The Weekend Wanderer: 15 September 2018

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.


The head pastor of the Zion church in Beijing Jin Mingri poses for picures in the lobby of the unofficial Protestant "house" church in Beijing“China outlaws large underground Protestant church in Beijing” – Those connected to the church in China are aware that the government has been putting increasing pressure on churches in China. This latest news is one more example of that. “Beijing city authorities have banned one of the largest unofficial Protestant churches in the city and confiscated ‘illegal promotional materials’, amid a deepening crackdown on China’s ‘underground’ churches.” See Christianity Today‘s helpful write-up about this here.


O6THYFTPZII6NGJ7OPDJHKEYEA“John MacArthur’s ‘Statement on Social Justice’ Is Aggravating Evangelicals” according to Christianity Today‘s “Quick to Listen” podcast. And they’re not alone, as is evidenced by a lot of mainstream attention to “The Statement on Social Justice & the Gospel” authored by John MacArthur and others (see last week’s “Weekend Wanderer” for more info). In one of his columns this week at The Washington Post, Michael Gerson writes in response to the statement that “Christians are suffering from complete spiritual blindness.”  Over at the Missio Alliance blog, Dennis Edwards posted a two-part response to the statement. I keep intending to write something on this, but have not had the time to get there this week. However, I did mention in my message last weekend at Eastbrook Church that the church should be a kingdom-oriented community that is so heavenly minded that we are more earthly good than anyone else.


girl-1192032_1280“Gen Z’s Biggest Legacy: Has Social Media Hacked a Generation?” – Rachel Seo, a sophomore at UC San Diego, reflects on social media’s impact on her generation. “There is research now that, in addition to paralleling with my own experiences, reveals the darker effects of social media, most particularly its long-lasting impact on Gen Z. Did anyone predict the impact of how a few apps could lead my generation into a mental health crisis? Could anyone have predicted it? Or, perhaps more hauntingly, did some people know about the potential effects that it would have on others—and simply not care enough to share?”


religious-father-praying-with-children“How parents act on their religious beliefs linked to the onset of atheism in their children” – A recent study at Religion, Brain & Behavior (“Predicting age of atheism: credibility enhancing displays and religious importance, choice, and conflict in family of upbringing“), highlights the fact that the credibility in the way parents live out their faith directly influences the way in which their children lean toward atheism. Eric Dolan writes of the study: “People tend to become atheists at a younger age when their religious parents talk the talk but don’t walk the walk, according to new research published in the journal Religion, Brain & Behavior. The study provides evidence that exposure to religiously-motivated actions plays an important role in the onset of atheism.”


virtues“Why You Can’t Name the Virtues” – Speaking of credibility in our faith, Karen Swallow Prior writes about the moral vacuum, not just in terms of action, but in terms of character formation. This is basically an excerpt from her book On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life in Great Books, which was just released. She writes: “For the past several decades, American evangelicalism has been concerned about morality—and for good reason. Sexual promiscuity, pornography, abortion, divorce, materialism, racism, and countless other ills so permeate our culture—even among the churched—that they seem to be the rule rather than the exception. But moral choices flow from moral character. Perhaps if we wish to reform morality, we should turn more attention to the formation of character.”


24f547f8af102a02576ce0a9d5d7bda6“When the Ship Has Sailed: Alan Jacobs on Christian Humanism in an Age of Crisis” – Alan Jacobs’ new book, The Year of Our Lord 1943, explores the inheritance of the Christian intellectual tradition in the middle of the twentieth century, weaving together the life and thought of W. H. Auden, T. S. Eliot, C. S. Lewis, Jacques Maritain and Simone Weil.Whether you have or have not read the book, you will likely enjoy this interview with Jacobs by Robert L. Kehoe III at The Point in which they discuss various strands of Jacobs’ argument in the book, with a few loose ends in greater depth, including a few last words about Jacques Ellul.


perfect storm“Leadership’s Perfect Storm” – Steve Smith of Potter’s Inn reflects on the leadership failures in the evangelical church, giving attention to four main forces that he finds most concerning in today’s realm of leadership: “a success intoxicated leadership culture; the cult of emphasizing leadership gifts and skills rather than integrity and character; unchecked power in positions of leadership; and the unchecked speed and busyness in the life of a leader.” This is definitely worth a read, and has wider application than simply in the church. [Thanks to Tom Keppeler for sharing this article.]


power“Confronting the Toxic Power in Me: High-profile stories of fallen pastors can distract us from ourselves or hold up a mirror to our souls” – This article pairs well with Steve Smith’s above, this time giving attention to our own selves. If you ever read articles about the failure of leaders and say, “I would never do that,” then you are deceiving yourself in some way. Jamin Goggin and Kyle Strobel offer a very meaningful look at power and the ways in which we all can deceive ourselves. I remember the words of an older Christian who, in the midst of a discussion about temptation, said to me: “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” May we let God’s grace into our lives in ever-more transforming ways.


alan lee“Making fantasy reality: Alan Lee, the man who redrew Middle-earth” – With the release of the latest posthumous collection of J. R. R. Tolkien’s stories from Middle-Earth, The Guardian offered a nice interview with Alan Lee. Lee’s illustrations of Tolkien’s world are so closely linked with the works themselves that his vision of Middle Earth was one of the greatest inspirations for the film adaptations, aside from Tolkien’s own illustrations.


sub“Eerie photos show dilapidated relics of the Soviet era” – When I saw some of these photos, my mind spun around in all sorts of combinations of post-apocalyptic movies with some tinges of science fiction. If that’s your sort of thing, you should spend some time browsing through this unique photo collection. “Many of the areas where the photos were taken were inaccessible during the Soviet era, as they contained classified technology. They depict monuments, factories, military bases and various kinds of vehicles and technology, most in an advanced state of decay.”


[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]

Children as a Symbol of Hope

stanley-hauerwasAs I prepared for my message from this past weekend, “God of the Little Ones,” I read a lot of different material. In returning to Stanley Hauerwas’ A Community of Character, I was seized by the power of his comments on children, not only in relation to parents but also in terms of the broader community around them:

Having children is one of the most morally charged things any community of people does, as nothing else says more about who they are and what they think life is about.

In particular, a community’s willingness to encourage children is a sign of its confidence in itself and its people. For children are a community’s sign to the future that life, in spite of its hardship and tedium, is worthwhile.  Also, children are symbols of our hope—please note that they are not the object of our hope—which sustains us in our day-to-day existence. Life may be hard, but it can be lived. Indeed, it can be lived with zest and interest to the extent that we have the confidence to introduce others to it.

More profoundly, children signal a community’s confidence because they are bound to change our society and their existence fortells inevitable challenge. Our stories and traditions are never inherited unchanged. Indeed, the very power and truth of a tradition depends on its adaptation by each new generation. Thus, children represent a community’s confidence that its tradition is not without merit and is strong enough to meet the challenge of a new generation.

(Stanley Hauerwas, A Community of Character, p. 209)

Family Portrait


This coming weekend at Eastbrook Church, we are beginning a series entitled “Family Portrait.”

The family is a significant part of God’s plan in the world.  At one level we are all part of the family of God, as Paul writes: “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household” (Ephesians 2:19). What does it mean for the church to truly be a family together? At the same time, what does it look like for us to have families in the church who are healthy and reaching out to our broken world? Let’s put the picture together in this series on a God-inspired family portrait.

Our weekly message topics are:

April 20/21 – “You Belong in the Family”

April 27/28 – “Ideal Family?”

May 4/5 – “Family Secrets”

May 11/12 – “Homecoming”

Alongside of our series, we will be offering seminars during the first two weeks of May, both on Sunday mornings and during the week, on a range of specific topics applicable to everyone. You can find out more info here.

5 Practices to Jumpstart Your Family (pt 2)

This continues the post from yesterday “5 Practices to Jumpstart Your Family.”

Practice 4: Worship together on the weekend.

Now it may seem unnecessary to even say this, but a practical way to encourage your children to know God is to come to worship in community every week.

If you want your kids to learn about Math, English, History, and the basics of Western education, you help them engage in a setting where they will learn, like a school.

If you want your kids to learn about a sport, you sign them up for the sport and help them get involved in practices to learn.

The same is true for helping them learn to live for God. Get them to the place and community where they can learn about living for Him. That’s called the church. Gather here as a family on Sundays.

Show them by worshipping God yourself during the services of worship. But also bring them to a place where they can see that in others and learn what it is all about by example, experience, and education.

Practice 5: Love your children.

Paul says in another of his letters “and over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity” (Col 3:14). Along with the other things I’ve mentioned, love your children.

Take time to build a real relationship with them.

Take time to listen to them and have two-way conversations with them.

In the midst of all that there is to do in your lives, take time to do special things just with your children, whether taking them out on dates or having a family night.

Take time to understand their world, their friends, their difficulties, their joys.

Take time to see how God has uniquely made them and help them develop into people who can make a unique contribution to this world.

Loving your children well is what will tie all the other practices together into a meaningful way of helping them learn to live for God.

Undoubtedly, the list could go on with ways we could help our children grow to know and live for God. You may have some meaningful practices that you have as a part of your parenting. Share it with people around you so that we can all learn. If so, post your response here so that we can all learn from you.

As your children grow older, you will need to launch them out to make these decisions on your own.

Faithfulness, not ‘Success’

It must be said that there is no fail-safe way to make your children own their faith and live for God. At some point, they have to make their own decisions and we cannot control them in that. In fact, during my days as the college pastor at Elmbrook Church I saw that trying to control a child is one of the most counter-productive methods of helping them own their faith.

As parents, we should not aim for controlling our children so that we can wear the blue-ribbon of success as parents. I know too many great parents whose children have not followed the Lord or who have lots of problems in their life.

Success is not our aim. We cannot guarantee that.But what we should aim for is faithfulness. We should be faithful in doing all in our power – with the mighty power of God at work with us in prayer – so that we have done our part in raising our children ‘in the training and instruction of the Lord.’

[To listen to the message from which these thoughts are drawn, visit the Brooklife Church messages page.]

5 Practices to Jumpstart Your Family (Pt 1)

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. – Ephesians 6:4

If there is one thing that should you do for your children it is this: help them to know God and become followers of Christ. That is the bottom line.

This is an incredibly exciting task for us as parents. We have a unique opportunity to shape our world by helping our children get to know God and live for Him. In Proverbs 22:6 it says “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”

That is what we have before us as parents, regardless of the age of our children: help them to know God and become followers of Christ.

But what does this really mean? What does it really look like to help our children know God and become followers of Christ? How do we do practically do this?

Over the next two posts, I’d like to suggest five practices that we could put in place in our personal and family lives to help this happen. These thoughts are drawn from my message this past Sunday at Brooklife Church, “Jumpstart Your Family.”

Practice 1: Live for God ourselves.

There is an old saying that you cannot take someone to a place you have not been yourself. As parents, the most foundational way that we can raise our children in the instruction of the Lord is to live for God ourselves.

We have to start this discussion of godly parenting by aiming to live fully for God ourselves – filled up and controlled by His Spirit and nothing else. That’s what Paul meant when he said: “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18).

How are we at daily living for God? Here are a couple of things to consider?

Do you pray regularly?

Do you read the Bible regularly?

Do you serve others around you regularly?

Are you living with a moment-by-moment awareness of God?

If so, you are on the way toward modeling for your children what living for God is all about.

Practice 2: Pray for our children.

When Kelly and I were newly married without children we were friends with a couple in our church who had six children. They were an outstanding family whose children had begun to really grab ahold of living for God.

Once, when we were visiting with them, Kelly and I asked what their secret formula was for raising their children. We were hoping for a five-step game-plan for perfect children. We didn’t really get that. Instead, along with some helpful advice on discipline and other things, we were given some simple advice: pray together for your children.

That is the advice that I would like to pass along to everyone here. If you really want to see your children live for God then pray for them. Your best efforts will only go so far. But when you pray, you begin to unleash God’s power into the lives of your children.

Pray that God would get ahold of their hearts at an early age.

Pray that God would protect them from the temptations of this world, the flesh, and the devil.

Pray that God would give you wisdom beyond yourself to parent them.

Practice 3: Pray and read the Bible as a family.

Take time to read the Bible together and pray. If you want your children to learn about God, you will need to introduce them to God.

One of the best ways to introduce your children to God is by reading the Bible out loud and praying together about what was read.

There are many different ways to do this as a family. Praying together before meals is a simple way to do this together. It is a chance for us to actually recognize that the simple gift of food comes to us from God.

Another way is to read the Bible together at a set time in the day. When our kids were younger, we would do this before heading out to work and school in the morning. As time has gone on, that has become unrealistic for our schedule.

At this stage of our lives, we read a story from an age-appropriate Bible each night after dinner and pray briefly about it.

Some families like to do this at the end of the day. Find a time to do this that fits your schedule, your children’s schedule, and your stage of life.

It will likely look different at different times.

[Visit the Renovate blog tomorrow for the second half of this post.]