It happens instead over time. Slow. Steady. Drift. But while we might not recognize our drifting toward unbelief as it’s happening, we can often see signs of that unbelief played out. These things might seem like, on the surface, just character flaws or lack of resolve, but chances are these signs are indicative of something much deeper going on. Here are six examples of how unbelief might start to work itself out in your life and mine.
Popular music, that telling barometer of popular culture, has kept pace with this trend. Nearly every heavy-metal band of the 1980s and ’90s had a stock ballad about young heroes going down in a “blaze of glory.” Other popmusic references stress the invincible power of youth. Rod Stewart sings of being “Forever Young.” In their hit single “We Are Young,” the contemporary super group Fun declares that these same youth will “set the world on fire.” Bruce Springsteen’s barstool-seated narrator in “Glory Days” drowns the disappointments of his middle-aged life by retelling stories of high school exploits and triumphs. None of us may want to relive our awkward junior high moments, but who among us doesn’t harbor secret desires to be young again and seemingly able to conquer the world?
In 1987, Kim Hyon Hui put a bomb on board Korean Air Lines Flight 858, killing all 115 on board on what she says was the direct order of Kim Jong Il, the son of North Korea’s then-leader Kim Il Sung.
“The mission was to block the upcoming 1988 Seoul Olympic Games,” says the soft-spoken 55-year-old, who in 1990 received a presidential pardon for her role in the atrocity after standing trial in South Korea.
In my experience, families in which a child or parent is being treated for a mental health condition are significantly less likely to regularly attend worship services or participate in small groups, Christian education, or service activities than their friends or neighbors. Given that one in five children and adults in the U.S. experience at least one mental health condition at any given time, their families represent a large population desperately in need of tangible expressions of the love of Christ and the spiritual benefits associated with active participation in the life of a local church.
If we truly believe that our members are regenerate then we ought to preach in a way that is focused upon feeding the sheep and equipping the saints for the work of ministry. This is not to mean that we are not sensitive to outsiders. Nor does this mean that we do not proclaim and clearly spell out the gospel in every sermon. But it does mean that as we walk through the Scriptures our points of application are not solely focused on how a person is to be saved, but rather how believers ought to live out the Christian life.
Ministry leaders serve and lead within a cultural context. And we should understand the language of the culture and utilize the tools of the culture to serve and reach people. At the same time, there are cultural norms we must challenge and not embrace, cultural realities that must be overcome to effectively serve people well. In our culture, several paradoxes exist that ministry leaders must understand to grasp the world the people we serve are living in. A paradox contains seemingly contradictory statements but upon further evaluation we discover that the statements don’t contradict one another at all. Here are three paradoxes ministry leaders should know about and also respond to.
A favorite from the archives:
What’s the purpose of having a sense of calling? A sense of calling—understanding that God has put you where you are for His purposes—is important because some days, it’s the only thing that will stop you from going on a rampage or quitting and going to work at Starbucks (I hear the benefits are great, incidentally). A sense of calling is important, but we have to be careful that we don’t hyper-spiritualize the idea.
Even typing that seems odd, though. I mean, how can you over-spiritualize a sense of being called by God?
The answer is by limiting it to ministry.