Where Have All the Saints Gone?

See if you find a common theme in these greetings and words from St. Paul: 

To all God’s beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 1:7

At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem in a ministry to the saints; Romans 15:25

To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints. 1 Corinthians 1:2

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to the church of God that is in Corinth, including all the saints throughout Achaia 2 Corinthians 1:1

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus and are faithful in Christ Jesus Ephesians 1:1

Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi. Philippians 1:1

To the saints and faithful brothers and sisters in Christ in Colossae Colossians 1:2

Did you see it? There were saints in Rome, Jerusalem, Corinth, Achaia, Ephesus, Philippi and Colossae. The big question for today is where have all the saints gone? Where are the saints in Flint, Grand Blanc, Fenton, Davison, Swartz Creek, Clio and Flushing? Where are the saints in your home town?

We need more saints.

Saints aren’t white haired pew dwellers who had served Jesus in the sweet by and by and now are waiting to be taken to Glory. Saints are committed to holiness. Saints love Jesus and His church through thick and thin. Saints are generous. Saints refuse to gossip. Saints don’t give up when things get tough. Saints defend the weak. Saints have their pastor’s back. Saints are loyal. Saints endure, press on, and are committed to the very end. Yes, we need more saints.

There are a lot of saint wannabes. They post Bible verses on social media a lot. They blabber holy platitudes. They stick with a church for a little while, and then move on when someone offends them (and someone is always offending them). The pastor isn’t perfect and they will tell you why. They love mentioning “prayer requests” (read: un-sanctified gossip). They give subtle hints of their generosity (the church treasurer and Jesus know the stingy truth). They like to toot their own horn. We don’t need more saint wannabes, we need the real deal.

At every graveside service, the preacher reads from Revelation 14: “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.” But just before mentioning dead folks, John the Revelator issues an appeal for strength and perseverance to the living. He wrote: Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and hold fast to the faith of Jesus. (Revelation 14:2). That’s what we need. Not wannabes, but those saints who are keeping the commandments of God and holding fast to Jesus. 

I met with some saints this week. The love Jesus and His bride, the church. They have all the good qualities listed above (and then some) and none of the bad. They have endured and kept the faith. It was a blessing to be with them. We rejoiced with how God is working in our church. We ended our time in prayer. It was a joy. But as I left our meeting, I thought, “They aren’t building them like that anymore. Where have all the saints gone?”

Has the Pandemic Made Churches and Pastors Soft?

Are we soft?

I hesitate to write this. I can envision the “you, insensitive goober” emails heading my way. So it is with fear and trembling, I simply ask the question: “Has the pandemic made the church and pastors soft?”

The pandemic has made a mess of everything. We will probably talk about “pre-pandemic” life and “post pandemic” life for the rest of our lives. It has caused interruptions to our once “normal” lifestyle. With the variants continuing on, it may continue to disrupt our lives. We’ve lost loved ones (and in no way, am I downplaying the life devastation caused to those who are grieving). We’ve been isolated. School and learning has been delayed. Church life derailed. Life unsettled. Add to the pandemic woes are divisive politics, social media, and other disrupting factors in the last year and a half to which we can only conclude, it’s been tough.

But compared to what other Christians have had to endure (or are enduring in other parts of the world), I am wondering if we are too soft in the USA. Are we crybabies?

This week I learned of two successful pastors who are leaving the ministry to enter secular employment. They’ve cited the rigors of the last year as one of the reasons for the vocational shift. I know others who have come to the same conclusion, and I want to ask these pastors: Has your call changed? Did Jesus call you to preach or not? (I know I’m treading on thin ice right now. I know you don’t have to be in a pulpit to preach.). Yes, it’s been a rough year. But has it been rougher than Paul sitting in the Roman prison? More difficult than Jeremiah tossed in a cistern? More challenging than countless millions martyred for their faith. Those people carried on and continued the fight. They battled even when the end was not pleasant and the rescue didn’t come. Why aren’t we?

Jesus didn’t say life would be easy. He said the harvest was ready and he was sending us out. Matthew in chapter 9 leaves it there, but Luke offers this warning with the challenge: Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. (Luke 10:3). In case you are unfamiliar with the workings of the animal world, being a lamb in the midst of wolves, is not particularly safe or healthy. My point: Jesus doesn’t promise safe and easy. He promised “harvest.” He promised victory. 

My conclusion: Maybe we aren’t seeing “harvest,” because we want “easy.” General Superintendent Dr. David Busic was speaking recently and (I’m paraphrasing) he said the difference between the USA/Canada church and the rest of the world is “desperation.” We aren’t desperate for God enough. Well, my contention (get the tomatoes ready to toss in my general direction) is that the pandemic has caused “desperation,” but through it, we haven’t desired God as much as we’ve desired ease. The resulting response has been “It’s hard. I quit.” (This is an over-simplification of what is happening in the hearts and minds of those leaving the ministry. Of course, there are many and in some cases necessary factors involved in making the painful decision to walk away from vocational ministry).

Still it’s harvest time! People need Jesus. But in order to reap the harvest, we must pray on, press on, carry on. Harvest is not easy. But if we aren’t in the fields (even with the lurking, social-media savvy wolves), it’s impossible to reap. Harvest happens when we are so desperate for God, so dependent upon his power at work in us, that all our efforts will fail without him. When harvest comes (and it will come) our efforts or work won’t be what provides it, it happens through God’s grace, mercy and power that is at work in us as we carry on and don’t quit. These times have been tough, but, we must not quit. If we want the harvest. We. Must. Not. Quit.

Commence tossing your rotten tomatoes.

Why Churches are looking more and more like Blockbuster and Radio Shack

Here’s Paul’s description of the last days (see if it sounds familiar). 

People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. 2 Timothy 4:2-5 

That’s quite a list. Bring any names to mind?

People will be lovers of themselves. Are these folks in our churches or better stated drifting out of our churches? You decide. 

Lovers of money. Do members who don’t tithe fit into this category?

Boastful. What about folks who (haven’t given a dime to the church, by the way) drive by the church to show off their new $100,000+ car? Do they count in this category or the one above or maybe the one below? I’m not quite sure. 

Proud. Blessed are the meek? Who said that? Must be someone who doesn’t know how the world works. (More correctly: spoken by Someone who knows exactly how the world works).  

Abusive. Why are so many clergy walking away from their calling?  Why are so few young people willing to become pastors? They’ve seen it: the trashing of pastors. Ministers’ backs full of knives. The pastoral family pulled through the mud. Conclusion: It’s not worth it.

Disobedient to their parents. Have you walked through a high school lately?

Ungrateful. People need not grovel, but an occasional “thank you” is nice.

Unholy. Does anyone strive after holiness anymore? Where have all the saints gone?  

Without love. A lot of people should be apologizing to the priest and the Levite in the Good Samaritan story or at least say, “Hey, I get it. I’ve done the same thing. Repeatedly.”

Unforgiving. One of the sweetest ladies I know said these exact words to me: “I will NEVER forgive my son-in-law.” Gulp.

Slanderous. I’ve been called every name in the book. Every single name. If it has four letters, I’ve been called it. By church folks. Who have claimed to be sanctified. 

Without self-control. Read: Splurge. Go for it. You deserve it.

Brutal. There is more anger spewed today than ever. People are angry. Really angry.

Not lovers of the good. The more vulgar, the more grotesque, the higher the ratings. Hollywood knows: Bad behavior sells.

Treacherous. It doesn’t matter who gets hurt or how you get it– just get yours!

Rash. Guilty until proven innocent is often the modus operandi.

Conceited. Me. Myself and I are the three most important people in many minds.

Lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God. Check out any of the following on a Sunday morning: Soccer fields, amusement parks, football stadiums, coffee shops, campgrounds, lakes and hiking trails and any number of alternative to church locations.

Having a form of godliness but denying its power. See the numerous scripture verses posted on social media by people who’ve come to mind on the above list and you’ll know the truth of this last characteristic.

Paul concludes his all-inclusive, must-have-seen-the-21st-century, list with these startling words: 

Have nothing to do with such people. (2 Timothy 4:5)

Yikes! Would there be anyone left to talk to in our churches?  Could I talk to myself? Not always. No wonder churches are looking more and more like Blockbuster and Radio Shack these days. Paul nailed us. Now the question: What are we going to do about it.

Confessions from an Obsess-er (“Obsessing” is a pastoral occupational hazard, here’s my list)

1) I worry too much about what other people say and post on social media

Like everyone, I fret too much about idiotic comments on social media from people I generally like and think are “good people” but have crazy takes on politics, religion and life. But my bigger beef is when people who have lunged a knife deep into my back later post holy platitudes on social media. Their posts don’t even have to be all that holy. They could be about butterflies and it sends a cold chill up my spine. I want to post on their timeline: “Liar. Liar. Pants on fire.” I want God to do something. He hasn’t yet. I want God to silence them. They are still posting, speaking, writing. I don’t want God to “lightning bolt” them, but infesting their trees with cicadas would be nice. I need to get over it. 

2) I worrying too much about what other people do (or are not doing)

Another big beef (especially true during the pandemic) is when people post photos of activities after saying that they can’t be involved in church or can’t be generous or make excuses of why they can’t serve (This happens all the time. All. The. Time.). People will do what they want to do. I can’t control their behavior, only mine. I need to get over that too. 

3) I get too upset over questionable denominational decisions

Denominations are made up of people. People are imperfect. The more people in the organization the more imperfect it becomes. Decisions are made. Sometimes I am aware of the reasoning, most times not. Does it affect me? It can, but usually not. Church politics (like Jumbo Shrimp) is an oxymoron. It happens. You name it. It happens. Ignoring sin. Tolerating ineptitude. Perceived deception. Questionable financial practices. Accepting (promoting?) bad theology. Nepotism. Cronyism. Glossing over injustice. Silence when they should speak. Speaking when silence is preferred. I don’t want to excuse such things, but I can’t obsess over it either. I need to get over all of that too.

4) I obsess over good things not the main thing

Speaking of obsessing, there are plenty of good causes. Lots of them. Injustices that need to be righted. Wrongs that should be overturned. Good that needs to be done. All true. But my main calling is to make disciples. Proclaim Jesus. If I get so obsessed with good things that I forget the main thing, then the main thing isn’t the main thing anymore. I can’t let that happen.

5) I am good at noticing slivers, not so good at noticing logs.

I’m good at seeing slivers in the eyes of other people. I can spot the tiniest speck. I should have been an optometrist. I’m not so good at noticing the log in my own eye. I could never have been a lumberjack. I need a little more confession, a little less judgement. A little more grace and a lot little less fault finding. A little more looking in the mirror and a lot less looking through a magnifying glass at others. I’ve got a long way to go. A. Long. Way.

What I Learned When the Power Went Out…

Tuesday’s storm knocked out the power to our house. The electric company said the power would be back on in 3 hours. No biggie. Three hours came and went. They said it would be another three hours before the electricity was restored. Still no worries? Well, maybe a little. As the clocked ticked on, it was increasingly apparent that repair time might be extended again. Condensation under our freezer in the garage was appearing. We could lose all our frozen meat and (more importantly) all our ice cream. Ugh! 

We have a problem.

Wait a minute! We also have a generator. Purchased probably six years ago, Karla’s cousin started it when we took it out of the box. We’ve not started it since. 

Here are four facts you should know: 

1) It was getting dark (A case could be made that I had too much faith in the electric company’s repair time estimates. This point was made by the key witness for the prosecution, Karla M. Prince); 

2) When it comes to generators and electricity, I’m not the brightest bulb in the chandelier (Did I mention it was Karla’s cousin, not me, that started the generator six years ago?); 

3) The generator’s instructions call for testing the start capabilities of the generator every three months (Did I mention Karla’s cousin, not me, started it once, six years ago); and 

4) Karla was wishing it was her cousin (not me) at our house on Tuesday night.

I did my best to try and start the generator. No luck. My precious chocolate chip mint ice cream was hanging (melting) in the balance. Something had to be done. Karla’s cousin lives too far away. I called my friend Jim. 

Jim was gracious and did not ask why I had procrastinated in starting the generator until 9:30PM. He did not say, “Rob, it’s dark and there is no power in your house. Now is not the time you should be learning how to use a generator that’s been sitting in your garage for six years.” He might have thought those things, but he didn’t say it. Jim is kind. 

Jim read the instructions on how to start the generator. Why didn’t I think of doing that?  He turned on the do-hicky that allowed fuel to flow. Hmm… I didn’t know you needed to do that. He flipped off the two thing-a-ma-bobs that need to be off. I had switched them on. He figured out that the whatcha-ma-call-it was supposed to be in the left position, I had it in the right (wrong) position. Who knew? Then Jim pushed the “on” button. My generator that had not been tested every three months per the instructions still sprang to life. Hooray!  Jim saved the day. Well, more accurately, Jim saved the ice cream. Double scoop Hooray!

Reading the instructions really helped. 

You know where I am heading with this, don’t you? God has left us with instructions too. We have everything we need for power in our lives (I’m not talking generators anymore) but too often we leave our Bible unopened and the Spirit ignored. Don’t be like the Bridesmaids with empty oil lamps in Jesus’ story in Matthew 25. They knew the bridegroom was coming but were unprepared when he came. Jesus left us with everything we need (His Word and His Spirit) to guide and help us until His return. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Be prepared for the Bridegroom. Read the instructions. Be empowered with the Holy Spirit. Be ready and hear Jesus’ words concerning His return: “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.” (Matthew 25:14)

P.S. Our power came on 24 hours after it had gone out. I wrote this ditty to celebrate (Sung to the tune of “There’s Power in the Blood”)

Would you be free from the darkness within?
There’s pow’r in the house, pow’r in the house;
E-lec-tric pow’r flowing once again!
There’s wonderful pow’r in the house.

Refrain:
There is pow’r, pow’r, wonder-working pow’r
In the House of the Rob;
There is pow’r, pow’r, wonder-working pow’r
In the precious house of the Rob

.

Will the Church of the Nazarene be another victim of Covid-19?

With 95% (or so) of the funding of the Church of the Nazarene’s global operations coming from USA/Canada, it is imperative to the entire church that the USA/Canada church emerge from the pandemic healthy. The big question is: Will the USA/Canada church survive the pandemic or will we be another victim of Covid 19?

There are good signs. In spite of early fears of financial collapse caused by the pandemic (how can you raise monies if you are not passing the plates?), those worries did not happen in many places. Our people were faithful in giving. They continued to give on-line or via mail and ministry continued. Many churches flipped on the fly and started presenting on-line services and producing distance Christian learning all in an effort to kept people engaged.

There are also troubling signs. Most churches will see a decline in in-person attendance this year. Some of these declines will make the viability of the tenuous-at-best, pre-covid churches even less possible. People discovered (in their minds, at least) they didn’t need to be in the church building to get Christian content. They could get it on-line sipping coffee on their couch. They aren’t coming back. There are folks on both sides of the Covid-response debate who are not coming back. Those who determined the local church’s approach to masks, etc. was too restrictive and those who thought the local church response was not restrictive enough are not coming back. Others tired of the politicization of the US church are not coming back. The recent in-the-news fighting among the Southern Baptists and the upcoming split in the United Methodist church, splashes onto Nazarenes as we get lumped with these and other church troubles leaving more wondering about “organized religion.” Make no mistake, the Enemy is using all of these (and more) excuses to keep people away from the church doors.

Moreover, the church is getting older. The Silent generation and Boomers are the givers. Gen X, Y and Z not as much. While these groups continued to give at rates (sometimes even higher) than pre-pandemic, a legitimate question is sustainability. If they are not attending in person (and some will never come back, see above) how long until their giving also wanes?  Furthermore, when in wanes because of their lack of connection, how will that impact both the local and global mission of the church?

The Church of the Nazarene dodged the initial financial bullet of the pandemic.  But another shot is coming unless churches return to the pre-pandemic connectivity, work hard on re-engaging people to the life of the church, stress the importance of in-person connections and expand its outreach post-pandemic. Even as life becomes more “normal,” the church will not be the same as it was pre-pandemic. Those churches without a “Come Back” strategy and discipleship plan for those who return will be victims of the lasting effects of Covid-19. Those churches that are pro-active, involved, and evangelistic will survive and many will thrive. 

The Church of the Nazarene does not have to be a victim of Covid-19, but unless the church is proactive in discipleship and evangelism it will be.

Jesus’ Reasons to Stop Attending the Worship Gatherings (FYI… He Didn’t Stop)

When Jesus walked planet earth in the first century, the failed religious system was exposed. Jesus’ most frequent run-ins were with the people that benefitted most from that failed structure, the Pharisees. The self-proclaimed “holiness crowd” (ironic, because of their lack of holiness) were self-serving, hypocritical, arrogant, and Jesus called them “snakes” and “white washed tombs.” They would eventually be key players in Jesus’ crucifixion. These same people who were so against Jesus also went to the synagogue. All the time. Whatever their motive, they were there. All of which makes the phrase Luke uses about Jesus’ regular routine so important. Luke wrote: “As was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day” (Luke 4:11). 

Jesus didn’t avoid those who didn’t think like him or act like him. He knew the synagogue was full of hypocrites, still he went “as was his custom.” In spite of his conflicts with the “holiness crowd” and their eventual aiding and abetting in his execution, Jesus went “as was his custom.” Clearly, Jesus was revolted by their attitudes and actions (have you ever read Matthew 23?), still they sat down the pew from each other every Sabbath. The Person who need to worship the least, continued to go “as was his custom.” Jesus went because He wasn’t going for those disagreeable and disgruntled people, He attended public worship gatherings to glorify God. That should be our motivation too. 

Does the church have problems? Of course. Are their more problems in today’s church than in Jesus’ synagogue? My guess is that the people attending are not plotting your death. Still people are people. People and institutions made up of people are imperfect. In the off chance, you find a perfect church, DO NOT ATTEND IT. Why? When you show up (or if I showed up for that matter), it will no longer be a “perfect” church. Newsflash: We ain’t perfect (NOTE: the previous use of “ain’t” displays my imperfections). The imperfect gathering of people for the expressed purpose of worship didn’t stop Jesus from attending and it shouldn’t stop us. 

Bottom line: To those who have legitimate reasons for looking around the church and concluding, “these are not my people.” Don’t quit. To those of you who are feeling out of place, you are still needed in the church. Maybe more now than ever. Obviously, there are times when the environment is so toxic and anti-Christ, a person (for their own spiritual and emotional well-being) must exit, but find a new group of imperfect people that calls themselves the church to worship alongside. Your presence will make the group a little less perfect, but join anyway.  Like Jesus, make it your custom.

To: Those Thinking of Leaving a Church

To:  Those thinking of leaving a church

From: A friend

“Don’t leave. We need you. We need each other.”

To the night owls who have thought I don’t need to put on makeup or wash my hair or wear pants to be a part of the on-line service: We need you in the church building (but please put on pants).

To the introverts who have discovered that watching the service on-line is better than being around people: We need you in church too.

To the disheartened who have overheard folks at a church say dumb or non-Christ-like things: We need you in church to say smart, kingdom of God things.

To the busy who have a million things going and catch the service on the fly as you’re multitasking all those other things: we need you in church with your full attention (cell phone in your purse or pocket, please).

To the horrified who have heard derogatory comments about other people (different than the majority): We need you to remind us that Jesus said he when he was a stranger (different), the ones who welcomed Him into their lives are the ones who make it to heaven. 

To the disappointed who have heard, “Money is king” or “a political party is king” or “a politician is king”: we need you to say, “Jesus is King.”

To the lonely who say, “no one thinks like me:” we need you to think like Jesus and encourage the rest of us to do the same.

To the discouraged who say the Church isn’t warm and welcoming: we need you to be warm and welcoming.

To the angry who have said, “Church leaders are (pick your term) corrupt, liars, hypocrites, prideful, inept or all of the above”: we need you to look in the mirror, see your faults, refuse to cast the first stone, and be a new, humble leader that can move away from any power-hungry, political-maneuvering, and self-serving tactics.

To those who’ve been hurt by a church and said all churches are the same: I’m so sorry for your experience. Churches are not all the same. Please come back and experience the healing waters of Jesus flowing upon you. We need you to be well once more.

To the doubters who have said, “If this is what Christianity is, I’m not sure I want it”: we need you! Jesus’ disciples included Thomas (he doubted too). Yes, we need you!

To the tired and weary who say “I can be a Christian without the church”: Jesus says, “The church was my idea, you really need to be a part of it.” And as a friend, I say, “Don’t leave. We need you. We need each other. See you soon!”

How the Detroit Lions and the Church are the Same (this is not a compliment).

The Detroit Lions last championship year was 1957. It was so long ago, they didn’t call it the Super Bowl back them. The Lions, actually, were the “Team of the 50’s” having also won championships in 1952 and 1953. Since those glory years, the going has been rough. And by “rough,” I mean absolutely horrible. They have won exactly one playoff game since 1957. One. They’ve had great players (See Barry Sanders and Calvin Johnson). They’ve had accomplished coaches. Well, accomplished before they arrived in Detroit (See Bobby Ross and Steve Mariucci). For a lifelong Lions’ fan, it’s been a sad mix of “maybe next year” and a resignation that like seeing the Lions in the Super Bowl is like seeing a unicorn. It will never happen.

Sadly, the church in America hasn’t fared much better than the Detroit Lions. One could make the case that the church’s glory years were the 50s too. Churches were being built. Communities were glad to have them. There was honor for the clergy and the ministry of the church, even from non-church goers. The church was welcomed. Respected. People believed the Bible was true. Politicians wouldn’t dream of saying otherwise. Prayer was encouraged in schools (not just uttered before unstudied tests by procrastinating students). Church life and our culture were intertwined.

Then the culture changed (read: some changes needed to be made. This article is not glorifying the racism, sexism and the other societal ills that were alive and well in the 50s). Viet Nam happened. So did Watergate; the Iran Hostage Crisis; TV Evangelist scandals; 9/11; Gulf War I and II; the Internet; the Wall Street Crash; a twenty year war in Afghanistan; social media; continuous sex scandals inside the church; Obama; Trump and the great division of the American populace. (There are plenty of other happenings that played a role in getting here, but you get the idea: there’s been a lot of water under the cultural bridge since the 1950s). People no longer view the church with the same optimism. They no longer look at the Bible as authoritative. People think little of the eternity, instead live for the moment. No longer informed by a Truth greater than themselves, one’s personal opinion and self-first perspective is the ultimate value. 

The church has changed too. There is much more to occupy believers time. In the 50s, life revolved around church. Sunday morning. Sunday night. Wednesday Night. Sports took a back seat to church. So did most all other activities. If you even had a TV, there were only three channels. They played in black and white. It wasn’t great, static-y. Life was slower. Simpler. Moreover, today’s believers were not immune to the cultural changes. People don’t live in a bubble. They are aware of clergy abuses and the sins of the church. Some are victims. They utilize social media. They have more information. The promise of power, money and fame have become a driving factor in setting priorities and agendas inside the church, just as it outside the church. The Bride of Christ’s gown is a tattered and people see it.

The result is evident: like the Detroit Lions, the church has been on a downward slide for decades and the numbers reveal it. Every American denomination is in decline. No church is immune. Liberal churches, imitating culture with their promises of tolerance and inclusion are losing members. Conservative churches, with their condemnation and shaking fists at society, are likewise losing members in record level. Churches who have tried to ignore culture and put their collective heads in the sand are losing members too. The dam is broke. All churches are hemorrhaging people. Like the Lions, down through the years, there are a few stars in the church world having a few good years. But it doesn’t change the fact that the Church (like the Lions) are losing. Big time.

The latest rebuilding coach of the Lions, Dan Campbell, at a recent press conference used terms how he would be “changing the culture.” The Lions were going to “do things differently.” They were going to “bite off knee caps” if necessary. I don’t think opposing players need to worry about body parts, he was sending a message to his team: “It’s not the same old Lions.” Time will tell if this latest re-build is more of the same or if things will be different from the last 64 years. As a Lions fan and a prisoner of hope, I want Coach Campbell to be the answer (but I haven’t started a saving for a Super Bowl ticket just yet).

The church needs to be about re-creating culture too. Both inside her walls and outside. Changing culture is hard (see the last 64 years of Lions’ ineptitude). It takes time. It can only happen as the Church gets back to the ways of Jesus. Like Jesus with the woman at the well, we need to meet people where they are. Like Jesus’ interaction with prostitutes and tax collectors, we need to be welcoming. Like Jesus’ interaction with the woman caught in adultery, we need to speak with truth and grace. Like Jesus, it might start with a small, imperfect group (see the fraidy-cat disciples). In other words, the change that the church and world needs won’t be dependent upon the perfection of its adherents but the power of the Spirit at work in them. 

The Lions may never win a Super Bowl (it pains me to write that), but Jesus does win. He will be making all things new. He is the Victor. He will have the final word. The prayer Jesus taught us still applies: May God’s kingdom come and His will done on earth (In America) as it is in heaven. I’m a prisoner of hope in regard to the church too!  I believe Jesus wants to answer that prayer!

May it be so (and Go Lions!). 

A Summer Invitation at Central Church

It’s Invitation season. If you know a soon-to-be high school graduate then you’ve received one. There’s a happy smiling picture on the front (you’d be happy too if you didn’t have to carry a hall pass to use the restroom anymore) with details of the party on the back. You also know the routine. Show up at the open house (maybe there’s a tent, maybe not), there will be picture boards, trophies from the third-grade spelling bee, cake and a box for congratulatory cards. I eat more cake in the month of June than the other 11 months combined. Needless-to-say, I love the month of June! I love receiving the invitations!

Consider this your invitation for our summer sermon series based on the Book of Romans, The Gospel of God. There is no picture on the front (photos of the Apostle Paul are very difficult to come by these days). There will be no tent. No trophies. No cake. Technically there are boxes set up, but not for congratulatory cards, but for tithes and offerings (thank you for your giving, by the way!). Still, this invitation is for an exceptional summer journey.

The Gospel of God really means the Good News of God. That’s exactly what the Book of Romans is. It’s the good news story of God’s working in our lives. The Book of Romans is the most theological of the New Testament letters (bring your thinking caps and shovels, we will be digging in deep this summer). It is also the most inspiring, most promising and the most hope filled letter that Paul penned. 

Bring your Book of Romans Journals. Don’t have one? They are free. Get it Sunday in the church foyer, come by the church office or for you out-of-towners—contact Central church and we will mail you one. Bring a pen to write notes and circle important points. Be prepared for God to speak deep into your soul. 

Get your copy soon, before we run out!

This invitation is an expectation for what might happen. It’s an invitation for the summer of 2021 to be the summer that you will look back on and say, “I grew closer to Jesus than ever before in my life!” It’s an invitation to an everlasting, soul deepening journey. 

It’s also an invitation for you to be an inviter. Invite your spiritually curious friends to explore the Gospel of God with you this summer. Tell them that God is going to speak through this study. If they simply have an open heart and mind, they will hear from the Lord. Give them a money back guarantee. If your friends don’t hear from Jesus, you will give them back all the money they invested in the Book of Roman’s journal (they are free, remember). Tell them they will receive much more than a free journal, by the end of summer they just might receive a free gift from God Almighty. 

The series is called the Gospel (the Good News) of God! It’s an invitation to receive the best gift of all! For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23). It’s going to be a great summer at Central Church!