We Won’t Talk About Politics In Heaven

WRITTEN BY Chase Ringler

 

We won’t spend eternity talking about politics. Actually, I’m not even sure if we will give a nanosecond to what so many in evangelical churches idolize. Yes, I said it, “idolize.” My scope of evangelicalism is limited to the United States, though I have come in contact with a few brothers and sisters in Christ from around the globe. These dear family members have repeatedly echoed the same thing, “American Christians talk about politics way more than we [fill in country of origin] do.” One German brother even went as far to say that what he saw in the United States was “concerning.”

When I heard him say this, I very quickly and defensively, dismissed him. I mean, come on, American patriotism exists because of American exceptionalism. The US of A is the greatest country to ever exist on God’s green earth. Not to mention, the “concern” was coming from a man who was a citizen of a nation that lost two world wars and had one of the vilest leaders in the history of mankind. What did he have to be proud of?

And yet, as I sit here several years removed from that conversation I think back to his remarks and agree with him!

I realize if these meanderings of thoughts ever get public I will be whistled in evangelical circles as one of those crazy hippie millennials who don’t value the sacrifices of those who have shed their blood so that I might live in a land that is free and have a right to vote.

Before you rush to those conclusions, please hear me out.

I didn’t agree with my German brother overnight. In fact, I used to be by far one of the most politic loving people out there. Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Fox News were my listening of choice even while I was in elementary. Seriously, I would ask my parents if we could listen to those programs on the radio if we were in the car, and I would intentionally turn Fox News on the TV. If that wasn’t enough, I read newspapers galore, and had already volunteered for several political campaigns by the time I was 18.

All of these activities were to prepare me for my inevitable call into the political realm. I had aspirations of being Governor of Indiana and Senate Majority Leader of the United States.

Then, my grandpa died. I spoke at his funeral. After the service thirteen people came up to me and asked if I was going to be a pastor. I thought I would be foolish not to at least pray about whether that was my calling and long story short I am doing a job I thought I would never be doing. I am a youth pastor.

I give you all this background information to simply show you I was not raised to be anti-political, or for that matter, anti-veteran. I am really not anti-political now. I simply agree with my German brother, and minutes before penning these words, I was repenting for myself, my church, and the American church at-large.

You see, I am concerned with the abundance of talk about politics in the American church, and the lack of talk about holiness, or sin, or repentance, or even the Gospel. This is not simply a critique of pastors and their bully pulpits. I cannot begin to tell you how many conversations I have had with the average Joe or Jolene about politics at church. The scary thing is, over my life I might have had more personal conversations about George Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump, than I have had about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Folks, that’s the definition of an idol.

I have never had a conversation with people who said the pastor needs to talk about the holiness of God more, but, I have had dozens of conversations with people who want the pastor to talk about politics more. When we as the American church desire to talk about politics more than we do about the character of our God it shows that the heart of the American church is not resting in the arms of a heavenly Savior, but in the false security of the ever-changing political agendas of Washington.

There is much that could be said of why we value politics so much as American evangelicals, but right now I am not concerned with the “why” but the “what”. What do you treasure more than anything else? A good indication of what you treasure is what you talk about, what you think about, what you watch, what you listen to, and even what you fear. If you fear a successful Hilary Clinton campaign in 2020 more than you fear the Lord, your treasure is not in the Kingdom.

The American church is not going to be judged by political clout, but by the collective of individual hearts who have either treasured Jesus above all, or sought after another treasure that is not lasting. There will be no elections in Heaven. They already have a King who has sat on His throne for all eternity and will continue to do so. Do you treasure this King above all else?

 

Chase is the Youth Pastor at Wallen Baptist Church

His Chosen Design: HCD

WRITTEN BY Jon Dammeyer

 

HCD Mission Statement: to meet the individual needs of each child in a safe and adaptive learning atmosphere where they can grow and learn about Christ.

I am excited to introduce to you a new ministry at Wallen! Over the past year we have been taking baby steps trying to develop a way to minister to our special needs children and families. Wallen has always been involved in trying to meet every need of all children in our church family. However, we have realized that there is not only an obvious growing need in our community but an incredible opportunity to give kids with unique needs the opportunity to experience the love of Jesus and understand who He is no matter what their cognitive abilities are.

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SHOULD YOU STOP TELLING YOUR STORY AS A WAY OF GETTING JUSTICE?

WRITTEN BY Luke Suciu

 

Tim Kurkjian is a baseball writer who tells one of my favorite sports stories.

Ed Farmer was a relief pitcher who was facing Wayne Gross in an at bat that ended with Gross hitting a home run off of Farmer. That should be where the story ends, as an altogether uninteresting moment that happens hundreds of times during a baseball season . . . but baseball players are weird. Farmer thought Gross took too much time rounding the bases and he took offense. As a good baseball player who lives in a game of unwritten rules, he knew that the next time he faced Gross he was getting hit with a fastball.

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The Millennial Problem

WRITTEN BY Chase Ringler

We all have heard it. It usually starts, “Why can’t millennials…” or “Why are millennials so…” These phrases indicate there are cultural growing pains taking place in the United States right now and a number of these pains can be attributed to the millennial generation growing up (or as some would say, not growing up).  The cultural upheavals that millennials are at the center of are not simply limited to secular society, but we see that the church is dealing with a millennial crisis as well. The main problem the church has with my generation is, “Millennials are not going to church!”

It’s true. Millennials are not going to church. So, the question arises, why?

Perhaps many young people have stepped away from the church because the church was never the body of Christ to them. Maybe growing up the young people were put in the nursery, in children’s church, in youth group, and when they went off to college they either didn’t find a church that was full of people their age, or they attended a campus outreach that was only their age. Maybe they only heard about morality at church, and were taught once they got to college that morality is subjective not absolute. Maybe when they graduated from college they had the same problem as the other 70ish% of kids who went off to college and didn’t join any Christian function.  Maybe they realized their churches couldn’t entertain them as well as the world can. Maybe they never felt welcomed by the older members of the church. Maybe they saw churches get torn apart because the “grown-ups” acted like children. Maybe they were taken back by the consumerism that has driven most churches. Maybe after “sinning” by getting a tattoo in college or doing any other taboo they felt they would be judged by the church so they never returned. Maybe they think that the world revolves around them and what they like, and they don’t like the typical church music, church clothes, or church building. Maybe none of their friends go to church, so they don’t either. Maybe they don’t have enough discipline to go to bed on a Saturday night so they can get up on a Sunday morning. Maybe, maybe, maybe…

In my experience with my generation, all of these are true in one way or another. They’re all related to this sad reality – the American church has not focused on its first love and has let a lot of secondary issues reign. Basically, the church has walked away from the Gospel. The Gospel is central to all of these areas and the lack of the Gospel changing grace in the lives of my generation is a direct result of a lack of Gospel proclamation and understanding in the church at-large. Don’t get me wrong, there is a huge lack of personal responsibility in my “Netflix” generation, but there is also a lot that the church should have and still can change.

As the body of Christ we are called to be loving to one another. Jesus clearly says in John 13:35 that the world will know who His disciples are by their love for one another. This was clearly a significant sign of the early church in Acts 2:42-47. Yet, when I type “Christians are” into Google, most articles displayed say we are hypocrites. And it may be just me, but I don’t really think of hypocrites as loving people. When we are known as hypocrites, we cannot be known for the Gospel—at least the true Gospel. The Gospel is all about the love we have been shown by the God of the Universe, and this should compel us to love all mankind! So, what if they are sinners? We all would be sinners if it were not for the marvelous grace of God! If the American church started to show love to one another think how much our image would change in the world’s eyes.

As I made mention before, the church is the body of Christ. A body works best when I don’t chop off my parts into different sections. So, why does the American church chop off the senior saints from the children? Titus 2:1-6 is pretty specific in the fact that the older women are to teach the younger women and the older men are to instruct the younger men. So why then do we separate the generations in churches? Since we do this, we now have unknowingly severed the younger generations from ever participating on their own accord with the older generations, and we rob them of seeing the beauty of the bride of Christ. The Gospel is about uniting us under the headship of Christ (Colossians 1:18). How different would our churches be if we united intergenerationally?

Let’s be honest. No matter how great and funny a youth pastor is, or how breathtaking a worship band is, or how culturally up-to-date a pastor’s sermons are, humanly speaking they are not as good as what the world has got to offer. Jimmy Fallon is funnier than every youth pastor. Justin Timberlake performs better than every worship leader. BuzzFeed, for the time being, will be more culturally up-to-date than the most culturally sensitive sermon. Are we called to be funny? Are we called to be entertaining? No. We are called to faithfully share the Gospel and make disciples. Take it from a millennial, entertainment becomes numbing. Hours of Netflix, YouTube and social media only show that we are searching for something that we cannot find, and have become numb to reality in the process. What we truly need is something authentic, and meaningful. There is nothing more authentically genuine and meaningful than the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

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Instead of experiencing love, teens and younger children all too much see the opposite. Have you ever heard of a church split? I have personally seen spiritual lives ruined by supposedly transformed adults getting into fights about literally anything in the church. What does this do? Instead of displaying to the younger generations how a church should operate in love, they see firsthand the sinfulness of the church and generally never stay around for the beauty of a possible reconciliation. Personally speaking, my home church went through two or three big crises when I was 12 to when I was 17. Hundreds and hundreds of people left the church. Almost all of my friends who had parents in leadership at the time don’t go to church anymore. Today, there is hardly anyone my age that attends the church. Deep wounds cannot be healed apart from the Gospel of grace. But, if millennials have never seen the Gospel of grace in action, how are their wounds to be healed?

Who is to blame for these church splits? The adults should have acted more loving and gracious to one another, but the root of the problem goes deeper.  How many people stirring up trouble were actually transformed by the Gospel in the first place? For too long the American church was content with giving morality lessons. Lines were blurred with Biblical truths and cultural Christianity. What we were left with were sermons entitled “Ten Legalistic Steps in Training Up Your Child” and the text came from Focus on the Family not directly from the Word. Where’s the life changing power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in that? When millennials left to go off to college we ran into professors who had disavowed morality as defined by the cultural Christianity churches. The absolute truth that was blurred, or not taught in the church, was disregarded by the moral subjectivism of professors. Because the church did not root millennials in the absolute Truth (John 14:6) of the Gospel, they were dissuaded by the far less judgmental subjectivism.

Children weren’t transformed by these sermons and neither were their parents. Many adults came to church because it was advantageous for them to be there on a Sunday. Pastors succumbed to a pragmatic “how-to” mentality and gave leadership lessons, instead of preaching the Gospel. The centrality of the Gospel was lost and what replaced it was the ugly head of man centered consumerism. Churches started popping up all over the US with slogans, “We have the music you like,” “We have the best child care,” “We provide opportunity.” The slogans “worked” because they accurately assessed the human heart. “What’s in it for me?” is the American mentality at church. So, instead of being concerned with seeing the beauty of the Gospel of Christ and how He can transform you, the reality is most people are concerned with “What can I gain from this church?” The church must stop appeasing the consumerism of people and start preaching the truth of the Gospel. The truth of the Gospel is that the Gospel isn’t about you at all, it’s about Christ. We’ve lost that message.

You know, not every millennial is an unsaved pagan. I have friends that I would say, without really second guessing myself, are in Christ and love Him deeply. However, they do not feel comfortable in the church. They long for fellowship (millennial word “community”), but they are not welcomed in the average American church because at one time they smoked marijuana, they drink, they have a tattoo, whatever. Part of the problem lies within them. They need to understand that the church is one of the greatest provisions of God’s grace to His people. However, the church must embrace another truth of the Gospel; Christ is for sinners. Rahab the prostitute wasn’t perfect but she was in the bloodline of the Savior of the World. Zacchaeus was a dirty rotten IRS worker, but Jesus still showed love to him. Saul, later to be called Paul, killed and imprisoned Christians and Jesus called him to be an apostle. The church needs to start looking past sin or Christian taboos and start embracing all people with the love of Christ.

I think a large reason why millennials are leaving the church lies with the fact that the Gospel of Jesus Christ has not been preached. Lives have not been transformed in older generations, and they are not being transformed in the younger generations because the Gospel is not the central message of our churches. Despite the church’s mistakes and sins there is hope. I mean, what is the Gospel? It is the hope of the world found in the faithfully loving Savior, Jesus Christ. God sent Jesus to live a perfect life and die a death and to be raised up again on the third day so that sinners could be reconciled to their Savior! Every son was once a sinner. So, despite our shortcomings as the American church, there is hope! There is hope that God is in the business of redeeming the wicked. There is hope that God loves His church and gave Himself for her. There is hope Christ died for millennials and that anyone He saves is a part of His church. This is good news. This is the Gospel. Preach, teach, and live the Gospel and take courage that God is able to conqueror through His Son, any problem—even the millennial problem.

 

Chase is the Youth Pastor at Wallen Baptist Church

 

 

 

Ding, Chime, Buzzzzzz, Buzzzzzz, Buzzzzzz

WRITTEN BY Jim Glover

I see it all the time. It annoys me. It frustrates me. It saddens me. It scares me.

I see it when I’m counseling a couple whose marriage is hanging by a thread. In a pivotal moment—when they’re finally listening to each other, his cell phone goes off. I’m shouting to myself, “Don’t answer it! Just ignore it! You’re in the middle of something far more important!” But he picks up his phone and starts reading his text messages. He doesn’t seem to care that at this critical moment, he’s distracted and his response to his wife will be diminished.

I see it when I hear about a mom, picking her son up from school. She doesn’t see her son’s smile, as he climbs into the van, because she’s too busy reading the comments on her Facebook page to look up from her phone. She’s content to “miss the moment” because Facebook has her attention.

I see it when friends tell me that their kids spent their entire family vacation on their cell phones rather than interacting with the family. Online messages kept them from making memories with their family.

I see it when couples on a date barely talk to each other, because they’re too caught up doing stuff on their cell phones.

I see it when parents pay more attention to their Facebook pages than to their kids out on the ball field.

I see it when husbands and wives go to sleep and start their mornings focused on their cell phones rather than on each other. (By the way, studies have shown that 87% of people wake up and go to sleep with their smartphones!)

When it comes to our smart phones and the things we do with them every day,           we need to recognize two things:

  1. We spend a lot of time on our cell phones. (Studies show that the average person touches, swipes, or taps his or her phone 2,617 times a day.)
  2. While smart phones can be a helpful tool, they can also be both a DISTRACTION and an ADDICTION.

Here are two quotes from an article, in the British newspaper, The Guardian, talking about the concerns programmers and app designers are having because they recognize that smart phones are both a DISTRACTION and an ADDICTION.

“There is growing concern that as well as addicting users, technology is contributing toward so-called “continuous partial attention”, severely limiting people’s ability to focus, and possibly lowering IQ. One recent studyshowed that the mere presence of smartphones damages cognitive capacity – even when the device is turned off. “Everyone is distracted,” Rosenstein says. “All of the time.””

“The same forces that led tech firms to hook users with design tricks, he says, also encourage those companies to depict the world in a way that makes for compulsive, irresistible viewing. “The attention economy incentivizes the design of technologies that grab our attention,” he says. “In so doing, it privileges our impulses over our intentions.””

As Christians who want to please God, we need to be sober and vigilant, watchful and careful, alert and on guard—so that so that we can do what God would have us to do in the moment.

Give life your full attention! (Deal with cell phone distractions)

Things happen when we’re distracted—we get sidetracked, we lose sight of what’s really important, we miss out on important moments in the lives of our children, we waste ministry opportunities, and we drift away from our faith and faithfulness to Christ.

Things DON’T happen when we’re distracted—we don’t look our kids in the eyes, we don’t kiss our spouses goodnight, we don’t give proper attention to what others are saying, we don’t serve others in love, we don’t share our lives.

As Christians, we must be alert and watchful, free from distractions that would keep us from doing what God would have us to do “in the moment.” Don’t let your cell phone keep you from fully living in the moment. Give life your full attention.

Live your life!

Have you noticed? Cell phone apps are designed in such a way as to become addictive. Apps give us the attention, information, excitement, and rewards that we crave. These apps make us feel good and meet felt needs in our lives.

It’s hard to put down your phone.

Because cell phone apps bring us feelings of satisfaction and joy, they drive us to our cell phones. Whenever we get bored, or stressed, or feel lonely—we reach for our cell phones, impulsively, without really thinking about it. It is an addiction.

So just like with any addiction, we can’t put our phones down because we can’t get enough and we’re never satisfied. And just like with any addiction, we don’t mean to sacrifice our families and ignore our responsibilities, but we do. We have good intentions, but our addiction to our cell phones gets in the way.

As Christians, we must be alert and watchful, free from any addiction that would keep us from doing what God would have us to do “in the moment.” Don’t let your cell phone keep you from fully living in the moment. Live your life!

The bottom line—yes I have a smart phone. Yes, I like to text and post on Facebook (pictures of my grandchildren and puns). But the next time my phone dings (txt alert) or chimes (email alert) or buzzzzzzes (incoming call), I will not just mindlessly reach for my phone. I will think about what I am doing, and who I am with, and I will intentionally live in the moment, to glorify God and serve others in love.

 

Jim is the Director of Pastoral Care at Wallen Baptist Church.

Be More Like Jesus?

WRITTEN BY Jon Dammeyer

What are we teaching our kids?

The other day the Lord put on my heart an interesting thought. Is the phrase “be more like Jesus” misleading our children into a legalistic work-based salvation? This phrase “be more like Jesus” is a common phrase used within Christian circles to encourage a lifestyle of avoiding sin and loving others and I would like to suggest that this is important to strive for but can be very confusing and can even be a huge detriment to your child’s faith.

Before I get to the issues of the phrase, I need to say that this phrase is largely Biblical. The demand to give up your old, sinless lifestyle and begin to follow Christ with a new lifestyle of forgiveness, love, self-sacrifice, and striving for good is clearly established in Romans 6:1 when Paul asks the rhetorical question, “shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means!” Paul clearly says absolutely not! We must give up that life of sin in order to live a life for Christ. You also see this concept in 1 Cor. 11:1, immediately after Paul tells us about his lifestyle and how he has been glorifying God “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” This is also an idea found in the words of Christ, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23). Both Paul and Jesus are saying that our lifestyles must change for the sake of the gospel. We cannot continue to live our lives chasing after our sinfulness. We must begin to follow our new master: Christ.

So what is the problem with the phrase, “Be more like Jesus?”

It’s obviously largely biblical, in fact, I haven’t even scratched the surface of this concept within the scriptures. To be like Christ is an important thing that all believers should strive to do. However, when this phrase is encouraged by others, it usually becomes the motive of having a good behavior in public or how to be good in the world’s standards, not necessarily by Christ’s standards.

A phrase that does this will inevitably point our children toward a life of legalism and perfectionism. They will be wrongfully thinking that they are saved simply because they live a lifestyle that is accepted by Christian circles. Unfortunately, this is probably why so many children grow up thinking they know who Jesus is but begin to doubt and question because if they have lived a good life, these bad things shouldn’t be happening to them. This phrase can encourage a work-based salvation that is potentially pulling our kids away from Christ when the intention biblically is a response of someone who already knows Christ.

What are we supposed to do about this? I want to suggest that we stop encouraging our kids to “be more like Jesus” and instead encourage them to “know Jesus more.”

Think about it. Salvation comes through believing in Jesus as your Savior, not acting like Him. We need to encourage our kids to strive to know everything they possibly can about who He is, how He loves, and how He forgave and as a result they will naturally strive to be more like Christ. The deeper they grow in knowledge of who our amazing Savior is, the more natural the behavior will be. Too often churches and parents focus on the behavior side of following Christ when this is something that naturally happens when you learn the Gospel fully.

Perhaps we should stop using the phrase “be more like Christ” to teach our kids to follow rules and be nice to their siblings and start teaching our kids to know what Christ did! Besides, how are our kids going to know how to be more like Christ if they aren’t confident first in what He did for them? We are not saved by what we do, but instead what we believe.

“If you confess with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead. You will be saved.” Romans 10:9

 

Jon is the Children’s Director at Wallen Baptist Church.

Excuse Me But My Entitlement is Showing

WRITTEN BY Christine Overholt

In an effort to keep the staff blog page alive and well, we have come up with a schedule. Without a schedule, while good intentions exist, the blog page may very well become irrelevant or obsolete as those posting, well…cease to post. It is now my turn. While I enjoy an opportunity to ponder a topic, I feel a great deal of thought is required before presenting said topic to the masses. This great deal of thought requires a great deal of time, which is where I find myself in a deficit. I am immediately overwhelmed with all the other irons I have placed in the fire and feel that I am obligated a “pass.” I have Bible studies to prepare, groups to lead, events to plan and a retreat around the corner. Surely I have a right not to fulfill my current obligation. And just like that, the bane of my existence appears once again, “my rights.”

In order to make this one syllable word seem more palatable, I prefer the more impressive four syllable word, “entitlement.” Continue reading

Little Faith?

WRITTEN BY Luke Suciu

I pastor a small church, in a small urban neighborhood that no one would drive through unless you were trying to go there. There are times when it can feel like what is done simply doesn’t matter in the big scheme of things.

I don’t think this is a unique feeling to pastoral work, as many Christians feel that their lives of faith never really extend to national movements or are documented in videos that receive thousands of views. Their lives are full of just little faith with little moments and nothing that really warrants the type of attention that our culture seems to be fueled by. Continue reading

Do Muslims and Christians Worship the Same God? Revisited

WRITTEN BY Luke Suciu

Two years ago, I was working at Wheaton College, living on Wheaton’s campus, and attending Wheaton’s graduate school when the whole community erupted in a theological dispute that garnered national attention.

Dr. Larycia Hawkins, a political science professor, made some theological claims, was put on administrative leave, and eventually the school and professor parted ways. A quick google search will yield hundreds of articles on the topic but this one covers the relevant details. Continue reading