Jan 1994 – When Christians disagree

Christians often are among both the supporters and the opponents of an issue, because the Bible doesn’t give all-purpose rules and doesn’t specifically address all the situations we encounter in today’s world. In The Myth of Certainty, Daniel Taylor explains that Christians who disagree with us often seem like a threat to our assumptions about reality and truth, so they frighten us. In defense, people often use rigidity and even violence. Taylor finds that we’re confusing unity with uniformity when we insist that all Christians must come to God in the same way and use the same words for describing their experiences and beliefs. Hearing a variety of views and beliefs is valuable.

Feb 1994 – “Do this in remembrance of me”

Christians have different understandings, along with different names, for Communion, the Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper. Many disagreements about the observance of this rite focus on superficial aspects of it that keep us from seeing God in it. To me, its symbolism, which has appeared in many ways throughout history, not just in Christianity, asks us to give our lives and our selves, as Jesus gave his.

Mar 1994 – Many ways to worship

To reach younger people, many new fast-growing congregations are using worship styles very different from the styles older, long-time churchgoers are used to. But instead of complaining about new styles, we need to ask ourselves what’s really essential for worship. In Trouble at the Table, Carol Doran and Thomas Troeger affirm that most of us are most comfortable in worship whose practices are what we’re used to. But drawing on the best that each segment of our membership and the population has to offer can be important for carrying out our real purpose.

Apr 1994 – Sunday School

Many Sunday School classes use the same kind of lesson material and hear the same teacher for years, never exposing members to new viewpoints or new information. This kind of class can keep members from noticing when God is offering them new insight and nudging them to take new steps in their spiritual journeys. This Connections suggests ways to make classes more interesting and more conducive to spiritual growth.

May 1994 – Christians aren’t God’s police force

The gospels show Jesus directing his strongest criticism toward the religious people who had appointed themselves God’s thought police. He told his followers not to try to weed out the people who disagreed with them but to practice love instead. When I hear Christians railing against people they think are breaking God-given rules, I feel like I’m back in the halls of my elementary school, hearing the principal roar at violators of trivial school rules.

June 1994 – God’s priorities and ours

Jesus’s number-one priority seems to have been demonstrating love in action, but our churches’ top priority often seems to be members’ comfort instead.  Faithfulness requires constant attention to what Jesus’s priorities were.

July 1994 – We can’t stop with what we learned in kindergarten

For coping with adult life and doing what God calls us to do, limiting ourselves to what we learned in kindergarten or even in our earlier adult life isn’t enough. In The Paralysis of Mainstream Protestant Leadership, Edward Carothers calls this limited approach to faith starvation. For growing as Christians, continually being fed with new information is essential, as is continually reevaluating and occasionally revising our present beliefs.

Aug 1994 – Lay voices in the church

Many lay Christians feel their voices aren’t heard in the church. None of us as individuals can expect to call the shots in it, but if we’ve informed ourselves and thought about our beliefs, then expressing our views and concerns is important. This Connections suggests ways in which we can have a voice and be heard.

Sept 1994 – God speaks through our dreams

For many years I was baffled by scriptures that described God speaking through dreams. Then I discovered how to see meaning not only in dreams but also in other places where symbolic language appears, including visual art, literature, the Bible and other religious writings, and religious rituals. This discovery especially helped me understand a life-changing dream that came at midlife. This Connections gives pointers for remembering and understanding dreams, and suggests books that may help.

Oct 1994 – Who’s feeding today’s sheep?

Jesus says “feed my sheep,” but we often offer things the sheep can’t recognize as food. Older members often don’t see any  need for the variety that younger people consider essential, but we need to pay attention to what food will attract today’s sheep, even if it’s food that we don’t find tasty. In Dancing with Dinosaurs, Bill Easum reminds us to design our worship for today’s people, not just for yesterday’s. In Looking in the Mirror, Lyle Schaller reminds us to ask first what we’re trying to to, and then whether we’re spending our resources trying to keep yesterday alive.

Nov 1994 – Broadcasting and narrowcasting

Many of the methods our churches use for communicating are guaranteed to reach only a few people. In Ministry in an Oral Culture, Tex Sample points out that half of the people in the U.S. live in an oral culture, but our churches are offering a lot that these people find meaningless and boring. He suggests how the church can reach them.

Dec 1994 – Here comes Jesus!

A friend who was drafted to play the role of Jesus in a Vacation Bible School activity was startled when the children shouted “Here comes Jesus!” as he entered the room. The experience made him reevaluate himself and his way of living. Isn’t “Here comes Jesus!”  the reaction we all need to evoke in the people who encounter us in our daily life?