RG2G 053 Why 42 Million Christians Have Left the American Church

In a recent research study, the Barna Group has reported that over 42 million Christians in America are no longer actively attending and supporting a church.

In today’s show we talk about some of the reasons why, and what can be done.   If you’re one of the 42 million, there is hope.  Good things are happening and you can find a church that will not only challenge you, but allow you to fulfill your desire to make a difference for God.

It Might as Well Be You

If God is going to bless someone, it might as well be you.  If He’s going to pour out favor on some business or endeavor, it might as well be yours.  If God is going to show up in a big way for some family, it might as well be yours.

That’s what we learned this past weekend as we continued our series, “Moo Out Loud.”  Not only do we have a standing, a calling, but we have a ministry.  And for our ministries to move forward and find God’s favor, they have to have a mission; a big, important, significant, lifelong foundation and platform from which we can take our stand.

We talked today about the four responses to culture.  We talked about what a meaningful mission is not, but also the benefits of having a mission and knowing if that mission is worthy of your best efforts.

Several people came by this weekend on the way out and said, “Because of this series, I’m no longer invisible.”  That’s like music to my heart.  The worst thing you can be is invisible.  We’ve all been tired, discouraged or depressed, and even despondent.  But no one has to be invisible.  God made you for a purpose.  He has you here for something significant that you can do.  You have a ministry, but your ministry needs a mission.  If you listen to today’s talk, you’ll find out how to make that happen.


RG2G 052 How Do You See Yourself?

One of the haunting questions I’ve had to deal with over and over is, “Why do people who call themselves Christians behave so badly?”  Is it because they are bad people, or is something else bigger going on?

Here’s what I’ve learned. Identity determines behavior.  How you truly see yourself is how you live. Too many Christians have been told and taught that they are just sinners saved by grace and nothing more.  Others have been taught that their relationship with God is initiated by grace but depends on their faithfulness over a lifetime.  All of this leaves people confused.

Here is the truth.  We tend to live either down or up to the expectations and the influences in our life. So the question is, is Christianity a big God-stick that people use to beat you up and keep you in line? Or is your faith something more?  Has it just changed your behavior and your lifestyle, or is it a brand new life?  We deal with all these things today on episode # 52.

And we end by the three declarations.  I don’t know if you’ve heard them.  But listen, learn them, memorize them, say them over and over and over to yourself.  Because the truth of the matter is, a lot of us sabotage our success simply because we see ourselves, at the core, as someone unworthy of God’s blessing.

As I’ve said over and over, the number one problem in American Christianity is self-loathing.  We have not accepted our acceptance.  On today’s show I give you some core reasons why.

Free Your Mind, and the Rest Will Follow

We continue this week in our series “Moo Out Loud” to try and figure out how we can stand up and be heard above the noise of the herd.  So today we dealt with the first of our five practices, and that is, to free our mind.

From the moment you were born, people have attacked the brilliance of your mind.  Yes, that’s true.  That’s not an overstatement.  We’re afraid of people who think.  For what reason, I don’t know.  Maybe it’s because they won’t agree with us and conform and get in line, and do what the power-brokers and gatekeepers want them to do. But there is one striking fact. When God created us in his image, He trusted us enough to give us a brain: the ability to think, to ponder, to consider, to choose.  And what do we do in return for the favor? We allow crazy people to bring it into bondage.

So as you listen to the talk today, talk with your family, or your small group about the three different ways we allow our minds to be in bondage.  Do any of those show up in your family or your workplace? How much money are these limiting beliefs causing you?  How much true success is eluding you because you’re trapped in one of these prisons?

Also walk through the three declarations that we talked about yesterday.  Consider each one carefully.  What do they mean to you? And I challenge you this week, to say them.  You’ll probably be embarrassed to say them out loud unless you’re in your car or your house alone.  But say them in your heart and spirit.  Say them as an act of gratitude and worship to the God who thought you were important enough to be on this planet, at this moment.

RG2G 051 Breaking Your Brain Out of Jesus’ Jail

You can’t be a Christan and be an intellectual, right? We all know that all Christians think alike.  To be a Christian is to conform, not only in lifestyle, but in thought pattern as well.  All of these lies have been shoved down our throat, and overlaid on us by others.  But none of them are true. 

We tackle one of the biggest assumptions that’s overlaid on Christ and that is that, because we are followers of Jesus, because we have a unity of faith, our minds are somehow in bondage so that we’re not allowed to use them.  But the truth is, Jesus not only redeemed my soul, He’s also in the process of redeeming my mind.  If I’m free in Christ, doesn’t that make me a free thinker as long as I am thinking thoughts of Christ?  As a follower of Jesus, I can embrace truth wherever I find it? 

I need not be afraid of any truth, whether the person who is espousing that truth is a friend or not.  Science is a friend of God as long as we are in the pursuit of truth.  The arts are a friend of God, the way God creates beauty in the world through broken lives as we think, connect, and express ourselves.  As a matter of fact, on the show today I made this statement: “I am a creative thinker, armed with God’s truth and wisdom, free to dream and drive; able to try and trust.”

If you know anyone who thinks that to be a Christian is to put your brain in Jesus’ jail, to lose your brain, to not be an intellectual, not think for yourself, to not have big ideas, they need to listen to today’s podcast because we’ll break those stereotypes and tell the truth.  To anyone who loves God, God gives them not only the gift of salvation, but the gifts of wisdom, knowledge, and the happiness those two things can bring when applied.


How to Free Your Inner Rock Star

Every person I’ve met has one thing in common: they want to be heard.  By that I mean they want their voice, their lives, their insights to matter.

As we launch into a brand new year, I thought it would be appropriate to talk about how to take your stand and develop your own personal brand.  This may seem unspiritual, but Jesus said that we are the light of the world and we are salt to our culture.  At the very least, it means that our lives matter, that we have a message to offer, that we have things to do, we have thoughts to think, art to create, businesses to bootstrap.  That all requires the courage to lift your head and moo out loud.

So as we begin the series, Moo Out Loud: How to be heard above the herd, we started out by introducing the four fears and the five practices.

If you’re going to free your inner rock star, your inner creativity, the original that God created you to be, you’re going to have to understand the five practices it requires.  They are in order:  free your mind, take your stand, fix your focus, find your voice, and fly your flag.  We’ll think through each one of them in the weeks ahead, but today’s talk is a great overview.  Do you know what the four fears are that we all face and how to face them? They’re the fears that will dog you in the new year and cause you to cast aside your new hopes and bold resolutions.

Listen to this talk and then let me know your perspective on mooing out loud.

FMBS 032: John 15 – Here’s Why You’re Failing and Frustrated

Ever wonder why you feel so frustrated that no matter how many resolutions you make, how much effort you exert, how many books you read or classes you attend, you seem to stay stuck all the time?   Well, if you’ve ever felt that way, or if you feel that way right now, at the beginning of a new year, you’ve come to the right place.  Because we’re going to be able to learn today, in John 15, why people fail, and why they stay frustrated.

This is the chapter about the vine, about how the life of God flows into ordinary, fractured, broken human beings;  how God takes us where we are, and plants us into himself. He becomes the vine, we’re the branch, and He flows through us.  The life that we live, as Paul said, is not the life that we live, it’s the life He lives through us, so that our fruitfulness and our continued success over time is guaranteed, as long as we don’t forget the vine/branch relationship. 

And also, by the way, there’s a reason why so many people don’t like you, why there are people who lie to you, why there are people who betray you, why there are people who walk away just at the right time to cause you the maximum pain and frustration.  It’s all in there.  You’ll find it today in John 15: the vine and the branch theory.

RG2G 050 Going to Hell From Church

Wouldn’t it be sad to spend your life as a religious person and miss God in eternity?  It scares me sometimes when, here in America, we have so much exposure to spiritual things that we fail to understand that just knowing about God, Jesus, and the content of Scripture is not enough.

On today’s show, I played a recent Christmas Eve talk that I gave called “The 4 R’s.”  I gave the talk because I’m scared that people could actually go to church all their lives and spend eternity separated from God. This talk is simple, brief, and to the point.  It’s in the context of our Christmas Eve service during which the room was packed with people standing up around the sides and sitting on the floor. It was truly a sacred moment.

Follow the 4 R’s.  Have you experienced each one of these?  If not, make sure that you have.  It can change your life forever.

Remember, Jesus isn’t looking for fans.  He only accepts followers.  Make sure you know the difference.

Dave Rave – 5 Things I’m Leaving Behind

daveraveIf you’re like me, you’ve read a lot of lists, blogs, and advice columns telling you the things that you need to start doing in the year 2012.  And while most of them are good, I’d be happy to leave some things behind in 2011.

So while you start some good things, I’m going to strive to stop these by leaving them behind.

  1. I’m leaving behind my disappointments in 2011.  You have them. I have them.  A lot of those disappointments come from people who promise to do things for us, prayers that go unanswered, and just a feeling that we didn’t get enough done. Goodbye to all the disappointments of the past 12 months.
  2. I’m leaving behind my guilt.  If I’m honest, most of the things I didn’t get done last year are my fault.   It’s not that I didn’t want to do more, accomplish more, love more, serve more, become more.  It’s just that I didn’t do it. I have a ton of excuses and if you’ve got time, I can make you a list.  But the truth is, I’m leaving the guilt I feel for not getting more done, in 2011.
  3. I’m leaving behind goals unaccomplished. I set goals.  By that I mean, I write down quantities, dates, really hard stuff.  For example, last year my goal was to run and ride 2,000 miles.  I fell woefully short, something over 1500 miles both in running and riding my bike.  That’s bad isn’t it? But, at least I did 1500 miles.  How many did you do?
  4. I’m leaving behind old attitudes. 2012 is going to be a great year. But it won’t be if I carry the old attitudes, prejudices and assumptions.  That means I’m going to exercise my mind, learn, grow, and change intellectually.
  5. I’m leaving behind my Lone Ranger ways.  Do you have a list of people you’ve been meaning to take out to lunch, to get to know, to build a relationship, and somehow there’s always an excuse why you don’t?  They’re busy, you’re busy, your schedules don’t mesh.  I’m leaving all that behind in 2011, and I’m going to start doing something about it.  As a matter of fact, before I wrote this Dave Rave, I called a friend and we’re scheduled in the morning to have coffee and catch up.

You probably have more things you can add to this list.  Sit around with your family, your group, or your team and ask, “What are the things we’re going to leave in the past that will hinder us in the future?” Remember, there is no future in the past.

Reflections on Five Years at The Gathering

This past weekend was the fifth anniversary of The Gathering Nashville.  It’s hard to believe that five years have already gone by.  Without overstating the fact, they’ve certainly been five of the greatest years of my life in ministry.  Not only has my family flourished, but my faith and my passion to be a pastor has been reborn.

When I committed my life to be a pastor almost 40 years ago, I had no idea what I was doing, really.  But it’s been a great adventure, incredibly rewarding, and I truly believe that my best days are ahead.  Why? Because of what I’ve experienced over the last five years.

It’s hard to believe, since we’ve been in Nashville since 1989 (over 20 years), 16 years of that time has been spent in rented facilities.  I’ve learned something.  That is that the church doesn’t need buildings, brick and mortar, and a lot of creature comforts in order to be real, dynamic, and growing.  In fact, buildings can be a downright liability.

Just take a listen to my talk this weekend about the one fundamental fact that I think changes everything for the American church.  That is, we have to retain the belief that what we do matters, that we are indeed out to change the world.  We’re not maintaining some religious civility.  We’re introducing into the culture the only hope that we’ll ever have.  And that’s Jesus.  We talked about what’s gone wrong with the American church, where we are as a growing church here in Nashville.  And we also talked about our three U’s: our urgency, our uniqueness, and our unity.

Let me know what you think.  Do you believe that the future of the American church is bleak in light of the fact that 42 million Christians have left the church, or bright, in that so many new churches are beginning?

A Non-Happy Joy

This is the season to be jolly.  At least that’s what the song says. But the angels announced “it’s a time for great joy to all people.”

The question is, “Are you really joyful?” The truth is, most of us focus more on happiness than we do on joy. And yet joy is more powerful and to be valued more than mere happiness.  Don’t get me wrong.  Happiness is a good thing, but happiness is not joy.  As a matter of fact, you can be filled with joy, and not be happy.  You can be crying, you can be mourning, grieving, sad, struggling, even suffering, and still have joy.

So today as we ended our Polyester Jesus series, we said that real Jesus give joy. I gave five contrasts between happiness and joy.  We talked about the theology of joy.  If joy only comes from God and can’t be mustered up by circumstances or the environment, what are the three important theological ideas the Scriptures teach about joy? 

And then we talked about messy joy. That really is where the rubber meets the road, isn’t it? Can you have a non-happy joy?  And the answer of course is, yes. Joy is made for messy times, and messy people in less than perfect circumstances.  It’s that enduring quality that God gives each of us who reach out and take it.

If your life is in turmoil, and you live in fear, doubt and dread, then what you need is not happiness; it’s joy.  Because unlike happiness, joy is not atmospheric.

RG2G 049 How Do Spiritual Gifts Work, And Do I Have Any?

One of the questions I hear over and over again is, “What am I supposed to do with my life now that I’m a Christian?  Now that I follow Christ, what is there for me to do that makes a difference in the world, and what has God placed in me that lets me know that He has a plan for my life here on this earth?”

So today we talk about three important concepts that every follower of Jesus needs to understand, embrace, and master: the idea of calling, the idea of the measure of faith, and gift mix.

Each one of these ideas will help you understand where you fit, your place in God’s plan, and why it’s significant that you excel, and grow, and mature and become healthy; a maker of better culture, a contributor to help God make of this world what He has in mind as He’s redeeming, reconciling, and restoring to Himself through Jesus Christ.

No Christian can rightfully say that they are a mistake, and that they don’t matter.  Each one of us has a calling, we have supernatural spiritual gifts, and a measure of faith that allows us to accomplish the life God intended.

As you listen today, let me know what you think.  Do you have three spiritual gifts or more?  And if you do, what are they?  Do you agree that when you operate out of anything but your top gift that you can only be good, not great; and only be drained, not super-charged?

Dave Rave – The Five Joys


This is the season of joy, right? The season that we remember how blessed we are. So here are my five joys:

  1. The joy of family.  Thank God for Paula, my girls, my sons-in-law, and all they mean to me.
  2. The joy of my faith-family. The Gathering is not just the love of my life, but my best friends.  I get to serve with people I love and admire, and make a difference in the world.
  3. The joy of my band of brothers.  Thank God for the Eagles, the Holy Smokes, and the other good men who walk with me and support me on a weekly basis.
  4. The joy of meaningful work. Thank you, Lord, that I get to do work that matters and changes the world.
  5. The joy that God knows me, loves me, and has a wonderful plan for my life.

These are my five joys.  How could you add to them?

Why There are So Many Mean Christians

When I was first converted to Christ, I was naive in the best sense of that word.  I was trusting.  I believed that everyone who said they were a Christian understood that Christ is the center of Christian; that Christian is about what God has done for us, not what we do for Him; that Christian is being loved as I am, not as I ought to be; that Christian is something that God did inside of me, not just something I worked up through religious observance and compliance.

I soon learned, like many of you, that not everyone who calls themselves Christian, is.  As a matter of fact, a lot of people who call themselves Christian are just mean, mad, and messed-up people with a little religious flavor thrown in for good measure.  So the question is, “Why are there so many mean people who call themselves Christians?”  I don’t know all the answers, but I am sure of this: that until you feel loved, accepted, and worthy, you will never, ever live in a way that you give any of that to anyone else.

Bottom line, if your religion is about working hard and being good, it’s going to make you a weirder version of yourself.  But if your faith is in Jesus Christ, the One who loves you, cares for you, accepts you, includes you, adopts you, and will never let you go, then you will, at the core of your life, live as though you were already loved, already accepted, and already promised the guarantee of eternal life.  We give what we have and until we have more, we can’t give more.  Because I’ve been loved, because I’ve been given grace and mercy, it’s a lot easier for me to live out of the overflow of that reality.

If your faith is dry, dead, and dusty, maybe you need Jesus as a living reality at the core of who you are and why you’re here.

There Is No Comfort in Religion

One of the major themes of my life’s work has been to make a distinction between religion as a thing we do to try to appease God, and being Christian which is a relationship initiated with us by God, through Christ.

My singular passion in our Polyester Jesus series is to help you clearly understand the difference between an artificial, religious practice and an authentic, genuine relationship with Jesus.  Jesus is a giver.  He gives assurance, contentment, peace, rest, and, most of all, comfort.  The problem with religion is it can’t give what it doesn’t have.  A religious person isn’t filled up with the overflowing joy of their efforts; they are worn out by working so hard to please God.

So today we talked about the concept that you simply cannot give what you do not have.  If you’re going to have love, comfort, joy, and peace, you’re going to have to find someone who has it that’s willing to give it to you.  And that’s Jesus. Then and only then can you give it. Listen to today’s talk and see what I mean.