Jan 04 2012
Desperate Times, Desperate Measures: Let's Try the Gospel

It's THE mysterious question.  Everyone in church culture is talking about it:  "Why are the kids leaving?"

And then the follow-up questions, "Should we start new programs?"  "Maybe we should have even awesome-r music?"  "Maybe we should rename our church something cool?" "Should our pastor try the half-tuck?"

Actually, if this researcher's right, and I suspect strongly she is, it has nothing to do with any of that. 

Kara Powell works with Fuller Youth Institute, and talks with Relevant Magazine about their extensive research:

The students involved in our research definitely tended to view the Gospel as a list of dos and do-nots, a list of behaviors. We asked our students when they were college juniors, “How would you define what it really means to be a Christian?” and one out of three—and these were all youth group students—didn’t mention Jesus Christ in their answer; they mentioned behaviors. So it seems like [young adults] have really picked up a behavioralist view of the Gospel. That’s problematic for a lot of reasons, but one of which is that when students fail to live up to those behaviors, then they end up running from God and the Church when they need both the most.

So youth group kids got the impression that the Gospel was about what we do, not what Jesus already did.  They went to church, and got the t-shirts, but they don't understand the Gospel.  We can blame THEM, of course - we love doing that, when people don't go for our programs - or we can wonder, did they ever really understand it?

Did they understand that because of what Jesus already did, God's approval of them is NOT based on their behavior?  Did they understand that Jesus knows that we cannot fulfill the law ourselves, and therefore fulfilled it for us?  Did they understand why He said, "It is finished!" and the temple veil was torn in two, once and for all?  Did they understand they are - truly, seriously, literally - no longer under the law?

Let's be honest:  Probably not.  Because when people actually hear the scandalous Gospel, they don't tend to forget it.  They can't.  If they "got it", they wouldn't, then, define what it means to be a Christian with behaviors. 

 

And, as a former youth minister, I can guess why they probably didn't hear it:  Because of the well-meaning hey-let's-not-get-too-crazy-with-the-grace folks, who think the radical message of grace needs "balanced", lest people, you know, go nuts and start having sex and killing people simply because their Sunday School teacher convinced them of how good God is.  Thing is, that grace, through the Holy Spirit, actually CHANGES people.  Once they grasp how wonderful it is, how - truly! - amazing grace really is, they don't tend to start sport-hunting humans.  They are changed, with a faith that lasts, yes, even through four years of glorious brokenness and learning at State Tech.

We want to control people.  But, there's a problem: We can't control people. 

You can make a slave out of someone, sure - but even then, you can't control his heart.  Perhaps his heart could be won by the shocking love of God, the one that sets him free of religous tyranny, once and for all?

So I say we go all in.  Let's tell them.  Let's go ahead and give people the Gospel, the whole, stunning, wonderful thing, and take our chance that God wins their hearts.  The risk of telling them the truth, of course, about how GOOD the "Good News" is, is that they'll go morally crazy, which, as we noted, when people "get" grace, doesn't tend to happen.  (I realize my parents love me unconditionally.  This makes me want to please them.)

If we tell them the Gospel, which is anti-moralistic, they will not confuse Jesus with moralism. Good thing, too, because moralism is boring.  And it doesn't work.  And it's a lie.  There's that, too.

The risk of NOT telling them is this: They grow up thinking Jesus is just another religion, and they suspect they are moral failures, and go through life missing out on the romance they were made for with their Creator.  They'll feel like their beating their heads against a wall, constantly playing a morals game, with the sneaking suspicion they're not really winning.  They'll either become Pharisees, or, worse... they'll just walk away.  (Wait, is that worse...?)

And, by the way, that last scenario...?  It's happening all the time.  So let's go ahead and try the Good News. 

Oh - one more reason to go ahead and tell them the whole, scandalous, amazing truth about the Gospel: 

It's true.

Sep 25 2011
Here's Some Stuff You Can Do Before Going to Hell

If you're looking for some religious stuff to do, while still being totally lost, here's a little starter list with some neat ideas.

And yes, don't worry:  If you're determined to avoid God, and don't want to give Him what He's after, you can still do all this stuff.  In fact, doing this stuff has been known to HELP some to avoid the dread and risk and messiness of really knowing God. You can do it all without giving Him your heart.

None of these things will save you.  Plus, they'll keep you busy!  (By the way, FunFact: I totally did the accompanying graphic by myself.  I avoid possible copyright issues in this manner. Thanks!)

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Be a scripture memorizer

Go to church camp

Teach Sunday School

Tithe

Be a brilliant theologian

Lead the Cookies-for-Newcomers Ministry

Think you're one of the Elect

Listen to Christian radio

Work in Christian radio

Lead "powerful worship"

Preach the Word for an hour-and-a-half every Sunday

Be a missionary in Africa

Host a small group from your church

Stand for Justice and Peace

Vote pro-life

Go to seminary

Feel guilty every day

Pray for the President

Have a brilliant, theologically astute understanding of Grace

Talk to people about Christ

Say the "sinner's prayer" 

Speak in tongues

Wear a WWJD? bracelet

Start an award-winning ministry to people with AIDS

Be an elder in your church

Argue with your teacher about evolution

Lead family devotions

Keep trying not to sin

Argue theology on your blog

Argue theology on this blog

"Take a stand" for prayer in school

Start a hip, organic church

Use Christian-y cusswords, instead of the real darn thing

"Take" or "receive" communion every week, month, quarter, or year, without fail

Come forward at church camp

"Take a stand" for Truth and combat the lies of Rob Bell

Place a sticker of a fish, preferably eating a Darwin fish, on your car

Pray two hours a day

Confidently trace your church's lineage back to Peter

Confidently trace your church's lineage back to Calvin

Read Max Lucado

Actually want to read Max Lucado

Read the Bible every day

Argue that drinking alcohol would ruin your "witness"

Say "under God" really loud while you pledge your allegiance to a flag

Rue those new choruses that lack deep theology

Be transparent about your shortcomings on your own radio show and your blog

Personally baptize people

Personally lead people in singing Chris Tomlin songs

Personally baptize Chris Tomlin

Sponsor a child through Compassion International 

Steer clear of R-rated movies

Homeschool your children

Mail only REAL Christmas cards, ones with pictures of Jesus and scripture

Be a member of the Tea Party

Be amember of Sojourners and consider yourself enlightened beyond the Tea Party

Be a "prophetic voice"

Be a counselor at a Graham crusade

MAKE YOUR OWN AWESOME GRAPHICS FOR YOUR BLOG!!!!

Wear a Christian shirt that looks kinda like a known-product T-shirt, but says a Christian-y thing on it

Organize VBS

Wear Tebow jersey to Raiders game

Weep openly at small group

Work at Focus on the Family

Tsk tsk Harry Potter

Have a model marriage

Know who Priscilla and Aquilla are

Know who DeGarmo and Key are

Watch, repeatedly, "Fireproof"

Force your kids to watch, repeatedly, "Fireproof"

Go to confession

Eschew the banalities of commercial Christian culture and listen to Sufjan Stevens

Be a key member of a church that offers solid, Biblical teaching -- none of that namby-pamby stuff

Be a pastor who offers solid, Biblical teaching -- none of that namby-pamby stuff

Listen to Rush Limbaugh

Believe people who listen to Rush Limbaugh lack your insight

Give the neighborhood kids "Cross-Pops" (TM) candy for Halloween, plus a tract

Lead your neighbors to Christ

Be correct about every. single. thing.

"Know", theologically, that this post is correct, but live as if it isn't