Most Christians leave the gospel at the door of the Christian life. They see the good news about Jesus as the key to getting into the Christian life, but then struggle to see how the gospel is also the engine that drives the Christian life. As a result, they end up running on fumes and living the Christian life like a non-Christian.
With the stakes so high, we need to remember what we’re aiming for in the influence of our teen’s faith. Just making them go to church and be good is not the goal.
We have amazing volunteers at Grace. I’m always encouraged by the different ways that I see people using their gifts to demonstrate their faith and love. Yet there are some people who don’t volunteer. They hear about the needs and the opportunities, but don’t respond. One good reason can be because they’re just settling in. We encourage people to attend for several months before they start getting involved in ministry because it takes time to get to know people and get a feel for the church. But there are other reasons. Recently, I read an excellent article by Carey Nieuwhof on the “7 Questions Every Volunteer Asks But Never Says Out Loud.” It looks at some of the reasons that a disconnect can develop between ministry leaders and potential volunteers. Let me share Nieuwhof’s questions along with some comments in response to them.
Do you ever struggle to make sense of your circumstances? Many times, I’ve looked at what’s happening in my life and asked, “What on earth are you doing God?” Some things begin to make sense in retrospect as I look back on what’s happened. Other circumstances still have question marks next to them. There are many things that I’m looking forward to God explaining in heaven, one day. In the meantime, others can help us navigate the murkier days. Last month, I listened to a preacher named Sandy Wilson at a conference in Huntsville. He shared the story of Elisabeth’s Elliott’s first year of missionary service.
On Sunday, Lawson Murray cited research from a study of over 7,000 churches that compared the impact of fifty different spiritual disciplines and activities. The assumption was that lots of church programs and activities were what was most needed to help people grow. But what the survey showed was that Bible reading and reflection is hands down the single greatest determining factor in spiritual growth. If you read the Bible and reflect on it, you will grow in your Christian life. If you don’t, you can do all kinds of other good Christian things, but your faith will languish. And yet a majority of Canadian Christians seldom read the Bible. This week I read about some of the findings of The Canadian Bible Engagement Study. It was interesting to see what factors determine whether people will read the Bible or not.
I love to listen to the stories that capture people’s imagination, because they often give insights into how people think and what they believe. Popular stories command an audience because they express things that resonate with how people see the world. So when the latest Star Wars installment came out, I was interested to see what its message might be. If you can handle a minor spoiler, I’d like to share what I learned from Yoda about the Bible.
In 2006, for the first time since national census records were first reported in 1871, unmarried adults in Canada outnumbered the number of married adults. Ironically, this was just one year after Canada passed the law, legalizing same-sex marriage. More people than ever could legally marry, but fewer people than ever did. Obviously, it was a sign of a cultural shift. And over the last decade, the trend has only continued. More people delay marriage for education and careers. Increasing work demands make it more difficult to find time to meet people. The rise in divorce means that more people who were married now no longer are. And more and more people who have been hurt by divorce have a cynicism about the value or relevance of marriage. Given these new dynamics, I’m grateful that thoughtful Christians are doing research and addressing these trends with biblical solutions. This spring, Crossway Publishing released the results of a 7000-person survey on singleness and dating as part of a book release for Marshall Segal’s, “Not Yet Married: The Pursuit of Joy in Singleness & Dating,” and the results are worth considering.
It’s easy to expect too much of Christian athletes. We love to idolize our sports heroes so when Christians find out that one of their favourites is a believer, they can make more out of it than they ought. But with the NBA finals in full swing and the Golden State Warriors still undefeated in the post-season, Steph Curry may be someone we can all learn from. I say that because of the way that both Christians and non-Christians speak of his character and his faith. In case you’ve been living under a basketball rock and haven’t heard of Steph Curry, he’s been called the greatest shooter in NBA history for his amazing 3-point accuracy and speed in ball handling. But his character is equally remarkable. Warriors forward Harrison Barnes says of Curry: “He’s probably one of the most humble superstars I’ve ever met. A lot of that is based on his faith. He’s a guy who not only talks it; he lives it. I think he garners a lot of respect in this locker room because of that.” So people who see him up close recognize a difference in his life, but what can we learn from him? To me, four distinctively Christian aspects of his faith-work integration stand out.
On Sunday we looked at some of the gender implications of Genesis 2:18, the verse that says, “Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” But there were many questions that time did not permit me to answer. Some people assume that the verse is a call to marriage. And Genesis surely does recommend marriage. But Jesus was never married. Did Jesus miss reading Genesis 2:18? Did He believe that “it’s not good for man to be alone?” Was Jesus “not good” in some way because He was single? The answer to those questions sheds important light on what this verse does and doesn’t teach.
Since Monday I’ve been attending the national conference of our church association, the Fellowship of Evangelical Baptist Churches of Canada. In between business sessions, Paul Tripp has been encouraging us from the Scriptures. With 17 books to his name, he has been used to speak to the church in unique ways. His book on the perils and pitfalls of pastoral leadership, “Dangerous Calling,” and his encouragement to parents of teens, “Age of Opportunity: A Biblical Guide to Parenting Teens,” are two that I have that I can highly recommend. What I didn’t know was that he experienced acute renal failure two years ago – His kidneys were dying and he didn’t know it. His kidneys were only working at 65% and so his body went into spasms as a result. Five surgeries, and a sixth planned, have taught him much about God’s purposes in suffering. He shared some of the lessons he has learned through this time.