Responding to the US Supreme Court Decision Legalizing Homosexual Marriage

On such a crucial day in our nation’s history, and however that plays into world history, I felt led to log my thoughts on my response to the US Supreme Court’s decision today to legalize homosexual marriage in all fifty states. This post serves, if nothing more, than for my children to read in the future when they’re old enough. If you’ve stumbled upon this post as an evangelical reader, I hope it brings you stability in what I perceive for many of the Christian faith (though not all) to be a turbulent time; and if you’re someone who endorses gay marriage, perhaps my words will help you at least understand the position of the many Christians that you can’t quite figure out, regardless of how vehemently you disagree.

From the beginning, let me make my position clear, so you can hold my later statements against an overarching view. I do believe homosexuality in lust, in commitment, and in or not in any form of union, recognized or not, is sin and breaches God’s intention in building human kind after his own image. This has been the opinion of the church for many centuries, and it will most likely remain so for many more; I fully concede that it and I may be considered antiquated both now or in times to come. I’m at peace with that. I will elaborate below on some areas where, however, I believe this position alone is inadequate, and where the Church must embrace the nuance of fallen man into her observations if we are to love compassionately.

My doctrine of sin also informs me that all sin is bad, and more than being punished for our sins—a much debated point over the ages—we’re punished by our sins, explicitly, to death should they have their way, because they’re that destructive. Therefore, whatever grace I extend to my own immorality is the same I expect toward other’s. The question for any struggling creature made after God’s image is a simple one: are you walking in sobriety with regard to your lusts? My objective is not to appease them, but to appease him, and bring myself into submission to his design, regardless of my own desires. Jesus as King trumps me as lord of myself if, in fact, I’m submitting to him.

I am required Scripturally to treat all sinners the same, myself chief among them. This means that I guard my language, extend true love, and exercise supreme acceptance wherever and however I have occasion to, in all circumstances. Anything less is anti-Christ in nature, for if he wanted to distance himself from any single sinner, he’d have to have distanced himself from all of us, and should have never arrived on the planet in the first place. If Christians arrive at a place of suddenly loving gay people, this is not a change in theology, it’s abandonment of bigotry. Because if you’re treating a homosexual different than you’re treating a liar, a glutton, a gossiper (this one’s worth repeating), a gossiper, a pedophile, a thief, a cheat, a pornographer, a proud person, an adulterer, or a drunk, then you’re failing at the greatest and only command after loving God—loving your neighbor as yourself. Isn’t it interesting that we have plenty of grace for a pastor struggling with obesity, but we don’t have for one struggling with attraction to the same sex?

As mentioned previously, I’d like to add that I do believe the Church, at present, does lack many good answers in our classic approach to the issue of homosexuality and gender orientation. I don’t believe we have good answers for people in our churches (should they ever feel our churches are safe enough to let their guard down) who have XYY and XXY chromosome composition (the later often referred to as Klinefelter syndrome), nor do we have good answers for people who are born as hermaphrodites (yes, they exist), or ambiguous genitalia. Again, such sensitive circumstances are more common than we might think (statistically speaking, there are ten in my own church—I just have no idea who they are). As a Christian, a pastor, and a human, I should have answers for them, I just don’t at the moment. Perhaps future generations will make progress in this area. I can only pray.

With regard to the Supreme Court’s ruling, there are a number of things we must consider.

First, I have never believed that my government is the kingdom, nor God’s kingdom our government. Yes, the United States and our invented, flawed Constitution may be the best thing going on the planet, and I tend to believe it is, offering the most amount of freedom to the most amount of people—but it’s not divine. Not even close. Only King Jesus is divine, and his kingdom.

This means that it is illegal for me to expect a human system to conform to a kingdom model when only the kingdom can be the kingdom. In other words, God’s kingdom will never be anything else, and man’s governments will never be anything else. And if you’re wondering about Revelation 11:15 (NLT), “The world has now become the Kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign forever and ever,” recognize that it all belongs to him, even the broken things, like the United States of America. No where is my government called to reflect Christ, that’s the Church’s responsibility. If the government happens to at times, wonderful; what is it to me? Worldly systems do not change my divine mandate as a representative of the divine.

With my doctrine on sin as it is, my government has already missed several sin-oriented policies which, according to what those on the evangelical extremes are saying about “judgement” and “losing our blessing,” we should have already seen California break off from the continent long ago. What are they, you might ask?

Do we ban drunkenness? Cause that’s a sin. Sure, we have rules against drinking and driving, disorderly conduct. But drunks are allowed to be drunks. And it’s anti-Biblical.

Do we ban lying? Cause that’s a sin. Sure, you can’t lie under oath, you can’t lie on your taxes, and you can’t dish information if you’ve been ordered not to by a court of law. But liars are allowed to lie.

Do we ban overeating? Despite some attempts to tax certain foods or penalize obese people (a problem almost entirely relegated to the US), it’s not against the law to be fat. Gluttons are allowed to glut.

Do we ban gossipers? No, though I wish we would. More damage has been done in the church world by this singular issue than any homosexual has. And it’s insulting to even make such a comparison.

My point is that if you’re looking or waiting for the United States to act like the kingdom, no wonder you’re so distraught today. The US never has nor will she ever. Because she’s not the kingdom. And don’t worry, the land of our forefather’s wasn’t “based on Judeo-Christian ethics” like you perceive she was: slavery is demonic, and we invited a national war that nearly wiped us out because of it.

The greatest point not to be missed, however, is in regard to those Christians who seem to think the other proverbial shoe has dropped. Now the nation is really in trouble because God’s blessing is going to be removed. Unfortunately, much of this apocalyptic thinking has been seeded by a sloppy and dangerous mishandling of the Scriptures in the hands of sensationalist teachers.

Dear Christians, the greatest blessing of God on our human nation is Jesus, and nothing can deconstruct Him. No decision, no action, no pledge, no law. There is no greater blessing to be bestowed, and the Supreme Court can’t “lift his hand” from us; his hand was nailed for us, and when he was raised from the dead, it was laid upon us, right, wrong or indifferent. He’s not changing, he’s not offended, and he’s not going anywhere.

How can I be so sure? If I wasn’t so theologically convinced, all I need to do is observe the nations that would definitely meet the requirements of most Catastrophic Christians. Like China. For all China has done wrong, and I’ve been there to see much of that wrong, the Church is alive and well there. In fact, the Church in China is estimated to be larger than the entire population of the United States.

With regard to humanity and those who are perishing, if we can’t find Jesus doing or saying something, then we shouldn’t be either. Consequently, we should be acting just like him.

Do not be dismayed. And do not play into the enemy’s hands by buying into a false doctrine of sin, or of believing that there’s some other blessing greater than that of King Jesus himself. Jesus is still on the throne and you’re still called to lay your life down for sinners and Christians alike.

Even homosexual ones.

Christopher

Creativecast Episode 4: Wayne Thomas Batson Interview

Creativecast Header Episode4
In case you have’t listened to it yet, make sure to check out my interview with author Wayne Thomas Batson on episode 4 of Creativecast. And if this is your first introduction to Creativecast in general, its preceded by three other great episodes designed for artists and leaders.

Happy listening,

Christopher

So You’re Starting A Podcast?

You know that queasy feeling you get right before a big exam?

Like, you’re pretty sure you know all the material—at least as good as you think you can know it—but you’re also pretty sure there’s going to be that one question that sinks you? And that you wore the wrong underwear? And that you showed up the wrong day?

That’s how I feel right now.

Because I’m taking the “I’m not sure I can do this” and “why haven’t I done this sooner?” leap into podcasting.

Podcasting Is Popular?

I know, right?

It’s ironic that podcasting has any traction at all. I mean, we actually have video calling capabilities right now. We’re the friggin’ Jetsons! So why a modified version of (gulp) radio? Do radios still work?

A better question to understand the usefulness of podcasting is, do our ears still work? And further, do our imaginations?

For all the amazing things we produce visually, there’s still something we humans love about purely auditory experiences. This would be a great moment to inset a latin-based psychological term that scientists use to explain this phenomenon. If there was one. Which there may be. But I don’t know it, and I don’t feel like Googling it.

We also still do plenty of functions in our daily lives that require us to be focused on a cognitive primary task but likewise allow us to use our ears to benefit from a background secondary task.

Driving a car.

Working out.

Doing housework.

Crocheting.

Knitting.

Some people might argue that crocheting and knitting are the same thing, but anyone who’s had their grandmother school them on these trades knows they’re light years apart.

As much as we might dismiss podcasting as a modern throwback to a bygone means of production, the reality is that podcasting is insanely popular. In fact, iTunes reached over 1-billion subscribers this year.

That’s about three time the population of the United States if you like statistics.

That’s about 9.4605284 × 1024 meters in light years if you like really obtuse statistics.

So Why Am I Podcasting?

People like podcasts if the content is interesting, if it has something valuable to give, and if it’s entertaining.

I think I’m entertaining. At least my kids think so. Because I can talk like Elmo and Yoda, mainly.

Check.

I can be interesting. But that largely depends on who I’m hanging around with. (More on that in a second).

Check.

And I have enough life-experiences at this point to offer value to anyone who has a long enough drive or big enough pot holder to crochet.

Check.

I’m podcasting for personal reasons too.

I need to keep myself sharp. As an associate pastor, I don’t speak publicly as much as my senior pastor. Which means my speaking gift gets rusty from misuse. Podcasting—while not preaching, and sometimes like teaching—forces me to prepare and speak with an audience in mind. And I like that.

I’ve also been encouraged by my dear friend, Mike Kim, who’s a podcasting phenom. A whiz kid. A wonder whirl. A idiot savant without the idiot. And because I’m only as interesting as the people I have around me (see earlier note), he’s agreed to co-host my first ten episodes.

Jackpot.

Having a recording studio at my disposal is a plus, too.

What Are You Going To Podcast About?

Great question.

Like most of us, sometimes our greatest strengths can also be significant weaknesses. One of my strengths is that I like a lot of stuff. Music, writing, theology, technology, leadership, business, art, history and my favorite: family. So while a particular subject matter stream may take a while to materialize (you know, that one subject that makes something “brandable”), I’m going to cover it all. Because I can. It’s my podcast.

And either this thing takes off because you help make it awesome, or it sucks, and after Mike is done co-hosting, we dig a shallow podcast grave and bury it.

Here’s Where You Come In

I’d love to field questions from you. From funny to deathly serious, this is your chance to hear me answer your questions in front of a live (no) studio audience (nope) of thousands! (That’s a lie).

I’ll be checking the comments for your questions, as well as Twitter and Facebook, as we gear up production and shoot for a late January launch.

Thanks for reading, and soon, thanks for listening.

Christopher

Audible Narrator Announced for The Sky Riders: David Rheinstrom

The Sky Riders Christopher Hopper Audible Narrator David Rheinstrom (large)

I’m so thrilled to announce my partnership with voice over artist and narrator David Rheinstrom as Junar ap Leif in Book 1 of The Sky Riders. He’s a gifted voice actor, writer and game developer based out of Chicago, Illinois.

After many months of looking and waiting, I felt David’s audition not only captured the enthusiasm and adolescent dilemmas of Junar’s journey but the inflections of each supporting character, which is just as important to me. Feel free to drop him a note on Facebook.

For those of you who’ve already read TSR, I hope you find the Audible book a fresh companion for the story you’ve already come to love. For those who haven’t, get ready for a theatrical narration of an unforgettable journey above the clouds of Aria-Prime.

Christopher

Building Memories

This week, we’re hosting Douglas Gresham and Meg Sutherland at Sprig Studios. Doug is a long-time friend, and famed adopted-son of C.S. Lewis; and he’s also Meg’s Executive Producer for a potential record deal we’re working on.

Needless to say, the whole experience has been nostalgic and inspiring. Meg’s music is filled with the “divine melancholy” that Tolkien was famous for capturing; and spending any time with Doug’s larger-than-life persona is always a treat. His stories are captivating, and to hear him reminisce of growing up with Jack is nothing short of spellbinding.

But in the midst of the revelry, I’m deeply aware of the new memories we’re forming together—stories, I hope, that my children will tell of with great fondness.

Seek to live your life today in such a way that your great grandchildren will whisper about your happenings with wonder. Honor those around you, and build a legacy with the integrity of consistent action.

ch:

Pictures from my Instagram feed:

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A Feeling Better Update

As reader Venaril so aptly put, I’d rather deal with a physical injury than be ill. Montezuma has not been good to me over the last 3 days. But some rice water and my first solid night’s sleep in 14-days finally did the trick. (All the prayers certainly had something to do with it too).

(To make rice water, boil two handfulls of rice in 3 cups of water for 10-15 minutes, strain, cool, and then drink).

Despite needing to make bathroom runs every 30-90 minutes, I’ve managed to make great headway on finishing Sprig Studios the last few days since returning from Guatemala; if I didn’t have a looming deadline, I’d have posted more about the trip (which I plan to by the end of next week). CS Lewis’ adopted son, Doug Gresham, is flying in on Monday with a new artist we’re signing to Sprig Records. Very exciting!

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Guatemala Tour 2014 Rewards

inn ministries infographic

Jennifer and I are hitting Guatemala for the next ten days, and we’re so excited to go back to a people and a ministry that deeply touched our hearts. Not only will we be able to re-connect with the four children that we sponsor, but we’ll be ministering before some incredible and diverse audiences. Even since Inn Ministries published this infographic, we’ve been notified that another school has invited us to come speak.

•••

Connect

A few fun ways to engage with us on this trip:

• Get constant visuals via our Instagram feeds (Christopher’s / Jennifer’s).

• Stay tuned here for long-form updates.

Invest $5, $15 or $25 to Inn Ministries.

Sponsor a child for $30/mos.

•••

Rewards

Giving should be fun. So let’s have some!

Shout Out Pics: For those of you who chose to invest into the Inn, Jennifer and I’ll post a customized picture just for you that will hit Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and on our blogs. Mine will probably be whacky; Jennifer’s will be thoughtful. Mine will be random; Jennifer’s will be intentional.

Us and Your Child: If you chose to sponsor a child, Jennifer and I will post a picture of us with your sponsor child. This also applies to anyone who already sponsors a child through the Inn. Again, leave a comment and give us your child’s name. This is a beautiful way to connect with your kids through us—we’ll be your eyes, but you’re still the heart.

Thanks for for being an integral part of changing culture with us.

ch:

Staying In Baghdad

Iraq isn’t in the news much anymore. At least, not the way it was in the 90s. But neither is Green Day.

So what’s current in Baghdad?

Last month alone, 1,013 people in Iraq – 795 civilians, 122 soldiers and 96 policemen – died as a result of violence.

The community of faith has certainly taken a hit too:

There were once 135,000 Jews in Iraq; only six remain. And Iraq’s Christians have fled by the hundreds of thousands in recent years. Out of 1.5 million in 2003, only around 200,000 remain. This is particularly tragic, because both the Jewish and Christian communities in Iraq are ancient and indigenous. They are neither post-colonial nor the result of Western missionary activity.

In a nation where acting like Christ comes with inherently severe consequences, you’ll be inspired by the story of a man referred to as The Vicar of Baghdad. Sound like a movie title? It should. Reverend Canon Andrew White—an Anglican priest from Great Britain, firmly planted in Iraq’s capital—does enough heart-string pulling to merit an Oscar. Only he’s not acting.

Apparently, he didn’t get the memo regarding “bunker mentality.”

Read the full story here.

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Three Reasons Our Church Is Embracing a Multisite Model

New Life Multisite Summary North Campus Depauville Peter and Nina Hopper

Announced yesterday, I’m excited to share that my church, New Life, is launching its first multisite location in Depauville, NY. Our new North Campus location, about 15 miles from our Main Campus in Watertown, NY, will be pastored by none other than my father and mother, Peter and Nina Hopper.

With over 3,000 multisite campuses in the US alone (and thousands more world-wide)—birthed by churches as small as 50 congregants, all the way up to mega-churces—there are numerous reasons to move toward a church model that plants new faces of the same expression throughout any given region.

Here are three of our primary reasons at New Life:

The Gospel Issue

The Gospel of King Jesus still needs to be proclaimed, lived out and administered. Church plants aren’t just for missionaries to start in 3rd World nations, but for missional Christians to start in all nations.

If we claim to be in Christ, we should constantly be on the lookout for new ways to preach this Gospel message.

Establishing a new expression of a mature church culture that a region has already embraced is an amazing way to do this. But rather than expecting people to come to us, the multisite expression loudly declares, “We’re coming to you!”

The Replication Issue

Much like walking into a quality hotel chain in any city of the country (or the world, for that matter), people know that they can expect the same exceptional experience in this new location as they could with the original. Sure, the pool might be on a different floor, and the windows might display a different skyline, but the thing that you count on—the thing that matters—is that the cultural values are the same.

(No, our church doesn’t have a pool, although that would be cool).

This quality of integrity is essential in begetting other Christians through the vehicle of the local church. If we have to reinvent church culture every time we start a new one, we’re ultimately inefficient stewards with the mandate of discipling others. It takes multiple generations to weed out worldly thinking and imbue kingdom thinking; so why start over every time we want to multiply?

Reproducing what works isn’t corporatism, it’s intelligent.

The Space Issue

Moving to a multisite model is an exciting step for any church to take, as it not only endeavors to reach more people with the Gospel by moving to where those people are, but seeks to deal with capacity issues at its primary location.

Right now, our Main Campus is running four services, and we’re past the 80% capacity mark in three of those services—the statistical benchmark of needing to create more space so new people feel like they have a place. Adding a fifth service, however, would put too much strain on what’s already a long day for our hundreds of volunteers.

While building a new sanctuary (and expanding all the support ministries to match, like child care, parking and hospitality) is certainly an option, the price of building is exponentially larger than the costs of creating a second campus in a pre-existing building.

Launching a new venue isn’t just a good Gospel move, it’s a good business move. Since many current congregants will switch their attendance to the new venue, as it’s closer to their home or they feel called to be a part of the ministry there, more seats will open up at our Main Campus for new people to attend.

•••

For New Life in particular, this move to multisite means something special. Not only will two 43-year pastoral veterans of the faith be caring for people in a region that deeply needs comfort, but we’re moving back into the property we vacated in 2008. The “Old Stone Church” was built in 1836 on land gifted to the town by Henry Depau; his mandate was that it always be used as a place for worship. While it’s remained dormant since we outgrew it, the walls will soon echo with praise again.

If you’re a faithful reader of this site, I’d ask that you please keep this launch in prayer. The first service will be held Easter Sunday, April 20th at 10:00 AM. And if you live in the river communities of Jefferson County New York, and need a church family, I can recommend no better pastors than the two people who raised me in Christ.

No matter the size or scope of your church, pray about the future impact you should have in your region. Planting churches—at least for New Life—is part of our Board’s growing 100 Year Vision.

For more material on this, I recommend the following:

Leadership Network Publications (free)

The Multi-Site Church Revolution: Being One Church in Many Locations, Geoff Surratt, Greg Ligon, and Warren Bird, Zondervan, 2006

A Multi-site Church Roadtrip: Exploring the New Normal, Geoff Surratt, Greg Ligon, and Warren Bird, Zondervan, 2009

What strategies is your church embracing to reach more people with the Gospel and make disciples of Jesus? I’d love to hear.

ch:

Quiet But Busy

I’ve had a few close friends note that it’s been quiet around here lately. Quiet, yes. But by no means fruitless. As any who know me might well surmise, my energies have been consumed by other more-pressing activities.

For one, I’m still writing—quite a lot, in fact. But not much of it, if any, is ready for daylight on a public forum. I’ve been writing daily, mostly of theology. While The Sky Riders II is in process, I’m simultaneously working on at least three other non-fiction works, as well as some writings for future songs and messages, all content that I feel needs addressing for the sake of Christians I find myself mentoring and pastoring. This has been further inspired and somewhat initiated by an uptick in my reading and processing of older Christian texts.

Apart from the reading and writing disciplines of my life, I’m in gaged in numerous New Life church activities, all of which have been large in scope and demanding of time. A vision to reach mankind with the Gospel and to make disciples should require nothing less. Our current production of A Watertown Christmas hits this weekend to two sold out audiences. On top of regular Christmas activities, as well as preparations for January’s series and annual fast, my team has had their hands full.

The businesses (CiCis Pizza, Cold Stone Creamery) have also consumed more of my creative attention lately, as I’m overseeing new directives to meet with school administrators and church leaders to ascertain how we might be able to serve their food needs and create win-win scenarios in the community.

I’m also fully engaged in one of my more favorite enterprises at the moment: overseeing the final phases of construction for Sprig Studios, due to open mid-winter. The final electrical work begins today, and we’re building all the custom light fixtures on site. The studio, by nature, begets newfound ventures of music creation, which are also simmering behind the scenes at home and in various nooks of the church.

Life is full and rich, made the most so by my wife, children and close friends, and reminds me of how truly blessed I am to be surrounded by constant beauty, creativity and mission. 2014 holds more adventures still, with calls back to Central America and Europe. May the God of the nations receive the glory that he’s due.

ch:

Watertown Schools Talk Bullying Prevention This Week

Campus Impressions Team Lift HT Wiley Intermediate School

Caption: Students listen attentively to Campus Impression’s Team Lift during a general assembly at H.T. Wiley Intermediate School for Bullying Prevention Week. [Photo by Gideon Blackburn]

WATERTOWN SCHOOLS TALK BULLYING PREVENTION THIS WEEK
Tuesday, October 16, 2013
By Gideon Blackburn

WATERTOWN, NY – Electric guitars buzzed, drums roared, and vocals soared as 560 students at H.T. Wiley Intermediate School sang about treating one another with respect and “crazy kindness.” The vibrant concert-style event, complete with skits and charismatic youth speakers is all part of the the Watertown City School District’s creative plan to prevent bullying in its schools.

“This presentation is exactly the kind of thing we need in our schools,” says Patricia LaBarr, Principal of Wiley School, speaking about Team Lift of Watertown-based Campus Impressions. “Team Lift’s anti-bullying presentation wasn’t even over for five minutes when one of our students came up to me and said, ‘Principal LaBarr, guess what? One of the girls who’s been bullying me just came up and apologized to me. I can’t believe it!’ Now that’s just cool.”

LaBarr isn’t alone in her enthusiasm. The presentation at Ohio Elementary School had children singing along, including their administrators.

“Our assembly today was right in line with everything we teach our students on a regular basis,” says Principal Mark Taylor. “It was spot on, the kids loved it, and so did the teachers.”

Mayor Jeffrey Graham was on site for yesterday’s presentation at North Elementary School to proclaim that the month of October is officially Watertown’s Bullying Prevention Month, and kicked things off with a special greeting to the children. From there, Team Lift took center stage in leading an energetic and fast-paced presentation tailored for the students.

“This is about engaging kids with simple truths and making it fun for them,” says Campus Impressions speaker Christopher Hopper. “Treating one another with crazy kindness is one of the most powerful things we can do. We’re not just trying to help kids at their present age, but to give them tools for being successful adults when they grow up. We hope they remember these moments long after our events are over.”

Campus Impressions has three more schools to present in this week, including Knickerbocker Elementary School on Thursday, and both Sherman Elementary and Watertown High School on Friday.

“Today was a great way to kick off our bullying-prevention campaign,” says Wiley School Guidance Counselor, Lynne Hebert. “Hopefully Wiley School can spread crazy kindness!” •

Campus Impressions Team Lift Ohio School

Caption: Students listen attentively to skits by Campus Impression’s Team Lift at Ohio School on Wednesday, October 16th. [Photo by Gideon Blackburn]

Campus Impressions Team Lift Jennifer Hopper singing Ohio School

Caption: Singer Jennifer Hopper leading kids in song at Ohio School on Wednesday, October 16th. [Photo by Gideon Blackburn]

Campus Impressions Team Lift Christopher Hopper North Elementary School

Caption: Speaker Christopher Hopper speaking during Campus Impression’s presentation at North Elementary School on Tuesday, October 15th. [Photo by Jacob Widrick]