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Why Not to Floss Before You Go to Church

Why Not to Floss Before You Go to Church

“We’ve got just enough time. Let’s go!” My wife and I had run an errand on our day off and had a dentist appointment in 45 minutes. If we didn’t get caught in traffic we would just be able to get home, brush, floss, swish some Listerine, and then head to our afternoon dentist appointment. Why? Because in our world, you don’t show up to a dentist appointment without your teeth in their best condition.

Two days later I drop my car off at the shop. It has a strange squeak that has me nervous. I haven’t so much as popped the hood. The car isn’t washed and a fine powder of crumbs dusts the backseat.

When I go to the dentist I go hoping that I will get a good report. I don’t want any cavities, and I hope not to be scolded that I don’t floss enough. I have a strange desire to receive the dentist’s approval.

When I go to the car shop, I go messy. I go honest. I hope that they hear the squeak I keep hearing. I don’t know anything about cars and I hope that the mechanic can fix the problem. I know I sure can’t.

How do I go to church? Like I go to the dentist’s office or like I go to the car shop? Do we clean ourselves up or do we come messy?

Too many of us go to church like we go to the dentist’s office.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      The Funeral As We Know it is Becoming a Relic: Karen Heller reports that just as we are on the verge of a death boom, the rules of funerals are undergoing significant changes. She shares, " The movement will only accelerate as the nation approaches a historic spike in deaths. Baby boomers, despite strenuous efforts to stall the aging process, are not getting any younger. In 2030, people over 65 will outnumber children, and by 2037, 3.6 million people are projected to die in the United States, according to the Census Bureau, 1 million more than in 2015, which is projected to outpace the growth of the overall population."

2.      Be Slow to Assume: Being slow to anger begins with being slow to assume, Lara D'Entremont suggests: " Maybe this is what Peter meant by, “Love covers a multitude of sins,” (1 Peter 4:8). In my desire to assume the best of another, the small sins of another towards me are overlooked and covered, rather than racked up to be something greater than they were. Let’s toss poor assumptions, give some charity, stretch ourselves a little, and put grace on display."

3.      Why We Need to Stop Saying, "Sorry for Your Loss": This is written from a secular psychological perspective from Ed Preston. Preston is correct though, and I would suggest that the reasons as Christians are even stronger. He suggests, " Perhaps it’s because of our cultural death phobia, and the way it pathologizes everything related to sadness. If we’re not better at dealing with grief, then it’s because we’ve never been taught better. Unfortunately, that leaves the majority of people with only one stock phrase in their repertoire, “I’m sorry for your loss.”" He also includes some practical advice for what you can say.

4.      How to Get Your Church to Engage Scripture More: JR Briggs offers seven great ideas including, " Read a passage, and then ask people to write out 10-to-15 questions about the passage on a piece of paper. Why did the woman ask that of Jesus? What was running through Abraham’s mind when he was walking up the mountain to sacrifice Isaac? Allow people to interact with the text by courageously wrestling with tough questions."

5.      1 in 10 Young Protestants Have Left Church Over Abuse: Kate Shellnut reports on a recent Lifeway Research survey that contains sobering information. She concludes with practical changes churches can consider including, " Assess your church culture first and make needed changes: Do your current members experience safety and freedom in sharing their own stories of suffering?"

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.        Millennials Tried to Kill the Mall, But Gen Z Might Save it: Jordyn Holman with the surprising report that Gen Zers don't just go to the mall more, but they like going to the mall! She says, " Today’s teens interact differently with stores than their older siblings and Gen X parents before them..."

2.       John and Jesus Didn't Think You Could Be a Christian Without the Church: Fleming Rutledge says that, "the overwhelming emphasis in John is not on individuals but on the organic connection that Jesus creates among those who put their trust in him."

3.       Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas on Abortion and Eugenics: This is a long, but well written article on the history of Margaret Sanger, abortion, eugenics, and racism. And it's by an unusl author: Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. 

4.       God's Inner Work: Susan Lafferty with a wonderful reflection on the hidden and beautiful work of God. 

5.       9 Types of Effective Evangelism: Aaron Earls offers 9 ways to reach out that studies prove are effective. One of the nine is inviting a neighbor to a service project: " Half of all unchurched (51%) say they would likely come to a community service project organized by a local Christian church."

6.       Faithful Evangelical Men Are Resisting Porn: Buried in new data about porn usage is this encourage fact: men who attend church regularly are resisting porn at much higher rates than those who don't attend church.

What Books Can Help me Talk to My Friend about Their Questions for God?

What Books Can Help me Talk to My Friend about Their Questions for God?

In the coming months at New Life we are looking forward to stepping into a series called Questions for God. In the series, we hope to openly and honestly engage the most difficult questions people have about Christianity. For some those questions keep them on the outside looking in. For others, it causes them to wrestle with their faith.

We hope that Questions for God invites everyone into the conversation no matter where you are spiritually. It is our aim to address these questions with respect and honesty. And it is our hope that some might lean in to engage their questions in a safe environment. It is hope as well that it might serve as an opportunity for Christians to open the doors for conversations with friends and family members.

As we prepare for this series, I would commend the following books. Maybe one of these piques your interest. I would encourage you to pick it up and start reading it in the next few weeks.

 

Two Books That Engage the Broader Questions

Confronting Christianity by Rebecca McLaughlin

Deep thinkers have pointed questions for Christianity. “Aren’t we better off without religion?” “How can you say there’s only one true faith?” “Doesn’t religion cause violence?” “Hasn’t science disproved Christianity?” “Isn’t Christianity homophobic?” “How could a loving God send people to hell?”

In Confronting Christianity, Rebecca McLaughlin takes those questions seriously. As a former skeptic, McLaughlin brings both empathy and clear reasoning. She does three things particularly well:

Why We have a 37 Page Doctrinal Statement

Why We have a 37 Page Doctrinal Statement

In the world of non-denominationalism, the tendency is to scrape theology down to its bare minimum. I appreciate the spirit behind that move: to not create division where there shouldn’t be division. Why can’t we join together as a church in unity despite our minor disagreements?

New Life is swimming against that current. In a day and age many church’s doctrinal statements could be printed on written out on a napkin, we have a 37 page doctrinal statement.

I discovered New Life’s doctrinal statement when I began considering whether God might be calling apply to serve on staff. I was pretty surprised. I was also grateful. I’m even more grateful for the doctrinal statement today. Here are 7 reasons why:

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.        Best Hike in Every State: Looks like my bucket list just grew. Tell me if you've gone on any of these hikes. They look great.

2.       When Grumbling Meets Gossip: Tim Challies helpfully clarifies the difference between grumbling, gossip, and disputing. He concludes, " There will be times when we disagree with others. There will be times when we need to confront other people for their sinful actions or attitudes or to dispute with others to contend for the truth and guard the gospel. But both must be handled with love and grace. Both must be seen as opportunities to further unity rather than further disrupt it. Both must be seen as threats to our calling to shine as lights in this dark and needy world."

3.       When Churches Can't Do Everything: I love when people enthusiastically bring their ideas and their willingness to serve to the church. But a church can't do everything. Kevin DeYoung gives excellent advice to congregants bringing their ideas to church leaders, explaining why they might receive a no, and how to receive that no.

4.       How Your Church Can Grow Young: Three of the foremost experts on Millennials and Gen Z in the church, Kara Powell, Jake Mulder, and Brad Griffin offer helpful advice, " What really stood out was the way the churches made young people feel like family. In fact, the phrase like family surfaced as the most common term young people used to describe their church in our interviews and field visits."

5.       The Most Populous Cities in the World From 1500-2018: You'll want to watch this through a couple of times to track some intriguing information. For instance, watch trends in Europe, Asia, and the Americas over the centuries.

Why Doesn't My Neighbor Go to Church?

Why Doesn't My Neighbor Go to Church?

There was a time when going to church is what respectable people did. Two generations ago, every self-respecting citizen went to church, regardless of their desire to be there or not. When I was in middle school our family became acquaintances with someone at church. My parents ended up doing business with him only to learn later that he was far from ethical in his business dealings. Church, it turned out, was just a handy place for him to expand his business.

Long gone are the days of expected church attendance. And good riddance to them. I have no desire to have our society return to “the good old days” of church attendance insofar as that is merely moral behavior. What I long for are people to yearn for an encounter with a holy and loving God and to experience the warmth of God’s family.

A recent survey asked people why they do and don’t attend church. Those who attend cited reasons such as “to get closer to God,” “because I find the sermons valuable,” and “to be part of a faith community” as some of their answers. Those who don’t attend listed these as their top reasons for not attending:

1.       I practice my faith in other ways

2.       I am not a believer

3.       I haven’t found a church I like

4.       I don’t like the sermons

5.       I don’t feel welcome

That’s a helpful glimpse into the heart of the non-church attender. You might notice that four of the five reasons don’t have anything to do with their beliefs. That means that the most significant objection you might fear from your neighbor (disagreeing with your faith) is unlikely to be the main reason they aren’t attending.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      Poll Finds "Dramatic and Sudden Shift" Toward a Pro-Life Position: Aaron Earls reports, " The latest Marist poll finds 47 percent of Americans identify as pro-life and 47 percent identify as pro-choice. Just one month ago, however, Americans were more likely to identify as pro-choice than pro-life by 17 percentage points—55 to 38 percent."

2.      How the Pro-Life Movement was Had: Andree Seu Peterson's pointed article begins, "They said who knows when life begins. So we said, OK, let’s talk about when life begins. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you,” we quoted from Jeremiah 1, verse 5. We’re not into religion, they replied. So we said fair enough, forget the Bible, let’s talk science, you like science, right? And if the science proves when life begins, then you’ll stop killing babies in the womb, agreed?"

3.      Seven Church Member Attitudes That Lead to the Death of Churches: We all want thriving churches. Thom Rainer has helpful thoughts in this podcast on ways that we as church members can help combat churches declining and dying.

4.      The Church Growth Gap: Aaron Earls reports, "Three in five (61%) pastors say their churches faced a decline in worship attendance or growth of 5 percent or less in the last three years. Almost half (46%) say their giving decreased or stayed the same from 2017 to 2018."

5.      How Men and Women Spend Their Days: Cool dynamic infograph from Flowing Data.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      Few Churched Teens are Devout as Young Adults: Aaron Earls has been unfolding this important LifeWay Research study recently. He shares, " Those who stopped attending church for at least a year are more likely to say they believe in God, but are uncertain about Christianity (17 to 8 percent); say they consider themselves spiritual, but not religious (13 to 5 percent); say they’re uncertain about their belief in God (7 to 3 percent); and say they don’t believe in God (6 to 1 percent)."

2.      4 Ways to Avoid the Church Dropout Danger Zone: Aaron Earls responds to the findings about young adults dropping out of church with some helpful advice: "Most parents don’t realize the impact their words and actions have on their teenagers. They wrongly assume their children aren’t listening and wouldn’t care. If parents make church a priority for the family, students will pick up on that. If parents treat church as if it is simply another activity to take or leave, students will pick up on that as well."

3.      Faithful with a Few: Jen Oshman with an important question for each of us, "How will you respond to the few? Every Christian must confront these questions because every Christian has a ministry, from the senior pastor to the children’s minister to the lay mentor who disciples young adults over coffee."

4.      The Importance of the Bible's Best Description of Salvation: Julie Canlis shares, " Paul says something far more often: He uses the phrase “in Christ” 165 timesThe Bible’s favorite way of describing our salvation is one we rarely use. For Paul, salvation was simple: It was being joined to Jesus Christ."

5.      5 Lessons Jordan Peterson Has Taught the Church: Esther O'Reilly has read Peterson deeply and has great insights on what the polarizing sociologist can teach us: "1. The Church must authentically meet men’s emotional needs… Peterson speaks with a voice that is at once authoritative and encouraging to men. He offers tough love that tells men they aren’t living up to their potential, without swinging to the other extreme and shaming them for it. He praises and exemplifies distinctively masculine virtues. And crucially, these virtues do not exclude emotion."

6. How PreachersNSneakers Exposes All Christians: Brady Shearer takes a look into the popular Instagram account that calls megachurch pastors out on their expensive shoe tastes. 

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      Sunday Regulars are Happier and Healthier: Kate Shellnut shares the findings of a recent Pew Research Center report, " Whatever the explanation may be, more than one-third describe themselves as very happy, compared with just a quarter of both inactive and unaffiliated Americans."

2.      Move Over Sex and Drugs, Ease is the New Vice: Jen Pollock Michel with a sharp insight, "The decline in sexual activity and cereal sales hardly seem correlated, but both seem to point to one of the most seductive promises of a technological age: that ours should be an unbothered life. As our lives (at least in the developed world) get easier, we are increasingly formed by the desire for ease."

3.      Why Are you Hiding? This is written specifically for pastors, but it applies to many of us. Chuck DeGroat asks us why we keep our real selves hidden and why that might be our destruction: "The 17th-century Presbyterian clergyman John Flavel wrote in Keeping the Heart, 'There are some men and women who have lived forty or fifty years in the world and have had scarcely one hour’s discourse with their hearts all the while.' I’ve found this to be true of many people in ministry... They’re lost pastors, lonely and busy and empty and radically disconnected from any kind of inner conversation with their hearts and with the God who is more near to them than their very breath."

4.      They Really Did Come From Nothing: Lucia Tai, the daughter of immigrants reports on her journey back to her parents' birth home in Vietnam and how that reshaped her perception of them and undermined her ingratitude. She says, " I’ve come to see that my parents have spent the majority of their lives trying to assimilate into a new culture and to fit a mould that they were not born into...The experience also helped me to further reject internalised racism and to appreciate my heritage more. After experiencing my family’s truth, all the values that had been drilled into me from young started to make sense: the undying work ethic, the need to save every penny, the call to be grateful and to make sacrifices for the family."

5.      4 Traits of a Good Small Group Question: Lynn Pryor with great advice for leading any discussion group. Her four traits of a good question are:"1. They don’t call for a single right answer; 2. They don’t have an obvious answer; 3. They don’t call for a short answer; 4. They call for a personal response or answer."