Do we love or hate religion? Listening to the voices in our culture, the answer seems to be, “both”. But if you think that believers love religion and unbelievers hate it, you might be surprised to find the reverse is often true.
I recently heard a talk by atheist and philosopher Alain de Botton on what he calls “Atheism 2.0”. He says many atheists secretly like many parts of religion (like Christmas carols or cathedrals) but they miss out on them because they don’t believe in God. To fill their void, he advocates stealing important aspects of religion while leaving the beliefs behind.
For example, he believes atheists should:
– Get Organized; poets and philosophers working alone on noble ideas get isolated and depressed, so they should band together and thus gain some power, just like churches do.
– Organize Time: religions develop calendars in order to remind people of essential truths on a regular basis (think Easter about the resurrection, and Christmas about the Incarnation). So he states that atheists should develop similar traditions to draw people’s attention to truths.
– Repetition: Religions develop daily routines (like prayer) which reconnect people to their beliefs. Atheists, he says, should not expect people to remember important ideas, they should repeat them.
– Offer “Sermons”; de Botton says atheists pin their hopes for humanity on education, which too often lacks transforming power because it simply gives facts. He says they should be more like religious teachers who ask listeners for life change.
Now, de Botton does not suggest who should determine the essential ideas or establish these structures and traditions. But at the end of the talk he received a wildly enthusiastic applause from the appreciative audience.
It is ironic that some atheists are looking longingly at religion at the same time that many Christians are running hard from religion.
Jefferson Bethke created an internet video phenomenon with his Youtube video, “Why I hate religion but love Jesus”. This spoken word piece, which expresses revulsion at religion, has been viewed over 19 million times. Not only does Jefferson hate religion, is convinced Jesus hates religion, too. Some of the same things the atheist longs for, the believer runs from.
Could it be that some atheists long for aspects of religion because they believe they will help fill the void in their hearts, while believers understand from personal experience that it won’t? It is not religion, but rather God himself, who will fill that emptiness.
We don’t need to hate religion, at its best it is a vehicle which helps us connect with God (Jesus was an observant Jew, after all). But if we don’t look beyond it, we will be bitterly disappointed.
de Botton declares he can be “spiritual” without any belief in a “spirit”. Not without doing great violence to the meaning of the word or the reality to which it points, I’d say.
We don’t need to hate or love religion, we just need to know Jesus.
AGDE – L’EGLISE PROTESTANTE s’implante en Ville d’Agde
L’ÉGLISE PROTESTANTE EN AGDE (Église Évangélique Méthodiste) propose ses GPS, des Groupes de Partages Spirituels. Il s’agit de simples échanges informels mais qui peuvent devenir très forts autour de la Bible.
Ceci est établit dans un esprit d’ouverture à l’autre, de la découverte ou redécouverte de la puissance de la prière, de relation d’aide.
Nous avons noté la présence d’ores et déjà d’un site internet de l’Eglise Protestante d’Agde
EGLISE PROTESTANTE d’AGDE
Leurs projets sur Agde :
CrossRoads-UMC est une église protestante membre de la United Methodist Church, la plus importante dénomination internationale Méthodiste. Sous la présidence du Pasteur (Dr.) Steve CORDLE , cette église de North Fayette (banlieue de PITTSBUGH en Pennsylvanie) se développe sur la périphérie de Pittsburgh avec plusieurs campus, mais développe aussi sa vision vers l’international en répondant aux attentes des uns et des autres. Ainsi, l’un de ses collaborateurs, le Pasteur Bertrand de MALEPRADE, est en charge du développement d’un de ses postes, en France, en AGDE où il s’est installé avec sa famille.
Ce n’est pas dans un Temple, une Chapelle, une Eglise que se forgent les liens ici en Agde. Nous essayons plutôt de nous ouvrir à des rencontres informelles autour d’une table et d’un dessert chez nous (Claire fait de très bons gâteaux !). Nous attendons avec impatience la naissance de nouveaux groupes , de véritables “Cellules de vie “qui prendront leur envol dans un esprit de communion et de communication.
Nous verrons à l’avenir et dès que le besoin s’en fera sentir (trop de personnes pour un salon particulier!) comment animer des temps de culte et de louange le dimanche (le soir après la plage, c’est mieux, non ?).
Cela dépendra des structures qui nous seront proposées ou financièrement accessibles.
En attendant, découvrez nos GPS, ces cellules de vie.
1 L’homme fait des projets, mais celui qui a le dernier mot, c’est l’Éternel.
2 Vous pouvez penser que tout ce que vous faites est bien, mais c’est l’Éternel qui apprécie vos motivations. 3 Recommande tes œuvres à l’Éternel, et tes projets se réaliseront.
Parce que Agde bénéficie d’une richesse incroyable en cultures différentes, nous envisageons de profiter du savoir faire de tous!
Chaque temps fort de l’Eglise peut-être une occasion d’expression de la foi… Sous la suggestion d’un frère anglophone, nous envisageons des “Christmas Carols” peut-être pour cette fin d’année…
Mais d’autres idées sont en cours de réflexion. Comme de toute façon c’est le Seigneur qui a le dernier mot, nous attendons sa confirmation pour annoncer ici tout ce qui va se mettre en place!
Et un contact local :
Pasteur Bertrand de MALEPRADE: 06 63 48 91 72
Mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
EGLISE PROTESTANTE d’AGDE
The BBC reports that on January 1 the government of China cut the amount of entertainment shows on Chinese TV from 126 down to just 38. The government said there was excessive amount of entertainment on TV and that they were guarding the nation against too much Western cultural influence.
Now, I think it is dangerous for governments to legislate how much entertainment its citizens can watch on TV, and I am proud to be an American. But this report did get me to thinking about TV and its effect on our spiritual lives.
Would my life be richer or poorer if I watched less TV in 2012?
The average American watches 4 hours of TV per day – or 28 hours per week. The impact of this goes beyond the fact that when we are watching TV we don’t have time to do things like play with our kids, read a book, pursue a hobby, serve another person or disciple someone else.
We also need to remember that when we are watching TV we are being instructed by the culture. We are absorbing a value system of what is right and wrong, what is normal, what is desirable. We are learning the music, topics of discussion for the day, and more. We are being discipled by the culture.
Wit that in mind, how might you use 28 extra hours per week? How might God use those hours in your life?
I have read several books during my post-Christmas break. One that surprised me was Basic Discipleship by Floyd McClung. I expected a review of fundamental truths and habits, like prayer, assurance of salvation, and so on.
Instead, McClung focuses on some key traits that make it possible for us to grow in Christ. They are:
* bringing every part of our lives into God’s will (learning to yield to him).
* breaking free from sin through dealing with pride and growing in humility
* evangelizing through loving others well and overcoming fear.
These truths reflect McClung’s experience as a faithful Christ-follower and veteran, innovative missionary. He has seen how those who adopt these traits grow spiritually strong and vital, while those who neglect them do not.
If you are discipling someone (and I sincerely hope you are), I would encourage you to pass on these lessons to those you are helping to grow.
What does it mean to follow Jesus? How would you describe a disciple? (Since we are called to be, and to make, disciples, it’s a good thing to know!)
One of the simplest definitions of a disciple is one who hears Jesus and does what he says. That gives us a hint of how to grow in our relationship with Christ.
Floyd McClung shares this:
“Just do the next thing you’re reasonably certain Jesus wants you to do.”
If you feel spiritually flat or lukewarm, this simple process cuts through the lethargy.
What will that mean for you?
While I was in college I adopted a view of ministry which has guided me to this day: that the essence of all ministry is healing.
The word “salvation” comes from the Latin word meaning “whole” or “sound”. So to say someone is saved is to say they are whole, or entirely sound in their being.
The ministry Jesus (which he also gave to his followers) was to heal the sick, to cast out demons, and to proclaim the kingdom of God. Healing the sick restored them to sound physical condition. Casting out demons healed people spiritually. And to preach the kingdom of God resulted in people having their relationship with God healed.
As one who ministers (and I am not just referring to pastors), you are a healer!
The Occupy Wall Street protests have made popular the phrase “the 1%”, referring to the richest 1% of the U.S. population. Who are they? Households with an annual income of $345,000 or more.
Ask the question globally; who are the richest 1% of the world’s population? Answer: Those with a household annual income of about $50,000 per year or more. (If you want to find out exactly where you rank globally, insert your income into the tool at www.globalrichlist.com)
If you are not in the 1%, you are probably in the top 5-10%. That means we are rich compared to the 7 billion people on the planet, 80% of whom live on less than $10 per day. (And not because the essentials cost less.)
In light of this, it is worth asking the question: what is God saying to me about how He wants me to celebrate Christmas this year?
Recently I had the chance to spend time with several pastors from around the world who are seeing God work in remarkable ways. These pastors have churches numbering in the tens of thousands and have seen amazing miracles happen in their midst.
When the opportunity arose I asked several to pray for me. One African pastor leading a church of 200,000 prayed over me asking God to meet some specific needs in my life that he had no way of knowing. A couple of others laid hands on me and prayed some powerful things for me. I was very encouraged and even wrote down what they prayed so I could review it later and see how it unfolds.
Yet, as meaningful as the experience was for me, I sensed God telling me that the key to me living out His plan and purpose for me was not that moment in which I was prayed for, it will be in my daily obedience.
I would like for God to transform me with a “zap” — so that in an instant I would have no more anxieties or doubts, and be filled only with love and victory. But most of time it doesn’t happen that way. Yes, meeting God in special moments can propel us forward, but most of the time our lives change when we practice claiming our identity and promise in Jesus; by making the choice to listen for God, risking obedience and loving persistently.
I will always treasure the memory of being prayed over by those great servants of God, but I know it is no short-cut to transformation. That happens one day at a time. And thanks to that experience I am all the more confident it will indeed happen.
It has been painful for me to watch the legacy Joe Paterno has built over 61 years get trashed in one week. After 409 wins (the most ever for a Division I college coach) and positively influencing thousands of young lives over decades, he has been fired by the University he loves and become the subject of scathing remarks in the national media. His brilliant career has ended in a terrible way.
We are mostly remembered for how we finish, and it is hard to finish well. As followers of Jesus, as leaders, we can never coast. It is always vital to lean on the power of the Holy Spirit and pay attention to the direction we are drifting.
Like you, I want to finish well. To do so we need to pay attention to the little things, watch for passion drift, and keep our thirst and and sense of need for God at a high level.
Fortunately we have access to God’s mercy and grace, and he can help us finish strong even if we stumble.
Hebrews 2:1 – “We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.”
Last week I caught a glimpse of what God is doing around the world, and it is awe-inspiring!
I was at a small gathering of church planters featuring 13 pastors from all over the globe. These pastors, only a few of which I knew, have been used by God in truly remarkable ways. They have started churches which have grown to 20,000 and beyond; one pastor leads a church of 200,000 people which is impacting his nation! What kind of person is used of God like this? Here is what I saw:
1. They are are humble. I spoke with several of them one on one, and they are unassuming, down-to-earth, and lacking in self-importance. There was not a trace of arrogance or pride in any of them, which cannot be an accident. God seems to look for those who are humble to pour his life through.
2. They rely on the Holy Spirit. They have seen God do supernatural things, and teach that we must be filled with the Spirit of God in order to live and minister for him. While most could be considered “charismatic” in practice, they do not use labels or get hung up on specific doctrines of the Holy Spirit, They simply read the Bible and believe all the gifts of the Spirit are available today; they depend on His power to minister.
3. They are men of prayer. They seek God in prayer in order to know him, get guidance, find strength, and see results. It’s not a duty, it’s a life.
4. They love. They have a deep love for the people they are trying to reach and for their church. It results in serving.
5. They die to self. Many have been threatened with death, some still are. Some have been in prison and bear the scars of severe beatings. They do what they do not as a career or for recognition, they serve out of a call from God and nothing else.
We can learn a lot from these pastors. I believe God is looking for leaders here in the US who embody these same traits. As more and more believers seek God for these qualities, I believe we will see God work in greater and greater ways.
Which one of these traits is God challenging you to demonstrate?
Steve Cordle is the founding and lead pastor of Crossroads Church, a small group-based congregation with five locations in the Pittsburgh metro area. He also leads a18movement, a non-profit dedicated catalyzing church plants globally. Steve is the author of three books: A Jesus-Shaped Life, Hear it, See it, Risk it, and The Church in Many Houses. He coaches pastors and church planters in the United States and Western Europe. He enjoys running, playing classical piano, and all Pittsburgh sports. Steve is a graduate of Asbury Theological Seminary (M. Div) and United Theological Seminary (D. Min). Steve and his wife, Linda, have three grown sons, three daughters-in-love, and three grandchildren.
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