When tragedy strikes, or when evil happens, we often ask, “Why?’ Some get mad at God for letting painful things happen, others doubt a loving God exists if there’s evil the world, and some work to find a reason behind tragedies, as if God is sending a sign or judgment.
In the midst tragedy and evil/pain, we hurt, cry, get mad, feel despair, and often feel hopeless. And these moments often seem without reason or purpose. Some ask why does God let bad things happen to good people? Yet, we all go through pain, have loved ones die unexpectedly, and deal with sudden tragedy.
I was happy to have my good friend, author, and colleague Jim Hampton (from Asbury Theological Seminary) on the YS Roundtable show. Jim had many years of experience in the local church before stepping into denominational leadership and then the seminary classroom. He can tell stories from the trenches of youth ministry! And his experience of working with senior pastors prompted him to conduct a nationwide study on that and related topics about being a youth pastor. In this episode, he shares a few of those findings and insights.
Ran across this video (thanks Jalysa Smith) this past week as we’ve been discussing the church, modernity, and how consumerism has shaped ecclesiology in our senior seminar class that I teach. One of the comments on the video says, “I miss the church. I hope it’s rediscovered in my life time.” My take is that things are better than this video portrays. We’re experimenting with ways to connect well, to build community, to reach out, and to speak to the times. And I love those initiatives. So, I’m positive about the church and its efforts, and deeply committed to it.
However, there are some potential fundamental problems if we’re not careful moving forward – and this video illustrates them. First, consumerism often (sometimes unknowingly) drives decision-making, even leadership decisions. We choose leaders or programs or content based on attraction potential, finances, and marketing. Of course, church attenders do the same and look for a church service that “appeals” to us. And, if we don’t like it someday, we’ll go to a church that does.
I invited Tom Bergler of Huntington University to stop by and talk about his book, The Juvenilization of American Christianity. We aired this video as the third in the series for Youth Specialties, though we shot it first. Tom talks about his latest book, which created a lot of press and discussion (links to Jesus Creed blog by Scot McKnight), while giving youth workers a lot to think about. If you haven’t read the book, this video will introduce you to its main points.
I’m not a big country music fan, but I live in a home with two people who LOVE it. Kelly told me about the song “Changed” by Rascal Flatts and I think it’s a fantastic example of the transformation that Jesus Christ can do in our lives. And that we can stand up, raise our hands, or write that we’re changed. Because we are. Changed. Enjoy.
This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person.
I was listening to some instrumental music this week and the old hymn “Nearer, My God, to Thee” came on. Survivors of the Titanic reported that it was the last song played on the ship before it sank. However, it struck me that we so emphasize God’s coming to Earth that we often overlook God’s ultimate goal for his coming: That we would be nearer to him. Jesus’ atoning work would again make it possible for man’s dwelling to be with God. Jesus invited us to abide with Him (John 15) and the Holy Spirit is our Guide and Comfort.
So, the question for me (and for us) this advent is, “Am I drawing nearer to God?” It seems like it should be a mark of a growing familiar friendship with God.