The Christian Bubble

2 Timothy 4:3 ESV

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions

Matthew 6:33 ESV

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Corinthians 11:18-19

For first of all, when you come together in the church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and I partly believe it.   For there must also be heresies among you, that the approved ones may be revealed among you

I want to address an issue which I believe is quite a common occurrence amongst young Christians. I have been at university for seven years now and this post comes from observance over the seven years, but particularly I have felt the need to write this in the last few months.

We love to be around people who are like us; young, idealistic, fun and above all Christian. After all, in that environment we don’t have to address any issues such as drinking alcohol (there is no pressure to drink) or ideas which we find different from ours. We find our safe space.

Safe spaces are great; they allow us to find people who agree with us, who won’t challenge what we say. Or so we think. I believe that we often change ourselves to fit in. I don’t know about anyone reading this, but I often find that young Christians seem to almost be identical in what they listen to, what they enjoy, and the way they talk. It is all a bit weird.

I will be the first to say it; I’m not really your average young Christian. I have never found it easy to be around young Christians, and there are many reasons for that. That isn’t saying I haven’t found friends amongst young Christians, I can think of a few great guys who have been an absolute blessing to me. But I do think these cliques do not help. After all, I’m stubborn and won’t change my ways because other people don’t like it. I don’t fit into the stereotypical young Christian trope and I’m ok with that. I’m actually grateful for it. It means that for one, the focus goes to the Word, and the Lord. My Christian friends don’t make me fit a system but just want me to love the Word and Him and that is great.

You won’t find me around these guys all the time (most of them don’t even live where I live anyway). I love to spend time with non-Christians.; in fact, most of my friends aren’t believers and, as Christians, aren’t we meant to live in the world? I know Ryle argued otherwise, but I honestly believe we can play a big role in people’s lives.

And this comes to my problem with these cliques and bubbles. Apart from the fact I think they turn you into a generic young Christian (I mean literally its weird), they keep your light hidden. They water down your doctrine. I just think of the typical university Christian Union. Most treat the CU like a social club, a place to hang out, and have little interaction with non-Christians. Perhaps I am wrong but I don’t get any other impression. I have often heard the expression that the CU is a ‘home away from home’, but that shouldn’t be the case. Our churches are our homes; the CU is not a church. The ‘bubble’ means that rather than an evangelical centre and mission field, the society becomes a safe space; where they sing happy things that make them feel good, rather than sharing the love and light of Jesus Christ. Rather than standing firm in the faith, the doctrine is watered down so there are no disagreements. It is not wrong to create strong friendships in this environment, far from it, having close Christian friends is vital, but rather these friendships being a product of our labour, it is what we seek first and only.

It creates an isolating atmosphere. I know a few people know who do not go to CU because they do not fit in. If you are Reformed like myself, then I feel the CU is difficult, and personally for me, it became a no-go place. You feel as though you have to be one of them and that is just wrong. The cliques on the outside make you feel as though you miss out, that you are not part of them. If you just want to meet one of them, you find that you can’t because the rest of the clique say no or what not. Christians shouldn’t be like this. We should be accepting people, loving people, and not staying within our comfort zones.

It creates an unwelcoming atmosphere. Our churches, our societies should never be unwelcoming. Yet they are, because we prefer the safe space, rather than what is right. We water down our theology and doctrine to fit in. We keep our light hidden. Christians, we ought not to be in bubbles and in cliques. We need to be radical, be adventuresome and be courageous.

Be Active Christians

Josh recently did an article on prayer, which was well received. This article follows on from this. Josh correctly noted that prayer is essential; I think any Christian can agree with this. However, not all of us are prayer warriors, and we all have a different role to play in the church (Acts 6:2-4). Secondly, praying is all well and good, but you need to be active. This is what this article is all about; being an active Christian, i.e. faith without works is dead!

Active

My church moto, or verse for the year comes from 1 Peter 4 verses 10-11. It reads:

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.”

I think these are such powerful verses that need to be in the heart of every believer. We can pray, yes, but then we need to follow it up with action. There is always a danger of praying, doing nothing, and then moaning why nothing has happened. We also should never leave service to others, because we are ALL called to serve — woman, man, adult, teenager — if you are a believer then you should be using the gifts GIVEN to you to give grace to others. It is such a vital thing to do, but the church, in general, fails at it so much. We are all caught up in the world, or we are too shy, or we are self-doubting.

The New Living Translation makes verse 10 more understandable when it says “God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another”. God has given us these gifts that we have, and we all unique, no one Christian is better than another, each gift is from God and therefore is so valuable and precious. We are then to use these gifts to serve, to be active, whether that is in our church, leading a service, welcoming people, doing teas and coffees, or collecting hymn books after a service, the list goes on. I am sure your church has many needs, why not see if you can fill some of those needs.

I do feel that in many churches, it has become a one man band, that the role of pastor has been perverted and misused. A pastor is not the church leader, and he certainly shouldn’t be doing everything in the church. Rather a church is a community; it needs to rely on the people, on the congregation, on its members to function properly. A church is a community where believers come together to worship and serve Christ; it is more than a service, and it is more than a sermon, it is the people, so look to serve and help, do not leave it to one person!

By being active, by serving others as though it were Christ himself, by being active in our own community, we give glory to God, who has entrusted us with these gifts and responsibilities to be his stewards and servants here on earth. God has given all to us, He has given us his grace, surely we should give what we can to people around us. This also is not just about Christians, this is about the communities in which our churches are based. It is about those whom we come into contact daily. We may pray, but do we shine? Are we just saying prayers to show off? Are we being active Christians, or are we being academic Christians? It is great to know more of God, but that isn’t just limited to reading the Bible, by living out the Bible, so to we learn.

We often take evangelism as preaching, and that just isn’t the case. Just by living out our faith is a great testament, whether it’s the small things, helping your neighbours in your road, setting up a free drop-in café in your building, giving out water when the temperature rises or help families who are in crises, any of things are us serving our local community. It is us being hospitable; it is us living out the gospel. Preaching has its place, but we are certainly not all preachers, and have all our gifts that we can use in just helping our local community.

Divine balance

As everything with this blog, we always urge a balance. Just being ‘busy’ for the sake of it is pointless; just to make us feel like we’re doing something to dumb down our consciences, so to speak. It’s important to get this right. Mary and Martha — Martha was the one running around ‘active’, whereas Mary just sat under the word. When we are being active Christians, the main purpose is to Glorify God, and to follow what he says, and that is to serve.

We need to of course, always pray that God shows us his will and his path for us. But do not be afraid to step out in faith and become an active Christian. Stop leaving it all to other people stop putting other things before your service to the church. The Church is an amazing fellowship, and it is a community of believers, let us break down the old image of the church, of a building, of a sermon and make it what it is meant to be, a community of believers, meeting together, serving one another, and the Lord.

One little thing that we can use to remember this (although we shouldn’t have to be reminded!) is use the acrostic PAL. May we be praying Christians, may we be active Christians, may we be loving Christians and be proper PALs to the lost!

P — Pray

A – Act

L – Love

Youthful Wisdom

So you have probably seen this title and maybe freaked out a little. Here we go again, the youth thinking they know it all.   Hopefully by reading on, you will find that I think nothing of the sort, however, I also don’t think we are plain dumb either.

Youth Arise!

Let’s consider the Methodist revival really quickly. George Whitfield was twenty-six when he became a preacher and John Wesley was just eighteen. These two men, along with many others were young adults when they started in ministry, and these two arguably saw one of the greatest revivals ever! Later, Charles Spurgeon became the pastor of the biggest Baptist church in London aged nineteen, the prophet Jeremiah was a little squirt when he became God’s mouthpiece, and David was a shepherd boy when he fought Goliath. Yet God used the youth to help people see the light! Now hopefully you will see where I am going with this article.

I often hear the argument that young people need to listen to their elders and listen to their wisdom. Now I do not dispute that the more mature of Christians have wisdom that they must share and we as youth must listen. However, at the same time, I think that it’s dangerous to just go along with something because ‘so-and-so’ says to.

If the Wesley’s and the Whitfield’s’ had done the same then it could be argued that the revival may never have happened. Of course God is in control and He may have used someone else to accomplish the same aim. Young people have ideas, we can be enthusiastic, we can be passionate and we can be energetic. This is great and should be encouraged, not frowned upon!

The Wesley’s challenged the old views from the Church of England. They were enthusiastic, they travelled the country, they wrote hymns, they preached the word, and they cared for the poor. In many ways, they went away from what was expected and did what youthful wisdom does, they followed their hearts and were led to places God wanted them.

Let’s look at Jeremiah again, what did God say to him? It’s worth quoting in full:

“The word of the Lord came to me, saying,

 ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
    before you were born I set you apart;
    I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.’

‘Alas, Sovereign Lord,’ I said, ‘I do not know how to speak; I am too young.’

But the Lord said to me, ‘Do not say, “I am too young.” You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,’ declares the Lord.

Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, ‘I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.’” (Jeremiah 1:4-10).

The point of this short article is this: Do not let your youthful energy and vigour go to waste, do not let your ideas go unheard! Share them, act on them, be passionate about them. Being young does not make you stupid, in fact you bring a fresh approach to things that haven’t been discussed for years. Challenge the older people in your congregations, don’t cower away. We are like Lions if we are in Christ.

My favourite biblical verse on this is 1 Timothy 4:12:

“Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.”

‘Health warning’

Now, so far it sounds as though I am saying youth beats everything else. That would be foolish to say the least. Saints before us have been through the same experiences of youthful eagerness. It is up to them to guide us, to help us; and down to us to go to them. Older folk, I urge you to encourage young Christians in their ideas and talents; guide them like Christ guides all of us through life, be there and who knows what God can do?

Remember, do not shy away from listening to people, and taking their advice, but remember to pray and seek guidance from God. Before acting on any idea, pray, ask that God shows you if it is the right thing to do, and then pray that he uses it for his Glory. Worship him before you start anything, and never think you are alone. God is with us, and he will use us if he wants. Do not let people say that you are young deter you from doing God’s will. Time and time again, God has proved He will use the youth to shame the older generations, ‘out of the lips of babes, you have ordained praise.’ Time and Time again, God has used the young to shine his light.

Always remember Paul’s words, on our relationships with our brothers and sisters, to the young pastor Timothy:

“Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.” (1 Timothy 5:1-2).

So brothers and sisters, be encouraged, and may God use every single one of us. Now if you don’t mind I’m going to write some more songs, and think and pray on how we handle Church unity.