There is a lot of hurt and pain in the world. In my opinion, Christianity should be a place of healing, wholeness, and forgiveness for that hurt and pain. Unfortunately this is often not the case. I can’t even count the number of people I have encountered in the last twenty years who had deep wounds caused by those who wear the name “Christian.” Lately I have been thinking about this and pondering what message might be helpful to my fellow Christians who have experienced pain at the hands of their brothers or sisters in the Church or the organization of the Church. I am not sure I have any easy answers or the perfect answer but read on if you want my perspective.
“Come with me if you want to live.” A famous line from one of my favorite franchises growing up. Terminator brought the fear of artificial intelligence taking over the world into the mainstream. It became so ubiquitous with the thought that even broaching the topic will bring the obligatory “Skynet!” response. If you have followed any media in recent years, you have likely seen a few stories  Check out Elon Musk, Steven Hawking, and Bill Gates on the topic or for a funnier take look at Flight of the Conchords take; warning there are some curse words in that last one about popular science and tech minds decrying the danger of artificial intelligence. Recently I watched a video that has me thinking about completely unintentional consequences when it comes to AI which may be more scary and no one is talking about them.
Fasting has become a hot topic lately. Several diet fads have popped up that include some sort of fasting. Friends of mine a little over a year ago began fasting one day a week following one of these diets. Lately the idea of “intermittent fasting” has caught on. Fasting has been around a long time and practiced among many spiritual traditions for millennia. Today’s fad of fasting is slightly different than the practices of old though. These fads are for the goal of losing weight and overall physical health, but the ancient practice is usually for spiritual growth.
Many things have been written about worship over the ages. Worship is a topic close to the human heart. Every religion that I can think of have rituals or practices that can be described worship, or at least reverence, toward spiritual power beyond our understanding. Much of the Jewish scriptures focus on the correct worship of the creator of all things and how often humanity gets it wrong. I have been studying the topic of worship lately in preparation for preaching on the topic and wanted to share an ancillary thought from my reflections.
Lately I have noticed a trend in our culture that has bothered me. Everyone seems so certain about everything all the time. People on both sides of the political aisle state their opinions with such certainty in order to garner confidence from their base. News media state “facts” with such certainty they malign the real story with unnecessary spin in order to gain more viewers or readers. All this certainty leaves me feeling very alone. There is little I am absolutely certain about.
If you get to know me well enough, you’ll learn that I am a highly anxious person. I over analyze everything and work myself into worrying about things I shouldn’t worry about. It seems like this reality is normative for more and more people these days, or at least more folks are talking about it. Our culture seems to be stuck in the minutia and building anxiety off the narcissism of minutia.
Recently I read a book by Mark Manson which sat at the top of the New York Times best seller list and sold millions of copies. The title is enough to make the more innocent blush so I won’t mention it. Mark is a writer who is simultaneously offensive and incredibly meaningful all at the same time. Manson is not a Christian writer, I have no idea of spiritual beliefs, but his book resonated with many spiritual truths I have contemplated in years past. Continue reading “Grasping at Anxiety”
Part 4: Selflessness
Life is full of ups and downs spiritually. I have experienced times of great growth and times of stagnation and depression. One vivid memory of mine is during one of the times of great growth. I remember being so excited about loving and helping others that one day I came out of my apartment in San Jose, CA and saw an older woman struggling to get grocery bags out of her car. Without even thinking about it, I jumped into action and helped her carry everything to her apartment. When I was done, I jumped into my car and began to drive to the ministry school I was attending at the time. I began to feel proud of myself. While I sat in traffic I recognized what I had done and how purely selfless it was. My sinfulness began to creep in and I immediately wanted to tell everyone about how wonderful I was that morning. A moment of genuine selflessness was perverted by a deeper pervading narcism and pride.
Part 3: Community
When I was a kid my best friend lived around the block from me and I would wander to his house almost every day and see if he was available to play. Of course on the days that he beat me to it and showed up on my doorstep I was saved the two hundred yard walk. The streets of my neighborhood growing up were filled with children. We often played baseball, basketball, street hockey and football in the streets. We rode our bikes for miles to gather in larger groups and organize bigger games in parks. None of it was “official” or sanctioned by any professional association. We had no coaches or referees.
This is Part 2 of a four part series on the future of the church. If you haven’t yet, start with reading Part 1.
Part 2: Authenticity
When I was younger I sat with a friend who was struggling in life. I had just committed to Christ in a very passionate way a couple of years before and eagerly shared Jesus with anyone who would listen to me. This friend and I sat in my parent’s driveway talking at 2am about all that he was going through. I took the opportunity to let him know, “This is why you need Jesus in your life.” His response was not what I expected, “Chris I am not as good as you, I can’t do that.”
I started working in Churches at the age of in 18 in the year 2000. My time in vocational ministry has seen a ton of changes. The Church growth movement and endless optimism of 1990s Christianity is no more. Most Churches have now suffered from decades of decline with little to no control over the cultural forces around them that seem to be causing the decline. I have thought a lot about these changes and what the future of the Church might look like. For the next four weeks I am going to focus on a different aspect of my thoughts.
Part 1: Mission Driven
Before we get into what I mean by “mission driven” please indulge me in a little diversion which will help illustrate the point. When I show you the picture below what comes to mind? Take some time to think through the thoughts you have before reading on.