Red letter christians?

red-letter-christians

We are visiting family in the US right now, and the recent Presidential election is on everyone’s minds here.

Reports are coming in that apparent white supremacists have been attacking, verbally or physically, people who belong to minorities such as blacks, Muslims and Latinos. Right wing christians are expressing relief that Hilary Clinton, who they vehemently oppose because she is seen to be pro-abortion, pro gay marriage, pro political correctness, anti freedom of religion, and dishonest, didn’t get elected.

Meanwhile the people I have moved amongst have the opposite reaction. Shocked by Donald Trump’s victory, critical of his many obvious flaws and failures, concerned for the safety and wellbeing of people from minorities, including women, and feeling let down by the right wing christians overwhelmingly voting for Trump.

The nation is divided, and so is the christian church, though Trump appears to have the majority in each case. How should christians who fear the worst react?

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How sermons are stifling christianity

Cartoon

Preaching is one of the mainstays of Protestant christianity (though not so important in Catholic and Orthodox churches). Bible colleges teach how to do it, websites tell us how important it is, and those considered good preachers can become celebrities.

Yet the words “sermon” and “preaching” have negative connotations to many people, jokes about sermons abound (did you know that if all the people who sleep through sermons were laid end to end, they’d be more comfortable?) and educationalists and psychologists tell us they are not very effective in teaching or changing people.

Recently several friends, strong and active christians who attend church regularly, made strong anti-sermon comments. It made me think again, that sermons are stifling christianity.

Here’s how.

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Unbounded church – church as we haven’t known it for a society as we haven’t known it

People in a cafe

Albert Einstein apparently once said: “The significant problems we face can’t be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.”

Churches in the western world are facing declining numbers and interest. Most of them are continuing to do the same things they’ve always done, hoping maybe to do a little better and so turn the corner.

One person who thinks this isn’t sensible, and isn’t going to work, is a minister of an interesting church near Sydney.

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Struggling with church

Book: Finding Church

About two years ago, this book was published. I reported on it here because I am one of 37 christians who relate some of their experiences of church in the book. (My chapter is copied on this site, at Church and me.)

When I received my copy of the book, I read a number of the chapters, but never finished it and never reviewed it here, and other books became higher on my reading list.

But these summer holidays I went back to it and read every story. It was well worth the read.

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Unintended consequences of employing church staff

Minister

Most churches in first world countries employ staff these days. Small churches may have just a Minister or Pastor, but larger churches commonly have several pastors, an office secretary and a youth minister, and perhaps other staff as well.

It is an obvious step and perhaps the only way to get things done, especially when western christians are asset rich and time poor. But I think it has some drawbacks and unintended consequences that should be considered – many of them I have observed happening.

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There’s nothing like a sermon to make it hard for christians to learn and grow

Preaching

It is well established that lectures and sermons are poor ways to teach and to change – see Sermons – not how we learn best? A good sermon may encourage the congregation, but only a small percentage of people learn that way, and most don’t remember much, especially after the first 15 minutes.

More research information is coming in all the time. And it seems christians are the last to learn.

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The new Reformation

Martin Luther with iPhone

Martin Luther is examined for heresy.

I remember about 40 years ago coming to the conclusion that the church in the western world was, in the next few decades, going to go through changes as significant as the Reformation. I felt we had got away from the truth in several important areas – introspective & hierarchical churches, dead orthodoxy in many christians’ lives (including me), and failing to heed Jesus’ teachings on non-violence, acceptance and the perils of wealth – and God surely wouldn’t allow this to continue unchecked.

I think we are now in the middle of a new reformation, and here are some of the signs I see.

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