How big is your church?

What question you should ask instead

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C. S. Lewis in “The World’s Last Night” said:

“For my own part I hate and distrust reactions not only in religion but in everything. Luther surely spoke very good sense when he compared humanity to a drunkard who, after falling off his horse on the right, falls off it next time on the left.”

Life if full of tensions. In every aspect of church and life we see one way of doing things and we overreact. We do exactly what Lewis is describing we see something we don’t like in the bible, in church, or in life. Rather than holding onto both reigns and moving forward. Like a drunk rider we fall off one side only to get back up and fall off the other.

The one thing I wish I knew 20 years ago

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One of the questions I get asked often and find myself asking myself  as I get older is “What would I do different if I could go back in time and tell young Sam something. I started doing ministry right out of bible college I went to four years of bible college and was thrown into ministry at the ripe age of 21. I helped a few of my friends from bible college re-start our youth ministry and took over the existing kids ministry. I was young, full of energy and stupid. If I could go back in time I would tell myself lots of things. If I had to tell myself only one thing it would be

“What you win them with is what you win them to.”

The struggle that every pastor has is relevance. Deep down we all want to be relevant. That’s because we are pastors and we want to meet real needs not perceived needs. The problem is not in the desire to be relevant but how we define relevance and who we elevate as the mentor, leader, prophets that help us understand what relevance means.

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What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality? (Crossway, 2015)

Just finished this short book. It was by far the best book I have read on the issue. Kevin does a masterful job of staying true to what the bible says about homosexuality. This book is a must read for any pastor or parent. The issue of homosexuality and the christian response will be one of the defining issues of our time. It is shocking to me that so many Christian leaders are trading in centuries of orthodoxy for momentary “relevance.” Kevin paints a picture of whats at stake not through fear tactics but through faithful exegesis of scripture. The first half of Kevin’s book deals with the biblical passages on homosexuality the second half deals with common objections to the Orthodox view of homosexuality.

DeYoung’s handling of the topic is fair, loving, and biblically faithful. In the second appendix he urges us christians to do three things that will keep us from getting into extreme positions either way.

“More work needs to be done to help Christians think through the issue of same-sex attraction in a way that is biblically faithful, pastorally sensitive, and culturally conversant.”

I could not agree more. Doing those three things will keep us anchored in biblical truth but in a way that allows us to love people.  Not everyone will see this as loving as our culture has a radically warped view of love and what it means to be loving. We must fight to stay faithful to scripture in a ever-changing landscape of theological mushiness.

The surprising truth behind creativity

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“Creativity is not coming up with new things but finding new ways to communicate old things”

Ecclesiastes 1:9
What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.

The older I get and the longer I do ministry the more I realize that creativity is not coming up with something new. It’s reintroducing the old in a new way. One of the primary problems with the lack of creativity in any setting is due to what C.S. Lewis calls chronological snobbery.

“Barfield never made me an Anthroposophist, but his counterattacks destroyed forever two elements in my own thought. In the first place he made short work of what I have called my “chronological snobbery,” the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate common to our own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that account discredited. You must find why it went out of date. Was it ever refuted (and if so by whom, where, and how conclusively) or did it merely die away as fashions do? If the latter, this tells us nothing about its truth or falsehood. From seeing this, one passes to the realization that our own age is also “a period,” and certainly has, like all periods, its own characteristic illusions. They are likeliest to lurk in those widespread assumptions which are so ingrained in the age that no one dares to attack or feels it necessary to defend them.”

What Lewis is getting at is we have a tendency to prefer new over old. Rather than really wrestling something to the ground and understanding it we tend to echo what already is poplar because we want to like more than we want to be effective. Creativity is copying what is already out there. Creativity is taking old ideas and making them new. It’s contextualizing things that are ancient and helping people see the value of what has always been valuable.

Our ability to create for the future is connected to the past. How well do we remember and understand the past will determine how effective we will be in the present and future. This sounds counter intuitive I know. Let me give you an example. Walt Disney. He is remembered for his creative vision of the future. While this is part of his creative legacy the reality is that he built the empire that we see today on a modern retelling of old Fairy Tales. If there was no Hans Christian Andersen there would likely be no Disney World, at least not the Disney we know and love.

Creativity works best when it is repackaging old things in such a way that you maintain what is core to the old truth and change the delivery mechanism. The more I read old books the more I realize that modern success is foundational dependent on past truth. So in our quest for creativity let not throw out the foundational things that allow us to build truth in creative ways. Part of the reason we fail to see the value of old things in creativity is because we look at creation in Genesis and see a God who made something from nothing. What we fail to do is looking to Revelation 21 where we see a God who makes old things new both are creativity. The later is what I believe we are called to as stewards of what God has made. We are called to make old things new.