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We're Not At The Cool Table Anymore

About a week ago I had the privilege of attending the annual Ligonier conference in Orlando, Florida. Since arriving home, I find myself thinking about the comment, "we're not at the cool table anymore" that Stephen Nichols made as he reflected on the cultural shift in America over the last 20 to 30 years. I think he articulated the case with pin-point accuracy.

The idea of being at the cool table is rooted in the 1980's and 1990’s when going to church provided a certain social status or was considered to be socially acceptable. Many church attenders looked at it as an opportunity to promote ones self—a place to network and be entrepreneurial. It didn’t necessarily matter if they believed as the church believed. It was more important to be seen and by inference recognized as an upstanding honorable citizen. Church membership was the moral country club; somewhere you wanted your name circulated. Membership was on the rise. However, today, to make such a public profession will get you blacklisted!

As the culture shifted and our worldview tested many decided church was no longer an asset. Rather, it had become a liability. Those that were seeking personal or financial gain began to leave. Those that simply wanted to be at the “popular table” realized that if they stayed connected to a church it would no longer be viewed as a badge of honor. The prestige of such a badge evaporated and attendance no longer supported their clandestine motives for joining. As political correctness and liberalism gained strength members found themselves, as Justice Samuel Alito penned in his 2015 decent, “facing a wind that was hostile to those with traditional moral beliefs.”

Church is Not a Social Club!

Thank goodness I never got the PC police memo! For me, church is not merely a place to socialize or be “spiritual” (as some may say). It is not about who I can influence or be influenced by. It should not be about me. It should not be about networking and scoring the next job or being invited into another circle of power. Being recognized for how many good works I can notch into my belt should not be my goal. It should be more than trying to live happily, saying uplifting words and doing good things. For if that were all it was about, we would be deceiving ourselves; we would labor in vein and be forever discontent. We would grow weary and end up following the culture of the walking dead.

Church should be a place to freely proclaim the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to encourage and strengthen the faithful.

To relegate it to anything less is heretical doctrine! Sure some of those other attributes and relationships touched on above will most certainly occur. We are social creatures made in the image of God. And since He desires relationship with us and even himself, when you consider the Triune nature of God, it should be no surprise that we will naturally desire to be interpersonal and enjoy the benefits of being relational. But once that becomes the focus, ‘church’ becomes nothing more than a social club and loses its reason for existence.

Defining the Gospel

So what is the Gospel?

In its simplest form the Gospel is the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Why is that Good News?

This is good news because the burden of religion has been lifted. There is nothing in our own power that can be done to return us to God. Daily calls to prayers, reciting chants and singing will not gain you entry into heaven. No amount of good works or abstaining from enough wrong doing will earn entry into heaven. The uniqueness of Jesus’ person and His selfless work done on and after the cross is sufficient. It is by our faith alone in this Gospel—this Gospel of Grace—that we are brought back into relationship with our heavenly father. Our debt of sin, which we could never repay, is paid in full when we accept by faith the Gospel message of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection.

Why does this matter?

If we are truly honest with ourselves we can admit we have all felt empty and have an inner longing for something more. As a human race, we have tried to fill the emptiness with a multitude of palpable and intangible things that perhaps satisfy for a season. But in the end, we are no different than when we started. Whether we want to acknowledge it or not, we are all sinners separated from God. This Gospel message matters because our sins keep us separated from God. And the only way to have relationship with Him and fill the empty void inside is by accepting by faith that God’s only Son, Jesus, who lived a sinless life, offered up His life as a sacrifice so that you and I could again have relationship with God. His sacrificial death canceled our debt of sin for all who believe! But the story did not end there; Jesus conquered death and arose from the grave three days later meaning his death was not in vein. He truly is the righteous Son of God who now stands in the gap on our behalf calling out to all who are weary and burdened, come to me and I will give you rest. No one comes to the father except through Him.

A Church With The Gospel and A Church Without

I find it interesting that every church [AKA social club] that has decided to pursue secular ideals has continued to lose membership and become less relevant. As Simon Sinek might suggest in his book “Start with WHY: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action” these institutions have lost their sense of WHY. Their sense of purpose has become muddy. They have confused the masses and provided mixed signals as to the reason they exist. The Gospel message is seldom their central mission. When you water down, remove or alter the Gospel message (the WHY for their existence) the congregation grows weary and cannot find rest. The good works they attempt seem forced and laborious; begging for someone to notice their achievements. They become dissatisfied and see no difference between membership and the rest of the world.

In contrast, churches around the world that still teach and preach the Gospel message are thriving! They have a strong sense of WHY rooted in the very truth of the original Gospel message. Members are excited to tell others how Jesus has changed their life--even under the treat of death! Their life mirrors what they believe. They do not live in fear of being blacklisted. Being invited to the cool table is no longer a desire they carry. The genuine joy they exude is contagious and spills over to everyone they come in contact with. When you meet one of these church people you can’t help but sense there is something different about them. The good works they do are no longer about themselves, instead to bring glory and honor to their heavenly Father.

Keep it in the Closet?

The saying ‘what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas’ is similarly applied to churches in these words, ‘what you do in your house of worship should stay in your house of worship.’ Yeah, whoever came up with that one has obviously never had a personal encounter with the Creator of the universe! Going to church—being a Christian—is not something you do or partake in. It’s not something you get to turn on or turn off. It is a lifestyle centered on a relationship with Jesus. If you think you can compartmentalize and contain such a relationship, guess again.

Bringing it Home

As for me and my house we will serve the Lord. I can promise you, if you sit at my table you will not be considered cool. And that is OK with me. I would much rather be known as the one who does not sit at the cool table anymore if it means I get to spend time speaking with and learning about and from Jesus.

While I am entrusted as the chief steward of Impact Battery I will continue to faithfully lead us head long into the gale-force winds that blow against us. I cannot separate my Sunday church beliefs from my Monday work beliefs. I am compelled to live out my faith and take care of the “windows and orphans” in my community. My church beliefs are ingrained into the foundation of this company. As we look to make others around us better, we carry out our mission: To provide high quality batteries and chargers and have a positive IMPACT.

You see, batteries and chargers are the tools we utilize to complete our mission. They help us engage with likeminded people so we can provide opportunity to those that feel opportunity does not exist. They help us bring hope and reinforce the notion there is always an alternative to the path you think you’re on. Batteries are not a commodity around here sold to the highest bidder; they are the apparatus that opens the door to making a real IMPACT in someone’s life. Join us and come sit at our table; by the world's standard its not very cool anymore. You just may find yourself at the center of a battery revolution!