persecution-1

Positive Persecution

In a recent study by the Barna Group, it was found that younger generations of Americans (those between the ages of 18 and 44) are more accepting of Pentecostal and Charismatic beliefs than older generations. Younger generations also believe in the Holy Spirit at higher rates. These results reflect the increased spirituality of younger generations.

While these numbers are encouraging, other results are not. Although the young adults are more accepting of the Holy Spirit and other Pentecostal beliefs, they are less likely to understand these beliefs and to put them into practice.

David Kinnaman, the president of the Barna group, interpreted the results this way: “The charismatic and Pentecostal community in the U.S. has reached a conflicting social status – its numbers have established the group as a significant social and spiritual force, yet generational changes and the diffusion of Pentecostalism across many denominations have made its beliefs, behaviors and identities much less focused. For millions of the youngest Christians, the charismatic, Pentecostal and Spirit-filled labels are not as divisive as they were to their parents’ generation. The Mosaic generation in particular is removed from many of the long-standing debates about the validity of spiritual gifts, the role of expressive forms of worship, and about the need for receiving personal direction from the Holy Spirit. As a consequence, the next generation of charismatic and Pentecostal Christians spends less time defending their views to others, but also seems much less certain what they believe or how to put their faith into action.”

Is the Pentecostal church being lulled to sleep by the acceptance current culture? Is persecution good for the church? The results of this study seem to indicate this.

There is an inverse correlation between acceptance and spiritual discipline. When the culture accepts our beliefs with less skepticism, young adults are less likely to practice spiritual discipline. In other words, the more we’re accepted, the less we practice discipline.

In previous generations, when culture wasn’t so accepting of our beliefs, there was a need to be prepared to defend our faith on a daily basis. When someone is throwing rotten tomatoes at you or threatening to hurt you, you’d better be sure that this is the way you want to live. Or maybe persecution served to concentrate the population of Pentecostals, so that only those who were 100% committed to the biblical plan of salvation remained in the church. In the parable of the sower, if the sun would have never come out there would have been twice as many plants at the end of the parable.

So what does this mean for Pentecostal young adults? Kinnaman goes on to say, “It raises the question of what will define the next generation of young charismatics and Pentecostal believers in the U.S. Facing less criticism from within the ranks of Christians, they must focus on being grounded theologically and finding a way to live faithfully within the broader culture of arts, media, technology, science, and business.”

The article on barna.org concludes by stating: Kinnaman also pointed out that because younger Christians are open to the Holy Spirit and to spiritual gifts but hold contradictory beliefs and behaviors, there will be a premium on the theological and spiritual development of the next generation. “Just like young Christians of various traditions, young charismatics are less likely to adopt their beliefs and practices based on deep, considered theological reflection. The future vitality of this portion of the Christian community will depend in part on connecting young charismatic and Pentecostal believers to better training on theology and doctrine.”

In a world where acceptance is high, it seems that there are few challenges to externally force spiritual discipline into young adults. Instead we must find a way to motivate ourselves internally. The future of our movement depends on young adults that transcend the knowledge of spiritual discipline to the desire for spiritual discipline.

We must not see this time of acceptance as a reprieve from discipline. This should be a time when we take advantage of cultural attitudes to push ourselves, and our churches, to explore this wonderful gift that we have been given.

Joel Gray

panorama - hyphen community meeting notes

Hyphen How To’s from The Community Meeting

At the Panorama-themed Community Meetings in August, Adam Shaw and Kristin Keller presented an overview of this generation of Hyphens, Millennials, and ways that Hyphen leaders – pastors, young adult leaders, and lay leaders – can lead this generation of Hyphens well. Some of the main topics include:

  • Hyphen’s key demographic
  • Characteristics of Millennials
  • Implications for social media
  • How to prepare yourself to lead Millennials
  • Things you can do to foster healthy relationships between young adults

Check out these two resources below:

The Community Meetings Hyphen Session – Adam Shaw

Hyphen Session Notes – Adam Shaw

antichrist

The Anti-Christ Culture

2 Thessolonians 2:3 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed , the son of perdition; 4 Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. 5 Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? 6 And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. 7 For the mystery of iniquity doth already wor : only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.

Daniel 11:37 Neither shall he regard the God of his fathers, nor the desire of women, nor regard any god: for he shall magnify himself above all.

I have never been a big prophecy guy. Sure I think it’s interesting, but I’ve always held to the “just live right, go to Heaven and everything else will take care of itself” philosophy. So while others discussed tribulations and red heifers, I devoted my time to the investigation of culture. However, recently I have come to see an interesting intersection between these two philosophies. A symbiotic relationship between end time prophecy and cultural studies has become glaringly obvious, and at the focal point of this juncture exists a man, who at this point, is only known by the title of the “antichrist”.

To many young adults, the antichrist shares mental shelf space with the boogie man and Bigfoot. He is an apparition used by preachers to scare us into good behavior, but we have trouble fixing him in the reality of our day-to-day lives. However, in the book of 2 Thessalonians, Paul gives a concise description of the antichrist and the context of his appearing. He starts off by saying that before the antichrist makes his appearing, there will be a great falling away. It is safe to say that this falling away is the precise reason why ministries like Hyphen were created in the first place. This falling away is happening right now, and we are doing everything possible to stem the tide.

Paul goes on to say in verse 7 that the “mystery of iniquity is already working.” In other words, he is saying that there is a hidden force of sin that is moving in our world. The agenda of sin has always been to lead people to hell, but what if sin also has a veiled purpose – to bring about the time for the antichrist to appear? What if the changes we are seeing in culture aren’t just byproducts of carnality, but instead are targeted issues meant to create an atmosphere in which the “son of perdition” could be elevated to power? If this is true, then we should see specific spirits being advanced in our culture that would fall in line with the antichrist’s characteristics.

This is where Daniel 11:37 comes in to play. Daniel gives three qualities of the antichrist. He says that:

  1. He will abandon the God of his fathers.
  2. He will not desire women
  3. He will not regard any God, and will magnify himself above all

Many theologians agree that Daniel is saying that the antichrist will be a homosexual, apostate Jew with a healthy ego. So what does this mean for our culture? It means that for the antichrist to be accepted we must live in a world that will celebrate secularism, homosexuality and narcissism, and this is exactly what we are seeing in our world right now.

Secularism

The abandonment of God has been the central fixation of the church for quite some time now. Since the early days of the postmodernist movement, the idea that a divine metanarrative can explain the universe has been under attack. Being an atheist is no longer a marginal view point, in fact it is celebrated in many circles. A recent Barna group study found that less than 0.5% of millennials have a biblical worldview.  Secularism isn’t a new movement, by any stretch of the imagination, but it has never been celebrated the way it is today.

Homosexuality

If you are unaware of the heightened acceptance of homosexuality in our world in recent years, then you have been living under a rock! What once was seen by the majority of Americans, even those who weren’t overtly religious, as a perversion, has now become a normal part of society.  At least part of the rapid increase in approval has been credited to the positive portrayal of homosexuality in the media. It is no longer just a punch line, it is now front in center on all forms of media. Recently, college football player and NFL hopeful, Michael Sam revealed to the world that he is gay. Potentially he could be the first gay, professional football player. Many expressed disbelief that an NFL locker room would be receptive to a gay teammate, but an ESPN survey found that 86% of players would be OK with a gay teammate. It’s safe to say that if a football locker room would accept a homosexual player, then this is a spirit that has been firmly entrenched in our world.

Narcissism

Lucifer may have been the originator of pride, but social media has elevated this sin to an art form. Sites like Facebook have allowed us to create pages that we fill with all the details of our lives. In order for social media to work behaviors that would have been considered narcissistic 30 years ago, are now practiced daily. To post anything on social media you have to believe that people are sincerely interested in the details of your life, and that what you have to say carries merit to others. In effect, we have created online shrines to ourselves, and we get disappointed when others don’t visit our temples. In fact, narcissism has been elevated to the point that sociologists have labeled it an epidemic. This spirit is wreaking havoc in arenas that stretch from the church pew to the workplace.

So what does all this mean? It means that the time is right for an atheistic, homosexual politician to arrive on the scene and garner millions of followers on twitter. Even if you aren’t a prophecy person, this should arrest your attention. The rapture isn’t some mythological event in the far off future, it is real and it is soon approaching. As we instruct our young adults about Christian living, we need to remind them that God is coming, and that eternity is real. We are living in the last days, and it isn’t something we should just gloss over. You can teach that we should be more than a fan, and encourage them to experience crazy love, but don’t allow Heaven and Hell to become outdated concepts.

Paul called the work of these spirits a “mystery”. This word means something that is hidden that only God can reveal. We need to pray that God would reveal the true work of these spirits to us and our churches. It is only through the renewing of our minds that we will be able stand in these last days.

- Joel Gray, Director of Resources & Training

GameofLife

Playing the Game of Life

Have you ever wondered why people make the decisions that they do? Have you ever stepped back and looked at your own life, and thought, what in the world am I doing? What makes some people sever their relationship with God and the church, while others can overcome obstacles and keep going? As I was getting ready for our Nexus conference this year, I was mulling over these questions. We know one of the biggest challenges that we are facing in young adult ministry is that many are making the decision to leave the church, but why? I think the first step is understanding how decisions get made.

In the study of the psychology of young adults, there is one group that has spent more money than any other when it comes to determining how young adults make decisions. That group would be advertisers! Some of the most defining studies in the field of young adult psychology were done in order to figure out how people born between 1977 and 1994 spend their money.

One day I happened upon one of these studies. And as I perused it I realized that the findings not only applied to simple market consumerism, but they applied to all decisions. Whether it’s deciding to buy a pair of shoes or to get married, there is a cost to every decision that we make. Luke chapter 14 reveals one of Jesus’ famous lines, “Count the cost”.

Luke 14:28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, 30 saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate.

Every decision requires a payment. If you decided to go out to eat for lunch, you have to pay for it. If you decide to go back to school not only is there the monetary cost, but there is also your time and effort that has to be considered. Ending a relationship may give you more freedom but there will be other forms of payment that will be required of you.

Psychologists determined that there are eight basic styles of decision making in young adults:

1. Perfectionist, high quality conscious consumer

2. Brand conscious consumer

3. Novelty-fashion conscious consumer

4. Recreational and hedonistic shopping consciousness

5. Price conscious consumer

6. Impulsive, careless consumer

7. Confused by over choice consumer

8. Habitual, brand loyal consumer

For my purposes, I took these eight decision making styles and I changed the definitions to reflect more than just material consumption. This is what I came up with.

Perfectionists

This group is willing to pay a high price in order to obtain the highest quality out of life. Their quest is quality. We might consider them type-A personalities. These are the students that will sacrifice a social life in order to get the best grades, so that they can get into the best grad school. They get what they want out of life, but it does cost them greatly.

Brand conscious

I like to refer to this group as image conscious. In the consumer context, they will only buy name brand items because they feel that it is important to have that brand name in order to project a specific image. This group is the most influenced by advertising. People in this group are careful to make decisions that only let others see what they want them to see. This is an unfair negative criticism of a lot of Pentecostals. The problem with this group is that although they are willing to pay a high price, they are not necessarily buying quality. They believe that a brand equals quality, but sometimes a brand is just a name.

Novelty conscious

This group desires to be different and cutting edge. They want to wear the latest fashion before anyone else. They get pleasure from being different than the status quo. Young adults in this group thrive in the margins. They have to be different, and it makes them happy when they are recognized for their eccentricities. This group often pays a very high price, but the quality of their decisions fluctuates greatly.

Recreational

Consumers in this group shop for the fun of it. They enjoy the hunt. For them, life is a quest for fun. Their decisions are based on what is going to bring them the most enjoyment. For this group price and quality aren’t even issues, as long as the end result is entertainment.

Price conscious

Price conscious consumers are defined by one question, “Is it worth it?.” Their desire is to get the most bang for their buck. They will consider the cost for a long time before making that final decision. Because they are more concerned with value than quality, they will be content with settling for lower quality if the price is right. Someone in this group might make the statement, “I’d like a college degree, but I don’t want to spend four years of my life to get it.”

Impulsive

These consumers do not plan their shopping at all. They make decisions solely based on what is in front of them at the time. This group is less concerned about price than any other, and as a result their decisions often cost them greatly. Someone in this group might suddenly decide they don’t like their job, and quit on the spot without another job lined up. This decision costs them a lot, and doesn’t bring much quality into their life. There is often much regret in this group.

Confused

This group has the desire to make good decisions, but they see so many options that they freeze. They have difficulty choosing, so they put off decisions in hopes that things will just work out. They are afraid that if they make a decision it will be the wrong one, so they just never decide.

Habitual

Habitual shoppers buy the same products at the same stores, and very rarely vary their routine. They are happy with the way their life is, and see no real reason to change. This style can be positive or negative, depending on the habits in question. Someone who has good habits will be seen as faithful and committed. Someone with bad habits will be seen as self-destructive and unwilling to grow up.

It goes against the grain of post-modernist thinking to be defined, but I think that if we are all honest we can admit that there is one of these styles that a good portion of our decisions can fit into. There may be more than one that you can relate to, but there will be a dominant style. So the question begs to be asked, where do these styles come from?

The way we make decisions comes from the way we see the world. This is known as attitude. Yes attitude, that good old word from your younger days. I remember being a young punk, and my dad telling me that I’d better change my attitude. But attitude isn’t just a concern of a rebellious teen; it is what determines our perspective on life. It sits right below the surface in our brains, directing the traffic of our decisions. This is why two people can hear the same statement, and one person will take it as a positive thing, and the other will be offended. Our attitude determines our perception of the world.

So, where does attitude come from? I found several psychological studies that show a direct link between attitude and our personal values. Values are what is and what isn’t important to us. For instance if someone puts high importance on having warm relationships with others, then their attitude will be one of seeing the world as a place to make connections and their decisions will reflect this.

There are many effective psychological and social variables on decision-making style. One of these variables is personal values in that the basis of individual’s consumption behavior is the personal values. Why and how a person purchases have to do with the personal values. This variable is regarded as the power directing person throughout his or her life (Pitts, Canty, Tsalikis, 1985). For personal values, culture and social norms have important roles. The people learn these values from the society in which they live. In fact, there are the same values in each society or culture. However, since everybody has different psychological world and the social environment then the formation of the values differ. Personal values consist of establishing good relationships with others, enjoying life, being successful, social prestige and so on (Kahle, 1985). The values guide and affect attitudes, behaviors and judgments (Gutman, 1982). Thus values become both cause and effect of behaviour.

Through the process of analysis, a list of values was developed as a tool to help with psychological analysis (Kahle, 1985; Kahle et al. 1986). This list includes the following values: Self-respect, security, warm relationships with others, sense of accomplishment, self-fulfillment, being well respected, sense of belonging, fun and enjoyment in life. Your personal outlook on life, and eventually your decisions will be greatly affected by the importance of these basic values in your life.

This concept should not be foreign to Christians. Proverbs 23:7 tells us that as a man thinks in his heart, so shall he be. Read what Jesus says in Luke 6:45:

A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.

Who we are on the inside will determine who we are on the outside. This is holiness 101! But we still have one level to go in this rabbit hole of psychology and faith. Now we have to answer the question, what determines our values?

According to Kahle (1985), human values develop in the process of socialization. These human values change according to different position and experiences in the social structure. In other words, your values are determined by your relationships. Values gain or lose importance to you, because of your place in your social structure.

Think about this for a second. Imagine a young man that has no relationships that demand anything from him. He is a son, and maybe a brother, but these relationships do not place any type of commitment in his life. His parents and siblings are not dependent on him. To this young man, having fun may be the most important value in his life. This causes him to see the world as a place of freedom, and so, he can best experience that freedom, he buys a motorcycle.

Fast forward five years. Now he is married and has an infant daughter. His role in society has changed. There are now people that depend on him. This causes his values to change. Now security might be the dominant value. He sees the world through the eyes of doing what is best for his family, and as a consequence the motorcycle ends up in the front yard with a for sale sign on it.

Your decisions don’t just happen. They start deep in your heart and they will reflect the things that are most important to you. So, if our decisions are determined by our relationships, then there can be no more important relationship than the one we have with Jesus Christ.

By having a relationship with Him and His word, our values will be influenced. These values will set our attitude and give rise to our decisions. With respect to the psychologist who authored this study, I would like to add one more decision making style – Godly.

So in this time of your life don’t factor God out. I see young adults making decisions that are taking them away from God and the church, and it’s easy to be surprised and feel that the decisions just came out of nowhere, but the truth is the decision came about because of a change in their relationship with Jesus. My first question to these young adults is when was the last time you had a consistent prayer/study time in your life? At this stage of your lives, you are making decisions that are going to shape the rest of your life. Make those decisions Godly! Pray, read the word, listen to your pastor and your elders, stay a member of your church and get involved as much as you can, and let your values be shaped through these interactions

Colossians 3:17 say, “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.”

This doesn’t mean that you can make bad decisions and slap the name of Jesus on them, and they will be good. This means that we are to represent the character of Jesus Christ in everything that we say and do. Representing the character of God with our actions is outward holiness. Outward holiness has to start with a relationship, which leads to inner holiness, which leads to the outward holiness. If we try to short circuit the process, then we create situations where the behavior is correct, but the motivation is messed up. They only way that we can glorify God in everything that we do, is to define our role in this world through Him.

1 Corinthians 10:31 so, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

A relationship with God = Godly values = Godly attitude = Godly decisions = Godly life = More relationship with God.

— Joel Gray, Hyphen Regional Director