links: this went thru my mind

 

Church, church decline, leadership, ministry, morale & vision: * How Churches Became Cruise Ships (part 2); * Six Subtle Signs Your Church is Dying [essential reading]

* “Eventually we will learn that no matter how much money, effort, or innovation the church possesses, it will never be as cool as the culture. Relevance is a race it cannot win, but in our misguided attempts to compete with the culture we risk losing sight of the only thing of value the church can offer the world–Jesus Christ.”

* “There is more talk of the past than of the future. … More effort goes into keeping people than winning people. … There is no budget for evangelism, outreach, missions, or advertising. … Everyone wants to know everyone in the ‘church family.’ … The church is mono-generational (relating to one single generation). … No new leaders are being trained.”

Corporate worship, nationalism & patriotism: Why Younger Evangelicals May Feel Uneasy in a Patriotic Service [required reading]

“The church transcends the state, a truth that should be proclaimed clearly in a worship setting.”

Cynicism, happiness & joy: The Giant Hole in Cynicism

“[There is] a radical difference between cynicism and joy. Cynics seek darkness wherever they go. They point always to approaching dangers, impure motives, and hidden schemes. They call trust naive, care romantic, and forgiveness sentimental…They consider themselves realists who see reality for what it truly is and who are not deceived by “escapist emotions.” But in belittling God’s joy, their darkness only calls forth more darkness. [Henri Nouwen]“

Divorce & remarriage: Divorce & Remarriage

“‘A woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord.’ (I Cor. 7:39)

Holy Spirit & intercession: Weakness, Groaning, and the Holy Spirit

“The Spirit does not simply know our suffering in some mere cognitive sense. Rather, the Spirit is present within us and experiences our suffering as a sympathetic friend, and thus the Spirit groans as well. The Spirit groans with us and for us, and this groaning becomes part of the experience of the Triune God. God is for us not only in the intercession of the Son, but also in the intercession of the Spirit.”

Prayer: A New Way to Pray

“… rather than have one ‘quiet time’ a day … pray for at least 15 minutes four times daily.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Bible, faith & Jesus: Are We Building Faith In The Bible INSTEAD of Jesus?

“… we should have the highest view of the Bible as possible, but the Bible is not for creating faith in the Bible, but in Jesus Christ. … Are we teaching our youth and all age groups, for that matter, how to build their faith on the written word or the Living Word? That difference may be subtle to you, but I contend it is essential.”

Critical spirit, criticism, negativity & youth: Curing a Critical Spirit in Students [essential reading]

“Every one of these deans, provosts, directors, faculty members and coaches had stories to tell about how much their students had criticized others. …  we have witnessed an increasing number of students who carelessly criticize programs, ideas and institutions. We are discerning a critical spirit among young Millennials. Why is this happening?”

Cross, faith, non-violence & self-sacrifice: Cross-like Love and Non-Violence

“Though it seems to have been forgotten by many today, the cross wasn’t simply something God did for us. …  contrary to the way most Christians today view the matter, the call to manifest God’s indiscriminate, self-sacrificial love and to unconditionally refrain from violence cannot be considered an optional aspect of what it means to follow Jesus. Rather, as cruciform love is the most definitive distinguishing characteristic of God’s nature, so manifesting cruciform love must be considered the sine qua non feature of all who are the children of this God.”

Generations: Generation X: America’s Neglected ‘Middle Child’

“This overlooked generation currently ranges in age from 34 to 49 … Gen Xers are bookended by two much larger generations – the Baby Boomers ahead and the Millennials behind – that are strikingly different from one another. … Gen Xers are a low-slung, straight-line bridge between two noisy behemoths.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Church decline: To the Dying Church: Maybe Death Is a Blessing

“How very God-like of God to make death the beginning of a blessing.”

Congregational singing, corporate worship, singing & song-leading: The Church Singing

“Why We Sing … Five Qualities of a Congregational Song … Reflections on “What Can Miserable Christians Sing?” … My Congregation Barely Sings; How Can I Help? … Rediscovering Jesus’ Hymnbook.”

Gospel, holy kiss, hospitality & table fellowship: Embodying the Gospel: Two Exemplary Practices

“Against those contemporary patterns of thought that segregate thinking and doing, or “theory” and “practice,” this essay urges that Scripture works with a more integrated and communal understanding of human life, and thus of Christian faith.”

Generations & Millenials: Millennials in Adulthood [required reading]

“The Millennial generation is forging a distinctive path into adulthood. Now ranging in age from 18 to 331, they are relatively unattached to organized politics and religion, linked by social media, burdened by debt, distrustful of people, in no rush to marry— and optimistic about the future. They are also America’s most racially diverse generation. In all of these dimensions, they are different from today’s older generations. And in many, they are also different from older adults back when they were the age Millennials are now.”

One another & unity: The Centrality of the “One Another” Passages for Christian Unity

“This is more than just a list of more things to do. This is about how we see others and our own obligation to be supportive of those around us. This is a call away from self and pride to make a difference in the lives of those around us. If Christian embraced this kind of vision for people and way of life…I am convinced we would make a huge impact on the world.”

Jesus, nonviolence & violence: Jesus Said, “Buy a Sword.” What Did He Mean?

“…  justifying the use of violence by citing this passage [Luke 22.35-38] is as unwarranted as citing the temple cleansing passage to this effect.”

Preaching, sermons & thinking: 2 Big Problems with Overly Simple Sermons [essential reading]

“Here’s the problem: sometimes reality is more complex than our desire for simplicity allows. … When simplicity becomes king, the pulpit is often its kingdom.  I think too many preachers have taken Einstein’s quote to heart. They’ve heard too often that good communication must be simple. So they force everything into that mold, talking about complex issues like poverty, suffering, ethics, and even the gospel, as though these were relatively simple and easy to understand. They’re not, and pretending otherwise sets us up for one of two problems (probably both): we create simpletons [and] we create despisers.

Respect: When You Fail to Show Respect

“I am not suggesting that people needed to be ‘nicer.’ The problem runs far deeper than this.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Busyness, church, fellowship & programming: Has Christianity Become Too Busy?

“Jesus is famous for many things—like performing miracles, claiming to be God, and dying on the cross—but one of his most underappreciated characteristics was his ability to just hang out. … Today, many churches leave little room for just hanging out. Instead, we do everything we can to contrive an extraordinary experience. Therefore, churches scheme, plan, design, create and facilitate multiple platforms for ultimate experiences to happen—but they often don’t.”

Chernobyl, nuclear power, pollution & Ukraine: Chernobyl: Capping a Catastrophe

“Against the decaying skyline here, a one-of-a-kind engineering project is rising near the remains of the world’s worst civilian nuclear disaster. … If all goes as planned, by 2017 the 32,000-ton arch will be delicately pushed on Teflon pads to cover the ramshackle shelter that was built to entomb the radioactive remains of the reactor that exploded and burned here in April 1986. When its ends are closed, it will be able to contain any radioactive dust should the aging shelter collapse. … The arch … allow(s) the final stage of the Chernobyl cleanup to begin — an arduous task to remove the heavily contaminated reactor debris for permanent safe storage. …  the Chernobyl arch alone will end up costing about $1.5 billion, financed largely by the United States and about 30 other nations. And making the site of a radioactive disaster truly secure can take generations. Engineers have designed the Chernobyl arch to stand for 100 years; they figure that is how long it may take to fully clean the area.”

Churches, demographics, evangelism, generations, Nones & outreach: The Gospel and the Nones [essential reading]

“Here is a fact: the median church size in America is now at 108 (down from 140). Churches are shrinking, the Nones are rising. … What’s the problem?”

Christians, Islam & Muslims: Why I Defend Muslims [essential reading]

“I’m ready and eager to talk about the uniqueness of Jesus, the wonder of the Gospel, and I’ll even talk about what distinguishes Christianity from other faiths, but I’m not going to do it by smearing our neighbors and their religion with half-truths and caricatures.”

Holocaust: Holocaust Remembrance Day

“… Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah) … extends from Sunday evening until Monday evening, April 27-28

Rest: The Lost Practice of Resting One Day Each Week

“‘He that can take rest is greater than he that can take cities.’ —Benjamin Franklin.”

Self-perception & thinking: Are Your Beliefs Keeping You Stuck?

“Beliefs about myself. … Beliefs about others… Beliefs about the world.”

links: this went thru my mind

 

Accountability, awareness, Christian faith, knowledge, social injustice & violence: We Cannot Say We Did Not Know [essential reading]

“The sage in Proverbs 24:11-12 warns us to rescue those being led away to death: ‘If you say, “We did not know this” – does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it? And will he not repay all according to their deeds?'”

Children, parenting & sex: 7 Suggestions for Talking to Children about Sex

“I recognized that helping my children live pure and healthy sexual lives would be a challenge in a culture that is often defined by sex. I wanted to be the primary influencer in their development as adults, because I knew no one had a stronger desire for them to make wise choices than me.”

Church membership: The 7 Commandments for Choosing a Church

“If you don’t like the church where you are, the problem is probably you (or at least partially you… but probably mostly you).”

Forgiveness, intercession, love & ministry: The Chaplain from Missouri Who Tried to Save the Black Souls of the Nazis at Nuremberg

“… he would ultimately minister 13 of 21 of Hitler’s most malevolent Nazi leaders on trial in Nuremberg after World War Two for their heinous war crimes.”

Guests, visitors & welcome: 7 Ways to Connect with Guests Beyond the First Greeting

“Your God is awesome. Your church is wonderful. Yet guests who visit your church don’t often return. No true connection was made. A parking lot greeter in our church expressed that concern: ‘We’ve got to figure out how to actually connect every guest with another person. Our flippant hellos or glad-you-cames just aren’t adequate.’ Why not challenge every member of your church to use these seven tips to connect with guests.”

Youth ministry: Tribal Youth Ministry (Part 1): The Necessity of Age Desegregation in Our Churches [essential reading]

“This article is by Duncan Campbell and is the first of three outlining his approach to transitioning youth ministry toward a more intergenerational approach. In my opinion, this is one of the biggest questions facing churches today as we are beginning to see the connections between our traditional approaches to youth ministry and the disconnect from parents and other adults being a part of the faith development of our children, and the mass exodus from church by young adults.”