The word “should” comes easily in church life and literature. You should go to church weekly. You should read your Bible. You should love your enemy.
To lay a Christian “should” on someone makes a massive assumption: That other person wants to be a good Christian and is eager to know how. It’s an application of the Medieval motivation discussed in the previous blog: If you just clearly and rationally tell someone why he or she will understand and do. How naïve that sounds today.
Polling results usually show that the majority of Americans still self-identify as Christian. But the proportion active in this faith typically comes out less than half. The growth of the “nones” (no religion) took a sharp jump up in the last decade. About half the population is not really interested in what Christians should believe and do.
The reaction of some Protestants to the national advancement of the LGBT agenda brings the issue into sharp relief. The USA was (and therefore, it is argued, should still be) a Christian nation, and the Bible says that a homosexual lifestyle is sinful (and therefore should not be legally recognized). For younger generations, equal rights for all people is self-evident. Insistence on this heavy should not has actually done damage to the Christian cause among young people.
Does this mismatch mean that biblical standards should no longer be promoted by conservative Christians? No, the biblical standard remains for those who want to please God with transformed Christ-like living. Such motivation is the necessary pre-requisite. But that no longer exists for most of the American population.
What becomes of motivation for a Christian life in a world where “should” doesn’t cut it anymore? The challenge is to move from what Christians “have to do” toward what Christians “get to do.” The emphasis needs to be on the benefits of living in Christ. These are the benefit of eternal life, certainly. But in relatively affluent America what happens in the next life is no longer as compelling as it used to be. Living a life permeated by God’s guilt-relieving grace can be a great motivator. So, too, can experiencing the life-enhancing benefits of how the Spirit can change inner motivations and bring more love, joy, peace and patience into a believer’s life. Sin remains, of course, but the Spirit can bring greater wisdom to limiting the impact of our remaining sinful nature.
Consider the image of the dove descending and sitting on Jesus’ shoulder at his baptism by John. The dove represented the Holy Spirit. Think of the Spirit whispering into Jesus’ ear. Then transfer that dove image to the Spirit sitting on your shoulder and whispering godly thoughts into your ear. To complete that picture, imagine the Enemy sitting on your other shoulder whispering his temptations. The more you learn to listen to and be motivated by the Spirit, the greater quality of life you will experience.
In today’s unChristian nation, people are usually only interested in how your beliefs work themselves out in your daily living. When your life has a distinctive plus to it, most observers will be interested in your story. The future of Christianity in this country will depend less on what Christians believe and more on how they practice their beliefs. From the How will come interest in the Why.
Many of the earliest Christians were described by Luke as God-fearers. In comparison to the many gods of Roman life, they were attracted to the one God proclaimed by the Jewish apostles. Early generations met and worshipped in house churches of perhaps thirty believers out in the various neighborhoods of a city. Those who became God-fearers witnessed how these followers of Christ lived. We have testimony that they were known by how they loved each other.
Mainline churches are used to living in the Christendom of institutional churches backed by government and common assent. Those centuries are gone. The best way forward is to go back to New Testament times and Paul’s perspective. Be sure to notice his emphasis on how the Spirit helped believers grow in new motivation.
Dave Walters says
Great thoughts, Dave!
David Luecke says
David Luecke says
I have worked ahead and finished 104 one-page short essays. Only half have been sent out. It will take a year before they all get sent. Meanwhile, I am putting them into four booklets, which will soon be available. After 104 I don’t have anything more to say. I am going to see about putting them into one book if I can find a publisher.
More simply put, this is what Jesus taught us in His Sermon On The Mount: “You are the light of the world – like a city on a mountain, glowing in the night for all the world to see. Don’t hide your light under a basket! Instead, put it on a stand and let it shine for all. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” Matthew 5:14-16 (NLT)
David Luecke says
Yes, and we are back to the basics. Institutional churches organized around beliefs. In our new post-modern culture that is no longer attracting.
Philip Meinzen says
Very strong article and thoughts Dr. David! The professional insight you bring with your vocations and the heart that bleeds to love in the Spirit shows through. It’s true what you say that “The more you learn to listen to and be motivated by the Spirit, the greater quality of life you will experience.” It seems to me that believers will need to be keenly aware of the Word of the Lord as we picture/live out “the Spirit sitting on your shoulder and whispering godly thoughts into your ear.” You remind us that ‘The early church had the conviction of the Apostles and new believers.’ Today, we are blessed by our modern day Apostles (like you) and believers like me and countless others, to ‘be’ and ‘do’ the good works that God has called us to, by the infinite kindness of our Lord’s Spirit within us. I like your descriptor that ‘God-fearers’ are known by ‘how they loved each other.’ That’s what I want to be known for. Thanks for your gift of encouragement, given by Christ to us through you!
David Luecke says
I have enjoyed getting to know you. Thanks for you strong encouragement. I just finished this morning the last of 104 blogs. With that final one I am done. Only half have been emailed out so far. The rest will come in the next year. Here is the last paragraph of my last blog:
“My blogs have been addressing mainline Protestant churches with roots in the Reformation, which did happen, after all, 500 years ago. My consistent message has been to take more seriously the Holy Spirit, who was basically ignored in our heritage. Review what the Bible says about the Spirit. Learn how to recognize the Spirit at work around you. Develop ministries shaped by the Spirit. Certainly, we should continue our focus on grace. Aim to do grace-focused and especially Spirit shaped ministries.”
Mike Knauff says
I agree that the rise of the LGBTQ voice and influence in society has thrown the Christian community into a malaise for an appropriate response. This lack of clarity has led to deep doubts about biblical authority and the unique saving relationship Jesus Christ offers. This obviously makes it more challenging for youth to place a firm resolve in trusting Christianity to be a faith worth investing their life in.
So what to do about the challenge LGBTQ’s voice and influence presents to the Biblically grounded Christian? I experience the LGBTQ agenda as diverse and monolithic at the same time. The need to recognize individuals as worthwhile humans no matter what their sexual orientation is something I can heartily sign onto even though I’m well past my 20’s and believe the bible to be God’s ultimate truth in life.
However, I’ve run into the fact that the LGBTQ community has a vast diversity of lifestyles and opinions that sometimes are in-congruent if not in down right conflict with each other. Despite that diversity within the community, if one is deemed “outside” the community then the LGBTQ community becomes monolithic in insisting your view doesn’t count. Which is just another way to dehumanize people, which is supposedly one of the main tenets they stand against? It goes so far as when one deemed “outside” the community offers a critique or question the backlash becomes “anything an LGBTQ person subscribes to is legitimate, healthy, and deserves the full backing of the law.” Which is absurd. No group, not even Christians (or should I say especially?) should get carte blanche when it comes to civil law.
Unfortunately our society has become one of groups finding identity only to then create monolithic mentalities that reason: “if we disagree on a few issues and not basic tenets… we are still enemies!” One can see this played out in so many ways especially our government. Its going to be difficult for our youth to hear Bible based Christian opinions as long as this mentality of disagreement=hate permeates our society.
As to the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ, I agree with your saying that we need to change from focusing on engagingly espousing “Why” to giving living examples of “How.” And that means finding ways that Bible based Christians can live graciously with people living non-biblical expressions of sexuality. To date the two options Bible based Christians seem to choose between are the polar opposites of “Fire and Brimstone” condemnation of “the sinner” or what I call the “cut and paste” Bible where if God’s word offends you its okay to just cut that part out.
If I were a twenty year old today I doubt that I would be a strong Christian if these were my only two options of living out my Christian faith. We forget that Christianity was birthed during the Roman Empire and homosexuality as well as other sexual lifestyles were fairly common. While I know the “hell fire and brimstone approach” existed even back then I’m pretty sure it was not what caused most hearts to turn toward Christ. I also know the “cut and paste” club existed back then too. Nor do I think that approach changed the hearts of humanity to Christ.
However, I am convinced that a different type of Christianity was very effective in bringing a very corrupt, very sexually diverse population to Christ. It was those “work a day” Christians, who formed tight knit communities, and tried in all they said and did to live out the grace and love of Christ that made the difference. The fact that they were willing to be persecuted for living out those beliefs made all the difference. They didn’t have the marks of what we’ve come to think of as successful churches. They didn’t have big youth groups, wonderful musicians, polished preachers, beautiful buildings or endowment funds. They just had God’s (unedited) Word, their faith in, and relationship with, a crucified and risen Lord, and each other. They also didn’t view culture as something to control or join in with, but instead influence and stand apart from. They didn’t view government as something that would be friendly to their cause or a means to bring others to their cause. They did however want to live lives that would be an example of God’s love and favor to their neighbor. They knew that type of life might bring them into conflict with government and trials might come. They hoped that if it came to a trial, the way they lived might be a testament to Jesus and expose the government for its failings in living up to God’s law of love..
David Luecke says
You state the issue well. I am looking for help in figuring out how biblically faithful Christian leaders can minister to the LGBT community. Fifty years ago in view of Jesus’ clear statements, divorce could get you excommunicated. Now 50% of marriages end in divorce. Unlike Catholics, we figured out how to minister to divorcees. What do we do now to figure out how to minister to LGBT without demanding that they change. I am open to insights.
Lee Larsen says
Once we are truly filled with God’s Spirit and dig deeply into His word it becomes crystal clear as to the ramifications of our sinful ways. Society wants everyone to “go along” with the natural flow of things, much like the adage “no one wants to drink alone”, sort of “partners in sin” or “lets waddle in it together”, that will be fun!
We can look at any aspect of our naturalized society and see the enormous path of destruction it has, is and will cause. Sex outside of marriage led to unwanted children, which led to abuse and to the acceptance of abortion to “take care of the problem”. No matter at what point you look at this lasting and painful scars remain for generations to come. The social & economic impact is like a growing tsunami. Broken families, multiple mom’s & dad’s, self proclamation of gender ideology, all leads to dysfunction, high levels of stress, which in turn causes psychological harm and opens the door for drug & alcohol abuse, physical & emotional abuse and on and on, this cycle becomes extremely difficult to break from generation to generation. As we part further and further from God’s ways we find ourselves relying more and more on man’s attempts to solve the challenges brought forth as a result. Whether it was elicit drug use or unnatural sex acts both were the source whereby AIDS was able to wipe out entire generations of people from our world leaving behind millions of orphaned children with no place to go. The only takeaway was to use clean needles & condoms, but the actions that brought about this hell still continues. Our society is just expected to keep absorbing the cost of our ungodly ways as we continue to embrace the choosing of any road you desire to take. Out of love for me my father didn’t tell me I shouldn’t do something if he knew doing it would cause me great pain, suffering and maybe even death. If it was that serious he up’d the volume and back it up with an attention getter, because in too many cases you don’t have a second chance at getting it right! That is why Jesus is such a blessing because His word provides us with divine guidance and His grace & forgiveness provides us the opportunity to get it right, in this world and with God the Father on that final day..
David Luecke says
Yes, the bill is coming due for the sexual revolution of the 60s. The results are clearly not good, as you list them. But how do we turn around what’s happening as we churches minister to the world around us. We are easily brushed off. I agree that PACT at least gets our foot in the door.
Robert Burmeister says
They probably loved each other because they could emotionally embrace and mentally and physically monitor and care for the limited numbers in the small groups. Stalin said the death of one person is a tragedy but the death of millions is a statistic. To many individuals, large numbers of people are just statistics, ie. vast numbers of poor and starving kids in Hait and Africa. Again, when charities appeal for the needs of the poor and needy with their heart wrenching pictures and Videos the trust level is eroded when some watchdog group discovers that the particular charity pays their officials enough $$$$ to qualify for the life style of the rich and famous. When confusion sets in it’s easier to walk away or let the other guy or the experts take care of it since they are paid to figure it out. Economies of scale may work well for church finances, staffing, programs, services offered etc. but not so much for the life of fellowship (koinonia).
David Luecke says
I agree with your observation. Right now Royal Redeemer is administering a $20,000 grant to feed hungry children in Haiti through a Lutheran congregation we work with. I am not sure, though, what your larger point is in reference to the most recent blog.
Randi Erickson says
The Bible does NOT say that “a homosexual lifestyle is sinful and therefore should not be legally recognized”. What an uninformed statement for a Pastor to make! In the days of Sodom and Gomorrah everyone was having orgies – that was disgusting and sinful. All He said – and keep it in context of when it was said and to whom – was a man should not lay with another man. The lifestyle God loves is good, kind, without envy .. you know the rest. A same sex lifestyle can be a more Christian relationship than many heterosexual relationships! As a Psychologist I know that a sexual desire for the same sex is NOT a choice – it is based on the makeup of an individuals DNA – it’s about genetics. Would you punish someone and exclude them from the church if they were born with no legs – or how about if they were born with no genitalia … hmmm they can’t lay with anyone. Just think about it. Go back to the Bible as it was written in the original language – and please, stop making your own exaggerated assumptions. You’re hurting yourself even more than the blame and hurt you cast on others. Think about the big picture- what’s it all about? Degrading others for a normal instinct they were born WITHOUT? Enough said … hope it sink in to just one person.
David Luecke says
I was repeating what traditional Calvinists profess. I am looking forward to a productive discussion of how to minister to same-sex couples today. Fifty years ago divorce was enough for ex-communication. We have learned to live with that. How do biblically faithful churches learn to live with and minister to same-sex couples today? Help me on that.
Dan Hillman says
The “should” (aka – the moral imperative) remains, as the Bible has not and never will change. The fear of the Lord is still the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10), and God still mocks proud mockers (Psalm 2). The Holy Spirit convicts the word of sin, of righteousness, and of the coming judgment (John 16). Fret not about polls. Forget about marketing schemes. Fear God alone. Fear no man. James 4:4. Matthew 6:33. The chief marketing scheme of the church must always be prayer, the faithful preaching of the Word, and just and charitable acts of God’s people performed in humility in Jesus’ name. If any fool says, “If you want to win me to Christ, don’t tell me what I SHOULD do,” he should be rebuked and marginalized. Warn a divisive person once; then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him. The compromised worldly church needs more conviction. If you are faithful to God, you won’t be accepted by most. If you sugar coat it, you may gain the laud and adoration of the world, but at what cost? What good is it for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul.
Christ died on that cross to save sinners. He had to because sin, by its very nature, is utterly sinful. Romans 7:13.
David Luecke says
Yes, call it the moral imperative. I am asking the question of how behavior is changed. Continually knocking people over the head with the moral imperative is not going to change their behavior. To motivate them to pursue the moral imperative, something has to change within them. They have to want to do what is right in God’s eyes. That change happens by the Spirit moving within them and changing their heart. The Spirit can do that when believers put themselves into the Spirit’s workshop-the people of God gathered around God’s word and sharing what it means to them.
Marc DiConti says
For me, the answer to your question is one of getting back to the basics of assuring our Church communicates [and functions in] a balanced Law and Gospel message [a la Walther]. “Should” is Law and though needed, is only half of Christ’s message. As our heart attitude and goal [aligned with Jesus’s], is to assure the Gospel is received, it is to of sincere love for the sinner; with Christ’s love, the Law’s “should” is both communicated [by Church] received [by the sinner] effectively.
Jesus’s servant attitude and heart manifested in his preaching, teaching, sharing, and ‘Q & A’ time with sinners. He offered water to the woman at the well, spoke up for the uninvited dinner party sinner at his feet, saved the life of an adulterer before being stoned, etc. and in every case was unapologetic about pointing to the sinner’s sin, but did so with love and then graciously offered the Grace of forgiveness, and thus fulfilled the Gospel mission. Jesus still gives us our model for ministry to all sinners we the Church encounter today.
David Luecke says
Well said, thanks. During this shutdown, I have worked ahead and finished all 104 blogs. The last 26 have the title Witnessing in the New Post-Modern Culture. We were in what I call the Sacred-Canopy Culture, where sin and salvation are basic. But we are now facing the Post-Modern Culture. Convincing of sin is not the touchpoint for young adults, who don’t believe in the Bible and are not willing to be shamed. Their touchpoint is evidence of the better life believers live (love, joy, peace, etc.) and welcoming Christian fellowships. Then when some accept the beliefs of those Christians, then they will begin to understand sin and salvation.
Bryan Portz says
Thanks for this Christ centered motivating logic. Helpful points to use in reach others for Christ.
David Luecke says
Thanks, Bryan, for commenting. You worked as a higher-level manager for many years. You know how basic motivation is.