Stuff That Makes Me Mad

May 27, 2010 Leave a comment

So, I’ve recently found a website called Topix, where they have individual forums by zip code. I’ve been in my hometown zip, and the surrounding areas reading, when suddenly some Christian issues came up. Basically, it happened where there were some anti-theists spouting normal anti-theist propaganda that is easily refuted and basically nothing more than trolling on their part.

I simply went on there replying to some of these people. Some of the people were educated and nice. I like people like that. They are respectful and listen and can carry on conversations that are easy to follow and educated. Some of the other people were nothing more than trolls, making ad hominem attacks and doing zero to help their cause.

But then something interesting happened. I’m from the hills of Tennessee where there’s a lot of traditional evangelicalism that goes around. That’s what I was raised in. It’s very easy growing up in that to fall into an almost Pharisaical trap. That whole “holier than thou” attitude.

I’ll admit it, in high school, that was me. I was a great kid…and I knew it. I stayed out of trouble. I never drank, chewed, went with girls who did…(that didn’t rhyme). This caused me to be very arrogant in some things. When it came to the Bible and whatnot, I was very arrogant. As I went to college, it got worse. It wasn’t until I did my internship and got into apologetics that I began to open up to the fact that not only did I not know everything, but I didn’t know much at all. From that point on, I have seen the importance of studying to defend my faith, explain it, and to not be a total jerk while doing so.

I love studying. I love learning more. And I’ll be honest – I don’t think there are enough Christians who do so. Too many Christians are uneducated when it comes to their faith. As they hear the typical “arguments” from anti-theists, they balk. In my opinion, education of Christians MUST take place.

Anyways, on this website, after talking for a while, I was attacked. Except it was by another “Christian.” I was called arrogant and this guy kept asking me all about if I trusted education, being a youth pastor, knowledge, or good works to get me into heaven. He keeps asking me for my views on different things. He has called me a punk and arrogant.

I’ve had to re-read the things that I have typed to make sure he really is just an insane person. I asked my best friend to read through the threads, and he confirmed the guy is insane.

This is what makes me mad: JUDGMENTAL CHRISTIANS.

I am all for purity within church. I am all for church discipline. I’m all for people making sure that other Christians truly are living up to the Bible whenever they claim to be followers of Christ. But what I am not for is people to publicly rebuke other Christians, especially when they are surrounded by non-Christians in the community.

Let’s face it, with numerous scandals going on in different churches, the public has plenty of fire-power that they call on. Christians who claim to follow Christ need to have those fruits in their lives of a Christ follower. I will never condone sin. But I also know that speaking the truth in love is an imperative in the Christian life. And that is not just when sharing our faith and dealing with the non-Christian, but I believe it is just as equally important (if not even more important) to do so with the Body of Christ. The Bible paints such a beautiful picture of the unity amongst members.

So this is what makes me mad – it’s not the judgmental, correcting attitude. That is scriptural. We must help keep other people accountable to following Christ. What makes me mad is whenever people publicly confess Christ, but come across as such arrogant jerks, it almost turns me off from Christianity.

But of course, I know I don’t have a lot of room to speak, because that is even me sometimes.

So, since we know that this is wrong, how do we correct it? Honestly, what are your helpful tips and hints to dealing with the negative nancies of Christianity? How do we maintain purity, even when dealing with the people who have it all figured out (like I used to.) Arrogance is something I have always fought, so what do we need?

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Understanding Mormonism

May 24, 2010 10 comments

Anyone who knows me knows that I have a fascination with the Mormon church. It all stems from May 2007, as I was spending my first weekend in Russellville, AR during my internship at the First Free Will Baptist Church. The YP there was out of town, getting his Master’s degree and I was at their home on a Saturday morning when the doorbell was rung. I looked, and lo and behold there were two, young, white shirt, gentlemen at the door.

As we began to talk, I began to sense that they knew what they were talking about, from the standpoint of how to present their side. Me, being a senior in college, began to use my Bible training to my disadvantage as I began to get flustered while talking to them. I essentially told them that I believed the Bible to be true, while they told me that the Book of Mormon presented the name of Christ 2500 times. I asked them if they had ever read the Gnostic Gospels, which also mentioned the name of Christ, but did not make them true. It was at that point, they left, and I felt as though I had earned a victory. Yet since that time, I recognized that I was very unprepared to defend my faith. Not only that, I was acting like a jerk while doing it, getting a big head at the thought that I “ran off the Mormons.”

Since then, Mormonism has both intrigued and impressed me. I have read some books on it, as well as different sources and articles. I have tried to strike up conversations with  Mormons that I have met. I have done research in order to understand what they believe, and the most efficient way to share my faith with them. And, I have secured my own copy of their Book of Mormon.

Here’s what I have learned thus far:

  • Mormons are very knowledgeable. They are very willing to share with others what they believe. They have at least received some form of training in Mormon history and belief. They know the phrases to use, such as “plain and precious” truths to describe Scriptures.
  • Mormons are tough to witness to. This is in direct relation to the above statement. They know what they believe, and therefore, they are hard to sell. In addition, Mormons “bear witness” or testify of what they know to be true. They know that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God because they feel it and it has been revealed to them by prayer. They know that the Book of Mormon is true because they feel it and it has been revealed to them by prayer. This makes it difficult, because even at the supposed contradictions and problems, they believe they are true because of what they feel to be true.
  • Mormons are insistent to challenge you to try their faith. They are always offering you to read the Book of Mormon and ask God to know whether it is true or not. This is an awkward moment, as it calls on someone to make a decision right there in my opinion. But, they insist upon it, and challenge those that they speak with on the topic.

So there are many things that Christians can learn from the Mormon church and believers. Their knowledge and insistence are to challenge us. What would happen if each Christian dug into the Bible the way that the Mormon church digs into their beliefs and Scriptures? What if each Christian were to share their faith with strangers with the fervency that the Mormons share their faith? It would be dramatically different.

The one thing that has intrigued me most about Mormonism, though, is the belief upon the Scriptures. Mormons believe that the Book of Mormon is the second testament concerning the life of Christ. While the Old Testament gives the history of the Jewish people, and the New Testament gives the story of Christ and the explosion of the church, the Book of Mormon gives the account of Jewish travelers who came to the “American continent” and settled, to be visited by Jesus Christ later after His ascension into heaven. In the Book of Mormon, we find a prophecy in 1 Nephi 13 that in the future, the Bible would lose its “plain and precious truths” to be corrupted by the abominable church, thus showing the need for the additional testament of the Book of Mormon.

Yet, this is not what intrigues me the most. What intrigues me the most is the view that the Bible is the Word of God “as far as it is translated correctly.” So I have inquired to a few Mormons – Where has the Bible been mistranslated? Below are a few of the answers I have received.

  • “Have you ever wondered why there are so many different churches with different beliefs?” The claim is that since different people translate different ideologies from the Bible, that it has obviously been mistranslated.
  • Acts 7:54-60 contains the stoning of Stephen. I was actually not able to get answers as to what the problem with this passage was, because the Mormon missionary I was chatting with lost their computer. At some point, we are supposed to reconnect online and pick up where we left off, but thus far, I have received no further information on this “mistranslation.”
  • 1 Samuel 16:14 speaks of the Spirit of the Lord departing Saul and a bad/evil Spirit coming to torment him. This is one that I was able to talk about for a while. I pulled up the wonderful resource at StudyLight.org and informed the Mormon that this is not a contradiction (as they supposed since they claim that God does not have an evil spirit – agreed of course) as the Hebrew word used for “evil/bad” is ra, which simply means a bad spirit that came upon Saul. The conversation quickly changed. I do not count this as victory, but instead, just a change of subject.
  • John 1. John 1 contains John’s speech on Christ being eternal with the Father and establishing Him as the Word. This is contradictory to Mormon doctrine and belief that Christ is eternal, and instead He was a created being from God and Mary. The source that was used here threw me for a loop, as I realized that the Mormons believe this is mistranslated because of the Joseph Smith Translation (JST). The problem with the JST is that some verses stay the same, while others are completely changed. Yet, there is no proof anywhere that these need to be changed. So I inquired further about how we can know that this is true, but again, it came back to “Praying and asking God to reveal the truth while reading the Book of Mormon and the JST.” I asked for other examples, but every time, I was given links to the JST. This is the easy way to cop-out that the Bible has been mistranslated, simply because Joseph Smith claimed it was.

I’m presently studying a little further about the Joseph Smith Translation, and will post some more once I receive more information. But it creates a difficulty in discussion when informing the one who you are speaking with that if the Bible has been mistranslated, then from the thousands of manuscripts from hundreds of years would document this. But it all referred back to the JST and the testimony that it was true. It’s difficult.

What do you know about Mormonism?


What Role Do You Play?

May 10, 2010 Leave a comment

Yesterday was Mother’s Day. My mother might be one of the six people in the world who accidentally stumbled upon this blog in the past, so “Happy Mother’s Day Mom! You’re like a mother to me!”

Regardless, with all of this hoopla concerning honoring our mothers on this one special day, I’ve been thinking a lot about parenting. Now I’m not a parent, and my wife and I don’t plan to be for a while. As a youth pastor though, I get to deal with parents quite often. Sometimes, I deal with parents more than I want to. Other times, I get to deal with parents less than I want to. Either way, understanding parenting is something that I have strived to do since I entered ministry.

Simply put, most parents don’t play the role that they should in their child’s life. For us “traditional” Christians, who have grown up going to church and it is all that we know (such as my wife and myself), Sundays were a day that we woke up, went to church, no questions asked. In fact, most of the time, there was no argument from me. I never asked if I had to go as if it were a chore, but instead, I loved going to church because this is where my close friends were. For a lot of my friends, it was the same.

Others though, I look and wonder where the priorities lie. I’m not just talking about church attendance (although, I do believe this is essential in parenting, as well as for the children), but instead, just the role that parents play in their lives.

As I interviewed for the new position in Missouri last month, I was asked the question: What discourages you in ministry?

Like a big emotional baby, I began to get emotional as I explained how it truly breaks my heart to see some kid’s parents show no interest, not only in their lives, but in the church. There are simply too many parents who strive to be the politically correct friend to their children instead of leader and mentor.

I’ve done no research, I have no statistics, and I don’t really care what you think about my opinion, because I’m pretty sold on the fact that if parents do not raise their children with the priority to follow Christ above all else, then they are not parenting according to the Biblical model. When parents do this, then it is not their fault if their children grow up to reject church, Christ, or anything else surrounding their upbringing. People make decisions. I made the decision to follow my upbringing. Others, instead, turn their backs upon this.

Yet, I will throw this statistic out there (which is made up on the spot): I believe that 90% of the cases we see of people not in church today, even though they grew up “going to church,” is to be blamed on parenting. I look at my upbringing in the church. Again – my parents had me there. There was no choice. Sundays, there was nothing else that came before church. Wednesdays, we were there. Revivals, we were there. This is not be confused with church attendance equating the totality of our relationship with Christ, but instead, the priority that was placed upon commitment to Christ. I look at others I grew up with who were in the same boat that I found myself in.

Then, I look at others, whose parents did not fulfill the role of raising them to see the importance of commitment to the church and to Christ. Thus, my statistics come – those who were committed to church as youth because of their parents commitment to church still find themselves committed. It’s amazing – as parents actually parented their kids – and weren’t just the cool-go-to-parent, their kids are still in church, if not SERVING in a church. In fact, Thom Rainer in Essential Church has plenty of statistics to back up the role that parental involvement in the church versus students being committed to the church in adulthood plays.

While I have rambled throughout this entire post, what it all boils down to is understanding that as parents, it is YOUR role to fulfill to teach your students to follow Christ above all else. The best way to do so is by setting that example. Your child watches you.

But, when your half-hearted devotion is evident, your student will follow those footsteps, too.

As a youth pastor, I love working with students. But I am not their rock. I am not the one who trains them day in and day out the importance of Scripture. I should be the one who is reiterating what they are learning at home.

Unfortunately, the roles have changed.

What role do you play?

Ministry Update

May 3, 2010 2 comments

Here’s a little update about what’s going on in the life of Ryan and Lindsey Akers.

Yesterday, at the end of our morning worship service, I announced my resignation from First Bible Free Will Baptist Church to the congregation. I would have never imagined doing that when I first came.

When I first came to the church in May 2008, I left college and knew how ministry was supposed to be done. But, like all people who enter the workforce, you learn that college and reality are very different things. After learning youth ministry in a way that focused on families, I was thrown into the midst of a community where about 80% of our students came from non-traditional homes. Grandparents, single-parents, divorces – you name it, we had it. That really rocked my world, as I had my ideal, and suddenly everything had to change from the way that I thought it should have been.

Throughout the past two years I’ve learned a lot. I’ve laughed a lot. I’ve cried a lot. My heart has been softened and I have become a very different person.

I have learned most of all how to study. I have learned how to immerse myself in the Scriptures that I will be teaching to the point that it just oozes out of me. On Saturday, as Lindsey and I sat and talked to a dear couple in our church about what would be taking place on Sunday, the husband spoke to me and it meant tons, for he is a man of few words. But he said, “You’re a very capable speaker…” When I first came, I had no confidence in my speaking ability, but now, I recognize it takes hours of preparation and soaking of the Scriptures.

When I look at my students, it hurts. It truly hurts. As I was reading my letter, I looked out into the crowd and connected with one of my girls. Her face was scrunched up, red, and she was crying. It about ripped my heart out.

For a while, I wondered if there would be tears. I had questioned, “How much have I really accomplished at this church?” The past few days, I feel that God simply said, “You don’t know how far reaching My power goes through the work that you have done…”

Simply put, this change in ministry that is about to take place, has been a wild adventure.

On January 12, 2010, I received a phone call. I only remember this date because that was the day that the earthquake hit Haiti, and anyone who knows me knows that my mind was on Haiti. I treated this phone call as I have every other job opportunity from the past year that I have received (around 6). I said, “Yeah, we’ll pray about it…” and then I intended on just stuffing it into a drawer in my mind, pulling it out to pray, and retiring here in New Castle.

For the next 5 weeks or so, I did just that, but around February 20, God pulled out the drawer and said, “Hey, look at this again…” Lindsey and I had our Valentine’s weekend away, so on the way to Dayton, OH we talked about it. I told her, “I think I should just submit a resume to say to God, ‘I am willing to go wherever you want, even if I don’t want to go.'” For the longest time, I would get back from runs and just look around the neighborhood and think to myself, “I WANT to be in this town!” I didn’t want to leave. That messed up my plans to minister in a place I was now familiar with. It messed up my plans to have a church that I could help build up a youth ministry. It just didn’t fit in with my plans.

So, I submitted my resume, and it hurt me. I walked out of the post-office, and on the way back to my office at church, I had tears in my eyes and my heart hurt. I felt like I was cheating on my church. I felt horrible. But I still prayed, “God, whatever you want from us…”

Over the next few weeks, there were phone calls and a meeting. Then, it happened. God just began dealing saying, “Keep pursuing this…” The more we pursued, the more clear it became that God was calling us to minister at Calvary Fellowship Church in Fenton, Missouri. This confused me at the beginning. Why would God call me to a different geographical location in order to do the EXACT same thing that I was doing 5.5 hours to the east? Why would that happen? What’s the point?

While I don’t know what the purpose is, I do know that Lindsey and I have listened to the voice of God and have been sensitive to His will. It has been a growing experience for us. I’ve made spiritual decisions, but I’ve never fought spiritual decisions quite like this one. I’ve never had to make such a big decision where I know that it is so important to be in God’s Will. And suddenly, after months of silence from God (or so it seemed), I stand secure in the fact that my life is about to change drastically. I stand, even though it is such a painful experience to know that teenagers and adults are hurting because Lindsey and I will be leaving on June 4. I stand secure, because I feel that I have sought God’s will so strongly.

Honestly, I’m a bit ticked at people who have thrown around that whole saying so many times just as a cop out. “Well, it’s God’s will…” No one can argue with that. And so I know that there are skeptics, and those are the people who have probably been burned in the past by people calling something God’s Will. But I stand. I stand in God’s Will. I stand rejoicing.

Throughout the past couple of weeks, these verses have been heavy on my mind:

6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7

Lindsey and I prayed. We prayed hard. We prayed about this job before we ever knew we were. In fact, since last June, one month after we were married, we laid in bed before sleeping and just prayed a simple prayer – “God guide us…” Since last June, that has been a very regular prayer in our lives. So, it seemed as though God was silent for a long period of time. There are so many more details that go on in this story, such as the other job offers, and the fact that Lindsey and I were about 95% sure we would be moving to Denver, Colorado with some of our best friends to help plant a church, but God was “silent” in all of those prayers.

But, we continued to pray. We continued to plead to God. And now, I stand. I stand firm. Because I have the peace of God. Even though none of this makes sense of how great of a change that has come about in our life in the past month, I have the peace of God. I don’t understand why God was blessing us financially, in our ministry, in our friendships, or at all, but I do have the peace of God. And that blows my mind.

Be in prayer for us. This last month will be tough. I love this church. I love my kids. I love the teens. People are hurting. People are excited. People are confused.

One thing I do know, I will continue to seek God, because even when it seems as though nothing else makes sense, it always will in the end.

The Christian Atheist

April 28, 2010 1 comment

I typically try to go 45 days without posting things on this blog…that can change though. Here’s to more frequent posts!

I finished Craig Groeschel’s The Christian Atheist last night and I’ll immediately challenge you to go and get this book.

For me, I grew up in church. From the first time I could be taken to church, I was there. I was always there. My parents were involved in youth ministry. My dad now works for a men’s ministry. My mother is highly involved in every ministry she can be involved in. I am now a student pastor. My brother works part-time for his church. It is in our family to dive in and be involved.

But, what is a Christian Atheist? The tagline to the book says “Believing in God but living as if He doesn’t exist…” Ouch. When we compare our lives to Scripture, what do our lives say about our beliefs? Groeschel tackles this head on and with transparency. For me, it is easy to fall into the trap of, “Well, I’m a youth pastor, so I’m good because I’m studying the Bible and doing this and that…” but when we examine what Scripture says about our lives, it seems as thought it should be highly different.

The book deals with a ton of issues: past mistakes, God’s love, prayer life, money, worry, church, evangelism, amongst others. It deals with those things that we as Christians have pushed to the side to say “These are as serious of issues, so we can deal with those how we want…” But the Bible makes it abundantly clear on these issues and the others in the book.

The chapter that really hit me the most was Chapter 1: When You Believe In God but Don’t Really Know Him. Ouch again. If we really knew God, how different would that make your life. I don’t mean knowing about God. I know mean being about to spout of characteristics. I don’t even mean being able to tell a story about a time where God did something awesome in your life. Do you know Him? Do you know Him like you know your best friend, girlfriend, spouse, boss, parents, siblings? You know so much about people on earth. You know what makes them hurt, so you avoid it. You know what is expected of you, so you do it. You know how to please them because you love them, so you do it. But do you really know God?

This book challenged my faith deeply. It hit home. Sometimes I feel like I have the issues of forgiveness, faith, and love down when it comes to God. But, my life says otherwise when I examine what Scripture says concerning those issues.

I challenge you Christians to go and buy this book. It’s great. It’s humorous. But most of all, it takes God’s Word and says, “See! It’s in here. Now live the way God said to live!”

Worldview

March 16, 2010 Leave a comment

Since I really began to study into apologetics over the past few years, I’ve philosophized about how to do ministry and teach and whatnot. Now that I’m in ministry, I’ve figured out that it always looks a little different than the ideal.

I’ll be honest, I just finished The Faith by Chuck Colson and am presently reading Already Gone by Ken Ham and I am thoroughly enjoying them because of one reason: they reaffirm my philosophy.

Honestly, that’s how we are – we agree with those who agree with us most of the time. But as I have gotten into ministry and tried to implement a philosophy and apologetic approach, to see some of the great Christian minds also share that same view helps me to be confident in my approach and views.

The fact is, when it comes down to it, according to both of these books, as well as my philosophy – if we teach Christians how to view all of life through the scope of the Bible as the ultimate authority and God’s true Word, then we teach them how to live a life that is pleasing to God.

Instead of giving them “helpful tips for living” and being afraid of stepping on their toes because society says to not step on their toes, I’ve began to realize that we ALWAYS have to give the hard truths of Scripture. It’s an issue of eternity. It’s an issue of pleasing God. If we choose to ignore those things when it comes to teaching and discipling people, then we miss the point of the message of Christ.

To think like Christ is found right in the pages of Scripture in Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi. In chapter 2, Paul speaks of having the same mind as Christ, who came as a servant and was humble. I mean, first off, that’s a lesson in and of itself to today’s society where everything is “me-driven.” But secondly, to engage our minds to think as Christ thinks could revolutionize not just American Christianity, but honestly the entire world.

So when it comes down to it, I fully 100% believe that the Church has no choice but to take a step back and ask, “What are the people in our congregation learning?” If they’re learning cute and convenient nuggets of faith that make them feel better – I’m not convinced that’s appropriate. We need to teach the hard truths of Scripture so that people begin to wake up and realize – “God has called me to a life of surrender. Everything that He desires for my life will be implemented.” No longer can we teach “Jesus loves you just as you are and you can even stay that way and do what you want….” because that has led to an exodus from our churches.

You get what you expect, after all.

Neglect

March 9, 2010 Leave a comment

I’ve totally been neglecting this blog since 2010 hit. I actually had all intentions to regularly update and was good for the first two weeks of 2010, but then the earthquake in Haiti happened and I spent the next 7 weeks updating my other blog – Run 4 Haiti. Nonetheless, I feel as though I am back.

For a brief update, without actually going in-depth to something super duper deep, I just have to share what has been going on lately.

I’ve been busy.

That’s really it. With Haiti, church, etc., life has been busy.

This past Sunday night I had the chance to speak to our congregation since my pastor was out of town. It was a complete honor to be able to share what I have been doing lately with the teens regarding the church. And honestly, I feel as though I finally hit a new level of my speaking ability, as the words, the thoughts, etc. just really flowed. Look for a final update in the next few days regarding my studies in the church.

Presently, I am reading “The Faith” by Chuck Colson and I am enjoying it. From an apologetic standpoint, it is a very good book, especially for someone with some basic questions/objections of Christianity. Look for that review as soon as I finish it (hopefully this weekend.)

Other than that, I ask that you remember my ministry with Mountain Faith Mission of Haiti. Things have stayed quiet lately without any teams in, but honestly, I am hoping that is a good thing.