A Lenten Journey of Naming God’s Presence

The reality of God’s presence should give us reason to pause. We know our pastors have the theological training to understand God’s presence. We also know many of our laity can teach about God’s presence.

But we see evidence that the distance between our heads and hearts continues to widen.

So, it’s time to get real. “Get Real” is an opportunity for you and your local church to name in plain, every day, ordinary ways where God is showing up. If you’ve only been thinking about how God could show up and not named how God is showing up, it’s time to Get Real.

The Process:

  1. Read a Scripture.
  2. Reflect on a focus word.
  3. Respond to one question.

We told you, it’s simple. But don’t let the simplicity fool you. It’s also what leads to individual and community transformation.

What You’ll Do:

We’ll  post a Scripture, word, and question every morning at 6:30 a.m.  Look for it to be “pinned” to the top of the page before 8 a.m.  Each day stands on its own. While this series starts on 2/14/18, you can jump in at any time. Here’s what we’ll do together.

  1. READ the Scripture.
  2. REFLECT on a focus word throughout the day.
  3. RESPOND to a question after 7:30 p.m.

Again, the process is simple. The outcome is transformational.

Who is the For?

Get Real is for the one who is struggling to wonder if God is real. This process can create space to talk about Jesus. For the one looking to engage a Lenten discipline, this process can provide structure and guidance. For anyone seeking to be faithful today, tomorrow, and the next day, this is a practice of faithfulness.

Can you imagine what might happen in our cities, towns, and neighborhoods if we spent time this lent and simply got real about God’s presence in our life? What might happen if we then joined God in ministry where we live, work, worship, and play? I believe our lives and our communities will change.

So, where did you see God today? Let us know in the comments below. Better yet, sign-up below to Get Real. And remember, you can join at any time. The dates below simply serve as a guide.

We’re not in Kansas anymore.

…or in Columbus, Ohio, circa 1975.

We’ve been saying it for a while…allow me to say it again: We’re living in a missionary time.

Last week, more evidence emerged that calls us to sit up and take notice. Barna and the Impact 360 Institute published a new study about the next generation: Gen Z. While there is still much to learn about this generation, there are themes that emerge that should give us reason to pause and pivot.

As you do, the sign you’ll see will read:

Digital Babylon Transforming MIssion

A Wake-Up Call From Gen Z

Born between 1999-2015, this generation is fully immersed in Digital Babylon. Reflect on the Babylonian exile and what Babylon meant. In Babylon faith was in the margins. Society was pluralistic and diverse. Now add handheld screens and four hours of every day mediating relationships on technology and you’re beginning to get a glimpse of the landscape of Digital Babylon.

Maybe you don’t think you’re living there.

But, you are.

We’re surrounded by Digital Babylon. The question is, will we recognize it and respond? Failing to do so will mean one more generation living at a distance from the church. Gen Xers are the parents to Gen Z and their absence from the church has been an unnamed reality for decades. Yes, that means three generations are now moving into exile from the church. If you don’t believe me, I’ll be happy to talk with you about being in my forties and feeling very young when I’m with church groups. (It’s good for my psyche, but it’s not good for the kingdom of God.)

While the oldest members of this generation are eighteen and nineteen years old, there is still a lot to be learned. However, some foundational elements of this generation are already firmly in place. Here are five things to know about Gen Z.

1. Worldview

Their worldview is open-minded and inclusive. They are highly individualistic and see this as an advantage. As a group, asserting one view as right or wrong is not a stance they are willing to take. While they often have a hard time articulating what truth is and where truth comes from, they have hearts that see an inclusive world with differences being an advantage to everyone.

Questions to consider

How does your understanding of Jesus, the incarnation, and humanity shape how you embrace others? As Jesus followers, how do you articulate what you believe? Clarifying “why” you believe in Jesus and how Jesus shapes your worldview not only important, it is necessary. Your testimony to who God is and how Jesus has transformed your life is being viewed through the lens of integrity. If there is no alignment between the words you speak, the actions you take, and how you interact with people on a daily basis, you’ll likely not be taken seriously. While this should be true for any generation, remember, Gen Z is living in Digital Babylon. This is a mission field, not Christendom. Read more: “Post-Christian” – the statistics of Gen Z who have attended worship in the past six months and those who claim to be agnostic, atheist or “none”.

2. Technology

You’re looking at it. Technology is a shaping force in their life. From handheld devices to screens in the car, they have always had, known, and experienced screen time. Most of them spend at least four hours every day in front of a screen.

Questions/thoughts to consider

How does technology shape relationships? In Gen Z’s world, their relationships are formed on screens. While many older generations say, “that can’t replace in-person relationships” Gen Z doesn’t know any different. Could this be an opportunity for the church to create space for Gen Z to learn how to be in face to face relationships with others? Read  more:  “Interpersonal Relationships” – the story of one Youth Pastor teaching teens the importance of eye contact. 

3. Identity

For the first time ever, the family is not the shaping factor in this generation’s identity. When asked to complete the statement, “My ______ is important to my sense of self,” Gen Z noted professional and academic achievement (43%), hobbies (42%), friends (35%), and gender (37%) before parents and family (34%). For Boomers (46%), Xers (40%), and Millenials (40%)  family and parents are the primary influencers of a sense of self.

Gen Z’s views on gender identity inform their sense of self. Here are a few insights from the report:¹

  • One in eight describes their sexual orientation as something other than heterosexual (12%).
  • Those who identify as bisexual make up more than half of that proportion (7%).
  • Seven out of ten believe it’s acceptable to be born one gender and feel like another (69%).
  • Three in ten teens report personally knowing someone, most often a peer, who has changed his or her gender identity.

Questions to consider

If family and parents are no longer the shaping forces of a sense of self, with whom is the church partnering to develop relationships with Gen Z? Or, how might the church intentionally develop relationships with Gen Z to participate in their identity formation? Do you notice what (and who) is missing from the influencing factors for this generation? This didn’t happen overnight. Continue reading… A perspective on “Generational Failures”

Digital Babylon - Gen Z & the church

4. Security

Gen Z are mostly children of Gen X. Their not so optimistic parents have struggled with work and security. Keep in mind, Gen Z’s social awareness was emerging just as a recession was hitting the nation in 2008. As a result, Gen Z has never experienced a time when employment was dependable and social safety nets were abundant. While they’ve grown up with “safe-spaces” they are not altogether clear on what evils need defeating and how those “safe-spaces” truly provide security. Fast facts:

  • Two-thirds want to finish their education (66%), start a career (66%) and become financially independent (65%) by age 30.
  • Only one in five wants to get married by age 30 (20%).¹

Questions to consider

What role does the local church play in creating, influencing, and supporting employment and security? How does your understanding of employment, success, and safety differ from the next generation? What would need to change in the life of your local church to engage Gen Z in developing sustainable, relational networks? How do you define security? How does the understanding of security differ across generations?

5. Diversity

“The kindergarteners who started school in 2016 were the first American class in which minority ethnicities made up a majority of students, and whites the minority. For the next generation on the brink of American adulthood, different is ordinary.”² Ethnic and generational diversity is a norm of this generation. They have grown up in homes with multi-generational families and know that the fastest growing ethnic group is multi-racial.

In what may startle some, “Complete acceptance, and even elevation, of non-male and nonwhite, is a generational marker.”² More females than males will attend colleges and universities this fall, more movies with female lead characters have shaped their adolescence, and more female success stories are highlighting the news.

Questions/thoughts to consider

How does leadership in the church reflect Gen Z’s current reality? 64% of non-Christians in Gen Z noted, “church was not relevant to me.” While there are multiple factors contributing to this perspective, who does Gen Z relate to in your local church? How do gender, ethnic, and racial diversity come to life in your local congregation?

Final Note

While this report gave me many reasons to pause, it also gave me reasons to connect. Andrew, Noah, Joshua, Julia, Colin, Lila, and Aiden are just a few of the amazing young people I know who make up Gen Z. And guess what? When I talk with them, listen to them, and spend time with them, I can see the above stories and data in their lives. It’s honestly not difficult to notice if we pay attention. But, we must do more than simply look at data and talk amongst ourselves. We must go to them and to their families if we desire to connect.

Capitol Area South churches, we continue the journey we started at our regional charge conferences last fall answering seven missional questions. The information above can be helpful to you and the local church whether you found it easy or difficult to name the assets and needs of your community.

But, more importantly, it may help you understand one more reason we continue to focus on naming God’s presence in your daily life. Without the named, lived presence of God active and available to you, Babylon will consume you. Dare I suggest, there are abundant symptoms that Digital Babylon is impacting our fruitfulness. We know you have a theological understanding of God’s presence. We celebrate that you’ve got that covered. What we’re calling forth is a plain account of where God showed up today. In Digital Babylon, how will you celebrate that God is real, present, and accessible today?

Because if you don’t, who will?

Download this article additional data on Gen Z for discussion with the church:

Notes

  1. Barna Group and Impact 360 Institute Report, Gen Z: The Culture, Beliefs and Motivations Shaping the Next Generation, 40.
  2. Ibid, 34.

Through the seasons of Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany, we have focused on becoming aware of God’s presence in our everyday living. We are continuing that focus during the Season of Lent. Ash Wednesday is February 14.

Lent provides an excellent opportunity to become more aware of God’s presence in our lives. Through self-examination and reflection, Lent is a time of discipline, which leads to self-denial and acts of service. I am writing today to invite you to join me on a Lenten journey.

Read more

In the early ’60s, at the height of the civil rights movement, a group of white ministers issued a public statement urging Dr. Martin Luther King, in the name of the Christian faith, to be more patient in his quest for justice and to relax the relentless struggle for civil rights.

King’s response came in the form of the famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” In the letter, King indicated that he had received similar requests for delay, indeed, that he had just gotten a letter from a “white brother in Texas” who wrote, “… It is possible you are in too great a religious hurry … The teachings of Christ take time to come to earth.”

Dr. King replied that such an attitude stemmed from a sad misunderstanding of time, the notion that time itself cures all ills. Time, King argued, could be used for good or for evil. Human progress, he said, is not inevitable, but rather … it comes through the tireless efforts of men (and women) willing to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right.”

King knew that complete justice must await the coming of God.

So did Luke. Watch and read Luke 2:28-35:

 

As we continue to become more in tune with God’s presence in our daily lives, let’s respond in ways that reflect the love of Jesus. As we respond to God’s claim on our lives, we too, are invited to be people who seek justice.

May it be so.

Prayer for today: O God, in Jesus, you have told us that the time is ripe to do right. In the name of Jesus empower us to live as righteous doers of your way, truth, and life. When it’s all been said and done, There is just one thing that matters, Did I do my best to live for truth? Did I live my life for You? O God, by your grace, help me live my life for you in relationship with all the people you love. Amen

Tell me, “Where did you see God today?” Yes, today.

Have to think about it? Quick to reply?

Either way, it’s good sign you’re the person we want to help “Awaken to God’s Presence.” Over many years and hundreds of people, we’ve watched people wake up to God’s presence around them by engaging in a simple, transformational practice.

Transforming Mission Awaken to God's presenceThe Process:

  1. Read a Scripture.
  2. Reflect on a focus word.
  3. Respond to one question.

We told you, it’s simple. But don’t let the simplicity fool you. It’s also what leads to individual and community transformation.

What You’ll Do:

We’ll  post a Scripture, word, and question on the Facebook Page every morning at 6:30 a.m.  Look for it to be “pinned” to the top of the page before 8 a.m.  Each day stands on its own. While this series started on 1/6/18, you can jump in at any time. Here’s what we’ll do together.

  1. READ the Scripture.
  2. REFLECT on a focus word throughout the day.
  3. RESPOND to a question after 7:30 p.m.

Again, the process is simple. The outcome is transformational.

Can you imagine what might happen in our cities, towns, and neighborhoods if we awaken to God’s presence? What might happen if we then joined God in ministry where we live, work, worship, and play? I believe our lives and our communities will change.

So, it wasn’t a rhetorical question. Where did you see God today? Let us know in the comments below. Better yet, sign-up below to join us in waking up to God’s presence. And remember, you can join at any time. The dates below simply serve as a guide.

Week 1

January 6

  1. Read Matthew 2:1-12 
  2. Reflect on JOY.
  3. Respond: Where did you witness joy today?

January 7

  1. Read Mark 1:4-11
  2. Reflect on LOVE.
  3. Respond: Where did you see God’s love today?

January 8

  1. Read Isaiah 60:1-6
  2. Reflect on LIGHT.
  3. Respond: Where did you see the light of Christ today?

January 9

  1. Read Ephesians 3:1-12 
  2. Reflect on GRACE.
  3. Respond: Where did you experience God’s grace today?

January 10

  1. Read Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14
  2. Reflect on COMPASSION.
  3. Respond: Where did you see God’s compassion today?

January 11

  1. Read Genesis 1:1-5
  2. Reflect on GOODNESS
  3. Respond: Where did you see God’s goodness today?

January 12

  1. Read Acts 19:1-7
  2. Reflect on SPIRIT
  3. Respond: Where did you witness the HOLY SPIRIT today?

January 13

  1. Read John 1:35-45
  2. Reflect on what it means to FOLLOW
  3. Respond: How did you FOLLOW Jesus today?

Week 2

January 14

  1. Read John 1:43-51.
  2. Reflect on SEEING.
  3. Respond: What did you SEE today that showed God’s presence?

January 15

  1. Read 1 Samuel 3:1-10 (11-20).
  2. Reflect on God’s CALL. Everyone has a calling. It’s not just for pastors!
  3. Respond: What experience today aligned with God’s CALLING on your life?

January 16

  1. Read 1 Corinthians 1:18-25.
  2. Reflect on WISDOM.
  3. Respond: Where did you witness God’s WISDOM today?

January 17

  1. Read Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18.
  2. Reflect on what it means for God to KNOW you.
  3. Respond: What experience today affirmed that God KNOWS you?

January 18

  1. Read Hosea 2:14-20.
  2. Reflect on FAITHFULNESS.
  3. Respond: Where did you see God’s FAITHFULNESS?

January 19

  1. Read Acts 8:26-39.
  2. Reflect on REJOICE.
  3. Respond: Where did you witness REJOICING?

January 20

  1. Read John 1:29-34.
  2. Reflect on TESTIMONY.
  3. Respond: Where did you witness a TESTIMONY about Jesus today?

 

Week 3

January 21

  1. Read Mark 1:14-20
  2. Reflect on CHANGE.
  3. Respond: What CHANGE is Jesus inviting you to make so you can follow him?

January 22

  1. Read Jonah 3:1-5, 10
  2. Reflect. The focus word today is GO.
  3. Respond: Where did you GO today that you recognized God’s presence?

January 23

  1. Read 1 Corinthians 7:29-31
  2. Reflect. The focus word today is TIME.
  3. Respond: Where did you see Jesus occupy TIME today?

January 24

  1. Read Psalm 62:5-12
  2. Reflect. The focus word today is STRENGTH.
  3. Respond: Where did you experience God’s STRENGTH today?

January 25

  1. Read Deuteronomy 5:12-15
  2. Reflect. The focus word today is HOLY.
  3. Respond: What did you experience today that was HOLY?

January 26

  1. Read Acts 9:1-19.
  2. Reflect. The focus word today is OPEN.
  3. Respond: Where were your eyes OPENED today?

January 27

  1. Read John 2:1-11
  2. Reflect. The focus word today is REVELATION.
  3. Respond: Where did Jesus REVEAL his glory today?

Week 4

January 28

  1. Read Mark 1:21-28
  2. Reflect on the focus word TEACH
  3. Respond (later today): What did Jesus TEACH you today?

January 29

  1. Read Deut 18:15-20
  2. Reflect on the focus word SPEAK
  3. Respond (later today): How did God SPEAK to you today?

January 30

  1. Read 1 Cor 8:1-13
  2. Reflect on the focus word BELONG
  3. Respond (later today): What happened today to remind you that you BELONG to God?

January 31

  1. Read Psalm 111
  2. Reflect on the focus word AWE
  3. Respond (later today): What happened today that made you stand in AWE of God?

February 1

  1. Read 2 Kings 2:1-12
  2. Reflect on the focus word: FAITHFUL
  3. Respond (later today): How did you experience God’s FAITHFULNESS today?

February 2

  1. Read Acts 10:1-23
  2. Reflect on the focus word GUIDANCE
  3. Respond (later today): What GUIDANCE did you receive from the Lord today?

February 3

  1. Read Mark 1:35-39
  2. Reflect on the focus word PRAY
  3. Respond (later today): Who or what are you PRAYING for today? Bonus question: How can we PRAY for you today?

Week 5

February 4

  1. Read Mark 1:40-45
  2. Reflect on the focus word WHOLE
  3. Respond (later today): Where did you witness God’s WHOLENESS today?

February 5

  1. Read 2 Kings 5:1-14
  2. Reflect on the focus word RESTORATION.
  3. Respond (later today): What RESTORATION is God doing in your life and the lives of the people around you?

February 6

  1. Read 1 Cor 9:24-27
  2. Reflect on the focus word DISCIPLINE.
  3. Respond (later today): What DISCIPLINE did you practice today?

February 7

  1. Read Psalm 30
  2. Reflect on the focus word JOY.
  3. Respond (later today): Where did you see JOY today?

February 8

  1. Read Lamentations 3:1-25
  2. Reflect on the focus word FAITHFUL.
  3. Respond (later today): Where did you witness God’s FAITHFULNESS?

February 9

  1. Read Psalm 50:1-6
  2. Reflect on the focus word BEAUTY.
  3. Respond (later today): Where did you see BEAUTY today?

February 10

  1. Read Mark 2:13-17
  2. Reflect on the focus word HOSPITALITY.
  3. Respond (later today): Where did you see or experience HOSPITALITY today?

Week 6

February 11

  1. Read Mark 2:1-12
  2. Reflect on the focus word PRAISE.
  3. Respond (later today): How did you PRAISE God today?

February 12

  1. Read Isaiah 43:18-25
  2. Reflect on the focus word NEW.
  3. Respond (later today): What new this is God doing in your midst?

February 13

  1. Read 2 Cor 1:18-22
  2. Reflect on the focus word WISDOM.
  3. Respond (later today): Where did you experience God’s wisdom today?

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An epiphany is “a moment when you suddenly feel that you understand, or suddenly become conscious of, something that is very important to you.”

Several years ago I had an epiphany. I was sent, by my doctor, to the hospital emergency room with an abnormal heartbeat, an arrhythmia. It was serious enough I had to stay several days. During my hospital stay, I had a procedure to “shock” my heart back into rhythm. Read more