How Might We Reach This Generation of Young People, Part Two?

I used to really enjoy the AMC original series, Mad Men, but, after a few seasons, I lost interest. I am not sure if the writer’s depiction of the 1960s is perfectly accurate, but one scene resonated with my own imagination of what that era might have been like, and how it differs from our world today.

I do not remember the season, episode, or even the context of the scene, but I do remember thinking how strange it seemed to me in my own context. In short, two men in their office building, during work hours mind you, break out into a pretty serious fistfight.  After the scuffle goes on for a while, making a lot of disruptive noise, the boss breaks into the main office room where these two were fighting, and, upon his arrival, they stop.

 In our own day, both of these men would be fired on the spot. The company would go into preservation mode as news spread through the community. It would be called an “isolated incident” that does not reflect the nature of the company. One or both of the men that fought might be arrested, and one or both might try to sue the other. It more than certainly would be made into a bigger deal than it started as.

 This is not what happens in the show. Instead, the boss asks whether or not they resolved their differences, and everyone gets back to work, the two men shaking hands and going on about their day like nothing happened. This scene reflected something of the truth of modernism and its juxtaposition with postmodernity.  We are certainly not who we were in yesteryear.

 Evangelism in this day and time was very much like the scene in Mad Men. In that day, people would see evangelical admonition from a yelling preacher as the lesson they had coming to them, just as they saw a fistfight as a way to work out differences. Sure, there are still persons that respond well to a little scuffle and there are persons that respond well to a bit of disciplinary preaching, but overall, it’s just not as effective as it used to be.

 Now, I would not jump out of one ditch just to fall headlong into the other, with messages like we get from persons like Joel Osteen. However, as I argued in my last post, we need to be able to prove our side, not through tough love, but through humility and understanding. Meek love is not tough love, but it is strong love. It takes courage to be who you are called to be without being insulted when others aren’t living as they are called. And we not only need to live this example in our private lives. Our nation is having a conversation, and the church has something to say.

 We must be submissive vessels of grace before we can be effective vessels for change or correction. In the public sphere, we often see Christians arguing for what they believe to be right. In the political arena, many Christians call for legislation that would either keep the status quo—hindering others from some transgression, real or perceived, that they are wanting to be free to engage in—or would engineer outward social righteousness—which would, in many cases, produce nothing more than white washed tombs.

 The debates rise in temperature quickly, and anger ensues rapidly when each side does not get its respective way. Like many objects exposed to extreme heat, those not insulated by grace harden, and rigidity sets in. Their causes becomes cold causes, causes fought out of spite and not love. At all cost, these people will have their way, or they will burn out trying. In this, many have lost all effectiveness.

 Have we forgotten that without grace, no change is possible? This is not simply to suggest that we remain humble, forever recognizing that God is sovereign and in control of the situation, but it is also a call to action, a call for us to remember that we have a duty to show grace as our Lord has shown us grace. We are in some sense and by some degree His means of grace in the world. We are His salt and light in a dark, tasteless, and decaying word.

If we want others to be transformed, not simply because we want to control the world and have an engineered, pseudo-peace, but because we actually care for the lost ones, then we will first need to demonstrate grace before we act to see change happen. Grace always goes before. If it does not, any change will not be lasting.

 Moreover, this does not simply happen in public, but also happens in the heart first and foremost. Check your heart the next time you see the representative “opponents” of whatever issue or issues it is you are concerned about. Take stock of your feelings as you hear these “others” lobbying for their side on the news channel or social media. What feelings fill your heart? What words come to mind? What is it that you wish for them? Are you filled with compassion or malice? Do you say of them that they are precious souls in need of help, or do you call them fools, or worse? Do you want them to know peace or would you rather see some sort of vendetta visited upon them?

 If your heart overflows with negativity, perhaps it is you whom you need to work on. If it is love that you feel, remember how to love them. We, the representatives of Christ in the midst of this present evil age, influence, not by power struggles, but by service. When was the last time you served those who you wish to see transformed?

How Might We Reach This Generation of Young People?

I was having a discussion this morning with a peer in ministry, and we were discussing the attitudes of young persons today. I know that I could still be considered a young person myself, but we were specifically talking about college-aged persons who are now somewhere between six to ten years younger than myself, give or take.

He just kept using the term “apathy.” He said, “It is as if they just do not care about anything anymore.” He mentioned that when we were in college, “doubt” seemed to be the big issue that ministry was trying to overcome, but, now, it is lack of belief in anything, a sort of nihilistic malaise. However, I do not think it is apathy that defines this new generation, nor is it doubt, as it might have been years ago. It is distrust.

We are living in an age that has created and sustained things like, a website that is intended to question every news story delivered and proffer an alternative story. This generation is addicted to, and, while reddit is many things for many people, it serves the young generation as a place to stir the pot, to discuss all the ills of society and promote unrest in the hearts of the community as they accept any conspiracy theory that comes down the pike. This is the generation that hates both parties of the political system. This is the generation that is leaving home and their faith background, not because they feel doubtful, but because they feel pain, and I am not saying all this is unwarranted, mind you.  This is what we have come to call the age of Postmodernism.

The tide has shifted, and modernity and all the tactics to influence modern thinkers no longer work on this generation. Give a modern thinker a dose of intellectual objectivity in a forceful debate style, and they might say, “Hey, you know what? I like you.” Yell your “objective” claims at a postmodern and they will walk away faster than you can say, “What’s your problem?”

This generation has seen a collapse of empire in many ways. America is not the shining star among the nations as it once was. The church of Christendom has been so domesticated that it is losing adherents daily, and on a global scale, with all the “United Nations” coming together, we still hate each other, and terrorism is a word heard daily. To these persons, truth claims are simply lies, power struggles for who gets to control the masses.

Distrust starts off so small. Let’s use the beloved platform of The Echo Life as an example: Christians promote life and health. We preach that the body is the temple of God and that it should be treated with respect. Moms and dads tell their children to respect themselves when they go off to college. Don’t put harmful “stuff” in your body. But, when they go to church, what do they see? A bunch of overfed temples. What are they to assume? They assume that the church does not take its claims seriously. So, if it is not about faith for the church, what is it about? Their assumption, “It’s all for control.” We are promoting our happy little world as we want it to be.

How do we show the postmodern college kid that Christianity is not just another ploy to control his or her life, that it is not about oppressing the way he or she thinks and lives, but about freedom? We have to live in submission to our own claims fist. We have to say, “Watch, I will practice what I preach before I ever ask you to join, and I will show you it is not fake.” We must demonstrate the freedom of walking in Christ offers from the real oppressions of life. We will talk more about this next week, but ask yourself, “Am I a good representative of the Kingdom for this young generation who needs our love and not just our arguments for what is right and what is wrong?”

Discipline As Repentance and Belief

I don’t have a long thought for today, but I do have a thought that I think is worth sharing. It comes from a YouTube video that I have watched time and time again by Brad Johnson, professor of biblical languages at my alma mater, Asbury Theological Seminary. If you would like to watch the video, you can do so here.

While the idea of “repent and believe” has such a more pointed meaning in terms of the presentation of the gospel, it can apply to any direction in life we might want to turn in faith. When it comes to the Kingdom of God, we must be willing, by faith through grace, to repent from our old ways and believe in God to move us in the direction of His Kingdom. Likewise, as Christians, when we have any goal in life, we must ask God for the grace to get us there, if we wish to get there in the right way.

Let’s say you want to take better care of the gift that is your body. You might have lived a life thus far that is unhealthy, and you wish for change. Now there are a myriad of ways that you can lose weight without repentance or belief.  There are pills that, while causing you to lose weight, really are not great for your health, and isn’t that they point of “getting into shape”? You can do a fad diet, again, more than likely starving your body for appearances instead of health. The list goes on.

But, you know what most people find out when they try the “easy” way. It does not stick. Why? …because the change was forced, and it did not come from within, from the head and heart. It did not change them as a whole person, and we cannot neglect that we are integrated beings. When we want to do something right, we have to want it with both our head and heart.

So, what is “repentance” and “belief”? As Professor Johnson points out, our English language can often times obscure the actual meaning behind the words. We often think of repentance as something we do volitionally (action), and belief as something we accent to cognitively (thought). However, the words actually are quite the opposite. Repentance is a total change of heart, which does change our actions, if we allow God’s grace to flow through belief, which is putting what God has put in our heart into action. Repentance is learning a new way, coming to the realization that our own way has been flawed and learning what God would have us do. Then it is setting our minds to live it out. That is where faith takes over, which is putting your trust in God as you act out of what you have learned.

Discipline, then, which is full of life change, can never be complete until we consider the whole person, head and heart. If you want to discipline yourself to be different, you must make the effort to learn what is different and make that learning process that comes through prayer, bible reading, conversation and the like, a part of how you think as a person, what we would often call our “belief system.” Likewise, if you ever want these newly formed “beliefs” about how to do “it” right, whatever that thing is, to impact your life, you have to have the faith to walk it out, to act on what God is teaching:

“…by works faith was made perfect?” –James 2:22

When Discipline is Not An Option:

The Echo Life is about seeking wholeness through faith. As a blog especially written for Christians who are in the midst of daily struggle (and what Christian isn’t), we often focus on the process of sanctification, the process of working with God in the real removal of sin and brokenness in our lives. We take seriously the words of Paul to the church at Philippi when he states: Continue reading

Discipline Is All About The Small Things

samsonThoughts on Judges 13-16

 Discipline is about everyday battles. It is really about the small things. We do not avoid slipping up only by jumping over the big pitfalls. Moreover, while one success is a victory, it takes many grace-fueled successes each day to move forward in sanctification. For example, we do not avoid weight gain by avoiding one desert. It is a daily struggle of fighting many battles in which we have choices to make. We do not avoid being out of shape by avoiding one lazy afternoon. No, we fight against the desire to avoid work each day as we lace up our shoes to go to the gym or out for a run. Continue reading

Why Work Now If God Will Do It Later?

progress-chart-mdIn my last post (last Wednesday), I argued that God wants us to work with Him in the dirty work of facing our sin and ridding ourselves from it. Like dead roots, sin has no life, but clings tightly to that which it penetrates. In this case, sin penetrates our being. God’s call to us is to deal with this deadness. In Ephesians 4, Paul reminds us that we are to “put off, concerning your former conduct, your old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts and be renewed in spirit” (vv 22, 23). Continue reading

Giving Yourself The Grace to Work

Roots_of_big_old_treeIn my last two posts, I submitted an argument that this life matters, not in spite of the next, but because of it. I think in our own individual ways this idea has been the main theme for all three writers here at The Echo Life over the past several blog posts. We care about God’s Kingdom work here and now and for all of His Kingdom workers that are involved. Christian ministry has eternal impact, and that eternal impact begins now. Continue reading

How Can We Be Sure This Life Matters in Light of Eternity?

ResurrectionLast Friday’s post opened us up to a question: “Do we believe that when all is said and done in terms of this life that the sum of its value will be based on the amount of pleasure we each were able to collect, or is there more to our individual worth than shallow, worldly pursuits?” The answer to this question somewhat depends on worldview and attitude. As for worldview, this is obvious: Belief in an afterlife or not has a large impact upon how we value life in general. But, then again, it is not all that simple. Attitude certainly has a lot of impact. Continue reading

Does Death Ultimately Trump Healthy Living?

SickleOver and over again, we have argued that pursuing health is an ethical decision: We must learn to be stewards of all that God gives, including our bodies. Having said this, we must notice the real difference between the “pursuit” of health and “being” healthy. They are not one and the same, and the realization of this fact has led some to give up on the whole idea altogether, but does this have to be the case?

 Much of the time, good health is the good result of a thoughtful lifestyle, full of proper diet and exercise; however, even the healthiest lifestyle does not guarantee good health. This is a difficult reality to accept, but, when healthy-living people fall ill, they must be able to process such realities without falling prey to unnecessary guilt and disappointment. Continue reading

Developing Our Christian Ethic: Breaking Free From the Norm.

Kodiak_Island_bisonAt the core of what we do here at The Echo Life is our Christian ethic. We would not be promoting a holistic Christian life if we merely saw it as a good idea. No. The reason we preach what we preach is because we feel an ethical sense of duty to promote Christianity as a faith that speaks to the deepest areas of our life. More to the point, we see our faith as something that penetrates every area of life, from the extraordinary to the most ordinary. We have to be able to open our hearts and our faith to the reality that Christianity is bigger than we often allow it to be. For the Christian, it should be everything, but we have often used it only when we think we need it, only when we think our morality needs to be introduced to the situation. In everything else, we simply follow the heard. Continue reading