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What is the Church?

In Matthew 16:18, Jesus said:

“I will build My church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18)

“Church” is translated from the Greek word ekklesia, meaning “a called out gathering or assembly of people”. The Church of God is a congregation made up of all kinds of people on earth, called out from the world through the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to be followers of Christ.

The Bible says to the Church:

“You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once, you were not a people, but now you are God’s people. Once, you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:9-10)

Since the Church has been called out from the world, the Church shouldn’t look like the world. It’s not a social club. It’s not entertainment. It doesn’t tolerate sin. It’s not a money-making organization, not a brand, nor a company. It’s not a magic show full of illusions. It’s not a platform for politics or new philosophies. The church is not a denomination nor a building.

The true church is a people sealed by the Holy Spirit for the day of redemption, assembling together in the Name of Christ, Who gave Himself for us, dying on the cross to redeem us from all lawlessness; and purify a people zealous for good works.

Jesus Christ gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and purify for Himself a people for His own possession who are zealous for good works. (Titus 2:14)

The Church is the body of Christ (Romans 12:5; 1 Corinthians 12:27; Ephesians 4:12) and Christ is the head, growing us together in Him. The Church is the Bride of Christ (John 3:29; Ephesians 5:25; Revelation 21:2), being sanctified by His Word. The Church is the Work of Christ (Matthew 16:18; Ephesians 2:10; 1 Peter 2:5), and hell will not prevail against it. Rather, the church will prevail against hell…

…when we understand the text

(This video is by WWUTT. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central.)

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The Compelling Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus

In this session, I look at the historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus. This is an exciting time in studies about the truth of the Easter story (not the bunny one, the other one!). This will encourage your heart and strengthen your faith.

10 FACTS ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED TO JESUS OF NAZARETH

The following ten “minimal facts” are accepted by historians, both secular and Christian; liberal and conservative. The back page of this booklet will look at possible explanations regarding what to make of all this data. (This approach is based on the work of Gary Habermas, Craig Hazen and Mike Licona)

  1. Jesus died by crucifixion.
    • There are 11 independent sources from antiquity that mention the death of Jesus. This is called a “historical fact” by skeptical scholars like Gerd Ludemann (The Resurrection of Christ: A Historical Inquiry, 2004 p50) and John Dominic Crossan (The Historical Jesus. The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant. San Francisco, CA, 1991, p375).
    • NT skeptic Bart Ehrman says the reality of Jesus’ life and death is not worth arguing about. (Did Jesus Exist?, Harper One, New York, NY, 2012, p130-140).
  2. Jesus was buried in a tomb.
  • John A. T. Robinson of Cambridge University writes of the burial of Jesus in the tomb as “one of the earliest and best-attested facts about Jesus.” (The Human Face of God, Philadelphia: Westminster, 1973, p. 131)
  1. The disciples despaired and lost hope, thinking that Jesus’ life and ministry was over.
  • This is not difficult to back up given the tremendous loss that a dying Messiah and friend would have felt like to them.
  1. The tomb was found to be empty.
  • Austrian scholar, Jacob Kremer has said “By far most exegetes hold firmly to the reliability of the biblical statements about the empty tomb.” In his work, Die Osterevangelism (Stuggart: Katholisches Bibelwerk,, 1977. p49-50) he lists twenty-eight other scholars who back up this claim as well.
  1. Jesus’ followers had actual experiences that they believed to be experiences with the risen Jesus.
  • Reginald Fuller “The ‘irreducible historical minimum behind the Easter narratives’ is a ‘well-based claim of certain disciples to have had visions of Jesus after his death as raised from the dead.’”
  • Fuller elsewhere refers to the disciples’ belief in the resurrection as “one of the indisputable facts of history.” He calls this claim “a fact upon which both believer and unbeliever may agree.” (The Formation of the Resurrection Narratives, p 169, 181-182.)
  1. The disciples were transformed from doubters to bold proclaimers of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
  • Bart Ehrman explains that, “Historians, of course, have no difficulty whatsoever speaking about the belief in Jesus’ resurrection, since this is a matter of public record. For it is a historical fact that some of Jesus’ followers came to believe that he had been raised from the dead soon after his execution.” (Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium, New York: Oxford University Press, 1999, p231).
  1. The resurrection message became the center of preaching.
  • Critical scholar James D. G. Dunn recently wrote in his book Remembering Jesus (p. 855) that 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 was an established Christian creed. It was formalized and taught within months of Jesus’ death.
  1. This resurrection message was proclaimed in Jerusalem where Jesus died and was buried.
  • Roman historian Tacitus reports that Christianity first spread throughout Judea before it went to Rome (see Annals 15:44)
  1. Sunday became the day of worship for the early Christian church.
  • Justin Martyr, a second century writer, explains the reasoning behind the Christian day of worship: “Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Saviour on the same day rose from the dead.” (The First Apology)
  1. Paul was originally a skeptic and persecutor of Christianity. He later converted to Christianity after what he believed was an encounter with the risen Jesus.
  • Historian E.P. Sanders affirms, “That Jesus’ followers (and later Paul) had resurrection experiences is, in my judgment, a fact. What the reality was that gave rise to the experiences, I do not know.” Taken from The Historical Figure of Jesus (London: Penguin, 1993), 11; cf. 10-13.

 

“WHAT HAPPENED TO JESUS OF NAZARETH?” HYPOTHESES

The disciples mistakenly went to the wrong tomb. That’s why they thought it was empty.

  • The historical problems with this: 5 – 10

Jesus, the “risen Son of God”, was a legend that developed over time.

  • The historical problems with this: 1-10

Jesus had a twin brother who showed up after his brother was crucified.

  • The historical problems with this: 4, 6, 10

The disciples hallucinated; thinking that they had seen Jesus alive after he was crucified.

  • The historical problems with this: 4, 10

Jesus was raised spiritually; not physically. He lives within the hearts of his disciples.

  • The historical problems with this: 4, 5, 7, 10

The disciples stole the dead body of Jesus and told everyone he was alive.

  • The historical problems with this: 5, 6, 10

The authorities (Roman or Jewish) stole the body of Jesus.

  • The historical problems with this: 5-10

Jesus never really died. He was revived in the tomb and convinced everyone that he was actually resurrected.

  • The historical problems with this: 1, 6

Christians believe the best conclusion for all the historical data is the one the church has been proclaiming for two millennia now: “God raised Jesus from the dead.

(This podcast is by Jon Morrison. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central

and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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Reaching Millennials In the Church

This episode is the second part in Jon’s look at Millennials in the church. Jon gives ten characteristics of millennial-friendly churches.

What does the Bible say about Millennials?

  1. The are made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27)
  2. They are sinful (Romans 3:23)
  3. They are loved by Jesus (Romans 5:8)
  4. We are called to make disciples of them (Matthew 28:18-19)
  5. They can be gifted by Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12)
  6. They are our present and future (Psalm 78:4)

10 Characteristics of Millennial-friendly churches: Reaching Millennials In the Church

  1. The Gospel
  2. Be Authentic
  3. Create Connections
  4. Create experiences
  5. Provide mentors, not maestros.
  6. Talk about Jesus instead of God
  7. Call people to be a part of something bigger
  8. Embrace social media
  9. Giveaway leadership in all areas of the church to Millennials
  10. Use Apologetics in every ministry

(This podcast is by Jon Morrison. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central

and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

 

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Heavy metal, flames, skulls, wings, free weed and beer… sounds like church to me!

Seriously! To tell us all the details of this amazing ministry is Brian Smith, Senior Pastor of the First Heavy Metal Church of Christ.

To put it in a nutshell, Unorthodox Heavy Metal Church: An Interview with Brian SmithFHMCC is a non-denomination, Bible-based Church in a comfortable atmosphere with great music! They are a group of people from all walks of life and age groups. It doesn’t matter what you wear, they just want you there!

The Church has no racial, ethnic or social status barriers and they could care less about your past or present life. Brian and his church only care about your FUTURE life in Christ!

Most people want God in their lives, but think they must clean up first before coming to Christ… You don’t clean up before you jump in the shower, do you? God wants you EXACTLY the way you are at this very moment. As long as you actively seek God, He will actively seek you, and the Holy Spirit will gently clean you up along the way.
The First Heavy Metal Church of Christ is unlike any Church that you have ever attended, and THAT I can guarantee. Just walk on in, sit back and enjoy the ride.

Here are just a few of the topics Brian and I discuss this week:

  • Saved young, baptized at 6, but not part of a church
  • 12-years-old, went to church and was told he was going to burn in HELL
  • Rededicated his life to Jesus and then told he needed to follow all the rules… so he walked away again
  • 20’s-30’s just chasing everything the world offered
  • Loved the Lord, but didn’t follow Him
  • At his best, he knew he wasn’t following God and he decided to get back with God
  • After rededicating his life, he started a bible study that grew and grew until they started a church.
  • June 2011: Started the church. In six years, they have baptized 800 people and their videos have been viewed over 100,000 times worldwide.
  • Brian went to see Marilyn Manson recently, and was offended by the Christians yelling at the concert goers, not the metal crowd or band.
  • How do you reach those who might not want to be reached?
  • To reach the lost you need to go where the lost are
  • Your Most Influential Metal Bands: Iron Maiden, Ozzy, AC/DC, Judas Priest
  • Best live band: Chris Cornell, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Robert Plant, Jethro Tull, Dennis DeYoung from Styx
  • Been hurt by legal Christians
  • True Christian go out and spread the word
  • Reaching lost world through secular concerts
  • Not looking to attract Christians but reach the lost
  • Hate from other Christians & churches
  • Favorite Bible story or verse
    • The life of David – messing up big but loved God and repented
    • Romans 10
    • John 3:16

This is just part of Brian’s story. You’ve got to hear what God has done throughout his life to mold him into the man he is today. As Brian says, “No matter how you worship… ROCK ON!”

For more information about Brian’s amazing ministry, check out HeavyMetalChurch.com!

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We are so fast paced in our country.  And we have incorporated this into our relationship with God.  We are a fast food nation.

Life’s greater joys are obtained through struggle, difficulty and pain

Image: Ken Walker

We want instantaneous answers, overnight transformation, speedy growth.  We want drive up and drive through service.

But God desires to speak to us daily through His word.  He wants to have direct conversation with us.  When we only rely upon others to feed us on Sunday mornings, we are relying upon the processed word; what we are being fed by someone else…not the pure word that God speaks directly to us.  It is great to share the word with others and hear their insights, but if that is all you rely on and don’t commune with Him yourself and listen to His voice for yourself, you are eating processed foods, spiritually, and it is not enough to sustain you or show you how to walk in the Kingdom every day.

Now, physically speaking,  the healthiest natural organic foods are whole foods… not processed foods.

Our bodies need choice fruit and vegetables straight from the vine.  Processed foods make the body sick.  They lack vital nutrients and contain impure additives and dyes that have no value to our bodies. Though filling, they are toxic and do nothing but promote disease.

It takes work to go get good, healthy food.  The planning and cooking and just the overall inconvenience of having to take the time to eat it.  It is so much easier to run by the drive through and eat something that tastes good and fills us up, but is killing our healthy cells.  We can deny it for a while, but when we get physically sick we either let our addiction for fast food kill us or change our ways.

In the same way, it takes time and persistence to walk with Jesus every day and to pursue Him with all your heart.  Going to a building on one day a week and thinking that is enough for true Kingdom living is deceiving ourselves.

It is not enough!

The collective body of Christ is sick from eating processed foods, spiritually speaking.  They have been doing it so long that they do not know how to eat and drink freely from Him…to meditate with Jesus, to spend time with just Him.  They think just going to a church institution will be enough.  But then they wonder why they go back to a defeated, mundane life the rest of the week.

We eat fast food on Sundays and then wonder why we are starving and miserable the rest of the week.  Yet any minute of the day He is standing there waiting for you to listen to His whispers in your heart.

It takes an investment in time, deliberate focus and purpose to eat well.  As it is with our body and natural food, so it is with our spirit and spiritual food.

The pursuit to find any formula that can be applied to produce His righteousness and provide me with New Testament church life or even grow my trust, is foolish.

It will fail, time and time again, until in the end we come to realize that this reality only comes through a growing friendship with Him.  The more I know Him and the more I see His hand at work the more free I will be to trust Him and live in His kingdom.

Any time we choose to follow someone else’s formula for success, or an agenda no matter how well intentioned, we will end up living by our own limited wisdom.

The invitation to this Kingdom is to follow a person.

Jesus doesn’t give us the way; He is The Way.

He doesn’t have life; He is The Life.

He doesn’t just speak truth; He is The Truth itself.

Everything about His kingdom begins and ends in Him and we experience that through a growing friendship with Him.

To grow in this life, I am continually cultivating my relationship with Him.  I intentionally spend time with Him as I grow in my awareness of His working throughout my day.  I have a running conversation with Him about everything in my life and express my desire to follow His will at every turn.

I try to saturate myself in the word to learn how He thinks and acts.  And it is important to join in what God is showing others by what I read and listen to, and the conversations I have with others I gather with on this journey.

This means letting go of the lies of shame and the demands for performance that drive us from him and find our security in His devotion and love for us and let that transform us.

For me, it has been great freedom to realize that I never had the power or wisdom to accomplish God’s purposes in my life, and how losing confidence in my flesh actually freed me to live more dependent on Him and more grateful for His working.

What a joy to wake up in the uncertain adventure of life and not be distressed at what might happen today, because He is with me!  I can’t explain how wonderful that freedom is.

How could fast food Christianity ever produce this?

The pattern in everything is this:

The greater joys are obtained through struggle and difficulty and pain—things you must force yourself to do when you don’t feel like it—while brief, unsatisfying, and often destructive joys are as inviting as a big old feather bed and down comforters.

God, in great mercy, is showing us everywhere, in things that are just shadows of heavenly realities, that there is great reward for those who struggle through and persevere (Hebrews 10:32–35).

He is reminding us almost everywhere to walk by faith in a promised future and not by the sight of immediate gratification (2 Corinthians 5:7).

Each struggle to overcome becomes a gigantic flag to us saying, “Look ahead, past the struggle itself, past the temptation of the puny, vapor joys to the great, sustained, substantial Joy set before you!”

See your Father pointing you to the reward he has planned for all who endure to the end. (Matthew 24:13).

Transpose it from reluctance to a reminder that God is calling you not to indulgence but endurance.

Then lay this weight aside and run with faith the race he has set before you.  God will meet you with the grace you need (2 Corinthians 9:8).

And the thing is: This light, momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.  For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:17–18)

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WWUTT Slider FINAL

It’s kinda funny – the amount of churches saying, “Don’t GO to church BE the Church!”

As witty as they think that is, they are inadvertently telling people not to go to church.

Really, guys? Don’t go to church?

Nevertheless, they throw this message on signs, bumper stickers and other graphics… they even make it a slogan for their congregation or sermon series.

Hey everybody, don’t go to our church!

A few have altered it a little by adding the word “just”, as in “Don’t JUST go to church; be the Church”. But the problem is still the same. The message being communicated is that Church is not a place you go to. You can be the Church right where you are sitting (like laying on the couch in front of your television), or where you work, or where you shop. That might not be the intended message, but it is what is being said and understood.

But, here’s the thing: Going to church IS being the Church.

Let’s understand what the Church is. According to Ephesians 1:23,

“…The church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.”

So, the Church is the body of people, filled with Christ, representing Christ in all creation. So, the Church is people, not a building.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that since Church is not a building you don’t have to go. The Church is people… PLURAL! You, yourselves are not the Church. According to Peter, you are a part of the Church.

“You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:5)

The Church is made up of the people who have been reconciled unto God through Jesus Christ and have the Holy Spirit dwelling within them.

“Jesus Christ gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession who are zealous for good works.” (Titus 2:14)

The Lord commands us to gather regularly.

“Let us consider how to stir one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day of the Lord drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)

Image: A.T. Kurian

Image: A.T. Kurian

If the church gathers in a building, then that’s where you need to go. If they meet on Sunday, you go on Sunday.

The Church is where we, as one body Grow in God’s word (Ephesians 4:11-16), Listen to exhortation and teaching (1 Timothy 4:13), sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs (Colossians 3:16), pray together (Acts 1:14), partake in the Lord’s supper together (1 Corinthians 11:33), celebrate baptism (Ephesians 4:5), celebrate marriage (Hebrews 13:4), rejoice in life (1 John 3:14), mourn together in times of mourning (Romans 12:15), and encourage and admonish one another (1 Thessalonians 5:14).

We can’t grow together if we are not meeting together.

So, Go to church to BE the Church.

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Big Picture Slider

I’m over 45 and I scare your children. Does my age disqualify me from speaking up about politics and culture? Do I really need to ‘knock it off!’? Andy Stanley says so. I’m Joel Fieri, and welcome to “The Big Picture’ podcast, where we seek to begin and hopefully sustain a conversation about current trends, ideas and issues in the Church and greater society.

Pastor Andy Stanley has gone viral lately with a couple Internet videos, one regarding political fear mongering and the other regarding large vs. small church selfishness. Today and next week I’d like to tackle the first, and then for part three I’ll put my two cents in on the latter.

In case you haven’t heard, here’s the portion of a larger sermon Pastor Stanley gave back in January:

Pretty stern stuff directed at a very specific group of people. Assuming the ‘over 45s’ in his congregation are no different than the rest of us aging Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers, and since it’s been posted it on the internet for the world to see, rather than being kept an in-house, local church body issue as the Bible instructs (which is another issue for another time), I assume he is also speaking to me. So let’s also assume for a minute that Pastor Stanley had come to me, an ‘over 45-er’, for advice before he preached this sermon and posted it on the internet. In typical Internet open-letter fashion, here’s what I would have told him:

Pastor Stanley, I’m not for recklessly scaring children, and I’ll agree that anyone saying ‘We need a particular politician or party in office or it’s the end of the world’ is badly misguided. And I would absolutely agree that Jesus is our hope and salvation, and that we need to focus on Him, not politics or even culture. Good words, and timely. What I take issue with is your seemingly casual dismissal of the very real possibility of losing our ‘religious liberty’. Granted, if we do lose our religious liberties, Jesus will still be our hope, as long as we keep our eyes on Him. But those liberties were bought with blood, and those of us ‘over 45’ have parents who fought monstrous evils to protect those liberties. We can also vividly remember half the world under the Godless tyranny of Communism. The political ideology that is prevailing now harkens back to those days in some very real ways. It portends a hellish future that very well should ‘scare the children’, because they’re not ready for it.

Lately we’ve seen the world thoroughly salt the church, not vice-versa. Folks who’ve walked longer with God are rightly concerned about the consequences for a society, and a Church, that turns its back on Him, calling what’s evil, good and what’s good, evil. We’re taking our eyes off of Jesus, all right. Not the gentle, intimate Jesus that we sing love songs to in dimly lit warehouses with foggy atmosphere. We see Him all the time. No, we’re taking our eyes off of Jesus the coming King and Righteous Judge who promised to return in judgment. Our worry is this; when He does return, will He find His people faithful in the midst of a very crooked and perverse generation?

Concerns about the current state of our youth and culture go way beyond the stereotypical older curmudgeons bemoaning ‘today’s young people’.

Pastor Stanley, maybe you can help us out with a little guidance in handling cultural changes that are happening so fast it spins our graying heads.

They say politics is downstream from culture, and it’s becoming clear to me that faith is, too. How do we compete with the shock-and-awe assaults on the faith we’re called upon to pass down to our children and grandchildren? It didn’t take long for the acceptance of gay marriage to further plunge us into the redefinition of male and female (or, really, the obliteration of that definition). What do we say to a younger generation (Christians included) that has accepted not only a complete redefinition of marriage, but is now rapidly questioning their identity as male and female? Can we teach our children to ‘focus our eyes on Jesus ‘ if they don’t even accept that they are created in the image of God as male and female? Is there an answer to the mass media and education onslaught that tells us we’re hateful for opposing ideas like same sex restrooms? Can we ‘keep our eyes on Jesus’ and still stand by as men with deep psychological problems share restrooms with our wives and daughters? And what of the ‘under 45’ Christian voices leading our children towards a collectivist and socialist ideology that, at its very core, rejects the existence of God and even an afterlife? Can we ‘keep our eyes on Jesus ‘ and tiptoe around Karl Marx at the same time?

Even ten years ago these questions would have seemed absurd and alarmist.

They’re not now.

Image: Nancy J Ondra

Image: Nancy J Ondra

Awhile back, Pastor Stanley, you also publicly called for Evangelicals to ‘take a break from the culture wars’. Maybe that was called for, maybe not. But is all this really happening because of our transgressions as evangelicals in fighting ‘the culture wars’? Were these cultural seismic shifts lying dormant, like Godzilla, only to be awakened by the nuclear sins of the Moral Majority and some really bad Kirk Cameron movies? Or were they long anticipated and purposeful Satanic attacks on the Church and the very Biblical foundations of Western Civilization?

I go with option two.

So Pastor Stanley, and all those who have been ‘liking’ and ‘amen-ing’ his sermon, that’s why we older folks speak out. Frankly, we’re a little scared ourselves. If you can reassure us that the Church, local and universal, is staying strong and faithful through these assaults, that Christians young and old really are ‘fixing their eyes on Jesus’ and not on the progressive wave of compromise, I think we’ll be reassured. If you can’t, then, while I accept your concerns as valid, I don’t think I can or will ‘knock it off’, And please don’t tell me to. It sounds too much like ‘shut up!’.

Now, finally let me say this; for all I know pastor Stanley has addressed all my worries to those ‘under 45’ in his congregation. I’ve been searching the internet in vain for the rest of his sermon, where he promises to address a second group of people, which I’m assuming are the ‘under 45s’ (if anyone can point me to it in the comments section, please do so). Absent that knowledge, I offer these unsolicited thoughts to Andy Stanley and the online world. I hope it brings clarity and a little balance.

Next week I’ll be addressing the question of just who ‘the children’ we’re scaring really are and why they should be scared, or at least on guard and spiritually armored up, And in part 3 I’ll be giving yet more unsolicited input as to where I feel Pastor Stanley went wrong in his call for parents to abandon their selfishness and attend large churches, while forsaking small ones. It might just surprise you (unless you’ve listened to The Big Picture before). Until then, thanks for listening to the Big Picture.

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Daren Streblow

I was in Anderson, IN in November. I was in my hotel room when I heard a knock on the door. “You have to come downstairs. Quickly, or you’ll die!” panted the woman at my door, whom I learned later was the hotel manager. It was the “you’ll die” part that I found intriguing.

“What’s the matter?”

“Well, sir… we’re having our regular tornado.”

So, I followed her downstairs, where she had gathered all us guests and we all watched television together. Because, apparently, if you are watching television in a group, no tornado can get you! While we sat glued to the TV, there were cattle flying all around the hotel, along with Dorothy, Toto and the Wicked Witch of the East. When the whole ordeal finally ended, the hotel manager said, “We apologize for the inconvenience.”

That’s taking a lot upon yourself, isn’t it? Apologizing for a natural disaster? What would have happened if I had gotten sucked out a window? How apologetic would she be then? Maybe I could have scored a free stay next time I blew into town.

That was weird.

Speaking of weird, the Olympics are like a “Weird World War” where the winners don’t capture you, but they force you to listen to their weird national anthems. Don’t get me wrong, I like the Star Spangled Banner, I just don’t think it sounds “sporty” enough. I think we should have a Sports Version that is played at athletic events. Something more like the “Rock and Roll Part 2 (The Hey Song)” by Gary Glitter! That would get people on their feet!

They have weird events in the Olympics, don’t they? They have walking races, for goodness sake! The winners achieve their medals by walking really fast. But, isn’t walking really fast just… I dunno… running?

Image: Athletics Race Walk

Image: Athletics Race Walk

“We’re not running… we’re walking really fast!”

That’s like saying, “I’m not standing, I’m sitting really high”

Speed walking looks really weird, too. Arms flailing skyward, feet pounding heel-toe like a duck suffering from hip dysplasia. They won’t admit they look weird, either. That’s just the way the “sport” is done. But, if it’s so perfectly athletic, how come I’ve never seen a speed walker in a Gatorade ad?

Then there’s the Equestrian Horse Jumping Olympic events. Can anyone explain this series of events to me? After all, the horse skies over a series of obstacles, and whichever horse does best, they give the rider a gold medal. What’s up with that? If I were the horse, I’d be really ticked off. All the rider basically did was hang on while the horse did all the work.

I think they should combine some of our more mundane events together to make them more exciting. Imagine a gymnastics uneven bar event where an opponent tried to stab you with a fencing foil! Or picture figure skating where the contestants could hurl a shot-put at the judge who gave them a low score! What I’d really like to see is a snow ski jump event with American football rules. Can’t you see it? A guy skiing toward the end of the ramp at breakneck speed while another team tries to tackle him! If they got him, we’d have a whole new definition for “the agony of defeat”!Tim Hawkins

Next, my buddy Tim Hawkins joins me from his tour bus. I love hitting the road with such an incredibly funny and inspiring friend! Tim also has his own podcast, titled “Poddy Break”. It’s absolutely hilarious, and listening to his podcast really feels the same as when we hang out backstage together.

What I couldn’t believe is when he told me that he almost gave up doing comedy altogether. He was going through a stage where his expectations were all based on tangible results that just didn’t seem to be materializing. He was trying to quantify how many laughs he could get and based his success on getting as many laughs as he could. The problems was that he wasn’t getting anywhere near the amount of laughs that he was wanting and found himself totally unhappy in what he was doing.

Since then, however, Tim has learned that God’s plan for him is to give laughter, not getting laughs. Tim’s words and insights come from God, so it’s not Tim’s to quantify or horde in any way.

This runs contrary to what a lot of comics say – that comedy comes from pain. Tim has actually had a pretty good life. He may have spent several years dealing drugs and running guns, but on his seventh birthday, he committed his life to serving God and turned things around.

Today, instead of worrying about the one person in a room of 200 who isn’t laughing at his show, Tim focuses on the one person who needs to laugh. It’s all about giving… and then not worrying about it.

(Having a really good lawyer helps alleviate the worry, too)

One thing I have noticed about Tim is that what you see on stage is much more like the “Real Tim” than most performers allow their audiences to see. And this is really important to him. It all goes back to the mission statement Tim came up with when he began his career: to make people laugh by being as funny as possible. This morphed into his desire to connect with each and every audience on an interpersonal level. In order to achieve this, he has to be more vulnerable and authentic than most performers choose to be.

So, instead of simply writing witty word-plays and puns, Tim started talking more and more about how he felt about certain aspects of life – what he likes, what he doesn’t like, what confuses him, where he fails, where he succeeds… and the response to these changes in his approach has been incredible!

So now, as he learned from Kenn Kington, in the first five minutes of each show, Tim doesn’t worry about making the audience laugh – he just wants to connect with them. This enables him to not just offer people a good time for a couple hours, but help change the culture!

For instance, while Tim doesn’t talk about specific doctrine, and he absolutely LOVES the Christian Church (after all, he’s part of it), he doesn’t hold back much in poking fun at some of the things that take place in today’s halls of worship. He jokes about church conventions, worship styles, preaching styles, and other stereotypes. As Tim puts it, if it’s manmade, then it’s fair game! And if people get offended by his jokes about these topics, then maybe they’re the ones who should be offended… and convicted.

The bottom line is that, especially if people come to his shows with their family, he wants his audience to enjoy a shared experience together. To often these days, a family’s parents go one place for entertainment (or even church), their teenagers go somewhere else, the kids go to a third place… and at the end of the day, they haven’t shared anything.

Tim wants to help put an end to this.

He wants his audiences to walk away feeling like their not alone – even if they drive home alone – that there are other people that see the world in the same way they do.

And he wants them to hurt a little… from laughing so hard!

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Christian bible teaching about how to bring the church back to today's men and boys. How men and boys need to follow Jesus Christ, read scripture, and become a mature Christian, participate in discipleship, and learn then teach the truth about God.

(Author’s note: This post originally appeared in January 2013. It was part of a series about the huge changes that are rocking Western society – and their impact on men and the church. I am not advocating these changes; I’m simply trying to explain why they’re happening, to help believers respond with greater understanding to those they may disagree with.)

I’m one of the millions of viewers enchanted by one of TV’s hottest show – Downton Abbey. It’s the story of an aristocratic family and their servants, set in England a century ago. (Guys, I know it sounds boring, but it’s actually terrific.)Downton Abby

Downton takes us inside a society built on formality. Every human interaction is carefully scripted. There’s proper dress for every occasion. Dinner must be served an exact way. Conversations are diplomatic and indirect. People control their passions and lusts (for the most part). Manners matter. Duty reigns supreme. The characters consistently do what they think is right, even if it costs them everything.

But as the show progresses through the 1910s and 20s, the formal society slowly fades, yielding to the informal world we know today.

The Crawley family would not recognize the world we live in. There are no formal class distinctions. We say whatever we want. We rarely dress for any occasion. Manners matter little. We indulge ourselves. Etiquette, social conventions and duty have taken a backseat to familiarity, convenience and practicality. We celebrate the exploits of those who lack self-control.AIRPLANE PASSENGERS THEN AND NOW

Let me be clear: I do not mourn the passing of the Edwardian era. I see little value in changing clothes six times a day, following traditions that have lost all meaning, or beating about the bush. The servant-and-master model has run its course, and good riddance.

But I am curious as to why our world became so informal so fast. Why, even in my lifetime I’ve seen people stop dressing for all but the most solemn occasions. Why so many aspects of politeness have gone by the wayside. Why expediency almost always trumps “doing the right thing.”

Downton Abbey is so unusual because it runs counter to the informal, anti-institutional bias that’s been the lifeblood of television since the 1970’s. Hit comedies such as M*A*S*H, All in the Family, The Simpsons and Seinfeld and won huge ratings by lampooning long held social norms. Meanwhile, TV dramas (viewer discretion advised) have been busy desensitizing audiences to mayhem, cruelty and unrestrained passion.

Then an uptight drama like Downton Abbey dominates the ratings. What gives?

I believe the success of Downton reflects a longing among Westerners for a more genteel, controlled era. Downton represents a time when the lines were bright and the penalties for stepping outside them were severe. Such rules may seem oppressive or silly to us, yet they fostered the peaceful, prosperous, liberal society we enjoy today. Only God knows how many of these rules can fall before our society falls as well.

And speaking of liberal, how is it that Downton has found an audience on PBS? Among its most ardent fans are the very counter-culturists who spent their youths rebelling against the oppressive social rules Downton celebrates. At some level liberals must realize the government they lionize cannot exist in a world with no cohesion. Someone has to maintain the institutions that make the welfare state possible.

One more thing Downton offers that almost no other show does – morally upright male characters. Lord Grantham and his heir, Matthew Crawley, are men of impeccable integrity. Their servants, Mr. Carson and Mr. Bates are equally principled. It’s been a long time since a TV drama offered such an array of kind, noble men in the lead roles. (Meanwhile, the show’s bad guy is a vindictive, devilish homosexual. Why liberals aren’t screaming about that plot element is a mystery to me.)

Lord Grantham, the patriarch, does his best to stand firm as the first waves of modernity begin washing away the foundations of the old agrarian order. (Spoiler alert: If you haven’t watched the show, don’t read the rest of this paragraph). His youngest daughter breaks social ranks and marries one of the servants. His eldest daughter has a one-night stand that threatens to bring disgrace on the family. And his middle daughter learns to drive a car and becomes a suffragette.

Lord Grantham objects vehemently as his daughters begin dismantling the cultural framework that underpins their noble status. Yet even as his children reject his ways, he does not reject them. Grantham is a true Christ figure – a loving father, a generous provider and a fierce advocate for his children. He clings to traditions not for traditions’ sake, but because he believes that’s what is best for his daughters, and for the world.

That Downton Abbey is so popular tells us something about modern viewers. We long for men like Lord Grantham, Matthew, Carson and Bates. Our anything-goes generation is looking for limits. As the baby boomers age, that old agrarian ethos is looking better and better.moral compass

As C. S. Lewis said, the basic moral law is written on our hearts. We don’t really want to be our own gods. We’re like toddlers – eventually we tire of being in charge and we long to submit ourselves to a higher power that will take care of us and tell us what we’re supposed to do. We want a Lord in our lives who will look after us – whether his name is Grantham or Jesus.

The Gospel grants us freedom and autonomy – but it also provides a framework in which the followers of Jesus are supposed to live. Such a framework may seem oppressive in our choice-driven age. As Christians, we don’t always understand why God tells us to do certain things, but we walk by faith — not by sight. We do as our Lord commands, whether we understand or not.

Rather than weaken this framework (as some churches are doing in the name of “inclusiveness”) we would do well to maintain it. Obedience to God is not oppression – it’s the only way to experience true freedom. Like Lord Grantham, we must object vehemently when truth is compromised, while at the same time responding with love to all of God’s children.

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This video is about Equipping our Churches for the 21st century.
Statistics show that America’s mainline denominational Christian churches are on the decline. Is it too late to save them? If not, what can be done?
Author and speaker Dave Murrow (Why Men Hate Going to Church) and worship leader / church consultant Joel Weldon (O2 Worship) discuss strategies churches can adopt to engage and grow their congregations.

**This video has been edited for time constraints of our live webcast.  To see the full interview, click here.

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