Church

Why You’re the Best Church in the World (for me)!

Why You’re the Best Church in the World (for me)!

The uber-mega church Willow Creek Church is currently hiring for their senior pastor opening. Willow Creek doesn’t require much of an introduction. 24,000 people meet at seven campuses in the Chicagoland area. It launched the Global Leadership Summit, which drew 118,000 people last year.

Last year, Mariners church in Southern California searched for their new Senior Pastor. Every weekend 17,000 crowd into its lush campus that could easily be mistaken for a resort.

And (not that if they would!) if they called me, I wouldn’t even pick up. Seriously.

New Life, you’re the best church in the world for me.

Our minds and hearts naturally wander. We ponder whether there is something better out there. Ingratitude makes our hearts grumble. Ambition turns our eyes green. “If only…” we think.

When my heart turns inward, when I allow my sin to go unchecked, I go to this place too.

But here is the reality: God has called us to Tucson. He’s called us to New Life Bible Fellowship. He’s decided to use my gifts in and for New Life. He’s given me the privilege of shepherding his flock, of caring for his sheep.

Why I’m a Better Pastor (for you) than… (Rick Warren, Tony Evans, Tim Keller, Alistair Begg, Albert Tate, Matt Chandler, Joel Osteen, John Piper, or Andy Stanley)

Why I’m a Better Pastor (for you) than… (Rick Warren, Tony Evans, Tim Keller, Alistair Begg, Albert Tate, Matt Chandler, Joel Osteen, John Piper, or Andy Stanley)

You have access to the best pastors in America.

You have at your fingertips access to a trove of virtually endless content by some of the wisest and most powerful thinkers and speakers on the planet. As soon as you finish this post you can have them piped into your office, car, or living room and be impacted by their words. And I hope you do!

What a ridiculous gift we have! If you were born five hundred and fifty years ago in Europe, in all likelihood not only could you not read the Bible, but it was likely that your parish priest didn’t own a whole copy of the Latin Bible and since he knew only a handful of Latin words, he couldn’t even read the Bible. Fast forward a few decades to the Reformation and now, for the first time, you would hear the Bible read in your own language and its words applied to your life.

Fast forward five centuries to today and not only do we (in the West) have unfettered access to the Bible, but we have almost limitless access to some of the very best Bible teaching. What a gift we have!

And yet, that begs a question: how is a normal pastor like myself supposed to compete? Why should you even bother with attending your local church? Why settle for the best I can offer when you can watch the best that Tim Keller and Albert Tate and (fill in your favorite preacher here) can offer?!

The truth is that I can’t compete. I’ll never be on an “America’s Best Preachers” list like this. And frankly, I have no aspirations for that.

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.       When Life Gets Tough Self-Esteem Is Not the Answer: Shelby Abbott reminds us of a simple but important truth: " When we’re able to have a proper view of ourselves along with an honest view about the sinful state of the world, the solution to our rampant anxiety becomes more and more clear—it is not more self-esteem, self-trust, or self-love. The solution is God Almighty made known to us in the person of Jesus Christ."

2.      Surprisingly, Millennials are the Generation Most Likely to Attend Church: Aaron Earls reports on this surprising study: " A study commissioned by Dunham+Company found more than half of self-identified evangelicals say they attend church once a week or more. Among millennials, however, that number climbs to 61%—more than Gen Xers (44%) and Boomers (54%)."

3.      How we Can be Selfless without Being Needless: Caroline Saunders makes a helpful distinction in this article about the difference between being selfless and being needless. She suggests we ought to be the first but not the second. " Our neediness is also an instrument for God’s work through us. Our personal neediness can train us to see neediness in others. The surprising result? Selflessness!"

4.      10 Ways to Spoil an Apology: Emma Scrivener reminds us of just how easy it is to blow an apology. 

5.      The Problem With Banning Plastic Bags: Everyone knows plastic bags are bad for the environment. But what if banning them is worse?

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:

Celebrating God's Rescue

Celebrating God's Rescue

This past Sunday at New Life we had the privilege of celebrating the baptism of eight. Baptisms are one of the most precious celebrations for the family of God. It doesn’t matter how many I’ve done, each is as fresh and as joy-filled as my first.

These testimonies are too powerful not to share.

Here is one nugget:

“What do I love about Jesus? What’s not to love? I love that he loves me… That’s what I love most about our Lord, that he is so gracious and merciful despite how far we walk away from him.”

Make sure you watch to the end. How good is our Heavenly Father?

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: