Serving Millennials on the Journey Toward Significant Life
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The Echo Chamber

echo chamber

Our society as a whole is extremely accepting, yet not accommodating. You can be anyone you want and it will be accepted, but if you aren’t accommodating enough then the judgment of others will befall you.

With this understanding driving individuals forward, society as a collective group of individuals has adapted to only surround themselves with those who share their perspective on a wide variety of things. No more confrontations. No more accommodation struggles. Unconsciously we gravitate to those who are like us.

The result of all this: the echo chamber—the place where everyone around you validates your choices, opinions, and perspective.

This reality is on full display in the lead-up to the Presidential election. The two party system has never been more divided in my lifetime than now. And there’s no sign of this getting any better in the next 4 years. The only way to gain traction in an echo chamber environment is to move as far away from your competition as possible. Any sign of compromise with nuanced perspective is immediately denounced as heresy.

This comes into play especially on social media. One study of 10 million American users on Facebook showed that people’s friends are skewed toward their ideological preferences. On Twitter a study showed that 2/3 of people followed by the average Twitter user in the United States share the user’s political perspective.

The lack of external perspective can have extremely damaging effects. Just ask Microsoft. They recently created a Twitter account that was built to form its status updates by learning from a bunch of 18 to 24-year-old social media users. The result? This automated account became racist and bigoted, which is hardly a knock on Microsft, and more a knock on our echo chamber society that slowly moves toward the lowest common denominator.

Christ followers are called to a totally different mindset when it comes to interacting with those unlike themselves. As my friend Scott says, we are most like Jesus when we love those least like us. Rather than surrounding yourself with people who look like you, act like you, and believe like you, it would be Jesus-like to find those different, overlooked, and unvalued, giving them space in your life.

Within the church, people are irritants and transformers, but you can’t have one without the other.

The echo chamber tells a false story, and it never leads to transformation.

*You can listen to my talk on this same subject here*

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The New Prosperity Gospel of Dreams

ocean view fiji

Ran across this insightful thought last week:

Not a day goes by when I do not see another Christian writer pushing these ideas. It’s looking out the same window of prosperity, just using different drapes (language) around the same window.

As my generation moves to a position of leadership within society, teachings are being adjusted to meet a group of people who place more value in experiences than money and influence instead of position. This shift in focus within the prosperity sect of Christian theology is desiring to fill that need.

I have much I could share as this has been a personal struggle of my own. By far the greatest encouragement and challenge to me in regards to dreams, wishes, destiny, and potential, has been reading Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

In particular, this section on dreams, community, and the Christian life is spot on. I hope you find this instructive.

Every human wish dream that is injected into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive. He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.

God hates visionary dreaming; it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. The man who fashions a visionary ideal of community demands that it be realized by God, by others, and by himself. He enters the community of Christians with his demands, sets up his own law, and judges the brethren and God Himself accordingly.

He stands adamant, a living reproach to all others in the circle of brethren. He acts as if he is the creator of the Christian community, as if his dream binds men together. When things do not go his way, he calls the effort a failure. When his ideal picture is destroyed, he sees the community going to smash. So he becomes, first an accuser of his brethren, then an accuser of God, and finally the despairing accuser of himself…

We pray for the big things and forget to give thanks for the ordinary, small (and yet really not small) gifts. How can God entrust great things to one who will not thankfully receive from Him the little things? If we do not give thanks daily for the Christian fellowship in which we have been placed, even when there is no great experience, no discoverable riches, but much weakness, small faith, and difficulty; if on the contrary, we only keep complaining to God that everything is so paltry and petty, so far from what we expected, then we hinder God from letting our  fellowship grow according to the measure and riches which are there for us all in Jesus Christ.

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Be Like the Donkey

Entry Into Jerusalem by Pedro Orrente c. 1620

This past Sunday was known as Palm Sunday to those in the Christian faith. The day not only begins what is known as Holy Week, but also reflects back to the Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem as people waved palm branches and placed garments on the roadway as Jesus arrived.

An overlooked character in the story is the donkey that Jesus rode along the steep roadways just outside of Jerusalem. Corrie ten Boom, considered by many as a heroic WWII figure, wrote that she desired to be more like the donkey than the hero:

“Everyone was waving palm branches and throwing garments on the road and singing praises, do you think that for one moment it even entered the head of that donkey that any of it was for him?”

This contrast between the humble position of the donkey and the heroic position of Jesus is one to consider. In recent years marketers have pushed the idea to businesses that their customers need to feel like the hero. Rather than the business positioning itself as the hero, good businesses come around the client so they can become the hero.

You can see how this type of thinking can easily go sideways when translated directly into the local church. While this concept plays well within a business context, I hope churches will push people to be like the donkey rather than the hero. The Christian faith already has a hero, and salvation comes through the humble act of recognizing Him as the only hero.

In his book The Dusty Ones, A.J. Swoboda moves this comparison of donkey and hero into the creation account. Adam and Eve were the final creation of God, and this is often referenced as the great culmination of God’s handiwork. Swoboda has a different thought about this:

“Humans tend to be prideful donkeys, really. To see everything as being about merely us is to be the donkey that brought Jesus into Jerusalem and think people are clapping for us. The story of creation, of course, has a story that is greater than just us. Yes, we are important, but we not the sole character in the story…I would maintain that God created humans so late in the creational game so that we would eternally know how little we know. Being made so late is kind of a built-in humility for humanity” (The Dusty Ones, 31)

I’d encourage you to grab a copy of A.J.’s book. He and I actually grew up in the same town, went to same high school and same church, though a few years apart. My 7th grade history teacher Mr. Krumdick even gets a nice shoutout in the book. As it relates to this discussion of donkey and hero, I think A.J. is highlighting the crux of it all—that our response to God’s action should be an act of humility not the exaltation of self.

As you enter into the various activities and reflections of Holy Week, remembering the death and resurrection of Jesus, resist the urge to become the hero of the grand story God is telling.

Friends, be like the donkey.

(Image: “Entry into Jerusalem” by Pedro Orrente)

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Announcing My Devotional App (+ giveaway)

 

Renew Daily

Aside from a few exceptions, I’ve never been a big reader of daily devotions. Some are too long. Some are too short. Some are focused on too specific of a group. Most are just too sappy.

Almost a year ago I started kicking around the idea of joining a team to develop a men’s devotional. Today I’m excited to share with you that Renew Daily: A Men’s Devotional is now available in the Apple app store for iPhones and iPads.

The goal with this project? Write a men’s devotional app that I’d want to read. I believe the team and I have done this!

The App

Written by men and tailored for men, Renew Daily will help you in your Christian walk every day. It’s certainly not “for men only” but guys will appreciate that many of the perspectives take into account their unique journeys and roles in life.

I hope this will be a great way for you or a man in your life to start each day with biblical insights and encouragement. Renew Daily with these devotions and strengthen your relationship with God.

A few years ago when I published my first book I told all of you that no one would read it without your help of getting the word out. So again I come to you asking for your help in supporting my work by telling others. But I also want to give a few of you a chance to win a copy of the app for yourself or for a friend/husband/brother/etc.

The Giveaway

A drawing based on the number of shares to Facebook and Twitter will get 2 people a free download of the app. Share more than once to increase your odds. Make sure you tag me so I can keep track of your shares. Find me on Facebook and Twitter. I’ll even make it easy for you, just click the links below for a shareable post on Facebook and Twitter.

Winners will be announced this Wednesday, March 2nd so you don’t have much time. Check out the app and then tell some others about it too.

Winners: David Ramos and Janet Fraser.

Thanks for your support of my writing friends.

-Tyler

Check out an example of what the app looks like below ↓

Renew Daily app

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The Confusion of True Christian Testimony

montyfuneralLast week an NBA coach made headlines for the message he gave at his wife’s memorial service. Monty Williams is currently an assistant coach for the Oklahoma City Thunder, having previously spent a few years in New Orleans, San Antonio, and Portland. A few weeks back his wife was killed in a head-on collision.

What made this message headline worthy? Forgiveness. Nothing causes today’s world to scratch its collective forehead more than the granting of undeserved forgiveness.

One would expect hatred toward the individual whose vehicle swayed over the center line, taking the life of an innocent driver, but instead, Monty spoke of care and forgiveness—Monty spoke the gospel. He ended his message by saying these words:

In my house, we have a sign that says, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” We cannot serve the Lord if we don’t have a heart of forgiveness. That family didn’t wake up wanting to hurt my wife. Life is hard. It is very hard, and that was tough, but we hold no ill will toward the Donaldson family. And we, as a group, brothers united in unity, should be praying for that family, because they grieve as well. So let’s not lose sight of what’s important.

*You can listen to the entire message from Monty Williams below*

Late last year the church in Charleston that had been under siege by a raging white supremacist responded to their terror by offering forgiveness. How would the world see these actions? Beyond comprehension. Since then Emanuel AME Church has been nominated by local politicians for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Christians become noteworthy in many disparaging ways. We argue about building walls, or we stand strongly in opposition to the movement of the culture, or we abandon central beliefs in order to more easily integrate into society. All of this might be noteworthy, but it is does not point to Christ.

All this reminds me of the importance of Christians reflecting toward others what God has done for them. “The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians: who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable” (Brennan Manning).

Instead, may the forgiveness offered through the work of Jesus be the launching point for Christians to extend the same forgiveness to others.

Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3:13

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Even Unto Death

In his compelling work titled Disappearing Church, pastor and writer Mark Sayers lays out a thoughtful argument for why the church is disappearing. The issues raised are far greater than I could raise in one post (seriously, buy the book, Mark is excellent), but one point I connected with is the difference between what he calls code and pitch.

Here are his definitions for both:

  • Code: motivation through a higher religious or communal duty. Self-denying for a higher cause.
  • Pitch: motivation through the promise of gratification and reward. Self-expanding through personal benefit.

Ours is a culture primarily defined through pitch. The church, struggling to hold onto the influence of the past, now speaks the language of the culture, using pitch instead of code to build their communities.

Pitch is also fleeting, making it difficult to lead people into a code mindset. If you invite a person into something through self-expanding language, only later explaining that actually the whole thing is about self-denial, good luck keeping that friendship.

To this focus on pitch Sayers says, “We gain the immediate benefit of reaching and attracting people, but if they have come for the pitch, wanting spiritual succor and community, while maintaining and maximizing their own personal autonomy, eventually the debt must be paid by both the church and the individual believer.”

Society today has placed the individual self on the pedestal, but the church must continue to place Jesus on the pedestal, at the denial of self. This message, in opposition to pitch, is not readily acceptable, but it is the path to fulfillment. As Sayers put it, “We cannot renew culture and refresh our churches without placing God at the center.”

21 Coptic Christian men

Just over a year ago, the above image went viral on a Sunday morning. The story behind it would stop nearly everyone in their tracks. 21 Coptic Christian men beheaded for their faith. It’s difficult to fathom the strength of these men in the face of such evil.

In speaking of her latest album release, Audrey Assad shared about seeing the image of the 21 men for the first time. As she sat down at the piano, the image led toward her writing the song Even Unto Death.

These 21 men and countless martyrs worldwide are the antidotes to “pitch” Christians, who seek the expanding of self. They made the ultimate sacrifice. In a world of pitch, they followed the code of being a Jesus follower, giving up their lives.

(Head here to watch the video if you don’t see it)

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