Friday, January 11, 2008

The Rapture Already Happened!!!


Only instead of being snatched up into the clouds of glory, American Christians have disappeared into secluded church subcultures and comfortable bubbles. Scared ya for minute, didn't I? :)

According to a number of surveys conducted by the Barna Group, a christian research institute, there has been a 92 percent increase in the number of unchurched Americans in the last thirteen years. In 1991 there were 39 million unchurched Americans compared with the 75 million currently. The age group between 21-35 are disappearing from American churches at an alarming rate and they are the least likely age group to be personally acquainted with a christian. Although every survey concludes that the most effective method of evangelism is to build LONG TERM personal relationships with people, it is the least used method employed by evangelicals. Street preaching, tract distributing, media evangelism, and other "one-hit" type methods are the most common evangelistic tools.

So, the emerging American "unchurched" culture has no "inside" experience with everyday Christians and large numbers of everyday American Christians are spending the majority of their time with other Christians in mostly christian settings.

What are the unintended consequences of such a reality? Well, for one, our culture's impression of the church is largely dependent on evangelicals in the media (most of whom, I wish would get raptured already) or the horror stories from people who have been burned by the church and left. Now, most christian people and leaders are wonderful people, trying to live their lives in accordance to the teachings of Jesus and to love God and each other the best way they know how. But it is SO easy and SO common for believers to get sucked into the christian subculture, that most of the world does not get to encounter these people on a regular basis. We church folks have created such an extensive, safe, and comfortable bubble that it becomes completely possible to enter through the church's door and never come back out again. Somehow, I don't think that is what Jesus had in mind...

We have our own everything: churches, schools from pre-k to college, book clubs, music, stores, christianese jargon, odd bumper stickers, businesses, movies, retreats, concerts, conventions, coffee houses, theaters, magazines, news outlets, youth groups, youth centers, and even alternatives to myspace and youtube (hi, Godtube!). None of these things are sinful or harmful in and of themselves, but add them all together and we've created a comfy, isolated empire that too many Christians retreat to LONG TERM. And MANY get sucked so far in, that they make little contact with the culture at large, if ever. We might as well be raptured.

People outside the church get a distorted view of Christianity because they form their perception of Christianity based on the few glimpses we allow, and it ain't pretty. There's the TV evangelists that prey on the the poorest and most vulnerable members of society to swindle their money in exchange for false hope. The world watches as these charlatans reduce the name of Jesus to a magic trick or a lottery ticket, taking money FROM the poor to build crystal cathedrals and fund their decadent lifestyles of BMWs and mansions on hills. Or people hear mega-preachers like Pat Robertson, who blames every natural disaster on gays and liberals, calls for the assassination of leaders who he disagrees with, who famously said, "gays want to come into our churches, throw blood on us and give us all AIDS," and then later said gay people's presence at Disney World would cause a meteor to hit earth. Oh, how about when Jerry Falwell claimed the purple teletubby was gay and blamed 9/11 on liberals, gays, and the ACLU? Or what about Gary Demar, who wants to establish the Old Testament law as American Law, so gays can be executed. Or the Westboro Baptists that go around the country protesting military funerals with signs that say "God Hates Your Tears," "God Hates Fags," and "God Killed Your Sons." Or savvy politicians, who may or may not be Christians, but do not hesitate to use Jesus to "sanctify" the republican party and all that comes along with it. Or when Bob Jones University, a christian college that attracted such notorious speakers as G.W. Bush and John McCain, just lifted their longstanding official ban on inter-racial dating in 2000! Or people like Ann Coulter, who talk about Jesus constantly and then advocate the use of nuclear weapons, just to send a warning to the rest of the world. Or how about the long string of scandals involving high profile Christians, going all the way back to Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker up to Benny Hinn and Ted Haggard? Or sometimes people's only experience with church people are when they watch Christians organize over shallow issues, such as boycotting stores that say "happy holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas." Or if people are really lucky, they might just be told they're on their way to hell through a comic strip track left on the windshield of their car. These are just a handful of examples...

Do you see where I am going with this? Do you see why people scratch their heads and think there is a disconnect between Jesus and The church? And in some cases, they are right, there is a disconnect between the example Jesus set and how the church behaves. Christians know that there is so much diversity within the church, so many denominations and viewpoints, and one sector does not speak for the whole. But to an outsider, it could easily seem like "the church" is full of money-hungry, power-hungry, war-mongering, male-dominated, pro-rich, judgmental, calloused, legalistic, politically partisan (bordering on theocrats), hypocritical Pharisees, who want to force their religion on others, reject and condemn those with whom they disagree, and eagerly await heathens' future smiting...

People who have never known down-to-earth, loving Christians to off-set these wacky portrayals (perhaps "betrayals" is a more apt description), will inevitably form this type of caricature of the church. It's human nature. We Christians are guilty of the same. How many Christians who never take the time to know gay people personally paint them as promiscuous, leather-wearing, rainbow-clad, cross-dressing, parade-marching transvestites that are after our children? (I heard this description verbatim...)

All the incidents I pointed out do not represent Christianity as a whole, but the world will never know that if we Christians continue to barricade ourselves within our safe subcultures, listening to CCM (barf) while reading the Left Behind Series. If we do not make the vulnerable move to go out AMONG the people--not just inviting people to church--and build real, trustworthy relationships, where we listen just as much as talk, where we become transparent, humble, and sacrificing--Christians and nonchristians alike will suffer. Nonchristians might never get past their horrible impression of the church to even consider or fully understand the gospel. Our PLACE is to be in the world--smack dab in the middle of the muck and mire of human dysfunction (John 17:5). Christians will never experience essential growth without heeding to this call, to be IN the world. We can attend church services every Sunday, mid-week prayer groups and bible studies, attend our christian colleges, wear our scripture-clad t-shirts and WWJD bracelets, and do the "hit and run" evangelizing from time to time, but unless we get out and live among the people as Jesus did, reach out to the outcasts and marginalized, start publicly defending the cause of the poor and needy, and use what influence we have to demonstrate service-based christianity, we will become stagnant, disconnected Christians, twiddling our thumbs until Jesus comes back....and I wonder what He'd say?

I've been reading this book, "They Like Jesus, But Not the Church: Insights from Emerging Generations" by Dan Kimball, about how the present "secular" culture views Jesus and the Church, and the vast difference of opinion between the two. It's a book that provides great hope for the church to break out of its bubble and reach out to a generation hungering for Jesus (more to come on this book).

I don't know about you, but I haven't been raptured. I am here on earth, called to pray for and bring about God' will ON EARTH as it is in heaven. I am flawed and inadequate for such a task. I struggle with selfishness, fear, doubt, and a million other areas on a daily basis. Nevertheless, I am not ready to disappear from the world. I want to be here to sow peace, forgiveness, and reconciliation. I want to extend a hand of friendship to the other--the Muslim, the Jew, the Hindu, the atheist, or a gay person. I want to encounter Jesus in the least, the lost, and the last of this world. After all, that is where He said we would truly find him.

"Christians are now the foreigners in a post-christian culture, and we have got to wake up to this reality."
--Dan Kimball

28 comments:

robert austell said...

That's a great post - you nailed one of the great problems of American Christianity.

God help us look outward!

from Christy Fritz said...

it's tough to see you're in a bubble when the bubble has been your whole world. popping bubbles is traumatic for some. thankfully their are christians who were never raised in bubbles, and some, who even though they were, are learning to pop them and move on and up in grace...or dare i say...emerge:) i saw the same numbers on CNN last night. i am grateful we are in a body that recognizes this and addresses it head on. but it also embraces the fact that it isn't about making church comfortable and entertaining, life following jesus just isn't that way.
but it is determining to allow those who have been burned or have no clue about christianity to be safe,loved, valued, and respected. then we are able to establish the relationships needed to make disciples of Christ. that will mean that not everything will be "tolerated", it sure isn't in our body. some things are just not acceptable and often tolerating things is usually just a shallow approach to relationships. but all will be loved, despite differences, and able, as you say, to coexist.
very good post...:)

Terry said...

Wonderful post, Tia. What can I say? When you're right, you're right. And you, my dear, hit the nail on the head with this one. This is one of the reasons I sometimes get uncomfortable with a few of these Biblical womanhood blogs I read from time to time. You know I'm pretty conservative in what I believe about family, marriage, and mothehood. But what about single mothers who love the Lord? Widows, divorcees, or even those of us who weren't pure as the driven snow on our wedding nights? I find no sensitivity towards those who have not arrived yet. Living in a bubble is a dangerous thing for a Christian. It dulls our sensitivity towards the needs of others. I think Paul's words to Timothy are appropriate here: "Be well balanced, for your adversary the devil is like a roaring lion, seeking those he may devour." Self-righteousness and pride are a natural outgrowth of cutting ourselves off from those not like us.

musicmommy3 said...

Hmmm, I agree with what you are saying but I also believe in balance. I know that you do too but since this is article was meant to shake us up and burst the bubble it didn't come across that way to me. (well, I guess it did in the part where you said that the programs and schools and such were not bad but that it shouldn't be all we are involved in-paraphrase)
I'm not saying this post isn't true but I think what we need is both. We need to be immersed in the lives of the unsaved and at the same time be joined together with other believers. It's a balancing act. Too much worldly influence without the balance of the Body is not going to be good (IMHO). Too much Body and not enough
contact with the unsaved is also not good-for the reasons you pointed out.
I believe that it is Scriptural that we need both. Jesus talked of us being in the world and He certainly was but He (through Paul) also talked about not forsaking getting together with other belivers because we need each other.
Again, I'm certainly not advocating a bubble life. I'm just saying that there is truly a balance here.
I know you believe in hanging out and getting together with other belivers I just wanted to throw the balance thing out there for other readers. :)

Terry said...

I agree with you, too, musicmommy. Hence my call for balance. We need other believers to sharpen us and call us to account. We need to go to unbelievers to share the gospel with them. I think Tia was expressing concern that many unbelievers are turned off by what they see as the unrealistic, isolationist, and sometimes crazy approach to religion and holy living exhibited by many believers. For the record, I don't think most Christians really live that way. I think Christian television and the media often paint that picture and those who don't know any better accept it as reality, which makes it even more important for us to get out there and show people how wonderful the Christian life really is.

musicmommy3 said...

Totally agree Terry.

Tia Lynn said...

Terry, I love ya, and not just because you told me I was right :)

Angela, I am so HAPPY you posted! The clarification you made is VITAL. We NEED the church, the body to be united, to teach, to serve, to provide community, to be peacemakers, etc. Those are necessary and uplifting aspects of the Body. It’s just the emphasis on making our own version of EVERYTHING to run parallel to the world, instead of intersecting it. I chose to go to a public college for just that reason (and it’s cheap). I am friends with the campus crusade folks, who do their thing in the midst of the world and interact with other clubs on service projects and such things. Then, on my own, I get to meet all sorts of interesting people from all different walks of life. It helps me remember that I DON’T always have the answers or KNOW what it’s like to be in someone else’s shoes.

I would never advocate the rejection of “church,” although I think our concept of what church really is, needs to broaden. Too many have reduced “church” to a Sunday meeting. What needs changing is the mindset, not necessarily all the activities, although I personally could do without the corny stuff. :) We can be part of churches, concerts, colleges, retreats, and the like. Some of the best experiences of my life happened during those gatherings, so I would never want to “do away” with them. We need to redefine the mindset claims being “set apart” is being physically set apart or kept away from the world. Being set apart should mean demonstrating the love of Christ IN the world and TO the world.

You are completely right about balance. We need that foundation of fellow believers to sharpen each other and bare each others burdens. Thanks for weighing in sister

peter said...

Standing ovation for this one Tia! Keep them coming.

Jeremy Myers said...

Tia,

Excellent post! Fantastic. I heartily agree. The opening line caught my attention too..ha ha.

Tia Lynn said...

Yeah, the title was a cheap trick on my part to get more readers... :)

Michelle said...

Hi Tia, you don't know me - I'm Christy's friend. :) I just wanted to let you know I quoted you in Bible study this morning, went on a full blown schpeal (sp?) about the whole theme of "the rapture might as well have already happened" and someone said afterward, "Wow, that was good, where did you read that again?" and I said, "On my friend's friend's blog" and she looked at me like I had lobsters crawling out of my ears of course, but everyone had to agree that there's a real point being made here. I just thought you'd like to know you're being quoted now! :)

Tia Lynn said...

Michelle, I am honored! I was actually debating whether to make that analogy, because I didnt want people to get offended, but at the same time when Christians remove themselves from the world, the comparison is fair. Thank you for your kind words!

Grafted Branch@Restoring the Years said...

Oh! Ho ho! No no no no! The Christians that tend to completely segregate themselves from all of society (and here in South Texas, that includes 20 acres and a water well) are less than gregarious, lacking in compassion and rife with a judgmental vibe.

The fallen World doesn't need that kind of testimony, so maybe it's better that they work out their salvation with fear and trembling--in private.

Tia Lynn said...

Hehe.

Maybe they are like that precisely because they segregate themselves from the world. When people isolate themselves it is far too easy to label vast majorities of people without ever personally encountering the faces and stories behind their labels. And there really are plenty of wonderful Christians who do not venture out into the world because they are afraid or because church life can be awfully consuming. :) Thanks for commenting!

Secret Rapture said...

My inaugural address at the Great White Throne Judgment of the Dead, after I have raptured out billions! The Secret Rapture soon, by my hand!
Read My Inaugural Address
At = http://www.angelfire.com/crazy/spaceman

FIRE On Your Head said...

Greetings Tia
I just found this blog using the Blogrush widget, and thought this entry was awesome and gives words to some of my own frustrations.

Let's do the math:
If a typical church service is just 2 hours long, and the rest of us work 40-hour jobs or have 24-hour school weeks, then even if we are going to extra teaching meetings, we're still by DEFAULT 'in the world' way more than in a church building, so I'm curious as to how The Body of Christ gets itself so sheltered from the world. I admit to seasons of my life where I recognize I've allowed that to happen to me, and it's very easy, but still, it ought not to be true of us.

Thanks for posting this, you might like the latest episode of a podcast I do with another missionary (both of us are missionaries to the Netherlands--a place in need of mighty revival), and we called it "Has a Rapture Mentality Short-Changed This Generation?"---with the basic idea that generations before us haven't "built US" up to be a vibrant church in the world in the hear and now, because they thought they'd be raptured any minute now, and didn't "plan ahead" and helped create some of the messes we're in now.

I'm sure I'll be revisiting your blog regularly, from what I've seen you're quite a prolific writer! Keep up the good work!

Steve

Tia Lynn said...

Thanks Steve! I will definitely check out that podcast.

Come back again!

singlemomforgod said...

Tia Lynn,

I am back lurking around your blog and I am in love with this post. As my dear bloggy pal Terry pointed out in her comment, I used to feel so left out of the Christian blog world. Me a single mom, working full time, with no traditional bible home life. Well this fueled my desire to keep blogging and trying to reach those other prodigal children like myself in hopes that my testimony will show them Gods divine love for them all. I do believe that once the rapture does come, many of the people that you named off in your post will be sitting around scratching thier heads looking into the sky with a totally confused look on thier faces. The sad part is, they will honestly be confused. Thanks again for such a wonderful insight. I am learning to read and digest your spiritual food. It's not as hard to swallow as I thought:))) Look forward to getting to know ya!

Tia Lynn said...

Thanks so much! Believe me, I come from dysfunction junction. There’s nothing traditional about the way I was raised. But there was beauty in it and beneficial lessens. :) God meets us where we are and our lives will look different from other believers. There’s diversity in the body. Good job looking to embrace all the prodigals out there! :)

Free Spirit said...

Hi Tia. I'm a brand new reader. I really appreciate your thinking. Can't imagine that you're not familiar with The Shack book, or So You Don't Want To Go To Church Anymore, (or The God Journey podcast) - all things that have irrevocably changed who I am and how I think, and sound so akin to your post here.

Great post! I agree with 98% of it. I am a mom of 4, product of religion, and now,consider myself officially an outside-the-box thinker. Been goin' thru a bit of a metamorphosis myself, breaking free from the very mentality you write of.


Got a few questions:

1) Why are we "supposed" to be balanced? I've never seen that word used in scripture, and not sure that it's really a concept Jesus taught. The closest I can come up with is we are not "in the world, but not of the world." I've always wondered where we came up with this concept that we so strongly defend. You know, I'm just really not into trying to balance anything; it sounds too similar to the rest of the "to do" list of religion that I've thrown away.

2) Do we really NEED the church? In the sense that we actually ARE the church, I suppose it could be argued. But, I'm leery of saying that I NEED anything other than Jesus and the Holy Spirit. "Church" within 4 walls, as we know it, is totally broken. While I couldn't agree more that the Body is meant to be united, I just don't buy that "church" is the only, or even best, way to go about it. Maybe we're not meant to go about it at all? Maybe its entirely the job of the Holy Spirit to unite us IN our spirit. Are we trying to usurp His responsibility?

3) And what of this concept of being accountable to each other? Are we really "supposed" to be? What if we are really only meant to be accountable to God? I believe that "confess your sins one to another" doesn't equate accountability as in "you keep a check on me in this area", like its someone else's responsibility to "keep me in check".

4) In one of your comments to Terry, you mention that some of the best experiences of your life happened during "those gatherings", which is wonderful, and I could say the same, but it begs the question: should we not tip the sacred cow of "church" just because it provides great experiences?
If we're in it for a great experience, then by all means stay; you'll get yours, but I've seen my own fallacy of staying involved in "church" just so I can have just another a "great experience", but often at the expense of deep and meaningful growth in Christ.

I don't mean to be rude here. I, too, am just at a place of challenging all I've ever known, and previously subscribed to. I'm mostly wanting to give food for thought.

I like you're blog and will be visiting more. And not just to antagonize you! :)

Tia Lynn said...

Free Spirit, welcome! Come by anytime. I have had many of the same thoughts as you and tend to agree with you. I wouldn’t make a rule that people SHOULD NOT attend “church,” but will always side with BEING the church over “going to church.” I think “church” has sadly been reduced to a Sunday morning meeting where people seek individualistic experience and “put on” spirituality, where little realness is displayed.

1. I guess how one defines “balanced” will determine how biblical of a concept it is. When I say balanced, I do not mean some performance-based to-do-list that to make sure you’ve covered everything. I am more referring to the tendency of going to unhealthy extremes. In an effort to “avoid evil” some christians isolate themselves from any contact with “the world.” Other become so obsessed with “church” and “getting to heaven” they neglect the call to bring about God’s kingdom on earth. I don’t view being balanced as achieving certain tasks, but avoiding extremes that render us ineffective.

2. I definitely don’t think we NEED church as we know it today, but I do think believers need to come together and have community with each other. Encourage each other, bare each other’s burdens, and meet each other’s needs as well as the needs of their local community.

3. As far as being accountable to each other, I do not think every believer has the right or obligation to barge in on other believers’ lives and keep them “accountable” to the doctrines they like best. I think as we develop relationships with each other, it’s natural that we share our struggles and weaknesses and each person makes the decision to INVITE someone into that and spur them onto growth. It should never be done in judgment or “I’m more spiritual than you, so let me tell you how it is” kind of thing. That’s just some nut on a power trip. :)

4. I absolutely think church as we know it needs to change. I can appreciate many of the attempts of the modern church. I think God works through imperfect vessels and systems all the time and good has come from modern church. However, as a living organism, the church needs to grow and change to carry out it’s walk with God. This will look different for every believer and I am not one to say “you should be doing this way and ONLY this way.” I’m all about diversity.

knightingale said...

Tia-am I to understand you support homosexuality?Do you wish to sack all that Church people have done and put it out for pick-up?Do you wish to convey that you have made provisions for all those who might leave the Church and follow you?To dismiss all that Churches and the people who go,are just appreciated by you?You are being careless. Even though I can see your point,and don't completely disagree, I do no think you have the right to dismiss Churches,and their work.To me you sound like those you talk against.Please dont dismiss the work of Christians in Churches,there is more to be said than you just appreciating them.Your are sounding like all the work they do,is weak at best,and is more damaging than good. You are all about diversity.So is Obama.your doing harm to Churches,not trying to help them grow. You are misleading people.

guitarjonny said...

I feel like Elijah when he was griping about being the only one left, and God gently chiding him to quit being a baby, cuz there are thousands out there under the radar. Thank you for articulating my thoughts better than I had been able to myself. I've sent your blog out to numerous people with the note: "this is what I was trying to say." ;-)
I haven't blogged in a very long time, but your words have stirred me to get back to it. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

unbelievable. Church means "body of Christ". Its that simple. This blog is for lazy people wanting to craft their own meaning of Church to suite them. Leaning to your own understanding. Redefine the word of God. Hear what your ears itch to hear.Cake and eat it too reality.Dont like going to Church? Just listen to this person,shell get ya fixed right up. Tell you what God "really means" when He speaks. Have another sip of her koolaid and youll be Nirvana.
Shes wrong. Shes teaching against Gods word. But,then again, Id say most posters on here,were already in this state of mind anyway, pretending to be enlightened by this prophetic person. Dont buy into this. Do yourself a favor and pray,Jesus will answer,just not via the internet. This person is no more or less than the people she speaks against,if she was correct.

Spiritbear said...

I love this post. Truthfully if the Church doesnt get it right soon, the church will slowly die.

I have been burned by the church and find it hard to get into church anymore. I still love Jesus but I am in turmoil because of Churchianity and its subculture of stupidity

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Anonymous said...

no, the rapture has not happened. Everyone just shutup and stop being stupid, God would not abbandon us like this. And plus+, is would be 20,000,000,000,000,000 times worse than this. God is still here with us, the Anti-Christ is not in full control yet...........IT HASN'T HAPPENED!!!! yet...

Unknown said...

I wonder if the rapture will be in a virtual world rather then this one where technology gets to the point where people can live in virtual kingdoms.

Maybe the whole tribulation will not even be in *this* world but rather in a virtual MMORPG that we live and breathe in if we want to participate in the economy game.