Where are we failing this generation?

Well, I know that my last blog was put in a long time ago, and that I said it would be over “Being true to myself,” but in the past couple of weeks a lot has happened, and I’d like to share some thoughts on some stuff.

First of all, our vacation at the coast was pretty stinkin awesome!  The whole weekend was great, as we got to visit with friends and family both, gator tail was eaten, and the kids were really great on the the trips to and from Rockport.  The only real meltdowns we had involved apple juice at starbucks, and us not bringing a real dolphin home for Mady.  On our way home, we stopped off in Burnet to see off my sister and triplet cousins for college.  I’m extremely proud of those girls, and am prayerful they’ll have an awesome experience at school, and will succeed in their goals, which I have no doubt they’ll be able to do.  Now, on to what this post is really about…

My wife and I had a discussion on our way down to the coast about something she had heard on the radio.  The radio broadcast was about a study done on the reasons why high school students stopped going to church after they graduated.  There is a documentary on the matter at www.dividedthemovie.com, which you can watch for free, that is one young man’s investigation into this statement.  The numbers that several independent polls and research projects came up with are startling.  43% of students leave church or lose any faith in church between grade school and jr. high.  45% of students lose this by high school, and 10% by college.  Another statistic that was concluded by another study was that 88% of children raised in “evangelical” homes, left the church by the age of 18, never to return.  Where is the disconnect?  This disconnect is the result of a lack of true discipleship of the family by the church body.  So often, we experience great numbers with our children and youth groups in our Wednesday night programs, but when it comes to the parents of these kids and teens, there is no real fellowship.  In the town where I serve right now, we have the problem of what I like to call “The Great Summer Dropoff.”  We will routinely go from 25-30 youth on Wednesday nights to none until about the third week of school.  The catalyst for the numbers to start building back up is usually attributed to the 5th quarters we do after the home football games on Friday nights.  Now, that’s all fine and good when our kids all come back and remember that we’re “open” as one student put it, but consistency is lacking in the attendance department.  Where does this lack of consistency come from?  I used to wonder if I was implementing the right programs at the right times, or if I was chasing the kids off somehow, either by something I’d done or said.  The stigma with church, in our town at least, is that church has become a place for youth to come hang out during the school year and a place to come drop the kids off for an hour or two and get fed for free and stay out of trouble.  Which we are totally glad to be able to provide a place for that, but in the grand scheme of life, we have to understand that the parents of these kids and teens are not being reached.  We have a Monday night evangelism team that goes out twice a month, but that team consists of maybe 3 or 4 people each time we go out.  As one of our deacons, who is a very godly man, said last night “We can change our programs, Sunday School structure, and targets, but if our hearts aren’t changed, these programs will end in the same result as they are now.”  Which is so true, how often do we sit around and wonder where the people are on Sunday mornings?  How about Wednesday nights?  We invited them during the week to come to church with us, but they didn’t come.  What is the reason behind that?  Our churches today have become so focused on the entertainment value of church and have lost sight of the fact that the Gospel of Christ is where the real meat is and where the focus should be.  Until we decide, as a church, that we truly care about people’s salvation, our programs will generate big numbers and small results.

It has to start at home

The above statement is more true than we realize.  A pastor can be the leader of the world’s largest congregation, a youth pastor can be the most effective at his calling, a children’s minister can be the most innovative planner we’ve ever seen, but as great as they are, they cannot replace the most influential person in a child’s life.  Their parents.  Statistics show that if the head of the household, the father, comes to know Christ, the rest of the family will follow.  Why is this?  The father is the designated leader of the family, not in a tyrannical way, but in the example we are given in 1Timothy 3, the overseer of the church is called to manage his family well so his children will obey him (Philliphrased version), as well as other passages in Ephesians that speak of the wife submitting to the husband.  Now, this is not to say that the woman should be subdued and like a dog that’s been beaten as some would like to take that scripture as saying.  In any healthy family dynamic, there will be compromise and discussion of course, but the husband is called to lead that family.  The only way a father can lead a family appropriately is if he is grounded in Christ, and is continuously growing in that walk.  We have to be able to reach these fathers, and help them to guide and lead their families.  In order for that to happen, there has to be mentoring from the older men in the church family.  It is a trickle-down effect of biblical proportions!  To get that started, a lot of times our hearts have to be changed first, then we can move to guiding our programming and structure in a direction of functionality.  I brought this up last night at our business meeting, and all of those who were in attendance seemed to agree with this, and that excites me.  We go out tonight for some evangelism and visitation, and I am prayerful that we will have more than the 3 or 4 there tonight.

The blog on “being true to myself” is coming soon, I may have to make this blog an every Monday thing instead of daily, but I would like it to be more frequent than once a week, but we shall see!  Until next time, have a great week, and seek the Lord in all you do!

Here is the trailer for the “Divided” documentary

Vacation Time!

I type this post from the lovely coastal Texas town of Rockport, and it has been an amazing little stay so far!  We originally headed down this way to come to one of my lovely wife’s friend’s baby shower.  Then, it turned into “let’s go see uncle Kevin and aunt Verna!”  After an awesome day on the beach with 5 kids under the age of 5, everyone is tuckered out, and we are winding down as well.  Tomorrow is the day of the shower, and all the husbands will be playing on the beach while the wives do whatever they do at a baby shower, and good times will follow.  Tomorrow (13th), is our 6th anniversary, and it has been an awesome 6 years indeed!  Thinking about the good, and sometimes difficult, times we’ve experienced as a couple makes me think about the marriage we have to Christ.  He loves us unconditionally, is committed to giving us salvation, even through His death on a cross.  How much sacrifice would I make for my wife?  I’m pretty sure there’s no limit to what I would do for her, or our kids if faced with certain death.  The sacrifice Christ made for us was because of His Father’s love.  God sent Christ down to this earth for two purposes; to teach and set the example we are to follow, and to cover our sins with His life.  I think about this sacrifice often, as I now have 3 kids of my own.  I’d like to think that I’d do just about anything for most people if faced with life or death, even giving up my own son’s life for someone else, but I know that ultimately I would end up choosing my child’s life instead.  The fact that God gave His son for the sins that other people committed, blows me away.  That would be like me sending Tyler, my 2 1/2 year old, to die because someone else stole a pack of gum from the local gas station.  It doesn’t make sense to us, because we are selfish by our nature.  Good thing God isn’t like us, eh?  “For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16.  This verse is the quintessential verse that sums up why I do what I do, the reason we quote scripture about Christ, and make such a huge deal about who Christ is.  Christianity so often becomes a list of things of what not to do, a life not to live, and basically a wagging finger in your face of what you’re doing wrong.  Less and less is it about the fact that God loves us, and sent His son for us so that we don’t have to live in an eternal hole of burning, pain, and destruction.  Do’s and don’ts seem to be such a small sacrifice to have that guarantee of salvation.  He loves us, and the do’s and don’ts become a lifestyle instead of a “sacrifice” to us.  They turn from a hassle into a source of accountability.  He gives us these standards to follow not to make our lives hard, but to help us to follow Him.  So many times, salvation is thought, and misunderstood to be attained by “being a good person” or to just get baptized.  The requirement of repentance is overlooked almost as much as the change of lifestyle.  I will go into greater detail on these topics in the next blog post, which will hopefully be done tomorrow night or Sunday sometime, although there are no promises since we are this close to the ol beach!  Til then, have a lovely evening!

“Be true to myself”– Coming soon!!

Good mornings, and the infamous mal-cut

I love waking up in the mornings to one, or both, of my older kids’ smiling faces. They are usually so excited about the coming day, and are even more excited about starting it off with mommy and daddy…or breakfast…either way, they make the mornings so enjoyable. My only wish is that I could spend every morning like that, but duty calls and work day wake up time is 3am, so the only morning time I have with the kids is if they have a bad dream, or if I drop a pan cooking my breakfast. So these mornings are to be cherished for sure.

Now on to haircuts. As many of you know, I usually like to keep a buzzed head for my chosen hair style. There are many reasons that go into this decision, including but not limited to: easy fixin’, genetic disposition, and easy procedure. The thing about a buzz is that you don’t really need to pay a fancy salon, or even a barber to accomplish the look. I personally use a set of clippers called “The Chopper,” and they do chop! One of the issues that I’ll run into now and again is the mal-cut. This is a situation where I cut my own hair, and miss a section on the back right side of my head. I did this right before church yesterday morning, and performed a classic mal-cut. Now, I did notice a few people glancing at the top right side of my head, but I guess they couldn’t bring themselves to say anything. When we got home from church, my loving, adorable, and sweet wife informed me that my head was misshaven, and that I should’ve had her perform a post-shave inspection. I promptly thanked her and put a hat on top of my haircut catastrophe. Moral of the story, let your wife examine your homemade haircut before going to church, and especially before preaching.

Am I missing the wedding banquet?

Howdy!  As I’ve been in the thinking-mode for the past several months, there is something that’s stuck out in my mind as being an incredibly scary thought.  How many of our friends, family, fellow church-goers, and people in general, who claim to know Christ don’t really know Him?  One of the illustrations that Christ used to show this, even back when He was in the flesh, was the Parable of the Wedding Banquet.

Found in the Gospel of Matthew chapter 22, Christ gives the Pharisees, priests, and church-goers an example of what many of them were doing in their lives.  His description of a king preparing a huge wedding banquet and sending out his servants to deliver the invitations, brings to mind the invitation of God for us to join Him in His kingdom, eternally.  The description that follows that is also eerily similar to the rejection of God throughout scripture and our culture.  So many times in history, the prophets sent by God were killed, persecuted, and tortured because of the message they brought forth.  The intended audiences rejected the words of the prophet, many times because of the lack of desire to be accountable for the lifestyles being lived.  As we continue on, we see the king sending servants out again to invite more guests, but again, the invitation is rejected, and the servants killed, tortured, and captured.  At this point, the king then sent his army and destroyed the murderers and destroyed their city.  I can’t help but draw a comparison to the same scenario that occurred with Noah in Genesis chapter 6.  Man had become corrupt, sinful, and in general disregard for God and His commands.  Noah, instructed by God, built the ark and God wiped out all mankind, with the exception of Noah and his family.  Crazy huh?  The next part of the parable has the servants of the king going out to every street corner and inviting anyone who they found to come to the banquet for his son’s wedding, both good and bad people.  When the king entered the hall, he saw a man who was not dressed appropriately for the event, and asked him “how did you get in here without wedding clothes?”  The man had no response, and the king had him bound and thrown into the darkness where there would be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  The point of this story is summed up in the final verse of the parable “For many are invited, but few are chosen.”

What’s the explanation?  Well, to begin with, the invitation to the wedding banquet symbolizes the invitation to salvation through Christ alone.  Everyone has an invitation to the banquet, good, bad, nice, mean, everyone has the invitation.  When we accept the invitation, there are a few things we have to do.  One thing is to let our lives be representative of Christ in our hearts, this is symbolized by the wedding clothes.  When we truly submit to Christ as our savior, we change our lives completely.  There is no remnant of our old lives, and our lives exemplify Christ in all that we do.  Does this mean we will be without sin?  Certainly not, but we will strive to change those things about us that cause us to sin, and cause others to sin as well.  There are so many people who claim to be a christian, but their lives reflect nothing of Christ.  I would like to think that everyone I go to church with is going to be dressed for the banquet, but the sad fact of this, is that there will be at least one or a few that thought they were dressed, but weren’t.  I would like to think that everyone in my family is going to be dressed for the banquet with me, again, I have family who doesn’t know the Lord from the guy down the street.  When Christ says “for many are invited, but few are chosen,” he is not speaking of people being called to ministry, as this verse has been misquoted as meaning so many times, or as the “elect” as it is also used.  It means that there will be people at the gates of Heaven who thought they were saved, thought they were christians, but weren’t dressed for the banquet.  They prayed a prayer, but never made the change in their lives, and never lived the example of Christ.  My encouragement, to anyone who reads this, is evaluate where you are, have you truly surrendered to His will for your life?  Feel free to inbox me after you read this with questions, comments, etc, and any feedback on the blog itself is also encouraged.

The official, unabridged first blog post

Ok, well here I go, starting my own blog that there will likely be very few people reading.  The great thing about this, is that I can post pretty much whatever I want to that is on my mind, and there will be few enough followers and/or readers that it won’t really matter what I put up here, lol.

I guess the first thing I want to talk about on here is the origin behind the name of my blog.  “Behind the Cross” comes from the place where we belong as followers of Christ.  I had an amazing Sunday School teacher as an upperclassman in high school by the name of Joce Dunagan.  One of the things that struck me that she always said during prayer was “Lord, please hide us behind the cross so that they will see you through us.”  From that time on, I decided that was going to be my motto as a believer, to show Christ through the way I lived.  Now, that’s definitely not to say that I’ve shown otherwise in my life, but those words have stuck in my mind since that time.  As we go through this life, our calling is to share the Gospel of Christ and to love and encourage those around us who haven’t experience His grace and mercy firsthand.  The passage of scripture that has stuck with me for a long time is Hebrews 10:23-25, a passage calling us to continue in fellowship with other believers as well as going out and fellowshipping with non-believers so that they may know the grace and mercy of Christ.  I’ll end by posting that passage here:

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.  And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,  not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”                                Hebrews 10:23-25 NIV

The main purpose of this blog is really to share my heart on things that are near and dear to me.  The majority of them will be about my kids and about ministry and church related topics.  There will, of course, be some politically related conversations here and there (those of you that know me know that I can’t resist that kind of thing).

So it begins…

Well, this is my first official post on this blog, and I hope it will be one of many that can help inform, teach, encourage, and all that other constructive stuff. There will be an unabridged post on here later with some good stuff, but for now I am only trying to get this thing off the ground, lol.