The Worst Consequence of Skipping Church

We are a culture of convenience, of personalization, of individualism. We have a million ways of customizing our lives to perfectly suit our every preference. When things are difficult, we think little of pulling away from responsibilities, of reorienting our lives away from whatever causes inconvenience. This can even extend to something as good and as central as our commitment to the local church. All of us who are involved in local churches have seen people waver and wander in …

Rule #7: Fellowship with Godly People (8 Rules for Growing in Godliness)

An ember left alone will soon grow cold, but embers set close together will continue to glow, to burn brightly, and even to set others ablaze. Christians resemble embers, for we, too, must be set close together to thrive. “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise” (Proverbs 13:20), which means that those who walk with the godly become godly.” In fact, whoever longs to be godly must walk with the godly, for God has decreed that godliness will not be …

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A World of Misery at My Very Door: A Story

Today I want to tell a story. It’s not my story, though I do make a couple of brief appearances along the way. It’s actually a story about a church, and if it’s a story about a church, it must first be a story about Jesus. After all, every church is his church. To tell the story right, we need to begin in 2004 and turn our attention to a young lady named Sarah. Sarah loves Jesus and she loves …

Why I Didn’t Sing When I Visited Your Church

It was a joy to finally visit your church a couple of Sundays ago, and to worship with the believers there. You know I’ve been looking forward to it for a long time. Just as you promised, the pastor is an excellent communicator and a man who loves God’s Word. His sermon was deeply challenging and led to some great conversations with my children. Now, you asked me why it looked like I wasn’t singing. I know that was probably a …

Suburban Sprawl and the Dying Dream of Community Churches

Let me begin with a question: Do you shop at the grocery store closest to your home, or at the grocery store you like best, even if it’s a little farther away? If you are like my family and live in the endless suburban sprawl that surrounds so many of today’s cities, you probably drive past several perfectly good grocery stores to go to one you prefer—one with the better selection of produce or the great coffee shop or that …

Hack Your Worship Service

I recently read an article about the architectural design of airports. Yes, that was an actual article I actually read, and I found it fascinating. A specialist in airport design told how he had been involved in planning Atlanta’s new international terminal and how he and his team had been specially tasked with finding ways to minimize the signage that so often clutters airports. He was convinced they could use design to guide people through the airport experience, from entering …

The Creative Arts Director

I was making my way home after speaking at an event in Indiana. Or maybe it was Illinois, or Idaho—they all kind of blur together sometimes. Either way, I boarded my plane to find the seat beside me empty. I couldn’t stop myself from hoping that it might just stay that way, that I’d be able to spread out my stuff a little and enjoy a quiet flight. But sure enough, just as the flight attendants were about to close …

6-Year-Old Girls Already Have Gendered Beliefs

Lin Bian, a psychologist at the University of Illinois, wanted to understand how and when gender stereotypes develop, and especially the old stereotype that boys are smarter than girls. The results of her study were stark. “Among the 5-year-olds, both boys and girls associated brilliance with their own gender. But among those aged 6 or 7, only the boys still held to that view. At an age when girls tend to outperform boys at school, and when children in general …

No Little Women

Many years ago, I was part of a church that developed a particularly troubling women’s ministry. It had been founded with noble intentions and was meant to address the unique concerns of women. Before long, though, the leaders became enamored with a problematic author, and their theology began to diverge from that of the pastors. Soon they were functioning almost as a church within a church, even occasionally holding their own worship services and performing their own baptisms. The ministry …

Building Body Branches

I love words, and I love to see words put to effective, creative use. Just this morning, as I was reading the gospel of Mark, I was struck anew by Jesus’s ability to paint pictures with words. “Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed…” So often he spoke in parables, word pictures, as a means of describing truth. In fact, he used parables so often that Mark could say, “He did not speak to them without …