Church is boring for most because the power of God has vanished from many congregations...there is a lack of desire to pursue Him in the pulpit as well as in the pew. Like Samson, they "know not that the Spirit of the Lord has departed" (cf. Judge 16:20). High attendance is not the gauge of success, faithfulness is. Granted, a healthy church should experience seasons of growth, but even cults generate large numbers of followers. Here are 5 simple ways to gauge the health of a church:
1. Is Prayer an after-thought or a priority? Nights of prayer and worship are often replaced with Bingo and fund raisers. We're in a hurry to burn through a sermon, scurry through worship, and head to the nearest restaurant. This is a sure sign of a dying church. If churches are too busy to pray—they're too busy. "When faith ceases to pray, it ceases to live" (E.M. Bounds). We should never allow our relationship with God to suffer because we're too busy. "We must spend much time on our knees before God if we are to continue in the power of the Holy Spirit" (R.A. Torrey). Spiritual life and prayer go hand-in-hand. You can't have one without the other.
2. Is the church known for either emotionalism or dead formalism? Unfortunately, Christians often embrace one of two extremes when it comes to the topic of revival and the Holy Spirit. At one extreme are those who embrace pure emotionalism and hysteria—"if it's odd it's God" is often their motto. All weird behavior is excused. The other extreme resembles a cemetery. There's no living, vibrant spiritual life taking place. The church is dead, cold, and lifeless; talk of revival is either dismissed or ridiculed. Both extremes are characteristics of a dying church. more >>
For Christians to be persuasive, their message must be centered on and shaped by the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, Os Guinness argues in his new book, Fool's Talk: Recovering the Art of Christian Persuasion.
In part one of The Christian Post's interview about the book, Guinness said that Christians have lost the art of persuasion by either giving up on evangelism altogether, separating apologetics from evangelism such that it becomes more about winning arguments than winning people, or relying upon formulas that wrongly assume all non-Christians are open, interested and needy.
"To be truly Christ-centered," Guinness wrote in Chapter One, "Christian persuasion is much more than just arguments about evidence or a battle over worldviews. There is an art to the advocacy of truth. It is an art that should be true to the truths of the Christian faith itself, and therefore shaped by both the Christian understanding of truth itself and by particular truths of the faith." more >>
As the Supreme Court's same-sex marriage decision looms this month, Liberty Counsel Chairman Matt Staver and subpoenaed Houston pastor Steven Riggle asserted Sunday that Christians and churches across the country need to unite, stand their ground and defy "unjust" laws that restrict religious freedoms.
While speaking on the opening night of the four-day Future Conference hosted at the Skyline Church in San Diego, which is headed by pastor Jim Garlow, Staver told the audience in a video speech that the pending Supreme Court ruling could lead to the constitutionalization of same-sex marriage and would also be an "unprecedented threat" to American history and religious freedoms.
Staver, whose Liberty Institute advocates for numerous Christians persecuted by the government for upholding their faith, further explained that if same-sex marriage is ruled constitutional, it will not be something that Christians will simply be able to ignore. more >>
This Memorial Day weekend marked a historic uptick in violence in many US cities. Three cities seem to symbolize our national woes the most - Baltimore, Chicago, and Ferguson. In Baltimore 9 people were killed and 29 shot. Chicago marked 12 killed and 44 wounded. The police in Baltimore and the other cities seem to be moving with unprecedented caution. Further, self initiated policing has slowed down significantly. The morale of law enforcement officers is at a decadal low. Therefore, both violent and petty crimes may flourish in several "hot spot" cities this summer. In Ferguson, sky rocketing crime rates continue despite greater civic involvement by citizens and a massive change in municipal personnel. Law enforcement seems to be becoming more difficult in key cities.
Does the violence in these cities mark the unofficial beginning of a new season of urban violence? Is this the beginning of the worst season of both rioting and lawlessness the US has seen since 1968 after the assassination of Dr. King? Last September I wrote that rioting in DC was possible after the Ferguson riots broke out in August 2014. I had no idea that there would be such a dramatic increase in both incendiary rhetoric and demonstrations. Our cities are still vulnerable to problems and riots. 175 metro areas supported the "hands up don't shoot" initiative and 50 cities protested the death of Eric Garner with "I can't breathe" demonstrations. A myriad of cell phone videos from South Carolina to Mckinney, Texas have started to erode public respect for our policemen. There is no reason why there will not be more riots and spontaneous violence this summer - except for the grace of God.
We can turn this bus around, though! But it must be done very decisively and strategically. Smoldering "urban anger" is still burning. This is not just a race problem. There is interplay between class, poverty, and race. When all three of these things converge, people feel disenfranchised and excluded from the American dream. more >>
I love this quote by illustrious NASA scientist Dr. Robert Jastrow (1925-2008): "For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountain of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries."
I would just add to Dr. Jastrow's keen insight, that it's not merely theologians at large who have long lounged atop Mount Understanding. It is, more precisely, Judeo-Christian theologians. Indeed, with time and chance, even science can eventually catch up to God's Word.
Case in point: Minnesota's Mayo Clinic is one of the world's most prestigious health institutions. With much fanfare, researchers there announced last week that they have "cracked the code to being happy." "Imagine scientists coming up with an actual formula for happiness – a specific recipe for lifelong contentment and joy," they tease. more >>
Christians have lost the art of persuasion and they need to get it back, Christian author Os Guinness argues in his new book, Fool's Talk: Recovering the Art of Christian Persuasion.
Balaam's ass is the patron saint of apologetics, Guinness likes to say, because the story from Numbers 22 illustrates that the key to being a good apologist is obedience to God.
In the story, Balaam is a prophet being disobedient to God. Several times, his donkey tries to turn him around, to put him on the correct path, but he is still resistant. Balaam only corrected himself when, in verse 28, "the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey," and the donkey talked to him. more >>