9 Objections to Christianity

Over the past 2 days I have watched much of the Resurgence13 Conference (you may have seen a lot of #R13 on social media.) This Seattle based conference had live sites scattered across America and also and online contingency of over 20,000 viewers. Over the 48 hours of the conference delegates and online subscribers heard messages from Mark Driscoll, Rick Warren, Judah Smith, James McDonald and Matt Chandler just to name a few. The heart of the conference was for delegates to learn lessons from ministry leaders who have seen God’s faithfulness as they respond to his call. Many of these sessions I managed to see and found all of them especially helpful, compelling and empowering. I’m sure in time these sessions will made available at The Resurgence.

In the final session of the conference Pastor Mark Driscoll shared of a number of new developments that he, his church (Mars Hill) and The Resurgence website would be working on. One of those is a project that will become a book, sermon series and small group studies on the 9 objections to Christianity
the unchurched and dechurched (people that haven’t attended church for a considerable amount of time.)

The market research (done by some of the market leaders in research) has already been undertaken and after numerous survey’s, focus groups and interviews Mark shared the summary of the Top 9 objections to Christianity. I for one, am incredibly thankful for the time, energy and expense that has been invested and await eagerly the finalisation and communication in full of the data, it’s findings and how we as believers are to respond. So these are the 9 and below also a quote from different participants of the study.

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Intolerance
“Some Christian groups are too intolerant”

Sex
“The Christian religion and I have different views on social issues like abortion and gay marriage

Politics
“I don’t like how some Christian groups meddle in politics”

Hypocrisy
“Most Christians are hypocrites”

Exclusivity
“There are lots of religions, and I’m not sure only one has to be the right way”

Inequality
“All people are not created equal in the Christian faith”

Scripture
“I don’t really share the beliefs that the Christian faith tells me I should”

Greed
“Christianity is about making money, not religion”

Irrelevance
“The Christian faith is not relevant to modern times”

I wish I could post the session as I greatly appreciated how in just 90 minutes Mark unpacked these objections, it would obviously help further explain what each subheading specifically spoke too. I look forward to this project and it’s findings being shared on the global scale in the first half of 2014.

I truly believe It’s important for us as believers to be engaging in the conversations our culture is having, and be able to speak the truth into issues, shortcomings and falsehoods people have about Christianity.

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The 3 F’s of Youth Ministry

I’ve been in youth ministry for over ten years! WOW, I just scared myself… In that time I’ve been blessed enough to see God at work in a number of churches across several different denominations. In that time I’ve learnt a lot about what works and what doesn’t. Youth worker you could probably do the same, so rather than doing that (plenty of blogs, websites, conferences and mentors can help with that) I’d rather like to share so you 3 ingredients I believe must be apart of every time you gather together with your teenagers.

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FUN

If I’m honest this was probably that hardest one for me. I know for many youth pastors and leaders that may be the total opposite. I can so focused on Discipling young people, making sure they are hungry for God and are carrying the gospel that I forgot to even enjoy the ministry God had me doing, I quickly realised that fun is not contrary to gospel living. Jesus had fun, he enjoyed life and our youth ministry must have adequate doses of fun scattered throughout our nights. And don’t limit yourself to thinking this must only be in games. Have fun in groups, in your sermons, wherever. Fun, energy and passion are huge culture and atmosphere change agents.

FRIENDSHIPS

We want our youth ministries to be a place where young people can come and experience genuine friendships, not only with their peers but also with leaders. Relationships is the currency of teenagers, and if you have no relational connection with them you’ll find it almost impossible to be able to communicate anything of substance to them. Your young people are not a Missional tool or evangelism target but rather peoples whose lives matter to God. We must invest relationally into them, but trust and respect and love them because God does.

FAITH

If we don’t communicate Jesus we are nothing more that a cute little gathering of teenagers who entertain themselves with games and various outings. The youth ministry I inherited nearly 18 months ago was phenomenal at these first two F’s. I’d never seen a group of leaders so devoted to creating great moments in youth nights and so good at investing relationally in teenagers,seriously one if the best I’d ever seen. Over the past year our team has gone on a journey ensuring we are not just stopping there but are speaking the truth of Jesus (in love) and giving our young people an opportunity to experience, process and journey with God. Teach them the scriptures in a way that cones in with their world, let them dialogue, process and even wrestle with it

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Church for the Duckless

Earlier today on my Facebook, I posted this Judah Smith quote which is an excerpt from his Jesus Is Book.

I am advocating a church that reflects real life, a church where people with real problems can come and find hope and joy. I want people in my church to welcome everybody. The gay, the straight, the rich, the poor, the good, the bad, and the ugly. I want my church to be a place where people can come in from all kinds of backgrounds and issues and shortcomings and addictions and bondages, and we don’t have to get them all fixed up before they sit on the front row.
That’s the gospel. It’s good news for everyone. Its not good news just for people who are already good, for those who are self- controlled and disciplined enough to have all their ducks in a row. It’s good news for the people who can’t even find their ducks. They haven’t seen some of their ducks in years. Their lives are a mess. But they can come to Jesus and find instant acceptance. They belong long before they believe and long before they behave.

This thought (Thanks Judah) was met with a flood of comments and likes. Honestly, not many Christians would disagree with such words. The current reality of many churches (for whatever reason) doesn’t always as a whole community reflect this being an accurate reality.

As I’ve reflected and meditated on this the past few days I began dreaming of how incredible it would be to actually be apart of a church that fully preached the gospel, believed the gospel, embodied the gospel and live the gospel.

Rather than idealise or look to the ‘greener’ grass on the other side, I’ve committed in my spirit to ‘green up the grass beneath me.’ To put it another way, rather than wait for someone or somewhere else to be this, I’ve decided to be this for myself. Change begins with me, not finger pointing at others.

Will you join with me in this? Maybe you were one of those who liked or commented on Facebook (Thanks), but let’s not just be ‘likers’ of the word, as James instructs us in James 1:22 “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”

Lets be the church for the Duckless.

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Skip to the good bit

If you are anything like me, you tend to skip the greetings in the epistles to get to ‘the good bit’. However, if you do that in Ephesians you miss an incredibly important truth. Paul refers to everyone in the church as ‘Saints… in Christ Jesus’ (Ephesians 1:1-2). When we hear the terminology of saint (which isn’t used by accident) we often think of people like Mother Teresa in India or for me personally in conjures up images of catholic saints. Sainthood isn’t about things you have done or achieved, being a saint requires one step: Be in Christ. Many teens & 20’s I meet with do not believe they are redeemed image bearers of Christ and Saints. They instead believe they are sinners defined by their sin.

Sin may explain some of your activity, but not your identity. saints and sinners

Acknowledgement of your sin, confession & repentance is an important part of our faith journey. It however doesn’t define you. Your identity is in Christ, and because of this and by God’s grace, and in the spirits power you can change your activity.

I think everyone has regrets and to a degree feels remorse. The older I get and my relationship with Christ matures I see the reality of my sinfulness more clearly & grieve it more deeply. The Apostle Paul himself in 1 Timothy 1:15 he refers to himself as the “chief” of sinners.  Remorse can be a good thing, as God by his spirit convicts us of sin it calls us to repentance and to live in the freedom that can only be found in Jesus. What can happen really easy is our conviction moves to condemnation.

Conviction… Condemnation…
Is from God Is from Satan
Leads to life Leads to despair
Ends in joy Ends in sorrow
Makes us want to change Makes us believe we can’t change
Leads to new identity in Christ Leads to old identity in Sin
Brings specific awareness of sin Brings vague uncertainty about sin
Looks to Jesus Looks to Self
Is a Blessing Is a Burden

Romans 8:1 “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

As saints we are tempted to sin, just as Jesus was. But we are not obliged to sinfully respond to temptation. Temptation isn’t sin.  They are two very different things. To be tempted is to be presented with an opportunity to either sin against God or worship God. Being tempted doesn’t make you guilty of sin after all Jesus was sinless and yet was tempted and we see this recoded in Matthew 4.

 1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

When you are tempted to entertain and act out in sin, remember that in Christ you are a saint, knowing your identity in Christ is the key. In Christ there is forgiveness of sin!

If you could choose one…

Have you ever played the game Desert Island? It’s often played on long car drives or some kind of getting to know you activity. Basically, the idea of the game is you are trapped on a desert island, through some strange forfeit, but you get to choose several things to bring with you. So It could be a person, a CD, book, TV program etc.

I was thinking along these lines, If their was only one sermon you could ever listen, what would that be?

For me, it’d have to be a sermon I’ve heard 3 times preached live and watched and listened to several dozen more times by Judah Smith Lead Pastor of The City Church. Everytime I listen to listen to this message I find myself falling more in love with Jesus, desiring to get God’s perspective on my life more, a hunger and a passion for lost people and to grow in my call and grace as a leader and preacher in my church.  I’ve shared it with you here:

What about for you? If you could only ever chose one sermon, what would you choose? And why?

Your Life Matters

What happens at home really matters

If our theology isn’t practical it isn’t true biblical theology. That being said, you can be practical & not biblical.

I’ve been really challenged lately at the call husbands have to their families. As a Pastor I must lead my families well. The church is the new family of God and the correlation between the church & the family.

My marriage must reflect the covenantal relationship between God & his people.

God’s design for marriage
Genesis 2:18-25 says “Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.”

Love our wives sacrificially
Ephesians 5:25 speaks into this by saying “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”

Be faithful to our wives alone
Luke 16:18 states “Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery.” Titus 1:6 adds to this biblical call to faithfulness “if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination.

Understand our wives
This can be so tricky for many men. but 1 Peter 3:7 says “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.”

Nurture our wives
The Apostle Paul speaks of this in Ephesians 5:28-29 “In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church.”

Provide for our wives
I know I’m quoting alot of the Apostle Paul (technically its all God anyways lol, but in 1 Timothy 5:8 The Apostle tells his fear friend “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

We are not only called to love our wives, but for those of us who have children we need to bring your family on mission.

Love your kids as the father
1 John 3:1challenges me to the core it says “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.”

Train our kids in the word
Paul writes to the church in Ephesus in Ephesians 6:4 urging “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

Model Gospel living
1 Corinthians 11:1 tells us to “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”

Teach our kids to obey
This is a heart issue Proverbs 6:20 “My son, keep your father’s commandment, and forsake not your mother’s teaching.”

Lovingly discipline our kids
Its not popular, but easential. Hebrews 12:7 says “It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?” Also in Proverbs 19:18 “Discipline your son, for there is hope; do not set your heart on putting him to death.”

Pray for our kids
Finally Ephesians 1:18-19 “having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might.”

I pray the same for you as I do for me, that God would grant you the grace to be the Godly father & husband my family need of me.

2 Favorite Words

As your fairly aware right now I’m currently tracking through the book of Ephesians with the teens and twenties of my church. I was told this week that a number of church including Mars Hill and Discovery Church are doing, or about to do something very similar. It’s exciting to hear this, as I love the book of Ephesians  and would encourage every Christian regularly to read and meditate on, its brilliant.

I want to tell you what my two favorite words are in the bible. They come after these few verses in Ephesians 2:1-3 “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”

What are my favorite two words in the bible?

BUT GOD

Ephesians 2:4-5 reveals “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,  even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.”

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This tells me that even if your at the lowest point in yourself, feel broken, trapped and locked up in your sin and feel as though their is no way out for you, no hope for you, the bible has some amazingly good news for you… BUT GOD!

I know you can feel like sometimes your sin is so great that it cannot be forgiven. That that choice you made cannot be undone. The decision to do or act on the temptation can make you feel like you are done for and that your now stuck in a hopeless pit of sin and self destruction. I want to remind you… BUT GOD! There is a BUT GOD moment for you than can come to pass in your life.

You are never too far gone! You’ve never “done to much”! You are loved, grace, love, forgiveness and mercy are available for you… But the only answer is found in him. Not in your good deeds, your attendance, your acts of mercy. These are all good things, but the answer isn’t within yourself or what you can do. The answer to your sinfulness and mine is found in no other… BUT GOD!

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