Posts Tagged ‘killam’

Friends of ours were talking about their daughter. During lunch periods at her public high school, she’s befriended a girl who’s pregnant. Eventually, she invited the girl to youth group at church.

“Will I be judged?” the girl asked.

“Yes, by some,” our friends’ daughter responded. “But there will be a lot of others who won’t. They’ll be glad you’re there.”

That’s the most real, honest answer I’ve ever heard to that kind of a question. No one finds universal acceptance in any social situation – even at church, where we should. Kids who are told to expect total grace from a church youth group will be disappointed, and maybe disillusioned.  I’ve seen it happen too many times.

At the same time, the answer promises this girl that she will indeed find a measure of love, acceptance and yes, grace.

The girl is thinking about it. A lot of us who don’t even know her are praying for her. We’re praying that she’ll see Jesus.

I think maybe she already has.


I am concerned about the drummer at church. I’m not sure he’s getting any air.

A few years back, when the church first went to a semi-contemporary service on Sunday mornings, the drum kit was set up nonchalantly near the back of the stage. As far as I could tell, everything sounded fine.

Then, one Sunday, we walked into the auditorium to see the drummer behind a set of three Plexiglas walls. It looked a little like one of those old privacy screens people changed clothes behind in 1960s movies … but minus the privacy. I wondered what sort of international incident had occurred to bring orange-level security around this one man with sticks.

Church services proceeded without incident, with the drums sounding a bit muffled. This setup endured for a year or two.  I was never sure if the drummer was being protected from snipers, or it the congregation was being protected from hearing the drummer. And I suppose those sticks could have shattered during some crazed rendition of “I Can Only Imagine,” sending shards flying into the front row and causing untold splinters.

But apparently this was not nearly enough protection, or drum muffling, because now they’ve completely encased the drummer in Plexiglas – roof and all. He wears noise-blocking headphones, which is a good thing because it must be so loud inside that box that his teeth are coming loose. And I don’t even want to think about what it smells like in there.

Meanwhile, all I can think about when the band plays during church is the “Rock and Roll Creation” scene in “This is Spinal Tap” when Derek Smalls gets stuck inside the plastic pod and keeps playing bass while the roadies try to open it with a hammer and a blow torch.

I’ve since learned that this veritable Cone of Silence is supposedly about sound isolation. You don’t want drum noise bleeding into everyone else’s mics. But before the Plexiglas house I don’t remember this ever being a noticeable concern. I’m not convinced this whole thing wasn’t just about throwing a bone to the people who think drums are Satan’s noisemakers and, along with saxophones and ukuleles, never should be allowed in church.

So the next logical step, for the good of all involved, is moving the drummer completely offsite, to a secure location fortified by 12-inch-thick lead walls. The sound feed from the stage could be piped in, and he could play along without causing danger to anyone.

Also the church wouldn’t have to keep a blowtorch at the ready.

One of the advantages of doing a blog on WordPress is that you get stats on site visits. We can’t tell who visits, but we can see what pages people looked at and how they got there.

This week, the following Google searches somehow brought people to this blog:

“planning for overflow attendance at church”

OK, that one I get. I’m sure we were no help whatsoever, but thanks for stopping by.

“ruined casino”

It wasn’t our fault. Honest.

“dsc leg sex”

Sorry to disappoint you, sir or madam. And good luck.

And finally…

“saddam pictures underpants”

Hmm. Apparently, in one post I mentioned both the Iraqi dictator and the greatly unappreciated “Captain Underpants” literary series. Do this Google search and you’ll find … weird photos of Saddam Hussein in his tighty whities.

And now you’ll also find us. Twice.

That burning question

Posted: September 17, 2010 by Jim Killam in Idiot Friday, movies, pop culture
Tags: , , , ,

Welcome to “Can It Burn?” —  the show that promises to make your head hurt.

We’re going to line up 10 items to see which gets us into the most trouble if burned in a public park.

Ready? Let’s begin.

  1. A Quran
  2. A Bible
  3. An American flag
  4. “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury
  5. A pile of leaves
  6. A bra
  7. The entire “Left Behind” series.
  8. Teen sensation Justin Bieber
  9. A barrel of nondairy creamer
  10. A cartoon depiction of Muhammad setting fire to a car affixed with a Jesus fish and an American flag

Now cast your vote for which item would get us into the most trouble if publicly burned. Or, list something I’ve missed.

Here’s the thing about this whole, silly debate: If my faith, or my patriotism, is so weak that it can’t stand up to some idiot with a lighter and a can of gasoline, then I have much bigger problems than simply feeling offended.

This clip seems an appropriate ending for today. Ironically enough, the person dispensing the medieval wisdom is played by … Terry Jones.

Is not wisdom found among the aged?  Does not long life bring understanding? – Job 12:12

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. – 1 Tim 4:12

Seems to me the Bible is pretty clear that different generations have a lot to offer each other. Most churches would outwardly agree. But the way they operate may say something else.

There’s more to being a multigenerational church than simply having three or four generations gather in the same building on weekends. As commenter Bob mentioned the other day, the tendency still is for everyone to huddle with their own little group. For years, my wife and I were part of a large church that split – and I do mean split – into “adult communities.” That’s a dressed-up way to say adult Sunday school classes. Most were classified by age and marital status.

On occasions when the pastors would try to work against this Sunday school tribalism by holding combined classes, or elective classes by topic, attendance would plummet.

This is not much different than the larger American culture, where social and generational gaps seem wider than ever.

Linc wrote yesterday about how easy it is to isolate ourselves with technology.  Even if we don’t go completely solo, much of our lives are set up to limit whom we come into contact with. Knowingly or not, left unchecked we screen our contacts on the basis of age, economics, race, background, intelligence, religious belief, how fast our Internet connection is, and the entertainment we consume.

How much more important is it, then, for the church to offer something different … something forgotten and sorely needed? If we can’t even learn to coexist with different people in our own churches, how will we ever be relevant to different people outside those walls?

It’s not easy, nor does it feel natural at first. We all tend to default to the familiar, the comfortable. That is, unless we constantly remind ourselves how far that is from the kingdom of heaven.

The SyFy Channel recently re-ran the 1994 miniseries “The Stand,” based on Stephen King’s novel. It’s about what happens after a plague wipes out most of humanity. The remaining few, immune to the sickness, form two tribes: one good, one evil. Most of the story centers on the good side and its struggle against a Satan character named Randall Flagg. It’s good science fiction that I’ve seen several times. The thing that struck me this time, though, was how young and old people from all walks of life came together and formed a community based on a simple idea: survival. Comfort? Not part of the conversation.

Churches gather around a simple idea, too:  eternal survival. Reconciliation with God through grace. Sharing that with as many people as we can, at all cost.

The desire for comfort and convenience can quickly obscure those ideas.

#   #   #

Here’s the trailer for “The Stand,” which is worth renting if you haven’t seen it.

I was thinking the other day about how consumerism has really screwed up the dynamics of local churches.

It’s kind of like going to Menards instead of going to a hardware store like my grandpa owned in Rippey, Iowa – an old coal-mining town whose population today stands at 319 and fading. The hardware store was dark, dusty and a hub of activity – not so much for the stuff sold there, but for the community created there. It was a place to shoot the bull with your neighbors as you shoveled a scoopful of nails onto the hanging scale. On a Saturday morning, you could see three or four generations under the same roof, talking about the weather, the corn crop and … well that might be about it.

There’s not much sense of community at Menards. It’s huge, and they have everything. You can choose from 47 kinds of hammers, or come away with a Snuggie, a wood chipper and a barrel of cheese balls. You go, get whatever you want and leave, often without ever talking to anyone.

Hank Hill is a hardware-store kind of guy. Here’s a conversation from a “King of the Hill” cartoon episode, between Hank and his wife Peggy …

Peggy: Maybe, we should try the new megachurch.

Hank: I don’t wanna change churches. Besides, that place is too big. What’s it got – 5,000 some-odd members?

Peggy: Yes! And it pampers all of them. They’ve got their very own coffee shop, florist, mini-mart, bank, and a dry cleaner that accepts all competitors’ coupons.

Hank: If I wanted to go that route, I could just walk around the mall and think about Jesus.


Megachurches are only one end of the spectrum. To its credit, the evangelical church has adapted its methods in an effort to reach a rapidly changing culture. It’s usually five to 10 years behind the curve on that, but it’s trying. If you want a church that worships to rock music and laser light shows, you can find that. If you want organ music , hymns and choir robes, you can find those. If you want candlelight and artists on stage painting abstracts during the sermon … hey, that’s available, too.

And none of that stuff is bad. The problem is, while reaching the culture is our stated reason, too often what we really want in a church is comfort. We tend to find that with people who look and act like us … who like the same kinds of music and have similar life experiences.

What’s tougher to find any more is a church with three or four generations under one roof, and where all of those generations set aside comfort for the sake of uniting to reach a community. In a consumer culture, that kind of a church can feel foreign.

Here’s what we lose when we all run to our own little silos:  When a church lacks young adults, it can lack energy, passion and idealism. When a church lacks older adults, it can lack wisdom, perspective and mentorship. I think God intended for all of those qualities to part of a local church, but in many cases we have willingly forfeited half of them and left ourselves an incomplete Body of Christ,  for the sake of … what, exactly?

More about this in Thursday’s post.

Picking up where Linc’s Wednesday post left off …

No one will ever mistake me for a hipster. I drive ridiculous cars, shop at Land’s End and have no tattoos or piercings … well, except for that time I stepped on a pitchfork. I don’t even like coffee. I do, however, like hanging out with Christian 20-somethings, whether they’re hipsters or not, because I think they’re onto something great.

In the aforementioned article called “Hipster Faith” in Christianity Today, author Brett McCracken defines his term this way:

The latest incarnation of a decades-long collision of “cool” and “Christianity,” hipster Christianity is in large part a rebellion against the very subculture that birthed it. It’s a rebellion against old-school evangelicalism and its fuddy-duddy legalism, apathy about the arts, and pitiful lack of concern for social justice. It’s also a rebellion against George W. Bush—style Christianity: American flags in churches, the Ten Commandments in courtrooms, and evangelical leaders who get too involved in conservative politics, such as James Dobson and Jerry Falwell.

The new subculture of young evangelicals—I call them “Christian hipsters”—grew up on Contemporary Christian music (CCM), Focus on the Family’s Adventures in Odyssey, flannel graphs, vacation Bible school, and hysteria about the end times. Now all of that is laughable to them, as they attempt to burn away the kitschy dross of the megachurch Christianity of their youth—with its emphasis on “soul-winning” at the expense of everything else—and trade it for something with real-world gravitas.

The article is a fascinating exploration of a new generation of Christians … joined by quite a few older Christians, me included, who have become disillusioned by much of what they saw in the average American evangelical church. McCracken sometimes paints with a broad brush … I could picture the walls of defense being raised by older readers in regard to these young people with their coffee houses and their tattoos and their gee-tar music.

The Hipster Doofus

And he’s right: There’s a component to most teens and young adults that is overly concerned with being cool. The young church is no exception. I am part of a generation of Christians that was never considered cool, except within our own Fortress. Much of that grew from a holier-than-thou attitude – sometimes conscious, more often subconscious – that we took toward people on the outside. In Jesus’ time, we’d have been quickly identified as Pharisees.

Now, as many have rejected those attitudes and the church culture that incubated them, there’s potential trouble on the other end of the spectrum. Certainly, it’s great to seek relevance in order to remove silly stumbling blocks between our friends and Jesus. But if we don’t stay focused, we may end up seeking relevance mainly so people think we’re cool. And then they won’t anyway. See: The hipster doofus.

Just as fascinating as McCracken’s article are the accompanying reader comments, because they sound like a hundred conversations I’ve heard in church. Older people can’t understand why younger people reject much of they stand for. Younger people can’t understand why their elders are so rigid and can’t change with the times. Some older Christians won’t condone any change in worship style, and there is no church instrument other than the organ. Some younger Christians have no interest in / appreciation for the wisdom that decades of life have bestowed on their elders.

It’s called the generation gap, people, and you can find examples everywhere from the Bible to Shakespeare to “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” to hip-hop music. Unfortunately, it’s often even more visible in the church. Rather than take any real interest in bridging this gap, much of the older set meets for endless potlucks and organizes voting blocs at the church business meeting. The younger set gets discouraged and simply checks out.

A commenter identified as “Archaeologist” writes: love not the world nor the things of the world. … it seems that the younger Christians love the idea of ‘cool’ or ‘hip’ and other false ideas. Christians do not change with culture, they stand with God and let Him do the leading.

Another writes: “God will judge these people …”

OK. Predictable given the magazine’s generally older demographic and the preference to label something you don’t understand rather than … well, try to understand it.

But then there were comments like this one from Josh Rhea:

Young people that do not live squarely inside the evangelical “bubble” are influenced by cultural currents but the issue is not which currents the church should latch on to, but rather how to respond to the timeless yearning of young people for a faith that is authentic and whole. When the church tries to just be “relevant”, it will rise and fall with the cultural current. Instead, preach love, forgiveness, understanding, creation care, social justice. Take the Bible more seriously than the fundamentalists. Take the gospel more seriously than liberals. Don’t care if your pastor shops at American Apparel or JCPenney – I’ve seen “hipsters” swoon at teaching from both types.

That’s the type of approach I’ve seen from young-adult Christians lately: Genuinely wanting to shed any baggage that obscures what following Jesus is really about. Wanting to disperse into the culture so they can reach the culture. Call it hipsterism, idealism, whatever you want. But sign me up.