unchurched

Why do most people not ahead church? Do people that don’t go to church believe in God? Some often assume that just because someone doesn’t go to church that they do not believe in God. The fact is, many do not understand the unchurched. If you were to interview an unchurched you would come to understand:

1. Unchurched believe that any religion is okay, as long as it helps you.

We live in a universalistic world that thinks it is sophisticated and politically correct to say that all roads lead to God. I hear the masses say, “You can believe what you want, I will believe what I want, and we are all okay.” The fastest growing religion in America and the world is tolerance which has the motto’s: “everything can be right” or “nothing is certain.”

Is that really true? Can anyone make that claim? What we understand from each of the major religions of the world is that everyone thinks they are right and others are wrong, even those who claim to be agnostic or atheist. Can they all be right or wrong when they are all truly different at their core? No.

2. Unchurched are curious about the spiritual, but put off by religion.

People are generally fascinated and intrigued by the spiritual. However, they do not want to be tied down by any one belief or give up control to God. As I talk to many unchurched youth I am overwhelmed by their desire to know about God, faith, and the afterlife, but not commit to it. 4 out of 5 American’s call themselves deeply spiritual [Aug.26, 2002 Barna Update], but base their faith on their circumstances not on absolute truth or formal religion. People do not want a religious system running their lives, telling them to stop sleeping with their partner, to obey “stupid” moral standards, to quit abusing substances, or to start forgiving their parents.

3. Unchurched do not know what Christianity really is all about.

A few weeks ago I was meeting someone for lunch. While waiting I was talking to another person waiting for a friend too. This person began to complain about their work and how they were glad to be on lunch break.  Every other word that came out of their mouth was an expletive. When they were finished venting they asked, “What kind of work do you do?” I have to laugh inside when people ask this question. Mostly for the response that follows, “I am a pastor”. He just looked at me with that I-am-embarssed-for-cussing-like-a-sailor-in-front-of-a-minister-look.

After an awkward pause he said, “Oh, you know, I am a Christian too!”

I did not doubt him, but I did question, “That’s great. Where do you go to church?”

“Oh, I do not go to church.”

“Why is that?”

“Well you do not have to go to church to be a Christian,” was his dogmatic reply.

Many consider themselves Christian by default because they live in America, their mom was a Christian, or because they went to a denominational church sometime in the past.  Two-thirds of people who do not go to church say that they are Christians [Barna, 2000], while half of those same people do not celebrate Easter which is a big Christian holiday. It doesn’t take you long to learned that not everyone who says their a Christian really believes that Jesus Christ can save them from all their sins or that He is the only way to eternal life.

4. Unchurched do not know what to believe for certain.

Many who claim that they are Christians in the previous point are uncertain about one thing: where will I go in the afterlife? That is the age old question. The common answer is, ” I do not know. Does anybody? I think I am good enough.” Today, there are many unfounded theories about God and His plan for life after death. Some will say, “God is a good God and will be gracious to me. Of course, He will forgive everybody.”

5. Unchurched are searching to fill an empty void.

How good is good enough? Who sets the standard of the scale of goodness? We like to set the standard by weighing our goodness against anthers goodness. I might think, “Well, I am not as bad as Hitler or that molester I heard about on the six o’clock news.” Who says you are not as bad? We like to project upon God our good standing and impose upon Him mercy.

I would like to propose that when reading the Bible from cover to cover it is clear–I do not deserve His mercy, I am not a very good person at all, I desperately need God’s grace to cover my sin, and belief in God’s Son is the only means to an afterlife of peace. I absolutely believe that a daily relationship with Jesus Christ is what will fill the empty void and longing of our heart. Jesus is certain, poses great questions to the ultra-religious [John 8:54-59], and claims to be the way truth and life [John 10:20]. Nobody goes to heaven but through Him [John 14:6].

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5 terrifying truths about Christianity

Have you ever had to tell the truth to someone and what you had to tell them was not the greatest of news? Not that they have a boogey hanging from their nose, but a bad behavior that needs changing. You finally muster up the courage to tell them. You share this truth with them because you care, love and help them. Sometimes the truth might scare you out of your pants. Today Jesus is going to tell us the truth on some facts that might make you fear.

Jesus’ talks a lot about eternity. 2/3 of all parables were about heaven and hell issues. At the end of His greatest message ever preached, the Sermon on the Mount, He talked clearly about the reality of heaven and hell. We do not like to think about the reality of hell. Many believe that there is no such thing as hell. They say, “How could a loving God send anybody to hell?” Hell is more of a swear word than a real place in the minds of many. This is not a hell fire and brimstone message, but cutting to the heart of the issue like Jesus did:

1. Not everyone is going to heaven [Matthew 7:13]. You might be able to handle this first fact thinking to yourself, “Well, murders, molesters and rapists definitely deserve to go to hell. I am not like them. At least not AS bad.”

When I was in South Africa I observed gated communities. I would pass by the gate and the guard would nod or wave me in. Everyday was the same. He let everyone in. I suppose that is why homes got broken into so many times!? When it comes to heaven we want a guard gate kind of God. ”If you are sincere; if you are basically good; if you believe in a god…just drive up to Him and he’ll nod, wink and wave you on through.” God does not care only if you are a good boy or girl. He doesn’t grade on a cosmic curve. He just doesn’t let anyone in to His heaven. Heaven and hell are gated communities.

If I were ask you t call your mother you could not use just any number in the phone directory to call her. You got to call mom’s specific number. Likewise we cannot just try any way to God. There is only one way to God that is through Jesus Christ.

2. More people will go to hell than heaven [Matthew 7:14]. There is a truth to the two popular songs by AC/DC Highway to Hell and Rascal Flatts cover of Life is a Highway. Life is a highway that barrels by at a blazing speed and there is a road that leads to hell. The Bible says it is a broad road and well traveled. Like I-65 at rush hour. Many people think that they can make it to heaven on their own. However, self-reliance merges into self-deception, and self-deception dead ends into self-destruction. In another popular song Only the Good Die Young by Billy Joel, he says, “I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints.” Hell is no laughing matter. Jesus says it is eternal torment. A place of isolation and darkness, and a place of “weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Jesus is the definite article. This takes you back to English Grammar class [the=definite article]. That means He is absolutely the way, the truth and the life, nobody goes to the Father but through Him [John 14:6]. This is exclude 376 million Buddhists living in Asia, 900 million Hindus in India, 1.3 billion Muslims throughout the world, and…

3. Many who think they are Christians aren’t [Matthew 7:15-23]. God doesn’t send people to hell. We volunteer. Our sin condemns us to hell. Keeping God at a distance in this life will continue more of the same in the next. Just because you say, “I’m a Christian because you go to church, FUEL or pray.” Doesn’t mean you are a Christian any more than saying you are nut makes you a Snickers Bar.

You can tell a Christian by the fruit they bear. Apple trees bear apples, grapevines bear grapes, and Christians look like Christ. When people look at your life can they see clearly that you are a Christ follower because you act like it, talk like it, smell like it?

4. You will not get another opportunity after you die. Hebrews 9:27 says, “it is appointed men once to die, but after this the judgment.” Death is an appointment you are not going to be late for. You are going to die! God will look at you life and see if you received His Son. He will either say, “Well done. Welcome. Paid for by the blood of the cross” [Matthew 25:21-23] Or “I don’t know you. Where you come from?” [Luke 13:25] There is no second chance on the other side of this life, thus…

5. This could be your last chance. What you do on this side of the grace will affect where you spend eternity. If you are a procrastinator by nature this is not something you want to put off until later. Commit to Christ before it is too late. You do not know the date when you will stand before God’s gate!

Will you come to Christ today? Will you commit to live for Him? Will you prove it through your life?

the slump

It is really embarrassing to strike out in slow pitch softball. The ball comes in nice and SLOW, not to mention a softball is twice as big as a baseball.
The night was going great. I had a double and an in the park homerun. Our team was winning. All was about to change, for me. I suppose it all went to my head, I thought I could crush every ball to the fence. The only thing that got crushed was my pride. Whiff! The next 5 at-bats I struck out. Sure I could make the excuse that it was one-pitch league, that I was tired, or that the pitcher was good (throwing them low and short, which really gets me drooling). I was so frustrated with myself. I wanted to throw the bat, curse like a sailor, and sit on the bench in a pout. But the team wouldn’t let me…
The other players on my church softball team came along side me and saught to encourage me. Rollie, the coach, gave me some back-to-the-basics pointers like, “Keep your eye on the ball…follow through with your swing…step-up in the box…forget about your last up-to-bat” He really encouraged me.
I was having what baseball calls a slump. I was determined to shake this slump with the encouragement of my teammates. My next at-bat I step up to the plate, took my stance in the front of the batters box, picked up my elbows, looked to the sky for strength from my God, and then watch the pitch slowly reach the plate. I swung. Crack! The ball made contact with the bat and rifled over the shortstops head. Base hit. You would have thought I won the game. I almost cried. My teammates were cheering, and I was relieved because the strikeout slump was over.
Slumps happen in others places than softball or baseball. They can happen in life. Have you ever been in a spiritual slump? I know, I have. How do you get out of a spiritual slump? The same way you get out of a sporting slump…by getting back to the basics, by surround yourself with teammates that will cheer you on and encourage you to get back to the plate and hit that ball. Nothing is more satisfying that sticking to the game through the slump, stepping up the the plate, and keeping your eye on the Prize–JesusChrist.