Question: What Do You Think?

coffee31.jpgI have a question.

 
First, let me tell you why I want to ask this question.  Every July, I am away from our church.  A couple of weeks of that is vacation.  I am always ready for those two weeks.  The other two weeks, I spend time thinking and praying about what I ought to teach/preach the next eleven months (August ’08 – June ’09).  As of today, I have some books I plan to read and a file of articles I plan to glance at, and I have in mind some concerns about which I am praying. 

 
At times, it feels like I am making some sort of stew over these two weeks.  Often I will add a few ingredients to the mix that may or may not seem to be important.  Nevertheless, I have learned to listen well and to read broadly.

 
So here is my question:

 
As you think about the conversations that you have been a part of lately, what stands out to you? 

 

  • What subject(s) seem to be a part of many of our conversations with others?
  • What do some of us seem to fear?
  • What "secrets" seem to be weighing heavily on some of us?

You will be helpful whether you respond to each of these or just one. 

 
Thanks so much for your help. 

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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12 thoughts on “Question: What Do You Think?

  1. Jim,I think we are in a struggle for relevance and identity. The stereotype is that the Church of Christ used to say we were the only ones going to heaven. Now no one really says that but it seems to me like we are floudering a bit because no one has really given much of a positive alternative to lean on. We have done away with the old, outdated and obviously wrong sentiment of that past way of thinking but now what? Who are we? What are we doing? What makes us still relevant? Do we honestly care about people any more? If so how are we showing it…because it isn’t really displayed if all we are doing is showing up to study the Bible and sing.I am being really honest here and I think these are questions that have to be addressed and voids filled in order to move into the future. If we miss the boat on this we may be in for a big surprise. If we catch it, there is a tremendous harvest at hand as people today are so open. 

  2. Some people I’ve recently talked to think about, and are concerned about  . . .
    1.  There is so much wealth and, yet, so much poverty in the U.S., and that the divide seems to be growing, especially on the wealth side (i.e., the rich are growing in the percentage of overall wealth that they control)
    2.  Of course, there is the political scene.  Who will the next President be?  What does the nomination of Barack Obama say (and not say) about race in the U.S.?  Do a majority of people really trust either one of the candidates?  Are we destined for another period of several years during which the current Administration is not liked?  How are we going to get out of Iraq clean?  What are we going to do about Iran?  etc., etc.
    3.  Gasoline prices.  Where will it end?  Who has a feasible plan to significantly reduce our dependence on oil?
    4.  Social security.  Will there be any money left when I finally get to the front of the line?  What if I "fortunately" live to be 97?  Do I really think I can retire at, say, 67?

  3. 1.  What does it really look like to live counterculturally.  How does following Jesus shape every decision I make?
    2.  How does this church define a disciple and how do we form them within our system and with the way we do church.
    Just a few thoughts
     

  4. What subject(s) seem to be a part of many of our conversations with others?   In my personal life I find myself being asked more and more often about how to know what God wants in our lives.  Rather it has to do with which denomination is right/wrong or how often and when we should fast, how do I know what God wants specifically from ME.  Not from my church, family, and friends, but me.
    What do some of us seem to fear?  I am finding that more people have fear to really express their love for Christ with other Christians because they don’t know how others will accept them.  For example, I often feel the need to tell the congregation to pay close attention or to make sure they sing a song in a praiseworthy fashion when I’m leading singing.  More often than not though I hold that back.  Is that fear?
    What "secrets" seem to be weighing heavily on some of us?  The fact that none of us are as transparent to our Christian brothers and sisters as we should be.
    Great questions.

  5. What subject(s) seem to be a part of many of our conversations with others?
    At church, the conversations seem to center around, "what can we do to get this church energized?"  We don’t seem to have clear direction any more and don’t quite know what to do about it.
    At work, conversations are actually more intimate because I know these people better since I work with them eight hours a day five days a week.  Because I am in the dubious category of "senior citizen" now :(, younger coworkers often seek me out with concerns about their children, their marriages, money issues, and other family concerns.  Since most know where I go to church, I also get some questions from coworkers about why the CoC holds to certain practices and why some in the CoC are so judgmental and difficult to deal with.  Sad, but that is still the perception that is out there in some places.
    In general, there seems to be a lot of concern about our economic situation with rising gasoline prices, etc.  Concerns about the war in Iraq, how do we get out of the mess we’ve gotten ourselves into over there?  Who to vote for in the next presidential election, some feeling there is no good choice on the horizon.
    With a few people, discussions have to do with "what books are you reading now?"  (The Shack seems to be a topic lately.  I found it to be a good read and makes the concept of God accessible to just about anyone.  Would love to see a movie based on it!)

  6. What do some of us seem to fear?

    I guess my biggest fear is that someday I might not be able to take care of myself.  I hate the thought of being dependent on someone – for anything.

  7. Am I coming in too late??I just wanted to add my 2 cents…I think the secret that weighs heavily on most people is that they feel afraid or inadaquate–suffer from Christian self-esteem issues and wonder if God really loves, or even forgives, them.  A lot of Christians aren’t sure if they really believe in mercy–at least not all the time. They need to hear, not just that they can die and go to Heaven, but that God wants them, now, in this moment, today.  That he’s not going to give up on them if they aren’t the perfect whatever (wife, mother, sister, husband, employee).  That He is a LOVING father.I know it might sound a little too much like psycho babble for some people, but folks actually worry A LOT about God’s wrath, judgement…that sort of thing.  Or they blame Him for their problems.  They need to know He is FOR them, not their enemy. The other suggestion I’d have–Mental illness.  Depression, especially.  with the bad economy, folks getting laid off…mental illness is still so stigmatized.  The church should be THE place where people struggling in this way can feel at home.  

  8. AnnonThanks very much for this great comment.  You have raised a number of issues that are very real for many people.  I appreciate each one of these.   Thanks very much for your help.   

  9. Have linked to you on Conversations@Intersections encouraging people to join in your conversation, but it’ll only go up on 1 July so I mighta missed your primary window of reflection.Here in NZ people are talking about how there just might be a correlation between the decline in church attendance and the increase in violent crime. They’re also talking about elections: how we need a change in NZ, USA and Zimbabwe. Not sure that they know what would like to come with those changes though. People here are spiritual, but can’t stomach religion as they’ve known it. We’re very much like the Telmarines C.S. Lewis wrote about in the 50’s.Thanks for letting us drop in on your conversations.http://conversationsatintersections.blogspot.com/

  10. Jill,Thanks so much for your comment.  You observations are interesting and were just what I was looking for.  Thanks.  I hope you will comment here again.