As a church leader, I realize the popularity and seemed importance of what I do has declined in recent years. Culture no longer values the voice of a pastor as the history of our nation would record that it once did. Even this week, the news of Louie Giglio’s exit as the pastor to pray at the inauguration of President Obama served as a sobering reminder…things have changed.
This is an interview with John S. Dickerson. Dickerson’s new book The Great Evangelical Recession identifies six factors of decline in the American Church and offers six solutions for leaders. Dickerson is a nationally awarded journalist and Senior Pastor of Cornerstone Church in Prescott, AZ. His work has appeared in The New York Times and The Washington Post.
Q: How would you summarize your book, The Great Evangelical Recession?
A: Culture is changing faster and faster. The conflicts around Louie Giglio, Chic-fil-A and Hobby Lobby demonstrate this. Rapid change in American culture is already shaking evangelicalism, but it’s going to worsen because the rate of change is accelerating.
As shepherds we must identify where the Church is struggling to adapt. Then we must look to God’s Word to find solutions for our day. The Great Evangelical Recession does this by documenting factors of decline—and then by building Scripture-based solutions for each area of decline.
Q: Is the homosexual-evangelical conflict an example of this cultural change? And if so, what sort of solutions does your book suggest?
A: Yes, the conflict between the evangelical and LGBTQ communities is case in point. The book documents that in the last 15 years Americans have entirely reversed their views on homosexuality. Furthermore, each younger generation is radically more pro-homosexual, so this trend will accelerate as older Americans pass away.
My solution chapter argues that we need to start treating non-evangelical “tribes” in America the same way our missionaries treat foreign tribes in Africa or New Guinea, by suspending judgment, serving and modeling unconditional love–so Christ can reach their hearts.
The chapter grows from a word study of the Greek word “good” in the New Testament. “Good” is about deeds. It’s more nuanced than this, but here’s the gist of that solution:
1. Take God’s good deeds directly to the homosexual tribe in your life and community. Don’t wait for them to come to you.
2. Refuse to classify the homosexual tribe as some worse class of people. This is unbiblical and showcases poor theology.
3. As with any tribe, don’t focus on changing behavior. Focus on changing relationship to God through Christ.
4. Don’t be surprised when you are hated and misunderstood about this issue. You will be.
5. When you are hated or misunderstood, don’t defend yourself or other evangelicals with words. Instead, let your quiet good actions eclipse any accusations (1 Peter 2:12).
6. Keep on demonstrating God’s good-ness and unconditional love—to the homosexuals closest to you.
The book includes Scripture and examples, but that overview gives you a taste.
Q: Your book identifies six trends of decline in the American Church. Is every ministry declining in these ways?
A: Typical ministries will find many trends of decline apply to them, while some don’t. Take the funding crisis for example. On average, 76 percent of evangelical gifts come from the oldest two generations. Many ministries are unprepared for the decline of donations in the next 15 years. That trend won’t apply to young-demographic ministries—like Reality LA, but other trends will.
This book is really a tool for ministry leaders. It helps leaders identify which negative trends are at play in their specific ministry. The book then gives practical Biblical solutions to adjust course in any areas of weakness.
What do you think? How have your seen the culture and church change in your lifetime?
(This remains my most requested and read post of all times. Apparently many people “Google” search for the verse that says what they think it says.)
I occasionally like to correct a myth I have heard all my life. How many times has someone said to you, “God will never put more trials on you than you can bear”? I challenge you to show me that in the Bible. The problem I have with this myth is that it keeps so many believers wondering why they can’t handle their problems, falsely believing they should be able to, because someone once told them the lie that God would not put more on them than they could.
Yes, we do have the promise that we will not be “tempted beyond what you can bear” (1 Corinthians 10:13), but we need to understand what that verse is saying. It says that God will not allow Satan to bring temptation, or enticement to sin, into our life that is too much for us to say no to it. When we are tempted to sin, God will make a way for us to resist it. That is because He wants us to live holy, just as Christ who calls us is holy.
Consistently, however, throughout the Bible, I read where at times God allowed more trials, more pressure, than His children could bear. Elijah, the powerful prophet of God who held back the rain had a time when the trial must have been bigger than his ability to handle it. Consider this verse: “The angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” (1 Kings 19:7) Once when Paul wrote to the people at Corinth (2 Corinthians 1:8), he told them that he and his followers faced trials “far beyond our ability to endure“. David, the great war hero and man after God’s own heart, told the Lord that “troubles without number surround me” and “and I cannot see”. He couldn’t see clearly, because he was overwhelmed with the storms of life! Another time David said “Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck.”( Oh how I identify with David there!) Jehoshaphat prayed, “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” (2 Chronicles 20:12) It sounds to me like he was facing more than he could handle on his own.
Are there times when God allows more troubles in your life than you can bear?
If you want to say “more than you can bear without Him”…I’m okay with that. If you need to say “more than you can handle alone”…that’s fine. Just make the qualification, because it’s confusing without it.
If you can accept my testimony as an example, let me tell you that sometimes life throws more at me than I can handle, at least more than I can handle alone. The reason God allows you and I to experience times when we are consumed by trials, when they are bigger than our own strength can handle, is so that we have no where else to turn, except towards Him. We are faced with one solution, and that we realize Christ is our only hope!
After Paul wrote that his trial was bigger than his ability to endure, he offers an explanation. “But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.” (2 Corinthians 1:9) He recognized that this overwhelming time of trouble, that he couldn’t handle alone, had caused him to focus more on the power of God, and allow God to work His perfect will.
Are you being challenged beyond your ability to endure? Don’t believe the lie that you can do it alone! Satan would love you to try to do it without God’s help. But, you can’t! You aren’t able! Jesus said, “apart from me you can do nothing!”
Did you get that point? Nothing!
Don’t try anything today…this year…in your life…without relying on the power of God! He knows you’re weak, but He is available to help, if you will call upon Him! When we are at our weakest, He is strong!
I did a follow up to this post HERE.
(I’m reporting some of the most read posts of this year. Some of them, like this one, are several years old, but are still being read. This one originally had another title.)
I have often chuckled when I’ve read the following verses. I’m not trying to be irreverent and hope this is not offensive, but sometimes I read the stories in the Bible and I see the humanity of people. I can hear myself making some of these statements. It brings a smile to my face and I can’t help but laugh.
Here are 8 of the funniest verses I have read in Scripture:
Matthew 15:12 Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?” (They sounded like a group who didn’t know Jesus very well at this point.)
1 Samuel 1:8 Elkanah her husband would say to her, “Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don’t you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?” (I can’t believe he was dumb enough to say it…actually yes I can…but he evidently said it multiple times.)
Luke 12:13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” (Imagine you get an audience with Jesus…you’ve got your one chance…He’s been teaching not to worry…what do you ask Him?)
Mark 9:28 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet and he stood up. (The disciples had tried everything they knew how to do…except prayer. Some things are just not possible apart from God’s hand upon the situation.)
Mark 9:34 But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest. (The humanity…they knew Jesus wouldn’t be pleased, but they couldn’t help but compare.)
Esther 1:20 Then when the king’s edict is proclaimed throughout all his vast realm, all the women will respect their husbands, from the least to the greatest. (How has that law worked so far?)
Exodus 16:14 When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor. (And we are told elsewhere they were honey flavored. Frosted Flakes were the first cereal! They’rrre Greeaatt!)
Exodus 16:36 (An omer is one-tenth of an ephah.) (You’ve got to love a clear explanation!)
Which do you think is funny? Can you think of any you would you add to the list?
Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the LORD, until He comes and showers righteousness upon you. (Hosea 10:12)
As I read the Scriptures, here are 3 things I know about God:
God wants people to seek Him – From the beginning of time, God has been calling His creation into fellowship with Him. Before a person ever seeks God, God has first sought after that person. (John 6:44, Acts 17:26)
God is easily found – Remember the story of the boy Jesus where His parents misplaced Him for a short time. Mary and Joseph found Him in the temple, learning from the temple leaders. When questioned, Jesus responded, “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” God desires that same attitude in our hearts today. I have never known anyone who genuinely searched for God who didn’t find Him, because God is always waiting that we may call on Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you. He will never hide from you. (Jeremiah 29:13, Acts 17:27)
God desires to change our lives – God’s design for us is to be righteous. He wants us to have the mind of Christ so that we might receive the full blessings of fellowship with Him. Being perfectly Holy, God cannot accept sin; any sin. He wants to clean us up and mold us into the image of His Son. He wants to turn over the “unplowed ground” and make it fertile enough to bear good fruit. He wants to change us so we may better experience Him and all of His glory. (Romans 8:29, Ephesians 2:10)
What thoughts does this post trigger about what you know about God?
NOTE: If you’re seeking God today, don’t be surprised if you find He’s already been seeking you!
The volume or tempo of the music determines whether you think it’s a worship song.
A slight change in the order of the service makes you think they’ve harmed “worship”.
You think raising hands or not raising hands determines the depth of a person’s worship.
You believe the “proper” length of a “worship” service is dictated by your lunch schedule.
You think worship has to be in a service or part of a programmed event.
Certain instruments keep you from thinking worship is possible.
You think worship is confined to a certain place or a certain time.
The clothes you wear determines the quality of worship…for you AND others.
You think worship always involves music.
Your attempt to worship has more to do with a personal preference than the subject of worship.
1. Honoring and obeying God with my life.
2. Attempting to realize my full potential.
3. Truly being who I claim to be.
4. Being loved most by the people who know me best.
5. Getting up every time I fall.
6. Making life better for the people around me.
7. Ending at peace with God, my family, and friends.
What are yours?