Josh Christophersen

Reign In Life

Tim Keller On Millennials Desire For Community [VIDEO]

TimKellerJeffersonBethke

Jefferson Bethke recently asked pastor and New York Times bestselling author Tim Keller, “What is the most encouraging and discouraging trait you see in the millennial generation?” Here is his response:

I agree that there is a heightened interest in community, talking about community, or anything labeled community.

I think young people are desirous of community and yea more; they are desirous of what’s been broken and missing in their generation more than any other generation before them. They are desirous for family.

Keller made some striking statements:

“The younger generation doesn’t want to make the sacrifices that enable community to happen, which means you have to limit your options. You can’t just travel everywhere. You can’t just move every two years. You can’t just live any way you want.”

“So many of the commitments and the sacrifices you’ve got to make in order to be part of a community and the curtailments of the freedom that goes with that, young people don’t want. So they want community yet they’re not willing to pay the price. I think that’s both the best and the worst about your generation.”

So what about you?

Are you willing to “limit your options”? Or are you afraid that if you limit your options you’ll be missing out?

The truth is that either way you’ll be missing out.

If you decide not to limit your options, then you’ll have the freedom to do what you want, when you want, how you want, the way you want – but you will not have community that is a family.

If you do decide to limit your options, you’ll get the opportunity to have community that’s a family – but you will not have the freedom to do what you want, when you want, how you want, the way you want.

And by the way, there’s no third option of having community that is family without the cost of limiting the freedom to do what you want, when you want, how you want, the way you want. Keller’s right. True community that functions like family demands commitment that costs.

So ultimately you have to decide what’s more important to you.

Are you more concerned with your interests or the interests of Christ (Phil 2:21)?

3 Things The Church Is Not

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(Image Credit: Swedish National Heritage Board)

Sometimes in order to best understand what something is, it’s helpful to understand what it’s not. Here are three things that the church is not:

1) The church is not something you attend.

Saying that a church can be attended implies that the church is a building, a service, or a meeting.

This is not true.

The church is people. And those people certainly meet and/or provide services in buildings, but those meetings, services, and buildings don’t define what the church is.

Let’s think of it in another way using football.

A football team is not something you attend. You can attend a football game, practice, press conference, training camp, party, draft, etc., but you can’t attend a football team. Why? Because a football team is a group of people.

Church is not something you attend; it’s something you become a part of.

Attending implies consumption. Being a part of something implies participation.

No one attends churches. You’re either a part of a church or you’re not, and attending meetings and services doesn’t necessarily mean you are a part of a church.

You can attend meetings and services and not be a part of a church, but you can’t be a part of a church without participating in meetings and/or services.

2) The church is not everywhere.

If the church is people then of course the church is everywhere because people are everywhere, right?

Wrong.

The church is not anywhere two or more Christians are gathered. Matt 18:20 doesn’t say “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there is church“. It says “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

Two Christians in the same room, office, coffee shop, golf course, beach, or church building, doesn’t constitute the church any more than two or more people in the same place who play football constitutes a football team, any more than two or more people who own guns and camouflage constitute an army, or any more than two people who can articulate opinions about how life and society should work constitute a government.

I think Christians often times confuse the church for the kingdom.

The kingdom, since it’s the domain of Christ’s rule, can be taken anywhere. The church however, since it’s a specific group of people functioning and relating to each other in very specific ways, is not everywhere.

An ambassador can go anywhere and represent the rule of his government, but where two or more ambassadors are gathered doesn’t automatically constitute an embassy.

3) The church is not just a community.

“Community is the beautiful by-product of well lived family, but family is not the by-product of community. We know this because family automatically creates a community like an apple tree makes apples, but communities do not automatically generate family.” (Ben Pasley)

You can have community without family, but you can’t have true family without community.

The bible never calls the church a community, but it does call the church a family (Gal 6:10 NIV), and a community is not the same as a family.

Community is on your terms. Family is on God’s terms.

You can pick your community, but you can’t pick your family.

For example, I could choose a community of a limited amount of friends to hang out with and do life together who I get along with and enjoy, with no particular person in the group having any authority to lead within the community, and call that church.

Or I could live as family with a group of people regardless of whether I enjoy them or not (much like brothers and sisters) and submit to leaders within the family (much like parents) with no control over whether new people become a part of the family, and call that church.

Community falls short of what the bible describes as church.

Are You Helping Or Partnering With Your Church?

I want to use the following illustration to distinguish the difference between helping and partnership.

Just about everyone can relate to moving from one house or apartment to another.

When a person moves they try to enlist helpers.  Many times, different people can help for different amounts of time, depending on their schedules.  One might be able to help for one hour, another for three, etc.  When you’re moving you’re thankful for whatever help you can get, because the more help you get, the better it usually goes.

A helper works for a set amount of time, sometimes under certain conditions (“I’ll help if there’s donuts there.”), and then leaves.  If after all the helpers leave, there is still more to move, the home owner/renter has to finish on his own.

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If you’ve ever moved you can probably relate to this.

But have you ever had partnership during a move?

Partnership is different from helping.

Partnership commits to keep working as long as the home owner/renter keeps working – sometimes longer.  Partnership doesn’t give a time limit.

Partnership takes the same responsibility as the home owner/renter.  A partner doesn’t have conditions because he knows that the mover doesn’t have conditions.  He knows that whether it rains or shines, whether there’s help or not, donuts or not, he has to get all the stuff from one house to another by the end of the day.

A partner stays after everyone else leaves.  A partner isn’t concerned with the clock; he’s concerned with finishing.  A partner is setting up beds after everything is moved because he knows how tired the home owner/renter is and he doesn’t want him to have to do it alone.

Partnership doesn’t let someone do it alone.

Now I want to relate this to the church.

The church, at least in America, has very many consumers, some helpers, but few partners.

  • Helpers use they’re gifts when it’s convenient for them.  Partners use their gifts whenever they can, regardless of whether it’s convenient or not.
  • Helpers help when asked or if signed up for something.  Partners are always looking for opportunities to help out.
  • Helpers help when they’re around but make out of town plans with little or no regard to how or if it will affect the church they’re apart of.  Partners check to see what’s going on during the time of the planned trip and ask the question of whether or not it’s a good time to be away from the church.
  • Helpers only believe they’re presence matters at a gathering or meeting when they are signed up to do some help, otherwise they believe that they’re presence doesn’t matter.  Partners see themselves as part of a body where every part matters and their presence is important.
  • Helpers only give money if there is some left over after coffee, restaurants, movies, trips, and debt payments.  Partners give first before all other expenses.
  • Helpers fulfill tasks regardless of relationships.  Partners fulfill tasks because of relationships.
  • Helpers show up as long as something else doesn’t come up.  Partners refuse to do things on nights that they’re committed to being with the church.  Instead they ask if they can do what they’re being asked to do, another night.
  • Helpers minister to others at planned events and church meetings.  Partners minister to others whenever they get the chance, regardless of whether it was officially planned or part of an event.
  • Helpers serve in the nursery because it’s their week to do it.  Partners serve in the nursery because kids are important and because they value parents being able to hear the word of God preached without distraction.
  • Helpers come to prayer meetings.  Partners come to prayer meetings with faith and expectation.
  • Helpers show up, but not necessarily on time.  Partners are on time or early so that they can do what needs to be done and so that they don’t miss anything.
  • Helpers give money sometimes.  Partners give money regularly and are inquisitive about the state of the church’s finances, so that they can take care of needs.
  • Helpers help when they’re not tired or frustrated.  Partners help even when they are tired or frustrated.

 Are you helping or partnering with your church?

(Image Credit: Scott Vandehey)

That’s The Church’s Job

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It’s time to take some blame for the state of our world.

Let’s face it. The church’s voice is marginalized and ignored when we blame gay marriage while half of us are divorced, when we blame government when we can’t govern our own family, when we blame business when we can’t control our own spending, when we blame music while singing the praise of idols, when we blame Hollywood while being more enamored with their stories than the story of God in the bible, when we blame the media for all the bad news they preach when we’re not preaching the good news of the gospel, when we blame education while abdicating our responsibility to train up our children in the way they should go.

We’re not living in a manner worthy of the gospel when we preach a gospel of salvation from the penalty of sin and a future hope of salvation from the presence of sin, while failing to also display the gospel’s present power to save us from the power of sin.

Blaming the government, Hollywood, music, education, and the media for the moral crisis the nations finds themselves in is not the answer.  It’s not their job to be salt and light.

That’s the church’s job.

The bible says that the church is supposed to be the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world”. (Matt 5:13-16) Salt preserves and protects from decay.  Light expels darkness.

For decades the church retreated from society.  And then when decay and darkness infiltrated and permeated culture, the church complained about how bad things got.

Could it be that the reason this happened is because the church wasn’t as salty and the light wasn’t as bright?

If the lights were to go out in my basement, the absence of light would make it a dangerous place for tripping and falling.  The absence of the church’s light makes the world a dangerous place for tripping and falling into the harm and destruction of sin.

In lieu of the church’s past retreat from society and the current mess we’re in, the error of my generation has been to swing the other way.  We’re now as Dave Matthews said, “making plans to change the world, while the world is changing us”.

Becoming like the world isn’t helping. We need to be in the world, but not of it.

The world needs the kingdom of God, the rule and reign of Jesus.  The small mustard seeds of the kingdom need to be planted in every realm of society: arts and entertainment, business, education, family, government, media, and religion. (Matt 13:31-32)  The yeast of the kingdom needs to work through the whole batch of dough. (Matt 13:33)

There’s only one entity that exists to bring the kingdom of God onto planet earth.  In fact, God created all things for this entity: the church (Eph 3:9-10).  The church is the means by which God has chosen to bring his kingdom on earth.

If we’re serious about changing the world, then we need to be serious about seeking first his kingdom.  And if we’re serious about the kingdom, then zeal for God’s house (his church) must consume us as well (Ps 69:9). As zeal for God’s house consumes us we’ll live lives as the church in a manner worthy of the gospel (Phil 1:27); lives that preach and demonstrate “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom 1:16).  The gates of hell shall not prevail against such a church (Matt 16:18), because a church like that is the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

(Image Credit: alles-schlumpf)

The Military, Church, And Addictive Teamwork And Purpose [VIDEO]

This is an interview that Jon Stewart did with retired General Stanley McChrystal.  Here are a few quotes from the interview that that struck me, and really got me thinking about the church.

McChrystal at 1:40:

“I miss the soldiers and I miss the mission.”

Stewart:

“Is there some way to translate that sense of service and mission… at home… bringing that ethos of mission?”

McChrystal:

“The military is very addictive: the teamwork, the sense of purpose, the sense of ‘we can do something together’.  And I think that most service people who leave, miss that more than anything else.”

Later in the interview McChrystal says,

“I think what you mentioned is an energy that can be harnessed.  I think it’s something people would be very interested in becoming a part of…”

When I watched this, I couldn’t help but think of the church.

What if the church served as soldiers (2 Tim 2:3) with such teamwork and sense of purpose on God’s mission, that it became addictive?  Have you ever been a part of a church like that?

I would venture to say that the church Jesus died for was meant to have more teamwork and sense of purpose than the U.S. military.  And if that’s true, what are you doing to contribute to the church you’re a part of having more teamwork and sense of purpose?  Or are you detracting from it?

I think McChrystal was right.  This is an energy that can be harnessed.  And it’s something people would be very interested in becoming a part of.

The question is whether joining the military is the only way to find it.