One of my first tasks when I started my new pastorate three years ago was helping our church get up to speed with our use of technology. When I walked into my new office on the first day, I found an old metal cart with stacks of multi-colored VeggieTales VHS tapes. On the bookshelves were boxes containing cassette tapes from 1995 which claimed to offer “the latest and best method for small groups for your church!” Other rooms had old VHS players(!) and printers sitting in the corner collecting dust, as well as several piles of old cables that nobody could remember what they belonged to.
Those early days were a lot of fun, not only clearing out all of the old, unused technology, but also helping our church embrace new technology to minister in this technologically advanced world. It took some time and effort, but three years later we finally have a social media presence (which now is really firing on all cylinders thanks to the newest member of our staff), domain name email addresses, online giving, a church management software, electronic children’s check-in, and now…well, like everyone else, livestreaming.
What I learned about our church in those early days wasn’t so much that our members were resistant to technology. Technology wasn’t ignored because it was feared, but because gathering in person was valued so much that new forms of technology just hadn’t really been thought about. In other words, our church so prized the embodied gathering of the saints that technology was always thought of as something that would be nice to have, not something that was essential.
Churches across the globe are finding themselves in a really interesting place. Now that Christians can no longer gather in person (and for good reason), technology has never been more essential to keep ministry going. Yet the real, tangible, and embodied gathering of the church has never been more valued in this generation.
Why? Because we really miss each other. Continue Reading
“Does someone need the Holy Spirit working in them before they can come to faith?” Of course, I said. “Well how does the Holy Spirit choose who to work in, if not by his own will and pleasure?”
I came to faith in the summer of 2010. While I had been exposed to Christianity by my parents growing up, by high school I had rejected the faith of my parents and was resolved to have nothing to do with organized religion ever again. But just a year after college, God used several events and relationships in my life to bring me to himself.
For two years I hungered after any theology book I could get my hands on: Lewis, Tozer, Fee, and Keller were the four food groups of my theological diet. I devoured apologetics with the intention of “tearing down every stronghold” I encountered. For all of my reading and studying, there was one place – a dark place – I had been told never to go. Stay clear of Calvinism, I was told by church leaders. I was led to believe Calvinism was a cold, stiff, non-evangelistic, and uncompassionate theological system.
But on that night in 2012, talking to a pastor from a small Baptist church about the work of the Holy Spirit, I became a Calvinist. We were on a mission trip together and I had been trying to debate him all week. But everything changed for me that night. With what little understanding I had, I embraced Calvinism, not knowing all that would mean for me and how my understanding of the Bible – and all of life – was about to change.
I went home and immediately ordered the book Chosen by God by R.C. Sproul. I now felt equipped to debate and challenge all of my friends to become Calvinists too. I soon became eager to criticize and debate others about theology whenever I could. I loved to be right. I constantly criticized “the Church” for being too weak in her theology. I rarely believed I was wrong. I had ascended to the heights of an all-knowing Calvinist, and there was nothing that could get in my way.
It was official. I had become young, restless, and reformed. Continue Reading
For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. (2 Timothy 1:7)
The last several weeks have been a whirlwind of developments as the Coronavirus continues to spread across the globe. In just recent days, many of us in the United States have been deeply impacted as events are canceled, schools are closed, work is suspended, and stores are emptied of nearly every basic supply. Almost every church or other religious gathering in the DC-Metro area has either shut down or moved entirely online. Those who are most vulnerable: the immunosuppressed, the elderly, and those with other serious medical conditions – have to live in a heightened state of fear and precaution. My wife and I, expecting our newborn any day, can’t help but worry about how these circumstances might impact our stay and care at the hospital.
As these events unfold, I have turned to God’s Word as a source of comfort and strength. God has not left us without his voice and instruction for us during these difficult times. In particular, 2 Timothy 1:7 has been helpful for me in my own meditation and I want to share some reflections that I hope might be of benefit to you as well. Taking a posture of encouragement, we have the power to be his witnesses, the Source of love, and the ability to model self-control. Continue Reading
In college I worked as waiter for the restaurant chain Ruby Tuesdays. Our particular restaurant was located in a movie theater, which meant we often had groups of teenagers come in for dinner prior to seeing their movie together. One night I was sat with a large table of teens who proceeded to talk very loudly about their plans for the evening. Each of them began to compare how much money their parents had given them, and they began to evaluate how much money each of them had for food, tickets, and snacks.
It was clear to me as this conversation went along that one very important factor had been left out of the equation: tip. Sure enough when I went over to collect the bill, pennies were left on the table for me. They had used their resources to maximize pleasure for self without giving any thought to others.
Isn’t this how many of us tend to view our time, resources, and energy? In our hyper-individualistic age, we maximize what we have for ourselves, leaving little of behind to give to others. As a result, the communities all around us – even in our churches – are fracturing and collapsing.
If we are going to be those who receive the church community as a gift and properly devote ourselves to its care and growth, then we are also going to need to remember the purposes of the community that God has called us into. Continue Reading