Blog Archives

LGBT, Grace and the Church

After four years at a Christian college, my first job was at a Peaberry Coffee in Colorado. I quickly found out that I was no longer in the bubble of an intentional, Christian community. Misha, one of my fellow baristas, had long, black hair and sometimes wore a dress to work. Misha was bisexual. But Misha was one of the nicest people I had ever met. He taught me the intricacies of making the perfect coffee drink. He didn’t hold it against me that I was a Christian and I treated him with love and grace. It was a pretty eye opening experience for me. I had grown up with the idea that those on the other side of the political and religious aisle were living evil lifestyles. I was totally blindsided by the fact that Misha and others in the LGBT community I have met since exhibited more love than some Christians I know. Read the rest of this entry

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Creativity Roadblocks

Why do we block new and creative ideas? Why do we create roadblocks to new ways of thinking that we desperately need? What are we afraid of?

I have realized that part of my current calling is to bring creativity and new ideas into the Church. Our churches desperately need to change if we hope to re-embrace the ancient path of following Christ. I am currently serving in the PCUSA denomination which has shown a membership decline each year since 1965. Continuing to function as we always have won’t help. Something needs to change. How do we remain true to our biblical foundation yet use creativity to meet a changing culture?

This morning I read this post from creativity guru Seth Godin which was a real encouragement to me. Lately I have asked myself if it is just easier to do my job without making changes. Is it really worth it? Is it worth the criticism? Godin encourages the critics of creativity and innovation to stop with the “sharp wit and enmity” and support the creators. But it is hard for people to leave the status quo when the future isn’t secure.

University of Pennsylvania just concluded two studies which point to our fear of creativity. They made the following conclusions:

  • Creative ideas are by definition novel, and novelty can trigger feelings of uncertainty that make most people uncomfortable.
  • People dismiss creative ideas in favor of ideas that are purely practical — tried and true.
  • Objective evidence shoring up the validity of a creative proposal does not motivate people to accept it.
  • Anti-creativity bias is so subtle that people are unaware of it, which can interfere with their ability to recognize a creative idea.

We who are called to creatively envision new solutions have our work cut out for us. It is a constant struggle to help people see a future that is better than the present. We don’t innovate for our parents and grandparents. We innovate for our children and grandchildren.

And we need your support.

Holy War: The Church and Politics

We are once again entering the dark hole of American divisiveness that surrounds presidential campaigns. If you want to bring some fun to a conversation, especially in the church, start talking about politics. I don’t know who to blame but it is almost impossible to have a logical conversation about politics without it turning into an emotional debate with little regard for facts. I grew up loving politics and read many biographies about American presidents. Now I can hardly watch the nightly news because of the holy war that is taking place across our political landscape.

What saddens me most about this holy war is that it continues to have a negative effect on the mission of the church. The word “evangelical” is now synonymous with Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann instead of Billy Graham. Throughout the New Testament, Scripture writers implore their readers to remain united as the body of Christ. In the United States, politics is one of the most divisive issues in the church.

As Bill Hybels always says, “The local church is the hope of the world.” I still believe this deep in my heart but some Christians seem to act like our political system is the hope of the world. They might not say it that way, but they act like electing the right evangelical as president will make our nation great again. I wonder what would happen if evangelicals would transfer their political passion into the mission of their local church. I believe that the more energy and passion evangelicals put into politics, the lesser the impact of the church in the surrounding community.

So here is my challenge to those of us who get charged up and emotional about politics this time of year. When we are tempted to turn on Fox News or CNN and hear the latest charged rhetoric of either party, sit back and take a deep breath. Get out and serve in your community. Instead of speaking again Medicare or illegal immigrants, serve in your local food kitchen or homeless shelter. Turn off the TV and get to know your neighbors. Close the news magazine and start reading your Bible.

May we regain the belief that true change in our communities, nation and world does not come through our political system but through the individual actions of Christ followers who take the words of Jesus seriously and love unconditionally. Then the church will become the Church.

Protecting Your Family Online

Last night we concluded our series of seminars on technology and the faith with a session titled “Protecting Your Family Online.” I believe that the church needs to be actively informing families about the benefits and dangers of technology. Technology can enhance family connections but it can also destroy them.

Here are some resources for parents on how to set healthy boundaries with the internet and protect your children:

Great Overview of Internet Safety

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/user/CommonSenseMedia#p/a/FE4141CAE38B0AE4/1/H0xh9uTEMg0%5D

Common Sense Media resources for educating children on how to use the internet

Online safety guidelines from Focus on the Family

Internet safety contract from Focus on the Family

How to setup parental controls on a Windows computer

How to setup parental controls on a Mac

Free way to block objectionable content before it reaches your computer

Internet tracking software for your computer or iDevice

Families, Technology and the Church

From hairpin.com

Recent studies from the Barna Group show that technology is having a profound impact on family life. David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group, writes, “Technology is shaping family interactions in unprecedented ways, but we seem to lack a strategic commitment to the stewardship of technology. The Christian community needs a better, more holistic understanding of how to manage existing and coming technological advances. Parents, tweens and teens need more coaching and input in order to face the countless choices they make regarding how technology affects their attention, interests, talents and resources.”  Read the rest of this entry

Feedback and Why it Scares the “You-Know-What” Out of Me

Asking for feedback scares the “you-know-what” out of me. But I need it. One of the things that my time at Apple taught me was to elicit honest feedback and respond to it in a healthy way. In Apple Retail we used a system called NetPromoter to gauge how we were enriching the lives of customers. I was addicted to reading customer’s comments and then helping our team respond to what our customers were needing.

So today I sent out a survey to the parents at First Presbyterian Church to get a vibe for how we are doing in meeting their needs. It is hard to read some of the comments and not take them personally, but I am addicted to reading them.  One of the questions we asked them was, “How likely are you to recommend our church based on our Family Ministry programs?” It is this question that we are paying particular attention to.  We want to have a program that people are proud of and talk to others about. I desperately want to know how we are doing and how we can improve our ministries here. I love reading the responses of those who are honest about the ways that we need to improve. Specific feedback is gold to me right now.

How do you receive feedback in your church or job? How do you rise above taking it personally and use it to improve how you do your work?

The Pack Mentality and the Church

Watch this video today. It will be well worth your time. It provides an evolutionary explanation for intergenerational packs and why we need each generation. Interesting stuff!

Segregation in the Church

Racial Segregation in Chicago - Business Insider

Today I read a statistic that said that 9 in 10 churches are racially segregated. This was striking to me but then I thought about how many of our communities in America are still segregated.  I found this map that shows the extreme racial segregation in Chicago and other large cities in the United States.  If our neighborhoods and communities are segregated, it is no wonder that our churches are segregated.

But why are we still this segregated in the United States?  I watch the horrific videos of police brutality during the civil rights movement and wonder what led people to have such hatred for someone of a different color.  Then I see the hatred still present in our communities.  Champaign is definitely a segregated city. There have been a string of attacks in our city led by a few black men who target white adults at night.  I read the comments on our newspaper’s website and see the intense hatred and racism of some in our city.  They demand an armed public to fight off these black teenagers.  Did we not learn anything from our past?

But I do have hope for the future.  The teenagers I see on a regular basis are looking beyond racial lines. We have a free lunch for local high school students in our church fellowship hall and I see a multi-ethnic gathering that is not segregated. I see my kindergarten daughter getting beyond her uncomfortableness with the black students in her class to now saying they are her best friends. I see our white downtown church that was at one time known as the “country club church” reach out and host the Boys and Girls Club after school program. Hillary and I are feeling a tug to move to the north side of Champaign so our daughters can grow up in a multiethnic neighborhood.

My hope is that our generation can lead a movement to make Dr. King’s dream a reality in our neighborhoods, communities and churches.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

– Martin Luther King

It Gets Better

By now you have probably heard of the tragic death of Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers student who jumped from the George Washington Bridge after being humiliated on the Internet.  The more I read about the situation it definitely seems like a hate crime.

This is not the first apparent suicide by a young person who is gay.  What is wrong with our society that a young man or women feels such shame and lack of hope that they commit suicide?  There is an interesting movement on Youtube called “It Gets Better” that hopes to let the LGBT community know that it does get better.  It gives them hope that they can live healthy and joyful lives.  Read more about “It Gets Better” here.

Unfortunately a good amount of this shame toward the LGBT community is coming from the religious community.  In a place that should be known for grace, people feel shame.  How do we overcome this?  What will it take for us to show the unconditional love and grace of Jesus Christ to all regardless of sexual orientation?

Why Men Hate Going to Church

As a pastor’s kid, I have grown up in the church and seen some pretty interesting things throughout the years.  One of the images from my early years in church is of an older gentleman, Harry Beeks, who would fall asleep every Sunday during my dad’s sermon.  Sometimes he would even snore.  Harry added an element of the unpredictable to church and I loved it.  Harry was one of the reasons I liked going to church but I wonder if he knew that he played an important role in the church.  Even though he slept through the sermon, Harry was always at the main door of the church handing out candy to all the kids as we left.

I am currently reading through David Murrow’s book Why Men Hate Going to Church in an effort to find out why men don’t enjoy going to church.  You’ve probably seen Dana Carvey’s Church Lady character on SNL.  I wonder what the “Church Guy” character would look like.  Probably a mixture of Ned Flanders from the Simpsons and Phil Dunphy from Modern Family.  Not necessarily the image of a man that we aspire to.  Why is this?  As men what is it about church that makes us want to take a nap during the sermon or dream about the football game later in the afternoon?  Some of George Barna’s research shows that the spirituality of moms outpaces that of dads.  Why is this?  What is it about church and spirituality that men believe they have to leave their manhood at the door and become domesticated?

Now that I am back in church leadership I am asking some of the same questions that I asked a few years ago.  Now I am even more driven to find a solution.  Here are some of my questions as I attempt to dive deeper into what drives men specifically away from church.

  • How does worship and singing drive men away?  Take a look at worship song lyrics and you will discover that many of them vaguely seem like sappy love songs.  How could worship be different so that men feel like they can express their worship for God?
  • Does the sermon drive men away? Some controversy and debate would be good on Sunday mornings.  I think men also need specific, real world examples of how their faith should inform their daily lives.
  • Does the pastor drive men away?  Does your pastor connect with the men in the congregation?  I don’t think the pastor needs to talk like Larry the Cable Guy but he also needs to be honest about how his maleness affects his spirituality (this obviously only relates if the pastor is male).  Men need to feel that the guy teaching up front understands what his daily life is like.
  • Do the wives drive the men away?  Wives have an unbelievable power to either build up their husband or tear them down by what they say and don’t say.  Sometimes women can have unhealthy expectations of their spouse and his spirituality.  Whether or not your spouse is the essence of the Christian man that you desire, genuinely encourage him every chance that you get.  Fight the tendency to compare him to others.  Understand that a man’s relationship with God will look different than a woman’s relationship with God.

These are just some of my thoughts and observations on why men hate going to church.  It saddens me that the image of a Christian man is Ned Flanders and not the real men of the Bible like Peter, Paul and David.  These men were close to God and yet were men.  How comfortable do you think Peter, the hardened fisherman, would be in our churches?  I am determined to create a church environment where a man like Harry would feel comfortable and engaged.