Reflecting on the new Pew Forum Study

Like other bloggers, I am intrigued by the new Pew Forum Church Study. 

What struck me the most was that “more than 40 percent of respondents told pollsters that they had changed their religious affiliation since childhood.  This makes a great deal of sense to me. 

Many people I know who grew up in traditional upbringing end up at a non-traditional church post-college.  I’ve seen evidence of the opposite as well in those that grew up in relaxed, seeker-sensitive congregations looking for something “deeper” in liturgical-type churches. 

To me, this is part of the reactionary way of life.  But I am not convinced that the reaction is always from guilt, anger or frustration.  Sometimes I think it comes out of a need for balance and a reaction against the idea of “organized religion”

The need for balance and the fact that churches have not made that great of a case that this is where you should be to worship God.  The case that is usually made is, “Come and act like us.  Oh and face this direction while singing these songs.  Oh and make this face when you sing, it looks more sincere …”

Though I am a pastor, I am not worried (I’m a man of faith for crying out loud! ;-).  It isn’t the worst thing if some churches shut down.  My hope is that healthier thinking gatherings and congregations will rise up and this will be the next reaction, coming and worshipping in church because we used to not have one. 

In the meantime, you’ll have to tolerate a lot more doomsday and the sky is falling types of sermons/books/conversations.  I’ve heard people say things like, “Well it makes sense.  People can’t stay married to the same person all their lives, they can’t stay in the same church either”.  It’s a little trite since none of us remember making eternal vows to any one local congregation.  No offense but you usually hear these types of sentiments from middle-aged traditional people who are clinging to hold on to whatever is left of that “old time religion”.  Brother, put down the VHS.  Welcome to the world of Blu Ray. 

You can read all you want about the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life here

Derek Webb and the story behind Wedding Dress

As mentioned in an earlier post, I’ve been catching up on Derek Webb’s podcasts. He talks about the story behind Wedding Dress on Podcast 12.  Check it out here.

 I won’t ruin the story and chances are you have said and felt similar things that he describes, but it’s reasons like this why I appreciate this guy.   

Shane Claiborne Gets Uninvited to Cedarville.

This is such a church practice, invite someone, then realize there’s something “different” about them, conclude they are “dangerous” and eventually un-invite them.  

They have every right to do whatever they want, it’s their school but I am only pointing out its lameness. 

The reasoning behind it does not matter.  It’s almost irrelevant.  Unless it’s a morality or scandal then once you invited him, you must let him speak. 

I hope the leadership of Cedarville have nothing to do with the selection committee in heaven.  Can you imagine standing in St. Peter’s line, finally getting to the gate, Jesus welcoming you, saying “Well done …”.  You smile with assurance because you had never read about that in the Scriptures but anyway, you’re in.  Then all of a sudden a couple of men in suits and collegiate Cedarville ties whisper in Jesus’ ear and you’re told that you have been uninvited. 

Hmmm, not that revenge is appropriate, but maybe we can Shane on that heaven selection committee. 

As a student ministries pastor who does not preach “emergent stuff”, I am more concerned with the narrow-mindedness of the school.  I am familiar with this mentality as I graduated from Liberty University.  Though I had mostly a positive experience there, I discovered that you only learn what you are being taught, you are going to miss out on a quite a bit.  I wished Liberty was a little more open to other ideas but regardless here I am.  Thank you Holy Spirit.  ;-)

 In any event, those who sincerely seek will find.  This will be true of many attending Cedarville.  However, maybe attendance will drop by a couple because I can’t say that I can encourage any of my students to attend there.

Here’s the link from Christianity Today.

Scot McKnight blogged about it here

Also, Scot has a link to Shane’s response on his post. 



Reflecting on our young adult group and the Suburban Christian


One day I will share this blog with people.  Some of the people will be those that I am writing about.  Well today I am thinking about our young adult group.  Truth be told, it’s a pretty good group.  I really enjoy being with them and think it’s one of the better aspects of our church. 

Generally we meet the first three Sunday nights of the month and our strategy has been where book groups meet small groups.  So we use books to spring board conversation.  We’ve used Don Miller’s, Blue Like Jazz, Rob Bell’s Velvet Elvis and now we are reading the Suburban Christian.  This last book has been the toughest for some because there’s a bit of sociology in it and the first two chapters are not as sexy as say Blue … or Velvet …  Maybe I am missing the boat here, but I don’t think so.  It’s a good book.  And it shouldn’t be compared to aforementioned books because they are each written for different reasons. 

I find myself a little frustrated with this.  I keep trying to read it with new eyes, trying to forget that I have already determined that I have found value in it and I know I can be stubborn but I don’t think this book deserves the criticism that some in our group are giving it. 

If we were reading Dallas Willard’s great book, The Divine Conspiracy, and everyone was complaining about how hard it was, then I’d probably say, “Ok, maybe we reached too far this time …”.  I’ve had well-intentioned, intelligent people not appreciate Willard’s greatness.  That’s ok, they don’t need to go to heaven.  Sorry, I meant to say, maybe they’re not ready to read it.

But Suburban Christian contains so many conversations that we should be talking about.  Where we live, where we work and shop, how we spend our money, how we identify ourselves, social justice aspects, and the list goes on.   Just rambling about this online gets me going on it. 

Well, I guess I am trying to figure if/when to pull the plug.  Maybe we’re throwing pearls to the swine.  Maybe we should read something easier, like anything not about God – maybe the something from Tim LaHaye or Larry Jenkins. 

Reflecting on Rufus and V-day

So for Valentines’, my wife and I headed into NYC and saw Rufus Wainwright.  Here’s the story, a couple years ago, I listened to a couple mp3s of Rufus at his piano.  He was great and I loved the soul in his voice.  Now, my wonderful wife does not keep up with my taste in music. So there are only a few bands./musicians that I tell her, “You have to hear this!”  She gets bored with that. So I never mentioned Rufus to her.

Then one day, she came home having seen Rufus perform at some kind of ballet recital in Philadelphia.  Rufus became part of our musical canon, along with Sufjan, Iron and Whine, KT Tunstall, etc. 

Some are surprised that we like him so much since he is gay and we are allegedly good Christian people.   And not only did we not protest the concert, but were delighted to give him money to sing to us on Valentine’s Day.   God bless Rufus, why not, He blesses you and me.

Should Christians listen to music performed by gay people?  Why not, they listen to ______.   Sorry, it’s not that kind of blog.  But I think you get the point.  Unless Dan Brown has some long-lost vinyl recordings of Jesus singing to himself, then there’s not whole lot of options.  Are we not a bunch of sinners listening to a bunch of other sinners?

Reflecting on those who pre-maturely label emergent as "heretical"


Though I have had this conversation many times, recently a friend of mine told me that he checked out the “emerging church thing” but thought it was too weird and too liberal.  He said that he didn’t agree with the positions.  Then he said something to the effect that it was dangerous and/or unbiblical.  Anyone who is familiar with this thing knows there are no positions!  It’s a conversation that welcomes different perspectives.  I think what frustrates me is when people Google  “emergent” or whatever and either only read the criticism of emergent or find it to hard to understand so they settle for the articles entitled  “Brian McLaren is the devil”, or “why Tony and Doug are going to the literal fiery pit of hell”, or “emerging heresies … and the false prophets who are teaching them”.  I’m not asking for acceptance, but let’s have some integrity before we label someone/something as heretical or unbiblical.


Among the things I really love about the emerging church conversation is that it is the humblest long-term conversation with Christians I’ve ever enjoyed.  My hope in writing this post (and one day, maybe even another post) is not to convince anyone to “join” emergent.  I do no think that this is the “only” way of understanding God or Christianity or life or truth or whatever word you want to use here.  I have simply found it to be a great conversation that I am gaining many insights from.  So, praise God, or shout Hallelujah, clap quietly, or however it is you express your gratefulness to the Lord.

Discerning the discernment resource

So there I was surfing the net and I stumbled upon a site entitled the “discernment resource”.  How thoughtful, another watchdog site against any Christian idea that is somewhat progressive.  I read about the concerns of Rick Warren and Billy Hybels and of course the Emergent Church.   So I clicked on the first article under the emergent church and could barely get out of the first sentence.  Here it is:    “Unfortunately, todays church is caught in a paradigm shift. That is, the church is moving from a modern church, where teaching fundamental Bible doctrine is the norm, to a post-modern, or transformational church in which loud, watered down, seeker-sensitive services are the order of the day.” Want to check the remainder of the article and see the context?  You should – click here. 

This is what I read, “Unfortunately, the church is changing, because the world is changing and because both of these are made up of people, this unfortunately means that people are changing.  The church is moving from what it Jesus had meant (you know how we did church from 1950-1989 or whatever arbitrary date that is defined as the “good old days”), where milk flowed like honey and the land was plentiful, where we had our doctrine, hermeneutics and translations right.  Now we’re headed to …

Pardon the sarcasm, I didn’t really mean it.  Well … anyway, although I could go on and on about the mistakes, incorrect assumptions and flawed thinking (and please don’t blame it on the Bible), I would like to just talk about that first line, “Unfortunately the world is changing …”  It’s not unfortunate.

The world is changing because people are changing.  The world that writer changed from something else to the one that he enjoys, this is the reality of life.  We cannot stop time, we cannot dwell too much in the past, we ought not to curse the future, but be faithful stewards of it.  It is my belief that the emerging church conversation is part of this stewardship.