Why churches need to focus younger

Dan Reiland is a wise and experienced pastoral leader. In this article, he articulates well something that I have said for years. Churches must focus on the children and youth. If we cater mostly to the current generation, we risk accelerating the aging of our church. If we focus on the children, we renew our church.
Wisdom from Reiland

New study links childhood religious practice with key health advantages in young adulthood

Here is something that common sense has always suspected. Applied religious faith makes a practical difference in the wholeness of people. Now we can say that the sociologists have confirmed it. A new study has shown statistically that religious practice by kids in childhood and teen years results in better well-being as young adults in crucial areas. Here are the links to both the news article reporting on the study and to the study itself. Among the list of positive effects carrying over into young adulthood are increased reported happiness, decreased drug use, and much less sexually transmitted disease.

If we needed it, it should be just one more reason to take the Bible seriously. And it certainly is an encouragement to parents that practicing faith as a family has a salutary effect on children in so many ways. Remember King David said;
Blessed is the one… whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. (Psalm 1:1, 3 NIV)

Jesus said;
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. Matt 7:24-25 NIV

Great article on the current state of the United Methodist church

Here is a link to one of the best articles I have seen analyzing the historical and current situation in the United Methodist church. It is well worth reading. Chaplain Philips has both the wisdom of a long time United Methodist and the slight detachment and broad perspective provided by his years in the military chaplaincy.

Dr. Bob Philips article

A great article on why churches often stay small

I just read a great
Carey Nieuwhof article
that deals with one of the persistent issues for small churches that average less than 200 in attendance. This includes most of the churches in America. Even a cursory glance at the relatively flat statistical history of most such churches will cause the curious reviewer to ask the probing question, “Why do they usually stay small?” Sometimes there are obvious physical barriers such as the size of the building or a shortage of parking, but most of the time such external factors are not adequate to explain the struggles small congregations have. In this article, Nieuwhof puts his finger on a some other key issues that are so relevant. In my experience as a pastor, I can say that I would affirm this list of issues that hinder the growth of small churches. Overcoming these becomes as much part of the strategy for growth as adding methods of outreach or staffing a nursery or improving parking.

Best political cartoon

This is the best cartoon!

I don't very often comment on cartoons. But this one hit it out of the park! The only thing topping the disgusting lack of ability to accomplish common sense agenda by Democrats and Republicans in Congress is the inane babble of some of their supporters. I love it!

My 5 Highly Recommended Books on Basic Christian Beliefs

Creed by Adam Hamilton

Creed, What Christians Believe and Why, Adam Hamilton, Abingdon Press, 2016
A very readable, yet thoughtful presentation of basic Christian faith written for the contemporary mindset; faithful to the historic Christian beliefs yet with room for a "generous orthodoxy." Material grows out of the Apostles' Creed, hence the name. It sticks to the essentials, and is eminently suitable for group Bible studies. Makes the Creed come alive. Surprisingly inspiring to read even for this seasoned Christian.

The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren

The Purpose Driven Life, What on Earth Am I Here For?, Rick Warren, Zondervan, 2002
Begins with the culture challenging words, "It's not about you!" and gets better from there. A best-selling presentation of Christian faith for the contemporary mind. More thorough than some since it is designed for a 40 day devotional journey yet very basic and very readable. Very down to earth and makes Scriptures used easy to grasp. A must read today.

Christian Basics by John Stott

Christian Basics, Beginnings, Belief and Behavior, John Stott, Baker Books, 1999
Written by a famous and long admired British pastor and theologian. Concise and direct; very quotable. An extremely clear logical presentation of our faith. Study guide included.

The Faith by Charles Colson and Harold Fickett

The Faith, What Christians Believe, Why They Believe It and Why It Matters, Charles Colson and Harold Fickett, Zondervan, 2008
The only one of the five not written by a pastor. Yet Colson became a brilliant apologist for Christian faith after his conversion and writes convincingly. He put his faith into practice by helping prisoners. A little more theological and deeper than most yet very rewarding and inspirational. Well illustrated.

United Methodist Beliefs by William H. Willimon

United Methodist Beliefs, A Brief Introduction, William H. Willimon, Westminster John Knox Press, 2007
Written by a popular Southern Bishop of the United Methodist Church to help people learn the basics of the faith. The strength of this book is how it relates the key doctrines of the faith to Methodist history, tradition and practice.

Telling the rest of the story of countries like Haiti

Today’s Hartford Currant had an excellent article that gets at the rest of the story about countries like Haiti, the part of the story that is not told. It’s not the whole story either. For starters, the government corruption endemic to so much of Latin America afflicts Haiti as well. But Americans need to know the part of the story Bill Heiden is telling. Haiti Commentary

Experience the Good Things of God’s House for Yourself

God’s promise of blessing in God’s house

If you are one of those who tries to get by without actually attending church much, I urge you to reconsider! 

Often I’ve said, “It is a blessing to be able to be in God’s house on Sunday morning.”  People probably think I am just advertising since I am the pastor.  But my statement is based on my own experiences of spiritual renewal, emotional and physical healing and finding encouragement during worship.  It is also based on the multiple testimonies of others.  Recently as I was reading daily devotions, I found a matching objective foundation for my thesis.  In this Bible promise, God specifically promises to bless God’s people in the house of worship.   

Wherever I cause my name to be honored, I will come to you and bless you.  Exodus 20:24 NIV

So God has specifically promised to give blessing in the sacred places set apart to honor his name.  I say that’s a reason to be there!

 

 

God meets us when we are praying alone too

It is not that God does not give us power and strength when we come to him alone outside of God’s house, in our own homes or on a walk in nature, for example.  He does. Jesus in John 4, taught us that worship can occur anywhere.  And in fact, Jesus often spent time alone in prayer outside and he urged us to spend some time in private prayer too (Matt. 6:6). Rather, what the promise we are studying is saying is that God promises to give additional blessing in his house.   Part of this added beneficence from congregating in sacred spaces is the synergy that happens when the people of God are together worshipping.  But according to the promise, part of the power of being in God’s house is also God’s sovereign choice to bless his people in his house.   God desires to be gracious to us there!

 

 

What is so special about church?

The Psalmist David experienced blessing in the temple in his day. He gave credit for his blessings in the sanctuary to the character of God.  David testified: 

I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. 
Psalm 63:2  NIV

David is also specific about two of the benefits he had received as a result of his worship in God’s house. 

You, God, are awesome in your sanctuary; the God of Israel gives power and strength to his people.  Psalm 68:35  NIV

 

The power and strength that we feel in church comes to us in personalized ways through several means.  First, the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our hearts renews us like fresh water revives a famished plant (Psalm 1:3; John 4:14).  By being in God’s house for a service of worship we are deliberately spending time and focus to open our hearts and minds to the Holy Spirit’s influence.  Second, in God’s house, there is added exposure to the Word of God.  The Word of God molds us and guides us (Psalm 119:105).  Third, as we individually and collectively make God’s house a house of prayer, we experience the presence of God. Fourth, the sacraments God has instituted through Jesus are celebrated and received in the house of God.    Finally, when we are together in God’s house, we receive encouragement and a sense of connection with others in the body of Christ.   All these together result in tremendous benefits to those who are often found in God’s house for worship. 

Blessed are those who dwell in your house…
Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere.
Ps 84:4, 10  NIV

Well, I guess it isn’t just me who gets blessed in church.  See you there!