Consuming Church


We live in a Western consumeristic world.

This is something I’ve written about before, but it’s still true. And, what matters most isn’t to lament this, but rather to recognize it and “call it out” when we see it. Because, what can (and does) subtly happen is that this Western consumeristic world starts to infect and affect the church.

One way that often happens is through this idea of the church “providing religious experiences” for people. That the goal of coming to church is to have “an experience” in which people encounter God. And, on the surface, there isn’t anything wrong with this. Because, in many ways, that is what I hope happens during our weekend services.

But, when you peel back the layers, you can see how quickly that goes off course. Because, the church doesn’t exist so you can have “an experience.” Church isn’t about you in the first place, and it’s not about me either.

Church is about Jesus calling us to be faithful in His mission in the world.

But, it quickly slides into consumerism when we show up to “experience something” and then rate our experience based on what we were offered, rather than what we brought to it. We talk about what we receive, rather than what expectations and openness we brought with us.

I write all this because it is subtle and dangerous.

And, I know it’s me. I’m more likely to enjoy something that makes me feel good, rather than something that invites me into the hard process of being an apprentice of Jesus.

Eugene Peterson puts it this way:

“There is a great market for religious experience in our world; there is little enthusiasm for the patient acquisition of virtue, little inclination to sign up for a long apprenticeship in what earlier generations of Christians called holiness.”

Now, I’m not bemoaning the current state of Christianity. Instead, I’m bemoaning the state of my own soul. Because, I’m shaped by this culture, just like everyone else. And, because of this, I’m tempted to ask, “How was church this week?” – as if I’m somehow outside of it, divorced from it and a spectator, rather than part of it.

Instead, I should be asking different questions, such as:

. “How was I a part of church?” 
. “Did I give, participate and open myself up to being found by Jesus?”

Different questions, but question that I think matter.

Because, it’s so easy to seek a little religious, uplifting experiencing, rather than choose the long road, pursuing holiness in an apprenticeship to Jesus.

So, this post isn’t to “call out” anything else other than to remind us that the temptation to consume church is always there, and it needs to be recognized and, most of all, resisted.

Getting Rid of Your “Spiritual Life” : Otherwise Known as Unifying Your Life


Today, I want to write about something counter-intuitive: to improve your spiritual life, you need to stop focusing on your spiritual life.

And, here is what I mean by that…

When we talk about our “spiritual life,” we often mean things like serving, reading our Bible, going to church, having a quiet time in the morning and so on. In essence, we have a list of things that are “spiritual” and try to do them more or deeper.

But, if you’ve ever tried this, it honestly doesn’t often work all that well. It might help for a little bit, but often quickly sputters out. And, I think the reason it doesn’t work is because we’ve bought into a lie that there is something called “our spiritual life.”

But, there is no such thing as a “spiritual life” – there is just life!

Because, in the Bible, things aren’t split up into two categories: spiritual and real life. It’s all one. The Bible doesn’t split our lives up into spiritual and non-spiritual, but when we do, we run into problems.

Because here is the thing: your “spiritual life” will never improve while you ignore the rest of your life. God isn’t interested in just your prayer time and Bible reading plans; He’s interested in all of you and your entire life. How you treat your co-workers matters just as much as attending church. The things you purchase matter just as much as your Bible knowledge. Your forgiveness toward those who have hurt you matters just as much as you serving in kid’s ministry.

Are you seeing the point?

If we want to improve our “spiritual life,” we need to improve all of our lives as a whole. We need to not just focus on reading the Bible more, but living it out in each and every moment. Mondays through Saturdays matter just as much as Sundays. We can’t live divided lives and then expect to grow.

Thomas Merton puts it this way, “If you want to have a spiritual life, you must unify your life.”

You can’t have a spiritual life; you can only have a whole life.

Now, of course, reading your Bible, Sundays, church, serving and prayer all matter immensely. But, the rest of our lives matter too. When we miss that fact, we will get stuck.

So, this week, focus not just on your spiritual life, but on living and responding to God in every aspect of your life. When you start to value each aspect of your life, you might find that God is a part of it all, and that all of it is spiritual.

Discipleship in an Instant?

Marshall McLuhan coined a pretty famous phrase that says, “the medium is the message.” This means that the medium does actually shift, alter and change the message. And, while I don’t want to spend 3,000 words unpacking that today, I want to draw our attention to something that is happening in our culture.
We now live in a world that is about speed, convenience, newness and simplicity.
Here is the tie in to McLuhan’s phrase… When everything is fast, easy, new and simple, we can then unconsciously adopt the posture that anything that is slow, difficult, older and complex is not only odd, but is also wrong.
When our TV shows, food, Amazon Prime shipping and our friendships with social media are almost instantaneous (clear, newly refreshed and right at our fingertips), it can be difficult to appreciate the reality that some things take time. Some things are incredibly hard. Some things ancient matter. Some things simply aren’t simple, but incredibly complex.
It doesn’t take a genius to notice that our current cultural expectations of speed, convenience, novelty and simplicity will have a disastrous effect on discipleship.

Because, here is the truth… Discipleship is not fast, it’s not convenient, it’s not new and it’s anything but simple. The honest truth is that following Jesus is a long journey, it requires you to give up a lot, it’s actually pretty ancient and it often places us in difficult situations in which complexities abound.
So, my point is, the current cultural trends do not fit well with the life of discipleship that Jesus calls us to follow. And, I’m not lamenting that fact actually, because this gives us a chance to truly stand out and be different than the culture around us.
Often, we want to be counter-culture morally (and we should be!), but what if we also became counter-cultural in a different way? What if we, as believers, praised and valued a long obedience in the same direction? What if we didn’t always try to be new, but focused on being faithful? What if we praised doing the next right hard thing over just the easy thing? What if we really sought to never reduce people or ideas to cultural clichés, but sought to enter fully into the complexity of life?
What I’m pondering, and even challenging us to do, is this… To counteract the instantaneous, easy, new and reductionist world around us by living like Jesus. To value slow and long-term change. To value doing the right hard things over the easy things. To value living faithfully over novelty. To value the complexity of our stories over reducing them.
In essence, I’m asking what it might look like for you and me to live differently than our culture. Because, that might just be the thing that actually changes our culture.

Church with a Mission

[Guest Post] Church With A Mission

This Sunday we looked at the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) in relation to our recent celebration of Easter. Easter is amazing news! It gives hope through connecting us to Jesus – the personal, living, eternal Saviour. He is “God with us”. We have new life and a new relationship with God when we trust in Jesus!

God also gives Christians a new mission – another wonderful gift to praise Him for! This mission is to make disciples of all people groups, meaning: love others in a way that you may help them connect to God and walk with Him as you do. It is God’s desire that all people on Earth might know Him, and He has invited us to be part of this huge mission! Thankfully we have a huge Saviour that makes this mission possible!
God has demonstrated his love for us in sending Jesus into the world – that whoever believes in him might live eternally and not be destroyed by death. Our salvation was bought at great cost: Jesus’ own suffering and death! In God’s mind, the opportunity for us to be back with Him, safe and sound, is worth all he can give.
Let us consider how unimaginable God’s love is for us. May the Holy Spirit help us to grasp “how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge” (Eph. 3:18-19). May we take time to worship and thank God today for his love. May it be this incredible love of God that we take to our coworkers, our kids, and our neighbours this week. And may it be this love that motivates all Christians together to make disciples of the entire world, literally.

Following “God” Is Easy, Following Jesus is Difficult

jesus-1233747This quote is just so true:

Jesus is particular, God is generic. It is easy to follow a generic God because you can fill the term “God” with any presupposition you please; it is difficult to follow Jesus because then you have to take seriously his teachings on discipleship, on what exactly following him entails. Michael Hardin

Following “God” is easy, because it is generic. You can be a “spiritual” person, or a person connected to the “energy” of the world or anything like that easily. Because as Michael Hardin points out, you can choose the things that you will follow or connect with. You can create the path you want to follow. Following Jesus though means following his path. The difficulty path of self-denial and other-centred love. The path that values sacrifice for others, and loving at a level that seems ridiculous at times. But that’s the beauty of Christianity; it’s about Christ. It’s about following him, and not giving into the easy things but shooting for the difficult life transforming things. Things that Jesus teaches us to do like:

  • Love your enemies
  • Forgive everyone
  • Judge Not
  • Fear Not
  • Worry Not

Each of those things is simple to understand, and will take a life-time to learn to practice. Which is precisely the point. Following Jesus is a path and a journey that takes a lifetime to learn. Learning to love your enemies and that there is no them, only us is incredibly hard. Learning to not let fear and worry have holds in our hearts isn’t a weekend retreat thing. It’s a lifetime thing.

This is why G.K. Chesterton said something truthful in, Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried

But I believe it’s in the trying that life is found. It’s in the striving after following Jesus,  his path, and his way of life that life is found.

And my question in all of this is this: if you’re a follower of Jesus are you following his path? 

Because as Michael Hardin reminds us, it’s easy to follow “God” following but Jesus means following his path. And his path leads to life, it’s not easy, it’s hard but it’s absolutely worthwhile.

So out of those 5 things listed above (judge not, fear not, worry not, forgive everyone, love your enemies) which one do you need to work on today? Which one do you need to focus on and give some attention to? Which one do you need to try to follow today? Because following Jesus means walking his path, and this is the path he laid down. It’s not an easy one, but it is a life-changing one.

OrthoKardia the Missing Link: Or Why Christians Don’t Look Like Christ

cross_jesus_wood_216556On Sunday we looked at this statement from the EMCC’s “Seven-Fold Way of Following Jesus”. And it says, “I am learning to be like Jesus in terms of my attitudes, behaviors, and character”. And this is really key because the world doesn’t need more information about Jesus, it needs more people living like Jesus. But here is the snag in our modern Western world; we think that the key to people living more like Jesus is learning more about Jesus. But knowledge does not translate directly into action. There is a missing step. And we know this (Just think about whether you flossed, exercised, or walked to work today. We all know this is a good thing to do, we just don’t do it).

So we looked at three terms on Sunday. Orthdoxy – which means right beliefs (or knowledge). Orthopraxy – which menas right actions. And lastly, the missing link between the two – Orthokardia – which means right-heartedness.

The point is that right actions flow out of a right heart not just the right knowledge. And this is something that Jesus actually teaches in Mark 7; that evil things flow out of an evil heart. And good things flow out of a transformed heart. This is why the heart is such a key image in the Bible. This is why all the Old Testament promises in Jeremiah 31:31-34 and Ezekiel 36:25-27 talk about God giving us a new heart, so that we can live differently.

The point is that if we want to live like Jesus, we need a heart like Jesus. A heart transformed to have the desires he does, to have the inclinations, and longing that he does. And this is exactly what we get when we decide to follow Jesus. We get a new heart, or as Paul puts, we are a new creation. We are made new and different so that we can live in a new and different way. When we decide to follow Jesus, our old selfish heart is gone, so that we might follow Jesus in a new way.

And that’s what we looked at on Sunday, because, before we will ever live differently, we need to know that we are different. And we are different if we have decided to follow Jesus. So we can actually learn to live like Jesus in terms of our attitudes, behaviours, and character.

And we landed and focused on one simple next step to learn to live more like Jesus. It sounds silly and trite but it isn’t. The next step is simple: pray to Jesus. Pray to Jesus asking him to help you live more like him. Pray to Jesus asking him to reveal areas to live more like him. Pray to Jesus asking him to empower us to live more like him.

The point is that when we pray, we focus our hearts, minds, and souls on Jesus Christ. And when our hearts are focused on Jesus, then they can direct us to live like Jesus. We cannot learn to be like Jesus on our own, we need his help and the Holy Spirit. So praying isn’t a simplistic answer, it is the answer. Without prayer we won’t be able to learn to live like Jesus. But with prayer we can not only learn to know how to act, but also be empowered to act through Jesus.

So we ended with one simple challenge. To pray this week to learn to live more like Jesus in terms of our attitudes, behaviors, and character. And to ask Jesus to reveal one attitude, one behavior, and one character piece to start to work on, practice, and learn.

And my honest belief is that as we ask Jesus to lead us to live more like him, he will answer that prayer. And as he answers that prayer and we live more like him, we just might end up answering some of the prayers of the people around us. And that is a pretty cool thought.

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: I am learning to be like Jesus in attitudes, behaviors, and character

Teaching Points:

  • “I am learning to be like Jesus in attitudes, behaviors, and character”
  • Our impact on society has a direct correlation with the level of Christlikeness in our lives
  • It is much easier to learn lots about Jesus, than to live like Jesus.
  • Christians are educated beyond our level of obedience
  • The world doesn’t need more information about Jesus, it needs people living like Jesus.
  • Merely believing the right things does not ensure Christlike behavior…We want to master the information; [the apostles] longed to master the life. Bob Roberts
  • Orthodoxy: Right Belief
  • Orthopraxy: Right Actions
  • Orthokardia: Right-heartedness
  • Simply believing the right things about Jesus does not mean you will live or act like Jesus.
  • The “heart is deceitful above all things”. (Jer 17:9).
  • Before we will ever live differently, we need to know that we are different.
  • That if we focused on telling people more who they are, we wouldn’t have to tell them so much what to do
  • Pray to Jesus for help
  • Rarely does transformation happen without revelation

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? How did God speak to you through it? What was new?

Had you ever thought about “right actions” flowing out of a “right heart” before? What did you think of it? Was the idea that you are a new creation new? Freeing? Hopeful? How does that change how you see yourself? How might asking Jesus for help to live like him – help you? What attitude is Jesus asking you to focus on? Behaviors? Character? Who can help you to grow in them?

Discussion Question for Families:

Talk to your kids today about accepting Jesus, and how it means we become new. Ask them what they think Jesus was like in terms of his attitudes, behaviors, and character. Get them to pick on thing that was Jesus-like and to make it your goal as a family to practice it this week (being kind, generous, loving etc). Talk about it at meals and make it a focus and learn to be like Jesus together.

Challenge for the Week: Be like Jesus in terms of your attitude, behaviors, and character.

Christians Who Act Like Jesus…What a Novel Thought

jesus_definition_picture_170529This Sunday we are looking at a really important part of following Jesus – learning to be like him in terms of our attitudes, behaviours, and character. And this matters so much for Christians. Because in today’s day and age, people don’t generally have a problem with Jesus, they have a problem with Christians. Because as Christians sometimes our attitudes, actions, and character can seem so unchristlike.

So on Sunday we will unpack why this happens. We will be looking at the false idea that “right beliefs” lead to “right actions” – because they don’t. There is a missing link between right beliefs and right actions and we will talk about how that one link changes everything.

Because here is the truth. Our impact on society has a direct correlation with the level of Christlikeness in our lives. But it is so much easier to know lots about Jesus, than to live like Jesus. But come Sunday we are going to see how to actually live like Jesus.

But before we get there if you want to be serious about following Jesus, why not pray this simple but radical prayer. Pray this, “Jesus, are there attitudes, behaviors, or character things you want to change in my life”. Because rarely does transformation happen without revelation. Pray for Jesus to reveal to you where he wants to lead you. It can be a dangerous prayer because of what Jesus might reveal, but it also just could be one of the most transformative and changing prayers you coud pray.

So pray, and more importantly act on what Jesus reveals. And then on Sunday we are going to look at the missing link between beliefs and actions.

Getting Out of Your Seat

1380002_96509223At this year’s Regional Gathering (our denomination’s annual conference) the speaker Caesar Kalinowski made an interesting and very true comment. He said this:

“Very little discipleship happens sitting in seats”

He was referring to Sunday morning primarily. And while as a pastor, clearly Sunday mornings are a large part of my job, I wholeheartedly agree with him. Because here is his point: following Jesus requires movement, practice, and action.

Often on Sunday mornings we learn about Jesus, but discipleship happens when we follow Jesus. Discipleship happens when we get out of our seats and let Jesus start to transform the totality of our lives. And yes, to follow Jesus means you need to learn about Jesus, but it is possible to learn lots about Jesus and not follow him. Caesar’s point is that discipleship breaks down when the learning gets separated from the following.

This doesn’t mean that Sunday morning services don’t matter. They do, and I put a lot of prayer and effort into mine. But what I know is that Sunday mornings aren’t the endpoint of discipleship, but the starting point – the sending point. We gather together to get reminded of what following Jesus looks like, and get sent out to live that in a new way that week.

So Caesar is right, discipleship doesn’t just happen in seats, which is why each week we gather as the church, to be sent out as the church into our communities.

And this is just a reminder that discipleship is a process, a journey, a sending, but most of all a following. So as you live, work, and play this week – remember who you are following and how you are learning to live like him.

Deadly Theological Training

I came across a quote a little while ago that has really stuck with me. Richard Rohr says this:

“Theological training without spiritual experience is deadly”.

And I think that is bang on. Whenever our theological knowledge outpaces our practice we have problems. And in general, as has often been said, I think so often our Christian culture is educated beyond their level of obedience. And this is deadly. Whenever we know more than we practice, our knowledge can become sharp and hurtful. Our practice can seem weak and hypocritical.

Now if you know me, I’m not against theological training or knowledge at all. My wife says I have a “reading problem” (which means I have too many books to keep in our house). So I’m not against learning, depth, and training. But learning, depth, and training that doesn’t flow out into practice becomes stagnant, stale, and sometimes toxic.

So all of this is to say one thing: learn more, and practice more. Let your faith grow deeper, and let your practice grow truer. Because people who know lots about Jesus don’t change the world; the world is changed by people who know, and follow Jesus.

The Relationship Between the Gospel and Trust



It’s a pretty big thing. In fact, if you think about it, all relationships are built on it. It’s something that takes years to build, and moments to lose. It’s something that is the difference from a relationship being healthy, to horrible. It is something we often take for granted, but is the grounding for almost everything.


I’m writing a little bit about trust because I think this is one thing we as Christians need to develop most. We need to develop trust. Let’s just be honest: the culture around us doesn’t trust us as the church. Stats show it. Anecdotal evidence shows it. And I think this is something we know deep down. But here is the beautiful thing: it’s something that can be changed. We can rebuild trust in our families, friendships, and communities. And if I can be so strong – this is something we need to do. We need to invest in rebuilding trust and connections with our culture and our communities.

I was talking with someone about why today “gospel presentations” often don’t seem to work. My answer was a lack of trust and relationship. Formal presentations without the basis of trust and relationship simply don’t carry much impact. It’s not that the gospel doesn’t have weight and impact on its own. The point is that the gospel is inherently relational. So when we share the gospel without relationships, it loses impact because its lost something important: trust.

So all of this is simply to say one thing. Trust matters. It matters if we want to follow Jesus fully. It matters if we want to leave an impact on our communities. It matters if we want to be faithful to the gospel and to Jesus. It matters more than we think.

But that’s the difficulty with trust, it’s so easy to take it for granted. But if we want to see lives changed, it can’t be something we take for granted, it’s something we need to cultivate.