and pray that we will be faithful if it comes.

We need to understand that life for a Christ-follower is likely to get tougher in the United States as we continue down the road of intolerance by those who claim to be the most tolerant in this crazy culture of inconsistencies. The day is not far off that a Christ-follower may be jailed simply by speaking what he believes (the definition of “hate-speech” is getting broader and broader all the time).  Some, as in the case of the Florida incident, will take it at least one step farther.  Will anybody really care?  I don’t know, but I’m not even sure that’s the right question to be concerned with.  I think a more important question is this: Will we continue to speak and live the Truth?  Will we continue to stand true to our convictions?  Now is the time to find the answers because it just may be too late when we’re looking up at a judge or down the barrel of a gun.

May we be found faithful.

Pray for China

From Crosswalk.com Religion News Update:

Voice of the Martyrs and China Aid Association are encouraging Christians to wear “Pray for China” wristbands as the opening ceremonies approach, according to OneNewsNow. Reports of increased house church raids and imprisonment of Christians have trickled through government lines in a pre-Olympics crackdown. “The Chinese government wants this Olympic season to be a great coming-out party for the nation of China. So they are doing everything they can to keep Christians out of Beijing, especially those who would be inclined to protest or make any kind of public spectacle,” VOM Spokesman Todd Nettleton said. “The Chinese government wants to ensure this Olympics goes on right on schedule, without a hitch.” Wristbands can be ordered at the VOM and China Aid Association Web sites.

Voice of the Martyrs website: http://vom.org.

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