My Church Has Gold Dust! What About Yours?

water__lights__colors__people_in_awe_by_wokie15-d9345qtI love to talk to young people about spiritual matters. For reasons only God knows, I can connect with people younger than my own children with very little, or no problem at all. And, as a matter of fact, the other day I had one of those interesting conversations with my friend, Henry.

After attending a mega church for the first time, Henry called with a question about a phenomenon that had taken place at the Sunday service. He wanted to know what I thought about the supposed “gold dust” that had appeared in the atmosphere and landed on people during the worship time.

Before I go any further, I know that some of you might be already hot under the collar even at the mention of the phrase, “gold dust” because gold dust is not mentioned in the Bible. Fair enough! By the way, neither is dating, yet I wonder, as the Bible says, how many of my dear friends allowed their parents to choose mates for them? In any case, I promise this post isn’t about the validity or lack of such appearances, but it’s about the outcome of them.

“I have no objections to this phenomenon. I’ve been around these appearances since 1995. I don’t care if they got gold dust coming out of their ears. However, what I have issues with is what they do with it after they leave their gold dust meetings? How is this helping them share the Gospel with those outside the faith?” I told him.

My answer had a lot to do with a discussion I’d earlier had with a young Christian leader whose organization operates in these appearances and prophetic gifts with a great emphasis on worship/loving God.

I’d mentioned to him that Christ’s greatest two commandments to us is to love God and with that love to love our neighbors. That we should use the God-given gifts of the Spirit as tools in sharing the Gospel with a lost world. His answer rather stunned me, “Our ministry is called to fulfill the first part of the commandment—loving God in worship— and not the second!” I didn’t know Christ’s greatest commandment to his disciples could be parsed so decisively. Maybe it’s my English, but I always thought it was called “the great commandment” and not “the great YOU pick and choose”.

In the last 20 years, I’ve spent much of my life focusing on “centering prayer” and intimacy with God, but always with one goal in mind… using what I gain in being closer to my Creator to invite those who don’t know him to follow suit. What are all the worship, prophecies, and intimacy with God going to do for the Kingdom if we don’t love our neighbors through our love for God?

Some might argue that the purpose of the gifts is to strengthen the body of Christ, but to what end? Why do we need to be stronger if it’s not to be better followers of Christ in doing all that He’s commanded us? I have a hard time believing that He allows us to experience some of these manifestations just to make us feel good, which eventually causes some of our gatherings to become nothing but “bless me” clubs. I can’t help but be reminded of James’ admonition, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” (James 4:3)

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As the technician starts hooking me up to the Echocardiogram machine in my cardiologist’s office, I begin to ask her questions. This is the first time I meet Shirin (It’s pronounced Shee-reen), my Iranian technician. My questions are mainly about her personal life­– questions like how long she’s been in the US, how old she was when she came here, where she was born in Iran, where she went to school and so on.

As I’m talking to her, I’m also praying for the Lord to show me what kind of questions to ask in order to establish trust. To me, the main ingredient for a long lasting relation is winning people’s trust. “No trust, no real relationship!” is my motto. It is to that end that I’m praying.

As I close my eyes, I see a picture. I ask Shirin,

“Are you facing making a big decision in your life?”

She shows no reaction and turns her back on me.

“Boy, I must have blown it,” was my first thought.

Then she turned around and said,

“I don’t like my job. I’m a graphic artist. This is what my parents want me to do. I’d like to leave this job and start being an artist again.”

Then she looks at me and says, “How did you know? Did I give off a vibe?”

I chuckle! “No vibes! It was God, who loves you so much, who uses a total stranger to tell you that He cares for you. In fact, He wants you to know that when you jump, not one parachute, not two parachutes, but He will provide you with three parachutes to make sure you land safely.”

With tears in her eyes, she says, “All I needed was a push.”

The picture I was given was of her standing on the edge of a flying airplane door debating whether she should jump or not.

After the exam, I go to my car and get her one of my books and leave.

This is what I call using the gifts of the Spirit to share the Good News with people you come in contact with every day.

How do you use your God given gifts?

 

 

 

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Would Jesus Laugh At A Dirty Joke?

laughingAbout a week ago I had the rare privilege of meeting some friends I hadn’t seen for 43 years. We all grew up in the same area of what at the time was the greatest city in the world—our birthplace, Abadan.

Those of you who’ve read my book know that at our small community in Abadan Iran, we all attended the same school, swam at the same pool, went to the same clubs and attended the same movie theaters. Consequently, we knew each other very well.

The four of us, among whom one is a believer, spent the first hour of our meeting reminiscing about those glorious days in Abadan, but then everything changed when our fourth friend joined us.

By nature, most Iranians are joke tellers. And, as one of the guys who speaks 5 different languages said, “There’s no other language that tells jokes better than Farsi.” No sooner our fourth friend joined us, jokes began to fly. By the way, some of these were dirty, but FUNNY!

At this juncture of my story, long before I am able to finish the rest of it, the few Christians I’ve shared it with have all rolled their eyes and made comments that surmounted to, “How dare they?”

As I was sitting there laughing my head off —Did I tell you that the jokes were dirty? I began to wonder how, so often, we Christians are not worried about what Jesus might think about something we’re doing, but what other Christians might think about it. That’s why many of us could never live like Jesus out of the fear of APPEARANCE—not what something actually is, but what it might come across as. Personally, I gave up the above fear long time ago. It is more important for me to be like Jesus than what some people might think of me.

You see, I didn’t’ get together with my friends as a “Morality Police”. My intention that evening was to enjoy my reunion with some great friends I hadn’t seen for a long time. I wasn’t there to correct them, especially since I wasn’t bothered by their jokes. I wanted them to know that I loved and accepted them for just who they were and where they were in life.

As I sat in the outdoor café laughing, I asked the Lord for an opening, which didn’t come till the end of the evening. After almost three hours of non-stop laughter, when everyone was about to say goodnight and leave, I asked if I could have just a few more minutes of their time. I then shared my journey with Jesus, which was received with an open sincerity. By then, there was no doubt that they knew I wasn’t there to judge them for laughing at some funny jokes, albeit, dirty funny jokes and I had gained the right to speak the Truth into their lives.

If we believe what the gospels tell us about Jesus, then we know He spent an awful amount of time hanging out with people who were considered to be the scum of the earth. I’m sure being around these homies; Jesus must have heard a few dirty jokes. But I don’t read anywhere that He rebuked anyone for not living up to HIS standards off the bat. And that’s exactly how I wanted to treat my homies.

The starting point for Jesus was where people were, and not where He wanted them to be. He never expected the homies of his time to start from where He was before He would befriend them at exactly where they were

What is YOUR starting point?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Does Quoting Scripture At People Solves Their Problems?

d4ef35196c669263d088472aac80174dMy two little dogs were going crazy in the backyard. They were barking alarmingly and jumping at the back fence. Something was up! This was not a normal behavior for them. So I went to where they were, looked over the five-foot cinderblock fence, and saw six coyotes standing on the other side while one was jumping up and down to see what was in my yard. They knew my dogs were there, but were trying to scope it out to see if they could get over. I yelled at the coyotes, but they barely moved, so I threw rocks at them and they ran away. I’d been told many times that animals will not jump over fences if they don’t know what’s on the other side, but these coyotes proved me wrong.

The next day I was talking with a couple of neighbors about what had happened, and I asked them if they’d ever heard of coyotes trying to jump over fences. Instead of answering my question, one of them said, “We live in an area with all kinds of wild animals; it is our responsibility to keep our dogs safe.” REALY!!! Luckily, my first thought didn’t come out of my mouth, but I thought, “I have taken care of these dogs for more than five years and you think I don’t know that?” How was her comment helpful? It wasn’t.

This reminded me of another conversation I had with some friends who are long-time Christians. I was telling them how for years I have prayed to be less prideful. I related how God has been able to lessen it considerably, but recently it reared its ugly head, and I struggled with it once again. Immediately, one of my friends said, “Pride goes before a fall.” Of course, quoting Proverbs 16:18. REALLY!!! “After living as a Christian for more than 20 years, do you think I don’t know that?” I asked. My other friend then related to us how he too has prayed for more than 40 years for God to take away his anger. Yet, it is something he continues to struggle with. Now we could have quoted to him Ecclesiastes 7:9: “Do not hasten in your spirit to be angry, for anger rests in the bosom of fools.” But would it really help? I think not.

I must admit, I am more readily willing to share my struggles with my friend who related his own struggles than the one who quoted Scripture at me. Often, quoting Scripture at people, especially those who’ve been followers of Christ for a long time, alienates them, and shuts them down. They often feel invalidated, rejected, unsure about themselves, and sometimes even about their relationship with God. Just because I know Scripture doesn’t mean I am not human. I am still fallible. I still make mistakes. I still fall short. I believe both friends wanted to help, but only one showed empathy, and it wasn’t the one who quoted Scripture.

As a bit of subtle irony, I will quote Scripture here, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.” To simply quote a Bible verse at someone as if it is magically going to solve some problem, comes across way too often as sounding brass. Don’t get me wrong the Bible is great for instruction and guiding our lives, but to think we can merely quote it to solve another person’s problems misses the mark. It removes us from having empathy toward one another.

Recent research has shown that our society is losing its ability to empathize. Over the past 20 years, among college-age students, empathy has decreased 40 percent, and the greatest amount of decline has happened within the last 10 years. This is not a problem only among younger people, it affects us all. You might think this is due to more and more people not going to church, but the culprit is digital technology, namely our cell phones. As a society—yes, church goers included—we are communicating less and less in person. We are losing our capacity to show empathy. We are losing our ability to connect meaningfully with other human beings.

Going back to the conversation with my two Christian friends, by admitting our struggles to one another, it didn’t give us license to feel free to be more prideful or angry. Instead, we connected in our humanness, knowing full well that we will continue to try to be the best people we can be each day. In other words, we empathized with one another. In our society that is losing its ability to connect in a humane way, what a great time to love people, empathize with them, and make a human connection. To me, this is what means to be the light and salt of this world. What better way is there for us to be witnesses of God’s love than to empathize?

By CK Miller

Millennials And Christianity!

Megan Haleh is one of the most spiritual young women I know. She loves the Lord with an insatiable passion. She attends a small church in the Bible Belt. I consider myself to be an enormously blessed father to have a daughter who spends hours talking to me about the Lord. A few days ago, we had one of those interesting conversations.

We were talking about what it would take for her generation to become followers of Christ. Today, there are ample studies on Christian “nones” and “dones.” Study after study talks about what’s wrong with the church, why Christians are leaving her, and what needs to be done to bring them back, but there’s almost nothing about replacing those who’ve migrated with new blood through evangelism.

I established the first Iranian Christian church in the US purely through evangelism. Working with Muslims, I didn’t have the privilege of simply coming up with better programs to attract them to our gatherings. As I’ve always said, “Muslims don’t wake up Sunday mornings saying, ‘Honey, where would you like to go to church this fine morning?’” We had to go find them and win them to Christ. So, for me, evangelism has always been the only means of church growth. Consequently, I’m very interested in how to introduce Millennials to Christ, who for the most part like Muslims will not on their own go out of their way to come to our churches.

Subsequent to our conversation, Megan sent me the following email, which is a personal assessment of her own generation.

My generation is running around and searching every corner for the next big thing—the next distraction. We love shiny new objects, but they only hold our attention for a minute and then we lose interest. We burn out easily. The majority of our day-to-day experience is very shallow (this bar, that date, this new job, twitter this, instagram that, etc.). This is why I think my generation would thrive on a real God-encounter. Something substantial. Something lasting. Something that isn’t dulling the senses for a moment holding our attention until time passes, but a REAL encounter that quenches the thirst of our desperate souls, and leaves us longing for more.

My generation does not want the God that we saw our parents worship. I am sure that stems from much deeper generational issues than I could uncover. But we don’t want legalism, and a checklist-Christianity

But in the midst of this tension, we have the mega churches in the South doing very well. They draw in a large demographic of unchurched young adults who would have never been caught in a church otherwise. The church services are short (50 minutes), they appeal to our shiny object attention span with loud music and flashing lights.

The pastors are polished and preach good and easy messages that aren’t “churchy”, but easy to listen to and digest. They’re Bible-based messages with just one or two scriptures teaching us how to be better people, but they’re never deep. No, once you scratch past the surface, you have to probably find a new church to find out what is beneath that surface.

These types of churches are full of an amazing void. They are bringing the unchurched to Christ, but then what? They make it to church on Sunday. God peels back the layers of their heart to the extent that they are exposed to in 50 minutes, and…then what?

Is their community going to be better, or even different because Mary and John went to a 50-minute service on Sunday? Quite Possibly

But are they going to be world changers? Are they going to seek out real God encounters? Maybe, but I don’t think so. In my personal journey, the biggest changes have happened when I have had life changing encounters with God. And going back to my initial statement, this is what I think my generation is longing for—depth, tangible encounters, and relationship—though we may be pacified with 50-minute snippets of a dim reflection of glory.

Along with thousands of ex-Muslims, I am a good example of someone who has had that REAL encounter Megan talks about. The majority of us became followers of Christ not because of a profound message an evangelist preached to us, but because we had a tangible experience with our Savior. My own experience was very much like that of Paul’s. I met God face to face and then believed. This is something that the Millennials need to experience before accepting Christ as their Lord and Savior.

What do you think will draw people to God?

Is Preaching To The Masses Passé?

churchMy last few blog posts have centered on the need for church to change. But this time I want to offer an idea for a new church structure. It is just an idea and I would value your feedback in the comments section. Now, this is not something I have dreamt on my own, but I have been looking at an industry that is very similar to church, education. Both churches and schools spend a lot of their time educating their constituents. Thus, they are very similar in emphases and structure.

Over the past 100 years, every day in primary and secondary schools, teachers have lectured their students. Some included in-classroom exercises to reinforce what was just taught, and then students have homework to practice further concepts taught in the classroom. Then, as we have all experienced, we are given tests to indicate how well we have learned what we have been taught. I have tremendous respect for teachers because they are constantly juggling 20-30 students keeping the fast learners from getting bored, and trying to give slower learners extra support to keep them moving forward.

If any teachers are reading this, you know first-hand that there is a tremendous shift happening in schools today. Popular terms used to talk about this shift are “personalized learning,” “flipped classroom,” or “individualized instruction.” The main concept of this shift is for teachers to no longer lecture in front of the class and expect all students to progress at the pace the teacher sets. Instead teachers are now guiding the learning of each student individually. So each student is on their own path and can progress at their own pace. Yes, there are still benchmarks of progress each student must reach by the end of the year, but now the teacher can guide this learning and the student becomes much more active in taking responsibility and pursuing their own learning.

In this new model, everyone participates, the teacher and the student. No longer do students sit for hours listening to lecture after lecture, taking notes; neither do teachers give the same lecture two to three times a day. Now, both teachers and students go on the learning journey together, down the path set by the curriculum. No longer are teachers viewed as the sage on the stage, but as a mentor, a facilitator, a guide who can draw deeper learning from their students by offering wisdom, different perspectives, and asking questions that make students reason and think, and not just repeat what they memorized. Perhaps, this is a model churches could adopt.

In my last two blog posts, I have mentioned that one of the main reasons the “dones” are leaving the church is that they want to participate more instead of sit in a pew and listen to another sermon. They want to be involved; they want to be active in using their knowledge, expertise, and gifts to help others. I could easily see teams of leaders guiding, mentoring, and helping believers grow deeper in their faith and knowledge of the Bible and of God. In this structure both congregants and leaders embark upon a journey to learn together. Now, I am not advocating putting unskilled or inexperienced people in positions of leadership, but I am advocating giving those who are mature in their faith opportunities to use their gifts to guide the learning of others.

It might be hard to break away from the mindset of groups of people being taught by one person. Heck, most of us have experienced this for most of our lives. But at the time when we have so many mature, experienced, educated and godly “dones” why not engage them and create opportunities for them to participate.

 

By embarking upon journeys together, conversations will happen, people will share what they are thinking, will read something that gave them insight, taught them something new, or even answered prayer. People will read together, people will read on their own, people will wrestle with problems in the company of others who support them. Since we are all in this journey together, I think participation by more people would be a good thing. Now, I will repeat, I am not saying I have all of the answers. I am not saying this is the way things have to be. This is one perspective that I wanted to share.

So, your turn, what do you think?

By Guest Blogger, CK Miller

This Is How WE Do Church!

Tonight I received the following email from one of my old college students from 10-12 years ago:

Hi Shah and Karen! 🙂

I just wanted to stop and say thank you.

Thank you for teaching me through opening your home to me, and thank you for living what you have been speaking about for years! Luke and I were just talking about the power of prayer and I was recalling that my eyes were opened regarding prayer when I came into your home on Thursday nights.

I have learned so much from the seeds that you both planted in my life and in my heart. When you showed me how to know, and experience the Living God, my life was forever changed; and now my children are learning about listening and obeying God’s voice in their early years. So, THANK YOU for choosing to follow Jesus and teaching me to do the same!

I always smile when I think about you guys 🙂

With love,

Karia

Karia was referring to something Karen and I have been doing at our home since 1998, a gathering of a handful of believers seeking to be Christ-like. Some are quick to say, “You mean a house-church?” No, I don’t like to call it a house-church because most house churches consist of regular church services with the hope of one day having their own buildings. I call these, “buildings wanna be house churches.” We don’t want a building.

  • It’s not an open meeting. You can only participate if you’re invited.

A while back I ran into a friend I hadn’t seen for several years. After the regular pleasantries, our conversation went something like this:

“So, where are you going to church these days?” To which I replied,

“I don’t. We have our own house meetings.” Without losing a breath he said,

“I’m gonna check it out one of these days!” To which I said,

“You’re not invited…”

You see, one of the main reasons for our gatherings is to establish a community where the believers can build relationships based on honesty, trust, and transparency, which will eventually lead to accountability. There’s no way one can build such a community with people who just want to, “check you out”. We have no desire to increase our numbers at the cost of shallow relationships. We have mega churches for that.

When I invite someone, I make sure that there are three expectations of him or her.

  • They have to attend every meeting regularly.

One can’t build a sustainable, trustworthy relationship with those whom he/she sees occasionally. Being in the business of community building, I want our meetings to consist of people who, short of an emergency, see each other every week. If this makes any invitee uncomfortable, they don’t have to accept my invitation. On the other hand, if one agrees to the terms, but doesn’t follow them, he’s asked to stop coming. I invite and un-invite people to my house.

  • They’re expected to come prepared.

The first hour of our meetings is filled with lively discussions about the chapter of a book we all are supposed to have read the week before. This is a book that the participants had all agreed upon. With new groups, I choose the book, but eventually it’s up to the group. It has never ceased to amaze me how differently each individual looks at the same paragraph of a book, and because of that, how much we can learn from each other. Finally,

  • Once they move on, they’re expected to strive to start a meeting based on the same principles.

This is a house gathering and not a cult. We have no desire to, by hooks and crooks, keep members from moving away. I know that eventually some people need to move on with their lives. Therefore, when that time comes, my hope is that they will start another meeting wherever they go built on the above principles. Again, the goal is not to have a network of small groups all over town with Shah overseeing them, but to see the same blessings people have received at our meetings being propagated everywhere.

Our meetings are built around the discipline of Lectio Divina. In Latin, it’s pronounced, lec-t-o divina, which means divine reading. It’s one of those Christian disciplines that has been with us since the Early Church. My purpose in this post is not to explain the practice of Lectio, but to show the focus of our meetings,

  • To enter into a deeper bond with God through silence and meditation on his word
  • To build godly relationships
  • To learn from one another—There’s no one-man-band show

To allow each individual to practice his/her spiritual gifts —This is the time when we recognize/discover and respect each other’s gifting.

  • To allow the Holy Spirit to guide and lead us into praying for one another

I challenge any Sunday service to offer any of the above with some measure of consistency.

Is it possible that today God-fearing, Christ-loving believers are walking away from the church because they want deeper relationships with their Creator and his created ones? They want a gathering where they’re allowed to use the gifts God has given them? That they long for a place where they aren’t afraid to be honest and transparent revealing their sins and weaknesses to those around them?

Are Pastors Ready To Give Up The Pulpit?

pastor preachingFor hundreds of years, communication has flowed pretty much in one direction, from the top down. The industrial revolution brought great change to societies as new businesses grew in size and hierarches of management helped things flow efficiently. Instructions and directives were given at the highest levels and workers were expected to comply.

The church has followed the same organizational structure for more than two thousand years. The Catholic Church has its hierarchy of pope, bishops, cardinals, priests, etc. Protestant churches have their denominational leaders, district supervisors, division leaders, and pastors. And pretty much communication too flowed in only one direction, from the pulpit downward. However, at the turn of the 21st century this flow of communication was disrupted.

Many factors have caused this disruption. These include the invention of the telegraph, then the telephone, and now new digital technologies. This last factor, I think, is one that has changed the world the most because it affects people at all levels of society: young and old, rich and poor, from every culture and nation. The invention of the computer, the internet, cell phones, social media applications, blogs, web sites, have given more people the ability to change societies, governments, and businesses—technologies have given everyone a voice. Let me give a few examples.

All social media applications allow people to voice their opinions about products, services, companies, injustice and more. Much of the Arab Spring was organized through the use of Twitter. These days, American businesses have whole teams of people monitoring social media channels listening to their customers. News organizations listen to their viewers through any and all social media applications. And why have the above organizations devoted so much effort and resources to listening and understanding their constituencies’ complaints and preferences? Because they have learned that if they don’t listen and keep their customers happy, they will soon be out of business. But what about churches? Are pastors listening to their congregations?

It seems they are not, and lots of people are communicating with their feet. People are no longer willing to sit, watch, and listen. In my last blog post, I wrote about the “Nones,” and the “Dones”. Among this group are those who are “done” sitting in pews listening to somebody preach at them. In both Catholic and Protestant churches, weekly attendance is declining. Comments from people who no longer attend church say that they are tired of the pulpit/pew divide. But it doesn’t seem pastors are listening because according to the Pew Research group, more and more people are becoming unaffiliated with a church.

Customers, or using church terminology, congregants now harness tremendous power. They have a voice and want to use it. What will it take to create open channels of communication in the church? Are pastors willing to give up the pulpit, stop preaching, and start having conversations? Are they willing to accept a church that is less structured, with less hierarchy, and open to change?

                                                                By Guest Blogger, CK Miller

Don’t Control Me, Encourage Me!

Screen Shot 2015-05-28 at 4.09.52 PMRecently my son, Air Force Captain, Todd Afshar, posted this video on Facebook. I watched it with tears in my eyes. I marveled at the courage of the young soldier, but even more at the encouragement she received from her fellow soldiers, which reminded me of the following story and how much the followers of Christ are in need of encouragement from each other.

In 1978, I established the first Iranian Christian organization in the United States. It consisted of several house churches. I was a civil engineer during the day and a church planter/evangelist at night.

At the time, I desperately needed all the help and moral support I could get from the Christian leaders I knew, but the support was quite few and far between. After all, majority of the American leaders I looked up to, were mono-cultural. They had no understanding of what I eventually coined as “reversed contextualization”.

My philosophy was very simple. If every oversees-missionary is taught to share the Gospel within the context of the culture he/she is sent to, why not develop the same approach in reverse towards the displaced people whom God has brought to our doorsteps in America—in my case, the Iranians?

One of these leaders was the director of missions for the denomination I belonged to at the time. On numerous occasions, I called his office with the hope of getting an appointment to meet with him, but I never heard back from him. The only person I ever got the chance to talk with was his secretary, Pat.

About 15 years went by. I was conducting a workshop on Muslim evangelism at a convention when I ran into Pat and had the following conversation.

Me: “Pat, please remind me, how do we know each other?” I’d completely forgotten the genesis of our relationship.

Pat: “Don’t you remember? You used to call me all the time when I was Matt’s secretary.” And, then she continued with the following story.

Shah, I’ve never told you this, but one of those days when you’d called to talk to Matt, he walked into my office as I was talking to you. Although, he didn’t know you, from my side of the conversation, he knew I was talking to you. That’s when he leaned over my desk and whispered, “Hang up on him!” I shook my head and refused to do so, and again, he demanded the same. Eventually, he stomped out very angry.

Later, after I’d finished talking to you, he walked back to my office and said,

“Next time when I tell you to hang up on him, you hang up on him. Do you know why I want you to hang up on him? BECAUSE HE IS RIGHT, AND WE DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT!”

Can you imagine how encouraged I would have been if the man had at least said those same words to my face? If he’d said something like, “Shah, you’re right, but you’re way ahead of your time and our denomination. We don’t know what to do with you.”

Thirty years ago, all I wanted to tell the man was what will soon become the church’s war cry—Let’s reach the world for Christ one next-door neighbor at a time. Remember, you heard it here first. Yes, I was mostly talking about Iranian neighbors, but the principle still applied.

In any case, the man refused to meet with me. Was it arrogance, ignorance, pride, or simply a desire to control that prevented him from having a cup of coffee with a man who desperately needed that leader’s support and encouragement? Or was it the fear of not having an answer/solution to my question? After all, shouldn’t a Christian leader have an answer for every question thrown at him? Wouldn’t an, “I don’t know!” reveal a weakness that a mature Christian leader shouldn’t possess?

I am sure there have been times when I’ve come short of following I Thess. 5:11 mandate, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” For that, I’m deeply sorry. May the Lord have mercy on us to be better encouragers. Let us not forget that we are all in this together.

Church’s Shallow Teachings

shallow teachingThe other day, I got a call from a dear friend who wanted my opinion on a church related issue.

“I stopped going to church,” she tells me

“Why?”

“Well, I need deeper teachings. What comes my way on Sundays is very shallow.”

I know my friend well enough to know this is not an excuse. I’ve also been around long enough to know how valid her complaint is. Let’s face it, on most Sundays, much of what we hear from the pulpits in America is rather shallow. By shallow, I mean elementary. But, how does a teaching become elementary? By hearing it over and over again. So, what many Christians are asking their pastors is, “Teach me something new!”

Did you hear about the young pastor who’d just been hired by a church?

On his first Sunday at the new church, he preached an amazing message. The church council was hi-fiving each other for having the fortitude and the wisdom to have hired such a great preacher.

The following Sunday, half way through his message, everyone who’d been at church the week before, knew the pastor was preaching exactly the same message, but the council members figured that was for the sake of some who’d not heard the original message.

However on the third Sunday, things really got tense when the young man preached the same message again. After the service was over, the council members pull the man aside and began to question him.

“Don’t you have any other messages?” they demanded.

“Of course, I do,” said the young man.

“Then, why repeat the same sermon over and over again? Preach something new!”

That’s when the young man said, “I will, as soon as, you start practicing what I’ve been teaching you these last three weeks.”

I do understand that the above story may sound like a practice in futility, or it could very well be an excellent poster story for the definition of insanity—repeating the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result. Unfortunately, for years, pastors have thought that all the church needs is another good message to change the lives of all the pew occupants, thus preaching the Word has become the crown of the church service.

It’s also fair to ask, “Is the above pastor modeling what he’s preaching? Is he walking the talk?”

However, I believe for the most part, our problem isn’t with shallow teachings, but the shallow way we practice these so called, “shallow teachings” we’ve been hearing. And, by doing so, as the book of James says, we’ve simply been making fools out of ourselves. “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it ways.”  James. 1:21

How many times have we heard teachings on Christ’s greatest commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself.”   Luke 10:27

Would you consider another homely on the above verse a “shallow” teaching? Then, let me ask you a question—this not only goes to church members, but especially to pastors.

Are you practicing this “shallow” teaching? How many of your next-door neighbors do you know by name?

If you can’t obey this “shallow” teaching, how can you handle a “deeper” teaching?