Saturday, 8 March 2014

Are we ready to live out the Bible?

As you may have picked up from reading my blog, I long for Christianity that transcends the superficial and sometimes tedious, church experience. And so I received a tip-off about a nearby church group that is a little bit different.

Almost halfway through and it was pretty much as-per-usual. The leader's intro, the 'shake-hands-and-say-hello' time, a child baptism, a prayer and some worship. Then up came Hebrews 10:24-25 on the screen.

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

I wasn't ready for what came next.
A person said how the church felt like family, and that (to the mother of the baptised child) anything they needed .. "just ask". Another person shared his struggle with drug withdrawal symptoms - and that prayer was a powerful release from the craving. The seemingly-unaccompanied mother thanked a couple for supporting her through recent times, saying she wouldn't have made it through without them.

As much as I wasn't expecting all that - and was far from ready to contribute myself - I had massive respect for the people who did, and for the person who came up with the idea. It was incredibly authentic, deeply touching, completely biblical - ad unscripted. Not the sort of thing you normally get in church.

I'd seen those bible verses many times, but usually as a tool for goading irregular church attenders to continue attending. Somehow by concentrating on the "meeting together" bit, we missed the "spur one another on" bit, the "love and good deeds" and "encouraging one another".

It was inspiring to see those words being put into action. On reflection, it was a little disheartening that seeing a church follow through on biblical values was such a surprise.

Thursday, 30 January 2014

The difference between Jesus and Christians

I was surprised by a survey of Christians' attitude to the death penalty. But it wasn't the individual results that surprised me as much as the difference between them.

40% of practicing Christians approve of it, but only 5% think Jesus would approve. Whatever the issue, that's a big difference - for a group of people who claim to be his followers.

If we're going to be telling the world to follow Jesus and become more like him - perhaps we'd do well to take that advice ourselves.

the difference between Jesus and Christians

Monday, 7 October 2013

How Young People Connect to Church

What are the things that help young people connect to church? I sometimes talk about why people leave the church, including that they find it unChristian. But what connects them?

David Kinnaman, author of You Lost Me (why young Christians are leaving church) also did some research into things churches can do to engage young adults.

The article goes into more detail. But it covers 3 main areas. 1. Connection to Jesus. 2. Connecting faith to real life. 3. Allowing meaningful relationships with other Christians.

The research interviewed young people still involved with church ("Active") and those not currently attending ("Dropout"). While I'm not a big fan of those terms, the difference in the two groups is stunning. There's a clear connection between experiencing these things at church, and staying connected to church.

Also, it turns out the 59% of young people leave the church in their 'first decade of adulthood'. That's a strong reason to consider addressing this issue.

More ideas can also be found in the book You Lost Me.

Article Link: 5 Reasons Millennials Stay Connected to Church
Barna Resource: The Barna Millenials Project

Saturday, 28 September 2013

"Christian" principles

This cartoon sums up the exasperation of those who love the values of Christ - but not the "Christian values" (which are so often a completely different thing).

Thanks to James for showing me this cartoon.

[See the full version]

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Why young people leave the church

I love reading Rachel Evans' article Why millennials are leaving the church, and I feel her pain when invited to describe it to church officials.

She relates how young adults find church "too exclusive, old-fashioned, unconcerned with social justice" and how young Christians feel forced to give up both intellect and compassion. Young people are looking for a safe place to ask tough questions, and wrestle with doubt. A place that's less about "sticking to a set of rules", and less obsessed with sex.

What happens when she presents all this to the church hierarchy?

Invariably, after I’ve finished my presentation and opened the floor to questions, a pastor raises his hand and says, "So what you’re saying is we need hipper worship bands..."

And I proceed to bang my head against the podium.

Her article goes on to say that this most-advertised-to generation has been somewhat innoculated to the whole consumer-church idea, and are craving authenticity more than coolness.

You can’t hand us a latte and then go about business as usual and expect us to stick around. We’re not leaving the church because we don’t find the cool factor there; we’re leaving the church because we don’t find Jesus there.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

It's the faithful that leave church

This quote really resonates with me. It's Carolyn Kitto, on ABC's Sunday Nights, in a discussion about changes in society, and churches who are aware of that:

You know, people are not necessarily leaving the church because they're losing their faith. They're actually leaving the church because they're wanting to express their faith in the rest of the world.

The host expanded on her thought by adding "- and they don't want to put up with having to give their lives to sustaining (what they consider) a boring waste of time on a Sunday morning."

Later on, Carolyn gave churches the tip:
Church needs to leave the building and be part of God's mission. Where churches are discovering that, they're discovering a different way of being. ... It's not a program of the church - it's a different way of being church. It's not for the sake of the church, it's for the sake of the mission of God.

In a way, it can sound like bad news for churches. People leaving, and the need for change aren't things churches usually like. But there's an tremendous opportunity if churches are willing. It's actually one of the things that keeps Carolyn hopeful for the future.

Another thing that's bringing me hope is the number of people who are leaving the church for the sake of their faith. Who are saying I've gotta figure out a way that my faith works in the rest of the world. And they're wanting to have those conversations with other Christians that are in that situation. But they're wanting to have that conversation with people who they are rubbing shoulders with every day, because the fundamentally believe they've found a framework that makes sense in this world, and a God who is the God of the universe.

Download the MP3

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Blue Like Jazz - at your church

The Blue Like Jazz movie seems to have ended its run in cinemas, but from April 30 will be available for you to screen at your church.

I did short review in an earlier post, and a more in-depth review for Journey magazine - and I thoroughly recommend it for older teens and adults. It has the ability to particularly resonate with people at the beginning of adulthood, and trying to figure out how their faith connects with the world out there.

It's the kind of movie where you could invite people who aren't churchgoers, or that you could watch as a church or small group. To reflect on the themes in the movie, the website offers a bible study and various discussions guides.

Related links: Movie website and synopsis
Screen the movie at your church