2019年5月24日 星期五

相信被攪擾的不懷別樣的心(加5:10)

加拉太書五章:「7 你們向來跑得好,有誰攔阻你們,叫你們不順從真理呢? 8 這樣的勸導不是出於那召你們的。 9 一點麵酵能使全團都發起來。 10 我在主裡很信你們必不懷別樣的心,但攪擾你們的,無論是誰,必擔當他的罪名。」
 
保羅說:「我在主裡面很信你們必不懷別樣的心,但攪擾你們的,無論是誰,必擔當他的罪名。」我們講過攪擾聖徒的,必要擔當他自己的罪名;現在我們來講講第10節的前半句話,那就是保羅相信那些被攪擾的弟兄必然不會懷著別樣的心;
 
要解釋這一段經文,我們一定要了解希臘/拉丁文字是具有很強的時態性的,甚至要比英文還要強;保羅所用的字詞,乃是未來式的而非現行的,也就是說,他相信現在這些弟兄姐妹雖然現在心志是被人攪亂的,但是他們的心志在將來必不至於有和過去"跑得好"時期、不同的心志;也就會是回到順服真理的心志;
 
這就是保羅相信,一但被揀選得救,誰也不能再將他們奪走;被揀選的聖徒雖然有可能暫時心志被迷惑,但是人必不能將這些被揀選的聖徒從神的手中奪走;這就有如被記在約翰福音第十章當中,主所說過的話:「27 我的羊聽我的聲音,我也認識他們,他們也根著我。 28 我又賜給他們永生,他們必不滅亡,誰也不能從我手裡把他們奪去。29 我父把羊賜給我,他比萬有都大,誰也不能從我父手裡把他們奪去。」
 
真正被揀選的基督徒可能一時的被騙,被虛假的道所迷惑,但是神的揀選是不可改變的;雖然可能會有迷失,但那必定是暫時的,到了最後這些人必要醒悟,那些迷惑人的人必會是徒勞無功的,他們的心志必定會回到真道上來,他們最後必不至失喪;反而是那些迷惑人的人,必要擔上迷惑神選民的罪名;
 
這是不是「一次得救,永遠得救」呢?這就是這個意思,但是我們要注意一點:預定和揀選是神所定的,並不是說有一個人願意信耶穌受洗就表是他是被揀選的,相反的,有一些狀似被揀選的人,到了人生的最後才被發現他可能從來沒有被揀選!也就是從來沒有被揀選過;
 
這怎麼說?記得門徒猶大嗎?就是那個賣主的門徒;主耶穌在被賣之前曾和天父有一段對話,是被記在約翰福音第17章:「10 你從世上賜給我的人,我已將你的名顯明於他們。他們本是你的,你將他們賜給我,他們也遵守了你的道。」,繼續論到這群門徒:「12 我與他們同在的時候,因你所賜給我的名保守了他們,我也護衛了他們,其中除了那滅亡之子,沒有一個滅亡的,好叫經上的話得應驗。」
 
猶大狀似主的門徒,但是他的賣主,卻是在經文中早就已經被啟示過的了,所以他的賣主是早就已經定了的,他自然不是被預定揀選得救的,而是定了要滅亡的滅亡之子;只不過他也和被揀選的眾門徒們一樣,在主耶穌的周圍出前跑入的,在人的眼中他就是和其他的門徒是一樣,或是更重要的,因為他管著這一群人的錢囊;
 
基督徒也是一樣,有沒有可能有人每週上教會,狀似虔誠,最後卻是不得救的呢?我相信也有的,就像門徒中有猶大是一樣的,基督徒中間也有不能得救的,也就是說是從來沒有被揀選的;但是若是一個基督徒是從來沒有被揀選過的,就表示這個人是一直屬世界的;屬世界的人一定會有屬世界的心志和行為,最後也必因著他的行為而受審;
 
基督徒有不是真的被揀選的,也有被揀選的但是暫時被迷惑的,這兩者從暫態中乍一看可能會很像;但若是暫時被迷惑的、那必然有一天會重新的回來順服真理;而那些從來沒有被揀選的可能可以暫時的假裝虔誠,假裝順服,然而沒有人可以永遠的假裝,屬世界的人到最後也是不會有真正屬天的生命,必定會露出屬世的行為和心志;願上帝幫助我們,永遠的順服真理,感謝讚美我們的主。
 
 

2019年5月23日 星期四

有誰軟弱我不軟弱呢?(林後11:29)

哥林多後書十一章:「26 又屢次行遠路,遭江河的危險、盜賊的危險、同族的危險、外邦人的危險、城裡的危險、曠野的危險、海中的危險、假弟兄的危險。 27 受勞碌、受困苦,多次不得睡,又飢又渴,多次不得食,受寒冷,赤身露體。 28 除了這外面的事,還有為眾教會掛心的事天天壓在我身上。29 有誰軟弱我不軟弱呢?有誰跌倒我不焦急呢?」
保羅的辛苦和困難不僅僅是外在的,在宣教時所遇到的危險以及攻擊,肉身的痛苦以及不方便;保羅所最掛心的不是他個人的痛苦和不便,要知道他所寫的多部書信都是在監獄的綑所之中所寫的(此書不是),但是即便是在那種景況之中,他所掛念的仍舊是眾教會的事;
教會內可能有許多事,那教會內的事他所最掛心的是什麼呢?是誰當執事,誰當長老,或是建堂的情況現在進行到怎如何了呢?都不是這些,他所最掛心的事乃是在29節被寫出來:「有誰軟弱我不軟弱呢?有誰跌倒我不焦急呢?」,保羅所最牽掛的乃是弟兄姊妹們的靈命狀態;
一個真正的牧者並不僅僅是每天把羊帶去草場,然後到了晚上把羊帶回羊圈,點一點看,看有沒有少掉一隻,每天作著這些例行公事;真正的牧者在放羊的時候還要觀察羊隻,看看這隻羊走路有點瘸,是不是哪裡受傷了?那隻羊本來很活潑,現在靜靜的、不知道是否生病了?
這樣才是真正的牧者,不是只關心自己生涯與名望的建立,可以被邀請到哪些教會去演講,可以賣多少書,或者是可以開多少分堂;以上所說的這些事情真正的牧者可能也做,但是那些對他來說一定不是最重要的,最重要的一定是弟兄姐妹們的靈命;
所以保羅說:有誰軟弱我不軟弱呢?解經家們對於這裡的軟弱,或是保羅怎麼也會軟弱,有一點點不同的看法,但是就我看,軟弱就是指信心上的軟弱;有些基督徒,甚至還包括某些牧者,等著等著就開始懷疑了,基督真的能夠幫助我嗎?我死了他真的可以使我再復活嗎?如果我們在地上所受的痛苦他都不能幫我們解決,又怎麼能期待我死後他能夠讓我再復活得榮耀呢?
這是其他人的軟弱,保羅當然是不會有這樣的軟弱的,保羅會有的軟弱會是像這樣的:"我們不應該是同一個身體嗎?難道他到最後竟然不能屬於基督的身體嗎?是我虧欠他了嗎?是我帶領錯了嗎?";這是每一個好牧者看到弟兄姐妹們在信心上軟弱時,都應該有的軟弱;
至於下一句的"有誰跌倒我不焦急呢?",內中的跌倒就是指在罪上犯錯誤了;可能是又犯姦淫了,或者是又打架傷人或是偷竊了,到了今日可能還有有吸毒等等;總之當保羅知道有弟兄姐妹們在罪上跌倒時,他就會為他們焦急;原文是"內裡被焚"的意思;
使徒保羅深知他所奉差譴要在地上建立的教會,乃是基督的身體,而基督的身體是由一個一個信徒,也就是活石,所建起來的靈宮;不是由磚瓦木料,或是今日的鋼筋水泥所建造的會堂;每一個弟兄姐妹們的靈命,這就是保羅所在乎的;每一個人的軟弱或是跌倒,都讓保羅像是被燒的那樣難過;
而不是自我安慰:走了一個,反正還有九十九個!不,如果那不是主的態度,當然也不會是神僕人的態度;保羅所立的榜樣,就是每一個神的僕人都該學習的,願上帝保守我們,感謝讚美我們的主。

 

2019年5月22日 星期三

保羅的辛勞(林後11:27)

哥林多後書十一章:「26 又屢次行遠路,遭江河的危險、盜賊的危險、同族的危險、外邦人的危險、城裡的危險、曠野的危險、海中的危險、假弟兄的危險。 27 受勞碌、受困苦,多次不得睡,又飢又渴,多次不得食,受寒冷,赤身露體。 28 除了這外面的事,還有為眾教會掛心的事天天壓在我身上。29 有誰軟弱我不軟弱呢?有誰跌倒我不焦急呢?」
 
使徒保羅在他多年宣教的過程中,除了經歷痛苦患難,也曾經經歷過許多危險,除了這些事以外呢?保羅用"這外面的事"來形容這些事加在身體上的痛苦和危害,因為給他麻煩的、實在是在裡面的事,是基督的身體之內的事情啊,就是為眾教會掛心憂愁;
 
使徒保羅實在是偉大的牧人,常常的為教會內的問題,以及教會內的弟兄姐妹的軟弱而憂愁煩心;這是好牧人應該有的品質;近代的某些教會和某些牧人卻有另外一種的作法,他們從來不提弟兄姐妹有軟弱的問題,從來不提弟兄姐妹有靈命需要加強的需要;
 
相反的,他們終日誇耀"我們的"教會是多麼好,我們的弟兄姐又是多麼的熱情和有活力等等;這種誇講和稱讚的話保羅也常說,這是鼓勵(或者是安慰)的話,但是和許多人的誤解是相反的,那並不是造就人的話,造就人的話實在是能夠使人能夠長進的話;
 
我們該不該常說鼓勵人的話呢?是的,我們該說鼓勵人的話,但是不能太常說;因為鼓勵的話也使人容易自高,同時也容易使人停止追求;
 
從前有一個王子、自小生長在王宮裡,他也練習武術;和他對練的那些人都是宮中的侍衛,和他練習時總是誇他是天生練武的奇才,學什麼都一下就學會,奴才根本就打不過王子等等;後來他一個人對打四個侍衛也都能取勝,把那些侍衛打倒在地;
 
有一天他私自溜出宮去,只帶了一個小太監,是他的第一次微服出訪,想要看看外面的世界究竟是怎麼樣;就在中午,他在街上的一個攤子吃午飯,就看見一個小混混在欺負擺攤的老頭子;他心想,他伸張正義的時候終於到了,於是他就上去一掌推開那個小混混;
 
結果呢?是那個王子被小混混打趴在地,若不是那個小太監撲在他身上拼死保護他,恐怕他要傷得更慘;他很奇怪,平常他一出手,那些侍衛倒的倒,跌的跌;為什麼他打這個小混混,用的是同樣的招式,同樣的力量或是更大力、卻一點效果也沒有?
 
我相信大家都知道為什麼,那些侍衛平常都讓著他,說假話奉承他;他所用的招式破綻百出又沒有力道、也沒有人告訴他,最後就是這樣的下場;作基督徒也是這樣,我到過某些教會,聚會開始前會堂裡面吵得和菜市場一樣,都在談論東家長西家短的事;敬拜讚美要喊好幾句才能把大家的注意力拉回來,然後敬拜時又是有氣無力的;
 
結果呢?等牧者一上台還是對這些事提都不提,只說能夠在主日看到大家真好,這個牧者對於會眾的唯一要求就是大家主日能夠到就好了;對於信徒的軟弱,靈命的低迷,我不敢說他一定沒有掛在心上,但是要說是讓他很掛心、像是重擔壓在他的身上,我看也倒不像;
 
保羅不是這樣的牧者,他將教會的事掛在自己的心上,甚至比他自己家裡的事更加掛心;不管是遭到苦難或者是危險均都是讓保羅很痛苦難過的事,但是保羅卻將他對教會事務,以及對弟兄姐妹的掛心,與他個人遭遇苦難和危險一起相提並論,可見保羅要掛心這些事到怎麼樣的一個程度;
 
使徒保羅是我們的榜樣,因為他是效法主的,主為了我們的拯救付出了最大的代價,聖靈、也就是主的靈也常常為我們代禱,是用說不出的嘆息為我們禱告的,因為我們是常在他心上的,感謝讚美我們的主,願上帝賜福給我們。

2019年5月21日 星期二

保羅所遭遇的危險(林後11:26)

哥林多後書十一章:「25 被棍打了三次,被石頭打了一次,遇著船壞三次,一晝一夜在深海裡。26 又屢次行遠路,遭江河的危險、盜賊的危險、同族的危險、外邦人的危險、城裡的危險、曠野的危險、海中的危險、假弟兄的危險。 27 受勞碌、受困苦,多次不得睡,又飢又渴,多次不得食,受寒冷,赤身露體。 」
除了記錄下他所受的苦難之外,保羅還寫下了他所經歷的許多危險;我們在這裡看到光是船壞了就有三次,一晝一夜在深海中,還有遠路的危險,江河的危險,盜賊的危險 . . . 等等許多的危險;這都是保羅這樣的一個長年"行走江湖"的傳道人,很可能會遭遇到的危險;
但是危險和苦難有什麼不同呢?苦難是情況真正的發生了,痛苦真實的臨到了我們,而危險是情況發生了沒錯,但是情況卻沒有轉成更壞,我們並沒有真正的受到痛苦;我們人常常看重我們所遭受的苦難,因為它們真實的臨到我們身上,卻低看了危險可能的帶來的毀壞力;
我們常說一切苦難的發生,都有神的准許才會發生;但是我們有沒有想過,危險可能所帶來的,就是神所不允許發生在我們身上的苦難?如果有一輛車衝過你的眼前,好在你及時的停步,所以沒有被車撞上,這叫作危險;但是你若要是走路絆倒,摔傷了,那叫做苦難臨到你;
往往我們所避掉的危險,它所可能帶來的痛苦,會要比真正發生在我們身上的痛苦要大的多了;保羅被猶太人鞭打了五次,棒打了三次,石頭打了一次;但是他遇到海難並沒有死,他也遇到盜賊,我們還知道他在以弗所附近的曠野和野獸搏鬥都沒有死;碰到這些情況、都是可能會丟掉性命的,要知道人的生命是何等的脆弱,有時蟲咬都可以要人的命,但是他沒有;
所以如果有人,特別如果是一個基督徒還在抱怨何以神要允許某些苦難臨到他,他實在是沒有思考神可能已經替他擋掉了多少可能發生的災害;有些我們看到危險的發生,我們知道自己和災難擦身而過,但是有更多次,我們甚至不知那裡有個危險我們已經避過;
十多年前有一個惡性流感叫作 SARS,是可以透過接觸或是間接的接觸而感染的;得到這個流感的人甚至有十分之一的可能會喪命,有時兩個人一個得病、另一個沒有得病,其關鍵性的差別可能就是兩個人手摸過的地方只差了幾吋,就是有病毒和沒有病毒的差別;這兩個人可能當時都渾然不知,但是其結果就是一個人得病、一個人沒有得病,而最終的結果可能就是兩個人天人永隔;
在我們的生命當中,不知道有多少次經歷過危險,有我們所知道的危險和我們不知道的危險;我們要常常的感謝讚美神,如果我們經歷過危險,我們更要感謝讚美主,因為那危險始終都還只是一個危險,沒有成為真實的傷害;我們還要常常為許許多多、我們甚至不知道就避過的危險而感謝主;
保羅是個神所重用的使徒,若是說神從來都沒有保守他,任憑他經歷過一切的苦難,我們都不相信;保羅共有三次長徒的宣教旅程,用徒步或是原始的交通工具,二十多年之間,共旅行了幾千公里,經過上百個城鎮,去過多少個猶太人的會堂,到寫書信這個時刻卻仍然活著、並努力的為主作見證;
撒旦想要藉危險使我們喪膽,使我們不能動彈,當然我們不需要主動去找危險來挑戰、而只是要順服聖靈的帶領;但是基督徒卻要因為我們所經歷過的危險而感謝讚美神,每一個過去危險都是對於神恩典的提醒;也是我們能夠面對將來危險的證明;感謝主、因為他有說不盡的恩賜;願上帝賜福給我們。
 

2019年5月20日 星期一

保羅所受的苦難(林後11:25)

哥林多後書十一章:「 24 被猶太人鞭打五次,每次四十減去一下; 25 被棍打了三次,被石頭打了一次,遇著船壞三次,一晝一夜在深海裡。 26 又屢次行遠路,遭江河的危險、盜賊的危險、同族的危險、外邦人的危險、城裡的危險、曠野的危險、海中的危險、假弟兄的危險。27 受勞碌、受困苦,多次不得睡,又飢又渴,多次不得食,受寒冷,赤身露體。」
這裡有一段經文寫到保羅所受過的苦楚,清楚明白的列出保羅所經歷過的危難和痛苦;我們前一篇文章所說的被猶太人鞭打五次是被列在第一位,另外被棍打了三次,被石頭打了一次也都是危險至極的;在使徒行傳十四章提到保羅在路司得被石頭打的經過;
路加寫著(使徒行傳 14章)「19 但有些猶太人,從安提阿和以哥念來,挑嗦眾人,就用石頭打保羅,以為他是死了,便拖到城外 20 門徒正圍著他,他就醒了,走進城去。第二天,同巴拿巴往特庀去」,所以我們可以看見,保羅這次被石頭打也是幾乎被打死,是危險之至但也只被保羅輕描淡寫的帶過去,算是一次而已;
使徒是帶著有上帝所賜的權柄,且是在地上行走為主作工的人,為何還會遭遇那麼多的苦難呢?如果是一般傳道人、我們不知道神是否有著上帝所賜的權柄和能力,在外面遭受困難甚至殉道,這我們可以理解,但是使徒怎麼也會是這樣?特別是我們知道、差不多每一個使徒最後都是為主而殉道的,為什麼神要讓他的僕人經歷過那麼多苦難?神的保護以及同在是在哪裡;
各位弟兄姐妹,你們一定要能夠明白神的保守以及同在的意義,今天許多的基督徒甚至是牧者在提及神的保守以及同在的時候,心中所想的是像外邦人所求的"萬事順利、福氣與平安"的訴求是相同的,但是神所要給我們的保守和平安卻並不是如此;
就在本書、哥林多後書四章9節,作者保羅所寫的:「我們遭逼迫,卻不被丟棄;打倒了,卻不至死亡」,我在前面讀的時候可能還想:這不過是保羅所用的生動的形容;但是當我們讀到這裡的時候,我們真正了解到、這實在是保羅自己的親身經歷,是實在的記錄;
當保羅正在經歷這些苦難的當下,保羅可能和我們一樣,並不明白神的保守和同在是如何工作的,但是每一次被打倒後,神的同在又來到,安慰著保羅、給保羅盼望、重新堅立保羅,就像這樣、漸漸的就使保羅明白神是何等的保守他以及長久的與他同在;
所以在本書的第一章,保羅寫下基督的安慰時,那也必定是他親身的經歷和體驗;他是這樣寫的:「3 願頌讚歸於我們主耶穌基督的父神,就是發慈悲的父,賜各樣安慰的神!4 我們在一切的幻難中,他就安慰我們,叫我們能用神所賜的安慰去安慰那遭各樣患難的人。 5 我們既多受基督的苦楚,就靠基督多得安慰。」
羅馬書8章「16 聖靈親自和我們的靈一同證明我們是神的兒女。17 既是兒女、就是後嗣;是神的後嗣,也和基督一同作後嗣。我們既和他一同受苦,就必和他一同得榮耀。」這就是我們因為基督受苦難而可以得榮耀的盼望,這也是苦難可以帶給我們的;
不僅是保羅這樣說,彼得前書五章10節:「那賜諸般恩典的神,曾在基督裡召你們得享他永遠的榮耀,等你們暫受苦難之後,必要親自成全你們,堅固你們,賜力量給你們」;當然還有登山寶訓中有主所親自應許的:「人若因我辱罵你們,逼迫你們,捏造各樣的壞話毀謗你們,你們就有福了」(馬太5:11)
所以我們是怎樣在苦難中得幫助的呢?首先是預備我們,他所賜的話語帶給我們盼望,讓我們能夠能夠面對以及輕看那將要來的苦難;再來是及時的安慰,因為當我們在一切的幻難中,他就安慰我們,這安慰是包括出人意料的平安和喜樂;在苦難之後,他又堅固我們、賜力量給我們,使我們可以重新得力,再度起來奔跑那天路,感謝讚美我們的主。
 

我們藉服事人去侍奉主

事奉或是侍奉神對於許多人來講是一個模糊的概念,我們聽牧師和傳道人說他們是事奉主的,那是因為他們做教會的工作嗎?是不是在教會工作就表示是事奉嗎?其實不然,保羅在他的書信中提到我們事奉神,其所用的字眼就是在敬拜,或是服務(worship or service))神
 
例如羅馬書十二章第1節「1所以弟兄們,我以神的慈悲勸你們,將身體獻上,當做活祭,是聖潔的,是神所喜悅的,你們如此侍奉乃是理所當然的。 」中文的侍奉,在某些英文版本的翻譯就是「敬拜」神;而保羅所指的弟兄姐妹,並不是什麼特別作神職工作的,也就是指一般的弟兄姐妹;
 
而保羅這裡所謂的侍奉神,也並不是要從事什麼特殊的事工,也就是使我們自己按照神的心意,使我們能從神那裡得榮耀,這樣也可以榮耀神,這就是保羅所說的事奉神;如果我們可以對自己這樣作而就是事奉神,那麼如果我們能幫助別人也如此做,那同樣也是事奉神;
 
這就是我們所說的侍奉主,其中最主耀的一個方式就是去事奉人,而且不是普通的事奉,不是請人吃飯、替人買東西,讓人高興的那種在世界上的事奉人;而是特別指按著神的旨意、讓人能夠在靈裡面,按照神的心意有所長進,這樣便可以討神的喜悅;我們若果是這樣子的事奉人,那麼就是在事奉神;
 
事奉神容易嗎?我們能夠作什麼事來討神歡心呢?或是說神會有什麼需要我們能幫忙滿足的嗎?當然沒有,我們只能按照神的心意,傳道,使人親近神,我們如此的事奉人,便可以使神的心意得以滿足,這樣就是藉著事奉人而得以侍奉神,也是我們可以事奉神最好的方法;
 
如果說事奉神不容易,那事奉人可能就更難了;神是聖潔公義的、我們只要朝向聖潔公義的方向去行事,便可以討神的喜悅,但是我們如果要事奉人,那麼我們可能要先要能夠先博得人的認同,我不說要討人的喜悅、因為那可能變成不討神的喜悅,但是我們一定要人先認同我們,我們才能服事他們;
 
這兩者之間有什麼分別呢?討人喜悅往往要順著人的意思,從我們事奉的經驗中,我們知道神的道往往是和討人喜悅是相反的,真道往往是不容易讓人接受的;那麼為了要讓人接受這不好接受的真道,我們首先要讓他們接受我們、認同我們,我們才譨讓他們聽進去真道;
 
如果說我們只因為講得道是真道,就處處得罪人,讓人遠避我們的話,那這樣子就不能夠服事人了,這樣子也就不能服事到神了;所以我們作傳道的,有時要在兩者之間取得平衡,在不彎曲真道的情況下,想辦法讓人將真道聽進去;
 
所以有的佈道會式的傳道,說「信耶穌得永生!」,這樣一句口號式的語言也被人拿來廣大使用了;當然我們知道真道並不是這樣簡單的對應:只要信耶穌便可以換得永生,這樣講話是太過簡化的真理;但是確實,得到永遠的生命也確實迎合了許多人的需要,吸引了他們來信耶穌,進而再進一步認識了真理之道,這就是讓人先接受我們的例子;
 
但是很不幸的,有的時候我們卻做出相反的事;我最近聽了一場講道;講道的人口才很好,也很風趣幽默,他所講的也沒有違反什麼真理,他只是花了太多時間講他自己與自己家裡的事;我們出來服事神的,總不免要經過一些個人的掙扎,家庭的掙扎也是會有的,提到一些自己的事也是人之常情;
 
但是他一講他自己的事情就講了超過一個小時;保羅說我們要傳基督不傳自己;哥林多後書4:5「我們原不是傳自己,乃是傳基督耶穌為主,並且自己因耶穌做你們的僕人。」這個教導是有非常有道理的,待他花了一個多小時講完自己的事,再要介紹他所參的事工,他們目前所面對的困難,需要弟兄姐妹奉獻的支持時,那時已經到了我們平時聚會結束的時間;
 
那怎麼辦呢,總不能草草地結束聚會,總還是要把應該要講的東西講清楚才行,結果在後半段的訊息用趕進度來講的情況下,那天的聚會還是超時半個多小時,還不包括我們因此取消了回應詩歌以及用超簡短得會後報告來結束聚會,時當中午,許多人都沒有辦法靜下心來聽;
 
聚會的最後二十分鐘就不斷的有弟兄姐妹離場,等到聚會終於結束,弟兄姐妹更是如噴發般的離場,為他所宣傳的事工回應呢?為事工捐款呢?當然都沒有了,那是因為他所傳的事工沒價值,或者是我們根本就是沒有行善的感動嗎?都不是,這就是當人覺得被不舒服的對待,那麼就算是好的道理,也都不能入我們的耳;
 
既然我們知道我們所要服事的對象是人,除了真理以外,我們也當然要考慮服事對象的軟弱,正如主耶穌在曠野講道數日之後,也要用五餅二魚來餵飽眾人;所以願神保守我們,在我們事奉神事奉人的道路上面,都能夠不犯錯誤而又有果效,感謝讚美我們的主,願上帝賜福給我們。

2019年5月19日 星期日

被猶太人鞭打五次(林後11:24)

哥林多後書十一章:「23 他們是基督的僕人嗎?我說句狂話,我更是!我比他們多受勞苦、多下監牢,受鞭打是過重的,冒死是屢次有的。 24 被猶太人鞭打五次,每次四十減去一下; 25 被棍打了三次,被石頭打了一次,遇著船壞三次,一晝一夜在深海裡。 26 又屢次行遠路,遭江河的危險、盜賊的危險、同族的危險、外邦人的危險、城裡的危險、曠野的危險、海中的危險、假弟兄的危險。」
在這裡看到保羅被猶太人鞭打過五次,我感到特別的動容;因為這鞭打是每次三十九下,是四十次減去一次;為什麼要減去這一下呢,有的人解經說是因為保羅是羅馬人,我想那是大錯特錯;因為統治帝國的羅馬公民是不會被猶太人這樣子處罰的,
在使徒行傳第22章中,羅馬軍隊的千夫長因為沒有經過審判,就先把身為羅馬公民的保羅給鞭打了,都甚為害怕;猶太人如果知道保羅是羅馬公民的話,又怎麼敢這樣子鞭打他?所以保羅必定是以猶太人的身分接受鞭打的,保羅並沒有對他的同胞揭示他其實是羅馬公民的身分。
在摩西五經當中,申命記25章當中記載著:鞭打不可超過40下,所以猶太人在行這種刑罰的時候都是只鞭打39下,以免在鞭打的時候有數錯的,那麼那個執行鞭打的人自己就犯了誡命,自己都要遭受鞭打了;
那麼邊打39下是怎麼樣的刑罰呢?其實這是很重的刑法,很少有人能夠被鞭打一百下還不死了,所以被鞭打四十下其實也就是要去掉半條命了;現在世界上還有少數的國家保留鞭刑,新加坡就是其中之一,據他們自己講,被鞭打過的犯人,只要一想到鞭刑的殘酷很少有敢再犯的;
但是保羅卻講他被猶太人這種鞭刑打過五次,我可以想像他一定是走到猶太人的會堂當中去向猶太人傳福音;猶太人有看到外地來的猶太人來參加他們的會堂,應該都是歡迎的,就像我們會歡迎新人來到教會是一樣;但是一但他被發現其實他是來傳耶穌基督的,歡迎的面孔一下子就變臉了;
我們可以想像一下,你走入許多人的聚會之中,他們向你微笑點著頭歡迎你;突然之間、你講話觸怒了他們,帶著笑容的臉孔一下子變成憤怒,有人喊出來:把這個褻瀆神的人趕出去!於是人人向你揮舞著拳頭,還有人拿著棍子,推擠著將你推出大門,那還是如果你是幸運的;
如果那喊出來的第一句話是:"打死這個褻瀆的人!",那麼你就在極大的危險之中;你想逃?太晚了,因為你身處在一群憤怒的人群之中,有人抓著你的衣領,你逃不了!最後有長老出來說,他說話褻瀆上帝,因為他是瘋了,根據律法,這種人我們將他按例鞭打,趕走就算了;
於是有人將你綁在柱子上,上衣剝掉,有人高舉著鞭子,一下一下的鞭打著你,從第一下鞭子落在你的背上那疼痛就痛徹心扉,這樣要一直數到三十九下;打完了以後你連走路的力氣都沒有,回到旅店之後可能三天都下不了床,下面一個月你都只能趴著睡;
這就是保羅所經歷的,這只是一次的經歷;要是我們,下次恐怕再也沒有勇氣進入猶太會堂去傳教了,或者是就算是進入會堂,但是講話的時候一定要好好的察顏觀色,深怕講錯話觸怒他們;鞭刑的可怕、一次就可以打垮了我們;但是那不是保羅,保羅在傷好了以後又繼續的傳教,以至到他寫信為止,一共被鞭打了五次;
是什麼力量使保羅不顧生命的危險,一次又一次的繼續向猶太人傳耶穌?是愛!他曾經說猶太人是他的弟兄,是骨肉至親,為了他們能夠得救,他願意付出任何的代價,包括被咒詛,與基督分離都可以;的確,我們可以看出他不是說著玩玩而已;
他傳福音是為了所愛的人,但是他所愛的弟兄卻這樣鞭打他,只是這樣也不能改變他的志向,偉哉、使徒保羅;我們在傳福音的時候有沒有保羅一半的熱情,一半的同胞愛?這都是值得我們好好想想的,願上帝堅固我們每一個人,感謝讚美我們的主。

 

2019年5月18日 星期六

以弗所書講經 (56)

基督裡的夫妻關係 (1)
你們做丈夫的,要愛你們的妻子,正如基督愛教會,為教會捨己,要用水藉著道把教會洗淨,成為聖潔
低流量,無影像版本在這裡: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZulwOiPHxaU
。。。想你的朋友也能看到這篇嗎,請按讚或分享
讀全文請按連結;按讚 Page可定期收到好文

 

2019年5月17日 星期五

我更是基督的僕人(林後11:23)

哥林多後書十一章:「21 我說這話是羞辱自己,好像我們從前是軟弱的!然而,人在何事上勇敢,我說句愚妄話,我也勇敢! 22 他們是希伯來人嗎?我也是。他們是以色列人嗎?我也是。他們是亞伯拉罕的後裔嗎?我也是。 23 他們是基督的僕人嗎?我說句狂話,我更是!我比他們多受勞苦、多下監牢,受鞭打是過重的,冒死是屢次有的。」
保羅開始和那些假使徒比較了,人勇敢嗎?我的勇敢不會輸給別人;他們出身正統嗎?我的出生更是絕對的正統;最後他在是否是基督的基督的僕人這件事情上,保羅要說句狂話了:我更是基督的僕人;
其實在其他的事的比較上、我們已經不需要再贅述了,保羅是便亞憫支派的法利賽人,受教於迦瑪列門下,可以說是法利賽人中的法利賽人;他一個人或是和一兩個同工長徒拔涉,到很遠的遠方去宣教;不像今日我們到哪裡去都要先定位和定房安排,知道前方有什麼在等著我們,在保羅旅程的前方等著他的、只有未知;
這些我們只要看過使徒行傳,我們都知道;但是保羅在這裡提到一個詞:基督的僕人,並要說句狂話:他更是基督的僕人;從這句話當中我們可以知道,連那些自稱是是使徒的假使徒,也都自稱是基督的僕人,而保羅這句話的意思是說:他比起別人是要更配稱為基督的僕人,言下之意也在說:有些人其實是不配被稱為基督的僕人的;
什麼是基督的僕人這?僕人就是那些按照主人的心意,為主人作事、賣力氣的人;在路加福音第十二章的後半段中,是主論講僕人最清楚的地方,因為經文太長我就不引用了,否則文章就太長了,但是我希望弟兄姊妹都能夠好好的讀一下,看看在主的心意中,僕人應該是怎麼樣的;
理論上,僕人應該是要忠心於主人,但是事實上,有的僕人會是忠心盡責的,不但警醒又能夠按時分糧給家中的人,這樣的僕人主在最後要獎賞他們;但也有僕人會是陽奉陰違的,見到主人不在就欺負他的同伴,或是和人出去吃喝醉酒;對於這樣的僕人主是這樣說的:「僕人知道主人的意思,卻不預備,又不順他的意思行,那僕必多受責打。」
所以我們說基督的僕人,很多人都自稱是基督的僕人,但是我們若是仔細的看,就可以發現有的僕人是忠心按著主人的心意行,但也有不少的僕人是陽奉陰違的,表面上是基督的僕人,是在為基督作事情的;但是實際上他所行的都是在為為自己取利,並欺負他的同伴;
我們不能看人是神學院畢業,當上了牧師就認為他們是按照主的心意在服事主的;其實今日忠心又警醒的僕人是難得的,有許多的僕人看主人不在,已經在那裡吃喝醉酒了,一個禮拜又過一個禮拜的在那裡混日子,將教會裡交待的事能夠應付過去就算了;
有的牧師傳道,已經在利用神交在他手上管理的產業,開始在那裡為自己謀利了;牧者應當關心的是群羊是否都能夠健康快樂的成長,但是很多牧者已經在享受群羊的掌聲,利用群羊在為自己擴展社會影響力,建立自己在世上的名望,或是為自己的家族、後代在打算了;
我不敢講作基督的僕人都應該要像保羅那樣無私,因為我們知道保羅在開始服事之後,已經等同沒有肉身的家人了;多數的牧者還是有自己的家人;為自己和自己的家人考慮一下也是人之常情,但是這還是要在不能犧牲羊群利益的情況下才能可以的;
保羅說他更是基督的僕人,這是他的結論語,接下來他就要告訴我們為什麼他有資格這樣說;這是因為他因著實踐基督的心意,要比其他人付出更多的勞苦,經歷過更多的危險,受過更多的痛苦;不過這些都要在以後的文章裡來介紹了,感謝讚美我們的主,願上帝賜福給我們。

 

2019年5月16日 星期四

有人侵吞、擄掠、侮慢,強你們作奴僕(林後11:20)

哥林多後書十一章:「18 既有好些人憑著血氣自誇,我也要自誇了。 19 你們既是精明人,就能甘心忍耐愚妄人! 20 假若有人強你們做奴僕,或侵吞你們,或擄掠你們,或侮慢你們,或打你們的臉,你們都能忍耐他! 21 我說這話是羞辱自己,好像我們從前是軟弱的!然而,人在何事上勇敢,我說句愚妄話,我也勇敢!」
 
保羅諷刺的語意還沒有完,他說:「你們既是精明人,就能甘心忍耐(我這樣的)愚妄人! 假若有人強你們做奴僕,或侵吞你們,或擄掠你們,或侮慢你們,或打你們的臉,你們都能忍耐他!」;是這樣嗎?保羅是愚妄人嗎?哥林多人既然被保羅拱成聰明人,那就只好忍耐保羅了,是不是?
 
接下來,保羅繼續誇講哥林多人的忍耐,他說你們是很能忍耐的,有人待你們很壞,你們還是能夠忍耐他們;就算是有人侵吞、擄掠、侮慢,強你們作奴僕,你們還是忍耐他們;我想哥林多人初見這段話時,一定是丈二金剛摸不著頭腦,哪有人這樣待我們呢?
 
哥林多的信徒當中固然有是奴僕身份的,但是大多數人還都是自由人、不是奴僕;更何況是強你們作奴僕呢?我們讀到這樣寫別人的信,那就略過去就算了,但是如果這信是寫給你們,事情關乎自己,那我們就必然會停下來再多想一想,他這樣講是什麼意思、對吧!
 
就是這樣再咀嚼一下,他們就開始感覺到保羅所說的真是對的!是誰在強我們作奴僕呢?不就是那些假使徒嗎?雖然在肉體方面,實質方面可能看起來並沒有,但是在精神層面,在靈裡面不就正是如此嗎?他們用假的道理騙走了我們的順服,例用我們的愛心與敬仰,從我們這裡騙取了種種的好處去歸他們自己;
 
這難道不是侵吞,擄掠嗎?我們本已認了耶穌為主,從他那裡領受了真理,但你們用種種的彎曲、詭詐之術來騙我們,難道這不是侮慢我們,將我們原已在基督裡得自由的自由人,又拉回去作奴僕嗎?我們願做基督的奴僕,是因為他要賜給我們更豐盛的生命,對罪、對死亡能夠得自由;但是這些假使徒,卻要把我們拉回去做某些執念與他們個人利益的奴僕,最後還可能失去我們那本該得到的豐盛的生命;
 
如果哥林多的信眾警醒,他們就是應該有這樣的看見的;同樣的,你們當中的有些人,如果你們是在某些假師傅、假使徒之下,你們也應該有這樣的覺醒;我們從前還未認得真理,在主把我們解救出來以前,我們都是罪的奴僕,是伏在撒旦之下的!但我們卻絲毫不覺得;
 
若是今天有人把我們的追求,從主所賜的真理以及他自己處挪開,讓我們去追求其他的,然後還告訴我們這才是得救之道,這才是神的心意等等,那都是侵吞、擄掠、侮慢我們,以及強迫我們作奴僕;在差不多任何的宗教裡面,都有人假藉神的心意,侵吞、擄掠、侮慢,強迫人(也就是信徒)作奴僕,基督教也不例外;
 
簡單粗暴的例子有像紫衣教的 seafood,直接讓信徒供給他豪華的生活;到埋藏的較深的、讓信徒多多奉獻,建堂宣教,這看起來好像是為主,其實是為他們的私慾,個人的野心;真的和假的之間往往只有一線之隔,其分別就是能不能夠持守真道;
 
一個持守真道的傳道人不管到什麼時候都是持守真道的,明明知道如果我騙信眾一點點,例如可已以說你們現在奉獻,將來就必得十倍百倍的回報;那麼許多人就會為了那回報、勇敢的大手筆「投資」;我不用奉獻這個字、因為這樣就已經不再是奉獻了,而是風險投資;
 
還有的牧者要信眾去攻下社會上的七個山頭,這看起來好像是有道理,其實是他們想要擴展他們自己影響力的方式;這些似是而非的教導都是偏離真道的,讓人將眼目從天上真正的獎賞處挪開而關注地上的事物;這樣作的結果是:以地上的眼光看起來很有效果,建立起漂亮的會堂,教會在社會上也有影響力,但是使會眾的眼目從天上的獎賞,以及主所賜的真道上移開,你們根本不知道後果會有多嚴重;
 
這些人還用神會作新事為理由,要信徒們勇敢的相信他們所說的事;這樣看起來他們好像是很勇敢、並且是對這些新事是充滿信心的!但是其實呢,他們是用他們的勇氣胡作非為,大膽的引進新的福音、新的靈,並藉此擄掠你們;神雖然是作新事的神,但是神的應許和所賜下的預言都必定會成就的,這些人所期盼的未來和神的應許是不相符的;
 
提摩太後書2:5「人若在場上比武、非按規矩,就不能得冠冕。」,任何不按真道傳講,用其他方式取得快速、表面上成功的教會,都是會落在這個下場的裡面;人若是以為用自己的方法可以幫助神的工作,就像是烏撒當時看到約櫃好像快要傾倒,就伸手扶了約櫃,沒想到就被神所擊殺;
 
各位弟兄姐妹,使人得救的不是我們有多少人傳福音,或是我們的教會有多少社會影響力,有多大多美麗的會堂;使人得救的唯有神的靈,若是我們離開真道、用其他的方法,那就是開了門邀請其他的靈進來;它們一進來就要侵吞、擄掠、侮慢,強迫我們作奴僕,所以我們絕對不可離開真道,感謝讚美我們的主,願上帝賜福給我們。


2019年5月15日 星期三

好些人憑著血氣自誇(林後11:18)

哥林多後書十一章:「16 我再說,人不可把我看做愚妄的;縱然如此,也要把我當做愚妄人接納,叫我可以略略自誇。 17 我說的話不是奉主命說的,乃是像愚妄人放膽自誇; 18 既有好些人憑著血氣自誇,我也要自誇了。 19 你們既是精明人,就能甘心忍耐愚妄人!」
 
在第18節,保羅講到有好些人憑著血氣自誇,保羅所言的當然是指那些假使徒,他們所誇的都不外是一些屬肉體的事情,例如他們到過許多教會,拿到很多薦信;或者是自己或是有人稱他們為使徒;還有他們的演講言語文詞精妙,這些都是憑著血氣自誇;
 
我相信一定有許多人想成是憑著血氣之勇而自誇,我第一次讀此處經文時就是這樣想的,這就是我們有成語太接近的壞處,會很容易聯想到那上面去;其實絕大多數的自誇都是憑著肉體或者是說憑著血氣;一個不憑著血氣、不憑才能、只依靠神的靈的人,像是保羅,是很不願意自誇的,因為他明白所有一切所成就的都是靠著神的恩典;
 
基督徒裡面自誇的人多嗎?憑著血氣自誇的人多嗎?我必需重複保羅的話「好些人憑著血氣自誇」,很多教會或者是小組聚會的時候讓人作見證,聽來聽去往往都是一些憑著血氣自誇的見證;或者是說裡面可能有神的恩典,但卻是不能顯明神恩典的見證;
 
比如說有癌症病人經歷許多次化療或是手術,最後康復了,我們看到他對抗疾病的勇氣決心和耐力,但是確實看不出有無神的恩典在裡面;我寫這些不是在這裡無同情心的批判人,乃是在教你們;若是作這樣的見證還是有憑著血氣的自誇的嫌疑,要是我就淡化楚理,甚至不用提了;除非. . .
 
除非這裡面是有特別的兇險,到連醫生都放棄希望了,最後竟然奇蹟般的康復了,這樣就可以顯明是神的恩典了;我真的聽過了這樣的見證,醫生只有診斷(因此留下這癌症有多可怕的明確醫學証據),但是卻完全放棄治療,最後卻奇蹟般的好了,也留下醫學上明確康復的証據;我們真的要為此而感謝讚美主;
 
是的、我們如果有非常特別的幸運,太過巧合的巧合,以及非常神奇的經過、人手無法作到的,那我們就應該大肆的宣揚,將榮耀歸於神,這樣就算是出了鋒頭那也是為了主的緣故,不算是犯罪了;但是若是一件平淡無奇的事,例如下雨天沒帶傘也趁著雨的空檔行動,這種見證就算是加上幾句感謝讚美主的話,作這樣的見證還是有愛出鋒頭、想要自誇的嫌疑;而成熟的基督徒是應該討厭自誇的;
 
就在我寫這篇文章的當天一早,我接到一個微信留言,是一位姐妹斷斷續續讀了十年的神學院終於拿到神學碩士了,大家都紛紛留言恭喜她,並稱讚她很不容易啊、好有毅力啊;是的,我知道這是很不容易的,但是我一直在等看有沒有人會將榮耀歸於主;可惜結果等了一個早上都沒有一個人是如此作的,這樣子不是又將一件好事變成自誇了嗎?
 
我看到後面的經文中提到保羅有那麼多神奇的經歷,或者是經歷過很大的危險,每一項都應該是一篇好故事;但是我們卻從來沒見他提起那些個經歷,我真是大大的受感動,成熟的基督徒真的是應該討厭自誇的,如果不是為了能夠彰顯神的名,我們所經歷過的很多事真是提也不必提的;
 
我是帶職事奉的人,最近經歷了奇怪的長達半年的失業,之後也很神奇的找到一個工作,(見這篇文章 ),在找到工作之後,到我已經上班了,那些每週在我家裡聚會的弟兄姐妹都沒有一個知道的,一直到某一天她們隔了許久又想起來又要為我的找工作而禱告時,到這時我才告訴她們我已經找到了,並大概的講了一下其間的過程,我想就是這種心情;
 
愚妄人放膽自誇,有好些人憑著血氣自誇,至於我們,若非是因為能夠榮耀神的名,或者是有神特別的帶領,我們還是離自誇越遠越好,感謝讚美我們的主,願上帝賜福給我們。
 
 

2019年5月14日 星期二

智慧人不自誇(林後11:16)

哥林多後書十一章:「16 我再說,人不可把我看做愚妄的;縱然如此,也要把我當做愚妄人接納,叫我可以略略自誇。 17 我說的話不是奉主命說的,乃是像愚妄人放膽自誇; 18 既有好些人憑著血氣自誇,我也要自誇了。 19 你們既是精明人,就能甘心忍耐愚妄人!」
愚妄人常常自誇,智慧人不自誇,但不是總不自誇;若有特殊的目的和理由,像保羅這樣的智慧人也要在這裡自誇了;保羅因為願意相信哥林多人明白智慧人不自誇,愚妄人常常自誇的道理,所以特別在前面說「人不可把我看做愚妄的」,險示他是有特殊目的;
然而哥林多人真是明白愚妄人愛自誇的道理嗎?恐怕不然,我們有時在事不關己的時候能明白很多事,但是當我們親臨其境的時候,就是另外一回事了;比如哥林多人常常聽那些自誇為大使徒的傳道人在他們中間的種種自誇、卻不能明白;
因此保羅這一句「人不可把我看做愚妄的」不僅是為哥林多人所講的,更是為我們這些後世的讀者所說的,我們應該要了解這些強調自己種種不平凡經歷,並不是保羅的風格;的確,我們在其他的保羅書信中,幾乎沒有聽他提起過這些經歷,有些經歷若不是保羅的同工路加(使徒行傳的作者)給記錄了下來,我們都不知道保羅是如何遭到他所述的某些經歷;
保羅又寫下「我說的話不是奉主命說的,乃是像愚妄人放膽自誇」,以及「既有好些人憑著血氣自誇,我也要自誇了」可見使徒保羅在寫下他的「自誇」之前,心中是有很多爭戰的,他明明知道主的教訓要我們不要自誇,不要憑血氣行事,但是他又覺得他現在必需寫下那些自誇之言;
現在問題來了,我們說聖經都是聖靈所默示的,可是保羅又在這裡說「我說的話不是奉主命說的」,那麼保羅寫所寫的這一段到底是不是被聖靈帶領而寫的呢?還是這是一個例外呢?
要回答這個問題我們先要來復習一下使徒行傳第十章,彼得在異象中三次看到天上降下來的大包袱,包袱內所裝的都是律法中所記載的不潔之物,然後天上還有聲音說:「彼得,起來、宰來吃!」,然後彼得就回答說:「主啊、這是不可的!」,如此一連三次;
如今保羅的情形就像是當初的彼得,聖靈要帶領他去作一些平常告訴他不可做之事,也就是寫下他的「自誇」,那麼他此刻內心的爭扎就好像是在告訴聖靈:「主啊,不可!」;這個就是聖靈的特殊帶領,神有的時候會帶領我們去作一些在平常的狀況下不該去作的事情;
比如說是不可論斷,這是人人都當記得並遵行的;但是如果教導人的人,或是先知都不可以去講出人的不是之處;好比大衛王犯了姦淫和殺人罪之後,先知拿單也完全遵守不可論斷人的教訓,那麼誰去警醒大衛王呢?教會裡弟兄姐妹犯了錯又有誰去提醒呢?
「為什麼看見弟兄眼中有刺,卻不想自己眼中有梁木?」這個是對的,但是最終主不是要我們「先去掉自己眼中的樑木,然後才能看清楚,去掉你弟兄眼中的刺。」
自誇是不應該的,更不是智慧人所當為的;但是當保羅面對哥林多教會的弟兄姐妹已經聽多了假使徒的許多自誇,並且因著這些自誇而被影響了的景況,他再不出來講講一個真使徒所經歷過的、什麼是真正叫作「全身心擺上、為主所用」,那麼就是任憑弟兄姐妹被人所欺騙了;願上帝幫助我們,感謝讚美我們的主。

 

2019年5月13日 星期一

對抗假使徒(林後11:12)

哥林多後書十一章:「11 為什麼呢?是因我不愛你們嗎?這有神知道。 12 我現在所做的,後來還要做,為要斷絕那些尋機會人的機會,使他們在所誇的事上也不過與我們一樣。 13 那等人是假使徒,行事詭詐,裝作基督使徒的模樣。 14 這也不足為怪,因為連撒旦也裝作光明的天使。 15 所以,他的差役若裝作仁義的差役,也不算稀奇。他們的結局必然照著他們的行為。」
什麼是保羅對抗假使徒的方法呢?是到處寫信舉發他們、禁止他們傳道嗎?還是乾脆阻織隊伍、以武力逮捕他們,這樣他們就不能騙人了!這也不是,保羅對付假使徒的方法就是告訴人真的和假的分別,當人們認識真的之後,自然就不會跟隨假的了;
保羅所用的方法,也啟發了後世的許多人;像是中國的經濟剛剛興起時,他們的市場上有很多假貨的精品、甚至到達猖獗泛濫的程度;經營精品的商家用舉報罰款的方法,政府警察配合打假,抓了許多販賣假貨的小商販,但是假貨還是防不勝防;
最後這些假貨是怎麼樣慢慢的消聲匿跡、很少人想買了呢?那就是因為中國的經濟的普遍的有改善,人們對於真品的品質和特性漸漸的熟習,用假貨成了很容易被人看穿,被認出來用假貨也成了一件很丟臉的事,漸漸的就沒有什麼人願意用假貨了;
當然我們在歷史中還是看到人們是常常走回頭路的,為什麼人會一再的犯同樣的錯誤?當新的世代漸漸的遺忘上一代所學到的教訓時,就等於又為同樣的錯誤給舖下了新的溫床;
保羅剛開始傳福音到哥林多的時候不去向哥林多的信徒收奉獻,到現在哥林多的信徒成熟了,保羅還是不向他們收奉獻;這其實對哥林多教會的信徒不是一件好事,因為這樣就斷絕了這些信徒因奉獻而蒙福的機會;這樣要持續多久呢?在第12節當中,保羅說他現在所做的,後來還要做,為要斷絕那些尋機會人的機會;
保羅用不收取奉獻的方式,要斷絕那些尋找機會的人的機會,什麼機會呢?撈錢的機會啊,自稱使徒,到處收集人給的薦信,到各教會去串連講道;能夠作這種事的不外乎是兩個原因,一個就是真正被神的愛所感召,所以就去做神心意之中要我們做的事;另一種可能當然就是為了名或者是利,為了要出名或是撈錢;
第12節的最後一句的中文翻譯翻得並不太好,保羅其實是在說:他要將那些人能自誇與我同等的機會給奪走;保羅是使徒,那些人也自稱是使徒,保羅能言善道,那些人要比保羅還要更能講;那現在怎麼樣呢?保羅說他在凡事上都要謹守、而且還不收奉獻,現在那些人一想:這還能比下去嗎?這樣作一點好處一點樂趣都沒有了啊!
神的僕人服事不是為了自己的私利,即使不收奉獻,神也能夠用其他的方法來供應他自己的僕人;但是那些假貨呢?誰還肯為這種沒有一點好處的事情、只是一直投資而不見回報的?保羅在後面的幾句話中直指那些假使徒就是撒旦的差役,這和他自許是基督的奴僕是相對的;
基督的奴僕必定會像基督,而撒旦的差役就會是像撒旦了;撒旦的僕役雖然是很會撒謊和偽裝,但是偽裝總是表面的,其本質和生命總是不會變的;他們的本性是貪婪和詭詐,若是沒有利益的事情他們是做不了多久的,他們的本性總是要暴露出來的;
但是他們在偽裝之下,那卻是他們所非常擅長的,保羅說連撒旦也裝作光明的天使,撒旦的僕役偽裝成光明的使徒,牧師和傳道人的時候,很少人能夠看穿他們;在表面上,他們可能表現的無比的敬虔又兼火熱,甚至要超過一般的傳道人,但是在他們真實的生命中,他們卻是充滿敗壞、貪婪和詭詐,所以我們要小心;
看人不能只看表面,我們過去從外貌來認耶穌,現在豈可再以表面來認傳道人呢?撒旦的差役固然有光明的外表,但是他們的生命本質必是難以遮蓋的;摩門教的兩代創教領袖都是有幾十個妻子的,回教的創始人莫罕默德也是有26個妻子,他們無一例外都是過著豪華的生活;這些人無論如何假裝,但最後總是在財、色、權力上給顯露出來;
但是許多人卻一直都相信他們、跟從他們而不知警醒;這樣最後對於他們自己也都是有損的,不只是可能會被騙財騙色或是有其它地上的損失,他們在永恆之中的生命也會是有損的,有些人可能還會落到滅亡之中;
而那些撒旦的差役們呢?保羅只說他們的結局必然照著他們的行為!光是這樣一句就已經足夠了;他們之中有些人到死都還可以欺騙部分的人,看起來在世上的時候都沒有報應,但是他們最後要面對的是永生神的審判,而神是全知全能的,他們的結局必然照著他們的行為,這句話的意思就是沒有救恩,乃是依著他們的行為在受審判,願上帝憐憫我們,感謝讚美我們的主。

那人要顯明自己有理

路加福音10:29「那人要顯明自己有理,就對耶穌說:「誰是我的鄰舍呢?」」這句經文是出於路加福音,法利賽人和文士要去挑戰耶穌,就去問耶穌律法中最重要的是什麼,耶穌回答他說律法中最重要的就是:盡心、盡性、盡意、盡力愛主你的神,其次也相仿就是要愛人如己;
 
耶穌告訴那人:“你回答的是;你这样行,就必得永生。",這麼有權柄的話,讓那個人聽了以後無話可說,但是即使是無話可說,他還是擠出來29節的那一句話「誰是我的鄰舍呢?」,當然我們知道,主後來講了那個好撒瑪利亞人的故事,告訴了我們每一個人「鄰舍」是什麼意思;
 
今天我們不是要講撒瑪利亞人的故事,今天我們所要講的是:有些基督徒常有的一種心態,就是老是要顯明自己有理,甚至到了一種地步,完全不願意承認自己有錯;這在其他人的身上也是有看見到的,但是當發生在基督徒的身上,卻可能是有莫大損害的;
 
因為基督徒必需要能夠悔改,必需要能夠順從聖靈的帶領;天國的訊息是由施洗約翰所開始傳遞的,他所傳遞的是主耶穌相同的訊息,那就是「天國近了你們要悔改」;除了在觀念上要悔改歸向主以外,在各樣生活上的事情也必須要能夠順從與聖靈的帶領,所以我們的心必須要柔軟。
 
心不能柔軟,就表示喜歡堅持自己的想法,堅持自己的想法就很難接受聖靈動態的帶領;也許有人說:我們信仰堅定難道不是一件好事?堅信真理不正是我們該作的嗎?是啊,我們的信仰是因該堅定,不過我們沒有一個人就是真理,並且也沒有人完全明白真理,所以我們終其一生,都應當要探求真理並順從真理;
 
一個人,不管是剛信主或者是信主幾十年,都應該要隨時的尋求真理並順從真理;當我們在尋求真理的過程當中,發現真理的啟示和我們過去所堅信的不一樣,那我們就應該自己轉過彎來,該為順從真理;這樣的人才是堅信真理,也才是真正的在信仰上堅定;
 
若是我們不能順從真理,那我們所堅定的並不是於信仰,而只不過是堅持自己的執念罷了!在一次的查經的聚會當中,有一個信主幾十年的基督徒就在那裡說「福音派的教會相信一次得救永遠得救」,而他的意思是福音派的教會是錯的;我不和他爭辯一次得救永遠得救是否是對的,甚至他假設別人說那話的闡述都是錯誤的假設;我只是告訴他:"一次得救永遠得救並不是福音派的信仰";
 
他完全不接受我的講法,堅持說"就是福音派的教導!";我的櫃子裡剛好有一個福音派教會連盟的小冊子,裡面有他們的信仰宣告,一共十條,接受這些信仰宣告的才能加入這個連盟;我告訴他:"這本小冊子送你看;裡面並沒有講到一次得救永遠得救啊!"
 
他還是堅持他的指控,說:"這種事他們怎麼會寫在信仰宣告裡面?";意思就是就算是別人家的教會沒有要求,但他的話還是對的,福音派是在暗中進行這種教導;這樣的固執,即使是要變成無證據的毀謗了,也還要堅持;
 
另外有一位弟兄,在教會裡被稱為老師的,喜歡在人前做教導的,也是有這樣固執的毛病;被別人指出錯誤出來,不但是不肯接受,反而他就一定要想辦法「找回來」;我就在想這種個性的人在教會裡當老師的話,實在是弟兄姐妹們的不幸;又有感覺他好像在靈裡面有些不太對;後來我不小心在教會敬拜的時候瞄到他,我就知道為什麼了!
 
我們敬拜,多數人都是要存著謙卑敬畏的心來到主面前;雖然沒有規定說我們當用什麼樣的姿勢 (個人認為,基督徒敬拜萬王之王的主所應應當表達的尊崇,不當亞於在國家元首前唱國歌的尊崇),或站立或是坐下,舉手、雙手交握或是立正站好來敬拜主,但是我知道通常只有外邦人,不信的人,是勉強隨從我們站立的,心中不甘願的站著,因此雙手抱胸前來表示抵抗;
 
我從來沒有看過信主多年,還在教會裡當老師的人,還總是這麼樣的雙手抱胸來敬拜主的,我從前看過他如此,還以為是偶爾變換姿勢,但是後來連續的看到他是這樣的,持續的這樣雙手抱著胸的敬拜,下面的照片只是為太難相信的事實做個証據;
 
我們的心如何,神都知道;他不需要用微動作心理學來看我們的心;我們的下意識裡面對他是順服或者是抵抗,他也都知道;如果我們太過在意自己、太看自己是一回事,就往往會錯過聖靈真理的帶領,變得自高自大,就不得造就也不能造就人;願上帝憐憫我們,看顧我們,感謝讚美我們的主。


4/14/2019

4/21/2019
4/28 and 5/5 didn't come








2019年5月12日 星期日

基督的真理加上謹守可以自誇(林後11:10)

哥林多後書十一章:「7 我因為白白傳神的福音給你們,就自居卑微,叫你們高升,這算是我犯罪嗎? 8 我虧負了別的教會,向他們取了工價來給你們效力。 9 我在你們那裡缺乏的時候,並沒有累著你們一個人,因我所缺乏的,那從馬其頓來的弟兄們都補足了。我向來凡事謹守,後來也必謹守,總不至於累著你們。 10 既有基督的誠實在我裡面,就無人能在亞該亞一帶地方阻擋我這自誇。11 為什麼呢?是因我不愛你們嗎?這有神知道。」
在第10節、保羅說:「既有基督的誠實在我裡面,就無人能在亞該亞一帶地方阻擋我這自誇。」保羅說無人能阻擋他在亞該亞一帶地方有「這」自誇;他用了一個非常限定,非常特定的的指定語句來說他的自誇,那你們明白他要自誇的是什麼嗎?
這就是指他是在凡事上謹守,特別是在傳福音的上面不收取任何費用是可以自誇的;當那些假使徒在哥林多地區講課要收取費用,並且也接受教會的供養;在那些人的講法當中是因為他們講的課程比較高級,但是保羅乃是用他這是謹守來反擊,說這是值得自誇的;
其實傳福音的人靠福音養生是應該的「主也是這樣命定,叫傳福音的靠著福音養生」(林前9:14),但是同時在收取養生的費用上也應當謹守,神是要我們養生、不是叫我們奢華;假設說有一個人人都作十一奉獻的大教會,如果對比有一千個信徒而只有一個牧師,那麼這個牧師可能會收到信徒平均收入一百倍的奉獻;這樣是否合理以及合神的心意呢?當然不是;
這個牧師應當留下他所需要的那一份,然後將多餘的九十九份拿去作其他的福音工作,這樣作的話就是謹守,同時也不至於影響信徒因奉獻而得福的權利;"因奉獻而蒙福",這是神所啟示過的,也是保羅一而再,再而三的在書信中提及、所告訴我們的真理;是沒有例外的,保羅對此一概念是非常認真的;
這就是何以他沒有例外的亦在此處運用上同一道理,他特別的在第11節對哥林多人解釋:「是因我不愛你們嗎?」,怎麼會讓人聯想到保羅不愛哥林多人呢?這裡所指的就是他不收哥林多人的奉獻、專收馬其頓人的奉獻,恐怕剝奪哥林多人蒙福的機會;
我相信保羅即使在收取馬其頓教會的奉獻時、也就是只取需用的如此這般謹守的,因為他是凡事謹守的;不像如今有些牧師因為信徒眾多、奉獻所得的收入很多、就過上異常豪華的生活,用頭等艙或私人包機旅行、住一晚要價平常人一個月薪水的旅館,那些就是不知謹守的;
保羅只收受來自馬其頓教會的奉獻而非哥林多人的奉獻,這是因為他有個特殊的原因的,就是在亞該亞(哥林多所在的省分)這裡他需要一個誇口來和那些假使徒爭戰的;他需要一個特別有力的武器來對付那些收取費用的假使徒,那麼完全不收取費用、白白傳福音就成了保羅強力的誇口;這樣就突顯了那些假使徒來到此處的真正目的,並不是因為真正受神差譴,乃是因為他們貪愛錢財,若要他們在收奉獻的事上像保羅那樣的謹守,他們就傳不下去了;
然而這是一個特殊的手段,並不是神所定意的;如果有人常拿保羅一面織帳篷一面傳福音來要求所有的傳道人也如此做,那麼他就是不明白聖經的啟示;神的定意乃是要叫傳福音的人靠著福音養生,也要讓得福音好處、並且順服奉獻的人因著他們甘心樂意奉獻而蒙福,這就是神的心意;
在此之外,我們看到謹守成了另外一種能力,可以用來誇口;第十節保羅所言基督的誠實也可以讀作基督的真理(標準本和新譯本聖經都是翻成真理);這是真真實實基督的道在保羅裡面,那麼再加上他的謹守,那麼在亞該亞一代就沒有人可以比得上保羅;他就可以以此來自誇;
但是這世上有另外一種傳道人,他可以很謹守很謹守,好像是苦行僧那樣,但是他就是沒有基督的真理在他裡面,那麼這樣他是被某種自苦所綑鎖的,這樣也沒有什麼可誇口的,我們謹守也要因著基督而謹守,蒙福也是因著基督而蒙福,當然誇口也要因著基督而誇口,感謝讚美我們的主,願上帝賜福給我們;

 

2019年5月11日 星期六

以弗所書講經(55)

基督裡的順服 (2)
你們做妻子的,當順服自己的丈夫,如同順服主; 因為丈夫是妻子的頭,如同基督是教會的頭,他又是教會全體的救主
低流量,無影像版本在這裡: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yQ2_Dvt7o7Q
。。。想你的朋友也能看到這篇嗎,請按讚或分享
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2019年5月10日 星期五

收奉獻的要謹守(林後11:9)

哥林多後書十一章:「7 我因為白白傳神的福音給你們,就自居卑微,叫你們高升,這算是我犯罪嗎? 8 我虧負了別的教會,向他們取了工價來給你們效力。 9 我在你們那裡缺乏的時候,並沒有累著你們一個人,因我所缺乏的,那從馬其頓來的弟兄們都補足了。我向來凡事謹守,後來也必謹守,總不至於累著你們。 10 既有基督的誠實在我裡面,就無人能在亞該亞一帶地方阻擋我這自誇。」
除了收奉獻的對象必需是要真正明白奉獻的道理,能夠要甘心樂意的奉獻之外,收奉獻的人也需要自己注意;注意什麼呢?要注意要謹守,傳道人在許多的事上都要謹守,因為我們為了傳神的道、常常必需在眾人的面前成為焦點,講話帶有權威,好似戴著神所賜的光環;
其實每一個基督徒都應當有神的光輝,只是這種光輝不是那種輕易外顯的光輝;傳道人也當有這種光輝,不過我在這裡所講的神所賜的光環並不是這種光輝,而是教會所帶來的聚光燈效應;帶著這種光環,傳道人如果想要,可以在許多方方面面佔信徒的便宜;
是的,傳道人真是會有許多機會佔信眾的便宜,比如說你請人幫你倒一杯水,別人還會想:「憑什麼?」但是傳道人請信徒去倒一杯水,信徒心裡好像是被神差譴了的一樣,屁巔屁巔的就跑去辦了、不是嗎?這就是我所講的傳道人的光環效應;
傳道人的光環可以讓傳道人作成很多事,比如說是有人夫妻吵架,別人無法調停,但是帶著這光環的傳道人可以前去調停,至少是暫時成就和平;或者是在弟兄姐妹們開會意見不同、爭執不休的時候,傳道人或是牧師的意見也可以產生意想不到的效果,有著很大的重量;
以上是用在好的方面,但是在不好的方面、也有傳道人用這種傳道人的光環去騙吃騙喝,甚至是騙財騙色;教會歷史中不乏有這種傳道人中的敗類;教會歷史當中最黑暗的時期就是在中世紀時,信徒中有許多的貧民吃不飽穿不暖,但是教會還要向他們強迫他們收捐(是當時的王賦予給教廷的權利),但是各地的主教們卻富的流油,天天錦衣玉食,腦滿腸肥的,甚至還有淫亂的事情發生;
保羅在這裡說「我向來凡事謹守,後來也必謹守」這就是對所有的傳道人最好的警醒,傳道人從開始作主工的開始,這一生都應當謹守,要珍惜神所給我們的職份和機會,好好的運用神給我們的一切權柄,不可將這些權柄或是光環用在錯誤的方向;
保羅特別在講到對傳道人的供應時提到這一點,就是告訴我們傳道人要懂得知足;保羅說已經有馬其頓的教會供給他了,他就不要累著哥林多的會眾了;你們要知道哥林多教會也是保羅一手培植起來的教會,而且哥林多的信徒是要比馬其頓的信徒富裕多了,記得在前面第八章的時候我們說哥林多的信徒是在窮困之中嗎?
許多傳道人會在這種情況下就感謝上帝,有這麼多人要奉獻給我,奉獻當然是越多越好,神給我們疆界和地盤就是讓我們享受其中所收來的奉獻的嘛!但是這並不是聖經的教導,保羅只收取他夠用的奉獻,但是他還是鼓勵所有的弟兄姐妹來奉獻,因為那可以使他們得福;只是奉獻所得是供應其他(耶路撒冷)的聖徒,並不是為他自己;
 
凡事謹守是保羅留給後世所有傳道人的典範,可是我們也要知道,今天許多傳道人或是教會並不是遵從這個典範;我們知道牛在場上踹穀時不可籠住它的嘴,傳道人受福音供養是應該的,但是有些傳道人卻是想吃盡他所在的那片禾場;
這些傳道人在將來接受審判的時候,自然有至高的神會按照他們所應得的來對付他們,但是我們自己也要學著分辨,必要時要將我們的奉獻放在更需要的地方,感謝讚美我們的主,願上帝賜福給我們。

 

2019年5月9日 星期四

收奉獻的頭一個原則(林後11:8)

哥林多後書十一章:「7 我因為白白傳神的福音給你們,就自居卑微,叫你們高升,這算是我犯罪嗎? 8 我虧負了別的教會,向他們取了工價來給你們效力。 9 我在你們那裡缺乏的時候,並沒有累著你們一個人,因我所缺乏的,那從馬其頓來的弟兄們都補足了。我向來凡事謹守,後來也必謹守,總不至於累著你們。 10 既有基督的誠實在我裡面,就無人能在亞該亞一帶地方阻擋我這自誇。」
 
各位弟兄姐妹們讀了這一段經文以後有什麼感想呢?是不是保羅所寫的每一句話我們都看得懂,可是越讀到後面就是越讀不明白為什麼保羅要這樣寫呢?特別是到了第10節,為什麼自誇和有沒有收取奉獻有什麼關係嗎?其實這一段經文所寫的明白的意思就是在說:保羅在哥林多傳福音的時候並沒有向哥林多人收取奉獻,而是白白的傳福音給他們,保羅的一切供應所需都是由馬其頓的教會所供給的;
 
為何保羅在對待這兩個教會的時候有如此的不同呢?這是聖經告訴我們的一個原則,藉著保羅的書信給留下來的,不似猶太人從小在猶太人的社會中長大,已經熟悉十一奉獻的道理,甚至成為一種習慣和習俗;外邦人信主以致於組成外邦人的教會,對於奉獻的道理還不夠明白,因此叫他們奉獻是有所爭扎的;
 
不似我們今天的教會,就算是在某處新開了一間基督教教會,但是很少教會裡面全都是新信徒的,總是有一大半到多數的老信徒,帶著少數的新信徒和慕道友、對不對?但是保羅所帶領的哥林多教會裡面,都是從傳福音而來而新信主的,都是外邦人初接觸到基督教的文化,因此保羅就不要他們奉獻;
 
為什麼呢?因為律法是將神的心意、用規定的方式要人們行出來,所以猶太人千百年來不加思索的力行十一奉獻,成全神對他們的心意;而我們呢,應該要甘心樂意的將神的心意給行出來;只是我們從不信開始,生長在不同的文化中,還於奉獻還很不習慣於此,我們要受聖靈的感動,明白神對我們的心意,還要經歷某些與我們自己老我的爭戰,我們才能行出甘心樂意的奉獻出來;
 
相信我們許多人都經歷過這一段經歷,當我們一開始知道在教會需要奉獻時,我們勉強的裝模作樣的奉獻,是為了給人看的,是為了自己的面子;到我們的靈命有所增長、開始會體貼聖靈,明白教會有需要,宣教有需要,神的國度會有一些真實的需要;並開始隨從聖靈的帶領,行出真實的行動出來;
 
長話短說、這會是有一個過程要經歷的,而保羅從建立哥林多教會到離開哥林多,可能還不到一年半,所以整間教會充滿了信主還不足兩年的基督徒,這就是保羅白白的傳福音給哥林多人,並沒有向他們取分文;相反的、馬其頓教會是一個成熟的教會,這就是為何保羅的宣教經費都是來自他們的原因;
 
如果你們是哥林多教會的會眾,你們是應該覺得幸運、可以不用給奉獻呢?還是應該往仰望馬其頓教會和其會眾,覺得那是成熟長大的象徵,希望我們有一天也會變得像他們一樣,可以開始奉獻、可以提供宣教的經費去支持宣教士,並且去幫助新進的教會呢?我想讀者們都應該明白;
 
所以這就是收奉獻的第一個原則,奉獻的人必需要明白奉獻的真正意義,而且是要是是甘心樂意的奉獻,對於還不明白奉獻意義的慕道友與基督徒,我們不應該要求他們奉獻;甚至可能要婉拒他們的奉獻,就像是保羅對於哥林多的信徒所作的;還有其它的原則,我們會在下面的篇章中再解釋,感謝讚美我們的主,願上帝賜福給我們。

 

2019年5月8日 星期三

越過表象顯明在實質(林後11:6)

哥林多後書十一章:「4 假如有人來另傳一個耶穌,不是我們所傳過的;或者你們另受一個靈,不是你們所受過的;或者另得一個福音,不是你們所得過的;你們容讓他也就罷了。 5 但我想,我一點不在那些最大的使徒以下。 6 我的言語雖然粗俗,我的知識卻不粗俗,這是我們在凡事上向你們眾人顯明出來的。7 我因為白白傳神的福音給你們,就自居卑微,叫你們高升,這算是我犯罪嗎?」
 
世間的事如果看表象都很容易被誤導,這是保羅教我們不要以外貌認耶穌之外,又一個地方告訴我們不可如此看人與事,否則虧損的將會是自己;只可惜因為中文翻譯的緣故,許多的華人基督徒甚至無法明瞭此處經文的這一層含義;
 
為什麼呢?如果你們就看翻譯經文的話、你們可曾看出來保羅此段文字當中的諷刺之意?從"你們容讓他也就罷了"(bear with him),到最大的使徒(chiefest apostles) ,這些用字眼都是含著濃濃的嘲諷意味;但是許多我的華人基督徒因為讀聖經太老實,還以為保羅所說的"最大的使徒"是指著彼得和約翰,那就是天大的誤解了;
 
標準本和新譯本在翻譯 cheifest apostles時,一本翻譯成超級使徒,一本翻譯成超等使徒;其實哪裡會有超級使徒呢?這就是保羅在諷刺那些自稱是使徒還不夠、還要加上"高等"或是"大使徒"等稱呼的那些騙徒,只可惜此等騙術從古時就有效,到今天依然有村夫愚婦之流願意上當;
 
到今天還有某些傳道人覺得只有個牧師之名還太不夠了,還會想自稱或是從哪裡弄到一個使徒的名號;今天還有些機構給人按立使徒,並且還給使徒分等級,例如像是大名鼎鼎的國際使徒網絡,卻也吸引了不少的牧者在裡面鑽營,並且不少的基督徒相信他們;
 
保羅絕對不是想和彼得、約翰等使徒當中比大小,他說的那句「我一點都不在那些超級使徒之下」就是要轉身點明哥林多信徒的誤解,他首先要點明的是什麼呢?就是言辭和知識;有的人講話或是講道辭藻華麗,但是講來講去講不出什麼深刻的道理,就是拿那些淺顯的東西在那裡翻來翻去;
 
但是保羅卻不是如此,保羅講到或是講話時所用的語言也許是粗俗的,但是他話裡面的道理卻是深刻難懂的;難懂到一個地步、就算是他已經書寫下來了,到了兩千年後、基督教已經廣傳,但許多基督徒在讀他書信的時候,還是有許多人讀不出裡面的含義,以為基督教的信仰就是很簡單的;
 
這種表面和內裡的反差,不僅僅是是顯在保羅的言語辭藻的外表和真理知識內含上面的相比而已;早在耶穌當年以一個三十歲出頭的平民布衣的木匠之子,帶著一群漁夫村夫到處行走,常常面對的是那些有著眾人擁促又"年高德邵",穿著書寫上經文大袍的法利賽人,又是一個鮮明的比較;
 
保羅說這等事是「我們在凡事上向你們眾人顯明出來的」可見生命的本質是不能掩蓋的,是在各種事上都可以顯明出來的,問題是我們願不願意越過表面的現象,去仔細的看內裡的生命而不是被虛名所迷惑;只可惜這說起來很容易但是當你是當局者,你根本很難不被迷惑;
 
弟兄姐妹們總是願意去無條件的去相信有名望的大牧師所講的一切事情,而不願意相信一個屢屢能指明真理的小弟兄;保羅屢屢在哥林多人前面的謙卑,傳福音不收費用,不像那些超級使徒還要收聽講費,保羅是自居卑微,好叫哥林多人高升;
 
所以怎麼辦呢,還要一直謙卑下去嗎?保羅用了一句話來問自己「這算是我犯罪嗎?」中文的翻譯用上了兩個字「算是」來隱含保羅並沒有犯罪,也不自覺犯罪;但是原文中的意思,保羅是真的在自問這樣作是否是對的!我相信保羅已經找到了答案,因為他在後面文風一轉,就不再自謙了,將他的經歷有一就說一的給講出來了;這是如同主所說的,是就說是、不是就說不是,若再多說就是出於那惡者了;
 
各位弟兄姐妹,哥林多的信徒有保羅在保護他們,指出他們的心已經騙於邪,他們再這樣跟隨假使徒下去是要自己受損害的,甚至有些人會走向滅亡的;今天的世代、今天的基督教沒有比當時的哥林多教會好多少,你們能夠自己警醒嗎?你們能夠看透名望外衣遮蓋之下的表面嗎?願上帝憐憫我們,感謝讚美我們的主。

2019年5月7日 星期二

傳另一個耶穌(林後11:4)

哥林多後書十一章:「3 我只怕你們的心或偏於邪,失去那向基督所存純一清潔的心,就像蛇用詭詐誘惑了夏娃一樣。 4 假如有人來另傳一個耶穌,不是我們所傳過的;或者你們另受一個靈,不是你們所受過的;或者另得一個福音,不是你們所得過的;你們容讓他也就罷了。」
保羅說假如有人會傳另一個耶穌,另一個福音,或是讓人受另一個靈,並說你們容讓他也就罷了,表示這是個很有可能發生的情形,並連處理此事的方法都講好了,就是「容讓他也就罷了」;怎麼會是這樣?不是因該群起來反對他、攻擊他嗎?怎麼會是容讓他呢?
其實容讓他罷了(bear with him)就是讓他自講自的,你們自己心裡要堅固,好像在聽耳邊風那樣就是了,不要聽信他的,甚至是像忍耐噪音那樣忍著;在路加福音9:50節「耶穌說:「不要禁止他,因為不敵擋你們的,就是幫助你們的。」就是主對一個藉著他的名,卻又不清楚明白他道理的人也在傳道,對門徒們做出的最高指導原則,因為最後的懲處最後是自有神在;
教會往往也是照著這個方針行事,事實証明,隨著時間的過去,講錯道的人也總會是對基督教在某些方面還是有所幫助的,主還是能藉著萬事互相效力,讓真正愛神的人得益處;但是在個人得救和成聖上面,我們還是該緊守真道,小心胡亂傳道的人,免得他影響我們,畢竟我們只有一個生命,此生也只走一遭;
講錯道和傳另外一個耶穌有何關聯呢?其中往往他們的關鍵差別不一定會很大,像是曾有人傳耶穌基督復活了以後,就是以一個幻影而留在地上四十天,這與我們熟知的聖經記載有很大的不同,那樣就是很大的區別;但是有些區別是很小的,或是只是少一點點;是不是只少一點點就沒關係了呢?當然不是!
有一個大教會的牧者在講彼得被聖靈充滿之後、講道變得大有能力,眾人聽了扎心、就問使徒:我們當如何行?彼得說:「你們各人要悔改,奉耶穌基督的名受洗,叫你們的罪得赦,就必領受所賜的聖靈。」(使2:38),這個牧者在講這一段的時候,就沒有提到說"你們要悔改"的這一句;
是不小心漏掉了嗎?這位牧者講的時候是有用投影打出摘要的,可見是有預備而不是臨時想到、而導至經文不熟;由於這間教會向來很少講悔改,我在聽這個牧師講這一段經文的時候,就特別注意聽他是否會跳過悔改而不講,結果果然就是如此;
我為什麼要提這一個小插曲?因為有些牧者講道時口中講了彼得,講了耶穌基督,也講到了聖靈,但是他們口中所講的,和聖經上所寫的這些並不一樣,因為他講的彼得、他講的耶穌基督、和他講的聖靈並不要求人要悔改!這就是不同;
我們常想怎麼會有人傳另一個耶穌?是不是把耶穌的生平給改寫了?其實沒有人會傻到去傳那樣簡單就被人識破的道;其中有時的差別往往就是很細小的,就像蛇用詭詐誘惑了夏娃一樣:神豈是真的要求你們要悔改?只要受洗交上奉獻就夠了啊!
但是我們自己要小心,我們可以容讓他而不受他的影響,但是關鍵是我們自己的胸中、要先有堅固的真道;至於那是單純的講錯道的人、或者是就是假師傅、是要在羊的身上取利,這個我們自己小心就是了;他們的懲處、自古以來並不遲延,且是由神自己來處理的;
我們除了自己小心,也可以提醒我們所關心的人,以真道堅固他們,這就是保羅所用對付假使徒的辦法,並不是去找他們吵架或是打架;只要我們的弟兄姐妹明白真道,自然而然地就可以分辨真的假的;對於假的、就當是聽耳邊風罷了;感謝讚美我們的主,願上帝賜福於我們。

 

2019年5月6日 星期一

失去純一清潔的心(林後11:3)

哥林多後書十一章:「3 我只怕你們的心或偏於邪,失去那向基督所存純一清潔的心,就像蛇用詭詐誘惑了夏娃一樣。 4 假如有人來另傳一個耶穌,不是我們所傳過的;或者你們另受一個靈,不是你們所受過的;或者另得一個福音,不是你們所得過的;你們容讓他也就罷了。」
我們本來身為外邦人的信徒,在初識耶穌基督的時候,常常是存有一顆純一清潔的心的,我們想著,原來真的有神,我以前是錯了;神是如此的聖潔公義慈愛,我們是有罪的,但是他又接受我們,要做我們的神;在這一個瞬間、我們真的是向神存著一顆純一清潔的心的;
但是往往在其後,就是在教會裡,我們很快的就被帶壞了,不用說到外頭的世界上被帶壞了,光是在教會裡,我們就會被帶壞了;這就是為什麼在教會裡需要講真道聽真道,即使有很多人撒了壞的種子,我們也要靠真道保守我們的心,不要或偏於邪;
可能有人會想在教會裡怎麼會被人帶壞呢?不要忘記在哥林多教會裡就有假使徒在傳講猶太主義,將人帶往律法主義;會帶壞人的不僅僅是平信徒,平信徒若是影響人也不過就是影響幾個人,但是牧者若是將人帶歪,一帶歪可就是整整的一大片;
在今天有許多的教會裡,有很多人是在教導和律法主義相反的另外一種極端,這些牧者會告訴你:你只要信神,就一切都夠了,只是因為你信他,他就會在各樣的事上幫助你,會給你各樣的保守,各樣的愛與恩典;而有神與你同在,誰又能抵擋你呢?
誰不喜歡這種講論?而又確實有許多發生在基督徒身上的例子可以拿出來,可以証明我們的神確實是大有憐憫又施恩典的神,聽到這些例子和見證,又怎麼能不為此而激動呢?神既然是真的,那些例子中的基督徒可以得蒙許多的恩典,那我也是基督徒、豈不是我也可以蒙恩嗎?
有這樣想法的基督徒很快的就忘記他們的初心,那種在初次來到神面前產生的敬畏,自覺有罪需要饒恕的心;轉而產生種種僥倖的心裡,我們是信耶穌的,是神的兒女,我們應當在種種的事情上獲得特殊又額外的幫助和好處;不信的人倒楣是活該的,我們則應當有特殊的幸運;請問這是什麼樣的心理?
或者是當基督徒久了以後,就產生一種感覺就是:現在反正已經是受洗了,敬虔度日也是這樣,普普通通過日子也是如此,那何必那麼辛苦的過敬虔生活?禱告會不必去了,小組聚會時偶爾去露個臉就可以了,每個禮拜天到教會去唱唱歌,聽個道也就足夠了;這和你們信主的初心有差別對吧?
沒有人是特意想要離開自己信主時的初心的,但是幾乎很少人在經歷一段時間之後還能夠不離開自己的初心的;以弗所教會是大有能力又為主忍耐勞苦的教會,但是在啟示錄第二章當中,主就責備以弗所教會的使者「把起初的愛心離棄了」,主要他好好的悔改,感謝讚美主,還給我們悔改的機會;
離棄了初心,有些懶惰是我們自己體貼肉體後、由肉體給生出來的,但也有些錯誤的想法,它們的種子是傳道人在講道時給撒出來的;怎麼會是這樣?其關鍵就是在第4節,有人傳的耶穌和使徒保羅所傳的不一樣,或是有人介紹了一個靈和使徒保羅所介紹的不同,那就是危險的所在了;我們在下一篇中將要好好的來講這一點,感謝讚美我們的主,願上帝賜福給我們。
 

2019年5月5日 星期日

如神的憤恨(林後11:2)

哥林多後書十一章:「1 但願你們寬容我這一點愚妄!其實你們原是寬容我的。 2 我為你們起的憤恨,原是神那樣的憤恨。因為我曾把你們許配一個丈夫,要把你們如同貞潔的童女獻給基督。 3 我只怕你們的心或偏於邪,失去那向基督所存純一清潔的心,就像蛇用詭詐誘惑了夏娃一樣。 4 假如有人來另傳一個耶穌,不是我們所傳過的;或者你們另受一個靈,不是你們所受過的;或者另得一個福音,不是你們所得過的;你們容讓他也就罷了。」
我們現在來到了哥林多後書第十一章,在講完了誇口乃當指著主誇口之後,現在保羅要準備他的誇口了;在開始之前,他還再一次的請哥林多人寬容他,寬容他的愚妄;表示他真的是多麼不讚成誇口,但是他稍後也解釋了為什麼他非得要誇口的原因,這是我們今天所要講述的題目;
我們在後面、就會看到保羅不是客氣講講而已,他一但開始講他的「誇口」,我們會看到那麼多不尋常的經歷,別人的經歷根本就成了無足輕重、不值得一提;但是這麼多又顯著又驚人的經歷,我們卻沒有在別處聽保羅講過,可見他平常是多麼不讚成誇口呢!
保羅解釋他非得要在此處「誇口」的原因,是因為他有著一種「憤恨」,是一種像是神對人所有的「憤恨」;首先我們要就在括號裡的「憤恨」,要好好的解釋一下,保羅並不是真的對哥林多人有憤恨,神也不是真的恨人,這裡的「憤恨」,又是一個不好的中文翻譯;
神在向摩西自我啟示時,正在頒佈十誡之時,其中第一誡就是:「不可敬拜別神,因為耶和華是忌邪的神,名為忌邪者。」(出埃及記34:14);這裡所用的忌邪,和保羅所寫的憤恨,因當是指同一件事,就是說神是在忌妒,神是個忌妒的神,忌妒也就是 jealous ,就是神對人的首先的感情;
為什麼如此說?如果你有兒女,在家從來不孝敬你,也從來不做家事,到了別人家裡卻開始十分孝敬別人的父母,不但幫忙做家事,還又端茶又捶背的,這可能是對著你兒女他交往對像的父母;那麼你知道了以後所應該有的感覺就是這種忌妒,或者是這裡講的特殊的憤怒;
人都是神所造的,但是人在被造了以後卻開始犯罪,違背神的心意;為了驅吉避凶求保佑,還居然開始去拜一些人手所造的假神,甚至是邪靈;這就是為何出埃及記經文當中的翻譯要用「忌邪」,因為神所忌妒的對象居然是那些邪物,這就是神的憤怒;
保羅對哥林多教會的感覺是和神對人的感覺是一樣的,保羅曾經將正確的對耶穌基督的信仰帶去哥林多教會,但是現在他們卻是去跟從別人所教的;保羅用婚姻許配的關係來解釋:「我曾把你們許配一個丈夫,要把你們如同貞潔的童女獻給基督。」
哥林多的這些外邦人信徒,原來並不認識那獨一的真神,是保羅將對耶穌基督的真實信仰介紹了給他們,使他們得以能認識真神以及真實的信仰,待到保羅離開了之後,某些傳道人,甚至是假使徒就趁機進入哥林多的教會講道,只可惜他們講的不是正道,這些信徒就失去了他們清潔的心了;
這就是保羅為何憤怒或是忌妒的原因了,基督徒的心常常容易向傳道人打開,以至有些傳道人無意間就撒些毒種在信徒的心中,或者是信徒聽了幾種不同的講法以後,也有不靈驗的,以後他們就不容易再信了,對傳道人不再輕信,對於神的信也都會有所保留;
這是何等可怕的景像,很不幸的、今天很多基督徒就是在這種景況當中,任何傳真道的傳道人看到這種景象,心中恐怕也會起了像保羅所有的那種憤恨,誓言要把真道重新帶回更多基督徒的心中,這就是我們在做的工作,求神也幫助我們,感謝讚美我們的主,願上帝賜福給我們。
 

2019年5月4日 星期六

以弗所書講經 (54)

基督裡的順服 (1)
凡事要奉我們主耶穌基督的名常常感謝父神。 又當存敬畏基督的心,彼此順服
低流量,無影像版本在這裡: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UGI8gFQue_E
。。。想你的朋友也能看到這篇嗎,請按讚或分享
讀全文請按連結;按讚 Page可定期收到好文

 

2019年5月3日 星期五

蒙悅納的不是自己稱許的,乃是主所稱許(林後10:18)

哥林多後書十章:「15 我們不仗著別人所勞碌的分外誇口,但指望你們信心增長的時候,所量給我們的界限就可以因著你們更加開展, 16 得以將福音傳到你們以外的地方,並不是在別人界限之內、藉著他現成的事誇口。 17 但誇口的,當指著主誇口。 18 因為蒙悅納的不是自己稱許的,乃是主所稱許的。」
 
從第12節就開始講傳道人的自己度量自己,再談到地界與範圍,傳道人的誇口,等等;我們若要能明白保羅所講的這一切,那我們就一定要回歸到對於最後這一節的正確認識上面去:「因為蒙悅納的不是自己稱許的,乃是主所稱許的。」
 
講到蒙悅納,很多基督徒都願意聽主悅納他們,也有牧師和傳道人每週都大張口告訴他們,就直接的告訴他們說:「主悅納你們了啊!」請問這樣的稱許,算不算是自己稱許自己?有人說不是,那是牧師講的啊!但是問題是你們為什麼喜歡去聽這樣的講道呢?所以這樣的稱許還是算是自找的稱許嗎?
 
主是不是悅納我們?當然是,光是主的預定和揀選我們就已經表明了他是悅納我們的;但是保羅在這裡討論到主度量給我們的地界以及相比,這裡所講的蒙悅納當然不是指那個基本的,每個基督徒都有的悅納,我們步能靠那基本的悅納而無限的上綱上限;
 
有一個朋友,他們教會的牧師有一次講道就當場稱許全體會眾,我們某某教會的每一個弟兄姐妹都是耶穌基督的第一支軍隊;結果當然是當場歡聲雷動,大家高呼"阿們";我知道了以後、我就向他指出來:你們教會的靈性,不要說是稱不上是第一支軍隊,恐怕能不能稱為第三支軍隊都有問題!他聽了我的話以後相當的生氣,還告訴我不好論斷人;
 
過了三年以後,這位朋友的靈命大大的有長進,對聖經的真理有了更深入的認識;前不久由於環境臨到,我向他舊話重提,再講到這個第一支軍隊的事情;這時他向我道歉,他說:你以前就說的對,我們最多就是一支雜牌軍,不但不能為主爭戰,還很需要整頓和幫助;到了這裡他頓了一頓,接下去又說:只可惜多數的弟兄姐妹對於自己的狀況還是一無所知,還沉醉在自己是最好的基督徒的印象中;
 
這就是自己稱許自己的可怕之處,人一但是自滿,就不會再追求長進了;這就好比是加拉太書6:3所說「人若無有,自己還以為有,就是自欺了。」保羅在這裡說:「誇口的,當指著主誇口」,就是告訴我們不要隨便誇口,只有在真心知道是主的作為使我們有任何成就或是狀況的改變時,我們就將這榮耀歸給主;
 
很不幸的,就像是世上的事一樣是上有政策、下有對策那樣;許多基督徒嘴上是在歸榮耀給主,但是實際上卻是在自我榮耀;你將他那些感謝讚美、榮耀歸於主的標準格式化的話扣掉以後,他所說的,或是所炫耀的不外乎就是:我的身體健康,財務狀況良好,孩子們個個都很爭氣;這樣不叫作指著主誇口,還是在自己誇口;
 
自我稱許,自我稱許蒙了悅納,又指著自己的榮耀的誇口是惹人反感的;不但是惹人反感,神對這樣的人也一樣不喜悅;因此我們的主也一樣是阻擋驕傲的人,賜恩給歉卑的人;
 
那我們有沒有可能真正的蒙主的悅納,獲得主的稱許,然後我們確知這些事是出乎於主,然後指著主誇口呢?當然是可能的;我們讀很多聖徒的故事,都可以看到他們真的是如此的擺上,主也真正的悅納他們的擺上,也就看顧他們所作的事工,主的手也和他們同工,可能就成就極大的事情,這時、他們所訴說的,所告訴後人的,就是一切都是出於主的恩典;都是和這裡的教訓是完全吻合的;
 
這些聖徒和其餘的基督徒有什麼不同呢?我縱觀之,從起初開始、最大的不同就是他們有一顆願作的心;這不就是回到第八章所言的:「因為人若有願作的心,必蒙悅納,乃是照他所有的,並不是照他所無的。」(林後8:12)聖經的教導如此全面,如此完備,早就將蒙悅納之道給指了出來,端看我們是否是真的願意為主所用而已,感謝讚美我們的主,願上帝賜福給我們。

2019年5月2日 星期四

不仗著別人的勞碌誇口(林後10:15)

哥林多後書十章:「13 我們不願意分外誇口,只要照神所量給我們的界限夠到你們那裡。 14 我們並非過了自己的界限,好像夠不到你們那裡;因為我們早到你們那裡,傳了基督的福音。15 我們不仗著別人所勞碌的分外誇口,但指望你們信心增長的時候,所量給我們的界限就可以因著你們更加開展, 16 得以將福音傳到你們以外的地方,並不是在別人界限之內、藉著他現成的事誇口。」
保羅在這裡,雖然沒有直接的提到某些傳道人的言行,但是卻用暗諷的方式,口不出惡言的說這是我們不會作的事情,不會作什麼呢?「我們不仗著別人所勞碌的分外誇口」,事實上這是靈命還不成熟的基督徒或是傳道人容易會作的事情;一個基督徒或是傳道人,只要還在犯這樣的事情,他的靈命就高不到哪裡去,甚至對他自己是一種虧損;
保羅所面對的這一群誇口的人,他們用別人所建立起來的場子(會眾,由保羅所建立的),用踩低別人的方法、來突顯自己的高明,他們故意賣弄辭藻,並批評保羅的口才不佳,藉此來高舉並賣弄自己的能力;又聽說彼得和保羅這些使徒被稱為使徒的名聲,他們就又自稱為使徒,用這樣的身份來抬高自己;
真使徒們以身犯險、勇敢的面對各種的逼迫、始終不改堅定的信仰去到各處去辛苦的建立教會,但是總有人看到那美名,就將那美名偷過來冠在自己的身上,說自己也是使徒,可能還說自己是更大的使徒;但其實他既沒有為教會賣命勞碌過,也沒有主給他的授權;這豈不就是仗著別人的勞碌而誇口嗎?
或是有些傳道人,擅長於激動人心的演講,或是很會講那種討人喜悅的道,在他們所到之處、總是受到很多人的歡迎,許多人聽了他們講的話以後會覺得漂漂然的,覺得很安慰、很舒服,但是這樣的道對於基督徒靈命的建立卻沒有什麼幫助;這些人到處收割掌聲,卻不建立信徒的生命,不也是仗著別認真的勞碌誇口嗎?
真使徒心中所望的,不會是在地上的美名或是能獲得多少掌聲;彼得曾經寫下來過:「願頌讚歸於我們主耶穌基督的父神!他曾照著自己的大憐憫,藉著耶穌基督從死裡復活,重生了我們,叫我們有活潑的盼望,可以得著不能朽壞、不能玷污、不能衰殘、為你們存留在天上的基業。」(彼前一章);
我們的盼望當然是在天上,雖然不是所有的基督徒都是真正深刻的明白,但是像保羅這等的使徒為了自己和別人能夠得著那盼望,不惜將自己的脖子伸在人的刀俎之下、也要傳真道;這樣的人連今生的生命都可以放棄了而去傳道,當然不會是為了賺取一些虛空的掌聲,或者是去貪圖今生的美名吧,他們當然是為了天上永恆的盼望;正如彼得前書五章4節所說作長老的:「到了牧長顯現的時候,你們必得那永不衰殘的榮耀冠冕。」
真正的明白神恩典的人也明白一切的恩典都是出於主,真正的獎賞和認可也只能是來自主,這樣的人也一定不會為了爭個世上的虛名而去踩低別人,因為如果這樣作了,就成了自高自大之人而不能得著主的喜悅了;我們作主工人的,更要明白主的心意兒討主的喜悅,作主想要我們去做的事;
什麼是主想要我們去做的事?其實這就隱藏在在15節的後半和第16節的裡面,就是主要我們幫弟兄姐妹的靈命增長、信心增長,然後藉著我們與他們,福音能夠更為廣傳;當我們能如此做的時候,主就認可我們,還要給我們更廣闊的地界;這就好像是那個拿五千兩去賺五千兩的,主還要奪去那一千兩埋在地裡的銀子,賜給那現在拿一萬兩的;
這一例也告訴我們,主量給我們的地界並不是永久就給我們的,當主給那僕人一千兩銀子,其實乃是給他一個機會去施展他的才能,去賺取更多的靈魂;但是若是那人不好好努力的話,主可能就要將那地界從你手中奪去,給那作工有果效的人;願上帝幫助我們行主要我們去行的事,願我們都能討主的喜悅,感謝讚美我們的主。
 

2019年5月1日 星期三

傳道有無界限?(林後10:14)

哥林多後書十章:「13 我們不會在界限以外誇耀,而是在神分給我們的界限範圍內誇耀,這界限甚至一直達到你們那裡。 14 的確,我們沒有過於擴張自己,好像達不到你們那裡;實際上我們帶著基督的福音已經來了,甚至遠到你們那裡。15 我們並沒有在界限以外,以別人的勞苦誇耀。我們只是希望,隨著你們信仰的增長,我們的範圍就會因著你們更加擴大」
保羅寫在哥林多後書十章的這幾節經文(13-15節),讀起來好像是在提議教會之間,或者是傳道人可以作傳道工作的範圍是有限制、是有界限的;有些牧者便用這幾節經文來宣告地界,或者是地盤的觀念,反對其他的傳道人來到他的「地盤」來傳道,甚至講有搶羊之說勻勻;
那麼傳道是否是有地界或是界限呢?我相信當然是有的,因為保羅是如此說的;但是絕對不是像那些主張自己地盤的牧者所認為的那樣、是他們自己所劃的,或者是被任何人所劃分的,而是只有神才能劃定這些界限;另外這些界限並不是一成不便的,一經劃好就永遠不變,神有所有的權柄可以移動這些界限,或者是把你所認為的地盤、賜給別的人;
那麼我們應該是怎麼樣來看待神所劃給傳道人的界限呢?或者是我們怎樣才知道一個地界是否是神所量給我們的地界與否呢?其實很簡單也很難,很簡單就是我們只要看我們在那個地界、作傳道的工作是否是有果效,或者是否會被聖靈帶領或是阻止;
在使徒行傳16章中記載了保羅與提摩太的宣教旅程:「6 聖靈既然禁止他們在亞西亞講道,他們就經過弗呂家、加拉太一帶的地方。7 到了每西亞的邊界,他們想要往庇推尼去,耶穌的靈卻不許。8 他們就越過每西亞,下到特羅亞去。9在夜間有異象現於保羅;有一個馬其頓人站著求他說:「請你過到馬其頓來幫助我們!」10 保羅既看間這異象,我們隨即想要往馬其頓去,以為神召我們傳福音給那裡的人聽。」
神的帶領對於任何一個傳道人來說,一定都是最重要的;這對於對靈敏感的傳道人如保羅,既然神的靈已經有所表示了,那麼是一定都是要首先無條件順從的;只是許多傳傳道人可能終其一生都沒能清楚的感受到這種直接的帶領,或是像保羅所見的那種異象,那又該怎樣辦呢?
第二個看這界限的方法就是如保羅在這裡的第14節後半所寫的,在那個地區、那個領域所作的事工有沒有果效;這是第二順位的辦法,只有在神的靈沒有直接帶領或感動的情況下我們才用這種辦法;保羅認為哥林多也是神所賜給他的地界,因為他早就到那裡傳了基督的福音;其實這是太客氣了,哥林多教會根本就是在保羅的幫助下所建立的,這顯然是有果效的傳福音;
但是這種方式也有可能便成了傳道人在工作了一段時間後,就氣餒放棄的藉口,所以這只是第二順位輔助性的辦法,一切還是要以神的帶領為準;在十九世紀來到中國溫州傳教的英籍傳教士曹雅直(George Stott),他從1867年由英國來到溫州,一直在努力的想使中國人接受耶穌基督;
在那之前,他要先讓中國人接受他這個「洋鬼子」,他學中國話,傳中國人穿的衣服,並用自己的能力來幫助中國人,成立學校讓中國人上學;在此同時,他從來就一直不斷的向中國人介紹他的神,也就是耶穌基督,只可惜沒有人信他的話。
一直要到1870年才有第一個溫州人真正的願意接受基督,這是在經歷了長達13年之久的時間之後,如果是一般人早就放棄了,或者就認為神並沒有將這地界劃給他,但是曹雅直卻堅持下來了,今天溫州成為中國信基督比例最高的城市;誰能說神沒有將這個地界劃給這位將一生都奉獻給中國的傳道人?
所以傳道到底有無界限?那當然是神說有就有,神若沒有說,我們就最好不要劃地自限,或者是去劃地去限制別人;保羅就遇到了幾個想限制他的人,我們到下一篇再來說他們是何等的可笑;感謝讚美我們的主,願上帝賜福給我們。

 

2019年4月30日 星期二

如何才能堅固(青少年)信仰 (下)

在前一天中我們提到青少年在遇到生活上的重大改變,又遠離父母的督促,年輕的基督徒,信仰在這個時候第一次受到了重大的考驗;根據調查統計,有四分之三甚至是更多的年青基督徒,就在這個時候遠離,或至少是暫時的遠離的教會;
 
當然年青並不是就表示信仰就一定不堅固,我們在上一篇中也舉例但以理以及其朋友們都是在少年時就被擄去巴比倫,生活在拜偶像的環境中,連在上掌權者也是如此,但是他們的信仰卻依然堅固,抵抗所有的外力攔阻,一生一世的信神沒有改變;
 
所以我們不可讓人小看我們的年青,這是保羅對提摩太所說的;然而另一方面,我們也不要小看別人的年青,就認為他們的信仰一定不堅固,特別是自己的後輩;然而人的信仰總要從某處開始的,在羅馬書的一開始我們就說:「這信是由於信,以至於信」,每一個人的信仰都必需要經過一個堅固的過程;
 
雖然本文的標題是如何堅固青少年的信仰,但是其實堅固信仰是每一個人都需要的,不論其年紀的大小;我們一方面要堅固自己的信仰,如果可以的話,也要幫助我們的弟兄姊妹堅固他們的信仰,以我的淺見,堅固信仰可以從以下的幾種方式入手:
 
(一)榜樣:人是群體的動物,我們是看著別的人過自己的生活;而我們也有一句話說「榜樣的力量是無窮大的」,所以我們的信仰也是需要有榜樣;教會裡的牧師、傳道、授課的老師很自然的都是我們信仰上的榜樣;不只是聽他們講些什麼,更重要的是要看他們如何的行出來,也就是身教;
 
有一些牧者或是講員,在台上所講的是一回事,但台下在生活中又是另一回事,這樣所傳的便是口是心非的道;或者雖然是言行一致,但是連在台上所講的道,都對神缺少敬畏;如果我們常常所看的榜樣就是不敬虔不愛主的,那我們自己,還有所培養的後代就很難是敬虔愛主的;
 
對於青少年而言,作為父母的我們,會是比牧師傳道還要更重要的榜樣,因為他們每週看見牧師不到兩小時,但是他們每天都看到我們,並且是在最真實的生活當中看見我們;我們對神的態度,是否常常讀經、禱告、親近神;還是只有在有所求的時候才來到神的面前,他們都看在眼裡;
 
(二)真道:聖經的啟示最大的的功效是讓我們真實的認識神,我們所聽得的道就是信的種子;榜樣雖然重要,但是所有地上的榜樣最終都是指向神的啟示,就算地上的榜樣都失敗,我們還有在聖經中可以見到的榜樣,亞伯拉罕,約瑟,但以理;當然終極的榜樣就是那道成肉身,來到人間的我主耶穌基督;
 
除了榜樣以外,聖經中也有那來自天上的教訓,告訴我們信心應該是怎樣的信心,根據這信心,我們當生出什麼樣的生命和行為出來,這些都寫在了聖經裡;但是正如我們在上一篇中所述,因為錯誤的教導或是解讀,許多青少年對於神的認識是停在道德、治療、自然神論的裡面;如果神只是依附在自然之上,那難免我們的對神的態度就變得輕忽和隨便;這不是對創造及掌控自然的神所應有的態度;
 
(三)實操:我們說神是要經歷了,在我們的生活中能夠經歷神,自然是最好的信仰的堅立;雖然經歷神是完全在乎於神的揀選,但是神也告訴我們:「神向愛他守他誡命的人,守約施慈愛,直到千代」(申七:9)一個人能夠愛神、守神的誡命,那麼他應該是被揀選的才能作到,這樣就完成了神的守約;
 
主耶穌也是這樣告訴我們,馬太福音七章「24 所以,凡聽見我這話就去行的,好比一個聰明人,把房子蓋在磐石上。 25 雨淋,水沖,風吹,撞著那房子,房子總不倒塌,因為根基立在磐石上。 26 凡聽見我這話不去行的,好比一個無知的人,把房子蓋在沙土上。 27 雨淋,水沖,風吹,撞著那房子,房子就倒塌了,並且倒塌得很大。」
 
可見行道、正是堅立信仰的最重要一環;一個人不管他對神的道認識的再深,但如果那些道他都行不出來,那麼他的信仰仍然是未經考驗的,是根基淺的,是危險的,可能一遇到考驗(父母不在身邊督促,被同學灌輸了不同的觀念),他的信仰就崩壞了;
 
所以我們父母的不要什麼事都替子女做好了,不要將子女保護的太好了,將一切的事都替他們安排好了;例如不讓子女練習從自己的零用錢中間拿出來自己練習奉獻;這樣反而阻礙了他們經歷神,堅立信心的機會;求神看顧我們以及我們的子女,使我們能更多的經歷你,感謝讚美我們的主。


神所衡量給我們的(林後10:13)

哥林多後書十章:「12 因為我們不敢把自己與某些自薦的人同列或比較。他們以自己來衡量自己,以用自己來比較自己,他們是不領悟的。13 我們不會在界限以外誇耀,而是在神分給我們的界限範圍內誇耀,這界限甚至一直達到你們那裡。 14 的確,我們沒有過於擴張自己,好像達不到你們那裡;實際上我們帶著基督的福音已經來了,甚至遠到你們那裡。15 我們並沒有在界限以外,以別人的勞苦誇耀。我們只是希望,隨著你們信仰的增長,我們的範圍就會因著你們更加擴大」
 
大家有沒有注意到,我們今天所引用的數節經文是出自新譯本而非和合本,因爲這幾節經文的意義比較不明確,各個翻譯本的差別會比較大,我覺得新譯本的翻譯會比較接近原文,比較不會像和合本就把界限直接帶往地域疆界上面去了,所以我在這裡採用新譯本的經文。
 
在前面我們說到世人,以及某些傳道人會用自己的方式來量度自己、衡量自己,為什麼這些人會要量度自己呢?因為他們想要顯出來,他們自己是多麼的出色,多麼的有成就,也就是想要有個誇口的依據;但是保羅說,他不會加入那些人所玩的這種無聊的「遊戲」;
 
保羅說,他不會在他的量度之外來誇口,而這個量度是神所賜給他的;中文這裡所翻出來的界限,其實是和12節中的他們自己「衡量」自己的衡量,在原文中是同一個意思;也就是說世人是自我衡量之後、然後據之誇耀,但是保羅卻是要因為神給他的衡量而可以誇口;
 
所以我們可以誇口嗎?自誇是不好的,自我感覺良好而又自己誇口、是人和神都不喜悅的;像是有的政府就是如此行的,搞到人民都非常的反感,不是嗎?但是基督徒若是因為神所給的考核(衡量)不錯,那我們可以拿出來稍稍的講一講,那就不算是違反神的心意,因為是神給的嘛!
 
那什麼是神所給的考核(衡量)呢?保羅在這裡又把他們宣教的地界當做神所給的衡量;這在中文和英文中都是翻成了相同的一個詞、界限/measure,但是保羅所寫的希臘文的原文卻是不同的兩個字;這可能在寫作上是通用的,但是使徒保羅卻特別的選用了不同的兩個字,你可以說這是使文章生動一點也好,或者就是保羅還是清楚的區分這兩者;
 
什麼意思呢,保羅就是將神所量給他宣教/傳道有果效的地界,當作是神量給他的衡量;我們前面不是說世人是自己衡量自己、是不好的;那保羅就拿神量給他的地界,當作是神給他的衡量;這個觀念並不是只有保羅自己提出來的,古時許多地區或是王國都是用封地或是屬民的大小多寡,來做為他們官大官小的衡量,並且他們向人介紹他們自己的時候這樣講也是合宜的,不會因為自大、誇口而開罪於王;
 
所以有的諸侯是分封的萬戶侯,有的諸侯卻只得有五千邑,這種分辨的方法,就是與保羅的概念是相同一個概念;聖靈既然啟示感動保羅,並且也將這一段錄入聖經,可見這其中也有神的心意;
 
那麼如果傳道人和人誇這個,就不算是不好的誇口了嗎?我還是要說不一定,講到這裡的時候我想起聖經上有提到的「數點人數」,舊約有兩次著名的數點人是;一次是摩西按照上帝的吩咐去數點以色列人的數目;另一次是大衛王的數點人數;摩西的數點人數是合神心意的,但是大衛王的數點人數卻惹得神發怒;
 
為什麼大衛的數點人數惹了神發怒呢?因為大衛自己覺的他的國大力強,可以依靠自己的國力,就想要知道自己的實力有多少;而神叫摩西點數人數呢,卻是要叫摩西知道自己的責任,要叫以色列人數算自己的恩典,看哪、那麼多的百姓,神不是都養活了嗎?
 
保羅寫這個地界的事情,也讓我們看到他對劃歸給他的弟兄姐妹們是盡心盡力,又教導又關心,就是要傳道人明瞭神給人的界限(疆界)和責任是一體的,這既是給傳道人的榮耀,也是責任和託付,得到的能力越大者要盡更大的責任;感謝讚美我們的主,願上帝賜福給我們。
 
 

2019年4月29日 星期一

相比是無益的(林後10:12)

哥林多後書十章:「11 這等人當想,我們不在那裡的時候信上的言語如何,見面的時候,行事也必如何。 12 因為我們不敢將自己和那自薦的人同列相比。他們用自己度量自己,用自己比較自己,乃是不通達的。 13 我們不願意分外誇口,只要照神所量給我們的界限夠到你們那裡。」
 
保羅說我們不「敢」將自己翰那自薦的人同列相比,保羅是大有信心的使徒,是神的僕人,他怎麼會不敢與那些假使徒、假師傅相比呢?是禱告比不上他們有果效嗎?是神可能會給那些人更大的神蹟奇事嗎?這些都不是保羅不「敢」與這些人相比的原因,保羅會這樣說,實在是另有原因的;
 
其實問題的癥結是在於這些人所要比的是什麼?他們所要比的乃是在血氣的範圍裡面,雖然狀似在屬靈的範圍、其實是在血氣的範圍;我可以想像他們會自誇:你看我多會禱告、你看我去過多少教會、拿了多少薦信,還有你看我生活多麼屬靈,一天禱告七次、一週禁食兩次;
 
我自己經歷過某些教會,教會裡就充滿這樣的比較,最常見的就是比較誰比較會說方言,在靈恩派的教會裡面,會說方言以經不稀奇了,現在他們還比較誰更會說方言;通常他們同聲開口禱告,能聽懂的禱告詞大概只有三五句,接下去就有人轉成方言禱告了;
 
一旦有人開始方言禱告,我再用悟性禱告、好像就沒有他屬靈,於是我也轉用方言禱告,並且要更急促、更大聲,最後人人如此,方言聲此起彼落,好不熱鬧,直到大家覺得沒意思為止,就結束禱告;有許多的人比賽方言,有一些人會比賽禁食,常常會說我上次禁食七天,我十天,甚至有人禁固體食物到四十天之久的;
 
還有人似有似無的在比較誰有更好的見証、誰更幸運?你揀到錢,揀到多少?我下雨天出門沒帶傘,但是我要過街的時候雨剛好變得很小、甚至暫停;啊,還有停車位,我開車到很多人的賣場,很難停車,但是我開到近門口的時候,剛好有人開走,留下一個空位給我;像這樣子的見証可以是沒完沒了的;
 
我們要和他們比較這些嗎?保羅說他不敢和他們並列相比,真的是因為比不過才不敢比嗎?絕對不是,而是這種比較又有什麼意思呢?所以事實上不是「不敢」,實際上乃是「不屑」;我們若是陷入這種無益的比較裡面,就是將自己降到與他們同樣的程度去搶食了;
要知道他們是自己度量自己的人,他們所尋求的判斷也就是他們自己,你要怎麼和裁判比賽?如果陷入這種比較,不但是我們自降屬靈的高度,而且還是缺乏智會了;
 
彼此相比這種事、如果不是犯罪,那至少也是主不喜悅的;主耶穌基督的門徒在主還在帶領他們的時候,常常會爭誰為大,福音書有不只一次記載了這樣的事,例如馬太福音23章,每一次有比較的事發生時,主到告訴門徒們不要比誰為高,反而要去看誰可以服務更多人,可以說沒有一次例外;
 
馬太福音23章主的話:「11 你們中間誰為大,誰就要做你們的用人。 12 凡自高的,必降為卑;自卑的,必升為高。」;自高是主動,降為卑是被動的,自卑(謙卑)是主動,被升為高是被動的;
 
保羅不和人相比,到後面他會說他自知他自己不在最大的使徒之下,但是他從來沒有要和彼得、約翰等使徒比大小的意思;然而我們常常可以見到他與其他人在真道上辯論;那個不是比較,那樣作是要救人的靈魂,否則就會有多人會喪失在錯誤的教導之下,這是一種非常重要的服事,是要將人的靈魂搶救回來,但是也要在聖靈的帶領底下行之,不可流於血氣的辯論;
 
我想保羅要給我們的教訓很明白,和主的教訓也是一致的,就是我們不要去和人相比,只要按照主所劃給我們的地界,好好的、盡心盡力的去服事人;我們不和人相比不是害怕他們,如果因為搶救靈魂而有必要,我們絲毫不怕與之相爭;感謝讚美我們的主,願上帝賜福與我們。


2019年4月28日 星期日

為何年輕的基督徒流失 (上)

最近看了一篇報導,有幾個機構做了年輕基督徒流失的比例,以美國為例,受洗後十年內還持續上教會(一週至少去兩次或是更多)的比例不到一半,三十五歲以下的基督徒這個比例大約只有四分之一;到了大城市中這個比例甚至低到十分之一以下;
 
其中年輕的基督徒從教會中流失的最大一個關鍵時刻,就是青少年由高中進入大學那一刻;在美國年輕人讀大學這個階段,絕大多數人要離開家住宿舍或是自己住外面,那是因為美國實在是太大了;上大學對於許多年輕人生命當中的第一個大變局,許多在高中時還肯隨著父母上教會的年輕人,因為父母不在身邊,因為可以開始自由的運用時間,也可能是因為朋友的影響,他們中間許多人就停止固定的去教會了;
 
對於這樣的情況,我們可以東講西講可以找出許多理由,但是真正的理由還是:我們孩子的信仰其實並沒有被好好的建立起來;研究報告顯示,青少年心目中的耶穌基督的認識普遍的是屬於一種「道德、治療、自然神論」的範疇;意思就是:神要我們有好道德,神可以幫我們治癒(心靈),但是他們的神觀是自然神觀;
 
最後的那句話「自然神觀」的意思是由伏爾泰以及盧梭等哲學家所創立的神觀,大意是說神在歷史上出現過,但是如今神已經不再作工或是顯神蹟了,世界是按照設定好的軌道上運行下去,不再需要神的干預了,而只是存在我們的思想和意念中;到如今基督教是以留存下來教訓、以理念的方式來對我們進行道德的提升,心理的治癒;
 
我們能夠怪我們的孩子有這種神觀嗎?不能!他們在學校裡要學習和接受進化論,要學自然科學;而在他們短短的一生當中,也可能因為被父母照顧得太好,就沒有經歷神的機會;如果我們作父母的不能和孩子溝通信仰上的事,他們就只能從教會裡得到教導了,可是往往教會裡對青少年的教導就是一些不痛不癢的,告訴他們信了耶穌就必得救等簡單的故事;
 
按照許多教會的教導,既然受過了洗禮,那也就得了聖靈作為將來天上有產業的憑證、確據,是已經稱義而得救了;既然如此,那麼在環境變化的情況下一時不去教會,主應該可以原諒我們的,將來在天堂裡也就是前後排位的不同的分別而已,「應該」是不會影響得救的;於是先是一兩次不去教會,再後來的課業一忙,就成了「長期」的不去教會聚會了;
 
如果這是你的孩子,你應該為此感到難過嗎?我們是應該為我們的孩子擔心,也要為他們禱告,但是我們還是無需驚慌;神是一個偉大的作家與藝術家,他在製作每一個基督肢體的時候,是要看火侯的拿捏與契機,以期製作出夠水準又很棒的作品,並不是一昧的趕時間的;
 
一個信耶穌又受過洗的孩子,就算是暫時的離開了教會、流浪在世界當中,在他們心裡面還是有著神也有著主的,只不過對於神的認識還是在雲裡霧裡,並不清楚;也未曾真正的經歷神,認識神,這些孩子在經歷過一段遠離神的日子以後,還是很有可能再被神得著的;只不過不是在他們自己以為的時間裡,也不是在我們這些父母想要的時間裡,只是在乎神的時間而已;
 
但是也真的有些孩子,離開神之後就長長久久的離開了;孩子長大了,自己就可以拿主見了,也不見得會再聽父母的話了;他們有可能自己決定走自己選擇的路;而萬一走上岔路就是幾十年的時間,或是根本就不回來也是可能的;所以可能他們在青少年這個階段在教會所受的教導,是在很長的時間裡面能夠影響他們對神看法的最重要教導;
 
當然最好的路是在青少年的階段,讓他們看到敬虔的榜樣(就是我們自己),就讓我們的孩子也成為敬虔而又被聖靈充滿的基督徒;這當然是可能的,例如像是聖經中所記載的但以理,以及他的幾個朋友,沙得拉、米煞、亞伯尼歌,這些人都是在少年時就被擄到外邦人的國度中,雖然必需與敬拜假神的外邦人為伍,但是他們都一生堅守他們的信仰;
 
年輕的基督徒從教會中流失,是一件值得我們關注的事情,我們子女的靈命,就是我們這些作家長的責任;讓他們在離開家之前,就能夠對神有一個正確的認識,養成一個在神面前敬虔的態度;願上帝保守我們和我們的家庭、子女,感謝讚美我們的主。


自己度量自己(林後10:12)

哥林多後書十章:「11 這等人當想,我們不在那裡的時候信上的言語如何,見面的時候,行事也必如何。 12 因為我們不敢將自己和那自薦的人同列相比。他們用自己度量自己,用自己比較自己,乃是不通達的。 13 我們不願意分外誇口,只要照神所量給我們的界限夠到你們那裡。」
保羅說:「用自己比較自己,乃是不通達的。」,這句話是非常簡單,但卻又充滿智慧的,用自己度量自己有沒有用啊?我們為什麼要度量一個人或是一件物品呢?因為要拿來用、要衡量可不可以裝得下去,撐起來夠高,或是會不會太重或是太輕,是不是呢?
我們上飛機行李要去過磅,為什麼?因為要看看這行李會不會太重,機場地勤人員搬得動搬不動,所以衡量的標準一定是按照地勤人員的負荷程度,所統一定立的標準;我們不能說100這個數字很好看又很好記,就定在100公斤吧,這樣地勤人員都要開叉車才能搬行李了;
公司錄用一個人,所考慮的標準不外是這個人有沒有能力來完成所要作的工作,以及能不能夠融入這個公司的文化;你說:我很厲害,我是台大的博士,你們公司招一個人,只不過是要五專的學歷,我又不挑剔薪水,你為什麼不用我?那個公司回答說:先生,我們要招的是工科,工專學歷就夠了,你是台大博士,可是你是文學博士,又沒有做過車床加工,我們不敢用你。
所以一個人、用自己度量自己是沒有用的,我們上面的例子還是用了學校的文憑來度量,但是因為和所要的不符合,也都是沒有用的,更何況是用自己所想像的一些標準來度量自己呢!那些假教師、假使徒想要批評保羅,想要証明自己比保羅更厲害,就想用一些自選的標準來比教;
例如收集了有多少薦信、這根本就不能算是一個好的標準,這只能明說他跑過的地方多,又常常向別人要薦信而已;保羅所到過的教會不多嗎?但是他從來也不會向別人要薦信,也沒有一個教會自大到主動為保羅開薦信吧;這就好比今天有些人到處主動找名人合照,然後將照片發在自己的自媒體上,各種名人都有;
這只能說明他自己還不夠出名、自信心不夠,要藉著名人來沾光,你從來不會看見馬雲和郭台銘的微信、將那種剛見面就求合照的那種照片給發出來罷,他們可能連人家所發過來的照片是看也不看,留也不留,直接跳過去;但是對方可能將這種合照當作至寶,放大掛在辦公室裡也不一定;這是他們衡量自己的方式:和多少,或是多有名的人合過影;
世上很多衡量自己的方式都是很可笑的,但是那些抓著那些衡量標準的人並不覺得如此,甚至還把它們當成生活中頭等大事;例如像是住在怎樣的房子裡,開怎樣的車,揹怎樣的包,這些是世俗又膚淺的標準;此外有些別的標準不似那般膚淺,但也同樣不足以真正的衡量人,例如有什麼學歷,獲過什麼獎,經手過多少營業額,有多少人點讚過,這些都是世上常用來衡量人的標準,這裡面也有被教會採用的;
世上的標準是層出不窮,這些都是人自己發展出來的度量人的辦法,有些辦法的確在這個世上是有其功能和作用的,但是對於我們來講,特別是當我們的人生所剩下的日子是越來越少時,真正重要的問題是,人所發展的標準到了天上是否還適用?或是神是用什麼標準來看待人?
這個標準是蘊藏在神所啟示的聖經裡,我們可以從中看到神直接了當的告訴人,例如說:我愛憐恤、不愛祭祀;我們也得以從神自己所作的工作,神揀選使用人的偏好可以看得出來;保羅就以神給他所劃的地界來告訴哥林多的信徒們:神是在許多的事上是與他同工的;
我們要注意,幅員地界和人數的多少不能拿來作唯一的標準,因為唯一的標準是神自己,以及神已經啟示的話語;根據聖經的標準、我們如果看人數要看有結出生命果子的人數,而不是單純的人數;今天如果單論人數,回教的人數也已經相當的可觀了,我們若是看有生命果子的人數,那也足以表現神的心意的顯明;
感謝主的揀選與使用,在曠野遇見神的事工也能夠逐漸有小小的影響力;甚至如同幾位弟兄姐妹所說的,因此處的事工他們重燃了對主的愛火,一切的榮耀頌讚歸於主,也願上帝賜福給你們。
 

2019年4月27日 星期六

以弗所書講經 (53)

以弗所書講經 (53)
讚美 感謝 順服
當用詩章、頌詞、靈歌彼此對說,口唱心和地讚美主。 凡事要奉我們主耶穌基督的名常常感謝父神。 又當存敬畏基督的心,彼此順服
低流量,無影像版本在這裡: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LwEErhW6jjU
。。。想你的朋友也能看到這篇嗎,請按讚或分享
讀全文請按連結;按讚 Page可定期收到好文

 

2019年4月26日 星期五

言出必行的代價(林後10:10)

哥林多後書十章:「8 主賜給我們權柄,是要造就你們,並不是要敗壞你們,我就是為這權柄稍微誇口,也不至於慚愧。 9 我說這話,免得你們以為我寫信是要威嚇你們。 10 因為有人說:「他的信又沉重又厲害,及至見面,卻是氣貌不揚、言語粗俗的。」 11 這等人當想,我們不在那裡的時候信上的言語如何,見面的時候,行事也必如何。」
保羅在這裡說他就這個權柄稍微的誇口,他是不是真的誇口了呢?他這樣作是有什麼目的呢?要知道在保羅的心目中,誇口的是件該感到慚愧的事情;這和許多人誇口是為了尋找自己的榮耀、是完全相反的;保羅知道平常的誇口是值得羞愧的,但是他在這裡誇口神所賜給他的權柄卻是不需要慚愧;
為什麼?他把神賜給他權柄的這件事,是為了要造就人而不是為了要敗壞人,一定要在這裡解釋清楚,否則有些人會以為保羅是在用權柄威嚇他們,這就是第9節以及以後的數節經文,保羅一定要講清楚的事情;從這裡我們可以看得出來保羅其實是很不想提這件事情,只是不得不講;
因為有人已經在哥林多教會這邊以己之心來度人,也就是猜測自己是如何、那麼別人一定也是如何;這些人看保羅所寫的書信是如此的有權威,但是直至見到面,卻發現他長的卻是其貌不揚的、言語又不講究;用我們中國人的說法就是:保羅在講話的時候用的是白話文、而非之乎者也的文言文,這看起來是誠實的一段話,實在是在譏笑保羅;
除了笑保羅人言不配文之外,這些人還質疑保羅事否能夠言出必行,言行合一?言出必行或是言行一致重不重要啊?那當然很重要,是一項美德;但是如果我們言出必行的代價,是要用別人的生命來付這個代價的話,那麼我們會不會堅持自己的言出必行呢?
我想讀過中國歷史的人都知道,中國歷朝歷代的皇帝講究君無戲言,也有一些小故事告訴我們有某些人就是喪命在這個君無戲言的上面;皇帝為了維護皇權的尊嚴,就連一句話出口都必需擲地有聲,為此甚至是不惜殺人;他們怕只要一句話改口了,以後帝王再講話就沒人信了;
保羅知道誇口是不好的,但是他依然要在這裡誇口;他也知道言出必行、言行一致是好的,可以幫助他建立使徒的權威,將幾個人送上他們的滅亡又算是什麼呢!但是他不能這樣作,為何呢?因為憐憫和寬容、也就是都是為了別人的益處;
小孩子出門不肯好好穿衣服、穿鞋子,又不肯放下手中的玩具,媽媽怎麼辦?她會說:"你再不出來、媽媽就自己先走了,留你一個人在家裡,一個人在家好可怕,你就要哭哭了!";可是那一個媽媽在講完這種話三分鐘以後、就真的一聲不響的就自己離開的了?不總是一而再、再而三的等待、不是嗎?
如果上帝真的言出必行、不帶有任何的憐憫,我們早就因犯了罪而滅絕了;感謝上帝因為他有極大的憐憫和寬容;既然神是如此的寬容,那我們作為神工人的,豈不是更要照著主人的心意而行?神的工人常常要不計較個人的榮辱和得失,不計較旁人怎麼樣看待我們,總是要用各種方法方式去造就人,勸勉人;
這是因為愛的緣故,所以基督教從來就不是一種修身養性,而是生命的拯救,感謝讚美主,願上帝賜福給我們。

 

2019年4月25日 星期四

why people are leaving church

The Top Reasons Young People Drop Out of Church
Even with 1 in 4 leaving over politics, college kids are more likely to return after a hiatus than leave for good.
Griffin Paul JacksonGriffin Paul Jackson
January 15, 2019 1:39 AM
The Top Reasons Young People Drop Out of Church
Image: Pearl / Lightstock

Slightly fewer young adults are dropping out of church after high school, but those who do have more serious reasons for leaving than a decade ago.
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In a 2017 LifeWay Research survey released today, 66 percent of Americans between 23 and 30 years old said they stopped attending church on a regular basis for at least a year after turning 18, compared to 70 percent in 2007.

Most young churchgoers skip out on Sundays at some point amid their transition to going to college, moving away from home, or starting their first jobs. LifeWay has found that historically about two-thirds of dropouts return to services once they get older.

But these days, young Christians are more likely to cite weightier political and spiritual concerns as pushing them away from the church, with 70 percent listing such beliefs as a reason for their departure in 2017 compared to about half (52%) 10 years before.

Moving for college remains the top reason young people stop attending church in both surveys, which are based on responses from more than 2,000 young Americans who attended a Protestant church regularly (twice a month or more) for at least a year during high school.

Other popular reasons to include: a perception that church members were hypocritical (32%), disconnect with church life (29%), and lack of student ministry opportunities (24%).

Political rifts between young Christians and their congregations are growing. A quarter (25%) of recent dropouts said disagreements over their church’s stance on political and social issues contributed to their decision to stop attending, compared to 15 percent in 2007.

The follow-up survey came in the wake of the 2016 elections, with partisan divides over President Donald Trump’s victory adding to Generation Z’s growing concerns around race, social justice, and LGBT rights.

“In the past, it was possible for difficult issues like this to be brushed aside or go unaddressed entirely,” Ben Trueblood, director of student ministry for LifeWay Christian Resources, told CT last year, responding to trends among Gen Z. “But that approach cripples the purpose of student ministry. Now, student ministry leaders are forced to teach what the Bible says on these issues, as well as equip teenagers to respond biblically.”

In a time when many churches are “predictable clusters of the politically like-minded,” as James K. A. Smith has said, it’s harder for those who feel like ideological outliers to stick around. As CT reported last year, church attendance dipped among born-again and evangelical Christians across age groups after Trump’s election, particularly among Hillary Clinton supporters, who may have not felt welcome in certain church contexts.

Young people—some temporarily and some permanently—are moving outside churches to find a cohort that shares their political and spiritual beliefs. After high school, many find that community on campus.

A quarter of 18- to 22-year-olds in 2007 and a third in 2017 said they stopped attending church regularly simply because they “moved to college.” (Among young adults who had enrolled in college, that number is up to nearly half—47 percent.)

Still, only 14 percent said their school obligations actually kept them away from church, compared to 24 percent that said their work responsibilities prevented them from going.

Other studies have noted a clear correlation between college attendance and decreased religiosity but find the decline in faith isn’t the fault of professors or classes themselves. Rather, it may be due to the “college experience” more broadly or the transition from one’s family home to a new independence. There is also plain teenage amnesia.

“It's not that most rejected the church,” wrote Ed Stetzer, former executive director of LifeWay Research and the current head of the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College. “For the most part, they simply lose track of the church and stop seeing it as important to their life.”

Of those who dropped out of church for at least a year during the college years (between ages 18 and 22), more of them—31 percent—now attend regularly than those who never returned—29 percent.

LifeWay reports that church attendance peaks at age 15, with more than three-quarters regularly attending then. But that percentage took a nosedive at 18, and by 19, only 4 in 10 former regular-attenders were still in the habit. By 21, one-third attended church services regularly—a percentage that remained constant through age 30.

The dynamics of churches themselves are increasingly a turnoff for dropouts. In 2007, half (55%) pointed to church- and pastor-related reasons as important in their decision to leave—mostly their impressions of their place in the congregation. But in 2017, 73 percent indicated such grievances were a factor in stepping away.

Just as earlier research by Fuller Youth Institute concluded that young people don’t want hip pastors, matters of worship and preaching were not dominant factors inspiring young people to leave. LifeWay found that only 13 percent said they left because the worship style was “unappealing,” and 1 in 10 said they left because “the sermons were not relevant to my life.”

The percentage of those who said they wanted to keep attending church but dropped out because they were “too busy” actually decreased in the decade between surveys (22% in 2007 versus 20% in 2017).

It’s worth noting that most who withdraw from regular attendance are not abandoning the faith outright. Still, a bigger portion of the dropouts cite major shifts in their views of Christianity. While only 10 percent said they left because they stopped believing in God, that’s double as many as ’07.

Of all young adults who used to attend Protestant churches but left temporarily or for good, just 7 percent say they are currently atheists (3%) or agnostic (4%). In contrast, most still consider themselves Protestant (49%) or non-denominational (21%), while 10 percent now identify as Roman Catholic.

There’s more positive news for orthodox Christianity. While most of those who left the church did so for reasons related to personal life changes (like going to college) or frustrations with hypocrisy and politics in church, those who continued regularly attending did so primarily because, they said, “church was a vital part of my relationship with God” (56%) and “I wanted the church to help guide my decisions in everyday life” (54%).

Notably, young Protestants who kept up their church attendance claimed to experience fewer of the social frustrations than those who dropped out. While those who stayed did observe judgmentalism, cliquishness, and a lack of connection in some ministries, they perceived these problems at substantially lower rates than the students who ended up leaving.

And for young Christians who bailed on church but have since returned, the most common reasons were the encouragement of family (37%), the personal desire to go back to church (32%), and the feeling that God was calling them back (28%).
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 UPDATED: Are Young People Really Leaving Christianity?

J. Warner January 12, 2019 Current Events, Writings, Youth 147,736 Views
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58(Updated on January 12th, 2019)

Much has been written about both the Biblical illiteracy of teenage believers and the flight of young people from the Church. Many have observed this trend, and I too have witnessed it anecdotally as a youth pastor (and shamefully, I contributed to the trend for some time before I changed course). Some writers and Christian observers deny the flight of young people altogether, but the growing statistics should alarm us enough as Church leaders to do something about the dilemma. My hope in this post is to simply consolidate some of the research (many of the summaries are directly quoted) so you can decide for yourself. I’m going to organize the recent findings in a way that illuminates the problem:

Research Related to Spiritual Life of Teenagers:

Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers
Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton, Oxford University Press, 2005

Book Findings: The majority of teenagers are incredibly inarticulate about their faith, religious beliefs and practices, and its place in their lives. The de facto dominant religion among contemporary U.S. teenagers is what they call ‘Moralistic Therapeutic Deism’: A God exists who created and orders the world and watches over human life on earth; God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions; the central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself; God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem; and good people go to heaven when they die.

Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers is Telling the American Church
Kenda Creasy Dean, Oxford University Press, 2010

Book Findings: Dean affirms what Soul Searching called ‘Moralistic Therapeutic Deism’ “If teenagers lack an articulate faith, it may be because the faith we show them is too spineless to merit much in the way of conversation.”

The Teen Guide to Global Action: How to Connect with Others (Near & Far) to Create Social Change
Barbara A. Lewis, Free Spirit Publishing, 2007

Book Findings: More teens are embracing a nebulous belief in God. Yet there’s been an “explosion” in youth service since 1995 that Lewis attributes to more schools emphasizing community service.

The State of Theology
Ligonier Ministries and Lifeway Research (2015)

Study Findings: In this survey of theological beliefs, researchers asked self-professing Christians to respond to a series of statements related to classic, historic Christian doctrine. In every answer offered related to these theological beliefs, young people between the ages of 18 and 34 consistently held heretical views at a higher percentage than older respondents. Young people who identify themselves as Christians, are far more likely to hold views that aren’t Christian.

Research Related to the Attitude of College Professors:

Politics and Professional Advancement Among College Faculty
Stanley Rothman, S. Robert Lichter, Neil Nevitte (2005)

Study Findings: “Nearly three-quarters” (72%) of faculty members describe themselves as politically liberal, according to 1999 data from the North American Academic Study Survey (NAASS), up from 39 percent in a 1984 survey by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

How Religious are America’s College and University Professors?
Neil Gross, Solon Simmons (2006)

Study Findings: About 25% of college professors are professing atheists or agnostics (5-7% of the general population is atheistic or agnostic). Only 6% of college professors said the Bible is “the actual word of God”. 51% described it as “an ancient book of fables, legends, history and moral precepts.” 75% believe religion does not belong in public schools.

The Religious Beliefs and Behavior of College Faculty
The Institute for Jewish & Community Research Review – Staff (2007)

Study Findings: The study revealed several findings related to the political and religious views of professors, including the following key discoveries:

“Most Faculty Believe in God, but Atheism Is Significantly More Prevalent among Faculty Than the General Public
The proportion of faculty who self-identified as atheist is over five times the proportion of people who self-identified as atheist in the general public.

Faculty Are Much Less Religious Than the General Public
The American public is much more likely to say that religion is very important in their everyday lives and to attend religious services more frequently than faculty.

Faculty Feel Warmly about Most Religious Groups, but Feel Coldly about Evangelicals and Mormons
Faculty have positive feelings toward Jews, Buddhists, Catholics, and Atheists.

Faculty Feel Most Unfavorably about Evangelical Christians
This is the only religious group about which a majority of non-Evangelical faculty have negative feelings.

Faculty Are Almost Unanimous in Their Belief That Evangelical Christians (Fundamentalists) Should Keep Their Religious Beliefs Out of American Politics
Faculty who are secular/liberal are more likely to favor separation of religion and government, and those who are religious and conservative are more likely to advocate a closer connection between religion and government.

Although Faculty Generally Oppose Religion in the Public Sphere, Many Endorse the Idea That Muslims Should Express Their Religious Beliefs in American Politics
Faculty are far less likely to endorse Evangelical Christians expressing their beliefs in American politics.”

Compromising Scholarship; Religious and Political Bias in American Higher Education
George Yancey (2011)

Book Findings: “Religiously conservative academics are at a distinct disadvantage in our institutions of learning, threatening the free exchange of ideas to which our institutions aspire and leaving many scientific inquiries unexplored.”

Research Related to the Decreasing Christian Population in General

American Religious Identification Survey
Barry A. Kosmin, Egon Mayer, and Ariela Keysar (2001)

Study Findings: The number of people who identify themselves as Christian has dropped from 85% in 1990 to 76% in 2008. About 52% of American adults identify themselves as Protestant or other non-Catholic Christian denominations, according to the. That’s down from 60% in 1990.

America’s Changing Religious Landscape
Pew Research Center (2015)

Study Findings: “The percentage of adults (ages 18 and older) who describe themselves as Christians has dropped by nearly eight percentage points in just seven years, from 78.4% in an equally massive Pew Research survey in 2007 to 70.6% in 2014. Over the same period, the percentage of Americans who are religiously unaffiliated – describing themselves as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” – has jumped more than six points, from 16.1% to 22.8%.”

Gallop Religious Identification Poll
Gallop Daily Tracking, Frank Newport (2015)

Study Findings: While the number of Americans identifying as Christians is still high (75%), it has dropped 5% since 2008

Five Key Findings on Religion in the U.S.
Gallop National Poll (2016)

Study Findings: This national poll about the religious affiliation of Americans revealed the following (among other findings):

1. America remains a largely Christian nation, although less so than in the past. 74% of Americans identify as some form a Christian, only 5% identify as affiliated with a non-Christian religion. when last polled in 2008, 80% of Americans identified themselves as Christian.
2. The trend away from formal religion continues. Approximately 21% of Americans say they are either atheist, agnostic, or have no religious affiliation. This is up 6% since 2008.
3. Americans continue to say that religion is losing its influence in American society. 72% of Americans say that religion is losing its influence on American life.

The Persistent and Exceptional Intensity of American Religion: A Response to Recent Research
Sociological Science Study (2017)

Study Findings: This study, examining General Social Surveys from 1989 to 2016, found the following:

1. The number of people who report they are strongly affiliated with a religion is in the minority but does not appear to have changed much from 1990 to 2015.
2. Less than 40% of Americans say they have strong religious affiliations. Those who say they are not strongly affiliated are leaving the church, down from approximately 55% in 1990 to approximately 42% in 2015. Those who claim no affiliation with religion have grown from 8% of the population to approximately 22% during the same time.
3. Only approximately 8% of the populations attends church multiple times in a week. The number of people who said they attended “sometimes” has dropped from approximately 79% to 69% from 1990 to 2015. Those who never attend church has risen from 14% to nearly 25% in the same time frame.
4. Approximately 33% of the [population described the Bible as the “Literal Word of God”. The number of people who describe the Bible as “Inspired, But Not Literal, has dropped from approximately 53% to 47% from 1990 to 2015. The number of people who describe the Bible as a “Book of Fables” has risen from approximately 15% to 21% during that time.
5. The number of people who identify as “Evangelical” has remained somewhat steady during this time frame, at approximately 29%. The number of people who identify as having a “Non-Evangelical” affiliation is down from approximately 66% to 51%. The number of people who say they have no religious affiliation is up from approximately 8% to 23% during this same time frame.

Research Related to the Flight of Young People from the Church

Why Christian Kids Leave the Faith
Tom Bisset, Discovery House Publishers (1997)

Book Findings: In this very early study, Tom Bisset interviewed people and asked them when, why, and how they abandoned their faith. He identified four prominent reasons:

1. They left because they had troubling, unanswered questions about the faith.
2. They left because their faith was not “working” for them.
3. They left because they allowed other things to take priority.
4. They left because they never personally owned their faith.

Southern Baptist Convention Data
Pinkney, T.C., Remarks to the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, Nashville, Tennessee (2001)

Study Findings: Data from the Southern Baptist Convention indicates that they are currently losing 70-88% of their youth after their freshman year in college. 70% of teenagers involved in church youth groups stop attending church within two years of their high school graduation.

“The Religiosity Cycle”
Gallop Poll Study (2002)

Study Findings: The results indicate that teens are more religious during their early teen years, and that religiosity begins to decline as teens near adulthood. When asked, “How important are your religious beliefs?”, 63% of 13- to 15-year-olds answered “very important,” compared to 52% of 16- to 17-year-olds. Church attendance also drops during the teen and young adult years and begins to climb as adults age. Fifty-four percent of teens aged 13 to 15 reported having attended church in the past seven days, as did 51% of 16- to 17-year-old teens. The figure drops to 32% among 18- to 29- year-olds but rises again to 44% among 50- to 64-year-olds and 60% among those aged 75 and older. 69% percent of 13- to 15-year-olds report being members of a church or synagogue, compared to 59% of 16- to 17-year-olds, 60% of 18- to 29-year-olds, 72% of 50- to 64-year-olds, and 80% of those aged 75 and older.

The Southern Baptist Convention’s Family Life Council
Southern Baptist Council on Family Life report to Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention (2002)

Study Findings:  88% of the children in evangelical homes leave church at the age of 18

Revolution
George Barna, Tyndale House Publishers, Carol Stream, IL (2005)

Book Findings: If current trends in the belief systems and practices of the younger generation continue, in ten years, church attendance will be half the size it is today.

Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers
Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton, Oxford University Press (2005)

Book Findings: Students leave faith behind primarily because of intellectual doubt and skepticism (page 89). “Why did they fall away from the faith in which they were raised?” This was an open-ended question there were no multiple-choice answers. 32% said they left faith behind because of intellectual skepticism or doubt. (“It didn’t make any sense anymore.” “Some stuff is too far-fetched for me to believe.” “I think scientifically and there is no real proof.” “Too many questions that can’t be answered.”)

“Most Twentysomethings Put Christianity on the Shelf…”
Barna Study (2006)

Study Findings: A majority of twenty-somethings – 61% of today’s young adults – had been churched at one point during their teen years but they are now spiritually disengaged.

The Last Christian Generation
Josh McDowell,  David H. Bellis, Green Key Books (2006)

Book Findings: 63% of teenaged Christians don’t believe that Jesus is the Son of the one true God. 51% don’t believe that Jesus rose from the dead. 68% don’t believe that the Holy Spirit is a real entity. Only 33% of churched youth have said that the church will play a part in their lives when they leave home.

Assemblies of God Study
Dayton A. Kingsriter (2007)

Study Findings: At least half and possibly over two-thirds of Christian young people will step away from the Christian faith while attending a non-Christian college or university. Between 50% and 66.7% of Assemblies of God young 
people who attend a non-Christian public or private university will have left the faith 
four years after entering college.

LifeWay Research Study
LifeWay Research and Ministry Development (2007)

Study Findings: 70% will leave the faith in college. Only 35% eventually return. 7 in 10 Protestants ages 18 to 30 – both evangelical and mainline – who went to church regularly in high school said they quit attending by age 23. 34% of those said they had not returned, even sporadically, by age 30. That means about one in four Protestant young people have left the church. “The most frequent reason for leaving church is, in fact, a self-imposed change, ‘I simply wanted a break from church’ (27%).” “The path toward college and the workforce are also strong reasons for young people to leave church: ‘I moved to college and stopped attending church’ (25%) and ‘work responsibilities prevented me from attending’ (23%).”

Unchristian
Barna Research Group director David Kinnaman, Baker Books; (2007)

Book Findings: Christians in their 20s are “significantly less likely to believe a person’s faith in God is meant to be developed by involvement in a local church. This life stage of spiritual disengagement is not going to fade away.”

Rethink: Is Student Ministry Working?
Steve Wright, InQuest Ministries, Inc. (2007)

Book Findings: 63% don’t believe Jesus is the Son of the one true God. 58% believe all faiths teach equally valid truths. 51% don’t believe Jesus rose from the dead. 65% don’t believe Satan is a real entity. 68% don’t believe the Holy Spirit is a real entity

Religious and Political Self-Identification, 1990-2008
Barry A. Kosmin & Juhem Navarro-Rivera (2008)

Study Findings: This research, based on the American Religious Identification Survey 2008, addresses the religious beliefs and behaviors of those born from the early to mid-1960s to the late 1970s to early 1980s:

1. Generation X has weakened its ties to Christianity (85% in 1990 v. 75% in 2008)
2. Generation X has secularized over time. In 1990 11% were Nones compared to16% in 2008; 13% of Generation X did not identify with a religion (including Don’t Know and refusals) in 1990, compared to 21% in 2008
3. Generation X Christian groups became more female dominated over time (with the exception of the Protestant Sects) while the Nones and Other Religions became more male dominated.

Souls in Transition: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults
Christian Smith, Patricia Snell (2009)

Book Findings: Among American adults, emerging adults are significantly less religious.
Generally speaking, the importance and practice of religion declines among young adults. No more than 15% of the total emerging adult population, embrace a strong religious faith. 30% tend to customize their faith to fit the rest of their lives. They often have strong religious upbringing but tend to be more discriminating about what they will adopt. A smaller group, about 15%, believe in some higher power but are not sure what that is or means. About 25% of the emerging adult population may claim to be religious or even appreciate religion—but it simply does not matter. 5% of all emerging adults have had little to no exposure to religious people, ideas, or organizations. 10% of emerging adults are  skeptical of religion and reject the idea of personal faith. They tend to hold critical, derogatory, and antagonistic attitudes towards religion.

The Present Future: Six Tough Questions for the Church
Jossey-Bass, San Francisco (2009)

Book Findings: 90% of youth active in high school church programs drop out of church by the time they are sophomores on college.

Already Gone: Why your kids will quit church and what you can do to stop it
Ken Ham, Britt Beemer, with Todd Hillard, New Leaf Publishing Group/Master Books (2009)

Book Findings: Church youth already are “lost” in their hearts and minds in elementary, middle and high school – not in college as many assume.

After the Baby Boomers: How Twenty- and Thirty-Somethings Are Shaping the Future of American Religion
Robert Wuthnow, Princeton University Press (2010)

Book Findings: “Unless religious leaders take younger adults more seriously, the future of American religion is in doubt.” The proportion of young adults identifying with mainline churches, is “about half the size it was a generation ago. Evangelical Protestants have barely held their own.”

“Spirituality in Higher Education”: The Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA
Alexander W. Astin, Helen S. Astin, and Jennifer A. Lindholm (2010)

Study Findings: 52% of college students reported frequent church attendance the year before they entered college but only 29% continued frequent church attendance by their junior year.

College Transition Project
The Fuller Youth Institute (2010)

Study Findings: Current data seems “to suggest that about 40-50% of students in youth groups struggle in their faith after graduation.”

Generation Ex-Christian: Why Young Adults Are Leaving the Faith… and How to Bring Them Back
Drew Dyck, Moody Publishers (2010)

Book Findings: The departure of young people from the Church is acknowledged and several categories of “leavers” are identified, including “Post Modern Leavers”, “Recoilers”, “Modern Leavers”, “Neo Pagans”, “Rebels” and “Drifters.

You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church . . . and Rethinking Faith
David Kinnaman, Baker Books (2011)

Book Findings: Nearly three out of every five young Christians disconnect from their churches after the age of 15.

Lost in Transition: The Dark Side of Emerging Adulthood
Christian Smith with Kari Christoffersen, Hilary Davidson and Patricia Snell Herzog, Oxford University Press (2011)

Book Findings: Young adults are unable to think coherently about moral beliefs and problems. Young adults have an excessive focus on consumption and materialism as the good life. The prevalent lifestyle of young adults includes routine intoxication and drug usage. The sexual encounters of young adults are not practiced in an environment of physical, mental, or emotional health. Young adults appear to have an inability to care about, invest in, and hope for the larger world through civic and political participation.

Listening to Young Atheists: Lessons for a Stronger Christianity
Larry Taunton, Fixed Point Foundation (2013)

Study Findings: Taunton interviewed members of atheist college groups (the Secular Student Alliance and Freethought Societies). “These college groups are the atheist equivalents to Campus Crusade: They meet regularly for fellowship, encourage one another in their (un)belief, and even proselytize. They are people who are not merely irreligious; they are actively, determinedly irreligious.” Taunton eventually recognized an emerging pattern in those he interviewed, and he identified several characteristics of young “determinedly irreligious” college students:

1. They had attended church at one time
2. The mission and message of their churches was vague
3. They felt their churches offered superficial answers to life’s difficult questions
4. They expressed their respect for those ministers who took the Bible seriously
5. Ages 14-17 were decisive
6. The decision to embrace unbelief was often an emotional one
7. The internet factored heavily into their conversion to atheism

Churchless: Understanding Today’s Unchurched and How to Connect With Them
George Barna and David Kinnaman, Tyndale Momentum (2014)

Book Findings: Barna Group conducted tens of thousands of interviews with unchurched people and discovered the following:

1. The number of churchless Americans has jumped by nearly one-third in just 20 years
2. If unchurched Americans were their own nation, they’d be the eighth largest on Earth
3. The younger you are, the more likely you are to never have been to church
4. The younger the generation, the more post-Christian it is

America’s Changing Religious Landscape
Pew Research Center (2015)

Study Findings: “While many U.S. religious groups are aging, the unaffiliated are comparatively young – and getting younger, on average, over time… One of the most important factors in the declining share of Christians and the growth of the “nones” is generational replacement. As the Millennial generation enters adulthood, its members display much lower levels of religious affiliation, including less connection with Christian churches, than older generations. Fully 36% of young Millennials (those between the ages of 18 and 24) are religiously unaffiliated, as are 34% of older Millennials (ages 25-33)… As a rising cohort of highly unaffiliated Millennials reaches adulthood, the median age of unaffiliated adults has dropped to 36, down from 38 in 2007 and far lower than the general (adult) population’s median age of 46.4 By contrast, the median age of mainline Protestant adults in the new survey is 52 (up from 50 in 2007), and the median age of Catholic adults is 49 (up from 45 seven years earlier).”

Choosing a New Church or House of Worship
Pew Research Center (2015)

Study Findings: In this seemingly unrelated study, researchers surveyed religious “nones” (78%) who said they were raised as a member of a particular religion before shedding their religious identity in adulthood, and asked them to explain, in their own words, why they no longer identified with a religious group. They discovered the following themes:

About 50% said a “lack of belief led them to move away from religion. This includes many respondents who mention ‘science’ as the reason they do not believe in religious teachings, including one who said ‘I’m a scientist now, and I don’t believe in miracles.’ Others reference ‘common sense,’ ‘logic’ or a ‘lack of evidence’ – or simply say they do not believe in God.”

About 20% said they were in “opposition to organized religion in general. This share includes some who do not like the hierarchical nature of religious groups, several people who think religion is too much like a business and others who mention clergy sexual abuse scandals as reasons for their stance.”

About 18% said they were “religiously unsure. This include(d) people who (said) they (were) religious in some way despite being unaffiliated (e.g., ‘I believe in God, but in my own way’), others who describe(d) themselves as ‘seeking enlightenment’ or ‘open-minded,’ and several who (said) they are ‘spiritual’ if not religious.”

About 10% said they “may hold certain religious beliefs, but they (were) not currently taking part in religious practices. And most of them simply (said) they (didn’t) go to church or engage in other religious rituals, while others (said) they (were) too busy for religion.”

Exodus: Why Americans are Leaving Religion—and Why They’re Unlikely to Come Back
Betsy Cooper, Ph.D., Daniel Cox, Ph.D., Rachel Lienesch, Robert P. Jones, Ph.D., Public Religious Research Institute (2016)

Study Findings: “Today, nearly four in ten (39%) young adults (ages 18-29) are religiously unaffiliated—three times the unaffiliated rate (13%) among seniors (ages 65 and older). While previous generations were also more likely to be religiously unaffiliated in their twenties, young adults today are nearly four times as likely as young adults a generation ago to identify as religiously unaffiliated. In 1986, for example, only 10% of young adults claimed no religious affiliation. Among young adults, the religiously unaffiliated dwarf the percentages of other religious identifications: Catholic (15%), white evangelical Protestant (9%), white mainline Protestant (8%), black Protestant (7%), other non-white Protestants (11%), and affiliation with a non-Christian religion (7%).”

“In the 1970s, only about one-third (34%) of Americans who were raised in religiously unaffiliated households were still unaffiliated as adults. By the 1990s, slightly more than half (53%) of Americans who were unaffiliated in childhood retained their religious identity in adulthood. Today, about two-thirds (66%) of Americans who report being raised outside a formal religious tradition remain unaffiliated as adults.”

More importantly, the study found that most Americans who leave their childhood religion do so before reaching adulthood. 79% percent of young adults age 18 to 29 who become religiously unaffiliated report making this decision during their adolescent and teen years. In years prior, those who abandon religious belief reported doing so much later. Only 38% of people over the age of 65, for example, reported leaving their religion during their childhood years.

CARA National Study
Mark M. Gray, Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (2016)

Study Findings: (While CARA only surveys young Catholic believers, their results parallel the findings of Christian surveys as reported in this article). “The first CARA study, commissioned by Saint Mary’s Press, involved a survey with a random, national sample of young people, ages 15 to 25, who had been raised Catholic but no longer self-identified as such. The second CARA study, made possible through funding from the John Templeton Foundation, involved a survey of a random sample of self-identified Catholics, ages 18 and older, and focused on matters of religion and science.” Most young people said they left the Church by the age of 13: 63 percent said they left between the ages of 10 and 17. 23 percent say they left before the age of 10. Those who left cited the following reasons:

“Because I grew up realized it was a story like Santa or the Easter Bunny.”

“As I learn more about the world around me and understand things that I once did not, I find that the thought of an all-powerful being to be less and less believable.”

“Catholic beliefs aren’t based on fact. Everything is hearsay from back before anything could be documented, so nothing can be disproved, but it certainly shouldn’t be taken seriously.”

“I realized that religion is in complete contradiction with the rational and scientific world, and to continue to subscribe to a religion would be hypocritical.”

“Need proof of something.”

“It no longer fits into what I understand of the universe.”

NextGen Research
Larry Barnett, Next Generation Project (2016)

Study Findings: The NextGen research revealed the following key points:

1. Christianity’s decline in the U.S. spans every population segment – young and old, male and female, within every race, at all income and educational levels, and in every geographic region.
2. The presence or absence of doubt was found to be the single best predictor of Christian affiliation and spiritual health, compared to several hundred other factors.
3. Adults (and teens) who are younger, highly educated, knowledgeable, high-achieving, technologically engaged individuals who may have religiously diverse friends are the most likely to leave the faith.

CIRP Freshman Survey
The Cooperative Institutional Research Program (2017)

Study Findings: The CIRP Freshmen Survey of first-time students at 184 U.S. colleges and universities collects data on incoming college students’ background characteristics, high school experiences, attitudes, behaviors, and expectations for college. This survey revealed the following key points:

31 percent of incoming freshmen are religiously unaffiliated, a threefold increase since 1986, when just 10 percent identified this way. Because the survey is administered to students before they arrive on campus, the decline of religious identity noted in these cross-sectional studies cannot be attributed to college experience. Religious attendance is also falling precipitously among incoming students.

Gen Z: The Culture, Beliefs and Motivations Shaping the Next Generation
Barna Research Group (2018)

Study Findings: Barna’s most comprehensive research study investigating the perceptions, experiences and motivations of 13- to 18-year-olds in Generation Z, reports the following:

1. 59% of students in this age group Identify as Christian or Catholic (down from 75% for “Elders”). 21% say they are atheist or agnostic (up from 11% for “Elders’). 14% say they have no religious affiliation (up from 9% for “Elders”)
2. Students in this age group offer the following “barriers to faith”:

a. “I have a hard time believing that a good God would allow so much evil or suffering in the world” (29%)
b. “Christians are hypocrites” (23%)
c. “I believe science refutes too much of the Bible” (20%)
d. “I don’t believe in fairy tales (19%)
e. “There are too many injustices in the history of Christianity” (15%)
f. “I used to go to church but it’s not important to me anymore” (12%)
g. “I had a bad experience at church with a Christian” (6%)

3. Students in this age group struggle to reconcile science with the Bible. 24% side with science (up from 16% for “Boomers”). 31% believe science and the Bible refer to difference aspects of reality (up from 25% for “Boomers”). 28% believe science and the Bible can be used to support each other (down from 45% for “Boomers). 17% consider themselves on the side of the Bible (up from 13% for “Boomers”, but down from 19% for “Millennials”).
4. Students in this age group hold positive perceptions of the church in the following areas:

a. The church is a place to find answers to live a meaningful life (82%)
b. The church is relevant for my life (82%)
c. I feel like I can “be myself” at church (77%)
d. The people at church are tolerant of those with different beliefs (63%)

5. Students in this age group hold negative perceptions of the church in the following areas:

a. The church seems to reject much of what science tells us about the world (495)
b. The church is overprotective of teenagers (38%)
c. The people at church are hypocritical (36%)
d. The church is not a safe place to express doubts (27%)
e. The faith and teaching I encounter at church seem rather shallow (24%)
f. The church seems too much like an exclusive club (17%)

6. When students in this age group were asked why they didn’t think church was important, they gave the following reasons:

a. “The church is not relevant to me” (59%)
b. “I find God elsewhere” (48%)
c. “I can teach myself what I need to know” (28%)
d. “I think church is out of date” (20%)
e. “I don’t like the people who are in church” (15%)
f. “The rituals of church are empty” (12%)

ABC News / Washington Post Religious Affiliation Poll
Langer Research Associates (2018)

Study Findings: Based on 174,485 interviews from ABC News and ABC News/Washington Post polls conducted by telephone from 2003 to 2017, the study found that young people age 18-29 are increasingly non-religious, at a pace that far exceeds their older counterparts. From 2003 to 2017, the number of 18-29 year-olds who identify as non-religious has increased 16% (from 19% to 35% of the American population), while the percentage of Americans over the age of 50 who identify as non-religious has only increased 5% (from 8% to 13%).

When Americans Say They Believe in God, What Do They Mean?
Pew Research Center (2018)

Study Findings: This survey of more than 4,700 U.S. adults found that there is a broad discrepancy related to belief about God between 18-29 year-olds and older generations:

Those who believe in God as described in the Bible: 43% of 18-29 year-olds / 65% of Boomers

The survey also found that among people who believe in God or a higher power, young people are less likely to believe that God is active and engaged:

Those who believe God Loves all people, despite their faults: 67% of 18-29 year-olds / 83% of Boomers
Those who believe God has protected them: 68% of 18-29 year-olds / 83% of Boomers
Those who believe God knows everything: 63% of 18-29 year-olds / 76% of Boomers
Those who believe God has rewarded them: 61% of 18-29 year-olds / 68% of Boomers
Those who believe God has the power to direct / change everything: 52% of 18-29 year-olds / 67% of Boomers
Those who believe God determines what happens in their lives: 41% of 18-29 year-olds / 51% of Boomers
Those who believe God has punished them: 44% of 18-29 year-olds / 33% of Boomers
Those who believe God has talked to them: 21% of 18-29 year-olds / 31% of Boomers

Interestingly, this survey also found that young people, when they do think about God, are more likely to think of Him as a punishing Deity than their older counterparts.

Going, Going, Gone: The Dynamics of Disaffiliation in Young Catholics
Saint Mary’s Press Catholic Research Group and The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University (2018)

Study Findings: While this is a Catholic study, there exist many parallels with evangelical studies conducted over the past 10 years. This two-year national study on why young people are leaving the Catholic Church found that young ex-Catholics (the vast majority of which now identify themselves as “religious nones”) are leaving Catholicism for the following reasons:

1. “They perceive organized religion as having corrupted Jesus’ fundamental teachings.”
2.”They see the church’s dogmas and doctrines as nonsensical.”
3. “They believe they can live more moral lives without the baggage of religion.”
4. “Many perceive that religion was forced on them.”
5. “They report feeling freer and happier without what they experience as the burden of religion.”

“When asked at what age they no longer identified themselves as Catholic, 74 percent of the sample said between the ages of 10 and 20, with the median age being 13 years old.”

Millennials and Their Retention Since Confirmation: A Survey of LCMS (Lutheran Church Missouri Synod) Congregations
Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (2018)

Study Findings: This comprehensive survey of 184 LCMA congregations found the following:

Congregations reported that only 1-in-3 of young people who were confirmed between 2004-2006 still worship at an LCMS church today:

30% of these young people left before they graduated high school
34% left after they graduated high school

The study also found that LCMS churches retained young believers at a much higher rate if:

1. They retain their youth pastor or youth leaders over a long period of time (“The data is clear that local retention when the pastor changes is substantially lower.”)
2. Their church leadership was generally younger (“Congregations with young adult leaders did better in all measures of retention. They were more likely to retain young people through graduation, they produced a greater number of confirmands that remain in the LCMS, they retained more in their own church body, and they even attract more young adults today.”)
3. Their youth group is larger (“Based on average weekly attendance, large congregations both confirm higher numbers of young people and retain more of their confirmands in the LCMS, regardless of whether they stay at their home congregation.”)

While this survey of books and studies is less than complete, it does provide us with powerful cumulative, circumstantial evidence supporting the claim that young people are leaving the Church in large numbers. More importantly, it appears that most of these young people are leaving prior to their experiences in college. But, while universities may not be the chief cause of the youth exodus, they certainly play a role in affirming and strengthening a secular worldview in the minds of young people who have already left the faith. Some studies have attempted to isolate potential responses that can be employed by parents and Church leaders:

Research Related to Potential Responses to the Flight of Young People from the Church

Youth Theological Initiative at Emory University in Georgia.
Elizabeth Corrie

Book Findings: There appears to be no shortage of teenagers who want to be inspired and make the world better. But the version of Christianity some are taught doesn’t inspire them “to change anything that’s broken in the world.” Teens want to be challenged; they want their tough questions taken on. “We think that they want cake, but they actually want steak and potatoes, and we keep giving them cake,” Churches, not just parents, share some of the blame for teens’ religious apathy. “…The gospel of niceness can’t teach teens how to confront tragedy. It can’t bear the weight of deeper questions: Why are my parents getting a divorce? Why did my best friend commit suicide? Why, in this economy, can’t I get the good job I was promised if I was a good kid?”

Souls in Transition: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of Emerging Adults
Christian Smith, Patricia Snell, Oxford University Press (2009)

Book Findings: Parents are the most crucial and powerful socializers in the lives of their adolescents. The adolescent years are not the time to disengage as a parent. Growing adolescent independence often necessitates negotiation. If adolescents experience parents who are religiously withdrawn and functionally absent, then the faith of an emerging adult likely will also be vacuous, directionless, and empty. The more adults involved in the lives of adolescents, the better off they will be. This will mean that ministries to youth and families must find ways to incorporate loving, agenda-free adults into the lives of the ministry. Ministries to youth matter now more than ever. With the breakdown of the family and the systemic erosion of adult support, congregational youth ministers are more necessary than ever before.

Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites…and Other Lies You’ve Been Told: A Sociologist Shatters Myths From the Secular and Christian Media (2010)
Bradley R. E. Wright, Bethany House (2010)

Book Findings: Parents of students who did not leave the church emphasized religion twice as much as those who students who left the church. Students who stayed in church through college said that the first thing they do when they have doubts or questions was to talk to their parents and then read their Bibles.

You Lost Me: Why Young Christians Are Leaving Church . . . and Rethinking Faith
David Kinnaman, Baker Books (2011)

Book Findings: Nearly 25% of the 18- to 29-year-olds interviewed said “Christians demonize everything outside of the church” most of the time. 22% also said the church ignores real-world problems and 18% said that their church was too concerned about the negative impact of movies, music and video games. 33% of survey participants felt that “church is boring.” 20% of those who attended as a teenager said that God appeared to be missing from their experience of church. Many young adults do not like the way churches appear to be against science. Over 33% of young adults said that “Christians are too confident they know all the answers” and 25% of them said that “Christianity is anti-science.” 17% percent of young Christians say they’ve “made mistakes and feel judged in church because of them.” Two out of five young adult Catholics said that the church’s teachings on birth control and sex are “out of date.” 29% of young Christians said “churches are afraid of the beliefs of other faiths” and feel they have to choose between their friends and their faith. Over 33% of young adults said they feel like they can’t ask life’s most pressing questions in church and 23% said they had “significant intellectual doubts” about their faith.

Families and Faith: How Religion is Passed Down Across Generations
Vern L. Bengtson. Norella M. Putney, Susan Harris, Oxford University Press (2013)

Book Findings: Several key findings were discovered in this 35-year study of families, focusing on the question of how religion is passed across generations:

1. Parents continue to be the single greatest influence on their children’s faith.
2. When a child sees and hears that faith actually makes a difference in Mom and Dad’s lives, they’re much more likely to follow suit.
3. Young adults are more likely to share their parents’ religious beliefs and participation if they feel that they have a close relationship with those parents.
4. Young Christians who leave the faith are far more likely to return when parents have been patient and supportive – and perhaps more tolerant and open than they had been before the prodigal’s departure.

5 Reasons Millennials Stay Connected to Church
Barna Study (2013)

Study Findings: This research included a series of national public opinion surveys conducted by Barna Group to find the most effective ways to keep millennials connected to the church. The listed the following strategies:

1. Develop meaningful relationships with millennials
2. Teach millennials to study and discern what’s happening in the culture
3. Help millennials discover their own mission in the world, rather than ask them to wait their turn
4. Teach millennials a more potent theology of vocation, or calling.
5. Help millennials develop a lasting faith by facilitating a deeper sense of intimacy with God

Nothing Less: Engaging Kids in a Lifetime of Faith
Jana Magruder and Ben Trueblood (2018)

Book / Study Findings: A study was conducted by Shelby Systems in preparation for the publication of this book. The study surveyed 2,000 Protestant and nondenominational churchgoers who attended services at least once a month and have adult children ages 18 to 30 who are still believers. They found the following “Predictors of Spiritual Health for Young Adults”:

Child regularly read the Bible while growing up.
Child regularly spent time in prayer while growing up.
Child regularly served in church while growing up.
Child listened primarily to Christian music.
Child participated in church mission trips/projects.

In addition, they found that parents who had successfully passed on their faith to their children typically were involved in the following activities:

Reading the Bible several times a week.
Taking part in a service project or church mission trip as a family.
Sharing their faith with unbelievers.
Encouraging teenagers to serve in church.
Asking forgiveness when they messed up as parents.
Encouraging their children’s unique talents and interests.
Taking annual family vacations.
Attending churches with teaching that emphasized what the Bible says.
Teaching their children to tithe.

There you have it; a short summary of some of the research being done on the exodus of young people from the Church and some of the reasons they give for their departure. Can a case be made that young Christians are leaving the Church in record numbers? Yes. Can a case be made that many of these young people are leaving because the culture around them has impacted them deeply and caused them to question the truth claims of Christianity? Yes, again. So, what are we going to do about it? What can be done? Visit our Youth section to get a few ideas.

For more information about strategies to help you teach Christian worldview to the next generation, please read So the Next Generation Will Know: Training Young Christians in a Challenging World. This book teaches parents, youth pastors and Christian educators practical, accessible strategies and principles they can employ to teach the youngest Christians the truth of Christianity. The book is accompanied by an eight-session So the Next Generation Will Know DVD Set (and Participant’s Guide) to help individuals or small groups examine the evidence and make the case.

J. Warner Wallace is a Dateline featured Cold-Case Detective, Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, Adj. Professor of Christian Apologetics at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, author of Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, and creator of the Case Makers Academy for kids.

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A new, 2018 Pew Research Center Report polled a growing group in America: “religious nones.” This group describes themselves as “nothing in particular” when asked if they identify with a specific religious group. The vast majority are ex-Christians, and most are under the age of 35. Pew asked a representative sample of these “religious nones” why they now reject any religious affiliation and provided respondents with six possible responses.

According to the Pew report, most “religious nones” left because they “question a lot of religious teaching” (51 percent agreed with this statement), or because they “don’t like the positions churches take on social/political issues” (46 percent agreed with this statement). To a lesser extent, “nones” agreed with the statements, “I don’t like religious organizations” (34 percent), “I don’t like religious leaders” (31 percent), or “Religion is irrelevant to me” (26 percent).

From this data, one might infer that Christians leave the faith because they no longer agree with the teaching of the Church or that they don’t like religious organizations or leaders.

But this is not why young Christians are leaving the church.

One glaring statistic was largely overlooked in the latest data collected by the Pew Research Center. When religious “nones” were asked to identify the most important reason for not affiliating with a religion, the largest response was that none of the six responses provided by Pew were actually very important. In this poll, Pew did not allow respondents to answer in their own words. So, even though respondents searched for an answer that approximated their experience, most didn’t believe that any of the reasons offered by Pew were very important to them when deciding to abandon their religious identity.

What, then, is the real reason young Christians (and other religious believers) leave the faith? The answer lies in a prior, 2016 Pew Research Center survey which allowed respondents to answer in their own words. In this study, most “nones” said they no longer identified with a religious group because they no longer believed it was true. When asked why they didn’t believe, many said their views about God had “evolved” and some reported having a “crisis of faith.” Their specific explanations included the following statements:

“Learning about evolution when I went away to college”
“Religion is the opiate of the people”
“Rational thought makes religion go out the window”
“Lack of any sort of scientific or specific evidence of a creator”
“I just realized somewhere along the line that I didn’t really believe it”
“I’m doing a lot more learning, studying and kind of making decisions myself rather than listening to someone else.”

The data from this 2016 study may explain why ex-Christians “question a lot of religious teaching,” as reported in the 2018 study. The teaching they question seems to be about the existence of God, and this is consistent with the explanations offered by ex-Christians in a variety of other recent studies. When Christians walk away from the faith, more often than not, it’s due to some form of intellectual skepticism. Ex-Christians often describe religious beliefs as innately blind or unreasonable.

But that doesn’t accurately reflect the rich, evidential history of Christianity. The psalmist appealed to the design and fine-tuning of the universe to demonstrate the existence of God (Psalm 19:1). Jesus appealed to both eyewitness testimony (John 16:8) and the indirect evidence of his miracles (John 10:38) to argue for the authority of his statements. The disciples identified themselves as eyewitnesses and appealed to their observations of the Resurrection to make the case for the Deity of Jesus (Acts 4:33).

Ex-Christians often leave the Church because they don’t think anyone in the Church can answer their questions or make a case. It’s time for believers to accept their responsibility to explain what Christianity proposes and why these propositions are true, especially when interacting with young people who have legitimate questions. Rather than embracing a blind or unreasonable faith, Christians must develop an informed, forensic faith that can stand up in the marketplace of ideas.

We know why young Christians are leaving. Now it’s time to give them a reason to stay.
J. Warner Wallace is a Cold-Case Detective, Christian Case Maker, Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, and the author of Cold-Case Christianity, Cold-Case Christianity for Kids, God’s Crime Scene, God’s Crime Scene for Kids, and Forensic Faith. 
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Many parents and church leaders wonder how to most effectively cultivate durable faith in the lives of young people. A five-year project headed by Barna Group president David Kinnaman explores the opportunities and challenges of faith development among teens and young adults within a rapidly shifting culture. The findings of the research are included in a new book by Kinnaman titled You Lost Me: Why Young Christians are Leaving Church and Rethinking Church.

The research project was comprised of eight national studies, including interviews with teenagers, young adults, parents, youth pastors, and senior pastors. The study of young adults focused on those who were regular churchgoers Christian church during their teen years and explored their reasons for disconnection from church life after age 15.

No single reason dominated the break-up between church and young adults. Instead, a variety of reasons emerged. Overall, the research uncovered six significant themes why nearly three out of every five young Christians (59%) disconnect either permanently or for an extended period of time from church life after age 15.

Reason #1 – Churches seem overprotective.
A few of the defining characteristics of today’s teens and young adults are their unprecedented access to ideas and worldviews as well as their prodigious consumption of popular culture. As Christians, they express the desire for their faith in Christ to connect to the world they live in. However, much of their experience of Christianity feels stifling, fear-based and risk-averse. One-quarter of 18- to 29-year-olds said “Christians demonize everything outside of the church” (23% indicated this “completely” or “mostly” describes their experience). Other perceptions in this category include “church ignoring the problems of the real world” (22%) and “my church is too concerned that movies, music, and video games are harmful” (18%).

Reason #2 – Teens’ and twentysomethings’ experience of Christianity is shallow.
A second reason that young people depart church as young adults is that something is lacking in their experience of church. One-third said “church is boring” (31%). One-quarter of these young adults said that “faith is not relevant to my career or interests” (24%) or that “the Bible is not taught clearly or often enough” (23%). Sadly, one-fifth of these young adults who attended a church as a teenager said that “God seems missing from my experience of church” (20%).

Reason #3 – Churches come across as antagonistic to science.
One of the reasons young adults feel disconnected from church or from faith is the tension they feel between Christianity and science. The most common of the perceptions in this arena is “Christians are too confident they know all the answers” (35%). Three out of ten young adults with a Christian background feel that “churches are out of step with the scientific world we live in” (29%). Another one-quarter embrace the perception that “Christianity is anti-science” (25%). And nearly the same proportion (23%) said they have “been turned off by the creation-versus-evolution debate.” Furthermore, the research shows that many science-minded young Christians are struggling to find ways of staying faithful to their beliefs and to their professional calling in science-related industries.
Five Myths about Young Adult Church Dropouts

Reason #4 – Young Christians’ church experiences related to sexuality are often simplistic, judgmental.
With unfettered access to digital pornography and immersed in a culture that values hyper-sexuality over wholeness, teen and twentysometing Christians are struggling with how to live meaningful lives in terms of sex and sexuality. One of the significant tensions for many young believers is how to live up to the church’s expectations of chastity and sexual purity in this culture, especially as the age of first marriage is now commonly delayed to the late twenties. Research indicates that most young Christians are as sexually active as their non-Christian peers, even though they are more conservative in their attitudes about sexuality. One-sixth of young Christians (17%) said they “have made mistakes and feel judged in church because of them.” The issue of sexuality is particularly salient among 18- to 29-year-old Catholics, among whom two out of five (40%) said the church’s “teachings on sexuality and birth control are out of date.”

Reason #5 – They wrestle with the exclusive nature of Christianity.
Younger Americans have been shaped by a culture that esteems open-mindedness, tolerance and acceptance. Today’s youth and young adults also are the most eclectic generation in American history in terms of race, ethnicity, sexuality, religion, technological tools and sources of authority. Most young adults want to find areas of common ground with each other, sometimes even if that means glossing over real differences. Three out of ten young Christians (29%) said “churches are afraid of the beliefs of other faiths” and an identical proportion felt they are “forced to choose between my faith and my friends.” One-fifth of young adults with a Christian background said “church is like a country club, only for insiders” (22%).
 Three Spiritual Journeys of Millennials

Reason #6 – The church feels unfriendly to those who doubt.
Young adults with Christian experience say the church is not a place that allows them to express doubts. They do not feel safe admitting that sometimes Christianity does not make sense. In addition, many feel that the church’s response to doubt is trivial. Some of the perceptions in this regard include not being able “to ask my most pressing life questions in church” (36%) and having “significant intellectual doubts about my faith” (23%). In a related theme of how churches struggle to help young adults who feel marginalized, about one out of every six young adults with a Christian background said their faith “does not help with depression or other emotional problems” they experience (18%).

Turning Toward Connection
David Kinnaman, who is the coauthor of the book unChristian, explained that “the problem of young adults dropping out of church life is particularly urgent because most churches work best for ‘traditional’ young adults – those whose life journeys and life questions are normal and conventional. But most young adults no longer follow the typical path of leaving home, getting an education, finding a job, getting married and having kids—all before the age of 30. These life events are being delayed, reordered, and sometimes pushed completely off the radar among today’s young adults.

“Consequently, churches are not prepared to handle the ‘new normal.’ Instead, church leaders are most comfortable working with young, married adults, especially those with children. However, the world for young adults is changing in significant ways, such as their remarkable access to the world and worldviews via technology, their alienation from various institutions, and their skepticism toward external sources of authority, including Christianity and the Bible.”

The research points to two opposite, but equally dangerous responses by faith leaders and parents: either catering to or minimizing the concerns of the next generation. The study suggests some leaders ignore the concerns and issues of teens and twentysomethings because they feel that the disconnection will end when young adults are older and have their own children. Yet, this response misses the dramatic technological, social and spiritual changes that have occurred over the last 25 years and ignores the significant present-day challenges these young adults are facing.

Other churches seem to be taking the opposite corrective action by using all means possible to make their congregation appeal to teens and young adults. However, putting the focus squarely on youth and young adults causes the church to exclude older believers and “builds the church on the preferences of young people and not on the pursuit of God,” Kinnaman said.

Between these extremes, the just-released book You Lost Me points to ways in which the various concerns being raised by young Christians (including church dropouts) could lead to revitalized ministry and deeper connections in families. Kinnaman observed that many churches approach generations in a hierarchical, top-down manner, rather than deploying a true team of believers of all ages. “Cultivating intergenerational relationships is one of the most important ways in which effective faith communities are developing flourishing faith in both young and old. In many churches, this means changing the metaphor from simply passing the baton to the next generation to a more functional, biblical picture of a body – that is, the entire community of faith, across the entire lifespan, working together to fulfill God’s purposes.”
You Lost Me
Buy: the book
Download: free excerpt

About the Research
This Barna Update is based on research conducted for the Faith That Lasts Project, which took place between 2007 and 2011. The research included a series of national public opinion surveys conducted by Barna Group.

In addition to extensive quantitative interviewing with adults and faith leaders nationwide, the main research examination for the study was conducted with 18- to 29-year-olds who had been active in a Christian church at some point in their teen years. The quantitative study among 18- to 29-year-olds was conducted online with 1,296 current and former churchgoers. The Faith That Lasts research also included parallel testing on key measures using telephone surveys, including interviews conducted among respondents using cell phones, to help ensure the representativeness of the online sample. The sampling error associated with 1,296 interviews is plus or minus 2.7 percentage points, at the 95% confidence level.

The online study relied upon a research panel called KnowledgePanel®, created by Knowledge Networks. It is a probability-based online non-volunteer access panel. Panel members are recruited using a statistically valid sampling method with a published sample frame of residential addresses that covers approximately 97% of U.S. households. Sampled non-Internet households, when recruited, are provided a netbook computer and free Internet service so they may also participate as online panel members. KnowledgePanel consists of about 50,000 adult members (ages 18 and older) and includes persons living in cell phone only households.

About Barna Group
Barna Group (which includes its research division, the Barna Research Group) is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization under the umbrella of the Issachar Companies. It conducts primary research, produces media resources pertaining to spiritual development, and facilitates the healthy spiritual growth of leaders, children, families and Christian ministries.

Located in Ventura, California, Barna Group has been conducting and analyzing primary research to understand cultural trends related to values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors since 1984. If you would like to receive free e-mail notification of the release of each update on the latest research findings from Barna Group, you may subscribe to this free service at the Barna website (www.barna.org). Additional research-based resources are also available through this website.

© Barna Group, 2011.