What I Believe

I’ve struggled and prayed over my response to some comments on Facebook. Due to an article I shared on Saturday, some pretty hard comments have been made and while other comments have been gentle, they made assumptions about me, my faith and my attitude towards persecution of Christians that modify my actual beliefs. The question at hand is whether or not Christians are suffering from persecution in this day and time in America.

To me, the answer is yes. A journalist warning Americans to be fearful because the Vice President and his wife practice their Christian faith openly and without apology is proof that I am living in an America that has prejudice against my religion. However, when a professing Christian gets on my newsfeed and judgmentally calls out an entire sector of our society, I can certainly understand why the journalist and other Americans would have a fear of Christians.

Being a Christian in America today is not unlike being Hispanic in America, with the exception that the Hispanic person has no control over his heritage, while a Christian chooses to be identified that way. Otherwise we suffer similar problems. When someone uses the term “Hispanic” what they mean may bear no relation to what their audience perceives, because the variety of people in America who have a Mexican heritage is so widespread.

There are Hispanic people whose families have been Americans for generations. Their kids go to Harvard and they head up companies or hold government positions which make them an elite member of our society. There is also an MS-13 gang member who crept over the border last night. He too is Hispanic. Both of these categories, from the very elite to the latest MS-13 illegal alien, represent a group of people to whom we assign the same descriptive. There are some Americans who want to rid our nation of “every damn Mexican who’s crossed the Rio Grande,” completely unaware that there have been Hispanic people populating parts of this country from a time long before the Rio Grande was part of the American border.

Christians have the same problem, except their ranks aren’t even limited by a similar ethnicity. Anybody who decides they want to be identified as a Christian can adopt that title – pretty much in the same way a transgender person can select their gender and sexual preference. Let me tell you there are a whole lot of people out there, who call themselves Christians, which I find pretty scary. However, to put all of us in the same bucket and accuse me or the Vice President’s wife of having a disgusting religion or posing a threat to our nation, is the like taking the head of the elite Hispanic household and judging him to be the same sort of threat to our society as the new illegal alien gang member certainly poses.

What I believe is not disgusting, nor dangerous. I resent the implications of the article I posted, for myself, for our Second Lady and for many other Christians who believe the way I do and live their lives based on the Bible. I have seen the change in people’s perception of my faith from the time I first understood I was a Christian, until today. Today that perception, by a large segment of the population led by an unsympathetic press, is prejudiced and yes, I feel persecuted for the attitudes and behavior against Christianity. Even those who assume I must just be misguided for accepting the Bible as written. Am I “free” to practice Christianity? Well, I can tell you I am not as free to practice it as I once was.

Like many groups suffering persecution, much of the bias against Christians is fabricated out of a misunderstanding of what it means to belong to any given group. Though anyone can claim to be a Christian, one of the most despised groups are Evangelical Christians. I am an Evangelical Christian. The Vice President and his wife are Evangelical Christians. I can’t speak for everyone who claims to be a Christian, but I can tell you why my beliefs are not disgusting or threatening.

The first tenet of my faith is that God loves everyone. I mean everyone. The nice lady next door who goes to church, the murderer on death row, every race, every creed, heterosexuals, homosexuals, transgenders, liars, cheaters, politicians, missionaries, men, women, children, infants, senior citizens, Millennials, aborted fetuses, drug addicts, drug dealers, rich people, homeless people – you name a category of people, I believe God loves them. He created them. What’s more, I believe if I am a Christian, God expects me to love them, too. All of them.

So, if you are wondering whether someone is an Evangelical Christian or not, see if they can pass this test. They may be another kind of Christian, but what I’m saying doesn’t apply to them. However, if someone claims to be an Evangelical Christian, this should be foundational to who they are. Exactly what is scary or disgusting about that? Even if you don’t believe in God at all, why would it scare you if someone else does, especially if it means they believe their God has commanded them to love others as they do themselves.

The second tenet of my faith is that all have sinned and fallen short of what God expects of them. Me, Mrs. Pence, my pastor and that entire list of people I listed above and all the people I left off of it. What’s more, I believe all sin is the same. Whether I think an evil thought or whether I act on it, it is sin. In fact, I believe that anything I say, do or think that is not obedient to what God has laid out for me in the Bible is sin and I am guilty of it. No “pervert” or murderer or drug dealer has committed a worse sin than me, because we were all born in Sin. We are all equal. With God, every sin is Sin.

I can see how some people would find this threatening. If they believe in God and they believe He loves them, they like to think that because He loves them, He loves everything they do and continues to have a relationship with them in spite of it. Perhaps they are right, but that’s not what His Bible says. They may believe in God, without believing in His Bible, but Evangelical Christians do accept the Bible as Truth. We believe every word of the Bible is the inspired Word of God, which our very powerful God has been able to preserve intact over the centuries, in spite of misinterpretation, mistranslation and downright misrepresentation. We believe it is possible to have a personal relationship with the Creator of the Universe and through prayer, study and the guiding of the Holy Spirit we can understand what God intended us to do, based on His Word.

Many people draw the line here. How dare us cling to an ancient manuscript as Truth in the Modern World! That’s OK, if you want to believe in a Bible-less God, or that much of the Bible has been lost in translation, but an Evangelical Christian, should by definition accept the Bible as Truth and since it is Truth, we believe we should apply it literally to our lives.
Now, why is that so scary? If you don’t believe in God or you don’t believe in the Bible, why does it bother you that we do? What could it hurt? Acceptance is the key today. Open-minded people embrace the Koran, the Kabala, the sayings of Buddha and the list goes on, but for some reason, if you believe the Bible you are disgusting and dangerous.

We happen to believe, based on what the Bible says that we are all equally loved, but we have also all equally sinned. We believe, based on what the Bible says that God is holy and if we are sinful, our relationship with Him has been broken. We believe, based on what the Bible says, that God so loved the whole world that He sent His Son to die on a cross, so He could reestablish relationship with us, if we accept the sacrifice of His Son.

We believe acceptance of that sacrifice is the single thing deciding whether you will spend eternity in Heaven or in Hell, because that’s what the Bible says. It’s not how good you are, or how holy you are, or how much you give to the church, or how much of the Bible you have memorized or anything else that can “save” you from spending an eternity in hell. It also means that nothing you can do or be is bad enough to keep you from being saved, if you do accept that sacrifice.

So while some choose to see Evangelical Christians as judgmental, it’s not us. You’re the one that gets to accept God or reject Him. He made the rules we follow. If you choose to reject Him, His Bible, His rules and His salvation, that’s on you. Our critics may not believe in God, they may not believe in the Bible, they may not believe in Heaven or Hell, but it seems to really tick them off that we do.

They say we judge them, but if we truly believe what we say that we do, then we also believe judgment is solely in the hands of God. When a Christian judges someone else, our Bible says that Christian has sinned against God. Our Bible tells us not to judge, lest we ourselves be judged by God and that’s a whole lot worse than any judgment we can pronounce on others.

This is the crux of many of the problems all Christians face. It is hard to be human and not judge. So some of us do so with a vengeance and others may do so unwittingly, but when we do, we are wrong. Many of the non-Evangelical Christian churches have a code of conduct, whereby one is judged. You are cut off from some portion of the traditional rituals and practices of the church, but that’s not God, those are human artifices.

There is another layer to this that is very confusing to a lot of people, inside and outside our church. While Evangelical Christians believe in Salvation through Grace, based solely on Faith in the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we also believe love is the proper response to God for salvation and the Bible tells us over and over again that love for God translates directly in obedience to His Word. What’s more many of us, including myself, believe that the more obedient we are to God’s Word, the better our lives are going to be.

In some churches, that translates into Prosperity Christianity. If I’m good, then God will be good to me and they teach that when God is good to you, you don’t have any problems, you get rich, you’re never sick and so on and so on. However, that’s not at all what the Bible says. Many churches teaching Prosperity Christianity claim to be Evangelical Christians, so the fact that outsiders get confused is not surprising, but it is very inconvenient for those of us who think this heresy is as true as the theories of Climate Change and Evolution, which we reject.

For a true Evangelical Christian, we believe God when he tells us there will be trouble in this life. We know most of the apostles were killed for their beliefs. We know the persecution the early church suffered and how much Christians in other parts of the world suffer today. When I say the more obedient I am to God, the better my life gets, I’m talking about the inner spiritual life I am in now and my future in Heaven. I don’t expect a rosy Earth-bound future with high income and no problems.

To pursue that good life, I sincerely endeavor to live my life based on the principles taught in the Bible. I believe regardless of any sin I have committed or anyone else commits, by God’s grace it can be forgiven and the perpetrator can be fully restored to God. I believe if someone truly accepts Jesus Christ as their Savior, they get the real gift of Heaven, regardless of whatever sin remains in their life. God knows I am not perfect.

However, I am also fully acquainted with the blessings I can have in this life, if I will radically pursue with obedience what God has laid out for me in the Bible. Knowing that, why wouldn’t I want to share the knowledge with others? If someone comes to me and asks how they can receive God’s blessings, I am going to ask them to first accept Christ as their Savior and then aggressively pursue what the Bible teaches. They can either accept what I say or blow me off, but why can’t I be left alone to believe what I believe, just as they prefer to be.

What the Bible teaches is not necessarily politically correct in these modern times, but if you don’t believe as I do, why do you care? You have your own beliefs, whatever they may be. Why do you want to tell me I’ve got it wrong when I can clearly read what the Bible says? All those things the author of the article in question described as disgusting are exactly what I believe as Truth and many others with me. My marriage should be between a man and a woman who identify with the sex God gave them at birth, but your marriage is your business. Abortion would be wrong for me, but your choice is your business. My belief in these things should not rock the foundation of our nation, any more than someone else’s belief in the power of crystals, being a vegetarian or identifying as LGBTQIA should.

The trouble arises when any group tries to enforce their belief system on others, such as when Evangelical Christians try to take their beliefs to the marketplace or the marketplace tries to force me to give up what I believe, because they find it disgusting.

I’m sorry to have gone on for over 2,800 words in addressing this question, but I don’t know of any other way to express it. There is no word or phrase that melts it down. No way to nail it down in an infographic or a meme. To call the Pence’s a danger to our nation, because they are Evangelical Christians and to call their beliefs disgusting is wrong. That is clear to me.

The real problem is politics, not religion. Religion is a straw man. Our nation is governed by a set of documents; much like an Evangelical Christian’s faith is governed by the Bible. Forces in our nation want to control the interpretation of our founding documents and one of the ways to do that is to call in question the faith of most of the people who wrote those documents. Others, like myself, believe in those Founding Documents and in the Bible, as written. The way the American public expresses their beliefs is ultimately by voting, because while we were designed as a Federal Republic, we are becoming a simple Democracy.

Those who want a simple democracy and the power they can wield with it are against me – the politicians, the media, the Hollywood stars, the sports heroes and all the rest that want modern interpretations of ancient documents. They use their power to vilify what I believe and they threaten my ability to believe what I do and to share it with like-mined people. Others, who wish would stand with me, want to force their interpretations of these ancient documents on everyone else, so they run ahead of me and create the illusion all Christians are unified and therefore threaten the American way of life.

In between are millions of kind, generous, sweet people who want to believe there is some middle ground, if we’d all just compromise a little. In truth, when two groups compromise, sometimes both win, but that is not always the case. I believe with all my heart, if I give up my literal interpretation of the Bible and my effort to be obedient to what it says, I lose for eternity. So, I am unwilling to compromise, regardless of what that means to me. That doesn’t mean I hold anyone else responsible for believing what I believe. I also would not dare to judge anyone else, for fear of the judgment I believe God would make of me.

The bottom line is that I believe God loves everyone and the hope of eternal life is possible for each of us. I believe that God calls me to love everyone, but he also calls me to obey His Word. I believe we all sin and that all sins are equally unacceptable in the eyes of a Holy God. If that makes me dangerous or threatens other people, I sincerely regret they feel that way, but I fail to see why it should, unless at some level, they actually think I might be right.

No one may ever actually read all of this, but the Bible calls me to always be ready to defend my faith, so in this post, I have.

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The Church is Not Subject to the Court of Public Opinion

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FAITH TALK:  GOD’S OPINION IS THE ONE THAT MATTERS

The Court of Public Opinion

I started this series in rebuttal to an online article, with several posts laying out the Biblical basis for the church, because that’s where we’re supposed to go for input about the church. We aren’t supposed to be out in the world asking its advice, as the article’s author suggests.

Public opinion doesn’t matter, because we’re not supposed to be pleasing them.  Churches are supposed to be in the business of building up and equipping the saints.  Early churches had to meet in catacombs and in some places they still are, because even a hint of Christianity would be death. The early Christians would land in the Colosseum, facing hungry lions and well-armed gladiators – yet the church was growing so quickly the pagans couldn’t feed them to the lions fast enough.  Popularity is not particularly good for the church.  It invites criticism and a spectator/consumer mentality.

He is right about one thing, “we are failing at being the aroma of Christ,” but not for the reasons he suggests. We’re so busy being inclusive, politically correct and relevant that we’re more like an oil spill than an aroma. He says, “We should be serving the crap out of [the world]” and he’s right about that, but we shouldn’t have to adopt their flags for that privilege. We can best serve our community by first obeying God. “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”

Failure to Adapt

If you have been with me since the beginning of this series, then you know I have struggled with my anger since I first read this Millennial’s article. I have tippy-toed around many subjects as I tried to address our differences, but in this I must speak the truth in love. The church is not another welfare agency trying to curry the favor of the world with good works. The world rejected our cornerstone, Jesus Christ, and we have been warned they will reject us, also. Love them? Yes! Adapt? Never!

The Millennial author sums it up this way, “The truth is, church, it’s your move. Decide if Millennials matter to you and let us know.” But the number of his Millennials filling church pews is not the appropriate measure of the church. The whole thing was God’s idea in the first place and He’s the one who laid the foundation. He’s also the one that will bring the Church Age to an end.  If He chooses to uses Millennial dissatisfaction as the tool to do that, well then that’s His call, not the Millennial author’s.

Many of today’s churches have wandered away from their purpose. I believe that with all my heart. Some of the criticisms and complaints in the Millennial’s article are spot on, but his solutions are not. Jesus is the real answer to all his frustrations.

The truth is, Millennials, it’s your move. Decide if Jesus and the Bible matter to you and let Him know. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.”

If Millennials want to serve God, then they should take to their Bibles and link arms with their fellow Christians of all ages. That doesn’t mean they have to put up with whatever their local church or congregation subject them to.  If one church or denomination isn’t doing it for you, move-on, but don’t move out. The church isn’t perfect, but the gathering of the brethren was God’s idea and today we call that church – and churches are all over the place in every flavor.  Go find one that fits.

If all Millennials want is a vehicle to serve the poor and feel good about it, then join the Peace Corps or work at the local food bank and leave the church out of it.  Don’t try to wash God out of the church and turn it into a wishy-washy feel-good sort of do-gooding organization.  The world already has plenty of those.

I will end where I began.  I think the author of this article pointed out several areas that the church needs to work on, but I don’t think the church should turn to the world’s solutions for resolution of its shortcomings.  I also don’t think dropping out of the church is the way to fix it.  Christians who drop out of church are at the very least disobedient to the Bible’s teachings.  Don’t drop out, move on and step up.  I admire this Millennial for speaking out.  I believe him when he says his goal is to make the church a better place.  I just want him and everyone else to consider some alternate solutions.

What’s next for Faith Talk?  As I write this, it is a beautiful day in early June.  I am relieved to have this blog series behind me, because I really didn’t want to write it in the first place.  When I started this series it had been several years since I made regular posts to this blog.  It may be several years before I need the platform again – or maybe next week God will nudge me into another subject.

 

Stepping Into Controversy

FAITH TALK: SPEAKING TRUTH TO MILLENNIALS

Millennials Want Us to Talk to Them About Controversial Issues, Improve Our Public Image and Adapt

As I read an article by a Millennial about young people leaving the church, I shook my head in frustration.  It seemed the author wanted to take both sides of the argument.  First he took the church task for avoiding to confront controversial issues, as if he was unaware of the battle being fought for the sake of Christian principles:

  • Christian bakers are defending themselves before the Supreme Court.
  • Christian clerks are losing their jobs and going to jail.
  • Laws are being written to prevent Christian publishers from promoting, even printing, materials which suggest alternative lifestyles go against Biblical principles.
  • Entire denominations have been forced to abandon tradition in the face of criticism.

Apparently also unaware of the irony of his next charge, he chastised the church for their public image and suggested the church should be “asking every one around us how we can make their world better.”  So, should we confront controversial issues or avoid controversy by governing our actions based on public opinions?  His closing indictment was, “You’re failing to adapt,” which seems to suggest that he’s taking the world’s side against us.

I thought of the old adage, “Damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

Those Controversial Issues

The author of the article says, “We need someone consistently speaking truth into every single one of those areas [career, education, relationships, marriage, sex, finances, children, purpose, chemicals, body image].”  Truth may not be on the menu at every place that hangs a church sign on its door, but it is up to the individual Believer to do their own fact-checking.  Get out your Bible and see what it has to say:

  • “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15
  • “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” 1 John 4:1

Young people seem quite adept at googling pretty much anything they want to know, but they can’t search a Bible app to see what it says about controversial issues?  They will slap a vagina cap on their head and march in the street for women’s rights, but for some reason they feel they can’t ask a question of their priest?  High schoolers walk out of class to protest gun violence, but they can’t email a concern to their Sunday School teacher life group leader?  College graduates will abandon their own graduation ceremonies to express their disdain for the Vice President of the United States, but at church they suddenly want to “learn, grow and be vunerable”?  Methinks thou dost protest too much. 

In other words, something smells fishy in Denmark.  I’m just not buying the charges leveled by this indignant Millennial. Come back next week for my closing arguements.

 

Church is Not a Product

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FAITH TALK: STOP TALKING ABOUT US

This blog series is about to come to an end.  Our Millennial friend is winding up for the final pitch.  He rolls into the final paragraphs of his article with four more points.  Three of them are related and we will leave them to the end.  For today I will address his admonition to quit talking about Millennials unless you’re going to do something about them.  His solution to this dilemma is for the church to under-promise and over-deliver, but I think something else is afoot that slogans can’t fix.

A Communication Breakdown?

Nobody’s listening, we’re sick of hearing, we’re tired of the blame, don’t be mean girls, we distrust you, don’t preach at us, thank us and don’t talk about us.  Eight of the complaints the Millennial author levels at the church are communication-related.  Just like mentoring, communication is a two-way street.

I’ll dig in my archives for my response to this.  In the early 2000’s my marriage hit a communication roadblock.  I didn’t realize that’s what it was.  I just thought my husband was a jerk and he thought I was.  Life in our house was not very pleasant.  We still loved each other, but nothing was working.

I could give you a long list of all the things we had done wrong and talk for days about all the problems we had, but it all boiled down to the very things the Millennial author is saying.  Neither of us was listening, both of us were tired of what we were hearing, we were tired of the blame game, we were tired of our partner being mean, we distrusted each other, both of us felt unappreciated and we were both tired of the lip service we were getting from our spouse.  Our relationship was broken.

Divorce Was Not an Option

We made it through those tough times because we decided divorce was not an option, but just deciding that didn’t solve all of our problems.  In fact, God had to get very creative and send my husband to Iraq as an interpreter for a year to straighten out the mess we’d gotten ourselves into – but that’s another story for another day.

The Millennial author folds his arms at the end of his article and says, “The truth is, church, it’s your move,”  but the real truth is, if that’s the attitude Millennials are going to take, then why don’t we just go ahead and close the church doors now, because there is no hope.  My husband and I can take some credit for making it through our rough patch, because we made the conscious decision to stay together no matter what, but the real answer was God.  For Millennials to have access to that resource they are going to need to unfold their arms and get down on their knees in prayer.

I urge all of us, Millennials and other wise, to pray for the church.  That’s the way to heal the rift; not a saber-rattling article from a well-meaning Millennial or a hat-in-hand compromise from the church.  I know about the hat-in-hand thing, because I was so desperate to save my marriage that I hit the floor like a welcome mat.  Whatever my husband wanted to hear, say or do, I tried with all my heart to cooperate, but the chasm was already firmly in place.  It was humanly impossible to pacify someone who has given you an ultimatum like this Millennial has given the church – but with God, nothing is impossible

I Can Tell You’re Angry 

I can’t know specifically what the Millennial author is talking about, because he is speaking to “the church” in general, when every church out there is taking a different tack.  Some churches were started by Millennials, are run by Millennials and are attended almost exclusively by Millennials with their kids.  Certainly they can’t be making all these mistakes the author of the article complains about.

I think the crux of this matter comes back to the choice of either being the change you want to see or finding a local church that is already making changes to accommodate the Millennial mindset – because they are out there.  If you want to be the change, then you’re going to have to do more than write an article.  You’re going to have to dig in with your local church, put up with what they’re doing wrong until you can get the bus turned around.  It’s hard work and you are going to have to bathe everything you do in prayer, but it can be done.

I know it can be done, because our Millennial author is complaining about value and mission statements, a very recent addition to the church agenda. I know change can come about, because when I grew up we sang songs out of a hymnal with an organ and a piano accompaniment.  Today there are rock band churches who begin their services with a half hour of hand clapping and hip-thrusting to songs for which the lyrics are shown on multi-screens throughout the worship center.  The rows of metal chairs I sat in during Sunday School rooms have been replaced by sofas and lounge chairs in Life Group areas.

As I said, the Millennial author has three more complaints, but I believe I can wrap this up in just a couple of posts.  Join me next week as we come into the final turn.

Time for an Attitude Adjustment

FAITH TALK: WE WANT TO FEEL VALUED

Feelings vs. Faith

In an article outlining the reasons Millennials are leaving the church, the author, who is from that generation, says, “We need a church that sees us, believes in us, that cheers us on and encourages us to chase our big crazy dreams.”  I hear him and yet, I also read my Bible. The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)

I hate to have to be the one to say this, but serving in the church is not about recognition and appreciation from church members and staff.  Don’t take your feelings to church until you have taken them to God.  As long as you are looking to anyone, except the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost to see you, believe in you, reward and encourage you, you are leaving yourself wide open to the discouragement and frustration Satan passes around like cheap business cards.

Once you understand who you are in Christ, it puts the way others treat you into perspective.  If you understand how much God has forgiven you for the sake of Christ’s sacrifice, it makes you a little more forgiving with those around you, especially your fellow Christians.  Here’s what the Bible warns:

  • “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them, otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:1)
  • “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:23)

In other words, my Millennial friend is looking to the church for what he should be looking for from God.  A hammer is never going to be a screwdriver.  You might be able to get a nail into board with a screwdriver, but you’re not going to be satisfied with the results.  By the same token, it is sometimes possible to get encouragement, applause and appreciation from your fellow church members, but only to a certain extent, and they can never hammer home the truth of your value – only God can do that. At some point you will feel insignificant, devalued and unappreciated.  Don’t blame them for not being God.  Blame yourself for your unrealistic expectations.

That Being Said, Church Members Ain’t Perfect

While I think it’s a good idea for all of us to get over ourselves and quit looking to others for our self-esteem, I do sympathize with anyone who suffers the manipulative machinations of well-meaning Christians.  Here’s a couple of zingers from the local church’s recruiting department which the Millennial author pointed out:

  • You’re single, what else do you have to do?
  • You’re letting your church down.

I’m quite sure he’s actually heard those very words.  I’m sure, because I’ve been told much the same thing – a lot.  Try being married without children.  I’ve heard even more creative guilt trips now than I did as a young adult.  The trick is, I’m not looking to these people for my self esteem.  I’m usually eager, maybe too eager, to do whatever is asked of me, but if I feel the slightest reluctance, I promise to pray about it and I do.  Once I know whether or not the task being asked of me is what God wants me to do, the calculating comments of others may sting, but I am able to overlook them.

Don’t Blame the World on the Church

Our Millennial commentator complains, “Millennials are told by this world from the second we wake up to the second we take a sleeping pill that we aren’t good enough.”  Remember those cheap business cards Satan hands out?  Well, if my Millennial friend thinks this a new marketing ploy Satan created especially for Millennials, he needs to drink in a little reality.  “You aren’t good enough,” could be Satan’s tagline and he’s been using it since the Garden.

  • Hate church and church-goers – they don’t think you are good enough.
  • Hate your parents – they don’t think you are good enough
  • Hate your children – they don’t think you are good enough
  • Hate your teachers – they don’t think you are good enough
  • Hate bosses – they don’t think you are good enough
  • Hate God – He doesn’t think you are good enough
  • Hate yourself – you know you aren’t good enough

I have tried in this series of posts to be gentle, even humorous, in my responses to the article.  I’ve read the bio of the author of this article I am discussing and I respect his intentions, but this time I need to be a little bolder.  This excuse-making is dangerous.  Are there over-zealous recruiters of Sunday School teachers and nursery workers?  Yes, there are.  Do staff and members of the church sometimes fail to appropriately show appreciation?  Of course.  But these misspoke and unspoken errors are not the real problem.  The real problem is, as the sinners we are, we look to other sinners for our self-esteem and self-worth, rather than to God and in doing so we make ourselves vulnerable to honey-sweet murmurings of Satan himself.

If you’ve left the church because you felt this way, you helped Satan get points on the board.  If the church you once attended is guilty of regularly manipulating its members in this way, heck yeah, go find someplace else to worship.  If it’s just one mean member, confront her or tell someone what she’s doing.  Do something, but don’t use this as an excuse to stay home from church.

Mentoring is a Two Street

FAITH TALK: GENUINE RELATIONSHIP

I’m responding week by week to an online article about Millennials leaving church.  The Millennial author advises, “We want to be mentored, not preached at.”  As he points out, if you want a sermon you can get plenty of those online without ever leaving on your own sofa, complete with doughnuts and sweatpants.  I’m married to a guy of the same opinion, except he doesn’t even want a sermon.  He just uses an app for daily Bible study.

Papa Don’t Preach!

However, the author tells us Millennials crave relationship, “to have someone walking beside them through the muck.”  The author points out his generation has the “highest percentage ever of fatherless homes.” You can always tell when someone thinks they’ve won an argument.  They start giving you statistics.  It was a statistic about “average” church attendance that convinced my husband he was safe staying home on Sundays.

I think modern churches do focus too much on sermons.  Superstar preachers achieve celebrity status and reign over mega churches which resemble country clubs, more than they do houses of worship.  The superstars not only serve their local congregation, they live-feed their performance into satellite churches and into homes all over the world.  To me, that’s not church – it’s showbiz.

Database Mentoring

Let’s leave it at that.  You don’t want sermons – fine.  You do want mentoring – great.  But the Millennial author’s solution just doesn’t work in real life.  He suggests creating a database to match up adult mentors and young adults. Been there, done that Mr. Millennial.

While I have been involved in decades-long mentoring relationships, I never got there through a database or list. Occasionally a mentoring relationship will grow out of that sort of thing, but without exception, there is always a secondary connection taking these artificial relationships to the next level. In other words, save your database for online dating.

Intentionality

His other solution is to “Ask the older generation to be intentional with the Millennials in your church,” but mentoring really only works when both parties invest in the relationship. This means Mr. Millennial and his friends can’t access a database, read a few profiles and expect to connect with the perfect mentor. I’ve participated in programs just like that, from the days when I was the one being mentored, and it just never clicked.

If you want to be mentored, skip the database and get involved.  Interested in ministering to the poor?  Then volunteer with in one of your church’s local projects.  Or sign up for a work day, most churches have them, and invest some sweat equity in your church while you interview potential mentors.  Go on a mission trip.  Serve as a greeter.  Direct traffic on the parking lot.  Work in the nursery.  There are any number of ways to connect with your church and present yourself as a potential mentoree. My guess is you’ll be surprised how quickly you have a whole team of mature adults who are eagerly mentoring you before you even get around to asking them to do so.

Real People for Real Mentoring on Both Sides of the Relationship

The article’s author asks, “If we don’t have real people who actually care about us, why not just listen to a sermon on the couch?” Well, if we older adults don’t have real young people who actually show an interest in the same things we care about, why should we go chasing after someone who would rather watch a sermon on their phone or scroll through a database looking for a mentor?

I’ve signed up to be on mentoring lists several times in several churches. Each time I was formally introduced to someone as their mentor (or mentoree) it was a failure. Once or twice it was a pleasant six month contract that had no lasting impact, but a few times it was more like a disaster. The younger person didn’t want a mentor. They wanted a caped crusader to come in and pick up the mess they’d made. That’s not mentoring. That’s enabling.

If that’s where the story ended, I’d just say I stunk at mentoring and for a long time I thought that was the case. Then I looked around.  I realized I had a bevy of beauties surrounding me, who had invited me into their lives and also took an interest in mine. I didn’t access a database to find these young ladies.  I just chose to be active in my church and love on the people I came into contact with, some of whom happened to be young people.

Some of those people are no longer quite so young and they are still in my life after decades of mutually satisfying relationships.  I also have to say that not all mentoring is older people mentoring younger people.  Some of the people I have mentored have been significantly older than me and there have been seasons in my life when I needed younger people to take a role in my life.

So, if you’ve dropped out of a church because they didn’t provide you with a database of potential mentors, I’d suggest you go back and give it another try, because mentoring isn’t like dating. You are not likely to find your mentor online, but if you invest in your church, you will discover people who will invest in your life.

From Mean Girls to Money

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FAITH TALK: SOMETHING WE CAN AGREE ON

The Building Program

About halfway through the Millennials rant on the church, we finally found something we could agree on completely.  “Why should thousands of our hard-earned dollars go toward a mortgage on a multi-million dollar building?” the author asks and I have the same question.  I can’t tell you how many times a great church has chased me out the door with a building program.  I think Satan must frequently appear in the guise of church architects and planning committee members.

So then, I have to ask these Millennials, if they hate these holy country clubs, what are they doing there? There are small churches all over the place, meeting in paid-for buildings where plumbing issues are handled by the member with plumbing skills and the Sunday School rooms still have the ancient cheap paneling put up decades ago.  Is there any chance the Millennials go to these fancy churches because they like the cool architecture, state of the art media systems and a great website.  If you play, you have to pay.  If you want a church without a mortgage, keep googling.  I know they are out there, because I found one.

The Faith Promise Card

Along with building programs, comes a faith promise card, but they don’t only use “faith promise” for building programs.  Various ministries utilize them and some churches use the same sort of thing for tithing.  When churches and ministries whip out the faith promise card, I run for the door.  The concept is that I pray about my commitment and God reveals to me how much I should promise to donate over an upcoming period of time, but I think that’s a little cheeky – like Gideon and his fleece.  Just because something is in the Bible does not necessarily mean you are supposed to emulate it.

Didn’t God call the rich man a fool when he started planning his new barns?  Besides, the New Testament admonishes us to decide each week what we will give and one hand is not supposed to know what the other is doing.  That seems to be all I need to know.

I believe I shouldn’t be forecasting what I AM going to do to other people a year, five years or even seven years in advance.  I should be doing what the Bible says, deciding each week what to give.  That doesn’t mean that I can’t budget my money on an annual basis or even plan what I want to give over the next decade, but I still think God wants me to check in on a weekly basis and be sure He’s happy with the check I write.

I get it.  Churches want, even need, to know what plans their members have for giving.  It seems like the reasonable and responsible thing to do from the human standpoint, but I think God is more interested in obedience and faith.  If God wants your church to build a multi-million dollar facility, you don’t need to go out and get a loan.  He’s perfectly capable of finding however much money you need, but I don’t think the building committee at your church appreciates me saying that.

So, I have a difference of opinion with the majority of churches and ministries these days, because the faith promise card is a pervasive tool in churchdom.  Does that give me permission to leave the church?  I think it gives me permission to leave a church which browbeats me with annual pledging.  But there are churches that leave the issue of giving as something for each member to handle with God and they trust God for their finances.

So, while I do agree with my Millennial friend’s concerns to a certain degree, I don’t buy money as a reason to leave the church.  Next week we’ll be going to his next complaint against the church.