Posts Tagged ‘new church movement’

Joshua 13:1-7 (Part 1 of 2)

The Land Yet to Be Conquered

Have you ever noticed that modern churches, usually non-denominational, are never pastored by men over the age of 45? Is it a rule? Modern churches are pastored by skinny jeans wearing, shirt hanging out, Sperry wearing youthful pastors. We have our stereotypes in modern church now. So much so that there is a parody of modern worship on youtube.com. See the link below:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZfTjcz7ys7I

 

Add to that, you will find that leadership positions underneath them are often filled with 20-40 year olds with beards and cool Christian t-shirts. There is definitely an emphasis on youth in the modern church world. Why is that? Have we caught the disease of youth worship that our culture has? Are we subconsciously reacting against the image of old men with canes and blue haired grannies ambling there way into the old church buildings that dot the landscape of America? Is this a reaction against the perception of death that is associated by man with traditional churches, in general? Is it a reaction against the clique-ish nature of so many old-line churches? Is it a reaction against the fact that older folks are associated with clinging to their traditions to the point that they would rather let their church die than change?

 

Sure, all of these things are true about mainline, traditional churches. It is the very thing that gave birth to the pastor-centered, non-denominational, new wave church movement featuring megachurches. We who are members of a “new wave church” such as myself rebel against the stodgy traditionalism of denominational churches. We rebel against their hierarchies both at the local church level and the state and national levels that make their denominations slow to change just as the Titanic was too big a monolith to make a quick change to get around the iceberg. We rebel against the elitist nature of those churches (it’s us in here and it’s they out there). We rebel against the standard same ol’, same ol’ every Sunday. We rebel against the symbolism and the fancy trappings and stained glass windows. We just want church to be about worshiping God.

 

However, in our frenzied pace of running away from the traditions of old church have we have (maybe, unknowingly or, is it purposeful) made youth a priority in our churches. There are no policies against it to be sure but, by the culture, we have created in new wave churches, youth is a defacto priority. Does your new wave church have any pastor who is over the age 50? Does your new wave church have anyone in a position of influence of any kind (staff or volunteer) that is over the age of 50? Does you church relegate its over 50 crowd to the sidelines and force them to create their own little ministry that caters to the few over 50 folks that your church has drawn from the world out there? What percentage of your church’s general population is over 50 in your new wave church? Do you overlook potential leaders who are over 50 just to go with someone who is younger so as to fit the culture of the church? Does your church only hire people over 50 as long as they are in back-office roles? Think about it? Whether your new wave church has intentionally, consciously done this or it was just an unspoken cultural phenomenon within the church, the result brings us to the same place. Is there a place for people over the age of 50 in the modern new church movement?

 

That question was the question that God placed on my heart as I read through this passage this today for the first of two times that we will visit it. Here is what the passage, Joshua 13:1-7, says:

 

13 When Joshua had grown old, the Lord said to him, “You are now very old, and there are still very large areas of land to be taken over.

 

2 “This is the land that remains: all the regions of the Philistines and Geshurites, 3 from the Shihor River on the east of Egypt to the territory of Ekron on the north, all of it counted as Canaanite though held by the five Philistine rulers in Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gath and Ekron; the territory of the Avvites 4 on the south; all the land of the Canaanites, from Arah of the Sidonians as far as Aphek and the border of the Amorites; 5 the area of Byblos; and all Lebanon to the east, from Baal Gad below Mount Hermon to Lebo Hamath.

 

6 “As for all the inhabitants of the mountain regions from Lebanon to Misrephoth Maim, that is, all the Sidonians, I myself will drive them out before the Israelites. Be sure to allocate this land to Israel for an inheritance, as I have instructed you, 7 and divide it as an inheritance among the nine tribes and half of the tribe of Manasseh.”

 

Here in this passage, we see that Joshua is getting older. In fact, based on the chronologies developed by scholars, they estimate that at the time of Jewish history that this passage represent, Joshua is anywhere from 85-100 years old. God, however, still had work for him to do. Our culture often glorifies youth and sets aside those you are getting older. Yet, older people are filled with wisdom that comes from the school of hard knocks, as the saying goes. They are very capable of serving if given the chance and should be encouraged to do so. Also, for those that are getting older out there, your getting older is no excuse for resigning from God’s service. There is no retirement age in God’s economy. We should not assume as church leadership or as the aging segment of your church that folks over 50 are not capable of or desirous of serving in real, meaningful leadership positions within the church. Maybe, give ‘em some skinny jeans and a new haircut and let’s go! LOL!

 

Think about it. Although we do not live as long as Old Testament figures did, we can by relative comparison look at this. Moses was 80 when he began his most important leadership role ever. By comparison to you and me and our society of today, that would be comparable to say around age 55-56. The most important thing that Moses ever did in his life was his last 40 years – from age 80 to 120. Let us begin to change the culture in new church, whether it has been purposeful or simply something unspoken, of glorifying youth or the image of it. Sure, we don’t want to revert to traditionalism of mainline churches, but we should not marginalize our churches’ over 50 crowd either. They should be encouraged to be leaders and not use the excuse that they have done their time. Let’s go pull them off the sidelines and encourage them to get in the game. Let’s develop them as leaders. Although my church is far from perfect (as there is no perfect church) and we do have a ways to go to develop the over 50 crowd in our church, we do encourage everyone regardless of age to go deeper in service to the Lord whether you are 50 or 15. We certainly have improvements we can make and certainly self-analysis is always good, but I do not think it is a conscious part of our culture to exclude those over fifty. I know that one of the matriarchs of the founding of our church, Mrs. Eulala Pace, is 80-something years old, but she gets loved on every Sunday by everyone because everyone knows that she was instrumental in LifeSong coming into existence.

 

So, let us examine ourselves as new wave churches, modern churches, non-traditional churches (whatever you want to call us) and see whether our culture is to focus only on developing youthful members with potential or hiring only people of a certain age range. Let us examine whether we are consciously or unconsciously excluding our 50 plus, baby boomers from real meaningful leadership within our churches. Let us remember that Joshua still had much to give at 85 as he did when he was 45. Let us remember Moses gave his best to God and did his most important work in the last third of his life. Let us not miss out because we are trying to have a certain look!

 

Amen and Amen.

Luke 6:17-19 — Jesus Christ was now a movement. He was no longer some obscure well read yet untrained teacher of the Scriptures. News had spread. He was becoming wildly popular with the masses of common people. He was the newest thing. He was, in short, becoming a superstar. Why was He becoming so popular so quickly?

People had come from all over Judea, Jerusalem, and as far away as Tyre and Sidon. They came to hear Him speak and to be healed of their diseases. Those who were troubled came to be cleaned of their unclean spirits. They all sought to touch Him for power came out of Him and healed them all. Why was He becoming so popular? I think there are several reasons.

First, on the negative side of things, people are often selfish and only see things as they relate to themselves. Jesus was the new thing in town. He was like that cutting edge rock star of today. Jesus was cool. He was anti-establishment. He had made the power elite seem foolish at times. Have you ever joined in on something because you thought it was new and fresh and you wanted to be a part of it? Back in the late 70’s I became a big Bruce Springsteen fan because he was new, fresh, different, and he was very anti-establishment. I wanted to be a part of that. The new way of looking at things. While everyone was mindlessly into disco, I was part of the small, edgy group that loved Bruce’s searing lyrics, the stories he told, and his band’s hauntingly beautiful music. I think a lot of people in Jesus’ day flocked to him because he was cutting edge and they wanted to be a part of it. Here, in today’s world, many people have flocked to churches like LifeSong, Newspring, Potential, Elevation, and others like because it is new church. It is cutting edge. They attend church at these places because they want to be seen as part of the newest thing. These are the first to fall away. The fad chasers are the ones that are not committed. They are the consumers that consume what your church has to offer but give little or nothing in return – no service, no financial support, no commitment. Jesus had these kinds of followers when His ministry began to take off and He still has this kind of follower today. Are you a fad seeker? Do you go to a church as long as it the coolest of the new churches? Do you leave when the next cooler one comes along? Do you come to church on Sunday and consume and that’s it?

Second, on the positive side, to some of the crowd, Jesus offered hope in a hopeless world. Some many people in Jewish society felt disenfranchised from the Jewish religious life. Jesus was a break from the traditional religion. Jesus said to them it was about a relationship with God and not religious checklists. It was not about do’s and don’ts. It was about relationship. Jesus teachings were about how the Father in heaven loved them and wanted to be reconciled with them. It was about a new lease on life. It was about forgiveness of sin. It was no longer about what the religious elite had made things. If you sinned, you were out. You were done. This is what Jesus says to us through the centuries today. He stands here and tell us throughout the centuries that it is not about checklists. It is not about whether he or she has sinned more or less than you. It is not a pecking order. It is about whether you love me, Jesus, or not. It is about forgiveness of sins. It is about recognizing that we all are sinners and have fallen short of the glory of God. It is about Jesus being our covering for our sins. These are the people in the crowd that Jesus is really trying to reach. These are the ones that realize that they are worthless sinners in the hands of a just God who need the help of a Savior. These are Jesus people. These are the ones that change the world for Christ. These are the ones upon which Jesus’ church was built and is being built today.

Which is that has drawn you to Jesus today? Are you there because you think LifeSong or NewSpring or Redemption World Outreach Center or any other of the host of “new church” churches that have sprung up in the last 10-20 years is the cool thing? Are you there flirting with Jesus but not committing your life to Him? Are you there because the music is cool? Are you there because the preacher is edgy, has a cool hairdo, a tattoo, and speaks in today’s terms? Are you there because the sound system is bumpin’? Are you there because the lighting is like at play or concert?

Or are you there, because it is a fresh approach to your Savior? Do you see yourself as a sinner saved by grace? Are you there because the church cares about the world around it and shows it? Are you there to go deeper, serve in ways you have never served before? Are you there to realize that in the absence of Jesus you are condemned but yet because of Jesus you have the greatest joy of all?

This is the question that has resonated through the centuries when it comes to Jesus. He is popular. Everybody knows who He is. The question remains – why are YOU with Him?

Luke 2:36-38 — The widow Anna teaches us many things in this very short passage. First thing I see is that when things happen to us, they can either make us bitter or make us better. The second thing would be that age is not a marker of ministry effectiveness.

First, let’s look at bitter vs. better. We all have stuff happen to us. We live in a fallen world. Tragedy happens to us. Evil is often thrust upon us. Other times, we are the cause of our own misfortune. It is, after all, a world filled with sinners committing sins daily. Here, we see Anna. She was widowed at very young age apparently. She was married only 7 years before her husband died. In the culture of the time, it probably meant that she was in her early 20’s when her husband passed. There is no mention of how he died and I think that this background is probably unnecessary. We should just know that he died. Anna could have become a bitter women. She could waited probably the lengthy time in first century Palestine for her to be allowed to find a new husband. She was probably left without much prospect due to the inheritance rules of the day. We hear no mention of any children in this brief passage, thus, in Jewish society at the time, there was no way for her to claim any inheritance because it would have been through a son that she would have any claim. She was probably left destitute. Some in this situation in that time period who saw little options might have turned to prostitution as a way to support themselves. She could have become very bitter for what life had done to her. However, this is not what we see in Anna. Her life tragedies drew her closer to God. She became so in tune with the Lord that she basically took up residence at the Temple. She stayed day and night. She worshiped God with fasting and prayer. She did this every day. She become so in tune with God that she became a prophetess. She so devoted herself to the Lord that she understood His will. She sought it daily and revealed it to others. She did not become bitter. She became better. We often let our circumstances in life swallow us up and that’s all we can think about or talk about — what happened to us. We probably all have known someone who has become so obsessed with the destruction of their ex-spouse because of an unwanted divorce that they lose sight of everything else. They quit living and become bitter people who have let the pain of life become their god. It has become their friend. Their destructive behavior destroys friendships and effects their children. Let us not become that kind of person. Let us see what God does with our new circumstances as the result of unwanted events. They can make us bitter and ineffective (what Satan wants) or it make us humble, teachable, and useful (what God wants). God gives us free will to react to life as we see fit. However, He wants us to see Him in our circumstances. He wants us to need Him. He wants us humble. He wants us to be in need of Him. He wants us to build our character in our circumstances so that we see life as Him preparing us for what He has prepared for us next. Sure, we wish to avoid pain in life. We’re human. What I am saying here is that we can let what happens to us rule us and make us bitter or we can let what happens to us make us more humble and dependent on God. That’s when He starts doing His work in us!

The next thing that this short passage teaches us is that age has nothing to do with our ministry effectiveness. In today’s society in the 21st century, everything about our society worships youth and the beauty of youth. Even this kind of mentality has invaded the church, particularly in the wave of the “new church movement” in which we currently live. Old is considered traditional church. Traditional church (Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, etc.). Old is hymnals in the back of the wooden pews in fixed and bolted positions. Old is the preacher behind a pulpit. Old is a robed choir behind him. In the new church movement, you see young hip pastors. No robes with stoles here. Blue jeans. 25-44 years old. Edgy haircuts. Often subtly in the new church movement we are glorifying youth without even realizing it. We figure that people in the 50+ age range are not in our churches because they are old school and we need hip people in our churches. Old folks just don’t get it. Anna could teach us many things in this passage. Anna teaches us that age has nothing to do with ministry and it has everything to do with the spirit of the Lord. In this first century Palestine as in most cultures of the time, age was respected and valued. They words were treated like they were gold nuggets. Their words carried weight. Anna was dedicated to the Lord for 50-60 years doing nothing daily but praising the Lord. She was full on, all-in for God. She knew hardship in her life but she didn’t let it get in the way of loving and serving her Lord. She was an old lady at this time but she was still vital in the Lord. Don’t you think that if she would not have been effective in the Temple daily she surely would have been asked to leave. Are we, in the new church movement, subtly asking the early baby boomers to leave our church by not including them, by not encouraging them to use their talents to their highest ability. Do we assume that they are not participating in leadership in our churches because they are tired and just want the young folk to take over? Let us find the Annas in our midst. Let us encourage them to serve. Let us learn from them. The message that they grew up with may have been packaged differently but the message is the same. At my age, early 50s, I grew up in the old church and am right square in the middle of the new church movement. Church must change the packaging every generation to meet the new generation. However, we must never change the message. The gospel message is a timeless one. New church does not have a franchise on the message. Anna, 21 centuries ago, got the message. Through the centuries we have got the message. The message has not changed. That’s what ties Jeff Hickman and Perry Noble to Martin Luther. That’s what ties Big Daddy Weave to Charles Wesley. Let us embrace the wisdom that our elders have with the message. Let’s allow them to be central to the new church movement. They know the message has never changed. It is timeless. Thus, let us find our Annas in the new church movement. Encourage them to serve the Lord with great fervor as Anna did all the way til age 84. They God we serve in our new church movement is ageless and timeless so we should encourage young, old, middle aged, teens, youth, you name it. Let’s encourage everyone to serve the Lord no matter their demographic statistics.

Father help me to have Anna’s dedication to you such that I seek your will daily despite the clutter of my mind and the world that I live in. Help me to never let what happens to me become the definition of who I am. Help me to become more humble with every circumstance of life so that you can use me mightily. Help me to grow more dependent on you daily. Help me to become so focused on you that I stay energized to serve you regardless of circumstance, or regardless of my age. Help me to be useful to your kingdom, Lord, til I take my last breath on this planet and am called home to you. Amen.