What We Forgot On Memorial Day

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Question: If you went to church last weekend, what holiday, if any, did your church acknowledge? If your church is like mine, you acknowledged Memorial Day and, hence, the U.S. military. Across the country last weekend, church projector screens donned digital American flags, choruses of God Bless America filled the rafters, and prayers were uttered thanking God for “those who, like Christ, have given their lives so that we might worship here in freedom today.” For many people and churches, this is standard operating procedure for patriotic holiday weekends, and it would seem strange, even offensive, not to honor those who have served in the military on such occasions.

Here’s my question, though. When we gather together to worship, as whom are we gathered? Are we gathered as citizens of the United States who happen to live in the same area and worship at the same church? If so, by all means let us salute our flag and thank God for our soldiers.

However, if we are gathered as citizens of the Kingdom of God (Col. 1:13-14), a Kingdom that transcends national borders and unites the Church as one people regardless of nationality, socio-economic status, or gender (Gal. 3:28; Col. 3:11), we are a new community—a counter-culture—that operates not by power, violence, and coercion, but by humility, meekness, and death and resurrection (Romans 12:14-21). As a people baptized into this new community, we worship God and God alone in our assemblies. Our new identity in Christ supplants prior allegiances, and the King of kings becomes the sole object of our worship (on Sunday and every other day of the week). Any other power of this world, including nations and their soldiers, we choose to honor in our assemblies is, quite simply, an idol.

Honoring a power of this world in Christian assembly detracts from the worship of God and introduces a competing allegiance to that of the Kingdom of God. To honor the United States or any nation in Christian assembly is to lose sight of who we truly are—we are followers of Jesus, baptized into his new community, no longer defined by worldly socio-political boundaries. Thus, when we salute the American flag, sing patriotic songs, and adorn our sanctuaries with red, white, and blue, we divide our allegiance to God and his Kingdom and we make an idol out of the worldly kingdom in which we live. Our Kingdom, however, is not of this world (John 18:33-38).

Now, back to the holiday question. What I find perhaps even more disturbing than the blatant nationalism displayed in many churches last Sunday is the special day most of these churches failed to acknowledge. There was another day, a holy day, on the calendar last Sunday. At least it was on the liturgical calendar (our calendar). Last Sunday was Pentecost Sunday.

Most evangelical churches do not acknowledge or operate by the liturgical calendar (outside of Christmas and Easter), and many would dismiss it as antiquated or too “Catholic.” I couldn’t disagree more. (Well, I guess it is kind of Catholic, but I disagree with that being a bad thing.)

The holy day of Pentecost, which coincides with the Jewish Feast of Weeks (Lev. 23:15-22), occurs 50 days after Easter, and on Pentecost Sunday, Christians celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit in tongues of fire upon those gathered for the Feast of Weeks in Jerusalem after Christ’s ascension.

In more liturgical traditions, Pentecost Sunday is a day of great rejoicing and celebration. Festive, colorful processions make their ways through the gathered people of God as the church universal experiences anew the story of the Spirit descending upon those assembled in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago. I worshiped with an Episcopal church on Pentecost Sunday one year, and at a certain point in the service, about twenty people in the congregation stood and simultaneously read aloud a passage of Scripture in different languages to incarnate afresh the coming of the Holy Spirit and the empowering of the people to speak in tongues at Pentecost. This was one of the most memorable and impactful moments of any worship service I have ever experienced.

Calendars carry formative potential. Calendars shape us. Think about how the weeks leading up to Christmas alter your mood (either positively or negatively); so, too, with other holidays. The liturgical calendar is no different. The season of Lent is a time of purging, penitence, and preparation before the celebration of Easter. Holy Week, the last week of Lent, is a time of special reflection and meditation on the last week of Jesus’ life. Advent, the four weeks prior to Christmas, is a time to both remember and give thanks for Christ’s first coming and eagerly await and pray for his second coming.

The liturgical calendar reminds us who we are. It reminds us where we’ve come from and, with God’s help, where we’re going. For some (myself included), it even acts as a subversive alternative to the American calendar. I love Arbor Day as much as the next person, but disciplining myself to observe the liturgical calendar and its special days and seasons helps me further solidify my identity in Christ, my connection to the communion of saints, and my allegiance to the Kingdom of God—a Kingdom whose soldiers carry crosses, not guns.

Almighty God, on this day you opened the way of eternal life to every race and nation by the promised gift of your Holy Spirit: Shed abroad this gift throughout the world by the preaching of the Gospel, that it may reach to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.  –A prayer for Pentecost Sunday from the Book of Common Prayer

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Confession of a Single Guy…

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In the American evangelical church, a lot of our efforts are focused on families. We offer parenting seminars, we hold marriage banquets, we honor fathers and mothers on their appropriate made-up and non-liturgical holidays, we have youth groups and children’s activities. Much of our language regarding events is pointed toward families (each family bring a dish…or the price is $10 a family…etc.). We gauge the growth of a church by how many babies are in a nursery (which seems borderline cultish when you want to grow from within like that).

As someone who grew up in the church, I loved most of these things. But when I graduated from college and realized that I was going to be working in a church as a single person, these things began to stand out more and more. Let me make one thing clear: I love families and I love seeing families grow toward Christ together. This is by no means a post saying that we should forget about families.

This is a post saying that we need to remember a group we have forgotten: the singles.

When I say singles, you probably immediately think of people somewhere in the age range of 18-35 who are putting off getting married until they establish themselves. But I am not just talking about these people. I am also talking about the widows and widowers who became single due to tragic events. Or to the newly divorced person who is navigating what it means to be single again. This is also about those who took a vow of celibacy because it was something they wanted to do.

Look around, church. There are singles everywhere. And they desperately want to be a part of a family but they don’t know how or where they fit in.

Do they fit in to the numerous sermon series dedicated to marriages? Because the only time we hear singles being mentioned in those series is usually in reference to remaining sexually pure and to stop looking at pornography (because all singles are sexual deviants who continuously look at porn and/or have sex).

Do they fit into the countless married small groups? It’s not that we want to be in a “singles” small group…we really do want to be around married people because they are just people…but many times we hear that we aren’t allowed because we aren’t married.

Do they fit into the illustrations about frustrations with a spouse or with children? As a youth pastor, every time I go to a conference, other youth pastors who speak talk about their kids or their spouses…and I realize that the key to a successful youth ministry is really a family.

Do they feel at home in your church or do they feel the pressure to get married or remarried? You might say that you have singles in your church but how often are they asked about who they’re dating, when they plan on getting married, etc.

Recently, I read a book from Deb Hirsch called Redeeming Sex. Very rarely do I read a book that speaks to the soul as much as this book did. I found it saying everything I have felt and wanted to say for so long. And it was refreshing to know that I was not alone in my feelings for how singles are treated in the church.

As a single, I feel alone quite a bit. This isn’t to evoke feelings of sympathy for me (if you know me, you know that I would just laugh at those feelings). Surprisingly enough, I feel more alone at church than I do when I’m at my apartment.10392377_634829361283_6032125750710341341_n

At church, sometimes I feel more on the outside as families plan outings together and dinners (hey, I get it, if you take a 5th wheel to a theme park, rides get confusing).

At church, I hear sermons about marriage and I hear pastors say, “now if you’re single, this might not apply to you now…but it will someday.” Really? You know that for sure? You know, without a doubt, that this will apply to me?

At church, people ask about my dating life. Luckily, I have not had to endure many of the people who say, “oh…well if you’re still single, I have the perfect girl for you!”

At church, I see marriages celebrated all the time in a variety of ways. I immediately think of those whose marriages ended poorly. Or those who lost a spouse. Or those who took vows of celibacy. What does it mean to them when they see this?

It makes me feel alone because it reminds me that I don’t quite fit the mold for who should be attending an American evangelical church. Because I’m perfectly content with remaining single until I’m 35 or even older. I don’t have an end in sight. That’s okay with me. But it’s not okay for a lot of people. They think I won’t be happy until I find the person I want to spend the rest of my life with. But I am perfectly happy, as is.

As a single guy, I do not…

order takeout or pizza every night

have a crazy messy bachelor pad

get super depressed because I come home to an empty apartment

abandon my responsibilities (just because I don’t have a family doesn’t mean I can get up and do whatever I want whenever I want…I have other responsibilities)

pile on extra work because I don’t have a family to worry about

go to clubs or bars picking up women

or have a computer that’s filled with images of porn.

My typical day includes: cooking, cleaning, reading, watching some tv, hanging out with friends, talking with friends, and maybe going out to do something fun. It’s not that bizarre. And it’s not unfulfilling.

So please, church, let us stop making singles feel like outcasts. It’s not that we get upset when: you include a sermon about us in your series over marriage, or when you include us when you celebrate moms and dads, or when you graciously open up events for us by saying something like “it’s not just for families…but for everyone (thanks for that),” or when you remind us that one day we will have a family, or even when you tell us we can come to your small group but we should really try to find a small group that we can really identify with.

We don’t get upset by those things…we just feel like we don’t belong. And we desperately want to belong. We don’t hate marriages and we don’t hate families. We don’t want the church to stop celebrating these things at all. But we do wish that the church would start celebrating us.

I love how Hirsch reminds us that Jesus redefined family. He really did. Everyone was His mother, brother, father, sister, etc. We all want that. We all want to be a part of that family. But we don’t have to already have a family to be a part of that family.

Sabbath For Others

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Grunge benchSabbath is a term that goes against much of modern American evangelicalism. Every now and then, there is a book published or a series of blog posts that focuses on this idea. I have read sections in spiritual discipline books that deal with the importance of this practice. However, it still seems to be something that is rarely discussed from the pulpit. I have decided to write a 3-part blog over the practice of Sabbath and its importance in our lives. Today’s post will primarily focus on those in leadership in the American evangelical church. However, I believe the principle still applies to those in any work environment. Since I operate from a limited view, however, I have decided to speak into the context with which I am acquainted.

In the church ministry world, we have convinced ourselves that unless we are behind something, that endeavor will fail. We pat ourselves on the back for working 50, 60, 70+ hours a week on something because we feel we are working tirelessly for the Gospel. In our age of technological advancement, phone calls, emails, and texts are never more than a glance away. Dinners are interrupted by a “ministry crisis.” Conversations with friends are put on hold while an “important phone call” is taken. Even on days off, we feel the need to check on things. This is unhealthy for us (which I will talk about in a different post), but it is also extremely unhealthy for those with whom we work and come into contact.

When we refuse to rest…to Sabbath…others feel lazy if they take a day off, turn off their phone, and/or refuse to check their email. Our example spurs others on to an unhealthy lifestyle.

Sabbath reminds us to trust in God more than in ourselves.

It reminds us that work is not the most important thing we do.

It reminds us that greed is not good.

It reminds us that the world can function if we turn everything off.

Sabbath reminds us that we are not God.

And when we don’t Sabbath, we try to become God.

So what does this mean for others? Why should we rest for others? Because how we live influences others to live in the same way. If we learn how to rest, others around us will feel less stressed. If we turn things off, others around us will begin to understand that many things can wait.

Sabbath is not only important to us, but to others as well. In Exodus 23.12, it reads: “You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but on the seventh day you must stop working. This gives your ox and your donkey a chance to rest. It also allows your slaves and the foreigners living among you to be refreshed.” (NLT)

As leaders, if we don’t rest, then others won’t rest. The principle of this verse applies to today even if the specifics don’t. Leaders are called to Sabbath so that others will Sabbath.

How many stories of ministry burnouts do we need to read before we realize the importance of this practice?

How many heart aching tales of divorce do we need to hear before we begin putting this discipline into practice?

How many health issues do we need to have plague our lives before we understand that our bodies are not made for the stress we endure?

If people around us are showing exhaustion and stress, could it be an indicator that we have not set an example of Sabbath in our own lives? If those we know seem to become more and more needy, could it be because we have not rested as we should have? Sabbath is important for us…but it also reminds others to not look to individuals as God, but to look to God as God. It reminds others that they cannot become God.

Sabbath for others.

How to Have it All and Still Follow Christ

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41AxZWXdzuLRecently, I finished NT Wright’s book, “Surprised by Scripture.” Although I wasn’t too “surprised” by some of the things he said (anyone who has read anything by him will not be too surprised by his points), I was encouraged and challenged to see things a bit differently. Something Wright said at the beginning of the book stuck with me throughout the rest of the book and it spurred me on to think through exactly what the evangelical church in America is teaching.

“Christianity thrived precisely among those for whom the major existing philosophies had little to offer.”

Wright was speaking primarily toward Epicureanism and how Christianity thrived during that time because Epicureanism spoke predominately to wealthy people. “If you were an ordinary lower-class person – that is, among the 95 percent of the free population – or a slave, the exhortation to relax and enjoy your life might have rung somewhat hollow.”

Does the message that we preach through our lives echo the Gospel? Or does it simply reiterate what current philosophies of the day have to say? Sometimes I believe that we simply take the current philosophies and add a Christian-themed twist to them. Perhaps this is why Christianity isn’t thriving like it should.

Let’s look, for example, at the American Dream. Our current philosophies say to pursue that dream. Buy a house. Climb up the ladder as quickly as possible. Get a family. Have the new and best of everything. Build your retirement fund. Go into debt to appear successful. Currently, I believe that sometimes the message of the evangelical American church tends to look something like, “how to have it all and still follow Christ.” Even some churches look like this. They buy the best technology, build the biggest buildings, go into debt to appear successful, etc. All of this is in hopes that they might attract people to see Christ. I believe this is admirable, but I can’t quite buy into it completely.

In church jargon, attractional is this idea that you bring people to church to encounter Christ. Perhaps, taking Wright’s statement into play, this isn’t a terrible idea. Jesus’s message always struck a chord with the tax collectors, prostitutes, lepers, and others whom society and religion had deemed a minority. It struck a chord with anyone who questioned the leading philosophies of the day. It still can.

Christianity should thrive among the poor.

We hear this all the time, but it is still true. In a culture obsessed with money, our message simply cannot be one of how to give to God and get a great tax write-off. It should thrive among those who have nothing to give because God isn’t looking for money. He is desiring people. Christianity should thrive among those who may never own a home or a new car or have a nice 401K.

Christianity should thrive among the child molesters, rapists, and other sexual outcasts.

When society gives out a scarlet letter, Christianity should be showing a redeeming story. I have read story after story of individuals who have no life anymore because of a mistake. This should never satisfy a Christ follower. They are outcasts of society. We shouldn’t celebrate that. We should redeem that. Christianity should thrive among that.

Christianity should thrive among those who are dying of communicable diseases.

With the recent Ebola fear that is plaguing Americans (for some reason), we cannot simply run and hide like the rest. Our response can’t be to cast them out of society. Our response has to be one of love and empathy. Of no fear.

Simply put, Christianity has always thrived among those who realize that they have nothing. It’s harder to realize that you have nothing when you are constantly surrounded by everything. This past summer, I went to Baltimore on a mission trip with some of my students. While there, we worked with an inner city organization that gave to those whom politicians and the rest of society had forgotten. To be remembered by someone was the Gospel to them. I remember having a conversation with the head of the organization asking him how to translate something like this to the suburbs. He looked at me and said, “I have no answer for that.” I then proceeded to ask, “Will it take a complete wrecking of dreams, possessions, and careers, for the Gospel to penetrate lives? And if so, what message should we speak until then?” Once again, he had no answer. Maybe because the answer was too difficult to speak.

Christianity thrives among those who have nothing, but for a long time it has seemed that our target audience has been one of successful appearances. Now this isn’t true for all. I can only speak for the American evangelical church. Perhaps it is time for us to change our message from “How to Have it All and Still Follow Christ,” to “How to Lose it All and Begin Following Christ.”

Homosexuality

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I’ve neglected writing a blog on this subject matter because of how overwhelmingly divisive it is, as a topic, among Christians. In the midst of our battles back and forth with one another, we have piled up many casualties who never saw the love of God because they only saw our wrath. In our pursuit of “being right,” we have forgotten to “be Christ.” We spend our resources on trying to make sure that homosexual marriage never occurs because we believe it will ruin marriage — all the while, we oftentimes neglect to mention the amount of divorces that occur each year, the shotgun weddings that take place, or the abusive relationships that turn into abusive marriages. 

Recently, I read the book Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gay vs. Christian Debate by Justin Lee. Lee is the founder of the Gay Christian Network (GCN) and works to bridge the gap between the LGBT community and Christians. He works to unite both Christians who believe in gay marriage and those who believe that gay people must remain celibate.

As I was reading through the book, several thoughts came to my mind that I want to highlight as we continue navigating this road:

1.) We need to stop considering those in the LGBT community as obsessed with sex.  

We need to stop painting those in the LGBT community as people who only want sex all the time and only hang out to have sex. This is just not true. I know people in the LGBT community who want serious long-term relationships and don’t want to go out every single night to different clubs to hook up. Just like I know many straight people who don’t want serious long-term relationships and go out every single night to different clubs to hook up. 

2.) If we believe celibacy is the route, then we must change the way the Church views singles.

This one hits home for me because I am 26 years old, single, and work in a church. By staffing standards, I should be married with 2 kids and 1 in the works (just kidding — sorry for being stereotypical). When it comes to singles, the evangelical church really doesn’t know what to do. Many times, we don’t even really know the damage we are doing in our language. For instance, in church functions, oftentimes we will say “have your family…” or “have your kids…” or “you and your loved one…” We don’t realize that these phrases completely disenfranchise 44.1% of Americans. If you’re a pastor, that number should terrify you a bit. Is your church reflecting this number? Most likely not. Most of our churches probably don’t reflect this. We have spent a majority of our time reaching out to families that we have completely forgotten about 44.1% of the population. And in doing this, we leave out some tremendous people in the Bible who were single (Paul…and well…Jesus). We need to stop asking singles, “so when are you going to settle down and find the right person?” In asking questions like this, we essentially say “when are you going to have a family like the rest of the church?” I know, that’s a pretty sweeping generalization and you probably will disagree with me on it — but that’s okay. As a single person, that’s what I hear whenever I have someone ask me when I plan on getting married. 

Right now, the evangelical church is telling homosexuals that they must remain abstinent and take a vow of celibacy. If we believe that is the correct route to take, then we must begin changing the way the church looks. Because right now, it is appealing to families, and if you aren’t a part of a family, we have a secret society that meets for you. Let me say it this way: when we tell someone who is gay that they must remain single, we essentially tell them that they won’t look normal in the eyes of the church. They will always be that crazy uncle at family gatherings who could just never find the right woman. 

If you work in a church, take a look at your verbiage that you use. Look at budgeting that goes toward families versus singles. Think about sermon topics that you’ve preached. Think about illustrations (side note: I’ve noticed this one quite a bit after going to several different youth retreats — almost every single speaker gave a sermon illustration about his/her child — darn it, I’ll never win the best youth pastor award without a child). Then think to yourself: if I was single (supposing you are not) and planned on being single the rest of my life, would I feel supported and loved? Try to answer that as unbiasedly as possible.

Lee writes this:

I’ve talked to many single Christians who find the church a challenging place to be at times. But for single gay Christians, there are even bigger hurdles. A forty-five-year-old single straight woman may feel overlooked or misunderstood at her church, but she doesn’t have to worry about being condemned for being straight. Single gay Christians face the difficulties of singleness alongside potential condemnation for their orientation. And while all single people face challenges in our culture, the challenges faced by people who are single by choice or because they haven’t found the right person are different from the challenges faced by those who eagerly desire companionship but believe God requires celibacy even if they should fall in love in the future.

If we believe that gay people should remain celibate, then stop alienating that demographic from the church. Because maybe they have always wanted a family but believe that God has called them to be celibate (which is a high calling — and is spoken of with the highest regard — unlike marriage, which is a failure to control carnal desires) and therefore cannot have those things. We need to stop making those things the idyllic picture of Christianity. And I don’t believe we have necessarily done those things intentionally (or at least I hope not), but we have. And we need to reverse that.

3.) Remove the “Us Vs. Them” mentality. 

This is oftentimes the result of not having any friends who are gay (they will say they do, but most likely their friend is an alienated family member or someone they have as a friend on Facebook but don’t talk to them). Just like you wouldn’t say something like, “The drunkards are trying to brainwash our children into believing that getting drunk all the time is alright,” we shouldn’t believe that “homosexuals are trying to make all the straight kids gay.” This whole “gay agenda” thing is ridiculous. Maybe there is a gay agenda…I don’t know. I sure haven’t seen one. But if there is, Christians also have “an agenda.” We would say we don’t, but oftentimes we do. In fact, most people who are passionate about something have some form of an agenda: we want everyone to be about what we are about.

4.) We need to get rid of ex-gay or reparative therapy.

This is where I will probably lose many of you. But I’ll be honest — I don’t agree with this therapy. Reading through studies and testimonials are disheartening at best. From the founders of Exodus going back to their “gay lifestyle” to reading countless stories of kids who commit suicide because they “can’t fix themselves,” I think we can agree that this needs to stop. Oftentimes this therapy tries to pinpoint family issues and says that people are gay because of overbearing mothers or distant fathers. I love what Lee writes in his book:

If distant fathers and overbearing mothers made people gay, there should be far more gay people in American society than there are. Meanwhile, I should have been the straightest guy in the world.

5.) Lead with embrace not theology.

That is the most helpful thing I have learned and it was from Deb Hirsch. While reading Justin Lee’s book, oftentimes I would think, “he really just needs someone in the church to embrace him and show him he is still loved.” Oftentimes in our crusades against theological differences, we neglect embracing those who disagree with us. Some churches even have written out homosexual policies. I love what Deb Hirsch says: “Why do we have policies on homosexuality and nothing else in the church?” Christ embodied this idea of leading with embrace. And that’s what we must remember to do at all times.


My prayer is that we stop choosing sides on this issue — because people should never be reduced to a side. My prayer is that we take a step back and analyze how we might have hurt someone because we wanted to “fix” them when people aren’t puzzles to be solved by us. My prayer is that as we move forward, we seek conversations rather than sermons because most of us can’t hear over our own bullhorn (myself included). Ultimately, my prayer is that God continues to grant us the same forgiveness and grace that He has given us throughout history for neglecting the forgotten, saying the wrong things, bad theological practices, and countless other things. 

I hope that this post isn’t divisive. I want to unite as many people as possible. That is my prayer. Perhaps some will see me as wishy-washy because I don’t make a clear statement about where I stand. Or some will see me as too conservative because I don’t push for their reading of Scripture. Some will view me as too liberal because I propose and question some different things. Others will view this as a waste of their time and will stop reading things their friends send to them. But I hope that none of this is true. I hope that we can begin to unite together and converse about serious issues like this. I hope we can begin to understand that many of us don’t have it all figured out and that sexuality is a huge topic that encompasses so much more than to whom you are attracted. Let’s put down our stones and work together to lead with embrace.

Stop Going to Church

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church-at-night-iceland_00449588Whenever I hear the phrase, “I need to start going to church” or “I go to church,” a little piece inside of me dies. It’s not that I don’t want people to be a part of the church. On the contrary, I believe everyone should be a part of the church.

But instead of people being a part of church, most people just go to church.

One of my fears as a pastor is that many people in the western evangelical world have the tendency to view church as a service to attend. Because of this line of thought, we focus extraordinary amounts of energy on crafting a service that people will want to attend. I’m not arguing against excellence. I do believe that we should do things with as much excellence as possible. As a person who has been involved in theatre, being a part of something done well draws me closer to God. In my opinion, there is nothing wrong about pursuing excellence in preaching, singing, teaching, or any other aspect to the gathering.


 But instead of people being a part of church, most people just go to church.


But church cannot be confined just to people gathering to view a service. It has to be so much more.

I, like many of you, have been guilty of using the phrase, “The service wasn’t that good today,” or “The service was really great today.” Our view of church is primarily based upon the quality of the songs or the emotional weight of the sermon. Because of this, our involvement within the church is shallow, at best. What I mean by this is that when things change or when a particular church doesn’t meet our standards, we are quick to abandon.

We treat the church like numerous whores with whom we divide our time.

There are various reasons we do this:

  1. We don’t like turmoil. We have an unrealistic utopian view of what the church should look like.
  2. We like to be surrounded by people with similar beliefs and opinions. It makes us feel more comfortable.
  3. Church is more of a hobby than a defining characteristic in our lives.

Church isn’t something that we can attend. Church is something that we must be. In our own lives, we all have good and bad days. There are days we wish that we could go back and and redo. There are days we celebrate milestones. There are days we mourn over missed opportunities. There are days we curse God. And then there are days we praise God.


 We treat the church like numerous whores with whom we divide our time.


And just like in our own lives, the church often functions the same way. Which is why we cannot just attend church. This is why church is something we must be. When we are the church, then we work together to prepare the bride for her bridegroom.

Christ is calling us to be part of the bridal party…not just attendees of the wedding. He wants us to be active. He wants us to serve. He wants us to remain faithful. But many of us are just sitting in the crowd waiting for the wedding to start while the bride remains in the back waiting for her faithful bridal party to join her in preparation for her big day.

Perhaps I am a bit optimistic in my belief that people can still gather and disagree yet partake of the Eucharist together. But wouldn’t that represent the Kingdom a bit more than what we have today? Wouldn’t Christ’s prayer in John 17 be a bit sweeter if we did that?


Christ is calling us to be part of the bridal party…not just attendees of the wedding.


Here is what I propose: we stop going to church.

We stop attending and we start participating. We stop sitting in on a service and we start helping. We stop looking to the church as a place and we start looking to the church as a people. Just like we have our good days and our bad days, so the church has her good days and her bad days. We wouldn’t abandon our own lives, so why do we abandon the life of the church?

In an age of consumeristic driven churches where there is a brand for everyone, we spend too much time shopping around and not seeing the damage that is doing to the bride. I said it before and I’ll say it again: we treat the church like numerous whore with whom we divide our time. This is the problem with simply going to church. It makes it easier to leave. It makes it easier to separate oneself from the life of the church (and I’m not talking about potlucks and game nights). It makes it easier for one to abandon when things get rough or when things don’t go “the right way.”

I have “left” 2 churches in my lifetime. I was heavily involved in both churches. One, I was active in the youth group. The other, I was serving with the worship team. Whereas both circumstances may have seemed right on paper, I cannot help but think, “is this what Jesus had in mind when He established His bride?” I never left the Church but I have left local churches. And how we view/treat local churches determines what our view is of the Church.

Just like all throughout the Bible, the life of the church (both local and universal) is going to be messy. There will be disagreements, fights, uneasiness, and pain. But aren’t these the signs of the earth groaning in labor? Aren’t these the signs that the Kingdom is “now but not yet?”

If we all stopped going to church and started being the church, perhaps things might change. If we remembered that Christ called us to serve His bride, perhaps reconciliation before desertion would be our first thought. If we remembered that one day we will be united in the Kingdom with the Church, perhaps that would change how we treated one another. Heaven could be awkward for many of us (myself included).

Let us begin serving through disagreements, fights, arguments, uneasiness, complacency, apathy, and anything else that stands in the way of us preparing the Bride for her Bridegroom. Let us begin being the Church that Christ called us to be.

Ignoring Easter

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Each Easter, I feel like the evangelical church does somewhat of a disservice to the resurrection. That’s a hard statement to say. It’s even harder for me to believe. We add services and put together a well-polished worship experience in hopes that people will experience the resurrection in a new and artistic way.

13395709894_5e33eefdf8But what I mean by this is that much of our efforts rely solely on one weekend. We focus all of our attention for that day or that weekend. But Easter is much larger than a day or a weekend. If one day could completely change the fate of creation, isn’t it safe to assume that it deserves as much focus, if not more focus, than our other significant day, Christmas?

This year, I participated in Lent. In years past, I have tried to follow this fast. I have never successfully done so, however. My senior year in college, I decided to give up sugar for Lent. This was a crazy thing for me because I love sugar (as most of us do). I remember flying out to Las Vegas to do an interview for an internship at Central Christian Church. During one of my interviews, I met with Chris Trethewey, the Family Ministries Pastor, for breakfast. The place had chocolate-chip pancakes and I broke down and ordered them. Chris was asking some questions to get to know me and I remember mentioning that I had given up sugar for Lent. He looked at me confused and said, “But you just ordered chocolate-chip pancakes! There’s sugar in those!” I laughed it off and said, “It’s breakfast, so it doesn’t count.”


 Easter is much larger than a day or a weekend.


Pondering on that conversation this year has reminded me how lightly we treat Easter. Lent is a beautiful time of reflection, prayer, repentance, and self-denial. It is a time that we try and become like Christ. Christ fasted for 40 days in preparation of His ministry. We fast these 40 days in preparation for the day that changed the fate of creation.

This year, I gave up coffee for Lent. For those of you that know me, this was almost an impossible task. The 40-day fast from this has redirected my focus toward Christ and what the cross meant for us and what the resurrection means for us. On the cross, Christ died a criminal but in the grave, He arose a Savior.

N.T. Wright, in his book Surprised by Hope, writes about Easter like this:

Is it any wonder people find it hard to believe in the resurrection of Jesus if we don’t throw our hats in the air? Is it any wonder we find it hard to live the resurrection if we don’t do it exuberantly in our liturgies? Is it any wonder the world doesn’t take much notice if Easter is celebrate as simply the one-day happy ending tacked on to forty days of fasting and gloom?… We should be taking steps to celebrate Easter in creative ways: in art, literature, children’s games, poetry, music, dance, festivals, bells, special concerts, anything that comes to mind. This is our greatest festival. Take Christmas away, and in biblical terms you lose two chapters at the front of Matthew and Luke, nothing else. Take Easter away, and you don’t have a New Testament; you don’t have a Christianity; as Paul says, you are still in your sins. We shouldn’t allow the secular world, with its schedules and habits and parareligious events, its cute Easter bunnies, to blow us off course. This is our greatest day. We should put the flags out.

This day should excite us. Because of Christ defeating death, He has defeated death for all of us. His resurrection is the most pivotal moment in history. And I fear that we just cram this pivotal moment into one day.


 On the cross, Christ died a criminal but in the grave, He arose a Savior.


During Advent season, we sing songs of Christ’s birth for weeks leading up to Christmas. We give extra gifts and monies to help people who cannot help themselves. We decorate our sanctuaries and throw festive parties. Families spend time together and invite those who have no families. This is beautiful. But shouldn’t Easter be just as beautiful? Shouldn’t Easter have the parties, the gifts, the monies, the decorations, the songs, and the family time?

Advent celebrates that our Savior has come. Easter celebrates that our Savior has won. Both are important. Both are worthy of celebrations beyond comparison.

holy-spiritSome argue that in reality, we celebrate Easter each Sunday. On paper, this is true. Because of what Christ did, we celebrate Easter each Sunday. However, do we direct our thoughts to that? Or do we just take it for granted that everyone in church knows and understands that? Is what Christ did only mentioned when we want to have a dramatic conclusion to a service? Perhaps each week we need to take the time to celebrate what Easter means for us.


 Advent celebrates that our Savior has come. Easter celebrates that our Savior has won.


Sometimes I feel like we ignore Easter. What I mean by that is that we ignore it until the day of. I have been guilty of this. Much of my life, I knew what Easter meant, but I looked forward to Christmas more…and not just because of the gifts. I have several fond memories associated with Christmas: traditions, parties, songs, feasts, etc.

This Easter, let us celebrate life. Life to the fullest. May there be parties and celebrations. May there be gifts and monies donated. May there be laughter and songs. May there be feasts and good conversations. Our Savior has won. And that is something that is more worthy than a weekend of celebration. That is something that is worthy of a lifetime of celebration.