Almost 2 years ago I announced that our family would be leaving the great city of Kansas City and moving 2 hours east to Jefferson City. Quickly my time hear is coming to a close as the residency has moved into the dreaded interviewing stage. Recently, I was invited to step into a process with the Rock Church’s Soulard campus. Overall, our time there was great and as we continue to pray through this process I wanted to share the sermon that I preached. This is not the quality of video or audio but hopefully you are able to enjoy God’s word. The title of this sermon is “Sign or Savior” and was based out of John 4:43 – 54. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did proclaiming it.
As I sat in my “Introduction to Preaching” at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Rev. Dr. Charles Briscoe asked a question I’ll never forget “Which one of you want to be a preacher?” Honestly, it seemed innocent enough so I, along with everyone in the class, raised my hand. Dr. Briscoe chose myself and 9 others and made these statements, “I want the 7 of you to raise your hands.”
Over the last few years of my life, around this time of year, I have been placed in a conundrum in my life. Every January the celebration of Martin Luther King’s (MLK) Birthday and the Sanctity of Life Sunday seem to fall on the same Sunday.
The problem with drawing lines in the sand is that with a breath of air they disappear.
I remember driving around Kansas City with some friends while in college when I was first encountered this question that had plagued me for the entirety of my Christian life, “what is the difference between Christian and secular music?” You see on my radio I was listening to “secular” music and my friend was becoming continually and visibly agitated with it. When he asked me to change it, the question was raised by another friend. Although it seemed an initially obvious answer, I did not immediately know that answer. Actually, the more I thought about it the more I realized I am not sure. Was it that a Christian song had to mention Jesus or God? If that is true then what do we do with the books of Esther and Song of Songs (which do not mention either)?
Unfortunately, this is a dilemma that is not unique to the sphere of music. We live in a world where the divide between Secular and Sacred is constantly and adamantly being drawn by both Christians and non-Christians alike. We are frequently labeling things “Christian” that I suppose we fear otherwise might be confused for something else.
- Christian schools
- Christian groups
- Christian movies
- Christian books
- Christian bands, etc.
If our music, our schools, our groups, our books, our actions do not point those around us to Jesus, and serve to redeem a broken world, then are they not indeed unchristian? Instead of creating clear bright line, like we would like, Christ blurred the lines between secular and sacred, seemingly implying that the division the ritualistic religion of the day had crested a false division. If All things are God’s, all things are in fact sacred? IS this going to o far? Why? Furthermore, He was criticized for almost everything he did because he acted as if things such as the purity and impurity, pious and impious, Jew and Gentile, powerful and weak, rich and poor did not exist as the world saw them. When Paul came on the scene he preached this as he proclaimed in Romans there is no division, but “all are one in Christ Jesus.”
Is it easier to know who is in or out? Is it that we wanted to be able to sit at the table with drunkards tax collectors and sinners, as long as we knew who was who? Honestly , I’m not really sure, so I put the question to you, is there a Sacred/ Secular divide?
“It frustrates me how church people discern truth using their politics instead of their Bibles, and it frustrates me that they don’t know the are doing it.”
– Reverend Dr. Derrick Lynch, Blue Valley Baptist Church
As an American and also as an evangelical Christian, I can hardly bear to watch this nightmare unfolding. It’s bad for Christianity, heck it’s bad for America. Here is my take on the sorry spectacle of Christian politics — and how to fix it.
- “… but they did it to President Bush”. Again, I don’t know about you but my kids would get into trouble for making an asinine excuse like this.
- “[Political Party] is just the lesser of two evils”. Just remember that you are still advocating for evil.
- “[Political Party] is closer to my values”. Yes, and they are trying to setup there own [Political] kingdoms that compete with God’s.
- Rush Limbaugh hates Jesus.
- Sean Hannity hates Jesus.
- Rachel Maddow hates Jesus.
- Mark Levin hates Jesus.
- Kieth Olbermann hates Jesus.
- Piers Morgan hates Jesus.
- Anderson Cooper hates Jesus
- Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, NPR and whomever else I missed all hates Jesus.
- Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, and [fill in your political party if it was not mentioned] parties are ALL antithetical to the Kingdom of God.
I know you agreed with some of the list and others you disagreed but I want to ask you this, What kingdom are they fighting for? When you listen to them talk/ advocate for their position who are they talking about? A Political party, an ideology, or Christ? Better yet if someone were to listen to you talk/ advocate who would they say you are talking about? Unfortunately, we have sold out to these fiefdoms while the Kingdom of God (you know the one that Christ died in establishing) loses ground. Do not allow your voice to be co-opted by your allegiance to an earthly kingdom or party. We have prostituted ourselves out so much that the outside world does not know the difference between Christ many political parties and that is a shame.
Recently, I was given a recent CNN article “Why Millennials Are Leaving The Church” by Rachel Held Evans. When reading the post it becomes evident that (in my opinion) she is not talking about the “holy catholic church,” but a narrow subculture of conservative American evangelicals but the conversation is afoot none the less. Unfortunately, her post does not [seem to] address why young adults in America are leaving the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, broad evangelical, nor mainline churches. I must admit that her post has struck a chord with a larger swath of readers (see the thousands of comments below her post). She is addressing a perennial topic of conversation among church leaders and church goers: what will happen to the next generation.
Like Rachel, I’m in my early 30’s, right on the border of the millennials, and many of the questions and doubts I hear from the millennial generation resonate with me too, but the analysis offered from Trevin Wax below differs somewhat from Rachel’s.
I guess the questions is simple, If you are below 30 why are you leaving (staying) in the church? I look forward to your comments below.
Rachel thinks millennials are leaving the church due to the perception that evangelicals are
“… too political, too exclusive, old-fashioned, unconcerned with social justice and hostile to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.”
She’s right to decry a vision of Christianity that reduces repentance to a list of do’s and don’ts. I too have noticed that many millennials desire to be involved in mercy ministry and support justice causes. And I couldn’t agree more when she says “we want churches that emphasize an allegiance to the kingdom of God over an allegiance to a single political party or a single nation.”
The Church’s Response.
How has the church responded? Rachel sees church leaders trying to update their music or preaching style, and thereby running up against the “highly sensitive BS meters” we millennials have. We’re not fooled by consumerism or performances when churches cater to what they think we want.
“What millennials really want from the church is not a change in style but a change in substance.”
I agree with that sentence for the most part, although I would tweak the last line to say “What millennials really want from the church is substance.” Not a change in substance, necessarily, just substance will do.
Too often, our churches have offered a sanitized, spiritualized version of self-help therapy, and Jesus has been missing. And that’s the problem. Like every generation, she says, “deep down we long for Jesus.”
Here’s where Rachel and I part ways – on what communities following Jesus look like in our culture.