To airbrush something is “to prettify or sanitize something” by means of an airbrush. I asked a photographer friend if he could airbrush my photo. Here is what he came up with: Now I may “feel” like I am the younger version of myself on the left. I may have a vision for it. But it is not reality. I am the man on the right. It is important we ask ourselves: “How might I be participating, or even encouraging, an airbrushed spirituality?” Unconsciously, it is so easy to do. I know. I’ve done it. As long as we had good weekend services, good attendance, and good programs, I felt okay. The problem was I ignored the reality that: 85% of Christians admit to being stuck in their walk with Christ. They are not experiencing transformation in our churches. The sexuality of people inside the. Read more.
For the first 1500 years of the church, singleness was considered the preferred state; it was considered the best way to serve Christ if you were a leader. Singles sat in the front of the church. Marrieds were sent to the back. After the Reformation in 1517 AD, single people were sent to the back and marrieds moved to the front – at least among Protestants. Yet the New Testament describes, and deeply affirms, two types of Christian singles. The first is a vowed celibacy, for those who “renounce marriage because of the kingdom of heaven.” They freely choose not to marry but to set themselves apart in a total, exclusive and lifelong gift to Christ and His church. A very few are invited to receive this grace and gift from him (Matt. 19:11-12). The vast majority of Christian single leaders fall into the category of dedicated celibates. This term encompasses a broad range. Read more.
This question was uttered by Gordon MacDonald during a recent leadership meeting at New Life. It has caused me to wonder also: “Might it be true?” He noted three things: Society is unraveling and evangelicalism has few answers. Research studies, like Reveal, seem to confirm that mega-churches do no grow deep Christians. Those who do go “deeper” with Christ often leave. 80% of the quotes in evangelical books are from outside our tradition, i.e. from Roman Catholics and the Orthodox believers. Consider also the following data coming out of recent research studies: Studies by several different organizations suggest that about half of men attending church are involved in pornography (Genung, 2005). A significant minority of self-identified born-again Christians, particularly those under 35, has cohabited, and divorce rates are just as high among born-again Christians as among other groups (Barna Research Group, 2001). An estimated 8 out of 10 youth from evangelical Christian homes walk. Read more.
Geri and I have led a small group in our home for 25 of our 26 years at New Life. In fact, we begin our next one this coming week. We take a group of 16-18 people, marrieds and singles, and spend an intensive year together. Why do we do it? The answer is simple: this is foundational to being a church where people are deeply transformed. Scripture teaches that both Christian singleness and marriage are sacramental vocations and prophetic. They each make visible the invisible reality of our marriage to Christ and are signs of God’s kingdom to a broken world (See Matt. 19:10-12 and Eph. 5:32). This vision is a far cry from both our secular and present church culture. I am daunted by the number and the complexity of issues bearing down on our people – the sexualization of our culture, dating, pornography, homosexuality, divorce, cohabitation, objectification of people, the challenges. Read more.
Where we live impacts us. I have been the pastor of a multiracial, international church in New Life in Queens, NY for the more than twenty five and a half years. It is the soil out of which I see the world and the larger church. Thus, I offer the following trends, or concerns, that I believe we need to carry to God in prayer: Evangelicalism will continue to lose young people in their teens, 20’s and 30’s who are genuinely searching for an authentic transformative experience with God. The issue of same-sex marriage and partnerships will increasingly dominate our youth ministries. We will be very slow to equip our youth leaders and ministries with a well-thought, nuanced, theological response. There will continue to be little interest for Protestants, Roman Catholics, and Orthodox believers to learn from one another. Marriage discipleship will remain non-existent or superficial in our churches. The high divorce rate, along. Read more.
For the last two weeks I have been meditating/memorizing Isaiah 53:2-6 and the spirituality of descent of Jesus. Out of a desire to offer a “sincere gift of Himself,” Jesus chose a downward journey of ordinariness, obscurity, rejection and powerlessness. He chose crucifixion. It preaches well but my resistance to death (and thus resurrection) is deep. Contemplating the cross, however, has made me sensitive, at least recently, about the choices I make each day to follow, or not follow, the crucified Jesus. The following are three simple gifts God gave me this past week: 1. I visited one of our core church family members this past week. Their child has Lennox Gestaut Syndrome –www.lgsfoundation.org, a severe type of epilepsy. For the past four years, they have been in and out of hospitals, working with countless doctors and specialists to control their son’s seizures, and carrying full time jobs in the NYC school system. Their son, once. Read more.