Friday, February 26, 2010

Jesus Christ- superstar?

i have seen a lot of churches, youth rallies and religious events spend a lot of time, effort and money on marketing. they use flashy graphics and catchy subtitles to grab our attention. in fact i have seen so much of this that i too feel the pressure to be trendy when i advertise events i plan or invite people to be a part of our youth group. i can't just call the event 'youth group Bible study,' i have to call it 'the edge' or 'superfantastical scripture search' or 'Jesus jam.' otherwise, it's just a boring old Bible study where we will learn more about the story we claim to believe in and follow and claim as our own, and that has no draw.

the problem is that Jesus is not marketable. he is not cute like the jonas brothers (and thankfully does not wear skinny jeans like them either). he does not spew out one liners to laugh about with your friends like will ferrell. he is not over the top like lady gaga. knowing Him does not give you prestige or special back stage passes. in fact, He is quite the opposite. listening to His teaching will bring conviction, not entertainment. knowing Jesus and truly following Him almost guarantees you will experience ridicule, persecution and trials. try to market a deodorant with this tagline... fights odor, leaving you smelling fresh under the pressure of the impending beatings and mockery you will endure for using our product. i'd give you about 2 weeks until you went under. i think in a way, the church understands that, and has adapted our Savior's image in order to be more attractive. we are not, in most cases, marketing the true Jesus we read of in Scripture.

that is the church, but i resonate with this point on a personal level, too. i struggle because i want people to follow Christ, but it is difficult. i am not writing to say 'i have this down, why can't the rest of you get it together?' i write this because giving up everything and following Christ is difficult and at times i don't want to do it. i have moments where i feel more like the rich young ruler, unable or unwilling to lay down my treasure and abandon my comfort in order to embrace His life. sometimes it would be easier to market Jesus as the key to health and wealth, but it would not be honest. Scripture reminds us that it is not a superstar we are called to follow and emulate, but rather a suffering Savior. so i will ask the ultimate question- is the version of Jesus being promoted by your church (and more importantly your life) the Jesus of Scripture? i pray that our answer, if it is not already, can someday be a resounding yes.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

525,600 minutes

next wednesday will be exactly one year from the day i moved from metro detroit, michigan to salem, indiana. i must confess i almost moved right back when the first song i heard on the radio here was 'achy breaky heart,' but i am glad i stuck it out. it has been quite an amazing year. so in celebration, i will list the things i have learned about culture, church and myself in my time here. enjoy!

1. you'ens (or however it is spelled) is a phrase i will never use or understand no matter how often the people around me use it. i don't even know what two words it combines. ya'll is you and all. you'ens is you and... chickens? citizens? or is it young and ones? i don't know and do not really care to know.
2. having a section in your local newspaper where people can call in whatever comments they want is dangerous because it reveals a lot of ignorance, but it is also highly entertaining. 90% of the reason i get the paper is for this section.
3. people in small towns are generally a lot friendlier and a lot more likely to chat with you. in the suburbs, i could go days or weeks without a stranger acknowledging me. here, people will at the very least nod or tip their hats to you, but will more likely greet you verbally.
4. people are people no matter where they live. we all have problems. we all need grace and forgiveness. the size and setting of the church i work for is immaterial- the need for Jesus is universal and cross cultural.
5. goats are not that hard to wash. i wish i knew this from observation, not experience...
6. overalls are actually strikingly comfortable. i can see why agricultural types wear them now- very comfortable and pretty much zero chance of my crack showing when i bend over.
7. being 'metrosexual' is very contextual. i think here it must mean 'does not own anything with john deere on it,' because even i am a metrosexual here.
8. i absolutely love being involved in youth ministry. after being away from it for a while, coming back has reminded me how encouraging it is to see young people change, grow and ask tough questions.
9. i can, in fact, survive without internet at home. i used to think it would be impossible, but i honestly don't even miss it that much.
10. my life is good. in the past i have looked for things to whine about, but moving here has made me realize how blessed i am to have a great family, an amazing fiancee and a wonderful church family who has embraced a weird city boy like i was their own. God is good!

i am sure there are many other lessons i have learned, but 10 is a good round number so i will quit for now. i hope those of you reading this had a year that was just as great as mine was.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

indecision- the enemy of spiritual growth

i must confess that my nature is to procrastinate. in high school i consistently put off my homework until the last minute. in college i would wait all semester to work on the big research paper and do it the night before. i usually waited until the last minute to pack for a trip or wake up in the morning. while i do not by any means recommend this method, i continued to do it because it worked for me. i never missed an appointment and rarely forgot anything i needed to pack. i still got good grades on my work and didn't waste valuable video game time on homework until i absolutely had to. so, no real harm was done.

however, there is an area where procrastinating leads to death. i know that sounds extreme, but it is true. it is such a temptation to become stagnant and inactive in my faith. with the promise of grace on the table, often times there is little motivation to put in a full effort in changing my bad habits or thoughts. if God loves me no matter what, He won't care if i don't get up early to read my bible, right? if He can look past the sins of people in the bible who did WAY worse things than me, why should i try to fix the problems i have? this line of reasoning leads to spiritual death. it leads to a heart losing its ability to smell the sickening stench of its own sinfulness. it leads away from God and right into the clutches of satan. i cannot afford any longer to put off the changes i need to make in my spiritual life.

while i was thinking about all of this, i stumbled upon this quote today from provocations by soren kierkegaard-

'cowardice settles deep in our souls like the idle mists on stagnant waters. from it arise unhealthy vapors and deceiving
phantoms. the thing that cowardice fears most is decision; for decision always scatters the mists, at least for a moment. cowardice thus hides behind the thought it likes best of all: the crutch of time. cowardice and time always find a reason for not
hurrying, for saying, “not today, but tomorrow”, whereas God in heaven and the eternal say: “do it today. now is the day of
salvation.” the eternal refrain of decision is: “today, today.” but cowardice holds back, holds us up. If only cowardice would ap-
pear in all its baseness, one could recognize it for what it is and fight it immediately.'

we have become cowards- we lack the desire or the fortitude to change for the better. not to pass the buck, but it is my belief that a contributing factor to this problem is the teaching of the church today. now when i say church, i don't mean the one i work for, or churches of Christ or restoration movement churches. i mean the church as we know it in western civilization. we live in a culture saturated with sin, and have ourselves become infatuated with sin. instead of avoiding what we consider slightly sinful, we are too quick to embrace the ways of the world. our hatred and disgust for the sins in our lives has been diluted. the call of our loving Savior's voice has been muted by the call of a more interesting and more easily accessible lover- the darkness and intrigue of the world. so in the end, the average churchgoer doesn't look all that much different than people of the world- we still gossip, visit questionable websites, have judgmental hearts, speak words without love, cheat on our spouses physically and mentally, treat our kids poorly, etc. we just have a different way to spend our sunday mornings and wednesday nights. we have become dangerously passive and inactive when it comes to avoiding sin and embracing holiness.

i know, i know. my words sound harsh and critical. maybe overly critical. the call of discipleship i am laying out for all of us seems to go a little overboard, doesn't it? but the vital question we must ask in this- do those words seem harsh in comparison to the teaching we hear from our church or compared to what Jesus calls us to? in my opinion, we have gotten away from the extreme side of christianity. we have allowed it to become a passive part of our lives, not something that actively drives every thought, word, action and decision. we don't share our faith in God because it may offend. we don't live too radically because it may look odd to the people around us. christianity has become an activity, not a way of life. church has become a way to punch our 'get out of hell free' card, not a place to come and encourage the followers to remain faithful. but God did not send Christ to start a social club that happens to believe in Him. Christ did not lead 12 men around teaching them the right programs to start, the correct marketing schemes to launch to get big attendance numbers or the right songs to sing in worship service. Christ came to the earth and asked for people to follow Him. that is what we as a church must teach and embrace. so, faced with the decision to follow Him or to be indecisive and continue to err on the side of apathy, which will we choose? i think it's time to stop procrastinating and embrace a life of discipleship.