Talking Various Church Oddities on a Sleepy Fall Morning


Sometimes, there’s just not enough in an idea for a full post. Sometimes, there’s almost too much, and the only recourse is a brief overview lest the topic overwhelm my ability to write. On such days, the best option is a series of post vignettes offered up for reader input. Feel free to fire away at any of these musings.


Is it me, or has much of contemporary worship music become more tribal and chant-like? I find a lot of this stuff tuneless and unsingable. First there was the charge that the lyrics were shallow. Now the melody is. When the Vineyard Churches energized modern worship music back in the late ’80s and early ’90s, the songs had lovely melodies. I dare you to find the melody line in more recent songs.


Sermon topics I have not heard preached in years:

The Fatherhood of God

The Humanity and Divinity of Jesus Christ


Holiness: Why God Demands It, and What It Looks Like in Modern Living

Hmm. Weren’t those once considered foundational?


Conservative Christians are always accusing liberal Christians of a self-help, Oprah-esque form of the Faith that owes more to Jung than Jesus. But conservative Christians fall into their own ditch: sanctifying business solutions and calling them “spiritual wisdom.” Frankly, both are in error.


Kevin DeYoung has a new book, Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem, that seeks to address the frantic nature of contemporary life. I have not read the book, but from what I have read about it, DeYoung seems to throw the solution back onto the individual. I keep wondering when Christians are going to wake up and start challenging the entire system of how we live rather than trying to get individuals to modify their behavior to better work within that system. There’s only so much behavior modification one person can do. But then, show me Christians with a national platform who are willing to speak against the entire system of how we live, work, and play in America, and I’ll show you the one hand I can count them on.

Prepackaged, prefilled, communion cups & wafers***

These prepackaged, prefilled communion cup + wafer thingamabobs are just…well, words fail me. Nothing says prepackaged, prefilled, consumerized American spirituality more than those things. I dare anyone to partake of such a consumer good and soberly recall Jesus’ words that this is His body and His blood. Can you say that this is true of such a “communion meal”? Does this resemble the communion meal in the Scriptures in any way? In the end, what does it say about the Lord?


Jake Meador wrote “Why We Need Small Towns” for Christianity Today. I live in a small, rural town of about 3,100 people, and I have for the last dozen years. Heck, my son was off from school all last week because so many kids are involved in the county fair, there’s no point in having school. I can say without hesitation that Meador has over-romanticized the benefits of small town life. In truth, most small towns are no better than the suburbs, and in some ways, they have all the same problems but with fewer solutions. Most churches in a small town regret being churches in a small town, with their eyes forever on that suburban megachurch as their pined-for model. Really, I have no clue what Meador is talking about.


Tim Challies tried his best to bring some sense to John MacArthur’s Strange Fire Conference. He is braver than I am. As a charismatic, what bothers me most about this conference is the number of ways MacArthur and his select speakers could address the “charismania” issue, yet it seems they are going the most inflammatory route, one certain to cheese off charismatics everywhere, no matter how orthodox those charismatics might be. If the conference truly was about restoring sanity to the ranks of charismaniacs, then where are the solid charismatic speakers MacArthur has partnered with in this effort? You say there are none in the speaker list? Hmm…


Over at Patheos, Peter Enns wonders if there is wisdom in using the writings of contemporary “spiritual” authors (the kind Oprah—there she is again—would endorse) to jumpstart  conversations with lost people about Jesus. Looking over the Bible, I guess I’m at a loss as to where the Apostle Paul recommends that Christians read the liturgy of Molech with lost people before talking with them about Jesus.


I used to be able to talk to fellow Christians about any topic. We could even skewer each other’s sacred cows and both laugh and think more deeply about the possible flaws in our own thinking. Today, everyone walks on eggshells, every discussion of personal belief follies descends into battles and hurt feelings, and nothing seems to get better. We are all so caught up in our own stuff that we are all heading toward prideful unteachability—if we are not already there.


Every last one of us needs an infusion of genuine, Christ-like humility.

Being the Body: How to Forge Real Community, Part 5 (Conclusion)


In this last post in the series “Being the Body,” we’ll look at a few more ways that our churches can better grow the community of believers within them.

#8 – Our communities should regularly enjoy a real communion feast together.

Folks who have studied the communion meals of the early Church come away with one truth: they were true feasts. Not the thimble of grape juice and a portion of a cracker, Still from the movie Babette's Feastbut entire meals in which the sharing of the bread and wine was the high mark.

We need to encourage our churches to prepare this kind of feast at least once a month. In fact, the more meals we eat together as a church, the more we’ll grow to know each other.

I would also encourage these real communions services to be a time when people share what Christ has done for them (since the last time a communion meal was held). We need those stories of faith to build our own faith,  but we seldom get to hear them enough for them to do any good. This would also be a time for the entire church to pray for individuals in need. We could hear the need, pray for the need, and use that time to meet the need right then, if possible.

#9 – Those of us in community should always keep an open home.

A community is not closed. It’s always open to others. It’s 24/7/365, too. Because our homes are the Lord’s and not ours, we need to always make them open to others, be they part of the community or not.

We can’t let the fortress mentality so prevalent in our country today keep others out of our homes. Our homes are not bunkers, but stations of ministry. Our mission field starts within the walls of your house and mine. If we’re not making our homes open, then we’re despising God’s gift to us.

We’ve got to get over having each room perfect, too. If you’re house is a little messy, who cares? Real homes are messy to some extent. We’re not supposed to live in museums. Obsessing over a home’s cleanliness speaks more about our fixation on the material rather than loving people. Better that a house be filled with love for everyone who enters it than it be spotlessly clean.

(See sidebar category listing “Hospitality” for more on this.)

#10 – As a community, we must find a holistic Christian perspective on our employment.

We have no excuses: we spend too much of our day devoted to our means of employment. If you’re a regular reader, you’ve heard this before, but unless we Christians rethink the way we work, we will forever have the Lord third or fourth in our lives. We need a revival of Christians seeking God for ways to drop out of the rat race and still provide for our families. Since we’re making community a priority, these issues should be discussed by the community.

We must also rethink unemployment. As a community, we are responsible to ensure that no brother or sister in the community goes without work if they need it. Despite the fact that today’s jobs are much more specialized than in ages past, we must ALWAYS draw alongside anyone seeking work and actively help them find a job. Our community is diminished by letting the unemployed search for work alone. If we are not dropping at least two dozen leads for each unemployed person a week, then we’re shirking our responsibility. The Bible commands that we work, therefore we are compelled to provide or seek work for those in the church community who need it. And we don’t stop helping until they get it.

(See sidebar category listing “Work” for more on this.)

#11 – True community makes ministering to the “weaker parts of the Body” a priority.

And who are these? The single parents, the elderly, the mentally ill, the sick, the developmentally disabled, and the families of those people.

An exceedingly powerful way to tell how vital a church truly is would be to examine how they deal with these folks. Are people ashamed of the mentally retarded teen, or do they go out of their way to incorporate him in the life of the church? Do people volunteer to take care of him so his parents can have a couple nights out to themselves each month?

Same goes for the single mom or dad. Some churches treat them as if they’re an embarassment rather than ministering to them as Christ would. If their singleness bothers us, then we should be routinely watching their kids so they can get out and meet a potential mate.

Real community always considers the weak and asks what can be done to bless them or their families. It’s one of the perpetual thoughts of people who esteem others better than themselves.

#12 –  True community is never afraid to be countercultural.

Being a community flies in the face of everything we hear daily as Americans. Thinking of others first does not come naturally to the natural man, but to the spiritual man it is the core of his ministry. If we fear Man, we should not be servants of Christ.

For this reason, we must pursue real community in the Body of Christ even if the world fights viciously against our desire to do so—and it will, because the world is passing away. But the communion of saints is eternal! What we begin here in our church communities is the groundwork for something that will never perish. We must always remember that our fitness as a community will reflect in the afterlife. God gives us our time here to fit us to heaven, and if we’re not living in a godly community that stands apart from the world’s individualism, then we are not being good stewards of the time the Lord has given us.

The bottom line of community is this: we can continue to live as randomly scattered body parts that accomplish little for God’s glory, or we can be the vital Body of Christ living in countercultural community. God demands the latter of us when we come to Christ. Yet our American cultural mandate is anything but community-focused.

We Christians in America must rethink everything we’ve assumed about community, putting it under the authority of the Scriptures as illumined by the Holy Spirit. That we’ve failed to do so even the slightest bit speaks against the American Church’s obedience to the very principles God lovingly gave His people.

I believe that nearly every vice in our churches today can be traced back to a flawed understanding of what it means to live in true community. We are the Body of Christ. To live as a Body, we must make life-changing decisions. Time is short, so we must start being real community or God will judge us for it.

So do more than consider the twelve ideas presented in this series, start living them out. And go before the Lord and find even better ways to live out community. What I’ve laid out here is a mere sketch of what can be done

Have great week and bless others.

Posts in this series:

(Image: Still from the movie Babette’s Feast, 1987)

You Call THAT a Love Feast?


When I was growing up in the Lutheran Church, the Jesus People revolution was beginning to permeate a few more open-minded traditional churches. In my youth group we sang songs by Ray Repp, Larry Norman, Honeytree, and Don Francisco. Everyone sported longer hair and Jesus was “what was happening.” The elements in communionPeople talked about community, and partaking of the bread and wine went from being just “communion” to “The Love Feast.”

Fast forward more years than I care to admit and while some of that 70s hippie Christian mentality has worn off, the idea of communion being “The Love Feast” has never left me. The Book of Hebrews talks about heavenly things having earthly counterparts, and I see the Marriage Supper of the Lamb as being represented here by our time of communion.

Why then is communion within our churches today such an amazingly lackluster event? Why do so many of us eat “bread” that consists of quarter-sized, airy wafers or little wheat tic-tacs? And where did the wine go? Some feast, huh?

No, I’m not trying to be sacrilegious. This is one of my top five pet peeves with the way we practice the Faith. It baffles me that for those who believe that communion is held strictly as a remembrance it’s done in such a forgettable way. As for the more mystical who believe that something special happens when we partake of communion, are we expected to believe that a thimble of Welch’s and a molar-cracking divot of hardtack are components of a transcendent experience? Evangelicals come off the worst here. The farther away you get from the Lutherans and Old Line Presbyterians, the closer you are to grape Kool Aid in a plastic shotglass and stale, crumbled saltines.

I’ll be honest here: I believe we are dishonoring the Lord by not going all out with communion. Frankly, I’d love to see churches completely bag the juice and crackers routine, hold a special communion service at least once a month, and serve a real meal during which the church fellowships and communion is handed out—and with a genuine varietal wine (Cabernet for those used to wine and Beaujolais for those being weaned off Welch’s) in a real glass and a basketful or two of fresh-out-of-the-oven homemade loaves of bread with some genuine heft to them. (Or, if you want do do it eaxctly right, consider making up some unleavened bread. Either way, get one of the best bakers in your church to make it.) Encourage people to rip off more than a dime-sized piece, too. Hold it in the sanctuary if you have no other space. (And if no one in your church can cook, rent out the local Italian restaurant and use church money to pay for everyone’s meal.) Spend several hours praying for each person who needs prayer. Confess your sins to each other. Dance a group dance if need be. But by all means, be a living church of living people and not a dry desert hostel filled with stoics. Go home refreshed for the joy and exuberance of it all.

And you—yes, you in the house church—stop laughing.