A Different Kind of Advent Wreath

I just wanted to share an idea I used in Advent a few years ago. Instead of one Advent wreath, I had two–a dark one and a light one. For each week, we extinguished something and lit something else. This way, the darkness slowly overcame the light throughout Advent. We also used crackled glass with floating candles in colored water. This is the only picture I have of it. Feel free to use it and make it your own.

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500 Years of Reforming- Worship Resources

October 31, 2017 marks a monumental moment for the church and the world. It was on that day 500 years ago that Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses to door at Wittenberg.  This is typically noted as the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. It was a moment that sparked a movement that continues to influence not only the Christian faith but also daily life.

To celebrate, I am planning to do a whole month of worship and preaching around Martin Luther. They are not perfect or in their final form, and I am sure the will take a little different shape by the time October comes around, but I thought I would offer them to others as a starting point for celebrating this important date.

You can click HERE or the picture below for the document. Please adapt it and use it, and I would love to hear what you do with it.

 

Sabbath as a Wedding Ring (SABBATH PT 1)

[12] And the LORD said to Moses, [13] “You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, ‘Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the LORD, sanctify you. [14] You shall keep the Sabbath, because it is holy for you. Everyone who profanes it shall be put to death. Whoever does any work on it, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. (Exodus 31:12-14 ESV)

Think about the stunningly strong language of this text is. The Lord says that that above all the other laws the people should keep the Sabbaths. Everyone who doesn’t should be put to death. If you work on the Sabbath, you will be cut off from the community. Ouch!

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What is almost as shocking is how much Christians today do not care at all about Sabbath. How many of us never rest? We don’t even rest on our days off. Instead, we work harder on our days off to get done what we could not get done while we were at work. When we are too busy to go to worship then we just don’t go.

Here is the question of this blog series: what is Sabbath so important to God? When we understand why it is important then we can begin to paint a picture of what a good Sabbath would look like in today’s society.

To understand the importance of Sabbath, you have to understand the context into which God gave the people a Sabbath. The people had spent 200 years in slavery. They had heard stories of how they were God’s chosen people, but how could they believe them? Does God even exist? If God is there, then why were they in slavery? Can God be trusted?

So God gave them a sign—the Sabbath. The metaphor that the Jewish people have used for Sabbath is the wedding ring between God and God’s people. For God, the Sabbath shows that He is faithful and will take care of His people so that they can find rest. For the people, it shows that they do indeed trust God to care for them so that they can rest.

Sabbath is ultimately an issue of trust. Do you trust God to work through you 6 days a week more than you trust what you can accomplish yourself in 7 days of work?busy-full-calendar-monthly-clients

In future blogs I will discuss how to develop a Sabbath habit in the world today. For now I simply ask you to consider your current Sabbath habits. Do you have a view of the importance of Sabbath that is at all close to God’s?

5 Reasons Young People Don’t Go to Your Church

 

 

 

I am a Presbyterian minister and, like many churches, my church is trending older on the average age.  Some of my members have watched their children and their grandchildren find church unimportant in their lives.I am asked every once in a while why young people do not go to church anymore.    I think what they are also wondering why young people do not come to their church.  Here are a few thoughts if that is your church:

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1. Young people aren’t going to church very much.  I have seen different statistics on this, but for those under 30 it seems to be about 2 in 10 are in church.  That is a lot lower than previous generations.  I lead off with that not to depress you but to help you understand that it is not just your church.  Believe me, you church is pretty messed up.  It is a church so it cannot be perfect.  Just understand that this is a trend bigger than your particular church.

2. Your functional mission is not compelling..  Most churches have a mission statement or a vision statement about worshipping Christ, serving one another, and reaching out into the community.  In other words, most churches have worthless mission statements.  The real mission in most churches (especially mainline) is to stay open.  When we make decisions and talk about our church that is often the heart of the conversation.  Beyond that, we may say we want to grow, but if we were honest we only want to grow as much as needed to stay open.  After all, we want to know every church member by name.  Here is the truth–young people are not compelled in any way, shape, or form by organizational loyalty and survival.  They can get passionate about doing important things and even trying for impossible things.

3. Your 1950’s style worship service is not cutting it.-  Don’t get me wrong.  Young people are not just about contemporary worship.  In fact, a lot of millennials are attracted to high church worship.  What they value is authenticity.  If you are worshipping in a style because you have intentionally decided that is the best way for you to connect with God AND YOU CAN EXPRESS WHY then by all means stick with whatever style works.  Many mainline churches are exercises in nostalgia and young people won’t do that.

4. Your programs are outdated. If your programming was cutting edge in 1930 then there is a pretty good chance it is no longer  cutting edge.  If your church has a ladies association that meets for tea, an early morning men’s breakfast, or a quilting club then I am not sure you are going to get a lot of young people there.  These programs fit the people that are currently in them.  If some people are not there then there is a reason some people don’ t come.  That does not mean you should stop those programs–just understand that they are not geared for young people.  Also, young people tend to like less programmatic, less structures and more relational activities.

5. You are not talking to young people. The church has lots of sayings that it likes to use: God never gives you any more than you can handle, true love waits, you can’t take it with you…  Young people are not satisfied with short statements and sentimentality to life’s complicated and difficult situations.  Here is a rule of thumb: if you can put it on a coffee mug then it is not really valuable to young people.  My experience is that young people long for answers and are willing to talk and study to find the answers.  They will even take coaching from older adults.  But they will not accept short pithy statements that oversimplify both the problems and the answers of life.  They want to go deeper, but Church often wants to stay shallow rather than wade into the deep of real life.

If you want young people, go talk to them. Listen to their questions and struggles.  And, for the future of your church, start to look in the mirror and what can you differently.  If you keep looking at your past, eventually you will not have a future.