Five ways to help the poor (that really do help!)

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My latest article at Christianity.com:

Caring for the poor isn’t easy—but it also doesn’t need to be overwhelming, at least when we recognize poverty from a biblical point of view. I explained in an earlier article that when we begin to see poverty the way the Bible does, we begin to see it as offering a number of practical opportunities to worship Jesus.

But how we will worship—how our concern will be expressed—will differ from one person to another. The expression of our concern neither reflects nor establishes our holiness before God. Our responsibility is only to serve in the way in which we feel compelled. With that in mind, here are five things you can do to help the poor that really do help.

Read the whole piece at Christianity.com – Five ways to help the poor (that really do help!)

The day ISIS got a little closer to home

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Yesterday, we received an email from a member of our home school co-op asking for prayer for family members who are Christian workers in Northern Iraq. Their community has been lost to ISIS, and the UN’s peace-keeping forces have pulled out. These workers and the local believers are on their own, forced to choose between renouncing Christ or holding fast as children are murdered in front of them.

For weeks now, I’ve been reading of the ongoing struggles of our brothers and sisters in Syria and Iraq, and more or less quietly praying for ISIS to be stopped and for the resiliency of fellow believers there. But even then, it’s been at a distance.

This email brought this suffering a little closer to home.

We often fail to realize how closely connected we all are. We look at the world we live in—specifically our North American context—and assume the way we live is “normal.” The persecution of Christians in Iraq and Syria is a powerful wake-up call for us, if for no other reason than it reminds us that persecution is actually normal for Christians. It’s not something we read about in our Bible and think, “Gosh, I’m glad things are so much better now.” For many believers in over 100 nations, that’s life: beatings, wrongful imprisonment, verbal abuse, and martyrdom.

But because of the uniqueness of the West, we’re sheltered from these realities. Most of us don’t know anyone who has directly been persecuted. But we are probably only one or two degrees of separation from someone who has. And that should change the way we pay attention to such things. It’s closer to us than we realize. So we should care that the US has launched airstrikes against ISIS. We should want to pray for persecuted believers. And I know this is a novel concept, but we should actually pray, believing that God will be glorified in this.

What we get wrong about church discipline

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Over the last few years, we’ve seen a number of stories come to light about evangelical churches practicing “shunning” as part of church discipline. This typically happens as part of the final stage of church discipline, when a congregation member persists in unrepentant sin is excommunicated—and then cut off socially, with friends (and sometimes family!) actively distancing themselves socially.

And herein lies the problem.

The key passages on church discipline

There are a few key passages of the New Testament that describe church discipline, the most famous being Matthew 18:15-17 and 1 Corinthians 5:9-13:

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. (Matthew 18:15-17)

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” (1 Corinthians 5:9-13)

The first deals with personal sin in general, while the second deals explicitly with sexual immorality (specifically, a church member who was having [a possibly incestuous, but regardless incredibly icky] adultery with his father’s wife).

There is a simple point here: habitual, unrepentant sin in all its forms should not associated with the people of God. Whether someone is a perpetual gossip, slanderer, malcontent, fornicator or adulterer, these things should not be known of among us, at least, not if we are to be people who are above reproach.

About the gentile and the tax collector…

But notice, something else, something very important that we see in Matthew 18:17: “And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”

What Jesus says here is what is so often missed in our approach to church discipline (or more correctly, in the approaches of certain mega-churches): we forget that we have an active role to play in the offender’s restoration. We are called to pursue them with the gospel.

Before going further, I want to be 100 per cent clear: I am absolutely for church discipline, provided the way we handle it is biblical.

So consider Jesus for a moment. During His earthly ministry, we find numerous occasions where Jesus commends the Gentile’s faith, rather than the Israelite’s. Among them, the Syrophonecian woman (Mark 7:24-30), the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:1-45), and the official at Capernum (John 4:46-54). And among the tax collectors, we see no less than two breathtaking examples of repentance, including the apostle Matthew (9:9-13), and Zaccheus (Luke 19:1-10). In both instances, Jesus makes it very clear: His mission is to seek and save the lost. He does not pursue the righteous but sinners to repentance.

In other words, in church discipline we are to treat unrepentant offenders as though they are not believers. Which necessarily means we are called to share the gospel with them. 

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And yet, it seems we’ve forgotten this. Instead of pursuing those who have been “handed over to Satan” with the gospel, we entirely ostracize them. We are right to not permit them to serve in the church, to bar them from taking communion and no longer recognize their profession of faith as genuine until proven otherwise. But, we may go further in our application of this than Scripture does in the way many churches cut off contact.

Again, to be clear: we must be absolutely committed to the purity of the Church. All who continually besmirch the name of Christ through their ongoing, unrepentant sin should be dealt with appropriately. But we still face a tension: without compromising the purity of the body, we need to consider how we pursue these people evangelistically.

Yes, they are to be cut off from fellowship, as Paul says—but we also need to show fearful mercy to someone continues in sin, even as we carefully protect the purity of the Church—we are called to both reprove and exhort. We tear down pride with the Word and build up in humility. This is what Jude stresses in the final verses of his epistle when he writes, “have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh” (Jude 22-23).

Thwarting the schemes of the devil

We are not alone in our goofing on this. It seems the Corinthians fell into the same trap. Prior to writing 2 Corinthians, word came to Paul that while the church had, largely, repented of their rebellion against Paul and apostolic teaching, they had not reconciled with the one who was responsible for the rebellion. And so, Paul encouraged them to forgive and be reconciled.

Now if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measure—not to put it too severely—to all of you. For such a one, this punishment by the majority is enough, so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him. For this is why I wrote, that I might test you and know whether you are obedient in everything. Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs. (2 Corinthians 2:5-11)

“Reaffirm your love for him,” he wrote, “so that we would not be outwitted by Satan.” There is nothing the devil loves more than to mar the name of the church. And when we handle discipline wrongly—when we fail to pursue those who persist in unrepentant sin with the gospel and welcome those who have turned away from their sin back—we are undone. The devil “wins”.

So yes, let’s practice church discipline, biblically. Let’s also make sure our practice includes the earnest pursuit of those in sin with the gospel, so that they might come to repentance and fellowship can be restored.

 

The weird and the witty: an Electric Monk on a bored horse

If there’s one thing I learned as a grumpy, broke and pretentious teen and twenty-something, it’s this: It taking life too seriously is hard work. It takes a lot of effort to be dour all the time.

This is helpful for me to remember now as a thirty-something. After all, I work for for a ministry that does very serious (and very good) work. The material my team and I produce tends to be focused on very serious issues, even when we’re telling hopeful stories. And sometimes there’s almost this expectation that I’ll spend my free time focused on those areas, too.

But I don’t really like reading a lot of books on poverty and social justice, despite having written one. I don’t enjoy movies like Slumdog Millionaire; I’d rather go see something like Guardians of the Galaxy.

Which brings me to the point of today’s post: starting today, and over the next few weeks, I’m going to share with you some of my favorite weird and witty moments from books, movies and web videos. These are just silly, witty and weird things that make me laugh. I’m sharing them with you for one reason: It’s really easy to be far too serious as Christians and forget to do things like laugh. But God wants us to laugh—He gave us senses of humor, so we should use them!

So here’s the first bit of weird and witty, something from one of my favorite Douglas Adams’ books, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency:

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High on a rocky promontory sat an Electric Monk on a bored horse. From under its rough woven cowl the Monk gazed unblinkingly down into another valley, with which it was having a problem.…

The problem with the valley was this. The Monk currently believed that the valley and everything in the valley and around it, including the Monk and the Monk’s horse, was a uniform shade of pale pink. This made for a certain difficulty in distinguishing any one thing from any other thing, and therefore made doing anything or going anywhere impossible, or at least difficult and dangerous. Hence the immobility of the Monk and the boredom of the horse, which had had to put up with a lot of silly things in its time but was secretly of the opinion that this was one of the silliest. (4-5)

It’s a simple scene, but it sets up the absurdity of everything that is to follow in this book. And be honest, you smiled at least a little reading that, didn’t you?

Three lifestyle changes we are making

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One of the most awkward conversations we’ve had with our parents (aside from the “so, we’re Christians now…” one, that is), came the day we decided to sell our house and go back to renting. My in-laws didn’t get it (and have been very open about saying so, in a very respectful fashion). For them, owning a home is just something you do if you’re an adult.

Most of the adults I know think this way, too.

And yet, a growing number of us are realizing home ownership is not something that may be within our reach. Some of us enjoy flexibility of renting (because there’s no house to sell, you can move fairly quickly if the right opportunity presents itself). Many simply can’t afford it.

We were in the latter category when we sold. As I’ve mentioned in the past, we were so unbelievably house poor with our very modest home on a busy street, that we would stress out every time an issue came up on the car, or when our kids needed new clothing. So finally, we said “when.” We sold the house, after months of trying to do it on our own.

Over the last several months, we’ve found ourselves in another predicament: our car repair costs have been creeping up.

This year, in particular, we’ve had more than $1500 in repairs. I brought it into the shop just last Monday, in order to repair a leak in the power steering lines and refill the fluid. Before that, it was the brake lines, and one of the brake callipers had seized. So, on Friday, when the check engine light came on again, I said “when.” On Saturday, we bought a new (to us) mini-van, which we will have in our possession later this week. That is lifestyle change number one: we will soon be a mini-van driving family. 

And this has caused lifestyle change number two: we have to rejig our family’s budget. I desperately wanted to be able to purchase a car outright. I wanted to be able to save up enough before going to a dealership to do this, but it didn’t happen. The repairs on our existing car ate away at our savings in this area too fast for us to replenish them. So, we are rejigging our budget to allow for a $93 bi-weekly payment, with a goal of having our car loan paid off by the end of April. This means our frivolous expense budget lines will be more than cut in half. The upside of this is our family will be in better health. Which leads me to the third thing…

I am trying to figure out how I take care of myself physically again. This has been an ongoing struggle for me. I was always the hefty kid growing up, and tended to grow out then up when I had growth spurts. In my early-mid twenties, I managed to get myself down to a fairly fit 185-ish pounds. Maintaining that meant two hours at at the gym a minimum of four days a week, without fail. I ate mostly salads and extremely lean food. I could rarely ever let myself even have any sort of treat that wasn’t made from some alternate, calorie-reduced recipe. And although I looked good (in hindsight, looking at my wedding photos, I might have even been a bit too thin for my frame), but it wasn’t a joyful experience for me. It was really, really hard work.

It’s also the kind of lifestyle you can’t easily maintain with three young kids who love “chick’n nuggets and ‘lellow’ fries.”

So I need to figure some stuff out: where do I get the time to work out (which I do actually enjoy doing)? How do I hold myself accountable? What bad habits have I picked up that I need to put down? What foods need to not be in my house to resist temptation? My goal isn’t to get down to 185 again, but my goal is to be healthy, whatever that looks like.

Those are three lifestyle changes we’re making. Lord willing, the first won’t have been a foolish choice on my part (not because I am anti-minivan, but because I’m anti-debt). This is why it’s very important to us to make the second change work: we really want to get rid of our debt as fast as possible. And, hopefully, I will see some real, sustainable progress on the third over the coming months. As always, if you’re so inclined, prayer is appreciated.


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Don’t confuse sin with negative thinking

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[A] misunderstanding of sin is to say that it’s just a matter of negative thinking.… Get rid of your old wineskins! Think bigger! God wants to show you his incredible favor, if you’ll just get rid of all those negative mind-sets that hold you back!

Now that’s a compelling message to self-reliant people who want to believe they can take care of their sin all by themselves. That’s probably why men who proclaim that message have managed to build some of the largest churches in the world. The formula is pretty easy, really. Just tell people that their sin is no deeper than negative thinking and that it’s holding them back from health, wealth, and happiness. Then tell them that if they’ll just think more positively about themselves (with God’s help, of course), they’ll be rid of their sin and get rich, to boot. Bingo! Instant megachurch!

Sometimes the promised goal is money, sometimes health, sometimes something else entirely. But however you spin it, to say that Jesus Christ died to save us from negative thoughts about ourselves is reprehensibly unbiblical. In fact, the Bible teaches that a big part of our problem is that we think too highly of ourselves, not too lowly. Stop and think about it for a moment. How did the Serpent tempt Adam and Eve? He told them they were thinking too negatively about themselves. He told them they needed to think more positively, to extend their grasp, to reach toward their full potential, to be like God! In a word, he told them to think bigger.

Now how’d that work out for them?

Greg Gilbert, What is the Gospel?, 53

What does accountability look like for Christian bloggers?

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One of the great dangers of the Internet is also one of its great strengths: the ability to communicate to a (potentially) large group of people with few (if any) barriers. While much good can come from this, it also represents a great risk to those who write if we don’t have any sort of accountability.

As Christians, we understand that we don’t live our lives in isolation. We live in mutual submission to one another. So, what does this look like for Christian bloggers—or at least, this one? Here are three forms of accountability I have in place:

1. The elders of our church. I believe one of the most dangerous places for a Christian to be is outside of the authority of their local church (insomuch as they are modelling Christlikeness in exercising it). So, when we joined our church, one of the first requests I made of our elders was for them to have oversight over this blog.

This doesn’t mean they spend all their time reading this blog since they have much more important things to do. But it does mean they’re aware of what’s going on. So, if they see something they’re concerned about in a post, they can ask me to clarify or remove it, depending on the degree of concern. If they are see an unhealthy pattern in my writing (for example, unnecessarily chasing controversy or using words sinfully), they can ask me to either take a hiatus or stop altogether. And to date, I can count the number of times I’ve had a concern raised on one hand.

2. My wife. Emily actually reads or hears almost every post I write. She’s a good gauge for whether or not the content is actually helpful, and because she is slightly more in touch with people’s feelings, she can give me a better sense of a reader’s response. The number of times she’s asked me to rewrite something or not publish cannot be counted; the number is far too great.

3. Trusted fellow bloggers. There are a few fellow bloggers I seek out feedback from on a semi-regular basis, particularly when writing on a sensitive subject. If, for example, I’m writing a critical review (such as this one), or addressing a controversial topic or person, a number of people will almost certainly have read the post before it ever gets published. This group of writers has given me a great deal of sharpening critique, pushed me to drop certain arguments or add new ones, and, every so often, let me know when something’s not worth writing about at all.

That, in a nutshell is what accountability looks like for me. Mind blowing? Probably not. Helpful? You bet.

How now shall we act online?

A while back, I had the opportunity to sit down with my friends Dan Darling and Derek Rishmawy to discuss how Christians should approach using social media and engaging online conversations (and controversy) in a Christlike manner:

Thanks to Dan and all the folks at the ERLC for the opportunity to be a part of the conversation!

God doesn’t have time to worry about such little things, right?

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The other day we were on our way home from Port Huron, MI, when our car started making some shady sounds. A grinding/vibrating sound that sounded like maybe one of the brakes had seized. (Whatever it is, I’m sure it will be something catastrophic, to my savings if nothing else.)

Sunday night, as we prepared dinner, Emily and I talked about how much we were willing to spend on repairs. It’s important to have a “do not pass go” line because, at some point, it’s just not worth fixing a vehicle. Of course, when that happens, it’s also helpful to have a fair bit saved up in order to actually pay for a new one. Which we don’t (yet).

One of the things we don’t do all that well is pray over “little” issues. Years ago, as new believers, we were exposed to a lot of damnably stupid teaching on prayer. One video we watched, featuring an ultra-hip (now ex-) pastor, openly mocked a person who would pray for such seemingly insignificant things as a parking space, as though doing so would be a waste of God’s time and yours.

After all, God doesn’t have time to worry about such little things, right?

And yet, we see something very different in Psalm 8:3-4: “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?”

Setting aside the christological elements of these verses for a moment, we see something pretty incredible: David is in awe of the mystery of God’s care. What shocks David here is that the God who created all the universe is not distant. He is near to us and intimately involved with every detail of our lives. That he has numbered every hair on our heads. He has determined all the days of our lives. There is not a single event that happens, whether a hair falling from our heads or a piece of dust floating down onto your shoulder, that the Lord is not aware of.

Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! … Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! (Luke 12:24; 27-28)

This is the mystery of God’s care: that he holds all of creation together, and yet is actively involved in the minutest details of our lives. Do you believe this? Do you believe that right now, God is working all things together for your good—that there is nothing that happens in your life that escapes his sight? Or do you believe, as the song goes, God is watching us from a distance?

Events like our car problems are an opportunity for me to shake off the “little faith” attitude of the man who mocks those who pray for “little things.” If God provides for sparrows and clothes the grass in splendor, will He not provide what His people need? I’m not saying this in some sort of goofy “name it and claim it” sort of way. Instead, it’s a reminder to me that God truly is involved in the most mundane aspects of my life.

We had another car problem about a week ago. The repairs cost $100, though they could have been significantly more had the problem not been easily resolved. It is right to see this as evidence of God’s care. I had $100. I did not have significantly more. We have this latest problem. We have no idea what it will cost to repair or if we have to say “when” on this car. We can only trust that the Lord will provide what we need, when we need it in the way we need it.

And that’s the thing that should give us great hope and encouragement: God is not disconnectedly watching the events of our lives play out. He is actively engaged. He really does care for us and provide for us, no matter how insignificant it might seem.


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Err on the side of original

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There are a lot of embarrassing things that can happen when you’re preaching. One time, and this was one of my earliest preaching opportunities, I completely blanked out. It was as though my entire vocabulary was lost, and I just stood there for what seemed like at least 15 seconds (which is a really long time to be silent when you think about it). Another time, I preached one of the worst messages of my life at a friend’s church. The entire thing was a scattered mess, and I felt like I wanted to die (especially when people were offering polite compliments).

There are some things I haven’t done, thankfully. (At least, not yet; there’s still time.) But you know what I expect would be really embarrassing? Being invited back to a church and preaching a message you’ve already shared.

At that church.

Toward the end of Preaching and Preachers, Martyn Lloyd-Jones shares a number of stories of preachers who had this happen. He wasn’t saying this to steer his hearers away from re-preaching a message, but to give wise counsel: if you’re going to do it, make sure you keep track of where you have already preached the message.

This is good advice, for obvious reasons. Although I prefer to not re-preach my own sermons, the odd time I have, I’ve made sure to note where so I don’t do it again.

But, I’ve got to be honest, sometimes it’s sorely tempting to just re-preach out of convenience. After all, I have a young family, a full-time job and multiple hobby jobs… it’s not like there’s a lot of time that exists to write new sermons every time I preach.

But there’s just something about the process of preparing the message that feeds and encourages me, even as the purpose is to encourage others. When I re-preach, I rarely have that same experience. I don’t feel truly prepared, no matter how much time I spend reviewing the text and manuscript. When I preach new material, it’s the message I need to hear, as much as it is the message for the congregation. For me at least, that seems to be a pretty good reason to err on the side of original. What do you think?

The day I made my daughter cry

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Tears started streaming down her cheeks and drool dribbled down her chin. Her hands rose close to her eyes, fingers prepared to poke. And then, between sobs, she spoke: “But (hic) I really (hic) wa-wanted to win…”

And with that, I claimed the title of history’s greatest monster.

All because I made my daughter cry.

A few months ago, I shared a summer reading challenge for my daughter. Her mission: to read ten books over the summer and write a short summary of each as a comprehension check. We asked often about how her reading was going. She her typical answer: “I forgot; I’ll read some tomorrow.” As the summer progressed, we could see her starting to get a little anxious. We reminded her that it wouldn’t be a big deal if she didn’t meet her goal.

On August 31st, she had five books left to read, and declared she would finish them all before Labor Day was done. When I told her that she wouldn’t be able to do it and actually understand what she was reading, the tears began.

Now, we’re not strangers to experiencing consequences at the Armstrong home. Timeouts are fairly common, we’ve had to ground our oldest at least once already, among other things… but this time was different. This wasn’t a disciplinary issue. This was just the result of failing to do what was necessary.

This was a good learning opportunity for us, too, though. All the way through the reading challenge, we created the environment for her to do her reading, but we didn’t force her to do it because that would have been counterproductive. Our goal is to help her develop a love of reading, not see it as a chore.

As she cried though, a temptation came over me, just for a moment: to give in and let her have the prize anyway. As soon as the thought came into my head, I had to acknowledge it as wrong. If we’re trying to teach her to be responsible for her own actions, then it’s wrong to reward her for not doing what was necessary. Instead, we’re giving her the opportunity to try again with five books in September. Will she succeed this time? I guess we’ll find out in a few weeks.


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Four truths that will change how you care for the poor

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Let’s be honest: no one with a firm grip on reality looks at the world and says, “Yep, everything is running exactly as it should.” When we millions of people go to sleep each night unsure if they’re going to eat the next day while others have an abundance beyond what they could need for a thousand lifetimes, we know something’s not right.

And therein lies the problem: we know things are wrong, but we don’t know what we can do about them. The problem seems too big to really make a difference! And you know something? We’re right to think so, at least in one sense. When we look at the suffering and injustice that exists in this world as a whole, it’s overwhelming. The problem is just too big!

And yet, we see throughout Scripture an overwhelming concern for the needs of the poor.… So we can’t simply turn a blind eye, or give into the despair that comes with the overwhelming nature of poverty. Instead, we need to engage as God has called us to—caring for the needs of others, both in the church and in the world (Galatians 6:10).

So where does it start? I believe it starts with a change of mind and a change of heart. In order for that to happen, we need to understand four things.

Read the whole piece at Christianity.com – Four truths that will change how you care for the poor

Brothers, abandon the green room

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Every so often, I’ll be reading a book by a pastor and see mention of a green room at the church. For those who don’t know, a green room is one in which in which performers can relax when they are not performing (typically, they’re found in a theaters, concert halls, and studios).

Which, of course, is one of the goofiest things ever.

Now, I get it: I am not a natural “crowd” person. My favorite time at a party is when it’s time to go home. Most pastors (at least, most of the pastors I know) tend to have a more introverted temperament.

And while I get that, I hope we all realize that the green room runs completely contrary to the gospel.

No matter how we over-spiritualize it—whether we say that area is used for pre-service prayer, or yet another review of our sermon notes—it represents more of a detriment to our spiritual well-being than we might realize, both those of us in the congregation and those who preach. The green room is about isolation, about creating barriers between the shepherd and the sheep.

The green room is a place to hide.

The gospel, however, refuses to let us remain isolated. It connects us to God through Christ; but it also connects us to others. That whole “body” metaphor Paul kept using? Yep. The vine and branches analogy Jesus used? Ditto.

No matter how much we believe, “No one knows what it’s like to feel these feelings,” autonomous Christianity doesn’t work. Ever.

If a pastor does not feel that he can be present with the congregation while waiting to preach, there is something dreadfully wrong, internally. And if there’s a lesson for all of us—both congregation members and pastors alike—it’s that. Pastors cannot be disconnected from congregations. When they cease to be connected, they cease to truly be pastors. They become something else entirely. And this should never be.

Brothers, abandon the green room. Do not hide from the congregation; do not perpetuate the leadership is lonely garbage. Worship with the congregation, seeing your place in the body so you might experience the ministry of the body.

Show me the body

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Recently I was asked this question by a reader, and it’s a good one: What would cause me to abandon Christianity?

What many people forget about Christianity is it’s not based on experiences or feelings. This is, of course, due to the fact that we’ve elevated experience to a place it doesn’t belong, and talk about “just believing” and all sorts of other nonsense.

But Christianity is based upon facts. And in reality, Christianity is the most falsifiable religion to ever exist, because all you have to do is two thing, both of which are accomplished in one act: Prove that Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, and prove the New Testament is false. How do you do that? With one piece of evidence: the body of Jesus Christ.

After the apostle Paul reminded the Corinthians of what is first importance in 1 Corinthians 15:3-11, he explained that:

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Corinthians 15:12-19)

Paul is very clear here: if the body of Jesus could be produced, it would mean that He was never raised from the dead. And because He was never raised from the dead, the gospel would then be false. And if the gospel were proven false, Christians are “of all people most to be pitied” for they’ve put their hope in something meaningless.

He is confirming what we should all know: Christianity is easily falsifiable. You can easily disprove it. To do that, one only had to produce a body—and this is something that would have been easy, particularly in the earliest days. And yet none was then, and one still hasn’t been produced in the nearly 2000 years since Jesus was crucified. It wasn’t because the original followers of Jesus were super-creative guys, nor were they apparently the sharpest knives in the drawer. They were often rebuked by Jesus for not picking up most of what He was putting down. The makers of a conspiracy to deceive the masses these were not.

And then there’s the hundreds of witnesses to the resurrected Christ. “He appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time,” Paul wrote, most of whom were, again, alive at the time. (1 Corinthians 15:6). Paul was writing, give or take, about 20 years after the crucifixion of Jesus. If he and the other apostles had made the whole thing up, they could easily have been found out. And yet, here we are.

Because Christianity is so easily falsifiable, arguments of experience, feelings or “Jesus being resurrected in our hearts” just won’t do. It doesn’t allow for that. Christianity is based on historical facts, not on feelings. And if you could produce the body of Jesus today, you’d knock the foundation out of it. You’d not only prove that Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, you’d prove that the entire New Testament is false. And if the New Testament is false and Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, Christianity’s no good to anyone.