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Archive for the ‘Rite of Passage-Book’ Category

It’s hard to believe…but, it’s year 11 for Rite of Passage (ROP). Amazingly, 101 young adults have passed through the waters of ROP over the past decade. Time flies and I’m getting older. Here’s this year’s group!

What a wonderful time we had at our banquet Saturday night. One of my favorite times at the banquet is the family sharing time. The members of the family share with their Young Adult what it means to be a follower of Christ and encouragement on how to live for Him.

Here’s the Anderson family…

And the Button family…

Here is the Bullock family…

In the background of the picture above you can see Pam and Andrew and part of Clara (as Andrew participated this year).

Here is the Wentz family…

Here is the Aiken family…

The Heacock’s have a huge family with 6 children…but, Daddy, Scott stayed with the kiddos, so Kaden could be pampered a bit by her momma, Victoria…

What a joy! It’s a great night where gifts are often shared…

And even pictures with the preacher…

Thanks Avery!!!

One of the questions I ask in the question section of ROP is this: Why do you think you will not fall away from the faith, since 70-90% of Christian teens fall away by their 20th birthday?

Check out some of these responses from this year’s group:

One young lady said:

This is a mind-blowing thing to me but I don’t think this will happen to me cause i’ve grown up in a house where God is number 1. Most people have grown up in a household with a parent that is too busy or they are just too hooked on the world that they don’t set their priorities straight. This is a common thing among families today. They don’t pray before meals or barely ever have a family dinner together. Families are growing apart which makes the children want attention leading them to get into bad situations…

Parents aren’t realising that they are hearing just bible stories and not the real deal. So when kids grow they think that Christianity is just another joke and they take it like it’s another day. Parents need to start bringing their kids to the sermon so they can learn that Christianity is not something to joke about, it’s a matter between eternal life with God or hell.

Here’s another young man:

I think that many 20-year olds that are raised in church fall short and walk away from church because of the people they choose to hang out with.  Also, they can become a follower instead of a leader…

Another young lady:

I think it’s because there are so many things that have Satan’s hand.  On top of that, it’s so easy to forget or get distracted if you take one step in the wrong direction it will become 2, 3, 4, 5 and on and on. It will never end.  It will be from a little step to a big step, to a huge step… I cling to Jesus and I’m passionate about him.  I love him too much he is my friend and without him, I would be nothing.  Jesus helps me not matter what.

Another young lady:

I think that the reason why 70% to 90% of Christian young people who were raised in church are supposedly likely to abandon faith by the age of 20 is because they were not well grounded in faith. They took Christianity lightly and then later became influenced by wicked people. I know that this will not happen to me because I know that the Word of God is true. I am reading the Bible and through this, I gain wisdom that will assist me on my everyday walk with God.

Another young man:

Sometimes they leave their family or move or get a job and they get too busy. They find new things in life and they don’t do what they used to do. They make new friends that don’t go to church and that causes them not to take the time to go. This will not happen to me because I was taught to read the Bible and go to church and to know the Lord and taught to do things without people having to tell me. And I was taught to remember and make time and do all I can for the Lord and that’s why I know I will not turn away from him.

Another young man:

I think so many young people abandon their faith because of peer pressure and the way the society is changing. Mainly they don’t have or never had a real relationship with God. They don’t know the danger they are in. I will never abandon my faith. I can not thank my parents and the Lord enough for being brought up at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church. I am so thankful for the knowledge the Lord has given me and the church I was placed in.  I one day hope I can bring my family to MPBC.

Another young man:

This may be because the individual’s parents have not urged them to make firm their own beliefs before being thrown out into a secular and evil world. To many, Christianity is “what my family believes” and they fail to create a long lasting and meaningful relationship with Christ. Furthermore, when they go to a university and see people with different values and different beliefs, they may only see one side of the argument for Christ. If Christian households are not careful to back up their child’s faith with evidence and logic, a university may persuade the individual that one side stands for fact and logic, and the other is nothing more than a story passed down from generation to generation. Faith is of course important, but why give secular universities the opportunity to falsely portray their beliefs as logical and Christianity as illogical and not factual? Failing to back up faith with fact and evidence and not leading the son or daughter to develop their own walk in the Lord may be the cause for the multitude of youth leaving Christianity.

Another young lady:

I know that for a lot of young people, it’s an identity thing. Many times they don’t see themselves fitting into this whole “Christianity thing” and they fit themselves into other groups of people. Also, a way that I’ve imagined it, is that some people just want to have a little “pet Christianity.” They take it with them to church and they leave it home whenever they go out with friends. But, they can always show someone a cute picture on their phones of their “pet” whenever they want. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want any little “pet Christianity,” I want a big honkin’ elephant that goes and takes me anywhere it wants! 

I don’t care if I’m not cool or popular, all of that fades. Plus, life is miserable without God. I have no purpose or reason for living. I may not know exactly where I’m going in life and I could have a lot to learn, but at least I have a core idea of what I am to live for.

(Don’t you just want to shout: AMEN!!!!)

Another young man:

I think they leave because they don’t have a personal relationship with God. 

Another young lady:

I think they leave because they were never part of the church to begin with. They never really set out to grow in a relationship with Christ. I think in this situation, it’s the parents who are making their kids go to church rather than the young adult wanting to go. Now I’m not saying that parents shouldn’t make their kids go to church… I think a lot of the reasons why they leave the church is because of life in general. We live in a very sinful world full of distractions and people are easily distracted and tempted by Satan. So they leave the church and abandon their faith. I think that this also has to do with bad choices of friends who they hang out with. 

Another young lady:

They have their parents’ faith and not their own faith. It will not happen to me because I own my faith…

Another young man:

I believe it is because young people today are on social media and watch R-rated movies a lot. If people are constantly exposed to this junk, it can be very bad for their minds and will make them act poorly. I do not think this will happen to me because I have parents who love me and have “taught me in the way I should go.”

Am I ecstatic? Oh yes! And I’m so grateful! I’m grateful for the families who are super busy, yet they are intentional about saying to their Young Adult, “I want you to know that this season of your life matters…and this spiritual aspect of it is worth it!” Man I love that thought!

3 John 4, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”

If you are interested in learning more about ROP for yourself or your church, just click on the tabs: Adult-Centered Youth Ministry and Rite of Passage-Book. There’s tons of information there about how to do a ROP ceremony with your church, or even with your family. All the details are there and if you need me, ask me!

This past Saturday two of my girls danced at their recital! Again, super grateful!

Daughter…Clara…

Man, can that girl spin!!!

And I know she’s mine…but, she’s really graceful…as are all the girls…

And granddaughter, Charlotte…

Check out the smile!!!

Of course, flowers must be given by Daddy and Papa…and little sister, Evie will be next!

What a joy!

And I’ll look forward to spending more time with these wonderful folks as I’m on vacation starting Friday through Sat., May 19th…back in the pulpit the 20th.

Here’s this week’s Two-Minute Tuesday, “We’re All Icebergs-What’s Below the Surface?”

http://mpbc.ws/media/?sapurl=Lys3ZWViL2xiL21pLyt0ZHQzcXM5P2JyYW5kaW5nPXRydWUmZW1iZWQ9dHJ1ZQ==

Kevin

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One of the questions I’m asked the most is by parents. It goes like this: “Pastor, I’m so afraid my child will walk away from the Lord when they get older, what can I do?”

Well, first of all, their concern is valid. Studies continue to show that 70% or more of children who have been raised in Christian homes, will walk away from the faith by their 20th birthday.

That thought still jolts me.  Why does this happen?  Why do we lose children, even though they grew up in a “Christian” home?  Well, one of the primary reasons is because of the pagan culture we live in today.  We live in a culture that is in total opposition to what the Bible teaches about life and living, and our children are immersed in that culture. We know we can’t keep our children in a bubble…yes…they must be protected and nurtured…but, they are going to be exposed to the pagan forces of this world in ways that we’ll never be able to totally control.

So, what does the Bible say about raising children in a way that we will not lose them?  I’m glad you asked!

Deuteronomy 6:4-15

4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

10 When the LORD your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you—a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, 11 houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant—then when you eat and are satisfied, 12 be careful that you do not forget the LORD, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

13 Fear the LORD your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name. 14 Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples around you; 15for the LORD your God, who is among you, is a jealous God and his anger will burn against you, and he will destroy you from the face of the land.

I believe there are five things that we must understand if we don’t want to lose our children.

#1 We must worship God without rivals

4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Deut. 6:4

What are rivals today?  Well, I’ll give you what I think the number one rival is.  Now this is strictly my opinion and I guess since it’s my blog…that’s what we’ll go with…ha!  I sincerely believe the #1 rival of God in our children’s lives (and ours too for that matter), is too many activities…i.e., sports, classes of all kinds, running every night of the week, etc.  Now please understand I have nothing against any of these things. My kids are involved in all sorts of things. But, there has to be a balance. We can’t be gone every night of the week and expect to raise Godly children. There must be time to teach the things of God.  Can I be bold?  I’ve learned that for most of us…when we were kids and we win trophies at 12, that most of the time by the age of 40 they end up in the basement or attic or the landfill.

When we are never with our kids except for running them to and fro from this thing to that…then guess who is raising our kids?  Not us!  It’s the teachers, coaches, etc.  Is this ok?  Perhaps, you might say…”They are good people.”  But, guess who’s responsibility it is to raise our children?  Parents… That’s you and me!

#2 We must build homes on God’s Love

5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  Deut. 6:4-6

Love is a decision.  It is a decision of the will…a choice we make, however, it is not void of emotion or feeling…men, nor is it led by just emotion and feelings, ladies.  You’ve heard the man who says, I don’t need to tell her I love her, once at the altar was good enough, if I change my mind, I’ll let her know.  While that may be funny…it’s certainly the wrong philosophy!

What emotion does your children see you exhibit toward the Lord?  I tell you, I try to make my kids blush at least once per week as I love and dote on my wife in front of them.  Nothing out-of-place or wrong here…just hugs and kisses that make them say, “Aw daddy!”  But, they love it.  They feel secure when they see that I show love and affection for their mother and it models it for their future marriages.  By the way, where do you think children learn to love God?  From us!!!  If we get mad and walk out on each other, then it teaches the kids that God made do the same to them.

#3 Teach them diligently (Impress it on them)

7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Deut. 6:7

We do what we call ROP (Rite of Passage) at our church. https://www.amazon.com/Rite-Passage-Home-Church-Christ-Centered/dp/1893729958/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

It’s a Scriptural program.  Why do we need ROP?  Well, when does a young person become an adult?  Well, we don’t seem to know.  So, we, the church want to help.  But, it’s not the churches job to do the work of raising everyone’s child.  The Bible tells us that parents are responsible for raising the children…not the schools, coaches, teachers or, again, the churches.

But, it goes deeper than that.  We say it’s the job of parents to raise the children, but do you know who Moses was talking to specifically here?  He’s using the masculine singular in this passage in Deut. 6?  And that means the Lord is principally talking the Fathers and tells the Fathers it’s their responsibility to lead.  You say this is Old Testament.

Well, Ephesians 6:1-4 tells us something very important…particularly look at verse 4.

1Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2“Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— 3“that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” 4Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

Who’s the direction given to?  The Fathers!  Do you see that?  It’s the Father’s job to lead out in the training and instruction of the Lord! It’s not that the mom’s aren’t involved. Of course they are! In fact, mom’s often are the ones who have the greatest impact on a child in many ways. Yet, the dad’s are to set the tone and be INTENTIONALLY INVOLVED. Boy have we missed that in our culture!  Please hear my heart.  It’s not the church’s job to disciple your children.  Anything the Bible tells you to do that I, as a Pastor or the church, does for you, in essence, serves to cripple you and impair you from doing your job.  I or other pastors are simply crippling you and ultimately, (speaking for myself), I’m being disobedient to the Word.

Have you ever thought about this?  What we make our children crave, love and desire is more important and has more impact on their lives than what we make them learn?  You may need to read that again.  What do your children crave and desire?  If it’s not God and the things of God, then you have a priority problem in your home.

# 4 Mark your home as God’s territory

8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.  Deut. 6:8-9

I encourage people to place verses of Scripture on their bathroom mirrors, the walls of their houses in frames, etc.  Even make smells in your house mean something.  Pictures on the walls should depict your home as marked territory of God.  As believers in Christ we should say, “I’m not going to have anything in my house that doesn’t point to Jesus and show that we are His children.”  Make it a goal to touch all the senses of your children in your home.  We have food from a CrockPot many Sundays because of the hectic pace of the day. Pam puts the food on and it cooks while we’re gone and the children associate the smell of food from the CrockPot very often with the Lord’s Day.  Isn’t that neat?

Another example is the use of a Bible…an actual Bible that you read from in your home. Then pass that Bible down to your kids. I’ve done this with my Bibles as I use them and wear them out. Each of my four kids have an old Bible of mine now. I’m working on the grandchildren now. I pray those old Bibles mark their minds that Daddy (Papa for the grands) loves the Word of God…and loves them!

#5 Keep your prosperity in check

10 When the LORD your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you—a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, 11 houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant—then when you eat and are satisfied, 12 be careful that you do not forget the LORD, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 13 Fear the LORD your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name. 14 Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples around you; 15 for the LORD your God, who is among you, is a jealous God and his anger will burn against you, and he will destroy you from the face of the land.  Deut. 6:10-15

This is simple.  Our children don’t want things…they want you!  Did you see what happened?  The people got all the stuff and they forgot God.  It’s happened in America too.  By the way, you’ve seen the poster that says, “He has the most toys in the end wins.”  Well the truth is, “He who has the most toys in the end still dies!”

As another side note, (this is for the ladies who may be reading this), it’s ok to want to and have the desire to spend your time raising your family.  Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.  This used to never be questioned.  75 years ago…when this nation had a lot less…all the mommies stayed home and took care of their families.  Now look at what we have?  We’ve gotten “wealthy” and prosperous with our two-income families (trying to have it all) and look at the moral decay of our nation.  Now, don’t misquote me and say that just because women have gone en masse into the workforce over the last 75 years that is the reason why the country is sliding into moral decay.  But, I promise you…isn’t hasn’t helped.  It is God’s ultimate and first purpose for a mom to be able to manage and care for her home as the first priority.  If you can work outside the home while making your home the first priority…then that’s wonderful. But, the home is to be the first priority. The Bible tells us so.

3Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. 4Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, 5to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.  Titus 2:3-5

By the way, it’s ok to come home from work at quitting time too, dads!  One of our biggest problems is that we’re like hamsters running on a wheel.  We are all running around crazy and are worn out and tired and beat to death.  I just read a statistic last week that said kids, when asked what they wanted most from their parents, wanted them to not be so stressed out and tired all the time.  That’s pretty amazing.  Of all the things they could have wanted and that’s what crept to number one.

One last thing…do you know what else the study revealed.  It was simply…this:  If you were to ask your child if they could trade more of Dad and Mom in the home for more house, more vacations, more stuff, more gadgets and trinkets (those are my words for what was said to be “material possessions”), what do you think the kids would say they wanted?  They said, “No.  I’d take more mom and dad.”  Don’t believe this is true?  Just ask them.  They want you!  I promise.

I’ll say it this way…

At the end of your life, the most important thing that you will leave to those you love is the memory of simply being with them. It won’t be the houses, cars, money, material stuff… No, it will be you. Just you. And the truth is: that’s what matters the most to the ones you love most now…today…at this very moment. So, think about that as you pursue life and remember that people are more important than things…every time!

So, how do we make sure we don’t lose our kids to the world?  We must:  #1 Worship God without rivals, #2 Build our homes on God’s love, #3 Teach them diligently, #4 Mark you home as God’s territory and #5 Keep your prosperity in check.  I’d add one last thing…pray, pray, and pray some more…for all you are worth!  We’re in the battle of a lifetime for our children.  Let’s not lose them!  The statistics are stacked against us!  But, we can do all things through Christ and we’re more than conquerors…but, we better prioritize our lives and be INTENTIONAL if we want to have our kids in the percentage who will remain faithful and serve Christ.

Happy Birthday to this lovely young lady…who is now a teenager today!!! Amazing!!! I love you with all my heart Clara!!!

Here is this week’s Two-Minute Tuesday. It fits the topic of today’s post quite well.

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It’s another year in the books. I told you last week that by this time next week I’d have pictures of another group of Young Adults who participated in our annual Rite of Passage. Well, here you go:

Isn’t that a fantastic group!! We had three that couldn’t make it to the Banquet on Saturday night (when this picture was made), so we had 14 in all. I’m ecstatic! Here’s some more pictures from the weekend.

The “Baton Pass…”

Here, the parents are preparing to pass the “baton of faith” to their young adult. Why? Because the young adult has to “own” their “own faith.” It can’t be their parents or someone else’s. It must be there’s and that’s what ROP does. It pushes them to “own” their faith. Here’s a picture of Emma Golds. Isn’t she just beaming!

I love that! Here’s another shot of some of the Young Adults holding their batons up high!

I’m so proud of these young adults and I’m proud of that young lady dressed in blue on the far left in the picture above. That’s Clara and that’s child #3 of mine and Pam’s who has been through this process.

(This was taken right before her violin recital in Winston-Salem last week.)

Andrew will be #4 next year. But, I don’t make them do this. I talk with my kids about what it means to be a Christian. I talk with them about what it means to own their own faith.

You see, it’s hard to grow up as a “pastor’s kid.” The expectations are unreal! People place responsibilities and demands on my kids that they would never dream of placing on their own. That’s the cold, hard truth. And that’s why a lot of “pastor’s kids” walk away from the faith. They are treated with a different set of rules than anyone else’s kids.

Now, please don’t get me wrong… Pastor’s kids should be held to a high standard, but there isn’t a passage of Scripture that says they are to be held to a higher standard than your kids. They are to be held to the same “Christian standard” in 1 Timothy 4:12. There isn’t a passage of Scripture for pastor’s kids that’s any different from anyone else. Paul told Timothy that an Elder (or Pastor) must: “manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive.” (1 Timothy 3:4) But folks, that’s true of any home, is it not? Every Christian home should seek to raise “submissive” children. Even Jesus was submissive. At the age of 12 the Bible describes that…

And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart. Luke 2:51

So, when you see my kids…you are simply looking at children who are being raised in a glass box with expectations that are off the charts… Therefore, if you get a chance…pat them on the back for bearing up on the pressure. No, my kids aren’t perfect. But, they are following Jesus and I’m tickled to death about that and I praise His name for His mercy on them and for their desire to swallow hard and follow Him.

Oh by the way, I didn’t show you this picture of me and Charlotte from the beach. I love this picture…

Ain’t she a cutie-pie! She loved making sand castles with Christmas trees on top!

Here was our family picture from the beach…

We take a family photo each year. My, my, my how the kids have grown! And now I’m watching my grand babies grow! I’m a blessed man!

Speaking of my children and grandchildren… Katy wrote a new blog post this week that truly sums up so much of life. I leave you with it this week…

“IT’S OKAY THOUGH”

It’s funny because I’m not really sure if she picked it up from me or someone else, but Charlotte has picked up a new phrase. It’s one of the dozens she learns every week in this season of tremendous brain development and learning, but this one has stuck out and surprisingly has become of help to me.  She now says it many times a day as though God spoke it to her to comfort me. The first time happened like this….
I was having a rough day. Everything was getting on my nerves and all the mess and stuff to do was crowding out my joy. To make matters worse, I dropped something on the floor in the kitchen and food spilled out everywhere. Charlotte (2 and a half years old) was sitting in her seat waiting for me to deliver lunch to her empty plate. I let out something like, “Dad gum it!” There was a pause and then she calmly respond from her seat behind me “Oh Mommy! It’s okay though!”
It’s okay though. It hit me. How funny it is that my young daughter is so quick to remind me that this really isn’t a big deal, but me in all my adult-ness, blew it out of proportion. That’s when I realized that I do that a lot. Little stuff can make me so overly upset and aggravated. The actual big things that are more than just inconveniences seem crippling because I blow the LITTLE things out of proportion.
You know what I mean.
You have to wait and the doctor’s office longer than you wanted.
A rock cracked your windshield.
It rained on your new shoes.
You caught a cold before a presentation.
The potty training toddler peed on your carpet.
Your teenager absent mindedly locked his keys in the car.
You know.
But if those things cripple us and plummet us down the spiral of despair then what could real trauma do to our hearts? Cancer, Bankruptcy, Fire, Murder, Kidnapping, Death etc. What then?
That’s when it dawned on me that Charlotte is right. This little mess is okay. It’s not a big deal, because when things ARE a big deal I want to remember all that was actually good in my life and how even in the things that really are not okay, that God is good.
When Satan tempts you to blow the minor things out of proportion, remember that he is trying to get you and I to spend our whole lives selfishly focusing on ourselves. He wants us to think we don’t have enough to give, that we are too young or old or busy to help, he wants you to think that you have it so bad. But we don’t. I pray even if I do have it rough…. really rough one day, that I will look up and thank God anyway and be thankful that I tried really hard not to “major on the minors” when I had the chance.
Enjoy the flowers. Feels the breeze. Remember, it’s okay though.

http://heartsonthingsabove.blogspot.com/2017/05/its-okay-though.html

 

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There’s certainly a lot going on in the world. The news is littered with trials and troubles and problems. I think about and pray about how the Lord might use me during “such a time as this.”

Think about our world. Problems. There are problems everywhere. But, isn’t that life, folks? Isn’t like about dealing with problems. Problems: not enough money, not enough time, not enough health, not enough patience, not enough gas in our tanks to enjoy life…instead…we just endure it. Is that what God intended? Just endure this life? Surely there’s more.

I believe there is. Jesus said, “I am come that you may have an abundant life and live it to the full” (John 10:10). What does, “abundant” mean? According to http://www.blueletterbible.org it means: “exceeding some number or measure or rank or need.” I’m glad of that! Jesus wants to give us a life on this earth…yes…a sin-filled earth that exceeds measure and need. That’s good! That means that even in this crazy world, we can enjoy the journey. Even with the debates about immigrants and refugees…we can enjoy the journey. Even though work may not be perfect, your health may not be perfect, your kids may not be perfect, you and I can still “exceed some number, or measure or rank or need.” I don’t know about you, but that comforts me!

I’d like to post some articles I’ve read this week that are really good. Two from folks who are near and dear to me. First, my daughter Kandace. She wrote this beautiful blog about music. I want to post the entire article here because I think it’s that good and because I’m big-time prejudiced about my daughter and I believe (like I do the rest of my family) that she’s the best thing since sliced bread. 🙂

http://mpbcworship.blogspot.com/2017/02/the-power-of-music.html

Monday, February 6, 2017

The Power of Music

 Music is a powerful thing. Music has been a part of my life for as long and as far back as I can remember. I remember sitting in Dad’s car as a little girl and listening to classical music. He always said it made a person smarter. I remember my first piano lesson and how I hated it and Mama telling me that I would learn an instrument and learn it well so I had better find one that I liked and stick with it (it wasn’t the piano) 😃 I remember Daddy would sometimes pull out his old tape of instrumentals composed by Michael W. Smith and he would have us close our eyes and try to imagine seeing heaven for the first time. I remember singing my first solo at church when I was about 6 years old. And from the time that I was about 4 or 5 until I was 14 Mama and Daddy would sing a hymn to me before bed every single night.

One of my earliest memories of actually feeling the Lord’s presence in my life very much involved music… I was about 5 or 6 and we were singing the song “Shout To The Lord” one Sunday morning at church. We always showed a video during the song of different things in nature…. One of the things on the video was waves crashing in the ocean. I remember standing there, singing along, and when the waves part of the video came on the screen I felt the Lord speak into my spirit and say “Do you see that? I made that. And this music. Those notes that make up this song? I made that too.” I came home from church that day and told Mama that when we sang “Shout To The Lord” I felt Jesus.

That’s the especially beautiful thing about music. Still to this day when I hear those songs by Michael W. Smith I remember thinking about heaven. Or when I hear certain hymns I think about being little and the feeling of peace, safety and contentment I felt as I laid in my bed, in my little pink bedroom, with Mama and Daddy sitting on both sides of me singing those old songs with such rich and meaningful lyrics. Music has a way of embedding itself in our minds and bringing back memories, thoughts and feelings…. and for me, it has and always will be a source of peace and comfort. I have this thing that I do when I’m feeling afraid or overwhelmed. I sing. I usually sing a hymn or a worship song and I’ll sing it until the feeling passes. After the car accident I was in back in December I had dreams about it for about 3 weeks. Almost every single night I would wake up in a sweat after dreaming about the crash in slow motion over and over again. Every night that I had a dream about it I would turn on my light and sing “It Is Well With My Soul” or “Tis So Sweet To Trust In Jesus” and slowly, but surely the fear would dissipate and I would go back to sleep.

I love when I’m onstage on a Sunday morning or Wednesday night and I close my eyes during a song and listen to all of the voices around me. I love that God is using something so near and dear to my heart to bring people closer to Him. I love when people say that something I have sung or played has made them feel the presence of Jesus in their lives. There is nothing else like it. I am so thankful for the power that music carries. It has brought me out of many a dark place. I encourage you, the next time you’re at church, to close your eyes during one of the songs and just listen to the voices around you. It truly is a powerful thing.

~Kandace

“Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things; his right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him. The Lord has made his salvation known and revealed his righteousness to the nations. He has remembered his love and his faithfulness to Israel; all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music; make music to the Lord with the harp, with the harp and the sound of singing, with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn— shout for joy before the Lord, the King. Let the sea resound, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.”Psalm 98

Pretty good, huh? I’ll say so!

And if I might brag (albeit humbly) on her a little more… Check out this song she wrote herself.

https://www.facebook.com/MPBCNC/videos/316741702061073/

I also want to link to our Daily Devotion page to a devotion that our Ministry Assistant, Caleb Triplett wrote earlier this week about raising children. It’s near and dear to my heart, because we’re getting ready to embark upon our 10th class of Rite of Passage participants at the church. It’s crazy to think it’s been 10 years, but it has. For 10 years we’ve been seeking to raise the bar of expectations for our young adults. In fact, on this blog, you can click on: “Adult-Centered Youth Ministry” and see a ton of articles on the subject. You can also click on: “Rite of Passage-Book.”

Well, the upshot is this: our kids will rise to our level of expectations and that’s true of their spiritual lives. I know we all have goals of what we want our kids to do academically and vocationally and even athletically, but what about spiritually? Caleb’s devotion addresses that very well.

https://dkevinbrowndailydevotions.wordpress.com/2017/02/09/the-desperate-plea-of-a-father/

Here’s some pictures from of our Sportsmen’s Banquet last week.

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We had over 400 folks come and participate. Do we love our community at MPBC? You better believe it! Here’s Amanda Eddins helping Andrew shoot a bow.

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Amanda is an amazing teacher and she is quite a markslady herself!

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Don’t you just love that picture. Desi and her son, Jace taking care of making sure all our folks had plenty of soft drinks and water! Yes, we love our community and gave them a wonderful meal, music and most importantly, Jesus!

And you see, that’s important. We’ve got to give people help in one hand…but, Jesus in the other and a lot of churches are moving away from that. Today, they only offer the “social gospel.” Just feed people and that’s it. Well, if that’s all you do and that person dies without Jesus, they’ll go to hell with a full belly, but what have we really accomplished? Give ’em food and clothes and love…but, for Pete’s sake…give them Jesus!

People are asking me: “Is winter over?” Well, it’s certainly been an anemic winter if you like snow. What a roller coaster. From low 40’s for highs to mid-70’s within just a few days. It was a high of 43 yesterday and Sunday it’s supposed to be 74! Is that crazy or what?

As far as the snow goes…there’ll be nothing for the rest of February. But March is always the wild card. It’s possible we could see one more snow, but the odds are slim. It’s been a La Nina winter and they never bode well for snow. We’ve had right at 8″ for the year, which is below the 12″ average for our area. Yet, the forecasters said it would be a “slightly below-average” to “average” year. So, we’re pretty much on track for that. We’ll see how it all turns out. In the mealtime…enjoy the roller coaster ride! 🙂

The grandkids are growing…

Evelyn rolled over this week. She’ll be three months old tomorrow. Here’s the aftermath from Facebook…

https://www.facebook.com/katy.brown.3150/videos/1505020449510635/

I’m a proud Papa!

Kevin

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I love to garden. Anybody who knows me is well aware of that fact. I’ve been gardening for years and it is very therapeutic for me, not to mention that it saves a lot of money on the grocery bill. A few years ago, Clara, Andrew and I were planting the garden. It’s a process that usually takes one day each spring. We lined off the garden by making rows in the soil and then we planted our seeds. Usually, we plant mostly green beans, cucumbers, pumpkins and corn. They kids worked so hard helping me. When we were finished that evening, Clara was so excited! (She was like 5 or 6 years old at the time.) She exclaimed, “Daddy, I can’t wait till tomorrow morning to go pick all the beans and corn!” Clara didn’t understand. She thought the process of the seed turning to plant, turning to blooms, turning to fruit happened overnight. I wish it did, but as we all know, it doesn’t.

Gardening takes time and so does making disciples. Many people want to have families that have children who are followers of Jesus…but this just doesn’t happen overnight. It took Jesus three years to teach, train and equip his followers. Yet, they still struggled mightily. Peter comes to mind immediately. After three years of intense time with him, Peter denied even knowing Jesus three times. He even called down curses upon himself. Jesus never gave up on Peter. Peter was slow to learn, just like so many of us. If anyone could attest to the fact that making disciples is a long and hard process, it would be Jesus.

Raising a family is much like riding a roller coaster. There will be many ups and downs. We get to choose our attitude and how we will respond to those ups and downs. Still, it is easy to get impatient and tired of the tedious work. Earlier today, I shared my weekly: “Two Minute Tuesday” about how there are just 168 hours in a week. None of us get any more or any less time. It doesn’t matter if one is rich or poor, we all get the same amount of time. There are 60 minutes in an hour, 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week and that equates to 168 hours per week for each of us.

The point of my video today is that we don’t have much time to get the job done of raising a Christ-centered family. If we are going to deliver to our children a faith in Christ that is rock solid, we must guard our time like a precious treasure and use it wisely. Here’s the video in case you haven’t seen it. It’s an object lesson that’s pretty neat… I’m using water and Cheerwine to make my points. 🙂

http://subsplash.com/mpbc/v/25b8218

Here’s my fear: The American Dream dominates most Christian homes. Most people see the American Dream as the pursuit of happiness and getting all the gusto out of life one can. So, we pack our schedules with all the activities we can afford in pursuit of happiness and the American Dream. Many families are seldom home at night during the week. They are constantly on the move. There are after-school activities, ball practices, extra-curricular classes, dance lessons, music lessons, tutoring, etc. The list can go on and on. Believe me…with school starting back yesterday…it’s “wide open” for many families.

If you ask one of these family members how they are doing in about 6 weeks, they will likely say, “I’m tired.” Sure they are tired. They are running from pillar to post and are utterly exhausted. Why? Because it is exhausting to pursue the American Dream. Is there anything inherently wrong with this pursuit and all of these activities? We all want our children to be well-rounded. But, we must ask ourselves this question. When are we supposed to disciple the children? When do we become students of the Word of God? When do we, ourselves, have time to become disciples so that we can in turn make disciples, if we are running around all over the place, all the time? That’s precisely the problem. If we are never together for more than a few minutes here and there, we can’t and we won’t make disciples.

Some quick questions: Do our children have to have it all? What are we saying to our children when we’re gone all the time? How are they establishing their identity? Is it in what they do (their activities) or who they are? Often I hear parents describe other people’s children in this way. They will say, “I know her. She’s a cheerleader at the middle school.” Or perhaps this way: “He’s the point guard on the basketball team at the high school.” They are known as the cheerleader, the basketball player, the dancer, the piano player, the smart kid, etc. We establish in the minds of our children, unknowingly, that they must be identified by whatever they participate in to actually “be somebody.: It is easy to see why we do so. It’s because of this pursuit of happiness and the fact that we equate happiness and our identity with going and doing and getting all we can out of life.

Many have become so enamored by the idea of the American Dream that they equate their success with it. These false, pagan ideals bombard us at every turn. They are in the grocery store check-out line. Those skinny beauties on magazine covers that say, “You can have it all if you look like me.” Commercials and billboards flash before our eyes flaunting the “good life.” They say things like: drink this, buy this, or have this and you’ll be happy. Americans today buy lottery tickets by the millions just hoping and praying they can hit the jackpot and get rich; then all their dreams will come true. But we Christians are wiser than those who pursue such frivolity, aren’t we? We can have our cake and eat it too! We can have it all, (the big house, nice cars, vacations, new clothes, nice TVs, the latest gadgets), and still raise our children right, can’t we? As long as they are well-educated, accomplished and well-liked, then all is well or is it?

How does this often work out in our culture today? We’re so busy. Often the schedule for a family is dictated by the kids’ activities. We have to look on the refrigerator at the schedule to see if we can do anything.

Now don’t get me wrong. I think it’s wonderful for our children to be involved in extra-curricular activities. Mine are. But, we are constantly asking: “How much is enough?” But, it’s not just sports and outside activities. We push our kids so hard to make the good grades don’t we. I get it. Parents (myself included) love speaking about how well our children are doing in school. There is certainly nothing wrong with academic success. I graduated at the top of my class in high school and in college. But, we must remember the words of the Apostle John when he said, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 4). Can we say that? Does our desire for academic or athletic success for our children eclipse this standard written by John? Let’s never forget that God does not have a room in heaven for our children’s diplomas and trophies. I can hear the words of the 12-year-old Jesus again. Can you hear them? He said he had to be about his Father’s business. What about our children? What or whose business are they about?

You know, we push our children academically and athletically. We want them to be the best they can possibly be in these areas. But what about spiritually—do we push them spiritually? Somehow, we have tied our children’s success, and in many cases, their identity, to how well they perform on the field, dance floor, court or classroom. We push them to get scholarships and get high grades in school. Then what? They graduate with a degree and get a job and start making money. Does that bring happiness and fulfillment? Jesus said we should seek the kingdom of God first and then everything else we need will be added to us (See Matthew 6:33). We might say we believe this for our children and we may even tell them that, but what do our actions show?

Folks, we must count the cost. We really cannot have it all. We may have to choose. Do we want our children to make straight-A’s or take some time to learn the Word of God and make B’s? Would we be willing for our children not to be on the travel team, even though they may be good enough, so they can be in church and have time to be involved in more spiritual training? There is a cost and a huge price to be paid if we desire to raise Godly children. It doesn’t happen by osmosis.

You know, I’m the first to admit that it’s so easy to get tangled up in living vicariously through the successes of our children, especially if they can do things we were unable to do as a child. But, it shouldn’t be an “all or nothing proposition.” We must find a balance for sure. But, we must choose wisely and remember, whatever it is that we make our children crave is what they will desire for the rest of their lives.

Hey can I ask another set of questions: If we were to ask our children about their goals in life, what would be their response? What would their answers reveal? What do they crave? What kind of legacy are we passing down to our children? Is it the American Dream, or a Christ-honoring life? Is a little Jesus here and a little Jesus there good enough?

No, an occasional rain shower or just a little bit of sun will not make a garden grow and be bountiful. A garden needs enormous amounts of sun, water and fertilizer to grow. Yes, it is wonderful that we take our children to church. However, the church house was never intended to be the place where parents drop of their children to be discipled. That job must be done in the home by the parents.

You see, mom and dad, we live in a culture today that is making our children very sick, not literally, but sin-sick. They are inundated with worldviews and philosophies that are so pagan and anti-God that it is staggering to the mind. In many schools children are taught from the first grade that their ancestors are monkeys. They are fed a steady diet of pop culture through TV, music, video games and every other form of social media. Even in a controlled atmosphere, they are contaminated every day by a mixed up world. So, a little bit of Jesus (a prayer over a meal and being dropped off for a couple of hours at church), simply won’t work! They need more, much more. They need Jesus and the Word of God to be flowing through them like an IV-drip at the hospital.

If you have ever been around a hospital, you have seen plenty of IV bags hanging from little metal stands on rollers. If the patient is sick enough, he must take that IV bag of medicine everywhere he goes. If he takes a walk down the hall, the IV goes too. The patient must receive a constant flow of his or her medicine and when the IV bag runs out, the monitor on the rolling stand signals an alarm. It beeps and beeps until the nurse comes and replaces the used bag with a new, full bag of medicine. Likewise, we must be constantly pumping Christ’s teachings and the Bible into our young people from a very early age to counteract the influences and worldviews of evolutionary thinking and secular humanism going into them. As good as most of our schools are in America, (we’ve got some fantastic ones here in Wilkes County), these schools and their teachers cannot and will not be able to teach our children about Jesus Christ. It’s illegal. Therefore, parents, as good as our coaches and instructors may be, it’s quite simply not their responsibility to teach our children the Bible and the principles of Scripture. It’s our job!

Kevin

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I love this picture…

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That’s my granddaughter on her daddy’s lap in church. Can you tell she is paying attention. That’s a six-month old sport fans! You tell me that a child can’t learn to be in church. Sure they can. You want to know when kids learn? When we expect them to learn. Too simplistic. It’s really not that hard.

Parents train their children to learn in their homes and the same is true in church. Truly, from the moment a child is born and entrusted to his or her parents, the job of teaching and training that child begins. We teach our children things as elementary as holding a fork or drinking from a cup and progress to how to handle money and become responsible. We don’t wait to teach children how to hold a fork until they are eight or nine. The same is true for our children spiritually. We must begin teaching them when they are very young.

Have you ever asked yourself if the first church 2000 years ago had a nursery? What did Jesus do when He taught? When Jesus taught and delivered his sermon on the mountain, did he teach just the parents? Did Jesus tell Peter, James and John to take the children down to the bottom of the hill and play with them or have a children’s church, so he could teach, without distraction, at the top of the hill? Did Jesus do this on any occasion? Not that I can find in Scripture. How about the Apostle Paul? In the Ephesians 6 passage he addresses the children in verse one and then just three verses later the fathers. Were the children siphoned off somewhere else when the letter was being read to the believers in Ephesus? No, without question children were included in the church meeting and they were physically present.

This fact seems almost strange in our day and age when, in many churches, we send our children off to “Children’s Church” to eat snacks, color and watch videos. Yet, as we study the Scriptures, we can’t find any verses in the entire Bible where the children were pulled out of the meeting. It would have been completely unorthodox to do so. There is never a time or an instance in Scripture when the children were separated from the parents/family when the people of God met together. At this point, I’m reminded of Jesus and his rebuke of the disciples for not allowing the children to come to him recorded in Mark 10:13-14:

And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.”

I know for many churches, the idea of having young children in our services is very counter-cultural. Many church leaders and members say the children are too noisy and disruptive and people can’t worship the Lord. Yet, when we say these things, we are much like the disciples when they tried to shoo away the children. Consequently, in our day, we have lost the blessing of the full body being together in the meeting. Sadly, we have become comfortable with some of the body missing. How have we gotten to this point? The Church wasn’t this way in the New Testament or even 40 to 50 years ago. It has happened, because it’s convenient. Many years ago, it would have been unheard of to have a nursery in the church. Ask someone who went to church in this nation in the 1950s or 1960s. There were very few, if any nurseries in our churches, until well after WWII, when many women entered the workforce. Yet today, we would rather not be bothered with children, ours or someone else’s, because they may make noise in the service or can be disruptive. However, pulling the children out of our meetings was simply not a normative practice in Scripture.

Think about it. When we go to a restaurant, there is not a place for the children to go sit and eat by themselves with people to help them cut up their food and feed them. So, what do we do when we go out to eat and order food for our children? We go through the process and the inconvenience of cutting their food for them into bite-size portions. We teach our children how to behave in a restaurant. If we go to the movie theater, there isn’t a section of the theater where we send the children to watch the movie with other children, while someone else watches them for us. No, we take care of our children and teach them how to be quiet and listen during the movie. We help them through these seasons of their lives. I call these times seasons because they will quickly pass and we’ll wonder where the time has gone. The same is true at ball games, concerts, recitals and the like. We are with our children and we help them at each of these events. We teach them. So, why do we hesitate to do so at church? We can just as easily help the children digest the meeting or service, just as we would help them with cutting their spaghetti into bite-size pieces at a restaurant or even at a meal at home.

We should want our children to experience being in the presence of the Lord, being taught by a shepherd in the church. I know that I want my children to experience everything in the meeting of our people at church. Children miss so much when they are in a room somewhere watching a video, eating snacks. They miss seeing the body worship together. My children experience seeing people raising their hands in praise to the Lord as they lift their voices in song. They get to hear testimonies of those who have come to Christ at the end of our services. They see people weeping under the conviction of the Holy Spirit at the altar. They see fathers praying over their families. They get to hear the Word of God taught by men whom the entire church trusts to teach them. Why shouldn’t the children hear this teaching corporately as well? Why should this job be handed off to someone else in another place in the church? Certainly, there are always reservations. Children are messy. They talk out loud. They cry and make noises. Well, you name it and they’ll do it. Yet, over time something wonderful happens. They learn. Yes, they learn to listen and be still and, oh do they listen! They are sponges taking in all that the body gets to see and hear. Those experiences will stay with them for a lifetime.

Let me show you this six-month old again…

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I’ve shared this before, but it’s been a while. When we brought Andrew, our son, home from China he was 3 1/2 years old. We got him home to America on a Thursday and we had him in church on Sunday. He couldn’t speak a word of English. In fact, he could barely speak any Chinese. He had never been out of the orphanage in China until two weeks prior to meeting us. He had never been in a car, a bus and certainly not on a plane. He was taken out of everything he knew and thrust into a brand-new, frightening world. He had club feet and numerous other health issues that had not yet been addressed. Yet, we had him in church on Sunday, four days after his arrival in the U.S. and if that wasn’t enough, we had him on the front row! (That’s where my family and I sit in church every Sunday).

Do you want to know how he did that first Sunday? He was terrible! No, he was worse than that. He was absolutely awful! He talked out loud! Broken Chinese at that! He crawled on the floor, under the chairs, on us; you name it, and he did it. Was it embarrassing? Yes. And the same was true when we brought Clara home as a one-year-old, three years earlier. But, thankfully our church welcomes children and understands this behavior as being a part of the learning process. The next Sunday Andrew struggled again, but he was learning. Slowly but surely, he was learning how to act as we taught him. By the fourth week, you couldn’t even tell he was in the building. Literally in just one month, you couldn’t even tell he was there. What happened? He had been trained and taught to know what to do and how to act in church. Certainly children will have moments of restlessness, (I know some adults who are like this too :)); however, we all adjust and acclimate over time.

It’s true that a child will learn anything in life, when we make up our mind and decide to teach them. It doesn’t matter if they are three years old and from a foreign country. It seems around the age of four years old, most parents don’t have a choice but to train their child to be a part of the church. Most churches tell parents their children can no longer come to the nursery at that age. So, it seems many children learn to behave in church at age four, unless there is a children’s church. If there is children’s church, they get a few more years segregated from the body until they must learn to be a part of the church family. Yet, at some point in time, we teach the children what to do in church. Sooner or later they learn. Children are a blessing of a growing church, not a nuisance.

I am grateful for a church that is literally willing to suffer for the children. I’m grateful for my granddaughter’s church, Parkview Baptist, in Morehead City, NC. They allow Charlotte to be with them. Thank you Pastor David Mills!

Yes, a church should allow families to worship together as a part of the one family. Churches have the opportunity to tell the body, (a family of families), that all are welcome at the Lord’s Table, even our youngest. I know for many reading this, seeing church life in this way is a total paradigm shift and would be a significant change in philosophy, church culture and practice at your church. But, I promise you what I’ve described to you embodies biblical patterns that can successfully be integrated in the fabric of any church if we’ll take the risk of being biblical versus convenient. 🙂

 

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I love this:

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(L-R) Jonah Horton, Jonah Brooks and Michael Davis. I have confidence in those young men!

Those three young men just completed this year’s Rite of Passage (ROP) here at the church. It’s always a privilege to watch another group come through. We’ve seen 66 young adults go through ROP since 2008 at the church.

What is ROP?

It’s simply a tool from Scripture, which points to a journey that is designed to move our children from childhood to young adulthood. It’s a “raising of the bar of expectations.” Because children will rise to our level of expectations as adults. Seldom will children reach further than our expectations of them.

The model for ROP comes from Luke chapter 2. Remember Jesus in the Temple? He was 12 years of old and yet, He knew exactly where he was headed in life and the ultimate purpose and goal of His life. He said, “Didn’t you know I had to be about my Father’s business?” Yes, at 12 years of age, He knew exactly what He was to be doing. He was confident in His mission in life. And so, if Jesus is our example in all things, (and He should be), then He is certainly our example for 12 year olds.

Thus, there was a transition in Jesus’ life at the age of 12. He knew He had to be “about the Father’s business.” We learn from Luke 2 that Jesus was submissive to His parents and the Bible says that He “grew in wisdom and stature and favor with God and men.” And so we follow Jesus’ here at MPBC. Therefore, at the age of 12 (and up to age 18), you can participate in our annual ROP. It’s a way of marking time and saying, “We believe in you as a young adult and we have confidence in you in Christ.”

I wrote about this extensively in my book:

http://www.amazon.com/Rite-Passage-Church-Kevin-Brown-ebook/dp/B008A3D9D4

I’m very proud of the young men who completed ROP this year! It gives me great encouragement and hope for the Millennial Generation and let’s me know that the sky is not falling, contrary to Chicken Little.

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You see, things are changing in the way we look at young adults and Christianity in this country. There is soon going to be a “weeding out” of the fake versus the real.

I read an article recently (Found here: http://www.millennialevangelical.com/millennials-are-leaving-the-church-they-faked-caring-about-as-kids/) that shared the truth that Christianity (according to polls) is declining in America, but here’s why:

Back in the day, it was “culturally savvy” to call yourself a Christian. It had cultural value—there were benefits to being a “Christian” in American society. As a result, a lot of people called themselves “Christians” who didn’t actually possess true, convictional Christian faith. These people are called “nominals,” or people who are Christians in “name only.”

Today, a number of years after “back in the day,” it is definitely not culturally savvy to be a Christian. People don’t like Christians in most parts of the country. It costs a lot more social currency to be a Christian than it used to. As a result, many of the people who called themselves “Christians,” simply because it was more beneficial than costly to do so, are starting to check “none” on the list of faith options on social surveys. So, you could say, nominal Christianity is declining, but you cannot say Jesus is losing followers.

Christianity may be “losing ground,” but only because it was ground it never really occupied in the first place. American Christianity is bleeding, there’s no doubt about that. As one lets blood from a wound to prevent infection, so the American church must willingly release the nominal Christians whose unbelief in the lifeblood of the church makes them enemies of it.

 

Blogger Matt Walsh has this to say about Christianity. The title really caught my eye:

http://themattwalshblog.com/2015/05/14/young-people/

“Maybe Christianity In America Is Dying Because It’s Boring Everyone To Death”

What is said here is powerful and without question is controversial (in some circles), but it’s something that needs to be said. I’ve cut and pasted a good chunk of the article here because it needs to be said:

…some 70 percent of us might “identify” as Christian, but how many actually subscribe not to Christianity, but to Convenient Christianity? (Convenientanity, if you like.) How many are the type who call themselves Christian but don’t consider the Bible to be a particularly authoritative document? How many are in the group who see Christianity as nothing more demanding or complex than the 30 second life lessons speech Bob Saget gives to one of the Olson twins at the end of each Full House episode? How many believe that morality and faith can be severed from each other? How many believe in a Christianity that doesn’t include the existence of sin or Hell? How many are relativists? How many are prosperity gospel proponents? How many say they’re Christian but only because they’ve convinced themselves that Jesus loves gay marriage and abortion?

And what happens when you don’t factor these Convenientists — members of the Church of Convenience, proponents of Convenientism — into the equation at all? Are we still at 70 percent? Not hardly. What’s the real number? Forty percent? Thirty? Ten? Less? I don’t know, but it’s depressing, whatever it is.

So while everyone offers their own diagnosis of the cause of this catastrophe, this is mine. The light of the Faith grows dimmer in this culture because of that…kind of Christianity, generally. The lame and bored kind. The flavorless, tame brand.

Every branch of the Faith has become infected by it, and if we want to understand why Christianity is not out winning souls and conquering the culture, look there. Yet many of our fearless leaders, pastors, and pundits think this is, rather than the disease, the remedy. It’s the same remedy they’ve tried for half a century. As the problem gets worse, they don’t change the medication, they just keep upping the dosage. They tell us that in order to bring the sheep into the fold — especially the millennial sheep — Christianity must be as un-Christian as possible. It must be stripped it of its truth, of its sacredness, of its sacrifice, of its morality, of its tradition, of its history, of its hardships, of its joy, and whatever is left will be enough to, if not engage and excite people, at least not scare them away.

And that’s been the strategy of the American church for decades: just try not to scare people. They put on this milquetoast, tedious, effeminate charade, feigning hipness and relevance…

There are still plenty of Christians who desire the true faith, but they are mostly ignored or scolded by the very people who should be leading them. And the Convenientists, of course, find no happiness in their secular Christianity, nor do they find it in secular secularism. Even if they don’t know it, they yearn in the pit of their souls for the true message of Christ, but they rarely hear it. And when they do hear it, there are a million competing voices, many from inside the church, warning them that if they go down this road it might involve changing their behavior and their lifestyle, which is a total hassle, man.

Often that’s enough to dissuade any further investigation. And that’s how we ended up here. That’s it. That’s the problem. It’s plain as day, yet every time this conversation comes up, we’re told that Christianity is declining because Christians are too religious, too bold, too outspoken, too moral, and too firm in their beliefs. That’s the conventional wisdom, but as we’ve seen a thousand times over, the conventional wisdom of an unwise society should never be taken seriously.

If the faith is to regain lost ground in this country, it will only happen when Christianity is presented and understood as what it is: a warrior’s religion. A faith for fighters and soldiers. CS Lewis said it best (as usual):

Enemy-occupied territory–that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage.

There. There it is, explained more compellingly in two sentences than many pastors can muster in a lifetime of sermons. This is frightening, militant language, but it’s exciting, it’s exhilarating, and it is, most importantly, accurate. As Christians, we are fighting a war against the Devil himself. We are advancing against the darkest forces of the universe, and we march with God by our side. And all the while, all around us, on a dimension invisible to mortal eyes, angels and demons and supernatural forces, both good and evil, work to defend or destroy us.

That’s how you stop the “decline” of Christianity in America. Tell people the truth. The truth, that’s allMove them. Love them. Make them feel anger, and fear, and longing, and sadness, and happiness, and hope, and determination. All of these things. These are all a part of our Faith, because our Faith is everything. As Chesterton said, “there is more in it; it finds more in existence to think about; it gets more out of life.” Yes, Christianity gets more out of life. And whatever it gets might not be comfortable, convenient, or relaxing, but at least it isn’t boring. And best of all, it’s true.

Well said!

So, I’m hopeful and I’m confident there will be a sifting of Christianity in America and the wheat will be left and the chaff will blow away. What’s left will be strong, courageous and profoundly faithful to Jesus Christ.

And it’s this generation that will do hard things, like end abortion. This video is five minutes long and it’s powerful. It’s a video of young people who could have been aborted but weren’t. It’s amazing…

My Generation Will End Abortion, https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=ylD7ajPflqo

I must tell you that my kids aren’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but I am proud of my children. Kandace is graduating from high school this weekend at the Benton Convention Center in Winston-Salem.

She finished teaching her last clogging class last night. Here she is when she started (left) and then on the (right) is where she walked out of studio last night.

She said this:

From my first day of dance to walking out of the studio tonight on my last. So bittersweet. I can’t believe it’s over. So many memories were made here. Time really does fly. 💜

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She sure has grown up. Here she is with her dance teacher, Tonya Wentz:
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She’s now passing the baton to Clara…
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I am so thankful for Kandace and for Clara and for these two:
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I bet this next picture will make you say, “Aw!!!!”
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I love Josh! What a phenomenal man he is!
Katy has been so busy being a mom that’s she’s not had time to blog much. But, she did the other day and here’s an excerpt:
…what I am saying is: don’t sweat the small things of life… and small things are usually material things. It sounds so simple, but it’s hard to apply to life. So. Here I am admitting that maybe I can’t make baby food all natural and do cloth diapers and cook and clean, pack to move home and a million other things and then wonder why there isn’t time to just sit beside the hubby on the couch or maybe write once in a blue moon or even touch that keyboard I haven’t hardly glanced at in months. Just maybe life is going to pass me by and what will I be able to say? Boy, I sure got all those clothes washed and look how much money we saved making baby food? None of that will matter. Time. Time will matter and what I did with it. Did I make a difference? And I used to think only “differences” could be made on extravagant mission trips or on big stages…. Ahh, that was a foolish thing to think. The biggest differences are made not from podiums or classrooms. They are made right at home.
 
So here I sit in my little home (only to be home for two more months) and savor each moment for what it is: a precious gift only given once. That is precisely why I shall stay home with my Rosebud as she grows never to leave her, for she is my legacy and a legacy can only be made with a whole lotta time, effort and love. I may not be good at this mommy thing all the time, but it’s right where God placed me and that helps me know… He thinks I’m good enough for the job.

http://heartsonthingsabove.blogspot.com

And just so you’ll know…she’s now sitting up on her own…

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Woohoo!!

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