Tweets on The Gospel

While these upcoming tweets are scheduled for July release on my feed, I thought they should have a home here early. (Thanks, Scot). Happy head-messing!

Christopher

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The Gospel is the proclamation of all that Jesus is, not what we get because of who he is.

Saying the Gospel is all about personal salvation is like saying a car is all about its tires.

One reason many grow weary with our version of the Gospel is bc we talk more about an escape plan than we do about reformational living.

Corporate submission to the King trumps personal freedom.

Loving Jesus because of salvation is like loving your mom because she does your laundry.

Discovering that the Gospel is not about me and all about Jesus is one of the healthiest things an American can embrace.

Jesus is not your life coach. He’s King. Serving him invites the Holy Spirit, and he’ll lead you into all you need in his kingdom.

Our allegiance is pledged to King Jesus, not to a self-help menu.

If you want help, yes, embracing the Gospel will undo you.

Jesus didn’t die to give you personal freedom, he died because he’s the King who comes back from the dead. And he loved freeing you.

Proclaiming salvation is the Gospel is like saying that the scoreboard makes teams win games.

We must return to making the Gospel more about Jesus’ reign (which brought us salvation), not a self-help regiment.

The Gospel is not a gateway drug to lifestyle change. It is the message that Jesus is Lord and nothing else is, including our needs and wants.

Salvation is one benefit of the Gospel, but it is not the Gospel.

We do a disservice to Jesus and to people when we proclaim that the most significant part of the Gospel is salvation.

Emmanuel, God with us, astounds me.

“Jesus is Lord” should upset every balance in your life.

I don’t love Jesus because he saved me, I love Jesus because he’s God. That he does anything else for me at all is unspeakable wonder.

Facebook: The Collective Societal Brain Injury

What Filters?

When my sister-in-law, Amber, was recovering from her near-fatal car accident in late 2005, early 2006, we all had some laughs. I know. A violent car accident is no laughing matter. I’m with you there. And her rehabilitation period was pretty painful to watch. But there were some great moments of levity. This is primarily because Amber’s filters were gone.

Since Amber’s head hit a tree at 65mph, her brain was pretty damaged. It’s a miracle she didn’t die on the spot. (You can watch more on her miraculous story here). As a result, her brain took a long time to get back to functioning the way it always had, and one of those effected operations was her speech process.

No, not her speaking abilities. She could still talk, and did plenty of it. I mean, the way her brain processed what she was going to say before she said it.

The neurologists explained it to us like this, and I’m paraphrasing the half dozen or so that studied Amber over many months:

“All of us have filters in our brains. They’re like gates. They measure what we think we want to say against what we actually should say, and prevent us from making logical, cultural and emotional mistakes with our words. Most people employ between 25 and 30 filters to every sentence before speaking. Amber is employing a big fat 0.”

In other words, Amber was saying every single thing she was thinking the moment she thought to say it. She was truly being her most honest self 100% of the time.

It was scary. And crazy funny.

From calling the nurses at St. Mary’s Rehabilitation Hospital “penguins” because she was convinced they were all nuns, to using every four letter word you can think of, to telling a doctor, “I’m pretty sure my mom is trying to kill me,” Amber was the source of much comic relief. And given how stressful the situation really was, we all needed something hilarious.

Bring On The Filters

Over time, Amber’s brain healed. The filters dropped back in place, and her quick wit, humor, and incredibly accurate memory returned. (Sometimes we all wonder if we’re the ones dealing with traumatic brain injuries as she’s so much smarter than us).

This blog post could end right here, praising God for his miraculous power, and I’d be quite fine to let it. My wife’s older sister is alive today, and according to physics and science, she shouldn’t be.

But in the same way that Amber’s speech filters returned over time, I’m watching society’s filters break down. Specifically, in Facebook-land.

Instagram is for appreciators.

Twitter is for intellectuals.

But Facebook is the collective societal brain injury.

Those 25 to 30 filters between our brains and our tongues were put in place by God, I’m convinced of it. They keep us from saying stupid things. Damaging things. Things that would betray our innermost selves. And for good reason: our innermost selves need redeeming. If Amber’s filter-less brain is a reflection of what a stunning, brilliant, Bible-schooled lady can think, you definitely don’t want my brain hard wired to my mouth. Lord, help us.

I could lump all of social media together, and call it all rotten. But that’s simply not the case. And I could and probably should subdivide Facebook into smaller groups, as there are many great users (and great uses for it). But the reality is, if you’ve been on Facebook for any length of time, you’ve experienced some level of filter-less communication. Maybe you were the one saying something you shouldn’t have, or more likely, you received a comment that irked you. That rattled you for days. One little comment that kept you awake at night. And you said, “If I were with that person face to face, I’d…”

You’d what?

And therein lies my point.

The bane of Facebook, and arguably anything that’s not “in person,” is that it’s fake at some level. Not fake as in what’s being said isn’t real. Quite the opposite. What’s being said is too real. It’s your brain with a head injury.

When you’re sitting with your dad over coffee and you want to say the real thing in your head, but don’t—because you know it would crush him—you’re filtering.

When you’re standing in your boss’ office and can’t seem to resurrect that fantasy from the night before where you threw a stapler at his head, and instead you’re speaking with a calm tone to try and reason through a dilemma together, you’re filtering.

When you want to fire an employee but don’t, when you want to ground your child for life but refrain, when you want to slam the phone down, throw the computer, or pull the pin from the grenade but leave it in, you’re filtering. You’re preserving.

You’re loving.

Check Yourself

There’s a myriad of reasons, causes and stimuli that keep us in check, that keep you and me filtered. Some good, some bad, but all working together. Decency, intimidation, loyalty, eye contact, fear, cameras, honor, respect, humiliation, tone, power, nobility, patience, hostility, cultural faux pas, expectations, breathing speed, physical dominance, security guards. As humans, we’re extremely alert creatures. We notice everything. So much so, only 7% of communication is verbal. That means, to convey all the emotions and meaning behind your statements, 93% of what you’re communicating has nothing to do with what you could type.

93%.

That’s why a book, the Bible, can never be the fourth person of the Trinity. That’s why Jesus had to come in the flesh to get across what we’d been messing up since the dawn of time. And that’s why Facebook is so good at fostering environments that propagate rhetoric and not relationship.

The filters are gone, the nuance is lost, and we’re trying to have conversations with 93% of the information missing.

We’ve all been taught that being afraid of certain people, and therefore not saying “what we really want to,” is bad. And to a certain degree, I agree. There’s something to be said for confidence, for standing up for what you believe in. But there’s also an argument that certain type’s of fear are healthy. It’s a filter. As is not wanting to hurt someone’s feelings, not wanting to disrespect someone’s age or position, and not wanting to offend.

I know, imagine that.

Anytime someone types, “I don’t mean to offend you, but…” what they’re really saying is, “I would never say this to your face in the same way I’m typing this now, but since you’re not here, and I don’t feel responsible to you, I’m going to say it anyway.”

Reigning It In

In a world where everyone is entitled to their opinion, everyone is empowered to share their opinion sans filter, and further, everyone thinks their opinion is the right one, people’s statements lose their relevance because they’ve abandoned cultural sanity.

I’ll give you an example. I’m a clergyman. I’m paid to know and study scripture, to counsel people, to lead a community. It’s not my hobby on the side. It’s my profession. And I’ve been at it professionally for almost twenty years. And yet I find it ironic how easily people can argue with me over theology. Not that they can’t, or shouldn’t. But that it’s careless. Can you imagine arguing with your doctor as he’s making an incision during an operation? “Hey, doc, maybe a little more to the left.” Or how about with your mechanic. “Are you sure that’s the wrench you really want to use?”

In a virtual world, everyone’s an expert, because everyone’s opinion matters. But opinions rarely sway people; more often, they tick them off.

No one ever wins a hard lining liberal to a conservative position in a comment thread. Nor does an atheist get a Christian to disown Jesus. Yet those attempts, and many less polarizing ones, are representational of the countless I’ve seen on Facebook. Sports, scriptures, television shows, recipes, the weather. It’s insane. It’s a collective brain injury.

The Face Test

In the absence of filters, people say what they never should.

While I could give you “10 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Posting or Commenting on Facebook,” the chances are, you’d never remember them. Especially in the heat of the moment.

So here’s my cardinal rule that I try and follow daily, sometimes breaking when I hit my forehead too hard on a desk:

First, if I wouldn’t say my criticism to someone’s face, it shouldn’t be typed, and if it is, it’s private; and second, I must consider whether I have an actual physical audience with the person in real life.

The first part is hard enough, and I think it’s self explanatory, arguably solving the large majority of public Facebook issues that arise.

But the second is more intense. Meaning, if I don’t actually know the person, or the likelihood of me seeing them within the week is non-existent, I refrain from commenting. If it’s outside of my relationship, it’s illegal.

If the Bible calls this gossip and a loose tongue, I’d call it modern gossip and being an idiot. It’s why you don’t see me lambasting celebrities online. It breaks both parts of the cardinal rule: first, I wouldn’t say it to their face, and second, I don’t know them. (Read Matthew 18:15-17 on how to handle offenses).

All this stems primarily from how I want to be treated as a person. When someone easily says something to me online that I know that they’d have a much harder time saying to my face, and when someone acts like they know me when they really don’t (listen to Creativecast episode 3 on familiarity and transparency), it demeans me. If I don’t like it, why should I subject others to it? That’s hypocrisy, and unChristlike.

Picking A Home for Content

The second measure I employ is selective posting.

Facebook: The only things I post on Facebook anymore are announcements, general updates and pictures that are linked from my Instagram account. I still have 8,000+ followers on Facebook, and the majority of them are awesome, so it’s a great way to get information out. But the reason that the majority of what I post is pictures is simply because it’s hard to argue over pictures of someone’s life, especially when my goal in posting to Instagram is to give meaningful glimpses into what Christian life can look like. It’s a tool. That’s all.

Because Facebook is such a varied audience, and the nature of long-form posting there requires a thorough and sometimes exhaustive explanation in order for people to get your point without having a brain hemorrhage, it gets the least amount of critical information from me. I don’t need the headache, and users should spend their time doing better things. I had one famous theologian private message me on Twitter and confess, “I treat it very differently. Facebook is the devil.”

(As a humorous but no less intentional example, you won’t find a link to this post on Facebook, at least from me, because too many users there would freak out that I’m critical of the platform. You will find it on Twitter, however). 

Twitter: In contrast, Twitter, by virtue of it’s short form context, allows small, poignant statements that invite users into a larger dialog, stimulated by their own experiences and pursuits. While there may be intense discussion, users are limited to 140 characters at a time, which means you’ve got to know what you’re talking about (and if you don’t, everyone can tell).  The large majority of my posting happens here, and I love the Twitter community for that very reason.

Instagram: Posting to Instagram became a daily discipline over two years ago, when I realized it forced me to view my life intentionally. There are thousands of visual moments that make up my day; by pinpointing at least one, it’s made me savor the richness of life around me, and promote the things I see God doing in my world. It is, simply put, a form of visual evangelism.

Communicate Where and What You Love

Listen, if you love Facebook, and you’ve found a niche there where you can have a positive impact, I salute you. I genuinely admire that. It’s simply not something that’s healthy for me; I prefer Twitter, my blog, and Instagram. But regardless of where you spend most of your time, remember to filter. Avoid virtual brain injury syndrome (VBIS). Guard your words. Filter your statements. Be selective on where certain content goes. And for the love of God and all that is holy, make sure to breath. People do need our love more than our opinions.

Christopher

REDACTED: [All the other things he wanted to say].

Advice for Teen Girls When Talking To My Wife

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My wife, Jennifer, is an amazing woman. And she was an amazing teenager.

Yes, she was in a relationship too young. And got out of it. And was in a second relationship with a guy who needed serious counseling. And she got out of that one too.

She also walked the talk as a Christian.

She did her first 40-day juice and water fast at 15 years old. (And still was first-string on her soccer team). When her other friends were off partying at midnight, she was laying on her face next to her flag pole, praying for revival in her school. She was devoted, outspoken for Jesus. And was still Homecoming Queen.

She was a rockstar.

As a teenager.

Because of this faithfulness, she addressed thousands of her peers in arenas around the country. Multiple times. And sang in front of 25,000 teens on the Mall in Washington, DC. All to give glory to her one true love, King Jesus.

God rewards those who pay a price to follow him.

Ladies, if you have my wife’s phone number or are friends on Facebook, don’t text: “So, can I ask you a question?”

Listen, I love that you admire her. So do I. Either ask your question, or don’t. Pretending like you’re weighing your options when you’re stepping up to bat with a Titan of faith is unbecoming.

And if you’re going to ask for her pearls of wisdom, please mean it. In other words, don’t insult her by throwing them in the mud after she gives them to you. Her time and her testimony are valuable. They’re gold, and then some. If you really value her, decide in advance that you’re going to model what she’s modeled for you. Or don’t bother asking. You’ll be wasting your time and her’s.

Ladies, you have this sneaky way of so desperately wanting her advice when you don’t have a boyfriend, conveniently throwing yourself into Jesus. But the moment that cute boy comes along, you suddenly vanish off the map for six months.

Here’s my advice: don’t expect to get the life she has without paying the price she paid to get it.

Wisdom is purchased, not transferred.

Start saving early.

“Wisdom is supreme. Get wisdom. Yes, though it costs all your possessions, get understanding.”

King Solomon of Israel (Proverbs 4:7 WEB)

Do you want to know why she’s such an amazing woman? Because she sought wisdom, and chose to cling to it even when other things seemed more enticing. This was hard. She was not proven faithful when life was easy—she became great in the midst of adversity. I could not ask for a more remarkable, more intelligent, more steadfast, more beautiful, more passionate woman than her. She paid for every one of those attributes, and more.

If you want role models, true female models, they’re out there. Most aren’t on the covers of magazines, and most won’t give you the answers you want. Just make sure you’re really going to do what they say before you ask for their pearls; they get tired of being insulted as soon as your fancy changes.

“Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.” Jesus of Nazareth (Matthew 7:6 ESV)

To those of you who have listened to Jennifer, and in turn, listened to Jesus, you know who you are, and I applaud you. Thank you for treating my wife’s wisdom with the honor it deserves. Your lives are testimonies of God’s faithfulness to those who pursue him at any cost. I love you for honoring the Jesus in my wife. Carry on.

Christopher

Podcast for Artists and Leaders – Creativecast Launch

Creativecast iTunes Launch Headphones Christopher Hopper

After 15 months of encouragement from close friends, and two months of hand-holding from Mike Kim, Creativecast has hit iTunes with three inaugural episodes.

If you’re not yet a podcast listener, consider this your maiden voyage. And if you already are an avid podcast addict, I hope this new subscription will find its way into your routine.

WHERE TO FIND CREATIVECAST

iTunes: Creativecast Podcast
Website: creativecast.fm
Twitter: @creativecastfm
Facebook: /creativecastfm
Behind the scenes shots:
Instagram: @creativecast

WHAT YOU’LL HEAR

Creativecast was birthed for a few different reasons, many of which I outlined in my original post [READ: So You’re Starting A Podcast?]. But speaking to creative hearts who are concerned with serving others around them is at the epicenter of this movement. I want to serve you. Whether it’s gleaning a few pointers for your already mature endeavors, or you’re on a steep learning curve for how to be a creative leader, Creativecast is made with love each week to inspire you in your pursuit of influencing your church, business or familial culture.

Whether you’re a producer, painter, pastor or parent, there’s something for you here. And I encourage you to download, put your earbuds in, and start listening.

But more, Creativecast needs your feedback.

PLEASE, SPEAK UP

Since this show is meant to serve you, it must be informed by you. This means we need your questions, your comments, your feedback. You can find the show notes for each episode at their respective posts on creativecast.fm. Whether it’s there in the comments section, or on one of Creativecast’s numerous social media platforms, we’d love to take your questions.

Lastly, please consider leaving a review on iTunes. These reviews really do help get the word out and reach more people with tools that are free and valuable. If you enjoy the show, and you believe these first three episodes are beneficial to you, please leave a review.

Thanks for listening! See you in the Creativecast,

Christopher

Creativecast iTunes Launch iPhone Christopher Hopper

Ask Simply, Receive Broadly

Many people ask, “God, do you want me in job A, or job B?”

But what if God wants you in job C?

Now the Lord has to speak outside of the perimeters you provided him, and you’ll be far less likely to accept what you did not conceive of yourself.

Learn to ask more simply so that you can receive more broadly.

Christopher

Overcoming Selective Perception – Where National Geographic’s Camera Got It Right But The Comment Got It Wrong

Jennifer and I often find ourselves driving down a road that we’ve traveled thousands of times (literally), when we notice a new house, an old building gone, or a large change in the landscape.

“Woah, I never noticed that!”

The more frequent the road for us, the more startling the change to us. Sometimes we just look at each other, incredulous.

“How are we so blind that we didn’t notice that?

Just this week, one of us (I won’t say who) noticed that an entire nursing home, complete with out buildings and an admin wing, had been torn down.

For eight months.

If you’re chuckling right now, it means you’ve had similar experiences, which means none of us are alone in this condition.

This same effect, however, can also play out on much more meaningful subjects.

People.

A National Geographic photo posted on their Instagram account this morning is a prime example:

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I felt compelled to comment:

@find_ch forget climate change; what about the immediate caustic effects of those walking through it?

@wiccat Agree to you!!

@wiccat thanks for the kind comment. I think sometimes we can get so caught up in generalizations, especially if they suit our own ambitions, that we fail to notice (or comment on) the thing that’s staring us right in the face. This is a perfect example. The climate’s changing? OK, the jury’s still out even as to why. But right now, I see a beautiful girl who’s walking through carcinogenic smoke—and that’s not the lead line? [sigh]

Exclusive perception.

We tend to see what we want to see. The object of our passion becomes the blinders to our perception by distorting reality. We don’t notice the obvious because in our own distorted reality, the obvious thing literally isn’t there. We’re induced into a state of virtual blindness.

We need healing.

Usually this comes in the form of a good coach (some who “sees” more than we do), an epiphany from God (a revelation found in spiritual awakening), or a jarring life experience that snaps us out of our stupor (a visit to Cambodia, let’s say).

Such “wake up calls” help us then divest ourselves from a singular passion and reinvest in a passion that is itself inclusive—that has many passions within it. But, since we can’t be poly-sighted in every scenario, we must make a values call by becoming passionate about the right issues.

What are the right issues, you ask? Aren’t those utterly subjective?

The right issues are those that always place the needs of hurting people, all people, above politics and policy, no matter how revered. A politic that itself has missed the care of a person is a flawed politic, and therefore a flawed virtue. Because the needs of hurting people are always the right issue to champion.

There is no more noble cause, no more clearer lens through which to view the world, than to empathize with another individual and meet their need. It is precisely what King Jesus did for humanity, and it’s the lifestyle lens that helps us overcome bureaucracy with benevolence.

The only set of flawless virtues that I know of are not those of any present nation or civil contract; though there are plenty of good working models, even the best is far from adequate. For even a system that proves idealistic for one people group turns out to be hostile for another, since there is nothing in civil contract that can inherently transform the condition of the human heart.

The kingdom lens.

The values of the kingdom of God are universal (they are best for all mankind, everywhere, regardless of race or culture), they are eternal (they have everlasting effects on the individual), and they are inherited (not earned, but gifted, sometimes even to those who aren’t aware of the Gift Giver—such is the largess of grace). The kingdom is in fact the superior and supreme ideology and methodology in serving humans out of our collective depravity.

It’s how we see.

It’s how we perceive.

When our passion becomes Jesus, our values become kingdom ones, and our empathy becomes action. Because, for the first time, we don’t see a mission. We don’t see a cause or a campaign.

We see a face.

Christopher

“But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.”

James the Just

The Shopkeeping Pastor

Thought this was such a thought provoking quote:

“The pastors of America have metamorphosed into a company of shopkeepers, and the shops they keep are churches.”

Eugene Peterson (@PetersonDaily)
12/29/14, 7:36 AM

It’s true on so many levels, from the way pastors care, maintain and treat everything from people and families and budgets, to physical buildings and possessions.

How we constantly try and think of new ways to serve a community, produce a constant stream of content, and pull off weekly “shows” that hopefully please both God and man.

How we’re are always looking to expand the kingdom’s influence and reach more people, expanding into “new markets.”

New ways to market what we’re doing, maintaining the integrity of what people experience (a brand).

Long hours, few reprieves.

Strategizing, praying, meeting, counseling, brainstorming, assessing, hiring, firing, accounting, resourcing.

We must have a clear mission, but never at the expense of our values. A mission without values leaves hurting people in its wake.

We’re spiritual shopkeepers in a material world. The correlations between being an entrepreneur and a pastor are too numerous to count, and the disciplines required for both are tightly bound.

Thank you, Pastors, for all you carry; thank you Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists and Teachers. May the five-fold positions of ministry continue to keep the shop lights on for those walking in the dark.

Christopher

Beware Numbness

“Numbness does not hurt like torture, but in a quite parallel way, numbness robs us of our capability for humanity.”

Walter Brueggemann, Prophetic Imagination

Beware the numbing effects of technology, commodity satiation, and comfort. They lead to comparison, abandonment of gratitude, and warped perspective on priorities.

Numbness not only disconnects us from feeling for others, but feeling as others.

Let the battery go dead for a few hours. 

Look up. 

Percieve. 

Let numbness melt away, exposing the one word society so desperately craves but so earnestly resists. 

Sense.

Encouragement To Carry On

Feeling guilty?

Like your sin has caused something negative?

Consider this: If your life was really to experience the full ramifications of your sin, you’d be dead. So if you’re breathing, you’re experiencing grace, regardless of the measure. Rejoice there!

Feeling tired?

Like you’re not sure you can take this for another year?

Everyone wants to win, but few people want to battle. Dig deep. Make it to your next meal. Don’t worry about tomorrow—today has enough cares of its own.

One step.

One task.

One thought.

One meeting.

One break.

One thought at a time.

Sometimes we take strides, sometimes we take an inches, but we’re always taking something, even if it’s just a breath of air.

“Then Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.'” – Jesus of Nazareth (Matthew 11:28 NLT)

Letter To Ferguson

Dear Ferguson,

I ache for you today. My heart aches to the point that I’m in a strange sort physical pain. The prophet would say I’m travailing, the cynic would say I’m wasting my time. And me? I’m not even sure what to think. But I have to say something today. Let me be corrected tomorrow, but let me not be silent today.

I recognize pain when I see it. Pain on the face of a community that has lost sense of herself, of how normal is supposed to feel. A community that has been thrust before the national eye and raped by every possible opinion, poll and plank of political propaganda possible.

The ache I have prompts me to a form of prayer. Not really with words, because I don’t know exactly what to pray. But with groanings.

I’m groaning today at the talking heads that will forget the taste of your flesh by the time they’re next meal has arrived. For whatever reason, we trust them to regurgitate our nourishment on command. Yours just happened to be the plat du jour. And I’m sorry.

I’m groaning for the beautiful person that’s picking up the litter this morning along your sidewalks. No video cameras catching his or her act of service. No one championing his or her heart to see healing brought to your town; they themselves don’t even know what to do, so they start with the only act they can think off: to make Ferguson beautiful again, one scrap at a time.

I’m groaning for a black family that lost their son. Of all people not to fault for an emotional response, it’s them. And yet their vision has cleared to desire something that smacks of the divine. I’m groaning for a white family that now must always watch over their shoulder, sharing in what so many black families already walk in everyday.

I’m groaning for your leaders, both spiritual and civic. Asking God to grant them immense wisdom for the long road ahead. I’m pleading with the Lord for renewed grace. For favor with one another as the spiritual try to emulate Christ, and the civic try to embody discretion.

I’m groaning, most of all, at the community of faith outside of your town. I’m sorry that in many places she too has lost her sense of identity when it comes to you, Ferguson. Where so many of her leaders seem to be silent, I find overwhelming numbers of her congregants willing to speak out of step with that of her Betrothed. They’ve failed to pray for even ten concerted minutes for you, and yet their proficiency at small-time publishing entitles them to profess their allegiance whatever emotion is on tap.

They’ve shown that their affluent position has clouded their judgement, has created a fog over the Christ that granted paradise to the thief and washed the feet of a murderer. They can’t even spell “indictment,” nor do they recognize the bitter knife they plunge into humanity when they use “white” or “black.” I groan at our collective ignorance, and our failure to live up to one person’s expectations—the one who alone has the right to expect much of us, because we claim to be sanctioned by his blood offering.

I groan for those of us who think racism is dead, failing to realize that it’s very much alive in our Facebook feeds.

Sometimes, Ferguson, I wonder just how far we’ve come. Do our people even hear us on Sundays?

Listening is a reflex, but hearing is an art. Oh, may we learn the language of artful hearing once more.

We’re not “modern man.” Despite our epic leaps—and there are many—it’s days like today where I’m convinced we’re just animals with computer screens for toys. We’re Cain pointing a finger at Able saying, “He deserved it,” while ignoring the blood on our hands from the safety of our couches hundreds of miles from you, Ferguson.

It is the epitome of gossip to think we have any right to an opinion of who you are, Ferguson, unless we live with you. Among you. Bleeding with you. And we’re sorry. For coming to our own conclusions so far from your doorstep. For failing to spend even ten minutes in prayer for your borders, your families, your leaders.

It’s in the cacophony of civil unrest that the will of society is revealed, it’s just that the majority rarely think they’re the ones under examination.

I may not be a pastor of many people, Ferguson, but I’m a pastor of people who matter. My voice may not be as loud as some who need to be saying something as spiritual leaders of our nation. But it has at least a little volume. To call people to remember they’re Christians, not Republicans or Democrats. Christians. That do the things Jesus did.

I’m praying for you, Ferguson. For ten minutes right now. It’s the least I can do as a Christian.

Groaning,

Christopher Hopper

Doesn’t Modern Worship Miss God?

No, not unless it’s telling you to miss God.

New Life (Colorado Springs, CO) worship leader Glenn Packiam is in the middle of a great two-part piece about modern worship, entitled “The Problem With Our Critique of Modern Worship.” Whether you’re a worship leader or a worshiper (hey, that’s every Christian) I would recommend reading it.

I know why Glenn’s writing this. It’s the same reason I would write something like this. Because when you’re in a place of leadership in an evangelical Christian church, every congregant has an opinion of how church should run, and their way is inevitably the “right way.” Much of this stems around the worship style.

Because we’re Christians, we can’t just tell people their ideas are stupid (even though plenty are). We need to be kind. And because we’re leaders, we must have a thoughtful response.

With regard to modern worship style and contexts, some people feel it’s missing God. They ask questions like, “Why do we need lights?” and “What’s up with all that bass?” which inevitably leads to “Are we running a rock concert or a church service?”

Assuming you already paused long enough to read Glenn’s article, his first point citing where critics often accuse modern songs of having “too many eruptions of repetitive monosyllabic sounds” is brilliant.

“Because it’s Biblical.”

And he brings in quotes from Fuller Seminary’s Old Testament professor John Goldingay to make the point. What might surprise many Christians today is that ancient Hebrew worship music was even more rhythmic and less melodic than anything we have today. And, if I might add from a modal study, our music has far more major chord voicings than anything they used in Middle East traditions, past or present.

But I’d like to offer a few additions to Glenn’s second point regarding the common accusation that our services are “too much like a rock concert.” Glenn does a great job of discerning how Christians can “inhabit the form” of something from the world while not being of the world. Like metaphor and diverse expression, the Church is a wonderful vehicle for an array of communications.

Here’s some more food for thought.

Firstly, what is so bad about a rock concert? Or any concert for that matter? Somewhere, the term “rock concert” has become synonymous in certain Christian circles as being “of the devil.”

News flash, and I know this might be a shocker, but I’ve been to hundreds of rock concerts and I’ve never seen the devil. I’ve never been encouraged to worship the devil. And I’ve never felt the devil. Granted, I may not have gone to the “proper rock concerts” to experience this, but even that proves my point: not all rock concerts are bad, and similarly, not all church services are good. So making a broad generalization is poor grounds for any argument.

Secondly, I’ve seen some amazing things in rock concerts. I’ve seen how lights can be used to minimize distractions and draw a crowd’s attention to something important. I’ve seen how quality mixing, thorough sound reinforcement, and poignant visual and video effects can provide an audience with a memorable, life-altering experience that they’ll never forget.

Isn’t that exactly what we’re trying to do in the church?

So if the question isn’t one of style, but really—if we’re being honest—of content, then what are we promoting with all this technology?

I’m not sure about your church, if it falls into the “modern worship” context or not, but yesterday at mine, our worship leaders talked incessantly about Jesus, lead the church in songs about him, shared scriptures from his Bible, exhorted the church to pray and intercede for the perishing in our community, and prayed for the congregation.

Huh. I’ve never been to a rock concert where that happened. Unless you’re talking about a CCM concert, which I don’t think that’s what critics are trying to cite as evidence.

The truth is, I’ve been to secular rock shows where the front man was more humble than some pastors I’ve met on a Sunday morning. Again, not all, just some. Content always trumps environment.

Why am I so stumped when critics draw the awkward and ill-informed rock concert comparison? Because they’re choosing to use broad strokes when really all they need to say is, “I don’t like electric guitars.” Now at least that would be an honest, accurate statement that we could have a discussion about. Or just say, “I’m always going to think that things were better [in whatever decade they were saved in].” I can work with that! I’m sure that I’ll always think the 90’s were the best. (But they really weren’t).

When we use stereotypes in place of facts, it’s usually because we have not thought out our arguments and believe that generalizations will further impassion our plea. The opposite is true: they undermine our arguments and turn well-meaning people into cause-driven fanatics.

If we’re going to critique anything, let it be whether or not we see the love of Jesus at work among his people. Whether or not we see people using their creative gifts to full effect in directing attention to God and creating an unforgettable experience for others. And whether or not people walk away remembering how exciting it is to see “the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living” (Psalm 27:13).

Changing One

I remember walking the grassy fields of Auschwitz in the summer of 2002, trying to contemplate just how many millions of people had perished there.

A million people is a hard concept to grasp.

Millions of people even harder.

And that these lives hadn’t lived and died in the naturally occurring order of life, but instead were brutally snuffed out, was an almost unthinkable equation.

“You can’t think of them as millions,” said Vincent Fernandez, sensing my obvious frustration. Vincent has become a man who Jennifer I consider our French Pastor and our French PaPa. And for good reason: leaders that call great things out of you and challenge you to higher realms of being deserve such titles. “You must think of them as one, plus one, plus one.”

He took a few steps and then turned around. “And everywhere you set your foot, you must remember that someone died there.”

“One, plus one, plus one.”

I wept bitterly. The millions had stopped being numbers and started being people.

Like most tourists who visit her hallowed grounds, Auschwitz changed me. Deeply. The moments I spent there have bled into the rest of my life, namely this:

We change the world when we change one life. Because life is made up of ones.

Christopher

Arresting Our Perspectives

Sometimes our perspectives need arresting. The out-of-control, self-centric world view that plagues those of us who live amongst the earth’s most affluent societies is a beast that needs constant taming.

The fix is quite simple really: force your sane self to show your perspective-less self the images and stories that your bad attitude conveniently missed.

Like this one, posted recently by one of my friends:

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Hey, you there. Reader. You had a really good day today. Now go find someone to encourage.