“I Suffer Not a Woman to Teach” (What Does 1 Timothy 2:12 Really Mean)

preacher-blondeThis is perhaps the most awkward blog post I have ever written.  Usually when I write blog posts it is to impart some level of knowledge, to share resources, to give a definitive “what now” response to a particular question.  However, the purpose of this blog post is slightly different.  The purpose of this blog post is to admit, I don’t have all the answers and I don’t even have all the questions.  As a theologian and children’s pastor, there are still numerous theological areas I struggle with.  Women and ministry is one of those areas.

Some of you know me personally and have read up on many articles I’ve written on this very topic, but today I want to re-iterate some of that in order to help you better understand where I am coming from.

When I was 4 years old, I used to line up my teddy bears and preach sermons to them.  Some kids play house, some play doctor, I played church.  My curiosity for the Bible was insatiable and from as early as I can remember, I was a little nerd.  One day in my kindergarten Sunday school class my teacher (the pastor’s daughter) made us go around in a circle and say what we wanted to be when we grew up.  There were the traditional responses – a mechanic, an athlete, and a singer.  And then my turn.  I boldly announced “a pastor.”  My teacher nearly fell off her chair and quietly reprimanded me “honey, women can’t be pastors.”  Well, I am not one to take no for an answer, so a few years later I left that church and went to a different one with a female pastor.

Growing up, I have always been well aware of the tension of being a woman in leadership.  On the one hand, I believe that God has specifically called me to a Christian ministry vocation.  I believe I have been affirmed in gifts such as leadership, administration, teaching, and preaching.  Many people are afraid of public speaking, but that’s where I find myself the most energized.  I also believe that God has placed in me a desire to relate well to people regardless of their age.  I am a children’s pastor because I think kids are the future of our church and to invest in them is to invest in our future.  I take this role seriously, however, I also have admitted on several occasions that I don’t want to work with kids forever.  And if I were completely honest, I would admit that I am more drawn to the traditional pastoring roles of providing pastoral care, guidance, and teaching than I am in cutting out paper hearts and crafting paper airplanes.

I am very blessed that for the most part I have grown up surrounded by people who have affirmed my calling without making a big deal of my gender.  I have seen some friends and relatives who were once dead set against female leadership now encouraging me on my own path because they want to value what God is doing in my life.  I have also had some very close friends tell me that as long as I pursued pulpit ministry, they were never going to be on my side.  This hurts deeply and I think oftentimes these people don’t understand the tension that we women in leadership deal with.  Sometimes people can be downright cruel and judgmental in their thinking.  They will make all sorts of accusations such as that the person has heard God wrong, that they are following Satan and not God, and that they are only in the ministry to prove a point or because of pride.  These people often are completely clueless about how difficult it is for a woman to be a pastor.  Female pastors will likely never be as accepted as male pastors and will often have to justify a calling that men are so likely to take for granted.

Between the ages of 18-24 I attended Tyndale University College and Seminary in Toronto.  I first acquired my Bachelor’s of Religious Education followed by a Master’s of Divinity in Pastoral Ministry.  Being a non-denominational school, Tyndale accepts students of both persuasions.  I have attended classes and become friends with many people who will never set foot in a church as long as I’m preaching.  I have also attended classes with many women who I believe have the “gifts and graces” of ministry and are doing incredible things in their own church for the Kingdom of God.  What interests me the most in both interactions is that in both cases these people are sold out Christians.  In both cases these people simply want to follow God’s will for their lives, and in both cases these individuals have found examples in Scripture to prove their point.

Attending Tyndale I never once felt discouraged from being a pastor.  All Tyndale professors have to agree that regardless of their own persuasions they will not penalize or discriminate against a female in their class.  Professors must accept women into all their pastoral classes including preaching if she registers.  However, even though classes are open to both genders, I was one of three women in the pastoral ministry track (and Tyndale is the largest Christian seminary in all of Canada and one of the largest in North America).

At Tyndale I also did an in-depth study on women in leadership.  Over the years my viewpoint has changed almost entirely.  I used to be very egalitarian, then turned middle-ground, and now am almost exclusively male headship.  That is to say that I still value the contributions of women in all levels of leadership and want them to freely exercise the gifts God has given them (including preaching), but have realized that for myself I would not feel right being a senior pastor.  This is not to say that I don’t think there are ever exceptions, however, I will admit it is often not the norm.

Since I’ve read up on both side  of the debate and felt comfortable as a woman behind the pulpit (in other words, I didn’t think I was somehow “sinning” against God), I was content.  But then something happened.  As I have now started thinking more about ordination I realize the process is no longer a thought, but likely will be a reality.  Currently it is a question that plagues me most nights.  Am I doing the right thing?  Is this what God really wants?  And what on earth do I do with the 1 Timothy passage (the classic proof-text)?  Is it simply enough to say that it was written at a different time, under Patriarchal influences and that it doesn’t apply the same way today and is thus a matter of interpretation (like the more egalitarian books tell us)?  Are the Biblical examples of Deborah, Miriam, Phoebe, Junia, and Priscilla (all women of extreme importance who had a vast amount of leadership within the early church – potentially even over men) enough to justify a woman behind the pulpit?  Or is the mere fact that Scripture doesn’t name these women “priests” or “pastors” enough to turn us off completely from this notion?  And if indeed we are using the argument that women can be pastors based on the cultural norms of that day, how far should we take it?

Currently, I am blessed to be part of a denomination which is the absolute best fit for me.  In the Free Methodist church we hold to conservative doctrines almost exclusively.  The Free Methodist believe entirely in traditional marriage (including between a man and a woman, the man being the head of the household, sexual expressions only allowed in marriage, and divorce as an absolute last alternative to be avoided as much as possible except in cases of abandonment, abuse, or desertion).  My church also believes in pro-life and many other things that the most conservative churches adhere to.  However, women can still be pastors (including lead pastors).  That being said, there are not many lead pastors who are female and I still believe in many ways it is not the easiest for a woman to be a lead pastor and even that certain churches within our denomination would not accept this, but the fact is – it’s still a possibility.  And so this has left me questioning, how do I best live in this tension?  How come I so easily adhere to the fact that a man is the head of the family, but not that I can’t preach behind a pulpit?  And if I want to take that verse literally, how far do I go?  Can a woman teach on Mother’s Day?  Can she be a youth pastor?  What about young adults?  Or can she only teach kids and other women?

Like I said at the beginning, I have no real answer for this, but it is a very real struggle I am currently facing.  How to stay true to  the Scripture but also how to stay true and honour God using what I believe He has called me to for years and what people have affirmed in me.  And although I cannot give you any concrete evidence one way or the other (because trust me, there are numerous opinions on this point and both sides have excellent persuasions… I have read many of them extensively), here are some things I would urge you all to keep in mind whether or not you want to see a woman behind the pulpit.

1) God has created and gifted both men and women in various ways.  Both genders must be free to express these spiritual gifts, but also must exercise caution not to abuse them.

2) Throughout the Scripture, God has utilized the gifts of women in various ways (including ways that were not popular or “the norm” at that time).  Women in the Bible have prophesied, led house churches along with their husband, taken part in the public ministry of prayer, served as deaconesses, and even served as a judge over all of Israel.  Women were (and still are) a vital part of the ministry of the church and should be affirmed for their leadership qualities.  Paul himself, the very one who said “I suffer not a woman to teach” sent special greetings to his female co-labourers and from what we see in Scripture seemed to hold them in a high regard and be genuinely thankful for their contributions.

3) Both men and women can be led astray in what they perceive to be God’s calling over their lives.  A woman may be incorrect in the fact that God is calling her to teach, but men also can feel led to be a pastor for less than pure motives.

4) Although it is not the norm, God has called women into specific senior levels of leadership over the years (both in Biblical times as well as throughout church history).  The main thing to remember is that God can use anyone and even if there is a certain preacher you do not approve of, God may still have used him or her to challenge and encourage His flock.

5) Women in leadership is a “side-hall” issue.  It is indeed divisive with high emotions on both sides of the debate.  However, ultimately it is still a grey area in many respects.  It is much better to focus on the real issues at hand (those of sin and salvation) without letting a smaller issue like this distract us from the real work that needs to be done.

Ultimately, I still stand by what I’ve said in the past.  “If God has called a woman to be a senior pastor, then she better go do it!”  Ultimately God calls who He will, when He will, for what He wills.  Our role must always be to faithfully serve Him no matter what.  In all things we must heed the voice of Christ our Master, be faithful to His calling, be understanding and humble enough to admit that we might be mistaken, and to seek Godly counsel from mature Christians to make sure we are hearing correctly.  We must apply what we think God is saying to us through the lens of Scripture and we must remember that He is the one we will ultimately all have to give an account to.  Whether you believe in women in leadership or not, I urge and encourage you to be faithful to the role God has placed you in right now and to show hospitality to all, but especially to those who are of the household of faith.

I’d love to hear the thoughts and viewpoints of those on either side of this debate.

How to Keep Your Cool When Engaging with Religious Zealots

This article first appeared on: http://www.stateofformation.org/2017/04/how-to-keep-your-cool-when-engaging-with-religious-zealots/

3f3a51f0-27a6-450d-a22c-af7fdf3b331fMy fingers hovered over the keyboard, ready to write a fighting response while my mind willed me that violence (even if only verbal) is never the answer.  The blood steadily coursed through my veins causing me to clench my fists and grit my teeth.  In February, Premier Magazine out of London, UK asked me to write an article about my best friend, Karima, who is a Muslim.  Although I have contributed to smaller magazines before, this was the first time I was approached by one outside of North America, and indeed, it felt like a great honour.  Premier has recently been running a series on “My Friend the…” where fellow Christian engage and form deep relationships with people who aren’t part of their faith tradition.  Amongst the intriguing articles already featured are a post about a skeptic, an atheist, and a Jehovah’s Witness.  This seemed like the perfect platform for sharing something so near to my faith – interreligious dialogue, however, I was unprepared for what would follow.

A barrage of comments steadily streamed in over the month.  Some were positive, but many were not.  The blatant dislike of the Islamic religion, even debasing it to a mere shadow of what Islam truly is, forced a knot in my stomach and caused me to feel ill.  People, many of whom simply were concerned about the state of ISIS, began attacking the religion as a whole stating that Islam was evil incarnate, implying that my friend was secretly a “spy” alerting her networks to my attempts at good will, and stating that by taking one verse in the Qu’ran completely out of context they had the authority to damn an entire religion to hell.  All of this was terrible, as I kept asserting that numerous Muslims are peaceful individuals who desire the same things we all do (love, friendship, mutuality, and respect) and that the few Muslim extremists we see portrayed on television are simply that – extremists.  Yet, as difficult as it was to see my best friend’s religion painted in such a stark way, what troubled me most was the assault people produced on my own faith.  Comments about me not being a “true Christian”, distorting the Christian faith, and “needing to read a Bible” along with the notion that having a friendship where conversion is not even mentioned (and definitely not the sole reason) were the norm.  I struggled to find words and grace to hold my composure where also defending a dear friend who definitely did not deserve these false accusations.

I do not blame Premier magazine at all for suggesting this difficult topic.  I know that at the heart of what they are trying to do, we are on the same page.  I know that Premier is a magazine which is trying to broaden people’s perspectives and challenge false assumptions and notions that exist when Christians relate to those of other religious backgrounds.  However, to be honest, if I knew how difficult the preceding month would have been, I am not so sure I would have said yes to the request.  Yet, even in those moments of darkness, there were instances of great light.  Commentators who stood by me and applauded my efforts.  Genuinely thankful people who read the article in print and online.  A very thoughtful and sincere email from the editor himself when I mentioned the backlash and his open stance in suggesting this might be just what the world needs to hear.  And finally, the reaction of my Muslim friend herself, who through it all, continued to share the love, peace, and grace I have always known her to exemplify.

I think the difficulty does not lie with the magazine itself.  If anything, Premier is simply one channel and one voice that the world needs to hear more of.  The challenge is that people simply have failed to learn how to relate and respond to anyone different than themselves.

While I admit that I (despite my own best attempts) may not have answered everyone the way I needed to, I have learned a few lessons along the way myself.  Below, I’d like to offer you some ways to keep your cool when engaging with religious zealots (even, and perhaps, especially, if those zealots belong to your own faith tradition):

1) Don’t ever compare the worst of someone else’s religion with the best of yours.
2) Don’t compare a few extremists in one religion while neglecting the extremism in your own.
3) Recognize that every religion is internally diverse and even within the same denomination or religious group, there will be many differences of opinion on many different topics.
4) View each story on a case-by-case basis. Look at people as individuals, don’t paint everyone with the same broad strokes.
5) Someone who affiliates with a certain religion (ie. is a committed follower and practitioner) should always be considered more highly than someone who merely knows of a religion through second-hand study or the media (regardless of how educated you may be on the topic)
6) Recognize that there are inconsistencies within every Holy Book that need to be worked through and rectified.
7) Do not get into matters of the person’s soul. Example, don’t start telling another Christian that they don’t truly know the Lord or that they aren’t truly saved just because they don’t buy into your ultra-conservative ideologies.
8) Resist judgementalism at all costs.
9) If you find yourself getting angry – ask yourself what is internally going on. Anger is a secondary emotion, there is always something contributing to it whether guilt, fear, pride, arrogance, or sadness.
10) Friendship is more important than simply being right.

I recognize that inter-religious dialogue is difficult and sometimes painful work, partly because the soil has just not readily been prepared for us until more recently.  However, if we truly are interested in being ambassadors, we need to cultivate a position of peace whereby we are interested in building friendship irrespective of differences in race, culture, ethnicity, or religious tradition.  We cannot confuse the desire to be right with what is already truly right – a friendship that would willingly give itself to the other at no cost.  I still maintain that the beauty we see in this world is entirely because of the diversity that is so inherent within it.  And to all those zealous Christian commentators who wanted to tear me down, know this: I do read my Bible daily, and it is because of my devotion to my particular Holy Book that I feel so strongly about loving people of all persuasions.  I am not interested in compromising my relationship with my God, but rather believe that welcoming a friend from a different background is doing far more for the Gospel of Peace, than simply arguing a dogmatic position.  In fact, I would dare to say, it is doing exactly what Jesus would want.

You can read my article about my best friend here: https://www.premierchristianity.com/Past-Issues/2017/March-2017/Becoming-best-friends-with-a-Muslim-demolished-my-prejudices-about-Islam

An Unlikely Teacher, an Encourager, and the Power of a Praying Grandmother

celebrating_seniors_logoToday I preached my inaugural sermon at Trulls Road Free Methodist Church at their annual Seniors’ Luncheon.  I am so grateful for all the seniors who have impacted and shaped my life.  I hope that this message will be a blessing to you! 

Good afternoon.  It is indeed a real honour and privilege to join you today for your seniors’ luncheon.  Today, I would like to share a few stories of how seniors have impacted my own personal and spiritual life.  I hope these stories will serve as an encouragement for everyone here.

Our culture is completely preoccupied with staying young forever.  Just flip through any magazine or television advertisement and you will be promised that a certain cream, lotion, or oil will restore your youth.  These same commercials suggest that one’s college or career days are the best times of one’s life.  However, what these advertisements fail to realize is that there are many things seniors can do which my age group cannot.  Some of these areas include: being able to teach and mentor the next generation through life experience, encouraging young people by testifying to God’s faithfulness over your lifetime of service to Him, and through the power of praying for your grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Let’s look at all of these areas a little closer.

Firstly, I appreciate how you provide mentorship and teach us through your life experience.
When I began thinking of what to share with you today, my mind immediately thought of 2 Timothy 1:5 where the Apostle Paul commends his young mentee, Timothy, to hold on to the faith that was passed down to him.  In this short verse, Paul mentions two instrumental women in Timothy’s life – his mother Eunice and his grandmother Lois.  Timothy’s early life was probably shaped by competing worldviews and religious leanings because his mother was a Jew and his father a Greek.  And yet, because of his grandmother’s teaching, he became a positive role model to many in his church.

My grandmother, Anna Ferber, was also a sparkplug of the faith.  My grandma went through many terrible ordeals during her life.  She lived through the horrors of World War II and had to flee her native Hungary in order to move to Canada.  She also faced personal difficulties of various kinds, but these never hindered her faith and trust in God.  She was a very humble person who quietly served others, so it wasn’t until after her death that I truly understood what an inspiration she was.  Only later did we discover notes in her apartment posing questions like “Lord, have I remembered to thank You today?”  In her last months, her only request was for the Psalms to be read out loud to her frequently, when she was too weak to read them herself.  She was truly a faithful servant of God.

Secondly, seniors bless my generation by encouraging us through testifying of God’s goodness over their lifetime.

Questions and concerns are a young person’s food.  They often consume our thoughts.  This is where seniors provide a needed and welcome respite from the storms of life.  When seniors share their own experience, they often provide reassurance that we can also get through some of the most difficult hurtles life throws at us.

My grandmother got married very young and immediately started her family.  When she was still in Hungary, some German soldiers came to her house unannounced and demanded a search. Imagine how terrifying this would have been for a young Jewish woman, barely 20 years old with 2 small children. Yet, my grandmother was a very clever woman.  Instead of panicking, she warmly invited the soldiers inside and shared a pot of her homemade soup.  The soldiers had not eaten well in days and gladly accepted the offer.  My grandmother then led them out the backdoor, and the soldiers never shared the information with their superiors.  In this story, my grandmother was a modern day Esther who courageously risked her life for the sake of her family and future generations.

During the war, my Great Uncle was also detained in a prisoner of war camp.  Yet instead of complaining and questioning God, he used that experience to witness to other inmates.  Some even came to know God in a personal way. Today, he does not harbour any bitterness about these conditions, but only gratitude.

These last two stories are fairly dramatic, however, you can also encourage people in much smaller ways.  In my old church, there was a retired pastor named J.P. who was in his early 90s.   J.P. always went out of his way to praise and compliment the youth.  When I was a teen, I used to run the church sound system.  I was the first woman to do this and I believe the last.  Every Sunday, J.P. came to get his assisted hearing device and he would greet me by saying “it’s so nice to finally see a woman behind the desk.  It’s about time.”  This left a lasting impression on me so when he passed away, I cried about it for a few days.

Lastly, I really appreciate when your generation prays for mine.  It is unfortunate that sometimes prayer can be relegated to the sidelines, often as an afterthought.  Sometimes well-meaning people downplay its importance by stating “if you can’t do anything else, you can still pray for us.”
The truth is, prayer is the greatest ministry of all.  It doesn’t matter how wonderful a ministry is, if it is not constantly brought before the Throne Room of Grace it will collapse.  Just like the Psalms tell us “unless the Lord build a house, you labour in vain who make it.”

During my second week at Trulls, I joined a few seniors for lunch after church.  One of the members shared how she was previously involved in children’s ministry, but now she has retired from it.  However, she mentioned that she still prays for the ministry itself, the kids, and for me.  I was so touched by her words.  The prayers of a person who has displayed a lifetime of faithfulness to God are a valued treasure.

Please be encouraged.  Even if ill-health or physical limitations prevent you from actively serving like you once did, your prayers are the greatest asset to the ministry.  Like James writes, “the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”  Or in my own words “don’t mess with a praying Grandma!”

I’d like to end with one last verse from Scripture.  Psalm 92:14 reads, “You will still yield fruit in old age.  You will be full of sap and very green.”

I began my message by sharing how our culture often devalues old age.  And I shared some personal stories about how seniors positively impact my life.  I talked about the three greatest blessings your generation gives to mine: mentoring us through your own life experience, testifying to God’s faithfulness and goodness over a lifetime of serving Him, and praying for us deeply.
All of these areas are ways that you still bear fruit.  Sometimes it might be easy to look back with nostalgia on your ministry involvements as a 20 or 30 year old.  But I urge you not to forget the amazing ways that God is using you in your 70s, 80s, and 90s.

And that’s why, like the Psalmist says, at any age, but especially in old age, we bear fruit, we grow, and we flourish.

Thank you for your time this morning and may God continue to bless you and look favourably upon you.

 

 

Before You Go Bashing My Generation, Please Remember These Three Things

C5WcZQvWcAAbyVC Over the last few years, Millennials have gotten a lot of press.  There are numerous articles written about why Millennials are the laziest, least motivated, and most narcissistic generation.  These articles suggest that Millennials are over educated, but lack the necessary job skills needed to succeed in life.  They paint Millennials as being addicted to social media and their phones, being socially inept – unable to have a conversation in real life, and being disinterested in spiritual and religious matters.  They bemoan the fact that Millennials have given up on church and given up on God.  That they simply don’t care about anything unless it will directly benefit them.  They use statistics to illustrate that previous generations were more in-tune with daily life affairs, had a stronger work ethic, and were more drawn to starting their family earlier.

This is one side of the story, but then we also have the backlash of articles written by 20somethings stating otherwise.  These young adults claim that we are the product of an older generation that refuses to retire, that we have master’s degrees and work at coffee shops, and that we are delaying marriage because we simply can’t afford a million dollar house.

I realize that we will likely never come to a conclusion on the matter.  But I’d like to suggest that fighting about which generation is “better” is entirely missing the wonderful opportunities that could be had fostering inter-generational dialogue.

I understand that my generation is not perfect – neither was yours.  I know we have an unhealthy preoccupation with the screen, we are facing the social pressures of trying to keep up with our friends who post a “picture perfect life”, and in many cases we are struggling to even get a half-time position in our field.  Yet, I also believe that Millennials provide an incredibly dynamic worldview which could greatly inspire the older generation if they were willing enough to listen.  I know that I am only one person, but as a Millennial, I do feel like I am able to represent my generation.  Below, I’d like to share some of the ways the technological craze and Millennials in general are actually a great asset to our church, our culture, and our world.

#1: Is a nose stuck in a screen really a nose stuck in a screen?

Millennials like myself are often glued to a screen, held captive by our phones, and have conditioned our minds to respond the minute we hear a ding or buzz go off.  There are many negative side effects to this such as decreased concentration during conversations.  I have to admit that one of my greatest pet peeves is someone who tells me they are listening to my story while mindlessly scrolling their newsfeed.  On the other hand, they probably are – we are a generation of multi-taskers.  We have learned to pick up on the vital information, while playing Candy Crush or Snap Chatting.

However, there is another side to this story.  Sometimes seniors think that all we are doing is Facebooking, but that’s actually not the case.  As anyone under the age of 60 realizes, our phones are our mini-computers.  We are using our phones to connect with friends, but we are also reading the news, finding recipes, and learning new languages.

There definitely are disconcerting things about the technological world.  In “Overrated: Are We More In Love With the Idea of Changing the World Than Actually Changing the World” Eugene Cho states that the newsfeed barrage has dulled our sensitivities and compassionate response.  I definitely believe there is much truth to this statement.  Causes are valiantly fought on Facebook and forgotten the next day.  Articles and photos circulate to raise awareness, but next week we don’t remember them.  We somehow think that clicking the “like” button or even the new “sad face” option makes up for a personal phone call when someone is going through a difficult time.

However, there is also a positive side.  The cool thing about social media is the way we now have access to people’s thoughts and opinions around the globe.  I often engage in meaningful church discussions with friends in North America, Europe, and Australia when previously this would never have been an option.  I am part of Facebook groups and blogging collectives (like the MennoNerds) where ideas are circulated and shared by people I never would have met in real life.  The blogging world provides opportunities for many to add their voice to a continuing conversation when previously only a select handful of people would be published.  Of course, there are individuals whose blogs probably are not worthy of publication, but for the most part, many blogs are helpful and provide unique outlooks and possibilities.

#2: The Generation that Doesn’t Grow Up, Might Actually Be the Most “Grown-Up” of All

Many people in my parents’ and grandparents’ generation are deeply concerned with the Millennial generation that refuses to grow up.  It’s just a much different world now than it was then.

Back when my grandparents were kids, a Bachelor’s degree was your ticket to nearly every profession.  A master’s degree showed you were some type of genius and a PhD meant you were practically on the Mensa list.  People back then often started their profession in their early 20s.  They worked in the same field for many years and then retired in Florida (unless, of course, they are still working and not opening up those jobs for my generation).

Not so today.  Today’s world sees people changing professions at least 6 times over their lives.  People seem unfocused and unwilling to put down roots.  And what’s worse, people don’t seem concerned at all with the fact that they are approaching 30 (or even 40) and still don’t have tenure anywhere.

This can certainly seem disconcerting in the moment, but take a closer look.

When I was 24 and a recent graduate (holding a master’s degree – a higher degree than either my parents or grandparents attained) I spent a year in Scotland.  Many people tried to discourage this.  They said it was a waste of time, that I should just “settle down” and that I would later come to regret it.  Their ideal for my life was something I considered “boring.”  Being a globe trotter often seems like an irresponsible use of education, however, I believe it’s a great asset.  Living abroad really broadens your understanding and scope of many things.  You learn how it is possible to make friends in a country and culture where you didn’t know anyone.  You wrestle through bumbling social conventions, you become more aware of global affairs, and your whole outlook on life changes.

Many people my age are also interested in intentional communities.  The older generation often doesn’t understand this.  I have often faced ridicule about my involvement in L’Arche, even being told it was a “cult.”  But I think it’s actually this increasing sense of isolation and individualization that propels us towards life together.  And I think our willingness to cook and share meals with one another, to give of our time and talents, and even to share in monetary resources is not a sign of immaturity, but actually a great witness towards the inter-dependency God ordained for us when He stated “it is not good for a man to be alone.”

#3: The generation that isn’t into church, has redefined what “church” actually means

Lastly, many older people are frustrated with the lack of young adults who not only skip church on a regular basis, but don’t seem to be interested in serving at all.  Yet, I think what this generation is failing to consider is that we ARE part of church, we’re just living that differently.
Of course, there are increasingly more Millennials who ditch church entirely, who embrace a “relative truth” schema, and who clearly are not considered with spiritual matters.  However, for those who are, we just want to see things done differently.

Millennials are perhaps the greatest proponents of social justice endeavours there are.  We clearly care about the ills that befall humanity and we are out to change that.  We need churches that will harness that creative energy and passion and allow it to fuel their ministries.  We’re done with the talk, we want action.

Here’s another thing, people often confuse denominational affiliation with the Christian title.  Here’s the thing, for many Millennials denominations are simply a buzz word, if not a distraction.  I know many committed Christians in their 20s and 30s who don’t want to be affiliated with the Baptist, Mennonite, or Anglican movement, but who nevertheless love God.  I, myself, do not like to stay tethered only to one denomination.  I am a Free Methodist because they are the denomination that hired me on and as a result the one I am seeking ordination with.  However, it could just as easily have been the Presbyterians, the Anglicans, the Pentecostals, or any other denomination which ordains women.

This can often be difficult for elderly people to compute.  Many grandparents grew up in the same church, raised their children in that church, and are proud to be Catholics, Lutherans, or Episcopalians.  To them, there is only one theology that can be correct.  They may extend grace to other groups, but they proud to claim the title of only one.

But that’s just not the way things are anymore, and I think it’s for the better.  I believe being trans-denominational is a wonderful asset that Millennials bring.  It shows that we are not so caught up in “only one” option, but that we are willing to bring the best of all denominations into the picture.  It shows that we are willing to communicate and discuss different theological topics without always having to be the ones who are right.  I believe that ultimately this will be to our benefit as it will likely help patch up many of the church rifts that occurred in the past for what we deem to be “quite silly reasons.”

Millennials are not perfect.  They have addictions like every other generation.  They struggle with mental health issues like every other generation.  They find it difficult to break into the job market, like many other people just starting out.  They wonder how they will afford expensive housing let alone get married and raise a family. Yet even in the midst of all these trials, they are able to bring us multiple job skills (acquired through a variety of different jobs rather than simply being an expert at one), many different world views (acquired through living abroad and in intentional communities rather than starting their career in one country and never leaving), and the unity of a group who is more focused on Christ than on denominations.  And because of this, I think we have a lot to thank the Millennial generation for.

When Is a Church Not a Church?

churchI remember hearing this old joke when I was a kid “When is a door not a door?  When it’s a jar!”  This joke, despite how many times it was told, never seemed to grow old #endlesshoursofamusement.  However, today, considering the Easter season I am tempted to ask myself a similar question “When is a church not a church?”  My answer is slightly less funny, and altogether important: when it fails to PREACH the Gospel, when it fails to LIVE the Gospel, and when it fails to SHARE the Gospel.

A Church that Doesn’t PREACH the Gospel, Is Really No Church at All

By its very definition, the church is a body of Christians believers who regularly gather together for teaching, encouragement, and edification.  In the book of Acts we see that the purpose of a church is 4-fold.  Acts 2:42 reads, “They devoted themselves to the Apostle’s Teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to the prayers” and we read in the next verse, that because of their faithfulness to this rhythm God increased their numbers DAILY.  Let’s stop and think about that for a moment.  The Early Church was the greatest evangelical explosion in history, and why?  Because the church was committed to God and to one another.  Fast forward to today when many churches are now closing down because of lack of congregants and where faith has become passe.  I believe a large reason for this is because individualism has even crept into the church itself and because we live and act as if we don’t truly need one another.

Using this model of church – one of the very first accounts we have of the order and structure of what happens when likeminded believers get together, we see 4 distinctly important roles the church plays.

Firstly, we attend church to learn and receive instruction.  A church that is not built on the solid foundation of Christian teaching and principles is a church that likely will not withstand the storms and pressures of this life.

Many more “liberal” Christians today find the Gospel narrow-minded and even “offensive.”  In the West, we have very much bought into this idea that truth is relative and that we should simply do what feels good and right.  People are more concerned with positivity and everyone being validated for their beliefs than what Scripture itself actually teaches.  Those who stand by what the Bible says can then be put down and ridiculed, even considered “arrogant”, “close-minded” and “snobby.”

I understand this to a degree.  I used to be a “liberal” Christian myself until I started studying the Scriptures more.  Now, I have no issue if you consider yourself a Unitarian and want to believe that all paths lead to God.  However, if you are calling yourself a CHRISTIAN and saying you attend a CHRISTIAN church it is imperative to know exactly what that means.  The very term “Christian” implies that you are a devoted follower of the Christ, Jesus.  Christian, was actually a derogatory name used to insult early Christians who believing differently than society.  Therefore, if you are going to take up this name than I think it’s important to realize that by donning this title, you are implying that you are willing to live with a different set of moral and spiritual priorities than what others agree with.

Now being a follower of Christ, means that you are a devoted disciple of His teachings in the same way that a Buddhist follows Buddha’s teachings, a Muslim follows Allah’s teachings, and a Confucian follows Confucius’s teachings.  In fact, even ardent atheists will follow a master’s teachings (Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Peter Singer).

Jesus definitely said a lot of things in line with liberal theology – including loving those who were on the margins (we’ll get more into this in the last section), however, He also said some pretty straightforward “narrow-minded” things.  For example, He said that He was the only way to His Father (John 14:6) and that the way to heaven was a narrow gate (Matthew 7:13).  He even said that while many will profess Him as Lord, unless they believe in their heats that He truly is the Messiah, they are not His true followers (Matthew 7:21).  There definitely are areas of contention and debate within the Christian tradition.  There are several grey areas in Scripture and places where different interpretations are welcomed and will not destroy the very bedrock of our faith.  However, areas such as sin, salvation, and eternity cannot be debated too much because they are laid out in quite clear terms by the very founder of our religion.  Many “liberal” Christians today say that they will always place the words of Jesus at a higher level than any other sections in Scripture.  They may discount Paul’s words because they feel he is a chauvinistic gay-basher, but they maintain that whatever Jesus says goes.  However, if those same Christians are arguing that truth is a broad term and can be approached from many different angles, I ask myself where their allegiance truly lies.  This is not a question of judgementalism.  It is not my place to act as a “gate-keeper” determining who is in and who is out.  Rather, it is a matter of concern that even though many Christians are dying for their faith every day in closed access countries, we, in the West, feel we do not have to be responsible for Christ’s teaching and all because we are choosing to buy into popular psychology.

A Church is Not a Church When it Fails to LIVE the Gospel

The last three descriptions of what church is in the book of Acts all hinge on community.  The church gathered together for fellow, breaking the bread, and prayers.

The purpose of attending a church is to be energized and revitalized not only by the message that is shared, but by the people who share in the message.  There are several Scripture verses that back up the importance of being together with believers.  In our culture, many people make excuses for not attending a live service.  They may suggest that they listen to a sermon on Podcast or read the Bible on their own time, and thus may question what is so important about actually leaving the house.  It is true that Podcasts and online sermons are a great benefit to many people, however, they are meant to enhance not to replace the actual meeting.

Hebrews 10:25 reads “do not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing.” It can be tempting to skip small group when you’re busy and stressed, but it is through fellowship that we become encouraged.  One of the best descriptions of someone longing to attend church came from a Catholic colleague.  This young man, attended mass daily.  When I asked him about his eagerness to not let anything detract him from worship he simply stated, “I am nourished by the Body of Christ.  I NEED it to get through my day.  I cannot survive without it.”  Although I am not Catholic, I was deeply touched by his devotion and believe many Protestants can likewise learn from his willingness to place fellowship as a priority.

Although meeting together is definitely a necessity for believers, there are also instructions for HOW to go about doing this.  We are told that as much as it depends on us, we are to live at peace with one another (Romans 12:18).  We are also told to do good to all people, but especially those who belong to the household of faith (Galatians 6:10).  And we are told to not “bite and devour” one another by engaging in futile arguments that ultimately don’t matter (Galatians 5:15).

All too often we see churches split over the most inconsequential of matters.  Sometimes these churches are able to recover their formerly good reputation and numbers, however, more often than not, it ends up turning people away from the faith.  Christians must always be aware that their words, attitude, and actions are being scrutinized by those outside the faith.  Therefore, it is of utmost importance to “live a life worthy of the calling to which we have been called.” (Ephesians 4:1).  Living in a worthy manner includes not just preaching to the choir, but inviting others to join in, especially people who never knew they could sing.  This brings us to our last point.

A Church is Not a Church When It Fails to SHARE the Gospel

In our culture today, evangelism can often be seen as a big turn-off.  People don’t like the image of a preacher standing on a soap box in the middle of a busy street.  People view religion as a “private” matter and often say that if it works for you, great, but please don’t impose it on them.  To a degree, I can understand this notion.  No one wants to be pressured into a faith they aren’t sure they want to have.  Also, the old tactics of scaring someone into conversion, have long been proven to do more psychological harm than good.  However, just because we aren’t aggressive with the Gospel, doesn’t mean we should avoid sharing it at all costs.  In fact, the very last thing Jesus said before He left this earth is “go into all the world, preaching the Gospel, making disciples, and baptizing in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:16-20).  Remember the very first point I made – being a Christian means being a follower of Jesus.  Jesus was pretty clear that we weren’t meant to keep our faith to ourselves and in fact, to do so, would be going contrary to His wishes.  What He wants us to do is share our faith with others.

There are many ways to share one’s faith.  For example, I am not the most out-spoken evangelist out there.  I still get a bit tongue-tied and awkward when I am asked to share my faith or even pray in public.  However, God is using platforms such as my Facebook page for His glory.  I unashamedly post Scripture verses and thoughts about Jesus and to my surprise, often receive “likes” and even personal messages from non-Christian friends.  Even though my friends may not share the same God I do, they often relay that they were encouraged by something and at least one has referred to it as a “ministry.”  To me, this is what sharing the Gospel is all about.  It’s not dragging someone to my church who doesn’t want to be there, it’s about being light and life.  It’s about setting an example that draws others and makes them curious to learn more.

However, the buck can’t just stop with evangelism.  Oftentimes churches are all about “soul winning” (as if the soul was really ours to win and we should get a prize for doing so), but more often than not, the real work of sharing our faith is much messier.  We share our faith when we break down systems of oppression, when we welcome in the stranger and the foreigner, when we break bread with the outcast and the lost.  We share our faith by becoming a safe haven, a beacon of light amidst a dark and turbulent ocean.  Oftentimes, it is through these acts that people are willing to enter into our midst and share life with us.  Oftentimes these moments of real and authentic community take place not in the cathedral but in the courtroom.  Not in the baptistery but in the bar.  Christians must not be ashamed to touch the social “lepers” of our day.  They must not be afraid to be “contaminated.”  If anything, they must be the ones to sit by the bedside of a dying person, offering hope and reassurance, serving as an intermediary between places of war and peace, and choosing love over hatred every time.

I started this article off by asking “when is a church not a church” and suggesting that when we fail to preach, live, and share the Gospel we are failing to be the true Body of Christ.  However, I’d like to end on a positive note.  When is the church truly the church?  The church is the church when we offer a cup of cold water to a thirsty and weary traveller, when we visit the wrongfully imprisoned, when we put our own selves on the line for someone we’ve barely met.  The church is the church when it craves real and authentic fellowship over fake individualism.  The church is the church when it boldly and fiercely fights against oppression.  The church is the church when it breaks down dividing walls of hostility, fear, and unbelief.  And the church is the church where two or more are gathered and where Christ is in the midst of them.

 

The Case for Christ Movie Review

The-Case-for-Christ-1  Yesterday, I had the incredible privilege of seeing the brand-new movie “The Case for Christ.”  To be honest, I was a bit skeptical before going to see it.  Of course, I believe in the resurrection of Christ and all the scientific data proving that He was a real person, that He lived and died, and also that He is Lord and Saviour.  However, I was a bit more skeptical of how they were going to pull it off.  Lee Strobel is a brilliant mind and an incredible thinker.  He is a great person to read if you are interested in scientific data, and logical reasoning.  But, I wouldn’t say he’s necessarily the kind of person you would rush to for Saturday afternoon amusement, I was wrong.

The new “Case for Christ” movie is an incredible conglomeration between a documentary and a life-story.  I believe it fits well into the category of “docu-drama.”   The story unfolds Strobel’s life as a former ardent atheist who was shocked and upset when his wife, Leslie, became a Christian.  Strobel set out to prove her faith null and void in the attempt to “win her back.”  Yet, in the process, Strobel discovered that there was overwhelming evidence for Christianity and became a Christian himself.  The movie focuses primarily on his testimony and progression to the faith, however, not without adding in some of those extra punch arguments that would be sure to convince even the hardest skeptics.

Later on that day, I attended a Good Friday musical production at a local church and picked up a free copy of “The Case for Easter.”  Although I am quite familiar with the name “Strobel” I have to admit, I have never read any of his works, but the movie definitely made me interested in finding out more.  So when I got home I immediately began reading and just finished the book a few hours ago.  Strobel’s work is once again filled with strong evidence that the crucifixion indeed happened, that Jesus did die, and that the best explanation for His disappearance is that He was raised to life.  Yet the real clincher for me is the way it impacts the way I see Christ.  I have heard about the crucifixion for years and I am well aware that it is a horrendous process to go through, however, hearing how Dr. Robert Stein, a leading forensic pathologist describes the ordeal really puts Christ’s love into perspective for me.  It is truly a sacrifice that none of us are able to compute because likely none of us would be willing to endure it.  And yet Jesus did, not for His friends, but for those who were “far off” and “enemies” of God (Ephesians 2:13).

Even though the movie and the book were both amazing, my only concern is that many atheists have simply closed their hearts and minds to these very arguments.  I do find it encouraging and refreshing to see that even people trying to prove Christianity wrong often end up believers (including C.S. Lewis), but still for some individuals no amount of evidence will steer them towards Christ.  They have determined not to believe, and they are not interested in anyone trying to convince them otherwise.  Strobel’s work is a great engaging message for anyone willing to “spar” with claims of truth, but to do so, I think there still has to be a significant amount of curiosity.  Something that simply isn’t there in the “truth is relative” day and age.

Nevertheless, I applaud this new work and think it is a movie that will likely help other Christians formulate and articulate their own thoughts and arguments better.  I also am elated that in the last few months two blatantly Christian films “The Shack” and “The Case for Christ” have hit the theatres.  We often do not get many Christian films out and that two were released almost simultaneously is a great blessing.

Our world is still very much going in the direction of post-modernism and a disinterest in the Christian faith, however, the fact that Christian movies are now hitting Hollywood a bit faster does leave me with a bit of a question.  Is it simply a mere coincidence or might there be something deeper?  Is it simply that Hollywood jumps on Christian films at Easter, or might it be, that deep down people are crying out to fill this spiritual void and are willing to go to any length to find it – even if that include a bag of popcorn in one hand and a can of soda in the other?

How Welcoming Is Your Church Really?

1.24.AreYouWelcomingChurch_637716742   Everyone wants to claim that their church is welcoming, in fact, I have yet to meet any genuine believer who likes being part of a “closed church.”  The Christian faith itself is based largely on communion, fellowship, and evangelism (encouraging others to join in).  However, even though being “welcoming” is a great ideal to have, how are we actually doing with putting this into practice?

Below, I’d like to offer you a gauge to help you determine where you fit into the spectrum:

NOTE: Oftentimes liberal Christianity is associated with being more “open-minded”, inclusive, and welcoming than conservative churches.  However, the point of this article is not to debate theology.  Instead, it is to suggest that there are very closed liberal churches, very open conservative churches, and plenty of churches that fall somewhere in the middle.  I believe that being “welcoming” often has more to do with the inherent attitudes and cultures within the church, than with the theology that is being proclaimed from the pulpit.

A Closed Church – A Case Study

When I was in my last year of seminary, I did an internship at a local church.  The church was amazing.  I taught the kids Sunday school and assisted with the midweek program.  The pastors were very kind people and my director supervisor was a hard-worker who really invested into all of his interns.  Communication, for the most part, was clear and directed.  We had leadership training, many opportunities for informal check-ins, and I very much felt supported.  There was only one problem, breaking into the young adult’s group.  Even though the church was fairly large and I aligned myself theologically with their tenets, their young adult’s group made me feel pushed to the edges.  It was near impossible to break into it.  People just appeared very cliquey, and uninterested in pursuing other friendships.  I soon felt like there was absolutely no point in attending this group.  I only went because I felt I was expected to.

Warning Signs That You are a Closed Church

A closed church usually exhibits several of the following traits:

* They speak like insiders.  They only relish in what happened in the “good old days.”  They constantly refer to people who attended previously, but are no longer there.
* They may host informal get-togethers, but it is only for people who they are friends with.  They aren’t interested at all in “widening the circle.”
* They constantly use acronyms and short forms that only people from that church or denomination will understand                                                                                                           *They assume that there are no visitors.  You might think, well, every church expects visitors, but you’d be wrong. Simply saying “we welcome all visitors” from the pulpit is not enough.  If you’re a church that truly values visitors, this will be exemplified by having a friendly greeter team who helps usher you in and find a seat, by having a prominent welcome desk or informally having people who provide information on upcoming events, and by something as simple as having accessible parking.
* The sermon is way too theologically based whereby anyone without a PhD doesn’t understand a single word of what is being said.
* People are not made aware of programming or ways to join groups within the church.  In fact, people might not even be sure where to drop their kids off for Sunday school or nursery.

A Falsely-Welcoming Church

Some churches go out of their way to be welcoming and include everyone, but by doing so, they fail to see that they are actually pushing people to the margins.  In these churches, welcoming may come across as “fake” or “strained.”  People need to see the real side of your church.  People in this generation are concerned with INTEGRITY and GENUINENESS.  If people sense that you are only letting them see the good, but that you are secretly covering something up, they won’t be interested.  Likewise, if people get the sense that the only thing you care about is converting them or growing your membership list, it will also be a huge turn-off.  Rather, a church that seeks to be welcoming is transparent and open.

A Mid-Range Church

In many churches, growing attendance is a huge priority, but one they are not seeing enough of.  I’ll be blunt here… if you’ve had a goal of growing your church by 25% for the past 25 years and you’ve only had one or two new people come through your doors, you might need to ask yourself what you can do differently.  Additionally, things like church-splits, and declining attendance due to ill health, family conflict, or even death may be unavoidable at times.  However, this is no reason to excuse a church whose attendance is plummeting consistently.  If a church is welcoming, then even though people may leave, and even though the church may go through a rough few months or even years, it will eventually rebound and grow stronger because of it.
As humans, we like to make excuses.  Sometimes we think that if we moved locations, got a swankier building, or had a bigger budget, we’d be able to do some of the things the mega-churches do and people would flock in.  But I’ll let you in on a little secret.  I knew of a house church that started with one young man (barely in his twenties who had a vision).  This man, who we’ll call Craig, didn’t set out to start a church, all he really wanted was something to do on a Sunday night with his friends.  So he got a group of other kids together, formed a little possie, and they began meeting weekly.  For the first few months, this group of 4-5 friends gathered together for prayer, Bible reading, and sharing about their lives.  In a lot of ways, this group had all the elements of church, but they didn’t consider themselves anything other than friends.  Craig had no seminary education.  Being a pastor was the furthest thing from his mind.  Yet, over time, he began to see more and more need for what he was doing.  So around the 6 month mark, he asked his friends if they’d be willing to invite a few more friends.  This then brought his weekly attendance up to around 10.  Then he suggested that each friend could bring their parents as well.  Now his group was well into the 30s.  Eventually, it snowballed and his house could not longer fit everyone in.  Craig, opened his first church, and today that church is still thriving and the core group is mostly still intact.  Craig was not a church-planter, a pastor, or an evangelist.  He was just some shy kid, who craved community and had a vision to make that happen.

Conversely, we see once large churches now closing their doors because of lack of congregants.  It doesn’t matter that their building is worth a million dollars or that they have a high tech sound booth.  If no one attends, those things are basically pointless.

A few weeks ago I was listening to Christian radio and the pastor said “God never called us to be successful, He called us to be faithful.”  I have heard this old adage and employed it myself on several occasions, however, this time around, I actually paused and thought about it.  I do believe that sometimes we may define “success” differently than worldly standards (in other words, it’s not all about numbers), but I also disagree with this statement.  If we are truly being faithful, God WILL bless us with success.  A church that is actively seeking to welcome in others and that has made this a priority, will indeed see other people enter in.  A church which only merely pretends to be welcoming, but in reality is close-fisted will likely see a retention at best and a decline at worst.  And even though there is no one-size fits all method for growing a church and there may be exceptions to the norm, the truth is, for the most part, you cannot be faithful while also completely lacking in success.

A Truly Welcoming Church

One of the absolute best ways to determine whether or not your church is truly welcoming, is to look at the types of people who attend.

You may say that you are open to people with profound developmental disabilities and that you’d love to start a disability ministry.  But if you don’t have a single person with a disability in your church, they don’t feel welcomed there.

You might say you love single mothers the same way as nuclear families.  But if only traditional families are at your church, the others don’t truly feel welcomed there.

You might say you don’t care about someone’s socio-economic status, but if only rich or only poor people go to your church, there’s a reason.

You might say you don’t care about someone’s ethnic and racial background, but if you’re church is entirely white, it’s because people of colour can’t call it home.  (On this point, I will note that in several rural areas of Canada people are predominantly white because of lack of immigration.  However, your church should be a reflection of your geographic location.  If your church doesn’t reflect your city or town but only a small sub-section of it, think again.  You’re not as welcoming as you think).

There is something to be said about having strong morals and theological leanings.  Being a welcoming church doesn’t mean you have to ignore or get rid of those ideals, it simply means you don’t pounce on someone the minute they show up.  For example, being a church that values traditional marriage, sexual integrity before and within marriage, or abstaining from alcohol doesn’t mean you can’t be welcoming.  You might uphold these beliefs, but your job then is to mentor others and encourage them to adopt similar lifestyles.  Not to raise eyebrows and hit them over the head with a Bible the minute you find out they don’t share your values.  That’s why a church that is doing a good job may not approve of someone’s lifestyle but that person always will feel like that church values and approves of them as an INDIVIDUAL.

Being a welcoming church is a process.  It takes time, it takes effort, and it takes people who are truly willing to explore and seek out those who do not yet attend the church.  If you’re serious about being more welcoming, here are some things to ask yourself:

* If I were travelling through this town, would I want to stop at this church?  Would I even know that this church exists?

I will be shallow for a minute here, I’m not the most techie person out there, but I do value a good, clean, up-to-date website.  When I’m looking for a church the first place I look is online.  If I can’t find adequate information about where you’re located, what time your service is at, or approximately what you believe, I’m not going to bother.  People in general like to do the least amount of homework necessary, the easier you make it for them to find you, the better.   On the similar note, the same rule applies to church signage.  If you have a board outside, update it weekly.  A church that has a huge sign advertising a Christmas dinner in the middle of August is a church that quite honestly has proven they don’t really care.

People look at the little things.  Is the washroom neat and tidy?  Is the nursery area accessible?  Do people feel safe leaving their kids there?  Is your church well-staffed?  Do volunteers seem to know what they are doing?  People will care about all these things even before they sit through their first service and hear your theology.

* Is this church a good fit for my family?

Does the church appeal to a wide range of people with a variety of different options?  Is there only a Sunday morning service available, or are there also other alternatives throughout the week?

 

*What is the church’s attitude towards people with disabilities?  Homelessness? Poverty?

Are these individuals seen as “problems to be cured” or are they welcomed and embraced with open arms.  In my blog post entitled “Where’s the Justice in That?  The Social Exclusion of Adults with Learning Disabilities and What the Church Can Do to Fix It” (https://debdebbarak.wordpress.com/2016/06/13/wheres-the-justice-in-that-the-social-exclusion-of-adults-with-learning-disabilities-and-what-the-church-can-do-to-fix-it/) I make this outrageous claim: “Next time the service is completely quiet, make some noise…because an inclusive church is never truly silent.” Church should be messy and LOUD – screaming and crying babies, people shouting “amen”, people with disabilities making humming noises, people with hearing difficulties shouting “what was that again?”  I don’t think this takes away from the sacred meditative atmosphere at all.  In fact, I think it adds to it.

Well, those are my thoughts on what makes a church truly inclusive.  What do you think? I’d love to hear yours!