21 Steps to a 21st Century Church – Part 4


Today brings four more issues confronting the Church in the West, America in particular. Please keep commenting, too. We all need to be talking about these things.

8. Rethink how we use our time
We live in an age of distraction and entertainment. We exist in an era when people are increasingly torn in myriad directions, their days measured in a succession of frantic activities that drain away one successive hour after the next.Some people would say that those two are incompatible, but if we’re the kind of people who are assaulted all day by a parade of activity, it’s easy to understand how an hour of mindless television or a couple chapters of some potboiler novel becomes all we can manage before we trudge off to bed. Every year sees our average work week increase. Every year sees our commutes get longer. And so it goes, day after day after day….Into the blender of daily living comes the Church. And what does the American Church ask for? Even more of our time. Volunteer for this ministry, lead that group, homeschool your kids, date your spouse, have a meaningful devotional life, and…and…and….

But nothing gives. We’re just having more tossed onto the pile of “To-Do’s” that we already fail to manage. Is it any wonder that we feel isolated from each other, disconnected from life, and enslaved by the clock?

Sadly, the idealistic model held out to most Evangelical Christians is based upon 18th century ideals of home and family. Ministry after ministry wants to take us back to those golden days when America was first founded, when everything was noble, pure, and good.

The problem is that the entire world changed. Every aspect of 18th century life was annihilated by the Industrial Revolution and social Darwinism. The result is that today’s Church is demoralizing people by asking us to live like Founding Fathers without addressing the radically altered nature of work and family life that has become our 21st century regimen.

I’ve probably blogged about this issue more than any other (see my entire Business series and posts here, here, here, and here.) Unless we begin developing a Christian mindset that rethinks how we work, play, and live together, nothing will improve on the time front and we will only grow progressively more frenzied.

I continue to be frustrated by a clergy that never speaks to this issue. Nor are wise Christians with a public forum offering means by which we can live in a manner wholly countercultural that redeems time and allows Christians to truly live for Christ rather than for broken, worldly systems.

Let’s get talking more how we Christians can fight the forces that seek to entrap our time. Let’s break out of the box we’ve been put in so we can better serve each other and the lost around us.

7. Strive toward true community
Hand in hand with the idea of rethinking how we live as Christians at even the most basic levels comes the need for true community.I’m sure most of us have seen at least one war movie. The staple of those movies is the character that watches guys’ backs as they move from one position to another. He’s got the gun ready to take down anyone who makes a move against his buddies. He’ll look out for them no matter what—or die trying. We all know his line: “I’ve got ya covered.”Too many Christians have no one no one to say, “I’ve got you covered.” Most are left to their own devices. And when they get picked off by the world’s or the Enemy’s snipers, no one’s there with the medic.

If we haven’t noticed, Christians are divorcing at the same rate as the godless. Christian young people are no better than their Christ-denying friends when it comes to biblical knowledge and sexual purity. And when people are in desperate financial straits through no fault of their own, their church says to them, “That’s too bad. We can’t help you.

But that’s not being the Church. The anti-church, perhaps, but not the communion of saints. The truth of Christ shines in a dark placeWe Christians in America must abandon the Rugged Individualism that has permeated all of American culture and start living like our brother or sister in Christ is as much our concern as our own families. We’ve got to start asking if there are better ways to live in community than the fatally flawed half-dead thing we call community today.

Because of the strength of community in the 1st century Church, no one wanted for anything—at least according to what Acts 2:44-45 says. Or do we not believe that passage? The way we live today certainly proves that we don’t believe it. What really gets me is how ardently some Christians will argue against that passage while their neighbor goes bankrupt.

It goes beyond money, too. In our churches we may complain about so-and-so’s punk kid, but that punk kid is also our responsibility, not only because his parents are our brother and sister in Christ, but because the kid just may be, too. We may wag our tongues when some young girl in our church gets pregnant out of wedlock, but when was the last time we heard an entire congregation say that her failure was a result of their (that church’s) failure? That kind of group responsibility in other cultures is powerful, especially when practiced by Christians. But here in America it’s always somebody else’s problem.

That’s not community. There’s a million ways we can do better. Let’s start trying at least a handful.

6. Develop a holistic Christian worldview
Believe like a Christian; think like a pragmatist. Jesus fish on the car; Darwinism on the brain.The 2005 Gold Medallion Book Award for best book on Christian living went to Nancy Pearcey’s Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity. (You’ll notice that book listed under my Godly Read tab at the top of this page.) Pearcey’s book has made this The Year of the Christian Worldview. Many have talked about how important it is to have a holistic Faith in Christ that impinges on every aspect of our lives. Such a worldview provides the godly glasses through we interpret the world before we speak it back indwelt with the grace and truth of our Lord

When we roll out of bed in the mornings, we’re almost instantly assaulted by worldviews that set themselves up against God. We may not even realize it’s a fully-realized worldview we’re encountering, and this is to our own detriment. The businessman who proclaims Christ and sits on the board of the local Christian college is just as likely to be channeling a pragmatic worldview in his business and college dealings as he is the truth of Jesus Christ. Our child comes home dressed like a goth/vampire despite the fact that she’s the Awana Bible memorization regional champion, and we just shrug our shoulders, not understanding that a competing worldview has overtaken all her Bible verses, one that runs contrary to what all those verses mean.

How many Christians are hardcore evolutionists? How many Christians think it’s okay to hurt people far away as long as it accomplishes a nearby noble goal? How many Christians live by “If it feels good, do it” rather than “You are not your own, you’ve been bought with a price”? How many Christians think its okay to slash and burn the forests and meadows because it’s all going to burn in the end anyway?

The answer? Far too many. And we have non-Christian worldviews at operation in those people to explain their behavior.

Because we no longer teach a comprehensive view of the Bible that encompasses the entire spectrum of Creation, Fall, and Redemption (the crux of a Christian worldview), we have more Christians in America operating out of contrary worldviews than a Christian one. Sadly, too much of the Church doesn’t understand that Christianity works within the realms of philosophy, chemistry, economics, art, and whatever creative and rational thought we can imagine with the brains God gave us. Too often we default into various “-isms” that are the spawn of hell, yet we coat them with a thin veneer of Bible verses to give them mass Christian appeal. In our technological age, we’ve become convinced that Christianity can’t explain reality, yet nothing explains reality better than the truth of Christ.

If you haven’t read Pearcey’s book, do it. There’s nothing new in the book, but rarely has one book brought the pieces all together in one place so convincingly.

Now let’s start drilling a Christian worldview into our kids from the day they’re born and see if they can do better than we have.

5. Restore the importance of the Scriptures
There’s been far too much hellish mishandling of the Scriptures in our churches today. There’s been far too little meat of the Bible fed to people who are dying to hear God’s word. We have pastors who can’t preach the word of God, and people who can’t tell they’re not getting what they need. George Barna reports that pastors have never thought higher of their ability to get the Scriptures out there to their people, yet never since polling began have so many supposed Christians demonstrated more ignorance of the Book.I could beat this point to death, but I suspect that most readers here can go to more sources than I can to prove that we simply aren’t the people of the Book that we once were. For that reason what follows isn’t academic, but personal.It pains me to say this, but I was once a far better handler of the Bible than I am today. I memorized huge chunks of it, spent a couple hours every day in the study of it, knew where to find just about anything anybody wanted to know from it, and had a good answer based on it always at the ready. Unfortunately, I spent too much time with folks who thought there were more important things to the Christian Faith than storing up the word in one’s heart. In fact, I felt there were times that I was the oddball because I did have that “Bible advantage” going on. I let people convince me that I was haughty and made other people feel bad because I could quote verses from memory and could find any passage people wanted to locate. And though it didn’t feel right, I believed them.

I was a fool.

Now I didn’t give up the Bible, but I didn’t let it absorb me like it once did. I didn’t study it for hours on end anymore. Sometimes I didn’t even read it at all. And sure enough, over time I became exactly like all the people around me who couldn’t find things, couldn’t remember passages, and just didn’t handle the word of God well at all. I went from a workman approved to an apprentice’s apprentice. The wretched part of this is that many of the people I know who once deftly wielded the sword of the Lord have also grow slothful. We once burned brightly in this regard, but have dimmed today.

The cares of life? Yes. More trials than we anticipated? Sure. Marriage? Yep. All have contributed to that decline in the knowledge of the word. The weeds grew up and choked us.

But grace is sufficient and we can all get back to where we were (and beyond) if we realize that knowing the Bible inside and out can save us from countless defeats. It renews the mind and the soul. I pray that for all of us, we put the Scriptures in their rightful place in our lives.

We should not let a famine for the word of the Lord be self-created. To whom else shall we go? Only Jesus Christ has the words of eternal life.

Part 5 examines  the four issues I believe we Christians need to examine more than any other. Any ideas what they might be?


10 thoughts on “21 Steps to a 21st Century Church – Part 4

  1. The Christian Woman

    If the church takes responsibilty for someone’s “punk kid” not turning out, doesn’t that go against what you said in your last series about faith-teaching coming from the parents and not the youth ministry? If members of our church aren’t raising Godly children, what should we do?

    I’ve actually struggled with this kind of idea myself as my in-laws who are seemingly strong Christians have turned out one deliquent child and working on a second. I could give you a long list of where I think they’ve gone wrong, but it mostly boils down to their own inability to separate themselves from the world.

    My issue has always been – should we say someting? And we don’t because frankly our comments, no matter how much love is behind them, would fall on deaf ears and NOT be appreciated.

    As a parent of small children, I can say that their isn’t much guidance in the church or even in Christian literature as how to raise Godly kids (at least I haven’t found it yet). I love your idea of having Youth ministers teaching parents how to raise their kids. That is definitely a huge need today, especially for those of us who did not grow up in Christian homes and struggle with good examples of Godly parents.

  2. Christian Woman,

    I don’t see where having an understanding at a church that we should all watch out for each other negates parental responsibility. It’s not an either/or proposition. Bestselling men’s books on the shelves of Christian bookstores are telling us that men are bored, but how can they be when they are charged with overseeing the next generation—and not just their own kids? My experience has been that too many of us sit idly by as people go up in flames and then we say it’s not our problem, but we’re totally wrong. Because when one in the Body of Christ suffers, we all suffer—or at least we should.

    I prayed for your situation with your in-laws just now. Continue to ask God for opportunities to speak truth into the lives of their children, and them also.

  3. I tallied how much time I spend on “essentials” during the week. There are 168 hours in one week.

    56 hours sleeping @ 8 hours per night

    40 hours working @ 8 hours per day, five days per week

    3.5 hours per week getting ready for a typical day @ 30 minutes per day

    2.5 hours per week commuting to and from work @ 15 minutes each day, each way (since I live near work and work afternoon hours)

    This leaves 66 hours per week to do other things. Add in:

    2 hours per week for a typical worship service. (This is a hypothetical. Actual time taken out of my day when I go to church is about four to five hours if I include drive time.)

    5 hours per week of exercise (which I plan to do.)

    14 hours per week, hypothetically, if I prayed two hours a day for revival. 🙂

    That leaves 45 hours per week. I have not included meals or Bible study or anything else corporate with the Church.

  4. Michael,

    Well, you are a better man than I am. I have almost no time left during a week.

    You left off many things, though. Meal preparation and clean-up uses up a lot of time for me. Housecleaning? Driving other places besides work? Paying bills? Interacting with others via the phone, computer, etc? Grocery shopping?

    You start adding up incidentals and the day is gone!

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