The question gets phrased in a variety of ways. The rabbi, Harold Kushner, famously asked, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Many times, during our three-year struggle to build a parking lot I asked, “When we’re trying to do something good, why does it seem as if you’re making it so hard?” A couple of months ago, I was asked how the apostle Paul dealt with so much discouragement in his life. Throughout the summer, I have been mulling over these questions. Let me share what I’ve learned.
Over the last couple of weeks, the passages that I’ve preached from 1 Thessalonians have focused on our need for people (See: We’re Better Together). Time invested in fellowship with other Christians is God’s means for our growth, strength and protection. With that fresh in my mind, the blog article sitting in my inbox caught my attention, “Loving the Church but Dreading Sunday Morning.” It talked about the challenge of Christian fellowship for someone who struggles with social anxiety. Apparently, the author’s not alone. One statistic I read said that 18% of the population suffers from some kind of anxiety disorder and more than a third of those receive no treatment. So how do you manage the anxiety that keeps you from the people you need?
If there’s a stereotype about church, it’s of an old creaky building with an organ playing softly while people scurry about with hushed voices. There was a good reason for the stereotype. The church can be a place of meditative prayer and the serene mood creates an atmosphere for this. But that’s not the whole story. This week, I was reading about the first introduction of music to the worship of God in ancient Israel. And it changed some of my preconceptions about God, music and the worship He desires. Let me explain.
More and more people are choosing direct cremation without any kind of ceremony to mark the passing from life to death. It’s like we want to maintain the illusion of invincibility and don’t want anything to ruin the dream. Even when we do have funerals, the goal seems be all about celebration without any recognition that death is our “enemy” (1 Corinthians 15:26) and that the passing of our loved one is a painful separation. By failing to mourn, the pain of grief remains unresolved and can lead to deeper issues down the road. A funeral doesn’t bring closure to a mourner’s grief, but it does create what Dr. Wolfelt call a “meaningful beginning” where healing can begin. To do that, he says that funerals should seek to accomplish six things. Let me explain them.
I read a doctoral thesis by George Bullard recently called, “The Life Cycle and Stages of Congregational Development,” and it compares the development of a church to various stages of human growth. It was helpful because our tendency is to just think of the church as a static entity but it’s more like a living organism that is either growing or dying. Let me explain the stages in the life-cycle of a church that Bullard presents.
I fear that people’s attitude toward Christianity can sometimes be a little bit like the Raptors victory parade. People can sit on the sidelines and cheer on the team and think they’re part of the game, when they’re not. There are no spectators in the Christian life. There is no all-star team to applaud. In fact, the Bible says that the less prominent service in the kingdom is often the most vital (1 Corinthians 12:22). And everyone’s needed on the court, not in the stands. Let me share some thoughts on serving that stand out in light of Monday’s parade.
You may think there's a typo in my title. Often pastors talk about the importance of not just being Sunday Christians. "We've got to live out the good news throughout the week." That's really important to me, too. But I think it's important to think about how to be Christian – how to act Christian – when we come to church on Sunday, too. There are many things we could talk about, and so this is a theme I will revisit in the future, but for now let's talk about loving our neighbour in the pew.
I took a listening test this week. No, it wasn’t a hearing test. My ears are fine. But I wanted to test my listening. The test was developed by Doug Pollock, author of the book, “God Space.” Pollock serves as an evangelist and chaplain but has equipped thousands of Christians to share their faith more effectively. He questions whether non-Christians in our society today have stopped listening to Christians because Christians have been such poor listeners. Ouch! Let me share what I learned.
The church wasn’t born until the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. And as it was being established, it was clear that the Holy Spirit was the One building and expanding it. His presence is obvious and prominent in the biblical record. Is His presence obvious in your church? Is His presence obvious in your life? Here are four signs that you don’t think you need the Holy Spirit.
People often comment on whether they enjoyed the worship on a Sunday morning. But have you ever stopped to consider whether God enjoyed it? How would you even know whether God enjoyed it? Here are three questions to ask of your worship this Sunday.