I recently wrote this text to bless our children's ministry leaders and volunteers after their fall informational meeting. Feel free to use and adapt for your own fall ministries.

September 19, 2016 0 0 comments

The Building Blocks of Faith answer a simple question: “What do people need in order to grow in their faith?” The Building Blocks are based on four themes of faith development for all ages.

September 13, 2016 0 0 comments

The Welcoming Children to the Lord’s Supper toolkit contains excellent resources to support parents/caregivers and children’s leaders as they engage kids in conversations about the Lord’s Supper.

September 7, 2016 0 0 comments

In my Facebook feed, I've seen many mothers express the sadness of having a child start college and leave home. But these transition times remind me of all the people in church who have influenced our kids. 

August 31, 2016 0 0 comments

So, why all of this emphasis on collaborative learning? And, why should those of us who have been let down by “group” work try it now? Here are 6 compelling reasons for churches to consider peer learning groups.

August 25, 2016 0 0 comments
Resource, Litany

Back to School Litanies includes 3 great resources: an encouraging Back-to-School Liturgy for children, a positive Back-to-School Liturgy for Youth, and an understanding Back-to-School Liturgy for Educators.

August 22, 2016 0 0 comments

Do you long to see teens and young adults more solidly connected to your church? Are you a preacher or do you belong to a church that has a preacher? If so, I invite you to take the “Preaching Tag-team Challenge.”

August 17, 2016 0 1 comments

For most people the idea of being interviewed by the church council is somewhere on the spectrum between anxiety-producing and utterly terrifying. Here are a few ways to make the interview a more joyful, life-giving process. 

August 17, 2016 0 0 comments
Resource, Devotional

Do you love the Olympics? If so, here is a great devotional for your family to use as you cheer on athletes, root for underdogs, and learn how Jesus paints a different picture than what we see at the Olympics.

August 16, 2016 0 0 comments

Because in that moment when I felt like a total and complete failure, she gave me a new a brand new outlook. She wanted to hangout with me even if it meant changing her own pace to go my speed. 

August 15, 2016 0 1 comments

As the end of the summer approaches, kids start thinking about the changes ahead. This week I came across two wonderful ideas for ways that God’s family can encourage school aged kids this fall. 

August 10, 2016 0 1 comments

To use an overworked metaphor, our lives are a journey. A journey where we are constantly becoming. We are becoming either more who we were meant to be or less. 

August 10, 2016 0 0 comments

When people around us begin to struggle with faith, what's our response? Are we standing on the pier shouting, “Read your Bible" or are we willing to dive in for the difficult, slow work of helping someone sort through their faith?

August 9, 2016 0 2 comments

I wonder, can we imagine Jesus doing the things we will do today? Might we be able to say because I painted this room, because I cleaned this kitchen, “Today I feel a little bit more like Jesus.”

August 3, 2016 0 2 comments

Katy and her husband shared this blessing that they speak to their children nightly. Speaking this to children not only blesses them but it reminds them (and us!) of why we tell these stories.

August 1, 2016 0 1 comments

Congregations always have a culture. You won’t find it written down in mission statements or council minutes but walk into any congregation on a Sunday morning, and you will gradually gain a sense of who is welcome. 

July 28, 2016 0 0 comments

When I picture that mic stand, I'm reminded of Jesus’ intentional endeavor to enfold the least, the last, the lost, and the little. It may seem like that spot was only significant to our friend, but to be honest, it meant a lot to me too.

July 25, 2016 0 2 comments

Why is there a desire to ignore having construction done on the soul? I think maybe it has something to do with the fact that, just like road construction, it gets in the way of our hurrying. 

July 25, 2016 0 0 comments

I recently talked to Bekki about her relentless joy in spite of ongoing health and personal challenges. She candidly told me her story and encouraged all of us to avoid the temptation to throw ourselves a pity party.

July 19, 2016 0 3 comments

Life is a paradox. There are days when life seems “self-contradictory” and “absurd.” We can't make sense of the great joy and stomach-turning sorrow. But are these situations really paradoxes?

July 13, 2016 0 0 comments

I'd heard the word "mentor" before but it always had a certain amount of formality attached to it. After learning more, I realized the potential for our churches.  

July 13, 2016 0 2 comments

Coffee time connects us in a very real way to our brothers and sisters in Christ who worship with us each week. How can we find ways to ask and tell each other how God is working in our lives? 

July 7, 2016 0 2 comments

Do you desire rest? Do you desire to have the burden lightened? Come, seek the ancient paths and you will find rest for your souls.

July 7, 2016 0 2 comments

The puzzle pieces (painted on the wall of the children's wing) are a metaphor for the many pieces of the Bible fitting together into a coherent whole. It's a great teaching piece and reminder for all who see it. 

July 5, 2016 0 0 comments

In a recent article for this very Network, Syd Hielema wrote:

Like many preachers I know, I often have stomach cramps on Sunday morning while going through a final sermon review before taking the pulpit. The calling to declare the Word of the Lord to a community is overwhelming, and it...

July 1, 2016 0 3 comments



Ron, thanks for this. Another book I highly recommend is Ministry with Persons with Mental Illness and Their Families. Mark

Thank you for this Michele. 

 Among periodicals for people who are not specialists in the field of mental health are Anchor Magazine for people who suffer from depression and anxiety disorders. SZMAGAZINE targets those who suffer from schizophrenia and schizo-affective disorder. I believe there is also one for those afflicted with bipolar disorders, but you can check out the site for more information.  These magazines are published by an evangelical Christian, named Bill McPhee.

Thank you for this! I've been thinking a lot about Faith Formation lately. My interest is with the adults. Thank you for showing us a concrete way to include Faith Formation in the wider ministry of the church.

Well this is very timely post! All of this information is rattling around in my brain as we approach a more formal way of discipling the teen volunteers in our children's ministry programs. This will be a big help :) Thanks!

Hi Adom, I think you are asking a very important question.  As you must realize there are hundreds of different Christian denominations.  There’s Baptist, Reformed/Presbyterian, Lutheran, Catholic and the list can go on.  Any one of these may look at a Bible teaching (or doctrine), like baptism a little differently from the other.  As Reformed Christians we may poke holes in the Baptist perspective on baptism, just as they may poke holes in our perspective.  Our perspective is a Reformed theological perspective.  And by our perspective all the bits and pieces of theology, or the Bible’s teaching, fit together consistently.  But the bits and pieces of Baptist theology or Catholic theology don’t fit well into our Reformed perspective.  Each perspective makes the overall teaching of the Bible consistent within its own perspective.  Pastor’s go to their denominational seminary to be trained in the Bible’s teaching according to their particular denominational perspective or point of view and way of understanding the Bible.  That way we can claim that the Bible is perfectly consistent, as long as we stay within our Reformed perspective.  So you could say that theology is an important key for having a consistent interpretation on the Bible.  If you go to a Baptist church you will be looking at the Bible’s teaching from the Baptist perspective (and there’s a consistency within that system). The same will be true of each different denomination.  Maybe you just have to pick the perspective that you like best.

The big problem is, why are there so many different points of view, in understanding the Bible?  Why isn’t there just one perspective, the right perspective? Of course, each denomination claims they have the right perspective.  It doesn’t seem as though the Holy Spirit has done a very good job of leading the church in all truth.  There is so much seeming inconsistency within the Bible that it’s like a maze by which we need a particular theological perspective in order to get through this maze without becoming hopelessly lost?  Well that’s what a particular theology does for a person, it helps him/her to get through the many twists and turns of the Bible without becoming thoroughly confused.  That’s my take on the importance of theology.

Thank you Staci for your insightful comments!

=) thanks for your graciousness of my ignorance re Star Wars details... I was informed by my family that it was a rogue storm trooper, not a droid...  so I apologize for my inaccurate description... 

May all of God's children, both men and women, put on the full armor of God, that we may stand firm in Christ, that each member of the body may become all that he or she was meant to be. May we all be free to love God with our whole our heart, soul, mind and strength. May we all be free to love our neighbor as ourselves, which means standing with those who are oppressed, against all forms of injustice. This calling in Christ takes great courage and dependence on the power of the Holy Spirit, which he has granted to all of his children. He alone is our strength, our protection, and our source of grace for each day. 

One item I would like to address concerning this blog post: In no way do I at all advocate nor meant to inadvertently advocate any form of abuse of power by men in anyway shape or form. This post has revealed that there is not only much pain still being afflicted upon people today in the use of God's Word, there is also much of it being covered up. Having seen this form of abuse on my own family growing up, I find it abhorrent. 

My purpose for this post was to state that we have to raise men of faith who are willing and able to stand up and be strong against the tides of terror, evil, and the darkness of this world, to be willing to put on the full armor of God. Though he is a secular (and someone pagan) author, Robert Bly states it well that the man was made to throw down the sword in fear of causing war. Yet, he states, the sword can do more good guarding and protecting than it will causing war. The sword I desire for men to pick up is the Sword of the Spirit to fight by standing firm in the Word of God. This means standing up against abuse, against injustice, and to be willing to toss around some money changing tables if need be. 

In the Old Testament, God is frequently called a mighty warrior--not because he defeats the enemies of the people of Israel but because he fights for and protects the people of Israel. 

I think maybe look for an upcoming post by me on God being a mighty warrior who fights for his people. 

Looking at what it means to be a man of God is very important to me. Here's some posts on my personal blog I've done over time:

And a geeky one for good measure:

Bless your heart, Joshua, yes, abusive behavior in the Church is an area that is especially on my heart over the last several years, as God has opened my eyes in a variety of ways to the extent of this that has been going on in the Church...  and I'm sure I've not even seen the tip of the iceberg.  This is such a huge issue, and it has been so well hidden...  personally, I've been blessed and protected and I thank God for that, but it also made me very naive and unaware... until 2011, God started bringing a number of situations to my attention and the eyes of my heart was opened to see these patterns of abuse and cover-up via manipulation and deception going on on our watch.  And then finding out how bringing this into the light is a threat to leaders.  I'm still processing that part =(  It's been one of those "unwritten rules" that it's not talked about (that would be gossip right? =( see #3 of things not to say to someone who has been hurt by the Church) because I really had very little idea before 4 years ago, and when you do talk about it, you run into opposition and resistance that is unbelievable, including accusations of gossip, slander, and divisiveness.

Here's another quote from Bonhoeffer:  “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”  This is our watch!

and here are several more difficult, but insightful posts from Boz Tchividjian:  (this is a very sobering movie that every Christian leader needs to watch on the abuse of power in the Church, covering up wrong doing at the expense of those abused)

and these 2 articles about patterns of abuse that nails what a friend experienced in the CRC...  and it makes me wonder how often varying degrees of these patterns are occurring at the expense of those who were harmed and violated, because we/CRC are very good at keeping this kind of thing hidden, under the rug, as much as possible (think non-disclosure agreements/NDA's)... God's way is to bring these patterns of abuse into the light.  As one pastor said to me, "confidentiality is killing us"...  and I have nothing good to say about NDA's.  anyway, lots of thoughts, this is a huge topic, but praying for the Spirit to work in all our hearts, His way, His wisdom for the Church to walk more fully in the potential He has for us...  we need to be open and obedient to Him.  Walking in holiness is a key part of walking in the power of the HOLY Spirit.


oh, in case you aren't familiar with this sermon, this is my favorite sermon that I've ever heard from the book of Judges, I read it several times a year, sometimes more often (there are audio options as well if you prefer)...  Paris Reidhead and 10 Shekels and a shirt based on Judges 17/18







Thank you for your words (and Star Wars quote). I can see the passion you have as you write this. There is an old proverb (I do not know the exact author) that says "Evil triumphs when good men do nothing." My aim in this short post was to encourage men of faith to stand up to be good solid men of faith. With time between now and when this was posted, I believe that there has been some backlash because of remembering abuses happening over centuries of bad theology and wrongful interpretation of key passage. I believe that this is in some ways propagated by popular pastors today such as Tim Keller in his book on marriage (I wanted to throw that book across the room when I read it for a class). Strong women of faith have stood up and served and this should not only be applauded, it needs to be encouraged. At the same time, as you said "Where have all the Godly men gone?" 

Right now I am leading a Men's Bible study for which I am writing the curriculum, and it's on the book of Judges called How NOT to be a Man of God. We look at the areas of how men need to stand up and serve and lead as well again, along side the women that God has raised up. 

How can we encourage men of faith to stand up along with women of faith and lead together? For we are all one in Christ Jesus. 

what is a man of God?  One who will do the right thing even in the face of fear, even at the expense of the "good old boys club",  exposing what is hidden in darkness, doing what is right in the face of resistance and opposition and persecution from their peers and leaders for standing up and doing what is right even though it will make the others look bad.

The man of God will speak out and protect those who have been harmed and abused by those in power, instead of operating in fear and damage control, instead of covering up and protecting the reputation of the leadership causing further harm to those who have been abused... remember Jesus and the woman caught in adultery?  The leaders who brought her to Him, didn't give a rip about her life... they didn't care if she was stoned, she was nothing to them, just an object to be used for their selfish purposes, yet they protected the man involved... don't do this!

The man of God will not shift the blame away from themselves, and will not change the narrative to minimize and distract from their wrong doing, or turn themselves into the victim.  I think of pornography and the horrible fruit which has caused extensive harm in so many ways, including objectification of people, especially women. the percentages of porn in the Church are horrific, beyond epidemic levels... and the CRC is not exempt...

The man of God will confront and challenge his brothers, his friends, his peers in this area.  It is a lie that looking at pornography is no big deal.  It is a lie that looking at pornography doesn't hurt anyone.  It breeds horrible stuff...  including fueling human trafficking.   yet, it seems the Church, including the CRC (from my perspective, including research and anecdotal evidence through discussions with people on this subject) barely acknowledges/addresses this, only in secret it seems, behind closed doors, not openly. 

The man of God, will confess, repent, and tell his wife***, and walk in the opposite direction, honoring and protecting the dignity of these women, including his wife, who are made in God's image.  You will be free!  that is a man of God!

The man of God will then help others get free!  Bonhoeffer says... Nothing can be more cruel than the leniency which abandons others to their sin. Nothing can be more compassionate than the severe reprimand which calls another Christian in one’s community back from the path of sin.  Read more at:

The man of God that is truly remorseful and desirous of change, would seek the forgiveness of those they have hurt instead of blaming/attacking them, and instead of making themselves the center of attention, would turn people's attention to those they have hurt.

The man of God will be wearing well used armor... not shiny and new, but beaten up, scratched, dented, muddy and bloody.. that means this knight has been in action, serving Him!

Here is the Warriors Prayer (author unknown):

When it is all said and done, and I'm standing before God, I want to be there bloodied and exhausted and worn from the fight, haven given my all.  I want to place at Christ's feet a well used, yet still razor sharp sword, a battered shield with the Kingdom's emblem faded and dull from years of service, a breastplate with deep scratch marks where the enemy's darts scarred it when my shield of faith dropped low, a helmet of salvation marked by the blows from the mace of doubt being deflected, boots of the gospel resoled many times and lastly, a belt of truth that is as strong as it was when I received it. All to be turned in for my eternal garments of white and a new name given by my King, the King of Kings. 

we recently took our family to the force awakens, I'm not a star wars fan, but my kids wanted to see it...  and my favorite line that is well worth the $100 for our family to watch it, is the maverick droid dude's response to the question asked by the fighter pilot on why he rescued him... and the response is "because it's the right thing"...   Pres. Obama used the same phrase at least 3 times if I recall in the state of the union address...  back to the movie... in a battle, you see this droid start to realize something is wrong, that he is a part of something that is not what he wants to be a part of.  I hope and pray that our men will start to see that something is very wrong...  that the enemy is somehow using spiritual leaders to abuse those who are under them and that this is spiritual abuse, which is abuse of power...  recognizing our battle is not against flesh and blood...

I have had friends who have experienced spiritual abuse from Church leadership ask me "where have all the good men gone?"  "where are the good men in the Church?"  I know you are there and I know you want to be a man of God, so please speak up and do what is right! 

one of my prayers for 2016 is that we the Church will do the right thing..   Yes, it will be hard, and there has been and will be failure, but own up to it, deal with it, learn from it and grow stronger through it, instead of hiding it.

 *** tell your wife... this has been debated, with some recovery programs encouraging men to wait until they are porn free for 6 months to do so as well as the conventional counsel of the world, which pastors will use as well, will advise not to tell at all ...  I disagree and here is something from Lewis Smede's Forgive and Forget P11… Patronizing husbands lie to wives to spare them the pain of knowing the truth.EOQ  the truth will set you free!  confess your sins to one another, and you will be healed... that verse has been twisted in various ways to avoid telling the wife.   So men, do the right thing!  I'm praying for you as part of the Bride of Christ...  and the Bride has made herself ready...



Thanks for sharing, Denise! I love this positive and bold word. Thanks for also sharing the scripture reference. 

Thanks, Joel! Excellent word that creates a posture for God to work in big ways. 

Thanks for sharing! I love the simplicity of the word "Why" and how it cuts right to the point of our motivations. 

I love the word Faithful. It presents a big challenge! Thanks for sharing, Evelyn. 

Thanks, Laura! I must admit I don't use this word often but how powerful to rejoice in the Lord (even during the most difficult times). 

Great word, Jim! How quickly we forgot the deep meaning of this word. 

Thanks for sharing! Love the action word and will be praying for your church in the upcoming year. 

Thanks Shannon... :-)

Sure. Because we are a new ministry, we have been slowly rolling out our Regional Catalyzers. Currently, here are the Classes that our Catalyzers serve:

Jill Friend-Heartland, Iakota, Minnkota, North Central Iowa, and the U.S. part of Lake Superior

Liz Tolkamp-BC Northwest, BC Southeast, Columbia, and Pacific Northwest

Laura Keeley-Georgetown, GR East, GR North, GR South, Grandville, Holland, Kalamazoo, Lake Erie, Muskegon, Northern Michigan, Thornapple Valley, and Zeeland

Lesli van Milligen-Canadian part of Lake Superior, Chatham, Eastern Canada, Hamilton, Huron, Niagara, Toronto, and Quinte

Ron DeVries- Alberta North and Alberta South/Saskatchewan  

Michael Johnson-Arizona, Central Plains, Red Mesa, and Rocky Mountain

In the next couple of years, we hope to hire Catalyzers for California (California South, Central California, Greater Los Angeles, Hanmi, and Ko Am), Chicagoland (Chicago South, Northern Illinois, Illiana, Wisconsin), the Northeast US (Atlantic Northeast, Hudson, Hackensack), Classis Southeast U.S. and Classis Yellowstone. Once that happens, all of our Classes will be covered.

Can anyone explain why, as it seems, there are "catalyzers" assigned for some regions but not others?  I've checked and it seems, for example, that most of the west coast of the US is not civered.

"Flourishing"  (Based on Psalm 92:12-15)

12 The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; 13 planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. 15 They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, 15 proclaiming, “The Lord is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.”



Why? That's not a question-it's my theme word for 2016. (Actually, grandchild is my first theme word!) I sat through a great motivational talk in December where the speaker addressed the importance of asking myself, and challenging my team to ask, the "why" question. Why do we work? Why do we do anything we do? It was a good thought starter that has led me to some more reading and thinking. I will conclude this post with a quote from the speaker: You will lose your way when you lose your why!

At Hope Fellowship Church, we just finished an Advent Sermon series on the "Five Flawed but Faithful Women in the Genealogy of Jesus".  Our pastor is big on alliteration :).  So our word for 2016 is Faithful.


My husband and I have had several friends and a family member pass away in the past month.  I received a card from one of my friends before he died, the front of the card is displayed at my workstation and says "Rejoice in the Lord always and again I say rejoice!"  God has given me this same word before to meditate on and use for comfort.  Focus words aren't usually given to me on New Year's day as much as in life events.  

So many words come at us in one day, it's nice to rest in just one word for a moment.  

For this year I chose I Peter 1:15/16 "holy", a word that has not only been removed from the secular word bank (other than the occasional 'holy cow', 'holy smoke') but also limited to defining God by the Christian community. None-the-less, it is presented by the Apostle Peter as front and center in defining the church, its members and how we are to live in "all" things.

Jim Poelman

I've been preaching on this for a few years now.

2014 was "Home," and was the year we moved to Colorado.

2015 was "Launch" as we worked to get Apex Church Started.

This year I was able to preach on this, and share my word for 2016,


"And the LORD added to their number daily those who were being saved." Acts 2:47

Insightful and profound. Thank you!

posted in: My Only Expertise

Last month, our church participated in a church-wide Peter Fish collection for World Renew. Each child was sent home with a fish bank and devotional booklet. On the final Sunday of the month, a massive row boat was placed at the front of church, and there was a special time in the service for kids to put their Peter Fish in the boat. The kids were also responsible for searching the room for Peter Fish from other members of the congregation. It was so moving to see the kids so excited and proud to turn in their Peter Fish and run up to other church members to collect their fish. Such joy and enthusiasm in their giving! The loud clunk every time a full Peter Fish was dropped into the row boat was also priceless! 

I thought this was a great (and age-appropriate) way to get kids involved in ministry.

I think too - that the gospel hope is that this upside-down Kingdom and it's impact on citizens can have a profound positive impact on how people love each other and how people live before God in ways that are deeper and more affective than passing laws or policy. 

posted in: My Only Expertise

Love this broad question! From the side of someone in the pew, there is a sermon series my pastor did this summer/early fall on the fruit of the Spirit where each week was an in depth look at a different fruit (love, joy, peace, forbearance, etc.). This series has really stuck with me because each week was incredibly focused and applicable.

Thanks, Chad, I'll have to look up that one. A little while back I read A Contrarian's Guide to Knowing God by Larry Osborne and he had some good stuff I borrowed from. I recently picked up Flunking Sainthood by Jana Riess which I heard was really good as well. 

posted in: Beige Spirituality

Thank you, Rod.

posted in: My Only Expertise

A great book in the same vein is Michael Horton's Ordinary: Sustainable Faith in a Radical, Restless World (Zondervan, 2014).  We did it as a book club last summer and was refreshing -


posted in: Beige Spirituality

What good questions! I think we live in a culture that is starving for community and belonging. What a wonderful opportunity for the Church. Thanks for the article Shannon.

Thanks for this, Shannon!

Those are great questions, Mavis! I think similar situations are found in congregations across both the U.S. and Canada.

Congregations can't be expected to serve people like they are consumers and the church is a business. And people definitely place a lot of expectations on pastors to do the work that elders and others in the church are also called to do. So, how do we as congregations cultivate the kinds of communities where people know they belong and are needed, where everyone feels called and equipped to serve?

Last fall, Bob and Laura Keeley wrote an article about what they call the "Building Blocks of Faith." In it, they assert that people have four basic needs from their congregations: to find belonging, to know and understand God, a sense of calling and equipping, and hope. Many churches have used these four building blocks to look at the different groups in their churches to see how they are doing in each of these areas (for example, do senior citizens in our congregation feel called and equipped for ministry? do children find a sense of hope here? do youth feel like they belong?). It's a really interesting way to look at our ministries, and to help us figure out where there are gaps. 

But as you point out, the burden does not all rest on the Church here. People need to commit to being part of church communities, in times when people disappoint them and maybe even infuriate them, because we recognize that we all belong to one body--the body of Christ--where we can't easily write each other off.

Syd Hielema and Mike Johnson, from Faith Formation Ministries, lead great workshops on how we can cultivate church cultures where people feel safe to express their vulnerabilities and needs, and are empowered to serve in ministry.   

Good questions. Would love to hear some ideas.

I've been thinking a lot about something similar: people who have attended our church regularly for quite some time, and then stopped.

We connect with them, visit, call, and ask what can we do, what did we do, etc. The reasons vary but 2 common reasons are:

-- Not enough for their kids. (We're a small church and there are quite a few young children in grade school, but no high schoolers and just a couple in junior high.)

-- Something along the lines of "I suffered.....something such as a sickness, a loss of a loved one, and so on...and the church never contacted me." In nearly all cases, friends within the church family did contact them and often helped them in a substantial way, but it seems if it wasn't the pastor or some other official type of contact, they're hurt and they stop coming.

Any thoughts or ideas?

When I was young, we were taught "sticks and stones . . . ." Facebook" posts should only disturb children. No one knows the difference between "public" and "private" these days. On public bulletin boards, "What goes around, comes around."  

Very powerful. I've been thinking about the outrage I try to quickly scroll past on FB, what it says about the people who post it and where faith intersects through it all. Thanks. ~Stanley

My calendar is also full of my own tasks and events that make time fly by! I like the idea of using this seasons calendar to re-align my time & priorities to focus on God's handiwork in everything. 

This quote "What happens if you eliminate anything from the Bible that offends your sensibility and crosses your will? If you pick and choose what you want to believe and reject the rest,..." begs the question: don't we do that all the time? Of course, we use sophisticated theological and hermeneutical gymnastics to rationalize it (especially the way we dissect the Old Testament) and it all comes out sounding plausible, unless we are willing to ask the tough questions, read and consider those passages that we have buried. So to pretend we don't pick and choose is patently false.

posted in: When God Offends

Sorry Ken, for calling you Doug.  My bad.

posted in: When God Offends

Thanks Doug for your article on being offended by God.  I don’t know what you were thinking when you wrote this article but I think it reflects some pretty narrow thinking.  Tell me Doug, are you at all offended by or object to the Muslim concept of God?  Of course they don’t believe in a Triune God.  How about the Mormon religion in which the angel, Moroni, gave the twelve golden plates from God to Joseph Smith to be translated into English?  Do you object to such a revelation of God?  How about the Hindu religion and their belief in a multitude of Gods which are manifestations of the one big God?  Do you object to that or are you offended at all by their religion?  Those religions and hundreds of other religions could ask you the same question you ask of others.  Those other religions, like Christianity, are supported by their own infallible Scriptures which they claim have been inspired or given by God.  What makes you think that our Bible is any more God’s word than their Scriptures?  And yet I imagine you take offense at those religions and doubt their veracity.  So why would anyone other than a Christian believe what is taught by Christians or within the Christian religion?  Christianity is just one of many, many religions in the world.  Why would you think that the world would possibly believe the Christian concept of God or Christianity any more than any other religion?

But bringing this closer to home, there is very little agreement among Christians as to Christian teaching.  There are many hundreds of Christian denominations.  Christians may agree on some very basic fundamentals, but otherwise there is very little agreement.  Just ask a Catholic, a Baptist, a Pentecostal, and a Reformed person what they believe about Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, or what will happen at the end of time.  Already there is a multitude of things to be offended by or to object to.  Our own Canons of Dort were written in opposition to Arminian beliefs.  Reformed Christians were greatly offended by Arminius and his followers.  Our own Reformed confessions call the Baptists and Catholics offensive names.  We have a long history of objecting to the beliefs of other Christians.  Are you saying they were wrong in their objections or at taking offense?  So whose Christianity or whose Bible is a person supposed to agree with wholeheartedly, Doug?

posted in: When God Offends

Hi Michael! Thanks so much for your thoughts -- you raise some interesting points. Understanding sin as TOTAL depravity and need of God is indeed different than just realizing we are imperfect. I completely agree that our understanding of sin influences our need of Jesus (and a savior in general).

Re: your last question "Is being liked really the obstacle for the gospel...", I might be missing part of your explanation. What I more wonder is "what is it about Christians/the church that are turning people away?" I'm not sure it's the gospel but instead I wonder if it has more to do with the behavior of the followers.  

Thanks again for your thoughts! Really appreciate the additional questions to consider. 

I love the statement, “Like I said, you don’t need to go to church to be a Christian. If you go to Taco Bell, that doesn’t make you a taco.” Partially because it’s true and partially because I really love tacos.

But the rest of it is cause for deep thought. I wonder if Justin really means what you mean, Staci, about ‘imperfection.’ Does Justin really mean sinful – like, ‘I deserve to die’ sinful [Lev. 4]? ‘I can’t ever make life right between me and God’ sinful?  I know that’s what Christians read into ‘imperfect’  – and thanks to our teachers for connecting that for us – but I’m not sure that’s how Justin, or even most unbelievers, take it.

If not, then the idea of needing Jesus alone to be both sin offering and Lord for us kinda flies by the hearts of the people we’re speaking with and showing love to in our neighborhoods, And if Jesus isn’t essential to life itself, then certainly the Church isn’t worth putting up with. We’ll still come off as ‘holier than thou’ because we insist that, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” [John 3.18] Not that the Church is essentially more acceptable to God than the rest of the world, but we’ve been made acceptable by our faith and trust in Jesus’ resurrection for that moral unacceptability. Most people I talk to either get it and don’t think I stink, or they’re really offended and can’t stand the smell of my faith.

But isn’t that what Paul affirms in 2 Corinthians 2.15-16? “For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.” Now, maybe Paul just didn’t love people, but I wouldn’t bet money on it. Which makes me ask another question: Is being liked really the obstacle for the gospel, or is it more of an obstacle for our own egos?

I am so glad to see all of these projects or avenues.  So much of this has been needed and so few have time to put towards them.  Thank you especially for working on the profession of faith toolkit and the evaluation of curriculum.  Your focus on regions should also help.  I hope that you are finding ways to get other voices included in these discussions because the more we share the better we are.