Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Decline of "Cultural" Christianity

Ed Stetzer provides some good insight on the recent Pew study about declining Christianity in America: 
For example, the cultural cost of calling yourself “Christian” is starting to outweigh the cultural benefit, so those who do not identify as a “Christian” according to their convictions are starting to identify as “nones” because it’s more culturally savvy.
Read More:

Monday, May 04, 2015

Sidewalk Evangelism

It’s difficult to share the Gospel with a dude zipping by on a skateboard. It’s hard to speak the Truth to the woman with the headphones who won’t look up at you. But it’s perfectly natural to tell the story of Jesus when the young athlete, the theater major, or the fashionista stops for a brief moment after you say, “Good morning, do you have a second for me to tell you some Good News?”

Jacob K. of invited me to UNC Pembroke to participate in one of his outreach events. The campus provides a designated free-speech zone and college students have thoughtful questions and are eager for answers. We met up with four others who specialize in this sort of thing. They’re evangelists from all over and they take part in open-air preaching; handing out small cards with Scripture passages or phrases printed on them.

I found it to be very uncomfortable but also very fulfilling. There is a certain safety to Sunday Morning for this here “preacher.”  For me to be out on a sidewalk handing out cards was a big stretch. I recalled the legalists who shouted down on me at a rock-concert a few years ago or
the street preacher I heard once who condemned everyone he saw without any mention of Grace or Forgiveness. Was I now one of those guys?

Each conversation began with a variation of “I’m here today sharing Jesus’ Good News and asking people: ‘If you had to stand before God right now, what would He see when He looked at you?’”

One student said, “He’d tell me to study harder.” Most said something like “Well, hopefully He’d see me as a good person.” With that we’d have a short conversation, learning to see that in Christ there’s no need for “hopefully.”  In Christ it’s a “definitely” or a “certainly!” I’d mention 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I pointed out that He is the one doing the forgiving and cleansing-- not our own goodness or works.

We’ve all shared the Gospel with friends over the years. Speaking to strangers is a very different experience. Social conventions are stripped away and it’s as if you have permission to be immediately upfront and honest. You’re expected to get right to the point. Responses vary. A few came back to talk more. A few said “I never thought of it that way.” Some asked pointed questions but no one was angry or antagonistic.

No one got down on their knees or prayed a sinner’s prayer. No one asked for directions to our church! But everyone we spoke to heard the Truth of Jesus presented in a clear, understandable, and loving way. Like Paul said in 1 Corinthians 3:6, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.” Some days we’re like a Paul, other days we’re like Apollos. But every day God is God!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Dementia, Philippians 4:7 and how God will "Guard your mind in Christ Jesus"

Have you ever read the wrong Bible verse at the right time? You go to look up a particular passage and end up on the wrong page or the wrong verse, and yet it speaks to that very moment in such a way that you thank the Lord or taking you there.

I was visiting with a friend recently, someone who has been progressing through symptoms of dementia for some time now. It was the first time my friend didn't recognize me.  You've probably experienced something similar. Studies show over half of those 85 and older will experience some form of dementia.

I opened my Bible to share a comforting verse, and it was marked from another day.  It opened to Paul's letter to the Philippians, a chapter that has absolutely nothing to do with dementia, aging, or memory loss. It was the wrong verse (but the right time):

"And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:7

That really got to me. The wrong verse at the right time. I've read that verse a million times and never once considered its truth applying to the "long goodbye" we experience through dementia.

We think of those we love, living with some form of dementia, wondering what God is doing in their lives (or ours).  Romans 8:26 tells us that The Spirit intercedes for us when words fail us. Philippians 4:7 tells us that God can guard our hearts and minds when memories fail us.

As long as you are here on earth, God is working. He's working on you, through you, in you. There is no wasted life or wasted memory, and His ways will often "surpass all understanding."

Monday, April 20, 2015

Yesterday's sermon on Daniel 6 can be found here: I'll paraphrase my favorite quote: Obedience in God got Daniel in the pit; faith in God got him out (Paul Redditt).

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

On Hiatus

I've been blogging here for a little over four years (Since May, 2008).  When I started it was a nice outlet to write about my transition from one community to another.  I moved from being an Associate Pastor of a suburban church plant to a solo Pastor in a rural, established church.  Now, four years in, I am continually thankful for God's provision in our ministry together and in my family life.

It seems like a good time for a blogging break.  Four years is a nice chunk of time.  High School and College both take four years.  My Seminary experience was four years.  I cherished all of those times but I was glad when graduation rolled around and I could move on.

Also, my personal life has changed in four years.  Life is a lot different now that my son is older.  I'm also working on a Doctor of Ministry, and I feel like I'm writing all the time-- I have no need to add a blog post to the list.  My weekends are often spent sitting with my wife watching a soccer game, participating in Cub Scouts, walking with Brownie the Beagle, or getting away on my bicycle.  The times I've blogged about the ARP Church or Erskine were beneficial, but other resources have popped up that do a better job.

If you'd like to stay in touch, you can visit me on Facebook. I'm happy to meet you for a cupcake, too. You'll probably find me in a few places if your Googlin' is good...

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Psalms of Lament in Public Worship

I'm beginning work on a Psalms of Lament project soon as part of my Dissertation.  Here's a few thoughts from my Prospectus

Having the Psalms of Lament presented in public worship is a theological activity unmatched by any other experience in a congregant’s life.  They will not experience it elsewhere, and yet the Church is often silent on lament.  
Where else will they have the opportunity to read or sing the Psalmist’s poetry alongside a brother or sister in Christ?  Poetry can be read silently, but it is meant to be spoken.  Shakespeare can be studied, but it is meant to be enacted.  The Psalms are Scripture, but they are meant to be celebrated, internalized (and externalized), and presented in the context of corporate worship.  
The Psalms exist to unite the believer in a unique way, allowing one to sing the words of God back to God in praise of God.  In regard to the Psalms of Lament, we are singing back to God the very questions, concerns, and doubts that He himself has raised through David’s pen. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Bono on Worship

I recently re-read this quote from Bono in Reggie Kidd's "With One Voice."  I had encountered it before but forgotten about it.  Put on your rock-star sunglasses and see what you think:
"Music is Worship; whether it's worship of women or their designer, the world or its destroyer, whether it comes from that ancient place we call soul or simply the spinal cortex, whether the prayers are on fire with a dumb rage or dove-like desire ... the smoke goes upwards ... to God or something you replace God with ... usually yourself."
The excerpt is originally from Bono's preface to a 1999 Book of Psalms.  You can read more here: