9 Sins the Church Is Okay With

Are we changing the Bible to fit our culture or are we changing our culture to fit the Bible?

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I was in an engineering class the first time I watched the tragic explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger. Even though I wasn’t alive when it happened, I caught a glimpse of the horror thousands must have felt as the events unfolded.

And, the first question everyone wanted to know was, “What happened?”

After months of investigation, here’s what the Rogers Commission (the group commissioned to investigate the explosion) discovered: an o-ring seal in the right solid rocket booster failed at take-off. I won’t bore you with the details, but an o-ring is a small device relative to the size of a space shuttle. Very small.

It wasn’t something huge, like a puncture in the rocket booster or a hole in the cabin, that caused this disaster. It was a small, seemingly insignificant, o-ring failure.

I think there’s a lesson here for the church. What if the big sins, you know the ones you try hardest to avoid, aren’t the greatest threat to your joy and the church’s mission?

Maybe it’s the sins lying underneath, the ones considered normal or acceptable, the ones going undetected, that are affecting the church the most. I want to address 9 of these sins.

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Christ, the Cross and Change

 

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As I write this article, I reflect on the biggest moment of change in the story of humanity, Jesus Christ’s resurrection. I believe it is the greatest moment in our history because the ripple effects affect us in such a way as to require us to make substantial change in our lives as well. If Jesus died and did not rise, it would have been a waste and a lie. However, because I believe Jesus is my personal Savior and King, I am allowed and required to also die and be reborn in obedience to God.

My daughter, Ariana, is sharp and analytical. Even in her young age, she often has great insight. Some time ago, I joked with her, “Ari, can you just stop growing?” Not understanding my humor, she looked baffled at my request. She responded, “Daddy, if I stop growing, then it means I will die.” While that is a cute moment and response, she cannot be more right. She will die if she does not grow.

Ari continued to explain to me that if she stops eating and sleeping, then she will not be able to continue to live. Taking this illustration a step further, analyzing our own spiritual growth as a body of believers in Christ (who calls us to change our lives), we risk getting dangerously close to a lifeless time on earth if we are not growing.

The marvelous Good News is that we have access to beating death. The reason the greatest change in history occurred with Jesus’ resurrection is because He promises us the same power that raised Him from the dead. The same Holy Spirit can live within and among us. The same Father is looking out for us.

In my work and life, I sometimes encounter people who are adverse to change. They often say things like, “I just don’t like change” or “I don’t do change well.” If we are believers of the Good News and followers of Christ, we are called to change everyday. Everyday change is the reality of sanctification.

I love reading the stories in the New Testament where Jesus calls individuals to change their lives. My favorite stories are the ones where Jesus doesn’t even ask; the person just offers it. I’d like to be like that. I’d like my life to change so rapidly that it’s not even a request from others.

Can you imagine what that type of life would do for your marriage, your family or your church? These words from Romans 12:2 come to mind: “Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” (NLT).

The command here is to offer ourselves to God. We are offered as people who have been brought from death to life. Romans 6:13 continues to call us to giving our entire selves to God — to using our bodies as living sacrifices to do what is right for the glory of God.

By these standards, we are called to be a body that is ever-changing. Some of us are veterans in the world of applying change, but it doesn’t make change any less scary. Experience just makes it a little more comfortable. In fact, for me, not being in a state of perpetual change is more uncomfortable.

Most members of my generation embrace change. I recently read in Fast Company magazine that the new standard for holding a single job before changing is now three years! The important thing to consider is not just to make changes in your life for the sake of change, but to make changes in your life that reflect growth and multiplication of the movement of Jesus in your life.

Change is almost always scary if it is the right change. My good friend Rob McKenna, the executive director of Seattle Pacific University’s Center for Leadership Research & Development, challenged me to read some scripture in a different light.

In Mark 10:32–34, Jesus leads the way to Jerusalem. He walks ahead of the group (going first) and the disciples were filled with awe and fear. They heard Jesus’ prediction and were on their way to the cross.

I can’t imagine the fear I would feel knowing the upcoming moments, yet they were faithful and followed. I don’t always know God’s plan. In fact, I almost never do, but I am certain of one thing. I must me prepared to drop my plans and change my path to follow the Holy Spirit.

Jay Cordova is an ordained elder who serves as the director of communications for the Free Methodist Church – USA. He previously worked as a startup business entrepreneur and coached small businesses in a Michigan incubator.



Change Takes Time, Time Makes Change

 

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Many reference Revelation 10:6 as an indication that time will cease to exist when the end times unfold. The linguistic accuracy of the original King James Version translation has been called into question by some theologians, instigating some debate about this theory. However, the implications of existing in eternity (“and they will reign for ever and ever” Revelation 22:5 NIV) — rather than in a finite period of time like we do now — will regardless necessitate a shift in our relationship with time when we reach heaven.

So what does this have to do with change? Why broach a potentially provocative subject like the specifics of how heaven will work?

Here’s the rub: Time and change seem to be fundamentally interdependent. Change takes time. Time spawns change. When we seek to improve ourselves, we can only do so over time or — in even the quickest cases — in a finite, citable moment of time. If this is true and the two (time and change) are by nature linked, does that imply that in heaven there will be no more change?

Change causes pain. This could look like the surprise and dismay when someone asks us to change something about ourselves, or perhaps the discomfort of adopting a new regimen or lifestyle to bring about a physical change. It could manifest as the struggle and anxiety you feel when someone else refuses to change in a way that you know would benefit them, or the fear caused by knowing change is coming whether we like it or not. Revelation 21:4 tells us that when Jesus returns, “‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” So does this imply there will be no more change in heaven?

Whether or not change will be possible in heaven is an interesting, musing question that we can save for friendly debates over coffee or for the hallways of a seminary. However, one thing I know is that right now in this world where time, pain and change all preside with some degree of unavoidable governance, we are presented a unique opportunity.

When I train physically, whether a timed run or sets of exercises in the gym, the following mantra has proven motivating. I tell myself that while I still have time, while there are still seconds on the clock, I have the opportunity to dig in and work toward improvement.

I had a college basketball coach who would proselytize a similar notion: that we had the choice during each and every drill between “surviving” and “thriving.” By choosing to survive, we could coast and do the bare minimum. We could choose to work hard only when he was looking. We could cut corners and skimp on what we were asked to do. But as long as there were still practices left before the first game of the season, as long as remaining seconds still gleamed on the clock, as long as we were still (sometimes agonizingly) putting one foot in front of the other in a dead sprint, we still had time to change and improve. That’s how I see our days here on this earth.

Right now, you and I still have time. Each morning we wake up, we can decide whether we are going to coast or instead going to put forth effort to “survive or thrive.” We can choose whether we are going to invest in changing ourselves or decide that the way we are is good enough or throw in the towel. Time is quite a gift. It’s a vote of confidence in us straight from God. It’s an opportunity to work toward positive change. I encourage you to take the opportunity.

Lauren Schwaar is a college basketball coach, a freelance writer and a 2013 graduate of Greenville College.

DISCUSS IT

  1. Does God require that we change?
  2. What is something about yourself that you’d like to change? What will it take to achieve that change?
  3. How can you take a positive step toward that change today?


The Not-So-Hidden Effects of Porn

The Habit May Be Secret…But Not Its Consequences
An article from David R. Smith at TheSource4YM.com
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Porn is a $97 billion-per-year enterprise. That equates to millions upon millions of users worldwide, many of them being impressionable adolescents. Most of them just want a habit that involves a few clicks and a quick clean up.

But real life setbacks keep getting in the way.

The Secret Sabotage
TIME Magazine’s cover in mid-April headlined porn and our own Jonathan McKee blogged about it. Essentially, the piece focused on the “threat to virility” that porn often brings about in its male users. TIME wasn’t the first major periodical to talk about the benefits of breaking free from porn;GQ did it back in 2013 when they gave readers “10 Reasons Why You Should Quit Watching Porn.” But there are other unwanted effects of porn use, and they deserve their own brief, if painful, discussion.


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Living Free Through Change

 
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You’ll see a lot of compelling things if you spend enough time at the Rescue Mission of the Mahoning Valley in Youngstown, Ohio. While many people might assume that an emergency shelter for the homeless would be filled with lazy individuals who aren’t interested in working for a living, I’ve come to find that the majority of the time the exact opposite is true.

Most of the people who enter through our doors are looking to better their lives in one way or another, whether that be through seeking a job in workforce development, saving their Social Security income into our savings program until they can afford an apartment, or dedicating a year of their lives to the Rescue Mission Discipleship Academy.

The Discipleship Academy is a yearlong residency program where men who have come to the end of themselves decide to dedicate their lives to the change that only Christ can offer. Through daily biblical education classes taught by pastors, service opportunities, and community events, men are challenged to experience true change through Jesus. Many of these men have pasts with addictions, and these individuals are often literally facing death if they aren’t willing to embrace change. In fact, some of them have already died several times and been revived by medical teams after an overdose.


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Change, Change and More Change

 

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I am convinced that much of the church in the United States, the Free Methodist Church included, needs change, change and more change. Even a quick glance at what is happening around and among us should be enough to convince us that the church simply must change. In the U.S., most denominations are in decline, and some of them must “pull up” soon or they will “crash and burn.”

Denominations that are growing in the U.S., like the FMC, often show modest growth at best. A closer look, however, is not as encouraging. Most of these churches are growing thanks to new church plants, “out-of-the box” ministry initiatives and outreach to an increasing number of ethnic groups around them. At the same time, an alarming number of their existing churches (as many as half or more) are “stuck” or in serious decline. Thus, even for “growing” denominations, many local churches are headed for certain closure unless something changes — unless they change.

Why should this be so alarming? What’s wrong with just maintaining? Where does the Bible say change is good, and more change can be even better? Especially if it’s just change for change’s sake? Well, let’s take a step back, a deep breath, and look carefully at these questions.

First, note how very different it has been in other parts of the world. In Africa, for example, at the beginning of the 20th century, something like 2 percent of sub-Saharan Africa could be called Christian in any sense. Then the modern missionary movement began and, in less than 100 years, more than 50 percent of the same region has become Christian. The movement of Jesus there has experienced exponential growth. The same story can be told about South America and much of Asia during this same time period.

In other words,


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What IS a big deal online for teenagers?


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Don’t Miss it – Know Your Kids

Don’t Miss it – Know Your Kids

The better you know your kids, the better you will be able to lead them.
But here’s a problem. Your kids keep changing, which means their issues keep changing.

Your kids are navigating an important journey from childhood to adulthood.

So remember:

You are not raising children.
You are raising adults.

As a parent, you have to resist the temptation to fix your child’s problems and learn instead to respond in a way that helps them grow. It starts with understanding how to stay alert to what is actually happening at every phase and learning how to read the signs.

Since every phase of a kid’s life has unique challenges, you should become aware of the kind of questions that are asked at each phase.

Preschoolers tend to ask “AM I” questions.

Am I safe?
Am I okay?
Am I able?

Elementary-age kids tend to ask “DO I” questions.

Do I have your attention?
Do I have what it takes?
Do I have any friends?

As they move toward middle school, there is a shift in the nature of a child’s questions. They become more philosophical and relational.

Middle school students tend to ask questions like…

Who do I like?
Who am I?
Where do I belong?

During high school, the questions continue to shift from concrete to abstract, from black and white to various shades of gray.

Why should I believe?
How can I matter?
What will I do?

At the center of each question is the pronoun “I.” That’s because each of these questions reflects a part of a child’s developing identity. How you respond to these questions can shape who your son or daughter becomes. So don’t miss it.

This is an excerpt from Don’t Miss it by Reggie Joiner and Kristen Ivy.



3 Ways You Can Serve Teenagers in Your Church

Some think teenagers are precious works in progress, and others are overwhelmed by their messiness. Many church members think serving teenagers is a lot like serving babies: there are those who have the “gift” of youth ministry, and those who simply don’t.

And let’s be honest—teenagers can be messy. I’m a teenager, and I admit that. We aren’t always the easiest to serve. Even those of us following Jesus are still young, inexperienced, and have much to learn. We’re in a different stage of life than any other church member, so it can be difficult to relate to our persistent challenges, struggles, and questions.

But whether you know it or not, the teenagers in your church need you. They need the whole church—pastor, stay-at-home mom, single, married, retired—to love and welcome them as fellow members of the family.

Over my 18 years in the church, I’ve seen three ways every church member can (and should) serve their teenagers: by getting to know us, by not underestimating us, and by teaching us.

1. Get to Know Us

Love can’t thrive where stereotypes and misunderstandings reign. If you don’t know the teenagers at your church, you can’t serve them (Gal. 5:13). Start by pulling them into the life and heartbeat of your church through communication. Walk up to a teen or two this Sunday and ask them about their week, about their studies and hobbies, and what they’ve recently read in the Bible. Tell them about yourself. Create a meaningful dialogue as the first step to building a relationship. You’ll discover fears, insecurities, needs, and desires that will equip you to serve them with an intentionality you wouldn’t have otherwise.

Teenagers need adults to be our friends, not just our teachers. That’s important to us. It shows us we’re welcomed and loved. Too often Christian teenagers can feel like second-class citizens, like we’re in limbo between “first class” adult members and “third class” little kids. But investing in us reminds us that we’re part of the family. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul talks about members of the church as different parts of the same body—eyes, ears, feet, hands. He paints a picture of unified diversity. In other words, the church needs middle-aged eyes and 20-something ears and senior hands just as much as it needs teenaged feet.

2. Don’t Underestimate Us

When considering how to minister to the Christian teenagers at your church, don’t stifle us with low expectations. Expect that we’re thinking and growing, that we’re pursuing truth and holiness, and that we want sound doctrine. Don’t perpetuate stereotypes of ignorance or immaturity without foundation. That’s unfair. We don’t think of the seniors in our churches as inept and senile. We know they’re individuals with real personalities and passions. 

Sometimes adults can make faulty and hurtful assumptions about teenagers without even realizing it. It bothers me when I hear negative generalizations about my generation. Yes, there are some immature teenagers. Yes, there are some teenagers who are consistently irresponsible, disrespectful, and disobedient to their parents. But that’s not who we all are.

So don’t expect the worst from your teenaged church members. Don’t underestimate us. Raise your expectations for us to those of any other young and growing Christian.

3. Teach Us

Now I know I said earlier that teenagers need you to be our friends, not just our teachers, but the key word was just. We most definitely need you to teach us too. We’re looking for a certain kind of teacher, though. We’re looking for those who’ll come alongside us and humbly demonstrate what it means to live for Jesus, not instructors who want to lord knowledge over us or stuff rules down our throats. 

I can’t tell you how much my church has taught me about compassion, kindness, gentleness, service, speaking the truth in love, and forgiveness. Most of it has come just from watching them live. I watch how they make meals for families in grief. I watch how they resolve conflicts. I watch how they sit with people who sit alone or greet visitors with inviting warmth. I watch how eager they are to learn the truth, how they care for children, and how they pray in public.

Teenagers are watching you, too. I promise you that. We see it all, we think about it all, we learn from it all. The church members who’ve taught me the most are not the Sunday school teachers and youth leaders. They’re the people 10 feet out of the spotlight who’ve served me by modeling godliness and grace.

Will You Help? 

So I get it. Teenaged Christians aren’t always the easiest to serve. But here’s the thing—we need you. We’re at a critical stage in life, coming into our own, piecing together answers to our biggest questions, and forming our lifelong relationship with the church.

To you, church member, I ask: Will you help us? Will you be there for us? Will you get to know us? Will you expect great things from us? And will you teach us what it means to follow Jesus?

We may be different than you, but we’re all running this race together. Please serve us, and let us serve you.

Jaquelle Crowe is the 18-year-old editor-in-chief of The Rebelution and a writer from eastern Canada. Her first book is set to release from Crossway in 2017. You can follow her on Twitter


We Will Have Scars

I’ll never forget the day my sister and I got in a huge fight in our backyard. This led into a bit of a physical altercation that prompted me to chase my sister down. I knew if I could catch her, I would come out on top. However, as we ran into the house she quickly slammed the back door in my face. My momentum carried me right through the glass door leaving me cut in several places.

She had won the battle, but not the war.

Numerous stitches later, I was assured that I would be fine, but there would forever be scars to mark this epic fight. For years as a kid I would proudly show off my scars with friends hoping to garner the “prize” for the biggest scar. It was proof that I was tough. It was a symbol that I had survived. I often left out the minor detail about getting beat up by my younger sister that day.

Over time, though, I became quite self-conscious of that scar. It’s interesting how childhood innocence fades away into grown-up mind-sets that teach us that scars are to be hidden. And not just the physical scars, but the emotional ones as well.

One of the most intense, surprising, and hopeful scenes in Scripture is centered around scars. Following his resurrection, Jesus’ followers are holed up in a room, scared that their lives are in jeopardy.

After his resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples. To prove his identity, he showed them his scars and invited them to touch the scars.

Can you imagine the moment?

Jesus offered his scars as irrefutable evidence of his identity.

I can’t help but wonder if in much the same way, we are to offer our scars to the world as evidence of our identity, our life story, and the healing power of Christ in our life.
by Pete Wilson
This article originally appeared at his website.