Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Zombie Churches

I recently read an article where a guy was talking about having zombies in church. I would normally throw that away without giving it another thought because it's so absurd, but I decided to read on and to my surprise the article was excellent and made some very good points about church. There are some zombie churches among us. Zombie churches are where genuine Christian life has been lost and in its place we find something scary and lifeless. The zombies of film and literature are moving corpses that imitate life. Know as the living dead many times, zombies act like they are alive, but they are not. While zombie churches might not look any different from healthy churches, they are missing one key ingredient: life.

We know that Jesus is the source of life. When we are disconnected from Jesus and what He is doing in the world around us, we become disconnected from life. Just because a church loses its connection with Christ doesn't mean it closes its doors.

Think of zombie churches as churches that have been infected. They are contagious. Instead of offering people a real, transforming relationship with the Creator of the universe, they offer hollow rituals and pointless routines. The motions seem right, but something is missing.

Zombie churches have been infected with unbiblical mindsets, traditions, rules, regulations, and rituals. When such things become more important than the growth of God's Kingdom, then problems ensue. Then the church is more about us than it should be, it's because we've removed Jesus from the center and placed ourselves there instead. When this happens among individuals we call it selfishness. When it happens corporately in a church it becomes toxic.

Here are some warning signs that a church fellowship might be going the way of the zombie:

A zombie church worships idols. An idol is anything we treat as more important than God. As vital as communion, baptism, service, prayer, and worship are, we cannot elevate any of these above God himself. God is to be highest and best and the main focus of the church. This is God's church and He should be the only one worshiped in His church. We need to maintain a high view of God and be sure to lift Him up only.

A zombie church guards its rules and rituals. Traditions are not evil, but when traditions exist simply for the sake of tradition, it is likely a result of a church’s attempt to compensate or appease some people. When our personal relationship with God deteriorates, we often try to fill the void with religious practices so we still feel "connected to the divine." However, you know as well as I do that these rituals are often trite and give us a false sense of connection to God when we are really just feeling nostalgic.

A zombie church lacks intimacy among its members. People in some churches are friendly, but they do not provide a true community that offers a safe place for believers to grow, learn, fall down, repent, get up, and support each other. Community is key for a healthy church.

A zombie church has an inward focus. It’s important to take care of the church family. Members of Christ-centered communities support and encourage each other. The danger comes not when this happens, but when this is all that happens. Christians encourage and support one another not so we will feel better about ourselves, but so we will be better able to go into the world and show people the love of Jesus.

A zombie church focuses on human involvement rather than divine activity. It emphasizes works and personal effort rather than grace. We need to sense where God is already moving and join Him in that work. Our salvation is not about what we do; it’s about what Jesus has done for us. Good deeds happen as a response of our changed lives in Christ, an evidence of our salvation.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Excel in the Grace of Giving

2 Corinthians 8:1-7 1 And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 2 In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 3 For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4 they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. 5 And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. 6 So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. 7 But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you[a]—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.

Today we live under a new covenant established by God through the shed blood of His Son Jesus (Heb. 9:15). Based on what Christ did, Romans 12:1 tells us to present ourselves “as a living and holy sacrifice, [which is] acceptable” to the Lord. If you are a child of God, all of your abilities, time, and money belong to Him. We are called to "sacrifice", but it's really just returning to God what is rightfully His anyway. Apart from Him, we can do nothing (John 15:5).

The principle of sacrificial living can be seen in the early church. Those new believers eagerly sold their possessions and property to meet the needs around them (Acts 2:45). In response to their generosity, God blessed them with glad hearts, favor from the people, and increasing numbers.

Macedonian churches also understood the priority of giving. Even though the believers there were extremely poor, they begged for the opportunity to help financially. Scripture says they excelled at the “grace of giving” (vs. 7 above).

Under Old Testament law, God required a tithe (a tenth of one’s animals and crops) to support the temple (Lev. 27:30-32). When the nation drifted away from this practice, the Lord sent Malachi to warn them of the consequences for disobeying. By not giving their tithe, they were robbing God of what was rightfully His (Mal. 3:8). We certainly don’t want to be guilty of withholding the Lord’s money from Him.

Having appointed us to be His stewards and entrusted us with resources, God expects us to give generously. Jesus praised the impoverished widow in the temple for her sacrificial giving (Mark 12:41-44). When we trust the Lord with our finances as the widow did, we’ll excel at the grace of giving.

Monday, March 19, 2012

We Should Be Aware and In Prayer About This

This is some very disheartening news if you are not aware of it already. To some of us it comes as no surprise. We must be on our knees praying and asking God to run holy interference in these situations and that His will be done. God help us all as we face such threats.