Last night on Facebook I mentioned that there is a colossal amount of immaturity seeping into the Church and so-called “modern Christianity” as a whole. There was nothing particularly grand or revelatory about this assertion. In fact, I didn’t even back it up with recent statistics, polls or any sort of concrete data. I didn’t cite any news articles or quote any pastors. (Probably because I was too lazy.) It was merely an observation made primarily from personal experience and recent conversations that I’ve had with fellow ministry colleagues. Within about five minutes of posting the status, I received a notification that it was “performing better than 90% of the other posts” on my Page. It received several likes, reactions and shares, not to mention a few e-mail responses, with everyone agreeing that I was “so right” or “dead on” in what I was saying.
I don’t say this to gloat. The truth is that I hate receiving that sort of feedback. I didn’t want people to agree. However, it at least confirmed what I was thinking: The undeniable reality is that much of our culture’s political and social immaturity has permeated and infected the Christian faith and, as believers, we have willingly stood by and allowed this happen. In many cases, we’ve even fostered and welcomed it.
Indeed, there are a vast array of immature spiritual delusions and fallacies that have overtaken the modern Church and and the thought patterns of many believers. But, I just want to focus on one here today. It can generally be summarized like this: “I can leave a church whenever I want to or whenever I feel like it, for any reason whatsoever, and it doesn’t matter.”
As a consumer-driven and emotion-based society, it’s easy to see why and how so many American Christians have fallen victim to applying this mindset to their church attendance. We mistakenly believe that we should only be loyal to a church so long as our personal needs, wants and selfish desires are being met. If a church fails to make us “feel good” or “feed us” in the exact ways that we believe it should, we head out to find another one as if we were switching from Apple to Samsung or Nike to Adidas. In essence, we become church shopping consumers, rather than hard-working contributors.
Of course, there are plenty of valid reasons to leave a church: heretical teaching, unbiblical value statements, lack of a clear mission, etc. But there are a lot of really dumb reasons too. Here are three of the most stupid reasons to ditch your church:
1) “I’m not experiencing any spiritual growth.”
Yes, a senior pastor has a responsibility to shepherd his flock toward spiritual growth. But, he also has dozens of other responsibilities like staff administration, sermon preparation, weekly meetings, counseling appointments, speaking engagements, hospital visits, weddings, random spiritual crisis emergency management moments and about a thousand other things. Take it from the son of a pastor, they can’t be expected to do or handle everything. It’s not humanly possible. In fact, this is why they surround themselves with committed staff and volunteers in the first place. It’s also why any good pastor will make sure his church offers small groups and Bible studies throughout the week. Dominant spiritual growth isn’t supposed to happen on Sunday mornings.
Moreover, we’re living in the 21st Century. If you own a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or even a library card, then you have a world of scriptural, doctrinally-sound teaching and endless sermon audio and video files right at your fingertips. “I’m not spiritually growing,” is arguably the most pathetic and weakest excuse any Christian can have for abandoning a church. Take some initiative and responsibility yourself and seek spiritual growth through online messages or small group Bible studies. (2 Timothy 2:15) (Joshua 1:8)
2) “I don’t like the pastor.”
This is usually one of those purely emotion-based, often knee-jerk-reaction-sort-of-reasons that tends to occur when a pastor says or does something that, while not unbiblical at all, just bothered you on a personal level. Maybe he resolved a conflict differently than you would have. Maybe he made a spiritual leadership choice that you were too insecure or too unwise to understand. Perhaps he made an executive decision with which you disagreed. Maybe he had the sanctuary carpet color updated. Maybe he authorized modifications to the stage or lighting. Maybe he approved some contemporary changes to the style of worship music. Oh, the horror.
Ask yourself why you’re going to church in the first place. Examine your own heart. If you’re only there for the things that make you happy and comfortable, then the problem is not the church. It’s you. Repent of your selfishness (Philippians 2:3-4) and invest in serving (1 Peter 4:10), rather than receiving. Commit to understanding the reasons for the decisions and changes, rather than complaining about them.
3) “The people there are weird and annoying.”
I hear this one a lot and my immediate response is always: “Yup.” After working 15 years in the clothing retail world, there’s one thing I can say without a doubt: Human beings are some of the weirdest and most troublesome — often infuriating — creatures ever to exist on planet Earth. And I hate to break it to you, but the church (both globally and locally) is made up of people. The church is the people. The Gospel brings together men, women and families from multiple backgrounds and all sorts of unique and diverse situations. That’s the beauty of it. The likelihood that you will ever find a church full of people just like you is nearly nonexistent. Besides, such a church would be subverting the entire point of the Gospel, and you really wouldn’t need to be there anyway.
So, if you’ve recently abandoned a church based a similar excuse, you may need to stop, pray, repent and carefully reexamine your motivations. If you’re thinking about looking for a new church, don’t do it based on one of these excuses or any variances thereof. Otherwise, you’ll spend the rest of your life miserably hopping from one church to the next — utterly unhappy with each one — and you’ll probably be just as miserable in Heaven too.
There may be no better evidence of our modern society’s obsession with superheroes than the current trending movies and TV shows. Marvel Studio’s “Black Panther” continues to dominate at the box office long after its opening weekend release. The same studio also leads Netflix with series like “Jessica Jones,” “Luke Cage,” and “Daredevil.” Rumors of the next “Avengers” films are constantly swirling on social media. I couldn’t even enter an Italian restaurant with my father tonight before being greeted by a TV screen playing FOX’s “Gotham.”
Indeed, we are a culture utterly infatuated with fictional characters like Superman, Batman, Iron Man, Captain America and thousands of others. Of course, what makes many of these heroes so unique is that — for all their strength and unstoppable force — they typically have that one, finite, nearly inaccessible weakness that could potentially render them completely vulnerable to defeat, pain or even death. Personally, I always thought this was sort of stupid. I mean, what’s the point of making a super-hero if he isn’t going to be completely “super” in the first place?
Eventually I came to realize that the weakness itself is, ironically, the entire point. If a hero doesn’t have a personal struggle — in addition to the forces of evil he’s already battling — then his story becomes rather bland and useless. Let’s face it: If Superman wasn’t vulnerable to Kryptonite, his tale wouldn’t be worth watching. If Iron Man wasn’t constantly worried about that darn piece of shrapnel crawling its way into his heart, he wouldn’t be nearly as fascinating of a character. Moreover, he might not even be half as motivated to act so heroically and we wouldn’t be paying $58 a ticket to cheer him on through such adversities.
The same is true of us as believers. We all have a “superpower.” If you’re a Christian, you have the Holy Spirit living inside of you. (Romans 8:9) That’s your superpower. In the spiritual world, this literally makes you an unstoppable force. No power of darkness can conquer you. Satan has no authority over you. The fight is over before it even begins. (Romans 8:31) Nothing on this planet is more powerful and more potent than the presence of the Holy Spirit at work in a true believer and follower of Jesus Christ. (1 John 5:4)
Unfortunately, even with all of this power living inside us, we have countless weaknesses. We have a sin nature. (Romans 3:23) We’re surrounded by a depraved culture. (Romans 1:26-29) We have daily physical, mental, spiritual and emotional struggles (not unlike the whimsical superheroes we so adore.) This is just the reality of the fallen world in which we live. And that’s why our Enemy is determined to rob us of the one bit of ammunition which might allow us to fight back: our belief in God. Everything hinges upon this.
Allow me to be perfectly clear: Satan would love nothing more than to unravel your faith and belief in Jesus faster than you can say “Iron Man 4.” He craves for you to exhibit unbelief. The very thought of it causes him to salivate. The Bible warns that he literally prowls around like a ravenous lion, waiting to pick you off from the herd. (1 Peter 5:8) This isn’t just true for average Christians, but for pastors, church leaders and all sorts of ministers as well. The authentic belief of a true Christ-follower is the means by which God delivers hope, truth, salvation, joy, grace and encouragement to the world. What better thing is there for Satan to attack? If he can cripple our belief and trust in God, then he can cripple our very lives and our outreach to unbelievers, thereby damaging or even hindering the spread of the Gospel. Through doubt and disillusionment, he can send us into such whirlwinds of turmoil that we will ultimately find ourselves lost, deceived and confused beyond anything we have ever known.
This is the spiritual battle in which we find ourselves as disciples of Christ. It’s real. It’s intense. The danger is grave. The stakes are high. Souls hang in the balance. Fortunately, we are not alone in the battle, as we are able to rely upon both the Holy Spirit as our Helper (John 14:26) and our fellow brothers and sisters in the faith. We can stand firm on the promises of God and cling to them in our times of uncertainty and disbelief.
So take heart! (John 16:33) He will help us overcome. He will help us be victorious.
Fox News recently reported that the NYPD is chomping at the bit to arrest former film producer Harvey Weinstein. You may recall that dozens of women have accused him of rape and sexual abuse.
Sean Lorna, a 42-year-old teacher at Franklin L. Williams Middle School, was arrested last week in New Jersey on charges of sexually assaulting students. He faces three counts of sexual assault by contact, one count of third-degree aggravated criminal sexual conduct and five counts of second-degree endangering the welfare of a child.
Our own president is in the news for having an alleged extramarital affair with a porn-star; not to mention the every day headlines about his childish behavior, on-camera profanity and ridiculous tweets.
Two-thirds of American men admit to watching pornography on a regular basis, with the number of Christian men nearly equaling the national average. Men are more likely to engage in binge-drinking, more likely to abuse tobacco and more likely to develop drug addictions.
Over 20 million kids are living in fatherless homes. Those who are still lucky enough have dad at home are often ignored in favor of video games and television. Although the divorce rate is currently lower among millennials, it remains staggeringly high for adults 40 and older. Millions of grown men — including many who claim to be “Christians” — are still abandoning their families, their friends, their jobs, their churches, their responsibilities, their values and their faith.
Of course, we assume this is all just perfectly normal and natural. Indeed, it’s become so commonplace that we hardly realize it’s even happening. We slap all sorts of excusatory terminology on it. “Oh, Bill's just having a midlife crisis,” we say. Or, my personal favorite: “He just needs to go out and find himself.” Never mind that Bill has ditched his wife and kids in the process or that he’s ignored his highest spiritual callings. Never mind that he’s completely destroying his life and the lives of everyone around him. That’s certainly not important, right? All that matters is what Bill wants. All that matters is what Bill feels. Everyone must revolve around Bill. Everyone must make excuses for Bill’s stupid decisions. Unfortunately, many men in today’s culture may never emerge from this dark abyss of moral depravity and spiritual immaturity. Once they’ve entered this mindset, they become so obsessively self-centered that only God Himself can bring them back. And that will only happen if such a man is willing to surrender himself to his Creator.
But, that’s an entirely different and more complex discussion than I want to have today. Instead, let’s focus on the fact that — with so many poor examples of moral manhood in our society — it might, just might, be time for men everywhere to try living differently. I’m not writing specifically to the Hollywood elite or the politicians in Washington, although God knows many of them need to heed the same advice. I’m simply suggesting that the average American adult man should be striving to adhere to basic standards of integrity, decency and maturity. This is not just for his own personal spiritual, emotional and mental health; it’s also for the well-being of our society as a whole.
To be clear: This isn’t a profound or revolutionary idea. I haven’t had some sort of grand philosophical epiphany. For most of civilized human history, adults behaved like mature, rational, moral, principled, coherent adults. Men were no exception. The vast majority of them were hard-working. They remained faithful to their wives and their children. They were dedicated to their jobs. They kept their word. They treated women with respect and honor. They didn’t run away from their responsibilities just because things got hard.
Today, that’s changed. There’s an entire generation of young adult “men” — and a growing demographic of middle-aged men — who believe that they should be able to do whatever they want, and live however they want, regardless of the consequences. Do you know how they arrived at this psychotic conclusion? 1) Because they were taught to live this way by their parents. 2) Because they’ve bought into our culture’s deceptive narrative that such behavior is perfectly acceptable, normal and even praiseworthy.
Maybe if today's clueless parents started to instill even the tiniest bit of morality in their boys, we wouldn’t have the sort of epidemic we’re currently facing.
Maybe if the average American man started to live with more integrity and maturity, this nation would be a better place.
I think it’s worth the effort. Don’t you?
I mentioned recently that — according to all the statistical data, research and facts — I am what society considers a “millennial.” Even as I typed the words into the status box of my Facebook page, I envisioned all the readers and followers I would instantly lose because of this regrettable truth. (I was secretly hoping you had never bothered to look at my profile picture.) Unfortunately, my cover has been blown. The jig is up. I am, in every sense of the word, a “young person.” More specifically, I’m a 32-year-old “young adult” and a member of “Generation Y,” which means that I’m supposedly familiar with all the current digital technology and social media trends. (Yeah, right.)
While I do own a few Apple gadgets and might be considered “young” by societal standards, the truth is that I spend most days just trying to survive life. I have medical problems. I have a neurological condition. I have church responsibilities and family activities. I have bills and other miscellaneous expenses. My legs and arms get sore after pushing a lawnmower for an entire afternoon. I confess that I don’t always feel like a “young” person. I’m certainly not the spry, active, energetic, carefree and immature teenager I once was.
Anyway, it’s no secret that today’s millennials receive their fair share of unfavorable press coverage and negative stereotypes. We’re easily-offended. We live to our feelings. We fall for financial scams more than any other age demographic. We’re afraid to move out of the house, get married, make new friends and find a career. You’ve probably heard them all.
This is what you’ve been told about my generation. Of course, not all of us fit this mold. Not every millennial living with their parents is a lazy bum or jobless derelict. Some of them may have legitimate reasons and excuses. Regardless, I believe that many young adults — myself included — often lack a grasp on some basic principles about reality and how the world works.
So, if I were to directly address my fellow young adults, this is what I would say: There are five brutal realities that we need to recognize and embrace if we ever want to have any hope of surviving, succeeding and maturing.
1) Sometimes life sucks and — when it does — we shouldn’t just give up.
By “life,” I’m referring to everyone and everything you are directly involved in and affected by: your job, family, relatives, marriage, church, friends, academics, all of it. At any point in time, something can — and most likely will — go completely wrong within any of these categories. This should not surprise you.
A friend will let you down. A spouse will disappoint you in some way or another. A church body or pastor will frustrate you. A boss will reprimand or fire you. These people are human beings just like you. And — just like you — they are imperfect. They will make mistakes. And it’s not just people that will complicate things. Cars will break down. Finances will be a mess. College exams will be challenging.
Don’t throw in the towel. Don’t walk away from your responsibilities. Don’t be a child. Instead, take these times of frustration and use them as motivation to overcome the obstacles and to push yourself toward success, growth, maturity, moral living and excellence.
2) Our feelings do not always equal reality, nor do they dictate the actions of those around us.
Emotions are often reactionary and occur quickly, particularly in young adults. It’s easy to take what we feel in the moment — the anger or disgust or shock or happiness or sadness or fear — and believe that it must be “the truth” simply because we felt it so powerfully and passionately. We make hasty decisions based on hasty emotions. But, just because you “feel” something, does not mean that it is true. You may “feel” offended or upset by a particular thing or person, but that does not necessarily mean that thing or person is or was offensive. You may “feel” that your job is too demanding when it may actually be just as normal as any other job.
You also might be thinking, “But I can’t control how I feel.” That may be true from a psychological standpoint. We could sit here all day and argue whether or not emotions are a choice. But, you can control how you respond to your emotions. You and you alone have the final say in how you behave as an adult human being.
Moreover, your feelings are not control mechanisms that magically cause everyone in your little world to revolve around you. This may come as a shock: But you are not that important or special. Yes, you might be special to your family or significant other. However, most of the world is utterly oblivious to your existence. Most of the world couldn’t care less if you died tomorrow. In fact, they wouldn’t even know. The bottom line here is that you can’t live to your emotions. If you do, you will have a very miserable existence.
3) We’re not entitled to anything.
Absolutely NOTHING. That’s what the world owes us: A whole ‘lotta nothing. And then even more nothing. And some more nothing piled on top of that. I believe this point has been lectured so often that many millennials often fail to grasp the true reality of it. Take a minute to meditate on it. Soak it in. Absorb it.
Let me be crystal clear: You don’t deserve to have or own a damned thing in this life. If you’ve been blessed with parents who helped you get a car; or who pay for your cell phone plan; or who allow you to live in their home; or who allow you to eat the food in the refrigerator, then you should consider yourself incredibly fortunate. You should be eternally grateful and thank them regularly. They could’ve tossed you out on the streets when you turned 18 and said, “Good luck!” It is literally because of their hard work and sacrifices that you don’t go hungry every day.
Speaking of sacrifice, we have no room or reason to complain when we’re asked to sacrifice in return. That’s just part of adulthood. Welcome to life beyond adolescence.
4) If we’re unable to handle criticism — be it positive, negative, constructive, sarcastic or erroneous — then we will never survive in this life. Period.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but people are going to find things about you that they don’t like. They’re going to point out your mistakes and screw-ups. They might even say those things out loud to your face or to a mutual friend or coworker. They might leave a comment somewhere on social media. Be prepared for it. The criticism might be warranted. It might not. It may be sarcastic, positive, constructive, negative or even utterly false and inaccurate in every way.
But, no matter how valid or invalid it is, you must be able to accept it, process it, learn from it and then respond accordingly with maturity. If you can’t do this, then you really have no business trying to function in society as an adult.
5) If we want to be successful, we will have to work.
In today’s job market, there’s really no reason for a young person to not be employed or earning money in some way, shape or form. Sadly, there’s a reason that millennials are often stereotyped as lethargic slobs who just lay around the house all day playing video games and munching on potato chips. But, it doesn’t have to be this way. There are plenty of hard-working millennials out there who don’t get nearly enough credit or recognition.
Those who aren’t working need to realize that if they wish to have any sort of success — financially, relationally, socially — it will require work and effort. You can’t just sit around waiting on the dream job of a lifetime to appear out of thin air while simultaneously claiming that there aren’t any good jobs available. That’s a lie. Go run the cash register at McDonald’s. Mow lawns throughout your city. Mop the floors at your local grocery store. Make burritos at Taco Bell.
Do whatever you have to do as you work towards future successes.
As millennials, we have loads of amazing, untapped potential. If we are willing to adhere to ambition, courage, dedication, hard work and character — rather than remaining stagnant in a world of computer games and superhero movies — we can be an incredible force for good. In the end, that’s what will matter. That’s what history will remember. We can change our culture for the better, but it all begins with embracing reality and truth.
Surely that's not too much to ask.