Dealing with the “Gray Matters”

I was first introduced to Brett McCracken during my time at Taylor University when he came to speak about his first book “Hipster Christianity.” My time in college was right in the middle of the emergence of the “cool Christianity” taking off where many my age were dealing with the issues raise by the Emergent Church and doing our best to reconcile these new issues with our generally conservative Evangelical upbringing. I quickly found myself spending time with those of the more reformed persuasion popularized by Collin Hansen’s “Young, Restless and Reformed.” Along with our questions of faith came the questions of the legalistic upbringing we experienced including, but not limited to: no drinking, no dancing, no smoking, no R rated movies (unless it’s about Jesus), no swearing and no cards. (Ok, the no cards rule was my grandma’s when my dad and I took them out to play some Rook). As my friends and I grew during college we were also expected to sign an agreement saying we would continue to uphold these things during our time in college (Taylor recently lifted their ban on dancing, but I was already gone). 4 years after I heard Brett speak, I finally got around to reading his newer book “Grey Matters.” In it, Brett wrestles with 4 areas that have been divisive among Christians for many years: food, movies, music and alcohol, the latter being the most divisive in recent years (see John McArthur’s letter to the Young, Restless and Reformed).

Throughout the book Brett doesn’t shy away from recognizing that these areas can be divisive for people and does a fantastic job of acknowledging problems on both sides of these issues. The most surprising one for me was the section on food. How many of spend any time thinking about what we’re eating and why? Or why some foods taste so good and others don’t (those that don’t seem to always be the healthy ones. What’s the deal with that!?). Yet through all 4 of these areas discussed, they offer opportunities for us to worship God as we’re commanded to do in 1 Corinthians 10:31.

One of the keys that emerged from the book for me was how community changes all these areas. I really enjoy cooking-thinking through the spices and different ingredients can be combined together to form something that doesn’t taste anything like the separate ingredients on their own. And even better: pairing said meal with a good wine or beer. Yet when I cook a big meal and sit down to eat by myself, it’s never as enjoyable. I generally try to invite someone or someone’s over to enjoy it with me. There’s something even better about eating within the context of a community. And this is true of the other areas discussed as well.

All of us have a favorite band that we could listen to on repeat all day (or bands). How many people have you told about your favorite bands by giving them a CD or having them listen with you? And the same thing is said about movies. They’re so much more enjoyable when you can discuss the movie with someone later. And finally, the four letter word in some Christian circles: alcohol. Being able to discuss the different flavors accented by a beer or wine is a very enjoyable community experience that allows us to learn from each other (as long as everyone is legally able to partake, if you’re in the US and under the age of 21, this shouldn’t take place).

So I’m grateful that I finally took the time to read this book, it’s very helpful in thinking through a number of the ramifications that come from dealing with these gray areas in life, and all of them can either help or hinder our worship of God. How do you think you can use gray areas as an opportunity to worship God within the context of community?

Top 10 Reasons Our Kids Leave Church

Last week I did a blog titled ‘Resisting Being Cutting Edge‘ and included a link to another blog titled ‘Top 10 Reasons Our Kids Leave Church‘ Today I’m going to interact a little with that article. This article says the 10 reasons are:

10. The Church is “Relevant”

9. They never attended church to begin with

8. They get smart

7. You sent them out unarmed

6. You gave them hand me downs

5. Community

4. They found better feelings

3. They got tired of pretending

2. They know the truth

1. They don’t need it

It’s worth reading the explanations in the article, but the thing I don’t see on here is family upbringing. I think this is the key to all these other issues. We have professionals who take care of every need we have. There are teachers who are professional educators, doctors who are professional health care providers, shouldn’t we have professional Christians too? I hate to break it to you, but there is only one professional Christian who we can read about in the Bible. His name is Jesus. Ultimately we need to trust that God is going to work in the students lives as we do our best to instruct them, but I think it’s almost completely up to the parents. The parents are the ones who have the option of spending the most time with their kids, and the ones who the kids will most often imitate.

Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” This is not a universal truth, but it is a general trend. Ultimately children have their own minds and identities, but in the grace of God those who are raised in Bible believing and God fearing homes will grow to be the same. Parents need to start stepping up and setting an example for their children as they grow to be more Christ like in their lives. If the parents are nominal Christians the students will be that AT BEST, and most often will completely fall out of church.

The other issue I see with these top 10 reasons is that we NEED community in the church. We all have these spiritual blind spots and sin issues in our lives that we aren’t aware of until someone else points them out in our lives. Were it not for the church people would follow their own thinking and reasoning right into sin. Community may be a buzz word in the Christian circle today (just as “Gospel” is), but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t value it. The call to Christianity is a call to community. We need the body around us to support encourage and hold us accountable.