I wrote this regarding Mother’s Day for our church bulletin.
Mother’s Day is a complicated day.
It all started with a woman named Anna Jarvis in 1907 as a way to remember her deceased mother. Just two years later and Jarvis was (unsuccessfully) campaigning to shut Mother’s Day down and stop it from happening again. Why the sudden about face?
Jarvis hated how commercialised the day had become in such a short time. That companies seized the opportunity to increase sales of flowers and greeting cards etc. For Jarvis, the true meaning of Mother’s Day, a day where love and appreciation was shown to the women who raised us, was replaced by a cheap cash grab.
Love it or hate it, Mother’s Day isn’t going anywhere. But the reason I think it’s complicated is not just because of ridiculously sappy greeting cards.
As a church, we want to affirm the role of mothers in our community. Mothers have been given a special role by God to love and nurture children. Mothers give us life and they keep us alive. As a father, I am very thankful for the blessing my wife has been to me and to my boys.
But not all women in our community are mothers. This may be their choice. Or it may be because their wants and desires to be a parent have not matched up with God’s plans for this world. A day celebrating motherhood can be difficult when you are not a mother. Or if you are a mother and your family life is filled with strife and conflict. Celebrating motherhood may be the last thing in the world that you want to do.
The reality is that things are not right in this world. The good world that God created, with everything in order and everyone in good relationship with each other has gone. This is the world we live in, where our lives are not what we want them to be. We long for something better. We long for Jesus to return and make things right. That day is coming. Until then, we wait.
For all our mothers today, we pray that you are looked after. That your family shows you how much they need you and love you. For our women who are not mothers, we pray that you will be looked after. That as a church we can show you how much we need you and love you. A church is not a random collection of strangers, but a family brought together by God to love and encourage each other as we wait for Jesus’ return.
Today, let’s be thankful for all the women in our church family and show them our love and appreciation.
Back in 2004, I left the church where I first became part of God’s family. For a good reason. While my church was a godly, Bible-believing church, it was also heavily resourced. But a way smaller church, with far fewer resources, which was also a godly, Bible-believing church, needed help. They had raised the money to put on a ministry apprentice, under the banner of the Ministry Training Strategy (MTS). They offered the role to me and I accepted. 2004 was the year I began full-time ministry as part of a church ministry team.
Over three years (most MTS apprenticeships go for two years but I call them quitters) (do I need to specify that my tongue is firmly planted in my cheek?) I learnt a lot about communicating the gospel, pastoring people and getting ministries up and running. I wouldn’t trade that time for anything and I’m really glad for the solid foundations it gave me as I started at theological college.
Music is one of the great gifts from God. I love music and surround myself with it. As I write this I have my headphones in my ears, comforted by the sounds pour out of my iPod. When I was younger, the first thing I did when I got my hands on a new CD was to lock myself in my room, crank up the stereo and pour over the lyrics printed in the CD booklet. When a song I love is playing in the car I’ll be singing along, despite the protests of my passengers. I clearly can’t sing and I can’t play an instrument but I still love music.
Singing together is one of the many things I love about church. Doesn’t matter if it’s old school hymns on the organ or more contemporary stuff with drums and guitar. Love it.
But there’s something about singing in church that’s had me thinking lately. Should we teach our church congregations new songs?
I love comics. And I love Jesus. Where ever possible, I try and combine the two. But there’s one church in the US that’s taking it to the next level – running a church in a comic book store. The Point Community Church in Kentucky run their Sunday services out of the local comic shop, rearranging the store displays to make room for everyone and then preaching the gospel of Jesus. Half an hour after the service is finished, every thing is back in place and ready to sell the latest issue of Batman.
I love video games. I can’t remember a time where I haven’t owned a computer or a console. But should video games be a part of the church service?
Over at Christ and Pop Culture, Richard Clark looks at a church that is incorporating a Playstation game into their church service.
I find myself torn over things like this. I’m excited whenever anyone takes seriously the artistic nature of certain games, especially when they are appreciated in unlikely places. Then again, even as an editor for a web site about popular culture, I view the corporate worship service as an event distinctly set apart from our daily life. While playing games on my own or with friends is often an act of personal worship, in the corporate worship sphere I prefer a more historically based focus on those acts which bring the congregation together more purposefully: group prayer, singing, proclamation of scripture. Those are things that are spelled out for us in scripture – my concern is that adding elements of popular culture into this setting only muddles the corporate nature of the service.
Personally, I find this part of a disturbing trend of moving away from Word based ministry. When the focus during church is placed on human creativity and expression and away from the reading of God’s Word, the Bible, it becomes more about us than about God. And at that point, what’s the point of church? If we’re not gathered to hear God’s Word and encourage each other to love and serve our heavenly Father, then is it really church?
Have you ever sat in church or had a conversation with a Christian and wondered when they stopped speaking English? One second they’re speaking perfectly normal, then all of a sudden they start using strange words and you’re wondering if this is what Swahili sounds like. Just like any other group of people, Christians have their own lingo. Words and phrases that we use that are particular to us. And there’s usually nothing wrong with those words. But sometimes we forget to explain what they mean to the new guys. Or even worse, we use them ourselves without ever learning what they actually mean. Every now and again I stop myself and ask “What does this actually mean?”
There’s this word I use almost everyday. And I use it without even thinking. I know it’s the right word to use but, to be honest, I don’t really know what it means or why I say it. And I think you’re probably in the same boat. The word is Amen. Know what I mean? I use the word at the end of every prayer. When someone else prays at the front of church, I know I’m supposed to join in with a hearty Amen at the end. But what does the word even mean? And why do we use it?
Here is a post from my Formspring page that I thought might be helpful.
What should I do if I’m not feeling encouraged to go back to my church?
Is the problem with you or the church? Is the church preaching the Scriptures? Are they working towards growing in the knowledge and love of God? If the answer is yes, then the problem may lie within your heart. Church is the people of God meeting together to encourage each other and bring glory to God. So there is a heavy emphasis there on you to do the encouraging.
Is church a place where you go to build up others? Is church a place you go to encourage people in their Christian life? Is church a place you go to serve? If you’re not doing these things, then it doesn’t matter where you go to church- the problems will follow you.
Be the encourager. Be an example. And then see, over time, if church is a place where you feel encouraged as well.
At the start of this year, I took on a new role at my church. I went from being a student minister (1 day a week) to the Associate Minister of St Luke’s Liverpool (I think it’s an 8 day a week job, but I haven’t figured out how that works yet). One of the benefits of this new role is that I upgraded to a bigger office. One of the downsides is that I’m actually expected to work, so punching out articles has become harder.
Anyways, last week some friends of mine who are youth ministers were sharing photos of their desks on Facebook. I thought that other people may be interested in checking out my workspace. You’ll notice that there aren’t as many toys in current office as there were in my previous home office. Trying to think through the issues of minimalism vs fun. Any suggestions? What’s missing?
Formspring is a website that was launched at the end of 2009. The idea is that people will send you questions anonymously to your Formspring account and you will post the answers on your public page. The site also links to Facebook and Twitter, so your followers on these sites will see what questions you are answering.
I first came across Formspring when I saw several comic book professionals that I follow on Twitter using the site to interact with their fans. People would send these pros questions and everyone would get to benefit from the answers. As an Australian comic fan, this was great. It gave me access to these writers and artists that I wouldn’t normally have as I can’t make it to any comic book conventions in the US. I can ask them questions as well as hear the answers to other people’s questions.
It got me thinking. How can Formspring be used for Christian ministry?
Can you be a Christian and not go to church? Have you ever been asked this question? Have you ever asked this question yourself?
There’s a tension between church attendance and the gospel of grace. We know that we’re saved by grace alone. So technically no, you don’t have to go to church.
So what priority should you place on church attendance?
I preached this sermon at St Luke’s last Sunday. I received a lot of positive feedback and would be keen to hear more comments.
The idea of an online church has been around for as long as the internet. This online church in Indiana has been getting 60,000 unique hits a week. Has any ever checked this out (or a similar online church community)? What’s the difference between this and downloading a preacher’s podcast each week? Is it able to move beyond being something you watch and become something you engage with? Church is not just something you witness each Sunday. It’s something you actively experience and engage with as you work together to build the body of Christ. This is the biggest challenge I see for online churches.
And would buying up Google search words like “Sex” and redirecting people to your internet church really be helpful? I can see a lot of people getting mighty frustrated and angry at the church for that.
I read a lot of webcomics. And why not? They’re free after all. One of my favourites is a comic called Something Positive. This strip is witty, well drawn, and very, very not PC. If you even the slightest bit offended by almost anything, then do not read Something Positive.