Thursday, June 08, 2006

The Road to Apostasy

Star Wars is something I have loved ever since I was a little boy. A New Hope hit theaters in 1977, only 4 months before my 5th birthday. Luke Skywalker was my hero. Even though he was devastated by the revelation that Darth Vader was his father, nothing could stop him from trying to redeem him. "There is good in him" Luke believed.

Recently, I read an article online called
Apostle to Apostate: Revenge of the Sith, As Cautionary Tale. The author draws clues from Revenge of the Sith as to how young churched Christians become apostates.

Here is my take on what the author gleaned from the fall of Anakin Skywalker. These points almost serve as steps down the slippery slope. Hang with me, however, there may be a twist.

1. When young people are kept at arms length and not given recognition for their contributions as believers, they fail to make connections, and begin to feel misunderstood or worse...unwanted.

2. When young people begin to recognize hypocrisy among church leaders and adults, they become disillusioned and begin to question everything they've been taught.

3. When young people express themselves emotionally and receive only indifference and insensitivity, they will find other communities that will understand them better.

4. Finally, when young people see leaders and adults asserting Truth only when it's convenient, they will do the same. As a result, this leads to clashes between them and a loss of direction. They will easily gravitate toward those who's beliefs are passionately consistent and "reasonable."

Of course, the root cause of every fall is pride and arrogance, but certainly how the members of the church conduct themselves can make a difference for the good or the bad of a young person.

Have you seen this happen?

Here's the twist. If you have seen Episode I: The Phantom Menace, then you know of the character Qui-Gon Jinn, played by Liam Neeson. He was the Jedi Master that trained Obi-Wan. He was considered the rogue Jedi, the one who didn't always submit to the Jedi Council's rigid rules and ways. He found a way to keep his Faith, but not the religion.

And it was Qui-Gon who believed in Anakin. Certainly things would have turned out differently for Anakin if Qui-Gon had not been killed by Darth Maul.

Here I find myself most closely relating to Obi-Wan. I am part of the Jedi Council (paid staff member at church). I am not a free spirit like Qui-Gon, but I work within the system to preserve the Jedi Way (Biblical Values). I have Padawan learners (teenagers) that I believe in, but I often see them treated as described above.

I do not want to lose my kids to those "other" communities. What can I do?

19 comments:

armand said...

The first thing you should do is stop quoting George Lucas movies as if they are the inspired word of God. No disrespect intended, but the answers are in following and trusting in his word and in him. I remember listening to a podcast where the guy was talking about how God is love and love conquers all and then started quoting yoda or somebody in a Star Wars movie about turning to the dark side. Movies are fine for entertainment, but are not good sources for building a theology.

BruceD said...

hehehe

This should be interesting!

JimmyBob said...

Armand, that was not my intention and my theology certainly doesn't originate from George Lucas.

Do you like parables?

Are you saying that the 4 points and comparisons I posted haven't any truth to them?

Would it have been better if I simply posted the points without mentioning Star Wars?

armand said...

Like I said, I mean no disrespect, and I like the Star Wars movies as much as the next guy. But all too often I see people molding their Christian theology with the theology or religious beliefs in the Star Wars Saga. I'm not saying you are directly your beliefs solely from the movies. I just used that one podcast as an example. I went back and looked at the original article you linked to. It would take me quite some time to pick apart all the problems with the analogies he makes. I don't wish to get to into that. I just want to say I am concerned that you are a Christian leader in charge of the care of many young believers. You are rightly concerned that they continue to follow Christ as you do. Why not look at the Bible as the inspired word of God and see what it has to say rather than what George Lucas has to say. I think this is a fundamental question that plagues the church today. We must remember that Christ not only saved us, but keeps us. And we must always go back to him for our faith and source of truth. Other sources may be okay, but must be filtered through the lens of scripture. The same way Jesus, the apostles, and prophets viewed scripture: divinely inspired, sufficient, and useful for teaching and correcting.

JimmyBob said...

Armand,

I just visited your website and noticed there might be something else behind your comments to me. I see that you are a Calvanist and do not believe one can truly "fall away." (Please correct me if I'm wrong.)

The point of my post wasn't to draw attention to theological viewpoints at all. I am a youth minister and it concerns me when young people abandon their faith and the church after they graduate from high school. Sometimes even before.

I don't wish to debate the status of their salvation. Surely, there will be a variety of opposing views posted here if we do. But, it will amount to nothing good.

It has been my experience that those who no longer believe in Christ do not really care what believers think of them.

So, whether we think they are "saved" or not is irrelevant. How they are then living is what's important. Bad choices bring pain.

It is my opinion that we have been called to the ministry of reconciliation. And to me that includes straying children as much as completely lost ones.

armand said...

I am glad you took the time to look at my site. And yes I do believe in the 5 points of Calvinism, because I believe that scripture teaches them and is expressed by the apostles. I don't particurly like being labeled in such a way that insinuates that I am of another faith as a Christian who does not hold to all 5 points, or is a staunch Armenian. I am surprised when you said there was something behind my comments (being a Calvinist and not believing anyone born again could lose salvation). I did not realize that security for the unbeliever was peculiar to Calvinists. My previous church (the link on my site) held to the eternal security of the believer but had staunch Armenians on staff with Calvinists in the minority.
Anyways, I had never intended my comments to be a debate over whether one can lose their salvation. My point was that we should be looking to the bible for our answers as to how to direct and teach our youth. If God is the source of our life and salvation, we should continue to teach and preach his word without compromise. Through that his Spirit will do the work of keeping his people from straying. If people have strayed, we can simply look at the apostle Paul and how he dealt with it in the early church. Rebuke and correct in love, if they repent forgive and welcome them back with open arms.

JimmyBob said...

Armand, you said, "I am surprised when you said there was something behind my comments."

I said very tenderly "there might be something else behind your comments." I was just checking to to see if that was something. But, you have cleared it up for me and explained very well your precise point.

Let me assure you, I teach and preach the Word of God. Without it, I am just making things up from my head. Anyone can do that. The Word gives us a standard to measure all sermons and philosophy's by.

My post did not include Scripture verses and such, because that wasn't my purpose. I enjoyed the article and the thoughts/questions it sparked in me. I thought others might think so too.

Now, as to the main content of my post, what do you do to reach out to the young? Have you ever seen any of them in the process of leaving? What did you do to help bring them back? Did you find other adults or leaders hinder your efforts intentionally or unintentionally?

Anyone can answer these questions. Feel free and have at it.

Steve said...

Points 1, 2, 3 and 4 begin to happen to me around the age of 24 and continue to this day.... so I guess I am young at heart. I see this process of these four points as a sign of maturity and understanding the world and church for what it is... fallen.

I completely disagree with your statment that the root cause of every fall is pride and arrogance... because I do not necessarily see the above points as one becoming an "apostate".... I don't see it as a "Fall".

What's so wrong with finding a way to "to keep "your" Faith, but not the religion"?

Those are the type of kids I would want to reproduce.

JimmyBob said...

Steve, that was what I was trying to get at when I mentioned Qui-Gon Jinn. He found a way to not be part of the institution without losing faith in the Force.

I almost used your observation as the "twist" I mentioned (is it really a fall to leave religion?), but I decided against it when I thought of Qui-Gon and how I was really speaking to a fall from faith. The Dark Side is evil after all. George Lucas himself deals in absolutes, even though his Jedi do not.

When I said, "the root cause of every fall is pride and arrogance" I meant a fall from faith altogether. But, I suppose my statement is still up for debate. I could ammend it to say, "Pride and arrogance are usual suspects in a fall from faith."

Steve said...

You seem to be saying points 1-4 are negative though?? Am I reading you wrong? I don't see them as negatives.

And religion can be a part of the Dark Side...

And God so loved the world that he did not send the Jedi Council.

Lori said...

Great post JimmyBob

I see you have a real heart for your young friends. I do too...

Bottom line for me, teach them about relationship with God. If they develop that they can cut through any crap. They will be able to see more clearly.

Believe in the "Christ in them"

Trust that God loves those young friends and don't worry about losing them, they were never yours. Just encourage them to Love God and trust Him.

In Him
Lori

JimmyBob said...

Thanks Lori. Good advice!

Steve, I think you are reading me wrong. I'm with you on this!

Am I reading you wrong? You don't see it as a positive thing that the church treats young people (or anyone) like steps 1-4 describe do you? I don't.

I would say the church (especially leaders) need to do the opposite of these steps if they want to keep young people active in the faith and disciple them properly.

1. They should embrace and build relationships with them without suspicion. They should recognize their contributions and try to understand them.

2. They should admit when they are wrong and have been hypocrital, and quit justifying bad behavior. Young people understand humaness and are forgiving.

3. They should be sensitive to the emotional issues youth face and not try to instruct them with rigid, indifferent, or cold answers. They should not put them down or say, "Grow up!" or tell them, "Your just going through a phase, this will pass."

4. They should figure out their theology and positions on important matters and live by those standards. They should not call out Truth only when it is convenient, but maintain a consistent belief system, even if it "hurts" them. Young people will respect that more than someone who changes with the wind to suit their comfort level.

Recently, I have been trying to understand how much of what I do at church is just my religion or (n.) ministry and how much is useful (adj.) ministry. That is why I posted about the "Stupid church."

I have no desire to abandon the traditional congregation. I haven't been convinced that this thing can't work. I love church life, as imperfect as it is. And I love the fallen people there too. I'm just trying to sort out what I can do to make it better.

Admittedly, I have come to alter my perspective about those who have left church. At one time I would have said that people who don't go to church are wrong for doing so. But, now I see that there are other methods of life in the Kingdom of God besides the traditional church model.

Like I said, the purpose of my post was to show the steps to loss of faith (which is negative). But, as you have pointed out, they can also be seen as steps toward abandonment of constrained, corrupt, cold, and convenient religion (which is good).

Lord help me to see the Light.

BruceD said...

I think we should all "lose our faith"! Then we could begin the process of learning to trust the faith of Jesus and start to understand the work of redemption He accomplished on the cross.

We want to train each other to trust our own faith, which will always let us down. Only the faith of Christ has value, and isn't it wonderful that He freely gave His faith to us all? But, we don't trust Him. We want to rely on theology and doctrine to formulate something that we can trust in... ourselves.

Lori said...

Hey JimmyBob..

A good book to read is "So you don't go to church anymore". It is a story. You can actually read it online or buy the book. The pastor has alot of questions in this book.

http://www.jakecolsen.com/

I agree with you on points 1-4. It is too bad this happens but it can happen outside of church too. It really is an individual thing.

You stated: "if they want to keep young people active in the faith and disciple them properly".

Okay, I know they are only words, but I believe there is nothing we/us/or them can do. I believe it is about relationship with Him and others. The working out of our/their salvation is personal, even for the young. Their measuring stick is not leaders in the church it is Christ. Those young know what is right and what is wrong, trust me. They need to keep their eyes on Jesus.

The Kingdom of God is so huge.

In Him
Lori

JimmyBob said...

I preached a message tonight from 1 Timothy 4. It speaks of the reality of lying spirits and teaching that comes from demons. The Holy Spirit says that there will be those who turn away from the faith because they follow false teachers who teach these demonic doctrines.

Therefore, I think it is very important we pay attention to our spiritual training. We must study the Scriptures and work hard so that some will believe the truth.

Our young people are very impressionable. They are easily impressed and persuaded by those who have knowledge and human wisdom. But, it is time that the church is the Church. Individual believers must study so that they can "rightly divide" the Word. They must be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in them. As believers we must stop giving our young people sloppy scholarship and lazy explanations. Either we know God and know how to pray and get answers, or we haven't a clue and are confused about our faith. Young people will gravitate to those who make sense and have answers, even if they aren't Christian. What a tragedy if they turn away to follow lying spirits and the teachings of demons!

BruceD said...

I guess the main thing is for us to decide WHO the lying spirits are! Good luck with that!

Lori said...

Hey JB

Wow... I am so left winged here.

You stated: "Therefore, I think it is very important we pay attention to our spiritual training. We must study the Scriptures and work hard so that some will believe the truth".

Sounds like a lot of work to me.

You stated: "Our young people are very impressionable."

I agree totally.

You stated: "They are easily impressed and persuaded by those who have knowledge and human wisdom."

That is why relationship is important. Nothing else matters.

You stated: "Individual believers must study so that they can "rightly divide" the Word. "

Encourage the youth to read the word.

You stated: "As believers we must stop giving our young people sloppy scholarship and lazy explanations. Either we know God and know how to pray and get answers, or we haven't a clue and are confused about our faith."

Just be real with them. They know when you are full of it. I don't know about you but I pray as a means of communicating with Him, not about answers necessarily.

You stated: "Young people will gravitate to those who make sense and have answers, even if they aren't Christian. What a tragedy if they turn away to follow lying spirits and the teachings of demons!"

Not really, as I was one of those. Just rest assured that He is God and is so much more capable of betrothing us than you think. He is a great Big God

Read…..

Hebrews 8: 10-13
10. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: 11 And they shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. 12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. 13 In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.

Just something to rest upon …….

Verse 11,,,,,,,, Wow it says:

" ALL will know me" from least to greatest. And th

Lori said...

Continuation...

And they shall not teach.


In Him Lori

JimmyBob said...

I think the Scriptures have made it plain who preaches the doctrines of demons. All you need to do is read the passages on false teachers and prophets and see what kind of people they are. Then, test their teachings to see if they contradict those of the apostles. Pray and the Holy Spirit will reveal these things.

I personally think it is a mistake to interpret Hebrews 8 as saying that all teaching/preaching will cease. You would have to ignore many other passages, including the book of Hebrews itself, which is "teaching" you as you read it today.

I believe that the Holy Spirit was speaking to a time when He would instruct Jews and lead them personally, rather than relying completely upon priests and prophets to be His representatives. In context, Jesus is our Great High Priest who made the sacrifice for our sins. We can now know God personally because of Jesus, instead of through priests under the old system.

I have a feeling that this passage means more to our Jewish brothers who understand that old system better than we do. I will have to contact a friend of mine and get his thoughts concerning this.

My question: What would a Jewish person think and feel when reading Hebrews 8?