Sunday, September 14, 2014

Barna Group Says "The Nature of Churchgoing is Changing"

"While tens of millions of Americans attend church each weekend, the practice has declined in recent years. According to our 2014 tracking data, overall church attendance has dipped from 43% in 2004 to 36% today. But beyond a dip in attendance numbers, the nature of churchgoing is changing" states the Barna Group. 

"Regular attenders used to be people who went to church three or more weekends each month—or even several times a week. Now people who show up once every four to six weeks consider themselves regular churchgoers."

Why is the nature of churchgoing changing? In America we have more religious freedoms than most countries on earth. We can meet without fear for our lives and yet we don't take advantage of this opportunity. There are abundance of churches to to join but sadly many churches are losing members. 

Here is a question I've been wrestling through lately. Could our reasons for attending (or not attending) church be drastically different to those of the New Testament church? Way deep down I think we need to ask the question, why do we even go to church? 

"When you come to church, when you worship Him, you’re not doing it for God really. You’re doing it for yourself." Victoria Osteen's words seriously bother me. Not because of her shocking disregard for being Biblically sound but because it could still be an underlying reason why we attend to church. 

"Millennials who are opting out of church cite three factors with equal weight in their decision: 35% cite the church's irrelevance, hypocrisy, and the moral failures of its leaders as reasons to check out of church altogether", Barna Group reported. "In addition, two out of 10 unchurched Millennials say they feel God is missing in church, and one out of 10 senses that legitimate doubt is prohibited, starting at the front door." 

What if our value system for WHY we go to church needs to be evaluated? What if we are searching for "the good life" in all the wrong places? The following video is just a teaser for my next post...

" do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul in the process? Is anything worth more than your soul?" (Matthew 16:26)

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Contrary to Osteen's Humanistic Message,
Bonhoeffer Calls Us to Die to Self

Deep within us there rages a battle to be like God. This self-made image in our hearts begs to be identified as master and lord of our universe. The flesh wants life to revolve around itself, Not Christ. But Bonhoeffer begs the Christian to realize, "When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”
Victoria Osteen's message justifies my natural fleshly desires: "Just do good for your own self. Do good because God wants you to be happy. When you come to church, when you worship Him, you’re not doing it for God really. You’re doing it for yourself." 

At the very core of her message is a humanistic philosophy.

Humanism is a doctrine, attitude, or way of life centered on human interests or values; especially: a philosophy that stresses an individual's dignity and worth and capacity for self-realization through reason. 

Imagine if Jesus had followed Osteen's teaching when he made his pilgrimage to mount calvary. What if her message was aired to the persecuted Christians in Iraq. Imagine this teaching being delivered to Pastor Saeed imprisoned in Iran, "Do good for your own self...God wants you happy". Oh really?

Is this the gospel message that the kidnapped Nigerian girls embraced?

Osteen's message can only be socially acceptable in a spiritually obese culture that is on entertainment overload. Somewhere along the way, this secular worldview has creeped into the western church and the church is satisfied with a form of religion that entertains their self-made god.  

I am ashamed to say that my own heart often embraces the "me-mentality" when I go to church. What can my church give me? I crave the satisfaction of being treated just right; to be respected. 
Osteen exhorts us to go to church for our own pleasure because this pleases God. Could this be an accurate reflection of our core belief system and how we behave?

"Then Jesus said to the disciples, "'If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross, and follow me. If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for me, you will find true life. And how do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul in the process? Is anything worth more than your soul?'" (Matthew 16:24-26 

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was right, Christ is calling us to crucify self. He goes on to write, "Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will go and sell all that he has. It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods. It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble; it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him."

The life of discipleship is not cheap, nor is it free. It is costly...are you willing to pay the price?