Why Christian Introverts Ought to be Honored Not Denounced

12 Benefits of Being a Christian Introvert

Is how we function as Christians determined by our personality? Perhaps. Adam McHugh, pastor and author of Introverts in the Church, observes: “The evangelical culture ties together faithfulness and extroversion. The emphasis is on community, on participating in more and more programs and events, on meeting more and more people. It’s a constant tension for many introverts that they’re not living that out. And in a religious world, there’s more at stake when you feel that tension. It doesn’t feel like ‘I’m not doing as well as I’ld like.’ It feels like ‘God isn’t pleased with me.’” The purpose of this post is to let all introverts, Christians in particular, know that God is pleased with you. Introversion needs to be celebrated. 

Extrovert Evangelicalism

Though studies by psychologists and sociologists cite findings that introverts comprise 30 – 50% of the general population, the evangelical church is definitely biased towards the extrovert. The larger culture of extroversion, especially in America, has infiltrated the church. Charismatic, articulate, innovative, energetic, and expressive Christians and leaders are lauded as the best examples of being a Christian. A good Christian is an extrovert Christian. 

I have been made to feel “less-than” because I’m an introvert. I’m supposed to be someone else. In the pastorate, this was a tough assignment. I often felt like a square peg in a round hole. I played the extrovert part well. But as far as my personality went, I was living a double life. I know there are thousands of introverted Christians who feel the same way. Thriving in an extroverted evangelicalism is difficult. 

Pastor Eugene Peterson observes, “American religion is conspicuous for its messianically pretentious energy, its embarrassingly banal prose, and its impatiently hustling ambition.” Extroverts reign. 

McHugh sees an even more troublesome issue.

Many evangelical [mega]churches, in their hope to create comfortable environments for seekers, have stripped their sanctuaries and worship services of any sense of mystery and the sacred. Their fast moving, high production events may entertain us and their avid employment of modern technology may dazzle us, but many times, they cannot help us hear the still, small voice of God. (Introverts in the Church, p 27)  

No church is exempt. There’s a little Baptist church on the country road we drive everyday. Currently its sign reads: “The Gospel begins with GO.” The thought is, “To accept Jesus Christ means lots of activity.” It’s a misleading message in light of Jesus’ gospel message to “come.” 

Evangelicalism has always had this problem. You’re expected to enthusiastically express your devotion to Jesus by your emotions, passionate singing, confident sharing, public demonstrations of worship with beaming faces, tears, or bodily movement and vocal expressions. “Really good” services are fast moving, dazzling, innovative, stimulating, and emotionally moving. At the center of most mega-churches and large Christian organizations is a larger-than-life, Charismatic person famous for something he or she does well.

Extroverts thrive in these settings. Introverts tolerate them or work hard to be accepted in them usually suffering silently. Often, they are made to feel less Christian because they are not as emotional or expressive. 

Introvert Christianity

There seem to be many introverts whose lives are recorded in scripture – Moses the stutterer, David the shepherd and king, Timothy the timid, virgin Mary the ponderer, Zacheus the shy, Mary the silent at Jesus’ feet, or even most of the apostles. 

Church history is filled with thousands of men and women, contemplative and solitary, who are held in high esteem for their piety and impact on society. They are usually the de facto and often the official leaders of the church due to their holiness, humility, and experiential knowledge of God. They are often courageous and happy martyrs. They sometimes fight heretics tooth and nail. Theirs is a robust faith forged in solitary struggle and tenacious humility.  

Introvert Stereotypes

An introvert is often equated with someone who does not like people. In reality, they simply relate to people differently than an extrovert. They are capable of deep friendships and genuine love for others. They may not be the life of the party yet they enjoy quality conversations with a few people. Introversion should not be equated with anti-social behavior.

Introversion is often seen as a weakness, flaw, or problem to be solved like alcoholism. Join this program, attend this seminar, read this book and you’ll get better. Introversion is not a disease that needs a cure. It is a personality trait that needs to be celebrated. 

Nor is introversion the same as shyness. According to introvert expert Susan Cain, shyness is a fear of social disapproval or humiliation, while introversion is a preference for environments that are not overstimulating.

This is a key reality. The introvert’s stimulus quota is met quite easily. They don’t need high amounts of enthusiasm, emotion, provocation, or inspiration to keep them going. They are usually self motivated or influenced by genuine offers of support. 

Lastly, introversion is not inherently narcissistic. The idea that introverts are essentially selfish and absorbed with themselves is false. Some may demonstrate an unhealthy degree of self-preoccupation without God in the picture. However, a healthy introversion always has an outward component to it. 

Amy Simpson’s description is fitting:

Introverts aren’t out of touch with the world around them; they’re so in touch, they can take only so much of it. Their brains are more active, so external stimuli can quickly overwhelm them. When this happens, they have to recharge on their own. They don’t need to be energized; they need space and quiet so they can draw on their internal energy. (click here for full article) 

 What Does An Introvert Look Like? 

Cain writes,

“Introverts often work more slowly and deliberately. They like to focus on one task at a time and can have mighty powers of concentration. They’re relatively immune to the lures of wealth and fame….may have strong social skills and enjoy parties and business meetings, but after a while wish they were home in their pajamas. They prefer to devote their social energies to close friends, colleagues, and family. They listen more than they talk, think before they speak, and often feel as if they express themselves better in writing than in conversation. They tend to dislike conflict. Many have a horror of small talk, but enjoy deep discussions. (Quiet, p. 11)

McHugh denotes three major characteristics of introverts (Introverts in the Church, pp 35-43)

  • Energized by solitude – recharged from the inside out
  • Processes internally – integrate information and think silently
  • Preference for depth over breadth – in relationships, interests, self-discovery, 

I believe introversion in a Christian needs to be celebrated. An introvert has great potential for a deep and rich understanding and life-long experience of God. 

12 (Ideal) Spiritual Benefits of Being an Introvert 

  1. You joyously crave quiet solitude with the Holy Trinity like Mary at Jesus’ feet. 
  2. You care deeply about loving God with your whole heart, soul, and body and make intense effort to learn how. 
  3. You genuinely love and care for people out of a sincere heart no matter what is personally gained. 
  4. You listen well because the other person is more important than you. 
  5. You tend towards meekness since you do not like being the center of attention or talking about yourself constantly.  
  6. You are naturally attentive to what is around you; a sensitivity to others.  
  7. You passionately desire internal transformation since you know that all you do comes from the heart. 
  8. You honestly recognize your own faults and frailties stemming from regular and honest heart and mind examination. 
  9. You pray in solitude knowing that communion with God is the path to deepening union with Him. 
  10. You are “quick to hear, slow to speak” (James 1.19) seeking to understand before being understood. 
  11. You lead from the inside out with inner authenticity since who you are determines what you do. 
  12. You are a deep well of thoughtfulness and goodness having given so much of your life to the quiet pursuit of knowing God and His wisdom. 

Why might a Christian introvert live life more internally? Perhaps it’s because they intuitively know that they are never alone. The reality of the Holy Trinity dwelling within their heart and everywhere present transforms solitude into a simple, life-giving interaction. From that quiet participation in the life of the Trinity comes the substantial capability to sensibly participate in all of life. 

The final scene of Season one of the Detectorists, a British sitcom, shows the two main characters, Lance and Andy, at a small hole dug by Lance in the middle of a large field. His detector had spotted an object that turned out to be an old pull-ring. Disgusted by their bad luck again(!), they decide to head for the pub. The camera, however, continues underground showing the long-sought-after treasury of old jewelry, gold coins, and valuable artifacts left by King Sexred of the East Saxons; the very treasure they’ve been fervently hunting for years. If only they’d continued to dig deeper and not settled for a pitiful pull-ring.

A Christian introvert does not settle for superficial distractions. He or she persistently digs deeper. There is great reward in doing so. 

Are you an introvert? In light of this post, share your thoughts below. 

Dr. K

5 Ways To Live More Authentically

You Only Know What You Live

As I talk with Christians, I often hear them claim things about themselves that are not validated by their life. They know they fall short, but try to convince themselves otherwise. They don’t understand that experiencing the struggle to live a life in Christ is how they are becoming what they claim. They are not there yet. Saying so does not make it so. Sadly, many Christians live under the delusion that if they believe hard enough about “who they are” they will become that person. However, that is not true faith. That is not reality. 

Have you ever read a book and then believed you knew the topic because you read about it? Many Christians approach God this way. They read the Bible and think they know God because they’ve read about Him. They quote scripture believing they are quoting something about themselves. Maybe I’m sensitive to this since I pretty much did this very thing for decades.

You can think about and quote scriptures. But if you are not seriously trying to live scriptures then maybe its better for you to be silent and, in humility, admit that you struggle to live what you quote.

Why? Because you only know what you live. You only know something when you experience it. 

Knowing?

You see, the idea of “knowing” has gotten messed up. To most people knowing means to know about something. If you can get it “into your head” or “understand it” intellectually then you know it. But knowing was never meant to be purely intellectual.

If you could ask only one of the following people to come speak about France at your Rotary Club, which one would you invite? The person who read a travel book on France? The person who vacationed in Paris? The person who lived in France for a year? Or the person who was born and lived in France, speaks the language and actually is French? Which person really “knows” France?

This does not deny that each person above has a certain knowledge about France. Each level of knowledge, however, has its limits. That is what needs to be humbly acknowledged.

Christian Knowing?

Christians have a tendency to claim much about themselves that is not actually lived. “I know God.” “I am mature.” “I pray.” “I am a Christian.” “I love everybody.” “I am not judgmental.” “I am saved.” “I know the truth.” “I give everything to Jesus.” “I am filled with the Spirit.” “I am a follower of Jesus.” “I love you.” Easy to claim. Almost impossible to live.

Simultaneously, Christians hesitate to claim much about themselves that is actually lived. “I am impatient.” “I am judgmental.” “I am a controller.” “I am angry.” “I don’t love my enemies.” “I am proud.” “I trust myself more than God.” “I don’t know God.” “I lie.” “I am a hypocrite.” “I don’t act like Jesus.” Easy to live. Almost impossible to claim.

Solutions

  1. Learn to live in repentance. Keep turning from your old self, your former ways, your faulty thinking and keep turning to God and his love, light and life.
  2. Start using the word “becoming” – I am becoming mature, becoming less judgmental, becoming a follower of Jesus, becoming more humble, becoming a Christian.
  3. Stop comparing yourself to others. Sizing yourself up against other Christians is unwise and useless.
  4. Devote yourself to knowing God in your experience of Him. Learn an everyday communion with the Trinity. Struggle on the narrow way with God. 
  5. On your spiritual journey, be quick to admit your faults and slow to claim mastery.

Don’t claim to know what you don’t live. You’re only fooling yourself when you do. Become more authentic.

Choose one of the solutions above. Begin to practice it today.

Dr. K

Starting Out As a Child Is How We Are To End

The Kingdom Is Available Only To Children

In one of **Bill Cosby’s first recorded comedy routines, he talks about some experiences of his childhood beginning with the line, “I started out as a child.” The audience erupts in laughter. It’s a funny line because it states the obvious, but normally forgotten, truth. We all start out our lives as children. Spiritually speaking, it’s too bad we don’t remain there. We become “adults” in our faith and forget what it’s like to be a child, the very thing Jesus tells us we must be. 

Jesus’ Teaching 

Truly I say to you, unless you turn (repent) and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18.3-4

Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven/God. Matthew 19.14; Mark 10.15; Luke 18.16

Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. For he who is least among you all is the one who is great. Luke 9.48

Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it. Luke 18.17

Humility is at the Core

There may be many characteristics of a child that Jesus is inviting us to be. However, humility is certainly at the core. You’ve seen humility in a child – a willingness to ask, eagerness to please, sensitivity to others, and innocence about life. Much of this changes as children grow older, cynical, critical, proud, and self-determined. 

Now, add to this “growth” a layer of Bible knowledge and/or theological enlightenment and you’ve got a path leading around the Kingdom of God not into it. To the theologically sophisticated, the spiritually mature, the ministry experienced, or the ecclesiastically educated a call to childlikeness seems impossible. No. It actually sounds foolish. 

Maybe Jesus was wrong? You might hope so. Is he teaching us that a mature faith is a child’s faith? That would be just like him.   

From what Jesus says, there is more hope for the ignorant layperson than for the degreed church leader. I’m not advocating ignorance. I’m just saying none of us have an excuse for not living a kingdom life. The most childlike have the best chance not the astute theologian. You can have all your Bible ducks in a row. But if you’re proud, defensive, and arrogant about your Bible knowledge, you’re going to miss out on the Kingdom. Count on it. 

Repent!

The solution, according to Jesus, is to repent. Turn from your arrogant ways. Admit your pride. Turn towards Jesus and learn humility from him who lived it, suffered in it, knew himself in it though quite knowledgable of scripture and humanity. 

Repent. Become a child again. Go back to where you started. Crawl on your hands and knees through the door of the Kingdom of God. It’s only open for children. 

How do you struggle in being like a child spiritually? Share your experience below. 

Dr. K 

**I know Cosby’s reputation has been tarnished by recent revelations. At the time we heard these recordings (in the 60’s) he was the funniest person we’d ever heard. 

5 Significant Lessons From Someone “All In”

Michael Brown, Guest Writer

What does it mean to be “all in” with God? If you’re tempted to think you’ve given all to Jesus, be challenged by St. Antony. If you wonder if you can actually live closer to God, be inspired by St. Antony.

If you are like most people, all you know of St Antony is that he was some old Christian Saint who has hospitals or a local church named after him.  Here is, as they say, the “rest of the story.”

Antony was born to wealthy parents around A.D. 250 in Middle Egypt.  Around the age of 20, his parents died leaving him with both wealth and the responsibility for his younger sister.  Some months later, while at church, he heard these words read: “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”  These words recorded in Matthew 21:19 are from Jesus to the rich young ruler, which Antony now was.  Not wanting his wealth to impair his journey with God, he gave his land and belongings to the locals keeping aside only a small sum for the care of his sister.

Shortly thereafter, again in church and again from Matthew, Jesus’ words were read: “do not worry about tomorrow.”  Believing this was spoken to him, he gave away his remaining money and left his sister in the care of some local pious women. Antony left the comfort of his wealth to pursue the ascetic life.

He first moved out of the family home and began practicing asceticism under the guidance of an old man in a nearby town.  Antony performed manual labor to support himself, giving away money to the poor. He prayed and read scripture. He helped those around him. He sealed himself in a nearby empty tomb, receiving only occasional bread from friends. He often sought guidance from pious men. 

Sometime later Antony had himself sealed in an unused tomb where he prayed, meditated, and battled temptations and demons. This was his life for 15 years.  Nearing the end of that time, God appeared to Antony promising never to leave him in times of trial and to make him known throughout the world.

Following the vision, Antony left the tomb to move deeper into the desert to an old fort. Friends, either worried about his welfare or who wanted to copy his ascetic lifestyle, would try to contact him. But Antony would shoo them away without ever opening the door. They would hear him singing. Finally, after 20 years, they broke down the door. Athanasius tells us in his biography of Antony that he emerged from the fort and his friends were “astonished” at his appearance, looking as fit as he had 20 years earlier.

Now in his mid-fifties, he moved yet deeper into the desert to continue to live the ascetic life.  However, he would receive those who sought him.  He also traveled to encourage fellow monks. He engaged in an early rhetorical battle against the Arian heretics.

After emerging from his fort sanctuary and for the remainder of his life, he never was far from his desert sanctuary. At the age of 105, Antony died in the desert. For over 1,500 years, Antony has been known as the father of the monastic movement.

 What You Can Learn From St. Antony 

  1. The lives of saints, such as Antony, are ones of inspiration not imitation.  Antony’s life and path with God were his, given to him by God.  You can learn much by reading about the saints and you should be inspired in your own struggles, but don’t take on the guilt of not living their lives.
  2. Focus more on God.  Watch one less TV show a week and spend the time in prayer and reading scripture and a book about a saint.
  3. Rejoice in all things.  Learn to see every tribulation, temptation, failure, sadness, tragedy and joy as an opportunity for prayer, which is an opportunity to approach God.
  4. Don’t be too quick to engage in ministry.  Jesus spent 30 years at home in a very small village and then 40 days in the desert before beginning his public ministry.  Paul was in the desert for 3 years and then exiled to Tarsus for some time before being called to ministry by the Apostles.  Moses lived the lonely life of a shepherd for 40 years before leading the Hebrews to freedom.  Our world is 24/7 and performance-driven.  Learn to live life at the pace of a desert-dwelling monk.
  5. Focusing on your own transformation is not selfishness.  It takes both good soil and time for a strong tree to grow and bear good fruit. Too many Christians have publicly fallen as they worked hard for God. Spend your time with God cooperating with Him as He transforms you. Then, like Jesus, only do what you see Him doing. But remember, only those with a pure heart see God. For most of us purification is a long, slow, painful struggle.

Presenting A Different Evangelism Program: “Crucifixion Evangelism”

Discipleship, Apostleship, and Dying

I sometimes wonder what it would have been like to be one of the disciples of Jesus – to hear his words, to see his miraculous works, to walk with him on dirt paths, to eat with him. That all sounds cozy and warm. Yet, I don’t really want to experience what he taught and lived – especially the notion that to follow him I must deny myself, take up my cross and die. Even though that is just what his faithful apostles did.

History teaches us that:

  • Peter was crucified upside down.
  • Andrew was crucified.
  • James, son of Zabedee, was beheaded.
  • Philip was crucified.
  • Bartholomew was crucified, filleted, then beheaded.
  • Thomas was pierced with five spears.
  • Matthew the evangelist was burned to death.
  • James, the son of Alphaeus, was crucified.
  • Thaddaeus or Jude, brother of James, was crucified.
  • Simon the zealot was crucified.
  • Matthias was stoned then beheaded with an ax when dead.
  • Paul was beheaded.
  • Only John, the brother of James, died in peace.

What a strange way to advance the gospel – make sure the most prominent members of the movement die ingloriously. Perhaps we’ve got it wrong?

When was the last time you heard of a gospel program that included death as one of its methods? “Folks, in order for your neighbors to be saved, you have to give up your life. Live the gospel of Jesus Christ is such a way that it costs you everything.” Evangelization by elimination. Crucifixion evangelism. I’m not sure you’d sell a lot of product.

Sadly, many try to evangelize by showing people how prosperous they will become if they follow Jesus. No wonder Christianity is losing its impact on society, culture, and individual lives.

Now you can see why I’m uncomfortable with all the talk about being a disciple of Jesus and discipling others. I hardly ever deny myself or take up the cross of death or actually follow the ways of Jesus. I talk a lot about it but never do it. I can’t even deny myself caffeine or sugar or a smart-mouth remark for Jesus’ sake let alone my life. How pitiful is that?!?

When I see what it cost these real disciples and apostles of Jesus, I’m conflicted regarding my own comfortable lifestyle. And I despise the fact that I want to live even more comfortably. Though there’s nothing I can do about the plentiful time in history in which I live, there is something I can do about its influence on my life.

I’ve already had caffeine and sugar this morning. I guess today I’ll just start by keeping my mouth shut when I want to say something stupid.

How will you live today in denying yourself, dying, and following Jesus? Share your thoughts below.

Dr. K

4 Ways to Deal With Distracting Thoughts When Meeting With God

A Few Take-Aways From Lunch With Ron

I had lunch with Ron at a nice restaurant in Brea, CA last week. We caught up on life, family, jobs, and spiritual “things.” That last item probably wouldn’t have taken place a few years ago. Ron’s in a different place. So am I. We had a meaningful and encouraging conversation. What a difference a few years makes.

I say that because it was just two guys sharing life together. I wasn’t trying to force some spiritual insight into his life as in days past when I was his pastor. He wasn’t trying to influence me in some way. Yet, in the relaxed conversation meaningful issues arose.

In the course of conversation, the topic of his morning devotional routine came up. He told me that he had a special place where he’d sit with his coffee, read 3-4 devotional books with his Bible, and then pray for his family whose pictures lined the mantel in front of him. He often struggled with distracting thoughts and with sleepiness.

I figure some of you can relate. His description might be a summary of your morning “devotions.”

Perhaps unknowingly, he’d ventured right into my bailiwick. I asked him, “Why do you read so much?” “I’m trying to make up for lost time,” he replied. (Ron came to Christ in his late 40’s.) All the reading didn’t seem to be benefitting him much, however. So, I encouraged him to spend less time reading and more time in quiet with God. “This time isn’t about gaining more information as it is simply being with God,” I said.

Then he asked a wonderful question. “What about all the crazy thoughts that come to me then?” I shared with him these ideas:

  • Say a prayer like, “Lord, have mercy” when distracting thoughts come. This will help you refocus on God.
  • Write down items you know you can’t forget – things to do today. Then you can forget about them since they’re written down. But, don’t do this too often. This is not a time to plan your day. You will be able to remember truly important items later.
  • Dismiss random or bad/ugly thoughts. Don’t dwell on them. These “birds” will fly over but you don’t have to build a nest for them.
  • Lastly, I encouraged him to place a candle along with a cross or picture of Jesus on a table in front of him. This would give him a physical object that would help his focus on God. Light the candle saying, “Lord, have mercy” or a prayer of devotion to God. (He really resonated with this idea.) Develop a routine or ritual that you do everyday. Let it be filled with God.

Ron is a great guy who is seeking to know God better. I get to join his journey. Together we become what we couldn’t become as distinct individuals.

Thanks be to God!

What is your take-away from our conversation? Share it below.

Dr. K

Pursuing The Highest Calling: Sainthood

On The Journey To Christlikeness

Does your church produce saints? Is there evidence in your life, due to the efforts of your church, that you are becoming like Jesus Christ? Perhaps you’d like to be on an intentional journey of becoming a saint but are being held back by your church’s theology, teaching, or practices. I’d say, go for it anyway.

Pseudo-Saint

Some Christians claim they are saints because they’ve said the sinner’s prayer, been baptized, or chosen to follow Jesus. There may be legitimacy to this since Christians are set apart to God in love and holiness. But, does that mean these Christians actually live as saints? This is more theory than reality. If I believe I’m a saint, then I’m a saint. If I believe the Bible calls me a saint, then I’m a saint. I’m a saint “positionally.” But, if I am honest with myself, I’m not a saint in reality.

I’m a saint. But, I’m not a saint, saint.

And you’ve seen some of these kinds of “saints” in action, right? OMG!! See ya! Don’t want to be ya! Self-righteous, anti-so much, proud, unloving, and inconsistent. (I know one because I am one.) That kind of person is certainly not a saint.

People may think they are saints but that’s just proof they are not. A true saint would never claim that for himself or herself.

Additionally, saints are usually not recognized until they pass from this world.

So what we’re left with are the rare people who are on a journey to becoming a saint. That’s my point. Does your church have any theology, methodology, strategy, and examples to help these people actually become (like) Jesus Christ on earth?

Genuine Saint

Let’s consider what a saint might look like. A real, down-to-earth saint is someone who:

  • is in constant prayer quietly communing with God
  • battles their inner passions through daily ascetic efforts
  • lives in constant repentance with a deepening acknowledgment of their own sins
  • knows the Trinity in stillness of heart and mind
  • is actually dead to self and alive in Christ
  • loves every person they know without judgment or control
  • experiences God in creation and in every person they meet
  • is truly humble not claiming spiritual superiority or saintliness upon themselves
  • knows and actually lives the scriptures
  • lives in peace and contentment
  • perseveres in pain and hardship with joy, gentleness and kindness (suffers joyfully)
  • is generous and gracious with their resources
  • is able to impact other’s lives at a miraculous level
  • carries holiness lightly
  • possesses godly wisdom that draws the seeker and repels the proud
  • and above all, lives in union with Jesus Christ.

Do you desire to be like that? Is this the kind of person your church produces? If so, thanks be to God! If not, why not? What can you do about it? Why don’t you start by becoming the kind of person you think your church should produce?

Give that question some thought and action.

Share your thoughts below. 

Dr. K 

The Most Important Question You’ve Never Asked

Someone Significant is Missing From Your Life

I have written, or observed being written, over a dozen mission statements for evangelical churches and organizations. These efforts involve thought, prayer, debates, research, committees, drafts, and word-smithing. However, I’ve never heard or read of any evangelical Christian church or organization whose primary purpose was to produce men and women to be like God – men and women we’d call saints.

So, here’s the most important question you’ve never asked: “Does my church produce saints?”

I’m talking about real-life, battle-tested men and women who, you might say, are Jesus Christ in the flesh. Of course, Jesus is the Way. But, these folks show us the Way.

How it used to be

The ancient church designated certain people as saints whose lives exuded holiness, intimacy with God, perseverance, and Christ-likeness. They possessed a rare combination of traits which others saw but they themselves, for the most part, were unaware. They never for a moment thought of themselves as “saintly.” They simply, tenaciously, and intentionally lived in union with Christ, doing His will in all things.

Above all, this meant a deep humility indicative of the mind of Christ Who let go of the heavenly and became a servant in human form leading to death on a cross (Philippians 2.3-8). BTW…does that sound saintly?

How it is now

A great disservice has been done to the church by the Reformers and protestant-evangelicals since who reject even the idea of “saint.” Gone is a theology that includes the potential for “sainthood.” Missing is a Church that practically maps out a way for people to become holy, be like Jesus Christ, and live in union with the Trinity. Examples of truly God-like men and women have vanished from the so-called Christian landscape. If we saw one, we’d probably “pass by on the other side” or think him/her odd, uninformed, or mistaken.

They have been replaced by “experts,” professional authorities called scholars, exegetes, writers, theologians, and musicians who inform us with fresh insights and culturally-relevant information.

We settle for thinking someone is saintly or feeling saintly or looking saint-like. The real saint doesn’t exist in our tiny Christian world.

How it is needed

I need saints in my life. I’m tired of people telling me how to live as a Christian who don’t live as a Christian. I need men and women who are saints but don’t know they are. I need people to guide me who are empty of themselves and filled with the life of God. How about you?

I need a church that has as a primary purpose, to make a saint out of me. Stop coddling banal mediocracy and demand something of me that will challenge my spiritual being to be like God. The church has gone soft. Help me become a spiritual athlete, like a saint, fit for battling myself and the world.

How about you? Share your thoughts below.

Dr. K

What Does It Mean to Be A Christian?

9 Poor Substitutes For the Real Thing

It seems such a basic & easy question – What does it mean to be a Christian? Yet, there is a lot of confusion. Ask 10 people and you may receive 10 different answers. What would your answer be?  

Christian = Christ

Being a Christian is being like Jesus Christ – a “Christ-one.” According to Jesus Himself and New Testament writers, a Christian is one who is united with Christ – living in union with Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit in the life of God the Father (see John 15; 17.3, 21, 23; 1 Cor. 6. 15, 17; Gal. 2.20; Eph. 5.30; Phil. 2.5).  

It’s that nakedly simple and that mystically profound. 

Being united to Christ presents a lifetime of exploring the mystery of that relationship. If that’s all you did for the rest of your Christian life, that would be powerfully life transforming. And, you would turn your little “world” upside down for Jesus Christ.   

Poor Substitutes

Unfortunately, being a Christian has been made out to be about:

  • Moralism: What does it mean to “act like a Christian?” It’s not OK to live an immoral or amoral life. Yet, does living a moral life make you a Christian? 
  • Dogmatism: What does it mean to “know right doctrine?” Doctrine matters. But who determines what’s right? How do you “know?” Demons know many right things about God and they’re certainly not Christians.  
  • Evangelism: What does it mean to “make disciples?” Today it’s about “disciple making” movements, being missional, church growth, programs, building a successful mega-church, or praying for revival. Was being a Christian like this 300 years ago? Will it be like this 300 years from now?  
  • Believe-ism: What does it mean to “believe?” Just believe in Jesus and you’re in. One sincere moment of belief is good for a lifetime and eternity. Does “believing in Jesus” make you a Christian? 
  • Denominationalism: What does it mean to “be the Church?” With over 40,000 “Christian” denominations (most claiming to be based on the Bible), it’s hard to tell. Are you more loyal to your denomination (or non-denomination) than to Jesus? Since Jesus is the Head of the Church your union with Him involves exploring the Church.
  • Sentimentalism: What does it mean to feel love for God and others? Isn’t love an action? If you feel love for God and others does that make you a Christian? 
  • Intellectualism: What does it mean to “know your Bible?” How many Bible studies, sermons, radio ministries, courses, or degrees do you need before you’re knowledgable enough?  Are you a Christian if you know a lot about the Bible? 
  • Humanitarianism: What does it mean to “care for others?” Are you a Christian if you feed the poor, advocate social programs, or work for social justice?  
  • Favoritism: What does it mean to “gain God’s favor?” How many Christians think they’re extra blessed, prosperous, favored, supernaturally gifted, called, or anointed due to their efforts or piety? I’ve seen a Tibetan monk levitate. I’ve read that other non-Christian religions speak in tongues and experience healings. Are you a Christian because you have supernatural experiences?  

These are inadequate substitutes for the real thing. They may be the result of union with the Triune God in Jesus Christ. But as defining what it is to be a Christian, they all fail. Why? Because in each case, Jesus Christ can be missing.

Being a Christian is living in union with Jesus Christ.

He is the Source, the Means, and the End of what it is to be a Christian.  

Keep it simple. Keep it profound. Keep it about living in Jesus Christ. There’s enough there for a lifetime. 

Share your thoughts below. 

 

Dr. K 

How To Stop Pride From Destroying Your Life

8 Ways to Help You Deal With Pride

I was sitting with a college president a number of years ago at a Black Angus Steakhouse. The topic of a recently fallen prominent Christian leader came up. The president commented that perhaps a reason for the man’s failings was that, “He began to read his own press releases.” In other words, he started to believe what others where saying about him which inflated his ego and led to his fall. It can happen to any of us. But, “successful” leaders are especially vulnerable to the sin of pride.

Basic Principles

  • Pride must be attacked indirectly. You can’t just stop being proud. You methodically destroy the underpinnings of pride and it begins to collapse.
  • Pride is so pervasive and characteristic that you have difficulty seeing it in yourself. You need to be open to ways that God is humbling you – suffering, trials, words spoken by someone, words written in Scripture or a book, pain, or failures.
  • Pride is what you think of yourself. It is self-perception. But, when you learn to live from your heart you gain a proper perspective on all things including how you view yourself.
  • Pride must be dealt with intentionally and rigorously. It is too powerful to be treated casually. Battle it every day for a lifetime.

As a Christian you are aware of pride’s devastating power.

“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom” (Proverbs 11.2).

Yet, you may feel powerless to do anything about it.

Help for dealing with pride

  1. Think of pride in new terms. The word “pride” has lost much of its magnitude and punch. It is good to substitute other words to heighten your understanding of its destructive power. Words like Self-importance, Self-sufficiency, Self-love, Egotism/egoism, Arrogance, Conceit, Bluster, Haughty, High-minded, and Vanity/vainglory portray pride as it really is.
  2. Endure suffering. Suffering is one of God’s ways of humbling you. Embrace it. Learn from it. (James 1.2-4)
  3. Place yourself under the wise guidance of another and learn obedience (1 Pt 5.5). It’s humbling to do something just because you’re told to. That you don’t obey anyone but yourself tells you something.
  4. Put your trust in God alone not in proud people (Ps 40.4).
  5. Serve others in small ways (Jn 13.13-17). Jesus washed His disciple’s feet. Do something for another anonymously or without desire for recognition. Serve the poor and those in need.
  6. Pray (James 4.10). Kneel, prostrate, or bow when you pray. These movements of humility in prayer act upon your mind and heart. In repentance, ask for a spirit of humility. “Lord, open the eyes of my heart to see the truth about myself.”
  7. Be vigilant. You will always carry with you a sense of “self-something.” Acknowledge that fact. Don’t be surprised when pride shows itself. Admit it. Denying your pride keeps you in darkness.
  8. Be thankful for all things. Instead of feeling hurt when ignored or prideful when praised, be thankful either way. This is the single best way to deal with pride. Say, “Thank you, Lord!” for ALL things.

Where will you begin? Pick out a couple ways to deal with your pride and put them into action. Share your journey below.

Dr. K