by: Rev. Ed Schneider, M.P.Th.  {revitalizeyourchurch@gmail.com}

movementRecently I was at a gathering of “CHRISTIAN” ministers and non-clergy local church leaders. They were brought together to discuss the current realities of the Christian Church in America. During the course of a little more than 2 hours I heard the term “Post-CHRISTIAN Era” 14 times when speakers were referring to the times in which we live.

I am fully aware of the challenges many of us face within the communities we are called to serve. I understand certain key points of congregational health, such as a dramatic loss of young adults being present in the weekly life of the local church or the lack of men under the age of 40 who participate in the leadership of any ministry are trending downward in tens of thousands of churches all across the American landscape.  However, I also know there are tremendous signs of growth in some sectors of Christianity. There are some segments of outstanding Christian expression existing in almost every corner of both America and countries all over the world.  Despite what others may argue, there are still an abundance of lives being… • positively affected, • negative circumstances still being transformed, and  • miracles of profound proportion being tangibly experienced.  Yet, I kept hearing the term “Post-CHRISTIAN Era.”

I was appalled by the quickness and ease a “secular” term was being used by those who have little knowledge of the faith “they claim” and then seemingly accepted by other highly educated people who are in positions of leadership within the CHRISTIAN CHURCH.

After hearing the “leaders” of a variety of CHRISTIAN settings all but surrender to an outside worldview, I was compelled to stand up….then, as I do now….and say boldly, NONSENSE!  This “nonsense” of growing irrelevancy being perpetrated on the Christian church by those who are not part of it only reflects both their ignorance of who we are AND our ineptitude at sharing, living and replicating our faith with others.

imageLet me preach to you just for a little while.

Please read the following scripture from Acts 4:1-10

1 Now as they spoke to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came upon them, 2 being greatly disturbed that they taught the people and preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. 3 And they laid hands on them, and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. 4 However, many of those who heard the word believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand. 5 And it came to pass, on the next day, that their rulers, elders, and scribes, 6 as well as Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the family of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem. 7 And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, “By what power or by what name have you done this?” 8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders of Israel: 9 If we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well, 10 let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole.

Every time I read through this scriptural sequence I keep thinking about what it must have been like to stand in the presence of certain judgment that could have easily sentence them to imprisonment or even death.  Just imagine for a moment what it might have been like for Peter and John to stand in front of the Sanhedrin Court….the same people who just a short while before planned and implemented their beloved Jesus’ capture and subsequent death.

Now that I have painted a picture in your mind of the anxious tension that Peter and john were certainly feeling, you might be wondering what started all of this turmoil?

Peter and John, two original followers of Jesus, refused to let a crippled beggar stay in his brokenness.

Peter and John had the nerve to demonstrate their faith in a transformative savior who promised He would be with them always…even unto the end of the age. They powerfully, directly, and faithfully reached out to another soul who the rest of the world had thrown away as a sinful failure and told the man to get up IN THE NAME OF JESUS.

Peter and John, these two followers of a failed Jewish preacher, these two uneducated laborers, these once “cultural nobodies” because of their faith…because of the experience…because of their wanting to transform a curse into a blessing….changed the foundational circumstances of someone’s life. They turned another “cultural nobody” into a dynamic “somebody.” They demonstrated through their selfless act of healing that they were now living… the most practical way… THE PROMISE OF THEIR FAITH to become “powerful somebodies” in Christ.

Each person comes into Christ’s church with a need to be validated as a sacred vessel that is carrying the actual vestige of God’s image.

Christian souls deserve to be sincerely appreciated not only for their current value but also for their future worth in the kingdom of God. Validating any and every person…the inner person….or, if you will, the essence of who they are in their innate connection to God is absolutely essential if an honest view of Christianity is to be vibrantly experienced.

In contrast, without a real and profound sense of personal validation there can only be a cheap and inadequate version of Christianity being shared. It would be similar to someone who has tasted the best, most succulent, and divinely tender steak prepared especially for them by the finest chef in all the world…..and a warmed over hamburger with a single pickle on a stale bun cooked at Murray’s Magical House of Beef.  Even though both the hamburger and the steak are beef, they hardly resemble each other.

Just because you have somehow managed to visit or join a local congregation has little relationship to whether you are receiving an honest view of “biblical” Christianity.  When Biblical Christianity is truly experienced it changes things. It changes your view of yourself. It changes how you view and interact with others. And it changes the foundational understanding of life itself!

huge_8_41723Every Christian deserves to experience their “journey with Christ” in the fullness of God’s love…in the fullness of God’s mercy…and God’s power…and God’s joy…and God’s abundance. Anything less is an adulterated, ugly, cheap, and deceptively destructive version of the real thing.

Beloved, let me say this yet again; calling something “Christianity” and actually experiencing it are two totally different things. If we accept the Bible’s version of the Deity’s intention of investing The Creator’s spiritual presence in those who have been set-aside for His glory, we need to be clear what that investment entails.  We must remember that one very important aspect of the creating process… at least according to the Holy Scripture… is that God has invested His Spirit in each of us. He has taken something of real and discernible worth and placed it into a vehicle…a carrier…a vessel of human design…that is expected to yield measurable gains above and beyond the initial amount deposited.

Brothers and Sisters, only a fool would waste the gift that God has offered to them. If God has chosen you….If God has Divinely determined you are the one to receive the greatest gift ever given…then why are so many Christians, their churches, their support organizations, their families, their businesses, and their efforts of every kind failing from the weight of mediocrity?

I think one of the answers to this difficult question lays under the foundation of human fear. Humanity’s fear of failure and the fear of the unknown is legendary and should be no surprise to anyone. Just because the Lord, God Almighty has placed His hand upon your life, you can’t possibly believe that equates to a Divine edict toward the Devil to “keep his hands off.” I’m sorry if I’m the first to tell you, but the Bible is replete with witnesses proclaiming just the opposite. Once you have been set aside for the use of God’s directive to transform yourself and enlighten the world around you concerning the Gospel of Love….you then become a prime target for the work of the Spirit of Disunity, the Spirit of Oppression, the Spirit of Vanity, the Spirit of Discord, the Spirit of Selfishness, or every other Spirit that is contrary to God.

If God has actually invested His Spirit in you two things are absolutely sure.

  • First, He….God, Almighty….not the Baptist Church…not the Lutheran Church….not the Methodist Church….not even the Reformed Church….But the Creator of all that is known and unknown EXPECTS A RETURN ON HIS INVESTMENT.

  • And secondly… and I want you to trust me when I say this next part… you can stop worrying about how that is going to happen.

Why?

i-am-somebodyBecause God has chosen you from all the world to share His love…to share His joy…to share His grace…and to share the message of resurrected Savior. I am quite comfortable He will supply all you need to get the desired results.

  • When the world tells you, you’re too old….remind them of Caleb, Abraham, and Anna.
  • When the world tells you your past isn’t good enough…remind them of David, Moses, and Paul.
  • When the world says, you haven’t gone to the right schools…remind them not one prophet in the Old Testament, not one gospel preacher in the New Testament went to the right school either.
  • Beloved, when the world tells you, you’re not ever going to be bold enough to please God…remind them about the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians where he says because of his great hope IN CHRIST he will speak with great boldness or even our earlier example of Peter and John as they spoke with boldness BECAUSE OF their connection to God, through Christ.

Let me remind you again, as Peter and John stood before the court, those seated in judgment over them couldn’t help but notice that;

  • in spite of their uneducated history…
  • in spite of their former countryside addresses….
  • in spite of their association with a seemingly dishonored and dead leader they were still profoundly, overwhelmingly, and assuredly bold beyond any logical explanation.

Just like Peter and John standing before the Sanhedrin Court, God did not allow their worldly circumstances to dictate Divine outcomes. Beloved, we also should not be discouraged by earthly circumstances. WHY? Because God frequently says NO to earthly logic! Even though the world tells us we cannot…should not…and in some cases will not succeed…God says NO!

God says to each believer, I have given my life for you, so that, IN SPITE OF what the world may be telling you…I say Yes You Can! In spite of your history God says Yes You Can! In spite of your earthly limitations, God says Yes you can! He says YES YOU CAN primarily because He loves you with a love that is empowering and transforming.

Let me say this clearly….

  • As long as there exists people who are lost and left out we are not in the Post-CHRISTIAN Era.
  • As long as there exists human faultiness and frailty we are not in a Post-CHRISTIAN Era.
  • As long as there exist prideful self-serving arrogance in need of positive surrender we are not in the Post-CHRISTIAN Era.
  • As long as there exists hatred, bigotry, subversion, war or the rumors of war we are not in the Post-CHRISTIAN Era.
  • As long as there exists people who can and will testify about how their lives have been completely transformed from what used to be their “normal” limits of life into a profoundly tangible transformation into “Divine possibilities” of abundant life….we are not in a Post-CHRISTIAN Era.

I could go on presenting another hundred examples why we are not…and will never be…in a “Post-Christian Era.” However, what is so frustrating to me is far too many Christian leaders appear to have the lack of willingness to trust God enough to openly FIGHT FOR THE GOSPEL.

I encourage all of you who live and love the Lord with all of your heart, mind, and soul. I hope to compel you to enthusiastically fight, preach, serve, pray, study and proclaim in any way necessary to prove the God of all that is known and unknown is still able to do marvelous and miraculous things.

  • Don’t ever stop believing lives can and will be changed from something old into something brand new.
  • Don’t ever stop fighting against the tendencies of the outside world….even those inside the ranks of Christianity….to marginalize the innate and Divine greatness of who and what Jesus Christ is and what he represents.
  • Don’t ever stop working for the Gospel; for within the Gospel there is truth and strength and security in a God that is as real as “real” gets.

God reminds all of us that every single NOBODY in the Bible turned out to be a great SOMEBODY simply because God chose and empowered them to accomplish marvelous things.  Everyone of these “marvelous things” points to how awesome God truly is.

How could the early followers of Christ and even us living today in the shadow of that same Cross do the things God calls us to do?  

Read carefully JOHN 14:10-12 (NKJV)

10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. 11 Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves.

12 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.

Beloved, sooner or later ALL followers of the Way-of-Christ will come to the inevitable and Divinely driven conclusion they are not tied to their past but working toward a future glorifying God Almighty. They are no longer limited to what the world says but rather they are empowered by God to be SOMEBODIES for Him and Him alone.

The greatest fear of the Enemy of God is for the Christian to wake up to the Divine reality that they are now SOMEBODY SPECIAL IN CHRIST.  They are somebody because what is living inside of them is far greater than anything else imposed on them from outside of them. With all that is Holy they can say with boldness they are Divinely empowered to be….somebody special IN CHRIST!   Not unlike those earlier followers of Christ, we also can say that the limitations of the world no longer apply to those God has divinely chosen to represent His Gospel of Christ. All of us who have been touched by God can appropriately testify that…I AM SOMEBODY SPECIAL IN CHRIST.

I am somebody through the presence of the Holy Spirit. True believers of an empowering God will proclaim openly and boldly, “I am nothing compared with the power that is living inside of me. I speak with and under the authority of Jesus Christ. I don’t have to be afraid any longer. I don’t have to be approved by anyone else to be able to stand up for my Jesus.”

If your congregation wants to genuinely revitalize and revive what seems to be in decline there must be a clear and present declaration from the vast majority of existing and future members that,

“I am somebody because Christ is everything in me…on me…through me…behind me… on the right side of me… on the left side of me….walking front of me…and most importantly He is somebody that this somebody can stand on.

He is my rock. He is my fortress and there is nothing that you can do or say that will ever take that away from me. I AM SOMEBODY REMARKABLE BECAUSE I AM SOMEBODY IN CHRIST.

I am a force to be reckoned with. I am somebody that cannot be silenced because the Word of God is being spoken. I will continue to lift up the name of Jesus Christ whether the world likes it or not; because He is everything to me, because he walks with me, talks with me and lifts me up.”

=There is no doubt the world stands ready for the battle that is raging against the message of Christ and the loving God at the foundation of His life and mission. However, Beloved, I tell you the truth today…there is nothing beyond the scope of the God that I know.

  • There isn’t one situation that cannot be transformed by the power and presence of the God that I know.
  • There is not one person that cannot be changed by the power and presence of the God that I know.
  • There is not one church that cannot be resurrected by the power and presence of the God that I know.
  • I am a living witness there is nothing separating the love and empowerment of God from those He has chosen.

Beloved, let’s start acting like it. AMEN.

 

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