This is an idea that I have been considering for a few year’s now, especially as it relates to Christian culture. The bag of goods you are being promised is that if you can just find that “thing” or “purpose” or “center of God’s will” than you will have all of those riches Christ promised. These would by hope, joy, contentment. The problem is that those things are not found in making it to some destination, but rather in Christ alone. This is the bait and switch that offers all Christ gives you for free and says you have to reach some imaginary place of future being to have it. It is Christ plus “your purpose” will bring fulfillment and man does it sell…
In this scripture just before Jesus says, “My peace I give you,” He implores us to obey His teaching. Obedience is the road God’s love and presence travel upon. Pastor Adam gives us a spiritual equation that exponentially multiplies peace in our lives: Holy Spirit Guidance + Obedience = Peace. Have you ever experienced the rush of comfort, peace and blessing that comes with obedience?
One of my favorite things to do is watch Christian church culture morph and change. I’m not talking about the core stuff like evangelism, mission or our views on the atonement, but rather the not so important stuff, the stuff we like, until we don’t. Here are some of our current favorites. If your church scores at least 5 of these 10 you can consider yourself #BLESSED.
10. Fair Trade Coffee Coffee Sourced From Indigenous People Groups:
It started in the 80s with Folgers and a styrofoam cup. In the 90’s it was all about the in-church coffee shops like “Holy Grounds”, “HeBrews” and “Jehova Java”. Today we have gone missional with our coffee and are fighting global injustice with every drop.
9.The Episodic Sermon Series:
Who wants to spend 68 weeks in the book of Numbers. Not me. Rather, give me short punchy 6-8 week sermons filled with challenge and invitation. And by the way, keep um under 28 minutes and make sure that I’m the star.
8. Beards and Hair:
You would have to imagine that any man who aspires to be a pastor but cannot grow a full beard or is thinning is definitely questioning his calling at this point in the game.
7. Motion Graphics:
Nothing says “Building Campaign” like rolling out the motion graphics video. We love simple, animation with smooth voice overs to get that ground breaking event kick-started.
No big church holiday event is complete without livestock. Give us our petting zoos and full blown Christmas extravaganzas complete with live elephants. While ceremonial livestock was also true for Isrealites in the time of Moses, it seems that a sacrificial bull might have the children running for the exits and PETA at our door.
5. Smoke And Fog
I recently heard at a church conference that we don’t want to give them church, we want to give them an experience. Unfortunately a few weekends ago a local toddler experienced emotional trauma after not being able to find his parents in the service for 26 minutes.
4. Found Wood Backdrops:
Pretty sure that we are nearing the end of the pallet wood backdrop trend. After 10 years or so of making our cold warehouse churches feel like warm Alpine lodges, it won’t be long until the youth group is burning them down at the beach this summer.
3. The Edison Light:
Ok, I like these, but you need 126 of them to produce enough ambient light to read a book by at night. I wonder when really sterile white LED lights will become in and we think that having churches that look like operating rooms will be cool? #HeIsTheLight
2. Gold Rush Era Worship Leaders:
I’m pretty sure that most worship leader job descriptions these day include smithing, biscuit making and proficiency in playing the saw.
While the church loves its trends and chasing the next fad, most of all I still find that churches love Jesus and he will put up with all of our shenanigans if we keep the first thing first.
Civilization has a very thin veil. I have always known that we are one event away from mass hysteria. This is the human condition. When push comes to shove and the human protectionism instinct kicks in, watch out. This is why I have never trusted a crowd.
Lately the veneer of peace seems thinner than ever. In an age of angst, protest and discontent, we tend to focus on the maladies of culture and sometimes fail to miss the hope.
Last night, I saw something that demonstrated our humanity beyond the headlines. If you missed it, last night, during the much anticipated Celtics vs. Cleveland NBA match-up, Gordon Hayward went up for an alley oop dunk only to land awkwardly, his foot finishing the play in a direction that is anatomically opposite of what is intended. Absolutely gruesome.
Before many of the players on the court even knew what happened, you could tell by the reaction of the Cavaliers bench and the crowd that Hayward was in serious trouble. People literally backed up a few feet, many covering their eyes.
What happened next was reverent and something that a spiritually discerning person might call divine. Time seemed to slow, Kyrie buried his head in a teammates breast and cried, others gathered together and prayed and Dwyane Wade took a knee with head bowed. Unity, true empathy and concern prevailed.
Here on a national stage, white and black came together and showed a compassion for one another rarely seen in the midst of all the social chaos we live amongst. Issues were humanized. If you don’t know Hayward, he is one of the whitest guys in the NBA, not only is he pasty white, he played in Utah for years, a state considered by some to be very intolerant. To top it off, he wears a hairstyle akin to white nationalist. He is not. He is actually anything but that. Hayward is actually one of the most respected and loved players in the NBA; a league that is majority black. Gordon goes about his business with an old school attitude and a lunch pail in hand. He walks with a dignified humility that speaks well of the game, but might not be deserving of his talent.
After setting Hayward’s leg on the court and loading him on the stretcher, Lebron James came over to wish him well. The King was shook. Kyrie’s emotion filled comments after the game showed how much he truly cares for Hayward and for one night, tragedy brought us together.
Last night’s moment of solidarity is not going to fix what ails us in the human condition, but for a moment, if only brief, we saw behind the headlines. We saw hope and witnessed a microcosm of what might be possible in the world if we begin to live beyond the headlines and truly share in each others struggle.
While it is debatable whether America was ever a truly Christian nation, what is not up for discussion is whether or not secularism has become the faith of the day. Religion is the organization of faith-based belief on either a personal or communal level. Many people today like to hide behind the illusion that they don’t practice “religion”, but are spiritual or even atheist. Even Christ-followers today would rather talk of a relationship than religion. All of this is fine, but it does not change the fact that if you have an organized and acted upon system of belief, that you can’t prove, then you are acting in faith and practicing religion. No matter where you stand on the universe, God or man’s search for meaning, none of us can prove it. This includes the scientific atheist, who have a strong faith that there is no God. The only way to void this is to change the meaning of the word itself.
I would argue that American and perhaps Western civilization as a whole is more “religious” than it has ever been, it’s just that the actors have changed. Stephen Hawking is quoted as saying that “God has not been disproved, but Science has made him unnecessary.”
Secular humanism replaces the idea of God with man, and puts man’s will, as long as it benefits the whole of humanity and is scientifically “proved” for the moment as its theology and “ever changing” truth. Science only offers its absolutes until they are disproved. I would argue that today’s science is at the beck and call of man’s will.
The problem with secular religion is that it offers no solid answer and nothing unmovable to tether itself to. When we butt up against some of the more complex issues in society, especially the problem of evil in the world, again a religious word still used by secular modernists, we come to an impasse.
Last night many of secular humanism pastors used their late night pulpits to decry injustice, sooth a nation’s emotions and answer tough questions. Jimmy Kimmel tried to make sense of it all in a tear-filled and emotional sermon which stated that it seems as if “A window into hell has been opened.” and he may be right. Down the dial, Miley Cyrus and Adam Sandler took to Fallon’s stage to sing Dido’s hymn of freedom. All of this meant to unify and heal a national church service of sorts.
But, how do you heal in a half-staff nation where much of the time, many of us have no idea why the flag has bowed to that sacred position and children find it odd when they see Old Glory rise to its standard.
Secular religion tells us that LOVE is the answer, but currently has no idea where love comes from beyond a chemical reaction in the brain. The God of secular religion has become slave to love, but I would suggest that while God is love, love is not God and it is impossible to understand love without knowing the source of love.
Much like our faith-based predecessors of previous centuries, Secular religion attempts to regulate morality through law, failing to learn the lessons of our faith-based past. This historicity has taught us that morality can never be foisted upon a human soul. Even God knows this, yet here we go again, policing people’s souls. Today’s political activism is the jungle mission field of the secular religious and social media it’s machete. And much like our faith-based religious past, stated belief in a popular idea equals membership into our pews.
C.S. Lewis says that we will never be truly human until we stand before God. This is the idea behind his epic work, Till We Have Faces. This is again where secular humanistic religion often fails. In trying to raise individual man to the highest platform it dehumanizes to achieve it’s self-fulfilling goals. So when Jimmy Fallon, during the campaign rubbed Trump’s head, he was scorned for having “humanized Trump”. https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2017/may/17/jimmy-fallon-trump-interview-tonight-show
Today a female lawyer for CBS was fired after tweeting “If they wouldn’t do anything when children were murdered I have no hope that Repugs will ever do the right thing,” she wrote on Facebook. “I’m actually not even sympathetic bc country music fans often are Republican gun toters.”
This is classic Cain vs. Abel humanism where anything is permissible if those being eradicated don’t fit the current zeitgeist. This dehumanization is something that the Nazi’s perfected and seems in synchronicity with our society today.
Of course, this woman knelt in confession to the social media God’s with the required apology about how this does not reflect who she is, but is it not true that the mouth speaks the overflow of the heart and once she suffers the appropriate flagellation, she will be welcomed back. Eventually, this wash rinse and repeat will no longer be a necessity.
The scriptures say that when the end times come, you will know it because people’s love grows cold. While the media gods of our day speak about a red hot love that vanquishes hate, I would argue that our nation’s love tank is running on empty and depleted by empathy fatigue, finding it incapable in our limited human frailty to process degradation on a continually connected and global scale.
Perhaps, our new priest and faith will find a way out of all of this. Maybe love is the answer and they are right in believing that old time religion is a bondage machine meant for mind control. But if they are wrong, and I believe they are, the answer remains the same. “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will heal their land.” May it be so…
Bat utility belt? Check! Cape? Check! Gray tights and bat mask? Double check!
I was close to eight when my parents got me the full batman costume. It was not like today’s flimsy outfits whose inferior quality regularly reminds you that you are anything but transcendent. No, this was circa 1970s American made livery. It had the weight and texture of a Roman centurion’s tunic. More importantly, it had soul. The moment you put it on, imagination became reality, mortality became superhuman and the world that is was transformed into the world that could be. It was awesome, but more importantly, you had become awesome!
There’s nothing quite like the magic of being a child. Here in the shadowlands between birth and reclamation by earth and way before you had to figure out what your purpose was, you could busy yourself in just being the awesome and fascinated you.
Childlike awesomeness is nothing like the adult version. Adult awesomeness lacks the ability to separate itself from comparison. Its value is often tethered to an emotional algorithm of me vs. them. It repeatedly asks, “Am I more awesome then they?” Nothing about this question is awesome. It’s a question asked from a platform of insecurity.
Adult awesomeness also fails at being able to run around the backyard for an hour by yourself dressed like Batman or Super Girl and fully entranced in the wonder of living beyond the margins of reality.
Adult awesomeness continually pings you with thoughts of your own meaninglessness, worthlessness and a host of other “nesses” that scream, Wake up, you dreamer, and get back to your treadmill of fear worry, guilt and concern. Stop this whimsy!”
Adult awesomeness fails to live in the grandeur of its prefix “Awe”. Awe, the ancient Nordic word whose root means something akin to running into battle against a stone dragon yelling “Aarghhh!”
Awe is so awesome that it is practically indescribable. It is a poultice of wonder, beauty, hope, power, love and imagination so blended together that each of its individual components has been lost to an even higher manifestation.
Awe is experienced by the newborn baby’s unfused brain that cannot discern the difference between taste, sight, touch, smell or feel, but rather harvest them in one dynamic and awesome sensation.
I believe living in awe is not only part of the human experience, but core to its fulfillment. Today’s world peddles a cheap form of awe. Awe in the form of fame, money, power, sexual experience or distraction beg you to accept the minimal returns that they offer and call them awe.
I believe that God has more for you than that. God offers you the whole of life and asks you to dive in deeply and experience it all in one passionate non-discernable experience that is better known as abundant life. He calls you to live a life of transcendence rather that one which is transactional. He is inviting you into the awe-filled and awesome life.
For the last few days of 2015, I want to take a journey with you to explore the space of what it means to be awesome. No, this is not a trek into self-aggrandizement; that’s what Facebook is for. Rather, this is an exploration into learning how to radically experience life and all that God’s creative world has on offer. It is a chance to reclaim our wonder, our hopes, our joy. More importantly it is a time to come a bit closer to the God who looks at you and thinks, Wow! How absolutely awesome is this child of mine!
Check out other books by Adam Stadtmiller
There are two ways to dispose of a bomb. You can detonate it and check for damages after the charge goes off. Or, you can patiently dismantle it with zero body count. In twenty plus years of pastoral leadership, I have learned a couple of things. Organizational culture change is a minefield. Read on at christianitytoday.com
Almost twenty-three years ago, my friend Torry pulled me out of a Tijuana gutter. It would be the last gutter I would lay in. The next day was the first in a continuing two-decade journey into my sobriety. I spent that final night of intoxication sleeping at Torry’s parents, a place I had been inebriated many times before.
Even as a self-focused, addicted teen, I knew something was different about Dick and Connie’s place. Whenever there, my life seemed to find more ballast. There was just something about the spirit of their home. There was something special about them together.
More then anything, when I was there, I knew I was accepted. Conversations were never started with an ulterior motive. They never preached at me. Instead, they just invited me into their home.
Don’t get me wrong. It was obvious they loved Jesus. Dick was an oak of a man, firmly rooted in the word of God, Connie always busy doing some Bible Study Fellowship lesson while worship music resounded from the kitchen like the continual muzak at TJ Maxx.
Looking back, I can see that their marriage, their absolute way of being together, acted as a megaphone to me of what a marriage could look like in a culture short on commitment and love. I was being discipled without knowing it.
I remember Dick once saying that he disliked the passage about not being married once getting to heaven—unable to imagine an eternity away from Connie’s side. They were the bible’s epitome of one flesh.
Last week I got a text telling me that Connie had lost her battle with cancer. The first thing I did was think, “What is Dick going to do?” Then I thought about my own wife, knowing that this day would eventually come to our shores as well.
What I realized is that like Dick and Connie, Karie and my marriage has an opportunity. We have an opportunity to present to our girls, their friends and this world, what a marriage that matters looks like—marriages that reach beyond their own happiness. Dick and Connie had that kind of marriage and because of it, mine is eternally grateful.