"Feeling lonely in the church is likened to feeling lonely within a marriage. It’s the one place where people should be welcomed, known and loved. However, sin reaches even into the depths of the family of God here on earth, and produces isolating experiences. One thing that every church has in common is that there are always people who feel alone sitting in the pews. Truth be told, there are two sides to this story: those who are lonely and those who are comfortable."
"Many churches run some kind of small-group ministry. Groups of varying size (typically ten or so believers) tend to be one of the best contexts for discussion of Scripture, and for sharing needs for support and prayer. During a main Sunday gathering, there might not be the same kind of opportunity to interact at this level, so small groups tend to be where some of the most vital “one another” ministry takes place. Relationships are depended, insights are are shared, and the problems and difficulties in life are discussed and addressed.
Because of all this, it can be easy for such a group to become the main focus of its members’ spiritual lives. The group becomes, in effect, church..."
"Christians are growing more and more interested in the arts. Across the country now, we find churches with art galleries and open studio nights. We see more emphasis on visuals and aesthetics in church, and a whole cottage industry is emerging in publishing resources for Christians and the arts. Though we have a long and rich history of engagement with art and culture, the dialogue has gotten more intense in the last ten years. On some level, this is probably a product of the growth of the emergent church, whose interest in the arts is often sacramentalized and strange. But it’s fair to credit the growth of “new” Calvinism as well. John Calvin’s view of culture and Christian liberty have been empowering factors to many Christians whose interests lie in the world of the arts.
But this renewal can be troubling. The word art describes the well-accepted traditions of Shakespeare, Bach, and the Italian masters as well as the disturbing world of Tarantino films, the pornographic art of Jeff Koons, and the odes to death in the work of Damien Hirst. Art has been deconstructing itself for quite a while, and much of the work that fills galleries and museums seems at odds with a Christian worldview. So while some churches are beating a drum that art will save the world, others smell smoke."
"The reality is that to effectively reach out to the lost and to fulfill the Great Commission, we cannot separate our words from our actions. Our words inform, shape, and explain the spiritual truths and realities that lie behind and beneath our actions. Our actions bring credibility to our words. To have one without the other undermines our ability to present a compelling Gospel message to a world that longs for the Gospel. Since we are called to equip our students for a lifetime of mission, it is essential for us to prepare them for a lifetime of weaving together the inseparable bond that must exist between belief and behavior."
"Many parents have a simple goal for getting through their child’s teenage years: survival. But this goal focuses simply on getting yourself through a difficult time. In order to get through these years, parents tend to settle for external, behaviorist goals. We try to deal with our kids according the Nike way, “Just do it!” But parents who just want to regulate and control behavior don’t give teens much to take with them when they leave home.
Naturally, every parent needs to have regulations to control the behavior of their children, but that is not enough of a goal. That sort of rule-keeping is behaviorism. It is disconnected from the heart and is repudiated throughout the Bible. “Rule-keeping” was the sin of the Pharisees. Christ roundly condemned it. Yet even Christian parents create new young Pharisees who live with no sense of need for the gospel at all. Teens can be quite good at keeping external rules.
Many teens from Christian homes go off to college and then forsake the faith. But I suspect they never had a living faith in the first place. They had the faith of their parents but never internalized it for themselves. The true heart of the teenager, masked by years of parental control and regulations, comes out in the college years.
The final years of a child’s life at home are a time of unprecedented opportunity. As a child’s world unfolds before him and he experiences greater freedom, his heart is revealed. This means parents have to take every opportunity to be part of the final stage of preparation. Being involved with our teenagers at a deep level is a critical goal for these years."