The Cure for Spiritual Depression

13947234681_94a051e9daDear Christian,

Today, you will be tempted to live to meet someone’s expectations. And you’re liable to disappoint. It may be your boss, your spouse, your kids, your client, your friend, but most likely it will be yourself. Maybe you’ve already blown that New Year’s resolution to eat less, exercise more, or be more patient with people. Perhaps you just can’t shake the regret over past failures that continue to haunt you.

Don’t forget Romans 8:1: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” I have often called this the most neglected verse in the Bible. We are programmed by our emotions and that liar, the devil, that this truth from God’s Word is too good to be true! Maybe even worse than that, sometimes our own well-meaning religious friends become an obstacle to believing what God has written. [Read more…]

We’re All Broken

One of my college pastors used to say we that we should treat everyone we meet as if they have a broken heart because they probably do. That statement has hit home lately as I have encountered lots of brokenness in the lives of those around me. This brokenness includes grief over the death of a parent, a young mom suffering with cancer, parents with a teenager in crisis, friends whose adoption process was short-circuited, a marriage in jeopardy, abuse, addiction, even suicide. And I think I’ve forgotten some.

Here’s the truth: It hurts.

Another truth: Brokenness is a common denominator. Some of these friends that I am thinking of are very far from God while others are some of the most mature Christ-followers I know. Brokenness touches everyone regardless of faith, class, race or tax bracket. And, do you want me to be honest? I’m broken, too.

We’re all broken. We may try to act like we have it all together, but each of us is damaged in some way. We live with the scars of wounds inflicted by our own choices and the choices of others. We live in a fallen world. We are fallen people. In the words of recording artist Lecrae, “We some broken people, came from broken homes, broken hearts inside of a broken soul.” Reality. [Read more…]

This Easter, Make Jesus the Main Attraction

Easter is the most sacred of holidays in the Christian year. It is traditionally the Sunday with the highest church attendance in the year. It is the day during the year that more non-Christians or de-churched folks are likely to attend church. Many church plants strategically launch on Easter Sunday because of this fact. More churches do mass marketing campaigns and pithy postcards for Easter than any other Sunday. Churches will work hard to be attractive this Sunday. Churches will do their best this Easter to put their most talented musicians on stage, show their best video, have the nicest greeters, display the prettiest flowers, and have the most manicured lawns. Preachers will prepare to preach their best sermon. It’s the Sunday where, for mama’s sake, families will suck it up, don the seersucker, and pack a pew. It’s a day when churches are so passionate to get people in the door they might even give away an iPad or two.

Cross-in-Chimayo-AreaCreative Commons License Photo Credit: Glen Van Etten via Compfight

And oh yeah, it’s the day when we celebrate that there is hope for humanity because Jesus was victorious over sin and rose victoriously from the grave (1 Corinthians 15:54-57)! It’s the day that we remember that he who knew no sin became sin that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). It is a day, above all else, to worship the King of Kings and lift Him high so that He will draw all people to Himself.

There will be lots of reasons people gather this Sunday. There will be thousands of invitations to people and tactics that, though they may be done with the best of intentions, cross the line into gimmickry and even manipulation. There will be lots of attractions at church this Easter, but I pray that for your own life or the life of your church you will make Jesus the main attraction. As Ed Stetzer said on this topic: “Let’s not lose focus of this: no show, stage dressing, egg drop, or speaker should eclipse the one who conquered sin and death.”

A.A. Milne, of “Winnie the Pooh” fame, wrote a poem about Christopher Robin going to Buckingham Palace. Christopher Robin sees the sentry houses and the changing of the guard and hears of the grand parties hosted on the palace grounds. He is fascinated by all that he sees, but Christopher Robin doesn’t see the one he hoped to see–the King!

It’s quite tragic, you see, to go to the palace and not see the King.

 

5 Sins of the Church

From time to time I come across stories that, though not out of my own experience, need to be told. Consider the case of Fellowship Bible Church in Jonesboro, AR. I don’t know much about the church, but I was impressed with a document I ran across last year regarding the church’s decision to start over in 2008. This is where the story gets interesting.

Image: Dan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

For several months the church leadership sought God’s direction to answer the question, “Jesus, how would you evaluate Fellowship?” This period of prayer and reflection led them to the cold reality that they were not effective at making disciples.

So, they repented. That’s right. They confessed their sin of ineffectiveness. Sounds harsh in our day. Fellowship decided the most obedient thing they could do was repent and relaunch with a focus on the Gospel, discipleship, and mission. Specifically, they confessed sin in 5 areas:

1. We planted programs before planting the gospel.

2. We taught our people great Bible content without calling them to follow Jesus on the mission of the gospel (i.e. discipleship).

3. We equipped people for our world (the “church” world) and NOT for their world (everyday life).

4. We assumed people knew more about the gospel than they really did–beginning with us as leaders.

5. We were more concerned with filling our services than filling our city with people who live and love like Jesus.

When I read their list I was brought to great conviction myself. Many churches–too many churches–are guilty of the exact same sins. Somehow we’ve taken our eye off the ball in the life of the church. We have traded Gospel goals for institutional ones.

I have a ton of respect for Fellowship. They had the courage to get to the heart of the matter. Unfortunately, I believe many churches would be more inclined to talk about a “new vision” or “new purpose” rather than confessing their lack of attention to God’s design as sin. But that kind of spiritual brokenness is the only place where real awakening can start.

So, what about your church? This post is not just for pastors, it’s for whoever is a part of the Bride of Christ. If you were intellectually honest about your church’s effectiveness at making true disciples what would you say? Do you have the courage to ask Jesus to evaluate your church’s ministry?

Read the whole story of Fellowship.

 

Alan Hirsch is Coming to North Carolina

I am delighted to announce that Alan Hirsch is coming to High Point, NC sponsored by North Carolina Baptists, and because you are reading this blog, you can be one of the first to register! I was first exposed to Alan’s thinking a couple of years ago when I read The Forgotten Ways. Through his words I found a voice that articulated much of the tension I had been feeling for at least a decade with the institutional forms of church in the West in which I have been raised.

God used Alan to help me examine once again the Scriptures to try and really understand what church, mission, and discipleship really should look like. I had the joy of facilitating a webinar with he and Deb earlier this year and have heard him teach in multiple venues. Every time I hear him I’m stretched and encouraged to contend for the Gospel in North America. I am currently reading On The Verge and it is equally challenging.

Here’s the deal. Because this is a white board session with Alan there are only 200 seats available! Registration will not open to the general public until next week, but we are making it available through this blog NOW. You can register today by clicking here.

Here are the details:

A Whiteboard Session with Alan Hirsch

A key missional leader, strategist, and author Alan Hirsch draws from his own experiences, as well as the experiences of ministries around the world, to provide examples of growing churches, church planting movements, and other missional projects. You are invited to join us for an informal session with Alan, seasoned with profound thinking, stimulating dialogue, contemporary expressions of church, and mixed with practitioner-based principles, stories, and a touch of humor–all pointing to the gospel.

Where and When:

The Crossing at High Point

921 Eastchester Drive

High Point, NC 27262

September 1, 2011

10:00AM-2:30PM

Cost:$20.00*Lunch will not be provided however, there is a food court located in the mall.

Register today because I know this will sell out fast!

 

 

 

Why “Be Good/Feel Good” is No Good

We have said that the chief goal of parenting should be to make disciples of children. Unfortunately, most churches and parents have set a low bar (the wrong bar) for what it means to be a disciple. In more cases than we realize, discipleship has been reduced to adherence to a moral code. Well-intentioned people come away from church with a sense that maturity as a Christian is about keeping the rules and that the goal of the Christian life is merely to be happy.

Image: photostock / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A major study was conducted of youth a few years ago called the National Study of Youth and Religion.  [Read more…]