Relaxing in Rosarito

One of the commitments that I made for 2012 is to rest better. I know, that sounds silly. But with all the stress and craziness of 2011 I forgot to take more than a few sporadic days off. That’s not healthy or sustainable. 

With that in mind, and Kristen’s parents in town for the week, we jumped on the opportunity to take a 36 hour getaway down in Mexico.

Hotel: We stayed at the Rosarito Beach Hotel. It was great. We stayed in the Pacifico Tower, which is only 4 years old. It’s gorgeous. We got a king suite with a beach view and balcony for a little over $100. The property is right on the beach, has great beach access, a kickin’ pier, and all the amenities. Free parking was a nice added bonus. We’re already planning to go back with the kids. Seriously, the hotel was like 45 minutes from our house. I really dig the old world charm of the older parts of the hotel. This thing dates back to the 1920s. All the stars have been there. I mean… Marilyn Monroe stayed there back in the day. How cool is that?

Beach: I don’t know how long the beach is. It’s long. You can walk about a mile south of the hotel and… we got tired after about a 1.5 miles to the north. It was very clean and mostly empty. We thought it was cool that there were some fun things to do on the beach if you were into that. Like, rent a horse or ATV or drink a piña colada or eat shrimp. In the afternoons there is even a dude that will take you up in a sail plane. We didn’t do any of those things but it was all right there.

Food: There’s no lying about it. One reason you go to Mexico is to get your eat on. And that we did. The star of the show is El Yaqui. They basically do one thing and do it very, very well. They have a skirt steak taco (perrones) that is perfect. The steak, onion, guacamole, cheese, and tortilla make love in your mouth to produce a love child called delicious. We had 4 tacos and 2 sodas for like $11. You can’t beat that deal. For dinner we went to a divey place on the main strip and shared a fish combination. We had shrimp, white fish, calimari, and lobster plus drinks for $20. I mean, get real. It’s so cheap and good and fun! For breakfast we grabbed coffee and a couple of pastries and walked the beach. Simple and magical.

Shopping: Kristen had actually never been to Mexico. So we had a good time exploring Rosarito’s shops. The main market has dozens of little stalls with every souvenir you could imagine. We didn’t buy much but had fun. The main thing we bought stuff was in a big candy shop! They had everything you could ever want to put in a piñata. $10 in that place could get you a very serious sugar high.

Safety: I’m so sick of hearing how unsafe Mexico is. Yes, if you’re in a gang or you buy drugs or you’re in the red light district at 2:00 AM… Mexico is probably dangerous. (Um, just as dangerous as Omaha or Dallas doing those same activities) But it’s also a country with millions of people who are very proud of their homeland. Believe it or not, not every person in Mexico wants to illegally immigrate to the United States! I’ve been to Mexico several times in the past year or so and never once felt the slightest bit in danger. In fact, when we walked back to the hotel after dinner at about 7:45 PM the streets were basically empty. If you’ve stayed away from Mexico because you heard it was dangerous… my experience in TJ/Norther Baja have been awesome.

An invitation: Whether you are thinking about bringing your youth group/church to Mexico for a mission trip or maybe you’d like to find a sweet getaway spot. I don’t know any other way to make it OK for you than to simply invite you to come down. Drop me a line. I’d be happy to either connect you with some friends who live/work in Mexico or, if I have time, take you myself.

Church Leadership

Marriage can’t be the common denominator anymore

Church programming is largely based on segmentation. In other words, most churches build their programming based on some assumptions about:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Marital status

There is a general assumption in church programming that when a person hits their 20s that most will head towards marriage and having kids. And for most of human history it’s been that way, so it’s not discriminatory to base programming on that assumption at all. It’s been a safe bet. (Just like it’s a safe bet that if you have a lot of young married couples you should invest in your nursery, etc.)

But here’s the problem.

For a wide variety of reasons fewer adults are choosing to get married. To really grasp this I’d encourage you to read Derek Thompson’s, “The Death (and life) of Marriage in America” featured in The Atlantic last week. As he says, the reason fewer people are getting married is complicated. But the basis of this discussion is that as the wage gap between men and women continues to shrink, fewer women need marriage for economic stability. I’d never thought of the washing machine as a reason for a lower marriage rate, but he makes an interesting argument!

[Sidebar: From a Christian perspective we’d likely want to introduce sexual morality into that. But if we’re honest we know that few people, even in the church, are waiting until marriage for sex. That’s an influence on marriage but not the fulcrum we often see it as. When I do pre-marital counseling, most often, the couple is either sexually active or obviously lying to me about their sexual activity.]

So what’s the problem with building church programming around the assumption of marriage?

You’re eliminating 48% of the population of people over 18 automatically. They aren’t married. And with the age of first-time marriage rapidly moving towards 30 it’s safe to say that nearly half of the adults in this country aren’t walking around in a huge hurry to get married. We can lament about that all we want, but it’s the world we actually live in!

Yet, if you listen to both the words coming from the mouths of leaders and the metastory  of assumption that every adult is either married or wants to be married, you can see why the 48% of people who aren’t married might think, “Church isn’t for me.”

Hang out with Christian adults who are single and you’ll quickly notice that they see the favortism in the church towards married people.

Even if you think that there should be a marriage assumption, can you see how this is a messaging problem for the church to wrestle with? Can you see how empowering the marriage assumption could be a wedge for a huge percentage of the population and what they think about God? (The church is living evidence of Christ, right?)


What does your church do that drives you nuts on this issue?

What, if any, success have you had in helping your church deal with the statistical realities of the country we live in? Have you been able to adapt?


Place your bet

Photo by @ Alex via Flickr (Creative Commons)

A few months ago I went to Las Vegas with my father-in-law for 24 hours. There are at least 4 things hilarious with that statement, right?

He was running a marathon and needed someone to drive with him from San Diego to Las Vegas and back. I went since it’d be nice to catch-up along the way as well as have lunch with my mom, who lives a mile from the Strip.

Since my mom lives there… I have been to Vegas at least 10 times. Normally, I like to people watch late at night. The joke has always been that I’m down $11 in slots lifetime and I’m mad about it. I’ve never really been into the games.

What I learned from 6 hours on the Strip

Unlike my normal late-night-people-watching, this trip had me up very early, checked out of my hotel, and walking the Strip by breakfast. With more than 6 hours to kill I wandered through a few casinos filled with old people playing slots and a bunch of dealers standing at empty tables.

Along the way I stopped at a Starbucks. As I sipped my mocha I entertained myself by watching a few scattered games here and there. In truth, like a lot of Christians, I feel really out of place on a casino floor. More because I don’t know what to do than that I don’t feel like I could enjoy it.

At one casino there was a small crowd around the crap table. It was a morning clinic explaining how the game worked. Perfect… I could kill an hour, learn something, and its free.

Here’s an observation from that clinic: There is a time to place bets. But once the time has passed it is too late for placing bets. You are either in the game or you are out. The shooter rolls 7 or 11 on his first roll, everyone with a bet on the line instantly doubles their money. If you think about it, every form of gambling has that same timeline. A time to place bets. A time when betting is closed. And a moment when a winner is declared. Cards, slots, horses, lottery, etc.

When you are playing in the game you have a claim at the table. You can win or you can lose. Your heart beats faster and adreneline pumps. The dealers chatter with you. And the cocktail waitress is happy to bring you a bottle of water or whatever you’d like on the house.

When you aren’t in the game you have no claim to the table. You can’t lose but you can’t win either. You’re on the sidelines as an observer. No pitter-patter of your heart. The dealers might not acknowledge you. And fat chance in getting a free drink from the waitress if you aren’t in the game. You’re just another tourist.

Gambling in Vegas is a lot like life outside of Vegas

It feels like people are so afraid of losing that they just refuse to place a bet at all.

  • College – Where do I want to go? What do I want to study?
  • Marriage and family– Is this the right person? What if it’s the wrong person? Should we have kids? If so, when?
  • Vocation – What do I want to do when I grow up? What if I don’t like it?
  • Location – Where do I want to live?

People aren’t shy about their shock with Kristen and I because we placed bets on all four of those categories early in life and have continued to “improve our hand” over the years.

The flip side, experience has taught: In order to win you have to place a bet in the game. And the window for placing a bet is limited. When the time comes to place a bet I already know I want to be in the game because sitting on the sidelines is too boring for me. There are risks and rewards… but I always know I want to be in the game.

Life’s winners and losers are in the game. But those who hold on, never placing a bet, will never know what winning feels like because they are too afraid to accept the risk of losing. And that, my friends, is losing every time.

Christian Living

14 Years of Mutual Submission in Marriage

On June 21st, 1997 Kristen walked down the aisle escorted by her dad then her uncle Fred led us in an exchange of vows.

Here we are, 14 years later, still standing next together on life’s amazing journey. This past 12 months have been especially dear to us as we experienced two of life’s great (and unexpected) joys together. First, in July 2010 we ministered side-by-side in Haiti for a week. Second, we walked together through the anticipation, birth, and first 4 months of having Jackson.

In 14 years Kristen and I have largely not experienced the bumps and bruises so many of our friends have. We’ve had it pretty easy by comparison. We are thankful as we recognize that without an over-abundance of God’s grace it wouldn’t be possible.

We are far from perfect people. And my flaws must grate on Kristen much more than hers grate on me.

The secret to success for us

Mutual love for, respect for, and submission to one another.

That’s right my fellow conservative friends. I said it. Our marriage is built on an equal footing of love, respect, and submission to one another, as to the Lord.

Many times in the last 14 years I have submitted to my wife out of respect and love for her. (And, by proxy, Jesus.) In 14 years of marriage I can’t think of a time when I stood in front of her and said, “I don’t care what you think, we are doing it this way. You must submit to me because I’m your husband.

And I hope our relationship never breaks down, at its core, to the point where I’d think it was OK to do that.

In the lead-up to our engagement Kristen and I challenged one another to memorize chapters of the New Testament. I know its cheesy, but for us it was fun, competitive, and become meaningful. (Plus, an easy way to be together alone and keep our hands off of one another!)

One of the chapters we memorized was Ephesians 5.

It kind of started as a joke. After all, we were Bible College students surrounded by people who loved to use this section of Paul’s letter to Ephesian Christians as a weapon. And it was totally stereotypical that a madly in love couple would memorize a passage of Scripture about marriage. At least it wasn’t Song of Solomon, right?

Like many ancient things misunderstood throughout time, as we got to know this passage of Scripture we realized that while at the surface level it felt antiquated and entrenched with man-power-dogma, as we embedded the words on our heart we came to realize the passage is much the opposite. It really has become the basis of our marriage.

Read Ephesians 5 for yourself. Actually, take 10 minutes and read it 3 different times in 3 different translations.

You don’t need a commentary to understand what Paul was saying.

As you get familiar with Paul’s language and read it in context you will see that this isn’t a repressive thing at all. As Kristen and I memorized this passage we fell in love with it.

Most importantly, we learned that it had nothing at all to do with blind submission for a woman to a man. Why? Because that’s not how Jesus expects us to submit to Him. Like a loving groom, He asks us to offer our hand to Him willfully. And willfully, lovingly, he gave Himself to His bride wholly and completely, even unto death. It’s a beautiful mystery.

The kicker for the whole passage, and why we crack up that people get hung up on it, is that in verse 32 Paul says, I’m not even really talking about marriage here people– this whole passage is an illustration for the church’s relationship to Jesus! And in verse 33 he adds, “Oh yeah, but a man should love his wife and a woman should respect her husband.

Back to the practicality of mutual submission

In our every day life does Kristen submit to my authority over her as her husband? Only to the extent that I submit to hers. The point of that passage wasn’t blind submission for a wife to her husband. It was mutual, willful, and willing submission to Christ for all of God’s people. We get along because we chose to get along as brother and sister in Christ.

Blind submission is not an act of love as it is an act of obedience. I expect my kids to submit to my authority and to do what we ask them to do because we are their parents and we actually do know what is best for them. But I also know that to lean into the Shema I must win their hearts… which requires more than a relationship built on obedience, right?

To expect that of Kristen would be disrespectful to her, our relationship, and her relationship with the Lord.

Instead, we walk together in mutual, eyes-wide-open submission, love, and respect to one another as we submit arms-wide-open to Jesus.

We’ve agreed with our very lives to put our relationship as #2 with Jesus at our only #1. As we submit to His will for our lives, we act in concert with one another out of love & respect for one another. And, not to sound trite, we’ve found our relationship with one another pretty simple because we’ve kept one another in the proper place all of these years.

What do we think about people who take the perspective that the man is the head and everyone else submits to his authority?
We think they are wrong. And we have 14 years of proof that our way works just fine.
hmm... thoughts illustrations

Moments of Awe

Awesome is one of my favorite words. While my day is full of moments of awesome there are only a few moments in life described by the word awe.

Here’s a few…

  • Hearing the words, “I’m pregnant” from your wife. (Trust me, as much “awe” is created the first time at 24 as at 34 when it wasn’t expected.)
  • Seeing the sunrise over the mountains or the sunset over the ocean for the first time. (Whoa, there are colors I never even imagined!)
  • Meeting a starving person who asks if they can pray for you. (Whoa, you mean you can really praise God even when you aren’t comfortable?)
  • The birth of your child. (Whoa, you and me doing that can result in this?)
  • Witnessing 50,000 worshipping God in a city where hundreds of thousands just died in an earthquake. (Whoa, how is that possible?)
  • A young lady sharing her deepest fear and how God showed up in front of her peers. (Whoa, her words are more powerful than mine.)
  • The realization that Jesus died for me. (Whoa, the son of God… was perfect… and gave his life for me?)
  • A jet-lag induced early morning walk through a crisply cold city in a foreign country. (Whoa, discovering this place is amazing!)
  • Riding the Maid of the Mist deep into Niagara Falls to feel the full force of gravities simplicity. (Whoa, I’m soaking and exhilarated at the same time.)
  • The moment you realize you both feel the same way and knowing you’ll spend the rest of your life with her. (Whoa, there really is someone just for me.)

There are moments in life so full of awe that words truly defy them. I think that’s the history of the word awe right there. Something happened and a persons jaw dropped and said, “Awe.”

Getting back, recreating them, and remembering them creates years of inspiration.

Oh, that we might live a life inspired by awe.


Haiti Pre-trip trip

The next week on my blog is going to be a smudge different. I’ll be posting updates and photos as much as I can, but it’s not possible to know what our cell reception will be like. I had hoped to have my new iPhone 4 before we left so that I could post videos and such, too. But I guess that wasn’t to be.

Right at the last minute, I decided it would be better to leave my MacBook at home… So, anything I post will come from my iPhone. ( I have my camera, so lots of pictures will come later.)

Kristen and I flew to Ft. Lauderdale yesterday. With flights and time changes it wasn’t going to be possible to get to Port-au-Prince without doing a red eye… So we opted to come to South Florida a day early.

Today, we slept in. Then we walked to a cool breakfast spot on the beach. Than walked along the ocean back to our hotel. The heat zapped us! So we lounged a bit before headed back to the beach to swim. After that, to the pool, then a nap. Then we jumped on the water taxis and went all over. Phew. The evening culminated with a romantic riverside dinner overlooking houses we will never be invited to even visit!

In a way, we feel silly for this little luxury. But at the same time we get alone time so rarely that we needed to take advantage of this opportunity.

So, next stop is Haiti. our flight arrives there about 2:30 PM.

Thanks to all who are praying and have given.


Celebrating Marriage

Why celebrate thirteen years? Why not? Photo by Leo Reynolds via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Why 13 years?

I think the conviction to host this party was born one day last fall as I was stumbling through the Old Testament. Over and over again I saw the phrase, “remember the things the Lord has done.” And as I read that it just kind of hit me… when was the last time I just celebrated something? Like… for no other reason than to celebrate extravagantly in what God has done?

Never. That’s when.

In kind, I gave this party to Kristen as a part of my Christmas gift. She never saw it coming. And since December 25th we had been talking about and planning for June 25th.

The party was a gift to us. The party was a gift for our friends. And the party was a gift for our kids.

It was definitely a gift given and a gift received. About 25 people gathered at our vacation rental for a BBQ. There were times when I would just look around and the only thing I could do was smile!

Thirteen years of marriage may not be a traditional year to celebrate a marriage.  But thirteen years married to me? Kristen deserved some recognition.

Church Leadership hmm... thoughts

The wedding celebration

Looks just like them!
Yesterday, I was happy to perform a wedding ceremony for some new friends. It was a perfect day. Everyone smiled from ear to ear.  I said the couple’s last name correctly after practicing it hundreds of times. Independently, all of the “staff” hired for the wedding said the same thing to me, “I love working with couples like them, their #1 goal is that they want to be married.” It was a complete pleasure to be a part of the day, everything went off without a hitch.

Well, one slightly embarrassing moment for me that no one really noticed. The audio guy for the golf course handed me this cheap little wireless microphone and told me to stick it on my tie. When I took it to the bathroom to properly hide the wiring I could tell it was going to be a problem. (Really, why does a place that invests $500,000 in their wedding business buy a $300 microphone?) Then, when I did a quick sound check with him he told me that the trick was that I needed to turn the mic’s power on right when the bride comes down the aisle since it pops and has feedback on mute mode. Cute. I’m worried about pronouncing their last name correctly and now I have this to worry about? So, while everyone turns to look at the bride in her big moment, the fat pastor starts fishing for the power button and in the process the mic pops out of its cheap clip and dangles down to my groin. I quickly fish it back up and stick it back into the clip right as she gets to the front. No one notices, all eyes on the bride. Awesome. Well, 30 seconds into the ceremony I make a gesture to the groom to go retrieve his bride from his father-in law and the mic comes out of the clip again and plops on my open Bible. Thud. Thankfully, I’ve done enough stuff to just adjust my voice and project a tad and move on. It was one of those little things that happens that isn’t a big deal but you can make a little scene about if you keep fiddling with it. We moved past it, no one ever noticed, and I got to share a laugh with the audio guy… it’s all good. (If that’s the worst thing that happened it was an awesome wedding!)

Back to more serious stuff.

Here’s my new revelation about marriage that I weaved into the fabric of the ceremony. It’s not a private act between a man and a woman, it’s a public act of community recognition of a private decision. The couple has rights and responsibilities, in taking a public vow they affirm certain things about what will happen in the privacy of their home. And the witnesses who participate in the ceremony have rights and responsibilities to the couple as they act on behalf of the community at-large. If you buy into the idea that God institutes who lives where and that the Gospel breathes life to spiritually dead places, this makes sense as we all join together in community under common laws, practices, mores, and other social rules… then this makes total sense.

To affirm this relationship between the witnesses and the couple I added this paragraph into the closing of the ceremony:

It’s our responsibility, as witnesses to this marriage, to do two things. First, I ask that you join me in loving and supporting this couple as they join together as husband and wife. Second, you have a responsibility to celebrate with this couple today! Please join us for the party and join them in making today a wonderful celebration of their new life together.

What do you think? Is this better off stated or implied as part of a wedding? Is it implied by witnessing, participating in the celebration, and giving gifts to the couple that you are publicly affirming their private decision and contract? Or am I just making too much of this?

Culture hmm... thoughts

So, you’re done?

At lunch yesterday 3 guys sat around the table getting to know one another better. In the course of the conversation we chatted about kids. Each man had two. The guy sitting next to me affirmed that two was enough for his family and barring a medical miracle, they were done. The guy across the table said that he and his wife hoped for one more. When they found out I had a 5 (Paul is 6 next Saturday) and an 8 year old, they said… “So, you’re done, eh?

I have to be honest. Now that Paul is almost 6 it’s at that point where— adding  a third would be like starting a second family. At the same time Kristen and I look at each other and joke about a third child all the time. Truth on that is, we usually say it in the most sarcastic way possible when Megan or Paul is having “a moment.” You know, the type of moment so horrific that you label it as birth control. You know, temper tantrums at the Capital building, or in Battery Park, or the one in a hotel recently in which I was certain someone would call the cops.

There’s a more personal angle to this. It’s hard for me to acknowledge that I’m somehow old enough to be done having kids! The crazy thing is that some of the people I went to high school think that 33 is the time they should get married and start a family. When people find out Kristen and I met when we were 18, got married at 21, and had Megan at 24, they feel uneasy about that. They say, “Oh, you were just babies!” We look at our peers and think, “You waited until your 30’s to get married? You’re so old!

9 out of 10 times I just roll with the joke that Kristen and I got married as children. But every time that comes up I am overcome with self-righteousness… No, we were the normal ones. No, we were the ones making the good decisions at 19, 20, and 21. No, we were the ones who didn’t buy into the middle class notion that you have to be a certain age to fall in love or get married. No, we were the responsible ones while all of our classmates were focused on keggers and messy college relationships which required years of recovery and regret. Indeed, we were young and naive about life. But who isn’t? How dare people tell us we were immature to marry at 21! [Steps off soapbox, hands microphone back to street preacher and walks away.]

I’ve done enough pre-marital counseling to know tt doesn’t matter what age you get married, you’re always ignorant about what you’re getting into!

Something is completely broken in our culture when we begin labeling adults (18-22) as too young to be adults. It’s jacked up to say people old enough to serve in the military are too young to be in adult relationships or make adult decisions. What’s next? 30 is too young to get married and have kids? What else will our culture throw in the way?

Why is it that middle class white people consider 24 to be on the young side to have kids? [Physically, that’s prime time.] And yet people in the city would say… “Wow, you were 24 when you had your first kid?” The answer is culture. In affluence we keep our children immature a lot longer. (Just look at the super affluent British royal family, Prince Charles still acts very much like a 17 year old, doesn’t he?) When you are affluent you don’t have to grow up because you don’t have to feed yourself, clothe yourself, or make enough money to pay the bills. Part of what matured Kristen and I in our early 20’s was precisely that. We needed real jobs to pay real bills. We had responsibilities. We made a lifestyle choice that kept us out of clubs. A few years into marriage we knew we made enough money and were stable enough to start a family. In essense, we were not developmentally delayed like our affluent classmates.

So, does 33 with a 6 and 8 year old mean we’re “done” having kids? It kind of looks that way doesn’t it?. I know I don’t want to go back to baby seats, puke, dirty diapers, and finding half-eaten Cheerios tucked behind the couch! Maybe we should just focus now, in our old age, on helping our friends with their babies?

Church Leadership

Longsuffering in the church

A key component to the personal preference sin so prevalent in the United States evangelical church is a lack of respect for the word, longsuffering.

Now, there are plenty of proponents of the idea of short-suffering. In other words, if a church or ministry or job or anything in your life doesn’t meet your exacting specifications you need to bail on it immediately. Their argument is that life is too short to longsuffer and the church shouldn’t be patient enough to pay you while you longsuffer. They somehow tie personal preferences into integrity… so if you stick it out at a job or a church because you believe you need to stay, you are somehow violating your integrity because you are not working or attending that church with a 100% joyful heart. They deny that there is anything spiritual in enduring something unpleasant if there is a pleasant alternative.

An Example for Relationships

Friends, this lack of longsuffering as a spiritual discipline is also a major lie that has led to the elongation of adolescence in America. If you’ve done student ministry in the last decade you’ve seen it first hand. God gives Christians a single requirement for getting married, that person must be a believer in Jesus.

Yet, over and over, I see perfectly eligible men and women elongate singleness (and in many cases adolescent dependency on parents) because they don’t trust God beyond their personal preferences. They need someone a certain height, weight, and cultural background. They need someone driven towards certain goals or career aspirations, who want a certain number of children, and want to live in a certain location.

In fact, we’ve all seen our friends bend God’s single requirement for us in order to get what we want! So they will find “Mr. Right” and completely decimate their walk with Christ in the process only to later discover that he was “Mr. Wrong.” Or, they let their personal preferences get in the way of finding the man or woman God has made for them or allowing that relationship to get to the altar. It’s sad to see personal preferences get in the way of fulfillment in finding a spouse. Kristen and I have joked about this for a long time, but I think it is true. If we just randomly assigned people to one another based solely on “Do you love Jesus more than anything else” we think we could pair up about anyone. We are all imperfect. We are all unloveable. None of us are ideal. When we chose to love someone because they love Jesus… then you will experience what true love and romance really are. Surfacey stuff is ultimately just crap that won’t lead to happiness, anyway. Learning to love someone despite your own personal preferences is what leads to true love!

Those of us who have been married a few years know that long suffering and marriage go hand in hand. (Heard an Amen! coming from Kristen‘s direction when I wrote that.) In other words, if what you like about your spouse is that they meet your personal preferences, your marriage is doomed! Here’s a hint, the more you trust God that He provided a spouse who completes your weaknesses the happier you’ll be in marriage. (It’s about trusting God more than you trust yourself.) When I see couples whose sole connection is wrapped around a personal preference... I can only hope that their marriage will last beyond that. One of the most powerful and loving things a spouse can ever do for the other is to love you despite your inability to meet their personal preferences.

If we think of ourselves as the Bride of Christ, we immediately see the stupidity of personal preferences in the church dividing us. We, singular and corporately, are the Bride. In our towns there is a sole bride, not brides. And yet Jesus has to love us all how we want to be loved? Who is long suffering now? Who is having 2,000 communions on Sunday morning instead of one? Whose name is lifted up in a thousand styles instead of one?

I look at belonging to a church a lot like a marriage.

1. Let’s say, right now, you go to a church which is fine doctrinally but you hate the music. If this were a marriage would you leave? You would feel pretty childish telling a divorce attorney that you can’t stay married to your husband because he likes rap music. Now, country music, I’ll give you that… But no one would leave a spouse because of a musical preference. But people do it in church every day.

2. Let’s say you go to a church who killed a program you loved. If this were a marriage and your spouse changed date night from Wednesday to Sunday, would you leave him? I doubt it. But people leave churches for stupid stuff like that every day.

3. Let’s say you go to a church who mismanaged some money. If every marriage in America were in divorce court because of this, we’d be a in a heap of mess.

4. Let’s say you go to a church where you didn’t like the liturgy. Would you divorce a person because they didn’t read the same Bible translation as you?

5. One commenter said she couldn’t go to a church because she disagreed with how the church practiced communion. If that were a marriage and your spouse wanted “communion” in a way you didn’t like… you’d probably head to counseling before divorce court.

Think of all the personal preference reasons people leave a church! There are hundreds of them. Church leaders are going bald trying to figure out how to keep everyone happy instead of trying to lead people in worship! I’ve been in dozens of staff meetings where the leaders were more worried about keeping congregants pleased than taking the worship service a direction we felt God was calling it to. In other words, we repeatedly compromised our convictions for the High Holy Calling of the personal preference god so many worship on Sunday mornings.

What am I asking “the evangelical church” to do?

Time to cut to the chase. I’m not naive. I know that there are divisions in place today and it is silly to say we should all come together as a single body. I know it is insane to dream of a united church community who worships together on Sunday mornings, in Spirit and Truth, despite the fact that some like rock music and some like choir. I know it is impossible to dream of a church who worshiped together despite the fact that some are white or black or Hispanic. I know it is ludicrous to think that churches could bundle their buildings together for Kingdom work beyond the realm of what they want their buildings to be used for. I know it is preposterous to think that churches could start talking about reaching communities instead of birthing more baptists or presenting more Presbyterians. I know it is arrogant to think that one church leader should willfully submit his congregation to another. I know it is crazy to dream of one church in one city reaching the 95% of lost souls despite tiny doctrinal differences.

But my hope is that it can happen.

And I dream and think these things because followers of Jesus are overpowered with a silly, insane, impossible, ludicrous, preposterous, arrogant, and crazy love that comes from a Risen Savior. He came to unite. He came to break down barriers. And he wants us to long suffer with one another as an act of worship of Him.

That’s my hope. That’s my dream. And that’s what I think the evangelical church should be about in America.

I’m nailing this thesis to my wall. Thoughts?