Friday, December 5, 2014

Gifts of the Spirit in the Church: And diagnostics of the Lost

I can't help but notice certain patterns in the people and groups around me.  Of course people are more complex than stereotypes, but there are certain observable patterns that do emerge, and tend to be at least somewhat accurate in describing people groups.

What do people think about Jesus?  There are a lot of words said.  Sometimes devout people say wonderful things about Jesus.  Sometimes depraved people make sharp contrasts between Jesus and his followers.  Sometimes great men make sharp claims regarding religion.  But what's really going on beneath the surface?  I thought describing what I notice in those who attend and don't attend church might be interesting, and fun.  So these are some "people groups" I notice emerging as I attend church, and simply talk with people about Jesus.  I'm not trying to be mean, just reporting what I notice.  

Twenty broad general people groups, 10 doing the right things, 10 doing the wrong things, enjoy!

The Not Interested Crowd - This is by far the large majority in the United States.  They don't have anything to say about Christianity.  It's all about entertainment for the people in this crowd.  Television, videogames, sports, raunchy humor, cars, anime, movies, big trucks, clubs, bars, alcohol, and sex.  During the week it's about working to survive and on weekends it's about drinking and getting laid.  The tavern is really the worship event for this group.  They go to the tavern and worship women, men, relationships, or sexual activity.  If asked, they have no interest, and not really any opinion on it either.  Christianity seems to have nothing to do with their lives.

Sleeper Professionals - This is the middle class and upper class crowd.  They're well educated, and their life is a balance of appearances, classy entertainment, and self importance.  This is the crowd that wears nice clothes, and does trendy things like "go to a local coffee shop" or "have a glass wine after a meal" or "have a dinner party with colleagues."  These men and women have clear pictures in their mind of what it means to be happy and satisfied.  They strive very hard for the perfect home, the perfect mate, the perfect job, and all the right opinions about them in the community.  Sometimes they achieve all of those balances only to find, there is still something missing.  Some in this crowd may also be cultural Christians, who recognize they need a belief in a higher power, but don't want it interfering in their picturesque lifestyle too much..  Sometimes these are the people driving the nice jet black cars with tinted windows with the "darwin" fish plate on the back.  These are the people who love to be thought of as "tolerant."  They also love the idea of all religions leading to the same place, and think spirituality is great, but religion is bad.

Dead Walking - These kinds of people you see around, and they tend to look like zombies.  They've lived as sleepers or not interested so long, eventually their souls have died internally.  But they still shamble about, working at the gas station, or shopping for groceries, maybe occasionally in a stressful fit, the rest of the time, jaw dropped, kind of shambling about in old age, dead on the inside, still walking on the outside.  You'll notice them staring at their phone, texting, or walking along with a blank look on their face.  Sometimes they'll be in a rush, upset.  Other times they'll be waiting in line with that blank frown on their face.  We've all seen them about I'm sure!

The Addict - This is the one I used to be.  The addict (alcoholic) was always in search of something that could fill the hole in their chest, that missing something in their lives.  That missing something was God all along, but they thought they had found it in a particular drug, like alcohol, adderall, prozac, painkillers, xanax, dextromethorphan or even harder stuff like cocaine, meth, or heroin, and before they knew it the drug had sucked them into a seemingly unbreakable addiction.  Most people who reach the addiction stage will eventually die in some complication related to that addiction, but some may be found, perhaps through a church, counseling, or a 12 step group where they realizing that missing piece is God.  But few have that chance, since the addiction changes the personality so drastically over years.  Change is tough.

The Passive Rebel - These are the people who are agnostic or atheist, but don't think about it a lot.  They generally look for satisfaction in other parts of life, like work, and mainly, in relationships and sexuality.  They don't necessarily have a vendetta against God, but they do actively evade and flee from any mention of God or any suggestion of accountability.  When cornered and asked about God, they may lash out, or simply sarcastically say something about "unicorns" or "leprechauns" and laugh in your face, or simply politely say that they don't believe in any sort of God. 

The Active Rebel - These are the warrior atheists, who are quite active in their hatred for God.  They are sometimes part of atheist groups, they love evolution and science, and they often attack Christians and their views.  This is the group in active and intense rebellion against God.  They don't flee God, they shout in his face and mock him.  They fight very hard against a God they say doesn't exist, ironically.  Perhaps even more ironically, is that they are probably closer to finding God than any of the previously mentioned groups, because of their interest in the topic.  These are the people that I love, and I try to form friendships with.  Scientism tends to be their religion, an all encompassing faith in the doctrines of science. 

The Seeker - the seeker is a sight to behold.  And despite what strict Calvinists will tell you, people do indeed seek out and find God (Deuteronomy 4:29, Proverb 8:17, Matthew 7:7).  The seeker is looking for the truth.  Of course the seeker will never find it without the help of the Holy Spirit.  I experienced it, when in my own sort of understanding of a vague spirituality, Jesus Christ intersected and found me where I was.  The seeker knows the answer is in spirituality, and the Spirit will often notice this person seeking out, and intersect with that person on their journey and point them to Jesus.  I love seekers.  

The Flashy CEO - This is the ministry leader in the Christian church who is good at appearing devout, but struggles with pride and does much of his or her work in the church for personal gain and a sense of importance.  These folks love to look good in suits, and like to be at the center of attention, important; high profile influencers.  Any Christian with a good eye can see through these types.  If you walk into a church and this person is the pastor.. walk back out.  False teachers the Bible calls them.

The Hard Christian - These are the strict Calvinists, theological bullies you might call them.  They come after people about sin.  They argue over minor theological issues.  They spend a lot of time judging others.  When they talk to you they tend to come off as pushy, intense, and somewhat phony.  They have excellent head knowledge and can rail off verses like nobodies business, but they don't have a lot of love or mercy to give anyone.  Some are outright pharisees, some are just misguided bullies who don't pray enough.  These are generally the Christians who creep you out and get into shouting matches with non-believers.  

The Soft Christian - The soft Christian goes to church every week, but doesn't really live the Christian life.  You could call them cultural Christians.  They come to church, they may even pray or study their Bible occasionally, but they are highly wrapped up in sin.  They sleep around, they smoke cigarettes, they drink, and they party.  They miss church sometimes, sometimes they stop coming all together.  They may be backsliding believers, believers who have lost their salvation due to constant sin, or they may be strong believers who simply haven't connected their internal beliefs with their outward actions.  This is generally the majority of people in most churches I've attended.  They're quiet, they believe, but they don't live it too well.

The Disciple Maker - Now let's get into some of the positive ones.  The disciple maker is an interpersonal master.  They tend to lead Bible studies or small groups, and they always seem to have someone underneath their wing that they're teaching and building up in the faith.  They're extroverted and love to celebrate the goodness of Jesus.  It's a real joy to see the disciplemaker at work.  They truly love Jesus with passion.

The Prayer Warrior - This is the Christian who never gets enough praise in this world for their actions.  They are in strong obedience to the call of the Bible to "pray continuously."  They often participate in prayer group, and they tend to be encouragers and unofficial counselors and supporters to those in the congregation.  They tend to do a lot of quiet things for the Lord that don't draw a lot of attention like donating to charity, volunteering, and praying for every single person they see or have seen.  What a wonderful, beautiful meekness in the prayer warrior.  Their connection to God is quite special, and so deep it's like a precious mystery to behold.  

The Devout Evangelist - this warrior for Christ has a need within his or her own heart, a conviction, that everyone can and should know Jesus Christ as Lord and savior.  They know deep down that Jesus is the answer to all the problems of the world and all the brokenness.  They desperately want others to know the peace of Christ.  They see every social gathering or conversation as a chance to bring up Jesus and mention how great the Lord is.  They genuinely love peace and take joy in showing mercy to those in need.

The Merciful Healer - This is the category that someone like Mother Teresa would fall into.  Their chief purpose is to show mercy to everyone they meet that might be in pain or in need of healing.  They don't have any room for judging or condemning.  It doesn't even occur to them, they simply show mercy and show love, again and again.  They are great listeners and comforters.  Healers are beautiful Christ-like servants who think of others before themselves.  Healers have hearts of gold.  They naturally focus on listening, healing, and meeting needs in communities. 

The Dedicated Missionary - These are the people who are either planning, on their way, or at work in a foreign mission field.  They have a deep belief that they must go to a certain place, region, or country.  They know it deep down because the Holy Spirit has placed it in their heart.  And they find a way to go, and arrive, and work tirelessly for the cause of Christ in broken parts of the world.  The missionary often seems mysterious to Christians, their intense dedication is shocking at times, but they know because the Spirit has told them to.. go.  So they go.

The Activist Powerhouse - aka the prophet role.  These people are on a divine mission to expose evil (Eph 5:11) and fight for the cause of Christ on Earth.  Some hard Christians think they are the prophet role, but are simply noisy gong condemners.  There is a fine line, and on the activist powerhouse side is a devout belief in Jesus, a gentle humility, and a love for the truth that is the engine of their change power, fueled by the Holy Spirit.  I love these guys and gals, they are the ones who can tell you right off what their mission is, and are simply dedicated.  You can see it in their eyes.  They may confront liberty issues, social problems, world hunger, political issues, or disease.  

The Theologian - the theologian is a Bible master.  He's studied, read, reread, and attempts to systematize and intuitively understand the culmination of all the books of the Bible.  The theologian is creative and loves to glean new realities from a succinct understanding of scripture.   His passion for the word of God is unparalleled.  These are the men and women who live the word, yet they also seem to exist in the word. They think of life as a biblical existence. They see the reality beyond the illusion of the physical world: they exist in a biblical reality and see truth where others see only lies and false constructs of sin.  They see God in beauty, in nature, in people, and in themselves.  They live out the reality of God in community and creation.

The Soldier Defender - These are the people who love Christian apologetics, the reasonable defense of the Christian faith.  They tend to fall into two subcategories, the analytical apologist and the intuitive apologist.  Prime examples would be William Lane Craig and Ravi Zacharias.  Dr. Craig focuses on the rational arguments more so while Dr. Zacharias focuses in on philosophy and beauty.  The defender loves the gospel and it tends to itch them when skeptics attack the Bible and the idea of God.  The defender loves to cross over into disciplines like science, history, archaeology, empiricism, and philosophy and prove the reliability of the Bible, the historicity of Jesus Christ, and the existence of God on the skeptics own terms.  At the end of the day, the defender is the vital cultural warrior who seeks to show that the gospel of Christ is alive and relevant today, tomorrow and always.  If Christianity in the United States is the city on the hill, the soldier defenders are the garrison of troops defending the city against a hostile culture.

The Peaceful Shepherd - Whenever this pastor, priest, deacon or leader speaks at services somewhere, the powerful peace and presence of Christ seems to descend like doves on the crowd.  These men and women are in deep personal contact with the Lord; in a way many of us can hardly understand.  When they speak it's like the scriptures come to life in the power of the Holy Spirit.  If your leader is one of these, stick around, great teaching always follows.  

The Reformer - If you're very lucky, in your life you may encounter one of these greats.  Reformers include people like Martin Luther, John Calvin, Jacob Arminius, Mother Teresa, Francis of Assisi, Erasmus, Justin Martyr, Ravi Zacharias, Francis Schaefer, Billy Graham, Augustine, the Apostle Paul, the Apostle Peter, and of course Jesus Christ himself.  They are game-changers.  When they arrive and begin to work, it's like a watershed, a nexus, everything changes.  These greats tend to be shockers in their pure devotion to God.  Many of them are flawed (aside from Jesus) yet they have a vital message that changes the world forever.  They inspire people.  They tend to be creative.  They also tend to be able to see through all the nonsense, to the purest teaching of the Bible.  Reformers are able to translate the truth into real world application seamlessly. 

Of course no one fits any one of these 'categories' perfectly.  But certain people do come to mind as we imagine each description of people groups.  I don't mean to judge or condemn, but only to point out certain observations that might be helpful to those wondering about where they are at, and what part they have to play in the kingdom.  Can you think of other groups you might've noticed inside or outside the church?  Leave a comment describing that group.  Just don't leave a comment saying you "don't like labels."  Everyone uses labels.  My name, Justin Steckbauer, is a label.  The name of the place where I work is a label.  The name of the food I'll eat for dinner is a label.  Everything has a label, and that's a good thing, otherwise we'd have nothing to talk about.  Thanks for reading, take care and God bless!

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