Church leaders today are the Pharisees of yesterday, preferring doctrine over imagination.

The Dinosaur Church: Extinction Awaitsdino:

Recent Pew Research studies strongly suggest a full out exodus of millennials and others from traditional church-going, and it’s no wonder why. The weekly ritual of worship, greeting, sermon and benediction is archaic in today’s world, treated as an obligation by many, simply endured by others. There’s nothing inherently wrong with it, except that there’s no interaction other than perhaps, shaking hands and “greeting” people you see every week. We get it. To be sure, some folks take great comfort in the sameness, the ritual, the safety of the sanctuary. They are content, but Christ was not.

For most, church is nothing more than 45 minutes of being talked to, and no matter how charismatic or enthusiastic the pastor might be, it’s a one-way street, and these days, that simply doesn’t cut it for many. This is not news. Church goers have long wanted a way to participate and are frustrated by simply sitting in a pew or folding chair for an hour, and then being asked to help pay to sustain the farce. For those who are familiar with their bible, being talked to about it may offer a different perspective or a fleshed out concept, but the basics are always the same – love your neighbor as yourself, and love God. You’ve read the Sermon on the Mount? You have been educated as a Christian. So, what else is there?

In many cases, nothing. Just a weekly routine, one mirroring the next in content and structure, with no opportunity to contribute, short of ushering, greeting, or serving coffee… sustaining the grist mill. People today clamor to be a part of the experience; they want to make a difference. I can’t remember how many times I’ve offered my expertise in meaningful ways, only to be ignored, smiled at and then ignored, or simply had my input cast aside by church leadership. Don’t mess with their territory is the message.

Oh, you’ll be encouraged to be a disciple in your workplace or in the public, and sometimes that opportunity presents itself, but more often than not, it doesn’t. Failing to actually help in this regard, churches offer precious little training on how to be effective at it. Something as simple as practice sessions with other members could make a world of difference.

Repudiate the far-right crazies such as those at the Westboro Baptist Church, and others who cling to arcane, Old Testament laws to justify their prejudices and phobias. Don’t let some radical on TBN speak for you (and then ask for your money) when you know perfectly well that Jesus himself would not tolerate it. The silence of Christ-followers in the face of oppressive, verse-picking bible thumpers is as bad as any intolerance justified through other religions found elsewhere in the world. Don’t do it.

Disassemble the existing structure. Get out in the public. That’s where the needs are. Go meet in a field or a public park – regularly. Put your faith, not your religion, on display. Carve out a section of beach and offer free soft drinks and water to anyone who comes by. Offer to do water baptisms on the spot. Meet in the round, not in a lectern-faces-audience setting. Encourage attendees to ask questions in a give and take discussion, rather than listen to a contrived sermon.

Do crowd funding to save a family from homelessness. Organize a fund-raising, 6 mile walk to simulate the distance between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Forgive a prostitute, help heal someone in need, consort with criminals and offer them God’s love instead of what brought them to their current state. Do something to engage your members and spread awareness, or take photos to remember them by when they leave. Do Something Different! Not simply to be different, but to serve God for his glory. That’s what you want, right? That’s what you tell us! So, do it!

Get out of the comfort zone and into a challenge zone. If the main idea is to bring Christ to those who’ve never experienced Him or who are desperate for hope, it cannot possibly happen inside the walls of a church full of people who already get it. It has to happen on the street, in the neighborhood, at the grocery store, at a rock concert. Jesus didn’t preach within four walls; He went from town to town, he spoke standing on a hill, he demonstrated God’s love in unique and undeniable ways. He had a great vision, calming stormy seas, walking on water, showing love, not simply talking about it. The Pharisees are the ones who stuck to tradition, who ignored the Messiah at their doorstep. Church leaders today are the Pharisees of yesterday, preferring doctrine over imagination.

Preachers often talk this talk, but they don’t walk it. They’re too busy planning the next sermon, attending conferences that spur ideas that will never be acted upon, being comfortable in the lifestyle they have, and being so sure that they’re doing God’s will. They’re not. Not when people are leaving church by the thousands, in a world that needs true faith and a real relationship with God more than ever. It’s a failing model, we know it’s a failing model, and it needs to be fixed, fast. Will your church do it? Or will it join the dinosaurs?

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John 3: 5-17, Nicodemus

 5Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit[b] gives birth to spirit. 7You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You[c] must be born again.’ 8The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

 9“How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.

 10“You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 11I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man.[d] 14Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.[e]

 16“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,[f] that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

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Proverbs 9: 1-6, Wisdom

 1 Wisdom has built her house;
       she has hewn out its seven pillars.

 2 She has prepared her meat and mixed her wine;
       she has also set her table.

 3 She has sent out her maids, and she calls
       from the highest point of the city.

 4 “Let all who are simple come in here!”
       she says to those who lack judgment.

 5 “Come, eat my food
       and drink the wine I have mixed.

 6 Leave your simple ways and you will live;
       walk in the way of understanding.

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Psalm 23 – A Psalm of David

What incredible words of comfort and assurance in a mixed up world.

 1 The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.

 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
       he leads me beside quiet waters,

 3 he restores my soul.
       He guides me in paths of righteousness
       for his name’s sake.

 4 Even though I walk
       through the valley of the shadow of death, [a]
       I will fear no evil,
       for you are with me;
       your rod and your staff,
       they comfort me.

 5 You prepare a table before me
       in the presence of my enemies.
       You anoint my head with oil;
       my cup overflows.

 6 Surely goodness and love will follow me
       all the days of my life,
       and I will dwell in the house of the LORD

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Galatians 5: 16-23, Fruit of the Spirit

 16So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. 17For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. 18But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law.

 19The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

 22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

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