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Hopeful Allegiance

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One of my first posts I wrote on this blog (well on my old, ugly blog) was inspired by a Slate.com article about the rise of the Christian left.  The Christian left has been close to my heart since I first heard the word Jesus (I’m totally serious).  I know, it’s odd. I grew up in a lovely family that was basically non-religious.  Christmas trees-yes, Church-no; Easter baskets-yes, Jesus-no; Good morals-yes, Bible reading, no.  You get the picture. How I came to faith is a story I’ll have to tell another day but I will tell you it involves my parents honouring my desire to be like my friends and go to “church” but them knowing that the church my friends were going to would not appreciate the wine with dinner. Being smart parents, they found a different church for me to try.

Since I didn’t grow up in the church or a “Christian home” (whatever that means) I’ve always been passionate about the face of Christianity. In other words, I care about what the rest of the world thinks of us.  You see, because I’ve always felt slightly like an outsider, I’ve been forced to look at the church from that perspective. What do they think of us? Unfortunately I dwelled on this too much for too long. For years I didn’t even want to say what I believed because I knew the sad truth of what I would be lumped into (anti-gay, close minded, and in my American context, the dreaded “R” word…Republican).  Trust me, I was sure I wasn’t the R-word from a very young age.

Both photos credit to:  Jennifer Upton

Both photo credits to: Jennifer Upton

Then one day I was feeling my uncomfortable self at a giant Christian conference and I stumbled on a rather ugly book called How to Rescue the Earth without Worshipping Nature by none other than Tony Campolo. For any of you who have read this out-of-print wonder, you probably forgot about it by now.  It really wasn’t much of a book and there have been dozens of thoughtful and inspiring books since on the Christians call to care for the earth. However, that is not the point. The point is that I realized was that there were Christians out there who thought like me! Remember this is close to 20 years ago and I was a new Christian. I…had….no…idea.

This sub-par book led me down a beautiful rabbit trail toward Sojourners magazine (another life changer) and eventually the interwebs happened and I could find out everything about everyone (and more). When I landed in seminary I really found more of my peeps.  Nevertheless, even with these Despite finding like-minded folks, I still struggled with the face of Christianity.

Fast forward to yesterday when I read a hopeful piece by Michael Wear in the Atlantic, entitled The Changing Face of Christian Politics. He argues that 2013 was a signficant year for Christian progressives:

Rather than discarding old ideas, Christians returned to the basics, shedding some of the political baggage and layers of allegiances gained in the previous century to return to their most fundamental allegiance: to Jesus and to people. They are reaching for a new equilibrium between the prophetic and the pastoral, between mercy and justice, the aspiration of holiness and the free gift of grace.

Wow! I encourage you to read the entire article but let’s note this fabulous point with fireworks and streamers: “Christians returned to the basics…to their most fundamental allegiance: to Jesus and to people.”

This, my friends will take the face of Christianity to a place we are not ashamed. I know, I know, we should not be ashamed of the gospel.  And I’m not. I’m really not.

But I am ashamed of the ugly, messed up pile of rubbish the gospel is presented as sometimes.

What if Christians became known for our fundamental allegiance to Jesus and to people.  What hope that brings. What if we aligned ourselves not to our church buildings, denominations, budgets and Bible study guides but to Christ the King and thus to our neighbours?  I am deeply encouraged by and can put my hope in an allegiance to Jesus and people because THAT  is who we are truly called to be.

Social Media: Another Greeter for Your Church

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Shortly after starting my own business and becoming saturated in blogs, Twitter, Facebook etc., I realized how critical social media is for churches. In an effort to learn more and gain resources to help equip my church, I started doing some research. I quickly came across the forthcoming book The Social Church by Justin Wise. I obtained a free copy of the first chapter and was hooked. In anticipation of the book’s launch, I contacted Justin for an interview. Today the interview is posted on a blog I write for:  Momentum. Here is a sample!

How is your book coming along? Please tell our readers a bit about it!

The book is finished! It’s set to launch February 3rd. The book is about why and how church leaders need to take social media seriously. It sets to convince social media hold outs that it’s a crucial part of churches discipleship and organizational structure moving forward. It’s really meant to give church leaders a conversation starting point around social media and bridge the gap between digital immigrants and digital natives.

You can check out the rest of the interview  here.

 

 

 

Hope for Kids in the Church

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I recently became a blogger for Momentum – The official (note, this is not the unofficial but official!) blog of YALT (Young Adult Leadership Task Force) of the Christian Reformed Church (which is my denomination by choice not by birth).  Although it would be easy to question my “young adult” status we figured I’m young-at-heart and I am passionate about issues that YALT addresses. Speaking of status, it would be easy to question my CRC status as I’m not Dutch and I’m writing for the such blogs.  However, I’m thankful they will have me!

Here is my second post:

I often worry about raising kids in the church.  Sometimes I can’t even believe I will have kids that say “Yeah, I’ve been going to church my whole life.” Really? I did that?  It’s not our particular church that I’m worried about; people at church really love our kids. I mean really love them. Friends offer to babysit for free (ok maybe that is loving my husband and I, but still!). One person brought them cool gifts like real industrial knee pads and brand new snow boots that didn’t fit their grandchild. At coffee time after church, my kids learn how to do fist pumps and high fives. A few neighbours from church play hockey with our kids (and our neighbor’s kids) when we are sick of doing it. My kids learn lessons in Sunday school about justice and generosity.  They also learn that God loves little tiny babies because they are invited on stage to watch when the babies are baptized.

Yet sometimes I worry because I hear so much about people who “grew up in the church.” Kids who felt forced to go to church every week; kids who were never told about other ‘options.’  There are kids who feel like their faith only exists because that is how they were raised. I also worry because I didn’t grow up there. I worry because I don’t know exactly what it should look like. I’m sure there are many parents who were raised in the church and still ask that question. I know, none of us are perfect but what should it look like? What do I want my kids to really know about my Christian faith? My prayer for them reminds me of this profound quote by Rob Bell, “My wife, Kristen, and I often talk about raising our kids in such a way that they have as little as possible to unlearn later on in life.”

Sometimes I envision them having conversations with new friends in the cafeteria at the small private liberal arts college they some how chose even though we couldn’t afford it (scholarship?). I imagine them reflecting on their childhood and saying things like this:

“My parents always told me that Jesus loves me no matter what – they were kind of annoying how much they said this.”

“I’ve always known what Jesus really wants from me is to love him and to love my neighbours. I grew up always knowing my neighbours and they are easy to love.”

“They definitely showed me that knowing Jesus doesn’t make our life perfect. We still road the struggle bus from time to time.”

“I know that Jesus loves the world but doesn’t love the way things go down a lot of the time. My parents were often talking about other parts of the world.  We used to light a candle before dinner and say what we were thankful for and why. And then when we blew it out we would share something we wanted to see change in the world.  We did eventually do a bit more praying together but the candle never changed.”

 What do you hope for your kids in the Church?