Just over the horizon, several miles from the nearest highway, far from any highfalutin hair salons, coffee shops or Italian bistros, you’ll find the town of four traffic lights. You know the one.
It’s the close-knit community where your grandma runs the local diner and you eat three square meals a day on the house. It’s where you met your first crush, your best friend, and were never surprised to see a tractor parked at your school. You’ve been here many times, scarcely in-person as of late, but often in your mind. You know the sights, the sounds, the smells. The nostalgia overwhelms you even now.
There’s the aroma of scrambled eggs and bacon in the mornings, the deafening cacophony of the midnight freight trains, and that little kid who once raised a pig in his backyard. It’s the same town where the local farmers don’t mind sharing their peas, beans, corn, watermelon, or cantaloupe and where the homemade apple pie is always to die for.
It’s a special place. A unique place. A small place. But, it’s yours.
I love these Nowheresville towns. There’s just something refreshing and satisfying about a tiny slice of civilization where life runs at half the speed as the rest of the world. It wasn’t until my early college years that I fully appreciated them. Sadly, they often go completely unnoticed and overlooked. That’s a shame, really, because it’s in the small towns that big things tend to happen. Big things like an explosive movement of God’s invisible Kingdom upon the hearts of His people.
This isn’t to say that renewal, restoration, and redeeming grace are absent from the chaotic cities and metropolis madhouses, but — thanks to social media — it’s easy to assume that the only thriving and successful churches left in America are the sold out Thunder Dome Sanctuaries. After all, that’s what we see every day in our newsfeeds. They’re impossible to miss. Our faces are constantly rubbed in it. Of course, the irony is that we do the rubbing ourselves. We choose what pages to “like” and what accounts to follow, but that’s an entirely separate issue for an entirely separate blog post.
Nevertheless, it’s no secret that our world is indeed urbanizing at breakneck speed. The United Nations in 2009, as well as the International Organization for Migration in 2015, estimated that roughly three million people move to cities every week. And in the midst of this mass exodus of biblical proportions, we might speculate whether anything worthwhile is being left behind in the rural communities of our land. We might callously assume there would be little for which anyone would wish to remain.
But I implore you to pause for a moment. Allow yourself to linger in the corn fields and sit on the back porches. And look closely to see the sweet, grace-filled story of smallness that God is writing in the town of four traffic lights, where the only church is less than 30 people on a good Sunday. You won’t find any stadium seating or a contemporary worship band. Their pastor hasn’t written any bestselling books. He’s too busy raising a family and running a full-time tractor parts & repair business to make ends meet.
But don’t dismiss this church so quickly. Jesus wouldn’t. After all, his Father in Heaven, the one whose hands hold the immeasurably massive universe and all uncontainable creation together (Colossians 1:17), is the same God who has a deep affection for using small, ordinary, and seemingly insignificant things to accomplish his eternal will. Jonathan found him to be a God who relishes using small numbers. In 1 Samuel 14, we see him say to his armor-bearer:
“Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised. It may be that the Lord will work for us, for nothing can hinder the Lord from saving by many or by a few.”
Whether the saving would be done by many or a few would ultimately be of little consequence to God and Jonathan knew it. This is such a wondrous reminder as we all know the small churches, the dwindling congregations, and the discouraged pastors who feel they cannot accomplish anything because their attendance numbers are low. And yet the God of Small Numbers breaks through the dreary rainclouds of our pessimism and hopelessness and shouts a resounding, “No! This is not so! I am the Lord and I will work for you! Who can hinder me? Who is my equal? For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them! Take heart and walk with me one step at a time. You are more than conquerors!” (1 Samuel 14:6, Matthew 18:20, Romans 8:37; additions mine.)
Speaking of small numbers, perhaps nothing better illustrates the contagious joy our Savior has for small things and their eternal value than the boy who freely offered his lunch to Jesus (John 6:9) and fed over 5,000 people, or the poor widow who literally gave all she had by dropping her two coins into the offering box (Mark 12:42). Of the latter, Jesus would say that she gave infinitely more than anyone else because she gave out of her poverty. Her gift may have been small in the eyes of man, but it was colossal in the Kingdom of Heaven. A nameless child and a penniless widow found him to be a God who relishes in using small gifts.
Time and time again we see him taking sheer pleasure and delight in moving through small places and using small groups of his people in dynamic ways; in big ways; in ways that leave us speechless. He used a tiny shepherd boy to slay a giant and bring a Philistine army to its knees. He compared his own Kingdom to a mustard seed. And he came to earth himself as a tiny baby born in a small town in the middle of nowhere. The beautiful and encouraging truth about such a God is that he has given us all the hope we could ever need to endure in faith with our small churches, in our small towns, and to follow him on this incredible journey, uncertain though it may be.
And at the heartbeat of following the God of Small Things is a desire not to simply arrive at some grand destination or to gain something prestigious along the way, but rather to embrace the wondrous realization that our leader is worth the following and the journey is worth the taking.
I never thought I would be echoing the likes of Lindsay Graham, but I find myself having to agree wholeheartedly with the South Carolina senator when he recently called out Democrats by declaring, “Boy, y’all want power. God, I hope you never get it.”
Of course, Graham couldn’t be more accurate in his assertion. The Democrats have indeed been working overtime to once again destroy the life and reputation of Supreme Court Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh who — as you probably remember — passed all six of his FBI background checks and could not be a more likable guy if he tried. Moreover, he boasts an impeccable service record, an outstanding personal character, and an amazing devotion to his family and his country. He has never been found guilty of any wrongdoing and all the ludicrous accusations against him concerning high school “train rape” parties were proven to be nothing more than empty allegations weaponized by desperate liberal presidential candidates in an attempt to thwart his nomination.
One would think the Dems would have bored of trying to assassinate this man’s public image by now, but alas, here we are again. I admit that a part of me was at least hoping they had cooked up something rather entertaining or, at the very least, something halfway creative. I can see their inflammatory headline now: “BREAKING: Records Show Brett Kavanaugh Caught Naked With Three Nurses Mere Seconds After His Birth.” Sadly, no such luck.
It seems that, instead, they’ve chosen to pounce on a “bombshell” accusation made by none other than a Clinton attorney who battled against Kavanaugh for decades. This guy, Max Stier, supposedly told The New York Times that he saw Kavanaugh “with his pants down” at a different dorm room party. I won’t describe the details of Mr. Stier’s claims as they’re rather graphic. You can read them for yourself here if you so desire. In the end, it turns out the bombshell wasn’t much of a bombshell after all. In fact, it wasn’t even true. (Imagine that.) Being a Clinton operative, Stier obviously had his own partisan agenda. Even the alleged “victim” in the case had no memory of the incident ever taking place, a fact which The New York Times reluctantly had to go back and admit in a later piece.
However, this didn’t keep Democratic candidates like Bernie Sanders, Beto O’Rourke, Elizabeth Warren, and Julián Castro from demanding that Kavanaugh be kicked off the Court even in the face of no corroborating allegations or substantial evidence. For God’s sake, even Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had previously praised Kavanugh for having brought the number of female judicial clerks to an all-time high. None of that matters now though. We’re in an election cycle. Evidence, morality, due process, and common sense be damned. As far as the liberals are concerned, this guy is guilty as scum just because he’s their enemy.
And therein lies perhaps one of the most evil ideological aspects of modern liberalism: The notion that it’s perfectly acceptable to smear one’s opponents and ruin their professional and personal lives at any cost in order to achieve a desired political outcome or objective. Democrats are inherently and naturally bent toward believing the absolute worst about their fellow lawmakers and officeholders. They'll run over you and your family and friends to get whatever they want and they won't think twice about it. The Kavanaugh Smear Campaign — championed by Dems and co-led by the mainstream media — has exposed the Left as the vengeful, selfish, soulless, power-hungry machine that many of us already knew existed. Sadly, this is the machine that wants to run the government. I don’t know about you, but I just don’t see any scenario in which that would go well.
I’m not sure that I can technically still be classified as a “young person” as I approach the age of 34, but I can at least attest to the fact that I am indeed a former young person. Perhaps that makes me a current “young adult?” That’s basically the same thing as “an older young person,” right? I don’t really know. That sounds like a contradiction-in-terms. Like “a towering midget.” Or “a snowy summer’s day.” Wait. What was I talking about? Oh right, young people. I’ve recently observed that many folks in my generation, and the generation in front of me, tend to exhibit two diametrically opposed series of character traits, both of which seem to be in a constant state of struggle with one another.
At times, young people can be absurdly ignorant, terrifyingly oblivious, superbly superficial, embarrassingly spoiled, and nauseatingly apathetic. I’m sure many parents reading this post are nodding in agreement. But then there are times when young people can be incredibly passionate, imaginatively creative, keenly aware, inspirationally hardworking, uniquely quixotic, and heroically courageous.
Tragically, many pastors in today’s modern American church culture — and I use the term “pastors” loosely here — try to cater to the former series of traits rather than the latter. For some mysterious and altogether psychotic reason, they assume that the best way to reach a certain demographic of people is to be like them. So, in order to reach Generation Z, for instance, these rock star “preachers” don skinny jeans, hoodies, and snapback hats, hoping that once the fog machines have been switched off and the blinding light shows have subsided, no one will notice that they aren’t even holding a Bible. Instead, they’ve brought their iPads to the stage, loaded with their notes and handy Bible apps. After all, the sight of a real Bible might send throngs of youth running to the exits screaming in utter horror, and we just can’t have that happening (even though they’d be fine because there’s another megachurch satellite campus a couple of blocks away.)
This bizarre church culture phenomenon of the hipster, trendy celebrity pastor causes me to wonder: Do pastors need to exert energy trying to be “cool” and “woke” in regards to contemporary fads? Do they need to work at making themselves outwardly appealing and attractive to young people in the desperate hopes that somehow they’ll see past the phoniness and embrace Jesus and His Gospel? The answer at which I’ve arrived is an emphatic and resounding, “No.” Don’t misunderstand. There’s nothing inherently wrong with utilizing social media, or addressing societal and political issues, or dropping a movie clip into a sermon as an illustration. These are good ways to stay relevant and to engage an audience. And I have no problem with a pastor who wears name brand clothing.
But sadly, there are scores of young adults who have become convinced that a pastor isn’t even worth listening to or connecting with unless he exhibits an hyper-inflated aura of “cool.” There are dozens of millennials who genuinely think they should be able to discuss Fortnite, World of Warcraft, or League of Legends with their spiritual leaders. We’ve raised an entire generation to believe that Sunday morning pastors only wear graphic t-shirts, hoodies, and Air Yeezy 2 Red Octobers. These mindsets couldn’t be further from the truth. Here are a few reasons why:
1. Coolness doesn't save people, Jesus does.
I hate to break it to these image-conscious pastors, but nothing about their looks, success, or achievements will redeem young people and save them from an eternity in the fires of Hell. The last time I checked, there wasn’t a verse that started with the phrase “For Steve Madden and Nike so loved the world…” Leave the soul-saving work to Christ and His Gospel of immeasurable grace. (John 3:16)
2. Real, authentic ministry is usually "uncool" by its very definition and nature.
Church is messy. Take it from a pastor’s son. Ministry is messy. Yes, it’s glorious, rewarding, and incredible. There’s nothing my father would rather be doing than serving the local church and shepherding the Bride of Christ. There’s nothing I would rather be doing than aiding him on that journey. But, it’s often a dirty job. It can be painful, frustrating, exhausting, unpredictable, and uncertain. It’s not remotely stylish, chic, or trendy. I think the Apostle Paul would agree when he wrote these words in 2 Timothy 4, giving us one of the best definitions of pastoral ministry in all of Scripture:
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”
I'll have to go back and check the original Greek, but I just can’t seem to find anything in there about skinny jeans, designer sneakers, video games, pop culture references, or a magnetically alluring personality. I see nothing about having to reflect and resemble the culture so much that you practically become indistinguishable from it. Somehow I doubt that generating an ambience of “cool” was very high on Paul’s priority list for ministers or requirements for disciples.
3. You can still be spiritually fed by an uncool pastor.
I know this might come as a shock, but — contrary to popular belief — your spiritual growth and development don’t hinge on your pastor’s choice in clothing, his hairstyle, his familiarity with the latest gaming systems, or his knowledge of comic book characters. You can indeed — and often will — glean an abundance of spiritual insights and biblical applications from pastors who more closely resemble your grandfather than from those who look like your older brother or the celebrity rappers on VH1. (Not that there’s anything wrong with the latter, of course, as long as they’re biblically-sound.)
Here’s the reality: Pastors are indeed cool because they preach the Truth. And that Truth is that we’re in the midst of an epic spiritual battle between the forces of good and light and the forces of evil and darkness. Even as I type this sentence, there are angels and demons waging a war for our very souls. Fortunately, we are loved by a God of Angel Armies who so passionately desired to rescue us from the pit of Hell that He left his throne room in Heaven and endured a horrific, brutal, and torturous death on a cross. Three days later, He came back to life, forever defeating the grave and Satan himself. Now He reigns forevermore as our conquering king and friend and invites us to be His disciples, His fellow soldiers, and to one day spend eternity with Him at the culmination of this incredible cosmic saga.
What could be cooler than that? Your pastor wearing Air Jordans while stepping up to the Starbuck’s counter to order a grande, iced, sugar-free, vanilla latte with soy milk? I seriously doubt it.
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As you’re undoubtedly aware by now, there’s a growing chorus of believers concerned about the so-called “dumbing down” of Christianity and the “falling away” of some prominent evangelical icons. It should be noted — particularly for the sake of blunt honesty — that by “some icons” we’re really only talking about two specific people: Joshua Harris, author of the renowned “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” and Hillsong singer-songwriter, worship leader and musician Marty Sampson. Both men released public statements to their followers essentially stating that they had become disenchanted with Christianity and were leaving the faith. The secular news media and Internet trolls have done their usual bang-up job at making the whole thing sound far more broad sweeping than it actually is. Contrary to popular belief, there is no epidemic of hoards of Christian leaders committing apostasy throughout America within the last week. And, to be fair, Sampson did subsequently walk back his statement and position, saying that “he hasn’t renounced the faith.”
That being said, I do think it’s important to address what is happening with these popular Christian figures and to touch on a disturbingly common trend among the church culture of elevating young leaders simply because they look cool, sing well, or speak eloquently. Let’s tackle the latter first.
You might be surprised to know — or you might not — that the Apostle Paul warned against this in chapter five of his first letter to Timothy: “Never be in a hurry about appointing a church leader. Do not share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure.” (1 Timothy 5:22, NLT) Some translations use the expression “Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily” (NAS) and indeed the original Greek refers to “the laying on of hands.” While this phraseology might be citing the early custom of laying hands on a penitent sinner, it’s also possible — and more likely — that it is referring to laying hands on a man in order to ordain him to a position or install him in an office of the Church.
It should go without saying, but apparently it must be said, that there is an inherent danger in promoting or advancing a leader before he’s qualified. You wouldn’t put a 21-year-old White House intern in charge of the nuclear launch codes. That’s a really good way to accidentally blow Greenland to smithereens. You wouldn’t replace the CEO of McDonald’s with the lady who just got hired yesterday as a cashier. That’s a really good way to destroy an entire fast-food corporation. By the same token, you shouldn’t expect a young or inexperienced man to be able to tend to the souls of the bride of Christ or to be a shining example of the faith. That’s a really good way to lead an entire church flock right over a cliff to meet their death on the rocks below. Paul’s admonition to Timothy is to avoid making the mistake of promoting or designating a leader unless that man has proven himself to be mature, proficient, and equipped. I don’t know for certain that this is what happened in the case of Harris or Sampson, but it’s certainly possible and therefore worth mentioning.
Before I start getting hate-mail, allow me to clarify that this is in no way a jab at “young” pastors or worship leaders. Some of my best friends became pastors in their late 20’s and early 30’s. My own father was licensed to preach at 20, but spent many years accumulating experience and gleaning insight, advice, and wisdom from godly men before serving in a full-time pastoral capacity.
As for this notion of “falling away from” or “out of” the faith, this is all terribly worded and often misconstrued. If Harris and Sampson are truly saved, then they are not “unsaved” simply because they suddenly find themselves struggling with doubts or questions. The very nature of God’s grace and forgiveness supports this. Of course, in the case of someone like Harris, who publicly renounced Christianity, openly declared that he is no longer a believer, separated from his wife, and apologized to the LGBTQ community, you could certainly make a theological argument that he’s intentionally rejected the Holy Spirit. Sampson, on the other hand, still seems to be hanging in there, albeit on “shaky ground” by his own admission.
But, rather than get bogged down in the theology of it all, I’ll close by mentioning what I think happened with these two guys, and has indeed happened with many in my generation in particular: Their faith was or became more about emotion than truth. One of the biggest problems we face in the modern church culture — and American society in general — is an environment where feelings reign supreme. In the church, this has sadly taken the form of Christians who love to worship and listen to sermons, but fail to realize that the essence of genuine worship and the pulse of sound teaching is reflected by a humble obedience to an almighty and infinite God and an unwavering belief in solid doctrine. Faith isn’t just a momentary emotional or spiritual high. It’s a daily lifestyle that values the truth of the Word over our emotional, and often childish, whims, wants, and desires. The truth of what we believe doesn’t change just because our feelings about it change. Unfortunately, Harris and Sampson seem to have indulged in their emotions and chosen their feelings over their faith. This is truly a travesty.
To any Joshes or Martys who may be reading this: I empathize with your struggles, the disillusionment, the disenchantment, the exhaustion that stems from trying to reconcile the Christian faith with the current modern American culture. I write about it all the time. I know it can be discouraging and disheartening. Even as a pastor’s son, I’ve wrestled with comprehending the nature of God in the wake of the moral decay happening around us. I’ve questioned, I’ve doubted, I’ve studied. And while I certainly can’t identify with the pressures faced by so-called “evangelical celebrities,” I can offer this encouragement to fellow believers: Hang in there. Tough it out. Endure. Don’t give up. Yes, there are some things about our faith, and about this life, that we will never understand until we enter Eternity, but the promise of Jesus is worth so much more. And I don’t know about you, but…
“I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold. I’d rather be His, than have riches untold.
I’d rather have Jesus than houses or land. I’d rather be led by His nail-pierced hand.
Than to be the king of a vast domain and beheld in sin’s dread sway.
I’d rather have Jesus than anything this world affords today.”
Earlier this week, a local TV station in Grand Rapids, Michigan published a report about a public art event scheduled to be held in their town, one which would feature men and women taking the stage as “drag kings” and “drag queens.” This is disgusting and abhorrent enough, but as is so often the case with these situations, it gets worse: The drag performers are Down Syndrome patients and are part of a group known as Drag Syndrome, an attempt by one twisted LGBT activist to promote his definition of “inclusion.” The event is called Project 1 and is being coordinated by ArtPrize and DisArt.
You might remember first hearing about Drag Syndrome last year whey they stirred up debate throughout London and other various parts of Europe with their controversial shows. According to the group’s official Instagram page, they market themselves as being “Freshly fierce!” (whatever that means) and also brag about having “Highly addictive drag queens & kings with Down-Syndrome.” Much like any other drag show, the performances feature song and dance routines by men wearing women’s clothing, eyeliner, ridiculous wigs, and even fake breasts in a few cases. The women don men's apparel and fake beards. The only difference, of course, is that Drag Syndrome is the first and only of its kind in which the entire troupe is comprised of mentally-handicapped entertainers.
Back in May, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) showcased the group in a brief video, explaining how they were brought together by choreographer and Creative Director Daniel Vais in an effort to “provide a platform for performers with learning disabilities and to challenge stereotypes.”
Somehow, it continues to get worse. Jill Vyn, Managing Director of DisArt, says, “We sought them [Drag Syndrome] out because they are at the very highest level of disability drag…We recognize that not everyone is going to love this show, not everyone is going to think it’s for them. And that’s OK.” Translation: We know we’re going to get a ton of criticism for this because it’s psychotic, wrong, and evil, but we don’t really care so long as our political and ideological agendas are promoted.
It should go without saying that people with Down Syndrome are typically unable to comprehend the ramifications of their decisions or to know why they’re doing what they’re doing. In fact, WebMD puts it this way: “Down syndrome…affects a person’s ability to think, reason, understand, and be social. The effects range from mild to moderate.” I have a friend in the medical field who has personally worked with Down Syndrome patients and other extremely intellectually challenged individuals. I can’t tell you how often she has told me that these patients feed on what she refers to as the 3-A’s: acknowledgement, affirmation, and attention. In other words, if you can assure them that they’re loved and safe or that they’ll be favored in some way, you can practically get them to do anything — whether it’s walking on all fours and mooing like a cow or dressing up like the opposite gender and engaging in sexually suggestive dance choreography in front of a bunch of adults. Apparently soulless scumbags like Daniel Vais have chosen the latter course.
Celebration of the LGBTQ agenda is becoming shockingly commonplace in our society and often at the expense of the most innocent among us. It was only a couple of months ago that Vice sent out a tweet glorifying the sexualization of a group of pubescent and prepubescent boys, referring to the kids as “the next generation of drag queens.” And of course, there’s 11-year-old Desmond Napoles, who twerks provocatively on stages at gay nightclubs while grown men shower him in dollar bills. And let’s not forget the Drag Queen Story Hour events at local libraries where drag queens are grooming little boys into this lifestyle by teaching them to twerk or by allowing them to fall asleep in their arms.
And now they’re not only sexualizing and exploiting children, but mentally-handicapped individuals who lack the cognitive reasoning skills and social awareness to understand that they’re being used as pawns in a game of ideological chess. Ironically, these patients — because of their mental handicaps — are indeed like children themselves, which is precisely why these degenerate activists so easily take advantage of them and prey on their senses. It makes perfect sense when you really think about it. The only thing that a Down Syndrome patient knows in this situation, literally, is that it’s fun to play dress-up and dance around. Yet, much like the aforementioned children, they are completely unaware that they’re being used to promote an agenda and simultaneously fulfill the sexual fetishes of grown adults. It was only a matter of time before trans-activists went after them. The whole thing is grotesque, morbid, sickening, heartbreaking, and utterly depraved.
Everything about this only serves to further promote the tolerance and acceptance of the sexual exploitation of children and intellectually-disabled individuals in our society. Those who push this mantra would never be willing to outright admit, “Yes, we want to exploit little kids and take advantage of mentally-handicapped patients for ideological and political gain, as well as to fulfill our own lewd desires and pornographic fetishes.” Alternatively, they’ll seek to lecture us on diversity and the beauty of inclusion and they’ll spend countless hours arguing that there’s nothing even remotely sexual, creepy, exploitive, or immoral about an auditorium full of adults watching a troupe of cognitively-impaired men parade around in dresses, makeup and high heels. This is what they’ve been insisting all along. “It’s all just harmless and normal,” we’ll be told.
And the second that we call them out on it, we’ll be labeled judgmental bigots and berated endlessly for daring to have a different opinion. On and on the cycle will continue, all while the children suffer and the handicapped are shamelessly manipulated and controlled by psychopathic monsters.