Sermons Can Now Be Fact-Checked. Stop Telling Stories That Are Legends

shoes3Confession.  I’m a preaching snob.  I value the content of a sermon but I also value the delivery of the sermon.  I make it a practice to listen to a variety of podcasted sermons so I can grow my ability.  Thus I listen with a critical ear.  Note:  I critique the sermon, not the man or woman giving the sermon.

So this news release from Christianity Today caught my eye:  Watch Out, Pastors: Millennials Are Fact-Checking Your Sermons 

I’ve long cringed when I’ve heard an urban legend creep into a sermon.  Or a story that someone has made as his/her own when I read the same story in a book.  This is simply lazy sermon writing.  Now we all have another reason to be even choosier when choosing a story (or stat) to add to a message.  Our listening audience will fact check you before you get to the closing prayer. Continue reading


Halloween/Holiday Rant

crazywriterHalloween is supposed to be a fun day where you dress up as, I don’t know, a plastic bag or a princess, and get fun size Skittles from generous neighbors. (Don’t be the person who gives out toothbrushes. Never be that person.) Now, I don’t know if it’s just me, but it seems to have changed since when I was a little kid. Suddenly, many Halloween costumes are things I’d feel weird wearing alone in front of my own mirror. People are going out to parties, some may be toilet-papering someone’s house. When did this happen? Did I totally miss some transformation from cute little kid to mature adult? I remember, as a little girl, promising I’d never be the teenager who eggs someone’s house. If society is expecting me to be that person, I’m going to prove it wrong. I’ll go trick-or-treating with my three friends and go to bed before midnight.

The more I think about it, the more I realize that holidays and fun events are being twisted. Thanksgiving, a time to remember our blessings, has become a time to eat until we feel sick. Notice that the very next day, Black Friday, is when people are trampled to death trying to get early-bird discounts. Christmas, for Christians, is supposed to be a time to celebrate the birth of our Savior. What has it become? One of the greediest, most materialistic holidays ever. (And yes, greed and materialism are rampant in many Christian homes just as they are in many others. I speak from experience.) Oh, how could I forget Easter? Stuffed bunnies, getting sick on marshmallow Peeps…it’s insane. It’s insane, also, how much these holidays are used for marketing. I could write fifty blogs on how advertising and marketing are affecting us in profound ways.

Anyway. As all the fun holidays are coming up, I felt that I needed to rant that. Wake up, America. Jeez.


Heads or Tails?


JOHN, a bearded and wild-haired man in his early 30s, is resting his head on his knees when he hears a knock at the door.


Come in.

HEROD opens the door, rather sheepishly.


Hey, John.


Hey, Herod.  What’s up?

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The NIV I Know is No Longer Available

shoes3I was surprised to find this out. In 2012 Zondervan stopped publishing the 1984 version of the NIV Bible. There is a new version but it is quite different. As different as 40% of them are different from the ’84 edition of the NIV and when you consider individual words, the new version is 9% new. This matters as a blog-worthy post because if you are having teens read Bible sections out loud and both say they have the NIV version, chances are they will be different versions.

To read more about the details of this, read.

I picked up a NIV Bible my first year of college for $1. This is the version I have read the most and have memorized the most (though I have lame memorization recall). I think I would be confused and lost in the new NIV. It’s odd to have such a familiar translation now feel so unfamiliar.

But here is the bigger question. Do I now institute a 1984 NIV-only rule at my church? If that Bible was good enough for King James Brenda Seefeldt, it’s good enough for everyone, right?


Everyone in the Whole World

crazywriterI remember keeping a prayer journal in third grade–a little green and blue notebook with pages full of nine-year-old hopes and dreams. My prayers usually started with my list of requests, and they ended like this.

“…and please help everyone in the whole world who’s hurting right now. Amen.”

Even back then, before life really slammed into me, I knew that there were people out there going through pain unimaginable to my young heart. I knew that the world was a hurting place, and I wanted it to be not as hurt anymore. It was just like that.

I’m constantly trying to help people, even if it’s just smiling at them or having a quick conversation with them. When I see someone else crying, I want to start crying, too. I wish there could be some way for me to reassure them, just be there for them. People, humans in general, are so broken. Everything’s upside down, and it hurts my heart.

I think I’m going to pray like a third-grader today.


Apathy, Pizza and Smoothie King

crazywriterThe dictionary definition of apathy is “a lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern,” and the definition of numb is “deprived of the power of sensation.” While that’s true, I prefer to combine the definitions into one: When one wants to do nothing but lay around all day eating pizza and searching for a Smoothie King of emotion, not even bothering to brush the crumbs from their bed.

One Saturday earlier this year, I woke up and didn’t want to do anything. I’d been sick, so that definitely contributed to it, but my fever had been coming and going; my physical strength had been mostly regained. Still, I didn’t want to see anyone, go anywhere, or engage in any sort of activity that involved getting out of my pajamas and/or the house. So I didn’t. I laid in bed with a slice of pizza by my right and my iPod by my left. My day was spent trolling the Internet and pretending it made me laugh, eating more and more pizza without bothering to take care of the plate or the crumbs on my sheets, and staring at the ceiling wondering what the point of anything was. The next day, after I was recovered from the illness, I spent the entire day watching movies on the couch. The day after that was spent staring deep into the harsh light of my laptop, eyes swirling around as I faked a chuckle at my own trolling and added exclamation points to the end of my texts to make people think I was enthusiastic.

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The Problem with Family-Based Youth Ministry?

shoes3Very early in Wild Frontier, we stumbled onto this missing dynamic of youth ministry—the parents. We stumbled onto this in 1993 and have been a leading voice for this since then as well as a provider of resources. We may or may not have done this well but it is core to what we believe youth ministry should be.

So I often bristle, scowl, spit, etc., when I read blog posts like this one called The Problem with Family-Based Youth Ministry. Except this one is from a blog called Discipleship Family Ministry and is written by a guy I like a lot, Benjer McVeigh.

In his blog post, he strongly endorses what he’s learned from family-based youth ministry and then gets to this one problem. He states it as “It focuses primarily on church insiders rather than those who don’t yet know Jesus. Think about it: a big assumption of a family-based approach to youth ministry is that the parents want to be involved in the spiritual lives of their teenagers. I would love to live in a world where families are intact and teenagers have two parents who only need a nudge in the right direction to be the spiritual leaders of their home God created them to be. But that’s not the reality I minister in.” Continue reading


Musical Tastes

crazywriterMy music tastes have drastically changed through the years. Well, sort of.

Before fifth grade, I didn’t really listen to music on my own. It was pretty much whatever was playing in my parents’ car, and also High School Musical. Well, I was introduced to music (and YouTube) with “Fireflies” by Owl City. Then in sixth grade, I got into Justin Bieber. That was all I listened to–Fireflies and Justin Bieber. By seventh grade, I had branched out into One Direction, Bruno Mars, and even some rap. Don’t judge me.

In eighth grade, I had this music-changing realization that pitch-correction exists. That drove me away from pretty much all pop music ever (which is sad, because there is some good pop out there). I wanted music that I could relate to, so I got into the screaming “there is no love” stuff. Also some classic rock, which is good. But mostly the darker stuff. I developed an unnatural hatred for the music I used to listen to, and I liked to shove in people’s faces that I hated what they listened to and that they should stop. I did that for several reasons. Here are some (not in any order).

I was ashamed of my old self and wanted to destroy any remnant of who I was.
I was angry with myself and wanted something to take it out on.
I was angry at everything and everyone.

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Break Your Bad Habits

worship2Every worship leader has bad habits of some kind. We all tend to fall into a groove in our leading style, playing style, singing style, song choice patterns, microphone dynamics or some other thing we’ve been doing for years. So here are some of my least favorite bad habits that I see pretty frequently, including when I lead.

1. Shouting Out The Words: You know what I mean. You felt compelled to lead a song that wasn’t in the original plan. You’re already playing in the key of A, so why not throw in How Great Is Our God? You get through the first verse and chorus just fine but for some reason you just feel like you have to yell out “Age to age he stands” just before you sing “Age to age he stands.” Trust me when I tell you everyone knows the words to most songs like this and you cramming in five words between the last upbeat and downbeat before you start to sing the next verse is just distracting–way more distracting than if one of your five background singers sang a wrong word or two that no one will hear anyway. Trust your team. Trust your congregation. Sing the song. We’re not narrators, we’re leaders. Continue reading


A Series of Unfortunate Sleepovers

crazywriterWhen I was in fifth grade, I attended my friend’s eleventh birthday party. It was supposed to be a really fun, cake-eating, party-all-night experience. (This really meant staying up having stuffed animal fights until midnight. We were so hardcore.) I showed up feeling happy and excited–I had even brought my favorite pajamas that I’d gotten for Christmas a few years earlier!

Almost as soon as the party had started, I started getting this feeling that the other party guests felt a strange animosity toward me. My suspicions were confirmed when we started playing the M&M game (I don’t remember the rules, probably because it was the lamest game known to humankind. Shh, don’t tell those girls). I think I pushed my hair behind my ear or something, and the other guests looked at me like I was the grossest person ever.

“Ew! You can’t touch the M&Ms! Go wash your hands! Ew, that’s so gross!”

Confused, I obeyed and went to the bathroom to wash my hands. Neither my hands nor my hair were dirty. I washed my hands anyway, though. Maybe there was a bug in my hair. I don’t know, I thought. Wait, wouldn’t I have noticed that, though? When I came out of the bathroom, all the party guests were laughing like it was going out of style.

News flash: washing your hands is hilarious.

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