Accepting Jesus in a culture that disregards submission to authority

authorityWatch the news any night of the week and you’d wonder who in their right mind would step into a position of leadership, especially if you’re someone subject to the unforgiving scrutiny of today’s public?

In 2007 Kevin Rudd became Australia’s 26th Prime Minister. Just two and a half years later his deputy, Julia Gillard successfully contested his leadership. Three years later, following unsuccessful leadership challenges, Rudd came back and took back government’s top job. Months later he announced a general election and was defeated by the opposition party – whose leader, Tony Abbott, is regarded today as “least trustworthy” compared to his predecessor Gillard, according to a recent poll.

Politics aside, these days, there is always an “expert” opinion represented at almost every dinner party. In a previous blog, I commented on how it seems everyone is an expert on what the Bible says or does not say, regardless of whether the person would call themselves Christian, or not. Continuing with that thought, in a recent blog on the Verge Network website, Dave Ferguson, Jon Tyson and Allan Hirsch discuss the challenges of authority in discipleship within the culture of today. Tyson shares, “Our culture has one popular story which is liberation from oppression. I find a lot of young believers love the idea of Jesus as the ultimate liberator from oppression which becomes an infinite loop because the second you feel oppressed by anything – accountability in the church, requirements of Jesus – you push it off as oppression.” 

In parts of the church today there is excitement and an attraction in the presentation of what it means to be Christian, but it’s essential that we centre our relationship and freedom through submission to the Lordship and authority of God found only through his Son, Jesus. It seems that in the church today there is hesitation, caution and tension in being part of a movement to evangelise the world. Christians find it difficult to call their friends to come under the authority of something, when all around them they see the failure of leadership, corporations, politics and other powers of civil authority. It is our place to help navigate arm-in-arm with the seeker around and outside the distractions of failed man-modelled leadership, and instead point through scripture to the Jesus-modelled example of submission to the authority of the Father.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16

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Start somewhere. Start here.

This is not like one of those tele-marketing calls. This is an invitation that will upturn everything.

Exploring the existence of God, and the significance of discovering Him, is life changing. It is something you may decide to put off. You do have a choice. My advice is don’t. Don’t put off EXPLORING. Have you ever really looked into it? I mean really? Start.

What will it hurt to explore? One way or another, It will cost your life.

Jesus said, “…whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” (Matt 16:25-26).

Discover God and discover life.

Start today.

So, we find ourselves at the start. Is there a God?

Comments are switched on. You can ask me a question, ask a christian friend, or go along to a local church and ask all the questions you have. You could visit sites like this, www.ExploreGod.com or go on a short course, but don’t stop exploring.

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Does the church need a PR makeover?

softdrinksWe so easily buy into the lie presented to us by television commercials. This soft drink will make you happier. Driving that red sports car will make you popular, etc.

Truth or lies? The products keep on selling, and those clever creatives employed by cunning advertising agencies continue to lure you in. What can we learn from these million dollar campaigns?

If we look at a typical car commercial, rarely will you learn about details such as engine specifications, or the type of gear box, or breaking mechanism the car has. The message is always about lifestyle – it’s never true, and we don’t hold the advertiser accountable for their deceptive ways. I’ve never heard of anyone taking their new car back when it didn’t make them more popular with the other sex, or when it failed to transform into a robot! Yet these are the images that capture our attention.

Successful advertising campaigns are designed to build lifestyle and personality.

When asked, “have you considered Christianity?” A typical response today would be “no, because it is not …” and the response would be based on an observation about the church as opposed to the person, Jesus. Or the ‘why’. Whether true or untrue, the common response is that that the church is out of date and irrelevant today. I’m not going to defend whether church has kept up with the latest trends, become modern, no longer boring or whether it remains relevant. The point I’m raising here is that these comments are based on ‘what-type’ observations as opposed to ‘why’.

So what do I suggest we do about it? Perhaps the church needs a new PR campaign? We already have the lifestyle message. Evangelism needs to be centred on the person of Jesus. He is our ‘why’. Focus on why God came in the person of His son, what the significance of His death and resurrection was, and how we can have live in a relationship with Him today. I don’t think most people are turning down Jesus when they reject the church, they’re rejecting the institution.

Church should be repositioned. Church v2.0 should have a lifestyle campaign focussing on the ‘why’, not the ‘what’. Why do people attend a church and what do people who follow Jesus believe?

Of course, analogies break down eventually.  The burger never looks that good when it’s unwrapped, the fizzy drink gives you wind and the car eventually gets a flat, breaks down or just looks uncool. Comparing soft drinks and car commercials with the church and a relationship with Jesus falls apart pretty quickly. Following Jesus is a life decision, not just a lifestyle decision.

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Are you a consumer or a follower?

This time last year as a church, we read the book and watched the film, “Not a Fan” by Kyle Idleman (ref.1). It was hugely challenging. The big idea of the series is to ask whether you attend church on Sunday, but have not yet fully realised what it is to completely follow Jesus in every aspect of your life.

Just recently I’ve been thinking about this series and think that for many in our culture, church has become just another demonstration of the consumeristic society that we live in. We don’t turn up for the start of worship. We expect the sermon to end on time, and sometime between lunch and our Sunday afternoon snooze on the couch we’ve forgotten what was preached!

Say the word, evangelism, to 10 people and you’re likely to get 10 different descriptions of what it looks like. On a recent trip to the US, there were 11 dedicated Christian TV channels available in my hotel. Most of the channels featured tele-evangelists who seemed to spend an unequal amount of time making urgent requests for financial support. The other stereotypical image that comes to mind is the man standing on the corner with the bullhorn.

Why is it that in the church, we speak of evangelism as something we do overseas, when it’s clear that America, Australia and UK need just as much evangelising to as any other nation?

In China, there are somewhere between 26-80 million Christians(ref.2). If it’s true that between 7 and 8.9 percent (ref.3) of the US population are evangelical Christians, then there are most likely already more Christians in China today.

As China, India, and other countries become increasingly Christian and middle-class, will they eventually become a consumeristic-style church too? As I read the stories of the early church, and the blood and sweat the followers were willing to shed for their faith, I see a huge disconnect with today’s image of the church in the West.

The idols of our culture are all around us. They’re in our homes keeping us from a deepening dependency on the Lord. It’s time we take stock of the distractions, declutter and de-consumerise our lives (I know that’s not a real word, but it starts with ‘d’), dedicating what remains to discipleship.

References:
1. http://www.notafan.com/
2: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/china/10787236/Beijing-attacks-claim-China-could-become-worlds-most-Christian-nation.html
3: A Call To Resurgence, Mark Driscoll. P.13

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