Memphis Blues and Lessons from Aunt Jemima

I am currently in Memphis speaking at a conference on evangelism.  As Arnie would say ‘its good to be back’!

But The South is changing.   And the Church is in trouble.  Of course that is not immediately obvious.  There are still the same large buildings, big congregations, incredible resources (they know how to look after their pastors)  and of course the glorious Southern hospitality.

IPC Memphis entrance hall and one of the church offices

The two photos below are fascinating.  I have no idea what ‘chastity on wheels’ is but there is no way anyone in the UK could get away with that number plate!  I loved the provision made for expectant mothers – giving them their own parking space near the entrance.   The support  here for families is excellent.

There is something wonderful about all this.    But there is a cultural change and I’m not sure that the church knows how to cope with it.  What is there about the general culture that causes me to have the blues?   I think there IMG_7851is a sense of unreality about so many things…in the West we have created a plastic culture (even as we are now going against plastic!).  There are so many fake idols.  Going into Walmart is in one sense wonderful but in another horrific.  It’s fine as a tool – a place to buy things on the cheap – but as a place of worship it’s from the pit!  The political and cultural scene in the US is at best confused.   You can sense the unease in the air. Where is this all going to end?

I wonder if that is reflected in our churches as well?   I am asking this as a question not as an accusation.  In a world where so much is predicated on appearance there is a danger that that is reflected in the church.     There are so many good things in the church in the IMG_4076US and the UK, but I believe that churches are going to need to be a whole lot more robust in order to survive and thrive in the storms that are coming.  I was thinking about this last night when I saw this bottle of Aunt Jemima’s sauce.  It seemed parabolic!   It describes itself a ‘butter rich – natural butter flavors – with no real butter!”.   That strikes me as something that  so many of our churches could fall into as a motto.  We provide a ‘Christian rich’ environment – it has flavours of Christianity with no real Christ!    Cultural Christianity in the West is going to die….and so it should.  We need to ensure that we have the real Christ in order to have real Christianity.

Perhaps one more analogy.  We love Chick-Fil-A.  It’s not just their Christian profession

IMG_3702
A happy Mrs R….!

but its the fact that they put that profession into practice in a positive way.  They treat their workers well (giving them Sunday off certainly helps!) and provide a good and tasty product for a good and fair price.  As a result they are thriving (this is one American import that I wish would hurry to Scotland!)….When we visited a food court for our Chick-Fil-A fix it was amusing to see that the queue for the Chick-Fil-A was more than the combined total of the six other eateries.  Those that honour me I will honour – says the Lord.  Maybe that’s where we should all begin.  That’s what the bottom line should be.  Not what does the culture want, or what does the Church need – but rather what does the Lord say?  How can we honour him?    By doing what his word demands!

Evangelism in Sydney (and the UK and USA)

PS.  If you’re around Memphis this Sunday (the 26th) feel free to join us at Independent Presbyterian…at 8:30 and 11am!

26 thoughts on “Memphis Blues and Lessons from Aunt Jemima

  1. Hi David. It’s silly o clock here in Stornoway I haven’t read this email blog at all yet but just wanted to tell you that I am praying and thanking Our Lord for you every day!You are doing a wonderful work in keeping us up to speed with events in society. And I appear to be agreeing with you on most the things that you post that I can understand (you do have ALOT of huge mahoosive  words in your writings that I have to Google search what they mean.:-) too fancy terminology for me sometimes. Haha. But what I don’t understand then that’s fine. I get the gist always. I am totally with you on preaching about Jesus and about sticking to The Word of God and not wishy washy  it down to make it suit people who want to make it acceptable to them.I’m having a wee battle of my own with the Jehovah witnesses here. Just a battle in my own heart. I found the courage to tell one the other day that I wasn’t wanting to take their literature from them as that was not my belief or the belief of my colleagues in the office that I work in, but the woman JW turned not very nice and started questioning who I thought I was Refusing her booklet?I felt quite intimidated but told her that I was a bible believing born again Christian and that her books were not for me or my colleagues. I did this because I have read that they will never take any of our literature from us as it goes against what they believe. I was fed up pandering to them and just smiling and taking it and putting it in the bin straight away. I wanted to stand up for my Jesus and say NO instead of feeling like the weaker of the two of us in my faith. You have been a great encouragement to me to stand up for Jesus and not to be shy to step out in faith to proclaim that Jesus is The Lord.Every day I look forward to receiving your email and seeing what you have for me today.I just love it!!! I don’t love hearing about the hate mail that you get but I know that God has filled your heart with His love and compassion for those lost sinners that are persecuting you in that way. Keep up the good work dear David!! God is using you to build up and encourage and strengthen your fellow believers in Christ! May God bless and watch over yourself and Annabel and all your family today and always. Your sister in ChristCaroline 🙂

    Sent from Yahoo Mail on Android

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  2. The fact that you regularly make a point – and posts – of how much trouble the Christian church is in, and especially the Evangelical denominations, and the statistical evidence supports your claims, is all one really needs to know regarding what the eventual outcome for your religion will be.

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    1. Ark, they’ve been saying that since the beginning. Read Acts 5: 34-39. Still going strong 2,000 years later, with more Christians on the planet now than at any time in history. Hardly on the decline, is it?

      Liked by 1 person

    2. If I may be so bold, Arkenaten, that is a somewhat superficial analysis, from a worldly secular perspective which ignores the essential difference between the “Church” and a purely human organisation. People have been predicting the demise of the church, and sometimes doing their utmost to bring it about. I doubt your prediction will be any more successful.

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      1. Be as bold as you like!
        Again, I am merely echoing David’s lamentations.
        While religious ranks are swelled from many underdeveloped countries, and places such as China, statistics – if one puts any stock in such things – would have us believe that around 250,000 young people ( teens I presume) walk away from Evangelical Christianity alone, every year.
        I have no doubt that where required, stats showing the exact opposite can also be produced.
        Yet, if one looks at the most socially developed countries in the world then religion plays an ever-shrinking role these days.
        Let’s be honest, any such system ( religion and especially evangelical religion) that relies almost exclusively on faith to maintain itself is eventually going to have to deliver.
        It has been said that the Internet is where religion comes to die.
        I agree, and the evidence is there. Just look around.
        Hey, but don’t take my word for it … first ask David why he continues to ”wail and gnash his teeth” over the ”church’s” inexorable demise?

        Christianity has had over 2000 years, and in this time, most of which it held sway over life and death, and was preached to a predominately illiterate and ignorant congregation.
        Let’s talk again in 100 years?

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      2. I don’t put much stock on statistics. Nor do I appreciate the implicit racism in your view that the West is more developed and the rest more backward. Christianity relies on evidence ,reason, revelation and spiritual
        Power as well as faith so we’ll be fine! Christianity made people literate. Ironically it’s as we have abandoned Christianity in the West that we have become more dumbed down and illiterate.

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      3. There is no racism in my comment at all.
        Western Europe is more socially developed than the USA for example, which is often regarded as the most religious nation on the planet
        What are considered Third World Nations – predominantly in Africa, but other nations also, simply have to grow to a similar point as the more secular and socially developed nations, whereupon they will also begin to shed the shackles of religion. It’ll take time but it will happen. It is happening.
        Surely you cannot see any genuine positive attributes in a religious setup such as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan or Syria or any country where Islam dominates?

        People in China were literate way before Christianity came on the scene, and the world is become more literate not less.

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      4. What makes you think that Western Europe is more ‘socially developed’ that the US? What criteria are you making that judgement on? Is this just subjective? Your view is profoundly elitist (if not racist) assuming that your position is the de facto most advanced one. But yes you are correct – Islam dominating is not a good thing! My point about literacy is that in the West – as we have rejected Christianity we have become less literate not more so.

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      5. What makes you think that Western Europe is more ‘socially developed’ that the US?

        Z

        Because it has less religion for one thing and is moving inexorably away from it and toward secular humanism.

        Why is a view that firmly secular humanism is a much better alternative than religion – and of course I refer to ALL religion and not just the brand you adhere to – in any way elitist or racist?
        Please explain.
        Religion is divisive and partisan and has been at the forefront of racism and bigotry since forever.
        Consider Luther for a kick off.

        blockquote>My point about literacy is that in the West – as we have rejected Christianity we have become less literate not more so.

        And no doubt you have statistics to prove this I’m sure, yes?
        Please link your sources.

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      6. This is your best ever Ark. You tell us that more socially developed countries are less religious and when asked what you mean by more socially developed you reply ‘they have less religion’! Take your time…stop and think…and then you will work out why that is the ultimate in circular and meaningless arguments. But thanks for making me smile…

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    3. Arkenaten ,

      You said: “Christianity has had over 2000 years, and in this time, most of which it held sway over life and death, and was preached to a predominately illiterate and ignorant congregation.”

      I think you are mistaken to think that older generations were ignorant. True, they did not know as much as we do about science and technology, and without the internet they didn’t know so many facts about the world and current affairs. But I see no reason to think they didn’t understand human nature profoundly. In fact, far from being unthinking creatures of instinct, they probably had a deeper understanding of the way people behave, what makes them tick, why people believe what they believe, and the way the world works – because without the distractions of our fast-paced society they spent more time analyzing life’s events and they weren’t anaesthetized by modern luxuries into a shallow, glib, self-contented interpretation of the world.

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      1. I would suggest that in days gone by most people simply concentrated on making enough to live/getting by and if they lived off the land hoped that crops didn’t fail.
        Again, for the larger part of the Church’s/Religion’s dominion over human society most people were barely functionally literate or were illiterate.

        Older generations were certainly ignorant of the workings of religion and in this case Christianity and would in the main have little of no understanding of bi ble exegesis or archaeology.
        These days people are not quite so blindly accepting of what they hear from the pulpit or read in so-called holy books.
        And the statistics bear this out.
        It has been said that the Internet is where religion comes to die.
        Watch and see it happen before your eyes…
        And what a marvelous thought that is!

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      2. Ark – you keep coming up with ‘suggestions’ (ie. what your prejudices and feelings tell you). Its getting boring so perhaps time to stop? Your alternative facts miss out that it was largely the church that taught people to be literate…..your contempt for older generations is matched only by your view that people today are more aware of bible exegesis and archaeology…..and your statistics don’t bear anything out (again you just make them up)…. As for the Internet being the place where religion comes to die – that is about as likely as the printing press being such. Although I must admit that the Internet does allow ignorance to flourish! However the truth will out….(incidentally if you are so convinced that religion will die – why are you making such a fuss about it?!

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  3. The Christian faith has always had an ebb tide, the history books say as much; persecution right from the beginning, times of revival, times of sleep, times of rot, times of growth, times of orthodoxy, times of waywardness- where it is merging with the world it will disappear, like anybody in a crowd who conforms to the way of that crowd. Where it holds true to the tenets of it’s faith and doctrine, it will continue, as will those who adhere to such. The obituary of churches occurs often enough like any organisation but the Lord reigns forever and none of us can claim to know otherwise.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Sorry Donald, speaking as an evangelical minister in the C of S, Mr Robertson does not speak for me! I have my own voice, thank you.

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