Any Moody Blues fans (or former fans, such as me) reading this?  I used to love this group, attended one of their concerts back in ’73, still have an LP (that’s “long-playing,” as in an analog, vinyl disc of yesteryear) somewhere in my garage.

Question of Balance was their sixth album, released in 1970.  It was less psychedelic and orchestral than their previous albums, and less dubbed over so as to be easier to perform in concert, and aimed as a protest to the Vietnam War (although none of the songs directly addressed the war).  The lead song, “Question,” was written by lead singer and guitarist Justin Hayward and, in a later interview I saw, he claimed that it was originally intended to be two separate songs, one “fast and furious” challenging the establishment, “Why do we never get an answer, when we’re knocking at your door, because the truth is hard to swallow, that’s what the war of love is for…” and the other, soft, mellow, and reflective, “I’m looking for someone to change my life; I’m looking for a miracle in my life…”  And if you want to hear the song you can see it here:

Warning: the video is kinda cheesy & obnoxious (features a revolving/rotating album cover) but the soundtrack is good.

But that’s not why I’m writing this blog entry.  I’m writing because I have been questioning the notion and veracity of balance lately.  It appears to me that the word is idealized as though it were synonymous with truth and excellence.  And something which happened this past weekend (that would be March 22-23, 2013) brought it to the forefront of my mind.

Four of us from RWCC drove down to El Paso for a regional GCLI (Great Commission Leadership Institute, GCC’s leadership program) meeting.  We have these meetings twice a year and we normally rotate between El Paso, Phoenix, and here in Rio Rancho.  At these meetings we normally have a time of prayer, reports from the different churches, and a couple of presentations by one or two of the pastors on the most recent GCLI position paper (documents reflecting where GCC pastors stand on a variety of issues).  Last spring we were supposed to discuss “Arminianism & Calvinism,” to be presented by me, but the paper was not available in time and I was asked to hold off on it until it was published.

In June, 2012 at the Pastor’s Conference a panel of four GCC pastors presented their views on Romans 9.  One pastor gave a Calvinist interpretation (i.e., Paul is addressing the predestination of individuals), two pastors presented an Arminian perspective (i.e., Paul is addressing nations and not the predestination of individuals), and the fourth pastor was somewhere in the middle.  It is the middle perspective which I want to address here, the so-called balanced view as it is generally referred to.  

Back to this past weekend…  I gave my presentation on Friday evening on the subject of Romans 9 and the broader issue of Arminianism and Calvinism.  I provided a 14-page handout which included a comprehensive list of definitions on the issue as well as the content of the presentation.  The presentation itself consisted of a synopsis of what the pastors stated on Romans 9 back in June of last year followed by a historical perspective on the issue ranging from the fifth century through the Reformation, rhetorical questions on why we have so many disagreements over this and numerous other issues, and an appeal for unity.  In that last regard I used the story of George Whitefield and John Wesley (same one I used in a previous Sunday teaching a few months back on the “Unity of the Church”).  What I did not do was to take sides, even though I made known my Calvinist leanings up front.

Because my presentation did not end until 9.15p (I was told I had an hour and I was faithful to that request—for once), there was no time for discussion that night; rather, we decided to have a question-and-answer-and-comment session on Saturday morning.  It appears that the presentation was received well even though at the start there was some apprehension from some folks (this is what I was told) that it might turn factious.  It did notat all.  Towards the end of the discussion time the pastor of the host church in El Paso asked the attenders (about 40, mostly from El Paso but also a handful from Phoenix and the four of us from RWCC) where they stood on this issue.  The results did not surprise me: three leaned towards Calvinism (I being one of the three), none towards Arminianism (I had expected at least one or two), and practically everyone else smack dab in the middle (which as I just stated, did not surprise me one bit).

You see, in the minds of most folks it really is a question of balance.  There is something safe about being in the middle.  Penguins in the Antarctic who keep to the middle are more likely to survive the freezing temperatures.  In politics being in the middle is considered fair and balanced—and wise, conciliatory, peacemaking—taking into account all issues, maintaining a proper perspective, and acknowledging that there is some truth on both sides of an issue; what could possibly be more balanced than that!  Even with respects to nutrition most dieticians ask us to be balanced, not too much fat, not too much protein, not too many carbs.  There’s even a buttery spread called “Smart Balance,”

I mean, how can anyone go wrong when they’re eating something that’s balanced, and smart-ly so, at that! 

But wait…exactly what is balanced here?  Certainly not the fats with the carbs and the protein (the latter two are 0g/serving).  Are the chemicals balanced?  And if so, with respect to what?  And the only thing “smart” about this product is that you have to be a biochemist to even read some of the ingredients, much less know what they are.  Seriously, when’s the last time you said, “please pass thedl α tocopheryl acetate at the dinner table?

Obviously, this is nothing more than a marketing ploy to get folks to buy it.  Most folks, you see, want to be balanced and to avoid extremes.  Madison Ave. understands this quite well.  And yes, this fact can be proved mathematically.  In fact, it is widely used in statistics in a whole range of disciplines (e.g., sociology, psychology, business, engineering).  I believe you’ve seen this before; it’s called the bell curve.

For you math geeks reading this, here’s the formula:

It is also known as the normal distribution curve, as it applies to all sorts of statistical measures (e.g., distribution of IQ points, blood type, public opinion on a whole host of issues, return on investments).  Frankly, I’m surprised it’s not in the Bible!

Now, looking at the generic bell curve chart up there you can imagine that in a typical American evangelical church about 15% are Arminians and 15% Calvinists, with 3% in each case being more committed to their respective doctrine.  And then there is the middle majority, the balanced bunch, about 70%, who see some good points and some things they’re not too comfortable with on either of the two sides. 

It needs to be noted that political, philosophical, and religious views change, providing new data and necessitating that the curve be redrawn to accommodate shifts in perspective.  Case in point: 20 or so years ago only a small minority of Americans supported civil unions, much less gay “marriage.”  Those folks were on one of the extremes (we’ll say the “left”).  Today, however, about half of Americans support gay “marriage” (75% among the 18-29 crowd), and an additional 30% or so are in favor of civil unions only.  In other words, the previous left is now the majority middle.  And a similar thing has happened with Calvinist and Arminian beliefs since the Reformation; first the majority were Calvinists, then the majority were Arminian, and now the majority are in the middle.  Not surprising.

But is the truth always to be found in the middle?  Well, obviously not when it comes to so-called “healthy” buttery spreads, and even less so when it comes to opinions on marriage.  Facts change, but the truth does not change.  “I, the Lord, do not change” (Malachi 3.6); “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14.6).  My first point here is that Truth = Jesus = God = “do not change.”  My second point is that the truth is to found only where God reveals it; that would be Scripture, first and foremost—regardless of public opinion.

In Revelation 3.14-22 Christ addresses a letter to the “church and Laodicea” and tells them this,

15I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. 16So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.” (Revelation 3.15-16)

I taught on this on the fourth/last of my series on “Seven Letters to Seven Churches” (last summer).  I find that by far most Christians misinterpret this passage to think that hot is good, cold is bad, but that lukewarm is even worse than cold.  Actually, a study of the history and geography of the area reveals that both the hot and cold waters which were piped into the city were useful, but that the lukewarm water was not.  Regardless, this serves as an illustration that being in the middle may be the majority perspective but not always God’s perspective.  Just a thought.

This analogy fits in quite nicely in the Arminian vs. Calvinism debate.  You see, the five principles or doctrines of each position actually form a solid logical system in each case.  My perspective is that Calvinism is truer to the teachings in Scripture than Arminianism, but I will grant my Arminian brothers and sisters grace, of course, but also acknowledge the logic of their doctrine as being fairly sound.  The middle, that is to say, where we pick what we like from each one, is more of a muddy middle, a non sequitur (i.e., “does not follow” or has faulty logic) and requires what I refer to as Herculean hermeneutics to make sense of it.  But the folks in the middle are also my brothers and sisters, and I love them, extend grace to them, and fellowship with them regardless.  And ultimately only God knows the real deal here.  In other words, I admit that I could be wrong.  But for now, and until someone convinces me otherwise, “either from Scripture or reason” (paraphrasing Luther), I must stay with what I find is most congruent with Scripture.

So, it’s not a question of balance after all; it’s a question of truth—and of which doctrine is closer to it.  It’s not about feeling comfortable but about believing the truth.  And it’s not about finding safety in numbers but about finding safety in Christ.  Just an admonition for all of us.

One closing thought…  I just read the ingredients on the carton of butter in my fridge.  Here are the ingredients: cream & salt.  That’s it, two single-syllable words.  Now that’s my idea of balance; there’s no question about it.

God bless

CalvinCuban

Today is “April Fools Day” and so I feel compelled to write something foolish (I know, I know…you are thinking that all my blog entries are foolish; won’t argue with you there).  Anyway, normally it’s a day for pulling pranks on other folks and Google is no exception; here’s their ad for the “beta version of ‘Google Nose.’” 

Actually, I would not be surprised if such a gadget were made available in the near future, complete with a slew of apps for creating your own smells.  Mark my words, if such a thing were ever invented and brought to market it would likely stir up a stink!

The word “fool” and it’s relatives (e.g., “fools,” “foolish,” “foolishness”) appear 186 times in the New American Standard Bible (more or less times in other translations), 76 times in Proverbs and 23 times in Ecclesiastes; that alone accounts for over half the mentions of the word.  Several Hebrew and Greek words are translated into English as “fool+” with root meanings such as “stupid,” “unwise,” “senseless,” “without reason,” “dull,” “empty headed” and so on.  There’s even a guy in 1 Samuel 25 whose name was Nabal or “fool” in Hebrew.  Read his story and you’ll conclude that he was aptly named.

My three all-time favorite verses in this respect include…

1The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God (Psalm 53.1a)

That one, by the way, is the universally recognized “Atheist Day” verse.

7The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1.7)

I like that one as it contrast a healthy fear or respect for God, who He is, and what He has done for us, with a fool, who has no such fear.

25Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (1 Corinthians 1.25)

Of course, God is neither foolish not weak; He is actually both omniscient (all knowing) and omnipotent (all powerful).  But to a real fool (i.e., one who thinks he knows more than he actually knows or can do more than what he can actually do), God—and His followers—appear as fools.  For this reason Paul sarcastically wrote to the “wise” and “strong” Corinthians that,

10We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are prudent in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are distinguished, but we are without honor. (1 Corinthians 4.10)

So, on this April Fool’s Day let us be reminded that the real fools in this life are those who “think” they can get through this life and into the next without God.  Sadly, their own joke is on them!

God bless

CalvinCuban

 

This morning I was visiting internetmonk.com, as I do most days, and came across a blog on a recent survey on clergy views on origins.  The survey was commissioned by Biologos (biologos.org) and conducted by the Barna Group (barna.org).  I will provide the full text of the survey below and then add some comments afterwards.

What do today’s pastors think about science?  What views do they hold on creation and evolution and how strongly do they hold them?  How do origins issues impact their ministries?

These were just a few of the questions that motivated us at BioLogos to commission a survey of pastors on origins.  In 2012, the Barna Group conducted 743 telephone interviews with pastors from across the US, from churches big and small, and from all Christian denominations.  This comprehensive, in-depth survey provides a fascinating analysis of views held by clergy today.  In the coming month, we’ll be digging deeper into the survey results, but for now, here are some key highlights:

#1: Pastors hold a diversity of views on origins.

Overall, while a slight majority of the pastors surveyed fall under the label of Young Earth Creationism (54%), sizeable portions of clergy accept Progressive Creation (15%) and Theistic Evolution (18%).

The numbers varied widely based on a number of factors, however. Pastors of mainline churches were most likely to accept Theistic Evolution, while non-Mainline, Charismatic, and Southern Baptist pastors were overwhelmingly Young Earth Creationists. Pastors of larger churches were also more likely to accept Theistic Evolution.

Regionally, the highest percentage of YEC pastors was found in South, while the highest percentage of pastors accepting TE was in the Midwest. Pastors from the western states were the least likely to accept TE.

#2: Most pastors think science and faith questions are important.

Regardless of their views, the majority of pastors surveyed feel that the Church needs to look at how it handles issues of science. 72% of pastors with YEC views and 73% of pastors with TE views agree with the statement that “the Christian community needs to take a serious look at its understanding of science and human origins in order to maintain its witness in the world.” (The numbers are slightly lower for pastors who hold to Progressive Creation and who are uncertain).

Similarly, 66% of YEC pastors and 61% of both TE and Progressive Creation pastors agree that “younger adults today are more concerned than ever about whether faith and science are compatible.”

#3: Clergy think disagreements on science and faith harm our witness (but for different reasons).

Clergy across all three viewpoints feel that disagreements are harming the Church’s outreach, but they differ in how they view that harm.

YEC pastors overwhelming agreed (85%) that “Christian disagreement on matters of creation and evolution is compromising our witness to the world.” However, a majority of TE pastors disagreed with the statement (63%).

Conversely, a majority of TE pastors (63%) agreed that “The church’s posture toward science prevents many non-Christians from accepting Christianity,” while a majority of YEC and Progressive Creation leaning pastors disagreed (59%).

#4: Pastors aren’t avoiding science.

The majority of pastors think that addressing issues of science for their congregations is an important part of their work. Of those surveyed, 72% felt that addressing science issues in the local community was somewhat (51%) or very (21%) urgent. When asked about science on a national and global level, even more pastors felt that addressing science issues is important (43% somewhat and 46% very). Furthermore, 79% of pastors included scientific themes in at least one sermon in the past year, and 40% had included them in at least ten sermons.

The majority of clergy across all four viewpoints also agreed with the statement “Just as scripture should influence human interpretation of science, science should also inform our understanding of scripture.” The numbers were highest for TE pastors and those who are uncertain (81% and 72%, respectively), though over half of YEC and PC pastors also agreed (52% and 65%, respectively).

Finally, although YEC’s are more reluctant than other pastors to say “science should inform understanding of scripture, they strongly agree (84%) that “The Christian community needs a greater commitment to showing how young earth creationism is consistent with science.”

#5: However, they are concerned about evolution for biblical reasons.

Over half of pastors said they had “major concerns” about the idea that God used evolution. The main reasons for that concern were that the idea “undermines the authority of Scripture” (64%), “views portions of the Bible as non-literal, like Genesis” (62%), “raises doubts about a historical Adam and Eve” (61%), and “raises questions about how and when death and sin entered the world” (59%). However, 26% of pastors saw no concern with the idea that God used evolution.

#6: The majority of clergy accept parts of scripture as symbolic.

60% of the pastors surveyed felt that “some portions of the Bible are symbolic, but all that it teaches is authoritative.” Clergy whose views fall under theistic evolution and progressive creation were more likely to accept this statement (79% and 73% respectively), but a sizeable number of YEC pastors (40% among the core followers and 49% among those leaning towards YEC) also agreed with the statement.

#7: Clergy are concerned that changing their views on origins might compromise their ministry.

Over half of pastors (58%) who fell under the YEC category agreed that “If you publicly admitted your own doubts about human origins, you feel you would have a lot to lose in your ministry.” 41% of pastors in the Progressive Creation group also agreed with the statement. Pastors who were uncertain or who fell under the Theistic Evolution group were less concerned, with only 26% and 17% respectively agreeing with the statement.

BioLogos is an organization committed to, in their own words found @ biologos.org/about

“BioLogos is a community of evangelical Christians committed to exploring and celebrating the compatibility of evolutionary creation and biblical faith, guided by the truth that “all things hold together in Christ.” [Colossians 1:17] We value gracious dialogue with those who hold other views, and our ever-expanding conversation includes academic and other professionals in the fields of biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, business and medicine, but also theology, biblical studies, philosophy, history, literature, education and the arts. We count pastors, entrepreneurs, poets, teachers and students among our numbers, and welcome men and women from all walks of life to join in this project of cultural and spiritual reconciliation.”

Back on Sunday, April 28, 2013, I taught on Creation – Why What We Believe Matters (you can hear the audio portion here and access the text here.  My main point at the end of my message is that certain Genesis 1 & 2 issues are non-negotiable (e.g., God created all things, Adam must have been a historical figure) but that we need to promote unity and reconciliation in all matters that are nonessential to the faith and which do not compromise the Gospel.  And although I do not agree with everything that BioLogos espouses, I heartily concur that as Christians we need to promote “cultural and spiritual reconciliation.”  To paraphrase the late Francis Schaeffer, Jesus statement in John 13.35 that “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” is the “ultimate apologetic” in that it is the decisive proof to the world of our commitment to the Gospel of Christ.

 

God bless

CalvinCuban

11 Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this adversity that had come upon him, they came each one from his own place, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite; and they made an appointment together to come to sympathize with him and comfort him.12 When they lifted up their eyes at a distance and did not recognize him, they raised their voices and wept. And each of them tore his robe and they threw dust over their heads toward the sky.13 Then they sat down on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights with no one speaking a word to him, for they saw that his pain was very great. (Job 2.11-13)

The destruction of life and property in Moore, Oklahoma after the category 5 tornado tore through this suburb of Oklahoma City reminded me that bad things happen to good people, and that rather than attempting to provide explanations of why God allows these things to happen perhaps we should just be silent and mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12.15).

Job's friend got off to a good start by staying silent and weeping with their hurting fiend for seven days.  And if only they had left it at that they would have done well.  But they just couldn't keep quiet; they devised simplistic answers by looking for cause & effect where God had not given a revelation of such.  And so their comforting turned to inficting further pain on their friend.  It might have been well intentioned, but the outcome was further pain all the same.  And so at one point Job tells them,

2“I have heard many such things; sorry comforters are you all. 3Is there no limit to windy words? Or what plagues you that you answer?” (Job 16.2-3)

Sad.

And so to avoid saying things I know little about and risk inflicting further pain on those who are hurting I will simply pray for those who are afflicted and mourn with them.

God bless

CalvinCuban

 

It appears to me that the reason our kids leave church (when I say "our kids" I don't just mean Rio West kids but kids all over America) is not for the reasons most often noted, namely that churches are too old, irrelevant, boring, and so on.  Rather, I have come to the conclusion that our kids leave church for much the same reason that young adults leave church and that we are not seeing much growth in our churches.  

I have spoken of this in some form or another but I believe I have found my voice in this blog by "Marc5Solas."  The problem, as I see it and as this indivudal expresses much more eloquently than me, is that the contemporary church and American Evangelicalism in general has taken a detour from the apostolic historical faith onto something else which Michael Horton describes as "Christless Christianity" (I strongly recomend you read Dr. Horton's book, available @ http://www.amazon.com/Christless-Christianity-Alternative-American-ebook/dp/B00B0VMJ8E/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1374092624&sr=1-1&keywords=christless+christianity.  

OK, here's Marc5Solas excellent blog, also available @ http://marc5solas.com/2013/02/08/top-10-reasons-our-kids-leave-church.


Top 10 Reasons our Kids Leave Church

We all know them, the kids who were raised in church. They were stars of the youth group. They maybe even sang in the praise band or led worship. And then… they graduate from High School and they leave church. What happened?

It seems to happen so often that I wanted to do some digging; To talk to these kids and get some honest answers. I work in a major college town with a large number of 20-somethings. Nearly all of them were raised in very typical evangelical churches. Nearly all of them have left the church with no intention of returning. I spend a lot of time with them and it takes very little to get them to vent, and I’m happy to listen. So, after lots of hours spent in coffee shops and after buying a few lunches, here are the most common thoughts taken from dozens of conversations. I hope some of them make you angry. Not at the message, but at the failure of our pragmatic replacement of the gospel of the cross with an Americanized gospel of glory. This isn’t a negative “beat up on the church” post. I love the church, and I want to see American evangelicalism return to the gospel of repentance and faith in christ for the forgiveness of sins; not just as something on our “what we believe” page on our website, but as the core of what we preach from our pulpits to our children, our youth, and our adults.

The facts:

The statistics are jaw-droppingly horrific: 70% of youth stop attending church when they graduate from High School. Nearly a decade later, about half return to church.

Half.

Let that sink in.

There’s no easy way to say this: The American Evangelical church has lost, is losing, and will almost certainly continue to lose OUR YOUTH.

For all the talk of “our greatest resource”, “our treasure”, and the multi-million dollar Dave and Buster’s/Starbucks knockoffs we build and fill with black walls and wailing rock bands… the church has failed them.

Miserably.

The Top 10 Reasons We’re Losing our Youth:

10. The Church is “Relevant”:

You didn’t misread that, I didn’t say irrelevant, I said RELEVANT. We’ve taken a historic, 2,000 year old faith, dressed it in plaid and skinny jeans and tried to sell it as “cool” to our kids. It’s not cool. It’s not modern. What we’re packaging is a cheap knockoff of the world we’re called to evangelize.

As the quote says, “When the ship is in the ocean, everything’s fine. When the ocean gets into the ship, you’re in trouble.”

I’m not ranting about “worldliness” as some pietistic bogeyman, I’m talking about the fact that we yawn at a 5-minute biblical text, but almost trip over ourselves fawning over a minor celebrity or athlete who makes any vague reference to being a Christian.

We’re like a fawning wanna-be just hoping the world will think we’re cool too, you know, just like you guys!

Our kids meet the real world and our “look, we’re cool like you” posing is mocked. In our effort to be “like them” we’ve become less of who we actually are. The middle-aged pastor trying to look like his 20-something audience isn’t relevant. Dress him up in skinny jeans and hand him a latte, it doesn’t matter. It’s not relevant, It’s comically cliché. The minute you aim to be “authentic”, you’re no longer authentic!

9. They never attended church to begin with:

From a Noah’s Ark themed nursery, to jumbotron summer-campish kids church, to pizza parties and rock concerts, many evangelical youth have been coddled in a not-quite-church, but not-quite-world hothouse. They’ve never sat on a pew between a set of new parents with a fussy baby and a senior citizen on an oxygen tank. They don’t see the full timeline of the gospel for every season of life. Instead, we’ve dumbed down the message, pumped up the volume and act surprised when…

8. They get smart:

It’s not that our students “got smarter” when they left home, rather someone actually treated them as intelligent. Rather than dumbing down the message, the agnostics and atheists treat our youth as intelligent and challenge their intellect with “deep thoughts” of question and doubt. Many of these “doubts” have been answered, in great depth, over the centuries of our faith. However….

7. You sent them out unarmed:

Let’s just be honest, most of our churches are sending youth into the world embarrassingly ignorant of our faith. How could we not? We’ve jettisoned catechesis, sold them on “deeds not creeds” and encouraged them to start the quest to find “God’s plan for their life”. Yes, I know your church has a “What we believe” page, but is that actually being taught and reinforced from the pulpit? I’ve met evangelical church leaders (“Pastors”) who didn’t know the difference between justification and sanctification. I’ve met megachurch board members who didn’t understand the atonement. When we chose leaders based upon their ability to draw and lead rather than to accurately teach the faith? Well, we don’t teach the faith. Surprised? And instead of the orthodox, historic faith…..

6. You gave them hand-me-downs

You’ve tried your best to pass along the internal/subjective faith that you “feel”. You really, really, really want them to “feel” it too. But we’ve never been called to evangelize our feelings. You can’t hand down this type of subjective faith. With nothing solid to hang their faith upon, with no historic creed to tie them to centuries of history, without the physical elements of bread, wine, and water, their faith is in their subjective feelings, and when faced with other ways to “feel” uplifted at college, the church loses out to things with much greater appeal to our human nature. And they find it in…

5. Community

Have you noticed this word is *everywhere* in the church since the seeker-sensitive and church growth movements came onto the scene? (There’s a reason and a driving philosophy behind it which is outside of the scope of this blog.) When our kids leave home, they leave the manufactured community they’ve lived in for nearly their entire life. With their faith as something they “do” in community, they soon find that they can experience this “life change” and “life improvement” in “community” in many different contexts. Mix this with a subjective, pragmatic faith and the 100th pizza party at the local big-box church doesn’t compete against the easier, more naturally appealing choices in other “communities”. So, they left the church and….

4. They found better feelings:

Rather than an external, objective, historical faith, we’ve given our youth an internal, subjective faith. The evangelical church isn’t catechizing or teaching our kids the fundamentals of the faith, we’re simply encouraging them to “be nice” and “love Jesus”. When they leave home, they realize that they can be “spiritually fulfilled” and get the same subjective self-improvement principles (and warm-fuzzies) from the latest life-coach or from spending time with friends or volunteering at a shelter. And they can be truly authentic, and they jump at the chance because…

3. They got tired of pretending:

In the “best life now”, “Every day a Friday” world of evangelicals, there’s little room for depression, or struggle, or doubt. Turn that frown upside down, or move along. Kids who are fed a stead diet of sermons aimed at removing anything (or anyone) who doesn’t pragmatically serve “God’s great plan for your life” has forced them to smile and, as the old song encouraged them be “hap-hap-happy all the time”. Our kids are smart, often much smarter than we give them credit for. So they trumpet the message I hear a lot from these kids. “The church is full of hypocrites”. Why? Even though they have never been given the categories of law and gospel…

2. They know the truth:

They can’t do it. They know it. All that “be nice” moralism they’ve been taught? The bible has a word for it: Law. And that’s what we’ve fed them, undiluted, since we dropped them off at the Noah’s Ark playland: Do/Don’t Do. As they get older it becomes “Good Kids do/don’t” and as adults “Do this for a better life”. The gospel appears briefly as another “do” to “get saved.” But their diet is Law, and scripture tells us that the law condemns us. So that smiling, upbeat “Love God and Love People” vision statement? Yeah, you’ve just condemned the youth with it. Nice, huh? They either think that they’re “good people” since they don’t “do” any of the stuff their denomination teaches against (drink, smoke, dance, watch R rated movies), or they realize that they don’t meet Jesus own words of what is required. There’s no rest in this law, only a treadmill of works they know they aren’t able to meet. So, either way, they walk away from the church because…

1. They don’t need it:

Our kids are smart. They picked up on the message we unwittingly taught. If church is simply a place to learn life-application principals to achieve a better life in community… you don’t need a crucified Jesus for that. Why would they get up early on a Sunday and watch a cheap knockoff of the entertainment venue they went to the night before? The middle-aged pastor trying desperately to be “relevant” to them would be a comical cliché if the effect weren’t so devastating. As we jettisoned the gospel, our students are never hit with the full impact of the law, their sin before God, and their desperate need for the atoning work of Christ. Now THAT is relevant, THAT is authentic, and THAT is something the world cannot offer.

We’ve traded a historic, objective, faithful gospel based on God’s graciousness toward us for a modern, subjective, pragmatic gospel based upon achieving our goal by following life strategies. Rather than being faithful to the foolish simplicity of the gospel of the cross we’ve set our goal on being “successful” in growing crowds with this gospel of glory. This new gospel saves no one. Our kids can check all of these boxes with any manner of self-help, life-coach, or simply self-designed spiritualism… and they can do it more pragmatically successfully, and in more relevant community. They leave because given the choice, with the very message we’ve taught them, it’s the smarter choice.

Our kids leave because we have failed to deliver to them the faith “delivered once for all” to the church. I wish it wasn’t a given, but when I present law and gospel to these kids, the response is the same every time: “I’ve never heard that.” I’m not against entertaining our youth, or even jumbotrons, or pizza parties (though I probably am against middle aged guys trying to wear skinny jeans to be “relevant).. it’s just that the one thing, the MAIN thing we’ve been tasked with? We’re failing. We’ve failed God and we’ve failed our kids. Don’t let another kid walk out the door without being confronted with the full weight of the law, and the full freedom in the gospel.

Marc5Solas

God bless

CalvinCuban