Support our Nicaragua Trip!

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Something a little different if you don’t mind…

In June 2017, my family will have an opportunity to go on an international mission trip to Nicaragua.  The trip is being coordinated through our church, New Community Church, in partnership with Agros International.  This trip is the seventh team from our church to go into Nicaragua to build relationships that both support and encourage the people there who are working hard to move out of extreme poverty using loans provided by Agros International. Continue reading

The Centre Cannot Hold: The Blurry Future of American Evangelicalism

“And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?” W.B. Yeats, The Second Coming

***update 9/29/16: The New York Times recently published a very good article that explores this topic more in depth and personally, and I highly recommend reading it (link in the text). I still beat it by a few days though!***

This election year has been a tumultuous one for too many reasons to mention. It has definitely been the most polarizing  of any in recent memory. It’s impact will be felt long past the tenure of whichever candidate wins in November in our country as a whole, but specifically among those who call themselves Evangelical Christians.

Previously, at least in conservative Evangelical circles, the choice for president was fairly clear and rote: you could only vote Republican. The Democratic party was basically equated with everything that Evangelicalism was not. It was pro-choice, supported by the ACLU, sought to keep the bible, prayer and creationism out of our schools, pushed agendas such as gay rights and “big government”, and was generally seen as the party of left-leaning atheists, elites, and mainline pseudo-Christians. Republicans were the voice of “real” Christians at the political level. It valued proper moral and ethical behavior grounded by Judeo-Christian fundamentals not only in our country but in its leadership.

2016 is changing all that. Drastically. Continue reading

What Exactly is Biblical Literacy?

Ezekiel eating the scroll (Eze. 3:1)

OK quick – what are the first three books of the Bible? Was Paul one of the twelve disciples? Did Abraham lead the Israelites out of Egypt?

If you can’t answer these questions (though I really hope you can) you shouldn’t be surprised. Research has shown that most Americans know very little about the Bible – presumably much less than what was known a generation ago.

“…A Famine in the Land”

Pastors, authors and pundits are saying that we are in a famine in terms of our biblical literacy. This famine is not due to lack of access though. According to the Barna Group, “Nearly nine out of 10 adults and teens report owning a Bible, a proportion that has held steady over six years.” The problem comes in that according to the same research only about 35% of those responding read the Bible once a week or more, and over 40% read it less than once a year if at all (not counting reading in church). Because the Bible isn’t read routinely by many in our society, we’ve lost that knowledge of it that was once considered a given. Continue reading

Being an Anxious Christian

…pretty accurate

While at the library a few weeks ago I found this book peeking out at me from among the graphic novels called The Worrier’s Guide to Life. It’s hysterical, because it’s true. The page I included above made me laugh out loud because I’ve had all of these – sometimes several combinations of them – keep me up at night. I showed it to my wife but I don’t think she got it (she’s usually asleep before she hits the pillow anyway). There was so much in that book that worriers and the anxiety-prone people like me to find funny, which is great because it’s good therapy to hold a mirror up to your problems and laugh at them.

I’m a Christian that has struggled with anxiety for many years. It’s something I deal with more or less on a daily basis, but it’s not as debilitating for me as it is for many others. I’ve had a few panic attacks, been on and off medication, gone to counseling, and try to manage more or less on a day to day basis. Regardless of how many ups and downs I have, I know that what I go through is nothing compared to what others do though. Continue reading

Crossing Divides: Can an Atheist be a Chaplain?

Can an Atheist be a chaplain?

It may seem like a ridiculous question, I know. However Great Britain recently named its first “Non-Religious Pastoral Carer” within its national health system. This sparked debate about whether or not it’s even possible for a non-religious person could technically be a “chaplain” given that the title itself has an obvious religious connotation.

While the argument is interesting, I don’t find it very helpful though. It becomes an argument about semantics and definitions. But frame the question this way and I think it gets interesting: Can someone of one faith provide spiritual support to another of a different faith, or of no faith at all? Put it that way and I think you are getting to a core question for those serving in Chaplaincy already, as well as those planning for ministry. Continue reading

Gerald May: The Chaplain as Physician

I’ve been reading the excellent book Simply Sane by Dr. Gerald May, primarily for my personal benefit but secondarily for professional benefit. It wasn’t recommended to me by anyone, and I honestly can’t remember how I stumbled upon it, but I’m glad I did.

Dr. Gerald May

It’s an excellent book for those doing pastoral care as well as teachers and educators. I recently read a passage that struck me as to how well it spoke to the position that many Chaplains find themselves in: wondering what to do.

I had an older woman come on service a few days ago who appeared to be greatly depressed. When I introduced myself and gave the usual opening “how are you today?”, her response was “I want to die. Can you give me a shot?” Continue reading

David Mills: Death Dignified by Christ

I’ve been trying to write a post about the “death with dignity” movement, but found it very difficult to write something that didn’t turn into a book.

While there has been a great deal of discussion about the rightness or wrongness of physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia, I’ve found less discussion about what “dignity” means in this context. I found this post by David Mills and wanted to share them in regards to what it might mean for a Christian to die with dignity. The biggest takeaway may be that while one side sees neediness, exposure and helplessness as antithetical to human dignity, Mills sees these at the very heart of Jesus’ own death. His attitude towards the indignities placed upon Him actually made His death more dignified. It’s a lesson we can take away as we seek to conform to Christ.

He was a dignified man suffering all the embarrassing ways cheerful young women the age of his granddaughter deal with the body’s failure as cancer begins shutting down the organs. Dying in a hospice, you lose all rights to modesty as you lose control of your body.
Continue reading

Ten Signs a Chaplain is Becoming a Pastor

Church growth consultant Thom Rainer recently wrote about the ten “warning signs” that a Pastor might be becoming a Chaplain. This drew a lot of attention among professional Chaplains as well as Pastors. Reading the post made me realize that it’s just as important to recognize the warning signs that your Chaplain might be heading down the slippery slope of becoming a – gulp – Pastor.

Here are ten (okay, seven) warning signs to look out for. Supervisors, take heed! (And please read on afterward – warning: sarcasm ahead) Continue reading

The Chaplain and Mental Illness: When religion makes healing “sinful”

The issue of how Christians deal with mental illness has been on my mind as of late. One reason is that I’ve been going through my own therapy for anxiety and depression, which rears its head from time to time in my life. Second is that I came across a LinkedIn discussion in a pastor’s network group that had some pretty ugly things to say about mental illness and psychotherapy.

Writer and musician Shaun Groves recently posted his own reflections on depression and faith on his blog, and while I can’t repost the whole article, I would certainly recommend it to you (here’s the link). He had written about his father-in-law’s death as a result of suicide and while many offered their sincere condolences some of the responses were a bit shocking. One wrote, “Did he not believe the words from scripture he read to his church?”. Another wrote, “The Bible tells us not to worry, not to fear, be afraid, etc. 366 times, one for every day of the year including leap year! What can stinkin thinkin do, but make a person sick?”. Continue reading

Balancing grace and growth in the ministry of the church

I came across an interesting discussion on LinkedIn regarding the state of the American church, namely that the “seeker” model has failed to create real disciples and failed to make an impact in our culture. “Felt needs” (always a poorly defined term) have replaced authentic discipleship, and the church and culture are sick because of it.

There is a pretty fair divide between those who see the role of pastor or church (not “the body of Christ” Church, but local body “church”) as to evangelize and bring people into the body of Christ (the Church), and those who see the main role of the pastor/church as teacher or pedagogue.

The first will use any means necessary to get people through the doors because it sees salvation as the end result. People come to church, hear the gospel, and get saved. If it takes a light show and Starbucks in the lobby to get them in, so be it. I worked at one of these churches for a time and saw the good and bad of it. They were great at getting people in the door, but it didn’t know what to do with them afterward. Growth was secondary. It was part of the program, but was not a primary driver. The church grew and became very influential, and still is. But the leadership had difficulty seeing themselves as something other than a youth group for adults (thankfully I can say that has changed). Continue reading