A history of hating (false) religion – the list may surprise you!

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(A Plan to invite Millennials and our new neighbors)
(The sermon follows the YouTube, “Why I Hate Religion but Love Jesus”)

Now before you get your blood pressure up, get all defensive and angry, let me give you a little background on that. His name is Jefferson Bethke. He is a member – yes, you heard me right, a member of Mars Hill Church, a mega church in Seattle, Washington. He is a Millennial, part of the generation born between 1980 and 2000. That YouTube has gotten over 22 million views since being released in January, 2012!

He represents a generation, and while we can disagree with his caricature of religion, we need to listen because for that generation, their perception of religion is reality! I have been hinting around the point in my preaching and writing for a while; today I want to come at it head on; perception of many people (not only Millennials) is that Christianity is arrogant, judgmental, exclusive, unforgiving and without grace. As I have said before, regrettably, in many ways we have earned that reputation! Jefferson Bethke loves the Church but he hates (FALSE) religion that he sees proclaimed and lived by many in the Church today!

To give you perspective and a better understanding of what he is trying to say in that YouTube, let’s look at others who hated (FALSE) religion. God! Yes, the God of the Old Testament hated (FALSE) religion; a religion of show combined with a faith that oppressed justice! Take a look at the prophets – Amos, Hosea, Isaiah and Jeremiah – it is all very clear! Jesus hated (FALSE) religion; think about how He continually railed at the religious leaders, “Woe to you scribes and Pharisees!...” St. Paul hated (FALSE) religion; a religion that bound people and did not free them in the cross. Martin Luther and the Reformers hated (FALSE) religion; a religion based on works righteousness and not God’s justifying grace in Christ. Jefferson Bethke hates the (FALSE) religion of today; the prosperity gospel that says if you are good, God will love you and the harsh gospel that turns God into an exclusive task master who condemns others at our command.

I went to YouTube and watched another 45 minute presentation by this guy. I want you to know, in my estimation, he is orthodox and in many ways Lutheran! In fact, he says Martin Luther is the boss! You may not have gotten it from this YouTube because he uses hyperbole, but this guy loves the Church…lots of Millennials would love the Church if it looked more like Jesus and not so (FALSE)! When I watched that YouTube the first time – and got very defensive! – I thought to myself; if Jefferson Bethke spent a month at LCR I believe that he would love this church! And here my friends is the point…if the Millennials in this community spent a month at LCR they would love this church too! I know I’m bias…but I really believe that!

Next week is Friendship Weekend here at LCR. Who are your neighbors? Who lives in Hamilton County? 47% of your neighbors are not religious adherents; no religious affiliation! Who lives in Clermont County? 70% of your neighbors are not religious adherents! That is our mission field! 18% of the Millennial Generation attend worship regularly. 18%! Incidentally, almost all of them had religious experiences as teenagers! There are a whole lot of people in our neighborhoods who are not part of a Church community…which reminds me of an old story from my business days about the shoe salesman in Africa.

This shoe manufacturer trains up this news salesman and they send him to Africa. That is his sales territory. He gets off the plane, looks around, and sees that none of the Africans wear shoes. He quickly sends a text back to headquarters, “Bring me home, nobody here wears shoes!” So the company sends a second salesman. He gets off the plane, looks around, and sees that none of the Africans wear shoes. He quickly sends a text back to headquarters, “Send me every pair of shoes you can manufacture, nobody here wears shoes!”

I’m looking around Hamilton and Clermont counties. You know what I say, “Send More Shoes!” So what did you do?... You hired another “shoe salesman!” A Millennial no less! Now we have two! What next?...

We live in a transient community; “For Sale” signs are going up all the time. I think we should invite our new neighbors to LCR. I think this is an opportunity! Frankly, I’m not big on knocking on doors. Mark Daniels knocked on over 6,000 doors when he was the mission pastor getting Friendship Lutheran started in Amelia. Fifteen years later they were worshipping between 80 and 100. Knocking on doors is not very effective…except…when we have new neighbors who are unaffiliated with a church, looking for a new community and setting new family patterns. I think this has great potential. I’m not guaranteeing it, I’m hoping for it!

The Burchett’s sold their house and the new owners were in worship last weekend! Now I’m not saying you have to sell your house, but here is my plan; when you have a new neighbor move in, go over and knock on their door. Introduce yourself and take stock of the demographic. Based on what you see; young couple, small children, teenagers, or retirees; give them a brochure, tell them about LCR and invite them to try worship here. Is that too hard? Then contact Pastor Nicole or me and we’ll go with you. Still too threatening, then just give us the address of your new neighbor and we’ll go meet them and tell them about you and us.

I know this can be a bit threatening for Lutherans. I tried it once twenty-five years ago on Long Island. People saw us coming to their door and turned on the sprinklers and set their pit bulls out on the front porch! I felt like St. Paul! But you know what; it felt good to “suffer” for the Gospel! “He called the twelve and sent them out…” He still does!

That is really my message for you today; it is a simple plan. I’m not sure it will work, but I think it is consistent with the Great Commission so I’ll trust the Spirit with it! But you need to do the work. Our new Millennial and I; we’ll help you, but we’re not in your neighborhood. You need to do the work! Why? Because right now your neighbors know about (FALSE) religion. They deserve to know about the (REAL) Jesus and this community who worships Him!

Why I Hate Religion but Love Jesus

Jefferson Bethke – Mars Hill Church, Seattle, Washington
Released on YouTube January 10, 2012

6 million views and 64,000 comments in first three days

14 million views and well over 100,000 comments in first two weeks

Over 22 million views as of today!

“You call people blind, but that doesn’t give you vision.”

“You build huge churches but fail to feed the poor.”

“You preach grace but ridicule people.”

“…there’s a problem if people only know you’re a Christian by your Facebook.”

“Sunday you go to church…Saturday you have sex and get wasted.”

“If grace is like water, the Church should be an ocean.”

“The Church should not be a museum for good people, but a hospital for the broken.”

“Religion says do, Jesus says done…Religion says slave, Jesus says son…Religion puts you in bondage, Jesus sets you free…Religion makes you blind, Jesus makes you see…Religion is man searching for God, Christianity is God searching for man…”

Who else has hated (false) religion?

God – Amos 5:23, Hosea 6:6

“I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”

Jesus – Matthew 23:23

“Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith.”

Paul – Romans 3:21

“But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.”

The Reformers

“Thus out of the making of one law (circumcision) grew a thousand laws, until they (the Papacy) have completely buried us under laws.” – Martin Luther

Who are our neighbors?

52.5% of Hamilton County residents are religious adherents (affiliated with any religion)

30.3% of Clermont County residents are religious adherents!

(Source: The Association of Religion Data Archives, www.thearda.com)

18% of Millennials attend worship regularly (The Lutheran, August 2012, p. 21)

Almost all of them had religious experiences as teenagers!
We don’t have to water down our “religion,” theology, or worship to attract Millennials. We have to keep worship authentic and connected to Christ/Holy Spirit, be comfortable in the mystery of God and prayer, and look more like Jesus!

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