I’m not really a fan of Christian Schlock. T-shirts, posters, bumper stickers, etc. You know the ones, right? No Jesus, No Peace. Know Jesus, Know Peace. Or how about: In case of rapture, this car will be unmanned. Or maybe you prefer the cheesy replacement slogans like “Just Believe It!” (You know, like Nike? Just do it?) You also have great church sign content like: “C H _ _ C H. What’s missing? U R.”
The thing is, it cheapens our message I think. Some of them are useful witnessing tools, but too many just turn me off and I’m already Christian! What does it do to non-believers? I see some of the ones on car bumpers and feel like I was just the victim of a drive-by judgment.
Now, I like a good Christian T-Shirt from time to time. Half my T-Shirt/Relaxed wardrobe it seems is made up of just Cornerstone and Crossroads gear, our Middle School and High School Ministries at First Trinity. But some of the junk we’ve come up with as Christians isn’t even funny. It’s just plain dumb.
Of course, this is the exception that proves the rule. Every now and then, we come up with something great. Got this as a psuedo Birthday/Christmas gift from a friend. I’m not really one for laptop covers, but this one was perfect. You can buy it or see a clearer, more readable picture here. My favorite part? Tough, but I’d have to go with “Jesus has the newest iPhone before it’s even made.” Runner up? “Chuck Norris wishes he was as cool as Jesus.”
I’ve enjoyed Dave Ramsey ever since we saw him at the Catalyst conference. After taking the Good Sense budgeting course with Susan Whited, I’ve taken a much more proactive approach to finances, and Dave has been a great companion for that.
If you’re like the typical person, this economy may be freaking you out. First Trinity is going to be hosting a live streaming event with Dave Ramsey in partnership with churches all across the country. Here’s what they say about it:
Tired of hearing the fear, doom and gloom that’s filling the airwaves? Join Dave Ramsey for a nationwide town hall meeting and discover what’s happening with the economy, how we got here, and where we’re going.
I’d encourage you to come be a part of the event. If you’d like to promote it, here are a couple of resources for you:
If you’d like to get either print pieces to hang in a local business, we’d be happy to print one up for you. Just let me know which you want and when you’d like to come get it and we’ll have it ready for you.
Here’s the promotional video for the event:
One of my favorite Gmail extensions is Xoopit. It sits on top of Gmail and scans for file attachments, then makes them easily searchable at their site or within Gmail. One of my favorite features is the summary email each week. It shows you what you’ve received that week, but it also shows you something from this week a year ago.
Here’s what came to me this week last year, from Darcy:
Made me chuckle.
I was talking with someone recently about a struggle they’re having. It’s like this never-ending mountain that they are trying to climb. Found this picture by chance and figured it was appropriate:
I suppose the devil is the one standing there with the sign. I know I’ve felt like that guy climbing a few times in life. The mountain always looks taller while climbing than afterwards.
You can check out more pics by Dave at his blog. A quick scan through the blog turned up these gems:
You may already know that. Having time together as a family is important in raising kids. Kent Shaffer at Church Relevance has a nice post summarizing two recent studies about family time and its impact on teenage sex and drug use. Worth checking out.
The Sunday before the series starts, we’ll be voting on some of the top songs at Billboard’s music charts. The highest vote-getter will be the basis for our lesson the following week. The plan is to look at popular culture and see what spiritual issues it raises and what the Bible says about those things. Most of our students are listening to this music, so we want to explore it with them and teach the skills to identify those spiritual issues and bring them back to the Scriptures on their own.
This song probably won’t make the list (thanks to The Plow):
How did Christian music ever make it out of the early days?
I loved John McCain’s VP pick, mostly because it was so unexpected. Obama picked exactly who I thought he would (older, experienced, male statesman). But few saw this coming, which led to all kinds of excitement among the GOP base and other voters. I’m not one to sit and watch Fox News or CNN for hours (largely because I don’t have access to it unless I’m here at my Mom’s house), but I couldn’t help myself last night as I wanted to find out about Palin. I didn’t see this coming, so I couldn’t help but spend time reading about it and listening to people talk about it. (Ironically, I find myself wondering if it’s too late to pull the ol’ switcheroo and make Sarah Palin the presidential nominee.)
But politics aside, I wonder if God’s people ever felt this way. God specializes in doing the unexpected, from floating axe heads to stopping the sun to countless others. Did the people rush to hear the news of what God had done? Was it so amazing that people couldn’t stop talking about it? I imagine it was. Do we have the same reaction to God’s Word?
Have you seen that bumper sticker? It’s actually about their car, but you get the idea. I think Christians look weird when they use cute little phrases like that one on bumper stickers or T-shirts. And now we’ve just become even weirder. As proof, I give you: You’ve Been Left Behind.
For $40/year, they’ll allow you to host some files and prepare up to 62 emails that will be sent to your friends 6 days after the rapture occurs. Seriously. Even if I believed the rapture to be true, is this even a good idea? Don’t you think it would be better to talk to those people, you know, before it happens? And unless the email I receive as a non-raptured person explains why you didn’t bother to tell me about this stuff before it happened, I’m not sure I’d care what you have to say.
As Lutherans, we don’t believe the rapture will occur. I understand why people think that it will, I just don’t think they are interpreting the Scriptures correctly. It was popularized by the books, but that doesn’t make it right. For years, though, I struggled with how to correctly interpret the passages the rapture-believing Christian cite. Eventually, I found an article that just made sense for me in the Lutheran Witness.
Of course, I have the same problem with this debate as I do with the Creation/Evolution one. We can argue and argue about who’s right and who’s wrong forever. There won’t be hard “proof” until Christians disappear or Jesus returns for all the world to see. Discussion is good, but let’s not lose sight of the real goal: sharing Christ with others as if Jesus were coming tonight.
what is something you feel you can’t say in church, or around other christians?
Some of the responses are kinda silly. Others are pretty serious. Most are brutally honest.
When the church is silent on these issues, or not open to discussion, people will go elsewhere for advice or help. Topics like sex, finances, or struggles with kids/spouse are important ones for the church to address.
Any specific ones jump out at you, either from your own history or from the comments on Anne’s post?
Warning: Long post ahead! We’re considering a dress code policy for youth ministry. It could become emotionally charged. It’s difficult, but it’s important. Read on for a lengthy, back and forth look at the problem.
I’m struggling with what to do with regards to a clothing policy for student ministry. The issue has come up as a part of preparing for our Workcamp to Piqua. Just a sampling of some of the questions our leadership team has to consider:
- Should we have a policy?
- How detailed should it be?
- How do we enforce it?
- What are the consequences for breaking it?
- Does it turn kids away from a possibly life-changing experience at Workcamp, either because we have one or because we don’t?
- Is this an altar worth dying on?
- How do we balance the culture of today with the timeless truths of Scripture?
Is forcing a dress code on youth any different than how the Pharisees acted? Jesus called them hypocrites and compared them to whitewashed tombs for appearing to follow the law outwardly while not following it in their hearts. Youth may keep our dress code, but resent it inwardly. Is that doing them or us any good? Is it akin to legislating morality? We may win the battle, but lose the war in the end. We need to be in the world, not isolated from it, so maybe that means inviting people to come as they are.
And yet, we are not the world. We are to be in the world, but not of it.
Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.
We are to set an example for other believers in the area of purity. More than that, our body is not our own. We should treat it with respect not only in how we dress, but also how we use it and how we feed and care for it. Women are called to dress modestly, possibly because guys have a hard time thinking pure thoughts. In the end, purity and modesty matter to God, so they should matter to us.
God does not want empty sacrifice, but rather a broken heart. Do we present the dress code as a Law to follow while at youth trips and say you can’t come unless you agree to dress to our standards while there? Will youth make that meaningless (to God) sacrifice and still participate in the trip?
Or, do we set a minimum (and I think we almost have to), but hold up the high standard and let youth and parents choose to keep it or not? If you don’t want to go beyond the minimum, fine, but know that God has something more for you. You can still come as you are, but know that we want more for you as well. Maybe it’s enough if youth just start considering that God might have higher standards for how they dress and act at this point in their faith-walk.
We aren’t asking youth to dress modestly because we’re no fun. God made them beautiful and living a pure life means caring for and protecting that beauty for their future spouses. It’s about helping our young men, who have surprisingly little else on their minds than sex at this age sometimes. But it’s also about not clouding our message to other believers and, more importantly, to the world. I’m reminded of John’s words:
He must increase, but I must decrease.
Immodest dress is all about drawing attention to ourselves, which distracts from our message. If we are going to share the Gospel with the world, we must decrease and Jesus must increase. And now we get to the heart of the matter and perhaps the answer to our dilemma. Is Workcamp about having a good time with friends, traveling to a new part of the country and enjoying an after-event together? Or is it about bringing God’s Word in physical form to the people of Piqua, Ohio, loving on them and being Christ to them? If the former, we’re no different than anyone else in the world and it doesn’t matter how we dress or act or think. But if it’s the latter, then He must increase, but we must decrease.
I don’t know what the final policy will be. I hate that we have to consider setting one at all, but we can’t just ignore those parts of God’s Word. This is part of living in a world where God’s Word is counter-cultural. It could be an unpopular decision for us either way. But that’s part of being in leadership.
Share your thoughts on either side in the comments. Remember, we’re all on the same team, even though we might have different views on the subject. I’m thankful we’re at a place where we can speak the truth in love, looking to do what’s best for our students and sharing the Gospel.
Seth Godin pointed me to an interesting post looking at FAQs on company websites. Kevin Kelly, the author, argues that FAQs are often composed of NAQs — Never Asked Questions. His point is that FAQs are frequently marketing ploys. By using questions that are never being asked, they create a marketing buzz or spin for their company/product.
Maybe in addition to FAQs, our churches need ATAQs — Awkward To Ask Questions. These are the things people really want to know about you, but are afraid, embarrassed or ashamed to ask. Some of those might include:
- I committed X sin in the past. Am I welcome at your church?
- What makes you think your version of the truth is the only right one?
- Why should I trust a god that inflicts so much harm on the world?
- What mistakes has your church made in the past and what did you do about them?
- Why do you say I’m going to hell if I don’t believe in Jesus?
I’m sure there are lots of others out there. The point is, sometimes we shy away from the difficult, awkward questions because they are too hard to answer or they make us uncomfortable. I know I would be a lot more impressed with an organization that took a stand on the difficult issues than with one that didn’t. It makes them seem more real and honest.
What ATAQs would you add to a First Trinity FAQ?
Strange thing happened to me this evening. I was about to go into a Workcamp Adult Leadership Team meeting when a young man asked if he could hang some posters up for a community event. I asked what he was advertising and he got a poster out for me to look at. The event? A seminar for parents talking about how to raise your kids without religion. Seriously?
“I don’t think we’re interested, but thanks for stopping by.” I wish I had more time to talk with him to see why he thought it was a good idea to advertise at our church.
A few weeks back, I hosted an Internet safety course for parents. One of the reasons we have be serious about what our kids do with technology and the Internet is that your history never goes away once its online somewhere. Try as you might, you simply can’t stamp it out.
Darcy sent me a link recently about girls taking nude photos of themselves and forwarding them to their boyfriends. What happens when those pictures make it on the Internet and everyone at their school starts talking about them? What are the long-term damages, nevermind the short-term ones?
Thankfully, our history with God is different.
Twistori is an interesting site. The site pulls Twitter messages that contain verbs in the format “I _____ …” They include love, hate, think, believe, feel, wish. Twitters range from the goofy to raw emotional truths. The language isn’t always appropriate, but it’s fascinating to see what people are thinking in these 6 areas.
I received a free issue of Collide Magazine with an order I placed for some books online recently. They subtitle themselves, “Where Media and the Church Converge.” I was drawn to their article titled “Our Parallel Universe: The Christian Subculture Goes Online.” An excerpt:
For the purposes of this article, the Christian subculture or parallel universe is characterized by the places and products Christians have created for themselves, which both resemble and reject popular culture. These products and places typically take something found in contemporary society, remove the immoral or secular elements, and replace them with a Christian worldview. The result is a culture within a culture, whose products and places are similar to those found in the mainstream, but different. They are parallel.
Essentially, Christians are taking all the good ideas by others and making them our own, only more wholesome. While this is not necessarily bad, I’m not sure it’s best. When we separate ourselves from the world in this way, we seem strange. We seem disconnected. We also withdraw our witness from the popular culture when we make a parallel one. GodTube is fine, I guess, but why not flood YouTube with Christian content? Are we afraid we’ll offend? Are we afraid people will question what we believe? Why be safe when we’re called to be salt and light?
It comes back to my basic premise for culture and kids. We can build a wall (the parallel culture) to keep out the bad stuff of the world, or we can give our kids better armor to be a light in the world.
- It comes from the Zeitz family, at least as far as I’m concerned. That would be my Mom’s family. How it got started there is unclear to me. Perhaps Mom will tell us in the comments…
- It’s spelled M – U – H.
- Sometimes it is spelled and said together: “M – U – H, Muh!”
- Sometimes it’s on you: “Muh on Jason!”
- Sometimes you are one: “Jason is a Muh!”
- Sometimes it’s both: “Muh on Jason, Jason is a Muh!”
- It’s not mean.
- Jaime thinks it means “Sucks to be you,” but she’s an outsider, not raised in the Muh tradition. She’s learning though. Around 10 years of exposure and she’s starting to get it down. I think she still secretly thinks she’s right about the meaning, but she plays along.
- It works when you don’t know what else to say about a situation, but it’s best to know your audience and whether they can take the “Muh” at that time.
Now you know a bit more about my family “Muh” tradition and could probably survive a Zeitz family party.
You also might now have a sense for what an unbeliever feels when they walk into our church with so many strange phrases, symbols and traditions that we just “know” because we grew up in the family. Maybe this is why Paul went to people in their culture to share the Gospel with them. Maybe we should speak their language instead of expecting them to know ours.
Parents are the primary spiritual influencers–for good or for bad–in the lives of their kids. Media, peers and schools have significant influence, but parents are the pinnacle. They can control what media comes into the house, what school (if you’re willing) your kid attends and who they hang out with outside of your presence. The parent’s job gets a lot harder when trying to do it alone, so taking time to improve your marriage actually helps your kids.
- 78% of adults have been married at least once.
- 84% of born-again Christians married at least once.
- 74% of non-Christian faiths
- 65% of atheists/agnostics
- 33% of all adults who have been married have had a divorce.
- 25% of all Americans, married or not, have been through a divorce.
What are you doing to keep your marriage strong so you don’t become one of the 33%?
Almost 2 months ago now, I taught a course at St. John’s Lutheran’s PTL on Internet Safety. At the time, I thought it would be good our parents to hear as well, but my schedule was so busy that I never got around to
eating that frog scheduling the class. We’ll be having it at First Trinity on February April 22 at 7 p.m. We’ll be covering:
- Instant Messaging
- Cell Phones
- Social Networking (Facebook, MySpace, Etc.)
We’ll focus primarily on what the technologies are and how kids are using them, as well as what it means for their spiritual development. We’ll also have some tips for parents as we explore the topics. If you don’t have kids but want to know about these technologies, there’s plenty of good stuff there for you as well.
Kent Shaffer over at Church Relevance provides a useful summary on a report issued by the Guttmacher Institute on abortion in the United States. There are still way too many abortions happening, but this is encouraging new.