Category Archives: Church

Making my personal agendas public

“I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.” (1 Corinthians 1:10)

I’ve been trying to focus my “agendas” at church. There are lots that could be mentioned, but here are some I’m trying to focus on:

  • Have a church that is more like Jesus
  • Help people to get closer to God
  • Have a church that values unity over achieving personal goals

That’s a start. What points would you add to this “platform”?

How about some good news?

One of our members, Rosario Gibbs, posted this on her Facebook page. I’m sharing it with her permission:

My church served single mothers through a ministry called LOFT. Every year on Christmas, our church would ask families to sponsor a single mother and her children with Christmas gifts. Two years ago, I was walking the aisles of Walmart, buying items off the gift list we got from one of the single moms and her three children, and as I was looking into the shelves, a Walmart employee stops me and asks, in Spanish, if I’d accept an employee discount card that she had. Me, not fully understanding what she meant, asked if she was offering me her discount card for free, and she said “yes, I am done with my shopping and I don’t need this card, so I asked God to show me the right person and I think it’s you, it’s a 25% discount card.” She said she needed to go with me to the cashier cause she needed to sign to get the discount for me. I said “ok, but I’m not done yet,” and she said she’d wait for me at the cashier. When I was done, I met her at the cashier and she made the discount available to my purchase. I gave her a hug and told her about my church’s ministry and who she was blessing with that act of kindness, she said she knew God would point her to the right person. And I left amazed at God’s mysterious ways and grace.
Last week on Wednesday, a 22 year old male tragically passed away, he was the son of a lady that’s been visiting our church for over a month now, with whom I hadn’t spent much time during church. She was obviously devastated and requested visits and prayers. By Thursday, she was dealing with the unfortunate and painful fact that she didn’t have the money to pay for her son’s funeral, she couldn’t even have access to see his dead son, everything was just too much to deal with. Our church stepped in and helped raise the funds for her. On Sunday, amidst her pain, she was at church and we had a special prayer for her. Yesterday, Monday, some members of my church attended the visitation. I was standing in the room, looking at the young life that was lost, and then looking at the face of that mother, so full of sadness and pain, and I obviously couldn’t contain my tears. After a few words, a prayer and a song from one of our ministers, I left feeling terribly sad, praying for her and her family. As I was driving towards my house, I had her face on my mind and I remembered! She was the lady at Walmart that gave me her employee discount card two years ago!! She was her!
I thought of turning back so that I could ask her if she was that lady, but I didn’t do it. Today, we offered a meal for her family and friends after the burial. At the end of the meal, and after her friends and family left, all the present women from church sat with her and her husband and prayed for them again, when we were done I asked her “are you the lady that gave me the discount card at Walmart? She smiled and nodded, and we hugged. I told her again how she blessed that single mom and her kids, and I said “God blesses,” and she said “I have no doubt about it!”
2 Corinthians 9:8 says “….God is able to make every blessing of yours overflow for you, so that in every situation you will always have all you need for any good work.”
Be sure, we serve an awesome God and His hand is all over our lives! And He definitely works in mysterious ways. Thank you God for your grace and love!

Redundancy hurts comprehension

I got to discussing slide presentations with a group of friends on Facebook yesterday. Most of them are preachers, and we were commenting on an article about how the Google CEO does presentations (the link is in today’s Links to Go).

The discussion got me to reading again, reminding me of an idea that I sometimes forget when making presentations: redundancy hurts comprehension. I don’t mean the repeating of ideas; I mean the common practice of trying to present information via two channels at the same time. If the information is the same, the brain can’t deal well with the redundancy and copes by not processing the information as it would.

Where this affects churches is in this: if you read a passage of Scripture and project the text on the screen at the same time, people will understand less of what you read and not more.

Surprising, isn’t it? Yet studies have shown this to be fairly consistently true. You can read a fairly recent one here (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/223078244_The_effect_of_redundant_text_in_multimedia_instruction); here’s an excerpt from the abstract:

The results show that whatever the type of text presentation (sequential or static), the duplication of information in the written mode led to a substantial impairment in subsequent retention and transfer tests as well as in a task in which the memorization of diagrams was evaluated.

Logic tells us that projecting a Bible passage while it is being read will allow people to choose to either listen or read. But if we think about it, we know that’s not true. It’s next to impossible to see text on a screen and not try to read it, just as it’s almost certain that we will try to understand something that we are hearing. As our brain tries to do these two things at the same time, it fails miserably.

It’s funny though; when asked if visual/auditory redundancy help them learn, most people respond “yes.” (Note this study on the National Institute of Health website: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4088922/)

So if your church puts Bible texts on the screen while they’re being read, I’d suggest that you speak up and suggest a change. Blame me. Or blame science.

Letting the arts come to church

pottery-makingI’m not a cultured person, at least when it comes to the arts. I’m not interested in ballet, nor opera. Most classical music leaves me cold; symphony tickets feel like an upcoming jail sentence. A visit to an art museum is typically wasted on me.

It doesn’t help that I come from a church tradition that downplays the role of artistic expression in worship. We tend to have utilitarian buildings, with little focus on aesthetic values. (Though it’s interesting that I grew up in a church that breaks from that mold and attend one that has a cathedral-like feel to the architecture). Historically, we have rejected the use of musical instruments and “special” music (choirs, soloists, etc.). An artist finds little room for expression in most congregations within our fellowship. (Outside of children’s Sunday school, of course)

I think we need to recapture God’s love of beauty and creativity. We need to see that God’s Word addresses the senses and not just the mind. We need to find a way for individual Christians to share their artistic gifts with the rest of body; special times and spaces could be created for any such expressions that don’t fit our corporate worship time.

Even those with a lack of general culture can appreciate the giftedness of others in our midst. We can encourage them to use their talents for the glory of God, rather than making them feel that such things only belong to the world. Our churches will be all the richer for it.

Church like Christ

puzzle-pieceThe stated goal of the Restoration Movement is to restore Christianity to its earliest form. The more I think about it, the more I think we’ve gone about it wrong.

Restoring the plan of salvation is important, vitally important. But it won’t restore the church.

Eliminating manmade traditions and creeds helps us return to the beliefs of the early church, but it won’t bring us back to what that church was.

Fixing doctrine. Correcting worship practices. Correcting misused vocabulary. Good things in and of themselves, but they won’t get us to our goal.

I’ve come to believe that the most important thing we can do to restore the early church is to restore the goal of the early church: becoming like Christ.

We need churches that are growing to be more Christlike. In biblical terms, we need churches that are Christ in this world, that Christ is formed in them, and they are the body of Christ.

Our focus needs to be less on what and how and more on why. More on Who.

That’s what I want my focus to be: following Christ and helping others do the same.