Why Every Church Should Be Split

 

 

Your church should be split.

Crazy, I know.

Now, you know I’m not talking about a fiery business meeting where red-carpets face off against blue-carpets. Or when political operations are formed within the church in favor of Deacon Sam vs. Deacon Don. Or civil wars caused by rival Mary Kay sellers.

Churches split way too easily these days over ridiculous matters. Obviously, we all get a good laugh thinking about churches splitting over the color of carpets – that is, until we find ourselves in a similar circumstance where the pastor has recommended a book by an author we detest or seems to be teetering too close to the chasm of Calvinism (abandon all hope, ye who enter there). Or perhaps we’re ready to abandon ship and lead an army out with us over the fact that the music pastor has too many guitars – or too few.

Lest you think I’m throwing shade only on the older generations who tend to split over issues like the above, let me state that millennials are just as guilty. We may not formally split a church, but we very easily hop from church to church until we find one that fits our hipster music taste or has a pastor with a cool haircut.

It’s human nature – we like to hang out with people like us. We find community with like-minded people. Latte-toting millennials hang out at a church with a coffee shop in the foyer. Older folks who like simple things find themselves at home in a small country church that holds to the “good ole days.”

We want what we like. And we will do anything to make sure our preferences are followed in our church.

We’re willing to steamroll over anyone in our way – including our pastors, parents, older and wiser mentors, and ultimately Jesus Himself. You know, the Head of the Church. The Sovereign of our assembly. The Chief Shepherd.

We forget so easily about Him in the mud-slinging fights that accompany too much change or too little at church. Paul, inspired by the Spirit of Christ, wrote against such practices in 1 Corinthians.

So in one sense church “splits” – that is formally or informally splitting from a gathering because of personal preferences – is sin and should be avoided.

But in a different sense, every church should have a “split.” A split caused because the church has refused to formally split into two because they love each other – despite their differences.

Too many churches look like homogeneous globs of godly good-doers. You walk in Sunday morning and everyone looks the same. Everyone is from the same country and same ethnic group within that country. Everyone votes the same. Everyone eats similar food. Everyone shakes hands the same way. Everyone listens to the same music. Everyone has the same entertainment and dress standards.

Nothing is wrong with that – if that reflects the community the church is in. Perhaps that’s how it will be in rural Kansas where the population is 100% white and 100% conservative (‘Merica!). But in most places in America, particularly the South where I live, that’s not how the community is.

America is a diverse nation – which is something to celebrate this 4th of July (shoot off fireworks and try not to light your house on fire).

So our churches should reflect that diversity. If your community has a large percentage of African-Americans, why does the church not reflect that? If your town has a sizable immigrant population, where are some not in your assembly? Do you notice a lot of Hispanics at the grocery store but not in your pews? Do you see women with head coverings at the mall but have never dreamed of seeing someone stand up in church to talk about how they forsook that life for Jesus?

That’s a problem. You need more splits in your church.

Not just ethnic splits. Opinion splits. What I love about my church is that we have as many opinions as we have bodies in the auditorium. We have people more Calvinistic than Calvin and people who use his portrait as a dart board. We have people who like nothing more than listening to good organ music while on a jog and people who can drop the beat. We have people who share Fox News articles on Facebook and people who share New York Times articles.

Some would say we’re in danger of a church split. It certainly can’t be healthy to have such diverse opinions.

I say it’s actually a mark of a healthy church to have such diverse members (Hey Pastor Dever, can we add a tenth mark?).

Not diverse doctrinally (“Yeah, we got some Catholics, some Mormons, some theological liberals…and even a Muslim!”). But diverse on issues that good people differ on.

Many see this as a weakness. I see it as a strength. What glory is it to God if a bunch of people who look the same, vote the same, and think the same are unified? Any unsaved people could do that! Political parties can do that. Civic clubs can do that.

But what if a bunch of people who have totally different opinions and are from totally different backgrounds and like totally different things get together and call each other “brother” and “sister”? And love each other, even when they don’t agree?

That’s what I call a church.

A church that may be split on any given opinion. But a healthy church nonetheless.

Because only the work of God could bring such diverse people together in one body. And only God gets the glory when #neverTrump and #MAGA go to the same church. When TULIP and “Whosoever will” hug every Sunday. When “I love you” flows across the church atrium in many different languages. When people from every opinion, every culture, every tribe sing together, “Worthy is the Lamb!” Only God could be behind that!

Only God could keep a split church from splitting.

But First Jesus

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” (Colossians 1:15-20)

 

Due to some recently events in my life, I’ve really been thinking about the centrality of Christ. How does He impact my everyday life? How does Jesus influence my conversations with others? And how does He direct how I interact with those who I am trying to mentor? The past couple weeks I’ve needed to take a step back and look at the end goal of all of my mentoring relationships. And because of this passage I’ve had to refocus my efforts and revaluate if Jesus was central in those relationships.

But First Jesus

In Colossians 1, I see three ideas about Christ that should influence mentoring in the church.

  1. Christ’s power. (15-17)

Jesus is the creator. Everything was created by Him and He is sovereign over all. That includes all thrones, dominions, rulers, and authorities. The power used to create the universe is the same power that breathes new life into the hearts of sinners.

Jesus is central to mentoring, because only His power is strong enough to change a sinner.

  1. Christ’s position. (18-19)

Jesus is preeminent. Jesus is the head of the church. Jesus is completely God. Christ’s position in this world, our churches, and the believer’s heart is supposed to be above all. What Jesus teaches should be above any personal ideology. He should be the reason we gather at church. He is the reason we proclaim the gospel.

Jesus is central to mentoring, because He is preeminent.

  1. Christ’s payment. (20)

Jesus reconciled all to himself by dying on the cross. He made peace with the Father by shedding His blood for you and for me. Jesus paid a debt that I could never pay. And it is only through Him that we can peace with God.

Jesus is central to mentoring, because it was through His blood alone that we can fellowship with God.

Conclusion

Jesus is central to all of the Christian faith, and that includes how we mentor. Because of His power, position, and payment for our sins we should have an occasional pulse check to make sure we still have Christ where He needs to be, at the center.

Here are a few questions that I had to ask myself about my mentoring relationships to help gauge if Christ is where He needs to be:

  • Only Jesus has the power to change men’s heart, so am I mentoring with the Bible or my opinions? If with my opinions, why and are they Scripturally-based?
  • Christ is preeminent, so am I mentoring to encourage all out pursuit of Him or the things of this world?
  • Christ is preeminent, so am I pointing to Him as the goal of sanctification or am I trying to create a little me?
  • Christ is preeminent, so do I spend more time talking about Him or about the latest sports game or political article?
  • Christ is the only way to have peace with God, so do I encourage those that I mentor to completely rely on Him or trust in our own strength to make it through life?

When it comes to mentoring, across all age groups, Jesus must be central. All the strategies, ideas, blogs, and books that are being written and distributed are great, but before any of those can be used effectively, we need to focus on Christ and put Him at the center of our mentoring relationships.

Next time I meet with my mentor or those that I am mentoring, I must think and put Jesus first.

 

 

 

Mentoring Messy Millennials

Adobe Spark (30)

An interesting comment was posed to me on the “inter-generational panel” that my Dad organized for our church’s Men’s Retreat –

“I understand the importance of mentoring the next generation. But the millennials I’ve tried to invest in seem arrogant and always reject my attempts to disciple them.”

My response acknowledged the harsh reality –

“Yes, there certainly are a lot of flaws with my generation. Including great arrogance and rejection of authority.”

Let’s face it – for all our pleas for discipleship, we millennials are hard to disciple. We may desire inter-generational relationships and at the same time reject the older people who try to reach out to us. I’ll admit, it’s hard to mentor millennials. We’re kinda a mess. As I wrote in an earlier post, we’re the “Jerk Generation.”

But my response didn’t end there –

“And while it’s true that we should try to invest in those who are willing to be invested in…we also know that we are abundantly thankful God didn’t use that reasoning with us. He didn’t look for those willing and eager to embrace Him. He reached out into the lives of people who had rejected Him and wanted nothing to do with them. Since God chose to invest in us, who spurned His love, we should choose to invest in those who spurn our efforts to invest in them.”

Okay, maybe I wasn’t quite so eloquent during the actual moment, but I’ve been thinking about that comment ever since then. Especially when confronted in my own life with people who didn’t want me to invest in them. People who took advantage of my kindness. People who don’t listen to my advice and never change no matter how many times I tell them.

People I want to give up on.

But I can’t. Because Christ never gave up on me when I sinned the millionth time. He never abandoned me when I rejected time with Him for time with Facebook, movies, or worse yet, immorality. He stuck with me.

And that should motivate me to stick with the millennials I’m investing in. Even when they’re a big mess.

Yes, we should invest in those who seem to be interested. But at the same time, we should not reject those who reject us. We must be willing to throw ourselves at even the most messy and unmotivated people

That’s what Paul did. No, not in his relationship with Timothy (who seemed very open to discipleship). But in his relationship with his “troubled child” church – Corinth.

Both letters to this city are full of Paul’s gracious reprimands for what should have been obvious problems. 1 Corinthians confronts the church about letting a man who committed incest get away with it, dividing up into factions, and even denying the resurrection of the body!

As if that was nothing, his second letter had to confront something even worse for Paul personally. As you read the book, it becomes apparent that Paul was writing to people who had rejected him. False teachers had convinced them that Paul himself was a swindler, out to steal their money and promote himself. In fact, they questioned Paul’s apostolic authority entirely!

Talk about a punch to the gut. Paul had spent a lot of time with this church. He had personally invested in many of them, telling them about the Gospel and teaching them patiently how to apply it to their lives. And now they were treating him like dirt!

So what did Paul do? Give up on them? After all, they’re not worth it. If they don’t love him, he won’t waste his time on them. He’ll go and focus his efforts on churches that actually care about him. The Ephesians were always nicer to him anyways…

Quite the opposite, actually! Paul doubles down on these messy people. He won’t abandon them to heresy or sin. He boldly confronts them, yet the whole tone of the letter is that of a father with a wayward child.

In fact, Paul proves how much he loves this jerk church in 2 Corinthians 2:12-13. He tells them that he had great evangelistic opportunities in Troas, but abandoned them. Why? Because he was so concerned about the Corinthians and how they were responding to the letter he sent them through Titus. He had to leave sharing the Gospel in Troas to find Titus because he was so worried about them!

Wow. What love for messy people. But I love the way he sums up his care for them toward the end of the letter.

2 Corinthians 12:15 could be called the Christian mentor’s motto.

“I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls. If I love you more, am I to be loved less?”

Such is the life of those who choose to invest in others, especially the messy and often rude millennial generation.

So, to answer the question raised by the person trying to invest in millennials but getting rejected…

Welcome to mentoring. Join the club.

Join me and Paul. In fact, join God Himself who lavishly loves those messy people who reject Him. People like you and me.

You Want to Talk About That?

“For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light.” (Eph. 5:8-14)

 

I had the privilege of speaking on this passage in my church’s youth group a couple weeks ago. It was hard to speak on a couple specific verses before these because they were just…well…uncomfortable. But it led to good conversations and I was able to touch on this passage.

Every time I’ve heard this passage preached on, the preacher generally will like to stay with the whole we are child of light part. Which, don’t get me wrong, is truly awesome! I am literally eternally grateful for the fact that I am a child of light through the work of Christ. But I don’t remember ever hearing a good explanation of what exposing the unfruitful works of darkness looks like.

My mind automatically goes down three trails of thought when I read this. First, I think of Scooby and gang pulling of the mask of the villain as they reveal his plan and him saying, “I would have gotten away with it too. If it weren’t for you meddling kids!” Next I think of this tattle-tale kid telling his dad that his brother or sister did something wrong. Or last, to a legalistic-type preacher naming off a list of things he doesn’t like in the world and labeling them as wicked, and thus he exposed the darkness of the world. But this passage isn’t any of those and it’s what so many mentoring relationships need.

So what is it?

We as the redeem children of God were in darkness (sin) and have made light through the blood of Christ. So we should have a desire to live life in a matter pleasing to Him and that’s found in all things that are good, right, and true. So as we live here on earth and have the light of Christ shine through us into other’s lives we see things they might not. Those dark places are exposed by the light of Christ and they become visible.

In summary, it is us being an imitator of Christ as a dear child and letting His light shine through us. And as we do life with our brothers and sisters in Christ, His light shining through us exposes the dark areas in our lives.

That kind of sounds like mentoring. Two or three people pursuing Christ with the help of each other and in that relationship having the light of Christ show them where they need to grow and change to be like Jesus.

Applications

Here’s a couple of ideas to help us get started into harder conversation that could come from this:

  1. Make sure you have the relationship to do this. I’ve seen someone who doesn’t have deep relationship with someone come out of nowhere and say that someone is sinning because of x, y, and z. Generally, the response is not the accused becoming more like Jesus (even if the accusation has merit), in fact I’ve seen it backfire more often than not and the accusation does more damage than good. If you want to know, be proactive and have the conversation of, “if I saw something in your life that I thought was Biblically wrong, would you be willing to talk about?” before you start down this road. That conversation is the starting point.
  2. Come with a Bible. If there’s one thing I know about my generation is we’ll do the research if we don’t like what was said or we can’t follow the logical flow from point A to B. Information is at our fingertips and we’re very good at finding it. And an older generation is well versed in Scripture. So come with the Bible (in context) and let the Word of God “pierce to the division of soul and of spirit, of joint and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” God’s Word carries more weight than ours.

Mentoring relationships aren’t just “let me give you advice on life.” They include hard conversations about sinners being sinners and how the light of Christ can and should change us.

Easter – A Ceasefire in the Worship Wars

Adobe Spark (29)

I love Christmas music. I start listening to it sometime early fall (don’t shoot me!).

But I also love Easter music. And I feel like it doesn’t get the attention it deserves. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but when it comes to New Testament emphasis, the resurrection of Jesus Christ seems to be WAY more important. Our music should reflect that.

Maybe one reason it doesn’t is because there are far more “contemporary” resurrection music than Christmas. Maybe we can’t emphasize it in our worship services because so many of the songs are embroiled in controversy.

Brothers, these things ought not be.

A Ridiculous Controversy

Imagine my wife and mother are planning a birthday party for me (hint, hint, it’s coming up in a month, Mom and Carissa!). But all along the way while they plan it, they keep arguing over what they should do at the party. They can’t agree on the type of cake – “I like carrot cake,” says Mom. “But I like red velvet!” argues my wife. They can’t agree on the color of the balloons.

“I like blue!” “No, green!”

How ridiculous! If I found out about it. I’d be a little peeved. No offense, but who cares which color they prefer. It doesn’t matter what type of cake they personally enjoy. It’s MY party – they should pick colors and cake that I would like (FYI, I like green and red velvet)!

Similarly, it’s ridiculous that we are celebrating the RESURRECTION OF THE LORD JESUS, and yet arguing over what tempo the music is! We’re celebrating the day Christ conquered sin and death once for all – and yet we can’t agree on whether we should use organ or guitar.

Generation vs. generation. Pew vs. pew. Church vs. church. Culture vs. culture.

No offense, but WHO CARES what kind of tempo or music style or instrument YOU prefer. This is the Sunday of the year we focus on Jesus our Savior (who, by the way, DIED FOR US!). It doesn’t matter our preferences! All that matters is what HE cares about. We’re worshiping HIM after all. But too often all we end up doing is worshiping ourselves and our preferences.

By the way, I’m pointing the finger at both sides. And I’m pointing the finger at myself!

This past week, at my university we had a singspiration focused around Easter. I found myself standing there singing…nit-picking the song selection! Oh, I don’t know this song. Oh, this song is old. Oh, I like this song normally but the style is not what I like. On and on my thoughts ran.

I felt convicted. Here I had tried to piously look like I was celebrating the resurrection of Christ, but in my heart I was judging. That’s not worship. At least not worship of God. It’s worship of self!

Resurrection over Preferences

That service was a combination of new songs and old. And that’s probably what my church will have tomorrow. Some I will really like. Others won’t be my “jam.”

But who cares! Maybe your church sings too many “contemporary,” modern songs for your taste. Maybe your church is stuck on the organ and hymnbook.

I have one request for you and myself. Don’t focus on your preferences tomorrow in the service. Focus on the Savior.

Let’s make Easter Sunday a day of ceasefire for our worship wars.

A Beautiful Harmony

On Facebook, someone posted this: “Give a *single line* of a hymn that encapsulates what Christ accomplished on the cross. Go.”

The comments were beautiful.

Old songs with timeless truths – “No condemnation now I dread – Jesus and all in Him is mine!” “When I survey the wondrous cross…” “Jesus paid it all!” “At the cross where I first saw the light…”

New songs mixed in: “No guilt in life, no fear in death.” “Death has died. Love has won – hallelujah!” “Once Your enemy, now seated at Your table, Jesus thank You!” “Love has won. Death has lost!”

Young people. Old people. Boomers. Millennials. Fundamentalists. Hipsters.

All of these people coming together to share their favorite line encapsulating the redemption.

That’s how Easter should be! Not a day for bickering in heart or around the dinner table about a song chosen. Not a day to confront your music pastor about the volume.

This day is not about us. It’s about Him. So long as the songs properly and reverently worship the risen King, let us sing with all our might! Wherever in the world we may be…

Our brothers and sisters in Africa will gather in small village churches and beat on drums as they dance and sing to the resurrected Jesus.

Our brothers and sisters in the Middle East will gather in small rooms, fearful for their lives and yet still exuberantly singing with what instruments they can find.

Our brothers and sisters in the South will be singing with Southern drawl, “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow!”

Our brothers and sisters in inner-city churches will burst forth with, “Hallelujah for the Cross!”

Our brothers and sisters in rural Ohio will be all smiles as they sing, “Up from the grave He arose!”

And all of it will be sweet in the ears of our Savior, who is risen and ascended and seated at the right hand of God!

Let’s sing!

 

Let’s join with the Apostle Paul, who had to confront his own “worship war” in Corinth in 1 Corinthians 14. But notice how the topic suddenly shifts in chapter 15 to something Paul can’t help but write about – the resurrection of Christ. And notice how he ends – with what seems to be a song! A song that he and all the Corinthian believers – even with all their problems and misuse of tongues and spiritual gifts – a unified song they could all sign together two thousand years ago…

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”

Let’s join that ancient song. And at least for a day, let’s have a worship war ceasefire.

We Need Each Other

“The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’” (I Cor. 12:21)

I spent a few credit hours during undergrad in psychology classes. One of my favorites was developmental psychology (I was an education for a couple years). I thought it was incredibly interesting how human interaction plays a massive role in the development of children. A simple Google search will give you story after story of feral children. These are kids that developed without any or very little human interaction.

A case I remember studying in class was that of Victor of Aveyron. Victor was a feral child found in the early 1800. He couldn’t speak, didn’t like wearing clothes or taking baths, and acted as if he were an animal. By the estimates of the doctors of his day, he had lived by himself for many years and was just starting puberty when he was found.

A French physician name Jean Marc Gaspard Itard took Victor in and proceeded to attempt to teach him language and essentially tame the boy. By the time Victor died at age 40, Itard’s years of work had gotten Victor to understand basic questions, wear clothes, bathe, and eat cooked meat. But Victor never once uttered a complete sentence.

Years of isolation away from human beings during the most crucial developmental stages of childhood set Victor’s life on course for a very interesting and, to me, a very sad existence.

Christian Development

Victor never had the interaction of humans in his life as he developed as a child and hence his life as an adult. Our churches have many under or undeveloped Christians. They’re the teens in your church that believe in Jesus, but haven’t developed a passion for anything spiritual. They are the young adults that are Christians, but have the hardest time talking about anything spiritual because they just can’t. They don’t know how. They are the adults that can talk Jesus, but can’t give a clear gospel message. They have the appearance of a Christian, but haven’t grown into the full stature of Jesus.

1 Corinthians gives us a great example of how members of the body of Christ are supposed to interact with each other. And with these interactions comes the spiritual development that our churches need.

We Need Each Other

The church is a body. Every Christian is a member. God placed us in a specific role. And we all need each other.

“But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.” (I Cor. 12:18)

“The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.” (I Cor. 12:21)

To isolate ourselves from the rest of the body and say “I have no need for them” is foolish and, well, not Biblical. We need each other to grow. When our human bodies don’t communicate within each other and systems start to do their own thing, we general end up at the doctor’s office or in the hospital.

When the body of Christ has members that isolate themselves from the rest of the body, they become spiritual sick and stagnant in their growth. God specifically placed us in the body of Christ to have a specific role and to influence those around.

The Basis for Mentoring

This a foundation for mentoring. The body of Christ united and working together to help each other grow “to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” Eyes need the feet to move from point A to point B. And the feet need the eyes to show them the path. So Christians need each other to grow.

We can’t encourage others to live in spiritual isolation and expect full spiritual development. We can’t let those who are spiritual children wander without any interaction with other believers and expect them to lead the church effectively in the future. Paul already told us what happens to isolated spiritual children. They’re “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”

We are a body, placed in a role by God. When we fulfill our role to the best or our ability and help those around us develop in their role, we grow as a church into the stature of Christ.

We are the body and we need each other.

Quotes from a Mentoring Weekend

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Caleb and I just finished helping with the Men’s Retreat for our home church – Calvary Baptist – this weekend. The theme was basically what this blog is all about – relationships, and particularly mentoring/discipling the next generation. It was a refreshing and inspiring time. Believe it or not, the conference was entirely run by millennials – and it went great! If more churches would trust millennials with responsibilities like this, I believe they would not be disappointed.

For our post this week, we thought it’d be good to just include a few quotable highlights from the weekend. The three speakers were Dr. Sam Horn, Pastor Ben Ice, and Scott Taylor. All three sessions were excellent, and the panel on inter-generational relationships was equally impactful. Here are a few tweet-able nuggets:

  1. “Discipleship is about glorifying God – causing other people to come to right conclusions about who God is and what He’s like.” -Sam Horn
  2. “Be one. Make many.” -Sam Horn, referring to disciples
  3. “Depend on one. Serve many. Mentor a few.” -Ben Ice
  4. “Mentoring starts with an invitation, continues on with sacrificial investment, and activates intentional influence.” -Ben Ice
  5. “Mentors pray together, speak words of grace, and challenge their thinking with Truth.” -Ben Ice
  6. “Mentoring is not a program to implement but a life to imitate” -Randy Pope, as quoted by Ben Ice
  7. “Mentoring is one intentionally and vulnerably sharing his life with another.” -Ben Ice
  8. “I’m not doing anything alone. If I’m going to Home Depot, I’m taking a teen with me.” -Scott Taylor, referring to Calvary’s former Youth Pastor Tom Craig’s philosophy of discipleship
  9. “Pick your spots. Not every moment is a teaching moment. Sometimes, you just listen.” -Scott Taylor
  10. “I don’t know what he taught me, but I love Jesus more because of him.” -Scott Taylor, referring to a friend’s quote about Tom Craig
  11. “Home is not the place to relax.” -Scott Taylor

    We hope to have the audio posted soon!

Can We Talk About This?

I’ve found, in my relatively short life span, that the best way to carry on a conversation is to come to an understanding of terms. It keeps both parties honest in how they use them and they will come to a mutual understanding of each other’s statements. Matt and I have thrown this term around a few times and I’ve heard it come up in conversation as I’ve discussed our blog with people in the community around me and my church. The term I’m referring to is “open relationship.”

What does that mean? How can we have them in our churches if we can’t put a definition on the term? Here we go, let’s try to define a very trendy, but very important phrase in our churches.

Let’s start with a definition that I got from a medical journal article that a friend sent me.

“An ‘open’ relationship system is one in which an individual is free to communicate a high percentage of inner thoughts, feelings, and fantasies to another who can reciprocate.”1

To my knowledge the author of this article is not a Christian, but this doctor was able to capture in a sentence what I know many in our churches very desperately need and want.

We need relationships that will allow us to share our inner thoughts. What are the questions that are plaguing our minds at night? What are the “issues” that we are trying to come to an understanding of? The church is facing many cultural issues now that it didn’t have or didn’t talk about 20 years ago and we need to be able to have conversations about them. Like what do I do when my professor is flagrantly anti-Christian? How do I treat my sibling or close friend that just came out as gay or transgender? How can I feel like I live in a community, when I don’t understand what true community is because I’ve never seen it in my own family? How can I believe God is good, when my entire childhood is riddled with sexual abuse? Realities that need Bible answers.

We need relationships that let us ask Bible questions. The church was the center for learning theology at the beginning of Christianity. They didn’t have Christian colleges to send kids to in order for them to learn the fundamentals of their faith. Doctrine was taught in the church and by their members. The church needs relationships that let those in them ask the hard doctrine and Bible questions. They need to be able to ask what does it mean to “be all things to all men in order that I might win some” in our culture today? How was Jesus both completely God and completely man? How can what I read in my Bible and what read in my science textbook be so different? Which is right? If God were love, then how can He condemn someone to hell? How did we arrive at this standard on (insert standard here) Biblically? Where does the Bible say that?

We need relationships that let us share our feelings. That felt so weird typing that. I’m a guy that takes a while for me to be willing to share how I really feel about something, but once I know you a bit be prepared for an outpouring (my brother-in-law will attest to this). Our church members need someone to be able to share our sorrows, frustrations, joys, and victories. It’s only in these types of relationships that we can truly share our feelings and fulfill Romans 12 and “rejoice with those who rejoice, [and] weep with those who weep.”

We need relationships that allow us to dream both spiritually and personally. I know I’ve enjoyed a mentoring relationship that where my mentor supports me in my dreams both spiritually and professionally. He gives me guidance in my professional career, but also helps me grow in my spiritual walk as well. I have a close friend that knows where I want to be in the future spiritually and prays that I will someday be there if God directs and permits. Our churches need to be filled with relationships that will help push each other to our next goal and next step toward Jesus.

Doesn’t that sound amazing. Hopefully you can see the need for this type of relationship and maybe you’ve experienced it. How different would your spiritual walk be if you had that type of relationship? I know my walk with Jesus would have been much different than it was in college and high school if I had someone that I felt I could have been completely open with.

I want to give just three ideas that can help you start these types of relationships with someone in your church. These are ideas that I’ve come to cherish in a couple of my mentoring relationships.

Listen.

Don’t listen to answer. Listen to hear what’s really being said. Let them vent. Let them talk, and eventually they’ll really say what’s on their heart. You’ll be amazed at what someone can work out on their own if someone were to just listen in silence. Listen to hear and understand, not to answer.

“If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” (Prov. 18:13)

Share Bible. Not preference.

If there is one thing I’ve had the privilege of having is a mentor that shares more Bible than opinion. I’m pretty sure this is what Paul had in mind when he wrote “but as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine” to Timothy. After you’ve listened to hear and understand within the next minute whatever you say should have SCRIPTURE in it, not your opinions on the matter. God’s Word will not return void, I can’t say the same about our opinions.

“But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.” (Titus 2:1)

“Let the word of Christ dwell in your richly.” (Col. 3:16)

Point to Jesus.

When Paul addressed the church at Corinth he could have made his knowledge of Scripture known. Instead he pointed to Jesus. He preached Jesus to them, and let the Spirit do the rest.

“For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (I Cor. 2:2)

 

I hope that I’m a person that can have an open relationship with those in my congregation. I want to be able to talk about the hard things and point to Scripture and Christ. I pray the Church can start having more open relationships and conversations and grow closer together by asking the hard questions.

 

1 Bowen, Murray. “Family Reaction to Death.” 335–336. Print.

The Problem with the Church

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This is our second guest post, from a good friend and fellow millennial blogger, Andrew Miller. Check out his blog!


“My church is old.”

“Our church is catering to the young people too much.”

“That church is kinda dead.”

“They just don’t understand me.”

These are statements I’m sure we’ve all heard. Coming from a church where 50+ year olds make up a majority of the membership and teens and young adults coming and going throughout the years, I have seen firsthand the detrimental effects of the generational gaps.

Now, when I say “gap,” I don’t mean that in a bad way. There will always be gaps in knowledge and experience among and between generations and we can’t help that. What we CAN do is attempt to bridge the generational gaps to have mutually beneficial relationships with one another.

“Easier said than done,” you might say.

I agree. It’s very difficult to understand the mindsets of others when someone is anywhere from 20-40 years younger or older than you. But it is incredibly important to do so.

Why does this intergenerational cooperation within the church matter? Aside from the apostle Paul’s commands for unity and like-mindedness in the church in almost every letter he wrote, there is another pressing problem – the departure of millennials from the faith.

We are facing a time of mass exodus by many young Christians from the church after they graduate from high school. Which then causes even more gaps in years between each generation in church (and the vicious cycle continues).

But what is the reason behind this millennial withdrawal? And whose fault is it?

I believe the problem – and the solution – lies with both parties.

The Problem: Millennials

We all know the stereotypes here. The older generations are “always” complaining about this group – and sometimes rightly so! We can often be lazy, irresponsible, unmotivated, and selfish. We don’t understand the value of real relationships because our faces  are buried in fake virtual worlds we create for ourselves.

And furthermore, when the older adults try to give us millennials advice or correct our ways, we feel belittled and often become disrespectful toward those who have greater wisdom.

While this is (unfortunately) often true, the problem doesn’t end with the millennials.

The Problem: Older Generations

We millennials stereotype the older generations as old and outdated.

They don’t attempt to try to get to know us and only berate us with constant nagging about legalistic matters that we tend to deem completely irrational.

Overall, older generations don’t respect millennials because millennials seem immature, inexperienced, and disrespectful, and millennials don’t respect the older generations because they seem legalistic, unsympathetic, and not in tune to the personal problems millennials are facing.

You can see how this can cause divisiveness within churches. This can also explain the lack of diversity you see in the many different “flavors” of church.

But how do we address this problem?

The Resolution…Coffee!

I think back to my freshman year many moons ago – er, just last year. I was a young, wide-eyed lad with great ambitions. But I was soon overcome and overwhelmed by the burdens and attacks of life. Then an older student came along and “rescued” me by whisking me away to the nearest Starbucks once every week. Through every encouraging word and conversation, he helped me by mentoring and advising me through some of the toughest situations of my life.

I think I sometimes learned and grew more through those simple, everyday conversations over a steaming cup of coffee than I did in a week of classes.

Of course coffee is not the TRUE resolution to this intergenerational problem, but it helps contribute to SOLVING the problem. Here’s why.

While sipping your favorite latte, it is much easier and less confrontational to connect through conversation. Discussing topics like politics, relationships, academic problems, church issues, and life hardships is much easier to do when in this relaxed atmosphere.

Simply listening to one another as we talk through life issues does wonders.

Secondly, simply taking the time to get together outside of church (or school) will help nurture a closer relationship. Even if it’s only 20-30 minutes, you’d be surprised how much in-depth conversation you can have in such a short time – with just a little bit of mocha!

Finally, this time can give you the chance to get an outside opinion from someone who may have gone through your situation. It gives you a different perspective on what you may not have considered before.

As we ride on the incredible roller coaster called Life, it’s important that we care for one another. As Christians it’s even more important to invest in each other’s lives as a body of like-minded believers, made up of both millennials and older generations.

“So where do I start?”

It’s simple! If you’re a millennial, ask an older adult you respect out for a coffee

If you’re an older adult, seek out a young person to talk with. You may be surprised at how much you’ll challenge and encourage one another. (And if you’re not a coffee drinker, chai tea or green tea are always awesome options!)

Churches grow the most through the one-on-one conversations of fellow believers challenging one another.

Do you want a more effective church? That’s where you start. Conversation over a cup of coffee.

This is why I am a firm believer that spiritually healthy churches are grounded in coffee, conversations, and above all, Christ-like relationships.

How to Choose a College Church

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You move in, meet your weird roommates, let your mom unpack your clothes and cry over everything, and then launch into the unknown realm of credits, quality points, syllabi, learning styles, and a whole host of other words you don’t know (here there be dragons).

After managing to survive your first week of classes (congrats!), you are now faced with a daunting question on a Saturday night – how do I choose a church?

If you’re already thinking that as a freshman, you’re actually doing pretty well. There are far too many millennials who skip the question entirely and abandon church altogether in college. But you’re not one of those. Your faith is real to you. You love Jesus. And you want to fellowship with His people.

But which part of His people in your local area do you fellowship with?

It’s a tough question. One I’ve given a lot of thought to over the years. In my area, there are oodles of good churches, and I know many friends have had a hard time deciding. Even right now.

I don’t pretend to be an expert. But let me just offer a few pieces of practical advice.

  1. Choose a church where you can serve.

Well duh. But a lot of millennials – myself included – tend to forget this part. We get so focused on finding a church where we can “be served.” Churches that have a really good music ministry that uplifts us after a weary week of class. Churches with an animated preacher. Churches with a lot of cool programs and activities. None of these are bad things – or even bad reasons to choose a church.

But life is not about being ministered to. Serving Christ is not finding a place where you are blessed. It’s finding a place where you can bless people.

God can handle sending people into your life to mentor and invest in you if you make it a priority to mentor and invest in others.

So go to a church where you can get “plugged in” right away. I don’t mean a church that lets you teach every Sunday school, take over the choir, and boot the pastor out of his pulpit. Too often we want a church that lets us do all the ministry we want while avoiding the ministries that are less “cool.” We want to get to preach or sing, but not do children’s church.

But if you go to a church willing to serve in any capacity, in any class, in any area of need – even cleaning toilets! – I guarantee you that in the long run you will be blessed. And given time, that church will grow to trust you and appreciate you and give you more opportunities to serve in bigger ways.

  1. Choose a church where you can grow.

I mean this as a balance to my first point. Our first priority should be finding a place where we can serve, but it’s not wrong to consider if a church will actually grow you spiritually. If you feel weak in your walk, you need a church that will strengthen you in the trying days of college. Find a church where the preaching is solid and biblical, not just one that makes you feel emotionally “high.” Find a church with uplifting music, but don’t make it a bigger deal than it should be. Join a church where you know there are good saints – old and young – who will be willing to mentor you, even if it takes some coaxing.

  1. Choose a church in need.

In my area, I see lots of churches that frankly don’t need any help. Large churches that are doing great, growing, and have incredible leadership. I love these ministries and wish them the best.

But honestly, they don’t need you. Once your church college group reaches over two hundred, I think you have enough millennials in your church. At that point, you should strategically seek to send millennials to churches that need them.

And there are plenty of those in America!

This isn’t just a size issue. I know big churches, like mine, that need millennials to step up and shoulder the burden of ministry. Big churches often have more needs than small ones, and less people willing to help. But certainly, there are many smaller churches who have fifty to a hundred members that need the encouragement, excitement, and edification that only young millennials can bring.

You can choose to go to a church with a vibrant and expanding college ministry. No problem. But I encourage you to consider attending a church that needs you. A church that you can throw everything you have at.

And by the time you graduate, who knows? Maybe because of your and your friends’ investment, that church will be vibrant and growing.

At that point, you can move on to wherever the Lord calls you and find another church where you can serve, grow, and fill needs.