Kamis, 15 Juni 2017

Culture and Discipleship

Christiana Rice: Culture and Discipleship

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“We need to learn reconciliation and unity. How can we love our neighbors when we can’t even love our sisters and brothers?”

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Culture and Discipleship is a conversation, a roundup of nine compelling voices—authors, church leaders, culture observers and disciple-makers. Together, they present a hopeful, pointed challenge to pastors who are looking to redemptively engage the culture for the purpose of effective discipleship.
To Alter Your World: Partnering With God to Rebirth Our Communities (IVP, 2017)

1. What do you see as the biggest challenge to effective discipleship in the American church?

I think there is a grave contradiction at play. On one hand, many people want to find their own truth and have the freedom to question the traditional beliefs of the church. On the other hand, these same people still expect clergy or spiritual leaders to do the work of excavating truth for them, and addressing their questions with more questions or possible answers. This kind of contradictory paradigm produces inactive and self-absorbed disciples who will struggle to grow and thrive in their faith. They remain independent consumers, never tasting the joy of committed community on mission together.

2. How does the expression of the church’s mission look different today than it did a few years ago?

Learning to become more culturally aware is currently a common discussion among church leaders and planters. Many churches have begun to turn their attention toward “the neighborhood,” desiring to be more attuned to their contexts and committed to the felt needs of their neighbors. It’s a wonderful shift.
We still wrestle, however, with an inconsistent definition of what it means to engage our neighborhoods. For some, engagement means getting to know the context where our church gathers or where our church building exists and seeking to make a positive, Christ-spirited impact there. For others, engagement is more holistic and involves inhabiting neighborhoods with our lives, choosing to live more deeply as the church in a particular place and fostering Christ’s transformation from the inside out.
No matter your expression, every church must continually ask the question, “What is God already doing (or birthing) here, and how do we participate?” In our book To Alter Your World, we contend that participating in God’s world-altering mission means we begin to live a new narrative, telling an alternative story to that of the prevailing impression of Christian thought and practice. This will require more sacrifice, authenticity, collaboration, commitment and service, and much more willingness to be shaped by the mission of God along the way.

3. How can the church redemptively engage the culture while remaining faithful to its discipleship mission?

With Jesus as our model, it is impossible to be faithful to God’s mission without engaging culture. The entire story of God is about an embodiment of love, redemption and salvation, in and for the world. The biblical narrative instructs us on how to love God, love ourselves and love our neighbors as an interdependent community, incarnating Jesus wherever we are. This requires that we stay connected to God, to our own hearts and to the community. When we disconnect, we forget our call to love and our identity as God’s beloved. Disembodiment and disconnection are the antithesis to effective missional engagement.

4. Which cultural issues will have the biggest influence on the church in the next five years?

There’s no doubt that our Christian family is divided. We have polarizing theological views that divide us further and further apart. Perhaps now more than ever, we need to learn the everyday practice of reconciliation and unity. How can we love our neighbors well when we can’t even love our sisters and brothers?

5. What encourages you about the recent re-emergence of church planting in the church?

I’m encouraged when I see church plants really “planting” by taking the time to tend to the soil of a real place and establish healthy roots. A rooted church becomes a part of the cultural ecosystem, affecting everything around it. The future impact of the church, rooted in neighborhoods, has the potential to transform societies with the loving redemption of Jesus.
Read more from our discussion on Culture and Discipleship »
Christiana Rice is a practitioner and visionary voice in the missional church movement, a leader of a neighborhood faith community in San Diego, California, and the co-author of To Alter Your World: Partnering With God to Rebirth Our Communities (IVP, 2017).

5 Keys for Pastors Leading Small Groups

5 Keys for Pastors Leading Small Groups

5 Keys for Pastors Leading Small Groups
Since beginning Grace Community Church I have personally led a small group study, many times meeting in our home. Cheryl and I have loved each of our groups. Some of our best friends in life have come from these groups. I hear from pastors who don’t want to lead a group or feel that they shouldn’t, but from my experience, I think it is best when a pastor does.
  • It models groups for the church
  • It keeps a pastor close to people
  • It helps a pastor know the real thoughts of people with the church
Of course, the pastor, as a small group leader, leads the group in Bible study, but there is so much more that helps a group be successful.

Here are five suggestions for pastors leading a small group:

Fellowship – We don’t just do group with our group. We do life with our group. Recently we went to a ballgame together, because one of the members of our group coaches the local university baseball team. We periodically suspend group just to fellowship together. The closer our group grows to each other, the more relevant our Bible studies seem to be and the better we are at sharing our hearts with each other.
Serve – With our most recent group, we started serving together once a month. We help feed families at a local ministry. It’s been a great commitment for our group and we’ve grown closer together and learned to better appreciate all God has given us as individuals and as a group.
Access – With a large church, I can’t always be available to everyone in the church, but those in my small group always have access to my time. They have my cell phone and permission to contact me at anytime. We’ve walked through multiple tragedies and struggles with people in our groups. They begin to see me as a fellow group member during those times, far more than they see me as their pastor.
Be authentic – I have flaws too. Hopefully my preaching reveals that also, but my group especially knows it to be true. Cheryl and I don’t hide the fact that we have personal struggles. The longer our group is together the more real they find us to be. In fact, they realize we aren’t that different in our struggles from the struggles life brings them.
Let others lead – I try not to have all the answers. The expectation at first may be that I do, but I don’t. This is not the time for me to show my biblical knowledge. (Some in my groups have had as much or more than me.) This is the time to learn the Bible together, without the pressure on any of us to be smarter than the others. I like to hand off teaching responsibilities when possible. It raises new leaders, spreads the responsibility around the group and emphasizes the fact that everyone is part of the discipleship process.
Pastors, jump in the middle of this ministry. It will help you and your church!
What do you think? Should pastors lead a small group Bible study or not?
This article originally appeared here.

8 Ways to Shape Your Family Spiritually

8 Ways to Shape Your Family Spiritually

8 Ways to Shape Your Family Spiritually
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Deuteronomy 6:4-7
A parent’s most basic task is to help their children learn how to live in God’s world. This isn’t a once in a while task, but an opportunity that is available nearly every moment.
One of our elders recently shared how he an his wife help their seven children develop spiritually. What follows are my reflections on the principles he shared with us.
  1. Family Devotions
Few habits are more important in a home than daily Bible reading. There is no magic formula to the reading, just open the Bible and read it together. Read through chapter by chapter and discuss what you learn about God, about people and how you should respond. Then ask God to help you. How much you read is less important than the consistency of your reading. A family that feasts on daily manna together is a family that will grow in their love for the Giver of the manna.
  1. Individual Devotions
Children that can read should be encouraged to read the Bible. They should not be forced to do it, but they should be encouraged to do it. One of the most important parts of parenting is teaching your children to listen to the voice of their heavenly Father. Encourage your children to read, write down questions and talk about what they are reading with you. And make sure you are in the Word as well. Seeing their parents make the Word a priority will only reinforce their need to do the same.
  1. Corporate Prayer
Pray together. When you are short on money, gather together and ask God to provide what you need. When you face bullies at school or problems at work, gather together and pray. When God provides for your family, gather together and celebrate. When there are sorrows or suffering or sickness, gather together and cry out to God. Fill the atmosphere of you home with prayer. There’s not one thing we face in which God is not needed, so gather together often to pray.
  1. Individual Prayer
Encourage your child to pray. At first, they will not know how, but neither did the disciples. Show them how Jesus taught His disciples to pray (Matthew 6:9-13). Show them how the psalmists prayed. Praying as a family is important, but teaching them to pray as an individual is also important. Show them that the Father in heaven hears when they come to Him in secret (Matthew 6:6). I do not think you ought command them to pray, but I cannot think of a better constant encouragement.
  1. Talking About What God Thinks About Everything
We live in God’s world. He made everything in it. That means that every blade of grass, every sip of water, every note of music and every movie made by an image bearer points to Him. Learn to help your children see with enlightened eyes. This is one of my favorite parts of parenting. We try to not allow an experience we have together go unexamined. What would God think about the movie we just watched? What message is in the song we just listened to? Why did God create an underwater world so few ever see? Why would God give us pets that die? Why does God make us sleep so much of our lives? Questions about God’s creation and our experiences in it are an inexhaustible mine of mind-shaping opportunity. Help your family to examine all things through the lens of God’s Word.
  1. Talking about our sin and the sins of others
Everyone in your house is a sinner—and everyone knows it. Teach your children what to do about it. They ought see their father and mother humbly confessing sins to each other, and to them. Few family trips are more important than the ones to the throne of grace. Has someone used harsh words? Has someone lied? Confess it to God together. Ask one another for forgiveness. Parents need to wisely consider what to confess to their children, but it should happen. A family that learns to confess sins together will know the power of the Gospel in a way that is unattainable any other way.
  1. Consistent Church Life
The life of the family should be oriented around the life of God’s people. Few things teach a child apathy toward God like skipping church for sports or unnecessary weekend getaways. A child should see, from their earliest age that gathering with other Christians to sing, pray and hear God’s Word is the greatest of privileges one can have. Certainly there are other things families can and ought do together, but faithful service of God’s mission as part of a healthy local church is one of the most essential.
  1. Individual Time With Each Child
Each child is unique. This means each child requires unique care and attention. In families with numerous children, individual time with each child is important. Some will need stern direction where others will require gentler shepherding. Some will respond well to structure while others may be stifled by it. Each child will have unique questions and abiding sin struggles. God the Father relates to each of His children uniquely, we must do the same for our children.
There is no perfect strategy to produce perfect children. But these are a few principles that if followed in faith, can be used by God to help create a spiritual-mindedness in our children that we hope will bear fruit for His glory.
These eight principles came from a talk one of our elders, Mercury Payton, recently shared with our church. 
This article originally appeared here.

Three Indonesian Soccer Players Show Us All How to Practice Religious Harmony

Three Indonesian Soccer Players Show Us All How to Practice Religious Harmony

When the following picture was posted to Bali United’s Football Club on June 4, 2017, it made a statement to fans of the team. But after a few days, the picture circulated beyond the team’s fans and is making a statement all around this world that is rife with religious tension.
The picture shows three Bali United players giving thanks for a goal. It’s a snapshot of religious harmony—a Hindu, Christian and Muslim side-by-side, giving thanks for a goal they accomplished together.
The caption on the photo reads, “Because different beliefs will not prevent us from achieving the same goals.” The symbolism of the players’ simple act of thanks and unity isn’t going unnoticed.
The players in the photo, Hindu defender Ngurah Nanak (left), Christian forward Yabes Roni (middle) and Muslim striker Miftahul Hamdi (right) each assumed the posture their respective religious typically use to pray. The players had a sense what their simple act of prayer would convey. Speaking to Indonesia’s Kompas newspaper, Christian Yabes Roni said, “Even though we all come from different religions and ethnicities, we’re all one.”
The practicality of religious harmony in a diverse society has proved troublesome for this Asian nation. An archipelago composed of more than 17,000 islands and a very diverse population to go along with it, Indonesia has a reputation for religious tension. The vast majority of the population (over 260 million people) are Muslim, however Christians, Hindus and Buddhists also call Indonesia home—especially on the island of Java, where the capital city, Jakarta, is located and over half the population resides. Indonesia’s motto is “Bhinneka Tunggal Ika,” which means “Unity in Diversity,” or more literally, “Many, Yet One.”
This motto is what the soccer players were hinting at with their photo. The country has struggled to maintain what religious harmony it has been able to achieve recently, after a drawn out case involving Basuki (“Ahok”) Tjahaja Purnama, Jakarta’s first Christian governor, ended in the well-respected governor deemed guilty of blasphemy against Islam and sentenced to two years imprisonment. Christians and Muslims alike are reeling after the verdict, convinced it is the work of hard-line Muslims who do not share the majority of the population’s practice of Islam or views on politics.
This picture of the soccer players may seem like a small, insignificant step toward gaining back some of the country’s peace, but it is a step nonetheless. In the broader story of the world, it can remind all of us—Indonesian or otherwise—that we can work together to achieve the same goals and that, when achieved, we can all give thanks according to our respective traditions.

Rabu, 07 Juni 2017

New Movie ‘Faithkeepers’ focuses on the Persecuted Church Around the World

New Movie ‘Faithkeepers’ focuses on the Persecuted Church Around the World

By Michael Ireland, Chief Correspondent for the ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews.net)
WASHINGTON, D.C. (ANS - June 7, 2017) -- “America will stand by followers of Christ in this hour of need,” US Vice President Mike Pence told the World Summit in Defense of Persecuted Christians, the recent conference on the topic of persecution held in the nation’s capital.
mi Vice President Mike Pence 06 07 2017“Our administration is fully committed in bringing relief and comfort to believers, not only across the Middle East but across the world,” he said.
People from 130 countries were represented at the summit, which was organized by evangelist Franklin Graham and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
So what is happening to Christians around the world that is worrying so many people?
Clarion Project’s new film Faithkeepers uncovers the horrific reality faced by so many simply for being who they are.
In the Middle East, the birthplace of Christianity, Christians and other minorities are being violently persecuted, driven out of their homes, and killed,” the Faithkeepers team says. “Their places of worship are being destroyed, and their history is being erased.”
Across the world, but particularly in the Middle East, Christians and other religious minorities are persecuted for their faith. Most of this persecution is meted out at the hands of radical Islam, although by no means all of it.
mi Paula Micah Sasha Film Team 06 07 2017In Iraq and Syria, ravaged by war, Christians, Yazidis and other minority groups are suffering grievously under the yoke of terrorist groups like the Islamic State. Christian communities that fall under their control are given a simple choice: convert to Islam, pay the jizya, a humiliating protection tax, or die.
Thousands of Yazidi women and girls were kidnapped into sex slavery and sold in the markets of Mosul and Raqqa. They have suffered unimaginably.
Faithkeepers gives face and voice to the humanitarian crisis and genocide affecting millions in the Middle East as a result of religious and ethnic persecution,” the Faithkeepers team added.
“The film is a testament to the stories of the persecuted and an inspiring portrait of the human spirit. Faithkeepers – the movie and movement – will awaken, enlighten and inspire all people of faith to stand up and take action.”
In an exclusive interview with Faithkeepers Producer Paula Kweskin by Elliot Friedland, obtained by ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews.net), she was asked why she’s so excited about her latest movie, which premiered on May 23.
“It brings much needed attention to the horrific persecution faced by Christians and other minorities in the Middle East,” she said.
What is the goal of Faithkeepers?
mi Faithkeepers Poster 06 07 2017“We would like to awaken the Christian community and all people of conscience to understand and be empowered to take action on behalf of Christians and other minorities in the Middle East who are experiencing genocide. We feel there is a real lack of information and this is first and foremost a film to educate people and wake them up about this humanitarian crisis.”
Asked what efforts is the U.S. government doing to protect Christians in the Middle East and is it enough? Kweskin said: “Congress has taken a number of steps to protect Christians and other minorities in the Middle East.
“House Concurrent Resolution 75, which passed the House of Representatives in March 2016, correctly states ‘the atrocities perpetrated by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) against Christians, Yezidis, and other religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq and Syria constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.’ The bill is currently awaiting passage through the Senate but if passed it will push the U.N. and other international bodies, working with U.S. leadership, to establish war crimes tribunals for ISIS leaders and take other more robust steps to tackle ISIS. There are other proposed bills, including one which would expedite the asylum process for Christians and other minorities fleeing ISIS persecution. [Editor’s Note: HR (House Resolution) 390, ‘The Iraq and Syria Emergency Genocide Relief and Accountability Act’ passed the U.S. House of Representatives on the evening of June 6 by unanimous consent].
“In addition, President Trump has increased the number of soldiers deployed to Iraq and Syria to fight ISIS and earlier this year he gave Defense Secretary Mattis the authority to set troop levels in Iraq and Syria. This means the U.S. military has the freedom to commit the forces it needs to eliminate ISIS, working with local partners on the ground.”
“We have a three-pronged call to action: Awareness, advocacy, and aid. Visit our website for more information on how exactly to help (https://clarionproject.org ).
“Awareness: Spread the word by posting the trailer on your Facebook page or sending it to family and friends – each one of has the capacity to do that and awareness leads to action.
“Advocacy: Speak to elected officials and make sure they are engaged on the issue and are supporting steps to end the genocide and help these communities.
“Aid: We are collecting funds to distribute to selected charities and organizations in the region doing critical work on the ground.”
Visit www.faithkeepersfund.com to donate.
What needs to be done to help Christians and other minorities who are now returning to villages and towns that were devastated by ISIS?
“First and foremost, there has to be strong security in place. But we can’t just protect them, we also have to help them rebuild. Right now they’re going back to destroyed churches and homes and are in a terrible situation. We need to give them the support to restore their devastated communities, whether that is politically, economically or in other ways. But I don’t think it will be possible for them to return unless there is a strong effort from the international community to assist them, not just in the short term but in the long term.”
How do you respond to people who say the United States has already wasted too much blood and treasure in the Middle East and that it’s not our problem to fix?
“This is a humanitarian mission that goes beyond any one country. I see a genocide happening and I feel compelled to act. Minorities in the Middle East are a stabilizing and moderating force in the region.
“A strong, peaceful and diverse Middle East is definitely in America’s interests.”
The film premiered in the United States on May 23. Watch the trailer now: https://youtu.be/q6tW4_2F7oc
Photo captions: 1) Vice President Mike Pence. 2) Faithkeepers team on set with Paula on filming duties with Micah Smith and Sasha Gorev. (Photo: Faithkeepers). 3)Faithkeepers movie poster. 4) Michael Ireland.
Ireland Michael FEB.2009 320x276About the Writer: Michael Ireland is a volunteer internet journalist serving as Chief Correspondent for the ASSIST News Service, as well as an Ordained Minister who has served with ASSIST Ministries and written for ANS since its beginning in 1989. He has reported for ANS from Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Israel, Jordan, China, and Russia. Please consider helping Michael cover his expenses in bringing news of the Persecuted Church, by logging-on to: https://actintl.givingfuel.com/ireland-michael
** You may republish this or any of our ANS stories with attribution to the ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews.net). Please also tell your friends and colleagues that they can get a complimentary subscription to ANS by going to the website and signing up there.

Kamis, 01 Juni 2017

Can You Be Too Creative for Your Own Good?

Can You Be Too Creative for Your Own Good?

Can You Be Too Creative for Your Own Good?
I’m a big advocate for creativity and creative people. In fact, I’ve written an ebook on the subject, and I’ve taught it to teams around the world. But occasionally, I find creative people who use their creativity like a weapon to undermine projects, become control freaks or play to their laziness. Here’s what I mean:
It happens when creative people think creativity is the only issue. But no matter how creative a product, idea or project is, if it can’t be delivered on time, it will fail. Plus, no matter how creative the idea, if you can’t get along with other members of your team, it will never be completed.
Creativity is incredibly important, but if it doesn’t have a strategy to be used correctly, it will never reach the right audience and make an impact.
I spoke to a book agent recently who told me about a writer he represented. The writer was a bestselling, incredibly talented author. But because he treated his editors with contempt and his publishers with scorn, nobody wanted to work with him. In spite of his gigantic sales, he’d been through nine publishers, and his current project will probably never be read.
A few years ago, I worked with a very contemporary church who had one of the most creative television teams in the country. They really did amazing work on a weekly TV program produced by the church. The problem? They weren’t willing to adapt their creativity so the programming would get a better response. They weren’t willing to consider fundraising, promotional or other response techniques. As a result, the program, which was otherwise amazing, never gained support. Because the video team wanted to have fun and be wildly creative, the program eventually crashed and today just limps along in a few markets.
The bottom line is—creativity is a powerful God-given gift—but it’s also an amazing tool. That’s why the best creative writers, directors and producers know how to embrace techniques that create powerful advertising, massive film releases and win international awards.
Be wildly creative. But unless your work impacts an audience, you’ll fail.
This article originally appeared here.

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Phil Cooke
Phil Cooke is the founder and CEO of Cooke Pictures in Burbank, California (cookepictures.com)where he helps church, ministry, and nonprofit organizations engage the culture more effectively. He's a filmmaker, media consultant, and author of "Unique: Telling Your Story in the Age of Brands and Social Media."

Ten Questions Christians Should Ask of Their Entertainment

Ten Questions Christians Should Ask of Their Entertainment

Ten Questions Christians Should Ask of Their Entertainment
“But,” says one, “are we not to have amusements?” Yes, such amusements as you can take in the fear of God. Do what Jesus would have done.” —Charles Spurgeon
We live in an unprecedented age of entertainment. The average American spends over 10 hours per day in front of a screen.
Never before have we had so many options of TV shows, movies, music, blogs, social media and books available through so many different mediums (TV, Internet, Netflix, etc.). How can we make sure we faithfully follow Christ in this new entertainment age?
Discerning media consumption needs more than a litmus test of saying we shouldn’t watch excessive violence and sexuality (which is true). We need to understand the complex and often subtle effects of media on our lives.
Let me be the first to say that I love all sorts of digital media, and get much spiritual benefit from thinking through them in light of Scripture. My goal with this simple list is to help you think more Christianly about what you consume. As you read, ask the Lord how He may want you to change to make the most of your short life.

1. Do your entertainment choices add anything of value to your life?

For Christians, media consumption can range from a harmless diversion and relationship-builder to an idol-creating machine that wastes your life and effectiveness for the Lord. Think through how entertainment helps you achieve God’s purposes for you on earth. What value would be missing if you were to never flip your TV on again or to delete the apps that most distract you?

2. What desires do my entertainment choices cultivate in my heart?

What impact does entertainment have on your desires for God? If I’m not intentional, my media consumption cultivates sinful desires.
I remember watching a movie I didn’t expect to be so raunchy at a friend’s house in high school and feeling distanced from God afterward. I realized my desires changed after watching the movie. I no longer desired to pray or read the Word like before. My flesh craved the raunchiness I saw in the movie and I had to confess my sin to God and feed on His word for a renewed mind (Romans 12:2). Chances are my example doesn’t sound strange to you. Psalm 1 describes the blessed person as one who both constantly meditates on the Word of God and doesn’t sit in the path of the wicked. That night at my friend’s house I was sitting on a sofa in the path of the wicked as the movie’s warped messages subtly shaped my desires.
Not every entertainment choice will have the same effects, however. We can train ourselves during more ‘neutral’ entertainment to direct our gaze to the Lord in worship and ponder entertainment through the lens of the gospel (read The Stories We Tell by Mike Cosper for how to do this). Here are four questions that can help us with this:
  • How does this reflect the beauty and goodness of God’s creation?
  • How does this reflect the sinfulness of humanity?
  • How does this reflect our need for a Savior who changes hearts?
  • How might this deepen our longing for the restoration, peace and fullness of life we will enjoy for all of eternity?

3. Do you complain about wickedness in entertainment more than you pray for the people who make it?

Entertainment is filled with the silly, the sensational and the sinful. It can be a temptation to complain about the dumb/wicked things people do more than seeing them as sinners who need a Savior. Instead of complaining, pray for the salvation of those you could easily criticize (1 Timothy 2:1–4).

4. Does my entertainment consumption help me redeem the time in these evil days (Ephesians 5:16)?

Kent Hughes writes in The Disciplines of a Godly Man, “It is impossible for any Christian who spends the bulk of his evenings, month after month, week after week, day in and day out, watching the major TV networks or contemporary videos to have a Christian mind… A Biblical mental program cannot coexist with worldly programming.”
If the world compared your entertainment habits to your habits seeking God through prayer and Bible reading, what would they see as most important for you? Life is a breath, a vapor, and grass that quickly fades. Don’t let the easy things in life steal from the more valuable.

5. Do I want my entertainment habits to be imitated by my children (or those I lead)?

If you are a parent or leader of any kind, be warned that you pass on your bad habits to the next generation. You are also susceptible to let your kids be discipled by entertainment and leave them as pleasure-loving materialists with dull hearts toward spiritual truth. Seek to set a godly example in your consumption of entertainment.

6. What does this entertainment glorify?

Every entertainer holds values, and many entertainers promote their values through what they produce.1 Many times their values are purely financial; meaning they would make whatever would sell. Rarely do Christian values like wisdom, integrity, the fear of God or exalting of Jesus Christ ever get airtime. Thus, we must ask ourselves what values does a certain TV show or movie promote? If we fail to discern this, the desires of our heart will be formed and pulled away from Scripture. (See #2.)

7. Does TV amplify my gossip?

Gossip looks different for different people. Gossip for many women might mean criticizing an actress’ weight or what they wore to XYZ awards show. For men who scoff at celebrity culture, they might not realize they do the same thing when it comes to the athletes they like or dislike. Just because we may not know someone personally doesn’t mean we have free reign to gossip.
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Ephesians 4:29

8. What are you more willing to compromise: your Christian beliefs or your entertainment choices?

Again, this doesn’t assume that all entertainment is all bad, but this question should help you unmask an idol if one exists. Be careful if you often find yourself saying or thinking, “I know as a Christian I shouldn’t watch __________, but…” This could be a sign you love entertainment over God.

9. What entertainment can you sacrifice for a more God-honoring life?

My wife and I choose to live without cable TV and thus hardly watch any TV. This helps us not only save money but also steward our time by not getting sucked into shows (or games) that add no value to our lives. I also choose to not have Facebook or Twitter apps active on my phone to remove another temptation to waste time. Less is more and life is fuller when we make the right sacrifices to honor God.

10. Do your entertainment choices help you fulfill your God-given callings?

Entertainment used rightly can serve a great purpose: to help us enjoy the life God has given us, to bring us closer to those we love, and to have a greater understanding of the complex world we live in. It can also distract us from our God-given callings.
If entertainment is only about passive consumption and doesn’t motivate you to actively create or think deeply, your entertainment choices are unhealthy. If “fellowship” around entertainment is the main basis of relationships for you, your entertainment choices are unhealthy.
God wants more from us than amusing ourselves to death (to borrow a phrase from Neil Postman). He wants to be our greatest delight. He wants greater Christ-likeness and abundant lives for His children.1 He wants to lead and guide us with His still, small voice. Are you listening?
My prayer is that the Lord would use these simple questions to shape your mind and heart to love Him more in all you do.
This article originally appeared here.

Spiritual Strength

Spiritual Strength
“When I am weak, then I am strong.”

The way of the world says that in order to be stronger, we must build ourselves up and seek strength and dominance over others. Christians everywhere are keenly interested in how to be increased, how to be stronger, how to take authority, how to rise up, how to get more. They look for methods, formulas, and techniques for becoming bigger and better. The results have been disappointing. Many mistakes have been made and many people have been hurt and disillusioned.

The Lord has a different approach for us to take. He invites us to accept weakness in order to be strengthened. We do not become strong by embracing strength, but by embracing weakness! This is the secret of all spiritual power. When Paul learned this secret he was able to say, “When I am weak, then I am strong.” This makes no sense to the natural man.

​​​​​​​Source: “Embrace the Cross” by Chip Brogden

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I am your brother,
Chip Brogden 

3 Ways to Share Tech With Seniors

3 Ways to Share Tech With Seniors

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Three idea starters for using technology to reach the seniors in your community.
Computer Help. Host an evening for seniors to bring in their laptops and ask all of their questions, from understanding how their programs work to navigating the internet. Be sure to show them around your church’s website as well as other sites they may find helpful—the local library, their bank, etc.
Social Media. Hold a class or a series of classes to help seniors learn the ins and outs of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Consider bringing in teens from the youth group to help teach. You can even show seniors how to FaceTime and/or Skype with their children and grandchildren.
iPod drive. Collect gently used iPods and then donate them to Music & Memory—an organization that helps people in nursing homes and other care facilities suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia to tap into memories through music. For more info, check out MusicandMemory.org.
Find more seniors outreach ideas »

Going to the “No-Go” Area

No Matter What

There was a place in Sierra Leone the locals didn’t talk about. It was a “no-go” area. Loko Town. A secret location on a mountain where evil things were done. There, a manipulative occultist ruled over a gang of violent men who terrorized the surrounding villages. And if that wasn’t enough, Ebola had broken out in the area.
Would you ever dare to trek into such a place?
Our EHC pioneer missionaries did.

Leading Millennials? Core Issues You Need to Know

Leading Millennials? Core Issues You Need to Know

Leading Millennials? Core Issues You Need to Know
According to a Pew Research study, Millennials have surpassed Baby Boomers as the nation’s largest living generation. Millennials, whom we now define as those ages 20-36, number over 75.4 million, surpassing the 74.9 million Baby Boomers (ages 53-71). Businesses such as Goldman Sachs are studying this trend, recognizing they will “change the ways we buy and sell, forcing companies to examine how they do business for decades to come.”
I too have been thinking about this new culture of Millennials as they increasingly become the dominant culture in many of our churches. What are the critical issues we must address to make mature disciples, build sustainable communities and reach the world effectively? The following are my top five:
  1. Practice Presence in a Digitally Connected World. Millennials are the first generation where social media and smart phones are the air they breathe. But screens can’t teach empathy or face-to-face conversation. We have an amazing opportunity to offer Jesus through our authentic presence—with eye contact, vulnerability and attunement. And if we teach them how to practice presence with themselves and others, they will passionately bring it to their families, friendships and workplaces.
  2. Be Alone in Community. Millennials’ longing for community is deep and profound. Yet healthy communities are built on people who are able to be alone and who are comfortable in their own skin. Integrating silence, stillness and solitude into our discipleship and churches is, I believe, particularly critical for this generation.
  3. Embrace Limits in “Trying to Do It All.” Millennials are particularly overwhelmed and overloaded in an effort to “make it” in our intensely competitive worlds. From sports to academics to the workplace, there has been a significant increase in pressure to perform and not miss out (aka FOMO). The problem is we are human and limited. God is God. We are not. Trusting God with our limits has been with us since the Garden of Eden. We offer Millennials a gift when we model and teach an applied theology of limits.
  4. Learn Healthy Relationships in Conflicts. The longing for life-giving, healthy relationships may be the greatest felt need of Millennials, especially as it relates to conflicts—with friends, parents, co-workers, bosses, dating relationships and marriage. When we offered The Emotionally Healthy Relationship Course last October at our church, 225 people signed up before we had a chance to advertise it. Most were Millennials. We had to close registration. They have inherited the brokenness and fragility of my Boomer generation and desperately want to be learn a better way.
  5. Cultivate a Deep Inner Life in Impacting the World. Millennials want to change the world. That is a God-given, wonderful desire. The problem is that it is not sustainable without an inner life rooted in God. We are uniquely positioned in the church to meet this profound need. To do this well, we must draw from the multiracial, global church and the riches of different traditions going back to the Church Fathers (2nd to 6th centuries).
This is my list. What might you add?
This article originally appeared here.

A Naked Conversation About Sex

I hope your holiday was as awesome and restful as mine was. Team K was in full bloom this weekend!
Right now I’m excited to tell you about this week’s Lifeschool podcast– my favorite episode we’ve done so far!
Nothing has exposed the gap between the church and the broader society quite like the cultural argument over sexuality. Relationships, identities, orientations and even seemingly straightforward concepts such as gender have cut battle lines between the church and the world.
In this episode we speak to Debra Hirsch, author of the book Redeeming Sex , and discover a holistic, biblical vision of sex and gender that honors God and offers good news to the world.
Deb reflects on some of her own journey with us as she brings fresh language and insightful definitions of sexuality into the context of the church.
In This Episode You’ll Learn:
  • Why sex and sexuality is such a “hot button” issue for the church
  • Why we need a much broader definition of human sexuality
  • How our understanding of sexuality can deepen our relationship with God
  • How the search for intimacy in relationships mirrors our search for God
  • What the church and Christians need to wake up to concerning sex
P.S. If you have any questions or thoughts, please hit Reply...we love hearing from you.