His Truth Will Set You Free

Listen to what Jesus says; “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)


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The Churchless

churchless

I was reading some results from a Barna Group study of “churchless” in the USA. In the past decade, the number of churchless people has increased 30%. About 75% of the churchless attended church at one time… Barna calls them “de-churched.”

I have a theory: people are leaving churches because of a lack of truth. Many churches replace Jesus’ truth with their own ideas. Yet manmade theology does not have the power to affect people’s lives in a positive way. Only the truth of Jesus and the presence of His Spirit can do that. Without the truth and Holy Spirit, people give up and leave.

It’s just my theory… what do you think?


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Better than Books

books

Recently, several people have asked me for recommendations of good books that may help strengthen their relationship with Jesus. Here are some of my favorite books, which have really helped me:

“The Practice of the Presence of God,” by Brother Lawrence

“Humility,” by Andrew Murray

“Absolute Surrender,” by Andrew Murray

(almost anything by Andrew Murray)

“The Knowledge of the Holy,” by AW Tozer

But what’s helped me more than reading is devoting as much time as I can to praying. While praying, I try to visualize the Holy Spirit within me. It’s taken me a long time to truly believe in the presence of the Spirit of God within me. But now I believe, and that’s more powerful than any book I’ve read. For with the Spirit, I FEEL God’s love, which is far more powerful than just knowing about God’s love.


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An Appeal and a Prayer

surrender

One of my strongest desires is for unity within the churches of Jesus Christ. And in the name of unity, today I offer up an appeal to all Christians, and a prayer.

An Appeal

I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. (1)

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. (2)

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love. (3)

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. (4)

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (5)

A Prayer

Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name – so that they may be one as we are one. (6)

May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (7)

I pray … that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (8)

(9)

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (10)

1: (1 Corinthians 1:10)
2: (Ephesians 4:2-3)
3: (1 Corinthians 16:13-14)
4: (Romans 15:5-7)
5: (Colossians 3:12-17)
6: (John 17:11b)
7: (John 17:23)
8: (John 17:20-21)
9: (John 17:17)
10: (Ephesians 3:14-21)
 
[This was first posted July 17, 2008]


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Where There are no Denominations

Holy Spirit inside

In Jesus’ church, there are no denominations. Jesus’ church is simpler than the complex collection of differing manmade Christian organizations. Jesus’ church is the family of Spirit-filled believers.

“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:19-22)


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Love is God

Where love there is God

My adopted brother turned his back on my parents, ran away from home, and spent most of his life in prison. Yet even with all their pain and suffering, my parents never stopped loving their lost son. But their love for my half-bother is only a faded image of Gods love for His children.

To know true love is to know the nature of God. The primary trait of Gods character is love, for as John said, “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.” (1 John 4:16).

Love is so much a part of God and God so loves, that He and love are the same. Love is not a description of God – God is a description of love.

Applying God to Paul’s picture of love in chapter 13 of his first letter to the Corinthians, we have a vivid portrait of the true character of God…

“God is patient, God is kind. God does not envy, He does not boast, He is not proud. God is not rude, He is not self-seeking, He is not easily angered, He keeps no record of wrongs. God does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. God always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. God never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8, paraphrase)

Where there is love, there is God.


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The Mad Scientist

young frankenstein

I used to like watching those old, black and white science fiction movies where the mad scientists straps two people to heavy laboratory tables, hooks them up to high power machinery, throws switches, sparks fly, and the brains of the two victims are exchanged. I really like the movie “Young Frankenstein,” where Dr. Frankenstein straps himself to one of the tables so he can exchange some of his goodness with his delinquent creation.

Well, we are Gods delinquent creation. Jesus willingly strapped Himself to the cross, and exchanged His righteousness for our sinfulness. We are righteous now, if we believe in the gift that Jesus has given us. Our righteousness comes from Jesus. And I’m so grateful.


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Truth is Freedom

truth will set you free

We make our decisions based on what we know and believe. If what you believe to be true is a lie, then that lie becomes the foundation for your decisions.

We all have the chance to decide if we will believe in Jesus Christ. Wouldn’t it be nice to be free to make that decision based on truth?

Yet some people aren’t interested in the truth, as Paul said, “They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.” (2 Thessalonians 2:10) Some may be more interested in their self-made delusions than the truth. So before someone can decide how they will respond to Jesus, they first must decide how they will respond to the truth.

The truth is freedom – from worry, fear, doubt, uncertainty, stress, guilt, and the control of lies. As Jesus said, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners.” (Luke 4:18) Yet, is there a dungeon door that separates you from the truth? Jesus is knocking on your door… and His truth will set you free.


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The Judge within Me

do not judge

“Do not judge.” This order is scattered throughout the bible. Yet Christians have a reputation for being judgmental. Look, it’s who we are as humans, like part of our DNA. I’m not sometimes judgmental because I’m Christian, but because I’m human. And because of my ever-growing love for God and Jesus, I usually come down hard on myself when I discover I’m judging others. Sometimes I make myself miserable with guilt.

But wait, where does guilt come from? It comes from a judgment. I judge myself guilty… in this case, guilty of being judgmental.

In a recent blog-conversation I had with someone about Scary Christians, this thought occurred to me: as we shouldn’t judge others, we should not judge ourselves.

Instead of focusing on ourselves, the cure for being judgmental is to focus more on the Holy Spirit within. Do not judge… yourself. Leave guilt behind and look instead to the Holy Spirit of God and Jesus within you. And He will set you free.


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Faith Journey – My feet are tired but my soul is on fire

faith journey

It’s a worn out phrase, “faith journey,” but it’s accurate. It’s been a long, hard struggle for me, at times. Often I’m trudging along, with my eyes focused on the path ahead, ever vigilant for obstacles. There can be big boulders, some so large I have to climb over them. Like my prideful selfishness. It just keeps getting in my way.

Sometimes I get tired of this journey, ever looking out for and dodging potholes and roadblocks. Sometimes I just want to step off the path, set up camp, and crash for a while. But then I look up, and there ahead is my goal, always bright and visible. Jesus is right there, forever in front of me, encouraging me onward. His love is so powerful. It gets me back on my feet and moving again. Almost like a magnetic force, pulling me onward. When my feet get tired, Jesus’ love lights the fire in my soul, and gives me all the energy I need.

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:2)


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God so loves the world…

crying

… that he GAVE his one and only Son. Such is the magnitude of Gods love. Father and Son had been together for eternity. Then God held out his dearly loved child, and sin snatched the Son away and nailed him to the cross. Imagine the pain of a parent watching a child suffer (I’m sorry for those of you who know this pain).

Jesus was not the only one who suffered on the cross. God suffered too – all because of His love for us.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)


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Son of Man

son of man

Jesus frequently called himself the “Son of man.” I was reminded of this while listening to a Third Day song on the way to work yesterday. And I began to wonder why He chose that title above others.

Why did Jesus seem to feel it was important to stress His humanity? Yes, Jesus is fully God, but He was also fully human. And it seems like He almost took pride in His humanity. Being one of us was important to Jesus. But why? I’ve been thinking about this since yesterday, all the time with the sense that the answer to my question was right at the edge of my mind, just barely out of reach of my consciousness.

Well, this morning I’ve been able to quiet my mind and pray, asking Jesus to give me the answer. Though I think the complete answer is still not clear to me, I do believe I see Jesus’ main reason for stressing His humanity. It’s love. Jesus loves us humans so much that He also loved being one of us.

That’s another thing that definitely sets Jesus apart from me – though He seemed to cherish His humanity, I am often pained by my humanity.

But what do you think about Jesus calling Himself “Son of man?”


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Roots of Deception

Roots of deception

Why do some Christians distort the truth of Jesus? There are two reasons. First is ego – to gain honor for themselves. As Jesus said, “He who speaks on his own does so to gain honor for himself, but he who works for the honor of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him.” (John 7:18)

Ever since Jesus preached His gospel while walking the roads of ancient Israel, people have felt the need to put their own mark on the truths He had proclaimed. Perhaps they felt their own personal revisions would improve His message. Or, maybe they were unable to accept His message as-is, and they decided to reshape it into something they could agree with.

“Everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 2:21) Everyone suffers from the temptation of believing that they know more or know better than God does. This disease of pride moves some people to re-make God and His message into their image.

The second reason the truth gets distorted is that well-meaning everyday Christians portray false ideas about the truth of Christianity just by how we live. We are imperfect human beings, tasked with conveying the perfect message of Jesus Christ. Our imperfections are bound to smudge the message now and then. Our human hands too easily mar the heavenly masterpiece of Jesus.


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Are you a wounded Catholic?

Healing wounded

Sometimes I rant about the dealings of the Catholic Church. I truly apologize if I have offended anyone. But I have seen the effects of the shortcomings of the Catholic Church up close. I know many wounded Catholics, those who had belonged to the Catholic Church, maybe even since birth, yet left with bad experiences. My stepfather, stepbrother, and many close friends are among them.

Yet in the case of my stepfather, he didn’t leave by choice; he was kicked out because of the sin of his divorce from his first wife. It distresses me that though Jesus has forgiven my stepfather, the Catholic Church cannot.

My heart breaks for those wounded Catholics, like my stepfather, who are not able to find their way to another church. All his life my stepfather was told that the Catholic Church is the only one, true church. And when that church failed him, where can he go? He has gone nowhere, and remains lost.

If you are a “wounded” Catholic, having given up on the Catholic Church, please don’t give up on Jesus. He still loves you, and always will. God, as our ultimate and perfect Father, loves all His children, no matter what church they may go to.

 


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Catholic Rule #82

8-8-14 Catechism 82

“As a result the Church, to whom the transmission and interpretation of Revelation is entrusted, does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone. Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honoured with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence.” (Catechism 82 of the Roman Catholic Church, emphasis added) The Catholic Church considers God’s word, as recorded in the Bible, and Catholic tradition, as equally valid and important.

Jesus might say in response, “You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.” (Mark 7:8)

Moses might say, “Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the LORD your God that I give you.” (Deuteronomy 4:2)

And the apostle Paul might add, “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.” (Colossians 2:8)

Catholic tradition verses the word of God – I’ll choose God.


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Seeking Truth

Please, tell me your story of truth. If you’ve read any of my posts on this site, you know that the theme is all about contrasting false images of Christianity we see in our world, with the truth. Sometimes what we see is not anywhere near what the founder of Christianity, Jesus, had in mind.

I haven’t written anything on this site for a long time. The reason is that I’ve been spending my writing time working on a book. But instead of getting back to writing posts for this site, I find that I’m now more interested in hearing the experiences of others. What have you experienced in your exposure to the Christian church that may have been a false image of Christianity? Please share your story.

I know a lot of people who have been wounded by false messages coming from some churches. And I have a growing passion to help people find freedom from the pain of lies and deceptions. It occurred to me that maybe simply providing a forum to vent might be helpful. So please vent. Have you been wounded by a so-called Christian church, or so-called Christian? Then please, tell us about it, if you want to. Just comment to this post.

And if this kind of sharing becomes popular, I’ll try to find a better way to help facilitate it.

Thank you


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It’s a Cold, Cruel World

It’s difficult and often dangerous out in the “real” world. As I raised my children, I protected them, fed them, taught them, cared for them, and loved them. I did my best to create a safe, joyful and loving environment at home. Yet they left.

Well of course they left; that’s the way of our society. Raise your children and then send them off on their own, to fend for themselves and put what you taught them into practice, hopefully.

It’s part of our nature to want to go out on our own, and live independent of our parents. We want to make our own decisions and direct our own life, without having to report to someone else. And along with this comes the responsibility of dealing with our own problems, on our own.

Of course for many of us, mom and dad are no farther away that the other end of the telephone, and they are often willing and able to help us deal with our problems. We may have left them when we moved out of their house, but they never really left us. Loving parents make themselves always available to help and guide their adult children.

Where am I going with all this? Well, I think this little scenario illustrates our history and relationship with God.

Humanity, in the persons of Adam and Eve, were lovingly raised by God, who offered them a home with Him, forever. He would protect them, feed them, teach them, care for them and love them. But the independent nature kicked in. Adam and Eve wanted to leave home and go out on their own, make their own decisions and direct their own lives.

I know some self-proclaimed atheists who make a case that all of the world’s problems are evidence that there is no God, for how could a God possibly allow so much evil. The truth is, God does not allow evil, in His home. But humanity struck out on their own, into the cold, cruel, evil world. We left God to go out on our own, spurred on by our prideful ego, which told us we were smart enough to live independent from God.

Yet we are not alone in this cold, cruel world. God is always just on the other end of the phone, lovingly willing to help us deal with our problems. All we need do is call, and listen.


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Non-Catholic denominations are not “true” churches. Really?

The Catholic Church is the one and only “true” church, or so some believe. According to a July 10, 2007 article I stumbled across (see it here), “Pope Benedict XVI has reasserted the universal primacy of the Roman Catholic Church, approving a document released Tuesday that says Orthodox churches were defective and that other Christian denominations were not true churches.”

The Vatican document said. “The other communities cannot be called ‘churches’ in the proper sense because they do not have apostolic succession — the ability to trace their bishops back to Christ’s original apostles.” Specifically, if a church cannot trace the succession of its leadership back to the apostle Peter, then it cannot be called a true church of Jesus Christ. Since the Catholics claim Peter as their first Pope, then that makes the Catholic Church the one and only “true” church.

You see, when Jesus stated that Peter was the rock on which He would build His church (Matthew 16:18), the Catholic Church took that to mean that Peter was the starting point, the true cornerstone of the foundation of Jesus’ church. Was Jesus’ intention to have Peter as the one foundation from which He would build His united church? What else does the bible say?

At one time, Jesus sent out His 12 apostles to, “preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” (Luke 9:1-9) Another time, He sent out 72 others to, “heal the sick and tell them the kingdom of God is near you.” (Luke 10:1-20) Does this sound like the act of someone who would place the responsibility for His church on the shoulders of just one man? It appears to me like Jesus intended to spread the responsibility around.

There was another time when the 12 apostles got rather ticked off when they discovered there was someone outside their inner circle who was doing their job. So they went to Jesus and blew the whistle on this guy… “‘Teacher,’ said John, ‘we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.’ ‘Do not stop him,’ Jesus said. ‘No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us.’ (Mark 9:38-40) Does this sound as if Jesus is trying to establish some kind of exclusive club? It sounds to me like Jesus doesn’t care who is doing the work, as long as they are doing it “in His name.”

And what about Paul, who was not one of the original apostles? The Catholic Church appears to ignore him. So the churches he started were “defective”, I suppose. I’m sure that would come as a surprise to Paul, especially since Jesus himself gave Paul the assignment. As evidenced by the calling of Paul, Jesus was not exclusive. Why would He be? Such an approach would limit the growth of “His” church. Why send the church off in one direction, with Peter as the lead runner, when you can start off in multiple directions?

***************************************

Yet, the Catholic Church originally had worthy intentions. For a time, the Catholic Church was indeed the one true church, assuring and enabling the unity that Jesus prayed for (John 17:20-23). Their motives were noble. Jesus wanted unity, and the Catholic Church provided a way. Then, in the early 1500’s, the reformation happened and the church split into pieces; no more unity.

However, maybe having all believers belonging to the same organization is not what Jesus had in mind when He prayed for unity. Maybe he meant united in beliefs, rather than united in affiliation. Maybe it wasn’t that He wanted us all to belong to the same religious establishment, with the same human leader, but that we all look to Him and Him alone as our leader.

Jesus wasn’t praying for all believers to be united by man-made things, such as religious bureaucracies, ceremonies, traditions, and “holy” relics. Jesus was talking about being united by spiritual things, such as love for God and faith in the saving power and love of His Son Jesus Christ. Jesus asked His Father God, “…that they may be one as we are one.” (John 17:22). The unity that Jesus prayed for is modeled by His relationship with God.

Were God & Jesus unified by a common membership in some kind of organization? No, their unity was much higher than some human standard. The Catholic Church has set a human standard for unity; membership in their organization. But Jesus’ standard is a heavenly standard – a shared communion with the Holy Spirit of God. We are to be united as Jesus and God are united. How can a man-made religious establishment bring such a thing about?

I do not believe that Jesus intended for a man-made institution to bring about such spiritual unity, for I think that would be impossible. Jesus sent the Holy Spirit, His presence in each of our lives, to manifest the spiritual unity of love and faith. By our mutual connection to the Holy Spirit, we are all connected to each other. We may all be one by our common bond to the Holy Spirit. We are all branches, and we are unified by our common bond to the vine, which is Jesus Christ, by the Holy Spirit (John 15:1-17).

By the way, Jesus never even mentioned a human-made and run organization as the foundation for our unity. In fact, setting the Catholic Church as the standard for unity is a distraction from our true foundation, our true cornerstone – Jesus Christ.

And another thing: Jesus was the origin of His church, not Peter. Jesus is the vine, not Peter. Jesus is the cornerstone, not Peter. Jesus is the one true church, not the Catholics.


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Distractions from the truth: more thoughts on the “Catholics Come Home” ad campaign

Yesterday I wrote about the newest Catholic advertising campaign, “Catholics Come Home” (find it here). Since writing that post, I keep wondering why the church has selected Madison Avenue as their ad agency, instead of Jesus Christ.

In pursuit of an answer, I want to look at what the Catholic Church thinks is the root problem. As mentioned in the newspaper article I referred to in yesterday’s post, one of the key people behind the ad campaign said, “There is no doubt that the glitter and glamour of pop culture has distracted people from God and his church and family.” Okay, so dwindling attendance is the fault of our culture. Interesting.

I know of a non-denominational church that is growing, even in the midst of the “glitter and glamour of pop culture.” I’ve visited them, and there is no pretense, no traditions, no catechism that is larger than the bible itself. There is only the untarnished truth of Jesus Christ. From one Sunday to the next, the pastor preaches the pure gospel of Jesus Christ. And the people keep coming, and the empty chairs seem to be fewer and fewer each week. So much for the effects of culture.

The article also described one of the TV commercials that has people watching scenes from their past with “examples of their own poor or embarrassing behavior.” This sounded odd to me, so I went to the “Catholics Come Home” web site (find it here), where I found the video (click on the “Movie” TV ad and see for yourself). I was sadly astonished at the nature of the ad; the focus is on the flaws of the individual. The church is trying to put the blame on those who have drifted away.

Another commercial, called “Testimonials,” has people apologizing for having drifted away from the church. Again, the fault is apparently with them, not the church.

So, the church is blaming society and those individuals who are no longer sitting in the pews. Blaming others, that’s easy. That must be why they are going with the TV ads. Yet, this is nothing but a distraction, though perhaps non-intentional.

As I mentioned in yesterdays post, the root cause of their attendance problem is inside the Catholic Church, not outside. The TV commercials put the focus on the outside, on those who have left the church. Yet in doing so, the church is hiding from the real problem. Why? Why not make internal changes that would address the real issues? Because doing so would be to admit fault, and egos have a difficult time admitting fault (I speak from personal experience here).

It’s beginning to look to me like the Catholic Church is more motivated by full pews, than the spiritual well-being of those sitting in the pews. Someone once said something like, “We have found the enemy, and they are us.” The Catholic Church needs to find the humility to admit their faults. Blessed are the humble.

So why am I so critical toward the Catholic Church? After all, who am I to judge? But I care. I care about those who have been deceived by the doctrine of the Catholic Church. I know too many “wounded” former Catholics, and several of these have totally lost their faith.

I know that nothing is impossible with God, but it’s still hard for me to envision real change in the Catholic Church. There’s just too much baggage and history and “rules taught by men.” So for now, my prayers are more focused on the people, rather than the organization. May God help them all.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)


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“Catholics Come Home” – another ill-advised ad campaign

The Catholic Church has joined the Methodists in their belief that you can bring people to God with Madison Avenue advertising techniques, with an ad campaign called “Catholics Come Home.” (to see my post about the Methodist ad campaign – click here). According to an LA Times article that was recently reprinted in my local newspaper: “Using a strategy straight from the secular playbook… the (church) is preparing to air several thousand prime-time TV commercials.” You can preview the commercials here: http://www.catholicscomehome.org/

The article opened with: “Catholic church leaders using TV ads in attempt to lure back lapsed followers.” The target audiences are those who call themselves “Catholic” yet do not attend church, and those who call themselves former Catholics.

According to the article, some of the reasons people are no longer attending the Catholic Church include:

  • Many Catholics don’t have “a sense of belonging,”
  • Many believe they can be “good members of their faith without attending Mass regularly,”
  • Many do not believe missing Mass is a sin, (Missing mass is a sin? Really?)
  • Others are too busy with family or work; “as analysts point out, (people) are more interested in material happiness than spiritual fulfillment.”
  • “About 1 in 4 former Catholics cited the church’s priest-abuse scandal as a factor.”
  • “People oftentimes lose sight of what is most important in their lives,” says a Sacramento Bishop.

I wonder how TV ads are going to address these issues. You typically cannot resolve circumstances like these with advertising, though maybe they can try to “guilt” people into going back to church by reminding them that missing mass is a sin.

My sincere concern is that the Catholic Church has been deluded into believing that advertising will fix the root cause of their attendance problems. How will advertising get people more interested in spiritual fulfillment rather than material happiness? How will advertising heal wounds caused by the priest-abuse scandal? How will advertising give people a clear vision of what should be most important in their lives (this sounds like a job for the pulpit, not the TV)?

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If advertising is not the fix, what is, and what is the root cause of the “lapsed followers?” I’ve watched some of the commercials, and they say nothing about what has contributed to runaway members. Based on what’s in the newspaper article, along with some of my own personal experiences, here are some guesses for why people leave the Catholic Church:

  • Lost trust: How can you trust a system that harbors abusive priests?
  • Lack of knowledge of the truth of Jesus Christ: Knowledge of the truth will help grow a hunger for spiritual fulfillment, rather than material happiness.
  • Lack of knowledge of the love of Jesus Christ: With a true understanding of the magnitude of the love of Jesus Christ, comes a hunger and thirst for more. This is what brings people to church, and keeps them coming back.
  • Lack of knowledge of what truly should be the most important thing in our lives, which is: a one-on-one, personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I wonder; does the Catholic Church promote such a relationship between each member and Jesus?

Maybe I’m simple-minded, but the solution seems straightforward to me: instead of investing in TV commercials, the Catholic Church needs to get back to it’s roots, which is the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Catholic Church seems like a branch that has broken off from the vine. As Jesus said,

“No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches.” (John 15:4-5)

I’m hesitant to be harsh, but it seems to me that the Catholic Church has replaced the reality of Jesus Christ with traditions, man-made Catechisms, man-made rules, and man-made advertising. My recommendation would be to drop the TV commercials and preach the truth of the gospel.

Instead of advertising, the Catholic Church needs to introduce people to the Holy Spirit of God. Instead of relying on Madison Avenue to spread the word, how about relying on word of mouth, carried forward by the Holy Spirit himself? It was good enough for Jesus. Remember how 3000 people joined the fledgling church in a single day (Acts 2:41)? Such is the power of the Holy Spirit.

“And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.” (1 John 3:23-24 NIV)

Evangelism via TV commercials, or as D.L. Moody once said, “There is no better evangelist in the world than the Holy Spirit.” I’ll put my faith in the Holy Spirit.

A final message for wounded Catholics:

Though I pray for the Catholic Church, my limited imagination is not able to truly believe that it can change. Yet I know that with God, all things are possible. Maybe one way for the church to change is for the people to change. Maybe if enough “wounded” Catholics follow their heart by leaving the Catholic Church and then finding true fulfillment and purpose in another church, maybe this will open the eyes of the Catholic Church. If you are a wounded Catholic, my prayer is for you. Please do not give up. My hope is for you, that you find another church that lives by the true gospel of Jesus Christ, the life-giving gospel; that you come to know Jesus and His Holy Spirit, and grow into an intimate relationship with them, so intimate that you are never apart. And that you come to feel more alive than ever before, by the grace and love of Jesus Christ. Amen.


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Jesus Unchained

Picture yourself in a straitjacket. Your arms are wrapped around you and held firmly in place; you cannot move them at all. Yet, you still have a job to do. Let’s say your job includes working on a computer, or maybe you’re a checker in a grocery store. I guess you could use your nose to push the keys on the keyboard. You might be able to perform your duties, but it sure is going to be slow going, and frustrating. Oh how you look forward to the hour when the straitjacket will come off.

I was recently wondering, while Jesus walked the dusty roads of ancient Palestine, did He feel a similar frustration of limitation? Did He feel trapped in His human body? So many people needing His help, yet He could only reach out and touch one, or maybe a few at a time. He knew His capabilities, for he knew what it was like to not be bound by human constraints. Yet He could not utilize His full capabilities, as long as He remained fully human.

Of course, I have no idea how Jesus felt, but this image of feeling confined is intriguing. So many people calling out to Him, so many people in need of His love and forgiveness, yet His physical limitations shackling Him. Could this be why He looked forward to His death and resurrection, and resulting ability to send His Spirit among all people? The Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ has no physical limitations. The Holy Spirit can reach out to all people, at all times.

“But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.” (John 26:7)

And in praying to His Father for all believers, Jesus said:

“I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” (John 17:26)

“Jesus unchained;” also known as the Holy Spirit.