Monday, October 11, 2010

Why Church?

The American church has many great positives. Church is great for sociality, entertainment, and spiritual growth. Church is a good place to see friends, hang out, see a good concert, experience a great worship service, hear sermons from preachers, discuss godly things with friends, getting fit at the gym (if the church has one), and finding a place to work or volunteer. However, the church has its negatives. Apathy, deception, fraud, sex scandals, splits, betrayals, and misguided intentions can plague churches and destroy them. 

A question many high-school and collegiate students are asking sounds like, Why should I go to church? What point does it have? When they cannot find a suitable and satisfactory answer, they no longer go to church. 

So what is causing this great dropout amongst students from this age range? Why don't the youth of today's America attend church anymore? They claim they don't need to go to church to be "spiritual." They think they can worship God and not have a church home, which, in essence, is true. But not for teenagers in America who have at least church every city block. There are many churches in America who are living for God, though not as many as in other countries, such as Russia or China. This, however, is another matter.

Perhaps youth do not attend church because they have found it to be a bland experience of God. Perhaps the church or churches they have attended in the past weren't part of the true Church, and their impressions of God and Jesus have been morphed as a result. I know many young adults or teenagers who dislike church is because a previous one mistreated them or didn't meet their expectations.

It is easy to blame the church leaders for these blunders. But this is not a new problem. It is a centuries old dilemma. The modern day church leaders have just inherited an ancient evil. This evil was described in the first paragraph. It is human nature to fall into sinful traps, so we must not blame church leaders. Nor must we blame the youth, for they can only live as they have been taught, or as they desire. We must not even look for a place to place blame. Why? Because that isn't what Jesus wanted. Jesus wanted His followers to tell every country, every person about Him. So we must not fret or place blame concerning the dropout of youths. We must focus solely on ministering to them, loving them, and making sure they knew the truth about Jesus. We must make sure to give them a reason to come to church. We must make church relevant, addressing the needs of today's society, and doing what we can to love and teach the youth of today's America.

Why Should I Go?

Through all the ups and downs of church, one key factor that somehow ties everything together is the aspect of friends. Friends have an enormous impact on the individual person, especially in the teenage years. Friends can make or break a person. Friends effect decisions. They effect a person's attitude towards God, and what type of relationship a person should have with the church. What type of friends you have can change everything. When your friends love church, attend consistently, and volunteer their time to help, so will you. But if your friends text during service, mock the preacher, and never help out, chances are you won't either.

So what happens if your friends stop coming to church? In my experience, when a clique forms at church and then most of its members stop coming, the remaining few do as well. Its sad to have known a teenager or group of teens for so long and have poured so much into them to have them drop out of church. When a group of teens declines in attendance, others will follow. My youth group has seen this. At the start of February, we ranged from twenty to thirty students. But in February, many stopped coming, even those who has proclaimed to be Christians and had leadership positions. These teenagers, when recently asked why they rarely came, replied that their friends stopped coming, so they were discouraged and asked, If my friends stopped coming, why should I go?

Those of us left wondered what happened to our friends. Attendance was so low that ten students became unnaturally high. This urged a period of discouragement and disappointment on the youth pastor and his wife, and the leaders in the youth group. We wondered why we had worked so hard to just have them spit in our faces. And I do not say that lightly, for it is how it was. It was not a happy time for us, and those who left didn't care they had hurt us.

So I had to ask myself, What went wrong? Did the youth pastor did something to offend them, did I not talk to them enough, did they decide to ditch God? Or perhaps they never truly cared in the first place. I happen to think that if a person stops coming to church altogether, maybe they never loved church, or Jesus, in the first place. I am not saying you must attend church to be a Christian. I'm saying if you don't care about church, God's bride, you cannot care about God. The problem with many teenagers in today's society is that they simply want church to match their opinions and desires, and when or if it fails, they bail out. They never attempt to change anything.

The bottom line is that the majority of those who spend a fair amount of church and then drop out never really cared about the church or God. They attended church only for their friends, and when their friends stopped coming, they stopped coming.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

What Is Your Fire?

Everyone has that little calling in ministry, whether it's a heart for homeless people, a passion to teach children, or a zeal for maintaining the church property. A striving Christian will recognize this gift in his or her heart. Where is yours? I recognize where my fire is directed to. I have a strong passion for martyrs and the Underground Church. I love to read of Richard Wurmbrand, or other heroic believers who were willing to, or who did, surrender their physical lives for Christ.

In my small but striving inter-city church, I recognize many pursued passions from fellow brethren. One couple started a computer lab, which is open to teach people in the community how to use computers, which is handy for job applications, among other tasks. Two men has a combined passion for homeless people, and have started a ministry that feeds fifty to sixty homeless or poverty-stricken people on Mondays. One young woman, a close friend of mine, has a passion for worship that usually leads her to other churches to lead their worship services. One elderly man has such a heart of servitude that he voluntarily painted the entire second floor of church, by hand, and by himself. Another friend, my closest, has a strong passion for evangelism, and is a skilled apologist, whom I have seen communicate clearly and effectively with lost people. I myself have witnessed this friend lead six or seven people to Christ. One lady used to be on staff, but the church could not afford to pay her for her many long hours and hard dedication, and yet she still continues to volunteer her time to be the children's ministry leader! My pastor, even with all the long, hard hours he puts into working at church, started a photography ministry, an area he is very skilled in and has a passion for.

I am surrounded by strong brothers and sisters in Christ! My church, though it may only have a hundred attendees, is filled with active Jesus Freaks who lead their own ministries. A special attribute of my church is the rule that if you have an idea for a ministry, event, or anything else, you are in charge of it. This is a spectacular way to get the church body involved. If you want to do something, you don't have to wait. You can start doing it!

So what about you? What can you do for God? If you are skilled with bicycles and live in a city dominated by university students, perhaps you can start a bicycle repair shop to minister to the students in your city. Or if you have a passion for sewing and live in a northern state, perhaps you can start a ministry to clothe the homeless people when winter comes. Or if you have art skills, why not volunteer to make posters for church events, or even paint rooms with a beautiful design? And if you enjoy to spend hours upon hours online or playing video games, it may be time to ask someone at church if you can run sound or EasyWorship (the slide show system) at church.

There are an endless amount of possibilities out there, and each church has needs. Find out where to plug in and get active! When Paul wrote about spiritual gifts, he wasn't only saying Christians would have emotional or spiritual skills; he meant we would have physical skills, too. So figure out what you are good at (or could be good at, with a little practice), and start working!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Keep Your Head On

Forgiveness. It can be viewed either as a weakness, or the key to release. Forgiving others their sins against me can be very hard. When I am wronged, or feel wronged, by someone, my first response is not to forgive that person. I usually react with anger, insolence, or a vengeful attitude. I react even stronger when someone I care about hurts me. I have had to learn this lesson recently as two close friends spurned my friend and I. We felt as if they "left us out to dry", if you know what I mean. I went to these two people Friday and admitted I was angry and needed forgiveness, and was forgiven by one.

What I've learned this weekend about forgiving others is that forgiveness, like everything else, is part of spiritual warfare. If I were to be in a sword fight with an enemy, there is a strong chance I will, at the least, get cut. Now if it were so to happen that my opponent slashed my arm, would I stop to cry, or pout, or cry foul, or be put off? No, because these options would lower my defenses, and then my opponent would wack my head off. I would have to stay strong and fight back with my own weapon, which, in the world of spiritual warfare, could be forgiveness.

It is the same with us. When a friend hurts me, I cannot get bent out of shape about it, or I give Satan an opportunity to do even more damage. The apostle Paul addressed this with encouragement to rejoice in persecution. He foretold that Christians everywhere would suffer persecution, but we should not fear because God would be with us.

In conclusion, we should forgive anyone who has wronged us. Some would ask why we ought to forgive those who wronged us. They would wonder why we should do something nice for them when they did nothing but hurt us. We should because it releases us. If we chose to not forgive, then we hold ourselves hostage in an unbarred prison in which we can choose to walk out of, if we could only forgive. Chose to forgive, and you chose to be free.

PS, my apologies for not blogging recently. I went on vacation, and my blog lost it's appeal up until now. I'm back on, full force.