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The Perks of Being a Bible Quizzer: The Case For Setting Your Mind On Scripture

The Perks of Being a Bible Quizzer: The Case For Setting Your Mind On Scripture

When I was growing up, my dad helped lead a Bible quizzing program at our church and his energy and enthusiasm about it was contagious. Though I sometimes gave my parents a hard time about it, and even tried to quit once or twice, I was a highly engaged Bible quizzer from 3rd–12th grade.  

Looking back, I must confess that Bible quizzing is one of the best things that ever happened to me. Every year we would study a different book (or books) of the New Testament, and we had to be very familiar with the material, even memorizing particular verses and passages, to be successful in the competition.

Despite all of that Scripture in my mind, even as a Bible quizzer, I still found a way to be a rascal in many of my interpersonal relationships, but that was no fault of the Scripture. My life contains many mistakes, but my involvement in Bible quizzing, which led me to ingest large amounts of the New Testament into my long term memory, and eventually into my heart, is not one of them. 

I backed my way into immersing my mind in Scripture as a child, but now in adulthood, I have found it to be extremely helpful for the learning involved in discipleship to Jesus. 

 

The Why

If we have accepted the status of disciple (a student or apprentice) of Jesus Christ, then, as good students, what we fill our minds with will have important ramifications on our learning. As disciples of Jesus, our course of study is to learn how to live our lives within the reign and action of God, just like Jesus would if he were us. Such a way is outlined for us in Scripture.

In Psalm 1:1–3, we find a picture of the kind of person whose delight is in God’s law or word, and meditates on it day and night: he or she is like a tree planted by streams of water. Their fruit yields in season, their leaf does not wither, and whatever they do prospers. This kind of  student or disciple has their mind on the material, and will be successful in learning kingdom living.

How could we expect to grow in Christlikeness, if we don’t recognize our obligation to set our minds on the material of the course? If we set our mind on “whatever,” then “whatever” will be our result. The lesson of garbage in, garbage out, is completely accurate.   

Can you imagine failing a course, and then complaining to your teacher, “Oh… you actually expected me to study?” 

If our goal is to learn to live in cooperation with God’s action, then, as students, there is material available for us to set our minds upon to aid us in that pursuit. 

We can do this, and we can start afresh today. 

 

The How

With the right “why” in hand,  we are motivated and prepared to ask how we might immerse our minds in Scripture. 

To this end, Dallas Willard offers 3 keys for setting our minds on Scripture: 

 

  1. Concentration: We have to actually set our attention on the Scripture.
  2. Repetition: We have to go over the same material multiple times to become familiar with it.
  3. Understanding: We must understand it for it to be profitable to our hearts.  Sometimes looking at multiple Bible translations or resources like commentaries, BibleProject podcast and videos, and audio Bible recordings can help. 

If you are ready to concentrate, repeat, and understand Scripture, here are a few passages to start with. I know you will find many more to add to the list!

Psalm 23
Proverbs 3:5–8
Isaiah 40:27–31
Philippians 4:4–9
Colossians 3:1-17

In Psalm 119:11, we read, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”

May this be true of each one of us this year, and for the rest of our earthly sojourn. 

We Were Meant to Live for so Much More

We Were Meant to Live for so Much More

Fumbling his confidence
And wondering why the world has passed him by
Hoping that he’s bent for more than arguments
And failed attempts to fly, fly

We were meant to live for so much more
Have we lost ourselves?
Somewhere we live inside

I was a high school junior when Switchfoot’s iconic song Meant to Live came out. I remember driving to work and school with this song on repeat. As someone who has always dreamed big dreams fueled by a wild imagination, I never really wanted a “quiet life.” While I didn’t know what living a quiet life actually meant in high school, I made myself a promise to never be stuck in a Secret Life of Walter Mitty existence. I had seen friends, family, and leaders waste away in the acceptance of just going with the flow, and it looked more like death than life. 

It had been years since I’d heard that song, and then in 2023, I heard not Jon Foreman but Jon Bellion singing Meant to Live as if it was a new hit single. Switchfoot, no doubt following in the footsteps of Taylor Swift, had re-released their “own versions” of their hits and even went one step further, inviting well-known artists to remake their hits. Instantly it was as if I was in high school again. Now, to be clear, I wasn’t hit with midlife regret. I’ve persistently said “yes” to what many said was crazy, and I have had an expanded imagination around the goodness of quiet living. But the song’s re-release did raise a question that will be raised until Jesus returns: What more is God rescuing me for today

Throughout history, Christians have spoken at length concerning the dangers of discontentment. The Apostle Paul reminds us that with Jesus, we truly have enough no matter our circumstances (Philippians 4:11). What a gift of the Christian life! But for as long as we are on this side of eternity, I also hold fast to how Paul modeled a holy discontent. 

Why? Deep within the infrastructure of salvation are dual, dynamically concurrent movements. God has magnificently rescued you and me through his Son Jesus through his life, death, burial, and resurrection “from” sin. Hallelujah! But that’s not the only movement. God is not just a “from” God. God is also a “for” God. God came not just to rescue us “from” sin and its consequence: death. God came to rescue us “for” life, although looking at some sectors of Christianity, you’d have no idea. Sometimes Christians can get so focused on the “from” that we no longer embody the “for.” 

This is why the Apostle Paul astounds me. He seemingly had everything this world had to offer before Jesus saved him. He was the best in his class. He had good pedigree, past experiences of God, and top-level leadership as a Pharisee in Jerusalem, the holy city! Then he gets a glimpse of the resurrected Jesus on a work trip, and he is confronted with life. 

The atrocity of Paul’s own sin was revealed to himself, along with the beauty of salvation from sin through Jesus’ sufficient death. Simultaneously, Paul saw life in the resurrected Jesus, and nothing compares to that resurrection life. Paul saw Jesus bringing a whole new way to live.

Not a kind of life where self-destructive habits continue to dominate and shame us while we tell ourselves our hope is just a promise on a piece of paper that when we die, it will be different. Not a kind of life that leaves us lonely without purpose. Not a kind of life that is contained to a few quiet times in Scripture and Sunday mornings. 

No. We were meant to live for so much more, but we’ve lost ourselves, partly because we’ve lost sight of salvation.

God wants us to live with him and thus find ourselves. A life that says “yes” to his healing. A life that grows our capacity to love him, others, and ourselves. A life that knows no end and knows higher bounds. A life that exists on more than the weekends. A life no one can take away. The life we were meant “for.” 

But resurrection life is not always the life we recognize. Paul himself didn’t recognize it at first. This is what Paul is writing about in Romans 6-8. He’s laying out how God has rescued us for real life, a life that looks and dwells with Jesus now

One way Christians have sought to open themselves up to this life they read about in Scripture is through contemplation. Contemplation is rich with spiritual practices and postures that Christians throughout history have engaged with to more fully experience and rest in their union with the Author of Life. Contemplation is sometimes still and sometimes not. It’s as rich as resurrection life when we lean in.

Take time to walk through a passage like Romans 6-8. Spend time in contemplation, considering what God might be saying to you. Join your church family in theFormed.life, which continues our daily journey through Scripture and building habits, such as the discipline of contemplation, as we grow into the life God has for us. 

We were meant for more, and he’s waiting.

The Purpose Gap

The Purpose Gap

The Power of Purpose

Happiness comes from WHAT we do. Fulfillment comes from WHY we do it.

-Simon Sinek

It’s 3:00 AM at the local all-night grocery store mid-pandemic. The woman in front of me is chatting with the check-out clerk, and I overhear her ask, “How are you feeling about having to be here in the middle of the night? Do you feel safe? Are you feeling worn out?”

Without hesitation, the clerk replies, “You know, if my being here helps you get medicine when you need it, and if it provides the health care workers just getting off their shifts a place to get their groceries, then in some small way I’m doing my part.”

Wow. Mic drop moment. 

 

Purpose Creates Perspective

The pandemic was a megaphone for many, amplifying their focus on priorities and purpose in life. 

While getting paid for work was an essential reason for our store clerk to be there that night, she had other motivations. This differentiation was an understanding of her purpose. In the midst of a global pandemic, she understood that her work made a difference in the lives of others. She was able to connect her personal value of helping others to her workplace, which provides resources like food and medicine for the community. And when personal values align with corporate values, good things happen. 

Workers who have “bought in” to the mission make the best advocates and are more likely to stay with the company; they feel more engaged in the company and in their work.

Research suggests that 70 percent of employees feel their sense of purpose is defined by their work. Yet only 18 percent of respondents believe they get as much purpose from work as they want; 62 percent say they get some purpose from work, but they want to get even more. Any way you look at it, there is a big gap and a big opportunity for employers and employees alike. Creating strong links to individual purpose for employees benefits not just the person but also the business. This vital connection helps fill the purpose gap. 

 

Connecting With Purpose

What we do during the week matters. Whether we clerk at a store, run a lawn business, fix plumbing problems for others, or coordinate carpool and lunches for the children in our home, having a sense that our work makes a difference is vital to our well-being. By extension, this is reflected in our homes, workplaces, and our communities. 

Interestingly, among those surveyed, parents were the most reliant on work for purpose. They credited parenthood as the source of this shift to a “big picture” perspective that helped them feel more invested in the future. 

 

Purpose Impact

“It’s an amazing feeling to live with purpose, on purpose,” says best-selling author Simon Sinek. But that purpose “is not just about work, it’s about who we are.” 

Having a sense of purpose is more important than you might think. People with a sense of purpose are more likely to be resilient and handle negative circumstances better. Research shows that those who have a purpose live longer, healthier lives. More of the benefits include:

  • 2.5 times more likely to be free of dementia
  • 22% less likely to exhibit risk factors for stroke
  • 52% less likely to have experienced a stroke

And these are just some of the personal benefits. Organizations benefit as well. Purpose plays a vital role in worker experience, with increased engagement, a stronger commitment to the mission, along with improved feelings of well-being. 

Having and helping instill a sense of purpose is a win-win overall. 

 

Role of Identity and Values

Personal identity and values are guideposts for individual purpose. Psychologists describe identity as an amalgamation of experiences, relationships, memories, and values that create a sense of self. It’s no wonder, then, why the concept of identity and where we get our identity has changed through the years and why generations approach identity differently.

Baby Boomers, for example, tend to have their identities dictated to them by institutions such as the government, school, church, or family. Gen X tends to look inward in an attempt to discover their own identities. But Millennials and Gen Z have yet another approach. They seek to define their own identity, and that identity is fluid and ever-changing. 

Values and what we value are a big part of our identity and help guide us to our purpose in life. While some values are organizational, other values are more personal. It’s these core personal values that help determine standards of behavior, guide our decisions, and even impact our disposition. Values shape how we interact with the world around us. 

But what does this have to do with work?

 

A MOD Example

MOD Pizza was founded in 2008 and is self-described NOT as a pizza place but as a people place. They are a home for “second chances.” Everything about their business helps tell the story of their purpose. They describe pizza as a “platform to make a positive social impact in the lives of our people and the communities we serve.” 

Everything from hiring practices to food sourcing weave together to form their corporate values. And this “people place” cares for its employees in extraordinary ways. Employee videos on their website tell stories of life change being part of the “MOD Squad.” The atmosphere of acceptance, opportunity, inclusivity, and belonging has made its way into their corporate culture. It shows up in their employees and, in turn, is felt by their customers.

When employees connect their personal values to the company’s purpose, good things happen. Research says that respondents with such opportunities are nearly three times more likely than others to feel their purpose is fulfilled at work.

 

The Purpose Advantage

Keeping her eyes open throughout her daily routine, Faith Dill, a stay-at-home mom, also wanted to make an impact and help others.

Dill looked for opportunities defined by self-sacrificial love for the people in her community. She noticed homeless people on street corners with their cardboard signs, looking for food or work. She felt the simultaneous ache to give but also the skepticism for why not to give. While she understood giving money or food would not fix their homelessness, she also knew it would say to someone, “I see you.” 

Dill started keeping a small supply in her car for such situations. Sometimes it was a kit of items, i.e., a toothbrush, toothpaste, gloves, and socks. Other times it was simply a water bottle or a granola bar, but she always offered it with a smile and word of kindness so that no matter what the person’s story, they would feel seen and known.

Her hope? That it impacts the receiver and helps to change her own heart while modeling this example for her growing child. While Dill’s daily vocation doesn’t take her into an office, her faith in God helps connect her personal values of helping others feel seen and loved to a “bigger story.” 

 

The Purpose Connection

Living and working in alignment with personal values is critically important for well-being. If knowing your purpose and aligning your purpose with your daily routine is so important and beneficial, who is responsible for defining that purpose? 

Individual purpose is fluid. It changes over time and in varying degrees. It can be clarified and get stronger, especially in times of crisis or different stages of life.  

Who, then, is in charge of aligning or connecting personal and organizational values? 

 

Purpose Is A Two-Way Street

Sixty-three percent of people surveyed say they want their employer to provide more opportunities for purpose in their day-to-day work. This puts the burden of purpose primarily on the organization. Yet it would be counterintuitive and nearly impossible for an organization to flex its purpose and values on an individual basis.  

How about our store clerk? Did she make the values connection on her own? Or did the grocery store where she worked communicate how her work matters? What about our stay-at-home mom? While her primary purpose is caring for her family, Dill created her own connection to the “bigger story” to impact her community. 

 

Purpose-Driven Steps

As a Christian, I have a dual purpose: to know God intimately and actively engage in the work God has for me in the world. A higher purpose does not supplant personal values and involvement but rather is an impetus for being the hands and feet of Jesus in the here and now. In fact, knowing and articulating personal values can help define and align our greater purpose. For some people, the act of defining and articulating these values can foster empathy and awareness of the needs of others; “the bigger picture.”

A shared sense of purpose in the workplace can create connections among co-workers. A good first step toward defining purpose might be to start an open and ongoing conversation to explore shared values and articulate a collective purpose. In this collaborative process, teams can gain insights into individual aspirations, align them with the organization’s overarching mission, and foster a culture of mutual understanding and support. This approach not only enhances employee engagement and satisfaction but also strengthens the organization’s ability to achieve its goals by harnessing the collective energy and commitment of its workforce. It can be so powerful when everyone begins to row in the same direction.

Open and honest communication is vital to both individuals and the organization. This regular act of honest sharing can build accountability and act as an accelerator to help people consider where and how to bring more of their purpose to work.

“Here’s what I’ve decided: The very least you can do in your life is figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof.”

– Barbara Kingsolver – Author

In this way, we can help one another live more fully at work—an outcome that benefits everyone. 

Let’s not sit around and wait for someone to define a purpose for us. Let’s go out and create it. The sooner we start living out of a sense of purpose, the greater the impact on our lives and the lives of those around us, whether at home, at school, or at work. In this way, we help one another live more fully every day—an outcome that benefits everyone.

I’m right. I win. You lose.

I’m right. I win. You lose.

Although not often used in common parlance, the abbreviation QED is used in philosophical arguments, mathematical theorem proofs, and legal briefs. It is an abbreviation for the Latin phrase quod erat demonstrandum which literally means “which was to be demonstrated” or “thus it has been proven.” Charitably, it means I have successfully supported my argument or belief. In real life, it has an acerbic edge to it, which translates as, “See, I’m right. There, I showed you. I win. You lose.” 

Have you ever watched a debate (i.e. a debate team, not political theater called “debate”)? Debaters (especially in high school) use their timed speaking opportunities to cite as many references as possible at a pace that approaches warp speed. They talk so fast the listener can barely make out anything they’re saying until they hit their concluding statement, spoken at the fortissimo level, which almost always goes something like, “Thus it is clear that the verdict must be awarded to the affirmative [or the negative if that is their assignment that day].” QED. Translated, that means I talked faster than you did. I cited more references than you did. My logic was flawless. I win. You lose.

Challenged?

Has your opinion on something or a conclusion ever been challenged? How did that make you feel? What was your response? As Christians in the 21st century, our truth claims are becoming less and less culturally plausible. We are being challenged more and more.

Do you respond with questions of curiosity—trying to understand the challenger’s position, or with an avalanche of polysyllabic prose in an attempt to bury your “discussion partner” and then end with an emphatic QED? I win. You lose.

Do you respond with humble confidence, willing to hear a different thought process, or are you so certain of your opinion that you lambast their ideas and then end with an emphatic QED? I win. You lose.

As I listen to and learn about matters of apologetics,1 I find that I need to guard my heart. I must confess a proclivity toward a less-than-charitable approach to those who disagree with me. When I listen to messages on apologetics, I need to be vigilant. I must work hard to avoid merely gathering “ammunition” to use against those who disagree with me.

Early Years

This character flaw of mine has deep and long-standing roots. During the early stages of my spiritual exploration, I was fearful of being duped. I did not want to be intellectually weak. I wanted everything to fit together in an understandable, provable set of facts. I did not want to be wrong. Chemistry had its redox reactions that could be balanced. Physics had its formulae (both Newtonian and Einsteinian) which explained and predicted motion. Pythagoras had his mathematical theorems. And as I was exploring the claims of Christ, I wanted facts—repeatable, provable facts.

My imbalanced bias toward empiricism continued through high school and got much more intense in college. I struggled. Interestingly, it was a message on probability equations associated with fulfilled prophecy that was the triggering “hook” for my exploration. When I began my personal relationship with Jesus after my junior year in college, the campus ministry with whom I participated offered training in apologetics. I gobbled that up as fast as it was offered. That was good. I grew. I became more confident in the veracity of the biblical claims. While the spiritual growth was good, the training also fed my unhealthy bias toward proving others wrong. That bias did not result in a winsome approach to evangelism.

Although the Holy Spirit has softened some rough edges over the years, that (primarily) prideful desire to be “right” and that desire to “win” linger—just ask my wife.

I am not suggesting apologetics is bad, nor am I saying I no longer love apologetics. I love every minute of study and learning. While I still want to understand and I still want to be “right,” I pray my desire to be right is rooted in a desire to know more about Jesus. May it not be rooted in a desire to win a debate.

Watch Our Motives

May we engage both sides of our brain as we listen to the truths of the Scripture. Do not eschew the facts, but keep them balanced with the existential realities of a life with the person of Jesus.

Whether we are discussing what I call external issues (e.g. the exclusivity of Jesus, the age of the earth, or the existence of evil) or internal issues (e.g. eschatological timing, sovereignty/human agency, original sin), may we know what we study and read rather than reading what we “know.” May we learn so that we can grow in our worship. May we learn so that we can do what is right, not win a debate.

In his first letter, the apostle Peter summed it up well. He admonished us to always be ready to defend our hope that is rooted in our faith in Jesus.

 “…[be] ready at any time to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. YET [emphasis added] do this with gentleness and reverence….
I Peter 3:15-16. 

However, we need to be careful with that word translated as “defend” since it has potentially pejorative overtones in English. We need to continue reading to the next verse, as Peter describes how we are to defend—with gentleness and reverence.

As we absorb preaching and teaching and journey through the complex terrain of apologetics, may our pursuit of truth be guided not by a desire to win debates but by a gentle, reverent, and humble confidence rooted in a growing understanding of the God of Abraham.

 

1 The English word “apologetics” finds its roots in the Greek “apologia” which is best translated as “defense.” Combining the prefix “apo” [away from] with “logia” [speech], the word in this context contains no hint of asking forgiveness.

My Workplace Visit to Garmin

My Workplace Visit to Garmin

Ever wish you had an easy button? You know, a button to hit when life is difficult so everything just works out. I recently had the opportunity to visit the Garmin headquarters located in Olathe, Kansas and guess what I found out! They invented the easy button for landing an airplane! So if you ever find yourself suddenly in charge of flying an airplane (let’s sure hope not, right?) just hit the easy button (the technical name for that is autoland) and it will contact air traffic control, communicate with them, take control of your plane, and land it for you. All you have to do is put your seat in a forward and upright position! 

 

Why Visit Garmin

To be fair, this is not the reason I visited Garmin, but it’s still really cool to talk about. But why visit Garmin? Over 25 people who work for Garmin attend the Olathe Campus of Christ Community, and I wanted to see their workplace and ask how they see God in their work. Our work is one of the most important ways we worship God. Good work, done well, matters. This could be developing technology that saves lives, sweeping floors, or changing diapers. We often forget this beautiful reality and I visited Garmin to remind them that their work is valuable and to expand my own understanding of what God is doing through them. 

 

Brokenness and Redemption

I was able to have lunch with a few of our congregants and I asked them two questions: “Where do you see the brokenness of the world?” andHow does your work seek to bring redemption to that brokenness?”  

 

Where Do You See the Brokenness of This World?

Randine Ailshie works in the Global Supply Chain department and sees the brokenness very clearly. She receives about 20 to 30 emails a day detailing all types of issues: natural disaster, political, war, cyber-terrorism, etc. It’s her job to make sure that regardless of what happened, those suppliers still have the ability to ship out parts so Garmin products can be made. In Randine’s words, “To tie it to the brokenness a little, admittedly it took me a while to learn to separate my personal feelings about people from the ability to get my job done. For instance, I could read an email that states that an earthquake struck Japan and left 500 people dead and 1,000 missing. I have to look past the fact that families are in distress and only focus on if Garmin is affected. That is kind of a hard pill to swallow. How can you ignore that?  People are out there searching for their families and I have the nerve to send an email to make sure that my needs are met? It’s crazy sometimes. The redemption that I find in my job is when I hear that the person I work with in Japan was not close to any damage and his family is all safe.” Randine goes on to say that she has made friendships around the world simply by asking the person she is corresponding with if they are okay. That simple question and act of kindness has gone a long way to bring light into a dark place. 

 

How Do You Seek to Participate in Redemption?

Dan Irish works in the Compliance Engineering department and works to arrange the testing and certification of Garmin products. One of the places he sees the brokenness of this world is that God’s creation is being destroyed, specifically, in the poaching of animals on the endangered species list in South Africa, Tanzania, and Kenya. In order to combat this brokenness and seek to bring redemption, Dan and his team use Garmin technology to train tracking dogs used to combat poaching. Because of this technology, there has been a 95% reduction in the amount of poaching! Dan marvels that the work he does in Olathe can have such a significant impact on the stewardship of God’s creation around the world. 

 

That the Lost May Be Found

I started this with an easy button, so let me end with an easy button. Did you know Garmin sells devices with an SOS button? They saw the brokenness of the world in the number of people getting lost and not found, and sought to bring redemption by adding an SOS button. Whether you are on a rural country road or on Mount Everest, if you have an inReach device from Garmin, you can push that button and a Garmin team monitoring everything 24/7/365 from Houston will get a text.They will dispatch local search and rescue to save your life. How cool is that? They literally get an internal email list every week sharing how many lives were saved that week.

 

God is at Work

I went to Garmin that day hoping to encourage people and remind them that their work plays a role in bringing redemption to the world, that God cares about the good work they do, and that God uses their work to form and shape them. I’m not sure if I accomplished my mission, but I do know that I left in awe of how God uses people with so many different talents and skill sets to be his hands and feet in the world. God is at work using the ordinary work of men and women to combat the brokenness of this world and usher in redemption. 

Wait… Are We a Catholic Church? Yes.

Wait… Are We a Catholic Church? Yes.

I believe in…  the holy catholic Church.  – The Apostles’ Creed

Without fail, just about every time we recite The Apostles’ Creed at our campus, someone finds me afterwards and asks, “We aren’t a Catholic church, are we? Then why do we say that ‘we believe in the holy catholic Church’?” 

This is a great question, and its answer has many implications for how we think about diversity, evangelism, and the global Church’s mission that most people don’t consider. 

Questioning why we would confess the Church as catholic is really understandable, especially considering the word “catholic” in our culture is so deeply connected to the Roman Catholic Church. This is not what we mean, or what the original Christians who recited the creed were intending, when the Church is affirmed as being catholic. While there is so much to appreciate and admire about the rich history and traditions of the Roman Catholic expression of the Christian faith, there are significant differing convictions between Roman Catholicism and Protestantism, to which Christ Community as an Evangelical Free Church belongs.

 

What Catholic Means

The simplest way to understand what catholic means in the Apostles’ Creed (and many of the other early Christian creeds) is to substitute the word universal for catholic. Affirming the Church as catholic means recognizing the universal nature of Jesus’ Church that comprises all believers in all times and places. Cyril of Alexandria, an influential pastor and theologian in the early Church who lived from 313-386 AD, says in his Lenten Lectures explaining the creed that “The Church is called catholic (or universal) because it has spread throughout the entire world, from one end of the earth to the other.” Catholicity affirms that what God is doing in the world through his Church isn’t limited to one local church but includes what he is doing through all the various local churches throughout the world and history.

This historic, orthodox affirmation goes beyond just affirming this fact, and has much relevance for believers today. 

 

Catholicity and Diversity

A helpful way to understand what a particular theological belief affirms is also to think about what it denies. Confessing the Church as catholic denies that the Church is only for a certain kind or group of people. Again, Cyril says, “[the Church is also catholic] because it brings into subjection to godliness the whole race of [humankind], governors and governed, learned and unlearned.” For Cyril, part of denying catholicity would be to think that the Church is only for rich, influential people, or only for poor, marginalized people. 

One of the most beautiful things about Christianity in comparison to other religions is its capacity to translate and incarnate its message into new cultural settings. If you go to any mosque in the world, you will find the Imam leading the service in Arabic and then translating portions into a local language. While there is a richness to knowing the original Greek and Hebrew languages of Scripture, you would be hard pressed to find a single Christian congregation requiring those languages to be used in a service each Sunday. The tragedy of white segregationist churches in our country’s past, and the consequences of that we still experience today, is that it was a failure to live out the historic, orthodox belief in the Church’s catholicity in favor of the heresy of white supremacy. 

While the myth of Christianity being a white, Western religion persists, it remains a myth that isn’t supported by current statistics or expected trends into the future. Phillip Jenkins (no relation to me), in The Next Christendom: the Coming of Global Christianity, estimates that by 2050, less than one fifth of the world’s three billion Christians would be non-hispanic whites.

 

Catholicity and Evangelism

Affirming the catholicity of the Church goes beyond appreciation of diversity; it has a lot to say about the nature and necessity of evangelism. Both of these have been undermined in our day by religious pluralism, whether you subscribe to this view or are unconsciously influenced by it because of our surrounding society. Pluralism views each religion as each individual culture’s experience of the divine, and that God is too large to be contained by any one system of belief and practice. Pluralism holds that since each religion contributes a different culturally conditioned view, then all of them are more or less equally valid. Thus, Christianity is the experience of God in Western culture, Islam among Arabs, Buddhism in East Asian culture, Hinduism in South Asia, and other indigenous religions in their particular culture. The pluralist feels that sharing your belief in Jesus with another person with the goal of them also choosing to follow Jesus is forcing your culture onto another. 

This pluralistic view of religions does not take the claims of orthodox Christianity seriously, especially with regards to the catholicity of the church. Effectively, it is no longer “I believe in the catholic (universal) Church,” but rather “I believe in the white, Western Church” or “the Church for those who are already Christian.”  Beyond not taking orthodox theology seriously, this view also doesn’t respect and honor the experience of billions of Christians who have committed their lives to a faith that didn’t originate in their own culture. Against this, Cyril writes that,

Again, [the Church] is called catholic because it teaches fully and unfailingly all the doctrines which ought to be brought to [people’s] knowledge, whether concerned with visible or invisible things, with the realities of heaven or the things of earth…. Finally, it deserves the title catholic because it heals and cures unrestrictedly every type of sin that can be committed in soul or in body, and because it possesses within itself every kind of virtue that can be named, whether exercised in actions or in words or in some kind of spiritual gift.

For Cyril, the Church is catholic because it has the universal cure, that is, the gospel message about Jesus, to the universal problem of sin plaguing humanity, and every human being ought to believe the good news about Jesus to access this cure. This is what the earliest Christians believed and why they were motivated to take the gospel beyond Jews to Greeks, Romans, Ethiopians, Scythians, Barbarians, and all other kinds of people. 

 

Do You Believe in the Catholic Church?

It is one thing to say the creed along with others when you gather with other believers, but a totally different thing to demonstrate your belief in that affirmation through your actions. 

Does your attitude toward Christians of other backgrounds demonstrate that you believe in just the “Western Church”? Or, does your belief in the catholic Church lead you to recognize, celebrate, and learn from biblically faithful expressions of following Jesus in other cultures? 

Are you hesitant to share your faith with others, or even look down on Christians who do share because it reflects an “insensitive and outdated” cultural perspective?  Do you regularly pray about and look for natural ways to share about the hope you have in Jesus with others who have a different background?

May the God of all people in all places and at all times help us recognize and embody his love that does not want any to perish, but all to come to repentance and belonging among his people, the Church (2 Peter 3:9).

 

 

More Resources:

  • Cyril, “Lenten Lectures (Catecheses)”. Translated by Edwin Hamilton Gifford. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Vol. 7. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1894.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/310118.htm>
  • Jenkins, Philip. The Next Christendom : The Coming of Global Christianity. Oxford University Press 2002.
 
Singing Your Song

Singing Your Song

~~~Written By Amy Wilson

 

The first time I met Bill, I stood on the steps of a stately white home taking deep breaths to calm my racing heart before pushing the doorbell. What could I possibly offer a highly successful, well-connected man suffering from a rare neurological condition? Facts from journal articles and textbooks bounced around in my thoughts as I waited for someone to answer the door. 

 

What Can Music Do?

As a board-certified music therapist (MT-BC), I have seen how music from a person’s young adult years can provide orientation to the present moment in spite of Alzheimer’s or stroke (Gomez & Gomez, 2017). Intense pleasure responses to music can excite pathways in the brain involved in motivation (Zatorre & Salimpoor, 2013; Stegemöller, 2014). Preferred music can focus and sustain attention resulting in lower pain perception and increased relaxation (Bradt et al., 2021; Hirokiwa & Ohira, 2003; Lee, 2016)

But Bill did not need theories or statistics. He needed me to see him as a whole person through the music he loved. Over the course of many weeks as he received hospice care, I learned his favorite Irish tunes and sang Sinatra classics like, “New York, New York,” as Bob’s wife held his hand and recalled trips they had enjoyed together.

Amal spoke softly, thanking me for the smallest of kindnesses. I met him while working in behavioral health. His features remained calm and his voice low and steady. He recognized his situation and problems as he worked through the evils of a childhood in the Sudan. One afternoon I noticed how his body relaxed as I improvised music on the keyboard, so I continued playing as he and the other group members sat quietly with closed eyes. As he slowly emerged, Amal said the music brought him to a place of peace.

 

A Connection To God

Then there was Hannah, who two minutes into an assessment said, “I don’t want to answer any more of your #@$%* questions!” I received her message clearly. A week later, she was in my group requesting “This Little Light” and writing a beautiful song about finding strength in God and prayer. Initially I thought she was mocking the exercise. But as I was leaving that day, she stopped me and said, “When I came here, I was really high on drugs. I’m doing better now, and I really enjoyed your music group. Thank you.”

One morning, I led a group on the behavioral health unit in activities to encourage spiritual wellness. I had no idea how people would respond, and fully expected them to tell me this was stupid or to simply walk out. After many years as a worship leader and hospice music therapist, I know the power music holds for our faith and connection to God. But I did not know how people suffering from acute psychiatric symptoms would receive spiritual support. 

I created a group session that was patient-led and allowed them to choose spiritual or gospel songs they found meaningful. There were eight men in the group, including several who exhibited disorganized thoughts and behaviors, often speaking in disjointed words that were hardly understandable. These men chose songs like “What a Wonderful World,” singing every word clearly. Near the end of the group, a young man I had not yet met requested “Amazing Grace.” 

I  never sing this song without a request, as it can hold strong memories of funerals and loss. I asked everyone present if they wanted to sing it, and they all affirmed the choice. These men sang “Amazing Grace” with more conviction than I have ever seen in 20 years of worship leading. I have become very good at “bracketing” my own feelings when working, but this caught me off guard, especially “I once was lost, but now I’m found.” No matter their past or future, in that moment these men were clearly connecting with God and with one another.

When I first started working in behavioral health, it seemed to hold no similarities to hospice work. Now I think that in a spiritual sense, these two environments have much in common. The people I meet are often facing the most intense period of physical, emotional, psychological, and relational hardship they have ever endured. Perhaps because of their desperation, many of the people receiving care are open to God and recognize their deep need for him. With the simple offering of an acoustic guitar and my voice, I can share the light of Christ through music that reaches the soul.

 

A Source Of Healing

1 Samuel 16 tells the story of Saul in one of his darkest seasons. This story first captivated me as a middle schooler. How could it be that of all things, music is prescribed to ease Saul’s torment? Saul’s servants seem confident that beautiful music will relieve his suffering (I Samuel 16:16). Indeed, when David is found and plays his instrument for the king, Saul is “refreshed.” What exactly was the nature of Saul’s torment? Did he perhaps have a form of mental illness, or was the suffering entirely spiritual? A few details interest me. The healing Saul received did not occur in isolation, but in the context of a caring relationship. The illness or spiritual suffering was not a one-time event, but recurred. David played the lyre skillfully. He practiced his craft over time and the work of his hands was used to comfort. And the people of this ancient time expected music would provide the “cure.” Maybe they understood more fully how music reaches the whole person’s mind, body, and soul than we do in our modern thinking.

As a music therapist, I have the honor and privilege to know patients by their music. Songs connect us and build lasting memories. I witness restoration in the places where beauty meets brokenness. After studying music as a performer and music therapist for most of my life, I am increasingly amazed by this gift God has given us. Music can calm an infant, begin a teenage romance, inspire a team, tear down walls, unify a nation, share ideas, tell stories, and allow us to worship the Lord of All. May we give thanks for this good gift and use it to “build one another up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

Amy Wilson, MA, MT-BC is a board certified music therapist who regularly leads worship at our Leawood Campus. Amy and her family have attended Christ Community since 2012. She is currently a doctoral student at the University of Kansas and works in behavioral health. 

~~~~~

Names and details have been changed to protect confidentiality.

For more information about music therapy, please visit musictherapy.org

RELATED RESOURCES: 
For additional information listen to theFormed.life podcast (links below)
Episode 19: Exploring the Profound Impact of Music Therapy with Amy Wilson or Episode 20: A Body of Praise with W. David O. Taylor. Taylor highlights the significance of the physical body in our worship of God. 

 

CITATIONS:

Bradt, J., Dileo, C., Myers-Coffman, K., & Biondo, J. (2021). Music interventions for improving psychological and physical outcomes in people with cancer. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 10(10), CD006911.

Gomez, G. M., & Gomez, G. J. (2017). Music therapy and Alzheimer’s Disease: Cognitive, psychological, and behavioral effects. Neurologia, 32(5): 300-308.

Hirokiwa, E., & Ohira, H. (2003). The effects of music listening after a stressful task on immune functions, neuroendocrine responses, and emotional states in college students. Journal of Music Therapy, 40(3), 189-211. 

Lee, J. H. (2016). The effects of music on pain: A meta-analysis. Journal of Music Therapy, 53(4), 430-477.

Stegemöller, E. L. (2014). Exploring a Neuroplasticity Model for Music Therapy. Journal of Music Therapy, 51(3), 211-227.

Zatorre, R. & Salimpoor, V. (2013). From perception to pleasure: music and its neural substrates. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences – PNAS 110(2), p. 10430-10437 

 

Are You on the Path to Burnout?

Are You on the Path to Burnout?

I enjoy catching up with congregation members at a favorite coffee shop. I not only really like a bold cup of coffee, I also enjoy unhurried conversations where joys, hopes, dreams, and fears bubble to the surface of our often too busy lives. A conversation I am having more frequently is around the stressful work world so many are experiencing in the fields of health care, mental health, education, business, and non-profit worlds. For many there is a lingering post-COVID exhaustion, staffing pressures, mental health challenges, increasing workloads, longer work hours, economic pressures, and a host of disruptive technological changes. This amount of stress is putting more people on the path to burnout. Finding themselves physically, emotionally, relationally and spiritually depleted, the cry of the heart I often hear is articulated with these words: “I don’t think I can do this anymore.”  

In addition to the high stress of the workplace, we live in a cultural context with increasing macro-pressures that are also fueling burnout. We sense in unsettling and disorienting ways what the writer of Psalm 11:3, declared, When the foundations are destroyed what will the righteous do?The worldview and ethical foundations we have stood upon are fast crumbling around us. The organization Renovare convened 35 leaders from many societal sectors including the arts, media, technology, politics, mental health, higher education, non-profits, and clergy. Four macro themes emerged around our cultural moment. First, we are in a time of deep instability manifesting itself in panic, isolation, and loneliness. Second, polarization and breakdown are increasing across our culture and institutions, including the church. Third, many people don’t know who they are, what is true, and where they belong. Fourth, there is a loss of confidence in leaders because of abuses of power and tragic character flaws. 

In addition, to these macro cultural pressures, the orthodox Christian faith we hold dear is not only marginalized, it is increasingly ridiculed and vigorously opposed. The increased overload in many workplaces, the broader cultural pressures, the overwhelming bombardment of information, the gnawing isolation and loneliness, and the dizzying amount of technological and cultural change are all contributing to the emotional, spiritual, relational, and physical depletion of burnout. How do we navigate our cultural moment and our challenging Monday worlds so that we can flourish and not face burnout? As a starting point, I suggest carving out some time to evaluate your pace, your patterns, and your people. 

First, how is your pace? The late Dallas Willard, whose now-famous advice to pastor John Ortberg to ruthlessly eliminate hurry, was once asked what one word he thought best described Jesus. Dallas paused for a moment and then said, “relaxed.”  As yoked apprentices of Jesus, are we like Jesus in that manner? Are we learning the importance of healthy pacing in our lives?  Let’s remember that Jesus, although facing innumerable demands and having many important things to do, lived a wise pace of an unhurried life. He often said no and we should, too. Looking back at your week, month, and your year, what pace have you been keeping?  We know that when a car speeds, it can kill, but do we grasp that when we speed through life, important things can be missed, souls can wither, and relationships implode. What is your weekly schedule telling you? Are you trying to do too much?  Are you trying to say yes too much and no too little?  

Second, what are your patterns? We are all patterned people whose habitual daily and weekly rhythms form us either for flourishing or spiritual, emotional, and relational impoverishment. Varying seasons of life often require adjustments to life patterns. Yet regardless of our life season, God built into creation a rhythm of six days of work and one day of rest. Weekly sabbath rest is God’s great gift to us in every season of life. Sabbath is not to be seen as the end of an exhausting week, but the climax of the week. God had all this in mind when keeping the sabbath became an integral part of the Ten Commandments. Abraham Joshua Heschel who wrote one of the most insightful books on the Sabbath puts it this way, “The Sabbath is not for the sake of the weekdays, the weekdays are for the sake of the Sabbath. It is not an interlude, but the climax of living.” How are you building a sabbath day within your weekly planning and patterns? What changes do you need to make to observe a consistent weekly sabbath day? While a sabbath is about much more than avoiding burnout, I know of few better antidotes to burnout than regular sabbath day practice. 

Another pattern to pay attention to is our daily sleep. In Psalm 4:8 we read, In peace and safety I will both lie down and sleep for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.  Getting adequate and regular sleep is foundational for flourishing and avoiding burnout. This year at our Leawood Campus we had a seminar on sleep. Let me share a few practical tips that were offered. First, we must realize there is a relationship between good sleep and regular physical exercise. Daily exercise has multiple benefits, and good sleep is one of them. What is your physical exercise pattern? Second, avoid caffeine in the afternoon and evening, and create a regular pre-sleep routine, including a consistent time you go to bed and when you get up. Third, stay away from screens and your phone prior to bedtime. What they do to your brain and the light they emit affects melatonin and hinders good sleep. Keep your phone and computer screens out of your bedroom. Keep all work out of your bedroom. Your body has memory and it will function best when that bedroom space is associated with sleep.  How are you sleeping? What is your sleep pattern? 

Third, who are your people? Inevitably, when I interact with someone approaching or facing burnout, I ask them about their close friendships. Do they have a handful of people in their lives who they do life with, that know them well? Do they feel seen, safe, soothed, and secure in the context of a few close friendships? Christian psychiatrist Curt Thompson points to isolation and loneliness as a major factor in burnout. Peering through the illuminating lens of interpersonal neurobiology, Curt writes, “We know the brain can do a lot of really hard things for a long time as long as it doesn’t have to do them by itself. We only develop greater resilience when we are deeply emotionally connected to people.What close friendships do you need to cultivate and give more attention to? 

In the midst of the many stresses of our Monday worlds and in a culture that is increasingly hostile to our faith and worldview, we can avoid burnout and instead flourish. As yoked apprentices of Jesus, may we pursue daily intimacy with Jesus, keeping a sustainable pace, embracing wise patterns, and cultivating close friendships. Let’s pursue a path of flourishing, not burnout.

But What About…?

But What About…?

Have you ever looked at the Christian faith and wondered, “But what about…”? We all wrestle with difficult life questions. How does Jesus respond to our “what abouts?”

In this podcast Bill Gorman is joined by Ben Beasley, interim campus pastor at the Leawood Campus. They explore the upcoming sermon series “But what about…?”, which addresses tough questions head-on. Bill and Ben discuss their own difficult questions, emphasizing the importance of patience, charity, and epistemological humility in working through doubts and questions. They also share their hopes for the series, which includes guiding listeners toward a humble confidence in their faith and a healthy model for addressing tensions.

Join us as we dive into this thought-provoking sermon series with an aim to know Jesus more and be his hands and feet in our community and world.