There are many “deaths” involved in following Christ, however obscured they may be in today’s cushy forms of Christianity. The following are five likely losses that come with truly embracing the cross of Christ.
I wrote Uncomfortable to remind Christians of this: that in spite of the awkwardness, the challenges and the discomfort of local church life, it is worth it. The discomfort of it is how we grow, as we lean not on ourselves but on the Holy Spirit at work within us, supernaturally doing things in and through churches that by all fleshly accounts should not and could not happen.
One of the assumptions of my new book Uncomfortable is that church is hard.Discomfort, frustration and pain are inevitable. But another assumption of Uncomfortable is that these are not necessarily reasons we should leave a church. On the contrary, I argue in the book that discomfort in church community is actually a huge part of how we grow.
In preparation for writing Uncomfortable I wanted to get a sense for what proves most uncomfortable about Christianity in real churches today. I emailed a number of pastors from around the world and asked them about what aspects of Christianity or church life proved to be especially uncomfortable, challenging or offensive in their particular congregations and contexts. Here are 10 of the responses I received.
Instead of celebrating the fact that Christianity has contributed good things to the world for two thousand years, the increasingly unpopular church feels the need to talk only about the bad things she has done. Rather than drawing from her rich heritage of time-tested tradition, today’s church chooses to adopt last week’s fashion so as to be relevant again.
I know plenty of Christians who get far more excited about mission “out there” than they do about their own personal holiness: passionate church planters whose marriages are a mess; progressive Christians engaged in social justice but disengaged from their own spiritual vitality. But mission and morality are not two separate categories.
The reality of God’s family is that people have different backgrounds and personalities and opinions. They will clash. It will be messy. It’s a huge challenge committing to a family like this, but it is not optional. We must lean into and embrace the awkward conglomeration of people who comprise the church.
It was a Tuesday morning in July when I sat down in President Corey's office and told him the news that I had accepted a new job and would no longer be working at Biola University. With tears in my eyes I told him how hard it was for me to leave. I'd worked at Biola for nine years and met my wife Kira here. I loved my job working in the Office of the President. I was not looking to leave.
Do you remember the old food pyramid that shows how a healthy body depends on a balanced diet, with the right proportions of food groups and nutrition vs. junk foods? In our current epistemological crisis, where we are bombarded by a glut of content and information but have so little wisdom, we need guidance on healthier habits of knowledge intake. We need a wisdom pyramid.
“Do not be conformed to this world” is one of the most grating verses of the Bible to many modern ears, yet it is not just a Pauline one-off. The nonconforming set-apartness of God’s people is a major theme of the whole Bible. But it’s an unpopular idea these days, both for Christians who wish they could blend in and for nonbelievers pressuring religious institutions to compromise on their different-ness.
Recently, on one of those "too much time on social media" days, where my frustration and anger about all manner of things reached a Twitter-fueled boiling point, I took a break from technology and opened my (physical) Bible. I turned to the seven penitential psalms (Psalms 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130 and 143) and spent some time there.
I’m a theologically conservative evangelical Christian who is ardently pro-life, pro-family, pro-traditional marriage. I’m also ardently pro-environment. All of these positions are connected and stem from my faith more than my politics, particularly a glad acceptance of and respect for God’s created order. Here are my arguments for why care for the environment should be a concern for conservative Christians.
Growing up in the Midwestern plains, I loved a good thunderstorm. I loved the way a hot, humid day would give way to billowing thunderclouds: towering Cumulonimbus puffs that morphed into ominous UFOs in the darkening sky. I loved the way a cold front brought in a line of foreboding gray, intruding upon sunny days with sheets of rain, hail, lightening and thunder that shook the whole house and flickered the lights.
I used to think people who raised their hands in worship were weird. I grew up in Baptist churches in the Midwest, where the two or three people who occasionally raised their hands while singing a hymn or worship song were looked upon with some suspicion.But a few years ago when I started to attend a Reformed Charismatic church in Southern California, things started to change.
I've been thinking a lot about the Lord's Supper recently, and why I find it increasingly crucial and comforting amidst the manifold discomforts of 21st century life. It has struck me that the Lord's Supper is a bit like time-travel. The weekly eucharistic ritual, enacted by millions of Christians every Sunday, transports us simultaneously to the past, present and future. And each of these modes is beautiful and nourishing.
I sometimes imagine that in heaven, one of the joys of living in eternity will be that we'll have the ability to re-live the best days and best memories from our earthly lives. But I know that in heaven, all these transient things (such as 24-hour periods we once called "days") will be quaint memories compared to the "eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison" we will be experiencing.
What does it mean that when Jesus entered Jerusalem the week he was crucified, the crowd "took branches of palm trees" (John 12:13) to welcome him? What do we make of the moment when Jesus curses the fig tree? What does it mean that the Bible begins with a “Tree of Life" in Eden (Gen. 2:9) and ends with a "Tree of Life" at the end, a tree whose leaves "were for the healing of the nations" (Rev. 22:2, 14, 19)?