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Why Do Our Children Leave the Church?

Why do so many people—with incredible conversions—parent children who leave Christianity? History overflows with great saints whose offspring lose faith:
•Samuel was a mighty prophet of God. His sons were a mess.
•David was a man after God’s own heart. His children were a disaster.
•Harvard, Yale, and Princeton were founded on the gospel. Now they lead the opposition.

I’ve witnessed dozens of families (churches, ministries, and prayer groups) who began with a furious fire of love for God whose next generation couldn’t blow a smoke ring.

Our children lose fire because of our mother-of-all-assumptions; we assume the gospel. This is how the gospel is lost…..Read More Here

I’d add to this that our children don’t see what we profess effect the lives we lead.  So we forget about he Gospel or we don’t allow the Gospel to be the motivating factor in our lives.

How do you relate to your members of your MCs?  How do you relate the faith to your children.  Is it “This do…then God will?”  Or is it, “God did…so we can?”

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Christian Meditation On the Mass Shooting At the Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut

Today’s headline read, “27 dead, including 18 children, in elementary school shooting” in Newtown, Connecticut.  Parents, children, brothers and sister are not coming home to their families this afternoon. They won’t be with their families this Christmas. Like most parents, I couldn’t help but hug my daughter and pray for the families of the dead. How could such a thing happen? Why does it keep on happening? When will it stop?

More and more people are self-proclaimed atheists. Many others are functional atheists as they live as if God doesn’t exist. Yet if you reject God, you must reject the idea of right and wrong. You have to accept that death created us. Death becomes your god of sorts because through the death of billions of life forms the fittest survived and passed on their genes and evolved into us. So if you reject God, even the kind of death we saw today, is what created us. It’s nothing more than the “weak” being removed so the “fittest” can survive. You have to accept this if you reject God and accept evolution.

Yet when such a tragedy strikes, many suddenly get religion. Their worldview doesn’t provide the answers to the questions of their hearts or they close their eyes to what their worldview actually says about death. So when something horrible happens, suddenly God is alive and real…and to blame for allowing such tragedy. Yet is this really God’s fault? Is it really his will?  If someone asked me what I thought about today, I’d respond by telling them the story.

Creation

While evolution says death created us, the Bible says God never created us for death. Death was never part of his plan. We were always meant to live. God created us to live in a perfect world, where we had a perfect relationship with Him. Because we were in a perfect relationship with God, we were at peace with one another. There was never any violence like we see today. God never designed us to suffer and die. Rather we were meat to live forever by his side.

Fall

Yet this world isn’t perfect, not anymore. You see our first parents thought they could improve on God’s creation. They were tempted by God’s enemy into believing that they’d be better off if they were in control of their own lives. So they rebelled against God and His ways. Suddenly their relationship with God was broken, and just as quickly their relationships with each other fell apart as well. Now sin, suffering, wars, famine, disease, aging, and death hold the world captive.  People even kill each other now.  Yet this wasn’t part of God’s plan and God didn’t want to leave us this way.

Redemption

God continued to pursue His children. He continued to call them back to live a life close to Him, in His ways, under His rule and protection. Yet his children kept rebelling. All of us keep rebelling. Yet God keeps calling us. Finally, God sent his Son who was called Jesus, which means “The Lord Saves”, and Immanuel, which means “God with Us.” He lived perfectly as His Father always created us to live. Yet he died the death we deserved, because of our rebellion, on the cross. As we believe and are baptized in Him, His perfect life becomes our perfect life. Our relationship with God is restored. His death then becomes our death, so death will not hold us because death could not hold Jesus.  We then have hope, on days like today, that death does not have the final word.

Restoration

One day, there will be no more death. The peace that the angels sang about on the night of Jesus’ birth will be realized. God’s enemy, and all who chose to follow in his ways of rebellion and refuse to be cleansed, will be locked away forever. The world will be perfect again. God will raise all those who trust in Him, will give us new life, and never again will there be any anger, fighting, wars, sickness, pain, or death. Such things won’t even be remembered.  Even days like this day will be forgotten.  God will wipe away every tear from our eyes and we will live in joy, true joy, in a perfect world forever more.

Today something horrible happened. Yet if someone asks me why such tragedy happens, I’ll share with them the truth and “good news” of God’s story. We still mourn today, we pray fervently for the families of those who were killed, because we’re still awaiting the Restoration of things. Yet we have hope because one day God will make everything right. We sing, “Come, O Come, Emmanuel!” We pray come quickly, Lord Jesus! And we look to the day when He comes again to make everything right.

Picture found here

Tim Keller on Jesus in the Old Testament Story

This is a video from Tim Keller’s talk at the Gospel Coalition conference in 2007.  Keller shares in this video how the story of the Old Testament is really a story about Jesus.  Since we are big in story telling through the Bible, I figured I’d share this post on how a number of the figures and stories in the Old Testament really point forward to Jesus.  When you think about Jesus being central to all of the Biblical Story, it helps make sense of everything in the Old Testament and New Testament.  It gives a much greater take away than just lifting up an OT figure as a hero or example and keeps you from simple moralizing a story.

This could have been a much longer video, but Keller kept it to a few key points of where Jesus is seen in the Old Testament.  What other people or events, in the Old Testament story, point forward to Jesus?   How could knowing how Jesus connects to the Old Testament story help you in sharing the faith with others?

 

Resources

For more on Jesus in the Old Testament, I highly recomend getting a Jesus Storybook Bible, by Sally Lloyd-Jones.  Its even a great resource for adults to understand the biblical story.  The subtitle of the book is: Every Story Whispers His Name.  Every story points to Jesus in some way.

Missional Training #18 – Preparing to Lead the Story-Formed Way Pt. 2

Two of our Missional Communities are starting the Story-Formed Way this week.  The Story-Formed Way is a 10 week discipleship course  consisting of interactive storytelling and dialogue through the major narratives of Scripture from Creation to Restoration.  Below are some tips on how to prepare to lead the Story.

 Preparation

At the beginning of the lesson, there are big picture points that focus on the gist of what the lesson is leading towards.  That is for your knowledge as the leader.  Read through the Story out loud multiple times.  Learn it.  Ingest it. Meditate on it. Think of the tone in which the characters would be speaking.  You want to story tell, not just read a paper to people.  However, remember that the Story has been crafted to accurately convey the biblical story.  Don’t change the words.  If you misspeak, reiterate what you meant by saying what was written. 

  • To prepare the manuscript I’m telling the story from, I find it helpful to underline and highlight places where I want to emphasize something important that appears in the dialogue. 
  • Look through the questions at the end and try to answer them yourself.  If there are no answers provided for a specific question, make sure you at least think of what that answer could be. 
  • When it comes to the dialogue, I look over the questions before hand and try to answer them myself.  The leaders guide provides answers, but I try to pinpoint the key answers.  If I can think of any others, sometimes I write them down as well.  If the question is difficult or unclear, sometimes I’ll write down an alternative question just in case people don’t understand the question that was written

 Setting the Tone

  • The contents of the bible were originally told, retold, and passed down from person to person, from generation to generation, orally.  Ancient Jews, as well as the church up until the 16th century, all learned the biblical story communally through story telling.  This didn’t just leave them to try to make sense of the bible on their own, but they had a whole community to help interpret the bible and to retain the accuracy of its telling and interpretation.   Two-thirds of the Bible is a narrative.  One of the benefits of learning the narrative is that it opens the door to understand everything else in scripture. 
  • I often relate the Story to being a smorgasbord or a potluck.  If only one or two people bring a dish, it isn’t much fun.  Likewise, every voice is valuable and contributes.  Our discussion is a smorgasbord.  The more variety of voices and perspective, the greater the feast. 
  • Ancient Jewish people would say that there are “70 Facets” to the Bible.  It was like a giant diamond with so many facets that at every turn you get a slightly different perspective and insight into the diamond.  Likewise, One can study the biblical story over a lifetime and still learn new insights.  It’s  like an onion.  You can keep pulling it back and find new layers of meaning.  Each person present is like that facet of a diamond that the Holy Spirit uses to teach us of the beauty within God’s Story. 
  • Relax and have fun.  Make sure that the tone matches the other activities done that night so it seems natural.  We want sharing God’s word and applying the Gospel to each other’s lives to feel natural so when we gather officially to do that, we want it to seem like a very natural thing as well.  
  • After the first week, When you start the lesson, you can ask if someone is willing to review the last lesson or the whole story leading up to the current one.  This reinforces the themes of the greater Story of God so that they are more easily connected to the story you are covering.   Once the full story is remembered, then you go into telling that night’s story.

 

Telling the Story (This should take 2-5 minutes)

  • When telling the story, I find it helpful to have already underlined or highlighted the most important phrases that are brought up in the following dialogue.  This helps me know what is most important, and also helps me keep track of my place so I can look at people when I speak.  I practice the story 3-5 times.  I try to get to the point where I’m not reading the story, but speaking it and using the manuscript to keep me on track.  The Key is to Stick to the Story.
  • Stick to the Narrative.  Don’t interpret on the fly.  Don’t add things from future stories. 

The Dialogue

  • This is where the Story begins to come alive and shape your community.  The purpose of the dialogue is to help draw out the truths from the Story.
  • Remember set up the expectation that all answers given are to come from the night’s narrative or a past narrative in the greater Story.  If someone tries to quote Luther, Calvin, Billy Graham, Buddha, or Deepak Chopra, Joyce Meyer, etc,  say, “I don’t remember them being in the story” or “where did you hear that in the story.”  This is helpful even when someone starts saying, “I don’t think God would do that!” or “I think God is more like this…”  We’re here to learn the biblical story and his truth as the story is interpreted through the individuals of the group. 
  • If you’re leading the dialogue, you’re job is to keep discussion going through asking questions.  It is NOT you duty to answer the questions or to preach.  The Holy Spirit works through hearing the word of God.  The Spirit will work through the people present to lead the group into the truth. 
  • It is not necessary that you ask all the questions.  There’s usually too many questions to focus on.  The questions are meant to spur discussion.  Remember, this isn’t a Q and A session.  The best questions are often, “What did we learn about God in this story?”  “What did we learn about human beings?” 
  • Make sure you spend some time near the end on some life –application questions.  If the group hasn’t already naturally gone there with some of the previous questions, ask questions about how the story parallels their lives, informs their lives, is seen in aspects of their life, etc. 

Also see Preparing to Lead the Story Formed Way Pt. 1

Pictures found herehere.

Missional Training #17 – Creating Balance in Missional Communities

 

GCM VALUES

Within our Missional Communities, you can find a balance of three Core Values: Gospel, Community, and Mission. 

Gospel 

The gospel is not just the ticket to salvation; it’s the good news of a restored relationship with God, through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. This good news renews and transforms our hearts and lives. The Gospel is not only what gives us life when we become a Christian, but it is what sustains, grows, and matures our life and faith.  The Gospel is the revelation of God’s love for us, His purpose for us, and He Himself come to live and dwell in us through His Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit empowers us to believe, recreates us into His Family, the Church,  and enables us to live for Him. 

Gospel Activity in an MC is centered on the person and work of Jesus Christ revealed through scriptures.  Gospel activity includes Bible study, The Story Formed Way, praying for one another, encouraging and admonishing one another by applying the Gospel to one another’s lives. 

Community 

We were made to live in relationships.  Everybody yearns to belong, to be part of a family.  Community forms around the world through work, play, interests, geography, family, etc.  The Gospel Community is a unique community because it is created by the Gospel.  This kind of Community forms because of the common recognition that we’re all beggars, we’re all helpless before God because of sin, yet we’re all loved, accepted, and useful to him because of the work of Jesus Christ.   The Gospel can be seen and understood through this community as they live in confession, forgiveness, love, justice, mercy, gratitude and acceptance, as they cross lines of age, sex, wealth, and occupation.  The Gospel Community can only be explained because of the Gospel, and therefore leads to an inquiry and explanation of the Gospel as we live the Christian walk in everyday life together.     

Community Activity can include Shared meals, meeting new people, introducing new people to members of the MC, learning each other’s stories, celebrations, various social activities, sports, etc.   

Mission

The Christian community is created by the Gospel to show and the share the Gospel.  No healthy Christian Community can be inward focused.  Rather it is always seeking to join God’s mission through transforming its community through acts of love and the proclamation of the person and work of Christ. Because the Christian community demonstrates and validates the gospel, mission shouldn’t usually be a lone activity.   Wherever possible we want to do mission together and introduce unbelievers to the Christian community. 

Mission activity can include service projects, cleaning, fixing, building, painting structures and homes in your neighborhood.  They can include, sharing the Story of God, sharing the Gospel, offering prayer, investing in and enriching the lives of others, seeking a relationship with those you don’t know, inviting others into the lives of an MC and the Church. 

MC Development

A healthy MC has a balance of activities shaped by these values.   Yet not all MCs start this way.   For example, Many Missional Communities will have a greater emphasis on Community early on.  For most people, a growing relationship is necessary before they are willing to open up about their faith life, fears, doubts, and hopes .  A good relational foundation usually needs to be established before they are willing to trust you enough to be vulnerable in the Gospel or take risks in Mission.

As relationships are built, and trust is earned, it is time to introduce more Gospel and Mission elements. At first, you may have simply had a prayer at the beginning of a social activity and may have demonstrated small acts of kindness and service.  Over time, you’ll probably add some sort of short devotional, and find some organized way to serve others in your community.

Your end goal is that you’re spending equal time on Gospel, Community, and Mission oriented activities and events.   You’ll be going through the Story-Formed Way, the Gospel-Centred Life, or some other bible Study.  You’ll be discipling one another in all three types of activities, and you’ll be regularly and intentionally serve in your neighborhood or community. 

Remember that there is a great deal of overlap between each of these values.  While everything you can do probably has a dominant GCM value at play, usually one or both of the other values are also present as well. 

For more on GCM Values and Missional Communities check out the GCM Collective.

Grow in Your Christian Knowledge with the Catechism

As we’ve gone through the Story Formed Way, some of the members of the core group have had questions about what we specifically believe on certain points of doctrine.  This is understandable.  As dedicated Christians, many of us have read books or listened to Christians speakers or radio programs that all are given from different theological backgrounds.  If it has been years since your confirmation class, you might have forgotten some of the finer points of Lutheran Doctrine. 

Martin Luther actually created his Small Catechism as a tool for the common Christian to be able to learn true doctrine.  Originally, the Catechism wasn’t something a 13 or 14 year old child would open for the first time in a church building as they began confirmation class.  Rather, it was something a Christian Father used to teach his family the true faith and to help them memorize scripture.  Martin Luther intended for you, as scripture exhorts us in Deut 6:1-9, to take every opportunity to teach your children the ways of God throughout the entire day.  I encourage all you fathers and mothers to start teaching your children the faith daily through the help of the catechism. 

Our core group for the Church Plant would be well served in going back to the catechism as well.   It covers what we believe as Lutherans on major points of doctrine such as  The Ten Commandments, The Creed, The Lord’s Prayer, The Sacrament of Holy Baptism, Confession, The Sacrament of the Altar, etc.  Yet it’s not just Luther’s understanding that is recorded in this book. 

Included in the Catechism are many bible verses that are the source of what we believe and teach as Lutherans.  This will come in handy as you engage with unchurched friends.  They’ll want to know what we believe, but they won’t care much at all about Luther’s words.  They’ll be more interested in what the bible says.  Luther’s words will simply guide you to truth taught in all of the bible verses that are referenced. 

Resources

A PDF version of the Small Catechism can be found here for free. It is a good reference for Luther’s explanation of our understanding of each doctrine.  However, it does not reference all of the Bible verses that are in the hard copy of the Catechism 

The ESV version of the Catechism can be purchased at CPH.org.  I recommend that each member of our core group dig out their catechism or purchase a new one.   

The above image was found here.

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