Tag Archives: Christianity

Club Church

club_churchIt’s been said that to succeed in business, you must find your niche and play to your strong suit, whether that’s low prices, high quality, large variety, customer service, etc. And if you offer a product or service that people want, but no one else is providing, you’ll be well on your way to market domination as long as you don’t sabotage yourself with bad choices. Does that apply to how churches “market” themselves?

The church is described in the Bible as the “body of Christ”, and like a human body, there are many functions performed by different parts of the body.[1] There should certainly be ministries to widows and orphans [2], teaching of sound doctrine [3], praising God,[4] fellowship with other believers,[5] and celebrating communion,[6] and more.[7] But where do you fit in building that new basketball gym? Is that a ministry to local kids “starving” for court-time? Or maybe “fellowship”? What if we actually try teaching our youth our creeds and statements of beliefs and why we believe those to be true? Will that cut into pizza and video game time at youth group? Will half the youth group stop attending if we stop babysitting them and start training them to face the battles they’re otherwise heading out to unprepared? What if the power went out, and our well-choreographed worship presentation didn’t have working microphones and amps, and the words to the songs weren’t conveniently displayed on large screens for us to lip-sync with minimal effort? Would we all just go home for lack of entertainment?

Now, before I get branded a crusty old curmudgeon, I understand that many times that basketball gym is keeping kids on the street from looking to gangs for their social structure and their role models; I understand that pizza is a fellowship meal just as much as other foods have been through the centuries; and I understand that kids have played games of one sort or another whenever they congregate, whether modern video games, or kick-the-can, or whatever made-up game could be invented on the spot, for as long as kids have been kids. I’m also not advocating that more contemporary churches burn their electric guitars and sound booth and switch to a Gregorian chant for their worship. But I am asking whether we’ve started majoring in the minors, so to speak – focusing on the details around the edges and forgetting the focal point of all history. When many of Jesus’ wannabe disciples had left Him to go find new entertainment, and Jesus asked the disciples if they too would leave Him, there are some things they didn’t say in response. They didn’t say they were staying because of His engaging style, His charisma, His warm personality, His concern for the causes they personally identified with, or a lot of other reasons people give for attending particular churches. Peter nailed it when he replied “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life.“[8] That’s really what it comes down to, isn’t it? If we forget that, we are in danger of becoming just another passing social club.

However, the church makes a poor social club. The world will always be able to offer more enticing clubs. After all, clubs promise immediate gratification and don’t ask for lifelong commitments; they’ll stay conveniently compartmentalized in whatever area of your life you set aside for them; they don’t ask for your all; they certainly don’t ask you to be willing to endure suffering or even physical death for them. But that is precisely the commitment that Christ asks of each of us.[9] Yet there is one area where Christianity has a complete monopoly: only Jesus offers eternal life.[10] And with it comes the added bonus of all the fulfillment and joy that all the clubs in the world can’t provide.

Are your children being equipped as disciples of Christ, or just temporarily entertained while they grow to be “ex-Christians”? Is your worship about what feelings you get out of the experience or what you can offer to God? If people can attend your church, and all they come away with is that you have really good coffee and donuts (but little spiritual nourishment [11]), and the kids had fun (but weren’t getting “the wisdom that leads to salvation” [12]), and the preacher was pretty funny (but conveniently would never convict anyone of the danger they’re in living apart from God [13]), then I would suggest that your church has left the only “market niche” God ever intended for it to occupy.[14]


[1] 1 Corinthians 12, NASB.
[2] James 1:27, NASB.
[3] Most of 1st & 2nd Timothy
[4] Colossians 3:16, NASB.
[5] Acts 2:42, NASB.
[6] 1 Corinthians 11:23-34, NASB.
[7] 1 Corinthians 12:5, NASB.
[8] John 6:68, NET.
[9] Visit Open Doors or Voice of the Martyrs if you have any doubts.
[10] John 14:6, Acts 4:12, NASB.
[11] Matthew 4:4, NASB.
[12] 2 Timothy 3:14-15, NASB.
[13] 2 Timothy 2:23-26, NASB.
[14] Matthew 28:19-20, NASB.

Implications

dominosI surprised an atheist colleague a while back when I asked to borrow all the atheist books he had. I was attending Frank Turek’s Cross-Examined Instructor’s Academy in Charlotte, NC for 3 days of intensive training in Christian apologetics (i.e. giving a rational defense for our beliefs).[1] Part of the requirements for attendance was a long reading list of Christian apologists, as well as being familiar with the works of prominent atheists like Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, etc. This desire to delve in to opposing views surprised my friend. But as physicist and theologian John Polkinghorne says, “The question of the existence of God is the single most important question we face about the nature of reality”.[2] That’s because of the far-reaching effects it has in our lives. Indeed, ideas have consequences, so let’s look at some consequences of Christian doctrine.

  • Work Ethic – I often hear the lament that people don’t want to work hard anymore, and I’ve seen plenty of examples myself. Work ethic seems to have suffered some major blows in our generation. But it’s good to remember that this trait used to be referred to as the “Puritan work ethic” or “Protestant work ethic”. Why? Because the Puritans brought to America the application of biblical principles that Protestant reformer Martin Luther had reminded Europe of the century before: that there can be honor in our work, regardless of what we do, because we do it for God. Other civilizations viewed physical work as demeaning and lowly, fit for slaves but not for citizens, and certainly not for nobility. Yet the Bible tells us that we are to do our work, whatever it is, as for God rather than men[3]; that masters should be fair to their slaves, for they too have a Master in heaven[4]; and slaves should not just work when their master is watching, but with integrity all the time; and that God had given Adam, the first man, work to do in the Garden of Eden before Adam sinned, and so work was not a curse to be avoided, but a way to serve and honor God.[5] While we may not live in a society with masters and slaves anymore, those exhortations to fair treatment of workers and doing one’s work with integrity apply equally well to our modern-day employer-employee relationships.
  • Ethics – That idea of fairness leads to another implication of Christianity. The Christian should not just work hard, but should also be ethical. The Bible tells us that false weights (i.e. for cheating in business transactions) are an abomination to the Lord.[6] And that he who formerly would steal should steal no more. [7] We are also told that it is better to be wronged than to do wrong. And that even when we do the right thing, it should be from pure motives and not from compulsion or fear of being caught.[8]
  • Stewardship – Under Christianity, all we have is given to us by God. He is the owner, and we are simply stewards. [9] This perspective naturally leads to a desire to care for and use wisely the resources we have. We do not value resources like the environment and animals above people, but we don’t want to neglect them or misuse them either.
  • Imago Dei – Speaking of the value of people, under Christianity, all people are created in the image of God, or “imago Dei” in Latin. Therefore, they each have intrinsic worth regardless of race, nationality, creed, gender, title, or any other differentiation.  In fact, the Bible tells us that there is really only one race – the human race – so racism simply must whither and die in the soil of Christianity.[10] Aside from our common origins, God has offered salvation and eternal life to all freely.[11] And if Jesus was willing to sacrifice Himself for people a little different from us, who are we to hate those whom He loved? Moreover, we recognize that “none are righteous,” and that apart from Jesus, we are no better than the lowest outcast or the most evil villain.[12] As the saying goes, “the ground is level at the foot of the cross.”
  • Dealing with Suffering – Life can be tough. And yet, in 2 Corinthians 4, Paul describes the various trials he has gone through, then proceeds to say that “momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.”[13] Paul was a man who had been imprisoned, beaten, shipwrecked, stoned, left for dead – and yet, he considered this difficult life to be “light” in comparison to the “heaviness” of eternity with Christ. In Paul’s view, no amount of earthly suffering could tip the scales. Christians have a bottomless reservoir of strength and hope in times of trial.

There are significant implications to belief in Christ. We can compartmentalize our beliefs, but only at the expense of our honesty. For if we are honest, our beliefs must express themselves throughout our lives. These are just a few of the ways those beliefs will surface. Can you think of others?


[1] In fact, this blog is the result of being challenged by J. Warner Wallace at that training class to become a “Christian casemaker”. 🙂
[2] John Polkinghorne, The Faith of a Physicist, Ch. 3.
[3] Colossians 3:23, 1 Corinthians 10:31.
[4] Colossians 4:1, Job 31:13-15, Ephesians 6:5-9.
[5] Genesis 2:15.
[6] Proverbs 11:1, 20:10,23, Micah 6:11, Leviticus 19:36, Deuteronomy 25:13 to name a few.
[7] Ephesians 4:28.
[8] 1 Corinthians 6:7, Proverbs 16:2, 2 Chronicles 19:9.
[9] Deuteronomy 8:1-20, Matthew 24:42-51, 25:14-28,
[10] Genesis 1:27, Acts 17:26, Galatians 3:26-29.
[11] Romans 6:23, 1 Peter 3:18.
[12] Romans 3:10-12, 23.
[13] 2 Corinthians 4:17.

Intellectual vs Willful Rejection

face-questions-1567164-639x373I watched a debate between Dan Barker, from the Freedom From Religion Foundation, and Dr. Justin Bass recently. A closing statement is generally that last recap of your critical points that you want the audience to remember. Barker’s closing statement gives an interesting insight into the atheist mindset:

“This whole idea of “Lord”, … that we need a “Lord” somehow to worship, is an ancient idea … is kind of a psychological question, it’s not really a question of the fact. Even if Jesus did exist, even if I agreed with Dr. Bass 100% – yep, he rose from the dead, yep, there’s a God, yep, I don’t deny any of that – that does not mean that he is my Lord. If he did exist, if he created this hell that I’m going to have to go to, then let him prove to me what a huge macho man he is and send me to hell. I will go happily to hell. It would be worse of a hell for me to bow down before a Lord who would create a place like hell…. Regardless of the legend and historicity issue…Even if I agreed 100%, I would still reject that Being as a Lord of my life because I’m better than that…based on what I read in the Bible and what I see in church history, I cannot accept Jesus as Lord… To me, I think that’s more important than all this historicity stuff, which, you heard me admit, is a matter of probabilities; I might be wrong…That still doesn’t mean that Jesus is Lord. He is NOT the Lord of my life…”

I just want to make a couple of observations about his rationale here. What saddens me about this is the willful arrogance and disregard for the facts that he espouses. This is not being a “freethinker”. This is not being rational. This is the purely emotional response of a petulant child screaming “I don’t care what Daddy says is best for me, I want it my way!” To say that he would still reject Jesus as sovereign even if he agreed with all of the evidence pointing to Jesus’s rightful claim to that title, and to justify that with the notion that he is “better than that” strikes me as an odd combination of deliberate blindness and arrogance.

I also found it interesting that he doesn’t consider “all this historicity stuff” that important. Really? Christianity makes an extraordinary amount of claims that can be falsified. That should be a rational thinker’s dream. This isn’t some mystical religion of warm fuzzy feelings with no hard truth claims and no way to prove them right or wrong. And so far, the historical claims of Christianity have been consistently proven correct. Is that maybe why Mr. Barker doesn’t consider them all that important? Would he not consider historical confirmation important in other areas? I don’t know if he cares much about Julius Caesar or Galileo or any other classic historic figures, but I would think, as much as his organization likes misusing Thomas Jefferson’s “separation of church and state” comment, that questions of whether Jefferson existed and actually wrote that famous phrase would surely be important to him. But then if the historicity of someone like Thomas Jefferson is important, why not the historicity of someone far more important?

The western world literally dates history around the birth of Jesus. And if what Jesus said and did was accurately recorded, then that emphasis on His birth as the pivot point of all history is legitimate. Yes, we need to look at the evidence honestly, and openly, and be willing to follow the evidence wherever it leads, even if that’s to Someone more powerful, more knowledgeable, and in all other ways, better, than us. In that event, we have to be willing to lay down our pride and admit when we’ve met our match. And when it turns out that our adversary is actually the One who loves us more dearly than we can understand, then the only reasonable response is to quit rejecting Him and instead follow Him.

Maybe you agree with Mr. Barker that that would be hell for you. Well, God won’t force you into heaven. But that also means that the hell you may resent Him for establishing is also the place you are voluntarily choosing to go, and the place that God isn’t keeping you from entering against your will. Look at your objections honestly and see if they are legitimate intellectual questions seeking answers, or just stubborn pride. You may be surprised.


Below is the link to the full 3 hour debate/Q&A. Mr. Barker’s closing statement starts around 2:44.