Fast-Food Christianity

As we have been looking at the book of Acts on Sunday mornings, we have seen a transformation happening in the lives of the followers of Jesus. The measure of the Spirit given to the twelve apostles can easily explain how different they are from the apostles we learned about in the gospels. For the newly converted Christians, the transformation seems to be directly related to what they spend their time doing. At the end of chapters 2 and 4, they are unified in worship and sharing life together. Their walk with God extends far beyond the first day of the week. Unfortunately this kind of daily practice of Christianity does not take root in many churchgoers in our world today.
 
In his book, D2: Becoming a Devoted Follower of Christ, Phil McKinney believes this is a product of our consumer culture. He describes it as “Fast-Food Christianity.” It resembles the fast-food experience in a number of ways.
  • Replacement of responsibility: Someone else can do the work while the fast-food Christian enjoys the benefits.
  • Choices: The fast-food Christian can choose the church and the level of involvement.
  • Cheap: It will only cost what the fast-food Christian is willing to pay.
  • Service with no strings attached: The fast-food Christian doesn’t have to make long-term relationships and can frequently make complaints without helping with solutions.
  • Quick: The fast-food Christian wants everything done quickly. Sermons need to be short. There shouldn’t be too many songs. If there’s a problem, it needs to be corrected quickly.
  • Drive-through service: At its core, the fast-food experience is a transaction. Fast-food Christianity can be the same. Get in and out of the building as quickly as possible on a Sunday morning, and repeat the next week.
 
Just the brief contact with the word of God and good people would probably make the fast-food Christian’s life better than it would be otherwise, but that person is missing out on so much of what God has in mind for us. And believe it or not, the church is missing out on the transformed version of that same person. McKinney says that God’s call to discipleship is the opposite of Fast-Food Christianity.
  • Responsibility – Galatians 2:20
  • Costly – Luke 14:25-33
  • Only one choice – John 14:6
  • Service with strings attached – 1 John 3:16-19
  • Slow and sometimes painful – Hebrews 11:32-40
  • Commitment – Luke 9:23-26
 
Here at Southwest there are many opportunities to serve and get more involved as we grow as His disciples. Even beyond the ministries here, let’s never be content with less than the work God made us to do. We are His disciples all day, every day.
 
Brian
 
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. – Ephesians 2:9
 


Storyline

In the end of Acts 6 and all of Acts 7, we find the account of Stephen. He is first introduced as one of the seven who serve the needs of the church, but it is very clear that he took the command to be a witness to heart. When he is questioned by the high priest about the charge of blasphemy against him, Stephen answers by telling the gospel. He does not begin with the manger in Bethlehem. He does not start by telling them about how the Spirit descended like a dove at the baptism of Jesus. He does not introduce his story with the first miracle, the last supper, the crucifixion or the resurrection. Stephen begins by talking about Abraham. Why Abraham?
 
There is the initial answer that since he is defending himself before a Jewish high priest, Abraham would be an obvious, familiar point of connection. I believe there is more to it than that. As we read stories in the Old Testament that remind us of our childhood Bible classes or Vacation Bible School, we sometimes lose sight of the connectedness of each person in scripture. They all play a part in the story that God had in mind before time began. The first chapter of Matthew serves in part to bridge those Old Testament stories and the arrival of Jesus. Stephen reminds his accusers (and us) of that storyline in Acts 7. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and David were all part of the story that would lead to the Messiah. Stephen’s accusers had missed the climax of the story because they were too caught up in the history that led to it. Stephen understood that it all fit together.
 
The true beauty of God’s story is that it is ongoing. Because of His great love, He invites us to be part of that story. The church today continues to give the same witness that Stephen did in Acts 7. We know the good news that not only did Jesus come to earth in the beginning of the gospels. It was the Father’s plan all along that He would come so that we could be with Him. Each of the people Stephen mentions are part of that plan. Although the Bible is a collection of many stories, the amazing story of God and His love for His people is woven through all of those individual stories.
 
Let’s not forget as we look at those old, familiar stories that they were all part of God’s great plan to draw His people back to Him. It is a desire important enough for Him to send His son for us.
 
Brian
 
 
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. – Romans 5:6


Facing Your Lions

As we celebrate Father’s Day, I want to share a letter with you that was written by Wes McAdams, Preaching Minister for the church of Christ on McDermott Road in Plano, Texas, to his sons when they were younger. These Biblical truths are timeless lessons for Christian men. – Brian
 
Dear Boys,
 
I would like to tell you a story about a young shepherd named David. One day David was out quietly watching over his father’s sheep. Suddenly he heard a rustling in the grass—a ferocious lion appeared. With lightening fast speed, the lion snatched up a lamb and held him firmly in his jaws of death. The lion, with the struggling lamb in his mouth, retreated from the pasture to enjoy his prey. David wasted no time; in a moment he caught up to the lion. Without hesitation he attacked the hungry cat, caught him by his beard, and killed him (1 Samuel 18:34-36).
I think it is important that you know this story for several reasons… (Click here to continue reading at RadicallyChristian.com)
 
 


Summertime

Summertime has a different rhythm than the rest of the year. It is a welcome change for many, but it is still a bit of an adjustment. Summertime in church life is different as well. We have occasional Sundays where the crowd might be sparse, because many went on vacation at the same time. Some of our regular church calendar is a little less full as well. We get to enjoy lessons from some different faces on Wednesday evenings, and ministers all over this part of the country have the opportunity to speak to different groups. For these and many other reasons, I enjoy the summer.
 
As I write this article, I am in Searcy, Arkansas, where I spoke this week to the congregation I worked with for almost 14 years. It is always good to reconnect with friends and to share something from God’s word. During this trip, I was flooded with memories of youth ministry. Although the rhythm of summer takes on a slower pace with a sparse calendar in other areas, that is not the case in youth ministry. The youth ministry summer calendar is full of camps, trips, devotionals, service projects and much more. I was asked this week if I ever miss it. There are parts of it that I really do miss, but even thinking about the pace of summer makes me a little exhausted.
 
I hope you realize how blessed we are at Southwest to have John and Jessica doing all the things they do, and I hope you will do whatever you can to help them as they bless our teens. Whether you are young or old, there are things you can do to make this summer a good one for our youth ministry at Southwest.
  • Pray for John and Jessica. You might even let them know that you are praying and ask them if there are specific things you can pray about.
  • Pray for our teens. Summer can be a great time of growth. Pray for those opportunities. Pray for their safety during increased travels. Go to God on their behalf.
  • Volunteer. There is always a need for chaperones, drivers, teachers, people to host or cook for events and various other things. Ask John how you could be of service.
  • Encourage. Encourage. Encourage. We can’t do this enough everywhere in life. This is no different. Our teens, parents and leaders can all use positive words.
 
As busy as those summers were, I can think of time after time where God made an impact on people during those times. It was in the midst of plans that went off without a hitch and times where thing were changing so quickly it was hard to keep up. God was working through it all. I can’t wait to see what He does this summer.
 
Brian
 
Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. 1 Timothy 4:12


In That I Rejoice

“I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.” Philippians 1:12-18
 
Paul wrote those words while imprisoned because of the gospel. As we look at Acts 4 this week, we find Peter and John in custody for the same reason. Being imprisoned because of the gospel likely seems to us like something that happens in other times and in other places. We have a freedom to talk about Jesus that they could not have imagined.
 
What would people think 500 years from now if they learned that imprisonment for the gospel was a real fear for the first century church and that Christians in America could speak freely about Christ in 2019? Which group would they think would speak more boldly? I know what my answer would be.
 
They were willing to risk everything, because being witnesses of Christ was the most important task they had. How can we capture the boldness of people like Paul, Peter and John? Paul gives us the answer to that question in Philippians 1.
  • Perspective. Paul knows that his mission of spreading the gospel may be enhanced because of his imprisonment. What most would think is a negative becomes good.
  • Example. He realizes that his example will encourage others to share the good news. Now instead of adding to the church, the numbers begin to multiply.
  • Purpose. He is “put here” for the gospel. Do we believe God uses our circumstances today to further His story?
  • Attitude. Paul cannot control his freedom. He cannot control how people respond to his message. He can control his own attitude, and he chooses to rejoice.
Let’s all be witnesses of Jesus this week!
 
– Brian


2019 Summer Series

Date Topic Speaker From
June 5, 2019 God Is a Consuming Fire Daniel Ingram Altus, OK
June 12, 2019 God Is Merciful Dave Mellor Benton, Arkansas
June 19, 2019 God Is God Danny Stewart Sulphur, OK
June 26, 2019 God Is Our Refuge Buster Sides Blanchard, OK
July 3, 2019 Singing Night  
July 10, 2019 The Greatest Story (VBS Week) Wayne Roberts Oklahoma City, OK
July 17, 2019 God Is Holy Layne Heitz Durant, OK
July 24, 2019 God Is Love Nathan Mellor Oklahoma City, OK
July 31, 2019 God Is Faithful Howard Norton Searcy, Arkansas
August 7, 2019 God Is Righteous Randy Johns Paris, Texas
August 14, 2019 God Is Our Father Troy Rogers Lawton, OK
August 21, 2019 God Is With Us Robert Prater Tulsa, Oklahoma
August 28, 2019 God Is a Giver Wendell Ingram Wapanucka, OK


What Shall We Do?

One morning almost 20 years ago I put the key in my truck to start it, and nothing happened. After jump-starting it, I went to the auto parts store to have the battery tested. It was good, and the symptom did not sound like an issue with the starter; so I was convinced that the problem must be with the alternator. I spent almost $200 on a new one. I’m not a professional mechanic by any means, but this looked like a fairly simple task. I worked that Saturday morning taking out the old one and putting in the new one. Once everything was in place and connected, the truck started on the first turn of the key. I took the old alternator back to the parts store to get my core deposit back. When I got into the truck to drive back home, it wouldn’t start again. After looking over the battery connections, I noticed a problem. The battery terminal (that metal piece that connects the hot wire to the battery) was cracked and making a bad connection. It couldn’t be that simple, could it? I spent $2 and five minutes replacing it. The truck started every time I turned the key. I spent the rest of the afternoon removing the new alternator, reinstalling the old one and feeling a little silly.
 
In Acts 2, the people are faced with the undeniable truth that they were wrong about Jesus and had played a role in the murder of the Messiah. Accepting those facts had to be tough. Admitting that they did not know where to go next may have been even tougher. That brought them to the most important question they would ever ask, “Brothers, what shall we do?” They knew they had messed up, but they still had hope that their relationship with God did not need to end there.
 
Peter’s response was clear: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” It couldn’t be that simple, could it? Could the very people who played a part in the death of their Savior find forgiveness and be made new? The gospel answers that question with a resounding, “Yes.” This is where the change in life begins. The Christian walk begins with one simple step that changes everything. Often we think of baptism as a final step to salvation. In Acts 2 we see it as one of the first steps in walking with God.
 
– Brian
 
Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.          Acts 2:37-38


We Are All Witnesses

In 2007, Nike began a campaign featuring a young basketball star, LeBron James. The tagline of the campaign was, “We are all witnesses.” The press release stated: “Nike announced the introduction of a new Witness integrated marketing campaign celebrating superstar LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers and his rise to prominence as he makes the first NBA Finals appearance of his career. The expanded campaign includes digital, print and television advertising and grassroots marketing. The Witness campaign pays tribute to James and acknowledges the legions of fans worldwide who are “witnessing” his greatness, power, athleticism and beautiful style of play.” (Cleveland Leader, 6-6-07) Nike was banking on the fact that they had the next player who would change basketball.
 
In Acts 1, the disciples are given the task to be witnesses, but this group of people are witnesses to something much more important than basketball. Jesus asks his disciples to be His witnesses “in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Since He would be leaving Earth and ascending to heaven in the next verse, it would now be up to them to share the good news. They would be the ones to help this new church grow.
 
Now that we have finished Luke’s gospel, we will move on to his second volume: the book of Acts. We will spend the next few months looking at the first half of the book of Acts together. We will see the beginning of the church and how his disciples took on this mission. We will see that church grow and spread across the world. I pray through it all that we will be reminded that we are all to be witnesses today. We should be working every day to continue that mission that began in Acts 1:8 to take his story to the ends of the Earth and even to our neighbors here in Pontotoc County.
 
Brian


Risen

Jesus tried to tell them so many times. He said it in many places, in different ways and to various groups of people. It was one of the most important things that was going to happen, but they just did not get the message. Then He was taken from them, mocked, tried, beaten and killed. The One who led them was ripped away. Then Sunday came.
 
In Luke 24 they went to the tomb only to find it empty. It was there they met angels who said almost matter-of-factly, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; He has risen! Remember how he told you.” And they remembered. Now it all began to make sense. Tearing down the temple and rebuilding it. The Son of Man being delivered and raised again. It seemed too good to be true, but He is truth. There is no single event that carries greater power and hope than the resurrection. That is why we celebrate it this Sunday and every day. He has risen, and because of that we can share in the resurrection.
 
Brian
 
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.          1 Corinthians 15:1-8 (ESV)


It’s Friday, But Sunday’s Coming

This week we will spend our morning worship time focused on the arrest, trials and death of Jesus. To His followers, it must have seemed like the darkest days imaginable. It had to feel like a resounding defeat. Of course, we know the rest of the story. The cross is a pivotal moment in the mission of Jesus, but that moment is not the end.
 
In 2001 I first read these thoughts from S.M. Lockridge about the despair of Friday and the hope that comes with Sunday. I believe he captures the feelings of those days well. Don’t lose hope. It’s only Friday. Sunday’s coming! – Brian
 
 
It’s Friday. Jesus is praying. Peter’s a sleeping. Judas is betraying. But Sunday’s comin’.
 
It’s Friday. Pilate’s struggling. The council is conspiring. The crowd is vilifying. They don’t even know that Sunday’s comin’.
 
It’s Friday. The disciples are running like sheep without a shepherd. Mary’s crying. Peter is denying. But they don’t know that Sunday’s a comin’.
 
It’s Friday. The Romans beat my Jesus. They robe him in scarlet. They crown him with thorns. But they don’t know that Sunday’s comin’.
 
It’s Friday. See Jesus walking to Calvary, His blood dripping, His body stumbling, and his spirit’s burdened. But you see it’s only Friday; Sunday’s comin’.
 
It’s Friday. The world’s winning. People are sinning, and evil’s grinning.
 
It’s Friday. The soldiers nail my Savior’s hands to the cross. They nail my Savior’s feet to the cross, and then they raise him up next to criminals.
 
It’s Friday. But let me tell you something: Sunday’s comin’.
 
It’s Friday. The disciples are questioning what has happened to their King, and the Pharisees are celebrating that their scheming has been achieved. But they don’t know it’s only Friday. Sunday’s comin’.
 
It’s Friday. He’s hanging on the cross feeling forsaken by his Father, left alone and dying. Can nobody save him? It’s Friday, but Sunday’s comin’.
 
It’s Friday. The earth trembles. The sky grows dark. My King yields His spirit.
 
It’s Friday. Hope is lost. Death has won. Sin has conquered, and Satan’s just a laughin’.
 
It’s Friday. Jesus is buried. A soldier stands guard, and a rock is rolled into place.
 
But it’s Friday. It is only Friday. Sunday is a comin’!
 
“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:18