9 Sort Of Useful Tips For Surviving Your First Week In A New Church

Is there anything worse for a Christian than walking into a new church for the first time?

I am pretty sure it’s the worst thing that can happen to us. It’s so bad for me that I’ve only done it once in the year since I moved to Detroit.

There are a few things that everyone should know before committing to a new church and it’s not what kind of small groups they have or whether the Pastor preaches “straight from the Bible.”

No, there are far more serious considerations. For instance, what’s the coffee like and…. well that’s pretty much it, but in any case, here are a frustratingly 9, not 10 helpful (but mostly completely useless) “tips” to getting through the first morning in a new church, unscathed.

1. When, at the beginning of the service, the Pastor invites you to say Hi to the people around you, jokingly pretend to introduce yourself to your best friend beside you even though you drove together, just so you don’t have to go through the effort of having to actually say Hi to the guy who you don’t really care what He does for a job.

2. Free Starbucks coffee??? I feel like I’ve just won the lottery! Just don’t ask for a 13 shot venti soy hazelnut vanilla cinnamon white mocha with extra white mocha and caramel. It ain’t happening.

3. When the band starts playing and people gradually begin to stand up, you MUST stand up also. Even if you don’t feel like it. Especially if you don’t feel like it. Jesus died for you, the least you can do is stand for 10 minutes.

4. If, after about the 7th run through the chorus of that song the band are clearly using to fill up time because they didn’t practice this week, you want to sit down you may. Simply, sit down slowly and bow your head and close your eyes, embracing the “don’t bother him, he’s full of the Spirit” posture. Everyone will be astounded by your holiness for clearly being moved by Blessed Be Your Name….still, and you can catch up on some shut eye from staying up to 3am the previous night, looking at porn. Win, win.

5. Don’t know the song? Don’t worry, neither does the person controlling the powerpoint.

6. If the church announcements guy starts talking about what’s “trending” this week in the life of the church community, leave. You’ve accidentally wandered into Twitter.

7. Speaking of Twitter, live tweeting the sermon is simply how we use technology to spread the Gospel. And give off the appearance you were listening of course. Just make sure you have a suitably clever hashtag ready like #Rockinworship or #seriouslypastorthatwasonlyyourfirstpoint? And yeah, if you want to check the score of the game your missing for this while you’re at it, go for it. It’s all for His Glory.

8. WARNING! WARNING! THE COLLECTION PLATE IS COMING YOUR WAY! DON’T FREAK OUT!! I know, I know. You don’t want to seem like the stingy guy. But this is your first week and you’re not ready to commit financially yet…. Sure, go with that if it helps you sleep better.

9. Don’t tell anyone you like Rob Bell. You’ll be small group black listed forever. (Tweet this)

Anyone else have helpful tips for surviving your first week in a new church?
Let me know. I need all the help I can get.

When Faith and Politics Collide

One of the biggest obstacles according to Brennan Manning that unbelievers have from engaging with Christians is Christians “who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and then walk out the door and deny him by their lifestyle …”

And I have to admit that as a Christian that loves the church and loves being a part of a community of followers of Jesus I also find myself struggling to believe sometimes. Continue reading

Happy Holidays

We’re fast approaching the most wonderful time of the year to quote Andy Williams and I am especially looking forward to Christmas year as my Mum, Sister and niece travel to Detroit to spend Christmas with us. A time of the year when if you are lucky enough to have a loving family, close friends and a little food, then you are doing just fine.

Yet, there are those who will not experience anything like that this year. There will be those who have no tree overlooking gifts or homes filled with laughter. It is a time where we should remember that everyone has the right to a life that brings meaning, to a community of people who surround them with love and to have the most basic of human needs met.

In short, Christmas is for everyone.

Yet this is not the message that many of you will hear from us Christians.

We will shudder at the sound of those wishing us a Happy Holiday just so they don’t offend anyone who doesn’t hold the same beliefs we have. We will villainize those who seek to strip Christ from Christmas. We will lament the loss of our Christian voice from public life.

I have to admit that I have never been one easily offended by anything poking fun at Christianity. Maybe because it’s easy to see the absurdness of some facets of Christianity from right in the middle of it but also for the fact that our collective voices as followers of Jesus can never be restricted by labels or what message we print on our Christmas cards.

The question of who Christmas is for is an important one in dealing with the influence that Christians have in the world as a whole.

Usually, when the word ‘Christian’ comes up in the media it will refer to someone or other who is protesting some sort of loss of ‘Christian’ values. It will generally be to describe someone who doesn’t believe in gay marriage, who will be yelling about immigration or who thinks that Muslims are slowly planning on taking over the world.

These are the voices that are generally heard and the ideas that many people will take as being Christian. So when people look in at us and see us preparing for a fake war against Christmas that only exists in our minds, they don’t see the hope and the peace and justice that are the true tenants of Christianity, but a fear, paranoia and defensiveness.

But this is not the whole story. These are not the voices of all Christians. Actually, these are the views of a very small number, a number that despite it’s size still gets most recognition.

When we look back in recent years we can quickly see how we spend much of our time fighting for our rights as Christians, especially here in the West. We have been given a message that if we don’t speak up for Christian values quickly and loudly we are at the risk of seeing secularism taking over.

I’ve heard the phrase, “the Christian faith being removed from the public sphere” a lot recently.

But is this really possible? Is any faith or belief system really up to much if it can be so easily destroyed by semantics or the inability to be allowed to wear small versions of execution devices around our necks in the work place? Doesn’t belief or faith have to point to outside of itself to be truly life changing, rather work to defend itself?

The main reason that we should be worried (if we should be worried at all- more on this later) that our Christian voices are not being heard is because much of it points into itself rather than outwards into the world.

When we spend most of our time shouting down those who don’t use the word Christ in Christmas we miss the point that Christianity is only powerful when it is directed outwards.

When we spend so much time fighting for Christian values we lose the value it has for everyone. (Share this)

Because being a Christian at Christmas is not about making sure everyone uses the correct terminology for Christmas. It is not about ‘remembering the reason for the season’.

It is about our ability to welcome those who are different, who are hungry and who need justice.

Truly loving our enemies is the only way in which we will keep Christ in Christmas. (Share this)

The only stage in which Christians will lose their voice in the public sphere is when we lose our ability to love. It is not some outside force or group of people or store or Christmas advert that are the biggest risk to the true message of Christmas being lost. Christians are the biggest risk to removing Christ from Christmas.

Love is free, always and so Christian influence is not dependent on all the things we have made it out to be. Like gay marriage, or other religions or keeping ‘Christ’ in Christmas.

And Christ is too big to be contained in a word and can only truly be alive to the world when the things that were important to Him become important to us also.

If we don’t see that, we’ve missed the point.

And maybe in the end, that is what will really keep Christ out of Christmas.