Most of the Story of Redemption updates can be found over at www.MissionalOutreachNetwork.com or www.StoryofRedemption.com. But I wanted to go ahead and share this one here.
While I have been developing the Story of Redemption Film series, I have enveloped teaching and training on how to use this tool into my "Reaching the Next Generation for Christ" coaching/consulting/training/seminars that I am doing with churches.
While some churches are unaware or resistant to the cultural disconnect that exists with younger generations and Christianity (including our fellowship), others desperately want to reach people today for Christ, but simply do not know how. The coaching, consulting, and seminar sessions that I give help to address this gap with preaching (to motivate and inspire), teaching (to help with understanding), and coaching/training (for follow-up and implementation) in:
Recently, I took a couple of trips to California to attend the Pepperdine lectures, do some filming for some teaching segments on Love and Creation and Grace from the Story of Redemption at some beautiful Southern California locals, and to preach and teach on "Reaching the Next Generation for Christ."
On my first trip to California, I gave part of the "Reaching the Next Generation for Christ" series at two churches, preaching and teaching a class on the Story of Redemption and how it fits this fits into reaching the next generation. The first church I spoke at was the North County Church of Christ, where Kevin Withem is the Senior Minister (he was great and very gracious for this) and where our tour guide for the filming in Israel, Tim Brinley, is an elder.
The second church that I went and gave these presentations at was the Hilltop Community Church of Christ in Escondido, California, where Jon Reed is the Senior Minister (and Scott Lambert served as an elder). Jon is a great evangelist and quite a contagious fellow. He and the staff there (including Monica Moreland, a former missionary to the Ukraine and their small groups minister) are planning on using the Story of Redemption, and I will be doing some coaching and training with them in the fall and in 2017.
The third church that I presented at (this was on my second California trip) was the North Oaks Church of Christ in Canyon Country, CA. I also met with their worship committee and discussed a lot of the cultural disconnect in worship that I highlighted in the blog post series, "Why Churches of Christ are Shrinking: A Left-Brained Fellowship in a Right-Brained World" --a post which went viral with over 85,000 hits. Of course, making worship more experiential is only a part of the disconnect, and if the value system of younger generations is not upheld--which, positively, includes focusing upon love of God and neighbor and not peripheral issues--this can have limited affect. We discussed positive ways to help this socially conscious, media-savvy, participatory Millennial generation want to be a part of a church--from worship to service. I was encouraged by this church's leadership and commitment to reaching people today, and we are looking at perhaps doing a year's worth of coaching/consulting/training together.
The fourth church that I connected with (on my second California trip) was EPIC Church, a church planted by Matt and Melissa Raines along with associate minister and worship leader Jeff Brimberry, a Kairos church plant, recently highlighted along with Kairos and Mission Alive church plants/planting in an article on church planting in the Christian Chronicle. (Appreciate so much what Kairos, Mission Alive, and Genesis Alliance are doing in our fellowship for church planting!) The Raines actually started the Story of Redemption before we even met, finding the material online. (The Raines, Jeff Brimberry, Jon Reed, and Let's Start Talking Executive Director Scott Lambert talk about the Story of Redemption and the Reaching the Next Generation for Christ consulting/seminars in the testimonial video above.)
Churches are starting to wake up to the need to re-focus upon the Greatest Commands and the Great Commission, and finding better ways to connect with younger people today. These are just lost people that we may not really know as of yet, but now our own kids and grandkids. May we do all that we can to reach people for Christ today!
What do you see needs to be done to better reach and connect with younger generations today?
Interested in "Reaching the Next Generation for Christ" and/or Story of Redemption consulting/seminars/training? Contact James Nored, Doctor of Ministry, at firstname.lastname@example.org; (817) 773-7902; www.StoryofRedemption.com
Resurrection Hope for Our Failure: Jesus Appears to Peter and the Disciples at the Sea of Galilee - John 21
PASSWORD to Play this Video: SeaofGalilee
PLEASE LIKE AND SHARE! - NEW from StoryofRedemption.com! - Does Easter and the Resurrection have practical meaning for our lives? Watch this powerful video--professionally filmed at the Sea Galilee with some beautiful and incredible footage!--of Jesus' post-resurrection appearance to Peter and the disciples from John 21.
Why did Jesus ask Peter--who had failed him in the Garden of Gethsemane--if he loved him THREE TIMES? And what does this tell us about how to deal with and come to grips with failure? Watch and be inspired by this message of HOPE for our lives!
NOTE: The Story of Redemption is an evangelistic Bible study series designed to lead seekers to Christ and strengthen faith of believers. The video version--recently filmed on location in Israel--is being developed and produced. To find out more and support this ministry, go to www.StoryofRedemption.com and contact James Nored, Doctor of Ministry, email@example.com!
In 1955, James Dean portrayed a rebellious teenager in the iconic film, "Rebel without a Cause." It came to symbolize rebelling against society when really, there was nothing that had been done to warrant this rebellion. Boomers grew up in an affluent time with intact homes, and yet, many rebelled against the conformist culture of that time.
Millennials are by and large the children of Boomers (and some leading edge Gen Xers). Unlike Boomers, who were at war with their parents, most Millennials have grown up with good relationships with their parents. They have been coached, watched over, educated, and in many cases, moved back home with their parents after college--in part due to the economic collapse and there being no jobs, in part due to not having grown up or desiring to not yet take on adult responsibilities, and in part due to their close connections with their parents.
When you are friends with your parents, it is rather hard to be rebellious. And Millennials as a group, therefore, "rebelled" from their parents by being clean cut, non-hippyfied, well educated, and socially responsible young adults.
Indeed, studies show that Millennials have lower drug and alcohol use than their parents' generation, and while sexuality and "friends with benefits" is rampant with apps like Tinder and the delay of marriage, there is even a counter cultural abstinence movement.
So, what is "cool" to this non-rebellious generation? In their article "Millennials and the Changing Meaning of Cool," authors Brett and Kate McKay give these characteristics of what Millennials find to be cool:
So how does all of this apply to reaching Millennials for Christ? Well, I and many other missional and cultural observers are trying to find this out! Based upon observations, research, and personal experience, I would say the following:
What do you think of the above list? How can we better reach the Millennial generation for Christ?
In Joy Pullman's The Federalist article, "Crossfit Can Never Replace Church." she relates how some Harvard Divinity Students are equating Crossfit--an exercise club--with a religious / church experience, with religious rituals, community, and incorporation of family and children.
As a sociological analysis, this is interesting, and it indeed fits into other analyses of how church is functioning for huge portions of young people in the US. For instance, Kenda Creasy Dean's work, "Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers is Telling the American Church" makes the case that one of the reasons that so many young adults leave the church after graduation is that they have not truly been taught Christianity, but Christianity light--something Dean calls "Moralistic Therapeutic Deism" (MTD).
MTD is the idea that (Almost) Christianity basically teaches that the goal of our faith is to be nice people, with little demands or claims on our lives. In this view, the church is but one extra curricular activity among many--easily dropped for more compelling electives when teens leave their Christian sub-culture. The church is replaced with club, sports, school, etc. If this is all the church is, then why could Crossfit not be a church or religious experience?
While as Christians, we intuitively know that this conclusion is wrong, does not a part of us wonder if, in effect, what we or others sometimes experience from church could be experienced elsewhere? After all, you can find a type of community, friends, a place to belong, and cheaper dues elsewhere, right?
If we think that we could "drop out of church"--as so many do--and not really miss it that much, then are we really "doing church" the right way? The idea that there is "no salvation outside of the church" is not a new one. Note these quotes from Early Church Fathers:
Irenaeus (died A.D. 202):
“[The Church] is the entrance to life; all others are thieves and robbers.” (Against Heresies , Book III)
Origen (died A.D. 254):
“Let no man deceive himself. Outside this house, that is, outside the Church no one is saved.” (In Iesu Nave homiliae )
Cyprian (died A.D. 258):
“He who has turned his back on the Church of Christ shall not come to the rewards of Christ; he is an alien, a worldling, an enemy. You cannot have God for your Father if you have not the Church for your mother. Our Lord warns us when He says: `he that is not with Me is against Me, and he that gathereth not with Me scattereth.’ Whosoever breaks the peace and harmony of Christ acts against Christ; whoever gathers elsewhere than in the Church scatters the Church of Christ.”
Of course, biblically, salvation is emphasized as being communal, not mere individualistic. God created and called a people, Israel. Jesus called the disciples to himself, forming a community centered around the cross--he did not just call people to individual salvation. This principle was well illustrated in John's gospel account of Christ's death, in which Jesus told John that his biological mother, Mary, was now John's mother in Christ, and that John was now his mother's son in Christ-(John 19:26-27). The seven ones of Ephesians 4:1f show the common bond that bind all of God's people together--bonds of Spirit, faith, baptism, and more. And the image of the new heaven and new earth in Revelation is that of every nation, tribe, and tongue--a great people together--praising and serving God together (Rev. 5:9; 7:9).
So if the church is an essential part of our salvation, why are so many discarding it--and how do we change this? Here are some thoughts.
Why is church/Christian community important, and how can we best convey this truth?
According to the 2014 Pew Research survey, 23 percent of the US population (up from 16 percent in just 2007) and 35 percent of Millennials fall into the religious category of “none,” indicating that they have no religious affiliation whatsoever. With statistics like these, every effort ought to be made to reach our children and grandchildren, as well as our friends and neighbors, for Christ, shedding non-essentials
So how do we reach Milennials? There is, to be sure, no silver bullet. However, in this video, Kairos church planter Scott Wallace gives some insights into connecting with this generation. From this video, some things to note that are helpful in reaching Millennials would include:
How can we better connect with Millennials in preaching and reaching out? What do you learn from the above story?
What would happen if all of the longtime Christians, church leaders, elders, etc., in a church left, leaving the church made up of new converts, younger generations (Millennials, Gen Xers), and seekers?
New converts, younger generations, and seekers often have different value systems, points of emphasis, and preferences on any number of things. What if . . .
And then what would happen when those same longtime Christians, church leaders, and elders, came back to that same church? What would happen?
For some, some or all of these would be welcome. For others, none of these changes would be welcome and would cause people to say, what in the world has happened to (my) church??
Believe it or not, much the same phenomenon was going on in the church in Rome when Paul wrote to them. The early church was initially made up of all Jewish Christians, as it took some time for people to realize God's plan to include the Gentiles in salvation. So the church in Rome was initially made up on Jewish Christians who had grown up reading, studying, and following the Bible (the Old Testament) with all of its moral laws and religious duties.
But in AD 49, the emperor Claudius kicked all of the Jews out of Rome. All that would have been left were new Gentile converts--former pagans, most of whom definitely did not grow up reading Bible stories and practicing the Law. For five years they would have controlled all of the local church membership, leadership, worship, practices, etc. Do you think that they would have done things differently? Of course.
Then five years later, in AD 54, Claudius died. At the death of an emperor, his decrees were made null and void, which allowed the Jews to return to Rome and Jewish Christians to return to the church in Rome--setting up massive conflict between the Jewish Christians who had grown up following God and the Law and the Gentile Christians who were former pagans. This conflict is played out throughout the book of Romans, and it is into this context that Paul speaks of the gospel, which is for both Jews and Gentiles, and how both groups of Christians should act and behave towards one another.
Now, to the point of this article. In Romans 1:18f, Paul has a famous diatribe against all of sorts of sinful behaviors--worshiping nature/created things, homosexuality, lust, gossip, the breakdown of the family and family roles (disobedience to parents), violence, invention of evil and approval of those who do evil. Now, who would have been most concerned about these things in the church in Rome? The Jewish Christians, of course, and he taps into the fear, angst, and anger that they had against these behaviors.
And just as Paul works up the righteous anger of the Jewish Christians in Romans 1--he would have been receiving "Amens" and "Preach it" left and right by this group--he lowers the boom in chapter 2, turns the tables, and says,
"1 You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. 2 Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. 3 So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? 4 Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?
5 But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. 6 God 'will repay each person according to what they have done.' 7 To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. 8 But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. 9 There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; 10 but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 11 For God does not show favoritism . . .
17 Now you, if you call yourself a Jew; if you rely on the law and boast in God;18 if you know his will and approve of what is superior because you are instructed by the law; 19 if you are convinced that you are a guide for the blind, a light for those who are in the dark, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of little children, because you have in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth-- 21 you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? 24 As it is written: 'God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you." (Romans 2:1f).
Wow. Talk about a surprising turn in a sermon! Just as they are getting worked up about the sins of others and the wrath of God against all of those bad people out there, he tells them that they are storing up wrath against themselves! Why? Because they are looking at the sins of others instead of themselves. Because they are showing contempt for God's mercy rather than thankfulness. Because they are hypocritical, condemning the sins of others while engaging in the same immoral activity.
Does this not have application for us. Could not this vice list and these feelings in Romans 1 very well describe how so many Christians feel about our changing culture? I, like so many others, worry about the culture in which my children are growing up in. And it is easy to judge the culture. But Paul says in other places as well--God will judge those outside the church; we should concentrate on making sure that our own lives are in line with God (1 Cor. 5:1f).
So in the week in which users of Ashley Madison, a cheating website, have had their information hacked and this story has been highlighted in the news--should we really be concentrating on all of those adulterers out there who are not Christian--or should we be making sure that our own lives are good and pure and in line with the gospel?
In Zechariah 3:1-3, Satan, the accuser, is standing beside Joshua, the very human high priest who is sinful and clothed in filthy robes. He is ready to accuse Joshua for his sins, when the Lord intervenes and says,
“The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this man a burning stick SNATCHED from the FIRE?”
God planned to save and redeem Joshua--ultimately by sending Jesus (Jesus is the Greek version of the name Joshua) to be a perfect high priest and king. Satan was only there to hurl insults, shame, and accusations. He saw no value in Joshua. But God did. He deserved death, but God saved him by his grace, as a "burning stick snatched from the fire."
There is a great sermon illustration for this passage (or any other passage on God's grace and redemption) found in this story - JOHN WESLEY - A BRAND PLUCKED FROM THE FIRE! When he was five, John Wesley's house caught on fire. It was not until the last moment that he was saved from the fire. And John Wesley believed that, like Joshua the high priest, God had saved him for a purpose. He would go on to overcome fear and failure to preach thousands of sermons across the US, helping to usher in the First Great Awakening through his preaching, teaching, and church planting.
Who does this have application for? All who have been beaten down by Satan and the world and made to feel worthless--and all who have no hope for the future changing. It could apply to:
If God cared enough to save Joshua and John Wesley, does he not care enough to save when we need his salvation?
Fasting--what is that? And why should we do anything so seemingly ridiculous? What does going without food have to do with one's spiritual life? Why is it considered to be a spiritual discipline? And how do we preach on this subject in today's culture?
Well, when in American culture do we EVER practice self-denial, self-control like this? We are in a Super Size me culture. The microwave culture. The instant gratification culture. And as the above SuperSize Me video shows, the results are not pretty, either physically or spiritually.
Think--why is Apple now the largest company in the world? Yes, they have great products and fabulous designs. But they are also the largest company in the world because they have tapped into impulsive desires. Apple knew that if they could make it where people could buy a song or album that they just heard for $1/$10--or put out a new phone each year that people had to have--they would make a lot of money. And they have.
Fasting and self-denial is counter-cultural. And for that reason, we need it even more. Our focus upon ourselves and instant gratification shows up in our credit card debt, affairs, and what we eat. Fasting teaches us that we can wait, that our cravings do not control us, that God is above all.
There are numerous passages on fasting, and fasting is almost always linked to PRAYER. Jesus himself fasted before facing temptation (Luke 4:2). And while physically weak, if fasting draws us closer to God, he may have been spiritually strong THEN--maybe even fasting so as to be able to face Satan's temptations. Jesus also says, "when you fast..." (Mt. 6:16f).
I think that what Dallas Willard said about the spiritual disciplines of solitude and silence--you practice these, so that when you need to be silent you can be--can be applied to fasting. Fasting is a form of self-denial, and we practice this in fasting so that when we are called to self-denial, we have practiced this and have asked God's help in this.
Finally, I think that 1 Corinthians 9:24f is a good passage/approach to this subject when preaching: "24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever."
Fasting is a type of training of our body, mind, and spirit, not as an end goal, but as a way to help us in drawing closer to God and for our sanctification as we seek the prize of eternal life.
What are your thoughts on fasting?
As Christians in America, we have long benefited from being under “Christendom”—the protection of and goodwill towards Christianity by the State and society at large. Today, however, those protections and this goodwill is breaking down. From changing poll numbers to changing laws to recent Supreme Court rulings, it is clear that we are living in a society that increasingly is moving away from Christian values and a Christian worldview.
We all probably feel the angst and loss from this change in society. We worry about the world in which our children are growing up in. We fear for our future, our jobs, our security, and we mourn for our nation. While all of this is new and difficult for us, this state of being was the norm for God’s people at various times throughout their history—from being slaves in Egypt to exiles in Babylon to Christians under the Roman Empire.
The book of Daniel is a great book of the Bible from which to learn how to deal with the changing culture in which we find ourselves today. It is a book which chronicles some of God’s people while they lived as exiles under the Babylonian Empire. Daniel and his friends faced unjust laws, ungodly politicians, proud and unreasonable kings, and overt persecution. What lessons can we learn from this?
Let's look at the different major stories of the book of Daniel.
What lessons can we learn from Daniel in dealing with Empire issues?
What issues/themes do you see in the book of Daniel which are helpful in dealing with "Empire" issues today? What lessons can we learn from these?
CLICK HERE FOR AN INCREDIBLE STORY OF A YOUNG WOMAN NAMED "ABBY" WHO RECEIVED A HEART TRANSPLANT!
The first two-thirds of the Book of Ezekiel largely details God's judgment upon the Southern Kingdom of Judah because of her following after other gods and having a corrupt, diseased heart.
God called upon the prophet Ezekiel to be a "watchman" and to sound the alarm about the impending doom, giving them warning signs about their "heart disease" with a series of bizarre behaviors including:
These heart attack warnings, of course, went unheeded, and Judah was carried off into Babylonian captivity. But in the latter third of the book, God begins to give Ezekiel visions of hope and revitalization of his people.
In Ezekiel 36:26-27, God makes this promise to his people:
"26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws."
God's people have been unwilling and unable to follow him and keep his commandments due to their heart condition. And so God says, I am going to give you a heart transplant. I am going to give you a new heart, a new spirit--so that you can keep my commandments.
What God is promising is not just forgiveness for his people, but transformation. He will help them become what he calls them to be--a pure act of grace.
In the above video, a young woman named Abby tells of needing a heart transplant--and talks about how someone's son had to die in order for her to receive her new heart. Abby was incredibly grateful to this family's son because of what he gave her through his death.
I thought that this video was touching and filled with obvious Christian parallels. Christ died not only for our sins, but for our transformation. And through his death and the sending of his Spirit, we have received a new heart. Now, may we live our lives in gratitude to this Son who died for us and gave us a heart transplant!
What do you think of the heart transplant metaphor and video above? How does Ezekiel 36:26-27 give you hope and encouragement in your desire to follow God? How else would you approach this passage in preaching?
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Dr. James Nored (Doctor of Ministry, Fuller Theological Seminary) is a preacher, evangelist, church consultant, writer, and missional leader located in Fairfax, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, D.C.
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