In an interesting article in the October 2017 issue of First Things. columnist Mark Bauerlein explains that we currently live in a society where younger generations are a-literate, meaning that they can read, but they don’t read much of anything. A 2012 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts found that only half of 18- to 24-year-olds read a book during leisure hours during the preceding 12 months.
What does that mean for the church? Quite a lot, actually. If no one is reading anything, and if the basis of our growing in faith is built on reading, learning and inwardly digesting the Word of God, then that is a problem.
If they are not reading, how are people being fed words and getting information, then? Our lives are filled the sound bites and short quotes and pithy statements on Facebook and Twitter and on TV scrolls. But are we getting deeper into the meaning behind these words? Most likely not.
The old models of in-depth Bible studies are lost on younger generations, and have led, in general, to a decline in Bible class attendance on Sunday mornings.
So what is a church to do to appeal to the increasingly alliterate society. One thought I have is that the church needs to be more and more present on social media platforms with intriguing words of Scripture that then start a conversation thread and a larger discussion moderated by leaders in the church of the meaning and impact of the Word of God on our everyday lives. That is one way of reaching the younger generations with the Word in the places where they are reading and receiving information.
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In an article in the September 2017 Christianity Today, singer-songwriter Sandra McCracken talks about the two spiritual time zones we live in. “On the one hand, by faith we are held secure in the love of God. On the other hand, though we have been made secure in Christ, we continue to experience uncertainty. We are sojourners, not yet home” (“Our Two Spiritual Time Zones,” Christianity Today, September 2017, p. 30).
Theologians refer to this tension between our two spiritual time zones ‘living in “the in-between” and in “the now and net yet” or in “the interim.”
McCracken relates this period to experiencing jet lag after a long flight. Things can often feel out of sync. Our bodies get weary, our minds get fuzzy about what day it is, and our thoughts get muddled about our schedules, but then we adjust, get back in sync and back on track about the business of living.
This metaphor of having spiritual jet lag is helpful to me because it acknowledges the fact that we can get weary and tired in our faith walk in the space between these two spiritual time zones. This is a natural part of being human. I think of the disciples who slept while Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. They were mentally, physically and spiritually exhausted in the time leading up to the fulfillment of God’s promise to save his people by sending his Son to die for us.
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I have lately been contemplating the concept of adiaphora. Not only because it is fun to say, but because many of the things we spend a lot of our time thinking about in the Church oftentimes fall into the category of adiaphora.
In general for Christians, adiaphora means “matters not regarded as essential to faith, but nevertheless permissible or allowed in the church.”
Things like discussions of the floor covering in the sanctuary or the color of the paint on the walls of the fellowship hall, for example, are not essential to faith, but do constitute a large part of our time sometimes. Adiaphora.
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In the last few years there has been a resurgence in the concept of Lectio Divina (Latin for divine reading) in religious literature. It is a structure of meditative prayer that has four parts: read, meditate, pray, contemplate. It is a way for people to focus on a word, phrase or verse from Scripture and then let Christ speak to them through that Word. Lectio Divina has been likened to “feasting on the Word”: first, the taking of a bite (lectio); then chewing on it (meditatio); savoring its essence (oratio) and, finally, “digesting” it and making it a part of the body (contemplatio).
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I’m sure by now most of you are aware of the adult coloring book craze that is sweeping the nation. I for one cannot make sense of its appeal. Maybe because I had tough art teachers in the past who reprimanded me for not coloring “in the lines,” and I am afraid of not “doing it right.”
But the theory behind it is that coloring is a creative endeavor and clears our minds of troubling thoughts and sharpens our brains’ abilities in other tasks.
The craze has made inroads into Christian publishing recently with adult coloring books being launched that include religious imagery and Bible verses. The books are presented as a kind of tool to use as a devotional or meditative spiritual outlet. And many are finding that to be so for themselves in their personal faith-walk.
Going a step further, there is a larger trend developing in the publication of Bibles that includes more white space in the margins to allow for drawing, doodling, coloring and note-taking on the Scripture passages on the pages. I do like this idea, because it makes the activity of Bible-reading something that is more personal, more intimate, more tangible, more practical, and less academic and structured and orderly. Continue reading →