Friday, April 27, 2018

Millennials, Moms, and Ministry

Kopp Disclosure
(John 3:19-21)

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Millennials, Moms, and Ministry

Isaiah 66:12-13

Everyone of every age no matter who, what, when, where, or why needs God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Sovereign Father.

Saving Son.

Sustaining Holy Spirit.

Some of our sisters and brothers in His family like to say, “We need God to keep keepin’ on!”

Amen.

I remember a friend of mine being interviewed many years ago by a pastor search committee in Rochester, New York who was asked to pray. 

He began, “Father,…”

After the prayer, someone with an agenda - we’ll call her a denominational gatekeeper who was part of the interview - said, “I was offended by your prayer because you used ‘Father’ in reference to God.”

My friend responded, “Well, if that’s how Jesus referred to God, that’s good enough for me.”

He didn’t get the job; which was good because he has served Father, Son, and Holy Spirit with distinction for over four decades and it would have been a disaster if he had been called to that church because he believes in Jesus by the book and that church has often been known as one of the most whacked in the franchise.

Moretheless, God is much bigger and better than we can imagine and defies human definitions of His character; as revealed in Isaiah 66:12-13 when God reveals divinity as not limited to male metaphors of understanding and experience: “I will make peace flow like a river…you will nurse and be carried on her hip, and bounced on her lap.  As a mother comforts her son, so I will comfort you, and you will be comforted in Jerusalem.”

Listen to Peterson’s translation/paraphrase: “I’ll pour robust well-being into her like a river…You’ll nurse at her breasts, nestle in her bosom, and be bounced on her knees.  As a mother comforts her child, so I’ll comfort you.”

Wow!

That sure pokes holes into gender chauvinism.

Praise God for God being bigger and better than our limited and often twisted anthropomorphisms!

Whether it was the specific historical context of God reassuring His people that there would be life after exile and suffering in Jerusalem or the very contemporary reassurance for parts of His family who are suffering in a world increasingly hostile to people trying to follow Jesus by the book, God told us through Isaiah that divine love is not gender specific or limited and defies definition.

I think of the attempt of the Westminster Assembly of clergy and other notables who tried to define God in their early 16th century confession and catechisms.  Here’s The Shorter Catechism’s shot at Him: “God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal and unchangeable, in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth” (Q&A 4).  In other words, God is bigger and better than our best attempts to comprehend and define Him; which is why Luther concluded, “Let God be God!”

The maternal metaphor of Isaiah 66 reminds us that we always have a “home” with God.  There is a tender, warm, cuddling, and suckling relationship between God and us as God’s children that may invoke an image of God as the helicopter mom always ready to kiss our “boo-boos” and rescue us from bullies and provide the safest refuge.

That’s good to remember in these changing and challenging days.

Indeed, it’s being said that while we need another great awakening of faith in America, we’re experiencing a great unraveling of faith, morality, and everything that has made America so exceptional.

Everything seems to falling apart even in churches that used to be rock solid - as in faithful to Jesus by the book - pillars of sanity, stability, safety, and security.

Not anymore.

You can go down the street from just about any church still praying and trying to follow Jesus by the book and hear messages and watch witnesses about/to anything/anyone but Him.

A frustrated priest expressed this sadness and fear for the parish bulletin’s front page of St. Patrick’s Church in Madison, Wisconsin back on February 7, 1965:

Latin’s gone, peace is too.
Singin’ and shoutin’ from every pew.
Altar’s turned around, priest is too.
Commentators yellin’, “Page 22.”
Communion rail’s gone.  Stand up straight!
Kneelin’ suddenly went out of date.
Processions are formin’ in every aisle.
Salvation’s organized.  Single file!
Rosary’s out!  Psalms are in!
Hardly ever hear a word against sin.
Listen to the lector.  Hear how he reads.
Please stop rattlin’ them rosary beads.
Padre’s lookin’ puzzled.  Doesn’t know his part.
Used to know the whole deal in Latin by heart.
I hope all the changes are just about done.
That they don’t drop bingo before I’ve won.

Well, the changes aren’t just about done; and it’s gonna take God’s best parental – motherly and fatherly - affection and strength to survive, overcome, and anticipate the ultimate victory.

Life on the corner of Lincoln and Main in Belvidere, Illinois comes to mind.

While I’m good for another decade or two, I feel a very strong call to help prepare our family of faith for the inevitabilities of these rapidly changing and challenging days.

Specifically, I see three undeniable realities testing all American churches.

✤America’s government, courtrooms, entertainment, education, media, and even mainline denominations are increasingly hostile to Biblical, confessional, constitutional, historical, traditional, and common sense Christianity. 

While it doesn’t make sense for America to turn its back on Christianity when only Jesus and people who authentically follow Him by the red letters are inviting, including, welcoming, and agape loving regardless of color, class, and culture, only the intellectually dishonest and existentially ignorant have missed the assaults on America’s spiritual roots.

It’s our Biblically Christian heritage that has enabled our unity amid diversity as one nation under God.

Look around!

The rest of the world is cut up into ethnic tribes that hate each other.

Geezers will remember Sheldon Harnick’s “The Merry Minuet” popularized by the Kingston Trio in 1959:

They’re rioting in Africa,
They’re starving in Spain.
There’s hurricanes in Florida,
And Texas needs rain.
The whole world is festering with unhappy souls.
The French hate the Germans, the Germans hate the Poles;
Italians hate Yugoslavs, South Africans hate the Dutch,
And I don’t like anybody very much!

But we can be tranquil and thankful and proud.
For man’s been endowed with a mushroom-shaped cloud.
And we know for certain that some lovely day.
Someone will set the spark off,
And we’ll all be blown away!

They’re rioting in Africa.
There’s strife in Iran.
What nature doesn’t do to us
Will be done by our fellow man.

America has been the exception to that global rule since birth; but that “melting pot” experiment of positive inclusion is dissipating, decaying, and dying as America increasingly distances itself from its Biblically Christocentric roots.

Dan Pope, one of Belvidere’s most faithful pastors at Open Bible Church, recently sent these lines to me from Douglas MacKinnon who is a former White House and Pentagon official: “How long will I be allowed to remain a Christian?…With each passing month, that shocking question becomes more relevant and even more disturbing…In various parts of the Middle East, there is a genocidal cleansing of Christians…Women, men, and their young children are being slaughtered because of their faith and world leaders and most of the media turn their backs in bored indifference…Here in the United States, Christians and Christianity are mocked, belittled, smeared and attacked…This is a bigoted practice that is not only increasing exponentially, but is being encouraged and sanctioned by a number on the left…If you are a practicing Christian in the United States and open about it, you, your congregation and your organization will become a target of some sort.  It is only a matter of time.”

Anyone needing illustrations of that reality is part of the opioid crisis in the country.

Get ready!

Faith in America is becoming increasingly politically incorrect, unprotected, and illegal.

✤God knows we know churches are very slow about many things because they often long for the way things never were or maybe were but are no more and resist change even more than Americans who refuse to admit our two-party political system is rigged, corrupt, inefficacious, and no longer dedicated to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness except for those that we have been carelessly ignorant enough to keep electing.

I’m not going to catalogue illustrations here either because, as bikers like to say, “If I have to explain it to you, you wouldn’t understand anyway.”  I’ll add, “…because you’ve been drinking the Kool-Aid and think what hasn’t worked in years will work again now which gives clarity to one definition of insanity.”  

Some churches refuse to change because they must believe because they sure act as if God is dead and not alive and active among His people in new-wineskining kinda ways.

Yes, some changes are bad – the ones that don’t honor Jesus by the book.

Pero there are others that prove God is alive and active among His people with fresh wine/opportunities being poured into wineskins/churches for their increased intimacy with Him and efficacy for Him along with graces from Him.

Pero like Jesus said in that parable, some churches go with His flow and are blessed while others crack, crumble, and continue to decline as they resist His ameliorations.

That’s a segue for saying another change and challenge for today’s churches is we are living in a post-denominational age.

Except for denominational idolaters who talk more about being whatever than being Christian and other Biblical and Christological illiterates, this is great news because God did not incarnate in Jesus, live, die, rise, and now reign as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to enable such tribalism that authentic Christians defy because it insults God who has gone to such passionately crucifying and gloriously resurrecting extremes to bring us together in/through/for Jesus.

Denominations are dying to everyone and dead to almost everyone under 60.

Long live the Kingdom!

It will.

His Kingdom not humanly fashioned denominations is eternal!

✤An inevitably imminent financial crunch will force churches to restructure, re-staff, and review their lives and ministries as the Korean and WWII generation, the ones who are paying most of the bills, go home to Jesus.

While the Korean and WWII generations view giving to churches as obligatory, most baby boomers and almost all GenXers, millennials, and GenZers view giving to churches as discretionary; and they don’t think enough of churches to fit ‘em into their financial stewardship.

While the Korean and WWII generations are givers, their successors are mostly consumers with the former notoriously renowned for helping hands while the latters have their hands out more often than not.

Millennials are probably among the most articulate in explaining why they aren’t into church these days.

Big on a relationship with Jesus, they aren’t really interested in religion about Jesus and have been especially turned off by churches that don’t walk the talk of Jesus.

They hear lots of choral/rehearsed/robotic/rote commitments to loving Jesus pero see so many pewsitters and pulpiteers making irascible, irregular, and irreconcilable noises that they don’t want what churches offer.

That’s just a thumbnail sketch.

Moretheless, churches, regardless of franchise or ideology or being conservative or liberal or up or down or all around, are about to be forced to make radical changes because of radically reduced income.

The preceding may sound pejorative.

It’s not.

Changes and challenges are opportunities to honor God.

With the undeniably increasing hostility to Christianity in our world and even in America along with living in a post-denominational age and less money for ministry because those who are paying the bills are decreasing in number as they head home to Jesus, we are prompted to be pro-active and, like Scouts teach us, “be prepared” for the way things are not how we wish they’d be.

Here’s the good news.

God is alive and active among those who still want/get Him.

He remains our refueling and reinvigorating and regenerating refuge.

He is our solid rock foundation amid the increasing instabilities of life in the modern world.

He is our powerful parent without parallel for provision, protection, and promise beyond parameters.

God is God and God is on our side!

Yes, there are lots and lots and lots of changes and challenges; and in the midst of all the meanness, madness, misery, and miscreance, God’s love for us remains constant.

Yeah, let’s hear that tender truth again through Isaiah: “As a mother comforts her child, so I’ll comfort you.”

Happy Mother’s Day!

Happy Father’s Day!

Get it?

Get God!

Now relax and rise victoriously to the changes and challenges!


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Blessings and Love!

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Shatter the sound of silence!

Wake up!  Look up!  Stand up!  Speak up!  Act up for Jesus!

Salt!  Shine!  Leavenate!

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