Why Liturgical Church matters for Families

Raised in the evangelical world of Christianity, my background provided me with a firm set of what church should be like and more than a few dogmatic beliefs.

Worship was a time to exuberantly worship and praise the Lord, thus each Sunday I was treated to a live worship band with hi-tech imaging, super amped energy, and a series of increasingly intense worship songs.

I loved it until I didn’t. For many years this weekly injection of faith, excitement, and spiritual energy were an essential part of my spiritual life and perspective as a parent and a Christian.

There came a time when I was disillusioned with it.

Don’t get me wrong, nothing was out of place. The pastor was still dynamic, his sermons full of the latest social media and cultural references and as relevant as possible. The worship band was still top notch, full of precision players and nearly perfect vocals, like an awesome concert, it’s energy still revved me up. But it wasn’t penetrating very far and faded fast…

Photo by Luis Quintero from Pexels

Communion was overlooked most weeks, it seemed to be an afterthought. We celebrated the sacrament with a few moments of brief explanation, maybe once every four to six weeks with a mass passing of the plastic thimble cups and a wafer. The focus and attention for the Eucharist was far below that of the intense live worship, hip pastor, and dramatic presentations of the church to engage and entertain me.

I transitioned from the evangelical world to the Anglican in 2009. Not as a disgruntled and unhappy evangelical, but as a believer in search of something more than another awesome set of intense ‘goosebumps’. 

I was struggling to find meaning in the emotional explosion of positive faith and ‘victorious’ living that my evangelical church had pushed so regularly.  My life wasn’t growing in depth, I found myself stretched too thin, I felt ‘a mile wide and an inch deep’. Superficial in my overall understanding of who God really was, and why things were so difficult in my life.

Photo by Adrien Olichon from Pexels

I found my spiritual health tied to my emotional status.

If I was ‘up’ and full of joy and hope… so was my perspective of God. If my world was stark and dark, so was my perspective on God’s will and character. I couldn’t engage the ‘joy-rah-rah’ of the hyperactive faith folks at church when my world was shattering. I found myself disturbed that it seemed no-one else was struggling with their faith, I felt alone and isolated in my doubts and discouragement.

The transition from an ‘evangelical’ church experience to a liturgical one was difficult. The Anglican way was slow, way less impressive on the surface and full of methodical readings, prayers that were scripted, and a weekly solemn celebration of the Eucharist.  Very little excitement here, less spontaneity and personality showing in this service, but there was something deeper here. I could sense it.

The emphasis seemed to have shifted from the external to the internal, this was a more intimate act of worship. I wasn’t captivated by the amazing performances of the pastor and worship team, but I became more sensitive and aware of the words and meanings of the prayers, focused on the liturgical readings, and I was in awe of the reverence shown to the scripture.

I found myself longing to linger in this presence of Christ that I felt in the celebration of the Eucharist, a mystical and mysterious moment I hadn’t felt in my evangelical upbringing. 

Next week.. we’ll discuss some of the reasons why many evangelicals are looking for a more liturgical experience in their church life.

Peace out, Pastor Brad.

PS – Disclaimer: This is “NOT” meant to demean evangelicals at all!  I admire and appreciate my evangelical brothers and sisters, and I don’t believe any one denomination is superior to another, we are unique and different but not ‘better’. This post is meant to be a honest description of my own faith journey from the evangelical to liturgical, and how it has changed me forever.

 

 

 

Rolling Stone Theology

Dylan… man, you gotta love the lyrics this genius of music creates! He’s an icon and rightly so… one of his most famous lines…

“How does it feel, how does it feel?
To be on your own, with no direction home
A complete unknown, like a rolling stone” *

We’re tempted to dis-engage with the church. Tempted to walk away and watch things from a safer distance. I get it. Community is a rough and weary commitment, but it’s also a huge strength and support in times of struggle and loss. Mostly… community is important because it’s God’s way of expressing Himself to our world and helping us grow.

Solo living seems easier. It feels safer. Our instincts tell us that we’re better off avoiding the entrapment of shared intimacy and the implied burdens we carry as a group. It would be cleaner and simpler to just have our own stuff to worry about and leave it that. church-e1506439459166.jpg

I believe that’s why Mega-Churches thrive. They provide a place for faith to exist without the intrusion of being noticed. A place to attend when we’re up for it,  church on neutral ground without the weight of accountability and personal responsibility. (please note – Certainly not meant to imply that everyone who attends a large church falls into this category)

But the bible keeps pushing for us to recognize the masters blue-print for our life. The architectural plans have been designed and drawn up, now it’s building time!

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 2:4-5 ESV) 

The plans of God include you and I… not as ‘single’ pieces in a puzzle, but us as ‘the” puzzle together! The picture of God’s Kingdom includes the coming together of multiple people – places – and passions. We’re meant to share in the struggle, to walk through the pilgrimage of faith as a tribe. Not simply as solo artists and individual rocks.

We’re not called to be ‘Rolling stones’… we’re called to be part of the wall that makes up a living temple, a testament to God’s majesty and humanity. (i.e. the Local Church)

Bob-Dylan-005

Bob Dylan – Live For Live Music

I shudder to think of what I would be like today if I had just bailed on the concept of being a part of the church after a few ‘dust-ups of misunderstanding and offense.

Parents, we are all tempted to isolate and avoid. But we know the examples we’re setting will impact our kids for a lifetime. If we regularly come home from church venting our frustrations and offenses from our local spiritual family in front of them…and then expect our kids to be enthusiastic about services… we’re sending some mixed signals.

But consider the truth of God’s word… the reality of life without a spiritual anchor or community of faith is uncertain. Your family needs you as a parent to plug-in. Parenting is one of the heaviest burdens we will ever carry, there will be moments when you would give up or walk away… moments that will need encouragement and perspective to stay the course. Others will need your experiences to make it through their struggles… we can’t always figure things out alone. We’re not meant to.

So… my strong encouragement is this; Fight for the relationships God has gifted you with. Don’t walk away… don’t deny the friendships and faithfulness of your brothers and sisters in Christ. People will let us down… they will offend and ignore us, but push through the pain and trust God to bring you through. There is a profound strength that comes from reconciliation and renewal, friendships that have been tested and tried are stronger still.

Don’t do a Dylan… instead let’s strive to be a “Paul” (**see below).

11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds[c] and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood,to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. ( Apostle Paul – Letter to the church at Ephesus – Chapter 4: 11-16 ESV) 

** Extra Favorite Scripture reference on the subject of community is this… Colossians 1:15-20: “We look at this Son and see the God who cannot be seen. We look at this Son and see God’s original purpose in everything created. For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels—everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him. He was there before any of it came into existence and holds it all together right up to this moment. And when it comes to the church, he organizes and holds it together, like a head does a body. He was supreme in the beginning and—leading the resurrection parade—he is supreme in the end. From beginning to end he’s there, towering far above everything, everyone. So spacious is he, so roomy, that everything of God finds its proper place in him without crowding. Not only that, but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe—people and things, animals and atoms—get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death, his blood that poured down from the cross.” (MSG)

*(Lyric Source for this blog – Songwriter: Bob Dylan – Like a Rolling Stone lyrics © Bob Dylan Music Co.)

It takes a church to keep us alive

Many times I’ve felt the pressures of being ‘overwhelmed’. That moment when one-too-many commitments hits our already full schedules. The frantic pulse and shallow breaths of an ‘almost’ panic-attack as our stomach roils with dread, crazy days when we realize we literally lack the time to stop & eat.

Stretched beyond what we thought we could do… we stumble and fumble our way through it, hoping that in the end we’ll somehow cover every base and detail. church

That’s OK when it’s a day or two out of each month…but when it piles up into weeks of crazy, we start to feel the pressure of a life out of control. A nearly panicked state of existence that pushes us to the limit… and then beyond. 

As believers we share a commitment to Christ, a common-bond that links us with each other in ways we don’t always realize or appreciate. It’s in these insanely busy and overwhelming moments that we find out… we’re not in this alone. We have help.

Of course we know ‘theoretically’ the ageless gospel truth… ‘Christ will never leave us or forsake us‘, but it’s a bewildering moment when we understand that “Christ’ in the gospel scenario is ‘you’ and ‘me’. The powerful truth of friendship, soaked in the Holy Spirit which provides the source of a Christians steadfast commitment to help whenever someone is in need.

Recently I’ve felt all of these emotions anew and experienced the powerlessness of running at red-line and realizing there was nothing I could do to slow life down. It was into this hyperactive mix that my fellow Christians and friends willingly dived right in.

studyinuk.universiablogs.net

studyinuk.universiablogs.net

I’m sure it’s wasn’t my winning personality 🙂 or saint-like life that inspired such sacrifice from others…but rather the connection of the Holy Spirit among our community of faith. The shared sensitivity of those who love and care for each other, bringing keen awareness to the needs we have, fueling a genuine desire to serve, to help.  And as of recently…that need has been mine.

The response of our church to the practical needs among us is truly inspiring. Not in the good Christians ‘duty’ kind of way, but in the heroic and sincere effort of giving freely when feeling empty, of not waiting to serve until their schedules cleared…but the extraordinary act of putting the needs of others above their own.

It’s in this moment, that I see Christ, active and alive in the sweat and tears of life, when we stop what we’re busy with to give sacrificially without any expectation of a return.

Parents and friends, I believe it takes a church (not the building, but the people in it) to keep us and our hope alive, for the self-contained and proud… this is a hard truth. For the broken and overwhelmed, it is a comfort that binds us together.

As you navigate your life, let me encourage you to become active in your local body of Christian believers. Trying to go it on your own is always an option for surviving… but it’s certainly not a good path to ‘living.

Truth to consider,

Pastor B.

Inspired by Ephesians 1 (NIV)

18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people,…22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church,23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way” (BibleGateway.com

Do for the one… A lesson from Baltimore

Crazy stuff… kids looting, rioting, and out of control in a major US City.

Baltimore burning.

Rage and Frustration literally igniting a city as millions watched and took sides.

As a pastor a thousand miles away…my heart ached. 

Such fear and confusion, politics and posturing. Agenda’s seen and unseen pushing from behind the scenes to move us in calculated ways. It’s so messed up, it makes me want to throw my ‘hands up’ in a completely different way.

But way down deep in my heart is the sadness of knowing, this explosion of emotion is based on more than a rage at the machine or the ‘man’ in charge… it’s deeper than any political movement or social injustice. This is a symptom of darker and simpler things. 

channelnewsasia.com - Baltimore MD Riots

channelnewsasia.com – Baltimore MD Riots

The foundations are falling and the family is the first to go.

Baltimore is burning, lead by its dis-enfranchised youth. Where are the fathers and mothers to lead their family’s home ?

Are they absent for the decades of unresolved social injustices in their city, is it generational poverty, education erosion, violent gangs, drugs, a culture of open promiscuity… or is it the overall lack of faith or hope in the future that’s fueling this growing lack of respect for authority?

Take your pick. 

In the end, it’s about the home… or the absence of home for our youth.

America, it’s time “we” (Christians /you and I) do something about this, and stop allowing the media to push us into one camp or the other. We must see the outrage of our heavenly “Father” at the widows and orphans of our land. To ignore this is to be asleep or worse… apathetic to our selfish bones.

The words of a great sermon still echo through my heart’s halls... “Do for ‘one” what you wish you could do for all” (Andy Stanley) 

Ask God to show you ‘who’ and where and when, but it’s time we move from the sidelines to the front-lines of this modern american tragedy. It’s past time for God’s people to make a tangible difference. To risk being uncomfortable.

It’s as simple as looking for a life to invest in.

Find a young man or woman who isn’t in a healthy home or family. Adopt them. Take them in. Love them, teach them… learn from them. Grow. Become the hands and feet we sing about on Sundays.

Newsweek.com - Baltimore Riots April 27, 2015

Newsweek.com – Baltimore Riots April 27, 2015

Do for the one… and change the world. 

Pastor B

Sharing IS caring, especially at Christmas

Living life in isolation as a Christian is a legitimate option. I dare say that EVERYONE has been wounded by a fellow believer or by a particular Church in their lifetime. That pain un-checked can drive us away from community, from allowing ourselves to get close… it pushes us back from admitting we might need others in our lives. According to a 2008 Zondervan/Knowledge Networks study, 24% of Christian’s only practice their faith “privately”, outside of the church, they are called “christers”. (Christmas and Easter atttenders)

Isolation denies the opportunity for us to develop trust, it robs us of the richness of a true friendship or the intimacy of an earned comrade by your side. When we withdraw from the uncomfortable, from the risk of relying on someone else… we do limit our ability to be hurt further, but we also remove ourselves from the strength and companionship of a community of faith. Many of us slide into depression or worse… numbness.

Courtesy - "Broken Believers"

Ever wonder why so many of us get angry or bitter towards the Church? Ever consider why there is so much cynicism and angst with the way a particular pastor or leader teaches or a specific church handles its ministries and events? When we add kids and marriage into the mix… this whole issue becomes simply overwhelming at times. Families are tempted more than ever to just isolate themselves from others. I believe as in most complex circumstances… the simplest answer might serve us the best.

Could it be that we are just afraid?

No shame in admitting to that. No doubt many if not all of us from time to time avoid the risk’s of being too close to our fellow believers. Choosing instead to skip services, or ministry events or even social time with those we attend sunday services with. We all can identify with the struggle between trusting someone with our true feelings vs. giving the expected and safe responses to the standard social greetings we exchange each sunday.

But what if we decided to we wanted more?

What would happen if an entire generation of Christians chose to risk relationship? Risk rejection, risk condemnation and risk betrayal? What if we took the step of faith to come out of our safe and secure isolation and embrace the messy and often painful scrum of real community with real people?  It might change us, and it might change them.

Real Christians…with real life in them, living in real community. That could begin to re-establish love and trust and hope of living in even the most jaded believer. It might create a genuine – sacrificial – faith in us that not only met our needs, but the needs of all who joined with us. That kind of living would be sort of like leaving one kingdom or world and stepping into another.

Leaving a world full of doubts and fears and regrets and entering into one full of redemption and forgiveness and second chances. A new kingdom with a new king that would allow for us to be messy and inconsistent in our faith, and who would only demand we give up our right to be in control. In exchange, that King would grant us a life of peace and renewed strength and healing for us to have new life, new perspectives and new depths of love and patience for others. A king that would be full of justice and mercy and compassion to all who entered his realm. Where peace overshadowed war and hope displaced despair…

Sounds like a fantasy right?

courtesy of Tevin Wax

Not any more. Jesus actually did all of those things for us. He left His isolated  and comfortable place in Heaven to become a weak and vulnerable man. He took the risk to live in community with people who were messy and foolish and unfaithful. He was willing to let go of His “rights” and suffer the rejection and pain of betrayal. In exchange He gained 11 disciples who would follow Him no matter what it cost. Those first disciples were the beginning of something new. Something different. A Kingdom without the constraints of geography or age or time. A kingdom that’s been offered from then until now… to everyone.

A baby boy in Bethlehem was the beginning of this historical and epic true-life-fairytale that invites all who will… to play a part. A specific role that requires us to risk everything to be a piece of the bigger whole. This Christmas, would you consider stepping out of the comfortable places in your life and into the “dangerous” world of community that Christ has prepared? It will require us to share what we have and help and be helped by people who may or may not understand, appreciate or reciprocate our sacrifices. But I believe it’s the ONLY way we can step completely into Christmas.

I pray that as families you will consider doing more than just donating a financial gift to your local church this year. Maybe it’s time to take the risk of stepping out in faith to the offer of genuine community. My Christmas wish for us all is the gift of… Reconciliation, with man, with God and with our families. Take the risk to live and SHARE your life this year! We need you… badly.

peace out,

brad.

Family First is a Fight

I’m sure, much like you… the last weekend was another crazy whirlwind. Mine was filled from start to finish. Saturday 6am we had a spring garage sale, saturday afternoon prepping for a taco tween youth group easter party, got the oil changed in my car, bought groceries, prepped for sunday church service, finished up a little take home work stuff and then up early on Sunday morning for Palm Sunday, cleaned at the house, laundry, dishes and then finally took some time to be with my family… its amazing how much fills our “free time” each weekend.

Paige and I had scheduled a time to meet with another couple on sunday afternoon-evening, but we also had told our kids that Sunday nights would be just for them. What to do ?

We chose the kids.

It was by far the better choice.

Sometimes we have to “fight” for our family time. What challenges me is the urge to fill my days fuller than full… I have to fight the urge to do more, to finish up just another project or to follow-up with a friend. All for good things, good causes, good friends, but in the end… my family HAS TO WIN.

So on a picture perfect Sunday evening (70F, sunny and clear) we drove in our Honda Pilot to downtown Franklin TN and had an amazing dinner together at  Mellow Mushroom Pizza in their in-door/outdoor cafe area and people watched, and just enjoyed each other and some great food. After pizza we took a stroll to the nearby Baskin Robins and enjoyed some really great ice-cream as the sun set over the courtyard of Franklin’s historic downtown plaza. It was simply perfect.

Contentment is enjoying time with my two beautfiul daughters, my son and amazing wife all together and in good health. Actually noticing the miracle of our family at peace and grateful for the chance and the time to just hang out and be a family. Now that is Priceless.

It’s worth the fight to protect our time for family. I was reminded of that last night. Sunday’s will continue to be a “Sacred” evening that we keep just for us. I hope you consider it too.

Our Lives can get way too busy if we’re not careful,  sometimes it’s important to empty it a little so we can fill it up in other ways. Nothing super profound today, just a simple thought of real life and real hope for families who are feeling disconnected and over-booked.

Family first. Always.

Here’s to “keeping it on the road and in between the lines of life“… Peace out.

brad.

Tweens And Faith

Tweens and Faith, a battle we cannot afford to lose

“In matters related to style, swim with the current, in matters of principle, stand like a rock” Thomas Jefferson –

Why Tweens and Why Now?

Current Christian and social research has confirmed that 90% of American kids will form their lifelong values and beliefs before the end of their thirteenth year. That means if you’re pre-teen or tween (ages 7-13) has not made a faith commitment to Christ before the end of their eighth grade year… there is a 1 in 10 chance they ever will. Multiple recent Christian and Secular social studies have shown the devastating impact of this reality… 88-90% of college bound students leave the Church never to return.

From Fox News, USA Today, CNN and the New York Times, experts are noting the tremendous changes occurring in our current tween populations. Identity crisis common in adolescents is raging into grades 4,5 and 6 much earlier than previous generations. Secular companies (Viacom, GE, Toyota, Apple, Disney, Revlon etc..) are targeting tweens as “decision makers” in their homes. Mainstream marketing has directly focused on pre-teens for marketing campaigns designed to make “consumers for life”. Mainstream corporate America has responded much faster than the church as a whole.

They have a much stronger conviction to reach this age group with their truth, than most Christians do. The principles of belief formation are clearly believed by secular companies as they regularly invests billions in their ad campaigns used to engage and convince tweens their products will change their lives for the better.

It’s clear the body of Christ is in need of a “wake up” call. Parents, pastors and teachers are all beginning to notice the lower attendance rates of their younger members. College age ministries are dropping off due to lack of interest and children’s ministries are still focusing on VBS and basic bible stories while the mainstream media is engaging our kids with “Hannah Montana”, “Wizards of Waverly Place” and” i-Carly”. Online Facebook and U-Tube are visited by 90% of pre-teens daily. Current media studies show an average of 48 hours per week for tween kids to consumer media in one form or another. On average, the families of faith based kids spend an hour a week engaged in faith based activities like church or youth group.

When kids do get to church, the pre-teen ministries of most denominations are limited to volunteers who try to entertain or feed the kids into compliance. For serious leaders who are trying to engage this age, finding effective pre-teen middle school Christian teaching resources is hard as very few options are available at all.

Parents are privately struggling with the chaos of the early adolescent in their homes, something we’re seeing in almost every social or economic group today. Children are being bombarded with a variety of media and instant communication technologies that by in large are accelerating the life values and beliefs decision making process before their emotional & physical maturation occurs fully. Kids are simply being “aged” earlier than ever before in our history. Texting is now considered a clinically “addictive” condition, with the average thirteen year old texting 3,000 times a month. Many admit to texting 300 or more times a day!

We believe the time is now to adjust our focus and philosophy for tomorrow. To make a dent in these trends we must intentionally and strategically reach this pre-teen generation with the truth of the Word of God.

Media and entertainment have replaced families, faith and the voice of the Church with false promises of fulfillment and moral relativism… together we can and must make an immediate impact on our pre-teen and teen cultures with a dynamic and relevant message of Hope and Faith in Jesus Christ.

Reference Resources for Concerned Parents and Pastors… http://www.barna.org/teens-next-gen-articles/403-how-teenagers-faith-practices-are-changing and www.ishineministries.com both sites have great practical links to other faith based parenting blogs and websites ! (Check them out)

Road Trip Parenting… Practical Life Action Steps:

1) Educate yourself on the situation;

– Lifeway Christian Resources has done an extensive study on the beliefs and trends of today’s teen and college students.

– Barna Research Group has repeatedly studied this growing trend of pre-teen and tween faith

– National news groups have run hundreds of articles in the recent ten months reviewing and documenting the media and pre-teen / teen cultural changes in our society.

– Google it – you’ll be surprised by how much is out there.

2) consider your own statistics;

-What has you’re experience been in recent youth and children’s ministry impact?

-Are you seeing the same basic trends as others for loss of active members after 18 yoa?

-Have you noted the changes in tween activities and overall interest in faith based services and events?

-How are you’re families, parents doing with this sudden increase in technology at home?

3) Embrace the problem, rather than isolate;

– Many faith based families will “over-react” to the modern changes of technology – “Don’t”

– Learn to use technology with your events and activities, visual learning is KEY to tweens.

– Music is a critical component of their culture, using modern Christian music is helpful and engaging to tweens who may not be aware such an option even exists.

– Use age appropriate “Sampling” of popular movies, television and u-tube videos to make a values statement in your ministry times.

– Talk about the common “myths” of popular television and film as they relate to tween culture and identity issues.

4) Sponsor a live event or concert to engage the parents and kids with an alternative for their entertainment and your weekly youth ministry.

Several Options exist:

– J12 ministries does a weekend event for the whole church (Jesus at 12)

– CiY – (Christ in Youth) does a national tour in the spring for churches

– Deliberate Kids works with 8 yoa and younger audiences

– Go Fish – work with 3-8 yoa kids with basic bible truths

-iShine Live – engages tweens and teens ages 7-14 with a Disney style concert and ministry event.

5) create content if you can’t find it.

– Instead of ignoring the problem, find interesting information and create simple studies from media content you have personally reviewed –

– Engage your kids with facebook, u-tube and Myspace by adding your children’s ministry or youth group to the social online world. BLOG!

– Go missional – active participation in faith building activities is a “key” component to transfer of faith from one generation to another. Living it vs. studying it!

This is a lengthy post, first given as a lecture presentation in Washington DC in January 2011 to the Salvation Army Youth Leadership forum. Its meant to only serve as a “starting off” point for youth leaders, pastors and concerned parents who need ideas and information to engage this generation for Christ. Blessings to you in your own sphere of influence. For more information or support, contact www.ishinelive.com