Beyond Boring Church Names

Our missionaries in Thailand are attending a Thai church called Cool Shade of Life (or at least, that’s the English translation). No American would come up with such a great name. We’re stuck on such names as New Hope, Fellowship, Calvary, Trinity, Faith, Grace, etc. “Cool Shade of Life” definitely has an East Asian feel to it. I’ll bet a name like that would draw a crowd in Arizona.

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Christians Coexisting in a Pluralistic Society

We evangelical Christians often feel that our moral views should prevail throughout society. But for me, American pluralism is a huge issue. So while my fellow Christians may oppose any kind of gay bond, whether civil unions or marriage, I’m totally open to that. People can oppose it within the church, but easily coexist with it in society.

Atheists, Jews, Muslims, occultists, gays, and other minority entities are accustomed to coexisting with Christians. But we Christians have been the overwhelmingly dominant religious group throughout America’s history, and with that has come political clout. It’s difficult to back off from a position of power.

An article on ChristianityToday.com was helpful. Toward the end, the author (a law professor) talked about pluralism–”the idea that, in a society that lacks a shared vision of a deeply held common good, we can and must live with deep differences among groups and their beliefs, values, and identities.” He says pluralism requires three things:

  1. Tolerance: A willingness to coexist with genuine differences, including profound moral disagreements.
  2. Humility: An openness to hearing others’ beliefs about right and wrong, recognizing that our own beliefs, no matter how deeply held, may not be entirely correct.
  3. Patience: A willingness to resolve contested moral questions through persuasion, rather than coercion…and persuasion takes time.
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Why Youth Stay with the Church

I get weary with Christian articles crafted from a negative viewpoint: “How to Turn Off People to the Gospel,” or “Five Reasons Why People Leave the Church.” So it was refreshing to see this title: “3 Common Traits of Youth Who Don’t Leave the Church.” That’s an article I wanted to read. Here are the three points:

1. They are Converted. They aren’t just “good kids,” but are truly new creations in Christ. “It is converted students who go on to love Jesus and serve the church.”

2. They have been equipped, not entertained. “After conversion, it is our Christ-given duty to help fan into flame a faith that serves, leads, teaches, and grows. If our students leave high school without Bible-reading habits, Bible-study skills, and strong examples of discipleship and prayer, we have lost them.”

3. Their parents preached the gospel to them. In general, kids from Christian homes stay with the church. Just a fact. Obviously, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work with kids from nonChristian homes. But it’s tougher.

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Too Close to Home

amazon-shoestore

Now I’m really weirded out. While in Pennsylvania on vacation, I bought a pair of shoes at an outlet store. This morning, my Facebook newsfeed shows a sponsored ad from the Amazon Shoe Store picturing shoes in the EXACT same style I bought in Pennsylvania. My Amazon account does use the same credit card I used to buy those shoes. There’s no other way Amazon could know I bought shoes like that. It COULD just be coincidence. But…I really doubt it. This is getting too personal.

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Compromised

Two quotes worth considering in this day when evangelical Christians are so intertwined with Republican politics.

“We as a church have become spiritually lazy, substituting aggressive culture-war tactics for the generous, self-sacrificing humility Jesus taught and modeled. Cultural aggression is easier, and it allows us to think we’re still ‘not of this wold,’ even as we use worldly strategies to get our way.” (Justin Lee, “Torn”)

Philip Yancey tells of asking airplane seatmates what the words “evangelical Christian” bring to mind. “Mostly I hear political descriptions: of strident pro-life activists, or gay-rights opponents, or proposals for censoring the Internet…. Not once–not ONCE–have I heard a description redolent of grace. Apparently that is not the aroma Christians give off in the world.”

Because evangelical Christians have so closely aligned with conservative politics, I suspect way too may nonChristians lump us all together as narrow-minded, Obama-trashing, immigrant-hating, gay-bashing, science-denying, poor-despising, FoxNews-worshiping, war-mongering, and generally government-hating zealots.

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Theology Off the Top of My Head

hair-flyaway

Earlier this year, I developed what seems to be a cowlick–a small patch of hair that just won’t lay down properly. I can splash some water on it and smooth it down. But I’m torn by two theological issues which inform my response.

1. Is this just the way God made me? And God doesn’t make mistakes? If so, I should embrace, yes celebrate, the cowlick. It is part of my identity in Christ.

2. Is this just an example of the fallen world in which we live? Surely God didn’t make Adam with a cowlick. When sin entered the world, so did cancer and polio and all manner of evil, including cowlicks. In which case, I should force it into submission with water or even some nasty gel, if not shave my head entirely.

Scripture is unclear regarding how I should respond. I seek godly counsel.

(Oh, and while I’m on the subject–what’s with all the gray?)

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Antiqology

antiqology-rootbeer580
July 4 seemed like a superb opportunity for some soda-related Americana. So for our family’s July 4 gathering at my brother’s rural home in Convoy, Ohio, I took along an ice chest filled with about 25 bottles of soda from Antiqology.

Antiqology is a great little store in downtown Huntington. They have a wall containing about 300 different types of sodas–lots of root beers, birch beers, cream sodas, and sundry other flavors. I have a variety of root beers, Fentiman’s Curiosity Cola, several Jic Jac flavors, and more.

Everyone loved picking through the ice chest to find a bottle to try out. The Hippo Size drinks seemed to be the most popular. The photo shows seven different kinds of root beers I’ve gotten from Antiqology.

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DIY

duct-take-wd40

If it can’t be fixed with WD40 or duct tape, it probably can’t be fixed. Thus concludes this edition of Life 101.

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Christians Incognito

One of the things which drives me nuts, as our denomination’s communications director, is that I can’t talk about some of our most exciting work in other countries. If I did, I could cause serious problems for Christians serving there.

We have a number of missionaries serving in “undisclosed” countries–places where “missionaries” aren’t supposed to be. I hear about their ministry, and our constituents would love to know about it. But I can’t communicate what these folks are doing–especially not on the internet.

Every Thursday, we have devotions in our office. Today, we had special prayer for one of these persons. We had solicited prayer requests in advance for this person. But the responses were phrased as “please be thinking about….” That meant “please be praying about….,” but this person didn’t want to use the word “prayer” in an email, which the government might intercept.

Just shows some of the sensitivities Christians deal with around the world–places where real religious persecution occurs.

 

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Some Clear Thinking on a Complicated Issue

This is an excellent piece by my friend Dave Schultz, written for his newspaper column. He and I tend to think alike on most issues (worship music being the prime exception). I particularly resonate with him when he writes, “I am always looking for the middle ground. Even when there is no middle ground to be found, such as in our current quandry, I keep trying to find it.”

There is quite a range of viewpoints on the gay-marriage issue in the church-going world–what is biblical, what are gray areas, what should be forbidden in the church but allowed in secular society, what attitude should Christians have. Dave navigates through a lot of those waters.

He hits some of the relevant nails head-on with this: “God hates divorce, but American society puts up with it — and that’s something, I think, that directly informs the same-sex marriage debate. Just because God doesn’t like it does not mean it should be subject to a societal ban.”

I’m passing this along as some clear thinking on the issue by a friend of high Christian integrity.

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