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"… we all have adversaries or opponents toward whom we feel animosity.
He may be the owner of a competing business who’s stealing your best customers, and if you’re honest, you’ll admit that you hate him for putting your livelihood in jeopardy. She may be a colleague who’s fighting against you - all too successfully - for bonuses and advancement. He may be a midlevel executive who’s firmly entrenched above you in the corporate structure, and you resent him because he’s blocking your way to the top.
If you’re management, your adversary may be the union, or vice versa. Your enemy might be people who hold opposing views on abortion or homosexuality, and you’ve gone beyond disagreeing with their opinions to despising them as people. It might be a teacher who refuses to cut you any slack. Or the girlfriend who broke your heart. Or the father who stunted your self-esteem. Or a former friend who broke your confidence and spilled your secrets to the world. Ot the ex-spouse who trashed your marriage. Or the recalcitrant employee who just won’t get on board with your policies. Or the classmate whose popularity eclipses yours. Or the colleague who is reaping all the recognition that you deserve."
Lee Strobel, God’s Outrageous Claims, pp. 10-11
** IS THE CHURCH ON THE ENDANGERED LIST?
Many Americans are on a spiritual quest. This should be good news
for the church. But, according to researchers, many of them are
choosing noninstitutional forms of religion. A recent poll by Gallup
shows that weekly church attendance is holding steady at about 40
percent of the population - the same rate as in the 1950s. But other
researchers - like Dave T. Olson, director of TheAmericanChurch.org
- claim only 17.7 percent of the population attends a church service
any given weekend.
Olson, who bases his numbers on annual church attendance reported by
individual U.S. congregations, says, "People who only go to church
now and again exaggerate how often they go."
Albert Winseman, religion and social trends editor for the Gallup
Organization, says people are shopping for alternatives to church
and that is one reason 3,000 local churches close their doors
"Most denominations are either declining or stagnant," says
The Assemblies of God is one of the few Christian groups to show
steady growth in recent years. The Yearbook of American and Canadian
Churches reports the Assemblies of God and Southern Baptists are the
only Protestant faith groups of the largest 25 to report an increase
in membership for 2004.
An April Gallup poll indicated 65 percent of Pentecostals attend
church weekly, second only to Church of Christ (at 68 percent) among
VANISHING PROTESTANT MAJORITY
Half a century ago, two-thirds of the population considered
themselves Protestants. Officially, for the first time last year,
self-identified Protestants dipped below half of all Americans,
according to Gallup research.
Evangelical and Pentecostal church attendance looks stable, but
membership isn’t keeping pace with population growth. Olson says
although the same number of people are attending church as 15 years
ago, there are an additional 48 million people living in the
But people are not necessarily flocking to other faiths. J. Gordon
Melton, author of the Encyclopedia of American Religions, says
tabulating all the Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews and New Agers
accounts for only 7 percent of Americans. Self-professing atheists
comprise another 10 percent of the population.
"In the culture today we don’t have the churchgoing momentum we did
in the 1950s, when ’respectable people’ attended church every week,"
says Earl Creps, director of the Doctor of Ministry Program at
Assemblies of God Theological Seminary in Springfield, Missouri.
"There’s no guarantee anymore that people are going to come to
Although only 17 to 40 percent of Americans attend church regularly,
about 80 percent of the population professes Christianity.
Pollster George Barna, who last year wrote the book "Revolution:
Finding Vibrant Faith Beyond the Walls of the Sanctuary," believes a
transformational shift is occurring in how Christians view church.
He claims more than 20 million committed yet disaffected
"revolutionaries" have struck out on their own to form house
churches, family faith communities and cyberchurches.
WHAT CHURCH OFFERS
Creps, author of "Off-Road Disciples," believes these
"revolutionaries" are forfeiting a great deal by not being involved
in a local church. "A great church offers relational connections,
people modeling how to live faith, accountability, the enormous
power of a group worship experience and the operation of the gifts
of the Spirit," he says.
Theologian J.I. Packer says the reality of corporate church life
pervaded first-century Christianity and should today as well.
"Individuality is not correct, according to biblical standards,"
says Packer, author of "Knowing God." "The church is central in
God’s plan. God uses the church to set up His kingdom - the
corporate relational reality where people respond to Christ as King.
We can’t dismiss the structure God has established."
Many observers believe house churches and cyberchurch movements are
short-lived trends that will never amount to more than 5 percent of
Melton says such methods don’t represent a new phenomenon. "For
decades people have been saying they can be a good Christian and
never go to church," he says.
Gallup sees a strong link between individual spiritual commitment
and church attendance by measuring factors such as prayer, Bible
study and small group involvement.
"People can say they are a spiritually committed person without
attending church, but it happens only 5 percent of the time,"
Creps says merely getting people into the sanctuary isn’t the goal.
"The issue really is the need for every person to come to God
through His Son Jesus Christ. That involves a connection with a
community of Christians - which we call church."
"The church is God’s primary vehicle for the proclamation of the
gospel," Winseman says. "The abundant life is found most abundantly
in the community of the local church."
--John W. Kennedy, Today’s Pentecostal Evangel
This article reveals the current condition of the church and some new trends in Christianity but for the church to be the Acts New Testament church we need to continue to explore and discover from acts what it looks like and what it does.
Charles Cooley, regarded by many as one of the most brilliant American sociologists, propagated a concept called the “looking-glass self.” This view essentially states that a person’s self-concept is largely determined by what he/she believes the most important person in his/her life thinks about him/her.
Josh McDowell & Dale Bellis, Unlocking the Secrets of Being Love, Accepted & Secure (Dallas: Word Pub., 1989), 58.
Four things that Doug Murren says in his book Churches That Heal that hinders the church from becoming a church that heals:
i.A Lack of Compassion
He notes, “Two million people die every year. Only about 200,000 of those die knowing Jesus as their Savior. Loneliness is one of the major contributors to the high number of heart attacks. Each year 800,000 babies are born out of wedlock (Churches That Heal pg. 104).
ii.The “Us verse Them” mentality
This mindset builds walls and barriers toward unbelievers. We are to be the light and the salt to this lost world around us. We are to tell people about Jesus Christ and show them the way to eternal life. Not hide from them (105-108)!
iii.A lack of transparency (108, 109)
We must live lives that show that we are “Saved by Grace” and that we are not perfect. We must be genuine and authentic with others.
iv.A consumer mentality
This view has devastated the church today. Christian view church as a place to have their needs met. They have no desire or will to sacrifice and serve others. It is self-centered Christianity which focuses only on what do I get out of this church. The reason there is tremendous turnover in the church is because peop...
John Bevere states, “However (eternity), it’s not just a matter of ceaseless time, as it is not subject to time. Eternity transcends time. To speak of eternity in terms of merely perpetual duration is to miss the full picture. To capture the best view of eternity, we must look at God Himself. He is not limited in power, knowledge, wisdom, understanding, and all glory, just to name a few. He is self-existent, forever was and forever will be God. He is called the ‘Everlasting Father’ (Isa. 9:6). Young’s literal translation read, “Father of Eternity.” He is called the “King of eternity” (1 Timothy 1:17, AMP). All that is eternal is found in Him; in fact, eternity itself is found in Him. All that is outside of Him is temporal and will change. No matter how good, noble, powerful, or enduring it may see, it will eventually cease. Even the earth and universe will change, but He will not… (Bevere, Driven by Eternity page 6, 7).
The History of WWJD
Wikipedia encyclopedia states this about the common abbreviation WWJD: The phrase "What would Jesus do?" (often abbreviated to WWJD) became popular in the United States in the 1890s and again in 1990s as a personal motto for thousands of Christians who used the phrase as a reminder of their belief that Jesus is the example to be followed in daily life, and to act in a manner of which Jesus would approve. The initialism WWJD is sometimes used by Christians to mean "Walk with Jesus Daily".
History of the term: Though variations of this phrase have been used by Christians for centuries as a form of imitatio dei, the imitation of God, it gained much greater currency following Charles Sheldon's 1896 book, In His Steps. Sheldon's novel grew out of a series of sermons he delivered in his Congregationalist church in Topeka, Kansas. Unlike the previous nuances mentioned above, Sheldon's theology was shaped by a commitment to Christian socialism. The ethos of Sheldon's approach to the Christian life was expressed in this phrase "What Would Jesus Do", with Jesus being a moral example rather than a Saviour figure.
Sheldon's ideas coalesced with those that formed into the Social Gospel espoused by Walter Rauschenbusch. Indeed Rauschenbusch acknowledged that his Social Gospel owed its inspiration directly to Sheldon's novel, and Sheldon himself identified his own theology with the Social Gospel.
In this popular novel (it had been translated into 21 languages by 1935), Rev. Henry Maxwell encounters a homeless man who challenges him to take seriously the imitation of Christ. The homeless man has difficulty understanding why, in his view, so many Christians ignore the poor: "I heard some people singing at a church prayer meeting the other night, 'All for Jesus, all for Jesus, All my being's ransomed powers, All my thoughts, and all my doings, All my days, and all my hours.' "and I kept wondering as I sat on the steps outside just what they meant by it. It seems to me there's an awful lot of trouble in the world that somehow wouldn't exist if all the people who sing such songs went and lived them out. I suppose I don't understand. But what would Jesus do? Is that what you mean by following His steps? It seems to me sometimes as if the people in the big churches had good clothes and nice houses to live in, and money to spend for luxuries, and could go away on summer vacations and all that, while the people outside the churches, thousands of them, I mean, die in tenements, and walk the streets for jobs, and never have a piano or a picture in the house, and grow up in misery and drunkenness and sin."
This leads to many of the novel's characters asking, "What would Jesus do?" when faced with decisions of some importance. This has the effect of making the characters embrace more seriously Christianity and to focus on what they see as its core--the life of Christ. In the novel, men and women respond in different ways; in contrast to the men who vow never to act without asking what Jesus would do, the women's task is self sacrificial. For example a singer gives up her voice, both in the sense of yielding her singing to the cause and in the sense of silencing the individual expression of her personality.
In 2005, Garry Wills wrote "What Jesus Meant," in which he examined "What Would Jesus Really Do" (also a book review in Esquire Magazine). The expression has become a snowclone and inspired countless variations, usually for humorous effect.
We suffer from poor I-sight. Not eyesight, a matter of distorted vision that lenses can correct, but I-sight. Poor I-sight blurs your view, not of the world, but of yourself.
Some see self too highly. Maybe it's the PhD or pedigree. A tattoo can do it; so can a new truck or the Nobel Peace Prize. Whatever the cause, the result is the same. "I have so many gifts. I can do anything."
Brazenly self-assured and utterly self-sufficient, the I-focused have long strutted beyond the city limits of self-confidence and entered the state of cockiness. You wonder who puts the "air" in arrogance and the "vain" in vainglory? Those who say, "I can do anything."
You've said those words. For a short time, at least. A lifetime, perhaps. We all plead guilty to some level of superiority.
And don't we also know the other extreme: "I can't do anything"?
Forget the thin air of pomposity; these folks breathe the thick, swampy air of self-defeat. Roaches have higher self-esteem. Earthworms stand taller. "I'm a bum. I am scum. The world would be better off without me."
Divorce stirs such crud. So do diseases and job dismissals. Where the first group is arrogant, this group is diffident. Blame them for every mishap; they won't object. They'll just agree and say, "I can't do anything."
Two extremes of poor I-sight. Self-loving and self-loathing. We swing from one side to the other. Promotions and demotions bump us back and forth. One day too high on self, the next too hard on self. Neither is correct. Self-elevation and self-deprecation are equally inaccurate. Where is the truth?
Smack-dab in the middle. Dead center between "I can do anything" and "I can't do anything" lies "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Phil. 4:13).
Neither omnipotent nor impotent, neither God's MVP nor God's mistake. Not self-secure or insecure, but God-secure -- a self-worth based in our identity as children of God. The proper view of self is in the middle.
[Lucado, M. (2012). Life to the full: 3-in-1 featuring. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.]
"I have an elderly acquaintance of about eighty, who has lived a life of unbroken selfishness and self-admiration from the earliest years, and is, more or less, I regret to say, one of the happiest men I know. From the moral point of view it is very difficult!...As you perhaps know, I haven’t always been a Christian. I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I...
1. C. Leslie Charles says that the American Psyche is headed for a pressure cooker explosion because she sees a society that is getting angrier and angrier and more self-centered every day. She says many have bought into the belief of the “The Cranky Code” of conduct:
a. I am entitled to what I want when I want it.
b. My time is important and I should not have to be inconvenienced by others.
c. I have the right to be impatient or rude when other people are behaving stupidly.
d. I am entitled to special privileges because I am who I am.
e. I’m a taxpayer; I own part of this road and I have the right to drive as fast as I want.
f. I not only have the right to pursue happiness, I deserve to be happy and I’ll do whatever it takes to achieve it.
g. I’m entitled to cheat a little bit in order to get ahead. If I don’t take advantage someone else will, and then they’ll be a step ahead of me.
h. I work extra hard but don’t get paid for it so I’m justified in helping myself to a few “souvenirs” from my office to offset what I am rightly owed.
i. I’m too busy to mince around with false politeness and should be able to tell people exactly what I think without having to worry about their feelings.
j. I must be more in the know than everyone else so I can stay one up on them; otherwise they may take advantage of me.
k. I deserve the newest, the biggest, the best, and the most. It’s my right.
l. I’m going to die one day so I may as well get as much as I can right now.
m. So what if I’m rude-I never have to see this person again, so what d...