Is the church in America dying?

My children are 7, 5, and 2. By the time their children are old enough to drive, Christianity will no longer enjoy the majority position in the US.

Which gets me pretty excited about the kind of church my grandkids will get to be a part of.

First of all, the numbers: right now 83% of people 65+ identify as Christian. That number drops all the way to 55% for Millennials (18-29). Christians are decreasing, the “nones” (no religious affiliation) are increasing, and every possible indicator points to the trend not only continuing, but picking up steam on the way down. Statisticians talk about “generational displacement,” which is a nice way of saying that all of the Christians are dying of old age, and most of the young people aren’t into Jesus. Time and attrition is reducing Christianity from a dominant majority to a pushed-to-the-fringed minority.

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Reminder from a Hindu priest

I visited a nearby Hindu temple earlier this week, for a wide variety of reasons. I suppose in part I went to learn something new, or to make a new friend, but I suspect I also wanted to re-experience being an outsider at a place of worship.

I ended up having a wonderful time talking with one of their priests. We talked about how our communities worship, our differing roles as religious leaders, and chuckled at the similar expectations and demands we both experienced.

When the time came for me to leave my host pulled me aside, dropped an apple in my hand, and wished me well.

Just a simple gesture, but it carried a profound reminder: I was an honored guest. It reminded me of my experiences growing up in Japan, where I learned that most Eastern religions cannot be separated from the Eastern practice of hospitality. I don’t mean merely giving away apples or adhering to etiquette. Hospitality, for most of the Eastern people I’ve come to know, runs far deeper.

Hospitality is consumed with blessing the person in front of you.

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What if God gave us new fears?

Like most people I know, I’ve got my fair share of fears. But today it occurred to me that my struggles don’t stem from having fears.

My greatest struggles may stem from having the wrong fears.

I fear my family’s comfort will be shattered by sickness or death or disaster. I fear one day my income will not be able to keep up with my bills. I fear making a mistake from which I cannot recover. Even more, I fear my children making a mistake from which they cannot recover.

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Why I write, & Why inexhaustible significance

“It is surely a fact of inexhaustible significance that what our Lord left behind Him was not a book, nor a creed, nor a system of thought, nor a rule of life, but a visible community.”

–Lesslie Newbigin

This is a blog about hope, and about being the visible community.

Part of being visible means joining ongoing conversations. Some see this as pursuing controversy. I hope not.

I hope for this to be a space for reflection, dialogue, and love.

I hope to think critically and compassionately about who we are and what we do, while running from a critical spirit.

I hope to encourage those who are in agreement, and become better friends with those who disagree.

I hope to never become an echo chamber, but always contribute at least a tiny measure of value.

I hope to be full of the grace and truth of Jesus Christ.

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Why I bother to post about Noah

Russian annexation of Crimea. Ongoing atrocities in Syria. Human trafficking in my own backyard. Friends struggling with addiction, marriages crumbling before my eyes, children trapped in severe developmental disabilities, the lady I spoke with this morning who didn’t have money to buy milk for her fridge.

In light of all this, why would I ever waste my time writing about a movie?

I thought Noah was an incredible movie. But I also thought Despicable Me 2 failed to live up to the hype. And I can’t see a whole lot of value in arguing over either movie with all you people on the interwebs. So this isn’t me trying to convince you to like Noah (or that Despicable Me 2 was a disappointment). I’m simply sharing why I, as a Christ-follower and as a pastor, see enough value in the conversation about Aronofsky’s Noah that I’ll take the time to post about it.

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Mission: Practice

In light of March Madness, a quick little fable:

The gym was packed. The tension was palpable. The fans were loud. The team was ready.

The roaring din of the crowd trailed off into muted expectation when the coach confidently approached the sideline, the ever-present aluminum whistle hanging precariously from his lips. His team readied themselves, muscles tensed, poised to spring into action.

The whistle blew, the crowd roared, and the entire basketball team took off as one. First to the other end of the court and back, then the far free throw line, then half court, and finally the near free throw line. They attacked the conditioning drill with all they had, leaving everything on the court. And the crowd’s support was practically deafening–it felt like everyone in town was stomping their feet, clapping their hands, screaming ’til they were hoarse.

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The Parable of the Same-Sex Wedding

There was a man who owned a flower shop. It was his livelihood, but it was more; it was his art, his outlet, even his worship. He was a Christ-follower, and his work wasn’t just how he paid his bills. It was how he honored God.

One day two men came into his shop, with a sort of eager expectancy. They were getting married in a few months, and wanted to hire the man for their wedding.

And the man’s heart dropped. He didn’t agree with same-sex weddings, and knew that there are few things that God is more passionate about than marriage. Suddenly, his flowers were more than mere petals and stems–they had bloomed into symbols of purity. And so he took a deep breath, met their gaze, and said,

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