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Monday, May 31, 2010

Engaging the Culture

Culture is an interesting concept. It is not easily defined, though we are very often ready to blame all of our problems on "the culture." One helpful way of thinking about it is defined by Rodney Clapp who says that culture "takes in media, advertising, information technology, fashion, ritual, worship, academic disciplines, public symbols, lifestyles and everyday practices such as automobile commuting or childbearing." That is to say, culture is made up of those things which are a part of the world around us that influence us or that we influence others through.

This seems incredibly boring and I commend you if you are still reading! But it is important. One thing the church always struggles with is where we fit into the culture around us. It used to be that the church had a very influential role in the culture. But, increasingly we are seeing that the church has less and less influence or power in the culture. In fact, in some cases we are beginning to see the culture turn against the church.

Now, this is not necessarily a bad thing. The church has thrived (though suffered) when the culture seems to be working against it. However, we need to ask ourselves a question: How are we as Christians to engage a culture that either finds us and our message irrelevant or hates us?

Well, the easy and not-so-easy answer is to love the culture. Even when they hate us and want to be rid of us? Absolutely. This is what Jesus did. Romans 5:8 says that this is how God treated us when we hated Him. "But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." And I John 4:19 tells us that "We love because He first loved us."

So, what does that actually look like? How do we honor God by loving the world when the world/culture seems so bitter towards us without becoming like it? Do remove ourselves from the world and lovingly hope they figure out their sins? Probably not, Jesus left us in the world though we are not of it. (John 17:11-16) I think we are called to engage it, to introduce Jesus to it by spreading the good news of salvation. (Luke 24:47) This, of course, is easier said than done. So what does such an engagement look like?

Well, I am not going to be able to answer that question here because every situation has different answers. Certain cultural trends need to be dealt with in one way and other trends in other ways. And, as the church, we need to work together to deal with the culture we find ourselves in. So, starting June 6th, in our Sunday morning Bible study (@ 9:15 am in the fellowship hall), we are going to begin to work together in engaging the culture. We are going to seek out what the Holy Spirit would do with us in the world in which we live. We will have what is sort of a topical study where we will engage major issues happening in our world and in our culture and work together through the Bible to see if we can find faithful ways of speaking to the world. Here is what we will do: Throughout the week, look for newspaper articles, news stories, or personal encounters that you are dealing with, bring them to class and we will discuss them. How is the church to respond to the issues we face today? What does God's Word have to say? Please join us on Sunday mornings so we can, together, learn how to faithfully engage the culture.

Pastor Bob

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Talkin' 'Bout My Generation

USA Today just released stats this past week on the spiritual life of the millennial generation (those ages 18-29). Though 65% of those interviewed claimed to be Christians, most "don't pray, don't worship and don't read their Bible..." according to LifeWay Christian Resources president Thomas Rainer. He goes on to announce the disheartening reality that, if such trends continue, "the Millennial generation will see churches closing as quickly as GM dealerships." 72% of those interviewed claimed to be more "spiritual than religious." One wonders what such spirituality consists of when 65% never pray with others and 38% never pray alone, 65% rarely or never attend worship (50% of those claiming to be Christians said this), and 67% don't read any sort of sacred text. (36% of those claiming to be Christians said this). Only 15% appeared to be what Rainer called "deeply committed" Christians.

Now, you may be saying to yourself, "Well this is very troubling, but what does it have to do with me? This is not my generation." And this is likely true. As I look at our congregation I notice that the millennial generation is noticeably absent. This is not so much a bad or good thing as much as it is a reflection of the demographics in Moorpark. However, these are your kids or your grandkids. Or, if your kids are still young, this is the generation that is producing the culture that is influencing your kids. And what this means is that we need to learn how to engage our kids, grandkids, etc. in conversations about faith so that we may have the opportunity to talk about Jesus.

But how do we engage with a whole other generation (as the Bible clearly calls us to do - Deuteronomy 11:18-19; Ephesians 6:4; Titus 2:1-6)? Mark Driscoll, the pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle (and my pastor-hero) mentioned in a follow up article to USA Today that this generation is brutally honest about their faith. They don't feel like they need to put on a show to impress anyone or pretend their faith. It seems to me, then, that the best way to engage our loved ones in conversations of faith is with honest conversation. Bring up issues of faith, challenge their preconceptions and let your own preconceptions be challenged, and be honest about your own doubts, struggles, etc. Don't pretend that you have Jesus and God all figured out, because we never will. But, don't act like you don't know anything either because the Lord has revealed His truth to you. Just be honest, and most importantly, talk about Jesus!

A lot of times, when we see grand announcements such as the one made by Rainer, that churches will be clothing their doors like crazy, we are tempted to adjust our business as the church in one of two ways: seclude ourselves from the world and protect what we hold dear or conform to the world and compromise for the sake of keeping our doors open. Both reactions are misguided and lead to a relationship with the world that doesn't fulfill what we are called to do as the church. Paul's instructions to Timothy show us God's will for His church in such times, "Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke, and encourage -- with great patience and careful instruction." (2 Timothy 4:2) When the world is flocking to the church, when the world is leaving the church, when the generations are rejecting Christ, preach the Word in every conceivable season. Talk with your loved ones with great patience and careful instruction and let the Hold Spirit do His job!

Pastor Bob

Las Buena Noticias - The Good News - May 2010

Centro Cristiano Moorpark

Centro Cristiano Hispano (CCH) is the mission planting and resource organization of the LCMS Hispanic ministries in Ventura County. It is currently led by Mission Director, Pastor Dennis Bradshaw, and it oversees the Mixteco Ministry, the mission start in Moorpark (CCM) and the CCH Bible Institute.

Centro Cristiano Redwood (Oxnard) and Centro Cristiano Emanuel (Santa Paula) are officially recognized churches of the LCMS. CCH advises the leaders of these two churches as they request. This Hispanic Mission Society is made up of the members of the Lutheran Churches in Circuits One and Two and exists to support the ministries of the Hispanic mission and to help raise up future lay leaders and Pastors.

As a mission start, Centro Cristiano Moorpark (CCM) is continuing to reach into the community to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to our Hispanic brothers and sisters. CCM has started holding worship services on the last Sunday of each month at 1:00pm at Faith Lutheran Church. This is really a big step in the outreach to the community. Everyone is welcome to attend!

There was a very special article in the Moorpark Acorn about Centro Cristiano.

Faith Lutheran Church has been providing a monthly check to help support Marcelino Velasco with his studies at the Seminary in St. Louis. He is nearing the end of his studies and graduation was April 27 in St. Louis, although he has one more class to complete. Money was raised through the various congregations to help send his family to St. Louis for graduation. It's not too late to help. If you can help with the expense of this trip, please send checks to Centro Cristiano Hispano, 1200 Maria Way, Oxnard, CA 93030.

Centro Cristiano Moorpark continues with many different programs as a means of presenting the Gospel to the community.

CCM is holding weekly Bible studies that meet in the homes of the neighborhood. An ESL class meets every Saturday afternoon and many of you have graciously provided refreshments. And now CCM is holding music classes.

There are ways in which each of us can help with this ministry:

  1. Prayer - Through prayer we not only ask God's help but we acknowledge Christ's lordship over the church and we are doing His business.
  2. Financial Support - Centro Cristiano Hispano remains in constant need of financial support for 2010. Our grants have been greatly reduced and we are cutting back our budget in all areas. Please consider a one-time or monthly gift to enable us to maintain and increase our ministries. Make checks payable to Centro Cristiano Hispano and place in the offering plate on Sunday mornings, or send checks to Centro Cristiano Hispano, 1200 Maria Way, Oxnard, CA 93030.
Please keep Centro Cristiano Moorpark in your prayers.

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