Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Churches in coffee shops & homes a growing trend

A recent article in the Christian Chronicle highlights the growing trend of churches meeting in non-traditional locales. For the full article, see http://www.christianchronicle.org/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=342. The article states:

Prominent evangelical Christian researcher George Barna predicts that within 20 years, one-third of American church members will explore alternative forms of worship, such as home churches, workplace ministries or online faith communities. He suggests many Americans are leaving regular churches “precisely because they want more of God in their life but cannot get what they need from a local church.”“They have decided to get serious about their faith by piecing together a more robust faith experience,” Barna said last year. “Instead of going to church, they have chosen to be the church."

My thoughts--it seems that our normal, formal assemblies do not connect with younger generations. They miss the relational aspect of the church, and coffee shops and homes promote a relational atmosphere. The physicality of the worship assembly subconsciously communicates to us what is appropriate, and sitting in rows of pews communicates formality and an audience atmosphere. If we do not somehow address this, we risk losing the younger generations.

What do you think about coffee shop and house churches? And how can we make traditional church settings more relational?

Monday, June 19, 2006

Baptism-Saying "I Do"

Making the decision to trust God with our lives and become a follower of Jesus is hugely important. In the world we live in today, there are so many other options of whom to trust and follow.

There are the traditional siren calls of work, sex, money, and power, seeking to wreak havoc upon our lives and families. We live in a pluralistic world in which other religions are readily accessible. And then there is always the temptation to simply follow our own inner voice and compass, the advice given by “New Age” experts and self-help books. It is easy for our commitment to wane or disappear.

So how can we know that we have made the decision to follow Christ, particularly when we struggle with our commitment? The answer? Baptism.

Here, an analogy to marriage is helpful. Any two people who come together know that there are other fish in the sea. How do they know that each is committed to the other? Because there is a wedding ceremony, an exchange of rings, and an exchange of vows. And if the husband or wife wants to know if they have ever made a commitment to the other person, all he or she has to do is look at the wedding ring on his or her finger.

In the same way, baptism is our assurance that we have committed to Christ and that he has committed to us. Peter says, “. . . 21 and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 3:21).

What has your baptism meant to you? Do you remember it when you encounter difficulty? Have you viewed it as a commitment?

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Gay Marriage Amendment-Part 2

With The Da Vinci Code, there has been a lot of talk about what the emperor Constantine did. I can tell you that, contrary to the book's claims, he did not collate the Bible (see my Sunday morning class). However, he did: legalize Christianity, give tax breaks to clergy, and make Sunday a day off. In short, he began the whole Christendom era, where Christians enjoy benefits from the government, such as favorable laws that support our faith and sense of morality.

Now, the Christendom era is being to disappear. And we don't like it. This is what is so upsetting about the gay marriage issue. We are not used to government being against us. I suppose I somewhat buy the idea that the courts are bucking the will of the people, and that an amendment is needed to ensure that this does not happen.

However, I am disturbed that this seems to be Christians' only response. Jesus did not pass a single law. He did not lobby a senator. He didn't try to change the Roman constitution, as if they had any. And he didn't give his disciples instructions to do so either (though I don't think it is wrong to vote). Instead, he sent his disciples out into the world to be salt and light. To change people's hearts through love and service. The problem isn't that there is a law allowing gay marriage, but that people want this type of lifestyle. This will never be changed through a law, but only through seeing Christ in us.

What do you think the primary response to gay marriage should be?

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Gay Marriage Amendment-Part 1

The Republicans are beating the drum of a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, defining marriage as being between a man and a woman. This is an issue that they dropped like a hot potato after the 2004 election, but now suspiciously is being taken back up 5 months before the 2006 elections and when President Bush's approval rating is at 30%. I'll leave the sincerity of these events to other bloggers. However, I do want to take up the issue of law and morality.

At one time, adultery was against the law. Also banned--all kinds of bedroom issues between married couples that today we would consider normal behavior. No one, however, is clamoring to go back to these times. I, of course, am not for gay marriage. I just wonder why we pick and choose our moral issues that we want encoded in law. I suspect that we want outlawed things which we know are not temptations for us, but do not want outlawed things which we might be tempted to do. Who, for instance, wants a law making it a crime to lie in everyday life?

What are your thoughts? What is the role of law and morality?