young people

New Territory

Photo credit: lightstock.com I am fully convinced, my dear brothers and sisters, that you are full of goodness. You know these things so well you can teach each other all about them. Even so, I have been bold enough to write about some of these points, knowing that all you need is this reminder.

For by God’s grace, I am a special messenger from Christ Jesus to you Gentiles. I bring you the Good News so that I might present you as an acceptable offering to God, made holy by the Holy Spirit.

So I have reason to be enthusiastic about all Christ Jesus has done through me in my service to God.

Yet I dare not boast about anything except what Christ has done through me, bringing the Gentiles to God by my message and by the way I worked among them. They were convinced by the power of miraculous signs and wonders and by the power of God’s Spirit. 

In this way, I have fully presented the Good News of Christ from Jerusalem all the way to Illyricum.

My ambition has always been to preach the Good News where the name of Christ has never been heard, rather than where a church has already been started by someone else. I have been following the plan spoken of in the Scriptures, where it says,

“Those who have never been told about him will see, and those who have never heard of him will understand.” (‭Romans‬ ‭15:‭14-21 (NLT)


The letter to the Romans was written to people who were believers, people who knew and understood the truth of the gospel. Many of them could teach and share the gospel with others.

Here the apostle Paul reveals his heart for those who've not heard the gospel. Those who don't know of Jesus or of God's redemptive love for them. This is Paul's ambition.

His ambition is not for a bigger and better church. It's to reach out to those who've never heard the redemption message in the gospel and are not engaged with those who do know it. His focus is to reach nonbelievers.

Today, as in times past, much of the growth of one church is at the cost of another. Believers in one church body transfer to another one that seems better for whatever reason.

And yet, over 40% of the world's population are unreached by the message of God's redemptive love—over 3 billion people are unreached. Some of these unreached or unengaged peoples have immigrated to North America.

Now, more and more young people, born and raised in America, are part of a new, growing group of unreached and unengaged people.

It's time to stake out new territory. This means each believer is responsible to reach out to others, and church leaders need to equip their people to do this.

Let's reach out to the unreached and unengaged, especially in our own neighborhoods, and help support missionaries who go to other nations to reach the unreached. ©Word-Strong_2016

Risking Community to the Next Generation

Photo credit: unsplash.com_lukepamer I've found a kindred spirit in Pastor Ed Underwood. Ed is pastor of the historic Church of the Open Door in Los Angeles, CA.

We are both products of the Jesus People Movement of the early 1970's, fans of the LA Dodgers and the USC Trojans, and grandparents.

We're ministry veterans (old guys) who want to see a fresh revival in the church, and are committed to intentional, relational discipleship to equip and raise up the next generation of leaders. Here's Ed's post

Sooner or later, the ones who always get things done in a local church, the ones who make the key decisions, they will die.

It’s a one-to-one ratio. Everyone in our faith communities will die–pastors, elders, deacons, volunteers, teachers, and everyday serious disciples of Christ–every one of us will die.

A sad reality? Yes. But it doesn’t have to be a desperate problem.

Unless the ones who are closest to the end refuse to risk what Jesus risked: Handing off his community to the next generation.

[bctt tweet="We need to risk what Jesus risked: Handing off his community to the next generation. @EdUnderwood" via="no"]

Jesus’ community is the church. Notice that he didn’t choose one person over forty to birth his church.

Notice also that Jesus’ devoted followers, the Apostles, were constantly building into the next generation. Peter took John Mark under wing, Paul had his Timothy and Titus.

But all the teaching, equipping and modeling is lost if those of us who are on in years refuse to pass through the threshold of trust.

The Threshold

The day will come when we not only speak truth into the next generation, train the next generation, equip the next generation, and encourage the next generation, but we also hand off to them. Until we trust the next generation to do what we’ve been doing all of our talk about loving community and caring about the future of the work of God is just that.

Talk

Because we’ve stepped back from the real test of trusting God’s Spirit at work in the next generation.

Trust

Until we actually give them voice, space, and ownership, we’re just one more bunch of old Christians clinging to the inertia of institutionalized church.

And we’re the ones who lose, because if we’ve done what Jesus asked us to do–make disciples–we’re missing the greatest earthly joy of community: watching the next generation’s giftedness glorify our Lord.

The Payoff

Last weekend we risked our beloved community, Church of the Open Door, to the next generation.

When I first proposed this radical idea to hand off responsibility for our 100th Centennial Celebration to the next generation there were a few raised eyebrows. I mean this was a big deal. What if they blow it? What if it doesn’t work out? What if? What if? What if?

If you’re reading this and you’re over forty you need to know that you’ll never run out of “what ifs.”

I have some better what ifs:

What if they have creative ideas we would never imagine?

What if they could energize a demographic we’ve lost touch with?

What if they, not us, are on the cutting edge of what the Holy Spirit’s doing in this world?

A tent, family, and hashtags

We risked it.

And rather than blowing it the next generation of Church of the Open Door blew our minds.

With creativity.

With energy.

With a front row seat to the power of the Spirit in their lives.

They wanted informal, not formal. They wanted family friendly, not program driven. They wanted it outside under a tent, not in the worship center. They wanted to build a memory for their children. And they wanted a hashtag rather than a videographer and a memorial magazine.

Wow!

I still can’t figure out how to use the #cod100th hashtag, but every time someone under thirty shows me how I can’t believe how spectacular our 100th Anniversary was.

It seems Church of the Open Door’s future is in good hands.


 

I read Ed's book, Reborn to Be Wild: Reviving Our Radical Pursuit of Jesus, and realized we were kindred spirits. We have similar passions! We want to pass on to the next generation all that Jesus has poured into us.

I hope you'll visit his site where you'll find more great posts and some great resources. Here's the link to the original post on Ed's site— Risking Community to the Next Generation

Ed is featuring one of my recent posts, so check it out at— EdUnderwood.com

God Speaks

Times_Times-Changing_collage I came of age during the tumultuous sixties. The Vietnam War began in the middle of that decade. Prior to this, America was immersed in a promising rise in economic power. The growth of the middle class was the engine that powered the American economy after decades of depression and wartime economies.

Along the way, America seemed to lose its soul. Social protests marked the latter end of the sixties and became a cultural undercurrent against racial injustice, materialism, and a war far from home.

This undercurrent created a spiritual vacuum, and nature abhors a vacuum. It was quickly filled with a myriad of philosophies, religious movements, and lifestyles.

A culture shift

The range was staggering—eastern religions and philosophies, a resurgence in witchcraft, experimentation with illicit drugs, communes, and along came the Jesus Movement that challenged the traditions and status quo of Christianity.

This cultural shift wasn’t restricted to the US, but found its way throughout the world.

The Beatles mystical involvement with Transcendental Meditation and drugs led them to India for an audience with an Indian yogi. Their songs reflected this personal and famous cultural shift, while visiting the infamous Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco.[i]

Prior to this, songwriters like Bob Dylan and other folk singers challenged America’s status quo on issues of social conscience, and Time magazine announced the spiritual vacuum with their cover declaring—God is dead. Inside this issue noted theologians touted the loss of America’s spiritual soul.

These were some of the prophets of that decade.

A breath of fresh air

In the midst of all the protests came a breath of fresh air spiritually. Waves of young people dropped out of the middle-class march and pursued all that reared its head at the time—including meditation, drug use, and free love.

Out of this move away from middle-class America, many turned to God and joined the Jesus Generation that launched what became the Jesus Movement.[ii] Although more well known and popular on the west coast, it took place across the nation, and spilled over to the next decade and into other nations.

The Olympics of 1972 (in Munich) were tragically marred by a terrorist attack on the Israeli Olympic team. But God’s counter was to send a ministry called YWAM (Youth With A Mission), which sent well over a thousand young people into the midst of millions from all over the world, and shared the love and hope of Jesus.[iii]

The Second Coming

A primary influence of this movement was an interest in the return of Jesus Christ—the Second Coming—when God returns to bring those who love Him to heaven, and also brings a final, apocalyptic judgment upon the earth.

It paralleled fears about over-population, famine and environmental ruin. Once again, God brought an answer to the world’s self-destructive spiral into despair—hope in His Son’s return to save the world from itself.

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets,

but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.

He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.

After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high (Heb 1:1-3)

Are you ready for the Lord's return to earth?

If so, how are you using your time and living that shows your readiness?

If not, what hinders you from opening your heart to God?


This is an excerpt from my book. Thanks for reading!


[i] The Haight-Ashbury district became a famous staging ground for the hippie movement, especially known for love-ins and hallucinogenic drug use

[ii] The Jesus Generation was a name given to the (primarily) young people in the Jesus Movement

[iii] For background on YWAM see this link– History of YWAM

The Search

©CCCM – the Tent

During the sixties, I was part of the counterculture movement seeking spiritual truth. In the early seventies, I became part of the Jesus Movement.

This movement was neither organized, nor guided by any church or religious organization. It was the work of God in people searching for spiritual truth and encountering Jesus in a personal relationship.

“It’s not about religion, but relationship,” was a common expression in those days. Young people popularized the Jesus Movement, including those known as hippies who joined the developing counterculture of the 1960s.

A spiritual vacuum

A spiritual vacuum existed in those days. For the most part, traditional churches did not reach the young people of that generation. Several elements in our current decade remind me of that era.

Today, traditional and established churches are not reaching the young people of this generation, including those raised in Christian homes. Many surveys show a strong trend toward young people leaving churches in droves.[i]

In my own search for truth as a youth, I sampled wisdom from various religions and philosophies that surrounded me in abundance and diversity.

Raised in a nominally Christian home, even confirmed in the faith of the Episcopal Church at the age of twelve, I found my Christian moorings too weak to keep me from drifting into varied experiences, philosophies, and religious encounters. These encounters brought plenty of confusion and uncertainty.

During the late 1960's, I had developed a ritual of reading the Bible every morning. Even so, I still used drugs and alcohol, practiced transcendental meditation, and played and wrote music, along with other experiences typical of that time.

Through it all, I was coming to believe Jesus was an important element of true spirituality. During this period, a friend invited me to a certain church in Southern California, which later became a mega church within the Jesus Movement.[ii]

Thrown out

I attended an evening service where a very young but quite charismatic evangelist was teaching the Bible. At the end of the study he gave an invitation to “accept Christ.”[iii]I wasn’t ready to do this.

After the service, I began asking many questions my friends were unable to answer. So they brought me to a man considered a Bible answer-man of sorts—I continued asking my questions. He answered me by quoting verses of Scripture from the King James Version (KJV), but without explanation.

I had studied Shakespeare and Chaucer in high school, so it wasn’t the archaic language that troubled me—it was my lack of spiritual understanding.

Each time he quoted a Scripture in response to my many questions, I could hear a round of “amen’s” and some cheering, as he refuted my challenging questions.

Intent on my quest for spiritual truth, and exasperated with his pat answers, I finally asked him—“If I could destroy all the books in the world, how would you then tell me how you truly know God?”

He promptly called me the devil and threw me out of the church.

The wrong way

It was another two years of spiritual wandering before I came into a personal relationship with Jesus, my Lord. I continued reading the Bible and praying, but didn’t give up the other activities and experiences that were counterproductive to my spiritual growth.

My frustration deepened and became desperation.

One morning, leaving the small trailer I lived in with my girlfriend, I went on a search for God. I expected some sign in the sky or a burning bush experience, as Moses had before he led Israel out of Egypt (Exodus 3:1-6).

I saw no sign, no burning bush, and didn’t hear any voices.

Discouraged, I returned to the trailer and began reading my Bible. I came to some verses that challenged me—

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (Matthew 7:13-14)

In my heart I took up the challenge of going on the narrow and hard way. I had considered many different philosophies and religions in search of a harmonious belief everyone could hold.

This text showed me I was on the wrong path that led to destruction. I saw the last part of the verse as a challenge to pursue, so I committed my life to God.

A changed life

My life changed little by little as God showed me a new way of living.

I began to give up old habits of my previous lifestyle and developed new ones. On the day of my wedding I experienced a rush of new life and freedom.

I had closed the door on my old life as a new door opened up.

My wife and I attended the same church I’d been thrown out of, but I had a much different attitude and view of God.

I began serving the Lord[iv] in various ways, and became part of the church staff. My wife and I became full-time volunteers who oversaw the childcare ministry at the time our first son was born.

A better way

Years later, I’ve often wondered if the time between my earnest questioning and eventual commitment of my life to Jesus could have been shorter—perhaps two years shorter!

What I needed that night and what millions—even billions—still need is a simple, clear, and complete explanation of the gospel.

For many people, Jesus is only a historical figure whose life is shrouded in mystery.

Every Christian believer should be able to share the truth of the gospel with or without a Bible in hand, and without using Christian terminology and jargon.

Is this possible? Absolutely!


[i] The Barna Group has done a lot of research, especially in the area of young people. Here are a couple reports that reveal this trend of church dropout among youth/young adults— Barna article. There was also a significant study done by sociologist Christian Smith, which he published in his book, Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Eyes of American Teenagers (published in 2005), coining the term Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (MTD). Here is a link to an article about MTD

[ii] The Jesus Movement was a Christian counter-culture movement starting in the late sixties, and growing to prominence in the early seventies. Young people, often termed Jesus freaks, and Christian rock music, characterized this non-organized movement. [http://www.one-way.org/jesusmovement/| http://conservapedia.com/Jesus_Movement]

[iii] “Accepting Christ,” describes a person making a decision to follow Jesus as their Lord and Savior. It is also called “making a decision for Christ.” An invitation (opportunity) is given to make this decision during an “altar call”—an invitation to come forward or signal an intention to “accept Christ” with a raised hand, then being led in a simple (often rote) prayer.

[iv] “Serving the Lord” became a popular phrase describing volunteerism in the church, but can also include paid staff positions. The idea being it’s more than a job, it’s an opportunity to “serve the Lord.”


This is another excerpt from my book— The Mystery of the Gospel