Anatomy of a sick church

Thom Rainer posted on his blog about 10 symptoms of a sick church.  Many churches don’t realize they’re unhealthy or sick until they get to the latter stages of the sickness and near death.  Let’s hope and pray that these churches would wake up and realize our need for healing and for Jesus to come and heal our body.

  1. Declining worship attendance. Surprisingly, the majority of church leaders do not monitor worship attendance. I advise leaders to compare each month’s average worship attendance to the same month of previous years.
  2. Decline in frequency of attendance of church members. This symptom is the number one explanation for attendance decline in most churches. Members are not as committed as they once were. Their waning love for their church is reflected in their declining frequency in worship attendance.
  3. Lack of joy and vibrancy in the worship service. Obviously, this symptom is subjective. It is still, however, very important. Most people can sense when a worship service is vibrant, lukewarm, or dead.
  4. Little evangelistic fruit. As a general rule, a healthy church will reach at least one non-Christian for every 20 in worship attendance. A church with a worship attendance of 200, for example, should see at least ten new Christians a year.
  5. Low community impact. In my consultations, I attempt to find clear indicators that a church is making a difference in its respective community. I ask both church leaders and community members for clear examples and indicators.
  6. More meetings than ministry. A sick church will meet about what they should do rather than do it. Some churches have more committees than conversions.
  7. Acrimonious business meetings. Christians can and do disagree. Sick churches have meetings where the disagreements reflect obvious bitterness and anger.
  8. Very few guests in worship services. A vibrant church will attract guests. A sick church will not.
  9. Worship wars. Yes, they still exist in many churches. Those wars are indicators of an inward focus by the members.
  10. Unrealistic expectations of pastoral care. Sick churches view pastors and other staff as hired hands to do all of the work of ministry. Healthy churches view pastors as equippers for the members to do most of the ministry.

[ See full blog post here ]

Happy Father’s Day

It was nice to get kisses from my daughter today in church.  I lost count how many she gave me.  I’m not a perfect Dad and I admit it, but I still get kisses anyway.  Fatherhood can be the most wonderful thing a man can experience, especially when we fathers love our children.  Sometimes we fail. We all  have our shortcomings but we are blessed we have a Father in heaven who redeems and gifts us with mercy when we do fail.  St. John Chrysostom said: “God loves us more than a father, mother, friend, or any else could love, and even more than we are able to love ourselves.”  When we follow God who loves us with a perfect love, He gives us fathers a fresh start every day.  Happy Father’s Day!

The glory of God in creation… or modified creation?

crops_fieldPsalm 19:1 says: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.”

Thomas Merton, a Catholic contemplative said:

“A tree gives glory to God by being a tree.  For in being what God means it to be it is obeying Him.  It “consents,” so to speak, to His creative love.  It is expressing an idea which is in God and which is not distinct from the essence of God, and therefore imitates God by being a tree.  The more a tree is like itself, the more it is like Him.  If it tries to be like something else which it was never intended to be, it would be less like God and therefore it would give Him less glory.”  Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation (1961), ch.5.

In our new age of science and genetic re-engineering of GMO foods, chimera and cyborg technologies, there is always the possibility that these bio-technologies can go sideways.  If human beings try to re-create something into what it was never intended to be,  I wonder if it would then be glorifying to God?

It used to be that chimeras (part human–part animal) and cyborgs (part human–part machine) were a thing only from science fiction movies, comic books, and fantasy animations, but these are now a reality today.  Many of the products we eat today have been genetically modified. They’re able to implant animal DNA into the foods we eat in order to allow it to grow faster and be less prone to disease.  If you knew what science and technology can do, you may never look at your food the same way again. Science today can manipulate genes in plants, animals and human beings that might shock people to their core.

This week, our family was eating seedless watermelon and grapes; and homemade popcorn, possibly from GMO kernals.  Many people buy foods from the grocery stores, eat it, and never consider how it’s already been genetically modified.  Many might even be dangerous to human health.  Did God ever create edible fruits without seeds?  No, I doubt it was ever God’s intention.  According to the book of Genesis, you would think that God intended for all living things to reproduce itself and multiply.  Is this type of human re-creation (or manipulation) glorifying to God or distorting God’s creation?

•    Thousands of sheep, buffalo, and goats in India died after grazing on Bt cotton plants
•    Mice eating GM corn for the long term had fewer, and smaller, babies
•    More than half the babies of mother rats fed GM soy died within three weeks, and were smaller
•    Testicle cells of mice and rats on a GM soy change significantly
•    By the third generation, most GM soy-fed hamsters lost the ability to have babies
•    Rodents fed GM corn and soy showed immune system responses and signs of toxicity
•    Cooked GM soy contains as much as 7-times the amount of a known soy allergen
•    Soy allergies skyrocketed by 50% in the UK, soon after GM soy was introduced
•    The stomach lining of rats fed GM potatoes showed excessive cell growth, a condition that may lead to cancer.
•    Studies showed organ lesions, altered liver and pancreas cells, changed enzyme levels, etc. (Source: website here; see here)

We like to play God, and as a result, we do things that God likely never intended.  Some things may bring better health and advancement to society, but some things can just be plain frightening.  No wonder why cancer and autism rates have skyrocketed and infertility has increased.  What’s been killing the bee and butterfly populations around the world?  The end of the birds and the bees may spell an end to the human race as we know it.  We might never fully know the harms done to us as human beings until 50 years down the road when it’s all too late…and it’s irreversibly damaged our health and human genetics.

If we move into an age of Iron Man and Planet of the Apes, we will need strong morals and ethics to keep us from re-creating some really weird things before they’re introduced into our world.

God’s calling is really about God

jesusfishermenMany church-going Christians seem disengaged today… disengaged in the sense that we are not living out an engaged relationship with Christ within the church.  Most Christians never move from the pew to service; but God calls each Christian to move into some form of service to Christ within, and outside, the church.  God gives us an internal “spiritual” calling to love and serve the Lord.

Many Christians become wrapped up in fear and a sense of inadequacy, and put up a wall between God and his calling. We feel more comfortable keeping God and His calling a safe distance from ourselves.  Why? Because we’ve been deceived  into thinking that it ought to begin with ourselves.  Today’s popular theology unwittingly teaches that this calling is about us… but it’s really NOT about us.  We are only participants but we act like we are the “star players in the game” of service and ministry.

One reason for our fears of inadequacy is that we think we have to measure up to God’s standards of holiness.  God’s calling is a holy calling.  We haven’t seriously considered God’s holy calling for what it really is because we think we have to first measure up to God’s standard of holiness.  The truth is: we don’t measure up, and no one ever will.  But God has already taken that into consideration and given us enough grace to walk into this calling and see it to completion. Jesus called some rough and simple fishermen like Peter, James, John and Andrew into the ministry, didn’t he?

God’s salvation was given to us and made possible when he cleansed us of our sins. So the holiness that God expects is not due to our own conduct or actions.  It is not due to our good works or good deeds.  God’s work of sanctification is not the same thing as our life of walking in God’s holy and righteous laws.  Our human acts of love, mercy, kindness, etc. are already expected of all followers of Jesus. It’s a given.  It was expected when we first came into a love relationship with God in Christ. We should be compelled to obey because He has been so gracious and loves us so much.  We can never repay God for his gift of forgiveness.

So how can we, as sinful human beings, possibly match up to God’s standards of holiness? We can’t.  First and foremost, it is really about God’s work of cleansing of our sins.  Only God can make us holy.  That’s what Paul is talking about when he talks about the gift of forgiveness by grace through faith.  It starts from God. It is ONLY God who makes it possible.  It’s all about God—and it is NOT about us.

Paul said in Ephesians 2:9, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith —and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”  If God’s call to salvation began with God, then he will also complete the calling to serve Him.  Paul said: “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).

If God calls each of us to be engaged with the Lord’s kingdom work and service, then we can ask the Lord to help cast our fears aside to have faith that God will empower us for service in His love.  God wants us to simply obey and follow him, and when we fail or fall, we get up and start again. God enables us to serve in His God-given holiness; then, God enables and empowers us through his Spirit and gifts.