Focusing On the Family Doesn’t Help the Church…Nor the Family

Focusing on the family doesn’t help the church… nor the family

Far too often, our children grow up with a church focused around them. Children’s church so they don’t get bored. Youth ministry designed to keep them entertained. Campus ministry that isn’t designed for discipling, just a desperate effort to somehow keep our kids going to church once they leave home.

Family focus has led us to value youth sports over church attendance, family meals over pot lucks, school plays over midweek gatherings. If we find time in the midst of all of our family activities, we’ll go to church. If not, well… family is the most important, right?

Our families need to understand that they need the support of a strong church to grow as they should. If we want to build our families, let’s do so through building our churches.

Want strong families? Teach people to be like Jesus. Want good parent-child relationships? Let them bond through serving other people.

It’s a fine line between focusing on any demographic and pandering.


God and the Don

God and the Don

CNN has a fascinating piece about the history of President Trump’s faith.

It was clear that Trump was still preoccupied with his November victory, and pleased with his performance with one constituency in particular.

“I did very, very well with evangelicals in the polls,” Trump interjected in the middle of the conversation — previously unreported comments that were described to me by both pastors.

They gently reminded Trump that neither of them was an evangelical.

“Well, what are you then?” Trump asked.

They explained they were mainline Protestants, the same Christian tradition in which Trump, a self-described Presbyterian, was raised and claims membership. Like many mainline pastors, they told the President-elect, they lead diverse congregations.

Trump nodded along, then posed another question to the two men: “But you’re all Christians?”

“Yes, we’re all Christians.”

I think the most troubling aspect, though, is how obvious it is that our current president uses religion as a marketing tool while not actually understanding it. Christian leaders should be able to see through this, but they are either blinded by the power he offers, or — worse — they simply don’t care.

America Needs to Stop the Fearmongering

America Needs to Stop the Fearmongering

“Fear can be useful, important and necessary. It can carry warnings and remind us to use caution. Yet fear should never, ever be used to manipulate. If someone needs fear to sell you their ideas, if their whole message is built on making you fearful, if their only call to action requires scaring you into following, how big is their faith? How big is their god?

“Jesus lived and taught during a stressful political environment. There was plenty for the Jews to fear under Roman rule. Living in an unstable political climate is naturally anxiety inducing—especially for the politically powerless and minority groups. We see Jesus neither dismiss these fears nor dwell in them; He acknowledges people’s realities yet points to a new way forward.

“We need to be wary of fear-based politics, fear-based leaders and—even more dangerous—fearmongering disguised as religion. Fear should never be our main motivation. Fear should never be our inspiration. Fear should never be our sole reason for doing something. If it is, we’re missing the point.”

How many times did God tell His people, “Fear not?”

Trying to Make Hate Look Pretty

Trying to Make Hate Look Pretty

Love and hate aren’t about emotions. They’re about our attitudes and our actions. Love and hate aren’t about how we feel toward someone, but about how we treat them – what we do or don’t do to them.

To love someone means to treat them as we would want to be treated, regardless of how we feel. When we’re told to love our enemies, it doesn’t mean we feel warm-and-fuzzy about them; it means we respect their inherent human dignity.

Love recognizes that everyone is an equally beloved child of God and must be treated as such by our words and actions. Love values everyone’s dignity and worth as equal to my own.

By contrast, hate rejects another person’s equal value and worth. It sees those who are different from me as less than me in some ways. It creates the conditions for people to be abused and mistreated.

I’ve understood this on a fundamental level, but I’ve never been able to put it so clearly into words.

When Did Christians Become Comfortable with the Loss of Truth?

When Did Christians Become Comfortable with the Loss of Truth?

A deference for human leadership has gotten in the way of the Christian commitment to God. Perhaps this is done unwittingly; modern American Christian tradition has perpetuated a particular set of stances as the crux of its ethic: abortion and LGBTQ equality. Some Christians use these issues as a test for faithfulness to the God of Scripture. I speculate that many of Trump’s Christian voters hold that their commitment to an anti-abortion stance is their biggest political motivator — and Trump promised to nominate a potential Supreme Court justice who would diminish the power of Roe v. Wade.

By putting certain socio-political ethics first, many Christians sacrifice the importance of truth as a foundation of our faith and morality. The Scriptures gives us many examples of ways we should be wary of those who deceive. The apostle Paul, as well as Jesus himself, say to watch out for false teachers and people who mean us harm. In Matthew, Jesus warns his disciples to beware anyone seeking to lead them astray: “many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Messiah!’ and they will lead many astray.”

One of the biggest dangers I’ve seen to churches in recent years is the fact that we will (rightly) go to great lengths to rightly divide God’s truth, but we will take a far more casual, even reactionary, approach to secular truth. We have narrowed our view of what a Christian leader is down to a couple of high-profile issues. In doing so, we have completely laid aside the pattern of Christ-like living laid out by Jesus and His apostles.

When we come to accept such superficial Christianity from those we admire and follow, it starts to rub off at us. As Paul writes in I Corinthians 15:33, “Bad company corrupts good morals.” And in the context of that passage, Paul isn’t writing about “bad company” that drinks too much, passes around drugs, or uses bad language. No, Paul is writing about us keeping fellowship with those who disregard the truth of God’s word. It’s about lying.

President Trump is not a Christian leader if he and his representatives continue to spread such blatant and thoughtless lies. We are as guilty of sin when we then defend or spread lies just because they fit our social narrative or our political preconceptions. This is not a zero sum game; rejecting the ungodly principles of one partisan group does not require we accepts and embrace the ungodliness of another. Ours is to keep ourselves pure from the sin of world, and that includes sin from the White House.

I John 2:4 – 6:

Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

How the Church is Failing Its Single Members

How the Church is Failing Its Single Members

Celibacy is a beautiful vow, and the Church almost never talks about it. Why wouldn’t we praise someone for literally devoting themselves to God, both in this life and the next? Remember that Jesus calls us to leave behind our nets in favor of a life following Him (Matthew 4:20). Sometimes, relationships can hold believers back from a full life with Christ – meaning a relationship can be a “net” that we must cast aside.

When you are single, your time is His, and you are more able to fully devote yourself to Jesus.

This is such a necessary post. I specifically remember a young woman in one of my study groups almost panicking at one point that her single status somehow meant she was spiritually incomplete. Being single is a choice, not a season of life. We have no problem with the fact that the apostle Paul was single, so we should also have no problem with single women in the Lord either.