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Traverse City is "Dechurched," so now what?

Last week I was made aware of the most recent Barna release of "Church Attendance Trends Across the Country." The trends reported are based on a sample size of over 76,000 telephone and online interviews done over a seven year period, ending in April 2016. Based on this sample, Barna breaks down the most churched cities, most unchurched cities, and most dechurched cities i...

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Which false teacher are you listening to?

A few months ago popular Christian teacher and blogger Jen Hatmaker publicly spoke out in support of same sex marriage, shocking many in the conservative Christian world of which she was presumed to be a part. In the wake of the controversy, Christianity Today published a thought-provoking article about "the bigger story" behind the Jen Hatmaker reversal, observing the out...

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Spare the Rod? Spanking in an age of child abuse

In his blog post, "Why Jesus wants you to stop spanking your kids," theologian Benjamin Corey speaks to what seems to be a growing conviction inside of evangelical Christianity: God is against spanking. What seems to have triggered his post was the arrest and subsequent suspension of NFL football player Adrian Peterson for child abuse after "spanking" his child with a tree...

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Why Church Membership? The importance of community in an individualistic and online world

Why should I join a church? Is there really a difference between joining a church and attending regularly? I can now go to church "online" and watch a famous preacher on my TV - isn't that just as good as joining a local church? In our day, where both technology, individualism, and a consumer approach to religion are rampant, these are all questions that come up and need ...

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A Great Divide: The Fundamental Difference Between the PCA and PCUSA

One of the questions that I routinely get asked as the minister of a Presbyterian Church is this: “What is the difference between your church and the Presbyterian Church down the road?” I have found that simply asserting that we are part of the PCA and the other Presbyterian Church is part of the PC(USA), only leads to “What is the difference between the ...

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What happened to the Presbyterian Church USA?

This week the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA), the largest Presbyterian denomination in the United States, approved an ammendment to their constitution to redefine marriage as "a unique commitment between two people, traditionally a man and a women, to love and support each other for the rest of their lives." The church had voted to adopt this change at last years General ...

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Christianity for Sale?

In last week’s sermon, we discussed the negative influence of consumerism when it is applied to the Christian faith. We made the point that a "consumer Christian" is not a disciple, and that Christ call to follow him is a call to be a disciple, not a consumer. Unfortunately, the consumer mentality has not just affected Christians as individuals, but as churches (and ...

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A 21st century plea for Catechizing our youth, part 1

This is the first in a series of posts about the critical importance of catechesis in the home and church today. My hope is to convince that catechism is a discipline and privilege that Christian parents should engage in and churches encourage and support. While this has always been true historically, I believe it is especially critical in light of our current cultural sit...

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How to write a worship song in five minutes (OR Why we sing hymns)

First, watch this video... This video is funny. It's also rather sad. While certainly exaggerating, it expresses quite pointedly how empty many contemporary worship songs really are. In only a few years as a minister, it has become obvious to me that many people are turned away from reformed and presbyterian churches because they find the minimal instrumentation and ...

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What should I do Sunday afternoon, part 2

What should we do Sunday afternoon? In the first post on this topic, we finished by suggesting that to answer this question we must consider the purpose of the Lord's Day. As we consider what Sunday is for, it will help us determine what we should do. Purpose # 1: Sunday is intended to bring us refreshment, both physically and spiritually. This aspect of refreshment is a...

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What should I do on Sunday afternoon?

What should I do on Sunday afternoon? I acknowledge that even asking this question identifies me as one of those weird Christians who still believes that Sunday is a special day. I admit it is true. I still believe that the 4th commandment applies, that Sunday is the Lord's Day, and thus it is to be different from the other days of our week. This is the position of our de...

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Dear Christian, Are You Ready to be 'Weird?'

I was confronted with an unsettling truth recently while reading a book by an English Christian by the name of Francis Spufford. In the preface to his book, Unapologetic: How Despite Everything Christianity still makes Surprising Emotional Sense, he describes what it is like to be a Christian in England in the 21st century: My daughter just turned six. some time over th...

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Why have a Prelude before Worship? (OR: How to NOT profit from church this Sunday)

This week we begin a summer blog series explaining each element of our worship service at Redeemer. We begin by thinking about the prelude. The prelude, coming directly before the start of the worship service, is a short period of time (only 30-60 seconds) which provides an opportunity for us to quiet our hearts and prepare our minds for worship.  Why have a Prelude?...

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The Importance of Corporate Worship

We live in a day in which the importance of the weekly worship service for Christian growth and discipleship is being undermined. There are many reasons for this. Certainly the individualism of our culture which has led to a "me and Jesus" approach to our Christianity is a big factor. After all, why do I need to go to church when I can have a personal experience with Jesus...

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Spectators or Participants? (OR Why we sing Hymns, part 2)

This is the second post on the philosophy of worship music at Redeemer Church. In the first post, I reflected on the importance of content. A song that has no biblical content, a song in which Jesus' name can be replaced with "Baby" and still make sense, is not one that we should be singing in the public worship service of the church.  In this post, I want to address...

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I'm a Protestant. What should I think about lent?

Last week began the liturgical season of the church year known as Lent. Lent is the 40 day period beginning Ash Wednesday and ending on Easter Sunday. Traditionally, the season of lent focuses on repentance, prayer, and good works, in preparation for the celebration of Easter (much like the season of Advent is meant to prepare us for the joy of Christmas morning). The ashe...

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Should we trust 'Scientific' Prayer Studies?

In this past week's sermon, I mentioned a 2006 study published by the American Heart Journal on the Therapeutic Effects of Intercessory Prayer. The study consisted of evaluatiing what effect, if any, intercessory prayer had on producing an uncomplicated recovery for cardiac bypass patients. The conclusion of the study was that there was no correlation at all between the nu...

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The Danger of Marketing the Gospel

Driving down a major highway in Phoenix, AZ, I passed a large billboard advertising for one of the mega-churches in the area. The sign was very simple. It only had the logo of the church with one sentence written on it. I cannot remember the precise wording, but it was something very similar to "Experience your best life."  Upon seeing this, I had a mixed response. On...

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A Prayer for the Year's End

I came across the following prayer in The Valley of Vision, a collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions. What I find refreshing about it is its realness. We live in a world of superficial spirituality where we like to only talk about things that are "positive and encouraging." This prayer at year's end recognizes that "positive and encouraging" does not always des...

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The Parent as Youth Pastor

“Doing youth ministry without parents is like driving a car without the engine.” - Mark Devries [1] It’s no secret anymore, youth ministry is in a state of crisis. Polls of recent years report over and over the dire percentages of youth who leave the church after high school. Whatever the exact percentage actually is, what seems clear enough is that more...

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The Devil Made Me Do It?

James is emphatic that it is "our desires" that lead us into temptation, but what about spiritual warfare? Isn't Satan involved in our temptations to sin?...

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The 7 A's of Confession

"I'm sorry I spoke the way I did, but you know I was really tired..." "I'm sorry if  I offended you by what I did..." "Maybe I could have tried harder.." "I guess I was wrong when I said those things about you..." "Let's just forget the past..." What do all of the above have in common? They are examples of apologies to others that fall short of what God calls us ...

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Need Wisdom? Ask God, Then Ask Others

James tells us that God promises to give us the wisdom that we need for our lives. But how does he give it to us?...

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