Sunday, June 5, 2011

Adjustment is in Order

WE are losing our nation.


“WE” are the Church...those who have identified ourselves with Jesus Christ who carry the title “Christian” and who are charged with responsibility to influence the culture in which we live. Current data indicates that the cultural influence WE are charged to exercise is either not being delivered or is watered down beyond recognition.


Our nation has never been challenged as it is today. Yet, the greatest threat to the health and security of the United States is not nuclear proliferation of a rogue regime in the Middle East. It is not terrorism. It is not fluctuations of world economy. It is not one political philosophy or another.


The greatest threat to America sits in church pews every Sunday morning across the land. Persons who call themselves Christians have so embraced the influences of culture that there is no longer any distinguishable difference between their lives and the lives of those who make no such claim.


Why is that a threat? Because, in Christ, WE have access to the most powerful transformational healing power the world has ever known, and, generally speaking, WE neglect its’ employment in our communities. That neglect borders on criminal negligence...possessing the ability to prevent or avoid danger and to neglect or willfully refuse to exercise that ability with needless disregard for human life.


Guilty or not guilty?


What is the real purpose of your church? No...not the one written on some document hanging in the hallway or carved in stone on the front steps or the one of which you speak from Matthew, chapter 28.


I ask an honest assessment of the real but unspoken purpose among the majority those who gather this Sunday? Is that purpose primarily Christ-centric...externally focused upon intentional expansion of influence outside the church? Or, is it primarily church-centric...internally focused upon the gathering and benefits experienced by those gathered inside the church?


Jesus was clear on the importance of effective external influence...”For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.


Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?


And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me! ...I tell you the truth,when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.” (Matthew 25:35-40, 45 NLB)


THEY watch, hungry or lonely or scared or despondent as WE go to church. And, THEY don’t believe WE are serious.


WE have some adjustments to make...NOW. A nation is at stake.


(Note: a magnificent exception to this general observation occurred in April 2011 as thousands of trained volunteer responders...men and women of faith...poured into devastated areas of Alabama following severe tornado strikes. Their chainsaws sang hymns and their field kitchens taught scripture.)

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Uncomfortable Evaluation

Remember the point of the exercise. It is about the transformation of America by God-directed influence and actions of his people in the nation…flavoring a nation with the culture of Christ.

All of my life, that objective…a primary directive of Christ…has been the domain of the institutional church. It still should be. However, institutional churches are failing in their efforts.

The two largest sociological groups in history are in a continuing transition…baby boomers on the way out of primary influential engagement and millennials (age 31 and down) rising into the primary influential slots.

Up to 70% of millennials who grew up in traditional churches are leaving those churches to find engagement with God without what they consider to be meaningless forms and traditions. Add to that the millions of that age group who demonstrate no intent to seek God.

As many as 90% of those same churches are on a slow death track as the remaining active members age to and through senior adulthood. And, as that transition continues, biblical literacy among American adults is in a free-fall with only 9% holding to basic tenants of a biblical worldview.

That sets the stage for the emerging corps of leadership in our nation to be virtually unequipped with principles, values, and ways of thinking based upon scripture…principles and values upon which our nation was founded. The policies those leaders are establishing for business, religion, education, social order, political action, etc., follow in course…increasingly away from biblical standards.

If current measurable trends continue unaltered, in less than 60 years, the influential religion in America will be Islam, the dominant culture will be pagan, the superpower of the world will be China, and the culture of Christ as a defining factor in America will be a distant receding memory.

Personally, I find that to be an unacceptable situation. So, Christian…what are you going to do about it?

Choose the contest...Iron Bowl, World Series, Daytona 500, or the battle for American culture...I can tell you who will win. The team that wins will be the team that most effectively adjusts to the evolving environment of the contest.

So, how is your church adjusting to the cultural and spiritual environment of America?

Here are some uncomfortable evaluative questions to ask about your church fellowship that will provide the answer.

Uncomfortable evaluative question #1. If everyone my age and up (60+) was instantly removed from your active fellowship, what would be left of your church?

Uncomfortable evaluative question #2. What is currently occurring through your fellowship that is effectively engaging persons 30 and under?

Uncomfortable evaluative question #3. If your fellowship ceased to exist today, would anyone in your community notice?

Back to question #1, take the average age of your active fellowship and subtract it from 70. The resulting number is the remaining mission life of your church…if you do nothing different.

So, where do you go from here?

The initial answer to that question is detailed in the book, “It’s Time”. Long term, the answer depends upon your willingness to follow Christ on His terms in your world. That will require removal of just about everything you have comfortably stacked around your religious experience.

Are you willing? Our nation is at stake.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Only One Thing

A contribution from my daughter, Molly Sawyer...wife, mom, friend, daughter...a busy lady.

Every year, about the third week in November I find myself hunched at a starting line in the ready-set-go position. I wait anxiously for the gun to sound, heart racing, legs ready to push off in a mad dash. No, this race is not the Turkey Trot or the Jolly Jingle Jog. This is the Merry Mayhem Marathon that I participate in every year - a figurative race spanning the entire holiday season made up of mile high to-do lists, long lines, lots of receipts, conflicting schedules, and oh yeah, the birth of Jesus.

This year, early in the season one of the things on my to-do list was to clean out the closets in preparation for a “Swap” that some girlfriends and I were doing. The plan was to gather all our junk on one night in one place and then rummage through each others’ stuff to find treasure. I stood looking at my cluttered closet trying to discern the useless from the useful, and I again felt pressed as my lengthy to-do lists (yes, that is plural) flashed in my mind. And then… the Lord graciously met me in my muddle. He took my mind to the story of His visit to Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42. Like me, Martha was in a tizzy over the cleanliness of her house, the holiday menu, the decorations, the Christmas cards, the shopping, the houseguests, etc… “Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.” (vs. 40). The Lord looked at her and said, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better…” (vs. 41-42)

“Mary sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what He said.” (vs. 39)

Only one thing is needed. Scripture tells us so clearly what that one thing is! I am to sit with the Lord and listen. That is the only thing that must happen every day. Put the to-do lists aside. My spirit and mind will be rested and at peace because I am sitting with Him. And I will know my daily assignments because I am listening to Him. I can then be the disciple, the wife, the mother, the daughter, the friend He intends me to be.

So, back in my closet, I was struck with the deeper meaning of de-cluttering. As I pulled junk out, I knew I had to discern the same in my life, my schedule, and my plans for the holidays. If I would follow His lead, I had permission to sit, not run the marathon. My prayer for you this Christmas season is that you will sit the race out and embrace the One Thing needed.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Should America Fear Islam? No. But, There is Reason to Fear

“Should America Fear Islam?” was the theme of ABC’s Sunday morning news program, “This Week,” aired October 3, 2010. As part of the discussion, British radical Muslim activist Anjem Choudary interpreted Islamic intent in very succinct terms…

“We do believe, as Muslims, the East and the West will one day be governed by the Shariah. Indeed, we believe that one day, the flag of Islam will fly over the White House.” He then quoted a hadith, or saying of Muhammad, as related by 10th-century Muslim scholar Al-Tabarani, that “the final hour will not come until Muslims conquer the White House.”

As I watched and listened that morning, it was a shocking thing to hear stated so blatantly. You can watch the clip at this link… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=agOU2R6MTbg

Two documents stand between American culture and that man’s objective…the Constitution and the Bible…the rule of one among us and the rule of the other in us. Should we fear Islam? No. What we should fear is irresponsible handling of either of those two documents.

So, yes, we should be afraid…very afraid, because both of those foundational documents are being grossly mishandled. One radically interpreted by elected leadership that swore to protect it; the other ignored by the Church that promised to follow its precepts.

For one, I refer you to an excellently stated and insightful editorial at Unionleader.com, titled, “Obama's radicalism: Destroying the Constitution,” dated October 28, 2008. Please read it carefully. You will understand the philosophical framework that has prevailed in our country for the past two years. And, you will understand why we have experienced imprudent fiscal policy, absence of incentives for business development, extended unemployment, erosion of freedoms, and the distinct message that government knows better than we how our resources are to be used. http://www.unionleader.com/article.aspx?headline=obama's+radicalism%3A+Destroying+the+Constitution&articleId=f7f09f58-a30f-467d-b6f1-352c045c7ff6

For the other, I refer you to the powerful article, “It’s Our Fault” from Dr. Joe Savage dated October 20, 2010 posted on this website. http://markfoleysupdate.blogspot.com/2010/10/its-our-fault.html

I hope you are praying for our nation. There is much work to do as citizens of America and as citizens of the Kingdom of God.

More later.

It's Our Fault!

On October 20, 2010, Dr. Joe Savage, Director of the Center for Leadership at the University of Mobile, sent an email as part of the Center's Twelve23 project that contained one of the most poignant and true messages of our generation. His text follows in its entirety. If you have not already read it, you need to.

It's Our Fault!

The church is not a building or an institution. The church is a people!

"We the Church" are in grave trouble! Currently, 70-80% of all churches in America are in plateau or in decline numerically. One poll states that at the current rate, three-fourths of all churches in America will cease to exist in less than twenty years if the current hemorrhage does not stop! Let me illustrate: Simply take away those individuals in your church who are older than 60 years and tell me what is left - most likely very few people! Friend, we are rapidly heading toward becoming a nation whose God is everything but Jesus Christ!

Why are we in this condition? Is it because of plurality, liberalism, or secularism? Is it because of the economy, the government, immigration, or Islam? Is it because of Hollywood, the music industry, or too much entertainment? What is it? Why are we rapidly declining and becoming a weak voice in our nation?

May I suggest it is because "We the Church" really don't care - at least our actions suggest this to be true. I mean, have we really done as the Lord mandates in His Word or have we done our own style of following Christ based on our own desires? I am afraid that we have asked Him to follow us, instead of us following Him. Certainly this is not authentic Lordship!

Let's be honest. The reason we are in a mess as a nation is because of "We the Church!" It is not the other people's faults! It is our fault! We are to blame!

For decades now we have been more concerned about ourselves than we were making God known in our land. We have been more concerned about what style music we should sing in the church than we have been about simply falling in love with Jesus.

We have been more focused on competing against the church across town than we have about destroying evil in our town.

We have allowed sin . . . blatant sin to rule our cities without ever saying a word.

We have gagged ourselves for the sake of being politically correct.

We have read thousands of pages of books, magazines, newspapers, and internet junk while rarely opening our Bibles.

Annually we as individual churches have spent hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars on the same old programs to do the same old things in the same old ways while hardly reaching anyone who is lost.

We have built building after building to the "glory" of God yet we quench the Spirit of God week after week with tradition, entertainment, or self-comfort.

We have complained and griped about not having prayer in schools when we aren't even praying at home.

Many Christians have voted time and time again for those who advocate for abortion, gay marriage, and other actions contrary to the desires of God. Have we become this ignorant that we don't understand when one votes in those who advocate for sin, that it is going to result in sin becoming law?

We as God's Church have allowed our churches to become boring, lifeless, and a place filled more with self than with God. Oh, it is our fault friend. You and me. We allowed it! We kept silent. We looked the other way! We participated!

As Henry Blackaby said, "Too many of God's people do not clearly and passionately see the desperate need for a mighty return to God by the people of God. Many do not realize they have departed. They still 'practice religion' and assume their activity is a relationship with God. Religious activity, no matter how faithful, is not necessarily a relationship with God. This has been the tragedy of God's people throughout the Bible."

No doubt, not all Christians and all churches fit into what I say above. But as Billy Graham said, "There certainly are many instances of Christians who have been touched by God, and in turn are touching the lives of others for Christ. But for every instance of that, there are many more Christians who are living defeated, joyless lives . . . the greatest need within the Christian Church is . . . to experience the touch of the Holy Spirit, bringing true 'revival' and 'renewal' to the lives of countless Christians."

We have one opportunity to turn this thing around . . . one! The only chance we have is if you and I humble ourselves before God, pray like never before, turn from every sin, and absolutely seek God with total abandonment of self! This is the hope of the nation!

To win this battle, we can no longer do things in the same way! The time has come to step it up! We cannot keep doing the same things in the same way expecting a different result!
Rise up Christian! Rise up and be the man . . . or the woman that will be responsible for winning our nation back in its most desperate hour of survival! May God help us!

"Oh Lord, we need you. Please help us! Please forgive us! Please revive us! Please heal our land! Here I am Lord, use me to your glory sake! Amen."

More later.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Weed

It’s a weed. It’s green. It’s aggressive. It blends in with the grass. And, it kills.

Now that the morning temperature and humidity in Mobile are conducive to outdoor considerations, I take some of my think/pray time to the porch and yard. As I walked around in what could be a beautiful carpet of St. Augustine grass, I noticed an intruder among those beautiful broad green blades.

I don’t know what it’s called…it’s just a weed, and it’s everywhere. Sometime since the last time I really looked, this Thing has choked out a lot of prime St. Aug real estate. I did the weed & feed deal last spring, but, clearly, the Thing didn’t get the memo.

The yard, from a distance, appears to be a representation of pure beauty. But, the Thing had replaced so much grass that the yard is, in reality, a mess…nothing near what it was intended to be.

Somewhere into the third five-gallon bucket of pulled weed, it hit me that had I inspected and pulled regularly, the yard would still be pure beauty. But, it had been hot, and I was busy…people to see; things to do…you know the drill. While I was distracted, the Thing took over. The only way to restore the beauty is to pull weeds.

America was once influenced by the things of God. The nation’s founders spoke and wrote extensively in public and private forums on the importance of individual and corporate attendance to the things of God for the good of the nation.

Somewhere along the way, and under the watch of my generation, that influence began a sharp decline. The decline has been so prevalent that the same institutional churches and denominational organizations, which, only a few years ago, exercised influence at national levels, are now impotent by comparison. And, the nation, once predominantly Christian in its culture, is no longer such.

Now, wait…don’t start with how nasty the culture has become, or how we lost prayer in schools, or whether the church is relevant or not. Those among us who consider ourselves to be followers of Christ…you know, the “salt and light” bunch…need to start by checking our own yard. The Thing is sin, and it has been tolerated in our personal lives and thinking so long that we are accustomed to it. There is very little salinity, and the lights are dim. We are nothing near what we are intended to be.

The only way to restore the power and influence is to get rid of the Thing…pull the weeds…not from someone else’s yard but from our own. It isn’t easy, and it isn’t convenient, but the alternative is a nation lost to the influence of Christ.

Do you have the intestinal fortitude to ask God to point out the weeds wherever they may be in your life and, by his power, pull them? Or, will you continue to tolerate the junk and talk a lot?

I really want our nation back. Grab a bucket and meet me in the yard.

More later.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Confession

A real-life question at the heart of a national transformation…

”What is your only comfort, in life and death?”

The only answer…

”That I belong—body and soul, in life and in death—not to myself but to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ, who at the cost of his own blood has fully paid for all my sins and has completely freed me from the dominion of the devil;

And that he protects me so well that without the will of my Father in heaven, not a hair can fall from my head;

Moreover, whatever evil comes to me in this troubled life he will turn to my good, for he is able to do it, being almighty God, and is determined to do it, being a faithful Father.”

The Heidelberg Catechism, A.D. 1563

More later.