In recent months I have had the following conversation more than any other, “Jon, you changed.” Here’s why…
A few months ago there was a story in the Detroit Free Press about another large mega church building another multi-million dollar facility. The cost would surpass several million dollars. On the same page was another story about poverty and homelessness in Detroit. There is a disconnect. Houston, we have a problem.
Christianity has become used to golden harps, cushy buildings and its’ traditions. We have become less about the message and more about the method. Over 1 in 5 in the Detroit area live in poverty, yet over 70% according to http://www.city-data.com in the greater Detroit area claim to be Christian. There is a huge disconnect between what we believe and how we behave. How can a city drive in hummers to grocery stores and pass homeless families along the way?
There is a pattern here. We see the same pattern in the Bible. People obey God, people disobey God, people into bongage, religion fails, people repent, revival comes, deliverance to the people. I know this will rub some feathers, but we need less religion and more Jesus. Now while that is easily said on a blog it is not understood and definitely not applied. So here is the disconnect:
Recently, I had several pastors email me a link of a sermon preached by a well-known pastor/evangelist. The theme and point of the sermon was that we need to get back to old time fashioned, saw dust trail preaching, red hot screaming, traditional hymn music, standards proclaiming, conservative living Christianity. In the first few minutes of the sermon the sermon railed on going to movies, watching tv, ladies wearing pants, the evils of calvinism, how alcohol will KILL you and the evil infiltration of Islam. For nearly 20 minutes there was hooting and hollering about the need for a return to more conservative living because of how wicked the world is out there.
While I am not surprised by this, it deeply saddens me. We don’t need saw dust trails. We don’t need traditional living. We don’t need to preach against movies & culture. We don’t need to proclaim how terrible women are for wearing pants instead of skirts and we surely don’t need to be yelling about nonsense. Where was Jesus is that sermon? Where is the Christ who was called a drunkard and a ladies man because He hung around sinners? Where is the real Christianity that makes a difference? If all we need is to be old fashioned how come we are not going back even further? Which old fashioned way is the right way then? Conservative is determined by dates and times? How come we don’t do things like in the real old times-1400’s? or the dark ages? If old fashioned is the answer…aren’t you implying that religion works better than what Jesus said?
At the center of the Christian life experience is a crying out in our slavery and being heard by God. It is recognizing that we are nothing, our traditions are nothing, our religion is nothing. Only trusting in Christ will save us. Only obeying Christ will help us. This premise is missing. Many will say we believe in Christ to save us, but the actions that follow say “only our religion will keep us clean from the wicked world.” This is wrong. It is not Biblical.
Back to me…
We live in a world where 840 million people will go to bed hungry tonight. We live in a world where right now there are 27 million people still in slavery. We live in a world where 1 million people committ suicide each year. We live in a world where 4500 people will die in Africa this year alone from AIDS. We need Jesus to save our churches from the exile of irrelevance. I pastor a church in the worst economic city in the US. Our jobless and unemployment percentages are terrible. Yet it is in this city where there once stood old fashioned churches, they are closed today. I can drive to abandoned buildings where preachers railed on being conservative and now the building is dead and that church is meeting in a library. Being old fashioned works…if your old fashioned. But the rest of the world passed that era decades ago. Get with it. Preach Jesus in your context.
When a missionary goes to the foreign field to start a church and help people we expect him to learn the language and learn the culture. We expect him to wear what they wear and eat what they eat and go where they go; to be them so that the people can see Jesus in Him. Jesus didn’t go into Jerusalem and preach against drunks, prostitutes, clothing, wicked music and worldly culture…he preached against the pharisees. Against Old Fashioned Religion.
- We need to be broken.
- We need to see where our traditions take us – if your so conservative and religious…you’ll never get dirty reaching people that are filthy. You’ll stay in your ivory tower and look down on others that really need Jesus. You’re a pharisee. You’re legalistic. You’re wrong.
- We need to be poured out.
- We must see that if we are not missional, if we are not proclaiming the gospel to everyone and not just people like us…we are being religious and not obedient.
In the last 3 years I have lost many friends. Many people & pastors that I thought were my friends… weren’t. I’ve lost support. I’ve lost help that I have desperately needed simply over the fact that I am reaching people that would never come to your traditional church. While it has hurt to have people say negative things about me, to hear sermons about me, to read letters and emails from well-known pastors telling me I am “leading people astray and away from God”…it is awesome to know that God is still God and He is still right. I don’t write all this to tell you what to do…but to tell you why I am different.
You ask why I have changed……Jesus.
“O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise. For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” Psalms 51:15-17
“Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” James 1:27
let the redeemed speak louder,